What does the law say?
There are laws about relationships and how people treat each other. These laws apply to everyone - guys and girls - whether you're straight, same-sex attracted, bi or transgender.
We all want to be safe and have control over what happens to us. If you do want to have sex, you also need to make sure you know what the other person wants, because touching someone sexually without their consent (agreement) is against the law.
The law applies to sexual penetration, which includes anything that involves a penis touching a vagina, anus or mouth. It also includes putting an object or a part of the body into contact with a vagina or anus. The law also applies to touching a person in a sexual way, like touching another person's vagina, penis, anus or breast.
How can I tell whether someone consents?
To consent to sex, a person needs to be old enough (within the legal age of consent) and freely agree to the sexual activity. The legal age of consent is different depending on which state or territory you're in. See Am I old enough to have sex? below to find out more.
Consent is not just about how old a person is. Everyone who is old enough has the right to freely decide if they want to have sex or not. But someone who's drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep can't freely consent. There are other situations where a person can't freely consent, for example, if they're forced, tricked or threatened into having sex. If you have sex with someone who is unable to freely consent this is sexual assault which is a serious crime.
Anyone can withdraw their consent at any time - it doesn't matter if you've already started to have sex. If one person isn't into the sexual activity, then you have to stop.
Some people might give non-verbal signs that they want to stop instead of saying "no". Non-verbal signs can include things like turning away, pushing your hand away, or not responding to your touch. Touching someone sexually if they don't want you to is a crime - whether they've actually said "no" or not. The best way to be sure that the other person consents to any kind of sexual touching is to ask them what they want to do, and check to see if they want to keep going.
Am I old enough to have sex?
There are laws in each state about how old you have to be before you can have sex. These laws may be different depending on what state or territory you're in. If you go on holiday, or travel for schoolies week, the laws might be different to what you're used to at home. Make sure you know the rules for your age because you could be charged if you have sex with someone who is outside the legal age of consent.
Age of consent in WA
In Western Australia:
- If you're under 16 years it's not OK to have sex. The law says you're too young to consent to sex.
- If you're 16 to 17 years old it's not OK to have sex if the older person is in a position of care or authority over you (such as a sports coach, teacher or foster carer).
- If you're 18 years old or older you can consent (agree) to have sex with anyone else over 18.
Where can I get more information?
- For information about your rights as a young person see Rights for young people.
- For information about consent and social media see Social media - be careful what you say or send!
- Call the Legal Aid WA InfoLine on 1300 650 579 for free general information and referral over the phone that can help you with your legal problems.
- The Sexual Health Quarters supports people across Perth to look after their sexual health. Located at 70 Roe Street, Northbridge it provides a safe space where people can access confidential, non-judgmental and affordable sexual health services. You can phone them on (08) 9227 6177.
- Headspace offers free or low cost services for young people aged 12 to 25 and can help you access the right health service for your needs. Headspace has offices in Fremantle, Albany, Broome, Osborne Park, Bunbury and Midland. Have a look at their website for further information about how they can help you.
- The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) is the emergency sexual assault (rape crisis) service for Perth. SARC has a free 24 hour emergency service as well as a free counselling service. SARC can be contacted on (08) 9340 1828 (crisis line, 24 hours), 1800 199 888 (rural freecall) and (08) 9340 1820 (office).
Last reviewed: 22/11/2013