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Now, in fairness, neither of these boys went to jail just for having sex with an underage girl, there were aggravating circumstances – one punched his girlfriend’s father and both violated judges’ orders to stay away from the girls.
Still, all I could think about was that what started out as a somewhat typical high school relationship (a senior boy with a freshman or sophomore girlfriend is not at all that unusual) essentially ruined these young men’s lives.
Each state has its own law and decides a number of factors for itself, including age of consent, minimum age of “victim,” age differential, and minimum age of “perpetrator” in order to prosecute. Only 12 states have a single age of consent below which an individual cannot consent to sexual intercourse and above which they can.
As I mentioned earlier, Massachusetts is one of those states—the age of consent there is simply 16.
While some law enforcement officials thought this was the right approach, many advocates for adolescent health were skeptical at best.
The acknowledged purpose of these laws was to protect the young girl’s “chastity,” possibly so as not to ruin her future chances for marriage. states slowly raised the age to 13 and 14 under scientific arguments that this is when young women begin to menstruate and reach physical maturity.(Years later as a sexuality educator, these are among the litmus tests I would suggest to teens.) The problem that really didn’t occur to me until last week, however, is that from a legal standpoint it was not a consensual relationship.In Massachusetts—which has one of the least nuanced laws regarding age of consent—a person under 16 cannot give consent, and I was three months shy of my 16 birthday that summer.History and Purpose of Statutory Rape Laws Statutory rape laws (which are called by a plethora of other names) refer to those laws that “criminalize voluntary sexual acts involving a minor that would be legal if not for the age of one or more of the participants.” The premise behind these laws is that until a certain age, young people are incapable of giving their consent for sexual behavior but the intent behind the laws has morphed over the 700 years or so since they were first codified.The first known law, passed in Westminster England in 1275, made it illegal to “ravish” a “maiden” under the age of 12 (also the age at which a girl could legally marry) without her consent. The result was that an underage girl did not have to show that she had struggled in order to prove that she had not given her consent as her older friends did.
The problem is much more complicated than simply older men preying on younger women.” The argument about using age of consent laws to prevent teen pregnancy seems to have lost some of its momentum in recent years and the general consensus has returned to the idea that these laws remain important to protect young people (primarily young women) from exploitation.