The shifting arguments for the age of consent

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I'm probably going to do a video response to their podcast, and one of my points will be that just because someone says, "Pedophiles are scum" or the like, doesn't mean they're not a pedophile. There have been Republicans who voted for anti-gay legislation, and later turned out to be pederasts. Stephen Colbert even joked, "The Foley saga quickly set leaders of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, or, Congress, into action."

When people point the finger and say "Pedophiles are scum" I always have to be a little skeptical about the person pointing the finger. In prison, some of the people who would be the most aggressive about asking newcomers, "Let me see you're paperwork. You're not a chomo, are you?" were people who had something to hide themselves. In many cases, they either had a sex offense on their own record, or they were snitches who got a sentence reduction by betraying their comrades. Or as Chris Zoukis points out, "There is even a stratification system within the sex offender group. At some federal prisons, the pornography possessors view themselves as being superior to the producers. The younger sex offenders also tend to view themselves as less culpable — or at least as less deserving of ridicule — than the older sex offenders because of the closer age difference between themselves and the victim or the person in the photos."

With regard to the age of consent -- it's a tough issue to argue because 90% of the people one brings the issue up with will say, "Only a pedophile would argue the point you're arguing" and the discussion will end there. You can point out that's an appeal to motive, but they don't care. So congratulations on being among the 10%.

The idea that informed consent is needed, dates back to when there was a commonly-held belief that women who lost their virginity before marriage were ruined. Therefore the argument was "that the age at which a girl can legally consent to her own ruin be raised to at least eighteen years".

These days, "slut-shaming" is widely viewed (although not by me) as bad, so the arguments used for the age of consent have had to shift, in much the same way that, once it was disproved that pot smoking causes brain damage, and once it became politically incorrect to accuse black men of using pot to seduce white women, the arguments for pot prohibition had to shift.

Now people argue that young people who have sex with adults will suffer from traumatic sexualization and feelings of betrayal, stigmatization, and powerlessness. I address those issues in my essay, It's arbitrary what requires informed consent.

I point out in that essay also that there are a few different ways of looking at consent involving kids. Some libertarians would say, a kid can consent to whatever he wants from the moment he's born, and the only limits on what he can do are those set by the property rights of others. So, for example, he can't wander into traffic because that street belongs to someone else, and therefore his parent has a right to defend those property rights by pulling him out of harm's way.

At the same time, if you look at it this way, then how will you do stuff like vaccinate your kids, if they object to being stuck with a needle because they don't understand it? What if lifesaving surgery is needed; does it count as consent if you put him under general anesthesia and he doesn't say "no" when you put the scalpel in him, because he's unconscious?

So another way of looking at it is that the parent exercises consent on the child's behalf. Then the question arises, are there any limits on this? Where does one draw the line and say that the parent is abusing his discretion? Who is going to be the one to make that determination, and how does one keep that overseer from abusing THEIR discretion?

It's tempting to set up some agency like Child Protective Services that will say, "No, you can't practice female genital mutilation on your daughter." The problem is that they don't stop there; they will continue expanding their power till they are taking away children for frivolous reasons. It then gets to a point where the cure is worse than the disease, because a lot of children taken away from their parents end up suffering worse abuse in foster homes.

So, what if a Libertarian wanted to practice female genital mutilation on his daughter; should the Party kick him out? Part of the problem with that is that as soon as you denounce one of your own, you're admitting that you had an undesirable in your midst, which suggests that there might be more whom your Party has attracted, but who haven't been kicked out yet. It would be better just to say, "His personal life is separate from his libertarianism" or "We don't discipline our rank-and-file members for their personal behavior, although we might not nominate them for office if we think their personal behavior will be a distraction."

I guess that's not the direction they're going in, though.

You may be interested in the rule of sevens, by the way. The rule of sevens is used in determining whether a minor can give "informed assent," which is a lower standard than "informed consent." So the question then arises, does sex actually require informed consent, or is informed assent good enough?

Oh, I forgot to mention -- the original argument for the age of consent was that it was needed in order to preserve for the marriage value of daughters, so originally there was no age of marriageability. The idea was, marriage cured the fact that she had been under the of consent. Virginia even used to have a statute:

§ 18.2-66. Effect of subsequent marriage to child over fourteen years of age.

If the carnal knowledge is with the consent of the child and such child is fourteen years of age or older, the subsequent marriage of the parties may be pleaded to any indictment found against the accused. The court, upon proof of such marriage, and that the parties are living together as husband and wife, and that the accused has properly provided for, supported, and maintained and is at the time properly providing, supporting and maintaining the spouse and the issue of such marriage, if any, shall continue the case from time to time and from term to term, until the spouse reaches the age of sixteen years. Thereupon the court shall dismiss the indictment already found against the accused for the aforesaid offense. However, if the accused deserts such spouse before the spouse reaches the age of sixteen without just cause, any indictment found against the accused for such offense shall be tried without regard to the number of times the case has been continued, and whether such continuance is entered upon the order book.