Consent is essential for healthy sexual relationships – so what exactly does it mean?

  • In this context (sex), consent means two or more people agreeing for something sexual to happen.      
  • Consent is an active, free, and mutual agreement made between two or more people.
  • Consent is an enthusiastic YES! it isn't a 'maybe', or an 'I think so', or silence.
  • Something people can change their mind about.
  • NOT permission (permission is something we are granted by people who have more power than us, consent requires equal power).      
  • Consent is full–all people involved are 100% willing.
  • Consent is voluntary - everyone is freely and willingly engaged.
  • Consent is informed–everyone involved knows exactly what it is they are agreeing to do.
  • Consent is NOT a contract. It is an ongoing and reversible process–anyone can stop at any time and can change their mind.
  • Consent must be sought every time you engage in a sexual activity with others. 
  • It also means taking responsibility to ensure that the person you are having sex with is comfortable the entire time and wants to engage in sexual activity. Both people should be constantly communicating enthusiastic consent by using both words and actions. If you’re both equally as enthusiastic about having sex, it also makes the sex much more pleasurable and enjoyable. Have a conversation with your sexual partner(s) about consent. This can sometimes feel scary, but it's really important.  

If we want to have sex it's important that we understand how the other person feels about it and that we are aware of how we’re initiating sex. 

Sexual violence is…

  • Any unwanted sexual behaviour towards another person.       
  • Anything sexual without consent.
  • Sexual violence can occur physically (e.g rape and assault); verbally (e.g saying something of a sexual nature to another person without their consent); visually (e.g making another person watch porn without their consent); or online (e.g sending another person sexual messages or images without their consent). 

This could be:      

  • Kissing/touching
  • Saying things of a sexual nature to someone 
  • Sending nudes without consent 
  • Penetrative sex.

Legally, if its sexual and there is no consent, it is not sex, it is sexual violence, however people can define their own experiences in whatever way they want.  

Types of consent

Although we always need a verbal enthusiastic YES, it’s also important to look out for non-physical signs of consent such as body language. When physical and verbal signs of consent are given together, we know for sure that we’ve got our partner(s) consent. 

Some NO body-language signals include:

  • Rigidity  
  • Look uncomfortable 
  • Breaking eye contact  
  • Moving away 
  • Closed-off body language (i.e legs or arms crossed) 
  • Keeping clothes on 
  • Not kissing/touching back. 

Your partner(s) is not ‘playing hard to get’ when displaying these signals, they’re just not keen. 

Some YES body-language signals:

  • Relaxed, open body language 
  • Moving closing 
  • Kissing/touching back 
  • Taking clothes off 
  • Making eye contact.

Even if you can see physical YES signals, its still important to verbally ask your partner(s) for their consent. This could sound like “are you ready for {this sexual activity}?” “are you keen to do {this sexual activity} now?” Although this can feel awkward and cringe, it shouldn’t be, consent can be sexy and fun.

Consent is the most important part of sex (along with contraception) and if you don’t feel comfortable having this conversation with your partner(s), then you need to work together to get to that stage of your relationship before engaging in sexual activity.