What do teenagers think is acceptable when it comes to sex? Channel 4 News can reveal government research which shows teenagers understand the concept of consent - but do not always apply it.

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The new government report for the Office of the Children's Commissioner sheds some light on teenagers' attitudes towards sex - and what they consider as rape.

The headline findings are that 13 to 19-year olds understand the concept of consent, but they do not always apply it, and this leaves them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

As Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz told Channel 4 News: "Even when sex takes place under forced circumstances, they tend to blame the girl for putting themselves in a position where they ended up having sex. So, they may understand she didn't want it, but they still blame her for someone having sex with her against their will."

We put these points to teenagers in different contexts and found, as the report says, the lines are often blurred.

Victim blaming

Many of them voiced age-old blaming of victims: that if a girl gets drunk, she is at fault if a boy has sex with her against her will.

One boy voiced the experience of socialising teenagers in this way: "It's not really anybody's fault, because the girl is getting drunk, that's what she wants, and, like, the lad wants to get it on with somebody."

It's not really anybody's fault, because the girl is getting drunk, that's what she wants - Teenage boy

The report, to be published on Tuesday, says many of the teenagers interviewed by researchers had a narrow view of rape which discounts the everyday situations they are more likely to find themselves in.

"Young people seem to think of rape as something that happens when a stranger attacks you in the night, in a dark alley, drags you off somewhere screaming and forces sex upon you," said Ms Berelowitz. "They don't understand that forced sex between two people who actually know each other – even if that is very tenuous like you’ve just met somebody in a club, then that too is rape."

Read more: Channel 4 News' coverage of 'generation sex'

'She didn't say'

Even some of the girls we spoke to agreed: "I don't think it counts as rape unless she has said she specifically made it clear that she didn't want to have sex with him.

"If she had no idea what was going on because she was drunk and it happened and the next morning she only just realised what happened, then I don't think it's classed as rape because she didn't say anything about the fact she didn’t want it to happen."

Earlier in November, Professor John Ashton, a leading public health expert, suggested that the age of consent should be lowered to 15. With figures showing around a third of teenagers have sex before the are 16, he said if the law were changed, younger teenagers would find it easier to access sexual health advice.

It is not a view shared by the deputy children's commissioner: "I would absolutely not support the call to reduce the age to 15. The younger the child, the less likely they are to understand that forced sex is rape. The younger they are, the more vulnerable they are. Anyone who thinks reducing the age will keep them safe is deluding themselves."

British teenagers are navigating sexual relationships, in a world where they are sharing naked images online and porn is easily available. They are bombarded with sexual images, so the adverts of girls in bras at the bus stops don't even raise comment. It takes the likes of Miley Cyrus and her twerking to cause controversy.

Perhaps it is hardly surprising they are confused.

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