Enthusiastic consent

Dealing with consent can be tricky. Getting a yes doesn’t necessarily give you a free pass to do whatever you want. It's all about communicating throughout sex. So join The Mix as we ask what enthusiastic consent is, how you define it and how it works.

A young woman is sitting and smiling. She is thinking about enthusiastic consent. This is a wide-angle image.

What is enthusiastic consent?

So, you probably know about consent from the tea video in PSHE (if you know, you know) but what is enthusiastic consent?

Enthusiastic consent is a way for you and your partner to give and get sexual consent by communicating, either physically or verbally, your needs and desires before and during any type of sexual activity. That’s the enthusiastic consent definition, plain and simple.

At the end of the day, you want a sexual partner who is engaged and having fun rather than being passive and disinterested. Practising enthusiastic consent is a natural way to ensure everyone involved is having a good time when you want to engage in sexual activity. Plus it’s really easy – just check in with your partner every now and again to keep things enjoyable and sexy. 

How do I know when my partner is giving enthusiastic consent?

When it comes to what counts as enthusiastic consent, pay attention to your partner and how they’re reacting. The following could all be signs of enthusiastic consent:

  • Smiling, nodding, eye contact or looking relaxed and happy.
  • Kissing and touching you back.
  • Heavy breathing, moaning and outright telling you they like it, for example, saying ‘that feels good’ or ‘don’t stop’.

Enthusiastic consent is not:

  • Silence or no response at all.
  • Stiff body language, avoiding eye contact, not touching back.
  • A yes, only after they were pressured into a sexual act.
  • A yes from someone who is too wasted to consent.

How should I start talking about it?

Talk about what you want to do and how you want to do it before you start. This doesn’t have to be a boring conversation that involves facts from Sex Education (the class or the TV show). It can be part of your foreplay if you make it fun and flirty.

On consent, Ester McGeeney from sexual health and wellbeing charity Brook, says: “It’s more than ‘do you want to have sex, yes or no?’ it’s about discovering what kinds of touch, intimacy and bodily movement someone enjoys and is comfortable with at a given time.”

Keep asking your partner what they want throughout sex and every time you want to do something new. This will ensure you get consent for each new act. It’s important to remember that just because your partner consented to one thing doesn’t mean they’ll agree to do something else.

Asking questions also ensures that you know your partner’s into it. Plus, talking about what you want to do should work up your appetite, making you both want it more. So if you think about it, enthusiastic consent is just a way to make sex that much better! Read this guide on how to ask for consent to find out more.

It feels weird to talk during sex

We know that some people aren’t used to talking during sex or even saying what they want. If you’re shy or not very experienced you might find this difficult, but talking can be a great way to boost your confidence. This article on the meaning of shyness might also be able to help you out in that department.

If you’re having sex you should be able to do it in the way you want. We know we’ve said it a bunch during this article, but honestly the best way to get that is by communicating. If you don’t know your partner or their body language very well then verbal cues are probably the easiest way to make sure you get consent.

Body language and enthusiastic consent

The enthusiastic consent definition doesn’t just include verbal cues, sometimes it can involve your partner’s reaction. Asking what your partner wants to do is one way to get consent. You could also pay attention to their body language and how they respond to you.

Body language is a huge part of how we communicate. We can tell when our friends feel down or upset by the way they’re acting so we should be able to apply this logic to the bedroom… or wherever you’re doing it. 

Are they engaged, talking and looking at you? Or do they seem passive, upset or not present? If you don’t think they’re enjoying it, stop and ask them if they’re ok.

Is consent always ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

It’s true that some people feel more comfortable getting a loud and clear yes from their partner. If you feel like this, that’s completely valid. Just make sure to ask your partner what they want to do.

But it’s also important to remember that some people may not be used to communicating what they want so you may not always get a clear yes or no. Ester says: “Your partner may want to try something and then stop. This is part of having sex and learning about your own and your partners’ bodies.”

If your partner changes their mind during sex, stop and talk about what you want to do next.

Use our tool to help find answers for you

Click the play button below to begin or add our bot on Skype.

Next Steps

  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 06-Nov-2021

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.