Healthy intimate relationship behaviours

Sexual autonomy: Healthy intimate relationship behaviours

Sexual autonomy means having the freedom to protect and decide what happens to your own body. Unfortunately, women have faced societal pressure and been made to feel that they are responsible for satisfying men’s sexual desires. Sexual abuse happens when a partner forces or manipulates the other person into doing things with their body that they don’t want to do.

In this article, you’ll find;

  • What does sexual choice look like?
  • Healthy intimate relationship behaviours
  • What are your reproductive options?
  • Finding support during pregnancy


Understanding sexual choice and your rights in a relationship

Sexual autonomy or choice is the right to make decisions about our own bodies and engage in consensual sexual activities. In a healthy relationship, we have the opportunity to set boundaries, express desires, and make choices about our own sexuality. However, in cases of sexual abuse, our autonomy is undermined. Abusers use coercion, manipulation, and threats to control our sexual choices.


Healthy intimate relationships behaviours

Understanding sexual autonomy helps us recognise the importance of consent, respect, and open communication in relationships. Healthy relationships with positive sexual autonomy and choice will include:

  • Consent: Both partners have the freedom to give or withhold consent to engage in sexual activities. Consent should be enthusiastic, ongoing, and mutually understood.
  • Communication: Healthy sexual relationships involve open and honest communication about desires, boundaries, and preferences. Partners should feel comfortable discussing their needs and concerns without fear of judgement or retribution.
  • Mutual Respect: Each partner respects and values the other’s boundaries, desires, and limits. Respecting personal autonomy means recognising and honouring individual preferences and decisions related to sexuality.
  • Shared Decision-Making: Decisions regarding sexual activities are made jointly and based on mutual agreement. Both partners have an equal say in what they are comfortable with and are involved in negotiating and establishing boundaries.
  • Empowerment: Healthy sexual autonomy promotes empowerment and agency for each partner. It allows individuals to explore their sexuality in a safe and consensual manner, fostering a sense of self-confidence and self-expression.
  • Contraceptive consent: Both parties will be aware and make a shared choice over the choice of contraception, and be able to access it with no judgement.

What are your reproductive options?

It’s important for all women to know their reproductive options. Most reproductive decisions can be made with the help of a medical professional and in a way that protects your confidentiality. It’s important that these decisions are ultimately yours, and not made or coerced by anybody else.


Safe and legal access to abortion and pregnancy termination

In Australia abortion and other methods of pregnancy termination are legal. The choice to have or not have an abortion should always be made by the pregnant person.


Access to birth control

There are several types of contraception available in Australia, which can be accessed through prescription from a doctor. Women over the age of 16 can make these appointments in confidence, and the doctor is not able to disclose this information to anyone else.


Sexual abuse and reproductive coercion in relationships

Sexual and reproductive abuse is unfortunately common in family and domestic violence, and is often hard to talk about. It might include unwanted sexual activity, forced pregnancy or termination or generally having your choices removed. 

Finding support and reporting sexual abuse 

In Australia, reporting sexual abuse is crucial for seeking justice and support. There are dedicated support services available to assist victim survivors in navigating the legal and emotional aspects of reporting and seeking help. It is important for individuals to know their rights, reach out to trusted friends, authorities or organisations, and access the necessary resources to ensure their safety and well-being.You may wish to speak to a trained counsellor to discuss your experiences, we recommend calling the following numbers: