UCL News


Why is understanding sexual consent important?

5 November 2015

UCL aims to create an educational and social environment where students feel happy, safe and comfortable.

Groundbreaking Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment workshops delivered to new students Sexual consent can sometimes be misunderstood. Awareness and understanding of sexual consent has become an increasingly contested issue in recent years, especially amongst university students.

A number of universities around the country are introducing consent workshops to talk about the importance of positive sexual consent at university and beyond. UCLU has also run these workshops as part of wider the Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment initiative.

Understanding sexual consent helps to build healthy, fulfilling and respectful relationships and reinforces the fact that any sexual activity without consent is a crime, where only the perpetrator can be blamed.

What is consent?

  • Consent is a positive agreement between participants to engage in specific sexual activity
  • Consent must be voluntary and cannot be coerced
  • Consent may be withdrawn at any time and can never be implied or assumed
  • Consent cannot be given by an individual who is substantially impaired or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drugs; or by an individual whom is asleep or unaware the act is being committed
  • Consent cannot be given by an individual who has been compelled by force, threat of force, or deception
  • Consent cannot be given by an individual whose consent is impaired because of a mental of physical condition
  • Any prior sexual activity or relationship, does not, in and on itself, constitute consent regardless of any previous sexual activity that has taken place on that occasion or at any other time

Consent, legally, is defined as agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

Remember: if it isn't your choice, you haven't given consent.

The Consent is Everything campaign, launched by Thames Valley Police, raises awareness of sexual consent through a video that uses an analogy about making tea.

If you would be interested in attending a UCLU consent workshop, email Natalie James, UCLU Women's Officer or check the UCLU website.

UCL is committed to the safety and wellbeing of our students and will do our utmost to support anyone who has been, or is being, affected by sexual violence. For information about support for students who have been affected by sexual violence, please see the UCL Sexual Violence Guidance.

Sinéad Dennehy, International Student Adviser, Student Advisory and Events Services