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Sex is normal in loving relationships between couples above the age of consent. It's not compulsory in any relationship, but you owe it to yourself to find out as much as you can about sex and how to keep yourself safe before making any decisions.

Image of the two sets of feet touchingTalking about sex

It can be really difficult to talk about sex and contraception, as it's a private and personal thing.

You might feel like you'll be judged if you are having sex, or if you're not, or feel silly if you have questions. Everyone has questions or worries about sex and it's normal to feel like this.

If you are thinking about having sex, it's best to find out about it and take responsibility for what you are doing.

It's a good idea to discuss things with the person you are going to have sex with, so that you both know what you are doing.

At what age can I have sex?

In the UK, you can legally have sex after the age of 16 (from 2 February 2009 the law in Northern Ireland changed from 17 years old to 16 years old). This applies to heterosexual sex (between a male and female), or homosexual or gay sex (between two members of the same sex).

Although you can legally have sex at these ages, you should only have sex when you are ready and not feel pressured into doing it.

  • Is it normal to have lots of questions about sex?

    It's completely normal to have lots of questions about sex, both before or after you have sex. You should be able to ask whatever you want and not be embarrassed. The more you know the fewer risks you're likely to take, as it is important to keep yourself safe if or when you enter into a sexual relationship.

  • I'm having lots of sexual thoughts and feelings, is this normal?

    It's normal to have sexual thoughts and feelings, especially during puberty when your body is changing. It can be confusing and strange at first but it isn't unusual. Your feelings should calm down after a while when your body adjusts to the changes.
    Read more about puberty for girls and puberty for boys

  • I'm worried about having sex, am I weird?

    It's natural to have worries about having sex, as it's a big step to take. The most important things are that you are happy with what you do and that you are safe.

    If you are unsure about it or feel uncomfortable about having sex, then it probably means that it's not the right time for you.

    Here are some wrong reasons to have sex:

    - You think it'll help you feel grown up
    - Your mates say they've done it and you don't want to be left out
    - You're worried what will happen if you say no
    - Someone is pressuring you into doing it
    - You just want someone to love you

  • What is contraception and why should I use it?

    Contraception, or birth control, is when you take some action to prevent a pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI). Not everyone knows about contraception. Even when they do, they don't always use it. Even if it is the first time having sex for both of you, you should always use contraception.

    Using contraception can help you to avoid pregnancy when you have sex with someone. Using a condom can help you avoid STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and the HIV virus which can lead to AIDS.

    There are lots of different types of contraception available and so you'll be able to find one that suits you. You can talk to a doctor or family planning advisor about all your contraceptive options, or visit

    If you are worried about anything to do with sex or contraception, you can talk to us about your worries and we can help. We respect children and young people regardless of their age or gender or sexuality, and you can talk to us about any of your worries without being judged.
    Read more about contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • I’m being pressured into having sex, what should I do?

    Having sex is a big decision. If you don’t feel comfortable or ready to have sex with someone, then you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it. Your boyfriend or girlfriend should care about you enough not to pressure you or make you do something you’re not happy about. 

    Consent means agreeing to do something. Sex is only ever okay if everyone involved wants to have sex. Having sex if someone hasn’t given their consent (which means they don’t want to have sex) is illegal and is called rape.

    The age of consent in the UK is 16 years old.

    There can be a lot of pressure from things like music videos or online porn to have sex. It might seem like lots of other young people are doing it or talking about it. This shouldn’t be the reason that you start having sex – you should do it because you want to and you are over 16 years old. If you need to talk about sex, you can talk to ChildLine any time.

  • I feel pressured to do something new during sex.

    Sometimes people might get pressured to try new sexual things by their girlfriend or boyfriend. This might be because of something they have seen in online porn or because of what other people say they are doing.

    Even if you have had sex with someone in the past, remember that you never owe someone sex.

    Think about what you feel comfortable with. Consent means that both people agree to have sex and are both okay with what things you try during sex. Consent is always important.

    If someone is trying to pressure you into doing something sexual which you makes you feel uncomfortable, you should tell them you don’t want to do it. They might not realise if you don’t tell them. Be really clear and say ‘No. I don’t want to do that.’

    The person you’re with should respect you enough not to try and make you do something you don’t want to.

Other sites that can help

Advice for young people about sexual relationships, contraception, pregnancy and sexual health.

Information and advice from the NHS on sexual health, contraception and talking about sex.
NHS Choices

Online chat

Talk to a ChildLine counsellor on 1-2-1 chat.


Sex and sexual health

Having sex is a big decision and there are lots of things to think about if you are considering doing it. Speak to other young people about sex and sexual health on the ChildLine message boards.

Sex and Relationships message board

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