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Sexual consent means agreeing to have sex or engage in sexual activity. Sexual activity includes sexual touching and oral, anal and vaginal penetration.
In the eyes of the law, you are only old enough to consent to sex or sexual activity at 16. This is what’s known as the age of consent.
The law applies to all genders and sexualities in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But whatever the law says, consent to sex or sexual activity should be something you give freely. Sex or sexual activity should be something you want and feel excited about. It should never be something you feel scared, uncomfortable or pressured to do.
The law isn’t designed to punish people of the same age who both agree to sex (consensual sex). Any sexual activity with someone aged 13-15 is against the law but the law is there to protect young people who might be being abused or taken advantage of by someone older.
You will not get into trouble by talking to a doctor, nurse or someone else in a sexual health clinic if you are having sex, thinking about having sex or accessing contraception before you are 16. They will only pass on information if they think you or someone else is in danger. This means if they think you or someone else is being abused, being forced into sex or being taken advantage of.
It’s highly unlikely you will get into trouble with the law as long as there is not a large age difference between you and your partner and you both agree (consent) to sex.
The most important thing to remember is that sex should be something you want and feel comfortable with. Talk to your partner about how feel and if you don’t feel you can, talk to someone else you can trust. Also make sure you have thought about contraception. Sexual health services like Brook will be able to advise you further and can also help you make your mind up about having sex or not. Find your nearest service here.
In the eyes of the law, someone under the age of 13 is not seen as old enough to consent to sex and any sexual activity with someone under 13 is illegal and viewed as rape or sexual assault.
You may be in a relationship and thinking about taking things further but before you do, you might want to talk to someone you trust about this and whether it is really what you want. If you want to talk to somemone you don’t know, Childline is a great place to start. You can access advice and information anonymously and no one needs to know you have contacted them.
If you are under 19, and you are worried about any of the issues covered here, you can contact Childline in confidence for help and advice.
Whatever your age you call 999 or support organisations such as Rape Crisis or Victim Support.
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