Personal Relationships & the Law


Making Adult Decisions While Dating: How Permissive is Society? Does Sex Mean Love? Does Love Mean Sex is Ok?

  • In the eyes of the law, having sex with anyone under age 18, even if they consent (meaning if they clearly say yes), and even if you are in love, is against the law unless the two of you are married. Period.
    • In Tennessee, you can get married without parental consent when you turn 18.
    • You can get married as young as 16 if you have parental consent.
  • If you are over 18 and you have sex with someone under 18, you can be charged with statutory rape – whether you are a boy or a girl.
    • In Tennessee, only someone 18 or older is legally able to consent to have sex.
    • Even if the age and/or marriage requirements are met, BOTH people must freely and willingly consent to having sex – or it is rape.
    • Legally able to consent means:
      • The people consenting (saying YES) are already age 18 or married to each other
      • Each person clearly agrees to have sex; silence does not mean clear consent.
      • The YES is given willingly and freely. That means there was no physical or emotional threat to get to YES.
      • The people saying YES are not under the influence of any drug or alcohol. If they are, they are most likely legally unable to consent to sex.
      • The people saying YES have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
      • One party is not unconscious or asleep.


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