Sex and consent

  • You have the right to privacy – but you also have the right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation
  • The law in Wales (as in England) is designed to protect you from harm that can come from having sex when you’re not in an appropriate relationship or if you’re not old enough
  • If you know what the law is, you can protect yourself, and make sure you don’t get into trouble

You may want to have sex but it’s worth knowing what the law says and how it’s designed to protect you. The UNCRC protects children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The laws in Wales are clear about how old you should be before you have sex, and that you should only have sex if both people having sex (you and your partner) agree. If you are having sex when you are too young you are breaking the law. If the police are made aware of this, they will have to decide whether to take action against you or your partner. Even if you are having consensual sex before you are 16, you should be able to protect yourself from getting pregnant or getting sick from having sex.

What does ‘sex’ include?

Sex includes penetrative sex, as well as oral sex and touching each other sexually.

What is consent?

‘Consent’ is about being able to agree to something without anyone bullying you, pressurising you or otherwise trying to manipulate you to have sex. It also means agreeing to something without someone giving you something like alcohol or drugs so you will say yes more easily.

What is the ‘age of consent’?

In Wales, the age of consent is 16. This is when the law says you are old enough to give consent to have sex. This doesn’t mean you have to have sex once you are 16 if you don’t want to. It does mean that if you are under 16 and have sex with someone who is older than 16, the person you have sex with could get into trouble.

If you have sex when you are younger than 16, you are breaking the law – even if you are both the same age.

How do I consent to sex?

The best way to consent to sex is to be clear and tell the person that you’re with that you want to have sex.  This means the other person knows where they stand too.

If you change your mind later on, even if you’ve started having sex, you should be clear that you don’t want to have sex. If you’ve had something to drink or taken drugs, you might say yes to sex even if you wouldn’t have done if you were sober. The person you’re with has a responsibility to make sure you are really consenting to have sex and it’s not just because you’ve been drinking.

Just because you had sex with someone once doesn’t automatically mean you have consented to have sex with them again.

How will I know if someone has consented to sex?

You’ll need to talk to the person you’re planning to have sex with and make sure you’re both comfortable with it. Sometimes, the way the other person is behaving may make you think that they are agreeing to have sex, but you shouldn’t rely on this. If they haven’t told you that they want to have sex, you should check and make sure that it’s what they want. If they have said that they want to have sex, but seem unsure from the way they are behaving, you should check that it’s really what they want to do.

If you think the other person has agreed and you start having sex, and then the other person changes their mind, you should stop.

If the other person has been drinking or has taken drugs, you should be extra careful to make sure they agree to having sex – if someone is drunk or under the influence of drugs, they may not be able to consent to sex, even if, at the time, they say that they do want to have sex, or seem to be agreeing to have sex.

Some people may not actually say they don’t want to have sex – they may be worried about upsetting you or that you will tease them or tell other people. Even if someone doesn’t say they don’t want to have sex, you need to think about how they are behaving and whether they seem reluctant. Some people might even say yes when they don’t actually want to have sex.

Consent is not straightforward, so if you’re not sure that the other person wants to have sex, or if they have been drinking or taking drugs, don’t do it.

What could happen if I have sex with someone who hasn’t consented?

You can be arrested and charged with rape. This is a very serious offence, and could mean you end up in court and with a criminal record which you will have to tell people about if you want to go to college or university, or whenever you apply for a job.

If we’re both under 16, will we get into trouble with the police?

Although the age of consent is 16, if you both want to have sex with each other, and you’re a similar age, the police may decide not to take any action. If one of you is 15 and the other is much younger – may be 13, then the police, and others, might be worried that there is a problem. Even if the police decide not to take any action, your parents may be cross or upset and concerned that you are having sex before you are legally allowed to.

Does it make a difference if one of us is under 13?

Yes. You can’t give consent to have sex if you are under 13, so if you have sex with someone under 13, you could be arrested. You could even end up with a criminal record which stays with you your whole life. If you are the one who is under 13, you won’t be in trouble with the police, but your parents may be concerned and upset about what has happened.

Will I get into trouble if my partner is over 16 and I’m under 16?

If your partner is over 18 and you are under 16, he or she could get into trouble. If you are under 13, anyone who has sex with you could get into trouble with the police – it doesn’t matter how old they thought you were when you had sex.

Can I get contraception if I am under 16?
You should be able to get contraception if you are under 16. You can buy condoms in chemists or supermarkets at any age. You can always get advice about sex and talk to a doctor, a nurse or a sexual health clinic about sex without your parents knowing about it. If you are under 16 and want contraception, your parents won’t need to know unless the doctor or nurse is worried that you don’t fully understand what’s happening and the implications of contraception. You can find out more about contraception here.

 

 

 

 

We are very grateful to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for generously giving their time and expertise to check the content of this section of the website. October 2018