Multidisciplinary Discourse on Age-of-Consent Laws
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This thesis will introduce some of the negative, unintended consequences of age of sexual consent laws. It will demonstrate how these consequences function, as well as who they affect, and it will elaborate on the significance of each. This thesis does not explore every consequence of age-of-consent laws, nor propose that the consequences explored here occur under all circumstances, nor argue that age of consent laws should be abolished, nor even that should be revised in any particular way. Rather, it aims simply to explore some of the neglected harms that such laws impose and that should be taken into consideration in discussion and reform around the issue. In reaching that aim, this thesis will reveal some of the harms of stigmatizing the sexuality of minors, and it will take seriously the possibility that sexual relationships between adults and minors of a certain age can be healthy and should be legal under some circumstances. Furthermore, this thesis will not only address sexual relations between young people. It will examine ways that statutory rape law can affect individuals of all ages in the U.S. The consequences of statutory rape law will be presented in separate sections, with each section representing a specific critique of age-of-consent laws: a critique from Justice, one from Sociology, and one from Queer Theory. These critiques have some overlaps between them, but they are organized separately so that the differences can be recognized and appreciated.