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What is Consent?

Dating can be amazing when you both click but it can also get a little confusing sometimes especially when it comes to sex and making out. It can be unclear what the other person is thinking or how intimate they wish to get, we are not mind-readers after all. However, before you take things any further, it’s important to obtain their permission, which means their consent. A lack of understanding of what is meant by consent and that consent is crucial in all sexual activity can be a contributing factor for unwanted sexual activity and assault.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre wants to raise awareness on the issue of sexual consent. This is an educational campaign and our aim is to get people talking and asking the all-important question: have you asked him/her if they wanted to have sex?

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Maybe you’re a little unsure about what consent is? You may have heard the idea that ‘no means no’, but this doesn’t really cover it because it puts the responsibility on one person to resist or accept, rather than both of you being responsible for taking things to the next level. It also makes consent about what a partner doesn’t want, instead of about being able to openly express what they do want. Consent should be freely given, and an enthusiastic, clearly communicated and ongoing yes. Consent should never be assumed.

The only way to know for sure if someone is interested in sex is to ask.

First of all let’s look at the definition of Sexual Consent :

The voluntary agreement in a relationship where there is equal power to engage in a particular sexual act.

How Does It Work? (Example taken from Love is respect)

Some people are worried that talking about consent will be awkward or a mood-killer, which is not the case. If anything, the mood is much more positive when both of you are happy and you can freely communicate what you want or don’t want. First off, you could talk about what terms like “hooking up” or “going all the way” mean to each of you. Sex – it’s not about giving and it’s not about taking – It’s about sharing. Communication is a healthy and important part of sex. Consent can be expressed both verbally and physically, so it can be with words as well as actions and body language. Consider having these conversations during a time when you’re not being physically intimate.

If you are in the heat of the moment, here are some suggestions of things to say:

  • Are you comfortable?
  • Is this okay?
  • Do you want to slow down?
  • Are you happy to go further?
  • Are you sure about this?

How to know if someone is NOT freely consenting:

  • So if someone is struggling and saying ‘stop’ – notice and STOP
  • If the other person is not responding with any enthusiasm, they may be complying or feeling coerced. Check it out and if they are not glad to continue, STOP
  • If the other person seems frozen or afraid check it out and STOP
  • If someone is asleep or falls asleep- notice and STOP
  • If someone is asleep or in a comatose condition possibly due to alcohol – notice and don’t even START
  • Or if he or she is acting in any other way that suggests that they are not up for it, check it out and be prepared to STOP

Most importantly if you genuinely can’t tell whether they are interested in you or not, well maybe they’re not nearly interested enough for you to take that risk. If they are, and you have confirmed consent well then that’s great.

Some facts to keep in mind

  • The legal age of consent for having sex in Ireland is 17 years, in Northern Ireland it is 16 years. This means that anyone who has sex with someone under the age of 17 is committing a crime.
  • If a person has sex with another person without their consent it is a crime
  • Be aware that having sexual intercourse with a person without their consent constitutes rape. A person cannot give their consent freely if they are asleep, unconscious or severely impaired due to alcohol or drugs.
  • When a person is taken advantage of in any of these circumstances whereby they have not given their consent freely, they suffer the huge trauma of the effects of being raped

Please watch this very informative video which explains consent quite simply:

Consent – Simple as Tea

It’s important to remember that sex is not a contract – you can change your mind anytime you want. If someone’s not feeling it, they’re not feeling it. End of story. So as the video shows it’s about asking, it doesn’t matter if you have had sex before, or even if you are in a relationship, when it comes to sex there are no grey areas. So make sure you #AskConsent every time.

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