‘Sexual consent’ means that you and your partner both consent to having sex. The bottom line is that both people must always agree to proceed, and not to pressure someone if they don’t feel ready or decide they don’t want to continue. Either person can decide at any time that they don’t want to keep going, and at that point they are no longer giving their consent and both people should stop.
This can help if:
- you want to know more about consent
- you’re not sure how to tell if someone is consenting
- you want to know how to slow down or stop sexual intercourse.
Why is consent important?
Whenever you have sex, you need to make sure that your partner is as enthusiastic about proceeding as you are. In other words, they must give their full consent. It's important that you’re 100% sure that they’re happy and willing to have sex with you, because non-consensual sexual activity (even kissing and touching) is harmful and against the law.
We’re talking rape and sexual assault
Not only is sex without consent a crime, but pressuring or forcing someone into a sexual situation they’re not ready for or don’t agree to (also known as rape and sexual assault) can do lasting emotional damage to them. It’s not enough just to assume that someone wants sex as much as you do; you really do have to ask.
How do you know if they’ve given their consent?
The only way to know for sure if someone has given their consent is if they tell you. Sometimes they might appear to be happy doing something, but on the inside they're not. Sex is complicated. It’s easy for someone to get in too far, too fast, and then suddenly feel unsure.
Ask your partner
Here are some examples of questions you might ask:
- ‘Are you happy with this?’
- ‘Do you want to stop?’
- ‘Do you want to go further?’
The look on their face and body language says a lot
If someone's feeling unsure about having sex, they might indicate this by:
- not responding to your touch
- pushing you away
- hugging themself
- turning away from you or hiding their face
- holding themself rigidly.
Stop and talk about it
If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of the above questions, or if your partner's body language indicates their reluctance to proceed, then you should stop what you’re doing and talk to them about it.
Slowing things down
Taking your time, making sure you’re both comfortable, and talking about how far you want to go will make the time you spend together a lot more satisfying and enjoyable for both of you.
If you feel that things are going too quickly, you could say:
- ‘I don't want to go any further than kissing, hugging and touching.’
- ‘Can we stay like this for a while?’
- ‘Can we slow down?’
You always have the right to say 'no', and you always have the right to change your mind at any time, regardless of how far things have gone.
Some things you can say or do if you want to stop are:
- 'I want to stop.'
- 'I need to go to the toilet.'
A technique for stopping things quickly
If the person you’re with isn’t hearing you, you could pretend you’re going to vomit – it's amazing how quickly someone will move away from you if they think you’re going to puke.
Drink, drugs and consent
Drugs and alcohol can affect your ability to make decisions, including whether or not you want to be sexual with someone. This means that if you’re really drunk or high, you can’t give consent. And being sexual in any way with someone who's drunk or high and doesn’t know what's going on is equivalent to raping them, because they can’t give informed consent.
The bottom line
The key to pleasurable sex for everyone involved is to know for sure that you’re both equally enthusiastic about it. If you’re not sure, or if it doesn’t feel right, don’t keep going. Don’t pressure someone if they’re not sure. Wait. If the time is right, the time is right.
What can I do now?
- Check that your partner is comfortable with what’s going on.
- Make sure you talk to your partner before moving forward.
- Don’t pressure someone if they don’t feel ready.