Back to overview Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
Volume (Issue) 10(1)
Page(s) 104 - 122
Title of proceedings Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
DOI 10.1353/hcy.2017.006

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Beginning in the late Nineteenth century, an intense debate evolved around perceptions concerning an adequate age of consent. The Austrian criminal code determined that children older than 14 years were no longer put under a general umbrella of sexual protection (StGB 1852) and attempted to draw clear boundaries between childhood and adulthood. However, in the courtrooms, these lines became blurry. Even though the Austrian criminal code had set a comparatively low age of consent, in the years between 1950 and 1970 the courts were nevertheless occupied with a large number of female victims whose “worthiness of protection” was called into question. The minor, but adolescent girls did not “look like children” and were oftentimes sexually active. Focusing on case records of a criminal court in Lower Austria, the study examines how judges understood female vulnerability and female sexual agency in relation to childhood and adolescence. The article aims to historicize the complicated relation between consent and agency on the one hand and the need for protection from sexual exploitation on the other—a vexing duality that came to bee seen as almost characteristic for girls in their adolescence.