Teaching Module

Age of Consent Laws

Isn't she a little young? Sex with a minor. Don't go there. [Billboard]


This billboard was erected across the American state of Virginia in the summer of 2004 as part of a state health department campaign aimed at reducing statutory rape (the crime of sex with an underage girl). Napkins, stickers, coasters, and matchbooks bearing the same message were distributed to bars and restaurants where young men congregated. It followed similar public education campaigns mounted by other states in the late 1990s. Ads and billboards in Connecticut in 1994 depicted men in prison accompanied by the slogan, "Rob the cradle and get yourself a brand new crib." Ads in California in 1997 featured a young man saying, "Nobody told me that sex could be against the law. Statutory rape? Never heard of it." A voiceover then added, "Sex with a minor is a major crime . . . If you're an adult and have sex with a minor—someone under 18—you'll do major time." The ad ended with the sound of a jail door slamming shut. The Virginia Department of Health was motivated by a concern about teenage pregnancy, and a perception that enforcing the age of consent would reduce the number of girls who became pregnant by older men. That connection made the age of consent a public health problem. The billboard highlights a belief that education and awareness of the law could shape public opinion and behavior.


"Isn't She a Little Young?" Virginia Department of Health: Sexual Violence Prevention, http://www.vahealth.org/civp/sexualviolence/statutoryrape.asp (accessed November 28, 2007).

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).