A 2016 EU-wide survey has indicated that 21% of Irish people believe having sex without consent is justified in certain situations.

The Eurobarameter poll found 11% of Irish people think being drunk or on drugs justifies sex without consent and 9% think it is okay if a person voluntarily goes home with someone or is wearing “revealing, provocative or sexy clothing”.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked: “Some people believe that having sexual intercourse without consent may be justified in certain situations. Do you think this applies to the following circumstances?” and 7% of Irish people surveyed agreed sexual intercourse without consent is justified if the person is out walking alone at night. You can read the report in full.

These numbers are terrifying. However, we believe that if more people know about consent and what it entails, some cases of sexual assault or even rape can be prevented, from both sides.

What Is It?

Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. Before engaging in the sexual activity with someone, you need to know if the feeling is mutual and they want to engage in it with you as well. It’s also important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don’t want.

The video below explains consent in simple terms, comparing it to having a cuppa tea.


Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios.

The Legal Side

The law in Ireland states that the legal age of consent (agree to, both people agree to have sex) is 17 years of age. The law applies to Heterosexual and Homosexual sex including vaginal, anal and oral sex. The age of 17 applies to both boys and girls.  The law aims to protect young people under the age of 17 and people who engage in sexual intercourse below this age could be prosecuted.

Things to Know About Consent

  • Not saying NO is NOT consent.

    If your partner didn’t clearly and in full awareness say YES, be mindful and attentive – they might not want to engage in the sexual activity or are not capable (for example, due to the alcohol or drug influence) to fully comprehend the situation. Step back and ask your potential partner if they really want to proceed.

  • Consent is FREELY GIVEN.

    Consent can’t be given under pressure, manipulation, or the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the person is afraid to say no, it doesn’t mean they agree to it.

  • Consent can be REVOKED at any time.

    If your partner said YES and later on changed their mind, you need to stop. Even if you’ve done it before or lie naked in bed. If you proceed despite their objection, it is rape or sexual assault.

  • If the person is too drunk, on drugs, or unconscious, they CAN’T give consent.

    By insisting on having sex with them, you will be committing sexual assault or rape. Also, some people living with a mental health problem, a learning disability, or a head injury may not have the capacity to consent.

  • If you consent to one thing, it DOESN’T mean you consent to the other.

    For example, if you agreed to make out, it doesn’t have to mean you agreed to have sex.

  • If your partner seems unhappy, or you are not sure they are consenting, STOP.

    Be attentive to your partner’s body language and facial expressions as well as words. If they don’t seem to enjoy it, stop it.

  • “If she is dressed like that/behaves like that/goes there, she’s asking for it.” - NOT TRUE

    Consent is NEVER implied by things like your past, your behavior, your clothes, or places you go. There can be NO assumptions. If the person hasn’t verbally agreed to the sexual activity, there is no consent.

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault, you can get in touch with Cork Sexual Violence Centre or Cork Sexual Assault Treatment Unit.

At the Sexual Health Centre, we are always there for you if you need to talk. Call our Helpline: 021 427 6676.