How old do you have to be to have sex in the UK?

legal sex age uk

How Old Do You Have to Be to Have Sex in the UK?

The age of consent in the UK is 16, but different laws and regulations exist in different parts of the UK. If a person is under 18, then the law applies differently to them. This can be confusing for people of all ages, but especially for young people who are starting to think about sex and the rules and regulations surrounding it.

This article will explain the legal age for sexual activity in the UK, as well as exploring other guidelines that should be taken into consideration. If you are aged 16, 17, or even 18, it is important to understand the law and your rights as a young person.

Understanding the Law Surrounding Sex in the UK

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity in the UK is set at 16. This means that if an adult engages in any form of sexual activity with someone who is under 16, then it is an offence, however the legal system treats young people differently to adults.

Sexual offences committed by adults on young people aged 16 or 17 are separate from offences committed by adults on young people aged under 16. As such, each law will be discussed separately.

Under 16s

For those aged under 16, the law says that sexual contact of any kind is illegal. This includes sexual touching, kissing, or even sexual activity with someone else. It is worth noting that if the young person consents to the activity, this does not change the law and the adult can still be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act.

Between 16 and 18

The law is different for people over 16 as they are tried differently to adults and what is called the ‘close in age’ rules apply. This means that if one person is over 16 and the other is between 13 and 16, and the older person is not more than two years older than the younger person, then it is not illegal. However, this exception only applies if the two people are in a relationship that the law considers to be ‘consensual’. This means that the relationship must be one of trust and understanding and it is important to note that coercion or manipulation would mean that the relationship is not consensual and therefore the law would consider it non-consensual.

Other Guidelines

It is important to remember that the law is the only factor that determines when it is legal for people to have sex, but there are other considerations to take into account. Are you emotionally and physically ready for sex? It is important to consider this, as well as the risks associated with it when deciding if it is right for you.

In addition to potential emotional or physical risks, there is also the potential for legal repercussions. Even if both people are over 16, there are still potential legal implications to consider. For example, depending on where you live in the UK, verbal abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault are all considered criminal offences.

It is also important to consider the physical risks associated with sex. Condoms, when used correctly, can help prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies. STIs can have serious health implications and can also be spread in a range of ways, so it is important to consider these risks before engaging in sexual activity.


The age of consent for sexual activity in the UK is 16, but different laws and regulations exist in different parts of the UK. It is important for those under 18 to understand the law and be aware of the various guidelines surrounding sex, such as taking into account emotional, physical and legal risks. By understanding this information, young people can make informed decisions about whether or not they are ready for sex.

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