This is the last instalment of our 5-part Sexual Health series, brought to you by Just the Facts.


Consent! It’s so, so, so important. Asking someone if you can kiss them or touch them shows that a) you have respect for them, and b) you have some basic sexual communications skills. Which is awesome.

But, it isn’t just about being awesome… finding out about consent to have sex is mandatory, because sexual connection without consent is sexual assault, or rape.

These terms make non-consent sound like a really scary or violent situation… but in many cases, sexual assault is not that obvious. It can happen within long-term relationships or first-time hook-ups. Any situation where one person wasn’t into the action.

We have this crazy Hollywood idea that it’s romantic to be spontaneous and unexpected. Well, it’s NOT romantic to jump someone. The best kind of sexual contact is when consent has been enthusiastically given!

So… how can you ask for, or check in on your partner’s consent?

“Are you enjoying yourself?”

“Are you okay?”

“Do you like that?”

“How far do you wanna go?”

Also, pay attention to body language. If your partner moves your hand away, or pulls their body away, take it as a sign to stop and check in again. Remember… Just because someone hasn’t said NO, this does not mean they’re saying YES.

So… what does affirmative consent sound like?


“Oooh I like that.”

“Yeah right there…”

“MmmmHmmmmm keep going…

There shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind… It will look and sound like a CLEAR yes! Enthusiastic, and out loud. It doesn’t count if you have repeatedly asked over and over again, and after a lot of saying “no” your partner finally says “yes.” This is not genuine consent, it’s coercion – talking someone into something they didn’t want to do.

An important point in understanding consent is that it can be given, and it can also be taken away. It’s TOTALLY within someone’s rights to change his or her mind. Nobody is obliged to continue with a sexual act, even if they said yes at first.

So… what does retracted consent sound like?

“Can we stop?”

“I’m not ready for this.”

“I don’t like that.”

“I guess… if you want me to…”

If you hear your partner change his or her mind, STOP.

And if you want to stop, or take back prior consent – don’t hesitate. You don’t owe your partner something that you aren’t comfortable with.

The last thing to understand in the consent conversation is that consent cannot always be given, so even if your partner is saying yes, there may be legal reasons that their yes doesn’t actually mean yes. If your partner can’t give legal consent, then you will be committing sexual assault by continuing (even if they give an enthusiastic YES!)

So… what are the situations where someone can’t give consent?

  • People under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be unable to give consent… How drunk is too drunk? Well, if they’re slurring words, falling over, or would be too drunk to drive, they’re too drunk to give consent.
  • Anyone under 16 years old can’t give consent to having sex with someone who is over 16 years old. In New Zealand, the age of consent is 16 for males and females and this applies to all types of sexual contact (whatever your sexuality).
  • Using a position of power to seek consent may be considered sexual assault. Some relationships skew consent, because one person holds power over another, which makes genuine consent hard to ascertain; for example a teacher and student.

For more information about sexual health, visit Just The Facts – brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF), an initiative funded by the Ministry of Health through collective District Health Boards to educate New Zealanders about sexual health and STIs.