Sex & Ethics

Working out what we want from a sexual or other intimate relationship is often interesting and at times challenging. How do we know what we want let alone what the other person might want? Understanding our own needs and desires and the impact of these on another person is a focus of the Sex & Ethics research and education project.

Sex & Ethics began in 2005 as a joint project between Moira Carmody from the University of Western Sydney, Australia and the Karen Willis from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre. The first stages of the project (2005-2008) received funding from the Australian Research Council.

In talking with young women and men aged 16-25 years of age from across NSW, we found that many young people felt let down by their sexuality education at school or at home. Few felt well prepared to negotiate issues around sexual consent or how to manage issues around sexual negotiation, pressured or coerced sex in casual or ongoing relationships. They felt the messages they received from school, families, and online sex sites were primarily negative about sex, focusing on risk and danger, and excluded positive skills for ethical intimacy.

This website is designed for a range of people interested in Sex & Ethics. Researchers and people working directly with young women and men will find useful links to the Program and research details; parents and young people will find details of books and articles to read and information that you can take to your local school or youth service to request the Sex & Ethics Program be introduced in your area. While the Program is based in Australia, the ideas drawn from the research and education findings are being used all over the world.

I have been much more willing to open up to my partner, being honest about my thoughts and concerns. I have also not been nervous to ask my partner sexual questions. – Ruth, aged 19, from the city

I’ve used the framework from the Program with my girlfriend all the time when negotiating sex. (The) framework was a huge help in regards to sex. – Tony aged 18, a Pacific Islander living in New Zealand


Professor Moira Carmody (PhD)

School of Social Sciences & Psychology
University of Western Sydney

ph: +61 2 9772 6175

What is the Sex & Ethics Education Program?

The findings of these interviews informed the development of a six-week education program for young people. The program provides young women and men opportunities to learn new ways of negotiating sexual intimacy. This is based on a sexual ethics framework developed by Moira Carmody PhD who has over 30 years of experience in working with young people and on sexual assault prevention education.

The education programme is a skill-based program. A key element of the program is that it does not tell young people what they should do but provides an ethical framework to help them make ethical decisions about intimate relationships. The long-term goal is to build the capacity of young people to negotiate sexual intimacy and prevent sexual assault and to reduce unwanted, coerced sex in casual and ongoing relationships.

The Sex & Ethics Program is a skill-based program.

Topics include:

  • Different cultural perspectives on sexual intimacy;
  • The sexual ethics framework and how to decide what is right for you and the impact on others
  • How to handle pressures to be sexual
  • How to talk about sex with your partner
  • Non-verbal communication skills
  • Alcohol and drugs and the impact on sexual decision making
  • Skills in ethical consent and the law, sexting and other uses of social media
  • Negotiating conflicting desires and needs in casual and ongoing relationships
  • Recognising the signs of abusive relationships
  • Breaking up and
  • Being an ethical bystander and standing up to sexual violence and other gendered based abuse in your community.
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