Being in any relationship – whether it’s a first date or long-term marriage – doesn’t automatically give you consent to have sex. The laws around sexual offences are the same whether you are in a relationship or not. If one partner does something sexual to the other without both of them wanting it, it is a criminal offence.
Most sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. If it happens to you, don’t be afraid to ask for help – you haven’t done anything wrong.
If you are in a relationship you don’t have to have sex every time your partner wants to, unless that’s what you want too. You are allowed to change your mind or want some sexually activities sometimes but not at other times. It is your choice.
If you do want sex, you should always check that your partner is happy and comfortable.
The campaign #ConsentIsEverything gives the following tips:
- If you’re initiating sex it is your responsibility to get consent. Ask if your partner wants to have sex too.
- Make sure they are capable of giving consent. Just because you are partners, doesn’t mean you can take advantage if they have had too much alcohol or drugs.
- Look out for body language, some people may not feel able to say no in a relationship but might be tense or afraid. Always ask.
- If you want to start a new type of sexual activity, check in with your partner first, make sure they look eager and comfortable and it’s clear that they want to continue – ask if they are OK.
- Check with them on each occasion you start any type of sex.
- If they seem unhappy, or you are not sure they are consenting, stop.
- Silence, or the absence of a “no”, does not guarantee somebody is consenting.
- A clear, affirmative, freely-given “yes” indicates consent.
You can read more about consent in a special issue of FS magazine from gay men’s health charity, GMFA.