Sexual Consent

All university students, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, full-time or part-time, are entitled to feel safe and supported on campus.

Manchester Metropolitan University operates a Zero Tolerance policy to sexual violence and is committed to raising awareness and understanding of issues surrounding sexual consent.

What is ‘sexual consent’?

The Law says a person gives sexual consent when she/he 'agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice,' Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Engaging with any kind of sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault and as such a crime. This is defined as:
  • A man commits rape if he intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, mouth or anus of another person, male or female, without consent.
  • A person (male or female) commits sexual assault if she/he touches someone else with sexual intent and the other person has not consented to being touched.
Despite the law being clear about what sexual consent is, many people are still confused about and misunderstand what it means.

To consent you need to have: the freedom… to make the choice

For sexual activity to be consensual, a person must be free to make the choice as to whether or not to engage. Freedom means not being constrained in any way to agree to sex.

If any kind of physical, emotional or psychological pressure, abuse or force is used to coerce someone to have sex then the person being coerced has lost their freedom of choice. In such a situation a person might say ‘yes’ to sex but do so out of fear.

So… just because someone says ‘yes’, this does not necessarily mean that they are giving consent. Equally, if they don’t say no or don’t struggle, they are still not saying yes.

The capacity... to make the choice

Having capacity means the person can make and communicate a decision, understand the consequences and know they have a choice. If they cannot do this, they cannot give consent.

  • Someone may not have sufficient capacity to give consent if they have been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Someone does not have the capacity to consent if they are asleep or unconscious.
  • By law, someone under the age of 16 does not have the capacity to consent to sex.
  • Someone may not have capacity to consent due to a disability or mental health condition.

You are free to, and have the right to withdraw consent at any time

You are free to, and have the right to, consent to one form of sexual activity but not another. For example, you might freely and happily agree to kiss someone, be touched by someone, but say no to penetrative sex. You might say yes to sex with a condom but no to sex without one.

Just because someone has consented to sex on one or more occasions does not mean they have agreed to sex indefinitely.

Consent can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. Someone can freely choose to engage with sexual activity and then change their mind and stop.

If someone becomes unconscious due to alcohol intake, then they have lost capacity and sexual activity needs to stop.

If you are in doubt about whether sexual consent has been given, then you should check!

Myths around sexual consent include: 

Myth – The clothes you wear, the alcohol you have consumed, your flirtatious behaviour or number of sexual partners mean that you are inviting sexual contact and partly to blame if sexually assaulted.
Fact – None of the above give someone the right or excuse to rape or sexually assault. None of the above can be assumed to imply sexual consent. Belief in such myths are used to blame the victim taking away responsibility from the perpetrator.

Myth – You cannot be raped or sexually assaulted when you in a relationship.
Fact – Sexual assault and rape can take place within a marriage, a long-term or short-term relationship, when you have agreed to sex in the past, whether in a relationship between people of the same or different gender.

Myth – Most people are raped or sexually assaulted by strangers.
Fact – Most cases of rape or sexual assault are committed by someone known to the victim.

Myth - Sex workers cannot be sexually assaulted or raped.
Fact - Exchanging sex for money or other resources does not take away your right to give or deny consent. Similarly, paying someone for sex does not remove the purchaser's obligation to seek explicit consent to an act. 

Myth –  Only women can be raped and only men sexually assault.
Fact – Men can be raped by other men and women can sexually assault.

Myth – Many people, often women, make false allegations of sexual assault or rape.
Fact – There is no evidence of this. False allegations are rare. In fact, a lot of evidence indicates that sexual violence is under reported due to shame and fear of being blamed.

Myths present false ideas and can be used to blame victims of sexual violence and avoid dealing with the problem of, and perpetrators of, sexual violence.

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