Sexual consent is when you and your sexual partner both agree to engage in any form of sexual activity. Sex without consent may be sexual assault, which is against the law. So it is important for you to know just what ‘consent’ means.
What is consent?
In a nutshell, sexual consent comes down to your capacity to say Yes or No and whether you are providing free agreement to engage in any form of sexual activity.
Free agreement is all about communication. There’s only one way to know for sure if someone has given their consent: if they tell you. Free agreement is the outward expression whether verbally or through their actions that they agree to have sex.
Capacity is whether someone can communicate their consent. Examples of where someone does NOT have capacity include:
- when someone is asleep or unconscious;
- if the person is significantly affected by drugs or alcohol;
- when someone is intimidated, coerced or threatened;
- being tricked, or under a mistaken belief, about the identity of the other person involved;
- assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past;
- someone being under the legal age of consent.
Giving consent for one activity does not mean consent is there for any other sexual activity. A good example is that consent for kissing does not mean that the person has consented for further activity such as removing their clothes.Checking in with each other might feel awkward at first, but it is such an important part of any sexual activity.
Consent may look like this:
- Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like ‘Is this okay?’ or 'Should I keep going?'
- Explicitly asking the other person and ensuring that they agree to certain activities, either by saying ‘yes’ or making another positive statement.
- Talking with your partner and using words and physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable with taking things further.
Remember, you can both change your mind at any time.
You or your partner can decide at any time that you don’t want to keep going. If this happens, and you say that you want to stop, the other person needs to respect your choice and stop what they are doing. If they don’t, it could be sexual assault. If they tell you to stop and you don’t, it also could be sexual assault.
The best way to ensure both of you are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it and keep the communication channels open.
Safer Community is a free, confidential service for those who experience concerning, threatening, inappropriate or uncomfortable behaviour. Safer Community provides support for those who have experienced sexual harm, family violence or other behaviours of concern.
1800RESPECT provides information and advice on domestic family and sexual violence. Call 1800 737 732 to speak with a counsellor.
QLife (1800 184 527) provide free and anonymous LGBTI peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
13YARN (13 92 76) is run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide a safe, shame-free space to talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.
We encourage you to complete the Respect at Deakin module, a short online unit that includes topics like the importance of consent and what makes a healthy relationship.