Consent – having the opportunity to say yes or no to something – is every person’s right. Yours included. Sexual consent is no different. You have the right to say yes or no before or during any kind of sexual activity and the other person should respect that. 

Either way, the decision should be yours and yours alone, based on what feels right to you. It should not be one that you have been pressured into by somebody else.

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    Over 16s only

    In Britain, the law clearly says that both people need to give their consent before sex or physical closeness. It also says that you must be over 16 to have sex. This is an age when you’re more ready to make smart choices for yourself.

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    If you feel you can’t say no

    There are lots of different ways someone might make you feel like you can’t say no to sex. They might make you feel guilty, saying that if you cared about them you’d do it. They might bully you into it by threatening to hurt you or spread rumours about you. Or, they might encourage you to drink or take drugs to affect your judgement. In each case, this is abuse.

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    If you do say yes

    If you do say yes to sex to a sexual act, it doesn’t mean you always have to say yes to it or any other sexual act. It’s the same with new relationships. Just because you said yes to something in one relationship doesn’t mean you have to say yes to it in another relationship. And if you said yes yesterday or last week, it doesn’t mean that you are saying yes today. You have the right to say yes or no to each and every sexual act.

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    If you change your mind

    If you say yes to something and then change your mind, you can take back your consent and say no at any stage. For instance, imagine that you’re in the middle of something and start to feel uncomfortable. It’s your right to stop. No-one owns you or has a right to force you to continue. Not a friend or family member. Not a boyfriend or girlfriend. Not a husband or wife.

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    If you haven’t said yes

    Just because you’ve been talking with someone, showing interest in them or even flirting with them doesn’t mean you’re saying yes or that you’re somehow asking for it. Only a clear and definite yes means yes.

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    If you are unable to say yes or no

    If you are unable to say no – for example, if you are asleep, unconscious, drunk or taking drugs or don’t understand what you are being asked to agree to or feel like you don’t have a choice – then the other person cannot take that as a yes. If they do then what happens could also be classed as abuse, sexual assault or rape.