This character, or group of characters, is most definitely not underage. Nope, they are at least 18. That's what the narrative keeps pointing out, or what some character keeps claiming.
This can be used to add a sexual subtext to an otherwise non-sexual situation, since works with sexual content often use this trope as a disclaimer.
When done in-universe it's usually framed as a Suspiciously Specific Denial of one kind or another, though keep in mind that it's actually true just as often as not. The trope is sometimes connected to tropes such as Jailbait Taboo and The Jailbait Wait for the character, or tropes such as Moral Guardians and Getting Crap Past the Radar for the work itself.
Note that in many countries and states, the age of consent for having sex is fifteen or sixteen while the age when it becomes legal to be portrayed as having sex is eighteen. For example, the United Kingdom has strict filming laws against portraying a fictional character younger than 16 having sex, regardless of whether due to Dawson Casting the actor is in their early 20's.
Regardless of laws, many individuals draw a very sharp moral line at eighteen for all things sexual. Also note that while often directly or indirectly sexualized, the trope does not need to have any sexual context or subtext - the driving plot point can also be issues such as the right to vote or to get your driver's license.
Then there's the "barely legal" genre of porn, where the stars are between the ages of 18 and 21 and look even younger.
- Pinoko in Black Jack plays with this. She insists that she is eighteen and Black Jack's wife, despite looking and acting like his six-year-old daughter (which is what he considers her). Technically, she's not wrong (about being eighteen); she was 'born' eighteen years ago as a self-aware collection of organs inside a tumor attached to her twin sister. Black Jack removed the organs and placed them in an artificial body that looks like a six-year-old girl.
- Variation in Grand Blue: the anime ages all of the college freshman characters up to 20, the legal drinking age in Japan, to make their massive alcohol consumption legal.
- Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto: In one chapter, Acchan and his cronies blackmail Sakamoto into renting them a porn DVD. Sakamoto has a good poker face and rents out a dozen movies instead of just one, for only a day (implying he was going to watch them all within 24 hours), successfully bluffing the clerks.
- As a huge chunk of the Hentai production features teenage protagonists in high school, Western translated versions tend to add a disclaimer that "all characters portrayed are 18 or older", some even pretending the story takes place in "university" − which doesn’t fool anyone watching but thus far has yet to attract any significant legal trouble.
- Cherry Comics regularly goes out of its way to point out that Cherry and her equally promiscuous school friends have "just turned 18."
- The Torture Porn comic house Fansadox includes multiple disclaimers in its web and comics claiming that all characters are "at least 18 years old". If said comic "stars" The Ingenue and shows her in high school, the narration and dialogue will tell you several times that she just turned eighteen. For some reason, this make it perfectly okay to rape, torture and often murder her.
- In one issue of Mats Jonsson, the protagonist is having a relationship with a girl who pretends to be 21. When it's revealed that she's studying at high school rather than the university, she changes it to nineteen. When she later confesses that she's actually sixteen and begs forgiveness for her dishonesty, he breaks all contact with her and spends the rest of the episode angsting over having been messing around with someone so young. The story takes place in Sweden, where the age of consent is fifteen - so his angst is purely emotional, without any legal issues.
- Played with in the season 1 finale of Children of Time. Beth Lestrade is seventeen as "Dynamics of a Point" begins, but due to wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, she's truly eighteen in "Every Good Fairytale" when she does marry Sherlock Holmes. In the original transcript, she described herself as a seventeen-year-old during the honeymoon, and Sherlock pointed out that she was a fully mature adult as far as anyone was concerned. This was later altered when Beth's writer realized some convenient but no less real implications of Beth being a Temporal Paradox.
- Inverted in Barbie in the Pink Shoes: While they make a point about Kristyn being only 17, it's because she's trying not to be Giselle. Albrecht and Hilarion don't realize that she considers herself too young for marriage, and instead consider her too old for marriage.
- In a rare under-18 example, The Little Mermaid (1989) makes a point of establishing Ariel as 16. Since King Triton (eventually) consents to her marriage to Prince Eric, this would (just barely) be legal throughout much of the world in the modern age; in vaguely-old-timey Denmark (or wherever; it's not clear if the setting is the same as Hans Christian Andersen's original story) it's presumably perfectly normal.
- In Tangled, Rapunzel could easily be mistaken for being much younger than she is, but her eighteenth birthday is a plot point, presumably to avoid the issue of her finding her true love as a teenager.
- In Brain Donors, at one point the trio is awakened suddenly, and the first thing out of Roland T. Flakfizer's mouth is "She looked eighteen, officer, I swear!"
- Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus specifies that she's about to turn sixteen, then immediately mentions that that's the age of consent in Britain.
- It's a Wonderful Life: When Mary tells George she is 18, the implications weigh heavily on him:
George: Eighteen! Why, it was only last year you were seventeen!
- This is part of the reason why R. P. MacMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is locked in a mental institution; he had sex with an underage girl he says he thought was eighteen.
- In The Sadist, the characters of Charlie and Judy were inspired by real-life serial killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate. Although the character of Judy acts like a very young teenager (like the real 14-year-old Fugate), a radio announcer was added to clarify that Judy is 18 years old, in order to sidestep censorship problems.
- The Social Network: Multiple:
- Subverted with Amy and Sean:
Amy: (after discovering Sean, whom she just slept with, doesn't go to college) Seriously, you're not like 15 years old or anything, are you?
Sean: (chuckling) No, I'm 22. (Beat) *You're* not like 15 years old-
- Played straight when the cops bust a party Sean is throwing. One of the girls at the party pretends she's 19, but when pressed, admits she's really 17.
- Subverted with Amy and Sean:
- It is explicitly mentioned in Sucker Punch in regards to Baby Doll. She's 20 according to the script.
- Ever since the infamous "Pedophile's Guide" incident in late 2010, Amazon.com has been rather squeamish about selling any erotic literature featuring underage sex and/or incest. This led to a number of erotic authors' stories being yanked from distribution with no warning and little to no explanation. Since then, many erotic authors such as Selena Kitt have reworked a lot of their stories to specify that everyone in them is totally eighteen or over and totally Not Blood Related. Almost invariably, any stories about—for instance—"daddy's little girl" will have the girl saying something to her daddy about how she can decide things for herself since she's eighteen now, and will mention in passing or work into the plot some reason why her biological father is gone and this guy is actually her step-daddy. So it's OK for them to pork.
- In the Slave World kingdom of England, you have to be at least eighteen before you can become a slave or own a slave. The first part is merely mentioned (especially in connection with those few slaves who are exactly eighteen - most are significantly older). Non-noble characters younger than eighteen simply doesn't exist in the story. The rule against underage slaveowners eventually does becomes a plot point, however. A prelude to this is given in the second book. It is mentioned that some teenage nobles are frustrated and annoyed over not being allowed to own slaves yet, and a few sixteen years old nobles fondle the protagonist while she happens to be helpless. Around the same time, a young adult noblewoman is scolded for being immature and reckless, not taking proper care of her slaves. In the last few books, a young prince joins the cast as the Love Interest of an enslaved journalist. He is sixteen, she is in her thirties, but because of the social power dynamic, he's the one with all the power. The queen eventually punish him for covertly taking a slave before he's old enough... by sending him off to France... Where sixteen years old nobles are allowed to own slaves... And yes, he gets to bring the former journalist with him.
- Discussed in Californication when Hank Moody discovers the attractive socialite that seduced him at a book store (while reading his book no less) is actually 16... and the daughter of his ex-girlfriend's current partner. The mistake is a major plot point for the rest of the series as the girl in question keeps the threat of blackmail pointed at Hank.
- On Friends, Monica shaves a few years off her age (dropping her into the early 20's) then finds that the man she just made love to was a high school senior, not a college senior as he told her. When he defends himself from her anger by saying she lied too, her response is "Well, my lie didn't make one of us a felon in 48 states!"
"Yes Joey, on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the dumbest a person can look, you are definitely 19!"
- In-Universe, Joey once attempted to pass as a 19 year old for an audition. The results are best summed up by Chandler:
- Game of Thrones, an adaptation of a medieval fantasy book series, had to age-up Daenerys by two years in the first season, and because her birth is tied to plot events (her mother was pregnant with her when her father the king was killed at the end of a major civil war), this pushed back the date of all them by two years. This is because the UK filming laws they operated under strictly concern the age of the character being portrayed, regardless of the actor's age. Actress Emilia Clarke was actually 23 years old in Season 1, but couldn't legally portray a 14 year old Daenerys having sex on her wedding night in the first episode.
- The legal age of adulthood in the books is officially 16, though it's not uncommon for young maidens to be married off younger than that to secure a political alliance.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sometimes treats the fact that a certain character is over 18 as an annoying technicality that makes it harder to arrest people for having sex with them:
- In one episode, the sex is consensual acts between two adults who love each other and are both fully mature in every mental, emotional and legal way. It's just that one of them happens to have a medical condition that makes her look like she's ten. The detectives consider her chronological, mental and emotional maturity to be an annoying technicality, one that they try to find ways around so they'll be able to lock up her current lover and any lover she may get in the future. Instead of taking the actual person into account, they put all their focus on how grossed out they personally were over imagining anyone being turned on by her. So they basically wanted to follow this adult woman around for the rest of her life to harass her and anyone she might fall in love with, simply because of her looks.
- In another episode, a girl is raped at gunpoint. She looks very young, and throughout the episode she is is consistently portrayed as a teenager who is not yet fully adult - neither intellectually nor emotionally. This is not held against her; instead, it simply underscores how vulnerable she is. However, she happens to be 19, so the prosecution must prove that she didn't consent. And of course, the defense has Blatant Lies about the gun as one of their top priorities.
- Invoked in-universe in an episode where they find out their teenage witness for a case is actually an almost 30-year-old woman who's been successfully posing as a high schooler for over a decade. Throughout the episode, the detectives and ADA try to get her to admit the truth, especially when facing possible statutory rape charges, but she's still in denial of her actual age. She eventually does when confronted with her first foster mother.
- Saturday Night Live has a sketch where two underage teens (host Shia LaBeouf and Andy Samberg) try to pass themselves off as adults to buy beer. When the clerk (Kenan Thompson) insists on identification, they first give him excuses to explain why they've misplaced their licenses, before resorting to another friend (Bill Hader) showing up as a fake police officer to congratulate the clerk on complying with the law. Eventually, after their plan to get the beer without showing IDs gets more and more convoluted, they just bribe the guy to look the other way.
- That '70s Show: Meta-example. When she first auditioned for the part of Jacky, Mila Kunis was fourteen. When the producers asked how old she was, she answered "I'll be eighteen on my birthday," and they failed to ask which birthday. Thankfully, the job didn't require her to do anything that would be illegal for a minor, so she dodged most of the problems that come up in this situation.
- In Veronica Mars, Keith Mars shows Sheriff Don Lamb a photo of Lamb making out with Madison Sinclair, a classmate of Veronica, in order to get information out of him. Lamb tells Keith "she's 18 - that's legal", but capitulates when Keith challenges him to wait and see if that explanation is good enough for his constituents when it comes to his re-election as sheriff, and shows another copy of the photo with "18 - that's legal" printed on it.
- Young Sheldon: In Season 5, Georgie (age 17) wants to date a 29-year-old woman (who initially claimed be 25, but later confessed her true age), so he tells her that he's 21. She goes completely apeshit after Georgie reveals he is only seventeen, and this was after they had sex several times. The age of consent in Texas is seventeen, but the age difference between the two is still quite large.
- A common thing to happen in fan made porn parody video games. Despite changing absolutely nothing of a female character's appearance, the game itself will flat out state the characters in the game are 18 years or older. Some will even complain how underdeveloped they are despite being 18.
- The game Bear Gunner is technically about hunting bears. However, the protagonist is an 8-year-old girl armed with a machine gun, and the bears she's gunning down are all the pedobear logotype and busy chasing little girls (including you). When you kill one, he will sometimes moan some dying words, such as "Argh!", "I see a bright light", "why me?", "I'm just a guy in a suit" or "I swear she was eighteen".
- In Evil Zone, Alty Al Lazel, Erel Plowse, Midori Himeno and Setsuna Saizuki were all between 14 and 18 years old in the Japanese version, but the localization boosted their ages to 21. Linedwell Reinrix's age also went from 20 to 22 for some reason. The translated manual nevertheless lists the characters with their original ages.
- Parodied in the English localization of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, where at the end of elementary-school girl Kotoko Utsugi's mini-boss with Genocide Jack (in which she gets stripped down to her underwear), she will loudly (and unconvincingly) claim that she's actually 18 and therefore that boss battle was perfectly okay to put in a video game. Especially unconvincing since she belongs to a group of kids out to commit adult genocide and create a kids-only paradise. If she was actually 18, admitting to it would be signing her own death warrant. Her horrific backstory certainly doesn't make things any better either.
- In the first few Dead or Alive games, several characters didn't have their ages listed in the American releases because they were underage but still delivered just as much (if not more) Fanservice as the adult women. DOA 4 had a Time Skip that put the entire cast at 18 or older, meaning suddenly it was okay to print their ages in the American versions. Plenty of fans suspected that this trope would be in effect in DOA 5 with Marie Rose thanks to her Elegant Gothic Lolita design and her having the least developed figure out of the franchise's women, but she actually is 18 years old.
- A slight variation occurs in Fire Emblem Fates, as no specific ages are given. However, characters still insist that Elise and Midori are really adults in spite of both of them looking quite young (Leo's infamous "technically an adult" line for Elise, and Midori herself in a conversation with her mother). Therefore, it's totally okay for them to get married and have children.
- In Max Payne 3, following a shootout in a strip bar/brothel, an American tourist hiding from the mayhem tells Max that he likes this place because it has the cheapest hot women he's ever seen, including some who insisted on being eighteen years old. In a later level, as Max shoots his way out of jail, he sees the same tourist who keeps insisting that they told him they were eighteen.
- Trauma Center: Downplayed with Linda Reid; in the English version of Under the Knife/Second Opnion, her age was raised from 14 to 17, apparently to make her suicidal Emo Teen tendencies seem more palatable for the Western audience. Alas, this eventually created a Dub-Induced Plot Hole; her age in the English version of Under the Knife 2 is still listed as 17, despite the three-year Time Skip.
- In World of Warcraft, the spring festival Noble Garden includes an achievement where you are supposed to put bunny ears on one female character of each race, and it has to be a character that is at least level 18. Some complaints about this achievement made it into the newspapers - some female player who felt like it was sexual harassment - other achievements about putting hats or whatever on other characters was not a problem, but the "level 18" requirement made this one sexualized in her eyes. The actual reason it was added was to prevent players from trivializing the achievement by making level 1 alts, as some had done with an earlier event (that it was 18 specifically was probably just Rule of Funny).
- Yandere Simulator comes with a disclaimer that all characters are 18 or older, regardless of the creator's statements that the protagonist — a second-year Japanese high-school student — is 17. Since characters can be nude (albeit with Censor Steam) and taking panty shots is a game mechanic, the developer felt the need to stay on the safe side.
- Many translated adult visual novels will add this disclaimer to it for legal reasons, as while drawn pornography featuring minors is legal in Japan, it is outlawed in most of the Western world. Whether this disclaimer has any actual effect has yet to be seen.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! creator Dan Salvato claimed in a Discord post◊ that all the high-school aged characters in the game are 18, even though the only sexual content in the game is the protagonist accidentally seeing up Natsuki's skirt when she's climbingnote and Yuri mentioning touching herself. It's outright stated in-game in the Updated Re-release.
- All Western-released materials of Fate/stay night come with a disclaimer that all of the characters are 18 or older, despite Shirou, Rin, and Sakura being 17 and 16 respectively in the Japanese version. Averted with Saber and Illya however, as despite looking under 18 they actually are adults who stopped aging (ignoring that Saber is Really 700 Years Old due to being plucked from medieval Britain by the Holy Grail).
- My Two First Loves: After a premium scene received backlash for possibly depicting minors, a previous scene was modified so when one character insinuated that the protagonist and her love interest (high school seniors) were minors, the protagonist said that they're all 18.
- Parodied in Namco High, whose legal page has very faint text at the bottom, reading "18 18 all characters 18 everyone 18" despite the fact that Namco High is entirely free of adult situations.
- Despite being ostensibly set in a high school, the main cast of Monster Prom is somewhere in their 20s or older, with the youngest character being 19 at the least. Normally, this might be attributed to monsters aging slower than regular humans, but then Liam specifically mentions age shipping discourse brought up in Star vs. the Forces of Evil fandom,note then notes they don't have to go through that discourse since they're above legal age. And given the high amounts of horniness and sex that happens in the game, this in-universe disclaimer might have been in the developers' best interests.
- Princess Evangile's western releases have a disclaimer before the main menu stating that all characters depicted are above 18. This is despite several of the characters being in second year high school and below, with one even being in 3rd year middle school.
- In Apricot Cookie(s)!, as she's showering, Apricot mentions she's 16, but 18 outside Japan.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Raven tells Grace he doesn't want to drag her, a minor, into a dangerous situation, Grace corrects him:
Grace: I'm eighteen! I'm a major!
Raven: As though that makes you an adult.
Grace: Legally it does. You can do all sorts of stuff with me!
- Our Little Adventure: The main reason why The Rival's wizard is a wanted criminal; apparently, 18 years old in Halfling years is NOWHERE near adulthood or even puberty.
- One Oglaf strip involves Oedipus being seduced by multiple versions of his mother Jocasta at the same time, resulting in a confusing incestuous orgy. The alt text notes that all versions of Jocasta are at least 18 in their respective timelines. Seriously.
- A certain pornographic website, frequently advertised on Comedy Central, announces that its actors are 18 right in the URL.
- In the Honest Trailer for the Harry Potter movies, the narrator immediately backtracks after referring to Hermione as Harry's "superior-in-every-way hot lady friend" by adding "And when I say hot, I mean only in the last three movies after [the actress playing her] turned eighteen! Heh heh... pervs!"
- On Literotica it's considered wise policy to specify that any characters engaging in sex are over 18.
- This is mocked by Zack Parson of Something Awful when he did his Hentai game reviews, some of those games claiming someone who in his eyes is obviously a minor is in fact 18.
- In one issue of Teen Girl Squad, Cheerleader, hoping to impress some college-age guys, insists she and So-and-So are in college. So-and-So, however, undermines this by simultaneously admitting to being in eighth grade. Cheerleader tries to backpedal by claiming that So-and-So is her younger sister by five years, but the boys don't buy it (and then she's hit by a SAILING MISHAP!)
- Similarly, due to a crackdown on Tumblr blogs containing cartoon pornography depicting underage fictional character(s), many artists have begun writing a disclaimer that "all characters depicted are at least 18 years old or otherwise above the age of consent", regardless of whether or not the characters actually do look 18+.
- When Avatar Press was transitioning from "sex comics" to "sex comics but also work by highly acclaimed creators that's too Edgy for mainstream publishers", one of Paul O'Brien's X-Axis reviews of the latter snarked it was a sure sign of a classy publisher when the boilerplate disclaimer text made a point of stating that all characters were depicted as over 18, even for a non-sexual horror comic.
- In Clone High, the underage clone of Abraham Lincoln recruits the underage clone of Genghis Khan to buy beer for a party, telling him all he has to do is tell the clerk he's 21.
First Clerk: You over 21?Genghis Khan: (stares blankly)(outside another store, Abe coaches him)Abe: Okay. He used a very tricky line of questioning. Let's practice again. Are you over twenty-one?Genghis Khan: Yes.(inside the store)Second Clerk: Are you over 21?Genghis Khan: No.(inside another store, Genghis Khan has a large sign affixed to him that reads "I AM 21")Third Clerk: So, I guess you're 21?Genghis Khan: I am 21.(the clerk gives him the keg of beer and he walks off, then immediately runs back in.)Genghis Khan: I AM NOT 21!
- Rocko of Undergrads uses a "fake ID" that he most likely made himself, which is just a scrap of cardboard with his picture stapled to it and the words "I am 21 so drinking is yes" handwritten on. It still works just fine.
- The clumsy cultural translation censorship angle of the trope is parodied in Gravity Falls episode "Soos and the Real Girl" where Soos buys a dating sim where the only girl, Giffany introduces herself as a student of High School University.
- In The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", Bart gets a tattoo this way. The tattoo artist most likely didn't care.
Tattoo artist: Wait, how old are ya?
Bart: 21, sir.
Tattoo artist: Get in the chair.