What is Consent?

Sexual consent is an agreement to any sexual experience – be it touching someone, kissing someone, or having full sex with them. This includes the sharing of intimate photos and videos. If someone trusts you enough to send you naked photos or videos of themselves, that doesn’t mean you can share them without their consent. That’s illegal.

The law defines consent as: someone agreeing ‘by choice’ to the sexual experience, and having ‘the freedom and capacity to make that choice’

If you do something sexual with someone and it wasn’t their choice to participate – or they weren’t in the right mind to make that choice – it’s sexual assault or rape. Therefore, in order to protect yourself, and the person you’re intimate with, it’s really important to know you have consent.


So, do I have consent if… 

We’re in a relationship? Not automatically, no. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been going out, you can never assume the person you’re with is always consenting to sex acts. In fact, most sexual assaults and rapes occur in relationships.

They’re drunk/on drugs? No. Someone must be in a sober and clear state of mind to give consent. Obviously people react to drink and drugs in different ways, and there’s a difference between being tipsy and being off your face. If you’ve only just met someone though, you don’t know what they’re like when they’re drunk, so always be considerate and careful. If in doubt, don’t go there.

They’re under 16 but want to have sex? No, legally they’re considered too young to be able to give consent. 

They’re unconscious? No. If someone has passed out or asleep, they are unable to give consent. Even if they are your partner.

They’ve been flirting with me? No. Even if you’re 90% sure this person has been flirting or ‘leading you on’, this does not mean they owe you any sex.

They’re wearing a revealing outfit? No. It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing – whether it be a low-cut top, a tiny skirt, or a onesie – it’s no indication of whether they want to have sex or not.

I asked them and they said ‘no’, but after I persisted they said ‘yes’? No. Pressuring, persuading, or coercing someone into saying ‘yes’ is very unhealthy behaviour and does not give you consent even if they give in.

They’ve not said ‘no’ out loud: A lack of a clear no doesn’t mean it’s a clear yes. It’s really common for somebody under sexual pressure to totally freeze up and not feel able to speak. If they don’t seem into it, stop. They don’t have to yell ‘NO’ to make it clear it’s a no.

We’re already kissing? No. Giving consent to one sexual activity does not count as consent for others. If you want to go to the next level, get the conversation going.

They said ‘yes’ then changed their mind halfway through? No. Consent can always be taken back during sex. It isn’t a binding contract. If they stop, you stop. Even if they don’t say ‘stop’ but they seem freaked out, stiff and uncommunicative – stop, and ask they if they’re OK.

I am in a position of power? No. If you are a teacher or lecturer you cannot receive consent from someone under 18. You are a responsible and influential figure, and engaging in a sexual relationship may affect the care given. 


How do I know I have consent then?

It’s really easy – just ask! 

Also keep in mind someone’s body language too. Do they seem up for this and into this? Or are they freezing up, zoning out, or pushing you off. Georgia, who leads Brook’s work on abuse, violence and exploitation, says: “Body language can be a signifier, but signs can be misread, so it’s always best to check with your partner.”

Keep asking if what you’re doing is ok. For example, “Do you like this?” and “Can I keep touching you there?“ 

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about consent, then maybe you’re not ready to be doing sexy stuff with them.


I think I’ve been raped or sexually assaulted 

If, through reading this, you’re starting to realise there have been situations where your consent was violated, there is support out there. Remember what happened to you wasn’t your fault, and there is support out there and people and organisations that will believe you.


Sexual Assault Referral Centre: 01522 524402

Lincolnshire Rape Crisis: 0800 33 4 55 00 Tuesday 6pm to 9pm, Wednesday 2pm to 4pm or email: [email protected] 


Useful Contacts:

University of Lincoln Students’ Union Advice Centre: 01522537000 [email protected]

University of Lincoln Health Centre: 01522 870010

University of Lincoln Health Centre free GUM clinic and contraception sessions, including implants, every Wednesday 2-6pm: call 01522 309309 and ask for a ‘Lincoln University Health Centre session’

Lincolnshire Sexual Health Service (Central Booking Line): 01522 309309 or click here.

Sexual Health Advice Positive Health (Lincs): 0800 252534 (Positive Health is a Lincoln based charity whose aim is to provide confidential information and support to people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS).

Sexual Assault Referral Centre: 01522 524402

Lincolnshire Rape Crisis: 0800 33 4 55 00 Tuesday 6pm to 9pm, Wednesday 2pm to 4pm or email: [email protected]

Chlamydia screening (15-24 year olds): Text or call 07879 630619

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