Teaching Module

Age of Consent Laws


  1. Cocca, Carolyn. Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.
    A study of changes in American age of consent laws since the 1970s, which uses case studies to explore the roles of feminists, religious conservatives and legislators in shaping new laws.
  2. Gorham, Deborah. "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon Re-examined: Child Prostitution and the Idea of Childhood in Late-Victorian England." Victorian Studies 21 (Spring 1978): 353-79.
    An older article, but still the most thoughtful analysis of the 'Maiden Tribute' scandal in terms of ideas about childhood. Gorham's emphasis on the regulatory motives of reformers should be supplemented with Robertson's exploration of how an increased age of consent also offered protection to girls.
  3. Odem, Mary. Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Female Adolescent Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
    The first major study of campaigns to raise the age of consent in the United States, this book also examines early prosecutions in California. Odem places the age of consent alongside the treatment of girls in juvenile courts, as opposed to the prosecutions for sexual violence that provide the context in Robertson, and emphasizes how working-class families, not just middle-class authorities, used the law to regulate girls' behavior.
  4. Robertson, Stephen. Crimes against Children: Sexual Violence and Legal Culture in New York City, 1880-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
    A detailed history of the prosecution of sexual violence, and how practices and outcomes were changed by shifts in understandings of childhood. Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6 and 9 are focused on cases involving the age of consent, and explore the rise and fall of enforcement of that law.
  5. Waites, Matthew. The Age of Consent: Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
    A wide-ranging, sometimes dense, discussion of the theoretical issues raised by the age of consent and of its legislative history in the United Kingdom; best on the second half of the 20th century and on the age of consent for homosexual acts.

How to Cite This Source

Stephen Robertson, "Age of Consent Laws," in Children and Youth in History, Item #230, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/230 (accessed August 10, 2021).