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Sexuality, Teens and Technology

Understanding Consent for Sex: What it means for you

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This information will help you learn about the laws in Canada that protect you and your right to make choices about sex and relationships.

What do I need to know about consent to sexual activity?

Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse (e.g., oral, anal, vaginal).

The choice to have sex, or not, is very personal. Only you can decide what is right for you.

Consent means partners agree to the sexual activity and everyone understands what they’re agreeing to. Partners must give and get consent every time they have sex.

Consent is:

  • needed for every sexual activity
  • understanding what you’re saying yes to
  • asking your partner if they understand what they’re saying yes to
  • checking in with your partner and accepting that either of you can change your mind at any time

People cannot give consent if they’re:

  • high or drunk
  • forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated, or offered rewards to do something sexual

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

What do I need to know about sex and the law in Canada?

When the time comes to think about having sex, everyone has the right to make their own choices. Consent laws are to protect you and help you enjoy healthy relationships.

According to the law in Canada, age of consent means the legal age when a youth can make a decision to have sex or not.

The law says a 16-year-old can consent to sex, except if the:

  • other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, employer)
  • sexual activity is exploitative (e.g., porn, prostitution)

By law, you must be 18 to have sex with a person in a position of authority.

Are there exceptions to the law?

What if I’m 14 or 15 and thinking of having sex?

According to the law, a 14 or 15-year-old can consent to sex if the partner is less than 5 years older and not in a position of authority.

What if I’m 12 or 13?

According to the law, a 12 or 13-year-old can consent to sex if the partner is less than 2 years older and not in a position of authority.

Children younger than 12 years old cannot consent to any type of sexual activity. Having sex with a child younger than 12 is against the law and is sexual abuse.

What if I want to talk to a healthcare provider about my sexual health?

In Alberta, anyone younger than 18 can go to a medical clinic without a parent’s permission if they are a mature minor​.

A mature minor means you fully understand:

  • the care or treatment being offered
  • the consequences of the care or treatment
  • the consequences of not having the care or treatment

How well you understand information is more important than how old you are.

You have the right to:

  • know all the facts, risks, and benefits of medical care and treatment
  • agree to accept or refuse medical care and treatment (e.g., a STI test)
  • have your questions answered so you know enough to make an informed decision that is right for you

If you’re a mature minor, healthcare providers can only share information with your parents (including if you went to a clinic) if they have your permission.

What If I need help?

Talk to a parent (or an adult you trust) if you’ve had:

  • unwanted or forced sex
  • unwanted sexual attention
  • pressure to have sex
  • pressure to send or receive sexual pictures or messages

For More Information


Current as of: October 21, 2019

Author: Sexual & Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services