What is consent?

Consent is a factor in around 80% of current rape investigations so it is an important subject that everyone needs to understand so that we can prevent rapes happening.

What is consent?

Consent is informed, freely and actively given, mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.

Consent is clear and active

Consent is expressed through words or actions that create mutually understandable permission.

Consent is never implied. And the absence of a no is not a yes.

Silence is not consent.

'I’m not sure,' 'I don’t know,' 'maybe' and similar phrases are not consent.

Consent is coherent

People incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot consent.

Someone who cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because she or he lacks the capacity to understand the "who, what, when, where, why or how" of the situation cannot consent.

People who are asleep or in another vulnerable position cannot consent.

Consent is willing

Consent is never given under pressure.

Consent is not obtained through psychological or emotional manipulation.

Consent cannot be obtained through physical violence, threats or blackmail.

Consent is ongoing

Consent must be granted every time you engage in sexual activity.

Consent must be obtained at each step of the physical intimacy. If someone consents to one sexual activity, she or he may or may not be willing to go further, and consent for one sexual activity is not consent for another sexual activity.

Consent must be obtained every time you initiate sexual activity. Just because somebody has consented in the past it does not mean they consent to doing it again.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time, including during any sexual encounter.

Consent is not effective if it results from the use of:

  • Physical force
  • Threats
  • Intimidations
  • Coercion
  • Blackmail

Obtaining consent

Being drunk or high does not diminish the necessity of consent. You are still responsible for obtaining it, or for waiting, if consent cannot be obtained due to being incapacitated, for instance, by intoxication.

You can be incapacitated without being passed out. A person can be drunk without falling down.

Consent is not the absence of a no, but the presence of a yes.

Silence is not consent

Only 'YES' means 'YES'

Sex without consent is rape. When you're in doubt about someone's ability to consent, wait until they are in a position to give consent.

Sexual consent is easy to understand when you compare it with offering somebody a cup of tea. Here is a video to explain consent using offering a cup of tea as an example. click here to watch.

The #thisdoesntmeanyes campaign, in association with rape crisis England and Wales, explains various scenarios that are not consent and emphasises the message that the only 'yes' should ever be a 'yes'. Visit their website for more information.

We have created some adverts to help people understand consent. Click below to listen to them:

Consent advert 1 - You haven't heard yes

Consent advert 2 - So many ways to say no

Consent advert 3 - Done it before

We have also created some comic strips to help you understand what consent is by comparing it to day to day activities.

Comic strip
Search Cambridgeshire Constabulary