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In the United States, age of consent laws regarding sexual activity are made at the state level.
There are several federal statutes related to protecting minors from sexual predators, but laws regarding specific age requirements for sexual consent are left to individual states, territories, and the District of Columbia.
Charges resulting from a breach of these laws may range from a misdemeanor such as corruption of a minor, to what is popularly called statutory rape (which is considered equivalent to rape, both in severity and sentencing).
It should not be confused with the age of majority, age of criminal responsibility, the voting age, the drinking age, the driving age, etc.
Until the late 20th century many states had provisions requiring that the teenage girl must be of previous "chaste character" in order for the sexual conduct to be considered criminal. The act has to be illegal under state or federal law to be charged with a crime under 2422(b), and can even be applied to situations where both parties reside within the same state but use an instant messenger program whose servers are located in another state. § 2260) makes it a federal crime to possess or create sexually explicit images of any person under 18 years of age; this creates a federal age of consent of 18 for pornography.
In 1998 Mississippi became the last state to remove this provision from its code. forbids transporting a minor (defined as under 18) in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent of engaging in criminal sexual acts in which a person can be charged. Thus, while some conduct covered by the statute is highly culpable, these penalties apply even when consensual sex between someone under the age of eighteen and someone over the age of eighteen is entirely legal under state law, the non-commercial possession of an explicit picture or video clip of the person under the age of eighteen (such as a cell phone photograph of a naked sexual partner, under the age of eighteen, of the person taking the photo) may still constitute a serious federal child pornography felony. § 2251 (such as taking a suggestive cell phone picture of an otherwise legal sexual partner under the age of eighteen without an intent to share or sell the picture), face fines and a statutory minimum of 15 years to 30 years maximum in prison.
If you are a young person seeking advice on sexual relations please refer to some of the following websites: Age of consent laws attempt to strike a balance between protecting children and young people from exploitation and other harms, and preserving their right to privacy and healthy sexual development.
Young people at the age of consent are viewed by law to have general sexual competence to enforce personal boundaries and negotiate the risks involved in sexual activities.