Learn about sexual consent, how to protect yourself and ways to support others.

Important: You may find some of the information in this part of the website triggering or upsetting. If you need help contact us or use our Report and Support tool.

What is sexual consent?

Positive sexual experiences are mutually consensual, respectful and enjoyable. Consensual sexual activity means each party feeling safe and happy. You need consent every time you engage in sexual activity whether you’re with someone you have just met or in a relationship.

Sexual activity without consent is against the law – it is classed as rape or sexual assault.

Sexual consent is explained using the Tea Consent analogy (YouTube).

If you are unsure about whether or not you have consent, ask. If you are still unsure or didn’t receive a satisfactory response, always err on the side of caution and assume you don’t have consent. A simple “Is this okay?” goes a long way.

Verbal consent

When engaging in sexual activity, consent is all about constant communication between the parties involved and it’s mandatory. This means before you engage in any sexual activity with someone, you have to make sure that they consent to do it. If you’re trying to move further along in what activity you’re doing, you have to make sure your partner is with you. If your partner wants to stop — you stop. No exceptions.

The easiest way to get someone’s consent is to ask them for it verbally. Verbal consent is saying either “yes” or another affirmative statement like “I’m into this” or “I’m into trying.”

Non-verbal consent

While verbal consent is best, there are other ways that work, too. Non-verbal cues can look like a head nod, pulling someone closer, making direct eye contact, and enthusiastically and actively touching someone back.

If your partner doesn’t help you to advance the sexual encounter, it is your responsibility to slow down, stop, and check in. If they appear to be disinterested, move away from you, freeze up, look vacant or distant, stop and check in.

Defining consent

Consent is:

  • a clear agreement to engage in sexual activity
  • ongoing throughout the whole encounter
  • mutual (everyone involved has to agree)
  • about communication
  • mandatory every time
  • something that can be revoked even in the middle of a physical encounter
  • still required among people in committed relationships and marriages.

Consent is not:

  • simply the absence of no
  • ignoring or pretending you didn’t hear someone say no
  • the way someone is dressed or the way someone flirts
  • assumed if someone comes back to your place or you go to their place
  • assuming you have permission to engage in a particular sexual act because you’ve done it with that person in the past
  • assuming consent for one particular sexual act is consent for other sexual acts
  • possible if someone is incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol, unconscious or asleep.

Consent Matters

We are committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for every member of our community.

All Sussex students are expected to complete Consent Matters, an online course covering areas of sexual consent, communication, and relationships, and how to step in if others need help.

All new undergraduate and postgraduate students have been enrolled on Consent Matters. You can complete the Consent Matters course on our Canvas site. You will need your Sussex username and password to login.

Content warning: the course contains references to sexual violence and so you may wish to avoid completing certain parts. If the course is too distressing then don’t continue.

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