Monday, January 21, 2013

A Brief History of US Age of Consent Laws

I related in The Allure of Nymphets from Mary E. Odem's Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920 that until 1897 the age of consent in California and most states was 10. That's correct, 10-years-old. It was 12 in seven states and even more shocking, it was 7 in Delaware. How did the ages get so low? Our early age of consent laws originated over the pond. How did the age of consent go from 10, in most states, to 17? Feminists are to blame thank.

After the 19th century, young women started working outside of the house and consequently became more promiscuous. Feminists blamed the raunchy behavior of young women on "dirty old men," and in an effort to scare older men off, they successfully lobbied to have the age of consent raised. However, it backfired, and young women became even more licentious. Consequently, feminists realized that issues like abuse, education, and poverty had more to do with the erratic behavior of nymphets than older men, but it was too late. The damage had already been done. The age of consent laws had been changed.

However, there were two unsuccessful attempts to lower the age of consent. There was an effort in 1889 in Kansas to lower the age to 12 and in 1890 in New York to lower the age 14.

Interestingly, the age of consent is still low in most of countries across the pond. For example, in Germany it's 14, in France it's 15 and in Spain it's 13.