Sexual Consent; why it’s not that complicated!

Consent is more than just submitting to sex! Consent is so much more than, “I never heard them say no!”

Consent means freely agreeing to sex! Enthusiastically, wholeheartedly and positively agreeing to sexual contact! And how sexy is that!!!!!! How awesome is it when you’re with someone and you know they REALLY want to be with you, doing what you’re doing right now together. Consent is hot!

“Yes! I want to kiss you!” is a great example of freely given and enthusiastic consent to sexual activity with you!


Australian law says that you cannot freely agree to sex if you are;

-under the age of 16 (in New South Wales, Australia)

– being forced/pressured into it or too scared to say no

– being threatened or your children are threatened

being coerced, intimidated, deceived, manipulated

unconscious, asleep or substantially intoxicated by alcohol or another drug

restrained or tricked into it

tricked into believing it is essential for medical purposes

If you don’t have a choice or the freedom or capacity to make that choice, then you can’t consent to sex. Injury and resistance aren’t necessary to prove consent was broken. That’s the law!

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

We all have a right to say yes or no to sexual activity.  No one is “asking for it.”

It was not your fault! The survivor is not responsible for the perpetrator’s CRIMINAL actions.

Remember just because someone has had sex with you before, you can’t assume consent. If someone is kissing you- you can’t assume they’ve consented to a list of sexual activities in your head you’d like to engage in.

Sexual consent can be revoked at any time. You can say yes and as things progress, if you’re not feeling it anymore, you change your mind or you don’t feel comfortable-then you have every right to say, “no/stop/hey, let’s have a breather, can we slow down, I only want to x and y tonight..”

If you’re unsure whether someone is consenting to sexual activity with you try saying something like:

“are you okay with this….”

“can we….now”

“I’d love to…… would you like that?”

Checking in is sooooo dam sexy! That’s why the word SENSUAL is in the word CONSENSUAL! (Corny I know!)

I have educated hundreds of children and adults about consent. I’ve used every metaphor under the sun to explain it in a simple way, chocolate milkshakes, a cup of tea, a three course meal. For instance, I might expalin how you can start eating the entree with someone and it doesn’t mean you want desert, or you have to have desert. And just because you said yes to the entree, doesn’t mean you have to have desert and the other person can’t force you to eat desert just because they want you to have it.

I wish my generation had received this education when I was young. We weren’t taught about sexual consent. I work with a lot of adults now who are survivors of sexual assault and the myths about sexual assault and stigma around being a victim, can hinder their healing.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault please remember there is no ‘normal’ response to what you went through. Everyone copes with it in different ways. You are not to blame!

You were not to blame; if you knew your attacker, if you were under the influence of drugs/alcohol, if you’d had sex with them before, if you were wearing clothes that others might define as ‘sexy,’ you said yes at first and then said no and were ignored or if you ‘froze’ in fear and were unable to fight back or say no etc etc etc and so on.

I was on the edge of my seat watching the Larry Nassar sentencing today. When Judge Aquilina spoke to the victims that had spoken out about the sexual assault I stood on my chair and cheered aloud as she spoke these words;

“You are no longer victims. You are survivors. Leave your pain here and go out and do magnificent things.”

If you have survived sexual assault, if your choice was taken from you then please take inspiration from these words. You are a survivor and go out into the world and be bold and fearless.

What is street harassment about and how does it affect my sex life and relationships?

Check out this fabulous comic by Robot Hugs. It explains pretty well what gender based  street harrassment is all about and how to react when you see someone doing it or telling you about experiencing it.

The comic  covers really well how  harassment and sexual assault are about power and control not sex. Gender based harassment can happen in public or semi-public places, it can be non verbal or verbal. It very often has a sexual element to it and can be threatening, degrading and objectifying and can include fondling, grabbing, innuendo, shouting, stalking, ogling and more. A recent study showed that 88% of women had experienced street harassment and another study found that 65% of women experience sexual harassment every single day or every week. The same study found that almost 90% of men had never experienced street harassment from women.

What experiences have you had being harassed on the street? How did you deal with it?

How has it affected your feeling of safety and being in the world?

Do you feel anxious or fearful before going outside alone?

How have you noticed when you tell people about your experiences they often minimise your experiences or just say “Oh the men are just lonely” or “It’s your fault for what you wear.”

A common problem is when people romanticise the harassment with “boys will be boys” comments or say it’s wrapped up flattery. However when would a friend flatter you with obscenities, threats, exposing themselves to you, stalking, slapping or intimidating you? This also reinforces the gender norm that men have the right to comment on women’s appearance in public.

How have you internalised those victim blaming messages and how has it impacted your sexual experiences and relationships?

If you’ve seen a male friend or a man on the street harassing a woman what have you done or what would you do?

The research shows that  a victim of consistent everyday sexual harassment can go on to have low self esteem and carry a lot of shame around their bodies and sexualities. It can make women avoid ever going anywhere outside alone or fear and generally mistrust men. This avoidance behaviour can make it very difficult for meeting men and maintaining healthy relationships.

Women can also feel significant anger and depression long after these incidents and feel less comfortable with their sexuality and their body.

As our culture often blames women for being victims of these attacks, women may internalise these experiences into self blame. If parts of women’s bodies are being consistently objectified by street harassment then women can become detached from their bodies and interanlise that objectification. This means she starts to identify as her appearance, sexual function or the body part that is objectified. This objectification  can lead to sexual dysfunction , eating disorders, disordered eating, appearance anxiety and disassociation. It can lead to women in a surveilance trap where they constantly monitor themselves that can lead to decreased sexual pleasure and problems with orgasm.

The research shows that in the rare cases that men are sexually harassed by women on the street that they don’t react in the same self questioning and self blaming way that women do. The men studied usually would make quips about the women accosting them as not “decent women” and never showed the same self blame or internalising that women did.

Researchers have noted that the sexual harassment that women experience growing up female contributes to women’s concern about their sexual intergrity. As a sex therapist I’m particularly interested in how this represses women’s sexual potential. The research consistently points out that women who have experienced multiple harassment are often very scared before they leave the house or it stops them from leaving the house. Women are forced to learn coping strategies such as controlling their facial expressions, pretending to go along with the situation during an incident to stop it from escalating, changing their habits and clothing and repressing the incident.

The response to this sexual violence by punishing women for men’s behaviour can be seen in the media (blaming women for walking at home at night when they were victims of rape) in our courts (judges blaming women for drinking alcohol when she was sexually assaulted), our  police (telling women who were touched by taxi drivers that “he was just having a bit of fun” and she shouldn’t have been out at night) and politicians (telling women not to leave the house at night and that their place is in the home..).

Research by Bowman in 1993 shows that aswell as making women anxious and depressed, public harassment may make women less comfortable with their sexualities and ashamed of their bodies.

So please say something if you see someone harassing someone on the street, train, shops or out and about.

Please get in contact for confidential counselling if you’re concerned that you or your partner has been negatively impacted by daily sexual harassment or sexual assault or rape.

2014-07-24-Harassment.pngRobot Hugs

What is Consent?

Check out this new video made in America for college students. Latest research has found that one in five women may be sexually assaulted during college years and 40% of men admit to using coercive methods.

Consent is  permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Consent to sex is when you freely and voluntary agree to engage in sexual activity. This means communicating yes on your own terms.


What is not consent; silence, being passed out, fear or being made to feel too scared to say no.

You’ve probably heard, “no means no” before. Just relying on hearing the word “no” isn’t enough because there are many other ways to communicate no. A person doesn’t have to scream, kick you away or run off to communicate ‘no.’ It can also be freezing up, rolling away, silence or saying they’re too tired, tensing up, not moving, stiffening of muscles. Sometimes people don’t feel like they can say no even though they want to.



One of the best ways to know for sure that someone is consenting is to ask questions like;

  • Are you happy with this?
  • Is this okay?
  • Do you want to stop?
  • Do you want to go further?

If you find yourself in a sexual situation that you’re not sure about and you don’t know how or don’t feel safe to say no, then trying saying;


  • Can we stay like this for while?
  • Can we slow down?
  • I want to stop
  • I only want to kiss/hug etc for now..

You have not consented to sex if;

  • you were asleep or unconscious, or had been drinking or taking drugs and were not aware of what was going on.
  • you are in a relationship and said ‘no’ to having sex.
  • Someone put drugs in your drink and you were not aware of what was going on.
  • The perpetrator used or threatened to use force against you or someone else.
  • The perpetrator bullied you, for example, by threatening to leave you in a deserted area at night.
  • You thought what was happening was for medical reasons, for example, if a health practitioner gave you an unnecessary and inappropriate examination.
  • The person held them against your  will by taking you away, keeping you somewhere, or locking you in a room.
  • You were afraid of the person and what they might do to you or someone else.


Coercion is used in manipulating people to have sex until they give in. Coercing someone into sex is sexual assault.  Examples of coercion are;

  • pressuring (e.g. repeatedly asking someone until they are worn down)
  • threatening (e.g. “I’ll break up with you if you don’t have sex with me”)
  • intimidating (e.g. smashing something when someone says “no”)
  • blackmailing (e.g. “I’ll tell everyone you’re gay if you don’t”)
  • guilt-tripping (e.g “If you really loved me you would have sex with me”)

Coercion is when the person is not given the space to freely say “no.”

Our society often doesn’t take consent seriously, just look at phrases like “playing hard to get.” If there’s no clear consent then it is sexual assault or rape.

If someone is kissing you or has gone back to your house it doesn’t mean they have consented to intercourse and they can change their mind at any time.

Under Australian law consent to sexual activity must be ‘free and voluntary’. There are certain instances where there is no consent to sexual activity, or where consent is vitiated. These are;

  1. lack of capacity to consent, including because a person is asleep or unconscious, or so affected by alcohol or other drugs as to be unable to consent;
  2. the actual use of force, threatened use of force against the complainant or another person, which need not involve physical violence or physical harm;
  3. unlawful detention;
  4. mistaken identity and mistakes as to the nature of the act (including mistakes generated by the fraud or deceit of the accused); and
  5. any position of authority or power, intimidation or coercive conduct.

Consent is hot! Consensual sex is dam sexy! Understanding consent is important when we want to enjoy great sex and healthy relationships.

If any of this blog has brought up issues for you, please get in touch here for a chat. 
I look forward to hearing from you,