The simple definition is having sex with anyone under the age of consent, with the government under the assumption that anyone under that age can not make intelligent decisions for themselves.

If both lovers are under the age of consent, statutory rape is defined by an age difference, in my state its 4 years.

This way an 18 year old having sex with a 17 year old isn't considered statutory rape. The numerical age difference holds precedence over the age of consent when applicable.
statutory rape: sexual intercourse with someone who, by legal statute, is defined as unqualified to give consent, usually because of being underage; the law applies even if the accused partner, a boy, is the younger of the pair, and was actually seduced by the girl.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

It is also statutory rape (at least in Massachusetts I hear, probably other states as well), to take an underage individual who meets the criterion mentioned above across state lines. Strange? The rationale there is that you could just drive to a state where the age of consent is much lower, and go crazy there. Smart, if you ask me.

It's only inforced like that in very rare circumstances. Of course if you are driving your 14 yr old niece across state lines to visit your grandparents, you have nothing to fear: there has to be proof or suspicion of sexual activity, as it is put together, I believe.

Thanks to Percepied for the additional info below.

What JayBonci is referring to is the Mann Act, a U.S. federal law that prohibits the transportation across state lines of individuals under 18 for prostitution. This law, while originally intended to stop so-called "white slavery", had a few side-effects as noted above.

These laws scare me a little. Here"s a scenario: a 27-year-old man sleeps with a 17-year-old girl. She goes home, her parents want to know where she's been all night. Eventually, she breaks down and tells them. This man, who we'll call bob, wakes up with an arrest warrant in his face. He is booked, sent to jail and given a trial. The trial goes badly, and now bob is in prison. About the only thing bob has going for him is that rapists tend to get fairly short sentences these days, as the prisons need room for marijuana offenders.

So bob gets out a little over a year later, having been raped in prison and contracted AIDS. But he's out now. As he attempts to put all of this behind him, he looks for a new apartment, having lost his while in prison. Finally finding one he can afford on what he makes at McDonalds, (his career in banking a thing of the past due to him having a felony conviction) he moves in only to move again in a few months due to harassment from local parents. He finds another apartment, this time in a more crowded neighborhood where he can blend in more, but a local "victim"s rights" group finds out his name and address at the police station where he was required to register as a sex offender due to Megan"s law, and posts his name, address and mug shot all over the neighborhood. Bob moves again due to death threats and other nuisances, like having the word "pedophile" scratched on his car. This cycle continues until his parole is up, when he moves to a state without registration laws for sex offenders.

The punch line? They met in a bar.

As far as bob knew, the woman he was taking home that night was over 21. The fact that this would not be a defense in the eyes of the law is bad enough, but registration laws for sex offenders make this infinitely worse.

Pedophilia is a psychological disorder. We even know some contributing factors. And registration laws were put in place because the statistics say that these people do not stop after they serve time. In some cases, however, statutory rape is committed by normal individuals with a healthy attraction to other adults. It is even possible, as in the above example, for this crime to have occurred without the knowledge of the accused. These people do not deserve to have their lives taken from them because a teenager lied about their age and a D.A. decided to run with it.

Oh, and for those who would say that no jury would convict in a case like this, that presupposes that the jury would actually hear it. Jury nullification is not an allowed defense in most courts.

I just got a /msg from haze and he informs me that in New Mexico, in a case of straight statutory rape (4th degree criminal sexual penetration, as he called it) you actualy can use "She said she was 18" as a defense.

I can attest to this first-hand; at the age of 15 years I was staying at a friend's house, having recently discovered alcohol. That night it was sloe gin and double-Tvarski vodka, the kind that burns all the way down your throat and burns a hole in the bottom of your stomach and burns right through your balls and leaves a steaming puddle on the floor, burning through carpet and then the earth's core, through Pellucidar and on to China, where slant-eyed, buck-toothed Bugs Bunnies in rice-paddy hats parade about talking gibberish even though the direct course through the center of the earth from where I was at would land you in the ocean somewhere off the coast of Australia near Borneo.

After everyone crashed, a 23-year old woman came to me and seduced me on the living-room floor. Of couse, I came after about two strokes (a true case of premature ejaculation), but, being 15, kept going for several hours. At some point I noticed an older man watching from a darkened hallway.

Everyone knew about it the next day, clapping on the back, and praising my prowess, dubbing me a "Sexual Dynamo" (one of my older friends loudly proclaiming his status as "Sexual Domino"). I commenced an on-and-off 7-year realtionship with an adult woman, whose character you could scarce underestimate.

Now, 30 years later, I look back and understand that every relationship in my adult life, romantic or otherwise, has been twisted and doomed to failure, and I wonder - could this incident/relationship have been a contributing factor to my inability to love or be loved? I believe, at the very least, this was child abuse, if not outright rape.

I never really went home again after that night.

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