Info and Advice

Sex and consent

There are a number of things that are important to consider before having sex.
A young teen couple smiling together

Legal age

In Ireland, the legal age to give consent, or willingly agree, to having sexual intercourse, is 17. 

It is against the law for someone who is under 17 to have sex, even if both they and their partner want to have sex.

Consent

Giving sexual consent means that you willingly agree, without being put under pressure, forced, scared, drunk, or on drugs, to be involved in sexual activity such as touching, taking naked pictures or having sexual intercourse.

There are some important things to know about consent before you have a sexual relationship with someone:

  • Both people who are going to have a sexual relationship must consent to it.
  • To be sure that the other person is giving consent to sexual activities, you need to check with them by asking and they must answer positively (e.g. say 'Yes'). Someone not saying 'no' does not count as consent to sexual activities.
  • People cannot give consent if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
  • Flirting, or 'going along with', sexual activities, is not consent.
  • Consent does not last forever. Just because you, or someone else, agreed to sexual activities before, does not mean you, or they, have agreed to sexual activities again.
  • If you agree to one kind of sexual activity, it does not mean you have given consent for something else.
  • You are free to take your consent away at any time. 
  • It is important to always respect your partner's decisions. This is important to help them feel safe and accepted.

 

Deciding to have sex with someone

Sometimes, who you have had a relationship with someone for a while, you might both decide that you would like to have sex.

if you are over the age of 17, you can legally consent to having sex with another person. It is important, however, that you feel ready first. The only person who will know if you are ready is you. 

There are some things you should think about before you have sex with someone:

  • You should want to have sex and not just agree to it because the other person wants to. 
  • You should feel comfortable with the idea of having sex. It's ok to be a bit nervous, but you shouldn't feel really scared or so anxious that it affects your everyday life.
  • You should be confident that your partner will react respectfully and kindly if you choose not to have sex. You should not be worried about them reacting badly or putting you under pressure to have sex.
  • You should be able to talk to your partner about having sex and what you are and aren't ready for. 
  • You should know about consent and about how to have safe sex.
Safe sex

If you do decide to have sex, it is important that you use contraception to protect against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You should feel comfortable with the person you are going to have sex with and that means you should be able to talk to that person about contraception. 

No-one has the right to make you have sex without using contraception. 

 

Contraception

There are lots of different kinds of contraception and each kind works in a different way.

The most common forms of contraception include condoms and the contraceptive pill.

If you are thinking of having sex with someone and want information on what contraception is available to you, you can speak to your local GP or nurse or a family planning clinic. It might feel a bit embarrassing, but doctors and nurses talk about that kind of thing all the time and they are there to help. 

Support is available

If you would like to get more information about consent, sex and contraception, visit SexualWellbeing.ie or the Irish Family Planning Association's website.

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Contact Childline

Childline is always here to listen and to support you. You can call Childline on 1800 66 66 66 (24 hours a day), text Childline on 50101 (10am – 4am every day) or chat with Childline online

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