Check your 

understanding

Why do we need to talk to young people about consent? 

It’s important that young people having their first relationship or sexual experiences know exactly what consent is about.  

The best thing we adults can do is get our own heads around consent. We can do this by engaging those around us on the topic – your partner, friends, other parents and carers, and older family members. When we have the same understanding of consent, we offer better support to the young people in our lives. 

What is consent?

Before we can talk about consent, we need to know what it is.  

Sexual consent relates to sexual activities, such as: 

  • sexual intercourse 
  • touching someone in a sexual way 
  • sharing sexual images 
  • online sexual activities and sexting.  

Sexual consent is a free, voluntary and informed agreement between people to participate in a sexual act. This agreement is only present when these people mutually and genuinely want to engage in that sexual act and actively make sure their partner does too. 

This means there is only consent to a sexual activity if everyone involved: 

  • agrees with each other to take part 
  • really wants to take part – they don’t feel they have to 
  • checks in with each other to make sure everyone wants to take part 
  • shows or says they want to take part in a clear and open way. 

 Sexual consent is not: 

  • a problem to solve 
  • a transaction or a contract – an exchange where someone ‘gives’ or ‘receives’ consent. 

 Consent can be learnt. It’s part of a set of skills needed to have safe, fun and pleasurable sexual experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship or not. There must be consent for a sexual activity to be free from violence, pressure and control. 

Please note this is a community definition of sexual consent. The legal definition differs in each Australian state. For more information visit:

Youth Law Australia | Legal Services For All Young People yla.org.au

Talking about consent, or even reading about it, may be triggering for some people. This includes those who have experienced, or are experiencing, sexual violence or other forms of trauma. Support is available. Refer to the Support Services page for more information. 

Misconception cards

Many adults are confused about consent. There are lots of common myths and misconceptions that make it hard to navigate. Some of these myths even cause harm by blaming victims and downplaying sexual violence. Select a debunked myth and discover the reality below:
  • MYTH: Talking to kids about sexual consent will lead to risky behaviour.

    The Reality: You can have age-appropriate conversations about consent with young people at any time. In fact, an open dialogue about sex, dating and relationships with young people can support their wellbeing and delay sexual activity until they feel ready. You can start by having conversations with other adults to get on the same page, before talking to young people. See the conversation guides for ideas.  

  • MYTH: If someone doesn’t want sex, they will say no.

    The Reality: Just because a person doesn’t say no or doesn’t resist, it doesn’t mean they consent. Everyone acts differently in this situation. They could be unsure or worried about what will happen if they don’t say yes. Or they could freeze and be unable to react. Silence is never an indication of consent. It’s important to look out for other people’s signs of hesitation or uncertainty in their body language as well as the words they use. Signs of physical arousal do not mean there is consent. You need to pay attention to all the signals.  

  • MYTH: Someone is ‘asking for it’ based on what they are wearing, behaving or where you meet them, like at a nightclub.

    The Reality: It doesn’t matter where you are or how someone is dressed or behaving, you can never assume there’s consent. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable. Sexual partners must actively do or say something to check for consent every time. Silence, freezing, not saying ‘no’, not appearing unhappy or uncomfortable doesn’t mean there is consent.  

  • MYTH: If you don’t consent, it’s up to you to speak up.

    The Reality: Consent is all about communication. Everyone must actively say or do something to check if their partner wants to take part in a sexual activity, and make sure it’s safe, pleasurable and comfortable for everyone. It can be hard for someone to speak up if they don’t consent for lots of reasons and everyone acts differently in this situation. They could be feeling scared, pressured or worried about rejection. If there are any signs of hesitation or uncertainty or you’re not sure, it’s best to slow down and ask. 

  • MYTH: You only need to check for consent the first time.

    The Reality: You need consent every time, no matter if you’re on your first date or in a long-term relationship. Agreeing to one specific sexual act doesn’t mean agreeing to other kinds of sexual acts, and consent for past sexual activity doesn’t mean consent can be assumed in future sexual activity. Consent can also be withdrawn at any point in time.

  • MYTH: Some people like their partner to ‘take control’ and so consent isn’t needed.

    The Reality: No matter what your sexual preferences are, it’s important to make sure everyone genuinely or enthusiastically wants to take part in a sexual activity, and everyone understands what’s involved and any possible consequences of that act. Consent must be affirmative, meaning sexual partners need to actively say or do something to check for consent every time.

  • MYTH: You can’t give someone a compliment these days.

    The Reality: There’s a difference between a compliment and sexual harassment. A compliment is given to someone with no expectations in return. Harassment is commenting on someone’s looks to get their attention or embarrass them. It’s about power. Uninvited physical or verbal attention is never okay. This is true for both online and in-person interactions. 

1 of 7