Healthy lives for young people
Sex

Consent myths and facts

It’s important to remember that you always have a right to say no to any form of sex or sexual activity – and/or to withdraw your consent – at any time.

It doesn’t matter who the other person is, what your relationship with them is, how far you’ve gone with them or others in the past.

Sometimes people don’t really understand what consent means in different situations. Here are some statements about sex and consent. Do you know if they are true or false?

These statements are taken from the Brook Learn course on consent. This course was developed as part of a joint project with the University of Sussex and is based on original doctoral research by Elsie Whittington. Elsie worked extensively with young people to research what they understood about consent and to understand the reality of their own sexual experiences.

False: Just because you had sex with someone before, doesn’t mean that you have to have sex with them again. It’s always up to you if you want to have sex and consent must be sought and given every time. Even in a long-term relationship, you need to ask for consent and give consent every time you have sex. You can’t assume that someone wants to have sex at any given time – you have to ask and listen to the response.

False: Sometimes our bodies will be turned on even though we do not want to engage in sexual activity. It is common to get an erection at times when you don’t want to have sex (e.g. in the classroom). Some people report having an erection when they were raped or feeling turned on when watching porn – even though they don’t like what they are watching. Even if a penis is erect or the vulva is wet –you do not have to have sex if you do not want to. Physical changes in the body can be a sign that someone is aroused but not necessarily. Neither of these things are an invitation to have sex or a sign that someone gives their consent.

You can be sexually assaulted by your partner / husband / wife

True: Sexual assault is sexual assault whether or not it is within a marriage or relationship. A relationship or marriage is not an entitlement to have sex and everyone has the right to say no and yes to sex at all times, whatever the legal status of the relationship. Rape is rape whether or not it is within a marriage or relationship. Men can also be charged with rape of their wife / husband / partner.

True: Having sex or sexual contact with someone when they are too drunk or high to understand what is happening is rape as they cannot consent. It is possible to negotiate consent when you have been drinking or taking drugs – but not when you are too drunk / high to know what is happening.

People that flirt and wear revealing clothes are ‘asking for it’

False: Whether or not someone is flirting, looks attractive or has laughed at the other person’s jokes is irrelevant when it comes to consent. It doesn’t matter how long you have flirted with someone, how attractive you think they are or how much you think they fancy you – someone flirting with you or looking attractive does NOT mean that they consent to have sex with you.

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