Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Consenting to sex

Sex and gender norms

Gender norms imply that a person is expected to behave in a certain way because of their gender – that it means you should be this way, or that way.

A person can be bullied or pressured to change if they don’t conform to accepted gender norms.

Gender norms vary from culture to culture and evolve over time.

When it comes to intimate relationships, some of these gender norms can be outdated, rigid, and really limiting, for everyone.

Our sense of identity is grounded in our rich inner worlds, some parts of which we show to others, some parts we don’t.

When a person is encouraged to behave in a way that conforms to gender norms but conflicts with their inner worlds, it can affect the way their intimate relationships develop, and not in a good way.


A person’s thoughts: “Think about sex a lot”, “want sex tonight”, “sex is relaxing”, “shouldn’t want sex”, “wait”, “don’t wait”.


Some examples of gender norms:

  • males want sex all the time.
  • females need to be convinced to have sex
  • males enjoy sex more than females
  • females that wear short skirts want sex
  • males that have a lot of sex are to be admired
  • females that have a lot of sex are to be criticised.


None of these statements relate to actual people. Some of these statements may be true for some people, but they are generalisations. They reflect our society’s current gender norms and are reinforced by our use of language, social institutions, family, peers, religion and the media.

If you want to know what your partner thinks about sex or what they like and don’t like to do, talk to them. Ask them. Have a conversation.


Diagram of the ‘Ask’ step in ‘Stop Ask Listen’ where one person asks the other what turns them on.