Photo: Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign
What is consent?
Consent means giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something and being comfortable with that decision.
What does the law say about sexual consent?
- British law says that both people need to give their consent before sex or any physical closeness
- The law also says that to consent to sex, a person must be 16 or over and have the ability to make informed decisions for themselves (i.e. they have to have the freedom and capacity to make the decision and not be impaired by drugs or alcohol)
Talk to your teen to help them understand what consent means and that it’s an essential part of a healthy relationship, as it’s crucial to respect the other person’s wishes.
- Consent must be given freely and no one can be made to consent to something. It’s not consent if someone does something because they feel like they must.
- If somebody agrees to sexual activity because they’ve been pestered, intimidated, or faced physical or emotional threats, they have not given consent. Click here for the signs of being pressured to give consent.
- If you want to do something sexual with your partner, the responsibility lies with you to gain and check for consent, not with your partner to say ‘no’ if they don’t want to.
- Just because someone consented to something once, it doesn’t mean you have consent every time and it still means you have to ask again as they could feel differently from last time.
- Consent to one sort of sexual activity does not mean consent to everything.
- If one person doesn’t want to have sex, the other person needs to accept that. It’s not ok to try and change their minds, as pressuring someone into sex when they don’t want to is rape. You should also never pressure someone to have sex without using contraception.
- You can also never assume that someone is giving consent – you have to be sure. Talk to your partner, check that they are happy and consent to what’s going to happen.
- People must be able to freely give their consent. If someone’s unconscious, drunk or asleep, they cannot freely give consent. Someone may have consented to sex whilst awake, but if they then pass out or fall asleep before you’re finished, you must stop. You can’t assume they want to carry on.
- Remember they don’t have to say the word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that they can communicate through body language just as much as speech. Look out for an ‘active yes’ which is when your partner’s enthusiastically participating in the situation. If they are tense, they may be nervous or frightened and trying to hide how they really feel.
- If you’re not sure if you have consent, stop.
Find out more
There are many organisations that will provide help and resources for you and your child.
The Disrespect NoBody website hosts advice and guidance on relationship abuse, sexting, consent and pornography, along with the contact details of organisations that support teenagers and their families on these issues.
The Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign helps young people to:
- understand what a healthy relationship is
- re-think their views of abuse, consent and controlling behaviour in relationships.
It aims to prevent the onset of domestic violence in teen and adult relationships by challenging attitudes and behaviours amongst young people that abuse in relationships is acceptable.
This video, produced by the Thames Valley Police, explains consent in a creative, relatable way, by comparing it pouring someone a cup of tea.
Guidance for parents:
Many of the organisations on the Disrespect NoBody website also provide support for parents. Extra advice can be found on:
For further materials on the Disrespect NoBody campaign, please visit gov.uk