Consent comes first; it represents the cornerstone of respectful and healthy intimate relationships. We strongly encourage members of our community to communicate – openly, honestly, and clearly – about their actions, wishes, and intentions when it comes to sexual behaviour, and to do so before engaging in intimate conduct.
Consent is about clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed in mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity. Consent can be withdrawn by either party at any point. Consent must be voluntarily given and may not be valid if a person is being subjected to actions or behaviours that elicit emotional or psychological pressure, intimidation, or fear.
Here are some examples of what consent does and does not look like in practice, as defined by Rape Crisis on their website.
Consent looks like:
- Enthusiastically saying “yes!”
- Talking to your partner about what you do and don't want, and listening to them in return
- Checking in with your partner – “Is this OK? Do you want to slow down? Do you want to stop?”
- Respecting someone’s choice if they say “no” – never trying to change their mind or put pressure on them
Consent does not look like:
- Feeling like you have to agree to sex because you are worried about your partner’s reaction if you say “no”
- Someone having sex with you when you are asleep or unconscious
- Someone carrying on with sexual activity despite your non-verbal cues – for example, if you pull away, freeze, or seem uncomfortable
- Someone assuming that you want to have sex because of your actions or what you are wearing (for example, flirting, accepting a drink, wearing a short skirt)
- Someone assuming that because you have had sex with them before, you want to have sex again
- Someone removing a condom during sex, when you have only agreed to sex when using one
Sexual activity without consent is sexual violence. The CPS have produced a short film clip using offering a cup of tea as an analogy for consent.
Myths about consent
"Some women are just asking for it. If you dress a certain way you are putting yourself at risk"
A person has the right to wear whatever they like - they cannot be blamed for being sexually assaulted, regardless of their appearance. Rape or sexual assault is never a person's fault, it is a choice that an abuser makes, it's against the law.
"Women who get themselves too drunk are asking for it"
Deciding to drink too much doesn't mean someone has also decided to have sex. Remember: having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to give full consent is rape.
"If two people have had sex with each other before, then it's ok to have sex again"
If a person is in a relationship with someone or has had sex with them before, this doesn't mean that they can't be sexually assaulted or raped by that person. Consent must be given and received every time two people engage in sexual contact - never assumed.
"Girls might say no, but they really mean yes"
No means no! If someone says no, or indicates through their actions that they don't want to have sex, then they haven't consented.
"Sometimes a man just gets carried away and can't stop"
Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. Respecting someone means never forcing them to engage in a sexual act against their wishes.
"Men don't get raped and women don't commit sexual offences"
A small number of women do commit sexual violence. Often people who've been sexually assaulted or abused by a woman are particularly fearful that they will not be believed or that their experiences won't be considered 'as bad' as being raped by a man. Men are also raped and sexually assaulted. We believe all survivors of sexual violence deserve specialist support.