UK: Consent and the gay community

When was the last time you were groped in a bar? Did you tell him it wasn’t acceptable or did you just let it go? According to our survey, 62% of you have been touched or groped in a bar or club without your express permission.

And, unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

30% of respondents to our survey on consent revealed that they are the survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape. With the Harvey Weinstein revelations seemingly getting more horrific by the day, consent is finally at the forefront of people’s minds. This inevitably leads us to the question to which 52% of you answered “yes”: does the gay community have an issue with consent?


Consent is defined in law as ‘an agreement made by someone with the freedom and ability to decide something’, and in terms of sex, both parties must give consent.

Pressuring or forcing someone into sex without their consent is either rape or sexual assault, as is having sex with someone who lacks the ability to give consent because they’ve had too much alcohol or drugs – and in the UK, consequences for the perpetrator if found guilty can include a prison sentence or criminal record, and being put on the sex offenders register.

Giving consent isn’t as simple as clicking the ‘I accept the terms and conditions’ box, because consent isn’t a set menu or all-you-can-eat buffet. Someone may be willing to have, for example, oral but not anal sex, or may consent to anal sex only if a condom is used. And as with an all-you-can-eat buffet, there can come a point when you want to stop. Such choices must be respected. If they’re not, then it’s not consensual sex.

“Consent is about doing what you both, or all, want,” says Catherine Bewley, Manager of Galop’s Sexual Violence Casework Service. “Consent is not a moral judgement about how consenting adults have sex or with whom. Consent is about adults freely choosing to take part in sexual activity, without threat or coercion, and having the capacity to make an informed choice.”


What does consent mean to gay and bi men? In law, it means exactly the same regardless of gender or sexual preference. But in practice, how does the notion of consent work in an environment that’s as sexually driven as Britain’s gay scene? Read more via GMFA