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There was one exception: a man's acts with his wife, to which rape law, and hence the age of consent, did not apply.In trials, juries were often unwilling to simply enforce the law.In western law, the age of consent is the age at which an individual is treated as capable of consenting to sexual activity.

The age of consent, which applied to boys as well as girls, was increased to 13 years in 1863.

They also argued that the age of consent should be aligned with other benchmarks of development, such as the age at which girls could enter into contracts and hold property rights, typically 21 years.

Opponents remained focused on physiological maturity, however, and argued that girls in their teens were sufficiently developed not to need legal protection.

Rather than focusing strictly on age, they made judgments about whether the appearance and behavior of a girl fit their notions of a child and a victim.

It was not only that relying solely on age seemed arbitrary to them; at least until the end of the 19th century, age had limited salience in other aspects of daily life.

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