Healthy lives for young people
Sex

How to give and get consent

Want to know the secret to good sex? Consent.

Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. But even more important that just agreeing to sex is actively enjoying it. Consent doesn’t have to mean a stiff, awkward, formal conversation. It can be a continuous dialogue about what you want, don’t want, like and don’t like.

Getting enthusiastic consent is important as it makes sure that everyone involved wants to engage in the sexual act and are free and happy to do so. If you’re not sure that the other person is consenting, just pause and ask them – it’s a good habit to get into.

Saying no

If you say ‘no’, or if someone else says ‘no’, through words or through body language, you must always respect their wishes.

And remember:

  • Consent should always be asked for throughout a sexual encounter
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re married, in a relationship or have had sex before, you still need consent
  • Even if the other person doesn’t actually say no, you still need to seek their consent
  • Even if the other person appears to be turned on, you still need to seek their consent
  • Flirting or wearing sexy clothes does not equal giving consent
  • If someone is drunk or high, they may not be able to consent
  • Putting pressure on someone or making them feel bad for changing their mind, means that consent may not be given

Sex should be enjoyable and must always be agreed to by everyone involved. Giving enthusiastic consent means saying ‘yes’, freely and without being forced and by using body language which shows the other person that you are enjoying yourself and happy.

It’s important to remember that you always have a right to say no 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.

Physical, emotional and psychological pressure may be used to force someone else into sexual activity. Just because someone does not hold you down and make you engage in a sexual act against your will or if you do not say ‘no’, it does not mean you have consented.

Read our advice about sex and saying no.

Getting help if you need it

If you are under 19, and you are worried about any of the issues covered here, you can contact Childline in confidence for help and advice.

Whatever your age you call 999 or support organisations such as Rape Crisis or Victim Support.

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