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Sexual health

Sex can be a lot of fun but only if you don’t feel any pressure to do something you don’t want to or you feel you have no choice or control over your body. Having sex for the first time can feel like a big deal for a number of reasons. If you’re between the ages of 16-20, you probably feel like everyone else is doing it but you. In reality, only 1 in 3 people of your age group has had sex.

All young people have rights and responsibilities when it comes to sex, they are the best way to protect yourself. The age that you can agree to sexual activity (consent) of your own free will is 16. It is illegal for someone in a position of trust, like a carer or teacher, to have sex with someone they have responsibility for. If you are drunk, stoned, have a mental health disorder, asleep or unconscious you cannot consent to sexual activity whatever age you are. And remember it is completely ok to say no or stop at any point, nobody has the right to make you do anything you don’t want to do.

No form of sexual contact is entirely without risk of STI transmission or an unwanted pregnancy. You don’t need to have a lot of sexual partners to get an STI. STIs don’t discriminate. ANYONE can get one. Always use a condom with a quality kite mark each and every time you have sex (vaginal and anal). Condoms are known as a barrier method and are the only form of contraception to protect against both STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Female condoms are at least as good as male condoms.


Consent is when you give permission for something to happen and you are comfortable doing so. Before sex or any intimate activity, everyone involved must give consent, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. You should never assume that someone is giving consent – you have to be sure. If you haven’t consented to sex, and it takes place against your will, that’s illegal.

You can’t assume that if someone has previously consented they will again. If someone has consented to something once, you should ask again because people can change their mind – even during sex. Consent to one sort of sexual activity does not mean consent to everything. And saying “no” should never be treated as a game. “No” means “NO”.

Consent has to be given freely. If somebody agrees to sexual activity because they’ve been pressured into it, they have not given consent. This includes things like being made to feel bad for saying “no” or being told “I love you and if you loved me you would…”

You should think about three questions:

Is the person capable of giving consent? Think about it. If someone is drunk, high on drugs, asleep, unconscious or simply doesn’t understand what you’re saying, that’s not consent. In the UK, people must be over 16 to legally consent to sex

Has the person been asked? Don’t rely on having asked them before. You need to ask every time and consent to one type of sexual activity does not mean consent to everything

Does their body language back up verbal consent? Does your partner seem tense or frightened? Are they pulling away when you try to kiss or touch them? These could be signs of not consenting. Don’t ignore them.

Sex without consent or pressuring someone into sex is either ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault’, depending on who is involved and what happens. This sounds serious because it is. The legal consequences of rape and sexual assault can include a prison sentence, criminal record, and being put on the sex offender register.