Respect, equality, safety, good communication, and honesty all come to mind when thinking about healthy relationships.
Relationships evolve over time, and all have their ups and downs. But there is one key difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship, and that’s consent.
When it comes to any relationship, consent is an absolutely necessary part of maintaining a healthy relationship.
The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 defines consent as: “a person consents if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”
In other words, consent means that those involved in a relationship should be able to express their opinions and agree on the activities they engage in.
Consent is all about choice
If you give someone consent but then change your mind, that is ok. You are entitled to withdraw that consent, to ask the person to stop or to say NO. Performing sexual acts without someone’s consent is illegal and punishable by law!
Consent doesn’t just apply to sex. Consent applies to everything and anyone.
And remember, it might not really be consent if…
You say yes because you feel:
- you feel you have no other choice
- you are asleep or unconscious
- have lost your capacity to consent because you are intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, for instance
There are also legal age protections around consent. Children under 12 cannot legally consent to sexual activity, and any activity carried out will be considered rape. In the UK, the legal age of consent is 16, for men and women.