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Let’s talk about consent

Dating has never been easy. Sex has never been simple. But the number one rule of ANY encounter has to be consent. Consent is about putting YOU before Yes. You GIVE IT and GET IT, BEFORE anything happens. Consent is EVERYTHING.

Our You Before Yes Campaign delves deeper into the crucial, but often overlooked world, of consent. It opens up important conversations about what it actually means, helping you feel in the know and empowered to find your voice when it comes to all things consent.

  • Unsure of how to say no if you change your mind?
  • Want to know how to tackle the topic of consent when in a relationship or how to talk about sexual consent outside of sexual relationships?
  • Want to understand what to do if your friend or family member is the one being pressured into sexual activity?
  • Want to know what to do if you receive a sext…
  • Or simply who to reach out to if you need some help?

We’ve got it covered and more, thanks to our inspiring campaign ambassador Georgia Harrison and charity partners Brook, Fumble, UK Says No More and Switchboard. Check out what they have to say below.

FAQ

Why does sexual consent feel so much more complicated than saying yes or no?
What can I do if someone’s shared my nude pics?
If it’s hard to say no, how do I know that my partner actually wants sex?
When should I have sex with someone?
I want to get with my partner, but not ‘all the way’. How can I tell them that? Will they be okay with that?
What if I get rejected?
We’re told to make consent ‘sexy’, but how do I actually do that without making it weird and awkward?
How do I ask someone out or make a move without accidentally doing something wrong?
What if I’m falsely accused of something non-consensual?
If someone says no, but they still look like they want to have sex, is it okay?

There are lots of reasons why sexual consent can feel tricky: a lot of us find it hard to say a direct ‘no’ to something we don’t want to do; there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding sexual violence; a lot of us grew up without adequate education on sexual consent; and porn has unfortunately filled this education gap for lots of people when mainstream porn rarely shows realistic sexual consent chat. No wonder it feels complicated!

But this isn’t an excuse for not respecting people’s boundaries. A great solution is talking to your sexual partner about this: discussing how easy they find it to say ‘no’, and how they prefer to communicate (verbally and non-verbally). The more you understand how someone communicates their boundaries, the less complicated consent will feel with them.

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The first thing to know is that this isn’t your fault and you don’t have to manage this alone. This is a form of image-based sexual abuse, it’s illegal, and no-one should ever have to experience this. Please talk to someone about what’s happened. It can sometimes feel difficult to talk to someone you know about this kind of thing and, if that’s the case, there’s lots of support online: Childline, The Internet Watch Foundation or CEOP if you’re under 18; and Revenge Porn Hotline if you’re 18+. They can also help you get the image under control without necessarily investigating the people responsible, just in case that’s a worry.

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This is tricky! Especially if you know they struggle to be direct with what they say. The more you know and understand your partner, the easier it’ll become to read their body language and pick up on how they’re feeling. It may be worth bringing this up with your partner, and talking about how you both prefer to communicate and give consent, whether this is verbally or through body language cues. Giving your partner opportunities to say ‘no’ indirectly, by suggesting alternatives, can also help, e.g. “Do you want to stay up, kiss and stuff, or are you tired?” This can feel a lot easier for someone to respond to, because they’re still picking something you’ve suggested and it doesn’t feel like a ‘rejection’.

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You should only have sex with someone when you feel ready, and only you will know when that is. People reach that feeling at different paces, so it’s important there’s no pressure from either you or your partner. Sex is all about pleasure and fun, so you should only ever do it because you both want to. And if you never feel like you want to have sex, that’s okay too!

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It’s absolutely normal to want some parts of sexual intimacy, without everything, and if your partner is a decent person, they will understand that. More than that, they should appreciate you being honest with them. Sex is only fun when you’re feeling comfortable and you want it, so take all the time you need. Talk to your partner about what you both feel comfortable with (you can do this face-to-face or over messaging if that feels easier). If they are upset or annoyed, remember that no one should ever put pressure on you to do anything before you’re ready.

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Spoiler alert! Everyone will be rejected by someone they fancy, at some point in their lives, and that is hard. Rejection brings up some intense feelings, but part of being a decent person is learning to manage these emotions in a way that doesn’t lash out at the other person. Being ‘on it’ with sexual consent means that we’ll get a ‘no’ sometimes, and it’s important to respect that response.

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Sexual consent often gets misrepresented as a one-time conversation - formal and needing a yes/no answer. Actually, consent means ongoing check-ins before and during sex, to make sure you’re both enjoying yourselves. It can be asking your partner what they especially like, and what feels good. It can also be sharing what feels good for you. This already sounds more sexy, right? It may feel odd to put into words at first, but it’ll get easier with practice. Maybe it’s also worth voicing this concern with your sexual partner! It’s okay to say that you want to make sure you’re both enjoying yourselves, but that you don’t want to make it awkward or weird. They could be feeling the same way.

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It can be really nerve wracking to make that first move when you’re attracted to someone, but butterflies in your stomach can be exciting too. The most important thing to remember is that not everyone will reciprocate your feelings. Learning to deal with rejection is a big part of healthy relationships. Make sure you listen to their response and respect their decision, even (especially!) if it’s not the response you were looking for.

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It is really unlikely that someone will maliciously make a false accusation. This is one of the many harmful misconceptions surrounding sexual violence: that false accusations are common. It’s far more likely that an unexpected accusation comes from some serious miscommunication. A very effective way to lessen any ‘accusation anxiety’ is to be genuinely caring towards a sexual partner: to care about how they’re feeling and whether they’re enjoying themselves. As always, communication is key: if you are able to communicate well with your partner, you will both feel more comfortable saying no to each other, and you’ll be able to better pick up on whether anything is wrong or if they want to stop. The more communication and care there is, the more trust will build between you, which means less accusations of any kind.

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If someone says no to sex, respect their decision. It’s a sexual offence not to, but this is also about being a decent person and respecting people’s boundaries. Having physical and visible signs of arousal (e.g. an erection, wet vulva, hard nipples) doesn’t mean that someone necessarily wants to have sex, or any kind of sexual intimacy. Because a lot of people find it hard to say a direct ‘no’, it’s important to be aware of people’s body language and how they communicate what they want or don’t want.

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