What is Consent?

What is Consent?

Consent is when you freely agree to participate in sexual activity with another person (or people). It is saying YES! to sex (anything from kissing to intercourse), either verbally or physically. That means everyone involved wants to be there, and wants to take part. You can withdraw your consent at any time, even if you have already said yes, or are already having sex.

Consent is about respect between you and your sexual partner(s), and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. What could be sexier than knowing someone wants to have sex with you?!

Check out clinical sexologist Dr Lindsey Doe’s video explaining consent and Scarleteen’s Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway.

Sex without consent is rape, sexual abuse or sexual assault. It is a serious crime so it’s important to understand how to ask for consent, give consent and to withdraw consent. You’ll find some helpful tips on how to talk about sex here. Being pressured into having sex when you’re not ready can be a horrible experience, and have serious impacts on your life. Read our post on Sexual Assault for more info. If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted you can call 1800 RESPECT for help.

If you are feeling pressured into sex by someone check out this post on Love: the good, the bad and the ugly’s website.

The Basics                                                               

Consent can be hard to understand so here are some basics:

  • Consent is mutual- everyone involved must agree to be involved or present for the sexual activity.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time. You have the right to say “no” or “stop” at any point.
  • Consent is never automatic. It doesn’t matter if you are someone’s girlfriend, have told someone you love them or have consented to sex in past, they still need to ask for your consent before any sexual activity.
  • Sometimes consent can’t be given, like if a person is drunk or high, asleep, can’t understand what they are consenting to or are pressured into it.
  • If there is an uneven power balance between you and the person you are sexually active with you may not be able to consent, like if they’re your teacher, sports coach or doctor.
  • A lack of no does not mean yes.
  •  No consent means STOP!

If you are ever unsure or confused about what is happening in a sexual situation, stop and talk to your partner about what you are feeling and ask them about their feelings. If you feel like things are moving too fast, let your partner know. You have the right to say no or stop at any point during sex and they should respect that.

Alcohol, drugs and consent

If someone is drunk or high they cannot consent to sex, as they are unable to make clear decisions. If you have sex with someone who is intoxicated and cannot consent, it is rape. This is the same if someone is passed out or sleeping, they cannot consent to sex. If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted you can call 1800 RESPECT for support.

Age of Consent

Each state in Australia has laws that state at what age you can consent to sex. This is to prevent the sexual exploitation of young people. In the ACT, NSW, NT, Victoria and WA the age of consent is 16. In Tasmania and SA the age of consent is 17. In Queensland the age of consent is 16 for all sexual behaviour except anal sex, the age of consent is 18 for that. There are exceptions to these rules that vary from state to state, so if you are planning to have sex with someone the same age as you it might be ok. Lawstuff has a great state by state run down of consent laws just click on the state you live in to get started.

Sex can be intense and exciting, but it can also be confusing and scary, the best thing you can do is talk to your partner about what you like and don’t like. If you feel overwhelmed, tell them. Knowing how everyone is feeling, and how far they want to go, creates a safe space and leaves you to enjoy the fun!

Click here for a list of Support Services.