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New Zealand Law doesn’t define what consent is, but rather, defines what consent isn’t. Because of this, we have come up with our own definitions to make this hugely important word a little easier to understand.


We define consent as:

  • a free agreement made together
  • an enthusiastic yes


A “free” agreement means that when people agree to do something sexual, they are free from any influence, whether this be from substances or from coercion. Consent is not a contract; people are free to change their minds at any time. It is an agreement made in the moment, and needs to happen every single time—even if two people have already had sex together before. A person should always feel like they are free to say “no”.


An enthusiastic yes means that people are genuinely eager to do the sexual activity that they are agreeing to. It is the responsibility of the person asking to do sexual stuff to ensure that this “yes” is enthusiastic. It is not up to the person being asked to “prove” that they are not giving their consent. Anything other than an enthusiastic yes is a no—this includes silence.


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New Zealand Law recognises that there are circumstances where consent doesn’t count. These are as follows:


  • If someone is too drunk/too high on drugs
  • If someone is under 16 years of age
  • If there is any force, threat or pressure involved


These laws are here to protect people who are vulnerable, and they stay the same regardless of the person’s gender or sex. Everyone has the right to be safe, and no-one should have to do anything sexual that they don’t want to do. It is the responsibility of the person asking to do something sexual to make sure that the other person is legally able to give their consent.

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To ensure there is consent, people need to have a conversation. We know that talking about sex can sometimes feel a bit awkward, but an open conversation helps to create safety and trust. It’s important that people are specific about what they want to do sexually when they ask each other, and that they listen to each other—not just to the words someone is saying, but to the person’s body language.


Respecting what people feel ready for and reflecting together on sexual experiences helps to build trust and intimacy between people. With consent, people can have positive and respectful sexual experiences where they feel safe and free.


For the full definition as written in the 1961 Crimes Act please follow this link.

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ask listen respect reflect