Young People’s Understanding of Sexual Consent and Sexual Exploitation


British Academy

Leverhulme Small Grants Scheme




Dr Geraldine Brady

Nicola Standen

Dr Pam Lowe, Aston University

Project objectives

This research seeks to explore young people’s understanding of sexual consent, using qualitative research methods. 

Whilst little is known about the meaning and practices of sexual consent amongst young people, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that sexual activity is not always fully consensual and there is increasing concern around sexual exploitation.

Within competing definitions of consent two core components can be identified: knowledge and understanding, and the capacity to act. The connections between the two are important and therefore understanding how sexual capacity shapes sexual consent is paramount. 

The project aims to access diverse groups of young people and explore, and through a positive experience definitions of normative assumptions, physical signs and emotional processes.

Impact statement

This research builds on earlier findings relating to sexual consent (2013) and begins to unpick the concept of sexual exploitation, using qualitative and participatory research methods. The research findings will contribute to thinking about sex education in its widest sense, relating to the meaning of sexual consent in the context of young people’s lives, gendered practices and the notions of ‘risk’, ‘responsibility’ and pleasure.

Our purpose is to provide an evidence base to support the development of appropriate practice and also to add to the growing body of work that seeks to debate the way that sexual consent is conceptualised. The findings of this research are relevant for four key audiences: academics, practitioners, policy makers and young people. It is of importance to the team to communicate research findings to those who are working with and alongside young people to support their sexual choices and decision-making, as well as to academic peers. Dissemination aims to build a local evidence base to inform future work locally relating to Relationships and Sex Education and safeguarding young people.

Preliminary findings have been presented at the Understanding The Young Sexual Body Symposium -Exploring young sexualities: research-practice entanglements, 24th April 2015 at The Open University, Camden, London. Dr Geraldine Brady (Coventry University) and Jo Costello (Coventry Rape and Sexual Assault Centre) “The meaning of sexual consent in the context of the lives of young people”. 

2nd Oct 2015 | Young people’s understanding of sexual consent and sexual exploitation:

A one day stakeholder event will be held at Coventry University; an opportunity to launch research findings, generate discussion, shape and develop recommendations and share preliminary ideas for the future.

The event will take place at Coventry University, Simulation Centre, Technology Park.

For more information please contact Dr Geraldine Brady

See the related project: Exploring Understanding of Sexual Consent Amongst Young People

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