Inventing a 'Lesbian Age of Consent'? The History of the Minimum Age for Sex between Women in the UK

Waites, M. (2002) Inventing a 'Lesbian Age of Consent'? The History of the Minimum Age for Sex between Women in the UK. Social and Legal Studies, 11(3), pp. 323-342.

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This article analyses historical & contemporary debates over age of consent legislation regulating sex between women in the UK. A minimum age for sexual activity between females was created by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922, which removed 'consent' as a defence to the offence of 'indecent assault' against a girl under the age of 16, yet prosecutions remained extremely rare until recent years. The article analyses parliamentary debates surrounding the creation of this legislation to investigate whether & how sex between females was represented. It then examines how the subject was addressed at a series of historical moments when age of consent laws were subject to official review. It is argued that the recent invention of a 'lesbian age of consent' in popular & professional legal discourse signals changes in the ways in which the law is interpreted & implemented. In conclusion, the article argues that while a standardization & equalization of the law applying in male-female, male-male, & female-female contexts is desirable, an appreciation of the specific form & history of the age of consent applying to sex between females raises particular questions concerning the impact of reformulating age of consent laws.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Age, Discursive Practices, Legislation, Lesbianism, Sexual Assault, Sexual Intercourse, United Kingdom, Age of Consent, Criminal Law
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waites, Dr Matthew
Authors: Waites, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Social and Legal Studies
Publisher:Sage Publications Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1461-7390

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