Consent is sexy: how to gain and give consent to sexual activity
To consent to sexual activity means to give permission for a sexual act to happen because you want it to happen. Gaining consent from a person before engaging in any sexual activity with them is mandatory, and no one should engage in sexual activity with you without your consent. If they do, this is sexual assault or rape, depending on the activity.
Consent must be given
1. by both/all partners
4. every time and for every sexual act.
How do you know if a person consents? It’s simple. Ask them.
Gaining and giving consent verbally should be part of the ongoing communication between you and your partner. Importantly, just because a person has consented to some things, does not mean they have consented to others. For example, your partner may feel comfortable with kissing or touching each other’s genitals, but this does not mean they consent to oral sex or penetrative sex. Before carrying out a sexual act, ask your partner for permission. Say something along the lines of ‘Is it okay if I touch you here?’, ‘Can I go down on you?’ or ‘Do you want to have sex?’, and wait for their response. It should be enthusiastic! If it isn’t, then think carefully about if your partner really does consent, and if there is any doubt in your mind, don’t do it. Reassure them that it’s important to you that they want it as much as you, and if they say no, you must respect that. The same applies if there is something you’d like your partner to do to you, never try to physically or verbally force your partner to perform a sex act they don’t want to do.
Look for continuous verbal and body language signs that your partner is enjoying what is happening and wants it to continue. If these are not obvious then again, ask them! Use questions such as ‘are you ok?’ and ‘do you like that?’ to check in with your partner, and again look for enthusiasm! Consent can be withdrawn at any time so if your partner decides they don’t want to continue, you must stop immediately.
In the absence of verbal consent, a person can of course consent to a sexual activity by actively and enthusiastically participating in it, but that is the key: active and enthusiastic participation! This is implied consent and is open to misinterpretation and ambiguity. The only way to know beyond any reasonable doubt that your partner consents is to ask them. If at any point your partner becomes hesitant, uncomfortable or unsure, you must stop what you’re doing.
No one is ever obliged to have any kind of sex with someone, even with a partner or someone they’re married to, or someone they’ve had sex with once before or a hundred times before. Consent can never be assumed regardless of what they’re wearing or if they have been drinking alcohol or using drugs or if you have bought them dinner or drinks all night. Sex is never owed to anyone.
If a person has been drinking alcohol, their ability to consent to sex may be affected. An intoxicated person is legally unable to consent to sex and having sex with a person who is very drunk is rape or sexual assault. It is also important to note that in the UK, the law states that consent cannot be given if either partner is under the age of 16- which includes vaginal, anal and oral sex.