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Explaining sexual consent to your teen

Talking to your teen about the birds and the bees can be a bit awkward to say the least. Even so, it is important to have regular conversations with your teen about sexual consent as it will normalise the topic, give your teen the best foot forward when navigating relationships, and can help your teen feel more confident in initiating the conversation of consent with any potential partners. We’ve compiled a few topics below to help get the convo going!

What is consent?

Consent is defined as an agreement between participants to engage in a certain activity. When it comes to sexual activity, consent should be communicated frequently and freely. It involves paying attention to what the other person (i.e., partner/boyfriend/girlfriend) is saying, their body language and their facial expressions.

It is important to remind your teen that sexual consent isn’t only about agreeing to have sex. It’s also important for all intimate activities - from the moment you ask if you can hold someone’s hand, to a hug or a kiss. Asking for sexual consent is one way we can maintain healthy relationships and make sure everyone is feeling safe, comfortable, and respected.

How does it work?

Mutual: both people need to agree at all stages

Freely given: a decision without pressuring, guilting, or threatening the other person

Informed: both people must understand exactly what is about to happen

Certain & clear: A “yes” must be given, not a “maybe” or “I’m not sure”

Enthusiastic: both people are excited to engage in the activity

Reversible: you can change your mind at any time

Specific: a yes for one activity does not mean yes for everything else.

Ongoing: consent needs to be ongoing throughout the activity and must be asked next time as well.

Consent looks like…

There are many ways to ask for consent. It is important to tell your teen that some bodily responses are involuntary and do not classify as someone consenting to an activity. Confirming consent can look like…

Asking permission ("can I...?")
Confirming reciprocal interest ("are you interested in...?")
Checking in to confirm consent (is this still okay?")
Providing positive feedback or physical cues
Being explicit about decision ("yes" or "no")

Consent does not look like…

Unwanted sexual activity is classified as sexual assault and can have serious consequences. If you have been sexually assaulted, know that it is not your fault. The following are not classified as consent…

Ignoring someone's "no"
A person looking upset, uncomfortable, disengaged or unresponsive
Certain clothing, kissing, or flirtation
Under the legal age of consent
Pressuring someone into particular acts
You've engaged in sexual activity with the person previously
A person being incapacitated due to alcohol and/or drugs
Inability to control oneself due to another person being attractive

The legal aspects of consent

Sexual assault is against the law. It is illegal to engage in sexual activity (including kissing or touching) if the other person has not given or is unable to consent. Remember, it is never okay to participate in sexual acitivty in some situations even when consent in given. These situations include:

Being under the age of consent
If the other person holds authority over you (i.e., teacher, carer, family member)
Severely affected by drugs or alcohol
Unconscious or asleep
Under the belief that you can’t say no, made to feel scared to say no, tricked into consenting, or not understanding what you’re consenting to
Being forced, afraid that someone will use force, afraid you will be harmed, being manipulated/threatened/pressured, or being prevented from leaving

Sexual Assault support

If you have experienced sexual assault, you are not alone. Remember, support is available if you need to chat.

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 RESPECT
Reach Out: 13 11 14 (Available 24/7)
Bravehearts: 1800 272 831
Lifeline: 13 11 14

To report sexual assault in Queensland use the link below

The Curly Fries Consent Explanation

Here's a video to help explain consent to your teen

#Some extra resources to help