When there is sexual consent, it means that everyone involved really wants the sexual activity to happen, and they understand what might happen during and afterwards. This is also called enthusiastic consent.
It’s important that a person gives their consent for each sexual act that happens. And they can take back their consent at any point and any time.
The best way to know if someone is giving consent is to ask them. It’s best to be clear and simple – use questions like: “Is it okay if I kiss you?” and “Can I touch you there?”
You can keep checking how the other person is and ask questions like: “Are you okay with this?”, “Does that feel good?” and “Are you ready to try this?”
Here are some signs that someone is giving their consent.
- They understand what they’re saying yes to.
- They’re happy to touch you in a sexual way.
- They seem enthusiastic and not at all hesitant.
How do I know if someone isn’t giving consent?
It isn’t consent when anyone involved:
- doesn’t want to
- feels pressured into it
- isn’t able to say no
Sometimes, people say “Yes” even when they don’t really want to do something.
If someone isn’t giving their consent, they might say “No” or tell you they don’t want to do the sexual activity.
You must respect this. Stop the activity and don’t pressure them to change their mind.
Even if someone doesn’t say “No”, they might not be giving their consent. There are lots of reasons why someone might not say “No” and it’s your responsibility to make sure they are giving enthusiastic consent.
What should I ask myself before any sexual activity?
- Does the other person seem comfortable or scared?
- Are they well enough to give consent?
- Do they have any health problems that could stop them being able to give consent?
- Are they under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Does this affect their ability to give enthusiastic consent?
- Does their body language show any signs that they’re uncomfortable?
- Is there any reason why they would feel pressured or forced to go ahead with the sexual activity?
Here are some signs that someone might not be consenting.
- Their body is tense or they freeze up.
- They go quiet.
- They say “I’m not sure”, “Maybe” or “Maybe later”.
- They seem upset, worried or anxious.
- They don’t understand what’s happening.
If you see any of these signs, or if you’re not sure for any reason whether someone is giving consent, then you should stop the activity straight away.
What should I do if something has gone wrong?
It can be very upsetting to remember sexual experiences where you didn’t give consent, whether or not you realised it at the time. It’s important you understand that it’s not your fault. It’s never okay for someone to take advantage of you or pressure you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
If this has happened to you, there are places you can go for help and support. You could talk to an adult you trust about what has happened, reach out to us on our email service or check out other organisations who can help.