What is sexual consent?

Consent is defined by section 74 Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  • Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if s/he agrees by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
  • Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom. 
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time activity occurs.
  • Consenting to someone touching you in a sexual manner means agreeing to it by choice and having both the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
It is NOT consent if you or someone else was:
  • Asleep, unconscious, drunk, drugged or 'on' drugs.
  • Pressured, manipulated, tricked or scared into saying yes.
  • Too young or vulnerable to have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
If someone’s unsure whether the other person is giving their consent for something sexual, it is their responsibility to check with them.

What does sexual consent look like?
  • Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but it should be enthusiastic. Verbally discussing and agreeing to different sexual activities can help you and your partner understand and respect each other’s boundaries.
  • Other signs of sexual consent are positive body language, responsiveness, and affirmation that your partner wants to continue to engage in sexual activity with you (e.g. saying yes that feels good)
  • To get consent, you can ask 'Is this ok?' or 'Are you enjoying this?' or 'Is it ok for me to carry on?'
  • If your partner isn't responding or engaging with you, they might not want to continue. You should check if they are still ok to keep going before continuing with any activity. Do not assume it is ok because you have engaged in that activity before.
  • If your partner says 'no', 'stop' or 'I'm not really enjoying this' then he or she is not willingly consenting - and you should stop immediately.
  • Remember, if someone is too drunk to say yes, or if they are asleep, you should assume that they have not given consent to sexual activity with you as they are unable to do this while intoxicated or unconscious.

Tips for talking with your partner about consent
  • Think about your own needs, desires and boundaries
  • Ask questions with an open mind
  • Be specific
  • Speak up if you are unsure or change your mind
  • Check-in with your partner regularly
  • Ask every time, and be open to any response; accept a “no” as readily as a “yes”

The charity Brook provide useful information and guidance on sex and consentSex and consent – Brook

The University also provides a more detailed course on consent that you can take. You will find this on your Faculty Blackboard Hub. 

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