‘Consent’ is another word for ‘agreeing to’. We use ‘consent’ a lot when we talk about sex. In that context, consent means that both people fully understand and agree to what they’re about to get up to.
Consent is really about communication, respect and awareness of the other person. In this article we’ll cover what you need to know about consent and sex.
Consent in Ireland
You might have heard the word ‘consent’ lately. Maybe your student union has been running consent workshops on your campus. Or maybe you picked up a book like Louise O’Neill’s bestseller Asking For it.
Consent has become something we talk about more openly, and that’s a good thing. Talking about consent reminds us all that if we’re having sex, we have a responsibility. We’re responsible for making sure that the other person is just as into it as we are.
In some situations, the law decides whether someone is able to give consent. We’ll get into law and consent later on.
When do you have to consent?
Consent is needed for any sexual activity. ‘Sexual activity’ covers a lot of things, from kissing, touching, touching under clothes and touching genitals, to oral sex, sexting, sexual talk or penetration.
You might want to kiss someone, but it doesn’t automatically mean you want sex. It definitely doesn’t mean that you have to have sex.
Everyone is different in what they like, what they want, and what they are ready for. Consent means you get to decide what you are comfortable with doing or not doing.
It’s also OK to not want to do anything sexual at all. As Pip Keogh on Spunout put it, “sometimes ‘Netflix and Chill’ literally means Netflix and chill”.
Consent and sexting
Sending intimate photos and videos is a sexual activity so consent applies here too. If someone sends photos of themselves to you, they have consented that you, and only you, look at them. That’s where the consent ends. You cannot show those photos or videos to anyone else.