What is consent?
Giving consent to sexual contact means that you agree to have sex or to be intimate with someone. This might include full penetrative sex (inserting the penis), oral sex (sexual contact using your mouth), or touching each other’s genitals or other “private” body parts.
Just because somebody hasn’t said “no” doesn’t mean they’ve consented and agreed to have sex with you. They might be unable to give consent because they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or perhaps they feel too frightened or threatened to actually say “no”.
You should never try and have sex or any other form of physical contact with somebody unless you’re sure they want you to.
The easiest way to be sure that somebody wants to have sex is to ask them. Many people might see this as a “mood killer”, but it’s important to remember that having sex with somebody against their wishes is rape. (Even if you don’t have “full sex” with somebody it still might be sexual assault. It’s rape if there is penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus.)
No means no
Remember, no means no – but just because somebody hasn’t said “no”, it doesn’t mean they mean “yes”.
If the concept of consent seems confusing, think of this simple example: somebody has a plate of chips. If they’ve said you can’t have one of their chips, it’s pretty clear they don’t want to share and you should keep your hands to yourself. However, just because they haven’t said you can’t have any chips doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to help yourself!
Now think how much more important sex is. Do you really want to “help yourself” when somebody doesn’t want you to? You’re unlikely to be arrested for stealing somebody’s chips, and they might even forgive you, but rape and sexual assault are illegal, and are serious, life-changing offences.
Age of consent
The age of consent is the age at which somebody is considered legally old enough to give their consent to have sex.
In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age of consent is 16. This means it’s illegal for you to have sex if you’re under the age of 16, or to have sex with somebody who is. This law exists to protect young people.
Please bear in mind that Umbrella’s door is always open to you, even if you’re under the age of consent. While it’s against the law for you to have sex if you’re under 16, we can still provide you with free and confidential sexual health services. (The only way we’d tell anyone would be if we needed to share your details with other organisations because we thought you were at risk.)