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How does Tennessee approach teen sex?

If you are like many teens or parents of teens, you may have wondered just what the state’s laws about teen sexuality are. News reports of people being accused of sex crimes against teenagers all too often make the defendants sound like horrible predators. The reality, however, can well be something quite different. Perhaps a teenage couple involves an 18-year-old guy and a 17-year-old girl who have been dating for over a year. Would sexual relations be illegal for them?

According to Sex, Etc., the state of Tennessee identifies 18 as the legal age of consent. That would mean that by strict interpretation of the law, it is illegal for a 17-year-old girl to have sexual intercourse. However, other state laws seem to confuse the issue. For example, the state’s laws allow a minor to receive a prescription for birth control or to purchase condoms. These things do not even need to be disclosed to parents or guardians.

Underage teens can also seek testing or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, all without the knowledge or consent of their parents or guardians. When it comes to sexting, there are no laws specifically about this but any images showing a person under 18 in some sexual manner may be considered a sex crime.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give people in Tennessee an overview of how the state approaches sex-related laws for teens and give a window into some of the areas where things may be unclear.

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TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association
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