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Pennsylvania Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

For the most part, consensual sexual activity is none of the government's business. Sexual assault, rape, and other such sex crimes all involve non-consensual sex and are thus considered serious violations. However, there are some situations when consensual sex crosses the line and either endangers another's well-being or disrupts the public.

This article provides a brief overview of Pennsylvania laws prohibiting certain consensual and non-consensual sexual acts. Keep in mind that "consent" is a legal term defined by state criminal law. For example, it is impossible for anyone under the age of 16 to consent to sexual activity in Pennsylvania.

History of Consensual Sexual Activity Laws in Pennsylvania

There are voluntary sexual activities that are regulated under state consensual sexual activity laws in all jurisdictions. Most of the time, these guidelines reflect the social and political norms of the particular state at the time the laws were created and thus are subject to change over time. While any kind of non-consensual sex is a crime, most states at one time enforced anti-sodomy laws. These laws have since been struck down in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas since they unconstitutionally singled-out same-sex couples.

While Pennsylvania has removed its statute outlawing sodomy, many states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books (even though they remain unenforceable). At one time in Pennsylvania's history, those found guilty of sodomy -- primarily gay men -- were sentenced to death.

Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity: At a Glance

The following table summarizes the key elements of Pennsylvania's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws, with links to additional resources.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to

There are no longer anti-sodomy laws in Pennsylvania.

Penalty for Sodomy


HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders

Under 35 Pa. Stat. § 7607, the court can order a defendant to undergo HIV or other STI testing, or the disclosure of the results of former tests, in certain situations.

Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts

  • Disorderly conduct: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5503, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor of the third degree.
  • Indecent exposure: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3127, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor of the first degree if the persons present were less than 16 years of age. Otherwise, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
  • Open lewdness: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5901, open lewdness is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Other Crimes Relating to Non-consensual Sex Acts

  • Indecent assault: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3126, indecent assault is a misdemeanor of the first degree unless certain circumstances apply in which it will be heightened to a felony of the third degree.
  • Sexual assault: Sexual assault in Pennsylvania is considered a second-degree felony and is punishable by up to ten years in prison. For more information, visit FindLaw's article on Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Laws.
  • Rape: Under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3121, rape in Pennsylvania is a felony in the first-degree and is punishable by up to 40 years in prison or life imprisonment for the rape of a child with serious bodily injury. For more information, visit FindLaw's article on Pennsylvania Rape Laws.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about Pennsylvania laws, including those related to sexual activity:

  • At Pennsylvania Law, you'll find links to all laws within the states, including those related to sexual activity.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Pennsylvania Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources

Consider reviewing the following resources, as well, for more information about laws and legal issues related to sexuality:

Charged With a Sex Crime In Pennsylvania? An Attorney Can Help

There's a time and a place for everything, and in Pennsylvania, as in most other states, certain matters are meant to be conducted in private. So if you've been charged with public lewdness, indecency, or a related crime, you will want to be prepared for your trial.

Get help today from a Pennsylvania defense attorney.

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