Generally, consent means getting permission to do something. This is important in many different types of everyday situations. For example, you should ask for someone’s permission before borrowing something or before posting a photo of them on social media. Consent to sexual experiences is no different.
Legally, consent means free and voluntary agreement. A person does not freely and voluntarily agree if they are pressured or threatened, if they are asleep or unconscious, or if they do not say or do anything to communicate consent. We explain more about what consent does, and doesn’t, look like below!
You must give and get consent before doing any sort of sexual activity with another person, not just penetrative sex. Consent is important for all people, of all sexualities and in all kinds of relationships.
Consent needs to be given each time. You need to make sure you have consent each time you do a sexual activity with another person. Remember:
Want to find out more about what consent means, and what it looks like? Check out these resources:
You need to have consent before doing any kind of sexual activity with another person. This includes kissing or touching someone, as well as oral or penetrative sex.
All people involved in a sexual activity need to consent, and make sure everyone else consents. However, it is especially important for the person initiating sexual activity to make sure the other person (or people) consents.
Consent must be continually given and received. You can’t ever assume that someone has consented, even if you’re in a relationship with that person, or they have consented to something in the past.
The law says you must know or have reasonable grounds for believing that the other person consents to the sexual activity. This generally means you should take positive steps to find out if the other person consents to a particular activity.
How can you be sure that someone is consenting? You can:
It is best to think of consent as an enthusiastic yes. Remember, consent can also be withdrawn at any time.
Just because a person says ‘yes’, it does not always mean they have consented. The law says a person does not consent if they:
Even if a person appears to consent to a sexual activity, there are some other situations where that consent may not be valid, including:
A person can withdraw their consent at any time. If a person changes their mind, or says something like ‘stop’, it is a crime to keep going.
A person cannot consent to sexual activity if they are under the age of consent.
The age of consent is the age at which the law says a person can agree to sexual activity. If you are under the age of consent, the law says that you cannot legally agree to sexual activity, and any person who does something sexual with you has broken the law.
In NSW, the age of consent is 16. If you are 16 years old and above, you can legally have sex (or do another sexual activity) with another person who is 16 years or older as long as you both agree to it.
In NSW, consent to a sexual activity with a person who is under 16 can be a defence to sexual crimes if both people are 14 or over, and the difference in age is not more than 2 years.
A person who is under the age of 14 can never consent to sexual activity. If you are 24 or under and you have any questions about these laws, you can contact us for free and confidential legal advice here.
Sending a photo or video of a person doing a sexual act or showing their genital or anal region without their consent is image-based abuse, and it can be a crime. You can find out more on our page on image-based abuse.
There are special laws that apply to sexting with someone who is under 18 – including sending and receiving images or videos of young people who are under 18 – even if it is consensual. You can find out more on our page on sexting.
If you feel that someone has done something sexual to you without your consent, this is not okay, and it may be sexual abuse. You can find out more information about sexual abuse here.
You can contact us here for free and confidential legal advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can also contact the services listed below to talk about anything relating to sex including safe sex, and what is considered normal or healthy in a relationship. They are not the police or a government department, and you do not have to give them your name and details if you don’t want to.
Family Planning NSW is a sexual and reproductive health clinic and education service for all people living in NSW. They have clinics in Ashfield, Newcastle, Penrith, Dubbo and Fairfield as well as outreach locations.
You can call these clinics Monday – Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm:
1800RESPECT provides free counselling, information and support for people who have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence. You can call them on 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.Get help now