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The Forum > Article Comments > Age of consent laws: Puritan notions of right and wrong > Comments

Age of consent laws: Puritan notions of right and wrong : Comments

By Melissa Kang, published 21/3/2005

Melissa Kang argues we need to nurture the safe and healthy development of sexuality, in all its variety.

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Dr Kang states: "In the 21st century, letís make laws that promote the responsible care of children and young people (such as laws that prohibit potential abuses of power for the gratification of adults) and that nurture the safe and healthy development of the individualís sexuality, in all its glorious variety."

It would appear that "Responsible care of children" combined with "all it's glorious variety" equates to 'do whatever you like' (as long as you are not an adult with power over a child) and severely restricts a society's ability to "nurture the safe and healthy development of the individualís sexuality" by even suggesting any guideline or form of prohibition.

If sex keeps being promoted as a natural recreational activity (like smoking pot & drinking alcohol to excess) then don't expect too much of anyone taking on the challenge of raising a family in a society of academics operating in a moral vacuum. Pure science is the 21st Century's "Puritan notion of right and wrong!"
Posted by Reality Check, Monday, 21 March 2005 1:38:59 PM
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"While societies must adopt moral positions on a variety of human behaviours - such as violence, the abuse of children, the exploitation of minority populations - what informs our moral position on adolescent sexuality? Should there be an ďage of consentĒ? And if so, does it serve a moral, or some other, purpose?"

Was that a real question?

Having an age of consent is particularly useful for prosecuting paedophiles etc. It is quite difficult to see how one can arrest predators without having certain issues properly defined.

The police find 'age of consent' legislation rather useful. Countries such as Canada with low ages of consent tend to attract more sex tourists than countries with higher values.

"The World Health Organisation found that across Europe and the UK, comprehensive programs (including sex education, access to services, youth development, family outreach, and an open and positive attitude towards sexual health and relationships) were more effective in reducing teenage pregnancy rates."

That will certainly be news to experts in the UK. They have record levels of both teenage pregnancy and child exploitation. Britain's teenage pregnancy rate is the very highest in Europe.

In the UK, the Govt. have advised training girls to do oral sex instead. British schools are often highly sexualized places. The presumption or alleged strategy, is that the girl students will do oral sex for the boy students and not get pregnant etc.

The problem with that is that 14 year olds often want to get pregnant and some have several children before they are 16. Some British girls have even sought medical assistance in getting pregnant. If they can have sex, they feel they can be mothers etc.
Posted by Cadiz, Monday, 21 March 2005 2:02:10 PM
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Cadiz, a lot of the issues you raise might be better addressed by a sliding scale of allowable maximum difference in age between people involved in sexual activity. There is a big difference between a 15 and 16 year old exploring together and a 40 year old with the 15 year old.

No easy answers but the current approach seems to be really silly and not work anyway. If we are trying to protect kids from older predators then that is what we should do, not lay a legal minefield at the feet of kids exploring sexuality.
Posted by R0bert, Monday, 21 March 2005 2:12:26 PM
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The age of consent is only ever relevant when one of the parties is an adult. No one seriously refutes the phenomenon of adolescent sexual curiosity - and while i agree with some of the points raised in this article, there's a certain subtefuge there that makes me feel uncomfortable. Freedom of sexuality is a great thing, but society dictates that sex is an expression of love - which does confuse the issue for kids when they are responding merely to biological urges. To relax our attitudes about that in western civilization is frought with danger. Teach kids about their biological urges, and their sexuality and teach them to respect those things and wait until they are of an age to emotionally deal with them. I agree the puritan and moralistic point of view is a narrow one, but one has to take into account the society we live in and be realistic about that. So while morals shouldn't dictate, emotions and self respect still do - so for that reason we have to tread very responsibly.
Posted by Rose C, Monday, 21 March 2005 2:30:50 PM
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Is there an objective standard of morality by which we can determine the rightness and wrongness of things, or is it all relative and subjective?
Posted by Brazuca, Monday, 21 March 2005 2:39:46 PM
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I work for an anti-trafficking NGO and it is very difficult to get some of the most dreadful crimes out of my head. The 'puritan' reforms complained of by the article's author were instigated by the Salvation Army because of child sexual slavery.

This is what I know.

A brothel in London, Prague, Budapest, which uses children might have a thousand customers and none will call the police. The same statistic works for Canada, USA, etc. When I meet Salvation Army people I thank them for their example.

The Salvation Army of today are abolitionists with the same mission. In 1885, the age of consent for a girl was 13 years and there were brothels in London that catered for men who liked very young girls.

Those who bought and those who sold saw little wrong with taking the virginity of a child. Today it is not so very different, I can relate to the 19th century campaign. The author's article made me feel uncomfortable.
Posted by Cadiz, Monday, 21 March 2005 3:13:06 PM
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