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In the UK, the age of sexual consent is 16 years old.

Sexual consent is an agreement to a sexual experience – be it touching someone, kissing someone, or having full sex with them.

What is sexual consent?

In order to give consent, a person must have both the freedom and the capacity to make a choice. This means a person must not be pressured by external influences, or lacking the capacity to make a choice (for example, being drunk, drugged or unconscious).

Sexual activity without consent is a crime. In any sexual situation, it is important to know exactly what a person has said yes to and what a person has said no to. You must not take advantage of someone’s consent by pushing the boundaries beyond their comfort zone.

Consent must be freely given, and remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time.

When is it a yes?

A clear yes can include a verbal response or a non verbal sign, such as leaning in to you, touching back and being in sync with your movements. If you are unsure, then always get verbal reassurance.

A person can say yes to kissing but no to sex, just like a person can say yes to lying next to you on a bed, but no to taking off their clothes. This consent doesn’t last a lifetime and for each sexual encounter with a person you must ask for this permission again. Also be aware that people can change their mind at any point and for any reason.

What if I’m unsure?

Discuss your boundaries with someone and be honest about what you are comfortable with. Sexual activity doesn’t need to be full penetrative sex, and figuring out what lies within your comfort zone will help when talking to your partner. Remember, you can say no to one thing but yes to something else.

Giving consent is down to you only.

Saying no

Understanding when and how to give consent is important. It’s also important to recognise when someone does not give consent.

  • If someone says no to any type of sexual activity, they do not consent. Even if someone doesn’t say no out loud, that doesn’t automatically mean that they have consented to sex.
  • If someone seems unsure, stays quiet, moves away or doesn’t respond, this is not consent. Many people who have experienced sexual violence find that they were unable to move or speak – this is a common reaction.
  • If someone is asleep, unconscious, drunk or drugged, they cannot consent to sexual activity.
  • If someone is threatened, bullied, pressured or manipulated into saying yes, this is not consent.
  • If someone’s not sure whether you are giving your consent for something sexual, they should check with you.
  • If they can see or they suspect you’re not 100% comfortable or happy with what’s happening between you, they should stop.