Unequal power relationships

An unequal power relationship is a relationship in which one person has more power or authority than another. This is often the case when one person is much older than the other. For example, an older man in a romantic or sexual relationship with a teenage girl or an older woman with a teenage boy.

It is sometimes attractive to be in a relationship with an older person. This older person is often considered more mature or has more resources. For example, a car, their own house and money to spend. Maybe the older person provides gifts, outings or money. Teenage girls or boys may want to experience these things, so they choose to interact with an older adult.

Returning the favor

The older adult may expect a romantic or sexual relationship in return for their attention and gifts. They might request this subtly or directly.

Against the law

It is against the law for adults to have sexual relationships with a person under the age of 18. This is punishable if brought forward to the police and prosecutor.

The law also states that a person will be convicted for rape if they knew that the other person did not want sex and went ahead anyway. Remember, rape is punishable by law. Coercion, violence and threats, while aggravating factors, will no longer be a requirement for conviction. The person initiating sexual contact must be alert to whether the other person wants the same. If this is not clear, he or she should seek clarification.


Because adults usually have more authority and resources, they have greater power in the relationship and can easily force or manipulate you to have their way. If you are under 18 years, it is recommended to avoid situations like this for your own well-being. Here are some tips to deal with the situation.

  • If you are approached by a much older adult online or in person in a romantic or sexual way, you can say that you are not interested.
  • If you are offered gifts or money by older adults you don’t know, you can politely decline.
  • If they keep insisting or try to force you, you can inform a trusted adult about the situation.