Sex and the Law
How does the Law affect me?
When you’re considering getting naked with someone you really fancy probably one of the last things on your mind is the law – obviously there are the rape laws when a person forces someone to have sex – however, when you’re both horny and fancy the pants off each other, what’s the law got to do with it?
The age of consent means the age someone needs to be before they can agree to have any sexual contact.
The age of consent in Scotland is 16 for girls and boys, whether straight, bi, gay or lesbian or trans. This means that if you are both over 16 and want to have any sexual contact then you will not be breaking the law. The law says that you are not old enough or mature enough to make that decision for yourself as you are still legally a child, so it makes that decision for you and it automatically says No.
If one of you is under 16 then the one who is over 16 is breaking the law.
In actual fact the law is not there to stop underage teens from having sex together, it’s there for protection. By having a legal age, we can prosecute those people who take advantage of children and abuse young people.
Are you worried about the law and getting contraception?
You have no need to be as all health workers are there to help you and make sure you access the sexual health services that you need. They do need to make sure that you are safe and not in any kind of abusive situation. All health services are accessible to young people even if they are not 16 yet, this includes sexual health services for contraception. You are also allowed to buy condoms at any age.
Historical sexual history
The Health worker will ask you if you had sex before you were 13 years of age. If you say yes to this question then it will be discussed, as this means that you were raped, the laws says that anyone having sex with a child who is not yet 13 is committing rape and this is taken very seriously.
The majority of young people do not have sex until they are 16 years old. If both young people are under 16, happy and not being forced to do anything there is little risk of prosecution.
Sexting or sending dirties is also breaking the law if either one of you are under 18.
What ever age you are it is wrong to force anyone to have any sort of sexual contact against their will.All sexual contact should involve consent and respect on both sides.
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Am I ready...?
Working out whether you're ready to have sex is one of life’s big decisions. The only person who can tell you you’re ready – is you – not your partner, not your folks not your friends. You're the only one who can, and should, decide. Whether you're thinking about losing your virginity or having sex again, remember it’s better to have an embarrassing talk about sex than an embarrassing sexual encounter before you’re ready. There are lots of things to think and talk about, such as:
Sex should not be something that “just happens” to you – but something you can prepare for, think about and take control of. Think about what you want, what you like and where you feel comfortable to draw the line. Below are a few other things that might help you prepare to make sure sex is something you enjoy rather than regret.
1. Condoms – keep you and your partner safe – safe doesn’t mean boring – it means you can relax and enjoy the fact that you are protected against pregnancy and STIs – plus shows your partner you care enough about them to want to keep them safe too!
2. Sexual health services – know what they offer and where they are. If you are having sex, sooner or later you will need them.
3. Where are you going to do it? – No one thinks a bush or bus shelter are romantic! Find somewhere you both feel safe and comfortable so you can relax and take your time.
4. Know yourself: – If you don’t know what you like and how your body works – how on earth can you feel in control or enjoy yourself? (sexual Pleasure link)
5. Turned on? – Be aware of how you feel – if your head isn’t in it, it won’t work! Make sure you can tell when you are turned-on and when you’re not ready or simply not in the mood. If you can’t relax without fear, anxiety or shame then you are not ready.
6. Know your limits: – can you and your partner create safe limits – are you able to say no when you want to and can you trust your partner to respect your decisions at all times.
7. Know what you want: – Can you separate what you want for yourself and what your partner, friends or family want.
8. Communicate: – can you talk to each other open and honestly about sex? About how you feel and what you want?
9. Someone to talk to – most importantly make sure you have someone you can talk to about sex that you trust and that doesn’t have any sort of hidden agenda of their own – somewhere to go to for emotional support or even just a giggle
10. Separate sex from love – they often go together, but are not the same thing. You should never seek to have sex to use it to manipulate yourself, your partner or anyone else
11. For better or worse – and I don’t mean marriage – understand that having sex could change your relationship for better or worse and feel make sure you are both prepared for that. Sex can be fantastic, but it can also be confusing, disappointing and can leave you hurt and upset.
12. Responsibility for your own emotions, expectations, actions and any consequences.
Sex isn’t the only aspect of a relationship, and there are other ways of enjoying each other’s company besides having sex. Communication is a big part of a healthy realationship. Discuss what you want and what you don’t want to do. You can do other things that you both like, such as talking, meeting each other’s family and friends, going to the cinema, doing sport, walking, and listening to music.
The Scottish Child Law Centre offers advice on all aspects of the law for children & young people.