Underage sex can be legal in Virginia & elsewhere

An area man wanted the 17 year-old boyfriend  of his 15 year-old granddaughter charged with statutory rape after his daughter and the girl’s mother discovered suggestive photos of her on her cell phone and the girl admitted her boyfriend took the photos on the day she lost her virginity with him.

The girl said she wanted, and agreed, to the sex.

“I don’t care,” the grandfather says.  “She’s underage. That’s against the law.”

Under Virginia law, however, the 17-year-old boy can be allowed to legally have sex with a 15-year-old girl.  Virginia’s “age of consent” is 18 and the law specifically declares that “any person 18 years of age or oolder who engages in consensual sexual intercourse with a child 15 or older is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

But the law does not specifically prohibit consensual sex between partners of age 15, 16 or 17.  Virginia courts have granted what is called a “close in age” exemption in consensual intimate physical activities involving underage teen partners who are close together in age.  In some states, such activities are specifically allowed as a “Romeo and Juliet” law.

Applying a “close-in-age” consideration in the law allows 14 to 17 year old minors to legally consent to sex as long as the partner (male or female) is under 18.  Those 18-year or older are considered guilty of a misdemeanor, not a felony, for consensual sex jail with those 14 to 17.

In North Carolina and West Virginia, where the “age of consent” is 16, a 17 year-old can legally have sex with a someone from 14 or 15 as long as the underage sexual partner agrees.

When the sex is between an “adult” and a minor 14 or younger, a more serious felony comes into play in most states.

A 42-year-old Indian Valley man last year told Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Marc Long his multiple sex acts with a 12 and 13 year old girl was “love not rape” and claimed the girl wanted and agreed to the sex.  It didn’t matter.  Too much age difference and the girl was under 14.  He is spending the rest of his life in prison for four life sentences with no parole.

There was a time when the age of consent was set at from 10 to 12 in some states.  Delaware kept the age at seven for many years.  The age of consent is 18 there now but 16 and 17 year-old boys or girls can legally have sex with a partner up to age 30.

Marriage also changes the rules.

Jerry Lee Lewis with his third cousin and new bride, 13-year-old Myra, in 1958.
Jerry Lee Lewis with his third cousin and new bride, 13-year-old Myra, in 1958.

Rockabilly star Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old third cousin in 1958 and his career never fully recovered from the backlash.  Country music superstar Loretta Lynn married at 15.  She met her husband Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn just a month earlier, she had three children by 19 and a fourth at 20.  A young marriage and sex before 18 did not damage her career.

With “sexting” and nude selfies by teens and pre-teens now part of school life, new questions emerge on what is or is not legal and/or permissible between those under an age of consent.

Some states, including Virginia, have imposed more serious child pornography laws that apply to posting nude images of underage boys and girls.

What is legal in some states is criminal in others.

The Virginia grandfather not only got an education on how young his granddaughter can be when she decided to legally have sex but also got a lecture from a Commonwealth’s Attorney because he threatened the 17-year-old boy for his actions.

“I was told that if I threatened him with bodily harm or touched him I could be in jail for assault,” he said.

His daughter and her husband tried to obtain a restraining order to keep the amorous 17-year-old away from their 14-year-old daughter but a judge turned down the request, noting their sexual activities did not violate Virginia law.

One Response to Underage sex can be legal in Virginia & elsewhere

  1. I see all sorts of problems with these laws. If a couple are legally exjoying a relationship and it suddenly becomes illegal overnight when the older one has an 18th birthday then I think we have problems. I am not saying I agree with underage sex (I don’t), but I disagree with a legal issue suddenly switching to illegal like that.