Saturday, February 17, 2007


Simon Heffer asks:

Dr Matthew Waites, a sociology lecturer at Glasgow University, says an age of consent for sexual activity set at 16 is no longer appropriate, and should be cut to 14 [...] where those aged 14 and 15 could have sexual relations only with those not more than a year or two older than them [...] Is it any better, or rather less disastrous, for a girl of 14 to be impregnated by a youth of 15, rather than by a man in his twenties? Is it less corrupting for a 15-year-old boy to seduce a 14-year-old one than if a 25-year-old man were to do it?
Obviously, it's a bad thing if a 14 year old girl becomes pregnant; the age of the impregnator isn't the main point here and to phrase the question like this is deliberate distortion of the issue. Note also, in passing, the idea that for a 14 year old girl to have sex is "disastrous" whereas for a similarly aged boy to have homosexual sex is "corrupting".

Mr Heffer might perhaps have asked whether it is better for a 14 year old to have sex with a boy or girlfriend two years older than to be seduced by a much older person.

To which the answer would have been "yes". Age of consent laws only really have validity as mechanisms to protect the young from exploitation. There is never any useful purpose to be served by the involvement of the criminal justice system in the lives of two sexually active teenagers.

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