Relationships in your life should be mutually respectful, consensual, positive, healthy and enjoyable – from those relationships that are just about holding hands, to those where you are sexually active, regardless of whether you are in a same sex or a mixed sex relationship.
People are now increasingly conducting friendships and relationships online. You have to learn to manage these online relationships in your day to day lives, possibly including self-presentation on social media, the sharing of intimate images/messaging and the potential for online bullying. Regardless of intention to access it, we now also have unprecedented free access to pornography, some of which features sexual acts which are violent and extreme. Aspects of popular culture, including pornography, promote unrealistic body image standards and sexual expectations as well as perpetuating gender stereotypes.
The following messages are intended to help provide a supportive response to these challenges and communicate a view of sexual activity that is framed as a mutually respectful, consensual and enjoyable experience.
These messages refer to all types of sexual activity (anything from kissing to sexual touching to oral, vaginal and anal sexual intercourse.) This may also include online aspects of relationships and sexual activity.
The following definitions may be helpful:
• Sex = oral, vaginal or anal intercourse
• Sexual activity = anything from kissing to sexual touching to oral, vaginal and anal intercourse (sex) as well as online activity.
In healthy relationships:
• people feel safe, equal, respected and happy, they care about what each other want;
• people don’t put pressure on anyone else and it’s as easy to say no as to say yes; and
• people don’t do things that make others feel uncomfortable, anxious or scared.
• As with all relationships in your life, healthy intimate or sexual relationships are supposed to feel mutually respectful, safe, happy and positive. This includes anything from one-off to long-term relationships.
• You might feel like you want to spend a lot of time with someone, but it’s important to have some time away from each other, too. In a healthy relationship everyone is free to hang out with friends, of any gender, or family without having to ‘get permission’.
• It’s ok to want to spend time by yourself or do something for yourself. Healthy relationships mean being able to say when you want or need to do things on your own instead of feeling like you have to spend all of your time with someone.
• If you are in a relationship that you are not enjoying, you might want to end that relationship. It’s ok to say if you want to break up but if it feels difficult or it feels unsafe it’s important to get help or to speak to someone you trust. Try to respect the other person’s feelings but remember, you don’t have to stay in a relationship because the other person wants you to.
• In relationships, if one person tells another that their needs are stupid, is aggressive towards them or goes against what they’re comfortable with, then they are not showing them the respect they deserve.
• In relationships, no one should ask, or expect, anyone to do anything sexual in return for giving them something, giving affection or for saying ‘I love you’.
• Seeking or requiring sexual activity from someone in exchange for anything – including drugs/alcohol, a place to stay, being part of a group, protection from violence – is sexual exploitation, regardless of whether the other person agrees or is thought to have agreed.
• In a healthy relationship, no-one will pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want to, even if it is something they have done before.
• In healthy relationships, no one will pressure anyone to send, receive or view a sexual, nude or intimate image or message.
• Anyone can experience relationship abuse. It can happen in relationships with a same sex partner or with a partner of a different sex.
• Abuse within a relationship can be emotional, verbal, psychological, financial, sexual or physical. It can include coercive and controlling behaviours. Abuse is never okay. If somebody does this to you it is never your fault and is nothing to feel ashamed of. In this situation it’s important to get help or to speak to someone you trust.
• Positive sexual experiences are mutually consensual, respectful and enjoyable.
• Consensual sexual activity means feeling safe and happy.
• You need consent every time you engage in sexual activity whether you’re with someone you have just met, or in a relationship.
• If someone changes their mind and no longer gives consent you must stop what you are doing immediately.
• No one can ever give consent for somebody else.
• Consent is freely given, not as a result of pestering, wearing someone down or making someone feel like they ‘owe’ something. Never try to persuade, pressure or encourage someone into doing things they do not want to do.
• If someone says the word “yes” when they have been pressured, talked into it or feel they can’t say no, then they are not giving consent.
• You need consent every time you have sex, even in a relationship and even if the person has consented before.
• If you have consented to something sexual before, you can decide not to do it again, and so can the other person.
• You can always change your mind when you are doing something sexual. Sometimes in the moment you want to change your mind. It is never too late to stop.
• If the person you’re with doesn’t consent, or changes their mind, you might feel disappointment, but you do not have the right to make them feel bad or try to persuade them to do something they don’t want to.
• A person is not able to give their consent if they are incapable because of the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or because they are asleep or unconscious. Any sexual activity in these circumstances is sexual assault or rape. If you’re not sure, you do not have consent.
• Consent can be expressed verbally or non-verbally (known as body language). It’s important that you both continue to pay attention to each other and ensure you are still happy, comfortable and enjoying the sexual activity you’re having. If you are not sure that the other person is happy and comfortable, you do not have consent.
• Pay attention to the person you’re with. People will use both verbal and non-verbal cues (body language) to indicate consent. Examples might include; pulling someone closer, direct eye contact, smiling, actively touching someone, nodding yes, saying things like ‘that feels good’ or ‘I still want to’. Good communication is part of good sex.
• If you think the person you are having sex with is not sure or is unhappy or worried or frightened, or that they want to stop, then you must stop. The other person does not have to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ because they can say what they feel with their body or actions. So pay attention. If you are not sure, you do not have consent.
Intimate Images and Consent
• We all have a responsibility to respect each other’s privacy and consent.
• It is important to be aware that it is illegal to take, share or have indecent images of people under the age of 18, even if they gave permission. The only exception is when it’s between two people who are in an established relationship (like a long-term relationship), and they only share the image with each other. Also, the person in the image must be over 16 and have consented to the image being taken.
• An intimate image is an image of an act that would be considered to be sexual, something that would not normally be done in public, or where the person is nude or only in their underwear.
• Taking intimate/sexual pictures and videos without ‘free agreement’ is non-consensual and unlawful.
• Think very carefully before you ask someone to send you an intimate/sexual image. You should never pressure anyone to send, receive or view a sexual, nude or intimate image or message. If you share the image with others, you are breaking the law.
• Think very carefully before sharing intimate/sexual images. Once an image is shared you no longer have full control over it.
• If you share an intimate/sexual image of yourself with another person you have a responsibility to make sure that you are happy to send it and you know the other person is happy to receive it.
• If an intimate/sexual image of you is shared without your consent, the person who did this has committed a crime and you have the right to report the matter to the police or tell another adult who you trust. You might feel embarrassed, but the sooner you take action the greater chance you have of restricting the sharing of it.
• If you receive an intimate/sexual image privately, do not share it.
• It is illegal for someone to send an intimate/sexual image to you that wasn’t meant for you. The person in the image did not intend it for you and did not consent to share it with you. Respect the person whose image it is.
• Do not show anyone.
• Do not forward it on – you will be breaking the law.
• Do not use if for revenge or to hurt someone you are angry with.
• Don’t feel you have to respond – you can ignore it.
• You can speak to a trusted adult to try and limit it being shared any further.
• If an intimate/sexual image, message or email is sent to you without your consent, the person who did this has committed a crime and you have the right to report the matter to the police or tell another adult who you trust. If the person sending you things is older or putting pressure on you to send images, it is important that you talk to an adult you trust.
• If you receive a photo or an image you did not ask for and that you should not have, you can decide to delete the message. But you might think it is best to tell someone about it. If someone is using the message to harass or hurt you, or somebody else, then it is important to talk to an adult you trust.
Protecting Yourself from STIs and Unintended Pregnancy
• Everyone is responsible for ensuring they are protecting themselves and their partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy. Your right to protect yourself should always be respected.
• Condoms (for oral, vaginal and anal sex) and femidoms (for vaginal sex) are the most effective ways to protect yourself from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Non-barrier methods of contraception, like the pill or the implant, do not protect against STIs.
• Free condoms are available in many places such as local sexual health clinics and local free condom schemes. They are just as effective as those you can buy.
• Effective contraception, including condoms, can be accessed from a sexual health clinic or a doctor.
• If you have unprotected sex or a condom breaks, you are at risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a pregnancy. STI testing and emergency contraception are accessible from a sexual health clinic or your doctor. Emergency contraception is also available free of charge from most pharmacies.
• The coil (or ‘IUD’) can also be implanted soon after unprotected sex to provide emergency protection against pregnancy. You can make an appointment to have one fitted at your local sexual health clinic.
• If you think you have been at risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is responsible and respectful to yourself and your partner(s) to visit your sexual health clinic or doctor for a test.
• If you think you might be pregnant, it’s important to talk to someone that you trust as soon as possible. It’s good to get a pregnancy test done as soon as you can.
• Deliberately removing or damaging a condom without the knowledge and consent of the person you are having sex with (sometimes known as ‘stealthing’) is a serious betrayal of trust and in addition you could be charged with a criminal offence.
Grampian Sexual Health @ The Aberdeen Community Health and Care Village provides advice and support on sexual health, sexual problems and contraception.
50 Frederick Street, Aberdeen AB24 5HY - View location on Google Maps Tel: 0345 337 9900
Opening times: Monday, Wednesday 8.30am-5pm, Tuesday & Thursday 8.30am-5.30pm (please note we are closed every second Thursday between 1.15pm-3.45pm for staff training) & Friday 8.30am-4pm.
Free condoms funded by NHS Grampian are widely available to the general public and are available from:
· Grampian Sexual Health Services, Aberdeen Health Village, Frederick Street, Aberdeen. Tel: 0345 337 9900
· Most Grampian GP surgeries (at reception or via the Practice Nurses / GPs)
· Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) Concourse
· Aberdeen Health Village, Frederick Street, Aberdeen
Emergency Contraception is available from:
· Most pharmacies
· Your GP Find your local GP or Pharmacy
· Grampian Sexual Health Services - Tel: 0345 337 9900
If you have experienced any sexual activity that you have not consented to, including sexual violence, harassment, stalking, relationship abuse, or the sharing of intimate images, you can report it and find support from the University:
· Report and Support. Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. You can also choose to make an anonymous report.
· First Responder Scheme Our support also system includes specially trained members of Robert Gordon University’s staff who can listen and offer support.
· Student Counselling & Wellbeing Centre The Counselling & Wellbeing Centre is here to help and support you throughout your time at University.