Sex & Consent – Just ask

young coupleWhat does consent mean?

Consent is a word that you may have come across before. It can be used in different contexts. It means to give permission for something to happen.

It seems like quite a simple concept right? This is exactly the same situation when it comes to consent and sex. Let me explain. . .

Consensual sex

Sex involves two people and because it involves two people, both of them must consent to it happening. This applies to any sexual act. Without consent from BOTH participants, sex is not on the cards. This is a non-negotiable situation. Without permission from both people involved, sex is non-consensual. The consequences of this are very serious which is why it is important that before you get involved in any sexual act with someone you must first give consent and get consent in return from the other person.

The Law and Sex

The law states that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex. This means that the “age of consent”, so the age at which you can consent to having sex with someone is 16. That also means that anyone of or above the age of 16 having sex with someone under the age of 16 is classed as rape. Find out more about sex and the law here.

Below are a few questions that sometimes come up when discussing the subject of consent.

What about if it’s my boyfriend or girlfriend?

The short answer, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new partner or someone you have been with for months, years, decades even. You must both consent, each and every time it happens.

gossip girl

Isn’t that going to make things awkward?

We get it, in the heat of the moment, it might seem odd to stop, pull away and ask, “do you consent to having sexual intercourse with me? If so, please sign this permission slip”. Well firstly, consent does not have to involve permission slips or written agreements. Words are sufficient in this scenario. Secondly, you don’t need to recite legal passages. You can simply say three words.



“Do you want to do this?


“Are you OK?


“Do you want to have sex?

Any variation of the above question is acceptable as long as the other person understands what you are asking.

Now once you’ve asked that question you’re looking for one answer. And only one answer will do. You guessed it, the answer you need is yes. The person could say yes or they could nod, or they could pull you closer and continue where they left off but you must be certain that the answer they have given you is a yes.

What if it isn’t obvious?

girl uncomfortableConsent can be given with body language as mentioned above. Someone’s body language can tell you a lot about how they are feeling. Here are some signs that someone might not be wanting to have sex:

  • Being tense
  • Uncomfortable, pained, unhappy, scared, worried facial expressions
  • Pulling away
  • Hesitating
  • Shaking
  • A sudden change in their mood

If someone is showing these signs, the chances are they either aren’t ready, aren’t in the mood or just don’t want to have sex.

The best way to be sure? Ask the question directly to them and if they don’t answer or seem unsure then stop. Don’t get angry or frustrated or upset, just stop.

What about half way through?

Consent should be given at every step. For example, moving from kissing intimately to taking off your clothes to having sex is jumping through quite a few steps. Your partner may have only wanted to have a kiss and a cuddle but it soon escalated into something more. It is then perfectly fine for your partner to then pull away and say that they’re not in the mood for sex or that they don’t feel like doing anything more than kissing. Consent can be taken away at any point. Even if you are in the middle of sex. If someone pulls away or says they don’t want to do it any more then consent has been taken away and sex should stop.

What about when you’re drinking?

The rules for consent and alcohol are even more simple which is great because it’s really easy to remember so here it is: If you are drunk, you cannot consent.

Alcohol effects your ability to make good judgments and your ability to communicate clearly. It can also give people tunnel vision – they have decided on something and make getting that thing their goal which can make them pushy and even aggressive. This combination of effects can make consenting to sex extremely difficult leading to people waking up in the morning, realising what has happened the night before and feeling regretful, upset or scared.

If you have been drinking, leave sex to another time when you are in a better position to be fully aware of what is going on.

Why is this so important?

If you have sex with someone who has not consented or someone has had sexual intercourse with you without you wanting to, that is classed as rape. Rape is a very serious crime with serious consequences. Not only that but the effects on the victim can be long-lasting and extremely damaging.

This video explains consent really well and also mentions the word tea a lot…


I’m worried about something that has happened to me/my friend.

If you or a friend has been involved in non-consensual sex act and you would like support or help, you can talk to Safeline. We are a specialist sexual abuse and rape charity who can provide a range of services to support you. Even if you aren’t sure and just want to ask some questions about something that has happened, we would like to talk to you.

Telephone: 0808 800 5007

Text: 07860 027 573


Instant Message:

Contact Safeline

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