Main Content Anchor

Having sex

Queensland has strict laws about sex and sexual activity.

Any sexual activity without your agreement is unlawful. If you don’t agree and someone threatens you or touches you sexually, they are breaking the law.

The legal age for consent when having sex in Queensland is 16 (except for anal sex). This strict age limit is in place to help protect you from harm. It’s unlawful to engage in any sexual activities if you’re under 16.

If you’re 16 or over, you can have any sort of consensual sex (except anal sex) without breaking the law—if you and your sexual partner both agree. Find out more about when I can have sex.  

If someone tries to have sex with you without your agreement this may be considered sexual assault and you should report it to the police. You can also get support from a range of sexual assault support services.

In our digital age, it’s easy for pictures and information to be spread quickly using technology. Sexting and other online sexual activities may expose you to risk or be considered a criminal offence, especially when it involves young people and children.

If you’re worried about what you can and can’t do, get legal advice or talk to someone who can help.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, and you want to make a complaint, you should report it to the police as soon as possible. In an emergency call 000. You can also get support from a sexual assault support service.

When can I have sex?

Strict age limits apply for when you can legally have sex. These apply to people in same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and are designed to protect you from harm from older people.

These laws apply to a range of sexual activities including:

  • sexual penetration—including anything that involved a penis touch a vagina, anus or mouth
  • putting an object or another part of the body into contact with a vagina or anus
  • touching a person is a sexual way—like touching another person’s vagina, penis, bottom or breasts.

Under 16

If you’re under 16, it’s unlawful for anyone to have sex with you, touch you sexually, perform a sexual act in front of you, or get you to perform a sexual act on them—even if you agree. This includes:

  • touching you on the genitals, buttocks or breasts, or somewhere else in a sexual way
  • exposing their private parts to you
  • taking inappropriate photos of you.

It’s also unlawful for anyone (either male or female) to have anal sex if either or both you are under 18. 
If the police or Child Safety Services think you’re at risk of harm because of your sexual behaviour they may apply for a court order so you can be placed in the care and protection of Child Safety Services. If you’re in this situation you should get legal advice.

There are some other situations where sexual activity with a person is considered to be even more serious. These include if:

  • you’re under 12 years of age
  • you’re related to the person
  • they were your guardian
  • you were meant to be in their care (like a foster carer or teacher)
  • you were intellectually disabled.

16 and over

Once you’re 16 you can have any sort of sex with a person (except anal sex) with anyone else who is 16 or over without breaking the law—if you both agree—unless you are related to them or under their care. This also applies to same-sex couples.

18 and over

Consensual anal sex is legal when both parties are 18 or over.

Incest

No member of your family is allowed to have sex with you—it’s a serious criminal offence called incest.
‘Family’ includes:

  • parents
  • step-parents
  • parent’s partner
  • grandparents
  • brothers
  • sisters
  • half-sisters
  • half-brothers
  • uncles
  • aunts
  • nephews
  • nieces.

It’s still incest even if the person isn’t related to you by blood. If you’re unsure, get legal advice.  

Incest is illegal even if you both consent to it. If you’re forced to take part against your will, you won’t have broken the law—only the person who forces you to have sex or be involved in any sexual activity.

If you’re worried about something like this happening you should talk to someone who can help such as the Brisbane rape and incest survivors support centre (BRISSC) or Bravehearts.

If you’ve been forced to have sex against your will you should report it to the police. In an emergency, call 000. You can also get support from a sexual assault support service.

Taking care of yourself when having sex

The law recognises that people are curious about their sexuality and may want to explore this with people they like. Having sex is a big step, and it’s important you feel in control and able make decisions that are right for you.
It’s ok to say no if you’re not ready to have sex.

If someone tries to have sex with you without your agreement this may be considered sexual assault and you should report it to the police. You can also get support from a range of sexual assault support services.

Before having sex you may want to get advice from someone you trust. Talk to your doctor or a family planning clinic about contraception and sexually transmissible infections (STI).  Having safe sex is very important in reducing the risk of unplanned pregnancies, or getting an STI (like chlamydia) or blood borne viruses like HIV.

What is sexual assault?

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, and you want to make a complaint, you should report it to the police as soon as possible.  In an emergency call 000. You can also get support from a sexual assault support service.

If someone has sex with you or touches you sexually—and you don't agree—they’re breaking the law and can be charged with a criminal offence. This applies even if you started having sex or agreed to be touched sexually but then changed your mind.

Forced sexual activity is a criminal offence whether the person who hurts you is someone you know or a stranger. It’s a criminal offence for a teacher, relative or someone who is looking after you to touch you in sexual way or have sex with you.

Sexual assault is never your faultIf you believe this has happened to you, and you want to make a complaint it's important that you report it to someone as soon as possible. If you need someone to talk to, you can contact: 

Sexting and sharing photos online

In our digital age, it’s easy for pictures and information to be quickly spread using technology like smartphones. Sexting and sending pictures via digital technology may expose you to risk or be can be a criminal offence.

For more information:

Prostitution and sex workers

There are specific laws covering prostitutes and other sex workers and their clients. Prostitution in licensed brothels is legal in Queensland, but street prostitution is illegal.

It’s against the law to:

  • publicly offer someone sex for money or money for sex
  • accept the offer
  • operate a brothel without a proper licence
  • enter or leave a brothel that is not properly licensed.

If you’re charged with an offence, you should get legal advice.

Find out more about being a sex worker in Queensland.

Related publications:

Sex work and the law in Queensland (Prostitution Licensing Authority)

General offences relating to prostitution (Prostitution Licensing Authority)

Sex work and the law in Queensland (Respect Inc.)

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • you have questions about when you can have sex
  • you’re  the victim of a sexual (or other) assault
  • the police or Child Safety Services have applied to the court for an order for you to be placed under the care of Child Safety Services
  • a family member has been having sex with you
  • you’ve been forced to have sex against your will
  • you’re a sex worker who has been seen working in an unlicensed brothel
  • you’re a sex worker who is under 17 and the police or Child Safety Services have applied for a court order for you to be placed under the care of Child Safety Services

How to get legal advice

We may give general advice about when you can legally have sex and engage in sexual activities.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice.

Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) is a community legal and social welfare service for young people under 17.

South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre offers basic help and advice on a range of legal matters including family law, domestic violence, child protection and youth criminal law advocacy services.

Lawmail is an online legal advice service for young people giving free legal advice to people under 18 via email.

YFS Legal gives legal information and advice to young people under 25.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Bravehearts provides counselling and support to children, adolescents and adult survivors of child sexual assault, as well as their non-offending family members.

Zig Zag Young Womens Resource Centre has counselling, support, information, referral and other services for young women (12 to 25).

Logan Youth and Family Legal Services is a not-for-profit organisation delivering a range of services for young people including helping young people deal with legal matters and sexuality.

Brisbane Youth Service helps young people to find and maintain appropriate housing, address physical and mental health issues and establish successful relationships and support networks.

Family Planning Queensland has reproductive and sexual health services for women across Queensland.

Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) provides sexual health support services and advice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex Queenslanders.

Queensland health sexual health clinics have a listing of sexual health clinics across Queensland.

Immigrant Women’s Support Service offers free, confidential, practical and emotional support to immigrant and refugee women from non-English speaking backgrounds and their children who have experienced domestic or sexual violence.

Women’s InfoLink offers free and confidential information about government agencies and community services supporting women across Queensland.

Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) has a range of health and medical services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the wider Brisbane community.

Indigenous youth health service has a range of services to address the health needs of homeless and at risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 12-25 years.

Child Safety After Hours Service provides 24 hour statewide services for after-hours responses to child protection matters.

Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS) provides a range of support services for people from non-English speaking backgrounds including phone, face-to-face and document translation services.

1800 RESPECT provides crisis and trauma counselling services to anyone whose life has been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Men affected by rape and sexual abuse (MARS) Australia provides help, advice and counselling services to men affected by rape and sexual abuse.

Lifeline Crisis Counselling line provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week crisis support and counselling services.

Related links and information
Back to top