Monday, 18 November 2013

The Age of Consent

I've pondered this question a bit. Here's Prof John Ashton's take on it:-

Leading public health expert Prof John Ashton has called for a national debate on lowering the age of consent, claiming society is sending out "confused" signals about when sex is permitted.

Prof Ashton said: "Countries that have a more open attitude towards teenage sexuality and in fact some of the countries that have lower ages of consent - the young people get involved in sex later and they also have much lower teenage pregnancy rates."

Before I get into what is a bit grey and about opinions, let's deal with some facts: The Netherlands has the same age of consent as the UK and much lower teenage pregnancies. Switzerland has the same age of consent as the UK and much lower teenage pregnancies.

And regarding having sex later, Austrians lose their virginity slightly earlier despite having a lower age of consent.

On the age thing, here's my take:

The age of consent isn't about telling young people when sex is permitted. You aren't going to stop a 15 year old from shagging his 15 year old girlfriend if she wants it. Something like 1/3rd of people lose their virginity before they're 16, so as a deterrent it clearly doesn't work.

What the age of consent is really about is stopping girls (and let's be honest, it's generally this way around) from being taken advantage of by older men who can easily impress them and are also far more experienced at seduction. You let them get to an age of emotional maturity, they're going to make a reasonable decision.

I'm not even sure that 16 is right or whether it should be 17. I remember going out with 16 year olds when I was that age, and that when I went out with 17 year olds they seemed to be considerably more mature, more likely to have cast off the age of listening to Duran Duran and Wham and listening to something more grown up.

We probably should also have something codified about the 17 year old who shags his 15 year old girlfriend that we really don't want to prosecute (and we don't now, but the law should be clearly stated).



Kj said...

But isn´t what you are saying also regular practice in courts? Our law says 16, but punishment may be waived if the two parties are "equal in age and maturity". It´s kind of a catch-all phrase that pretty much makes it up to the courts to judge the case based on the characters of the persons. Which is fair enough, since the age is arbitrary, but roughly close enough for both physical/psychological and cultural reasons.

Budvar said...

So what do you propose lowering it down to then? As the law stands, 2 15 yo's fucking the law isn't interested. The moment a lad turns 18 at the stroke of midnight, and tries (note tries, not does) to get his hands down the panties of a girl younger than one second to midnight before her 16th birthday, he's guilty of "Grooming" and is liable to have his name banged on the sex offenders register, and to put it mildly, he's fucked for life.

Let's (arbitrarily) lower the age of consent to 12, all that means is the likes of Pete Stringfellow can legally fuck 12 yo's instead of those who've reached the age of 16.

We then run into the "Well there's 8 and 9 year olds who look 12, and they're up for it" argument, where do we draw the line? The same arguments can be used at whatever age is deemed adequate, right up to the point of foetus fucking...

Then there's the gay (whatever). If it's OK to fuck 6 yo little girls, denying pederasts the arses of 6 yo boys, is an infringement of their human rights..

Ian Hills said...

I wonder if this expert's proposal is related to endemic moslem grooming?

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, you are quite right, it is the age difference which more important than absolute age.

As you say, two 15 years olds, nobody's bothered. But a 30 year old man and a 16 year old girl, that is creepy and seems "wrong" even if it's legal.

So we could have an override loophole that if people are same age, they get let off or at least treated more leniently.

TBH, it's like speed limits on motorways (only the other way round). The absolute speed does not matter, driving at 90 is not much more dangerous than at 60.

What is dangerous is cars driving too close together, i.e. tail gating. What we need is a law that says if you are doing more than 60 and are less than three seconds behind the car in front you get your licence taken away.

The Stigler said...


Yes. No-one wastes time prosecuting a 16 year old for having sex with a 15 year old.

But a law that lowers the age of consent to 15 would allow 45 year old blokes to have sex with 15 year olds which is different.

Budvar: read my post again.

Ian Hills: no, I think he may be quite sincere, but he's missing the point of why we have an age of consent law.

Yes, I'd much rather codify the situation than have arbitrary non-prosecution. I think German law allows for an age of consent at 14 if the other participant is under 18.

TBH I think that the age of consent should probably be raised to 17. I remember hanging around with girls at 16-17 and I always felt like they were still really like kids at 16, but like young adults at 17. But I don't think that 16 is too bad.

Anonymous said...

I used to have a Dutch lodger.
She was surprised at the benefits single mums get here. I think that is what causes extra teenage pregnancies not the age of consent.
Look at Heather Frost as an example.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon, yes of course, we know that, but that wasn't really the topic.

As to under-age shagging, I can't say I'm bothered one way or another, it's none of my business, is it? But the whole "baby farming" does affect us all because we all have to pay for it.

Lola said...

Luckily, now that I am over 60, I am either completely invisible to all attractive younger women, or someone who clearly needs to helped across the road...

As to the discussion the prof also seems to think that this is another job for the gummint and him to reg-yew-late 'cos parents cannot be trusted or are 'failing'....nuff sed

SumoKing said...

The UK has a very odd relationship with "Sex" as a thing.

It's everywhere, music, music vids, soaps, adverts, the interweb, dowdy 50 year old TV presenters can stop wittering about it, films etc etc...

But it is like there is some trench between the population and Sex, because you damn better not have people coming anywhere close to a bit of Sex in the UK.

Prostitution, banned.
"Sex shops", relegated to dank back alleys.
Teenagers confused by this dichotomy and wanting to raid the girlfriend? -BURN THEM!
Sex pic on your phone!!! To the stocks, deport to Jordan sharpish!
Cartoon Sex pic on your phone?!!! BRING FORTH THE WICKER MAN!

Anonymous said...

@" Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon, yes of course, we know that, but that wasn't really the topic."
Surely it is John Ashton said
"Countries that have a more open attitude towards teenage sexuality... have much lower teenage pregnancy rates"

Now of course causation does imply correlation but giving people money to do something does seem to normally work.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anon: John Ashton said "Countries that have a more open attitude towards teenage sexuality... have much lower teenage pregnancy rates"

Sure, but we both know that is complete drivel and so we just cheerfully ignore it.

It's the same thing with "adult pregnancy rates". Countries which are very chauvinistic, i.e. where mums who go back to work are frowned on, have lower adult pregnancy rates because women think "Sod that, I'd rather stay in my job and be treated like an adult."

This has sod all to do with "open attitudes towards adult sexuality", does it?