A person can legally consent to sex at the age of 16. It is therefore illegal to have sex with anyone under 16 whether they gave their consent or not. You can find out more about the age of consent here
Whatever your gender or sexuality you must always seek consent from someone in sexual situations.
What is Sexual Consent?
Sexual consent is an agreement to a sexual experience – be it touching someone, kissing someone, or having full sex with them. It is important to know exactly what a person has said yes to and what a person has said no to, and to not take advantage of that person’s consent by pushing the boundaries beyond their comfort zone.
When is it a Yes?
A clear yes can include verbal responses such as “Yes” or “I’d like that”, even “Go on” or “Do it” but there are also non-verbal signs that help you understand that a person likes what you are doing such as leaning in to you, touching back and being in sync with your movements. If you are unsure then always get the verbal reassurance and keep asking “Is this ok?”
A person can say “yes” to kissing but “no” to sex, just like a person can say “yes” to lying next to you on a bed, but “no” to taking off their clothes. This consent doesn’t last a lifetime and for each sexual encounter with a person you must ask for this permission again.
Also be aware that people can change their mind at any point and for any reason. If their “Yes” becomes “No” then this must be accepted and respected. Confused by this? Read Sophie’s story.
Legally any consent given must be whilst sober. So if someone gives you a ‘drunk yes’, it doesn’t mean it’s a ‘sober yes’. In circumstances where alcohol or drugs may have been consumed, a person cannot give accurate consent and so you could be putting yourself at risk. Read the No page for a better understanding of what “No” means.
Also be aware of any non-verbal signs when you are seeking consent. Is the person
If you find yourself in a sexual situation with someone new, it isn’t always easy to have discussions about what you are comfortable doing but there are also non-verbal ways to make consent clear. If you are happy for a person to make a move then let your body language show this too. They will react to your encouragement and equally should react to your discouragement. Reassure the person that you are happy with what they are doing so they also feel comfortable in a new sexual situation.
If you have had sex with someone before it doesn’t mean they have automatic consent to have sex with you again. Being in a relationship also doesn’t automatically mean consent is a given. It doesn’t matter how long a couple have been going out; it should never be assumed the other person will say “yes” to all sexual experiences. Relationships should be built on trust and couples should therefore be understanding of what each other is and isn’t comfortable with – agreeing to take things at the appropriate speed. Remember sexual assaults and rape can occur in relationships and with casual partners.
Rough sex or BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) are genres of sex that some people can enjoy. But they only exist in a world where the people involved have consented to it and have probably discussed each other’s boundaries. If you aren’t comfortable in a sexual situation that is becoming rougher than you wanted, then stop it from going any further and say no. No matter what kind of sex someone is into, without consent it is rape – With consent people have the ability to explore what they like. Remember you shouldn’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
If someone is in an abusive relationship they often cannot see the signs of domestic abuse and may be in denial or blaming themselves for their partner’s actions. If you are in a position where you cannot say “no” then please visit our help centre page for support.
Sending sexual images
By sending someone a sexual image of yourself consent is taken out of your own hands. Someone else could accidentally see the image when you didn’t want then to, or the image can be shared with multiple people who you didn’t want to see it.
It is a crime to process, take, make distribute or show anyone indecent/sexual images of a child or young person under 18 years of age. If you are under 18 is it a crime to send pictures of yourself even if you consented to it. More information on sending sexual images can be found here.
This video is about Stephanie and how sharing images of herself affected her life: https://youtu.be/twJ7p3FdDQI
Fill in the Spectrum Consent Quiz and find out what you actually know about consent