Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if they agree by choice to that penetration and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.



Capacity means being able to make your own decisions and communicate them. It means that if someone is asleep, unconscious, under the influence of drugs or too drunk, then they don’t have the capacity to agree to sex. Any sexual act with that person would be considered as sexual assault. People with learning disabilities or severe mental health problems might also not have the capacity to agree to sex.

Freedom to make that choice means that the person agreeing to sex isn’t agreeing because they feel scared, threatened or under pressure to agree. For example a victim of domestic violence, or someone significantly younger or too young to understand what they are consenting to.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity.

Consent relates to a specific activity, if someone agrees to vaginal sex then having anal sex or oral sex instead would be considered rape.

Consent is specific to each time activity occurs. Agreeing to sex yesterday does not mean that they agree to sex today.

How it works

How it works

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

You can change your mind at any time. 

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop.

Consent isn't...

Consent isn't...

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent. In Britain this is 16.
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
  • Being pressured into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
  • Assuming permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

See Consent is Everything and Pause, play, stop for more advice and information.

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Accessing our service

In response to the emergence of COVID-19 we have implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

We are currently experiencing high demand for our Sexual Health Services across Devon and Torbay with unprecedented demand in Exeter. Please note always review urgent cases the same day. If your need is urgent and you are struggling to reach us keep trying as our phone system will explain how to access same-day care with us.

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception here.

Self-requested STI testing by post is available for those aged under 25- more info

We are now running an under 18’s sit and wait clinic at Exeter, Torquay, and Barnstaple for more information click here

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - from a local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info