The present legal situation
Bahrain and South Korea have highest minimum ages for consensual sex while Nigeria has lowest
This section focuses on laws addressing sexual intercourse. As the first column in Table 1 shows, the age of consent varies by state. In the majority of states 34 , it is 16 years of age. In the remaining states, the age of consent is either 17 or 18 years old 6 and 11 states, respectively. A common misperception about statutory rape is that state codes define a single age at which an individual can legally consent to sex. Only 12 states have a single age of consent , below which an individual cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances, and above which it is legal to engage in sexual intercourse with another person above the age of consent. For example, in Massachusetts, the age of consent is In the remaining 39 states, other factors come into play: age differentials, minimum age of the victim, and minimum age of the defendant. Each is described below.
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Statutory rape is a strict liability crime, meaning that the consent of the younger person or mistake about their age is not a defense. For example, a state might set the age of consent at In these states, such as Texas, the age of consent is determined by age differentials between the two persons and limited by a minimum age. If you need a quick guide for each state, a chart is provided below.
The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. Consequently, an adult who engages in sexual activity with a person younger than the age of consent is unable to legally claim that the sexual activity was consensual, and such sexual activity may be considered child sexual abuse or statutory rape. The person below the minimum age is regarded as the victim, and their sex partner is regarded as the offender, unless both are underage. The purpose of setting an age of consent is to protect an underage person from sexual advances. The term age of consent rarely appears in legal statutes. 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.