Teenagers can consent to sexual activities. However, their consent is invalid if they’re considered too young to consent or if they’re in a position of vulnerability with respect to the partner.
Valid consent if the partners are about same age
Before the age of 16, teens can usually consent to sexual touching if their partner is about the same age. The table below shows the rules that apply to age differences:
Age of younger partner
Age difference allowed
Under 12 years old
Consent is never valid.
12-13 years old
Less than two years.
14-15 years old
Less than five years.
The older partner could be charged with a crime if the age difference exceeds the above, even if the younger partner expressed his or her agreement to the relationship and the parents agree as well.
Consent is invalid if there’s a power imbalance
Teens under 18 cannot give valid consent if they’re in a position of weakness or vulnerability in the relationship, even if they expressed their agreement to the relationship.
A power imbalance exists if the teen is in a relationship of dependency or exploitation with respect to the partner. This is also the case if the partner is in a position of authority or trust.
- Teens could be in a situation of dependency if the other partner gives them a place to stay and they have nowhere else to go.
- Teachers, coaches and mentors could be in a position of authority or trust with respect to the teen.
When determining whether consent is valid, a judge will consider each situation on a case-by-case basis. The imbalance in the relationship is the deciding factor, not the role or occupation of the partner.
Sexual assault: when a teen says no
Regardless of age, when a teen does not consent to sexual touching, such as kissing, fondling or sexual intercourse, these actions are considered sexual assault.