Do you need to say ‘yes’ every time you have sex?

University of Leeds
2 min readFeb 12, 2024

‘I’m confused about what type of consent is needed for sex. I’ve had sex before where neither of us have verbally consented — it’s been suggested by our behaviour and body language and the fact neither of us said no. Do you need to give and receive verbal consent every time you have sex?’

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It’s often tricky to work out how you should obtain consent. Things are heating up and you don’t want to ruin the mood by asking ‘can I have sex with you?’ Firstly, if you don’t want to have sex, or kiss someone, or hold hands, it’s okay (and very much encouraged) to say ‘no’.

Landscape shot of a messy, slept-in bed, with scattered white pillows
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on UnSplash

Consent can look different depending on the situation, for example, with a long-term partner you might know their non-verbal cues for if and when they want sex. Non-verbal cues can be different for different people, and it takes time to learn your partner’s. If you’re ever unsure, you should always ask not assume, and remember, just because your partner has consented to something before, they’re not automatically consenting again.

With a new partner, you’re less likely to know and understand their cues; if this is the case, it’s better to make sure they’re comfortable and consenting. This can be as simple as asking ‘is this okay?’ when doing something new or different, or ‘can I kiss you?’ before kissing someone. You can turn asking for consent into something playful that a lot of people enjoy — it’s a great way to have fun with consent.

Giving consent and getting consent from someone else doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or awkward. Talking to your partner about your boundaries and how to respect theirs means you can both feel safe and respected. Read more about how to recognise, remove and respect consent.

You are not alone. If you’ve experienced any kind of violence, abuse, bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct or discrimination, we’re here to help. Explore support options in our community, including specialist support offered by the Harassment and Misconduct team here at Leeds.

Written by Heidi Farley, member of Sexpression: Leeds