Legal Implications

Although in English law the legal definition of "rape" relates to noncon-sensual penile penetration of the mouth, anus, or vagina, a new offense of assault by penetration has been recently created to cover nonconsensual penetration of the anus or the genitalia by an object or a body part; this new offense has the same maximum sentence as rape. In Scotland, nonconsensual penile-vaginal penetration is defined by common law as "carnal knowledge of a female by a male against her will" (88). Other jurisdictions, such as some American states, define all penetrative acts as sexual assaults subcat-egorized by the degree of force and coercion used. In many jurisdictions, the legal interpretation of "vaginal penetration" refers to penetration of the labia and does not require that the penis actually enter the vagina (89).

The age at which a female can legally give consent for penile-vaginal intercourse varies from country to country; for example, in England, the age of consent is 16 years, whereas in California, it is 18 years (90).

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