Sexual consent

Knowing what consent does and does not look like.

Sexual consent means a person agrees to have sex or take part in any kind of sexual activity by choice. Consent should be given clearly and freely.

This means that a person is unable to give consent if:

If consent is not given to any kind of sexual activity, this is rape or sexual assault. If you repeatedly ask for consent and are refused, this can count as sexual harassment.

How do you know if you have consent

The following video from our partner, Consent Collective, explains how we can establish if consent has been given:

What consent can look like

  • enthusiastically saying ‘yes’ (this could be the other person saying the word 'yes' or their body language suggesting 'yes' by smiling or nodding)
  • talking to the other person about what you both want and do not want to do
  • asking permission or checking with each other using phrases like, "Is this okay with you?"
  • respecting someone’s choice if they change their mind or say "no" at any point.

This list is not a complete list.

What consent does not look like

  • a person who is upset, pulls away, seems uncomfortable or is not responding
  • refusing to accept "no" as an answer
  • someone pressuring you into sexual activity
  • someone assuming they have consent because you agreed to a sexual act in the past.

This list is not a complete list.

What the law says about consent

  • A person consents if they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
  • A person commits rape if they purposely penetrate (meaning enter) the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with their penis without consent.
  • A person commits sexual assault if they purposely touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.
  • The law recognises that a person might not have the capacity (meaning ability) to consent due to age or understanding. If someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this can also affect their ability to consent.

The age of consent

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women.

A person under 18 years old cannot consent to sex if the other person has a duty of care or is in a position of authority or trust, such as a teacher, doctor or lecturer.

Learn more about consent

Consent collective

We've partnered with Consent Collective who have created videos on topics ranging from consent, and relationships to sexual harassment.

Create an account with Consent Collective by:

  1. Visit Consent Collective Bristol.
  2. Select 'sign in' to access Consent Collective TV.
  3. Enter your name, your University of Bristol email address and a password.
  4. Select 'sign up'.
  5. Choose a video to view it. There may be a few seconds delay before the video begins.

Next steps

If you think you have experienced unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, see our sexual misconduct page for advice on what to do next. You can also get support from external charities and organisations.

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