Consent to sexual activity
Consensual sex is when both parties are of legal age, agree to engage in intercourse by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. This means agreeing to sexual relations without fear, coercion, force or intimidation. Giving consent is active, not passive. It means freely choosing to say ‘yes’ and also being free to change your mind at any time.
In Western Australia, the legal age for males and females to consent to sexual activity is 16 years of age. If you have sex with someone who is under 16 years of age it is a crime.
It is also a crime to have a sexual relationship with someone under 18 years of age if you have a relationship of authority with them, for example, you are their teacher or employer.
If someone is not able to give consent to sex, regardless of their age, it is a crime to have a sexual relationship with them. People who cannot give consent are those who are:
- unconscious, asleep, intoxicated, drugged, or otherwise unable to say ‘yes’
- have a psychological or decision-making disability that impacts on their ability to understand what they are consenting to.
Examples – none of these people consented
- “I’ve been going out with this guy for a few months. He wanted me to have sex with him but I wasn’t ready. He started to shout and get really angry. I gave in to him because I was so scared.”
- “My husband and I separated six months ago. I still see him because of the children. Recently he came to the house, forced me into the bedroom and had sex with me.”
- “I was at a party and had too much to drink. I fell asleep on a spare bed. I woke up with someone I didn’t know having sex with me.”
Where to get help
Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)
- 24 hour emergency line for recent sexual assault – phone 9340 1828 or 1800 199 888 (free from land line only)
- Emergency telephone counselling between 8.30am and 11.00pm daily – phone 9340 1828
- In an emergency situation, go to the nearest hospital emergency department
- See your doctor
Sexual Assault Resource Centre
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.