In Victorian Britain, the age of consent was 12 years until it was raised to 13 years in 1875.
In 1885, it was raised again to 16 years. In 1917, it was *almost* raised to 17 years.
"The legacy of 1885: girls and the age of sexual consent"
"In July 2014 the Guardian cited a Home Office report that recommended lowering the
age of consent in line with lower ages of puberty. The report suggested that ‘sexual
behaviour with a girl over the age of 13 (the average age of puberty) is not criminal,
provided that she was clearly as aware of what she was doing and its implication as
might be expected of a girl of 16’. Although this report - Sexual Offences, Consent and
Sentencing – was written in 1979, and is bound up with number of concerns about the
influence of Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) at this time, the idea that a lower
age of puberty should lead to changes in sexual consent law still lingers."
"Protecting girls or controlling them?
The meaning of sexual consent changed in line with social shifts. Victorian legal changes
reflected a number of contemporary – sometimes contradictory – concerns with: child
welfare, working-class disorder and sexual immorality. The age of consent was changed
for the first time in the nineteenth century in 1875, when the felony clause was raised
from 10 to 12 and the misdemeanour clause from 12 to 13. It was in 1885, however,
that the most significant change took place in the wake of a newspaper exposé of the
so-called ‘White Slave Trade’ in young girls. A public interest in child protection drove
the passage of the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, but its finer details were concerned
as much with control as protection. The law, which set the felony age at 13 and misdemeanour
age at 16, reflected a particular late-Victorian conflict between the promotion of child
protection and a perceived need to regulate juvenile sexualities.
In 1885 the focus of lawmakers was firmly on the question of female capacity, in two
forms: the capacity to consent and the capacity to control emergent sexualities."