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In practice, too, the consent laws only protected white females, as many non-white females were enslaved or otherwise discriminated against by the legal system.”  4. So a 50 year old man could legally have sexual intercourse with a 7 year old boy or girl.” “These early laws specified that a girl consenting to sex had to be at least 10 to 12 years old in most states, with a few specifying ages as old as 14 or 16.
In Delaware, the age of consent was seven, based on ancient English laws setting the age squire.” “Traditionally, across the globe, the age of consent for sexual union was a matter for the family to decide, or a tribal custom.
The theft of a girl’s chastity was seen as a property crime against her father and future husband. Most states codified a statutory age of consent during the nineteenth century, and the usual age was ten years.” “In 1962, the American Law Institute recommended that the legal age of consent to sex- that is, the age below which sex is defined as statutory rape- be dropped in every state to age 10 (Katchadourian and Lund 1972: 439).
If two people were married and had sex, no matter what their age, no crime was committed because a woman was her husband’s property. In fact, until the mid 1960s, the legal age of consent in Delaware was 7 (Kling, 1965: 216).
Before that, children were considered to graduate into adulthood with the onset of puberty.” “The statutes governing the minimum age under which sex cannot be legally consensual, and laws concerning marriage and workers rights, were modified to reflect these changing discourses around childhood.
One way societies have tried to protect young girls is through laws that designate a statutory age of consent.
Such laws prohibit men from having sexual relations with females under a specified age on legal theory that they are too young and immature to make informed decision and, therefore, are incapable of giving a legal consent.
In most cultures, the marriage would have been consummated at the onset of puberty. Professor of history Margaret Wade Labarge “It needs to be remembered that many Medieval widows were not old, Important heiresses were often married between the ages of 5 and 10 and might find themselves widowed while still in their teens.” “In Medieval and early modern European societies, the age of marriage remained low, with documented cases of brides as young as seven years, although marriages were typically not consummated until the girl reached puberty (Bullough 2004).
Shakespeare’s Juliet was just 13, and there is no hint in the play that this was considered to be exceptional.