In the US, most minors (those under the age of consent, which varies by state from 16 to 18) cannot legally consent to sexual activity, even with other minors.
There are some exceptions, however. For example:
-A married minor (legal in many states) under the age of consent can legally give consent to sex even if the other person is an adult;
-“Romeo and Juliet” laws in some states and circumstances allow for limited consensual sex between adults and minors, within a certain age range. According to the Texas State Law Library website, a state where the age of consent is 17, one of the sections of the penal code “provides an affirmative defense for an actor ‘not more than three years older than the victim’, as long as the victim ‘was a child of 14 years of age or older’, along with several other requirements.”
-In some states, a close-in-age exemption exists to decriminalize consensual sex between two individuals who are both under the age of consent.
The consent laws where you live and where the other party lives can be legally important. Although consent laws and ages vary by state, the federal government deems 18 the age of consent for people crossing state lines for sex.
The sourced articles below may provide more information on sexual consent when it comes to minors.
- ‘I Never Thought I’d Be Working To End Child Marriage Right Here In The U.S.’
“In 2019, I went back to school to get my Master’s degree in International Development, and chose to specialize in the issue of child marriage. What I soon learned about girls’ ability to escape child, early and forced marriages, especially in the U.S., appalled me. Did you know that girls in the U.S. are married LEGALLY under the age of 18 every day, but they are unable to file for divorce, in most states, until after they turn 18?”
Brooke Bumgarner, AHA Foundation, accessed 5/2/2022
- Why Permission From A Child Or Underage Teen Doesn’t Count
“If your teen is in a romantic relationship with a younger peer, it is important to talk with them about the laws about consent. Be sure they understand the importance of the age differences between two sexually active teens and at what age they can legally consent to sexual contact – and when the laws says they can’t. Learn the laws in your state and talk with your child about the potentially serious consequences of not following the law. You can find this information online or learn more through the local office of your Attorney General.”
STOP IT NOW! stopitnow.org, accessed 4/30/2022
- What Is The Legal Age Of Consent In The United States?
“In the United States, the Age of Consent is the legal age at which an individual is considered mature enough to consent to sex. Sexual relations with someone under the Age of Consent are considered statutory rape, even (in some jurisdictions), if both partners are themselves younger than the Age of Consent. … The legal age of consent varies from 16 to 18 years old from state to state across the United States. In some states, a ‘close in age exemption’ exists to decriminalize consensual sex between two individuals who are both under the age of consent.”
AgeOfConsent.net, ageofconsent.net, accessed 4/30/2022
- Age Of Consent In The United States
“‘Romeo and Juliet’ laws, otherwise known as close in age exemption laws, are statutes geared toward young adults who engage in sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent but still very close in age to them. This law also applies to couples where both people are under the age of consent. In Texas, for instance, if a person over 17 has sex with someone under 17 years of age but no more than three years younger, the older person will not be charged with statutory rape or made to join the sex offender registry. In some states, being close in age is a mitigating factor rather than a complete defense.”
Study.com, study.com, accessed 4/30/2022
- Child Marriage In The United States
“There are too many exceptions to child marriage laws in the United States … Child marriage is harmful. It is a human rights violation that legitimizes abuse and denies girls’ autonomy. When young girls are forced to marry, they are essentially subject to state-sanctioned rape and are at risk of increased domestic violence, forced pregnancy, and negative health consequences, while being denied education and economic opportunity. … But did you know that only four U.S. states meet this standard and that the federal government provides a child marital exception for statutory rape?”
Equality Now, equalitynow.org, accessed 4/30/2022
- After Decades-Long Fight, Philippines Raises Age Of Sexual Consent From 12 To 16
“Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that raises the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 … in a bid to protect minors from rape and sexual abuse. … Until now, the Philippines has had one of the world’s lowest minimum ages of sexual consent, behind Nigeria’s age of 11, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).”
Reuters and Jessie Yeung, cnn.com, 3/7/2022
- Is It Illegal For Two Minors To Have Sex?
“It can be illegal for two minors to have sex. In some states, having sexual intercourse with someone who is under the age of consent is treated as statutory rape. In other states, however, there is an exemption to statutory rape for when two people who are close in age have consensual sex.”
Neil Shouse, shouselaw.com, 1/9/2022
- The Ages Of Consent Around The World
“The age at which a person is deemed legally competent to consent to sexual activity varies widely around the world – and even within Europe. … Most countries prohibit sex with under-16s or under-18s, but in some places the age of consent is as low as 11, or as high as 20. However, even within counties this can vary widely between males and females and in cases of heterosexual and homosexual sex.”
The Week Staff, theweek.co.uk, 3/15/2021
- What Raising The Age Of Sexual Consent Taught Women About The Vote
“Before many women could vote in the United States, they lobbied male legislators to change statutory rape laws and gained political skills in the process”
Kimberly Hamlin, smithsonianmag.com, 8/26/2020
- State Lines And The Age Of Consent
“The age of consent in California is 18 years old. However, the age of consent in Nevada is just 16. Does that mean it’s legal to cross state lines to overcome the age of consent laws? … While each state’s legislature sets its own age of consent, crossing state lines does not grant a free pass. Crossing state lines to have sexual relations invokes federal law. The federal age of consent is 18.”
Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC, cwsdefense.com, 1/16/2020