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The concept age of consent may be used in many contexts, but when the age of consent is referred to, it is widely understood that at issue is sexual behavior and what is a lawful minimum age for sexual acts. Academic research has revealed the complex and contested history of how the notion of an age of consent has been understood in different times and places and the variety of minimum ages applied to different sexual acts—often varying according to the sex of participants. This entry first examines the history of the concept, then turns to comparative research across societies. This enables consideration of how and why the age of consent is subject to increasing levels of policing and social anxiety.

For a long time, ...

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