Consent: The Choice is Yours


Consent: the choice is yours 


Consent is required for several things in our day-to-day lives. Overall, the definition of consent is to obtain ongoing permission for something before it is followed through. This involves the discussion of boundaries and what each individual is comfortable with. 


Consent cannot be given by people who are underage, intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, unconscious, asleep or by people who feel pressured or intimidated, as this means it is not given willingly.  


Consent is an equal agreement between all participants, which should be communicated freely to ensure all boundaries are respected.  


Choosing your comfortable boundaries: how does consent work? 

Consent is about communication. It must happen every time because consenting to one activity one time does not mean it is a continuous “yes”. For example, consenting to kiss someone once does not mean consenting to engage in sexual activity forever. This is why discussing boundaries is essential before engaging in activities with others. 


Choosing to change your mind 

You can change your mind at any time. You could do this by clearly communicating to the people involved that you are uncomfortable and want to stop. Withdrawing consent verbally can sometimes be challenging, so non-verbal cues such as specific body movements (discussed before engagement) can also convey the withdrawal of consent. You should ensure that all parties are comfortable to provide a positive experience for everyone. 


Choosing to say “yes”? 

Consent means to wait for the presence of a “yes” rather than simply not hearing a “no”. This is often termed enthusiastic consent and includes non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling and maintaining eye contact. Communicating a “yes” alongside these non-verbal cues can often reflect consent. However, receiving a verbal confirmation of consent is the essential part.  


Examples of consent can involve: 

  • “Is this okay?”, “yes” before engaging in sexual activity and periodically throughout 

  • Receiving reciprocal interest “I would like to do this, would you?”, “yes, I would also like to do this.” 

  • “If we become uncomfortable, what should we do to convey this to each other?” to discuss boundaries and levels of comfortability 

  • Explicitly agreeing, such as “yes”, “I would like to try this”, “I am looking forward to this”, “I consent”, 

  • “I am enjoying this” as feedback during sexual activity. 


What does not mean “yes”? 

Not receiving consent means that the individual does not want to engage in the specific activity at this time. While this does not mean they will refuse every time, it is essential to respect their decisions and not try to push an individual to participate in something they are uncomfortable with. Refusal to participate in such activity can involve simply saying “no” but can also involve the following: 


  • If an involved individual says “no”, and another member refuses to acknowledge this refusal. 

  • Signs of being visibly upset, distressed, nonresponsive or disengaged 

  • Any past instances of consent being given do not mean that consent is given the next time  

  • Wearing specific clothing does not mean automatic consent 

  • Someone being underage – in the UK, the legal age of sexual consent is 16. 

  • Incapacitation due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol. 

  • Pressuring an individual to say “yes” by using tactics such as fear, intimidation, or unequal power statuses does not mean consent. 


Physiological responses such as arousal, orgasms, and erections are all involuntary. This is not a sign of consent and should never be considered non-verbal enjoyment. While the human body may react this way, this does not mean consent. If an individual tries to use these involuntary responses to minimise an experience by saying comments such as “You know you liked it” or “Your body didn’t say no”, you are not at fault. Your boundaries and levels of comfort should always be respected. 


Any sexual activity that occurs without your explicit consent may be considered sexual violence. If someone you know has experienced sexual harassment, violence or assault, please know that there is help available. There is no time limit to report a sexual crime to the police. If you would like to access support about this, please visit Alternatively, Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds provided specialist training to staff in Student Support and Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Teams on how to respond to these disclosures; please see Leeds Trinity University safe spaces