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Heather Corinna replies:
I'm 16 and my best friend, that happens to be a guy, is 25. We've never done anything sexual, and we don't plan to. The most we do is hold hands, and its like holding hands with my older brother. I'm just scared that someone will take that in the wrong way (as if we were dating) and my friends have told me that he could go to jail if someone reports him as my boyfriend or saying that something sexual is going on between us. I don't want him to get in trouble but I also don't want to lose my video game buddy.
I know about the age of consent, but does that mean I can't even hold hands in a public place with my best friend?
There's nothing illegal about being platonic friends with someone who is an adult when you're a minor and/or under the age of consent: even if you were dating, so long as the physical activity was affectional and not sexual -- and hand-holding is not classed as sexual behaviour under any set of laws I know -- you're within the bounds of the law.
Age of consent laws are expressly about sexual activity, not about general socialization, platonic friendship and general physical affection.
Of course, you're not nuts to be concerned that some people might get the wrong idea and to worry about that, because it's possible some people might, and it is a bit of a scary thing given a lot of the panic about predators. However, it'd be very unlikely for the police or justice system to pursue changes against someone where they don't have very good reason -- and some pretty solid evidence to back it up -- to feel that this guy has been having sex with you or another person under the age of consent. And for him to go to jail, that evidence would be cruical.
If your family and other people around you also feel good about your friendship, know him well, and are generally supportive, there's really no cause for big concern here, nor should you feel like you can't hold hands with your friend or share a hug, as friends do.