In 2007 South Africa's Parliament passed the Sexual Offences Act, which had been debated since 1999. The law includes a statutory provision with new legal definitions of rape and consent. Influenced by Western human rights ideology and vocabulary, the Sexual Offences Act represents one form of discourse in South Africa about sexual coercion and consent. By using ethnographic methods, this article examines the wide disparity between some of the state discourses about coercion and consent and local beliefs and practices about the meanings of these terms in the Zulu township of Mpophomeni. Proponents of South Africa's new democracy often ignore poor young women's and men's local understandings of rape and of the violence they encounter on a daily basis. Against this background, the article offers recommendations to improve the current law and its effectiveness.