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This video about the age of consent, specifically one young person's question about whether or not to wait until she reaches to have sex, is complicated. There are many nuances to the law depending on where you live and the law itself can be harmful when it's intent is to help.

It's not the last time we'll cover age of consent but in the meantime stay curious and use other resources learn more. These are some of the ones I've found helpful:
https://www.ageofconsent.net/states/california
http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/montana-statutory-rape-laws.htm
http://romeoandjulietlaw.com/
https://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/case-studies/230
http://chartsbin.com/view/hxj
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2007/09/the_mindbooty_problem.html

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Dr. Lindsey Doe: I'm Dr. Lindsey Doe, and this is Sexplanations.

-- Intro Cut Scene --

Here's a question I've been asked:

"I'm a 15-year-old cis female who's never had sex, and I'd really like to have sex soon (and by that I mean consensual, safer sex of course!) although where I live the age of consent is 16. Should I definitely wait a year?"


This answer is not simple, so please take a deep breath, maybe some notes.

History first: In 1275, England made it a misdemeanor to quote "ravish a maiden within age" - the first age of consent law. Misdemeanor - "minor wrong doing"; ravish meaning "to seize or carry off by force"; maiden referring to "an unmarried girl or woman" because there wasn't protection for the boys, and "within age" at that time was 12 or younger. Since then, different places have adopted a range of Age of Consent laws to protect children from abuse.

Sometimes the ages are higher or lower, depending on if you're male or female, and sometimes they change whether or not the sexual intercourse is with the same sex or another sex. I've included links in the description where you can learn about the laws in your particular part of the world. Please double-check them.

Having sex with someone who is under the age of consent is illegal. Classified as "corruption of a minor" and "statutory rape." The charge for this could be 1 - 100 years in prison, plus the perpetrator's name on the sex offender registry (a list of people who've been convicted of sex crimes, which is available for anyone to access.) Registering as a sex offender is a big deal - often moreso than serving time - because it makes it difficult to get jobs, rent apartments, and date future partner.  In some areas there are "Romeo and Juliet Laws" that give leniency to minors close together in age, but this is usually a lessening of charges not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Should you have sex before the age of consent? Legally, No.

"But Dr Doe," you may say, "Don't most people have sex before the age of consent anyway? Isn't there something to that?" Not most, but many, and it depends on location. In the US one-third to one-half of teens are under the age of consent when they become sexually active. So, yes, while the law is attempting to protect them, it's also putting them and their partners at risk for severe consequences. Additionally, it's harder to access education, protection, and sexual health care, when the laws says that due to one's age, they shouldn't "need" condoms.

My question is, do we cater to the teens having sex before the age of consent, and say "lower the age" or do we work harder to deter them from having sex early? I have mixed thoughts.

Part of the reason age of consent laws exist is because most adolescents develop armpit hair faster than cognitive competence. Meaning what seems like a good idea to the genitals now, might be a regret of the mind later, because they don't fully understand the experience of sex. During puberty the body undergoes amazing changes to reproduce, and many people experience a very subtle to a very strong urge to have sexual contact. This is physiological maturity, not mental maturity.

When i was 15, I felt like my vagina hijacked my brain, seemingly unshakable beliefs about how I wanted to "be good" and "wait" and "not risk pregnancy or infection" were flooded with chemicals called hormones that shouted "PUT A PENIS IN ME NOW!" I would get aroused, lubrication, tenting, genital engorgement with blood, changes in respiration and heart rate, and feel - not think - that my body was ready for sex, so I must be ready for sex. But I wasn't.

At 15, I thought anal was a clever alternative to losing my virginity. I had sex in super precarious places, like a soccer field, a moving vehicle, and my parents living room. I even wrapped my partner's penis in fruit roll-up, thinking this was creative food play, but the thing got stuck... badly. I'm not saying that once you reach the age of consent you stop making poor choices, I just think there are fewer of them, and they're less detrimental. 

Research shows that cognitive competence increases exponentially with age. Critical thinking and creative thinking abilities almost quadruple from age 12 to age 16, which are essential abilities for healthy sexuality. You know about consent and protection, that's a great start. Do you know what to do if something goes wrong - if the condom breaks, if your partner pressures you into doing something you don't want to do? Do you know where you're going to have sex safely and privately, or what to do if you change your mind? Who can you talk to when you need help? Where can you go to get tested and what are your partner's responses to these questions?

Age of consent laws are trying to look after you. If they're not doing it well, work to change the law. But think about it carefully. Search for third, fourth and fifth options, ask questions and Stay Curious.