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Understanding consent

What is consent?

Sex without consent is rape - whatever the circumstances.

But what exactly does it mean?

Well, when someone gives their consent it means they're freely agreeing to something, without pressure or threats.

Is it just sex you need to get consent for?

Freely given consent isn't just something you need to get for sex - it's also something you need to get for any type of sexual activity (anything from sexual comments, kissing and sexual touching to oral, vaginal and anal sexual intercourse; even online relationships/sexual activity). Consensual sexual activity is when both people feel happy and safe.

Do you still need to get consent if you've had sex before or you're in a relationship?

You need consent every single time you engage in sexual activity, whether you're with someone you've just met, in a relationship with someone and even if you're married. If someone has consented to something sexual before - they have the right to decide they don't want to do it again.

Is it ever too late for someone to change their mind?

No, it's never too late for someone to change their mind. Even If someone has initially given consent but then changes their mind, you must stop what you're doing. If you don't, it's a crime. And if you're the person who's changed their mind, you may fear it's too late to get the other person to stop, but it's never too late to stop.

Is it ok to talk someone into doing something they aren't sure about?

Consent must be freely and willingly given. You don't have consent if you've pestered someone or tried to wear them down or made them feel like they 'owe' you something. You might feel disappointed when someone decides they don't want to do something, especially if they've done it before, but you should never make them feel bad for saying no.

What if the person I'm with is asleep or drunk/high?

Someone is not able to give consent if they're asleep or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Any sexual activity in these circumstances is sexual assault or rape, which is a crime.

Does someone always need to say the word "no"?

Consent can be expressed verbally or non-verbally (known as body language). It's important that you pay attention to each other to make sure you're both comfortable. Just because someone hasn't said the actual word "no" - it doesn't mean they're saying yes. If in doubt, just ask. Healthy sexual relationships involve plenty of communication.

If you think the person you are having sex with is not sure, unhappy, worried or frightened, or you think they might want to stop, then you MUST stop. If you don't, it's a crime.


Working with our partners at Rape Crisis Lanarkshire, Police Scotland and the NHS and also through consulting with young people, we developed these videos to provide important messaging around consent in a way young people can understand and relate to.

Consent should always be given freely. No means No.  

Just because someone doesn't, or isn't able to say No - it doesn't mean you've got their consent. 

If someone changes their mind, you need to respect their decision. 

Misunderstandings can happen. But you always need to make sure you've got consent.

Just because someone's done something once, doesn't mean they have to do it again.

Contacts and more information

If you've experienced any form of sexual violence, or you're supporting someone who has, you can contact: 


Page last updated:
14 Feb 2024

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