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Debate: Should The Age of Consent Be Lowered?

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#1
Vesper

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The age of consent refers to the age at which a person’s assent to have sex is recognised as valid in the eyes of the law. Men (and sometimes women, depending upon local law) who engage in sexual activity with young men or women below this age are therefore guilty of a criminal offence. This is true even if it was the young person who wanted to have sex and agreed to it in total understanding of what they were doing – the agreement of the person below the age of consent is simply invalid in the eyes of the law. Yet in many countries this offence (often called ‘statutory rape’, as in the USA) is one that is very severely punished, sometimes with a sentence of up to life imprisonment. Ages of consent also vary greatly depending on sexuality, in most countries people have to be older to consent to homosexual sex than to heterosexual sex. It is the combination of these factors that make age of consent laws highly controversial.

First off: Is it right that homosexual consent ages are different (often higher) than heterosexual consent ages?


There are different rules for different places, here are some of the commonest "laws":

Firstly think about the ‘basic’ age of consent rule: For heterosexuals -no sex with anyone below 16 in England, 16 in most parts of Australia, 14 in Canada, 14 in Italy and varying from state to state between 14 and 18 in the U.S.A

Should the USA be made to unify it's laws?

Secondly think about the ‘plus’ element – many places in addition to the ‘basic’ rule, also make it an offence for you to have sex with persons below a certain age (usually 18 or 21) if that person is in a relationship of ‘trust or dependency’ with you. This would include relationships between children in foster care and those responsible for their welfare, and those between teacher and student. Such places include England, Australia and Canada.

Is it fair that a teacher of say, 23, can't be in a relationship with a consenting 18 year old sixth form student?



There are some pros for the argument:

1) We should defend young people's freedom of expression
2) Consent laws are discriminatory (i.e homosexual vs heterosexual laws).
3) The censorship laws are a relic from the past
4) Age of consent laws sometimes prevent those who are under the legal age from receiving contraceptives.


Cons for the argument:

1) We must protect the vulnerable in society
2) We must protect the vulnerable from themselves.
3) Lowering the age of consent will cause criminal dangers.


What do you think?
Should we scrap the age of consent laws and start again? Do they still have a place in modern society? Is it fair that homosexuals and heterosexuals have different laws vis this issue? Would education on the matter be more affective than law?

Read more here.

#2
Trotsky

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My position on "age of consent" is that the laws serve a purpose but shouldn't be the sole basis for prosecuting a sex crime, instead they should be guidelines for proving non-consent in a sexual relationship. I don't think an adult having sex with a 14 year old should automatically qualify as a crime, for example. But I think that if such an age disparity exists, then there should be looser guidelines for proving coercion took place than there would be in rape allegations from one adult to another.

What I would say is the law should work like this: 15 should be the universal age of consent, 13-14 should be a "red zone" where they can give consent but there needs to be a lot more scrutiny and definitive proof that they did consent knowingly and without coercion, 10-12 should be another "red zone" which would be illegal for adults to have sexual relations with them, but not necessarily illegal for older minors as long as there is no coercion. To me, I really see no problem with a relationship between an 18 y.o. and 14 y.o., or a 15 y.o. and a 12 y.o. considering these situations may usually result from school romances, so all this needs to be taken into account.

As for the whole 'trust or dependency' thing, this too should be something taken into account but not an automatic indicator of non-consent. If an adult teacher has sexual relations with an older teen, then it should be easier to prove coercion but it should not automatically be viewed that way. Not that teachers should be fucking students all over the place but I think firing them would be sufficient most of the time as long as the relationship was based on consent.

And no, there should be no sexuality-based disparity, that is all kinds of wrong.

This is one of those issues that there is no simple answer to, but my basic sentiment could be summed up like this: there needs to be less focus on "age" and more focus on "consent"
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#3
Gregorovich

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I think the age of consent being 16 is a perfect age. And I see no reason why homosexual consent should be any different from heterosexual consent. In terms of age, I believe that there should be a sensible limit - ie. Somebody who is over thirty should not be allowed to have sex with somebody under twenty. As for the teacher-pupil thing, that should remain school policy and have nothing to do with the law; the teacher would deserve to be fired, but not prosecuted.
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#4
jamesobxfan2296

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OK I'm confused by "Age of Consent". I've read that it means that an adult can't have sex with a minor under the age of consent and then I've heard that it means two minors below the age of consent (Lets say one's 15 and the other is 14) can't have sex. I've also heard that it can mean both. So can someone kind of clear things up for me?

#5
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My position on "age of consent" is that the laws serve a purpose but shouldn't be the sole basis for prosecuting a sex crime, instead they should be guidelines for proving non-consent in a sexual relationship. I don't think an adult having sex with a 14 year old should automatically qualify as a crime, for example. But I think that if such an age disparity exists, then there should be looser guidelines for proving coercion took place than there would be in rape allegations from one adult to another.

What I would say is the law should work like this: 15 should be the universal age of consent, 13-14 should be a "red zone" where they can give consent but there needs to be a lot more scrutiny and definitive proof that they did consent knowingly and without coercion, 10-12 should be another "red zone" which would be illegal for adults to have sexual relations with them, but not necessarily illegal for older minors as long as there is no coercion. To me, I really see no problem with a relationship between an 18 y.o. and 14 y.o., or a 15 y.o. and a 12 y.o. considering these situations may usually result from school romances, so all this needs to be taken into account.

As for the whole 'trust or dependency' thing, this too should be something taken into account but not an automatic indicator of non-consent. If an adult teacher has sexual relations with an older teen, then it should be easier to prove coercion but it should not automatically be viewed that way. Not that teachers should be fucking students all over the place but I think firing them would be sufficient most of the time as long as the relationship was based on consent.

And no, there should be no sexuality-based disparity, that is all kinds of wrong.

This is one of those issues that there is no simple answer to, but my basic sentiment could be summed up like this: there needs to be less focus on "age" and more focus on "consent"


How does one define what consent is?
How does the law stand if it's one word against another vis an accusation of rape?
What if a parent presses charges?

Also, don't you think homosexuality should be a higher age of consent due to certain (more prominent) risks attached to sexual activity.

Btw, I'm playing the devil's advocate here.


. Somebody who is over thirty should not be allowed to have sex with somebody under twenty.


That doesn't make sense. So as a 19 year old, a perfectly legitimate adult, I should not be allowed to do a 30 year old?

#6
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I'm going to be unpopular for this, but I think it should be standardized somewhat. If you're 18 or 19, it's within two years of your own age (i.e., an 18-year-old can legally have sex with a 16-year-old and vice versa). If you're 20 or over, 18 should be the age of consent. Logic being there's usually not a colossal difference between 18 and 16 or 19 and 17, but there's a huge difference maturity-wise (you'd hope) between 20 and 16.

I'm not opposed to an 18-year-old high school student having sex with a teacher, even being in a relationship with a teacher on moral grounds. On professional grounds, however, I am strongly against it. It would be a distraction for other students and teachers, and could result in questions about academic integrity if the student was in a class taught by a friend of the teacher they're sleeping with; I'd hope school officials were smart enough to not put the student in their sex partner's class. The second graduation ends, student and teacher can fuck in the aisle of the auditorium for all I care. I just don't think they should until the hats are thrown.
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#7
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I'm going to be unpopular for this, but I think it should be standardized somewhat. If you're 18 or 19, it's within two years of your own age (i.e., an 18-year-old can legally have sex with a 16-year-old and vice versa). If you're 20 or over, 18 should be the age of consent. Logic being there's usually not a colossal difference between 18 and 16 or 19 and 17, but there's a huge difference maturity-wise (you'd hope) between 20 and 16.


Ola's going to love you.


I think two years is cutting it a bit fine. When I was 18, I liked a guy who was 24... and I think we were fairly intellectually parallel, otherwise we wouldn't have been able be like we were. That being said, teenage idealism makes things a bit more blurry. I personally think 15 would be a good age for all... no exceptions. If you want to have sex when you're 14 1/2 because "you love him", then just wait until you're 15 and see whether you still "love him". To me it's not the sex that's really the important bit, it's the maturity to deal with the emotional fallout and any possible consequences.

#8
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I know society is different all over the world but wow, to hear that in some places the age of consent is 14 seems so wrong. At 14 most girls haven't even started their period, for God's sake. I understand that at 16, the number of girls who still haven't is still substantial, but it'll be much less than at 14. They've JUST turned into teenagers. Children in my eyes. It's horrible to think about. (My personal opinion.)

But anyway, I don't have any problems with the age of consent in England (16). Obviously, homosexuals should be treated in the same way but I can imagine in a few years when our generation is in charge they will be. I believe student/teacher relationship should only be illegal if the student is under the age of consent. As in some jobs there are consequences for romance in the workplace, it is the school's responsibility to decide what action should be taken if a relationship developed between a student and teacher if the student was of age. The law shouldn't need to be involved in that.

EDIT: Adding to this - as long as you're older than the age of consent, then age difference is only a matter of personal choice.
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I know society is different all over the world but wow, to hear that in some places the age of consent is 14 seems so wrong. At 14 most girls haven't even started their period, for God's sake. I understand that at 16, the number of girls who still haven't is still substantial, but it'll be much less than at 14. They've JUST turned into teenagers. Children in my eyes. It's horrible to think about. (My personal opinion.)


Yeah it's like when you hear of the youngest mum... she was, what? 9 I think? Horrific.

But to return to my other question, should be enforced by law? Or just strongly pushed through education?

#10
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Ola's going to love you.


I think two years is cutting it a bit fine. When I was 18, I liked a guy who was 24... and I think we were fairly intellectually parallel, otherwise we wouldn't have been able be like we were. That being said, teenage idealism makes things a bit more blurry. I personally think 15 would be a good age for all... no exceptions. If you want to have sex when you're 14 1/2 because "you love him", then just wait until you're 15 and see whether you still "love him". To me it's not the sex that's really the important bit, it's the maturity to deal with the emotional fallout and any possible consequences.


Yeah, sorry Ola. It's a delicate balance. Nora might act 23. I prefer to think that it's more Ola acting 16, but whatever. I'm sure a big part of the reason a 24-year-old would have been interested in you is that, intellectually, you're more like a 24-year-old yourself. My thoughts would be playing to the lowest common denominator; the 18-22-year-old male who wants to and readily will fuck anything that moves and some things that don't. At 18, if your hormones are sufficiently amped, I could see it being difficult to resist the overtures of a 14-year-old. Likewise, at 14, I could see it being hard to resist the interest of an 18-year-old. There is a little bit of nanny-stating in there to protect the stupid 14-year-old from the horny 20-year-old who's been having unprotected sex since he was 15-16 himself.

I can't say that it's that way in the rest of the world, because I just don't know. Maybe off in Norway, Ola and Nora are intellectual equals (which really isn't too hard to imagine, tbqh--ZING!). Here in America, unfortunately, legislation is needed to keep bad things from happening to kids in a sexual relationship with someone old enough to take complete advantage of them.

#11
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Yeah it's like when you hear of the youngest mum... she was, what? 9 I think? Horrific.

But to return to my other question, should be enforced by law? Or just strongly pushed through education?


In my opinion, both. In law it could be useful when dealing with paedophiles, etc. I know it'd probably stop a lot of mature young teenagers from having that kind of relationship, but to be honest if they were THAT mature they'd be able to wait a year or so. Re-enforcing this through education would help too, as we know that lots of people don't abide by it in England. Look at Jeremy Kyle. :P

#12
Trotsky

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I think two years is cutting it a bit fine. When I was 18, I liked a guy who was 24... and I think we were fairly intellectually parallel, otherwise we wouldn't have been able be like we were. That being said, teenage idealism makes things a bit more blurry. I personally think 15 would be a good age for all... no exceptions. If you want to have sex when you're 14 1/2 because "you love him", then just wait until you're 15 and see whether you still "love him". To me it's not the sex that's really the important bit, it's the maturity to deal with the emotional fallout and any possible consequences.


It's not the younger person who has to deal with the consequences of an AoC law, and it's often they don't think about the risk to their older partner.

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Yeah, sorry Ola. It's a delicate balance. Nora might act 23. I prefer to think that it's more Ola acting 16, but whatever. I'm sure a big part of the reason a 24-year-old would have been interested in you is that, intellectually, you're more like a 24-year-old yourself. My thoughts would be playing to the lowest common denominator; the 18-22-year-old male who wants to and readily will fuck anything that moves and some things that don't. At 18, if your hormones are sufficiently amped, I could see it being difficult to resist the overtures of a 14-year-old. Likewise, at 14, I could see it being hard to resist the interest of an 18-year-old. There is a little bit of nanny-stating in there to protect the stupid 14-year-old from the horny 20-year-old who's been having unprotected sex since he was 15-16 himself.


I very much agree with you. It's such a grey area though because how does one judge maturity? I guess that's why we have the cut off point of 16 - I just find it difficult to reconcile the potential for someone to get a criminal record because they had sex with someone who might only be a few months younger than them.

#14
Trotsky

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I know society is different all over the world but wow, to hear that in some places the age of consent is 14 seems so wrong. At 14 most girls haven't even started their period, for God's sake. I understand that at 16, the number of girls who still haven't is still substantial, but it'll be much less than at 14. They've JUST turned into teenagers. Children in my eyes. It's horrible to think about. (My personal opinion.)


Pretty sure that is not factually correct, especially in the Western World. Average age of first menstruation has gone down due in part to access to greater nutrition, though I am quite sure the mean age is 12 or 13 at the most.

#15
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It's not the younger person who has to deal with the consequences of an AoC law, and it's often they don't think about the risk to their older partner.


True, but the law aside (assuming they didn't get caught and/or prosecuted) surely the main issue here is maturity?

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Pretty sure that is not factually correct, especially in the Western World. Average age of first menstruation has gone down due in part to access to greater nutrition, though I am quite sure the mean age is 12 or 13 at the most.


Just speaking from experience. :)

#17
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In my opinion, both. In law it could be useful when dealing with paedophiles, etc. I know it'd probably stop a lot of mature young teenagers from having that kind of relationship, but to be honest if they were THAT mature they'd be able to wait a year or so. Re-enforcing this through education would help too, as we know that lots of people don't abide by it in England. Look at Jeremy Kyle. http://www.greendaycommunity.org/public/...


Ah, this is such a huge soap box issue of mine. I think sex ed should be taught, at least once a week, from the age of 12 right through to 16. The UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world and I think it's just a product of lack of education.
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In my opinion, both. In law it could be useful when dealing with paedophiles, etc. I know it'd probably stop a lot of mature young teenagers from having that kind of relationship, but to be honest if they were THAT mature they'd be able to wait a year or so. Re-enforcing this through education would help too, as we know that lots of people don't abide by it in England. Look at Jeremy Kyle. http://www.greendaycommunity.org/public/...


Age of consent laws really have nothing to do with pedophilia, except for the fact that the "consent" of prepubescent children doesn't exist goes without saying. The issue at hand applies to people who are already developing/sexually awakened. An 18 year old who is attracted to an 8 year old is a pedophile, an 18 year old attracted to a 14 year old is not.

True, but the law aside (assuming they didn't get caught and/or prosecuted) surely the main issue here is maturity?


But it's a rather absurd idea if you think about it. If you allege a 14 year old isn't responsible enough to have sex and enforce that through AoC laws, you are essentially saying 2 immature 14 year olds having sex with each other is a better situation than an immature 14 year old and a (hypothetically) mature 18 year old having sex. It isn't as if the first pair is at any less risk for bad things happening.

The issue here, to me, is consent, at what age do we have to be concerned with the older exploiting the younger, or using coercion to obtain sex that is not actually desired by the younger.

#19
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Age of consent laws really have nothing to do with pedophilia, except for the fact that the "consent" of prepubescent children doesn't exist goes without saying. The issue at hand applies to people who are already developing/sexually awakened. An 18 year old who is attracted to an 8 year old is a pedophile, an 18 year old attracted to a 14 year old is not.



But it's a rather absurd idea if you think about it. If you allege a 14 year old isn't responsible enough to have sex and enforce that through AoC laws, you are essentially saying 2 immature 14 year olds having sex with each other is a better situation than an immature 14 year old and a (hypothetically) mature 18 year old having sex. It isn't as if the first pair is at any less risk for bad things happening.

The issue here, to me, is consent, at what age do we have to be concerned with the older exploiting the younger, or using coercion to obtain sex that is not actually desired by the younger.


Yes, but it's considered pedophilia if a 17 year old has sex with a 15 year old due to where the consent law stands.

I don't think I said that at all, I thought I said that maturity was the most important thing, regardless of where the AoC stands...?

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Trotsky

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Yes, but it's considered pedophilia if a 17 year old has sex with a 15 year old due to where the consent law stands.


Pedophilia means attraction to prepubescent children.
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Pedophilia means attraction to prepubescent children.


I know what the dictionary definition is. But it is consider pedophilia by the law, and dealt with by child's services anywhere up to the age of 16.

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I don't see the law being used very much in the first place except in instance of statutory rape. And in a rare case where parents took some kid to court for 'defiling their child' when it was just a consentual relationship all along, wouldn't it get thrown out of court?
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#23
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There's a difference between pedophilia and sexual relations with someone who, statistically speaking, isn't mature enough to understand the repercussions of unprotected sex with a 22-year-old yet.

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I don't see the law being used very much in the first place except in instance of statutory rape. And in a rare case where parents took some kid to court for 'defiling their child' when it was just a consentual relationship all along, wouldn't it get thrown out of court?


I don't think so. The law gives parents a right and a voice until their child is 16.

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Age of consent laws really have nothing to do with pedophilia, except for the fact that the "consent" of prepubescent children doesn't exist goes without saying. The issue at hand applies to people who are already developing/sexually awakened. An 18 year old who is attracted to an 8 year old is a pedophile, an 18 year old attracted to a 14 year old is not.


That's basically what I was getting at. I didn't think that it would cover every relationship, just used it as one example of how the law could get involved. Also, Bryony's next point reminds me of something to add about the period age - growing up, whatever sex education I got (through school, internet, books, adults, friends) told me that the average age was around 13-15.


Ah, this is such a huge soap box issue of mine. I think sex ed should be taught, at least once a week, from the age of 12 right through to 16. The UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world and I think it's just a product of lack of education.


Agree so much. I didn't realise it was such an issue until I worked as a health apprentice in the NHS. Because it was free, we basically dealt with everybody, and it was absolutely shocking how so many people just hadn't been educated about sex. We tried to inform as many people as we could but there's only so much you can do as a service, really. People have to make that step to come to you, and to do that, they have to realise that there's something wrong with what they're doing in the first place. If they think they're right... Then we can't really do anything. =/

#26
Kayfabe

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I don't think so. The law gives parents a right and a voice until their child is 16.

Yeah. But what sane judge is going to listen to two parents pressing statutory rape, while the actual teenagers insist it was consensual relations?

There's a difference between pedophilia and sexual relations with someone who, statistically speaking, isn't mature enough to understand the repercussions of unprotected sex with a 22-year-old yet.

oh, so like if they got pregnant or an std they could sue? if we're talking about the uk then that should be kept where it is. there are a lot of silly people in this country.

#27
LittleBoyNamedTrain

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It's a tricky one, this. I've known people who have waited until they were 16 because their partner was 18 and they didn't want them to be branded a paedophile.

I think people should be able to have sex whenever they're ready. The problem is, though, a lot of people don't actually know when they're ready. If the age of consent was taken away many children would start much younger than 16 because they'd genuinely think they're mature enough when they aren't. In my opinion 16 is a nice age for consent, because it's when the majority of young adults begin to start properly thinking maturely and making sensible decisions.
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There's a difference between pedophilia and sexual relations with someone who, statistically speaking, isn't mature enough to understand the repercussions of unprotected sex with a 22-year-old yet.


The repercussions of unprotected sex with a 22 year old are basically the same repercussions of unprotected sex with a 16 year old.
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Kayfabe

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and the thing is, oftentimes that feeling of regret/being taken advantage of when vulnerable isn't limited to only when you're young, it's something that people experience throughout life

#30
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Yeah. But what sane judge is going to listen to two parents pressing statutory rape, while the actual teenagers insist it was consensual relations?


They have no choice unless they want to undermine the law.



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