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Supporting young people's sexual health

Consent explained

Consent means agreeing to do something that you want to do.

Sexual consent

Consent is needed for every type of sexual activity, from kissing to touching through to penetrative sex.

Sexual consent means everyone involved is:

  • happy
  • comfortable
  • enjoying the sexual activity they are involved in
  • taking part by choice

You need consent every time you engage in sexual activity.

You need consent with someone you have just met, or with someone you are in a relationship with.

You need consent for each kind of sexual activity. For example, you need consent to change from kissing to touching, or from touching to oral sex.

The absence of a ‘no’ does not mean consent. The only way to be sure you have got consent is for your partner to say or show, very clearly, that they want to do the sexual activity.

Good communication is key


Check in with yourself and your partner!

Take a look at this campaign, NHS Awkward Moments, which is about getting people talking about and understanding what good consent feels and looks like.

Young people were involved in making this campaign.

For more ways to start the conversation about what good consent feels and looks like visit www.awkwardmoments.co.uk.

Good ways of communicating consent

Consent can be:

  • verbal (spoken words)
  • non-verbal (body language like facial expressions, hand signs or the actions we take)
  • a mix of both

Examples of consent

  • words like yes, that feels good, or keep going
  • actions like nodding yes, pulling a partner closer, actively touching a partner
  • facial expressions like looking happy


When is it not consent

Examples of things that are not consent

  • words like no, stop, or wait
  • actions like shaking their head no, holding their palm out in a stop sign, moving away or turning their back, freezing (not moving), crying
  • facial expressions like looking unhappy or scared

Read more about when is it not consent.


Good communication during sexual activity

It is important you pay attention to each other and make sure you are still happy, comfortable and enjoying the sexual activity. If you are not sure that the other person is happy and comfortable, you do not have consent.

Consent can change at any time. Watch and listen to your partner all the way through any sexual activity you do together. Ask for consent before you change the type or level of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this okay?”

For more information on how to give and get consent visit Brook.

Remember you can always change your mind

You can always change your mind when you are doing something sexual. Sometimes in the moment you want to change your mind. It is never too late to stop.

  • If you have consented to something sexual before, you can decide not to do it again, and so can the other person.
  • If someone changes their mind and no longer gives consent you must stop what you are doing.
  • If you think the person you are having sex with is not sure, unhappy, worried or frightened, or that they want to stop, then you must stop.
  • The other person does not have to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ because they can say what they feel with their body or actions.

Without consent, any kind of sexual activity is sexual violence.

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