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To Sam

Age gaps in relationships and sex

Hi, I’m 16 and I’m in a sexual and romantic relationship with an older friend who is 21. I was just wondering what the law has to say about this as I am finding different information from different sources and it’s stressing me. He is not in a position of power and has never pressured me into anything as well as being respectful when I feel uncomfortable with a situation.

Ask Sam


Hi there,

The law in the UK says that you need to be at least 16 before you can consent to have sex. This changes to 18 if the other person is someone in a position of trust - like a teacher or doctor. Once you’re 16 you can legally have sex with anyone older than you, as long as both of you feel okay with it. It's important to remember though that even if the law says it's okay, it doesn't mean you have to, at all or some of the time.

There are a few different reasons the law says you need to be at least 16 before you can have sex. One of those reasons is that most people feel able to make this decision by the time they’re 16. The law tries to protect young people from being abused by adults who might want to take advantage of them. Find out more about your rights.

As you’re 16 and your boyfriend is 21 then you're not breaking the law but it’s important to think about your feelings too. Large age differences can work, but a 5 year age difference is more significant now than it would be if you were 25 and he were 31. Make sure you talk about your difference in age so that you both feel comfortable in your relationship.

It's always okay to talk about this with a counsellor if you'd like to share more.

Thanks for your letter, take care.


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