So the ‘age of consent’ is the age at which, legally, you’re deemed able to make the decision to say ‘yes’ to sex and to engage in sexual activity.
In the UK, this is 16 – but you might feel ready earlier or later than that.
Age of consent laws vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, though most jurisdictions set the age of consent in the range 14 to 18.
The laws may also vary by the type of sexual act, the gender of the participants or other considerations, such as involving a position of trust; some jurisdictions may also make allowances for minors engaged in sexual acts with each other, rather than a single age.
The phrase "within age" was later interpreted by jurist Sir Edward Coke as meaning the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years of age.
Sir Edward Coke (England, 17th century) "made it clear that the marriage of girls under 12 was normal, and the age at which a girl who was a wife was eligible for a dower from her husband's estate was 9 even though her husband be only four years old." In the 16th century, a small number of Italian and German states set the minimum age for sexual intercourse for girls, setting it at 12 years.
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.
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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.
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.