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Is It Illegal To Have Sex If You Are Under 18?

Published: October 13, 2008
Dear TeenHealthFX,
is it illegal to have sex if you are under 18? i'm really confused on this subject. thanks!
Signed: Is It Illegal To Have Sex If You Are Under 18?

Dear Is It Illegal To Have Sex If You Are Under 18?,

 

There are four main things to consider when it comes to the legalities around minors having sex:

 

  1. The first thing to consider is that each state has its own “age of consent.” This is considered to be the age at which a person is legally allowed to consent to sexual activity. Before this age, it is believed that people do not have the physical, emotional, or intellectual development required to be able to agree to engage in sexual activity in a healthy way. This age varies from state to state, but generally runs from 14 to 18.
  2. The second thing to consider is the age of the two people engaging in sex. If one is a minor and the other is an adult over the age of 18, charges can be pressed against the adult involved. 
  3. The third thing to consider is the age difference between the two people engaging in sexual activity. Some states will not prosecute teens if they are in a dating relationship, engaging in sexual activity and the age gap is no more than 3-4 years (depending on the state).
  4. The fourth thing to consider is that it is illegal for someone to force sex onto someone regardless of either person’s age. For example, in one state it may be legal for a 17 year old to consent to sex. However, if one 17 year old forces another 17 year old into sex unwontedly, the 17 year old who forced the sex would have done something illegal. It doesn’t matter that both were considered by the state to be of legal age to consent – if one didn’t want to have sex with the other and was forced to do so, that would be rape, and the person who committed rape would have done something illegal.

 

In addition to these three main points, if a minor becomes emancipated the age of consent may be different from minors who are not emancipated in that state. Some states will also allow sexual activity if the couple are married even though they might below the age of consent.

 

The laws vary from state to state, and certainly there are many scenarios to consider. So the best way to get an exact answer for the state you live in is to speak with a lawyer, police officer, or staff member at an agency treating sex abuse clients. If you need helping getting in contact with such a person, ask a parent, guidance counselor, teacher, or other trusted adult help you to get the exact information you need for where you live.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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