These factors all make age of consent an often confusing subject, and a topic of highly charged debates.
In traditional societies, the age of consent for a sexual union was a matter for the family to decide, or a tribal custom.
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Charges resulting from a breach of these laws may range from a misdemeanor such as corruption of a minor, to what is popularly called statutory rape (which is considered equivalent to rape, both in severity and sentencing).
There are many "grey areas" in this area of law, some regarding unspecific and untried legislation, others brought about by debates regarding changing societal attitudes, and others due to conflicts between federal and state laws.
700 BC) suggests that a man should marry around the age of thirty, and that he should take a wife who is five years past puberty. In England, for example, the only reliable data in the early modern period comes from property records made after death.
In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty, menstruation for a woman and pubic hair for a man.
The ancient Greek poet Hesiod in Works and Days (c.
The term age of consent rarely appears in legal statutes.
Generally, a law will instead establish the age below which it is illegal to engage in sexual activity with that person.
The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts, and is thus the minimum age of a person with whom another person is legally permitted to engage in sexual activity.
The distinguishing aspect of the age of consent laws is that the person below the minimum age is regarded as the victim, and their sex partner as the offender.
It has sometimes been used with other meanings, such as the age at which a person becomes competent to consent to marriage, but the meaning given above is the one now generally understood.
It should not be confused with the age of majority, age of criminal responsibility, the voting age, the drinking age, the driving age, etc.