Sex and the Law

Consent – what is consent?

Consent is a term used in the Law to describe both or all people involved in a sexual activity giving their agreement to willingly participate in sex. Only people aged 16 and over are able to give consent.

The law describes consent as being ‘free agreement’ which means consent has been given in a situation where there is no coercion involved. Coercion is defined by an action or practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats. So for example free agreement cannot take place when;

  • Someone is incapable through drink or drugs
  • There is violence or the threat of violence
  • Someone is being held against their will
  • Sexual activity is agreed to by a third person
  • When someone thinks the person they are having sex with is someone else
  • When someone is asleep or unconscious
  • When someone is under the age of 13 -
    the law states nobody under the age of 13 has the capacity to consent to any sexual activity.

Age of consent

In the UK the age of consent is 16. Anyone aged 16 or over, regardless of gender or sexuality can legally consent to sex. There are exceptions to this rule. It is illegal for anyone in a position of trust to have sexual contact with anyone aged 17 or under who is in their care. Someone in a position of trust includes teachers, youth workers, sports coaches and anyone who is in a position of trust with a young person. It is a criminal offence for anyone in a position of trust to force sexual relations on someone within that trust or to take advantage of their position of trust in order to encourage sexual relations with individuals in their care.

It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to take/have taken and/or send a sexual imagine of themselves, even if this is to a partner and they have fully consented to having this picture taken or taken it themselves.

For more information on Sex and The Law and Consent