"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

We talked to young people about sexual consent. They understand the concept, but don't at all times ask within the moment.

Sexual consent has been a significant focus in Australia over the past few years.

As early as 2022, the federal government made consent education mandatory in schools. This includes information on what consent is, and the best way to ensure a consenting relationship.

Across Australia, 4 states (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania) and the Australian Capital Territory have now passed affirmative consent laws. While the precise wording of statutes varies between jurisdictions, Positive consent This might be defined because the requirement that “each person participating in the sexual act needs to take steps to say or do something to check that the other person(s) involved in the sexual activity consenting to”.

Important campaigns have also been launched, viz Do not doubt. Campaign in NSW to coach about secure, enjoyable and consensual sex.

One challenge with sexual consent education is determining the way it translates into real-life situations. As a part of Extensive research In attempting to answer this query, we wanted to know how young gay men and girls understand and practice consent.

our A new study found that while most participants understood the concept of positive consent, they didn’t at all times put it into practice in the warmth of the moment.

Our research involved a mixed group of 44 men and girls aged 18 to 35, who were in a relationship, dating or single. We talked to them in focus groups and presented several types of homosexuals. Signs of sexual consent (scenes) to debate.

We wanted to know how participants thought the characters should take care of these situations, and the way they themselves would take care of these scenarios. The scenarios were designed to be somewhat ambiguous, with no clear right answer.

Julia and Mark were an example of what we used. They meet for drinks on their first date, and the chemistry is powerful. They arrive at Julia's place, where she tells him that she desires to take things slow and won't have sex that night. They begin to make out, and each layers of clothing begin to shed. Mark hesitates, unsure whether to proceed, and Julia is unsure the best way to signal her interest in one other form of intimacy after setting a limit.

Most Australian jurisdictions now have affirmative consent law.
Anastasia Shuraeva/Pixels

Along with the vignettes, we asked participants to rate their understanding of consent, and their perceptions of gender expectations about dating and sex, amongst other issues.

Participants demonstrated a transparent understanding of affirmative consent. This includes understanding that consent is a responsibility of all parties involved. Danny, a 23-year-old man said:

It's like equal responsibility in my opinion.

Participants also noted that direct, open communication with consistent verbal check-ins was essential. As Abigail, a 26-year-old woman, said:

Both sides have to actively engage and check boundaries.

Theory vs. Reality

Despite understanding the principles of positive consent, participants responded otherwise when presented with different scenarios. Instead of noting equal responsibility, most participants believed that men within the scenarios were accountable for obtaining consent, and girls provided it.

While discussing the scenarios, participants highlighted the necessity to avoid assumptions and encourage open communication. But this attitude modified when discussing personal experiences and sexual consent. Here, participants expected that partners would perceive certain boundaries during sexual encounters, suggesting a shared sense of “normal.”

In fact, participants felt that following good sexual practices could reduce the enjoyment of sexual encounters. Some admitted that although they knew the best approach, they didn’t at all times persist with it. As Alice, a 25-year-old woman, said:

Everything goes well and we're hitting it off, after which it goes into the bedroom and things just flow, and I feel comfortable not necessarily communicating right then and there. Big.

Lenore, a 28-year-old woman, said:

Sometimes, like, a conversation can almost kill the vibe, as if it were the moment. […] Really hot and excited and also you're giving all of them the cues they usually're providing you with all of the cues, after which he's like, 'So I just need to hook up with you for a second', I'll be like , 'Dude, come on, let's just work.'

Jeremy, a 34-year-old man, said:

I've usually asked someone in the event that they're having time, you understand, 'is that okay', 'is that okay', and be told, 'no, you've ruined the moment. is', which I discovered quite disturbing as someone. Who strongly believes in at all times ensuring consent.

Two hands forming a heart shape in front of the sunset.
Consent education has received increased attention in recent times.
Peacock Gala/Insplash

Participants also indicated that positive consent was more essential in some sexual situations than in others. Discussing considered one of the vignettes, Lenore said:

It would really rely upon what that’s. [scenario character] Tried to be honest, like he's cornered me and put me in a brand new position, like, yeah, go for it. If he slapped me within the face in the course of sex without cleansing it up first, no. It would depend entirely on what it was and the best way he went about doing it.


Our study is comparatively small and can’t be generalized to the broader Australian population. We also focused only on consent in same-sex relationships.

Nevertheless, our research provides some insight into how young men and girls may approach consent during sex. The results don’t mean that sexual consent education is ineffective. Rather, they highlight a vital gap between knowing and applying that knowledge.

Our findings also point to a broader and more complex issue: the necessity for a whole-of-society approach to rethinking sexual contact and consent. One in five women have experienced sexual violence, which points to deeper problems with male privilege and societal attitudes towards women. Focusing on consent between sexual partners is one option to change attitudes.

Sexual encounters often involve complex layers of emotion and experience, influenced by culture, religion and other aspects, including elements similar to shame, pleasure, pleasure, uncertainty, fear and anxiety.

Understanding the complex variables that inform decision-making in these contexts is critical to developing educational resources that help people navigate sexual consent in quite a lot of situations.