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29th Oct 2020

Knowing what sexual consent is needn’t be complicated, here’s what it means


Brought to you by the HSE

We hear the term so often, but what does it really mean?

You might think we’re stating the obvious but sexual consent is vital so we really want to get it right.

Whether your sex life has been thriving recently or lockdown has left you wanting, it’s never a bad time to talk about consent. It’s one of the most fundamental aspects of a healthy relationship and everyone can think of it positively.

We’ve teamed up with the HSE to ensure each and every one of us is informed with factual information about what free and voluntary sexual consent involves, leaving us and our partners confident in knowing what’s right and how to feel more self-assured and conscious of one another’s feelings.

So what is sexual consent exactly?

Sexual consent is where mutually enjoyable safe sex experiences are the norm and people can ask for what they want and voice what they don’t.

Sexual consent requires ongoing communication. It means checking in with your partner and being aware of their body language throughout.

It’s about being aware of situations where people can’t give consent and understanding the need for consent when sexting or sending nudes.

Being sexually active with someone when they don’t fully understand and agree to what’s going on isn’t consensual sex. So for example, if someone is mistaken as to what the act involves, or who is involved, or if a person is affected by drugs and/or alcohol, this means they can’t give consent.

The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17, and people younger than this cannot legally consent to sex. The age of consent rises to 18 if the other person is or has been in a position of authority over them.

For adults, consent, both asked for and given, is about setting your own personal boundaries and respecting those of the other person.

Even if someone consents to a sexual act, they can absolutely change their mind before the act begins or at any time before it ends. To be pressured into doing something is never OK. And obviously, it’s not OK to pressure someone else.

Most people think that consent is a given by the way in which their partner is behaving, but really, the only way to be sure is to talk about it and mutually agree to have sex and agree to the kind of sex and sexual acts suggested. There’s nothing wrong or awkward about checking in with a partner to see if they’re all good — it makes the experience so much better!

Below is a handy little way of summing it all up next time you’re planning to get busy:

  • Is there anything you/they don’t want to do or do want to do?
  • Does it feel OK?
  • Check if it’s all good to carry on
  • Do you/they want to stop or change activity?

All you and your partner need to do for one another is to pay attention to each other’s enjoyment and talk about it.

Rest assured, being aware of your own and your partner’s wants and needs can only make for a more passionate and exciting sexual experience.

Find out more about sexual consent, what the law says and how it protects us, plus information on all things sexual health at

If you have been affected by the content discussed and need support, you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre National 24-hour Helpline on 1800 77 88 88

Brought to you by the HSE