As gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, consent is something we need to talk more about. Whether you are young or old, it is an important element of our sex lives.
Sex should be consensual and pleasurable for you and your partner(s). In other words, enthusiastic consent from your partner(s) ensures that everyone involved wants to engage in sexual activities, freely and willingly. Consent must be gained every time for every sexual act.
Having sex without the consent of your partner is illegal and is termed rape or sexual assault. In law, sexual consent is when we agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
The term 'age of consent' means the age at which a person is allowed to legally to decide to have sex. The age of consent in the UK is 16. However, if you or your partner has sex (including oral sex or mutual masturbation) with someone under the age of 18 where they are in a position of trust, this is an offence and may be punished with a prison sentence. The age of consent rises to 18 in situations where you or your partner are or have been in a position of trust over each other, such as a family member, teacher or carer.
If your partner is under the influence of alcohol or other substances then they may not be in a position to give informed consent and have sex with you. If your partner is unable to give informed consent, this is illegal and termed rape or sexual assault.
Consent is about agreeing to the sex that you want, provided that your partner is also in agreement (consenting) to this sex. Sex should be pleasurable, free from coercion and harm to you and your partner(s).
When you consent to have sex with your partner, you are doing so throughout the sexual encounter. You can withdraw consent at any point.
Consent is always retractable, given willingly and enthusiastically, and essential in sex. It’s not just a matter of saying yes, you can give consent both verbally and through body language. This lets your partner know that you are enjoying yourself or if it’s not what you want. Equally, you can also withdraw consent verbally or with your body in the same way.
It doesn’t matter who you are having sex with, how far you have gone during the sex you are having or, whether you have had sex with them or others in the past. If you decide you don’t want to continue or, want to stop what you are doing, then that is your right to do so.
If someone is not listening to what you want or, putting pressure on you to engage in any sexual activities - this is considered coercion. Being pressured and coerced to have sex is just as wrong as someone physically holding you down. Even if you haven’t said no, you still have not given consent freely and enthusiastically, therefore you are not agreeing to what is happening.
If you are engaging in kinky sex, consent follows the same principles, but in addition, you must be in a position to both consent and withdraw consent easily.
Remember no matter what situation you are in, you can say no to sex. However, just because you haven’t said no, this doesn’t mean yes. If you feel the sex you are having is not what you want then you are not agreeing to it.
If at any point you or your partner(s) become hesitant, uncomfortable or unsure, you have the right to say no and stop what you're doing.
Some things to help you feel comfortable saying no:
Consent isn’t just what you have agreed to do with someone on an app. It is a continuous conversation between you and your partner(s).
The important thing in getting consent is to make sure that you talk about what you want to do and how you both feel during sex. You can do this easily by asking questions like:
Remember, when checking in with your partner(s) during any sexual activities, their verbal and body language should be enthusiastic! If it isn't, you should stop what you are doing and talk about it. Just because the person you’re having sex with is aroused, such as having a hard-on, doesn’t necessarily mean they are consenting to what is happening. Consent needs to be enthusiastic, willing and given freely. Sometimes this may mean pausing, or stopping altogether, to ensure that what you are doing is consensual.
Other things to bear in mind include:
If you, or your partner, have consumed alcohol or taken drugs, neither of you may be able to consent to having sex or engaging in any other sexual activities (including ChemSex).
To give consent you must have the capacity to be informed. In other words, you must be able to know and understand what you are consenting to, freely and willingly, for consent to be valid.
Having sex or engaging in any other sexual activities without consent, where you or your partner(s) are not able to freely give consent, is rape or sexual assault.
Stealthing is when your partner removes the condom either from his cock or yours without your explicit consent. When this happens, it means you are having unprotected sex.
If you have agreed to use a condom, but it is removed during sex without your agreement, then the consent is over and it is not consensual. Stealthing is illegal and a crime. It doesn’t matter if you continue to have sex and climax. If this has happened you should speak to your local sexual health service, who may be able to offer you PEPSE (Post Exposure Prophylaxis after Sexual Exposure), if they think you have been at risk of HIV. They can also support you in reporting this to the police.
If you have not consented to the sex or sexual activity you have had, then you are a victim of a crime and you can report this to the police by calling 101 or in emergency 999.
Many men find it difficult to report crimes related to sex because of fear that the police and legal system will judge them, discriminate against them or not take it seriously. Thankfully, Police Scotland work with organisations like SX Scotland to help men who have been victims of sexual assault and rape.
You can get support from your local sexual health service or third sector organisation. We understand that reporting it to the police can be a scary and frightening thing to do, however, the police in Scotland have specially trained officers who can help. You can also contact Rape Crisis Scotland on 08088 01 03 02 for confidential support and information. They have local rape crisis centres across Scotland for ongoing support. You can also contact us for details of our relevant services in your area.