Relationships and sex should be fun and enjoyable, with both partners saying ‘yes’!
What is Consent?
Consent means you agree that something can happen. Sexual consent is where a person agrees to sexual activity. Sex without consent is rape.
Consent can only be given by a person who has the ability and freedom to consent, either verbally or through body language. Consent must be given for all sexual activity.
Crucial: Sexual activity can range from kissing to touching each other, to full sex.
Thames Valley Police have created a video to help explain consent.
Age of Consent
The age that you can legally have sex in the UK is 16. The age is the same for everyone.
It is illegal to have sexual activity with someone under 16. However, if both partners are under the age of 16, a similar age, and both agree to have sexual activity it is unlikely they will be prosecuted. The law is there to protect young people from being pressured into sex.
Crucial: Even if the police decide against prosecution, the young person’s parents or the young person themselves still can.
Children under the age of 13 are given special protection and cannot give consent to any sexual activity. Sex with a child under the age of 13 can result in a life sentence in prison.
Instant Expert: Read the full Law on Sex factsheet.
If you're under 16, you can still get confidential advice about contraception, emergency contraception and sexual health.
Coercive Control and abusive relationships
Abusive relationships happen when one person has more power and treats the other person badly some or all of the time. In relationships like this, the abusing partner may assume they always have consent, or the partner being abused may go along with things because they feel trapped, unsafe or bad about themselves.
This is not consent. It is coercive control, or domestic abuse.
Coercive control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. This is not love, it is abuse.
Find out more: Visit Consent is Everything, which was produced by the Thames Valley Sexual Violence Prevention Group to explore issues around coercive control and respect in relationships.
Disrespect NoBody is a place where you can find out what is and isn't ok in relationships.
When you disrespect someone's body, you disrespect the person too. This video matches animated body parts to boxers talking with their friends for advice on the different ways to spot consent.
Young people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans or questioning can feel more pressure around consent, and may be less likely to seek help if they are feeling pressured to have sex. This can happen for all sorts of reasons:
- To prove or test a sexual identity
- Because it seems like what people do
- Worry about being rejected by friends or family
- Unreasonable pressure from risky individuals (find out more about Child Sexual Exploitation)
Consent is important for all people and everyone has the same protection under the law. Lots of people, from your School Health Nurse to dedicated helplines like GALOP are able to offer information and support around consent and sexual pressure.