Age of consent

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The age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts and other actions.


  • Until very recently, no California court or commentator had suggested that the purpose of California's statutory rape law was to protect young women from the risk of pregnancy. Indeed, the...the law was initially enacted on the premise that young women, in contrast to young men, were to be deemed legally incapable of consenting to an act of sexual intercourse. Because their chastity was considered particularly precious, those young women were felt to be uniquely in need of the State's protection. In contrast, young men were assumed to be capable of making such decisions for themselves; the law therefore did not offer them any special protection.
    • William Brennan, American Supreme Court Justice on the different ages of consent for men and women in California law, Michael M. v. Superior Court (1981).
  • The reason for age-of-consent laws — about anything — is that society recognizes there are entire categories of activities to which children and minors are incapable of giving consent. They aren’t mature enough to understand the implications or consequences of a decision, and we have traditionally codified that reality in law. That’s why parents routinely make decisions on their children’s behalf. It’s also one of the reasons children can’t get tattoos or buy alcohol, among many other things. This isn’t hard to understand, and indeed there’s a broad societal consensus around the basic claim that children can’t consent to certain things or make certain decisions on their own behalf.