Consent means an ENTHUSIASTIC YES
Anything less than a yes? Is a NO

No does not mean…

  • Convince me
  • Persuade me
  • Pressure me
  • Force me
  • Talk me into it

Consent and the law

In Scotland, consent is legally defined as 'free agreement'. This means that there are two parts to consenting to sex or sexual activity.

  1. The person must agree to the activity - this means they have to say yes to it.


  1. The person must agree freely - this means they can't be forced, pressured or coerced into saying yes. If someone says yes because they were forced to or have no choice, that ‘yes’ does not count as consent. The law also says that there are certain situations in which someone cannot freely agree to sexual activity.

These are:

  • when someone is incapable of consenting due to the effect of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance
  • when someone is asleep or unconscious
  • when someone is unlawfully detained (this is when someone is locked up without legal reason like kidnapping.)
  • when someone agrees because of violence or the threat of violence
  • when someone agrees because the other person is pretending to be someone else
  • when someone agrees because the other person, or someone else, deceives them about the nature or purpose of the sexual activity

In any of these circumstances, there cannot be free agreement to sexual activity which means there is NO consent. It's also really important to know three other things about consent.

  1. Consent can be withdrawn at ANY time. This means that even if you have said yes to something, you can change your mind at any time before or during the activity. If the activity does not stop when you withdraw your consent, this will be rape, sexual assault or another non consensual offence.
  2. Only you can give consent for your sex life. No one else can decide whether you consent to something, not your parents, husband, wife, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, religious leader. Not anyone!
  3. Consenting to one type of sexual activity does not mean that you consent to all sexual activity.

Age of consent

You have to be 16 years or over to consent to sexual intercourse or oral sex.

Children under 13 years cannot consent to any form of sexual activity.

We know that sometimes people aged between 13 years and 15 years may have sexual relationships that they both consent to- though the law says this is an offence. If adults (such as teachers or youth workers) are aware that young people aged 13 - 15 are in sexual relationships, they need to take action to support them and to make sure they are safe.

It is an offence for someone who is 16 years or over to have any kind of sexual activity with someone aged under 16 years- even if the younger person says they consent.