Understanding Consent

    What is consent?

    Consent is the act of positively and willingly agreeing to an activity. Giving consent for any kind of sexual activity is crucial. 

    One message that is constantly reinforced is that consent is not a one-time event, and it can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. In other words – any part of a sexual activity that occurs without consent is deemed as rape or sexual assault. 

    Just because someone has given their consent at the beginning of an encounter does not mean that they have given their consent to every action that occurs during that encounter. This means that it is essential to check in with your partner regularly during sexual activity to ensure that they are still comfortable and willing to continue.

    Legal definitions

    In the UK, the legal definition of consent under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is as follows: 

    “Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if s/he agrees by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”

    The key factors that must be present for consent to be valid include that the person has given their consent voluntarily, they have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the activity, and they have been fully informed about the activity as well as its potential risks.

    Additionally, consent must be given for each specific activity and can be withdrawn at any time. It is important to note that consent cannot be given if the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is unconscious or asleep, or is under duress or coercion. Any of these factors can take away the person’s freedom and capacity to make that choice.

    The legal age of consent in the UK is 16. 

    Sexual assault, acts of affection and sex; how can you tell the difference?

    The recurring theme here is that consent is key

    Any kind of sexual activity requires constant checking in and reassurance that both parties are comfortable. If you are unsure, here are some questions to be asked:

    • Did they say yes? 
    • Were they able to say yes? 
    • Did they feel forced to say yes at any point?
    • Were they under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
    • Were they asked?
    • Did they say ‘yes’, agreeing to something else?
    • Did they change your mind after initially saying yes?

    What does consent look like?

    Consent can come in various shapes and forms – but it all boils down to a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Both visual and non-verbal cues are something you need to look out for. Is your partner smiling? Or are they non-responsive and visibly upset? 

    Consent can mean checking in with the person and asking “do you want to take this slow?” or “is this okay?. This includes respecting someone’s choice if they say ‘no’. 



    For more information on consent, visit the following websites:




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