Those of you who don’t regularly read Teen Skepchick should probably read this article, because it’s thought provoking and I want to touch a little bit on why it’s important to make the distinctions that it does.
Consensual sex implies that both parties involved want to participate and are prepared to make that step, but due to laws made to protect minors (and that do a lot of good for our society in general), consent is implied not to exist before an arbitrary line and to be granted after an arbitrary line. The age of consent is an absolute, because that’s the system we currently have worked out for it (it might even be the only way we can have a law like this that can give us a blanket protection of those young enough to be especially vulnerable to sexual crimes), but people who consent around that line are still consenting, and usually courts allow for this reality of life, because teenagers have sex (although some people still choose to deny that fact for some reason).
Using the word rape to describe a couple who know each other very well, are around the same age and consent, because one is under this arbitrary line set by the state is problematic, especially because of the horrors that the crime umbrellas, and this is made especially conspicuous when after stroke of midnight it is no longer rape. I hate referring to such a crime in these blogs but it does do a disservice to our language to speak of statutory rape as including a consensual relationship between people young enough to have a foot over the line, when there are good reasons for these laws to exist, and they are made because consent is necessary.