Enforcement practices of age of consent laws vary according to the social sensitivity of each culture (see above). Often, enforcement is not carried out to the letter, and legal action is only taken if there is a sufficiently socially unacceptable age difference between the two persons or if the perpetrator is in a position of power over the minor (e.g. B a teacher, a minister or a doctor). The gender of each participant can also influence an individual`s perception of guilt and thus the application of the law.  Sexual activity without consent is a criminal offence, regardless of age. More recently, U.S. age of consent laws have been extended to both boys and girls. All 50 states now prohibit sexual relations between adults of any gender and children of any sex who are too young to consent to sexual relations. In traditional societies, the age of consent to a sexual union was an issue that the family had to decide, or a tribal custom. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty, menstruation for a woman, and pubic hair for a man.  English common law traditionally set the age of consent at between ten and twelve, but the Offences Against the Person Act of 1875 raised it to thirteen in Britain and Ireland.
Early feminists in the social purity movement, such as Josephine Butler and others who were instrumental in repealing contagious disease laws, began addressing the problem of child prostitution in the late 1870s. Sensational media revelations about the scourge of child prostitution in London in the 1880s then provoked outrage from the respectable middle classes, leading to pressure to raise the age of consent again. The age at which a person can be legally married may be different from the age of consent. In jurisdictions where the age of marriage is below the age of consent, these laws generally prevail over age of consent laws in the case of a married couple where one or both partners are less than the age of consent. Some jurisdictions prohibit sexual intercourse outside of marriage, regardless of age, as in the case of Yemen.   There are many “grey areas” in this area of law, some with respect to non-specific and untested laws, others through debates about changing social attitudes, and others due to conflicts between federal and state laws. All of these factors make the age of consent an often confusing topic and a highly explosive topic of debate.  Im 12. Gratian, the influential founder of canon law in medieval Europe, accepted that the age of puberty for marriage (not sex) was about twelve for girls and about fourteen for boys, but acknowledged that consent was important when both children were over seven years old.  Some authorities have stated that such consent to enter into marriage may be given earlier. The marriage would be valid as long as neither party has annulled the marriage contract before reaching puberty or if they have already consummated the marriage.
Judges sometimes honored marriages on the basis of mutual consent at the age of less than seven: unlike the established canon, there are registered marriages of children of two and three years of age.  Age of consent laws have always been difficult to follow and enforce: age-based legal standards were in place until the 19th century. In the nineteenth century, clear evidence of exact age and date of birth was often not available.  In the late 19th century, people in England and the United States began to protest these laws because they felt that girls were too young to consent to sex at that age. They pushed for a new law that raised the age of consent to 16 to 18. The same pediatric journal notes that 17 states have some form of exemption from the standard parental consent requirement. Traditionally, many age of consent laws have mainly concerned men who perform sexual acts with underage girls and boys (the latter often fall under sodomy and laws). This means that in some jurisdictions, problems with women who have sexual contact with underage partners have rarely been recognized. .