"What is consent?"
Consent is when a person freely gives their permission or agrees to something, after having carefully thought about whether or not they want to do it. This decision should have been made without that person being: pressured or bullied, encouraged to use drugs or alcohol to influence their decision, or manipulated or made to feel stupid. If someone is really drunk or stoned then they may lack the capacity to be able to consent, particularly if they pass out or forget what happened. This means that any sexual contact at that time could be unlawful; eg rape
In the UK the law says that both people must give their consent before any physical closeness or sexual activity. This means that if you want to have sex it’s worth checking that your partner wants to as well.
The ability to consent to sex must include a clear understanding of the nature and implications of what is being agreed to (both positive and negative) and unconstrained agreement to sexual activity. Without this, there can be no consent.
The law also says that to consent to sex a person must be over 16 and have the ability to make informed decisions for themselves.
It is always a crime to have sexual activity with somebody without their consent. If someone does not feel free to make a choice (e.g. because they were pressured or threatened) then they have not consented, even if they don’t say no
Brook supports an age of consent that protects young people under 16 from coercion and exploitative relationships with adults. But we also believe it is inappropriate and unnecessary, to criminalise young people who are genuinely capable of consenting to sexual activity.
In other contexts, such as medical treatment, young people under the age of 16 are entrusted with the ability to consent if a doctor or nurse believes they understand the decision they are making.
Here are a couple of links to some really good websites that can help you to understand what consent means, and why it’s so important to be really give consent, and have consent of another person before doing anything sexual with them.
Need someone to talk to?
SHAC - Sexual Health and Contraception
YZUP - Wise up to Drugs and Alcohol
Ask PHIL - support, information and advice on local services
ABC - Anti-bullying in Cornwall
Childline - a free 24 hour counselling service for children and young people
Samaritans - 24 hour confidential emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts
Brook - free and confidential sexual health advice and contraception to young people
Kooth - free online support for young people
Think you know - internet safety and safe surfing for young people
Talk to Frank - friendly, confidential drugs advice