Age Of Consent


March 2009


The ages of consent in North America for sexual activity vary by jurisdiction.
The age of consent in Canada is 16 and all US states set their limits between 16 and 18.

State laws


Each US state has its own age of consent. Currently state laws set the age of consent at 16, 17 or 18. The most common age is 16.[9]

  • age of consent 16: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia
  • age of consent 17: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas
  • age of consent 18: Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

The ages of consent in the countries of Central America range from 15 to 18.
The age of consent in Mexico is complex. Typically, Mexican states have a "primary" age of consent (which may be as low as 12), and sexual conduct with children bellow that age is always illegal. Sexual relations between adults and teenagers are left in a legal gray area: laws against adults "corrupting" minors may be used sometimes to punish such sexual encounters, as well as laws against engaging in sexual relations with "chaste and honest" teenage girls by means of "seduction". These laws are situational and are subject to interpretation.

The age of consent is the age at or above which a person is considered to have the legal capacity to consent to sexual activity. Both partners must be of legal age to give consent, although exceptions may exist when both partners are within a certain number of years in age. Persons below the age of consent may not, by law, give consent, and sexual relations involving such persons may be punished by criminal sanctions similar to those for rape or sexual assault. Non-violent sexual contact with persons under the age of consent may be punished as "statutory rape" or a similar legal term.

Historically, the age of consent applied to male-female relationships; homosexual relationships were often illegal in themselves regardless of the ages. Modern laws have explicitly recognized different relationships, but the circumstances may affect the legal status, and there may be multiple "ages" that apply in any jurisdiction. For instance, different ages may apply if the relationship is homosexual, or if the sexual contact is other than vaginal intercourse. Also, different ages may apply if one partner is in a position of power or authority over the other (e.g., a teacher-student relationship).

The age of consent in Virginia is 18, with a close in age exception which allows teenagers aged 15, 16 and 17 to engage in sexual acts, but only with a partner younger than 18. However the legislation is not clear cut and the details are discussed below:
Any penetrative sexual act other than penile-vaginal intercourse is defined in Virginia law as 'sodomy.' Section 18.2-361 of the Code of Virginia entitled "Crimes against nature" states in part; "If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of ... felony..."

In addition, any sexual intercourse is defined in Virginia law as 'fornication.' Section 18.2-344 of the Code of Virginia entitled "Crimes against nature" states;
"Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person, shall be guilty of fornication, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor."

The courts of Virginia have ruled that these statutes are not invalid under the US Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas since that case only applied to adults, and the age of majority in Virginia is 18. This means that those 18 and above involved in consensual activity in private may have a defense in court, but those under 18 do not.

Section § 18.2-63 of the Code refers to minors younger than 15, while § 18.2-371 is about 15, 16 and 17 years olds. Section 18.2-63 states in part: "If any person carnally knows, without the use of force, a child thirteen years of age or older but under fifteen years of age, such person shall be guilty of ... felony ... For the purposes of this section, (i) a child under the age of thirteen years shall not be considered a consenting child and (ii) "carnal knowledge" includes the acts of sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, analingus, anal intercourse, and animate and inanimate object sexual penetration."
The ages of consent for sexual activity vary by jurisdiction across Europe. Spain sets its age of consent at 13, and the rest of the countries have an age of consent between 14 and 17, except Turkey and Malta, which have the highest age limit, set at 18. The laws can also stipulate the specific activities that are permitted and/or differentially specify the age at which a given gender can participate. Below is a discussion of the various laws dealing with this subject. The highlighted age refers to an age at or above which an individual can engage in unfettered sexual relations with another who is also at or above that age. Other variables, for close in age exceptions may exist, for relating to defences in Cyprus and Greece (that applies for heterosexual and lesbian sexual conduct only and not for male-male sexual conduct) and a higher age of consent just for male-male sexual conduct are noted in Gibraltar, Greece (for the male-male partners over 18) and Guernsey. All other places in Europe have an equal age of consent, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender.

U.S. Ages of Consent, Age Gap Provisions and Mistake of Age Defense:
http://www.ageofconsent.us/

Virginia Dept. of Health: Virginia Family Violence Sexual Assault, Statutory Rape
http://www.vahealth.org/injury/sexualviolence/varapelaws/laws_rape.html

Worldwide Age of Consent Chart:
http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm

Adolescent Sexual Behavior and the Law by Brittany Logino Smith Glen A. Kercher - Crime Victims’ Institute • Criminal Justice Center • Sam Houston State University March 2011:
http://www.crimevictimsinstitute.org/documents/Adolescent_Behavior_3.1.11.pdf

20/20 Age of Consent:

Estimating the Incidence of Statutory Rape in Virginia by John B. Nezlek, Department of Psychology College of William & Mary, February 2002: http://www.vahealth.org/Injury/sexualviolence/documents/older/statrape.pdf

Important News

In The News

Bulletin Posts

Links