What is sexual consent?

Sexual consent explained and how to tell if someone has given their consent.

When you give your consent it means that you feel entirely comfortable having sex or engaging in other sexual acts. In other words, you freely agree to participate. Consent can be verbal, physical, or emotional agreement – its not always as straight forward as someone saying explicitly saying yes. Sometimes people will signal that they don’t want to have sex in less obvious ways like;

  • Not reacting with enthusiasm to whatever you’re doing
  • Lying still and being quiet or not talking
  • Turning or moving away from you
  • Crying
  • Making tentative statements like “I’m not sure” “I don’t really want to”

No matter how it looks you need to have clear confirmation that everyone involved is happy with what’s happening. If you have any doubts that that is not the case – ask! It’s that easy. Should we …? What about if we…?

There are some situations that prevent people from giving free agreement – which also means they’re not able to give their consent. Here are a few scenarios where you can’t give consent;

  • When you’re drug or alcohol affected
  • Asleep, unconscious or semi-conscious
  • Under duress – in other words, you’re worried that you, or someone else might be hurt if you don’t give consent
  • Tricked or deceived (agreed to one sexual act that turned into something you didn’t agree to)
  • Unable to understand what you were consenting to
  • Believe you can’t withhold consent
  • If you’re a child (for more information on the legality of consent for under 18 year olds)

Sexual offences occur when you don’t give consent or when you are incapable of giving consent.

If you or someone you know has been assaulted, or has experienced concerning, threatening or inappropriate behaviour, support and advice is available from Safer Community.

Animation courtesy of Emmeline May at rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com and Blue Seat Studios. Copyright © 2015

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Sexual assault

What it is