Sex and Consent

Women with disability have the right to have enjoyable sex, to choose when they want to have sex and who with.

On this page you can learn about sex and consent and how to get support.

Watch the Monash University video (external link) about consent:

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

What is sex?

Most people think of sex as penetrative sex, which is when something (like a penis or a sex toy) goes inside someone else's mouth, vagina or anus, but there are lots of ways to have sex. Different types of sex include:

  • vaginal sex (a penis inside a vagina)
  • oral sex (mouth on a penis or vagina)
  • anal sex (a penis in a bottom)
  • fingering or hand jobs (fingers in a vagina or on a penis)
  • masturbation (touching your own genitals for pleasure)
  • using sex toys, like vibrators for pleasure.

People use many different words for having sex. The most common are ‘making love’ or ‘having sex'.

People with disability have a right to have sex and feel good about it. There are also lots of other ways to be intimate in a relationship without having sex. For example, holding hands, cuddling and kissing.

Remember! Sex is a very private thing that you can do with a partner only when you both agree you want to. This is called consent. It is not OK to have sex with someone without consent.

Limitations for people with disability

Despite common views that people with disability are asexual or do not have sex, having a disability does not change your sexuality and your sexual desires.

Fact: Many people with disability can and do have sex. One of the biggest barriers to expressing your sexuality can often be what other people think.

Some people with disability may be concerned about having sex due to physical limitations, fatigue or pain. But this does not mean they cannot have sex. You may just have to do it differently. Some things that can help include:

  • sex toys
  • a support worker to provide assistance
  • sex therapy.
Photo of a man and a woman sitting on a wooden bench looking out at the water. The man has his arm around the woman.

What is consent?

Sexual consent is when two people agree to have sex. Consent can be verbal – like someone saying ‘yes,’ or it can be non-verbal – like someone nodding their head or giving a thumbs up in response to a clear question about whether they want to have sex.

Remember! 
Having sex with someone without consent is a form of sexual violence and is never OK. It is also called sexual assault or rape.

You can learn more about what sexual violence is on the What is Violence? page.

Boundaries

Everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and to have these respected. For example, some people may not like to be kissed on the cheek by someone they have just met. Everyone is different, which is why it is important to always ask for consent.

Sex and the law

Each state in Australia has laws that say you must be over a certain age before you can consent to having sex. This is called the “age of consent”.

A statue of a brass woman holding a set of legal weights.

In Tasmania and South Australia, the age of consent is 17 years. In every other state and territory, the age of consent is 16 years.  

It is against the law for someone to have sex with you if:

  • you are under the age of consent
  • they are a close family member, like a parent or sibling
  • they are a support person or staff member, like a carer, therapist, doctor or teacher.

You also cannot give consent if:

  • you are being pressured or forced to have sex
  • you are asleep or unconscious
  • you have had too much alcohol or drugs
  • you do not understand what you are saying yes to.

Sex Therapists and Sex Workers

If you need support to have sex you can talk to a sex therapist or pay for services from a sex worker.

Sex therapists
- talk to individuals and couples to help solve any problems that are impacting on their sex lives. This may include anxiety and stress, as well as physical difficulties, such as having a low sex drive.

Tip: You can find a sex therapist online or in your state on the Society of Australian Sexologists website (external link).

Sex workers – are workers who offer sex and sexual experiences to people in exchange for money or other things of value.  

People with disability have the same rights to access sex work services as everyone else. For many people with disability, accessing a sex worker can be therapeutic and beneficial for their health.

Note:
Sex work is illegal in some states in Australia. You can find out more about the laws in your state or territory on the Scarlett Alliance website (external link).

Did you know?

Touching Base
is an organisation that links people with disability with trained disability sex workers in Australia. Learn more on the Touching Base website (external link).

The NDIS and sex

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) currently only supports access to sex therapy, but not sex work. If you are an NDIS participant, and you want to access supports to help you have sex, you should talk directly to the NDIS about this.

Tip: You can learn more about what the NDIS covers on the National Disability Insurance Scheme website (external link).

Important Resources

Publications
WWDA Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Information from WWDA about the rights of women and girls with disability to make decisions about their bodies, sexual health and relationships.
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1800RESPECT
A 24-hour confidential information, counselling and support service. Phone or chat online now.
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Guides
WWDA Easy English Book: Sex and Your Body
Information about your rights to sex and health written in Easy English.
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Family Planning NSW: All About Sex
A series of easy read fact sheets for people with intellectual disability to learn about sexuality and relationships.
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Australian institute of Health and Welfare: Age of Consent
A government website with information about sex and consent laws across Australia.
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Sexuality and Disability
A website that answers questions a woman with a disability might have about her body, sex, relationships, children and more.
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Touching Base: Booklets For People With Disability
Three downloadable booklets with clear and easy to understand information about seeing a sex worker.
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Family Planning Alliance Australia: services
A website where you can find your local family planning service.
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Where to next:

External website
Contraception Australia
A website with all the information you need to know about the contraception options in Australia.
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All Good
A website with information on sexual health in lots of different languages.
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Amaze
A website with a series of fun, animated videos that give you all the answers you want to know about sex, your body and relationships.
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Cripping Up Sex with Eva
A website you that offers information and advice on sex through a subscription that you pay a monthly fee for.
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External website
Choice Support: Supported Loving Toolkit
The Supported Loving toolkit is a series of guides to help support people with learning disabilities with issues around sex and relationships.
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Marie Stopes
Marie Stopes Australia is a national provider of safe abortions and contraception.
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Organisation for Autism Research: Sex Ed for Self-Advocates
An educational guide about sexuality and sex written specifically for people on the autism spectrum aged 15 and up.
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NO MORE: Understanding Consent
An American website with information about consent and a campaign against sexual violence.
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National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
Information about the NDIS for eligible people with disability as well as their supporters and services.
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SECCA: Disability, Relationships, Sexuality
A non-profit organisation designed to support people with disabilities in their efforts to learn about human relationships, sexuality and sexual health.
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Touching Base
An organisation in New South Wales that links people with disability to sex workers.
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Sexuality After Spinal Cord Injury
A video project about exploring sex and sexuality after spinal cord injury.
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Family Relationships Online: Legal Advice
Information about where to get legal assistance for family law disputes.
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Consent is Everything
A British website with information and resources about sexual consent, sexual violence and rape.
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WWILD
WWILD supports people with intellectual or learning disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse or have been victims of crime. WWILD also works with the families, carers and services who support them.
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Relationships Australia
A website that supports individuals and couples to think about their relationship, and to explore ways of making their relationship happier and more fulfilling.
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Society of Australian Sexologists: Practitioner Directory
A directory you can use to find a sex therapist in your area.
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