I agree, some of our laws in this area a bit draconian, and I feel that the only purpose of this is to protect young people from having sex from older individuals who might take advantage of them. I think we need to a) show this is actually negative (i believe it to be true in many cases but I know of no scientific evidence to support this), and b) make laws specifically oriented to that rather than saying it’s illegal for anybody under 18 to have sex period. Even then, we have to be careful because prosecuting an 18 year old for having consensual sex with a 17 year old for statutory rape is a bit much. I could be wrong here about the wording of the laws though, and if memory serves this could be based on a more state-to-state basis. Do you know any of this for a fact?
Also the only reason I care about the age here is because this is far different from many portrayals of prostitution (esp. in the media) where they’re portrayed as educated 30ish year-old-women who made an active decision to choose the lifestyle. That does happen, but based on the statistical research available (that I think we need more of but like I said it’s the best we have) reality is the exact opposite in the far majority of cases.