Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States

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State University of New York Press - History - 242 pages
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Examines the development of statutory rape laws in the United States.

The first book-length study of American statutory rape laws, Jailbait investigates the double-edged nature of legislation aimed at both protecting and punishing adolescent sexuality. Carolyn Cocca explores how, throughout the history of the United States, the regulation of sexual behavior was seized upon as a means to alleviate larger problems, be they moral, social, political, or economic. Feminists, religious conservatives, and legislators, each with their own agendas, have at times both conflicted and cooperated over legislation, leading to uneasy compromises that play out in the ways in which the laws are implemented today. Using both detailed case studies and quantitative analysis, Jailbait examines important changes made to statutory rape laws since the 1970s, including prosecutions under the laws. Among the more surprising findings is that changes to statutory rape laws were sometimes made in opposition to prevailing public opinion, contrary to previous studies that have asserted morality policy is especially responsive to public opinion.

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About the author

Carolyn Cocca is Assistant Professor of Politics at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury.

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