Consent, Rights & Responsibilities
Consent...what does it really mean?
Consent, Rights & Responsibilities
You may have heard the word “consent” when it comes to sex and relationships, but what does it mean?
The legal age of consent in Scotland is 16. You can find out more about this in our sex and the law section. However, consent is about more than just age.
In Scotland consent around sexual activity means “free agreement” There are lots of situations in which “free agreement” can NEVER be present. These include:
- If someone is incapable of consenting to sexual activity because they are too drunk or are under the influence of drugs
- If someone is unable to consent to sexual activity because they are asleep or unconscious
- If someone agrees to sexual activity because they have been threatened
- If someone agrees to sexual activity because they are being kept against their will
- If someone is tricked into sexual activity because they are told it’s for a different purpose (eg. for a medical examination)
- If someone is lied to about the identity of the person they are having sex with
- If someone else says you’ll have sex without your permission
In these situations the law says consent can NOT be given. If consent is not present a criminal offence is being committed.
Consent can be withdrawn (removed) at any time and your partner should respect your wishes if you change your mind during sex. Continuing to have sex with someone who has asked you to stop, or tried to push you away, is an offence.
CLICK HERE to look at a website that is interactive and you may find helpful.
Rights & Responsibilities
We know this can all sound a bit complicated. After all, if someone doesn’t say no then surely this means they consent, right? Unfortunately not. There are lots of reasons why people may struggle to actually say “no” to sexual activity. This DOES NOT mean they are saying yes. They may be scared, uncomfortable or embarrassed. It’s important to recognise if the person you’re with is telling you no in other ways. Some non-verbal ways of saying no include:
- Moving your hand away
- Turning away
- Lying down, doing nothing, "freezing"
- Crying, looking unhappy or scared
- Shaking head
- Trying to move away
- Not comfortable being naked
- Falling asleep
- Avoiding eye-contact
- Not touching you back
- Making a joke
- Playing with their phone
Your responsibilities around consent include:
- Respecting “no means no” in all circumstances
- Making sure your partner really wants to do the things you do
- Checking with the other person that they are okay
- Checking the other person’s decisions, boundaries & values
- Not making assumptions – always ask! The best and safest way to check you have consent is to ask. You can say things like "is that okay?," or "do you want to keep going?" Always check out that you are getting a very clear "Yes."
- Say “No” no matter what you've said or done before
- Change your mind, even after you've said yes, and not be pressured or persuaded to continue
- Decide what your own values are about sex, and make decisions about your own sexual experiences based on those values
- Decide on your own boundaries and have them respected by others
The law around consent is in place to keep people respectful, safe and happy in their sexual relationships. It’s important that you understand it. For more information about sexual pleasure Click Here
Check out this wee film on consent