What is Consent?

Consenting couple

Consent is giving your permission or agreement to do something - In this case sexually activity.  In the UK, there are laws which say at which age you are deemed legally able to give consent to sexual activity. The age of consent for any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women in England and Wales. This is regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of a person, or whether the sexual activity is between people of the same or different gender, the age of consent is the same.

Health professionals (doctors and nurses) in the UK are allowed to provide contraception advice and treatment to young people who are under 16 if, in their professional judgement, they believe it is in the young person’s best health interests and the young person is able to give what is considered to be informed consent.

Sexual offences laws in the UK don't prevent professionals from providing confidential sexual health advice, information or treatment. The law actually states that it is not an offence provide information, advice and/or treatment if it is in order to protect the young person’s sexual health, physical safety or emotional wellbeing.

Age of consent

Sexual activity with someone under the age of 16 is a criminal offence. BUT...Home Office guidance makes it clear that there is no intention to prosecute teenagers under the age of 16 where both mutually agree and where they are of a similar age.

It is a criminal offence for someone aged 18 or over to have any sexual activity with someone under the age of 18 if the older person has a position of trust over the younger person (e.g. a teacher or social worker) as such sexual activity is an abuse of the position of trust.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 gives specific legal protection for children aged 12 and under: they are deemed unable to legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity. There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.


Enthusiastic consent

We often talk about Enthusiastic Consent. Enthusiastic consent mean that both people who engage in any sort of sexual activity should be doing so with enthusiasm. It should be “Yes... of course yes... for sure yes!” and not “Yeah ok… Erm...”. If you have any doubt about this… give your partner the chance to say ‘Yes!’. Ask then and listen, ‘is this OK?’, ‘what would you like us to do?’ There is a wonderful feeling when you know that your partner loves what you are doing because they are into it and have asked.

Was the sex you had the sex you wanted?

No matter how far you have gone with someone, you have the right to say NO and to opt out at any time. 

Did you and your partner both consent to sex?

CONSENT needs to be given for each sexual act – anal, oral and vaginal sex.  Just because you agreed to one type of sex, doesn’t mean you agreed to all types of sex.

Choice – Did you have the ability to say yes or no?

Freedom - Did you ever feel scared, pressured, coerced or bribed into the sex you had?

Capacity – Did you have the mental capacity to consent? If you are under the influence of any substance, it is best not to have sex?

Did you always feel in control of your decisions?

Did you trust the person you had sex with?

We are here for you, we want to keep you healthy and safe.  If you now feel that the sex you had or planning to have doesn’t feel right.  An experienced member of the sexual health team would be more than happy to talk to you about it.  Never feel embarrassed, never feel ashamed and you should never feel alone.