Sexual consent is free and voluntary
Sexual consent is when people freely and voluntarily agree to engage in sexual activity, including kissing, touching and oral sex.
It’s about making sure everyone is comfortable with what’s happening and freely choosing to say yes.
This means there are situations where people can’t consent (even if they say yes), because they can’t freely choose.
This includes if they’re:
- heavily affected by drugs or alcohol
- unconscious or asleep
- manipulated or threatened into consenting.
Sexual consent is clearly communicated
A person has to say or do something to communicate consent - you can’t assume someone is consenting because they don’t say no.
Sexual consent can be withdrawn
Someone can change their mind and withdraw consent at any time. As soon as a person withdraws consent, the sexual activity must stop.
Sexual consent is ongoing
You always need to check consent, whether it’s the first time you’re hooking up with someone or the hundredth time.
You need to check consent before and during any sexual activity, including kissing, touching and oral sex.
Sexual consent is specific
If someone consents to one thing (like kissing), it doesn’t mean they’ve consented to other things (like touching).
Asking someone directly is the best way to make sure they feel safe and comfortable.
This can sound scary, but it doesn’t need to be a big deal. Just ask:
“Is this okay?”
“Can I kiss you?”
“Do you want to try ___?”
“Want me to keep going?”
“How does that feel?”
“What do you want to do next?”
Keep checking in to make sure they’re comfortable. If they change their mind, stop and respect their decision.
Look at body language and non-verbal cues to make sure they’re comfortable. Just because someone isn’t saying no, doesn’t mean they’re saying yes.
Some signs a person might be uncomfortable are:
- freezing or not responding to what you’re doing
- tensing up
- moving away from you.
If you think someone is showing signs of discomfort or hesitation, stop and ask if they’re okay.
That’s how you do it. Check consent, every time.
Consent and the law
In 2021, NSW passed new laws about sexual consent, which are sometimes called ‘affirmative consent laws.’
Under these new laws:
- you can’t assume someone is consenting just because they don’t say no – consent must be communicated by words or actions
- if the other person hasn’t communicated they’re consenting, you have to say or do something to check consent.
You can find out more about sexual consent laws in NSW at Youth Law Australia.
A national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. Available 24/7.
Men’s Referral Service
Call the Men’s Referral Service if you are worried about your own behaviour and looking for support.
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