“It doesn’t count as rape if it’s your partner and you’ve had sex before, does it?”
You can be raped by your partner. Rape and sexual assault can occur within relationships. If you didn’t freely agree, then it’s illegal, whoever does it to you. If this situation rings bells for you, then maybe you are experiencing domestic abuse. Call Galop for help and advice.
“I’m 16 and my boyfriend/girlfriend is 15. It’s OK if we have sex, isn’t it?”
The law recognises that young people aged 13 to 16 might be physically able to have sex but are not allowed to. This is because the law judges that young people cannot make informed decisions about sex, both physically and emotionally, even if they are physically able to have sex. The age of consent also exists to protect young people from being sexually exploited or abused by older people.
If one sexual partner is over 16 and the other under 16, then sex is illegal. The same is true if both partners are aged over 13 and under 16.
However, consensual sex involving young people under 16 does happen and, if this is you, it might be a good idea to talk through your situation with a Galop caseworker or an LGBT+ youth worker.
The Legal Age of Consent
–The law says that everyone must be aged 16 before they can have sex. The age of consent is the same for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or who you’re having sex with.
If you are an adult with a ‘duty of care’ for a young person under 18 (for example a teacher, youth worker or social worker), it is illegal to have sex with anyone who comes under your care, even if they are 16 or 17.
If you are over 18 and meet someone in a club for over-18s, don’t assume they are over 16 and can give their consent. You can’t tell a young person’s age by just looking at them, so ask and, if in doubt, don’t! You are responsible for your behaviour and would be committing an offence if you have sex with someone aged under 16, even if you met them in a bar or club for over-18s.
Sexual activity is illegal under any circumstances for under-13 year olds. Those aged 12 and under cannot give consent. Doing anything sexual with someone under 13 is automatically an offence, whatever the young person says.