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Talking About Sexual Consent

Posted by Erin Fischer on

Sexual consent has become a big topic of interest and only more so with the “me too” movement. More recently it has made news with new consent laws coming into place in NSW. Which poses the question will all the other states follow suit?

Sexual consent is the permission given to do anything of sexual nature. In Australia, we have laws regarding sexual consent including the age of consent. These laws are set by each state and slightly vary. An example of this is the age of consent. In all states except for Tasmania and South Australia the age of consent is 16, in Tasmania and South Australia however the age of consent is 17. This means that it is against the law to have sex with someone who is under that age and doing so is a criminal offence. 

For more information on the consent laws in each state you can check them out below:

State

Legislation

Age of Consent

ACT

Crimes Act 1900 (Section 55)

16 Years

NSW

Crimes Act 1900 (Section 66C)

16 Years

NT

Criminal Code Act 1983 (Section 127)

16 Years

QLD

Criminal Code Act 1899 (Section 215)

16 Years

SA

Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (Section 49)

17 Years

TAS

Criminal Code Act 1924 (Schedule 1, Section 124)

17 Years

VIC

Crimes Act 1958 (Section 49B)

16 Years

WA

Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (Section 321)

16 Years

Table Source


On June 1st new consent laws were brought into place in NSW this makes the laws clearer and also reduces the grey areas. For example, you can’t consent to sex if you are heavily under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are unconscious, a person has to be consciously able to say yes either verbally or with their body. In conjunction with this, they released a range of ads showing what consent is in a positive realistic light. The ads were targeted at those between the ages of 16 and 24 and have been run on all social media including the dating app Tinder. 

These ads made waves on social media and for a good reason, they show what consent is, how it doesn’t have to be awkward and while also making it a part of something that everyone needs to think about. They also showcased a wide range of representation and because of this made it relatable. The fact that these ads are able to break it down so simply and clearly is a credit to the NSW government. As humans, we like to overcomplicate things, so anything that allows us to understand things clearly and uncomplicates things for us should be praised. 

Consent isn’t just an issue for young people or those sexually active. In an episode of ‘You Can’t Ask That’ on ABC iview consent was a topic that was brought up in the Series 7 Dementia episode. This was regarding how people's relationships change, especially those of a sexual nature as their mind starts to go and with that their ability to consent or remember that they have consented. This was a good reminder that consent isn’t just a young person's area of interest.

It can be easy to think of consent as just to do with sex but the reality is that consent is something that should be a part of our daily lives. Consent can be anything from asking someone before you hug them or not forcing a child to hug or kiss a relative. This is why there are more calls for it to be included in the school curriculum so that kids know what consent is and can carry it into adulthood.  

We should be thinking about consent not just in the sexual sense but when we see people when we go to hug someone or kiss someone on the cheek. We should realise that consent isn’t always verbal, it can be in body language and that it’s ok if we sometimes get consent wrong, for example, misreading signals as we’re all learning as well as how this is evolving in society. We also need to educate ourselves on the laws in our states regarding sexual consent, paying special attention to what counts as consent and what doesn’t under those laws. 

Consent specifically, sexual consent content is a huge topic and one that won’t go away anytime soon. A quick search on ABC brought up 1000 articles dating back to 2015 with 215 of those posted in 2021 and 82 posted in 2022 at the time of writing. Additionally, a search on SBS On Demand brought up 139 videos and a search on Google under news brought up over 150,000 results on sexual consent. Google search trends for sexual consent under both news and general show that interest in it has been rising steadily over the past five years and this will no doubt continue to grow. 

As a society, we need to educate not just ourselves but also others about consent and help each other to understand it. 

Feel free to drop by, just say, ‘Hey Barty’ in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time.


Further resources:

ReachOut Australia - 5 Things You Need to Know About Sexual Consent

Headspace - Understanding Sexual Consent

References:

ABC Australia 2022, ‘Live: Sydney news: Affirmative consent laws coming into effect today’, ABC News, 31 May, viewed 10 June 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-06-01/nsw-am-briefing-june-1-2022/101115106 .

Australian Government 2017, Age of consent laws, Child Family Community Australia.

https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/age-consent-laws

Hendriks, J 2021, Consent isn’t as simple as ‘no means no’. Here’s what you need to know

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-24/what-young-people-need-to-know-about-consent/13184494 

Meacham, S 2022, New sexual consent laws in NSW take effect from today. Here are the key details, www.9news.com.au, viewed 10 June 2022, https://www.9news.com.au/national/nsw-consent-law-changes-everything-to-know-june-1-explainer/74ee0a28-e301-404d-9559-0f6823ed50ca 

The Guardian 2022, NSW affirmative consent laws: what do they mean and how will they work?, the Guardian, viewed 10 June 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/01/nsw-affirmative-consent-laws-what-do-they-mean-and-how-will-they-work#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20new%20laws 


 

About Erin Fischer

Am the qualified mental health professional at Barty Single Origin. Write topical pieces with a focus on mental health. Always available on chat, Passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and letting people know it's A-OK to be not OK.


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