All university students, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, full-time or part-time, are entitled to feel safe and supported on campus.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says that someone consents to sexual activity if they: 

·       Agree by choice and 
·       Have both the freedom and capacity to make that choice. 

If someone says ‘no’ to any kind of sexual activity, they are not agreeing to it. 

But, if someone doesn’t say ‘no’ out loud, that doesn’t automatically mean that they have agreed to it either. 

To consent you need to have: the freedom… to make the choice

For sexual activity to be consensual, a person must be free to make the choice as to whether or not to engage. Freedom means not being constrained in any way to agree to sex.

If any kind of physical, emotional, or psychological pressure, abuse or force is used to coerce someone to have sex then the person being coerced has lost their freedom of choice. In such a situation a person might say ‘yes’ to sex but do so out of fear.

So… just because someone says ‘yes’, this does not necessarily mean that they are giving consent. Equally, if they don’t say no or don’t struggle, they are still not saying yes.

The capacity... to make the choice

Having capacity means the person can make and communicate a decision, understand the consequences and know they have a choice. If they cannot do this, they cannot give consent.

  • Someone may not have sufficient capacity to give consent if they have been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Someone does not have the capacity to consent if they are asleep or unconscious.
  • By law, someone under the age of 16 does not have the capacity to consent to sex.
  • Someone may not have capacity to consent due to a disability or mental health condition.
  • Some does not have the capacity to consent if they are being pressured, bullied or manipulated into saying ‘yes’ 

If you are not sure whether consent is being given – always check. If you can see or suspect someone is not 100% comfortable or happy with what’s happening, you should stop. 

 You are free to, and have the right to withdraw consent at any time

You are free to, and have the right to, consent to one form of sexual activity but not another. For example, you might freely and happily agree to kiss someone, be touched by someone, but say no to penetrative sex. You might say yes to sex with a condom but no to sex without one.

Just because someone has consented to sex on one or more occasions does not mean they have agreed to sex indefinitely.

Consent can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. Someone can freely choose to engage with sexual activity and then change their mind and stop.

What consent looks like:

Here are some examples of what consent does and doesn’t look like in practice.

Consent looks like:
  • Enthusiastically saying ‘yes!’
  • Talking to the other person about what you do and don't want, and listening to them in return.
  • Checking in with the other person – for example, asking ‘is this okay?’, ‘do you want to slow down?’ or ‘do you want to stop?’.
  • Respecting someone’s choice if they say ‘no’. And never trying to change their mind or put pressure on them.
* Credits to Rape Crisis England and Wales for some of the information contained in this article.


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