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Healthy sexual experiences

What counts as a sexual experience?

By ‘sexual experience’ we mean any way that people connect with each other sexually. This can be online and in person and includes:

  • Kissing
  • Sharing sexual messages and photos
  • Sexual touching
  • Oral sex
  • Vaginal or anal sex
Two people's hands held together on a bench

Being ready for sexual experiences

When it comes to sexual activity everyone is different, and you should only ever do it because you want to, you feel ready and you're 16 or over.

All sexual experiences should be your decision, feel safe, have consent from those involved and never be under pressure. Find out more about how to know if you’re ready for sex.

What about the law?

In the UK, the age of sexual consent (when you can legally have sex) is 16 years old. The law is not there to punish you, but to protect you and make sure sexual experiences are appropriate and not harmful.

In most cases the law won’t punish but will protect:

  • Under 16s who have had sex with someone close to their age and both have consented.
  • Under 18s who have shared nude or semi-nude images of themselves with consent and without intent to harm another person.

Find out more about sex and the law.

Principles of healthy sexual experiences

For any sexual experience to be healthy, there should be consent, respect, honesty and enjoyment. This means:

Consent

  • Only doing sexual activities which both people want to do; without any force, pressure or lies.
  • Both have full capacity to consent to sexual activity – drugs and alcohol can limit capacity.
  • Both people feel positively about sexual activity and have no negative emotions (such as anxiety, fear, sadness) about it.
  • It is always OK for either person to withdraw at any stage from sexual activity, and both respect this and stop.

Respect

  • Each person’s body, boundaries and feelings are as important as the others.
  • Neither person sees or treats the other like they are worth less than themselves.
  • Each person listens to what is being communicated, both in words and body language.

Honesty

There aren’t any lies, tricks, or not sharing important information. This includes being honest about:

  • Who you are, not lying or embellishing to ‘get them into bed’ 
  • Any health issues, including sexually transmitted diseases
  • What you both want from sexual activity, including which sexual activities you are ready for.

Enjoyment 

  • Only doing sexual activities which both people want to do; without any force, pressure or lies.
  • Both have full capacity to consent to sexual activity – drugs and alcohol can limit capacity.
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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

Childline logo

Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

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The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

See all help

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