What is Consent?

Some truths and guidelines about Consent. Please also check out: what is NOT consent for a more complete answer.
  • Consent to have sex is when both people agree to have sex. But it’s not just allowing something, or giving permission – it’s knowing that you both really want and desire each other.
  • Consent should be mutually agreed upon: with a clear understanding of what is being asked for and consented to. If you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy – ask first.
  • Touching someone’s breasts, genitals or buttocks without their consent is sexual assault. So is making someone touch you. Any form of sexual activity with another person without her or his consent is sexual assault.
  • Consent should be freely given: it should never be coerced, be forced, involve pressure, intimidation or threats.
  • Consent must never be assumed or implied, even if you’re in a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean that you always have consent to have sex with your partner. Intimate partner rape, date rape and acquaintance rape are the most common forms of rape.
  • It’s always OK to say No. Consent may be withdrawn at any time, and when it is withdrawn all sexual activity must stop immediately.
  • If you do not ask for Consent, you are at risk of doing something the other person doesn’t want you to do.  You are also at risk of breaking the law and facing criminal charges.

What is Not Consent?

  • Silence, or not responding – is not consent. The absence of a No does not mean Yes … no answer does not mean Consent can be assumed.
  • Lack of physical resistance does not mean Consent can be assumed. Someone threatened with violence, or intimidated psychologically, may be too fearful to resist.
  • A Yes is not Consent when someone is coerced, pressured, or afraid of how their partner might react to a No response:  “I’m not sure if I’m ready”  “I don’t know if I want to”  “I think I’ve had too much to drink”  “I don’t want to get AIDS”  “I’m scared”  – all of these statements must be taken as meaning No.
  • Confused or unclear communication is not Consent. Sometimes we may think we mean one thing when we are actually saying something else. Typical examples that are not asking for Consent for sex are:
    “Want to go back to my place?”
      (consent only to go to your place)
    “Should we get it on?”
      (unclear what activity is intended)
  • Someone who is intoxicated from alcohol or drugs, voluntarily and involuntarily, or who is unconscious or asleep, unaware, or otherwise helpless, is not capable of giving Consent. Someone may be responsible for being drunk, or high, but they are not responsible for being sexually assaulted.
  • Someone who is under-age is legally incapable of giving Consent. It is the responsibility of the person asking for Consent to be aware of the legal age of Consent for their state or country.
  • A sexy dress is not consent. Someone may dress or behave in a sexy or provocative way – but dress or behaviour should not be confused with Consent. Dress or behaviour is not a legal argument for sexually assault.

What is Sexy?

  • Sexy is sex with consent. Sex without consent is rape.
  • Sexy is talking about sex with your partner. About how far you want to go. How fast you want to go. What you like to do. And what you don’t like to do – setting your boundaries.
  • Sexy is being empowered, through the practise of consent, to create the type of sexual relationship you both want with each other.
  • Sexy is being listened to by your partner. Because it shows caring and respect.
  • Sexy is being open and honest. Open and honest communication means being able to say No, and having No accepted and respected.
  • Sexy is acknowledging that you and your partner have sexual needs and desires. It’s normal for women and men to want to have sex. And it’s normal to want to enjoy sex.
  • Sexy is respecting yourself. By being clear and confident about your own personal beliefs and values. And by standing up for them.
  • Sexy is respecting your partner. By acknowledging your partner’s personal values and beliefs. And accepting them. (If you cannot accept your partners values and beliefs, or if they can’t accept yours, then perhaps you need to reconsider your relationship.)
  • Sexy is being informed about how to protect yourself and your partner against HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and unplanned pregnancy.
  • Sexy is being responsible for those decisions to protect yourselves and acting on them.

Why is Consent Sexy?

  • Sex is sexiest when both partners want itwithout feelings of pressure, intimidation or fear.
  • When your partner asks for Consent it not only shows they want you, but also that he or she respects you, cares how you feel, cares about what you want, respects your boundaries – and that’s sexy because caring is sexy.
  • Giving Consent show you want your partner as much as they want you – and that’s sexy.
  • Consent is talking about sex – real, confident, open communication. The practice of consent will naturally create a more caring, more responsive, respectful love life for you both. And that’s sexy!

When is it OK to say No?

 It’s always OK to say No.

You may want to say No because:

  • you feel you’re not ready for sex in your relationship
  • you have strong beliefs about sex before marriage
  • you feel that you want him, or her, as a friend – but not as a sexual partner
  • you feel attracted to your partner, but you want to go slow
  • your partner has not been open or honest about their HIV and/or STD status
  • you have agreed to sex with your partner – but now you want something different

You should never feel you have to give consent.  To anyone.  For any reason.

When is it OK so say Yes?

  • When you are very clear that this is what you want, and you’re not just saying Yes to please your partner.
  • When you feel you can trust your partner to respect your decision – even if you change your mind, and say No.

Does No always mean No?

No always means No.  And we should always respect it.

It’s always OK to say No. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you always have consent. Ask first, make it sexy. Sex with consent is sexy. Sex without consent is rape.

No means it’s time to Stop.

  • It does not mean – Slow down.
  • It does not mean – Persuade me.
  • It does not mean – Keep trying until I give in.
  • It does not mean – Yes, but I don’t want to give in too easily.
  • You’re not my type – means No.

These statements are not consent:

  • Don’t touch me – means No.
  • I’m not sure if I’m ready – means No.
  • I don’t know if I want to – means No.
  • I think I’ve had too much to drink – means No.
  • I don’t want to get AIDS – means No.
  • I’m scared – means No.
  • Not now – means NO.


Non-verbal messages such as lack of eye contact, crossing arms, not responding, or pulling away, can be signs of discomfort, anxiety or fear. In any of these situations – stop immediately.

What if I’m Too Excited to Stop?

  • It can be difficult to stop when you are in the middle of something, but no matter how excited you are, if your partner asks you to stop – always respect that request.
  • You or your partner have the right to say No at any time – even if you or your partner said Yes earlier. It’s everyone’s right to change their mind about sex. Just as we would not want to have something forced on us … so we should never force something on anyone else.

How can I Ask for Consent?

You may feel that asking for consent makes sex too formal. But it doesn’t need to be. It can be as simple as, “Is this OK with you?”  Or it can be as hot, as creative, and as sexy as you want to make it!  Discovering what your partner enjoys, then doing it for them, can be very sexy.

Ways to Ask Your Lover:

  • I’d really like to hug / kiss / touch /  ………..  you. Would you like to?
  • Do you like it when I do this?  Do you want to do it to me?
  • Is it OK if I take off my shirt / top / bra / pants ?
  • What would do you like me to do for you?
  • It makes me hot when you kiss / touch /  ……..  me there.
    What makes you hot?
  • I really feel like making love  / having sex with you.
    Do you feel like it too?
  • Have you ever  …………  ?  Would you like to try it with me?

If you have favourite ways of asking your partner for sexy things you like – and you feel like sharing them with the world – contact us, and if the Consent is Sexy team gives them the OK. We’ll add them to the list of Ways to Ask your Lover. Remember, we won’t post your email address.

How can I talk about Consent?

Consent is really about communication. It starts with getting to know each other. Finding out what you like and dislike. Learning what you have in common, and what is different. Discovering each other’s hopes and fears. Desires and dreams. Sharing how you grew up, who you are now, your plans for the future.

And, if there is a sexual attraction between you, then talking about sex will naturally flow out of this conversation.

  • How important is sex in a relationship?
  • When do you want to become sexually active in your relationship?
  • What are you looking for … sexually?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • What are your boundaries?
  • How fast or slow do you want to go?

Talking about questions like these can be fun and interesting. And can tell you a lot about whether you are both sexually compatible. Much better to know this before you begin a sexual relationship!

An important part of this conversation must be about how to protect each other against HIV, STIs, and unplanned pregnancy. And taking responsibility for those decisions and acting on them!

If you’re not accustomed to talking with your partner about sex, then the first few times may feel uncomfortable and awkward. But practise makes perfect. Be creative and spontaneous. Don’t give up. The more times you have these conversations with your partner, the more comfortable you will become and the easier it gets!

Is Consent always Spoken?

This is something for you to explore with your partner. Some lovers want to be asked every step, every time. Some couples make spoken consent a rule for the first few times, and once they’ve developed some trust and understanding they can relax into something more unspoken, more intuitive.
Spoken consent is recommended for:

  • new sexual relationship, or when you or your partner are new to sex
  • those who’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, especially recently

Whatever you decide – be gentle, go slowly. Particularly the first few times, until you know each other better. Be present and be sensitive. Never force anything. Be awake to small signals – if you notice that your partner might be tensing and resisting – then stop and relax.

Accept that things change – what you or your partner wanted before may not be what is wanted now.

Remember – sex is making love – it should always be loving!