Hooking up and Affirmative Consent

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Affirmative Consent

Statistics reported in the Sunday Times state 25% of Year 10’s and 50% of Year 12’s have had sexual intercourse.[1]  Not all this sexual activity occurs within straight or LGBTIQ relationships, much occurs within the context of hooking up and random sexual encounters that are often about experimentation and bragging rights rather than concern for the other who is the sexual partner.


Generally, in the context of a relationship, there is some level of trust and communication that occurs before sexual activity.  This level of trust and communication is missing in the majority of hook-ups and random sexual encounters.  Consequently, consent is much more ambiguous.  An ambiguity which is complicated further by alcohol.


For many young men, alcohol is necessary to enable them to hook up.  Why?  Because alcohol reduces the anxiety and inhibition enough for young men to perform in hook ups.  Hook-ups by their nature are anxiety provoking.  A young man, uncertain about his sexual ability and often basing his understanding of sexual performance on the pornography he has watched is suddenly confronted by the reality of a sexual encounter.  Alcohol is the go-to, to manage his nerves and anxiety.


The challenge is to find a sexual partner who is equally inebriated so that if it all fails, at least both can blame the alcohol.  In finding a partner who is equally inebriated, the young man needs to find someone who is drunk enough not to mind his possible failure but not drunk enough so they can’t give consent.  Challenging?

Challenging for adults who have some sexual experience never mind adolescents who are just beginning the journey of sexual exploration, particularly when alcohol is known to reduce a man’s ability to read subtle social and interpersonal cues that he would have a greater chance of picking up if he were sober.


If you are going to hook up, you need to be sober enough to know you have affirmative consent.  Anything less than affirmative consent could leave you open to allegations of sexual abuse or rape.

What is affirmative consent?

Affirmative consent is knowing, voluntary and mutual consent to engage in sexual activity.[2] 

But guys, if you are hooking up, and you are drinking remember:

  • Flirting is not consent.  Just because a girl is flirting with you, she is not giving consent to sexual activity with you as much as you may enjoy the flirting.
  • Just because a girl is dressed in what you think is sexy clothing, is not consent.  Nor is she “asking for it”.
  • Consent to kissing, is not consent to oral sex or penetrative sex.  Consent to kissing, is consent to kissing.
  • Going into a bedroom together is not consent.
  • Silence is not consent.
  • Being drunk is not consent.
  • Consent can be withdrawn and if it is, you must stop all sexual activity immediately.

If you are hooking up, you need to be sober enough to know the person you are with has given knowing, voluntary and willing consent.

– Written by David Kernohan, Director of Youth Legal Services

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