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Understanding sex & consent

Long read: 8-10 minutes

This article talks about; rape, indecent images

Consent in relationships is a BIG DEAL, and it’s really important you have a good understanding of it. Having sex with someone without their consent is rape. Pretty simple right?

Here’s a few important things to bear in mind;

Just ask if the other person is OK and whether they want to do something! Be direct and spell it out. Sometimes people think it will “break the mood”, but it really, really doesn’t. All it does is show you actually care about the person you’re with.

Just because someone gives their consent once, doesn’t mean they automatically consent to all future occasions.

If you have any doubts at all, just ask again.

Did we say ask? You should ask. It’s important.

This “tea” video covers everything really well too. Plus it has tea in it.

Age and Consent

The Short Version of this bit: Wait till you’re 16 to have sex and don’t take or share nude photos of yourself till you’re 18! After something a bit more thorough? Read on...

The Law

What’s important to remember is that the law is there to protect people who may be getting abused in some way – it’s not designed to punish people engaging in consensual activity. BUT what the law considers consensual activity very much depends on the ages of those involved as well as whether consent was given.

There really is no rush to have sex, even if it feels like it sometimes. You have your whole life to enjoy it, it’s just not worth the trouble to have sex before you’re ready! We’ll cover a bit more here, but if you want to read more about it, we really recommend checking out The Brook’s website. They’re a Manchester based sexual health service for young people and you can find them at www.thebrook.org.uk

Also, nothing here is intended to scare you - If you end up worried about anything here please talk to someone!

Under 13?

Young people under 13 are legally not able to give consent. That means, regardless of what conversations may have taken place (even if someone under 13 explicitly says they give consent), it is never ok for someone under 13 to have sex and is considered statutory rape if it takes place.

Under 16?

If you’re under 16, then you could find yourself in difficult situations if you’re having sex and you or your partner could get prosecuted. If you’re with someone over 16 they can get into legal trouble for having sex with you and its possible decisions about your relationship can get taken out of your hands. They might get prosecuted, even if, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve given consent.

If you’re both under 16 then you might be putting yourself in a risky position. Now, in England and Wales, according to the Home Office’s Sexual Offences act, there’s no intention to prosecute people 13-15 of a similar age engaging in consensual sex (sometimes the media calls this a 'Romeo & Juliet Clause'). But it's important to know it is still considered an offence and decisions about your relationship may still get taken out of your hands - a parent or carer could prosecute you if they feel things weren't consensual.

Things are a little different in Scotland and Northern Ireland for under 16’s and we’d recommend reading FPA’s site for more info.

As long as you’re over 13, you can speak with your GP and any sexual health centre IN COMPLETE CONFIDENCE. They can offer advice, support and treatment and the information is entirely confidential and they are not legally able to inform your parents (although they will likely encourage you to speak to them yourself). The only time they will break this confidence is if you are at risk of harm or exploitation.

Under 18?

Woo over 16, all good right?

Well….. not completely… Being over 16 but under 18 can be difficult (for many reasons!) but not least because you’re considered an adult in some areas, and a child in others. You can have sex when you’re 16 but, and this is really important, nude photos or images or videos of yourself of a sexual nature are still very illegal and can be considered child pornography.

This is true even if you’re sending them to a partner the same age as you. People do get caught out with this and can end up with criminal records, simply for sending a spicy pic to their partner. Please don’t be one of them!

Regardless of the law, once a photo’s been sent it can end up anywhere, so it's really important to think carefully about what you're sending.

Also, whilst the age of consent in general is 16, if one of people in the relationship is in a position of authority over the other (like a teacher or social worker for example) then the age of consent is considered to be 18.

Worried about a photo?

If you’re under 18 nude photos or images or videos of yourself of a sexual nature are illegal (even if you’re sending them to a friend or a partner the same age as you). Bear in mind the law might see something as “sexual” that you might consider just a bit of fun.

If you’ve sent something like this, or been sent something, then don't panic, it’s not the end of world - there's some amazing people you can talk to for support.

The best thing to do is talk to someone. The sooner the right people get involved, the easier it is to get rid of that picture and make sure you’re OK. There are people who are trained in this stuff and importantly, they’re on your side when things like this happen.

You can find someone to talk to at www.thinkuknow.co.uk , www.childline.org.uk and www.ceop.police.uk

If we ignore something like this, there’s a chance it might get out of hand and spread more than expected. Get stuff sorted as soon as you can. No one’s going to think less of you, and you’ll saving yourself a lot of stress.

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