There are laws that apply to sex and consent in Ireland. These are there to protect us, especially young people. There might be situations when even if you feel you’ve given your consent, the law sees things differently. Here are two:

The age of consent in Ireland is 17. That means you can’t legally consent to sexual activity before the age of 17. That applies to people of all genders and sexual orientation. The age of consent is 16 in Northern Ireland. If you’re under 17 and you have sex with someone older than you, that can be considered statutory rape.

Sex with a person in authority

If you’re under 18, and your teacher, employer, coach, or another adult who is in a position of authority has sex with you, that’s illegal. Even if you consented and you were into it, the law sees this person as having the power to manipulate or coerce you.

If you’re under 18 and your teacher, lecturer, boss, trainer or doctor comes onto you, what they’re doing is wrong. Distance yourself as best as you can from them, and then tell an adult you trust as soon as possible.

The difference between sexual play and non-consensual sexual activity

Books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” spawned some terrible movies but they also spread some confusing messages about sex. Some people think that books and movies like this are saying that it’s OK to have sex with someone when they don’t want it. Porn can also include dynamics like this and give the wrong impression.

As you should have gathered by now, it is never, ever OK to force someone into sexual activity.

What these videos and storylines actually show is sexual play between two consenting adults. Some people have sexual fantasies about submission and domination. That’s fine. When they act out these scenarios with their partner, they always get their partner’s consent first. Couples talk beforehand about what’s OK and what is not. They might have a code word that they can use if they ever feel uncomfortable. If this code word is used the other person will immediately stop. The result is both people feel safe.

People who have any kind of sexual activity forced on them don’t feel safe. Sexual play is the opposite to being forced to have sex.

It’s not a fantasy or a game if both people haven’t consented. It’s a crime.

Remember it’s your responsibility to make sure whoever you’re having sex with is on board with what you’re doing. If you’re not sure, ask. It maybe a little awkward at first but at the end of the day you want anyone you’re having sex with to be as into it as you are.