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Understanding consent for sex

​​Learn about your right to make choices about sex and relationships, and about the laws in Canada that protect you.

What do I need to know about consent?

Consent means getting permission to do something. It’s freely given and means people agree to do something together. Anyone can change their mind at any time.​

Consent to sex means partners agree to sexual activity and everyone understands what they’re agreeing to. Partners must give and get consent every time they have sex.

Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse (oral, anal, and vaginal sex). You have the right to decide to have sex or not.​

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 anyone can change their mind

People cannot give consent if they are:

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

How do I ask for and talk about consent?

You can talk about consent by asking questions like:

  • “Can I …?"
  • “Do you want me to …?"
  • “I want to make sure you are OK with this… Can I keep going?"
  • “It's OK if you're not into it, we can do something else."

Ask, listen for the answer, and accept when someone says no. Consent is about choice.

What is the law in Canada?

Everyone has the right to make choices about sex. Consent laws are to protect you and help you enjoy healthy relationships.

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

In Canada, age of consent means the age when a youth can legally agree to sexual activity. Age of consent laws apply to all forms of sexual activity, ranging from kissing and fondling to sexual intercourse.

The law says a 16-year-old can consent to sexual activity​, except if the:

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

By law, you must be 18 to have sex with a person in a position of authority.

Are there exceptions to the law?

What if I'm 14 or 15 and thinking of having sex?

According to the law, a 14 or 15-year-old can consent to sexual activity if the partner is less than 5 years older and not in a position of authority.

What if I'm 12 or 13?

According to the law, a 12 or 13-year-old can consent to sexual activity if the partner is less than 2 years older and not in a position of authority.

Children under 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.

What if I want to talk to a healthcare provider about my sexual health?

In Alberta, people younger than 18 can get healthcare without a parent's permission if they are a mature minor.

A mature minor means you fully understand:

  • the care or treatment being offered
  • the consequences of the care or treatment
  • the consequences of not having the care or treatment

How well you understand information is more important than how old you are.

You have the right to:

  • know all the facts, risks, and benefits of medical care and treatment
  • agree to accept or refuse medical care and treatment (like an STI test)
  • have your questions answered so you know enough to make an informed decision that is right for you

If you're a mature minor, healthcare providers can only share information with your parents (including if you went to a clinic) if they have your permission.

Tips for talking about consent

When people know about consent, they are more likely to have healthy, happy, and enjoyable relationships.

Parents and caregivers can start talking about consent with children when they are young. This prepares children for healthy conversations about sexual consent when they are older. Learn more at Teaching Sexual Health.

We can all practice consent by:

  • respecting others' space and boundaries
  • asking for a hug, a kiss, or to touch someone
  • saying no when something doesn't feel right for us

What if I need help?

Talk to a parent (or an adult you trust) if you've had:

  • unwanted or forced sex
  • unwanted sexual attention
  • pressure to have sex
  • pressure to send or receive sexual pictures or messages

Where can I find more information?

If you have questions, need to find a sexual health clinic near you, or want more information, call Health Link at 811 anytime, day or night, to talk to a registered nurse.


Current as of: January 5, 2023

Author: Sexual & Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services