So the ‘age of consent’ is the age at which, legally, you’re deemed able to make the decision to say ‘yes’ to sex and to engage in sexual activity.
In the UK, this is 16 – but you might feel ready earlier or later than that.
This is just one reason why the law is confusing and hard to follow.
The law applies to men, women, gay, lesbian or straight in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you’re in another part of the world, you should find out what the law in your country says – unfortunately, we’re not able to cover anywhere but the UK.If you are charged, the likelihood is you’ll be given a caution, or a fine, and put on the Sex Offenders Register for one year if you’re under 18 (two years if you’re over 18).The Government has stressed that the law is intended to protect children from abuse by adult sexual predators, and is not to be used to prosecute teenagers who are close in age for having consensual sex – meaning, both of you want to have sex and don’t feel under pressure.The law is geared towards intimate acts like touching, oral sex and penetrative sex. If the person you’re sleeping with is under 13, the penalties will be high.If you’re under 13 and you’re having sex, or thinking about having sex, please go to Childline for confidential advice and support.
Lots of relationships start this way, but unfortunately this is where the law gets REALLY confusing.By sending sexually explicit images or messages you’re actually breaking two laws.Any sexy photo of someone under the age of 18 is considered a paedophilic image in the eyes of the law.And, sexy messages as well as photos could count as ‘sexual activity’ in the age of consent law.So, if either of you is under 18, it’s considered illegal – even though you can have actual sex at 16.If you’re over 16 and are charged with sexual activity with a 13–15 year old, you are more likely to end up in legal trouble than if you were under 16.