Consent and the gay community: GMFA calls for greater awareness and understanding of issues of consent and sexual assault.


FS magazine report uncovers shocking reality of high levels of groping, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape in the gay community.

For issue #162, FS magazine surveyed 1,053 gay and bi men about their understanding of what consent means, their own experiences and whether the gay community has an issue when it comes to consent. What they found was shocking.

They discovered:

  • 30% of respondents are survivors of sexual assault, abuse or rape
  • 64% of these men are aged between 17-34 years-old
  • 78% of these men said they didn’t report it to the police or a support group
  • 62% of the respondents stated that they had been touched sexually in a pub or club without their express permission
  • 51% believe that consent can be given by a look or other non-verbal communication
  • They asked:Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t want to have sex with

someone but you went through with it anyway?: 54% said yes.

  • 24% believe the nature of consent changes if you attend a sex party, sex club or chill out
  • 6% think that anyone at a chemsex party forgoes consent, while 14% think that anyone in a dark room forgoes consent
  • 52% think that the gay community has an issue when it comes to consent.

Consent has been in the news recently, with many gay and bisexual men stepping forward to talk about their experiences. A couple of months ago, before recently revelations emerged, GMFA conducted a survey asking gay and bisexual men about their experiences of consent, sexual assault and rape. What they found was our community has a major issue with consent, with 30% of the men who responded revealing they are survivors of sexual assault, abuse or rape. However, many survivors are not reporting what happened to them, with 78% not reporting it to the police or support group.

One of the respondents, Zack, 27 from London, told FS that he was raped while on holiday. “A guy walked me back to my hotel room while abroad and insisted on coming inside. I told him I just wanted to go to sleep, and I lay down on the bed and asked him to leave. He climbed on top of me and started trying to have sex with me. I didn’t struggle much, but I quite clearly said ‘no’ over and over again but he did it anyway. Although I know I clearly didn’t give consent it didn’t feel like rape. I felt like I led the guy on and I felt like it was my fault. I know that isn’t true, but that’s why I didn’t report it.”

“We know, across all genders and ages, most people who experience sexual assault don’t tell anyone about it,” says Catherine Bewley of Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity. “There are lots of barriers that make it difficult to speak up, including shame and embarrassment; thinking you won’t be believed; being confused about what happened; fear of reprisals or exclusion from a community; concerns that those you speak to won’t understand or be sympathetic, which includes the police and other agencies; and the impact of trauma itself.

Catherine goes on to say: “Everyone has the right to report what they’ve experienced to the police and it can help to get advice and information about the process. Whether someone reports or doesn’t, speaking to someone and getting support can be extremely helpful. There are a range of independent agencies which specialise in such advocacy and support.”

But it’s not just sexual assault which was the issue. 62% of the men who responded to this survey told FS that they that they had been touched sexually in a pub or club without their express permission. Richard, 31 from London, and describes how he’s been groped in gay bars and nightclubs on numerous occasions. “This has included, while I was sitting, a stranger sticking his hand up my shorts and grabbing me by the genitals, hands put inside my underwear on the dancefloor, and general lesser annoyances like being grabbed by the bum in gay bars.”

Ian Howley, CEO of GMFA calls for more action on sexual assault in the gay community. “Any form of sexual assault from groping to rape is unacceptable in our community and we need to take steps to stop it. I think with all that has gone on in the news regarding sexual assault, it’s now time for the gay community to stand up against sexual assault too. We must do more to educate gay and bisexual men about what the basics of consent is. The fact that some gay men think it’s perfectly OK to grope someone in a bar is unacceptable. But also, we must do more to help the survivors of sexual assault feel empowered to report the incident and make sure they receive the help and support they deserve so they can move forward.

Ian added: “No-one is to blame for sexual assault apart from the attacker. No-one asks to be assaulted either. We, as a community, need to tackle this issue and make gay and bisexual mean realise that consent is key and no means no.”

“Consent is about doing what you both, or all, want,” adds 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.


Read “Consent and the gay community”:

Read “Consent: the unspoken problem on the chemsex scene”:

Read “I’m black but you still have to ask for consent”:

Read issue #162 in full:


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