sex & relationships

A guide to sexual consent: The do’s and don’ts

Kettlemag, Sex, Relationships, Consent, Yes Means Yes, Kealie Mardell
Written by Kealie Mardell

Why is this so important? Because consent for sex is always required and sex without consent is rape. 

This year, California became the first US State to introduce a “Yes means yes” law, surpassing the previously held “no means no” which suggested that only a firm “no” indicated a lack of consent. 

The focus of the bill looks at how universities handle rape allegations and investigations into reports of sexual assault. This is something echoed across many universities who promote their own consent policies. 

The ‘yes means yes’ definition of consent requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” from each person involved. This must be ongoing throughout the sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. 

In 2010 the NUS conducted research into students’ experience of sexual harassment, assault and violence. They found that while 68% of respondents had been the victim of one or more kinds of sexual harassment on campus, only 4% of cases were reported to their institutions. 

The NUS Women’s Campaign and Sexpression UK have now launched the ‘I Heart Consent’ campaign, producing national education materials for universities and colleges across the UK, initiating workshops and training programmes on campuses. 

As we face concerns with issues of rape culture, victim blaming and slut shaming, having a clear understanding of consent is something that everyone should educate themselves on. 


•    Don’t presume that the absence of a no indicates consent. 
•    Don’t engage in any sexual activity with someone without their consent. This includes kissing, touching, foreplay and sexual intercourse. 
•    Don’t engage in sexual activity with someone who is unable to verbalise their consent. This includes people who are sleeping, passed out, or intoxicated and incoherent. 
•    Don’t encourage drinking before engaging in sexual activity. Alcohol does not equal consent.
•    Don’t attempt to remove someone else’s clothes without their consent. 
•    Don’t presume that the way someone is dressed, or their past sexual experiences, are an indication of consent.
•    Don’t continue to harass someone who has indicated they are not interested. If they have not given you their consent then leave them alone. 
•    Don’t presume that once someone has consented, you can continue to engage in sexual activity if they change their mind later.
•    Don’t record or photograph someone else’s body, whether they are engaged in a sexual activity with you or not, without their consent.
•    Don’t ignore sexual harassment or assault. It is a crime and you can report it and seek support. More information is available from the NHS or Rape Crisis helpline. 

This list is by no means extensive. It aims to highlight some of the potential cases of sexual assault which can occur without consent. On the other hand, the do’s of consent are fairly simple. 


•    Do understand and respect the definition of consent. 
•    Do communicate and ask for consent regarding any sexual activity. 
•    Do feel confident in your right to withdraw your consent at any time. 

Consent is a mutual agreement between partners and must be continuous. By having a confident understanding of consent you can ensure safe and enjoyable sex for both partners. Just remember, whatever the relationship or situation, only yes means yes

If you missed last week’s guide, you can find Becky Hammills’ guide to long distance relationships here.