Sex and the law

This article examines how human sexuality and sexual behavior interacts with, and is regulated by, human laws.

In general, the law proscribes acts which are considered either sexual abuse, or inappropriate behavior against the social norms, within a given culture. In addition, certain categories of activity may be considered crimes even if freely consented to. Thus sex and the law varies from place to place.

Sexual acts which are prohibited by law in a jurisdiction, are also called sex crimes.

Age of consent

Many countries, and all developed countries, have established an age of consent, an age at which even if consent is given, sexual activity by an older person with a person under that age will be punished severely. The aim of an age of consent law is to protect and care for impressionable young people as they develop and mature, since people are thought to suffer lasting negative emotional and physical effects as a result of sexual activity. This age varies by location, and can be anywhere from age twelve to age twenty-one.

In America, it is illegal for someone over the age of 18 to have sex with anyone under the age of 13. Though the age of consent does vary from state to state.

Sex crimes

Sex crimes are forms of human sexual behavior that are crimes. Someone who commits one is said to be a sex offender. Some sex crimes are crimes of violence that involve sex. Others are violations of social taboos, such as incest, sodomy, indecent exposure or exhibitionism. There is much variation among cultures as to what is considered a crime or not, and in what ways or to what extent crimes are punished.

Western cultures are often far more tolerant of acts, such as oral sex or cross-dressing, that have traditionally been held to be crimes in some cultures, but combine this with lesser tolerance for the remaining crimes. By contrast, many cultures with a strong religious tradition consider a far broader range of activities to be serious crimes.

As a general rule, the law in many countries often intervenes in sexual activity involving young or adolescent children below the legal age of consent, non-consensual deliberate displays or illicit watching of sexual activity, sex with close relatives ("incest"), harm to animals, acts involving the deceased (necrophilia), and also when there is harassment, nuisance, fear, injury, or assault of a sexual nature, or serious risk of abuse of certain professional relationships. Separately, the law usually regulates or controls the censorship of pornographic or obscene material as well.

Common sex crimes

The activities listed below often carry a condition of illegality if acted upon, though they may usually be legally role-played between consenting partners of legal age:

A variety of laws protect children by making various acts with children a sex crime. These can include Age of Consent laws, laws preventing the exposure of children to pornography, laws making it a crime for a child to be involved in (or exposed to) certain sexual behaviors, and laws against child grooming and the production and ownership of child pornography (including simulated images).

Non-consensual sadomasochistic acts may legally constitute assault, and therefore belong in this list. In addition, some jurisdictions criminalize some or all sadomasochistic acts, regardless of legal consent and impose liability for any injuries caused. (See Consent (BDSM))

See also

External links

Examples of laws in various localities:

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Sex and the law" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia ( It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: