Consent is an agreement between individuals to engage in sexual activities. Sexual consent can at times be a grey area because it involves verbal and non-verbal communication about what we want sexually. It needs to be given freely and is ongoing throughout the sexual process. Alcohol and drug use undermine our ability to give consent. I will be using the SMART model adapted from research carried out by the University of Galaway in Ireland to explain this in more detail. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

S: Sexual orientation and gender identity:

Consent needs to be respected independently of sexual orientation and gender identity.

M: State of Mind:

When giving consent parties involved need to feel free to decide. Clear thinking, free from the influence of alcohol and drugs is important in giving consent

A: All forms of intimacy and sexual Activity: From kissing, to touching, to oral and penetrative sex

Therefore sexual consent needs to be present throughout the sexual activity and participants can say decide to stop and withdraw consent at any point of the process.

R: Relationship:

Sexual consent needs to be present independently of whether the relationship is a committed or a casual one.

T: Talking:

Consent can be verbal or non-verbal and needs to be respected in both instances.


Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on