Anne and I were lucky that we met in Michigan, where the age of consent, the minimum age for legal lovemaking, was If you think this never happens, think again. The FBI estimates that U.
A small proportion involve abuse or assault, but the vast majority of adult-child sexual liaisons are consensual. In some, the under-age girls are the initiators and pursuers. And sometimes the men wind up in prison: In none of these cases did the girls contact police.
It was always their parents. These examples and many others have persuaded most state legislatures, to amend age-of-consent laws with exceptions. Mississippi was the last state to repeal this exception—in Anne and I were three years apart. If the older lover is in a position of authority over the younger—teacher-student, coach-player, military officer-recruit, etc. But the exceptions—and the exceptions to the exceptions—show how convoluted this issue is. Juliet Was 13 How old is old enough?
The Bible says that sex is legitimate only for procreation. Boys start making sperm when puberty spurs maturation of the testicles, typically from age 11 to This appears to have been the case for millennia. However, for girls, procreation-readiness is more complicated. In in the U.
Since then, for reasons not entirely understood but probably having to do with increased fat consumption, menarche has fallen several years. Today, around 7 percent of American girls begin menstruating by age eleven and more than 90 percent have periods by fourteen, with median menarche around twelve. But throughout history, religious injunctions have played only a minor role in sexual initiation. By the 18th century, the European age of consent was 12 except in France, where it was eleven.
In , England raised it to From Little Adults to Children Until the late s, childhood , as we understand it, did not exist. And when they fancied one another, canoodled like adults as well. I recall my third grade class going wild when, on the playground, two dogs went at it. Family survival depended on it, and farm families carefully managed breeding—with children watching and helping. In addition, the vast majority of people were peasants living in one- or two-room shacks. Field work was backbreaking, but in addition, many peasant women also toiled on their backs.
Like Oliver Twist, they labored under deplorable conditions that, for many women and some men included sex with their employers—rape or voluntarily or mixed circumstances. During the Industrial Revolution, urban sex work surged and became more visible.
Poverty or pimps coerced some women into whoring. Others faced more complex choices. Or quit factory work for sex work. Prostitution was dangerous and degrading, but to some young women, it was preferable. By the s, English social reformers had become appalled by the extent of child prostitution, especially in London, and began agitating to stop it. Their efforts gained traction.
The allegations popularized the term white slavery and ignited one of the greatest moral panics in history. The series contained a germ of truth. Some young girls were, indeed, trafficked for sex. But according to scholars of that period, crusaders against white slavery vastly exaggerated their number. The outcry over white slavery persuaded England to raise its age of consent from thirteen to Afterward, it rose to 16 or older.
What age do you think it should be?