Consent means giving your permission for something to happen, and when we talk about sex, this means a person giving their permission (saying yes) to taking part in sex or sexual contact (this could be anything from kissing to anal sex).
Read some things we should all know about consent, below.
1. Nobody can consent if they’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs
If someone has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, they can’t legally consent to sex. This is because alcohol and drugs affect people’s decision making abilities, so someone might agree to something that they wouldn’t if they were sober. We’re often asked the question “how much alcohol is too much?” which is a tricky question, because alcohol affects everyone differently. We advise to avoid having sex if you know someone has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
2. Someone can change their mind at any time
If somebody says they want to stop after sex has started, or they’ve changed their mind about something they said they were happy to do; nobody has the right to ignore them or make them do anything they aren’t comfortable with.
3. Consent is only valid if everyone knows what they’re saying yes to
‘Sex’ means different things to different people. It’s important to communicate with your partner about what you’d like to do, so it’s clear what you’re both agreeing to. If someone doesn’t understand what they’re being asked to do, they can’t give consent. And remember, everybody’s boundaries are different, if someone isn’t comfortable doing something, respect their right to say no.
4. Consent needs to be given every time you have sex
If someone has said yes to sex or a type of sexual contact before, this doesn’t mean they have agreed to do the same thing again in the future. Nobody can assume that someone is going to say yes, just because they’ve already had sex with them.
5. People in relationships still need consent
In the UK, everyone has the right to say no to sex, and this applies to all people; whether they’re single, dating or married. If someone has sex, they should be doing it because they want to, not because they feel like they have to please their partner.
6. The legal age of consent in the UK is 16
The age of consent to any form of sexual contact (that’s touching genitals, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex) in the UK is 16. The age of consent is the same regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of a person.
7. If someone’s pressured into saying yes, it’s not consent
Consent has only been given if someone has made a decision to say yes, knowing that they could have said no and would have been safe if they did. If they only said yes because they felt pressured, scared or bribed; this is not true consent.
Some examples of pressuring someone into having sex, include:
- Calling someone frigid or a tease if they don’t do it
- Saying they owe you for something
- Telling someone it’s their duty as a partner
- Saying “if you loved me you’d have sex with me”
- Threatening to break up with someone if they don’t have sex with you
8. Clothing doesn’t equal consent
Everyone in the UK has the right to wear whatever they want. Just because someone is wearing something sexy/revealing or flirting with you, does not mean they’re looking to have sex.
Don’t assume someone wants to have sex based on what they’re wearing. If someone is flirting with you, and you think they want to have sex with you, then ask them! That way you can make sure you get consent.
9. Removing a condom without your partners knowledge, removes their consent
Taking a condom off without a partner’s knowledge, also known as ‘stealthing’, takes away someone’s consent. This is because the terms of the sex have changed without them knowing; they agreed to sex with a condom, and they’re no longer having the sex they agreed to.
People may agree to sex with condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and may not want to have sex without a condom. Talking about condoms is an important part of sex, so make sure you discuss condom use, and don’t change what you’ve agreed to without talking to your partner.
10. The best way to make sure you’re getting consent is to just ask!
If you’re not sure whether someone is consenting or not, just ask! Getting consent doesn’t need to ruin the mood; there are ways to make sure you are getting consent while keeping things sexy. You could ask “What do you want to do?”, if they go quiet or their body language changes, check in and ask “Are you enjoying this?”. Remember to ask in a way which lets them know it’s okay if they say no, or want you to stop doing something; and make sure they are saying yes enthusiastically!