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Ask Bish – If I’m 16 and she’s 15 is it against the law?

Whether under age sex against the law is different to what actually happens. I explain more here.


I have been with my girlfriend for about 8 months (we are both 15) and have started to have consensual and protected sex. I know you have said it is highly unlikely that any underage consented sex involving people of similar ages would be prosecuted, but what will happen when I turn 16 and she is still 15? Would this be considered statutory rape? And if so, would I be prosecuted if we were found out? Thanks for the unbiased and informative advice, it’s truly been very helpful.

Hiya. Thanks for the nice thing you said. That’s great to hear.

Thanks for your question too. I like questions.

So there’s a difference between what the law says about sex under 16 and what actually happens in practice.

The law (Sexual Offences Act 2003 s.9 – s.13) says that you can’t have sexual activity with someone under the age of 16. She’s having sex with a 15 year old and so are you so you are both breaking the law. When you turn 16 it will just be you breaking the law because she’ll be having sex with someone is 16 and you’ll be having sex with someone who is 15. You can be guilty of these offences even if you are under 18 although the penalties for people found guilty of this are more serious for over 18s (s.13).

That’s what the law says, but this is what the Crown Prosecution Service says about what actually happens in practice:

“children of the same or similar age are highly unlikely to be prosecuted for engaging in sexual activity, where the activity is mutually agreed and there is no abuse or exploitation.” (quote taken from here)

So, from what you’ve said, it sounds like it would be highly unlikely for you to be prosecuted, even though you’ll be the only person breaking the law. Young people your age are sometimes prosecuted for these offences but only in cases of abuse, non-consent, coercion, abuse of power, big age gaps, bullying or harassment. So long as your relationship isn’t any of those things then the police won’t press charges.

I hope that gives you the information you need.

You might want to maybe chat with each other about this? Perhaps you could both read this response together?

Also do you chat to your parents/carers about your relationship? Parents react in different ways to hearing that their kids are in sexual relationships but mostly they are pretty supportive (in my experience).

Hope this helps.



54 thoughts on “Ask Bish – If I’m 16 and she’s 15 is it against the law?

  1. Hi I’m 16 and my boyfriends 15 (we have a 4 month age difference) and we’re long distance. We got together about a month ago and we’ve both expressed a desire to be intimate with one another when we meet up. We’re meeting up in just over 2 weeks and we won’t see each other for another 5 months at least. I’ve asked my friends if its okay to be intimate together because we don’t know the next time we’ll see each other and I got mixed responses but a lot of them were positive and said we should do it. I just don’t know what to do, should we do it? will I be prosecuted later?

    1. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be prosecuted for this. The police investigate under age sex offences when the age gap was big, or if there was a power imbalance, or if there was a lack of consent. So perhaps you could both chat about your relationship and how you will bring in as much consent (freedom to choose) as possible. There’s loads on here about consent so have a look at these articles (I also wrote a book about consent). Practically speaking, it’s usually the parents who make a complaint about this to police, so you might just want to make sure that your parents are okay with you seeing each other. I know that’s an awkward conversation, but you don’t have to go into detail about what you want to do, just that you ‘want to hang out together alone in our room, you know ….’ Hope you find that helpful. Justin

  2. Hi, when I was 15, my girl used to be 14, she used to ask me to touch her sexually, so like a normally guy would do during puberty I did. She always wanted me to touch, until she went and told that she was abused. I don’t know what to do now?

  3. i’m 16, me and my partner have been together for 7 years now but he is 15 and we do things like kiss it is agreed by both of us but what happens if police find out?

    1. Well, as I said above, it’s highly unlikely that the police would investigate it. It’s even more unlikely that it would be prosecuted. It’s even even more unlikely that you would be found guilty of anything. They only use this law to prevent abusive situations happening.

  4. I have just turned 18 and I am in year 13 at school, there is a boy at my school who’s in year 10 (he turns 15 next week) our age gap is 3 years and 1 month.
    I first met him on the school bus, our entire school wears school uniform so it’s hard to tell who is in what year but when I first saw him I thought he was new in six form, he’s very tall over 6 foot and easily looks 18, he seems older too as he hangs out with boys in my year as they play football together.

    Anyway I always see him on the school bus and we became friends, he then started saying he liked me but I said he was too young for me, he kept texting me things like ‘I know you want me’ and I kept saying ‘no you are too young for me’
    Fast forward a couple of weeks he got off the bus near my house (he was going to a friends near by) and he kissed me, it completely took me by surprise but I stupidly kissed him back. About a week later we got invited to the same

    1. As I’ve said, any kind of sex with someone under the age of 16 is illegal. Whether you will be prosecuted depends on what the local police and prosecutors say. If there was evidence that you were the one pressuring him, or treating him consensually then they would be more likely to want to prosecute. The fact it was the other way round, and only happened once, and didn’t involve penetrative sex means that they are less likely to prosecute too. That’s all the information I have for you about it though. If the boy (or the boy’s parents) have reported it and the police investigate then I would advise speaking to a solicitor.

  5. Hi I’m a 16 year old male and my girlfriend(18 coming to 19) We been having sexual interaction but not fully me and her want marriage and kids but I don’t want her getting in trouble what should I do? Is it okay todo it with my consent or are there other procedures?

  6. Hi i am a 16 year old female and i have a boyfriend who is 15 (but technically we only have a 10 month age difference). We have had sex only once but not in a general sense, just one in and out and thats it. We also do other stuff (im sure you can take a wild guess). All of it is completely consensual, encouraged if anything by my partner but i feel a little insecure because i sometimes feel guilty about what we are doing because of the ages and consent laws, is what im doing genuinely wrong or is it more morally wrong because i have many conflicting feelings about this?

    1. Great question. It’s a tricky area because usually the behaviour that is ethical and moral is higher than the legal standard. So I can totally understand why you are feeling insecure about it. The law is meant to be there to protect young people, but you are both young people. So I find it helpful to look at what the CPS (the Crown Prosecution Service) say about this and they say that the law is not intended to criminalise consensual behaviour for young people in a relationship, which describes you. (FYI, technically the law also applies to any kinds of sex, but they are even less likely to prosecute non-penetrative sex).

      But what to do about it? If, even after reading this, you’re still feeling insecure then you could maybe wait for a bit? Or do other things that aren’t sexual together that makes you feel connected and is fun and exciting. Can you have a conversation with your boyfriend about what kinds of sex feel okay for you at the moment and what doesn’t? Try this resource and see if this helps you OMG Yes, No, Hmm: work out what kind of sex you like

  7. Okay so I am in a female-to-female “relationship” (fwb) (it is complicated) I just turned 18 today and she is 15 years old. I am worried about things for legal reasons. She wants me to do things (oral sex, fingering, making out, etc.) and I want to do those things for her, trust me, but now I have to deal with legal reasons and wondering what it would be considered now that I am 18. She gives full consent and I ask her multiple times throughout, but I am worried that no matter what I do now, it will just be considered assault or rape. Please give me some advice and tell me how to best go about this situation with as much detail as possible. I never want to be seen as a rapist, especially if it is just an age issue and not a consent issue. Please help.

    1. Hi. Legally speaking, in the UK, if you have sex with an under 16 year old then you’d be breaking the law of under age sex (it’s not rape or sexual assault, that’s separate). This means any kind of sexual activity but the more naked and genital it is the more serious it’s taken. Generally speaking, in cases where people are of similar maturity, in a consensual relationship, prosecutions are unlikely. However this is left up the discretion of the Police and we’d hope that they’d behave proportionately and sensibly and without discrimination or prejudice affecting their judgement (which they don’t always do). Whenever I hear about cases that do get prosecuted it’s because the relationship was abusive or non-consensual, or because someone else wasn’t happy about it (often a parent) and it was reported. So depending on your circumstances you may want to think about waiting for a bit, or discussing this with your FWB. Hope that’s helpful. Justin

      1. hey it’s not my case but there is a part that got me curious in your reply if you don’t mind.
        you said “because someone else wasn’t happy about it (often a parent)”,and my question in that case even if the relation is consensual ,not abusive…ect,does such prosecution because “someone else reported it (often parent)” usually happen,even if unlikely, in cases like op when it’s 18/19+15 relation or also when it’s 16/17+15.

        1. I’m afraid I can’t tell you how usual this is I’m afraid. I know that it mostly depends on the discretion of the investigating officers and whether there might be any other factors involved.

  8. my friend has been having consensual sex with a 17 year old (born in 2006) and she is 15 (born in 2007) and her mum has found out and phoned the police on him will he get into trouble from the police or would he just get a warning or fine?

  9. Hi my name is Christine and am turning 16 this April is it illegal for me to have sex with my boyfriend who is four years older than me.

  10. Hello, Im 19 and my gf is 15 she is gonna turn 16 in a month and i turned 19 a month ago and we didn’t have sex but we were in love we talk a-lot we hangout a-lot i have been to her house multiple times will these be an issue? Or will i get in trouble if i love an underage girl?

    1. It depends where you are in the world to be honest. But in the UK, if you wait until your gf is over 16 before you have sex with each other, then you won’t be breaking the law.

  11. me and my boyfriend are both 15, we have been having unprotected sex and i need to take a pregnancy test. what will happen if i am pregnant? will my baby be taken away if i choose to continue with the pregnancy or could we both be put on the sex offenders list?

    1. Hi. If you are pregnant you would be given the same choices and options as anyone else. It depends on your living situation and how much care you can give to a child. You wouldn’t be put on the sex offenders list.

    1. I can’t tell you if you will get into trouble, because that depends on the nature of the relationship, whether it is consensual and respectful and not abusive. It is technically against the law, but as I explain in the article, it’s not likely that the police will get involved.

  12. I’m 17 and my girlfriend is 15, there’s a year and a half between us if we had sex would I get into legal trouble or put on the sex offenders register?

  13. In England is it illegal to have oral sex with a girl who is 15 years old turning 16 very soon and the boy has just turned 16 for a day and it is fully consential , same school year as this happens a lot and people don’t even think about it and I am wondering if there is any legal punishments or anything

  14. Hi Justin. Just over 3 years ago on holiday in Spain, I had consensual sex with a girl I met, I was 17, she was 15. We got to know each other well over that week and did a lot of (non sexual) stuff together as well, we were good friends. But it’s probably something we both regret in hindsight and I’m just worried I/we might get in trouble? Thank you.

    1. Hiya. If the relationship was as you say it was (fun, consensual, friendly) then you aren’t going to get in trouble. Although technically you still broke the law in Spain, prosecutions are saved for when there is abuse, non-consent, violence, etc. Hope that helps! Justin

      1. Okay thank you. I have one other question.
        We kept in touch afterwards as well. The fact that the age gap was just over 2 years I turned 18 before she turned 16 and we sometimes had conversations of sexual nature (sexting). I’m scared I could get in trouble for sexual communications with a child. Again it wasn’t coercive or manipulative or exploitative, I know it was a stupid thing to do but for some reason I thought it would it be OK as I knew her before I turned 18? Thank you.

          1. Thanks! It says they wouldn’t prosecute if the ages are similar. Would they consider 15 and just turned 18 to be too big of an age gap?
            Thanks again.

    1. As I said above, It’s not likely that you will be prosecuted for under age sex if you are a similar age and there was no evidence of abuse or non-consensual stuff going on. However if you were trying to get her pregnant, or really not caring about whether she got pregnant or not, or you didn’t give her a choice as to whether she could avoid pregnancy or not, then they could prosecute you. However if you are boyfriend and girlfriend and this was just an honest mistake (or something that you both actually wanted) then you are very unlikely to be prosecuted.

      It’s her choice whether she continues with the pregnancy or not. She can get help and support about her decision from sexual health services (find your nearest one here). If she does then you are financially responsible for that child, even if you care for the child or not. There’s more about that here and here. If you are in education or training you will be exempt from payments until you are over 18. Then you will have to pay according to your income.

  15. I’m 15 and my boyfriend is 16 turning 17. I just want to know could he be arrested and is it wrong for him to be having sex with me once he’s 17? If it’s mutually consensual and no coercion or harm is coming from it? Would the police care and would it be taken in the public interest if anyone found out?

  16. Me and my gf have known each other for going on 8 years and we officially became a couple last year she is 13 and turning 14 in a couple weeks and I’m 15 turning 16 later this year we live in USA ohio is it ok if we have sex? Even just touching each other/masturbatubg each other?

    1. So I think it’s technically against the law but it looks like in Ohio you won’t be prosecuted.
      “Ohio has a close-in-age exemption. A close in age exemption, also known as “Romeo and Juliet law”, is designed to prevent the prosecution of underage couples who engage in consensual sex when both participants are significantly close in age to each other, and one or both are below the age of consent.

      Depending on the situation, the Ohio close-in-age exemption may completely exempt qualifying close-in-age couples from the age of consent law, or merely provide a legal defence that can be used in the event of prosecution.”

  17. So my girlfriend is 15 and I’m 16, we weren’t planing on having sexual intercourse however we were planning on masturbating each other and stuff like that….. is that illegal even if intercourse wouldn’t happen?

    1. Technically it would be illegal for you (in the UK) because you are 16. Under age sex applies to pretty much any kind of sex. However the Police have been instructed not to prosecute under age sex where there are clearly no signs of coercion, power imbalance, abuse, or lack of consent. More on this here

    1. It depends where you are in the world, but in the UK the answer is yes. However, as I explain here it would be unusual for the Police to prosecute.

  18. I am 15 and my boyfriend is 16 and his dad is threatening to go to the police even tho we haven’t done anything sexual is he going to get into trouble?

    1. The Police will only be interested in prosecuting a case if there was evidence of a power imbalance, lack of consent, threats or anything like that. Also, as you say, there has to have been sex (of some kind). Why is the dad threatening to go to the police?

  19. Hi, i am 16 years old and my girlfriend is 14 years old.She is two years younger than me. If we were to partake in sexual activity would I be breaking the law and if we were found out would charges be pressed?

    1. Hi
      As I said above, it would depend on the view of anyone investigating. Usually this kind of age gap relationship would only be investigated if there was any suspected abuse, non-consensual behaviour, bullying or harassment. A lot of this is down to the opinion of the local Police or social services too.

      I guess the thing for you to think about is how you can make sure that you are as consensual as possible at all times. That means giving your girlfriend lots of options and making sure that you are always thinking about whether she is wanting to be in this kind of relationship at all. There are lots of posts here to help you with that. and loads more.


  20. I have a boyfriend who is 16 and I am 15 (there’s only a year difference) we are having sex and we both agree to it.Is this illegal

    1. Yes technically your boyfriend would be breaking the law. But if you both are clearly agreeing to do it and you’re in a relationship it’s very unlikely that you will get into trouble.

  21. I’m16 and me and this girl who is 15 have bin off and on for a couple of weeks and we are having sex but there’s this one time where she didn’t fully give consent and is regretting it what should I do and how can I get in trouble

    1. If she didn’t fully give consent then it’s against the law (and wrong) no matter what age she is. Can I suggest that you read some of the articles on here about consent. Perhaps you could ask her how she is feeling, say you are sorry for fucking up and ask her if there is anything you can do to make her feel better (which could include leaving her alone). Hope that’s useful.

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