Understanding Consent

Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse (e.g., oral, anal, vaginal). Consent means partners agree to the sexual activity and everyone understands what they’re agreeing to. Partners must give and get consent every time they have sex. When the time comes to think about sexual activity, everyone has the right to make their own choices.

Consent is:

  • needed for every sexual activity
  • understanding what you’re saying yes to
  • asking your partner if they understand what they’re saying yes to
  • checking in with your partner and accepting that either of you can change your mind at any time

People cannot give consent if they’re:

  • high or drunk
  • forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated, or offered rewards to do something sexual

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

According to the law in Canada, age of consent means the legal age when a youth can make a decision to have sex or not.

The law says a 16 year old can consent to sex. People cannot give consent if they’re:

  • other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, employer)
  • sexual activity is exploitative (e.g., porn, prostitution)

The law does outline “close-in-age exceptions”:

  • According to the law, a 14 or 15-year-old can consent to sex if the partner is less than 5 years older and not in a position of authority.
  • According to the law, a 12 or 13-year-old can consent to sex if the partner is less than 2 years older and not in a position of authority.
  • Children younger than 12 years old cannot consent to any type of sexual activity. Having sex with a child younger than 12 is against the law and is sexual abuse.
  • By law, you must be 18 to have sex with a person in a position of authority.

Students may ask about the law and sexual intercourse to seek permission to be sexually active. These types of questions provide an opportunity to talk about consent and sexual decision-making. It is important that teens recognize how to identify an unhealthy relationship and what to do to ask for help. There are several lesson plans that address sexual decision making.

More information

MyHealthAlberta.ca

Department of Justice, Frequently Asked Questions



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