This article explores the contradictory ways in which adolescents just under the age of consent are represented in illegal sexual relations with both men and women who are over the age of consent. We are specifically interested in exploring the ways in which the gender of the adolescent and the adult affect public discourse, legal responses, and social perceptions of the harm of sexual relations. We argue that the development of an indiscriminate legal and policy narrative of child sexual abuse that increasingly includes all aspects of adolescent sexuality “erases” an adolescent subjectivity. By exploring the nuanced ways in which the historical construction of childhood as sexually innocent intersects with current cultural scripts of femininity and masculinity, this article hopes to add to the small but growing literature on the issue of sexual consent, sexual ethics, and sexual citizenship for young people.
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