The College Times Guide to Sexual Consent

The College Times Guide to Sexual Consent

When it comes to sexual activity and communication around sexual activity, consent is integral.

At College Times, we're here to run you through the basics of sexual consent, the different facets of sexual consent and situations where people cannot give consent.

What is sexual consent?

Sexual consent is where there is free and voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual act with someone else, and it can only be agreed between two adults of legal age.

With sexual consent, communication is key, both verbally and non-verbally. Crucially, even if you consent to a sexual act, you can withdraw your consent any time before the act begins or ends.

You can do this verbally, by asking questions like 'Are you comfortable?' or 'Is this okay with you?' and by recognising certain body language cues, such as if your partner is turning their face away or if their muscles tighten.

If there is any confusion with regard to consent, you should stop immediately and talk with your partner.


The different aspects of sexual consent

Consent must also be secured when sharing nudes or sexting. It is illegal to share sexual images of someone online without their consent. It is also illegal to share sexual images with anyone under 18, and of anyone under 18 - even if it is of yourself.

If someone sends you unwanted sexts or sexual images, let them know that you want them to stop. If they do not, block their number and their social media and report them.

Situations where sexual consent cannot be given

In certain instances, sexual consent cannot be given.

We've mentioned that anyone under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual images being shared online as they are underage. Furthermore, in terms of sexual acts, the age of consent in Ireland is 17. Therefore, anyone under the age of 17 in Ireland cannot expressly give consent. This rises to 18 if one of the people involved is or has been in a position of authority over the other person.

Drugs and alcohol can sometimes affect a person's ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to have sex; therefore, this means they cannot give free and voluntary sexual consent.

Here are other situations where someone cannot freely give their consent:
  • asleep or unconscious
  • pressured, bullied or forced (or threatened with violence or force)
  • mistaken as to the nature and purpose of the act
  • mistaken as to the identity of any other person involved in the act
  • a person with a physical disability which prevents them from communicating consent
  • or if someone else consented on their behalf

For more information on sexual consent, visit

If you have been affected by the content discussed in this article, you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline on 1800 77 88 88.

Sean Meehan

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