Friday, April 25, 2008

Age Of Consent

Over on the Volokh Conspiracy, law prof Eugene Volokh blogs on Age of Consent Laws. (Also see Prof. Volokh's various responses to commenters here and here .) Perhaps most interesting are the commenters who question why anyone would want to ask about age of consent laws in the first place, as shown by Prof. Volokh in his last post:

This is a perfect example of why people claim professors are out of touch with reality. When someone can accurately but facilely summarize your suggestion with "he wants to change the law so that adults should be allowed to have sex with high school sophomores," you lose. No further inquiry, no appeal, no nothing: you're automatically some lunatic that thinks something approaching pedophilia is OK.

Some curious thoughts are best kept to one's self....

I find the discussion rather interesting, but the "don't talk about it" comments are rather disheartening. Asking about the rationale behind age of consent laws shouldn't automatically make you a perfect. Laws- all laws- are infringements of our natural rights and as such, there should be no problem defending the laws we have if they really are necessary. Even laws againast murder and theft are infringements on the rights we'd have in the state of nature- of course laws againast murder and theft are fairly easy to defend as such laws represent the backbone of our civilization.

But the age of consent- just like any age where we permit children to exercise their rights as adult- is not such a fundamental proposition. 99.99% of the population probably agrees that yes, there does need to be some age of consent for sexual activity. But whatever that law ends up being, on some level is rather arbitrary. Why not 14? Why not 16? Why not 18? Why not 21? Why not 25? One or some of those ages may be better than others, but the only way to determine that is through rational discussion.

I think this unwillingness to discuss the rational behind law is a major flaw in our national psyche. Far too often, the fact that certain activities are illegal and have been illegal for a long time are given as reasons why the law is perfectly acceptable the way it is and shouldn't be changed. We here this faulty logic not just with age of consent, but with drug laws and even immigration policy. In my mind, it represents far too much acquiescence to government and far too little attention to the notion that laws are meant to serve the interests of society as a whole.

Let me just add before I conclude, that immigration policy discussions fit perfectly here. The point of my discussion is that just because a law is the law doesn't make it a proper or a good law. Slavery was the law of the land for centuries, but thankfully, good people questioned the rational of holding people in lifetime servitude. Run away slaves may have broken the law at the time, but that doesn't mean the law couldn't be changed to protect them from future prosecutions. Similarly, illegal immigrants may have technically broken the law to live in the United States, but that doesn't mean they can't be protected as well.

The law is the law is a good reason as to why you should follow it- It's not a good reason as to why it shouldn't be changed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some libertarians are promoting that there should be no age of consent and that sex should be allowed between a post-puberty person and any other post-puberty person regardless of their age.

What do you think?

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous I am one of those libertarians. I've written about it here:
Also, check the Libertarian Alliance UK's essay on it:

'Age of consent' laws are a product of Victorian sexual mores and the therapeutic state. In virtually every other society at all times 9-11 was a valid marrying age, and 12+ was good for having kids, supposing you had some income. Westerners are just douchebags who are obsessed with sex and incapable of thinking rationally about children.

Fuck liberals and humanists with their child-babying/hide-the-world-from-them mentality. Bad parents and bad people, they're a bunch of God damn idiots. Teach your kid to work and understand how the world and people work, otherwise, abort the little shit before he bothers the rest of us civilized adults.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe the age of consent should be abolished, it IS there for a reason. But I also think it wouldn't be the end of the world if it was set some number of years before 18, stats seem to show that most Americans do experiment before that age.

Even Canada had their age of consent set at 14 before changing it under a conservative government in 2008 (and mostly due to foreigners coming there for dubious reasons). I think Americans infantilize their progeny far too much these days, even a 17-year-old having a relationship with an older woman would be met with livid disgust and outrage by many of them. Is that truly a sign of progress...or the opposite?

3:37 PM  

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