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Webmistres Cynth

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What is statutory rape?

Cynth Answers:

Dear Reader,

We have received so many questions about statutory rape, that Mr. Sensitive asked me to research it and give you the clearest answers possible.

Now, I'm not a lawyer; I'm a web wonk. Please do NOT use this page as legal advice.

Here are some of the questions that we received, and their answers.

~Webmistress Cynth~

PS: The follow-up to this article addresses age gap issues.

If you have a question on the strictly legal aspects of underage sex, ask the folks at

Dear Panel,

I am a little confused by all the legal text concerning statuatory rape, and am curious as to the "layman's terms" concerning what age is legal for a 21 year old to have consensual sexual activities with.

– Dorrin
male, 21

Cynth Answers:

I don't blame you for being confused! Statutory rape laws are very different around the world.

General Definition of Statutory Rape

Generally, when someone of or over the age of consent has sex with someone below the age of consent, it is considered statutory rape.

In other words, if you are over the age of consent and you have sex with a girl who is under the age of consent, even though she willingly has sex with you, you are guilty of statutory rape.

Since you are 21, you would be at or over the age of consent almost anywhere in the world. So it would be considered statutory rape if you had sex with someone younger than the age of consent.

Cynth Age of Consent Varies

Reader Carmacita

I disagree that the age should vary.

The age of consent, however, varies from location to location. So, for example, in Austria, as long as the girl is at least 14 years old, you're OK. But in Wisconsin, she would have to be at least 18.

To find out the age of consent where you are, check,* which claims to keep the most up-to-date information on ages of consent around the world.

*(Love & Learn is not responsible for and does not endorse their advertisers.)

Dear Panel,

If I am 16 and my boyfriend is 19, is it illegal for us to have a sexual relationship?

- Luckystars
female, 16, USA

Cynth Answers:

In many States it would be considered illegal if you are under the age of consent, and he is of or older than the age of consent.

To find out whether it is statutory rape in your state check:'s Guide to Age of Consent in North America.


Dear Panel,

If a guy is 17 and he has a girlfriend that is 15 and they have had sexual intercourse, is that considered rape?

- Rev Rico
male, 17


Cynth Answers:

If the guy forced her to have sex against her will, that would definitely be rape.

If the girl was willing, it might be considered statutory rape, depending on where they are.

If the age of consent in their location is 16, for example, it would be statutory rape.



Dear Panel,

I'm confused about what exactly statutory rape is.

Is it just the same as rape, but with someone underage?

Or is it where the underage person COULD consent to it, but they press charges later?

Or where the parents press charges?

I thought it was the latter of the 3, but a friend of mine was in a relationship and she's underage and she's wondering what the standards are for it.

– Just Curious
female, 19, USA

Cynth Answers:

It is not the same as rape. Rape is when someone forces another person to have sex against their will.

Statutory rape is where the government has passed laws (statutes) saying that in certain situations, even if both people consent to sex, it is still against the law.

It doesn't matter if:

  • in some locations, anyone presses charges. If someone over the age of consent has sex with someone under the age of consent, even if no one but the arresting officer presses charges, the older person can go to jail.

  • a girl or boy, who is under the age of consent, says "yes" or even initiates sex with a man or woman, who is over the age of consent; the law says it's statutory rape because that younger person has NO LEGAL RIGHT TO GIVE CONSENT.

  • the younger person lies about his or her age before having sex. It is the older person's responsibility to make sure that their actions are legal.


Dear Panel,

I am 16, almost 17, and have been dating a 21 year old for 2 years. We broke up 5 days ago, and it is really hard on me. I am learning to forget, and move on.

He has done this to me before, and I want to know the cons against Statuatory Rape. I think we should be able to date anyone we please! It is such a big deal for teens, but not for adults. Why?

-Broken Hearted
age 16, USA


Cynth Answers:

Dating Is Legal

As far as the law is concerned, in most places you can date almost anyone you please.

Having sex, however, is a different story.

Sex May Not Be Legal

Depending on where you live, if you had sex with your boyfriend, he might be guilty of statutory rape.

As to why it is such a big deal for teens:

In most places it is believed that until a child reaches a certain age, the child is not really able to give informed consent to sex. In other words, they can't really understand what they are consenting to. Most of us would agree that an 8-year old girl could not give informed consent to sex. That is, even if the 8-year old girl agreed, it would still be wrong, because she wouldn't understand what she was agreeing to.

How Can The "Right" Age Be Dertimined?


True. It IS just an arbitraty number.

The problem is determining the age when a person IS capable of giving informed consent to sex. Determining that age is so difficult that the laws are different for each country, and in different parts of the same country!

The other problem is that the law does not care how mature you are, or whether you personally are capable of giving informed consent.

Argument Against Statutory Rape Laws

As for arguments against statutory rape laws, it seems unfair that the same law that punishes a 50-year old stranger who molests an 8 year old, punishes an 18-year old girlfriend who has sex with her 17-year old boyfriend. However, there are local laws that consider the age gap between the younger person and older person when deciding how long to put someone in jail.

[The follow-up to this article addresses the three-year age gap for Texas and California.]

Arguments For Statutory Rape Laws

Marie For those who are mature enough to handle this, we don't need someone to get into our private business.

Although this may seem arbitrary, these laws were intended to protect you.


ME Why is it legal to kill a baby, but illegal to have consentual sex with a child? Seems these people have their priorities out of order.

Legislators pass statutory rape laws in part to make it easier to prosecute pedophiles, child pornographers, and child prostitution rings.

For more information on the rationale in the United States for statutory rape laws, you may want to check the US Department of Justice website.



Dear Panel,

I am currently in a relationship with an 19 year and I'm 13. I know if we do anything it would be some sort of rape (not that we did anything) but the fact is, he wants to.

Broken I know it is hard when you're curious and your body screams for it. But, it's not worth all the hurt.

And I'm a little curious about the whole sex thing. And at times I feel like I'm leading him on just to drop him flat on his ass and say "No, I don't want to".

What should I do? (DID I MENTION HE IS FINE AS HELL?) Reply soon.

– Under Age
female, 13


Cynth Answers:

If you DON'T WANT to have sex, and he has sex with you, it's rape. Not "some sort of rape" – RAPE.

If by "some sort of rape" you mean statutory rape, you are right. In most places, even if you wanted to have sex it would be considered statutory rape.

According to, if you say "yes" to having sex with him, it's legal if you live in Argentina, Burkina Faso, Chile, Columbia, Guyana, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Thailand, or Zimbabwe.

Almost anywhere else, however, it's illegal.

Remember, though, whether or not it's illegal where you live, if you don't want to do it, don't.

Satisfying Your Curiosity

If you're just curious about sex, I think you should study about it instead of engaging in it, especially if you're 13. Try Puberty101, which has information about and diagrams of human sexual development.

You might also want to check the following questions that we have answered on Love & Learn:


Dear Panel,

I was dating a 21 year old and I was 16 when I had sex with him. I just turned 17 in November.

I think I may have an STD of some kind from him. I lost my virginity to him, so he was the only person I've ever been with. He told me he was clean and I believed him because we were very close and we were dating for 6 months at the time I lost it to him.

Can I do something legally to him if he did give me an STD??

age 17, female

Cynth Answers:

I don't know what part of the world you live in, but I haven't found anything on the Web about laws that punish someone for transmitting an STD, unless he gave you HIV.

You should let your parents know about any medical problems you may have. But if you are afraid to tell them about your possible sexually transmitted disease, you can go to your local Planned Parenthood clinic and get treated; it's free, and they'll keep your medical records private.

Please let him know he may have given you an STD, and that he should get treated. He may not even know.

As for doing "something legally to him" in revenge for giving you an STD, you can charge him with statutory rape if you were under the age of consent when he had sex with you, although statutory rape legally has nothing to do with STDs. (Your friends might think you're a creep if you press charges out of spite, so make sure you want to go through with legal proceedings.)

Most of the States in America have statutory rape laws that only have extra penalties if he had gotten you pregnant, not if he gave you an STD; I am not sure about the laws for other countries.


Dear Panel,

In regards to CA statuatory rape laws, what do you consider a sexual activity? How far can my boyfriend go with me without getting in trouble?

– Be Safe
female, 17, Los Angeles

Cynth Answers:

First, I assume that he is 18 (California's age of consent) or older, or you wouldn't be asking this question.

Next, I assume that you know what is obviously legal (kissing, holding hands) and what is obviously illegal (anal sex, vaginal penetration).

The questionable activities include heavy petting, "dry humping", oral sex, and – this may be the most alarming – putting yourselves in a situation where he might be accused of "seduction with intent", like driving you to the top of Mulholland Drive for a romantic weekend evening.

If you remember the media circus surrounding the President Clinton - Monica Lewinsky scandal, the definition of sex or sexual relations can be argued for months.

You may need to ask a lawyer to interpret the US Penal Codes on statutory rape for California, if you can afford to pay!


Dear Panel,

What is the legal age to date a girl in Georgia? And what is the age to have sex? These questions are for both sexes.

Cynth Answers:

There are no laws restricting the ages or gender of people dating in Georgia. Dating is legal.

In Georgia, the age of consent is 16 for both sexes.

Age of consent means you may say "yes" to sex. If you are over the age of consent and have sex with someone younger than the age of consent, it counts as statutory rape.


Legal Beagle

It is still illegal since neither have the right to consent to sex.

I am not sure about "peer sex" laws (where both are under the age of consent and have sex) but I do know that if only one partner is older than 16 in Georgia, then it's illegal.



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