Law's Limits: Regulating Statutory Rape Law

61 Pages Posted: 16 May 2013

See all articles by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin

Georgetown University Law Center; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: May 15, 2013


This Article examines statutory rape cases of the last decade and submits that both the apparatus to police sexual violence against minors — statutory rape laws — as well as their application against consenting minors create legally untenable, absurd results that frequently impose legal and extralegal burdens on minors that may exceed that of adult, convicted rapists. No coherent framework has been offered by a politician that responds pragmatically to the empirical realities of adolescent sexuality. Neither federal nor state legislatures offer a coherent, well-articulated approach to militate against the harshest criminal punishments demanded by statutory rape provisions. Indeed, judges interpret and enforce statutory rape cases in a manner that entrenches stereotypes and biases. On the other hand, few scholars wrestle with the broader contemporary applications of statutory rape law despite recent decades of absurd results and disproportionately harsh penalties against teens. The Article offers two novel ways forward to address teen sex and statutory rape.

Keywords: Crime, Rape, Statutory rape, Sexual predatory, Adolescents, Teens, Sex, Pregnancy, Abstinence, Punishment, Cruel and Unusual, Race, Gender

JEL Classification: H59, K14, K4, K40, K42, K49, I3, I31, J7, J71, J78, K32

Suggested Citation

Goodwin, Michele, Law's Limits: Regulating Statutory Rape Law (May 15, 2013). Wisconsin Law Review, 2013, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper 13-23, Available at SSRN:

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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