Sex and the Law

The law says that it’s legal for you to consent (agree) to sex from the age of 16, for both males and females, regardless of sexuality.
Sexual activity can be any form of sexual touching, not just penetrative (penis in vagina) sex.
Someone who is under 13 cannot legally consent to sex – this would be treated as rape/sexual assault.


Even if you’re under 16, you have the right to confidential contraceptive and sexual health services, including abortions.

Confidential means that clinics do not tell anyone unless they need to protect you or somebody else from a serious risk of harm.

Our FRESH confidentiality policy is:

  • You will not be contacted at home unless you agree.
  • Your GP (or family doctor) will not be informed without your permission.
  • We keep information about you so that you receive proper care and treatment but only those involved in your care will have access to your details.
  • No matter what your age, information about you will only be shared to provide the best medical care, or to protect you or others from harm. Wherever possible this will always be done with your knowledge.

You can ask the clinic staff if you have any questions or worries.


Sex without consent is against the law.

Consent means agreeing to something and understanding what you’re agreeing too, and having the confidence to say no if you don’t want to. This can be through words or body language.

It’s OK to say no

When it comes to sex or being intimate you should feel safe with your partner, be able to trust them and feel that they would respect you whatever your decision.

You shouldn’t be made to feel bad about saying no to sex or fear the other person’s reaction.

If your partner ever says no during sex or asks you to stop, you must stop immediately. Reading body language is important, if your partner is relaxed it is likely that they feel comfortable. If they are tense, they may be nervous or frightened and are probably trying to hide how they really feel.

If a person is drunk or under the influence of drugs, this may affect their ability to consent. This means that if any sexual contact occurs it could be classed as sexual assault or rape.

Even in marriage, or long term relationships, or if you have already had sex with that person before consent still applies.

Sex should be enjoyable and pleasurable for both people, and no one should pressure you into anything you don’t want to do.

If someone has forced or persuaded you into a sexual situation you were uncomfortable with, you don’t have to deal with it on your own.

You can call The Sexual Assault Referral Centre at St Mary’s hospital on 0161 276 6515 for confidential support and information.

CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation)

Child sexual exploitation is when children and young people receive something (such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, or money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities.

Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of the internet or on mobile phones. In all cases, those exploiting the child or young person have power over them because of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or resources. For victims, the pain of their ordeal and fear that they will not be believed means they are too often scared to come forward.


Information and advice for young people, parents and professionals is available at:


Abortion is legal in the UK up to 24 weeks of pregnancy with the consent of 2 doctors.

A young woman under 16 can have an abortion without her parents/carers knowing. However doctors will encourage a young person to tell someone they trust, but will not force them to.

It is a decision only the woman can make. Men have no legal rights about the decision.

If you live in Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal (against the law) unless it is to save the life of the mother. (If you live in Northern Ireland you can travel to other parts of the UK for a legal and free termination)

For more information about abortion, see our useful contacts on the website or visit


The law says it is legal to look at porn as long as it does not feature anyone under 18, animals, torture or causing anyone serious harm.

You need to be 18 to buy porn videos and magazine and most porn websites state you have to be 18 to access.

It is illegal to watch porn with someone under 18.

Sex Outdoors

There are lots of law about having sex outside. For example, it is illegal to have sex in a public toilet (even in a locked cubicle).

It can also be illegal to show male/female genitals in public.

It is also illegal to have sex in public if it is near children’s play area.


In the UK the law says you can get married or enter a civil partnership at 16 with your parents’ consent (permission). If you haven’t got parental consent then you have to be 18.

              Sexting and Porn


Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone or other electronic device.

If you send just one image to just one person, you have instantly lost control of that picture. Once you press send, it is no longer in your control.

Remember if you are under 18, the law sees you as a child. If you have any indecent images or videos of someone who is under 18 you would be technically in possession of an indecent image of a child-even if you are the same age. (This is an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 & the Criminal Justice Act 1988)

If you are under 18 and you send, upload or forward indecent images or videos onto friends/boy/girlfriends, this would also be breaking the law, even if they are selfies.

If images are being used against you go to CEOP or call Child Line free on 0800 1111