“When and if we get there, the biggest obstacle we will face is how we will go about legally discerning what is and is not a consenting relationship? How will we be able to tell when a relationship is abusive or not? How will we know if a child is being threatened or pressured into saying they consented? Children can easily be manipulated by adults and it can be difficult to detect.”

The above is part of a comment left by Josh in response to the blog ‘Rationalization – Can Paedophiles Argue For Children’s Sexual Rights?‘.

When replying to Josh’s comment it soon became clear that it wouldn’t be possible with only a comment’s-worth of time, space and trouble to do justice to the issues he raises. And, to be honest, I’ve never felt sufficiently optimistic about the prospect for children and Kind folk to feel much need to think about the nuts and bolts of how society could work without the age of consent. So it’s with no little trepidation that I put finger-tip to keyboard…

(The bulk of this blog will consist of a summary of the proposals P.I.E.’s proposal as presented in ‘Towards more sensible Laws’, chapter 6 of Tom O’Carroll’s book ‘Paedophilia: The Radical Case‘. Readers wanting to pursue these issues in greater depth should read this chapter as it gives a much more detailed and authoritative account than I can give here)

If I were you I wouldn’t start from here at all

There’s a joke in which a tourist visiting Ireland by car stops and asks a local how to get tumblr_m831xqhQv41r1ujmfo1_500to Dublin. The route to Dublin is clearly far from straight-forward, and after a few failed attempts at giving directions the Irish man says to the tourist “Sir, if I was going to Dublin I wouldn’t start from here at all.”

This joke encapsulates a major impediment to clear thinking on this issue: it is very hard not to think about the abolition of the age of consent other than in the context of where we are today: WEIRD societies. Our present, and probably long-term, challenge is not abolishing the age of consent but achieving a society in which abolition would be possible – we have as yet to reach a proper starting point.

It should also go without saying that such a society would be desirable only if it also improved the general lot of children, adults and the environment. I’ve speculated about the nature of such a society here and especially here and I won’t repeat the points I make in these essays beyond saying that societies that are highly community-based rather than the nuclear family-based are generally more accepting of child sexuality – and I believe that the kind of ‘green’, steady-state society that needs to emerge if we are to tackle global warming and the many other environmental perils we face, would be exactly such a society.

Anthropology and History are great resources for further insights into the nature and functioning of societies accepting of child sexuality and child-adult intimacy. To the patient and persistent researcher a resource such as the Growing Up Sexually Corpus is a treasure trove. We can learn a great deal from cultures with different conceptions of the family and childhood to ours, and many problems that seem insuperable in WEIRD societies disappear when the social context changes (I hope eventually to publish a series of blogs which anthologise anthropological accounts of child-sex friendly societies).

Maybe in a society that is becoming more accepting of child sexuality Age of Consent laws would gradually wither away of their own accord, at first being more honoured in the breach, then ignored, then finally repealed. Maybe the Children’s Court, that center-piece of the PIE proposals outlined below, would need to exist only during this transitional phase – becoming obsolete once children had access to the skills, experience and knowledge necessary for sexual autonomy and control of their sex-lives.

How the current system fails

I address this question in detail in the section ‘Better protection of children from sexual abuse’ of the blog-essay ‘Some Arguments For a Kinder World‘.

I won’t reproduce this section here as this essay already looks like it’s going to be excessively long. I’ll only state that under the current system all children who are involved any intimacy with an adult, no matter how consensual and mild, if that intimacy is discovered, get dragged through an adversarial and inquisitorial legal process. Under PIE’s proposals only cases which involved violations of consent, coercion, cruelty or criminality would be subject to criminal law.

This means that, since most adult-child intimacy is consensual, there would be a huge decrease in the number of children being submitted to the traumas of criminal proceedings.

The P.I.E. Proposals

As far as I can tell P.I.E.’s proposals are the only thought-through framework for an Age-of-Consent-free legal system. These proposals were drafted by Keith Hose in the early ’70s and though they are very detailed and well-thought-out, they are quite specific to a particular legal system (English) and that particular time. Rather than considering them as something set in stone I think they should be taken as a starting point for discussion and debate. Indeed Tom O’Carroll himself appears to depart from 37b08fb8873eb78b6ea5a793b32f3b861838290494-500x390these proposals in one or two important areas.

(in what follows quotations from the “P.I.E’s evidence to the Home Office’s Criminal Law Revision Committee on the age of consent” will be appended with a (PIE). All other quotes are Tom O’Carroll’s own words)

The proposals effectively abolish the age of consent. The validity and/or legality of a sexual interactions will not be a function of the age of the participants but of the quality of the consent given by the younger party.

Cases which evidently involve non-consensual sex, violence, manipulation etc or which violate a prior prohibition given by the civil court (see below) will be dealt with under criminal law in a criminal court.

Cases which appear not to involve a crime will be dealt with by a special children’s court under civil, not criminal, law.

If it becomes apparent to the children’s court that a crime may have been perpetrated by the adult the case may be transferred to the criminal court.

A case can be referred to the children’s court by –

“a parent or guardian or a person responsible for the care or welfare of the child, or any other person having reason to believe that the sexual activity was not consented to; or had resulted in clinically demonstrable mental or physical harm or suffering; or involved intimidation, drugs, alcohol, etc. to secure the seduction or procurement of the child …. ” (PIE).

Once a referral has been made the local authority would be responsible for seeking prohibitions. If the parent or guardian were to be responsible for seeking prohibitions the possible financial burden incurred may deter referrals. This would also act as a filter preventing groundless referrals clogging the system.

The children’s court can place a prohibition on the older partner if they determine that the child does not have the capacity to communicate consent (as is the case with children below the age of 4 or some older children with mental incapacities – see below), if the child does not wish the relationship to continue, and/or if the relationship is in not in the child’s best interest.

Children would not need to actually appear before the children’s court (which could also be held in camera). Nor would this involve an adversarial trial: the object of such hearings would not be to

“establish beyond reasonable doubt what occurrences may have taken place in the past”
(Tom O’Carroll)

nor would there be a requirement to prove that sexual activities have taken place or otherwise.

“If the younger partner appeared in the least bit afraid, or doubtful, about the continuance of a relationship, whether sexual or not, or did not appear to be able to communicate her or his feelings to adults, the court would he empowered to prohibit the relationship from continuing“ (Tom O’Carroll)

Evidence can be gathered by a Youth Examiner who could interview the child in in its own home and would act as the child’s representative in the children’s court.

Three age categories are proposed according to the capacity of various ages to communicate consent to the Youth Examiner or the children’s court:

– Children between the ages of 0 and 3 are considered unable to communicate their consent to sexual activities to the Children’s Court or the Youth Examiner (though that does not mean that they can not consent per se). In such cases a prohibition preventing the older partner from seeking out the child would be granted automatically. However it would also be an option for a parent/citizen to bring no complaint providing that they had no reason to suppose the relationship was a non-consensual one.

– Children between the ages of 4 and 9 are considered as having a variable capacity to communicate consent. There will be no prohibition placed on the older partner where it is clear to the court that the child consents to the relationship, benefits from it and wants it to continue.

If no criminal sexual activities are involved, but it is felt that the child cannot communicate its consent to the court, the continuance of the relationship would be prohibited in the same way as a relationship with a child under four.

– Children aged 10 to 17 (10 being the age of criminal responsibility in the UK) are deemed as being wholly able to communicate their consent. Restrictions on mutual and harmless relationships with adults should be minimal.

A separate framework would operate in order to ensure that sexual interactions between children of similar ages would not be subject to the threat of prohibitions (other than where a criminal act is suspected):

There would be three over-lapping age-groups (0-9, 7-13, 10-17).

No prohibitions can be issued to a children engaged in sexual activities with a child in his/her own age-group(s).

For example a child of 4 can freely engage in relations with children between 0-9, a child of 8 with children between the ages of 0-13, a child of 12 with children between the ages of 7 and 17, and a child of 14 only with children between the ages of 10-17.

Note that relationships outside this framework are perfectly licit, but are open to being referred to the children’s court if a responsible adult had grounds for thinking that the relationship was not in the younger child’s best interests.

Tom O’Carroll points out a weakness in these proposals is that they don’t distinguish between different types of sexual activity: a child of five may be able to consent to masturbation with an adult, but can she give prior consent to a man for intercourse if she’s never had intercourse before? Clearly this could result in great pain, possible injury and psychological trauma.

This is probably the root fear that people feel when they think of little children not being old enough to know what they are doing. The child would not be aware of the consequences of penetration. Her consent would not be ‘informed’ about a crucial aspect of the activity she was about to engage in.

Because of this her consent would not be considered as valid and the adult would be guilty of having acted irresponsibly and of engaging in non-consensual sex, and be open to prosecution under criminal law.

But even this is not satisfactory – we can put the man in jail for his selfish and irresponsible act, but this doesn’t undo the suffering of the child. This is a problem which results from PIE’s proposals being retrospective in nature.

Tom O’Carroll suggest that there should be an age of consent for intercourse between an adult and a child, and suggests that the age of 12 would be about right. This keeping in mind that:

‘around 95 per cent of non-aggressive paedophilic sex with children under twelve is non-penetrative’
(Tom O’Carroll – statistic taken from ‘Paul Gebhard et al., Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types, Harper-Hoeber, New York, 1965.)

2010-11-16-trees

“[..O]ne of the key elements in the proposals was that for the very first time they would give the child a say in her or his own sexual destiny. The effect would be liberating, not so much to the paedophile, but to the child. It would be the economically and socially weaker partner in the relationship, the child, whose views would constitute the clinching factor in whether a prohibition against an adult partner would be granted. Not the local authority. Nor the police. Nor any other complainant. And certainly not the paedophile. Not even the parents, for although I do accept that most parents are loving, are concerned, and that their views should be taken very seriously into account, it should never be forgotten that not all parents are all that they should be. The PIE proposals would not give carte blanche to any adult to exploit a child. The criminal law would still be in operation against obvious offences, and the child would be given every opportunity and encouragement to terminate an unsatisfactory and exploitative relationship […] Nor would it be a matter of ‘big brother’ knowing best. Neither authorities nor parents would be allowed to usurp the child’s newly asserted right to control over her or his own body.”
(Tom O’Carroll)

Conclusion

Let’s return to Josh’s questions at the top of this essay and see how PIE’s proposals address them:

“When and if we get there, the biggest obstacle we will face is how we will go about legally discerning what is and is not a consenting relationship?

The answer essentially boils down to ‘ask the child’.

If the child is capable of communicating consent she decides if the relationship continues.

The ‘asking’ would be done by a qualified Youth Examiner. There would be no other adults involved. This is not an adversarial situation – the adult partner has no say in the court’s deciding whether the relationship is consensual or not – all that would count would be the child’s say and his/her wishes and best interest. There is no need to discern the child’s consent to legal standards (though if it becomes clear that the adult may have acted against the child’s consent the case would become a criminal matter).

If the children’s court finds that she is not able to communicate consent (because she is too young or mentally impaired) then the adult would be prohibited from continuing the relationship or may have conditions imposed on the continuation of the relationship.

How will we be able to tell when a relationship is abusive or not? How will we know if a child is being threatened or pressured into saying they consented?

No law can wholly eliminate abusive relationships.

These questions, if applied to PIE’s proposals, really address the issue of how well the children’s court would be able to distinguish between run-of-the-mill cases (where they have to determine a child’s wishes and her capacity to communicate consent) from those where a criminal act may have occurred.

The current system fails by treating all intimacy between children and adults as ‘abusive’ – including the consensual and caring ones – which can give the impression that the majority of child-adult intimacy is ‘abusive’, whereas, there is reason to believe, that only a small minority of such relationships are genuinely abusive. Nowadays those investigating ‘child sexual abuse’ have to concern themselves with anything from a favourite uncle tickling his niece’s bum right to sexually-motivated murder. I don’t know much about this field but I think that separating consensual relationships from abusive ones will clarify matters.

Am I right in thinking that genuine abuse leaves traces – physical, psychological and behavioural – which a consensual affectionate relationship doesn’t? And not having to deal with a huge load of consensual relationships will free-up resources and time for investigators to concentrate on genuine abuse (imagine if sex between adult men and women was made illegal – such a situation would probably increase the incidences of rape and sexual abuse between adults as all sex would become fraught, secretive and associated with criminality – and such abuses would be harder to detect as they would be lost in the mass of consensual, but still criminal, interactions the police and courts would have to deal with).

But a system’s or institution’s openness can be effective in minimising abuse. And giving the greatest power in a relationship to its weakest partner, combined with a positive and empowering process of education and learning, will leave children less vulnerable to abuse and manipulation. Children who are aware of their capacity to give, withhold and withdraw consent and who are knowledgeable about sex will not be as vulnerable as a child who has no knowledge or experience of sex and who has no awareness of their capacity to consent.

But most of all, the children’s court system allows children to be protected from unwelcome attentions before those attentions become criminal. A child does not need to prove that a relationship is abusive for the children’s court to issue a prohibition – all that is required is for the child to wish the adult to leave him or her alone.

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39 thoughts on “‘Consent’ Without ‘The Age of Consent’

  1. For reasons of Political Correctness, where sexual interaction between children and adults is concerned, we are only ever told about cases where the child was allegedly ruined for life by being touched and they tried to commit suicide, ect. This gives the misleading impression that all such encounters are harmful. But there is another side to all this, a side that never gets discussed publicly for fear of challenging the status quo, I had such encounters when I was a child and they didn’t harm me and they certainly didn’t ruin me for life. So why was that? Well, the answer is simple. Everybody is different (not all the same) and they react to different things in different ways. I can understand those who were violently forced into sexual activity by someone they didn’t like, but I wasn’t forced into anything and never felt that I was abused in any way, only loved. No violence or penetration was used on me and the men were gentle with me. Because you are not allowed to know about people like me, it may seem to many that I can’t possibly exist, but nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t believe that I am the only one who only ever had positive sexual experiences as a child, both with other children of my age and with men old enough to be my father, so there must be others, perhaps many others, like me out there somewhere. Such people tend to hide their light under a bushel, wanting desperately to discuss their childhood experiences with someone, with anyone who would listen and not be judgmental, but there is no one to listen and so they keep it all a secret inside them. Some of them take such secret with them to the grave. I believe that my experiences were positive ones because I was the right boy doing the right things with the right men in the right circumstances. The abuse victims we hear about all the time experienced the complete opposite of what I experienced.

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    1. I completely agree and sympathise with what you say, Onceaboy.

      It’s as if the culture defined man-woman relationships only in terms of those where manipulation and coercion were involved – any loving, respectful and caring relationships being systematically censored and suppressed.

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  2. Christian’s “driving licence” idea has much to commend it, but only for penetrative acts, which have greater implications for STDs, pregnancy and physical injury.

    Just for further clarification, as Christian himself noted, the emancipation license idea was formulated by youth liberationist Robert Epstein, which he discusses in detail (among many other interesting things) in his book Teen 2.0, the 2010 update volume of his groundbreaking 2007 book The Case Against Adolescence. I do not personally think the license/competency test is the most ideal type of situation for youths in a democratic society, but I do think it’s a major step in the right direction, and a hell of a lot better than the situation that young people find themselves in now.

    Of course, even in a nominal youth liberated society that adopted the Epstein-Dumas Test, emancipated youths and adults who chose to have mutually consensual relationships would still receive a lot of negative social scrutiny by society, since many people of all ages would continue to consider such relationships inherently “immoral” and “icky” for a time. I know this, because I often receive the same degree of societal ire from being involved with much younger women who are of legal age to consent (e.g., 18-early 20s). However, it would give youths the opportunity to prove – over the course of perhaps a generation or two – that the majority of them are as capable of competent decisions and general conducting of their lives with the proper education, information access, and availability of support systems as the bulk of adults. One of its fringe benefits will be to gradually provide proof that intergenerational relationships are not inherently damaging or traumatizing, or likely to result in excessive retrospective regret for young people as time passes.

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  3. LSM, you asked a few questions:

    >Am I right to get the impression that at the time you weren’t wholly happy with them [PIE’s legal reform proposals] and that in promoting them you were to a certain extent ‘toeing the party line’?

    When the proposals were first published I knew little about the law, so all the stuff about civil law injunctions was unfamiliar and I deferred to those who knew more. By that I do not mean Keith Hose, my predecessor as Chair of PIE. He was a research chemist, and very bright, but just as legally naive as me. He may have had a hand in writing the proposals but the late senior civil servant Mickey Burbage, then the partner of historian Jeffrey Weeks, was the one with the legal ideas. Mickey was also involved with the London Gay Teenagers group and co-edited the following: Burbage M & Walters J, Breaking the Silence: Gay Teenagers Speak for Themselves; Joint Council of Gay Teenagers, London, 1981.

    It was only later, after seeing in 1977 just how far the tabloids would go in order to deliberately misrepresent our position, that I came to feel a departure from the “party line” was necessary. In my book I suggested a minimum age of 12 for penetrative sex.

    >How do you feel about them nowadays? Are they necessary? Several people have suggested that simple abolition is all that’s needed – after all, isn’t that the way homosexuality was decriminalised?

    Well, “simple abolition” of the laws against homosexuality was not so simple. In England & Wales it took three different stages, an AOC of 21, then 18 then 16 to get to the present situation and this was not the whole UK: Scotland and Northern Ireland dragged their heels for years.

    >I’m not convinced that one could simply abolish the age of consent without there being some protections put in it’s place…

    Nor am I, but the criminal law would still be powerfully in place where there is no consent and I still feel PIE’s injunction scheme is good in principle where a child’s best interests are at issue. Christian’s “driving licence” idea has much to commend it, but only for penetrative acts, which have greater implications for STDs, pregnancy and physical injury.

    >Am I right in saying that there are three areas which the civil court would consider when deciding whether to issue a prohibition?

    I think you are broadly right in your interpretation and the concerns your express. I see no reason why the system could not work pretty well in any culture sensible enough to adopt it. But that is a big ask!

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  4. There is a tendency in both Heretic TOC and in this forum for certain people to swamp threads with lengthy high-brow debate that many who are not so well-educated or informed, can barely comprehend. I can envisage many MAPs being utterly put off contributing to debates in both places simply because of this. I have commented in the past on Tom’s blog on this issue, and I have no doubt that viewing figures in both places suffer from the dominance of overbearing sophisticates who feel they and they alone must commandeer and occupy centre stage at all costs; to my mind, they do so extremely effectively.

    For one thing, Feinmann0, you do not come off as any less educated than me, or anyone else here. Nor do you come off as generally uninformed about the topic at hand. In fact, I very much enjoy your posts and your responses. I think your main problem is simply this: you do not like the style of those you refer to as “heavy brow” posters. That’s fine, you are entitled to your preferences, and as I said, that is why it’s good that we have contributors who provide a variety of styles.

    I told you that out of respect for you, I would attempt to be conciliatory and do my best to “size down” my posts; however, I cannot promise to always meet your expectations, as I cannot in any way predict ahead of time what terms or concepts you are familiar with, and which you are not, nor can I always successfully stifle my style or compromise to the point where people of all reading preferences are satisfied or appeased. I think there is a place for all styles here, and I do not think that the “high brow” posters who have a more scholarly/academic bent to their posting style drive posters with a more low key style away in droves, as I think there are posters of different styles who display a strong degree of mutual respect and appreciation for what both have to bring to the table.

    . But calling us “overbearing sophisticates” who try to dominate discussion is going a bit overboard IMO. However, if that’s how you see it, then you are welcome to call it that way. But by doing that, you spoil the good will and respect that others are trying to show you – including myself – especially when all of us do indeed greatly respect you and all of your good contributions.

    I’m especially put off by this because I went out of my way to make shorter and more concise posts yesterday, including in my response to Ethan, out of consideration for your concerns. And I likewise think my response to you was respectful and conciliatory. And then you respond with this type of attitude, as if I made no attempt to be accommodating with you. If you want respect and consideration, Feinmann0, then you need to show a little yourself, including with those whose styles you dislike. You don’t have to like our style, but you should consider that we do have our place in this world when it comes to arguing for a better world; there are times when lower key posters do it better, but there are other occasions where our way of doing things may be better. Please also consider that your preferences are not universal; there needs to be a place for everyone, and none of us are going to be able to please everyone all of the time.

    Dissident, when you say things like my friend LSM – what is it three times now? – you create an impenetrable inner sanctum, a luvvy culture, that explicitly excludes all other contributors here.

    Okay, I think this is just a problem of perception on your part, Feinmann0. I’ve repeatedly and with full sincerity complimented you on your contributions here, yet you seem to solely focus on any comment I make that you perceive as creating an “impenetrable inner sanctum” that “excludes all other contributors” when I have always felt that you were never anything less than a valued part of what you refer to as the culture here. If you are in any way “left out,” it’s solely because you insist on seeing yourself that way based on what is, IMO, an over-sensitivity to certain things. I simply haven’t referred to you as a “friend” because I simply haven’t gotten to know you as well as LSM yet.

    I really don’t care what anyone says in response to my comment; other places exist where all the major issues are discussed but where the content/debate is less academic so that the messages therein can be understood by everyone.

    There are also places of discussion where people of both academic bent and a more lower key style work together very well, and present something for everyone. GC is an example of that. You can’t expect those with the type of style I have to vanish from the discussion simply because certain posters do not like that particular style. I’m sorry that I may come off as less conciliatory in this response than previously, but frankly, I did try and I think the lack of respect you show in return garners a more firm reply. In other words, if you want to receive respect and consideration for your concerns – which I tried to show you – then you need to give the same in return, and not ignore the sincere attempts by others to accommodate you.

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  5. I see I have been denied the right to reply directly to Dissident’ reply to mine above. So I will leave one here instead.

    There is a tendency in both Heretic TOC and in this forum for certain people to swamp threads with lengthy high-brow debate that many who are not so well-educated or informed, can barely comprehend. I can envisage many MAPs being utterly put off contributing to debates in both places simply because of this. I have commented in the past on Tom’s blog on this issue, and I have no doubt that viewing figures in both places suffer from the dominance of overbearing sophisticates who feel they and they alone must commandeer and occupy centre stage at all costs; to my mind, they do so extremely effectively.

    Dissident, when you say things like my friend LSM – what is it three times now? – you create an impenetrable inner sanctum, a luvvy culture, that explicitly excludes all other contributors here.

    I really don’t care what anyone says in response to my comment; other places exist where all the major issues are discussed but where the content/debate is less academic so that the messages therein can be understood by everyone.

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    1. >”I see I have been denied the right to reply directly to Dissident’ reply to mine above. So I will leave one here instead.”

      I think that this must be because the settings for the comments section allow for no more than 10 nested comments. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about this as this is the maximum number permissible.

      I greatly appreciate both your contributions, Feinmann0, and those of Dissident – and despite your different styles I find you both constantly challenging and informative. If either of you were to feel unwilling to contribute to this blog it would be a great loss.

      I feel that I myself have been more often guilty of ‘comment-elephantiasis’ than ‘comment-dwarfism’.

      In fact I’ve been feeling very frustrated by my inability to keep my blogs down to a reasonable length – believe it or not I generally aim at a maximum of 2000! I think the blog essay above comes in at almost twice that length!

      Maybe I should make a public resolution to contribute to some worthy charity one Antartican dollar (my local currency) for every word I publish over the 2000.

      I hope you and Dissident can continue to exchange, discuss and (occasionally) disagree – maybe keeping in mind each others’ sensitivities a little when writing your comments.

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  6. If you want to drive a car, you pass the car driving exam, both about knowing the driving code and mastering the car. Same for lots of things, such as teaching maths in junior high school or practicing medecine. Thus, as proposed by Robert Epstein, one could make a sex education and maturity exam, and any youth of whatever age succeeding it would be allowed to practice sexuality with an adult person not in position of authority, or with a youth having passed the exam. The level of the exam would be accessible to the ordinary teenager, and also to intelligent preteens, but not to 4 years olds.
    As for the risk of intellectual or emotional manipulation by adults, it already exists in non-sexual matters with adults in position of trust and authority: parents, teachers, priests, scout leaders, sport coaches, social workers, etc., and nobody asks for children’s courts to prevent that; it is only when sex is suspected that this problem is raised. As for preventing children from frequenting bad people (adult or minor), parental guidance can be useful.

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    1. As for the risk of intellectual or emotional manipulation by adults, it already exists in non-sexual matters with adults in position of trust and authority: parents, teachers, priests, scout leaders, sport coaches, social workers, etc., and nobody asks for children’s courts to prevent that; it is only when sex is suspected that this problem is raised. As for preventing children from frequenting bad people (adult or minor), parental guidance can be useful.

      I think you have hit the proverbial rub right there, Christian. It seems that our society – including many sincerely well-intentioned members of the Kind community itself – focus a very disproportionate amount of concern on preventing specifically sexual manipulation (either real or perceived) while giving far less attention – if any – to the many non-sexual ways that kids are routinely manipulated by adults on an emotional, social, and intellectual level. I think this is a testament to three main aspects of society we should consider:

      1) Over the past 30 years, such a huge disproportionate focus has been placed on preventing sexual manipulation of kids (as a corollary of preventing them from any form of sexual activity or knowledge at all), that it’s become extremely ingrained in our collective psyche, no matter our personal ideology or experience. We simply cannot help worrying so much about it, and thus worrying less about many other, oftentimes more pervasive ways in which kids are regularly manipulated outside the sexual realm in our geronto-centric society. Hence, the temptation to attempt to mix protectionist measures with a general liberationist/pro-choice ideology, and to overcompensate with the former, are extremely high even with some pro-choicers.

      2) Whatever our ideology may be, some of us feel a strong strategical need to appease the concerns that society so obsessively focuses upon the idea that children and young adolescents are somehow inclined to go along with unrequited sexual desires of adults as a matter of course. This is connected to the difficulty we have distancing ourselves from the paradigm of the Innocent Child and its close political cousin, the Exploited Child, which are a prominent component of contemporary Western culture.

      3) WEIRD culture is obsessively focused upon sexuality in general, due to our ambiguous ideological attitudes towards it. This is why the sexual orientation or proclivities of a political candidate are often perceived as being more important by the voting pool than their stance on far more intrinsically important issues like the economy, civil rights, and the environment. This is also why preventing the sexual manipulation of children is a far greater and more commonly expressed concern in our culture and media than dealing with issues like child poverty, neglect, and the harsh emotional reality of dealing with an authoritarian schooling system based on standardized testing and a “pass or fail” mentality. Issues like starvation, poverty, and neglect simply lack the same emotional “punch” as anything related to sexuality.

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  7. If someone had told me in 1976 that we would still be talking about PIE’s law reform proposals forty years later I would have been intrigued, to say the least. It’s sad we are not able to celebrate their implementation but I am consoled that at least the ideas are still thought worthy of scrutiny.

    Thanks, LSM, for dusting them down. I like your answer to Anonymous, too, on the value added by the civil court deliberations as compared with simply abolishing the age of consent.

    I also note with interest Feinmann’s point that “Peru in 2007 lowered the age of consent by three years from 17 to 14”. For most of us, this is a far away country of which we know little, and this leaves me feeling perhaps we should know a bit more. Why, I wonder, has Peru has moved against the trend?

    Finally, I can report – as I have never done before elsewhere – that in 1977 PIE’s legal proposals were subjected to close scrutiny by Richard Southwell QC, who was and remains an eminent lawyer:

    http://www.serlecourt.co.uk/our-people/profile/richard-southwell-qc-arbitrator . This involvement came about when he was commissioned by the Open University to investigate and report upon my activities with PIE. I had been suspended from my job as a press officer with the university at the time, following adverse publicity, and Southwell was the man they drew upon to look into the issues and, as I am sure the university high-ups wanted, produce a report that would justify my being sacked. They were not disappointed. He who pays the piper…

    Backed by the National Union of Journalists, of which I was a member, I contested my dismissal at an Industrial Tribunal. The university put on, shall we say, a determined show. Taking the witness stand against me were the university treasurer, Sir Frederick Warner, the vice-chancellor, Sir Walter (later Lord) Perry, and even the ceremonial chancellor, Lord Gardiner, whose views were considered relevant because he was a retired Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom – in other words, the highest law officer in the land. As Gerald Gardiner QC, he had successfully defended Penguin Books in the celebrated case of Lady Chatterley’s Lover: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gardiner,_Baron_Gardiner

    With a stellar team like that, it is hardly surprising the university won its case!

    But never mind the anecdotes, there is a more serious point to my mention of the Southwell Report. Southwell interviewed me and gave me the opportunity to distinguish my views from those of PIE if I wished, which I did on a few points. He deals with this with over five pages of his report. This is easily summarised for present purposes as saying that, as a lawyer, he examined PIE’s proposals in detail without finding much to fault in technical terms. He did see a practical difficulty with the injunctions, though, where such injunctions were opposed. He was probably right when he said examination of the child could not have been avoided completely. However, I do not see that it would be necessary to examine the child specifically as to whether sexual activity had taken place already: see below for the reasoning. The person against whom the injunction was directed might want to exercise the right to “clear my name” and prove through cross-examination that any evidence of sexual contact was false. But this would not be a public hearing. The subject of the injunction would be anonymous beyond those already acquainted with the situation. So any such “name-clearing” would in many (all?) cases be a rather unnecessary exercise.

    Southwell said an explanation was “given on his [my] behalf”. That must have been by my NUJ representative, or by the barrister engaged by the NUJ, both of whom would have read PIE’s proposals. The full relevant extract follows.

    FROM SOUTHWELL REPORT, December 1977, page 17:

    53. Proposed System of Injunctions

    I did not fully understand how the system of civil injunctions proposed by PIE and by Mr. O’Carroll would work. The explanation given on his behalf is as follows:

    “Under the system of law proposed by PIE, it would be possible to examine an adult’s relationship with a child in toto. In order for an injunction to be granted, one would not have to establish that sex took place and one would not therefore need to subject a child to examination in the witness box to find out whether it had. The complainant might believe that sex had taken place or night merely suspect that it had. In either case, the injunction having been sought, it would be for the court to decide not whether sex had taken place, but whether it would be desirable to make sure that sex did not take place in the future. PIE would not envisage the adult’s name being publicly divulged…. if an injunction was (sought) in the case of a child aged under four it would automatically be granted, regardless of whether there was any evidence that sex had already taken place”.

    My comment on this is that it is difficult to see how examination of the child, in the first place by those acting for the local authority or person seeking the injunction, and subsequently in the witness box in Court, could be avoided, if the person against whom the injunction was sought fought the case and specifically denied on oath the alleged facts on the basis of which the application for the injunction was made.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Tom.

      I’m wondering how you feel about the PIE proposals 40 years on – you seem a little surprised at their being dusted down.

      Am I right to get the impression that at the time you weren’t wholly happy with them and that in promoting them you were to a certain extent ‘toeing the party line’?

      How do you feel about them nowadays? Are they necessary? Several people have suggested that simple abolition is all that’s needed – after all, isn’t that the way homosexuality was decriminalised? (this is not a rhetorical question – I’m not at all knowledgeable about the decriminalisaion of homosexuality…)

      I’m not convinced that one could simply abolish the age of consent without there being some protections put in it’s place – children ARE more vulnerable to manipulation and less able to defend themselves than are adults, especially in a society that is emerging from one where ignorance and vulnerability is enforced by law.

      However, another aspect worth speculating about is that abolition is likely to happen only after society has so changed that AoC laws have become irrelevant or are seen to work against the spirit of society. In such a society children would be more independent and empowered (this ties in with Dissident’s thoughts about Youth Liberation) – so maybe in such a society children would be in need of less protection than they require in our society.

      Having recently finished the Colin Ward book you recommended “The Child in the City” and listened to the radio4 programme “What’s Wrong with Child Labour?” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tt575) I’m coming round to the idea that Youth Liberation, and the consequent children’s sexual rights, depend on them having a stake in the community, in their environment – and, yes, the economy.

      About the person against whom an injunction has been issued fighting the injunction.

      Am I right in saying that there are three areas which the civil court would consider when deciding whether to issue a prohibition?

      1/ the child’s capacity to communicate consent
      2/ the child’s wishes
      3/ whether the relationship was or wasn’t in the interests of the child.

      If that is the case then it strikes me that the adult could only possibly appeal if the injunction resulted from fears associated with the third area.

      The first is a simple question of numbers (presumably an injunction granted for this reason would expire on the child reaching his/her fourth birthday) and the second doesn’t require any evidence from or about the adult.

      I think a lot depends whether an injunction only prevents sexual contact or whether it also prevents ‘social contact’.

      On reflection that second one could be a source of problems – could a child abuse this system by getting prohibitions issued to create problems for, for example, a teacher they don’t like? Presumably a prohibition couldn’t be issued simple because the child asks for one – claiming maybe that she had a sexual relationship with an adult which she now wishes to terminate. In such a case I can imagine that it would be necessary to prove that sexual relations did occur to avoid the possibility of an adult being banned from seeing the child merely on the child’s say so.

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  8. Blimey Dissident, I guess I am just too thick to comprehend what you are trying to say here. Would you mind simplifying the above to allow me to catch up please? Thank you, from the back of the class.

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      1. Thank you Christian for speaking on Dissident’s behalf, and for attempting to clarify what he said.

        From your point (3): “It is pure abstraction to demand their sexual rights if you forget to demand their liberation from all forms of incapacitation imposed by society, if they cannot see themselves as competent in the face of adults,” and from your interpretation of Dissident’s essay: “it is utopian to try to give sexual freedom to youth while they generally remain dominated and uncapacitated by adults who decide everything for them and who always give them the feeling that they cannot stand face to adults”, you both I take it, suggest it is pointless discussing children’s sexual rights or the abolition of age of consent law in isolation.

        But … countries do amend their age of consent law from time to time, apparently in isolation, and without freeing children from “all forms of incapacitation”? For example, Holland lowered the age of consent by four years from 16 to 12 in 1989, so that an adult could legally have sex with the young person if that young person consented to the contact, and Peru in 2007 lowered the age of consent by three years from 17 to 14 in 2007. By the same token, many countries have raised the age of consent, for example in Europe: Croatia 14 to 15 in 2013, Czech Republic 14 to 15 in 2009, Iceland 14 to 15 in 2007, Lithuania 14 to 16 in 2010.

        Incidentally, I for one would appreciate a plain English approach in debates here. Although it goes without saying, I really love to hear from Dissident here and elsewhere, I must say I really did struggle with understanding him on this occasion!

        Plain English (plain language) is a generic term for communication in English that emphasizes clarity, brevity, and the avoidance of technical language. The goal is to write in a way that is easily understood by the target audience (thickos like me): clear and straightforward, appropriate to their reading skills and knowledge, free of wordiness, cliché, and needless jargon.

        Thank you.

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        1. For starters, I apologize if my response was too cluttered for you to deduce easily. I’ll try harder to be more clear in the future, and Christian did a good job of simplifying what I said on my behalf 🙂

          But … countries do amend their age of consent law from time to time, apparently in isolation, and without freeing children from “all forms of incapacitation”? For example, Holland lowered the age of consent by four years from 16 to 12 in 1989, so that an adult could legally have sex with the young person if that young person consented to the contact, and Peru in 2007 lowered the age of consent by three years from 17 to 14 in 2007. By the same token, many countries have raised the age of consent, for example in Europe: Croatia 14 to 15 in 2013, Czech Republic 14 to 15 in 2009, Iceland 14 to 15 in 2007, Lithuania 14 to 16 in 2010.

          The problem with that, however, is even if you lower the age of consent without granting any more rights to younger people, you still have a situation where they are the de facto property of their parents until they reach a certain age (most often 18, as the common Magic Age of choice). This means that what’s written down on paper regarding at what age a younger person is allowed to consent to sexual activity often runs into conflict with the fact that they lack any other civil rights. This, unfortunately, usually includes the right to access information and support to help them make the best decision for themselves if they desire it, but which their parents do not approve. So even if you cannot be charged with statutory rape or “sexual assault” for having a consensual liaison with a minor, their parents (or other adult guardians) can still order you to stay away from them under general principle, and if you violate that, you can be charged with something like “interfering with the custody of a minor.” And the younger person can still be severely punished if they desire the relationship and attempt to violate the parental edict.

          Also, youth liberation is felt by many pro-choicers to be the best thing that can be done for younger people under general principles of respect: they deserve the right of self-determination under a purported democratic system much like anyone else does. The more a younger person is empowered, the less likely they will be subject to any type of control by another human being — whether it’s a parent or an older person they happen to be in a romantic relationship with.

          Incidentally, I for one would appreciate a plain English approach in debates here. Although it goes without saying, I really love to hear from Dissident here and elsewhere, I must say I really did struggle with understanding him on this occasion!

          Plain English (plain language) is a generic term for communication in English that emphasizes clarity, brevity, and the avoidance of technical language. The goal is to write in a way that is easily understood by the target audience (thickos like me): clear and straightforward, appropriate to their reading skills and knowledge, free of wordiness, cliché, and needless jargon.

          Again, I apologize for the clutter and lengthiness of my typical posts, and I thank you for nevertheless having a general appreciation for what I write. I’ll do my best to comply with your request, though I’m sure you understand it’s not an easy task to completely change one’s writing style even if that person has a good reason to and truly makes the attempt. As a professional writer I’m used to writing essays with a scholarly bent, and I fully understand that this can be a problem for the lay person sometimes.

          Regarding the matter of brevity, I know there is a good reason for that, but as I told Tom recently in the comments section of one of his blogs, brevity can be a double-edged sword. This is because different readers have different aesthetic preferences. Many prefer brevity and layperson clarity for a number of admittedly good reasons. Others, however, prefer more thoroughness, and at times when I have successfully gone out of my way to be short and concise, I have found myself accused of being intellectually evasive and not giving full an important subject the full justice it deserved from readers who prefer more thoroughness. Hence, you can never please everyone, which is why it’s good that we have a variety of writers here with a variety of styles. I will nevertheless do my best to attempt to compromise for readers of all preferences. to the best of my ability.

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          1. “ … the fact that they lack any other civil rights”

            In the case of the UK, the above statement does not appear to be the case. lawstuff.org.uk/the-facts/what-are-childrens-rights indicates that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child contains a large number of different rights that children have, plus the range of responsibilities that the Government, and others, have to make sure that children have these rights.

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            1. Feinmann, “children rights” do not mean the same as “civil rights”. By “children rights”, one generally means protection of children’s interests by adults. By “civil rights” one means rights of citizens, such as (to quote again from https://consentinghumans.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/rationalization-can-paedophiles-argue-for-childrens-sexual-rights/#comment-548): “constitutional rights: the right to assemble, to demonstrate peacefully, to petition autorities for individual or collective grievances, the right to publish their opinions and to strike.”

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              1. Sorry Christian, that’s rubbish. Children’s rights are defined in numerous ways, including a wide spectrum of civil rights, cultural rights, economic rights, social rights and political rights.

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                1. Anyway, “children’s rights” are rights defined by adults, not by children, conceded from above, not conquered from below, and many of them depend on the good will of the adults having authority on the children (e.g., freedom of thought and expression, freedom of religion). Many are negative rights, that is, the right to be protected from things that adults consider bad for children, not positive rights and free choice. I don’t see in the list the right to form a trade union, to strike, to discuss politics and to engage in political activity, the right to freely access sexual information and to sexual expression.

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                2. I think what Christian meant is that too often “children’s rights” are defined in such a way that they are not actually civil rights as defined by, say, the U.S. Constitution, but rather by the politics of protectionism. He also correctly identified what are often called negative rights, meaning, to quote from The Handmaiden’s Tale, to differentiate between “freedom to” and “freedom from.”

                  An example of a “right” as defined by a protectionist would be the following: “children have a right to be free from sexual abuse, so we prohibit them from making any type of decision which may lead to sexual abuse” – specifically, anything they personally define as sexual abuse, which is any sexual contact between adults and underagers under any possible conditions or circumstances; hence, children are denied the right to say “yes” to insure they are “free” from sexual abuse as protectionists define it.

                  An example of a right as defined by a true civil rights or youth liberationist would be the following: “children have the right to be free from sexual abuse, which means they have the right to say ‘no’ and to extricate themselves from living situations in which they deem abusive; however, they likewise have the right to choose sexual interaction with any person who may reciprocate the desire, meaning they also have the right to say ‘yes'” – accordingly, they also have the right to access any information or support system that would empower them in terms of knowledge and help them to make the best decision for themselves as individuals.

                  I hope this was clear.

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                  1. “I hope this was clear.” Not really Dissident.

                    My eyes started to glaze over when I saw the phrase ‘politics of protectionism.’

                    I have proffered my take on what should happen in my opening comment on this thread. I need say no more.

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                    1. Sorry, Feinmann0, but I cannot possibly have a full understanding of what words or concepts you are familiar with, and which you are not, when I compose a response. It’s nigh-impossible not to include certain jargon and certain terms that we in the Kind community have been using for long periods of time. My advice is simply to pick up an understanding of these terms as you read the various posts here, and look up any political concepts or terminology you may not immediately understand on Wikipedia or one of the many online dictionaries. That’s how everyone here learns these things, including myself.

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  9. Thank you for another thoughtful, bold, and thoroughly necessary post, Lensman!

    There is one thing I would like to point out regarding the discussion of a society that accepts child-adult romantic intimacy. I understand that PIE did make some efforts to coordinate dialogue with the burgeoning youth liberation movement of the ’70s (understandably limited due to the laws and mores, as discussed by Tom O’Carroll and myself a few months ago in the comments section of one of his blogs on TOC Heretic), but based on reading excerpts from PIE’s stated policies, it seemed as if it was largely discussing an alternative to the age of consent laws and blanket prohibition on intergenerational relationships as we now know them (or knew them then) within the context of a WEIRD system that did not embrace youth liberation as a whole.

    I think leaving youth liberation as a whole out of the discussion regarding an ethical & fully democratic alternative to age of consent laws and blanket prohibition is a problem that leads to many “unanswered” questions and concerns that would be largely answerable and considerably less of a concern if more or less full adult hegemony (or “geronto-chuvanism”) wasn’t resigned to remaining the prevailing state of affairs outside the realm of sexual choices. A purported society of openness about child sexuality and tolerant (if not totally accepting) of mutually consensual intergenerational romantic relationships that display no evidence of demonstrable harm or coercion, but which is presumed to allow children and young adolescents little agency outside of that single realm of interaction with adults, would have considerably greater problems to hurdle than a society that granted full agency to young people who wanted it and displayed enough cognition at whatever early age to express an interest in such emancipation.

    Now granted, I understand that one reason that the full spectrum of youth liberation is often not discussed on many pro-choice Kind fora or blogs is simply because the broader aspects of youth lib outside of sexual autonomy may be viewed as straying off-topic. But is it? If we wish to create a more free and open society that does not feel the need to resort to draconian and extreme protectionist measures to insure the “safety” of children and young adolescents, then I believe that a society of kids empowered with full access to societal databases of knowledge and information to achieve a great understanding of, as well as opportunities for direct participation in, running and formulating the rules and major decisions of society itself needs to be seriously discussed in the Kind community without being considered overly off-topic.

    Now, in regards to the discussions about economics we have had in relation to this subject, as important and insightful as they are: whatever the economic basis of society may be at any given time, youths need to be allowed to participate in it.

    I have as many quarrels with capitalism as you do, my friend (and probably many more!), and many Kind people have their idea of the best type of economic system we could possibly have – not only to facilitate youth participation, but for human society in general. However, it’s becoming increasingly important that youth lib not be seen as a partisan issue when it comes to this or that political party, or support for this or that type of economy; focusing on this issue alone, or insisting that youth lib should only be established under what we sincerely believe to be the ideal economic framework, causes needless impediments to individuals of diverse political backgrounds who are nevertheless all willing to support youth liberation from uniting for that specific cause… a cause that can enable youth lib to step across partisan boundaries and foster more widespread acceptance among the general populace at large.

    Whatever economic system ultimately prevails as the best system for human civilization should be considered, at best, of limited concern to youth liberationists when specifically discussing youth lib under general principles (as opposed to under specific circumstances, which also merits discussion at times); all who are sympathetic to youth lib should be willing to put other political differences aside when discussing support for the basic principles of this issue. No matter what the economic conditions that exist when youth liberation is achieved, younger people need the right to participate in that system, otherwise they will be subject to economic dependence upon adults, and at the mercy of exclusively adult agencies, no matter how objective we might like to think these agencies (e.g., a Children’s Court) would be. Keeping this in mind has enabled me, a very devout and shameless Marxian socialist, the ability to work with libertarians and sometimes even conservatives who all happen to agree with the basic tenets of youth liberation.

    The best type of objectivity would be conducted by a Community or Children’s Court that was comprised of emancipated youths along with adults; economic institutions that included young as well as adult laborers working together based on individual merits; and a system whose most important institutions (e.g., education system, Congress) had a good degree of youth as well as adult representation. I didn’t see this mentioned or alluded to anywhere in PIE’s policies, so I can only presume that their conception of the Children’s Court was assumed to be one comprised entirely of adults (of course, if I’m wrong, I will apologize if shown evidence to the contrary from some other PIE source, and I will note that I respect what PIE was trying to do very much).

    All pro-choicers need to familiarize themselves with the principles of youth liberation, and the two best texts for which to do this IMO are Birthrights by Richard Farson, the primer of the topic published during the 1970s (out of print, but used print copies can be purchased very cheaply from independent sellers on Amazon); Robert Epstein’s Teen 2.0, the 2010 update of his 2007 book The Case Against Adolescence (which is the same book, but with less info); and all of the classic tomes written by John Holt.

    One of the major problems with leaving youth lib mostly out of the discussion is the serious problem left unaddressed regarding the place where children and young adolescents typically have the bulk of genuine abuse of all kinds inflicted upon them: within the home, and under the strict aegis of the insular, geronto-centric nuclear family home so beloved and unquestioned today. When pro-choicers focus their conversation primarily on addressing concerns of preventing abuse in relations between underagers and adults who lack the most direct power and authority over these kids, then we end up, in a sense, playing into the hands of antis, anti-choicers, and all other defenders of the prevailing status quo by diverting discussion away from the most potent source of real abuse. It prevents us from fully questioning the institutions that favor and empower adults who have the most direct authority and control over kids, and ignores how such power can be a major corrupting influence on human nature. Finally, it promotes the very dubious idea that those who sincerely love other people the most are somehow the least likely people to be abusive towards them in any way. This totally overlooks the darker manifestations of love, not to mention how such deeply held emotions can easily compromise one’s objectivity towards the objects of their sincere love… and which makes love and control two very uncomfortable and often conflicting bedfellows.

    This problem is further manifested in any call among some pro-choicers who insist that parents and other older familial adults should have an authoritative hand in making these types of decisions for kids under their control; or that adults with strong emotions for children under their control would invariably make better decisions for them than an objective bureaucratic body. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these bureaucratic bodies are typically bereft of agendas amongst their members that likewise compromise their own objectivity for decision-making of this nature. However, I believe this is largely the result of the fact that such community courts have no emancipated youth representation amongst them. This is a highly problematic situation that could be alleviated by implementing a broad youth liberation platform into whatever system may exist, and how it could positively impact the objectivity of these Community/Children’s Courts.

    Once youth lib is established, then the voices of younger people will be seriously included in even broader discussions about how society is run, including what type of economic system is best for society overall. Giving a voice and empowerment to young people in the formulation of society’s rules may indeed lead to a more communal family life that you and I favor, Lensman (let’s cross our fingers!) But if not, it may at least lead to a more democratic iteration of the nuclear family unit that isn’t nearly as insular or “cut off” from the community at large; and one that fosters considerably less abuse upon younger people and instead encourages far greater mutual respect and collaboration between parents and their progeny, thus leading to a more peaceful and democratic co-habitation under the same roof.

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  10. “pool of potential partners”…very true, only people who are reckless and unstable to choose from — Look at the Swedish model relating to prostitution, where only the punter (usually male) is punished,everything is unregulated and underground,and hard to measure. I was searching for Lindsay Ashford’s proposals on children’s rights; Had the link once, so if anyone knows where it is, would be grateful for it.

    As for ‘know your ages of consent, check this out, a banned book

    Age of consent: A sex tourists guide:http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13618204-age-of-consent

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  11. Why not simply abolish it? There needs to be no bureaucratic framework to replace it. In all court cases involving an age of consent the nature of the relationship and elements involved is already considered by court – it is simply considered irrelevant if it was found to be consensual.

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    1. Well, in a sense PIE’s proposals do what you suggest – except that referrals in which no crime was committed would be dealt with by a civil court.

      A system which was able only to deal with cases where a crime had already been committed – which is how criminal courts work – would not be able to deal with relationships where no crime had yet been committed but the child wanted the relationship to end – the adult would have to violate the child’s consent before a prohibition of some sort could be issued against him.

      It would also not be able to deal with a relationship where the child consented but which was clearly not in the child’s best interest; it could not deal with grey areas where the child is able to communicate consent at the time of the intimacy but not to the court (such as when a child is under the age of 4 or mentally impaired) – in all these cases a crime would have to be committed before a criminal court could take action.

      The civil court preempts these problems. The civil court would not be adversarial, the child would not be cross-examined or have to appear, the adult wouldn’t be ‘on trial’, there would be no cross-examination of either party, the adult would probably not need to be examined at all, there would be no need to prove that intimacy had or hadn’t previously taken place – (all of which would happen if were dealt with by a criminal court) – and the bias would be entirely towards the child’s wishes and interests – even if the adult could prove the child had consented in previous intimate relationships, if the child didn’t want the relationship to continue the court could issue a prohibition.

      The civil court allows the child to assert her wishes without criminal law having to be invoked (since no crime has been committed) – and therefore spares the child (and the adult) what would be a highly disagreeable process.

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  12. A further layer on this delicious cake we are making …

    The following sexual rights are fundamental and universal human rights, and apply equally to children (in a world where there is no age of consent).

    1. The right to sexual freedom. Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.

    2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body. This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.

    3. The right to sexual privacy. This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviours about intimacy, as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.

    4. The right to sexual equity. This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.

    5. The right to sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a course of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing.

    6. The right to emotional sexual expression. Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.

    7. The right to sexually associate freely. This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.

    8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices. This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.

    9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry. This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.

    10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education. This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.

    11. The right to sexual health care. Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.

    Source: Fourteenth World Congress of Sexology, 1999, Hong Kong

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  13. Thanks LSM. From where I am, the font size in your reply is HUMUNGOUS ;o)

    I think you should consider the dynamic that exists between a husband and wife and ask the very same questions you are asking above.

    Tom O’Carroll: “Let’s take everyone’s favourite horror story: a paedophile desires intercourse with a minor, and the minor agrees. Given that we have abolished age of consent, it is legal. But the youth changes his/her mind at some point. If there is a disproportion in power (caused by age, physical size, strength, etc.) how many more or less chances of violence do you think there are, compared to the case of an adult woman? But the age of consent doesn’t shield the minor in the first place. It’s not a physical shield they can use to ward off attention. The fact that the action is illegal rather than legal doesn’t prevent the minor agreeing to sex and then changing their minds. I don’t see how changing the legality of underage sex for whatever age bracket affects the role of predatory members of society, who do and will act in a predatory manner regardless of the law. The situation you outline would be rape regardless of whether the victim is a minor or not. Children, 13, 14, 15 are going out there an engaging in sexual activity, but if anything the age of consent places those who are sexually active in greater (not lesser) harm, because it restricts the pool of potential and willing partners to those who are happy to engage in illicit sexual activity. Some will be other minors and some will be adult sexual predators.”

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    1. >”the font size in your reply is HUMUNGOUS ;o)”

      Ahh, flattery will get you nowhere, mr F !!!

      ” Children, 13, 14, 15 are going out there an engaging in sexual activity, but if anything the age of consent places those who are sexually active in greater (not lesser) harm, because it restricts the pool of potential and willing partners to those who are happy to engage in illicit sexual activity.”

      That’s a very good point – the AoC laws increase the likelihood that a child who engages in sexual activities with adults will do so with an individual of a more reckless and criminal disposition – probably not a good thing in itself.

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      1. MMMMMMM … I nearly fonted when I saw the size of your points …

        … just the right size now though; I do prefer them when they are small 😀

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  14. The age of consent has been abolished according to the title of this topic, so we have now have the emancipated child able to choose whether or not to enter into an intimate relationship.

    I have previously included ethical criteria here: https://consentinghumans.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/some-arguments-for-a-kinder-world/

    The above ethical criteria should be sufficiently comprehensive to uphold the well-being of the child, because it empowers the child. I maintain that it should be up to the family to oversee and mediate in such a relationship, not some lousy bureaucrat in an office a gazillion miles from the family home.

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    1. Thanks for that Feinmann0.

      I have to say that I agree with everything you quote and write in the comment you link to – well, almost everything (see below).

      But my great doubt, one which I expect Josh shared when he asked the questions which head the current blog-essay, is how one translates such ethical principals into practice – for example, it’s one thing to state as an ethical principal “The minor should be able to withdraw from the relationship at any moment.” but how can a society guarantee that this happens in practice?

      I don’t think that simply abolishing the age of consent would guarantee that relationships were conducted ethically – though the empowerment and education of children that should accompany abolition should introduce a significant amount of self-regulation into the system. Even empowered adults in teleiophilic relationships have their raft of laws and institutions whose goal is to prevent rape, abuse, and non-consensual sex – clearly for teleios simply having the right to consent hasn’t eliminated all abuse and nor would giving children the right to consent eliminate all abuse (though I think that there are good reasons for thinking it would significantly reduce the amount of genuine abuse).

      I’m not so sure that it should be up to the family to oversee and mediate such relationships – that would mean a child born to a puritannical family or to very possessive parents would be denied rights which were available to other children. In fact I think that the isolated nuclear family is what is responsible for the idea that children are ‘innocent’.

      But this touches on the wider question of the kind of society that would accept the abolition of the AoC – it would have to be a society in which the community plays a greater role in children’s lives than the nuclear family – the community can furnish individuals with whom a child can express their sexuality without violating incest taboos – the family can’t.

      >”some lousy bureaucrat in an office a gazillion miles from the family home.”

      I think the children’s courts would consist of magistrates drawn from the local community – an idea I like: the immediate community watching over its children’s lives and well-being.

      The comment Feinmann0 refers to above is certainly worth reading – it’s rather long, but I think it is worth reproducing here in full (original can be found here)

      “The following ethical criteria quoted from “Positive Memories; Cases of positive memories of erotic and platonic relationships and contacts of children with adults, as seen from the perspective of the former minor”, by T. Rivas, 2011, could usefully be included in the education of the child regarding his or her sexual rights (teenagers qualify as either the adult or the child, depending on the dynamic of the relationship):

      Important ethical criteria

      1. Both the adult and child want to have a relationship with each other and experience the relationship as positive. The minor should be able to withdraw from the relationship at any moment. The adult should also make it clear that any sexual contact should be intrinsically desired by the minor, rather than being just a favour to the adult.

      2. In case of erotic contact, there must not be any form of physical harm or unwanted pregnancy.

      3. Personal boundaries of minors ought to be respected and any possible erotic contact must be completely consensual. In case of doubt about the child’s wishes (e.g., because these have not been clearly expressed yet), the adult should simply refrain from any erotic contact. The initiative for such contact should generally lie with the child. This ensures that any possible erotic contact will be based on the child’s own wishes and over-all personality. Of course, there should not be any signs of manipulation or brainwashing by the adult. Consensual ‘paedophile’ erotic contact is by definition based upon the consensual erotic activities that minors typically practice with themselves or other minors. Especially in relationships with young children, normally there will be no penetration, but only kissing, caressing, petting, mutual manual stimulation, shared masturbation, or oral stimulation, with only rare exceptions.

      4. The adult must be honest about the nature and extent of his or her feelings and affection for the child. The minor should be made generally aware of what he or she can expect from the adult and from the relationship to prevent painful disappointments and feelings of being betrayed by the adult. The adult should analyse the nature of the feelings of the minor and find out whether they match his or her own wishes and intentions.

      5. The adult must in general respect the child’s personality, activities, and wishes, and the minor’s personal, social or relational freedom should not in any way be limited by the adult.

      6. In case the child has a relatively good relationship with his or her parents or care-takers, they ought to be fully informed about the relationship. Important parental decisions about the relationship should be respected. The adult should also make sure that the relationship does not negatively affect the emotional bond between the child and the parents. More generally, important boundaries set by societal, religious, and cultural taboos, and the law should not be crossed, as long as this might create a scandal or negatively affect the child’s self-perception or perception of the relationship. In general, any adult who feels attracted to a minor should realize that it may take quite some time (perhaps decades) to change the dominant perception of voluntary and harmless relationships, and always act accordingly.

      7. The adult should not spoil the child too much but rather support a positive development of his or her self-esteem and self-control, personal talents and potential, social skills, and a moral, pro-social attitude. Sexuality should not replace other emotional or relational needs and the frequency of erotic contacts should be moderate to avoid so-called sexual addiction.

      8. The adult should make the minor aware of the existence of real child abuse and warn him or her of non-consensual sex.

      9. Not only should relationships be accepted by (benevolent) care-takers and relatives of the minor, but children should also be protected against avoidable negative reactions of bullies and narrow-minded neighbours. This implies a basic level of discretion about the relationship, although such discretion ought not to lead to ‘secrets’ towards other adults with whom the minor has a close emotional bond.

      10. Relationships should never be ended abruptly and the adult should always try to stay in touch as long as the minor needs this. In general, affectionate erotic relationships deserve to be continued platonically after the erotic part would have ended.

      Only relationships that meet the above criteria deserve one’s respect and protection.

      **********

      A role for the parents or care-takers

      Ideally, the parents or care-takers have an important role to play during a close intergenerational relationship of their child. By communicating with their child, they could regularly check (in a relaxed, non-directive way) whether the relationship and its possible erotic aspects really match the child’s wishes and expectations and whether the adult adequately respects the child’s boundaries. More generally, they could also explore the adult’s personality and integrity and make sure he or she has no (relevant) criminal record or reputation as a rapist.
      **********

      Thus, their awareness of criteria for positive and safe relationships will certainly not lead to an increase of real abuse, but rather prevent potential adult partners who have good intentions but unfortunately lack basic empathic skills from endangering the minor’s well-being.

      Furthermore, decriminalization of positive relationships will generally lead to more openness between parents or care-takers and minors about such relationships, but also about sexual abuse, and this, in turn, will be discouraging to real child-molesters and dangerous psychopaths.

      To ensure the child’s safety, it could be a good idea, in case of doubts about the adult’s intentions, to allow any possible erotic activity only after a period of months of exclusively platonic contact. This may also be important because it familiarizes the minor with what can be expected from the adult and prevents unrealistic dreams about the relationship.

      From a moral standpoint, this inevitably means that, for the time being, it is, in general, not a good idea (for an adult) to engage in consensual ‘paedophile’ relationships with minors. Many – or even most – consensual relationships will inevitably end up being re-interpreted as abuse, which may have damaging psychological consequences for the (former) child, in terms of confusion and guilt.

      Only from a conservative, closed-minded outlook on life and human values may it seem obvious that some phenomena which are consensual and psychologically harmless should still continue to be regarded as immoral. Starting from any other approach, personal experiences are obviously more important than prejudices and caricatures.”

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      1. “I think the children’s courts would consist of magistrates drawn from the local community – an idea I like: the immediate community watching over its children’s lives and well-being.”

        Hmmm, unfortunately there has been a noticeable societal shift in recent times. We are not the society that we once were. Our sense of community has been replaced by an introspective selfishness. Local groups who once met to plan events and socialise are no more. Streets that were once filled with children riding bikes, sociable parents and parties, now stand empty. Homes are now seen with curtains drawn and doors locked. Busier lifestyles, the rise of indoor activities, and fear dominate. It was more common for women to stay home and manage the home and family, than it is today. They would meet neighbours at playgrounds, the parents of other children on class trips, and neighbours actually stopped to introduce themselves. These casual yet simple gestures created friendships. We now have a more reserved social environment, where neighbours hardly know one another.

        Where I live, the sense of community is still really strong, and people look out for one another. Respect and deference is everywhere, but even here things are changing, and changing fast as the younger generation begins to embrace capitalism and all its sugar-sweet trappings. But then this is not a WEIRD society.

        So I think WEIRD societies no longer care to care for ‘its’ children simply because communities no longer exist … all that remains are nuclear families each with its own fearful silo mentality.

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