Men are more likely than women to think a sexual relationship between a 16-year-old and a partner decades older is acceptable, new polling has found.
Almost a third of men who responded to the Ipsos polling said this type of age gap was acceptable, compared to 15% of women who agreed it was okay.
The statistics showed a “grave need” for more conversations with young people on issues such as consent, power imbalance within relationships and gender equality.
Women were slightly more likely to support raising the age of consent than men and to feel that older men in relationships with at least a 10-year age gap hold more power, according to the exclusive Ipsos polling for the PA news agency.
The survey of 1,077 adults across Great Britain came a week after the allegations against Brand first surfaced.
Alice (not her real name) said she had a sexual relationship with the comedian when she was a teenager, and he would send BBC cars to her school to collect her from lessons so they could have sex at his home.
He became increasingly controlling during the relationship, Alice said, and encouraged her to lie to family and friends about the relationship.
What men and women think about this age gap
According to the PA polling, more than two-thirds (68%) of women said this type of age gap would be unacceptable, just over half (54%) of men felt this way.
More than a quarter (27%) of men said it was either somewhat or completely acceptable for a 16-year-old boy to have a sexual relationship with a woman aged up to 30.
This compares with just 9% of women thinking this is acceptable.
The trend continued with bigger age gaps – as almost a fifth (17%) of men said it was somewhat or completely acceptable for a 16-year-old girl to have sex with a man up to 40 years old, compared to just 4% of women feeling this way.
When it comes to a 16-year-old girl being in a sexual relationship with a man aged 50 or older, more than one in 10 men (13%) thought this was acceptable compared to 3% of women.
Overall, 48% of people said they either tended to or strongly supported the idea of raising the age of consent from 16 to 18, while 40% said they supported the idea of staggered consent, in findings similar to those from a YouGov poll earlier this week.
Women were slightly more likely to support the idea of staggered consent – where it is only legal for a 16 or 17-year-old to have sex with someone up to the age of 20 or 21 – than men, with a 41% and 38% split, according to the Ipsos polling.
Speaking to BBC Radio Women’s Hour earlier this week, Alice said her mother had breakdowns because “there was nothing that she could do to protect me from being in that relationship” due to the fact the teenager was the legal age to consent to sex at the time.
Alice said: “People say ‘well, just call the police’. And then what? I was legally allowed to be there.”
Alice added: “He was 30. Now that I’m in my 30s looking at 16-year-olds, I can’t imagine finding them sexually attractive. I can’t imagine thinking of them as a potential mate in any way.”
Anna Edmundson, head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, said: “While 16 and 17-year-olds are above the legal age of consent, we know from young people that reach out to Childline that they can still be vulnerable to grooming, exploitation and other forms of abuse, particularly from adults.”