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Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity.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 during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at .

Advice from our service:

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

More details on the fitting of LARCs (coils and implants) at our service can be found here

If you need the combined contraceptive pill please try (if you can) to get updated measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure before calling us.

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

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

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