I always believed that statutory rape is a sexual offense towards minors. But when I looked up what statutory means, I've learned this.

  1. having come to be required or expected through being done or made regularly
  2. required, permitted, or enacted by statute.

I'm pretty sure that I'm missing something here because the kind of rape I'm referring to can be of a single occurrence. Also it's surely not expected to be done, definitely not required and for duck's sake not permitted!

(typo intended - I love ducks)

  • 1
    If you take it that statutory means "controlled by laws", your term will make perfect sense. Aug 10, 2016 at 9:30
  • #2, "enacted by statute" is the relevant definition here. And yes "statutory rape" normally refers to sexual offenses involving minors, it is a crime because a legal statute says it is, not because it involves unwilling parties.
    – BradC
    Aug 15, 2016 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


Under normal circumstances, what makes rape legally and morally wrong is that the other person does not consent to sex. In the case of minors and certain other people, even if they actually do consent, they are not legally considered capable of giving that consent.

Here is a definition:

The criminal offense of statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who, under the law, is incapable of consenting to sex. Minors and physically and mentally incapacitated persons are deemed incapable of consenting to sex under rape statutes in all states. These persons are considered deserving of special protection because they are especially vulnerable due to their youth or condition. - Statutory rape legal definition

The exact conditions that define whether a person is considered legally incapable of giving their consent are enacted by statute, as per your definition 2.

  • Awesome explanation: +1. So, basically speaking, statutory rape is would-be-okay-if-it-had-not-be-redefined-by-legistlation. Got it! Just a quick observation - you wrote persons, not people. Is that intentional? Aug 10, 2016 at 10:02
  • I would prefer to phrase that as "Statutory rape would be morally wrong but legally OK unless there were additional statutes defining capability to consent". The usage of persons rather than people is common in formal writing. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/person?q=persons
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 10, 2016 at 10:09
  • Yes, of course. It's so obvious in my view so I didn't stated that explicitly. I don't condone any kind of rape, not in any way nor under premises. I meant "would be okay" in a strictly legislative sense. Aug 10, 2016 at 11:30
  • @KonradViltersten Well technically, you're saying it "would be OK" to convince a minor to have sex with you if there wasn't a law defining it as rape, which I don't think is what you meant. All a statute does is say whether something is legal or illegal and not whether it's OK/not OK.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:03
  • @KonradViltersten: Understood, but best to be completely clear about these things.
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:05

There are two sources of law in the UK and USA. There are the statutes, written by parliament in the UK, and the states/or federal government in the USA. And then there is the common law. The common law is the continuous process of judges decisions.

Under common law rape has been a crime since time immemorial. The definition has been sharpened by case law: each circumstances of each case informing future decisions.

However when it was decided to make sex with a minor an offence, this was enacted by the governments. So for a while there was the common law of rape, and the statute law of rape of a minor. There was common-law rape and statutory rape:- hence the term.

In the UK (where the expression "statutory rape" has never been common) rape was first defined by statute in 1976, and so the distinction is not based on current legal practice.

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