People define sex in different ways. Sex looks and feels different to everyone – it can be exciting, pleasurable and empowering. But it can also be daunting, nerve-wracking or bring up unexpected emotions.
Consent means getting a person’s permission to do something to, with or for them, before it happens.
It is also…
- An agreement that lasts only as long as everyone involved wants it to
- Something that can be withdrawn at any point
- Requires everyone involved to fully agree every time it happens
- Involves accepting and respecting a person’s wish not to take part or to stop the activity
For all intimate or sexual activity, it is important that we always seek enthusiastic consent – where everyone involved is happy and keen to take part (regardless of whether a relationship is established or casual).
People also need to know exactly what they are agreeing to. Good sex and consent go hand in hand. Some people might think asking for consent is awkward or likely to ‘ruin the moment’ but it actually makes sex more pleasurable!
Any kind of sexual activity without consent is illegal and may count as harassment, assault or rape. Find out more about consent, the law and getting support in our consent resource here.
Sex and drugs?
Discuss sex and consent before getting high. Chat about what you feel comfortable with and what to do if anyone stops feeling comfortable or gets too high. If you or a partner begin to feel too high or uncomfortable in any way – stop. It happens and the best way to respond to the situation is through communication.
Sex can feel different when you are high – even if you have taken cannabis and had sex before, your body and your brain might respond differently this time. Feelings, good or bad, can be intensified. Take time to check in with yourself and any partners.
Before taking any drug, do your research. Visit our drugs information page for harm reduction advice.
For information on chemsex, visit SX.
Sex and the law
In the UK, consensual sexual activity is legal between people who are aged 16 and over. If someone is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, their ability to consent may be compromised. Under UK law, a person does not have capacity to consent to sex while under the influence of drugs including alcohol.
Anyone who has been affected by any kind of assault or abusive sexual experience can contact Rape Crisis.
Not sure about an experience you have had? It is a good idea to talk to someone you trust or contact Rape Crisis to chat.
Safer sex helps you to stay physically and emotionally well. Safer sex involves a whole range of things including:
- The right sexual partner(s)
- Considering your boundaries, expectations and emotional needs
- Consent – you and any partner(s)
- The use of barrier methods such as condoms or dams
- Lube to reduce friction/tears
- The use of contraception such as the contraceptive pill, implant, injection or IUD (intrauterine device)
- Researching any practices or communities you want to take part in
- Chatting to someone you trust about your choices. This could be a friend, counsellor or a sexual health service, including us here at Crew!
It can take a while to find the right condoms for you. There is a whole range including latex free, internal condoms, and different sizes, textures and materials. The better your condom fits, the better and safer the experience. It’s a good idea to try different options until you find the one that works for you.
Not sure what kind of contraception might work for you? Brook has some helpful contraception information on their website to help you decide. Remember that contraception can prevent pregnancy but (apart from condoms and internal condoms) it cannot protect from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or HPV (human papillomavirus).
Testing and treatment
At the moment Lothian Sexual Health Services do not have the capacity for vaccinations, smear tests or STI tests for people without symptoms. All other appointments are being moved online to a phone triage system. Please follow this link to book a contraception appointment or STI test (if you have symptoms or think you may be at risk of getting an STI). Keep an eye on the www.lothiansexualhealth.scot website for service updates.
You can access free dams, condoms and lube every Monday (1-5pm) at Crew, on Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. Free condoms are also available via through the c:card postal service. Find out more here.