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Teen Life Q&A
Understanding the Age of Conset: At what age is sex legal?

Q:

How old does a person have to be to have sex? How old can their partner be? Is it OK to have sex with somebody who is older than you are or do you have to be the same age? What is meant by "the age of consent"?

A:

This is a very good question, and the answer is extremely confusing. In order to make the explanation easier to follow there are a few terms you should know. I will use these terms frequently in answering this question. So, for the sake of clarity, I will define them at the top of the page. If you know what the Age of Consent is, you can go directly to our North America Chart.

Age of Consent Chart for North America

Definitions:

Age of Consent: The age at which you can legally enter in to contract or agreements, including saying "yes" to having sex. Usually this age is between 14 and 17, although it can be as young as 12 and as old as 18.

Age of Majority: The age at which you are considered responsible and liable for actions or inactions under the law. This is not the same as the age you must be to; drive, smoke, drink alcohol, be forced in to the military or even vote. In most parts of the world the age of majority is 18 or 19.

Statutory Rape: (3 possibilities) Usually: someone over the age of consent having sex with somebody who has not yet reached the age of consent. More Commonly: a person at or over the age of majority having sex with somebody under the age of consent. Can Also Mean: a person at or over the age of majority having sex with someone who has not yet reached the age of majority or having sex with some one who is 4 or more years younger.

Sexual Intercourse: It is totally biased, but for the sake of most laws, "sex" refers to heterosexual contact between a male and a female. Some countries don't define sex in this term, instead referring to "sexual acts" that include a variety of sexual activities.

"Other" Sex: In the law, also referred to as "oral sex", "anal sex" or "sodomy" (In some parts of the planet this is blanketed under "unnatural acts" - but we won't even dignify this bigotry with any serious mention). Some countries actually make these acts illegal and others have a different age of consent for them. Also, depending on where you live, this may be included in the broad definition given to "sexual acts".

Parental Consent: Your parents permission, be it verbal or written, implied or expressed. (FYI - a parent who buys you condoms but never says "it's OK for you to have sex" could be said to be giving implied consent).

Heterosexual: Relations between members of the opposite sex; female and male.

Homosexual: Relations between members of the same sex; female to female, male to male.

More on the Age of Consent >
Age of Consent Explained > Age of Consent Chart > FAQ on the AOC

More Teen Life Q & A > Past Questions

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