Consent comes first; it represents the cornerstone of respectful and healthy intimate relationships. In short, consent is obtaining the permission or approval of something before you follow through. Check out the pause, play, stop pages for some interactive information around consent. The recent campaign ‘Awkward Moments’may also be a useful resource to watch.
Communication is key:
Talking to one another helps you to understand exactly what each of you is or is not comfortable with; each person has different boundaries, and that is okay, but something to always bear in mind.
Communication doesn’t have to be verbal; look out for body language, before and during sexual activity. For example, if someone is frozen, motionless or doesn’t seem to be responding verbally in an enthusiastic manner, they’re unlikely to be enjoying themselves and you need to check in to see if they want to continue.
Just because you are enjoying the situation, it doesn’t mean that your partner is also enjoying themselves as well. Remember that porn is not an accurate account, it’s an exaggerated act often with immediate gratification. Real sex and consent take time and effort, which is why you need to ask before you act.
If they don’t say ‘yes’, pause in their response or show any other signals which suggests they are not enjoying themselves, stop what you’re doing. An unenthusiastic or even neutral response could suggest they want the act to be over with as soon as possible, which suggests they are not having an enjoyable experience.
Pleasure not Pressure
Sex should be a fun and enjoyable experience, but some people may be more vulnerable when it comes to sexual activity. It is important to be patient and don’t pressure your partner into anything. There is a plethora of reasons someone may wish to move slower, for example, it might be their first time ever, or their first time with a different person, or they may have had a bad sexual experience previously.
Asking questions and making statements is a good way to ensure that your partner is still enjoying themselves and happy for you to continue; these can be as simple as “Is this okay?”, “Do you like that?”, “Tell me to stop or slow down if anything I do makes you uncomfortable.” Someone who feels forced, coerced, or manipulated into sexual activity may not be able to talk clearly because their brain is telling them they’re in danger, so ensure you are looking out for physical clues too.
What does Consent look like?
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
Not getting angry if they say they aren’t in the mood anymore.
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
Myths about Consent
"Some people 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 the survivor’s fault, it is a choice that an abuser makes, and it's against the law.
"People 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.
"Some one 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"
Approximately 10% of all rape victims are male. We believe all survivors of sexual violence deserve specialist support.
“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. All instances of rape or sexual assault are serious and should be treated as such.