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What the law says about sexual behaviour offline

What the law says about sexual behaviour offline

Here are some important laws about sex in the offline world:

If you have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex, or someone who can’t consent to sex, this is rape, whatever age the person is.

There is also an offence called sexual assault by penetration.

Taking part in other sexual activities with someone who doesn’t want to, or who can’t consent is sexual assault.

The legal age of consent is 16. This means that for any sexual activity, all people involved need to be 16.

Taking part in sexual activity with someone aged 13–15 is illegal, and it’s called “underage sex”.

Having sexual activity with someone under 13 is always rape or sexual assault. This is because someone under the age of 13 can’t legally consent to any sexual activity. That includes sexual touching or penetration. Even if a person under 13 says it’s okay, it’s still illegal.

It’s illegal to force or even encourage anyone under the age of 16 to take part in sexual activity with anyone.

It’s illegal to have sexual activity with someone who:

  • doesn’t have mental capacity – this means they are less able than other people to make decisions for themselves (for example, people with some learning disabilities)
  • can’t communicate their choices, for example, if they have a disability that stops them from doing so

…because this means they can’t give their consent.

If one of the people involved in sexual activity is in a position of trust (like a teacher or a care worker) the other person needs to be 18 or over.

It’s illegal to pay for sexual activity with someone who’s under 18.

It’s illegal to have sex in a public place, in a public toilet or near a child’s play area, no matter how old you are.

It’s illegal to show your genitals in public.

It’s illegal to show your genitals to a child under 16.

It’s illegal to have sexual activity in front of someone under 16.

It’s against the law to have sexual activity with your family members.

It’s illegal for an adult to show sexual material to a child (under 16) for their own sexual pleasure.

It’s illegal to make sexual photos or videos of anyone if they haven’t agreed to it. This can include using cameras in bedrooms or toilets, or upskirting. This sort of activity is called “voyeurism”.

Enthusiastic consent

Find out what consent means, and how to make sure everyone involved in a sexual activity is giving their enthusiastic consent.

Read more

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