Friday, February 03, 2006

Spout Off: Age Of Consent

Or: Do We Trust The Little Fuckers or Not?

Oof, this one's gonna be interesting...

I mean just a quick look at Wikipedia shows us that the world is of various minds on the topic (FYI: The average in the US is 16, but it ranges from 13 - 18 depending on the circumstances. Lowest in the US: New Mexico - 13, if the partner is 17 or younger. Overall Lowest in the US: Iowa - 16, no age restrictions on the partner; though states like Virginia and Texas seem to take it on a case by case basis. Lowest worldwide: South Korea/Spain - 13, but that changes if we're talking about illegal activities like prostitution, South Korea goes to 19. Spain has some "possible restrictions" for kids under 16).

That said, it seems like at least once a year I hear some mind-boggling story about kids as young as 8 engaging in "sexual activity" with kids in their age range. Apparently the game of Doctor has become the game of Fluffer. (Where is an eight year old getting these ideas? Did someone forget to replace the porno with the Boohbah tape/dvd? Is the babysitter taking numbers? What?)

The most recent example of this that I can think of concerned a group of 12 - 14 year olds, who created an "oral sex club" at their Junior High; where two people would couple up and experiment with oral sex. One at least hopes that the experimentation crossed the gender roles, but knowing Jr. High, odds are not.

(Sidenote to all of the Aunts and Uncles: As your sibling is unlikely to have a realistic talk with their kids about sex, do your nieces/nephews a favor and tell them to not only be attentive of their partners, but to make sure their own needs are met. Boys don't need the latter part of this discussion so much, but it wouldn't hurt to reinforce it. Whatever you do, don't just sit them down in front of the TV with a video tape labeled Swedish Erotica. "What's that midget gonna do with that champagne bottle?" should not be a question anyone learning about sex should ask. Not that I speak from personal experience...ahem.)

There are other issues here, such as should homosexuality change the age differential? Why does the Older Woman/Younger Boy combination seem more palatable that the inverse*? What influence, if any, will Grandma's Boy have on any of this?

I'll let our spouters get on with their business.

*My answer would be a showing of the pre-pubescent male wish fulfillment movie, Private Lessons.
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[JJ opines:]

This is already feeling as though it may have appeared more juicy than it actually is.

Because, age of consent is essentially a legal classification, and has very specific parameters. The social aspect, probably the more fecund area of inquiry, seems to be limited to how the AOC laws are enforced.

I’ll start simply: Do I believe that AOC laws should exist? Yes, I do, for the simple fact that I do not believe, for example, that a 10 year old can give informed consent to sex with a 21 year old, irregardless of what the 10 year old might think or claim, and that there needs be a statute to which to appeal in such cases. I think that the 10 year old would be unable to supply consent in such a case because of a lack of maturity and the power dynamic created by age disparity. Granted, I’m using an extreme case, but merely establishing that I agree with them in general concept as a starting place.

The question then becomes how to determine what the age of consent should be, and I think it has to be a function of local cultural factors. The age of consent has edged higher not because we have raised the standards of maturity, but because our local culture (US as a broad stroke) produces maturity at a slower rate. At one time, a 10 year old was equipped to handle responsibility, even on the order of a child, but we produce no such 10 year olds these days. I think there is little question that we infantilize our children, not by underestimating their development, but by actively retarding it, but I digress.

So, I think the age of consent has to be determined by maturity as judged by local cultural standards, and I believe they should take into account power dynamics, including age differential and other structures (e.g. boss or teacher (and have I ever told you how much people that don’t know the difference between e.g. and i.e.?)).

Should the age be different for homosexual sex? No, that is ridiculous bias.

Should the age be different for different sexual acts? No, that is a silly way to try and fly under the radar of the bias above, but to the same end. And should consent prove to be for a bit more that the consenter bargained for (I didn’t know that would hurt so much!), it is important to note that I believe consent is withdrawable mid-act, and failure to respect the withdrawal is assault.

But, really, I feel like the laws should be there so there is a law to appeal to when conflict arises, but that socially we have to be selective about how we enforce. A couple of 10 year olds get carried away with their game of doctor and end up 69-ing each other, I don’t think AOC laws should come into play. On the other hand, I can conceive of the 12-14 year old oral sex club involving power dynamics and coercion, and the AOC laws becoming potentially applicable and useful, but that would depend on the specifics of the situation.

To recap – AOC laws useful, and determined by local standards, and should be enforced based on thoughtful analysis of individual cases. The gender of who you bang and how you bang them should not be a consideration.

All you, Houndster.
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[Lyamhound replies:]

Like JJ, I agree that this may not be the fertile ground for debate I thought it was (although, being a non-parent mostly surrounded by parents, some of my thoughts may seem a little controversial). What's more, I don't think my position is all that different from the one JJ has laid out.

I'm uncomfortable with passing any kinds of laws that apply to sexuality or human interrelation. My primary objection to such is that any code is going to be subject to possible exceptions. Too broadly worded a law gives enforcers and interpreters room to intuit, and I'd rather they had no such space (I trust no one's intuition but my own and those I dearly love . . . and even then . . . ). Too narrow a law takes the room for intuition out, but it can create a statute that, strictly followed would apply to the two 10-year-olds to whom JJ refers later in his post.

All that said, I'll grudgingly admit that we DO need a statute to which to appeal when those who are clearly adults engage in sexual relations with those who are clearly children. Furthermore, I think lack of maturity in, say, a 10-year is enough reason to believe that she (or he) is unable to correctly identify exploitation and power dynamics.

The problem, in my mind, with allowing age of consent to be a function of local cultural factors is the problem that always dogs my extremely mixed feelings regarding states rights: The trouble of existing and functioning as a U.S. citizen in a statutory patchwork of local, state and regional norms. There's a part of me that thinks there's some good to be gained from kicking questions like marriage, abortion and, for the sake of argument, AOC down to the state level (where the latter already lives, per TBO's post); but how many of us study the constitution and acquired legal precedent of a given state before moving? I can see both sides on that matter. So recognize that I believe that AOC should be uniform, but that I don't know if it can be made so without a risk of endangering either local sovereignty or unwelcome compromises.

I think any age-of-consent statute should make a clear line of demarcation between the pre-pubescent and post-pubescent child (and as such, if sizing up potential "offenders", the difference between a pedophile and a pederast). I think that the primary function of age-of-consent should be to target adults exploiting children, so I think they should apply, in terms of enforcement, solely to offenders over the age of 18, if not 21; this may depend on the age of the "victim", as an 18-year-old high-school senior sleeping with a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader is already violating this statute if the age is 16, which I can't imagine most reasonable people would consider a crime.

I also agree that age-of-consent should not address issues of gender or sexual orientation, or of specific sexual asks. And obviously consent can be withdrawn--this is already the heart of current law regarding rape.

As I tend to believe in a more uniform application of AOC--as opposed to a local approach (see my hemming and hawing above)--I'll go out on a limb and propose the age of 14. Not because 14-year-olds should be having sex (although I was already trying--I didn't have sex 'til 18 because, with some notable exceptions--one of whom I've married--I've always had a devil of a time convincing women to have sex with me), but because a) 14 years accounts for puberty, with a little extra room for late-starters and b) 14 is when we generally start high-school, and we're understood to be in the sexual arena. More importantly, it addresses the senior/freshman problem explored above.

Just a couple of individual points to touch on:

The age of consent has edged higher not because we have raised the standards of maturity, but because our local culture (US as a broad stroke) produces maturity at a slower rate. At one time, a 10 year old was equipped to handle responsibility, even on the order of a child, but we produce no such 10 year olds these days. I think there is little question that we infantilize our children, not by underestimating their development, but by actively retarding it, but I digress.

How, exactly, do we infantilize our children? I actually find that, in many ways, children today are frighteningly more mature--at least in certain areas--than I was. They may have an underdeveloped since of responsibility compared to what we may have had, but that may have to do with our whole culture being less mature.

To recap – AOC laws useful, and determined by local standards, and should be enforced based on thoughtful analysis of individual cases.

I agree and disagree here. The power differentials, in the sense of teacher/student, seem easy enough to codify in and of themselves, and I'm not sure on what basis under any statute you'd address the 12-14 oral sex club (what IS coercion, exactly?). My trouble is that the "thoughtful analysis of individual cases" is going to be done by people, with all biases and moral preoccupations intact. There should be some room for such analysis, but I think that statutes need to be specific enough that no one is over- or underpunished based on a whimsical reading of overly vague language.

55 Comments:

At 1:28 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

My first question to the two of you: You both mentioned having some reservations when the topic came up. I curious as to the nature of said reservations were. Care to share?

Oral Sex Club detail: No question about power differential. I do recall that the girls would brag about the number of bj's accomplished...

Broader q: I'm going to bring up Mary Kay LeTourneau. Is it just me or did anyone else notice that, at least amongst guys, this was treated in a much lighter fashion than it would have otherwise?

From jokes by Leno, to the TV movies on Lifetime...

By extension: Guys have Van Halen's Hot for Teacher, while gals have the Police's Don't Stand So Close To Me.

Is this simply a matter of being in a society that generally caters to men?

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I curious as to the nature of said reservations were. Care to share?

I've gotten into some hot water for suggesting that the age of consent--16 in all the states where I've lived--should be lowered. My misgivings come from making such a statement amongst a group of online friends largely made up of parents. I also tend to feel the need to clarify that nearly everyone I've dated/slept with has been older than me, never more than 2 years younger than me, just so we're clear that I'm not clearing any legal avenues for myself.

Broader q: I'm going to bring up Mary Kay LeTourneau. Is it just me or did anyone else notice that, at least amongst guys, this was treated in a much lighter fashion than it would have otherwise?
From jokes by Leno, to the TV movies on Lifetime...
By extension: Guys have Van Halen's Hot for Teacher, while gals have the Police's Don't Stand So Close To Me.
Is this simply a matter of being in a society that generally caters to men?


I dunno about that. If anything, it sounds like the presumption is that men are the predatory party in these relations, while women aren't necessarily. Look at the lack of uproar over Tadpole (in which a 15-year-old boy--the guy who played Pyro in X-Men 2--is seduced by Bebe Neuwirth) or the comic strip "For Better and for Worse", which had a story line in which a budding adolescent lesbian was courted by a much older woman.

I don't know that the character of "Hot for Teacher" and "Don't Stand So Close to Me" are all that different, beyond the textual differences that always exist between their mutual genres (butt-rock vs. literate reggae-punk). Yes, the song by the Police is darker, but most songs by the Police were darker than most of the other music available to the mainstream at the time.

I think the one way in which it COULD be a reflection of it being a man's world is that it takes a more positive view of early sexual awakening in men thatn in women. In that sense, the norm seems harsher on men if one looks from the perpetrator's point of view, but easier on boys if looked at from the "victim's" POV.

An interesting side note: I've known a lot of girls who wish they'd waited longer, and a lot of guys who wish it had happened earlier, regardless of the details and nuances of the respective experiences (I myself wish it had happened earlier, while simultaneously thinking it's probably best that it didn't). This trend would seem to coincide nicely with the cultural examples you give.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

and I'm not sure on what basis under any statute you'd address the 12-14 oral sex club (what IS coercion, exactly?)

good point/question. I am curious what, if anything, the ladies will say about this little phenomenon.

And I just don't know what it is about the nature of this whole thing that gives me pause...Why am I conservative about this particular thing?

What does the fact that just as we've gone from Doctor to Fluffer, we've gone from Post-Office to Salami Delivery Service point to?

That kids are exploring at an earlier age? That we're a bit more permissive than our parents?

I mean, I intend, should I have kids, to be up front and honest with the brats. Get them on contraceptives/condoms as soon as possible, but I don't want to think that my 12 yr. old son/daughter is out there doing/getting hand jobs in the name of experimentation...

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I dunno, man. My parents were VERY permissive, in some respects. My mother gave me my first condoms when I was 14. Thing is, I know that would already have been too late for some of my classmates, and this was (gulp) 20 years ago. And yet I didn't lose my (by that time seething) virginity until 18. How does that work out?

Agreed, though: I'd rather not know that my own (hypothetical) kids were sexually active at the ages we're talking about. But would a law prevent that? I didn't even KNOW there was such a thing as age-of-consent until I'd already passed it. Was I just exceptionally naive? Do kids, generally, know what these laws are and whether they're breaking them?

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

I'll see if I can pick up all the serves to me here:

How, exactly, do we infantilize our children? I actually find that, in many ways, children today are frighteningly more mature--at least in certain areas--than I was. They may have an underdeveloped since of responsibility compared to what we may have had, but that may have to do with our whole culture being less mature.

I meant specifically that they are less mature in terms of accepting responsibility for their actions and being able to fend for themselves or a family. I agree that in ways they are more mature, but I think they are less so (than they were, say, 150 years ago) in the ways that are germaine to this discussion.

My trouble is that the "thoughtful analysis of individual cases" is going to be done by people, with all biases and moral preoccupations intact.

And who will laws be written by? I don't think there is some kind of standard of objectivity that is inherent in written laws and absent in people's interpretation and application of those laws. Both are flawed by bias and preconception. I'd rather that, at least, the bias and preconceptions be those of people closer to the situation.

Because, really, if it is national statute, you've really just centralized the power behind AOC laws at a higher level, which I feel is therefore more prone to co-option by hegemonic (read "traditional values") interests. At the extreme, I'm better equippped to judge the maturity of my child than Congress is.

I'm curious about this tendency I see in your analysis, to appeal to objective analysis over individual liberty. Is it possible to be both Libertarian and misanthropic at the same time? Power taken from individuals will always migrate up, the consequences of which would seem to me, and I believe might seem to you.

Broader q: I'm going to bring up Mary Kay LeTourneau. Is it just me or did anyone else notice that, at least amongst guys, this was treated in a much lighter fashion than it would have otherwise?

Unquestionably it, and other examples like His Houndness' mention of Tadpole, are generally viewed more lightly, and I think it is a reaction to the dominant narratives of "men are pursuers and women the pursued" and "men have sex when they can get it, women when they want it" that is to blame (which isn't to say that other narratives, or interpretations of these narratives, don't exist).

Can I man be raped by a woman? I'd bet a Gaallup poll would bring back a "no" verdict, thus the general reaction to the above cases. But, legeally and in reality, she can. We tend to think of rape as requiring a physical element, but it doesn't. The coercion required can be based on non-physical power as well - money, job status, etc.


When I was active in the discourse about rape and sexual assault in college (I was president of what was once the largest student rape and sexual assault advocacy and education organization in the country), I talked about needing the "proof is in the pudding" test when negotiating the grey areas. A drunk person is said, by law, not to have the power to give informed consent, and I'd get questions from guys like "So, if a chick and I get drunk and screw, then I raped her?" No, I would say, unless you did, unless your partner feels like she was raped, or if you did. In other words, in a case where informed consent is compromised, there needs to be the additional factor of someone feeling like they were assaulted - if you have ill-advised sex while falling down drunk, but feel as though it was your own responsibility and accept that, then you weren't raped, and nobody outside of that bed can say you were (leaving room for having to work through feelings of self-blame first and coming to feel as though you were assaulted as a possibility - it isn't as if a moment of self-doubt invalidates all future claims of assault).

But, here is the devilish thing about the application of AOC laws - that test doesn't work by design and intent of the law. The very notion behind them is that a crime can be committed even when the victim does not believe a crime exists. The difference between the drunk case and the underage case is that the drunk sobers up and can regain the ability of informed consent, while the underage victim can't (at least not in any kind of timely way, time being exactly what is lacking).

AOC laws demand someone or something else step in to make the "proof is in the pudding" analysis. Again, I'd rather that be someone closer to the potential victim - better a parent than local judge, better a local judge than a state judge, better a state judge than a federal judge.

In the case of two 12 year olds getting it on, either is potentially the victim, or perhaps neither, but never both. I think the second test has to be based on the additional factor of power dynamics. One 12 year old uses physical strength or social status or money to coerce the other, that is assault.

The only way we can improve the fact that fallible humans will make those judgement call is to be active in the discourse.

Clearly, for me, this last section here is where my reservations lie.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I see all points, but a parent is in the WORST position to determine the culpability of the adult who had sex with their "child". Yes, someone closer to the individuals involved would be preferable, but law should never be decided on the basis or observations of someone so emotionally inclined to see ANY sexual conduct with his/her child as an assault.

I think the essential age itself should be nationally uniform, simply as a matter of consistent enforcement. You shouldn't have to read a whole new constitution every time you move to another state. Enforcement and sentencing would inevitably be local, as well as discussions of evidentiary burden.

Because, really, if it is national statute, you've really just centralized the power behind AOC laws at a higher level, which I feel is therefore more prone to co-option by hegemonic (read "traditional values") interests.

That's a matter of opinion. I've lived in enough little burgs to know that traditional values grow like fucking weeds in the provinces. There's no on in my hometown of Helena, MT I'd trust to make ANY value judgement for me.

That said, I share your mistrust of centralized power, which is why I expressed mixed feelings on this matter (as with all states rights matters).

At the extreme, I'm better equippped to judge the maturity of my child than Congress is.

Well yes. I'm better equipped to judge EVERYTHING in my life than Congress is. Does that mean we should have no federal law? And are you REALLY likely to judge with a level head if, say, your 15-year-old daughter had sexual relations with an adult? Would your understanding of whether or not the guy committed a crime be reliable from a legal standpoint?

I'm curious about this tendency I see in your analysis, to appeal to objective analysis over individual liberty.

Without objective analysis, ALL law is vengeance. I question the capacity of a community or family to judge such matters rationally.

Is it possible to be both Libertarian and misanthropic at the same time?

Perhaps not, which is why I'm never fully either. Ultimately, if the decision is to eliminate all law and let it burn, I'm game. I only suggest that either way, we're led by morons, and the handful among us capable of rational thought will inevitably be overwhelmed by the collective mediocrity of our species.

Or maybe not. Maybe I just like the sound of it all.

Power taken from individuals will always migrate up, the consequences of which would seem to me, and I believe might seem to you.

I think there was an end to this sentence that never made it. Still, I see your point. Yes, individuals should have power, institutions, being made up of collectives of individuals, will tend to suck exponentially more than people. But statutes worded as clearly and objectively as possible can help keep a lid on mob mentality, which tends to rule when alleged crimes involve children.

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

a) I'm not a true misanthrope. I love most people I meet, and I have a great deal of compassion for humanity in the abstract. But most human tendencies are endlessly frustrating.

b) My emphasis on the objective is that law--and, to a lesser extent, cultural education--should focus on objective principles so that WE can turn our energies towards subjective ones. No one should face civil or statutory penalties based on anyone's individual or collective rage, disgust or disapproval, only over empirically measurable harm to the body politic.

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

That's a matter of opinion. I've lived in enough little burgs to know that traditional values grow like fucking weeds in the provinces. There's no on in my hometown of Helena, MT I'd trust to make ANY value judgement for me.

And I'm guessing that played a large part in you leaving, right? And now their judgement doesn't affect you.

Communities must have the right to develop their own mores, even if they aren't ones we like. We vote with our feet in that regard.

I see all points, but a parent is in the WORST position to determine the culpability of the adult who had sex with their "child".

We're just confusing syntax here somewhere. I meant that a parent has more right identifying whether their child is mature enough to provide consent, but that would only extend outward as far as deciding to press charges. I'm not suggesting they get judge n' jury power.

My emphasis on the objective is that law--and, to a lesser extent, cultural education--should focus on objective principles so that WE can turn our energies towards subjective ones.

As a very general and dragging us far afield point, I'm suggesting that once pushed on enough, the objective principles you speak of may be illusion.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Illusion? Perhaps. But then why have behavioural codes at all, if they can all be proven subjective? It seems like, no matter any way you look at it, potentially subjective principle guides us. All I'm suggesting is that there should be enough drag of statutory uniformity to keep the result of legal procedure from being dictated by emotion.

Communities must have the right to develop their own mores, even if they aren't ones we like. We vote with our feet in that regard.

I agree to a point. But the freedom to leave is often impaired by age or economic concerns, which brings us back to the problem with capitalism, the feeding of the myth that effort=reward.

I still wonder if a parent can decide that a child is "mature enough" without bias. I don't say that he or she CAN'T . . . only that I wonder.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

But then why have behavioural codes at all, if they can all be proven subjective?

I don't think that subjective is necessarily bad. Actually, I think subjectivity is the necessary condition, and the task is negotiating multiple subjectivities.

But the freedom to leave is often impaired by age or economic concerns, which brings us back to the problem with capitalism, the feeding of the myth that effort=reward.

Individuals have felt ostracized by local mores for a lot longer than capitalism has been around. It isn't avoidable, really - someone will always be oppressed. That great liberal paradox I menationed before - In a fundamentalist society, the liberal can not speak. In a liberal society, the fundamentalist can not act.

Yeah, it sucks to be part of a community that judges you harshly by standards you don't believe in, but that forms who we are. It kills us or makes us stronger.

I still wonder if a parent can decide that a child is "mature enough" without bias.

Who cares about bias in that case? Of course they would be biased, but so what? In the absence of a literal objective truth as to whether a person has reached maturity, is not the parent the best possible to stand in? Sure, there are shitty parents out there, but we're apeaking in generalities - the fact that some other parent sucks shouldn't change the fact that I am the best judge for my kid.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I don't think that subjective is necessarily bad. Actually, I think subjectivity is the necessary condition, and the task is negotiating multiple subjectivities.

Fair enough.

That great liberal paradox I menationed before - In a fundamentalist society, the liberal can not speak. In a liberal society, the fundamentalist can not act.

Is that true, though? In what way is the fundamentalist forbidden to act? In a classically liberal society, it seems to me that the fundamentalist may still pray, subject themselves to whatever archaic moral standard the see fit and indoctrinate their children accordingly. They just can't necessarily actively proscribe private activity in their communities. Is it this last one that constitutes a limitation on fundamentalist "action"?

Yeah, it sucks to be part of a community that judges you harshly by standards you don't believe in, but that forms who we are. It kills us or makes us stronger.

By that token though, oughtn't states be able to impose, say, sodomy laws? Using the same logic you're applying, oughtn't states or communities, in the name of sovereignty and moral self-determination, be able to regulate moral behaviour? And based on that directive, would you also overturn Lawrence vs. Texas?

It seems to me that the logic used to overturn state sodomy laws is that certain rights of self-determination supercede regional moral standards. This is either a true statement--in which case both the activities between consenting adults and the standards by which we define same need to be federally protected and uniform--OR both questions fall under the banner of local control, leaving the state or municipality to decide on age-of-consent AND the legality of specific sexual acts or relations. I have a hard time determining a basis for differentiating between the two arenas of personal liberty/boundaries.

I would accept either as a reasoned solution, since I vascillate between states rights and federally protected individual liberties with regards to both questions. BUT, if we accept your postulate that there can be no objectivity, it seems that we should at least strive for a rational consistency, so as not to leave one system of regulation under attack using the same logic used to justify another.

>> I still wonder if a parent can decide that a child is "mature enough" without bias.<<

Who cares about bias in that case? Of course they would be biased, but so what? In the absence of a literal objective truth as to whether a person has reached maturity, is not the parent the best possible to stand in? Sure, there are shitty parents out there, but we're apeaking in generalities - the fact that some other parent sucks shouldn't change the fact that I am the best judge for my kid.

Except legally speaking, the "child" isn't the one facing any consequences. This (biased) judgement of the child's maturity will determine not the child's fate, but the fate of the individual with whom he/she consorted. That means that someone who is neither directly involved in the crime nor (necessarily) versed in the nuances of law is making the determination as to whether a crime was committed. Do you really have no misgivings about determining criminality on such a basis? What if we applied the same reasoning to other crimes?

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

That means that someone who is neither directly involved in the crime nor (necessarily) versed in the nuances of law is making the determination as to whether a crime was committed. Do you really have no misgivings about determining criminality on such a basis? What if we applied the same reasoning to other crimes?

No, no, no, the criminality has already been established by the statute, and what I'm talking about is the decision of how to apply the laws, which is a social one. Let's say my daughter is 13 in a state where the age of consent is 14, and she sleeps with a 19 year old. By law, the criminality has been established, as she was below the age of consent. I, as the parent, have the choice as to whether to prosecute. Maybe I know my daughter well enough to know that she has a maturity beyond her years, aand that she went into the relationship with a thoughtful awareness of attendant responsibility. I have essentially said that for my daughter, at that moment, her age of consent is 13, and I'm better suited to judge this than the (let's say for sake of the example) state legislature is.

The point I have been trying to support is my contention that such decisions should be determined in a local context (and the decision/negotiation being just how local), and the support I offer is that the most local power for a child is the parent, the parent is best able to determine appropriate age of consent for the shild, and the farther out from this locality that the age of intent is inscribed - region or state or country or global - the less suitable it is to individuals.

So, for me, the negotiation between the law being entirely subjective, different for every child, and entirely objective, the same for every child, is to determine them skewed closer to the local. I actually think counties would make more sense than states, but that it is impractical, and it should probably be state level. And the balance of this is that the choice of how to apply those laws, whether to prosecute, should lie with the parent.

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Using the same logic you're applying, oughtn't states or communities, in the name of sovereignty and moral self-determination, be able to regulate moral behaviour?

Don't they do that already? Unless you are cutting "moral" quite thin here. I can be arrested for public nudity.

And based on that directive, would you also overturn Lawrence vs. Texas?
It seems to me that the logic used to overturn state sodomy laws is that certain rights of self-determination supercede regional moral standards.


I'd have to go back and read the decision (who am I kidding? - a review of the decision), but that is not my understanding. I believe the sodomy law was overturned under the "equal protection" clause, claiming that the state had created a law that targeted a specific class. So, the claim is that it is the national value "laws must apply equally to all" that supercedes a state's self-determination, and that is a hard value to argue against.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Is that true, though? In what way is the fundamentalist forbidden to act?

Let's say I were to take a strict literal fundamentalist view of Leviticus. My religion would dictate that I stone my neighbor if he works on a Sunday. However, my liberal society will not allow that, based not on the commandment "thou shall not kill" but on the liberal doctrine that the exercise of my rights can not infringe upon the rights of others.

Reduced, while a liberal credo is "do not oppress" we accept that we will, in carrying that out, oppress oppression.

Not a problem for me, really, but a paradox that you can't really collapse, you just have to accept.

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

One justice--I don't remember which--argued equal protection, but that wasn't the argument that won out. The assertion of a "right to privacy", already a controversial position in itself, was the argument that carried the day. Most states that had sodomy laws on the books didn't single out gays, but rather a sexual act in which they engage at a rate disproportional to overall participation in said act (God, that sentence even gave me a headache). To put it less maddeningly, I was no more eligible to fuck my wife up the ass in those states than I was to fuck Johnny Depp up the ass in those states (not that Johnny would have me). So equal protection shouldn't necessarily apply.

Which still leaves the question hanging--How do we differentiate between the two matters, offering one a singular national standard, the other a patchwork of local ones?

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

No, no, no, the criminality has already been established by the statute, and what I'm talking about is the decision of how to apply the laws, which is a social one.

OK, I'll buy that. But that doesn't speak to whether the age itself, as laid out in the statute, ought to be a national matter or a local one. It seems that we started the debate on the opposite sides of that matter. What I'm suggesting is that an overarching federal statute that sets the age at 14 keeps a parent in North Carolina from deciding that their 17-year-old isn't old enough to make such decisions.

If what we leave to the parent is the choice to prosecute based on this statute, then I don't think we disagree. But again, if states receive the right to determine for themselves what that age is, I continue to question why one matter of sexual freedom receives a blank check to circumnavigate local standards and the other does not.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

But again, if states receive the right to determine for themselves what that age is, I continue to question why one matter of sexual freedom receives a blank check to circumnavigate local standards and the other does not.

I dunno, I think you're making a tenuous little jump here - because both AOC and sodomy laws are related to sex, they have to have the same consitutional/legal argument underpinning them? I think you are oversimplifying the analogy.

I'd say most simply that because we grow and mature in our local environment, that the 14 yr old in LA is very different from the 14 yr old farming in Iowa in terms of maturity. But, the right to privacy seems more basic to me, so that it isn't a function of, for example, perceptions of maturity, but rather an essential part of being human. It applies regardless of the other qualities that two disparate citizens have.

I'm not really arguing vehemently against a national standard, but I'd prefer it be determined more locally for a lot of reasons. And I don't see a contradiction with supporting the SC decision to invalidate state sodomy laws, federal protection of individual liberty from state intrusion, and supporting the local/state sovereignty over age of consent laws, protection of states rights from federal intrusion. To my mind, both positions attempt to draw power and control down, where I'd rather see it.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger patrice said...

I....you lost me a few thousand paragraphs up.

you may both have already answered this, but do you really think a legal age of consent is going to change the way children as a whole react to social pressures and/or hormonal pressures to have sex? do the kids in question even know what the age of consent is, or care? it felt like you guys were discussing this as a way to say whether x age or y age was too young to engage in what they're engaging in. but then, I didn't read every line.

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

What? You don't read every line? The hell you say! And when every word is fascinating, fascinating stuff. Every word, I tell you.

...do you really think a legal age of consent is going to change the way children as a whole react to social pressures and/or hormonal pressures to have sex?

No, not at all. I doubt all that many kids are aware of the law in general or in their specific state.

The point of the laws isn't to change behavior in the kid. They are more the object of the law than the subject.

I haven't really looked too closely at it from this angle, but I think I would disagree with a law that attempts to limit an individual's activity, like if the laws are to try and keep a 14 yr old from having sex, but I think these laws are designed to limit an activity upon another person.

Maybe that is a difference between these and sodomoy laws. The latter say "you are not allowed to fuck any ass" and the former say "person's of this age cannot give you permission to fuck them." Splitting a hair, maybe.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

You're right Patrice, and I think that what we're trying to determine is an age that creates accountability for an adult engaged in sexual consortium with a minor. Kids will, of course, continue to behave as they will regardless . . . and as I said in one of the paragraphs above, I never knew there was such a thing as age of consent until I'd already passed it.

JJ -

To my mind, both positions attempt to draw power and control down, where I'd rather see it.

I don't see how. One path says federal protection of an individual's right o have anal sex with a consensual partner is more important than local standards on the matter; the other says that local standards supercede an unimpeded national right of a man to have sex with 15-year olds. In one case, a broad standard of liberty trumps local control; in the other, a narrow standard of decency trumps broad liberty. I may be convinced to agree with both findings, but their legal reasoning is contradictory. Unless, as a parent, you think the liberty of parents trumps the liberty of the no-similarly-encumbered, in which case that's the argument you have to make.

I think you're making a tenuous little jump here - because both AOC and sodomy laws are related to sex, they have to have the same consitutional/legal argument underpinning them? I think you are oversimplifying the analogy.

Congratulations--I've NEVER been accused of oversimplifying before (I'm usually accused of making things more complex than necessary).

But what's more important than the fact that both matters relating to sex is that they both can be said, reasonably, to relate to sexual liberty. What we're determining is not the maturity of the child--well OK, we are determining that, but only tangentially--so much as the culpability of the adult. Now I think an interesting argument could be made that the presence of a parent creates a potentially sovereign party who exists outside of the relationship between would-be "offenders" and would-be "victims", whereas in the matter of sodomy, two (of necessity, I'd think) would-be "offenders" constitute the sole sovereign "community" outside the boundaries of either community or state law, so I have something to chew on; but I DON'T have a compelling reason to see the two examples as anything other than questions of sexual liberty where you'd grant the deciding power to different levels of governance in each case.

On the broadest and narrowest levels, consistency is a relatively disposable commodity; one can use empiricism and social constructivism to temper natural law directives, for example, or create a republic in place of a democracy to avoid mob rule. An individual or family, at the other end, can invoke situational ethics or make allowances for minor infractions. One can even balance matters of federal authority, guaranteed liberty and states rights. But when one chooses to issue decisive statements about that balance, it seems that it behooves us, if only as a protection of future political power, to ensure that the argument that we made on one matter isn't going to be turned on us, on a perfectly rational basis, on a future one.

Here's a thought: Perhaps there should be a national minimum standard of liberty, and states can choose to either abide by said standard OR apply a more LIBERAL one, ensuring that states and municipalities--as with the sodomy case--can't create a more stringent moral standard that infringes upon a determined freedom.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Damnit! I just lost my response to Patrice and now I have to read all this stuff from the Hound first!

To sum up my Patrice response - how dare you not read every word, kids probably have no idea, but it doesn't matter because they are object not subject of the law, meaning its not about their activity so much as activity done with them.

Now, on to read Hound's stuff, but I swear if he demands some mirage of consistency, I'm just going to quote Walt Whitman at him.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I'd say most simply that because we grow and mature in our local environment, that the 14 yr old in LA is very different from the 14 yr old farming in Iowa in terms of maturity.

Maybe. I could actually argue for each being more mature, for different reasons. And maybe neither is really ready for sex, no matter HOW mature. But the point is, why should an individual who has sex with these teenagers be a criminal in one state and not in the other? I know we have all sorts of these discrepancies, but it's harder to argue for them when the matter is as private as sex.

But, the right to privacy seems more basic to me, so that it isn't a function of, for example, perceptions of maturity, but rather an essential part of being human. It applies regardless of the other qualities that two disparate citizens have.

Two guys cohabitating have anal sex; the Supreme Court says the state can't tell them not to, based on the notion that certain individual liberties, as protected by federal mandate, are beyond the codification of local standards into state or municipal law. A guy has sex with a 15-year-old girl; but you grant sovereignty in this case to neither the "adult" nor the "child" in this case, or a federal mandate protecting any ostensible "liberty", but to the states and municipalities, the precise entity denied power previously. If my reading is incorrect, how is it so? If my reading is correct, how then do we justify the differing distribution of regulatory decision-making power? Is the sole difference the presence (in theory) of parental figures, and the assumption that state or municipal law would better reflect their interests and values? That would be an interesting argument, one I wouldn't buy but couldn't refute (and there are precious few arguments I can't refute).

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I think you're thinking of Emerson, not Whitman, and the quote refers to "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of . . . " small or mediocre, I forget which, " . . . minds." Who's to say what constitutes a foolish consistency vs. a reasonable one?

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Maybe that is a difference between these and sodomoy laws. The latter say "you are not allowed to fuck any ass" and the former say "person's of this age cannot give you permission to fuck them." Splitting a hair, maybe.

This is actually a very exciting description, because I've been arguing with Christians on the fray again (fray Christians are nuts, I tell you, but I get the impression that there are more of them out there than you realize), and they assume that because, to them, homosexuality is a pathology, the "bottom" (because in America, as in prison and ancient Greece, only the bottom is really gay) cannot consent properly speaking because he is, by definition, mentally deficient. Which means that they're making the same arguments even if we're not.

I'm just trying to WIN dude, not over you, but over THEM. And I think that some relativistic argument that abandons consistency or objectivity would have to win purely through persuasion, rather than logic; and the left has all but LOST the persuasion matter entirely over the last little while.

Oh, and a better quote than Emerson's, IMO, would have been Cummings (and I'll butcher the exact wording, but I love the sentiment so much I just don't care), who said, "If I contradict myself, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes."

Or at least I think it was Cummings. I KNOW the other one was Emerson, but I could be wrong on this one.

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

...isn't going to be turned on us, on a perfectly rational basis...

I'm debating the "rational" there. To be perfectly honest, I think we are making a shared understanding of the two situations sound completely different to meet our own ends.

You regard them, I think, as being analogous in that they both deal with sexual liberty - the liberty to fuck ass and the liberty to fuck 15 yr olds (or whoever is under AOC). I make the distinction that the former attempts to legislate against an action between consenting adults, essentially making the both perps, while the former attempts to legislate against a relationship, creating perp and victim. And, as I reason below, I feel like one touches upon a federal liberty, right to privacy (debatable, granted), while the other does not, sidestepping it by saying there is no right to privacy that violates the rights of another.

Here's a thought: Perhaps there should be a national minimum standard of liberty, and states can choose to either abide by said standard OR apply a more LIBERAL one, ensuring that states and municipalities--as with the sodomy case--can't create a more stringent moral standard that infringes upon a determined freedom.

I sense you were attempting to sound snide here, but I'm not sure why, because essentially what you say I'm totally fine with. Yes, we have created a national standard for individual liberty, I call it the Constitution, and cede to the state deliberation on all matters of freedom not covered there. And, yes, a state can choose to further protect individual liberty, but can't decide to take back a liberty protected at the federal level.

You actually seem to be falling into the classic Republican spin that protection of individual rights at the federal level is upward consolidation of power. But, optimist that I must apparently be, I really do believe that guaranteeing, for example, free speech makes me a freer individual than I would be if there were no federal guarantee.

Unless, as a parent, you think the liberty of parents trumps the liberty of the no-similarly-encumbered, in which case that's the argument you have to make.

Well, I believe freedom of the press begins with the one who owns the press, so, I guess, in cases where a law specifically interacts with the parent-child relationship, yes, I believe that parents must be given a privileged place in the discourse.

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Emerson:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Whitman:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes).

I rather like the former, but was planning to quote the latter.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

And I think that some relativistic argument that abandons consistency or objectivity would have to win purely through persuasion, rather than logic

I think this kind of thinking privileges a specific kind of analysis, one which is bound up in the dominant discourse, but one which is more self-deceptive. As I've mentioned before, consistency and objectivity are illusions created by accepted persuasion.

But, this is always where we jump off the clip, so maybe we should just call this the Geronimo moment.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

You regard them, I think, as being analogous in that they both deal with sexual liberty - the liberty to fuck ass and the liberty to fuck 15 yr olds (or whoever is under AOC). I make the distinction that the former attempts to legislate against an action between consenting adults, essentially making the both perps, while the former attempts to legislate against a relationship, creating perp and victim.

That's what the statute does AFTER it's in place. As it's being deliberated though, it really looks to define the term consenting adult, a definition which Christians (of a sort) have challenged with regards to gays by questioning their mental capacity. I still see an important correlation here.

>>Here's a thought: Perhaps there should be a national minimum standard of liberty, and states can choose to either abide by said standard OR apply a more LIBERAL one, ensuring that states and municipalities--as with the sodomy case--can't create a more stringent moral standard that infringes upon a determined freedom.<<

I sense you were attempting to sound snide here, but I'm not sure why, because essentially what you say I'm totally fine with.

I really wasn't trying to sound snide. It struck me as a reasonable compromise between federally protected liberty and municipal sovereignty.

And, yes, a state can choose to further protect individual liberty, but can't decide to take back a liberty protected at the federal level.

Which is why I question your seeming willingness to cede the right to the state to impose an AOC of, say, 18.

You actually seem to be falling into the classic Republican spin that protection of individual rights at the federal level is upward consolidation of power. But, optimist that I must apparently be, I really do believe that guaranteeing, for example, free speech makes me a freer individual than I would be if there were no federal guarantee.

I agree that we are freer for this federal guarantee, and don't actually see where I suggested that protection of individual rights is upward consilidation of power. If anything, it seems to me YOU suggested that by asserting that municipalities should be able to set age of consent in the name of moving power downward.

Well, I believe freedom of the press begins with the one who owns the press, so, I guess, in cases where a law specifically interacts with the parent-child relationship, yes, I believe that parents must be given a privileged place in the discourse.

An argument I reject, but can't win. I don't think that parents have any more priveliged a place in this discourse than do women in the discourse on abortion. We're all citizens, and something is at stake for all of us in these matters.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Ah, see, I thought you mistook Emerson for Whitman, but really, I mistook Whitman for Cummings. Well, there you are.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

BUT . . . contradicting one's self on a metaphysical level is different from contradicting one's self when attempting to codify ethical principles into law.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

I don't think that parents have any more priveliged a place in this discourse than do women in the discourse on abortion. We're all citizens, and something is at stake for all of us in these matters.

What's the old saying? Democracy is three wolves and a sheep talking about what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed sheep.

Imagine that we reduce the democarcy of citizen to five horny guys over the age of twenty, me, and my 12 year old daughter. If we all have a vote, it isn't going to turn out well, unless I, as the parent (and a such a bigger stakeholder than the guys), have a privileged position in the discourse.

Just look at how differently you and I approach the thinking over this. You come from the angle of the potential adult perp more than I do, and I from the angle of "protecting" the under-AOC. No, not because you are a pederast (as far as I know), but because having a child I have vested interest in both sides of the equation, whereas you can only really see yourself on one side.

But, I think that is a specific rationale for this case. I don't think parents should get special consideration in every venue - like I think school funding is for all.

I look for the tipping point. Like, I don't think it is right to freeze men out of the abortion debate, but because a woman cannot physically walk away from the decision once the egg is fertlized and the man physically can (though he can be forced to accept some consequences legally), you have to give women a privileged space.

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

BUT . . . contradicting one's self on a metaphysical level is different from contradicting one's self when attempting to codify ethical principles into law.

Naw, they really aren't. Paradox need not be collapsed merely because it is being applied to law. The truth is always in the uncollapsed paradox.

What is law going for ideally if not the same sense of truth that metaphysical pondering is? Regardless of the fact that it doomed to fail.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I see your point, but I'm still not entirely comfortable with it. The parent is going to make the decision out of love and loyalty; the prospective mother is going to make decisions with an eye towards the consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term and possibly of raising the child; the deadbeat dad is gonna protect his impunity; the pederast is going to decide based on his appetite. All of these interests are subjective, so why do we decide that some are preferable to others? Presumably based on the notion that there is some sort of at least nominally objective standard to which to hold each of them. Otherwise how do we accept as axiomatic that parents need be protected from pederasts, and no the other way around? I don't reject the thesis that one interest is preferable to the other. I just wonder how it fits in with your notion that there are no reational or objective standards to which to cleave. And it really leads me to question whether these "spaces of privelige" really have anything to do with the stakes held. Indeed, given the potency of the individual positions, I wonder if the priveliged space mightn't still be given to the disinterested intellectual (mind you, I don't want the extra responsibility . . . I'm just sayin' . . . ).

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

The parent is going to make the decision out of love and loyalty; the prospective mother is going to make decisions with an eye towards the consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term and possibly of raising the child; the deadbeat dad is gonna protect his impunity; the pederast is going to decide based on his appetite. All of these interests are subjective, so why do we decide that some are preferable to others?

Well, this becomes sticky for us because with VERY few exceptions (so few and particular and large that they would require a different forum) I believe all interests are subjective, and as such you have to negotiate between them as best you can.

To do that, I look, like I said, for that tipping point. All conflicting interests being equal, is there something that is unique to one subject? Men have a bit more choice about how to engage, or not, a conception, parents have a more responsibility and investment in the life of their child than a potential sexual partner does, and can't expect anyone that hasn't experienced it to take those concerns fully into account.

Perhaps this is why I shrug off consistency so easily. I believe every negotiation has to be worked through on its own terms, and that consistency is shorthand for politicians to attack each other, it always demands a less-complex view of the situation.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Naw, they really aren't. Paradox need not be collapsed merely because it is being applied to law. The truth is always in the uncollapsed paradox.
What is law going for ideally if not the same sense of truth that metaphysical pondering is? Regardless of the fact that it doomed to fail.


Actually, I think law should stay as far from the issue of truth as possible, in order to grant ME (for instance) the maximum level of impunity for pursuit of truth as I see it. Moreover, as the consequences of law are empirically measurable, I believe ABSOLUTELY and WITHOUT COMPROMISE that the harm any law seeks to address ought be similarly quantifiable. The best way to ensure this is consistency of reasoning. All lines of reasoning can be tempered and adjusted of course (which I think we finally reached twixt us when we proposed a national standard age with local option to liberalize policy and choose methods of enforcement), but there is ideally some thread of consistent reasoning.

Law cannot find truth. Law takes care of nominal notions of safety to protect the individual's right to pursue truth elsewhere.

Can our next spout off be on a matter NOT legal? Politics are just something I'm stuck arguing 'cause nobody'll leave me alone to eat, smoke and fuck what I want and pursue truth on my own terms.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Can our next spout off be on a matter NOT legal? Politics are just something I'm stuck arguing 'cause nobody'll leave me alone to eat, smoke and fuck what I want and pursue truth on my own terms.

I agree. We need to attack art or something. 'Course politics are nigh unavoidable. I fight against the notion "all art is political" in grad school and fight for it everywhere else, it seems.

And, now, just who is it that keeps oppressing your fucking, anyway? You've alluded to them before. The smoking I get, but has your coitus been interruptus-ed and I missed the nightly news that day?

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

As I've mentioned before, consistency and objectivity are illusions created by accepted persuasion.

And if we're talking about God, or beauty, then I buy that. But just as our offline debate on postmodern aesthetics and King Kong highlighted the real monetary consequences for artists in abandoning all canonical standard (i.e., if art's whatever you say it is, should ANYONE be paid to be an artist), I also suggest that, because fines and prison time are real, measurable events, the reasoning for imposing such consequences needs to at least try to demonstrate a consistent definition of words like "harm", "victim", "informed consent" and the like.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

And, now, just who is it that keeps oppressing your fucking, anyway? You've alluded to them before. The smoking I get, but has your coitus been interruptus-ed and I missed the nightly news that day?

No, my fucking has been not been toyed with, even in Utah, where I KNOW I committed at least a half-dozen sexual acts that were, at the times, crimes in said state. Of course, the drugs I did in Utah were also against the law, so there's something to be said for simply ignoring statute and flying under the radar. But if I'd been gay in Texas, or a college student dating a high school student in a state with a higher age of consent . . . I'm not defending MY acts in all cases where I find for individual impunity over public good.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Perhaps this is why I shrug off consistency so easily. I believe every negotiation has to be worked through on its own terms, and that consistency is shorthand for politicians to attack each other, it always demands a less-complex view of the situation.

Exactly!! Law, IMO, should be simple; the more complex it is, the more difficult to change or enforce. Hence it functions best on the least controversial imperatives. It will inevitably evolve and change as we (the culture, the species) do, but that's the beauty of it: The construct can be adjusted.

A confusion we might be facing: objective, to me, doesn't mean immutable, just as secular doesn't mean atheistic. As a secular society offers the best guarantee of maximum liberty for the broadest array of religious interests, an OBJECTIVE body of law would ideally create the broadest guarantee of liberty for the majority of SUBJECTIVE interests.

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

hmmm...

I wouldn't mind going back to Patrice's comment here to explore something...Change the focus just a bit, from whether AOC should be established, yadda to the object of the law to begin with...

but do you really think a legal age of consent is going to change the way children as a whole react to social pressures and/or hormonal pressures to have sex? do the kids in question even know what the age of consent is, or care?

I never knew what that age was at the time, until I passed it. I think parents omit this information so they can avoid dealing with "I get to drive when I'm 16" type of communications...

So, I'll go along with y'all and say that no, AOC would do nothing to change how kids react to these pressure. I'm afraid the only thing that can alter anything is parental influence. There's no law on earth that will actually affect kids, and really, we shouldn't be looking for one.

Something else I'd like to see addressed is: Is the ever-younger age kids are exploring with each other (let alone with adults) normal, or has it been accelerated? And if the latter, by what?

do with these what you will. and please, more participation if you're inclined.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

by the way, I chose a topic that you both expressed interest in, so...

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Cool. Anything to get us off of state/federal or objective/subjective.

I never knew what that age was at the time, until I passed it.

A point I made a ways up. Agreed.

I think parents omit this information so they can avoid dealing with "I get to drive when I'm 16" type of communications...

I think my parents ommitted it because they actually judged me mature enough to consent wisely before the state did (my mother being the woman who gave me condoms at 14).

So, I'll go along with y'all and say that no, AOC would do nothing to change how kids react to these pressure. I'm afraid the only thing that can alter anything is parental influence. There's no law on earth that will actually affect kids, and really, we shouldn't be looking for one.

Agreed. This is why we kind of settled on the law as a way of identifying adult sexual predators.

Something else I'd like to see addressed is: Is the ever-younger age kids are exploring with each other (let alone with adults) normal, or has it been accelerated?

To be honest, I think it's normal. I know there was a lot going on between preteens back when I was in junior high. I don't know if that speaks to whether it's desirable . . . but then, puberty is our biological designation of sexual maturity. Only our endlessly complex and largely arbitrary social structure mandates an age of legal maturity that doesn't begin until 3-5 years after physical sexual maturity can be determined in most cases.

Conservatives often argue that the sexual messages in our media and a lack of good ol' fashioned Christian temperence has led to the current state. This may be true in part, but it doesn't explain everything. I think kids may just be less in the closet than before about it.

On the other hand, I'm only speculating. And even I notice that kids seem to be more aware of these things than I was . . . but then, the kids around me when I was growing up were more aware of these things than I was, so I still think it was probably already going on 20 years ago.

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

by the way, I chose a topic that you both expressed interest in, so...

Of course, and it was well chosen. I think I just thought we'd be getting into definitions of maturity or aberrant desire, and it just got into more arguments on objectivity and states rights, probably because we more or less agree on the rest of it.

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger Stine said...

I've only had time to briefly skim this, so any well-thought out response is far from coming.

Something I would love to see you both address, is parental responsibility in educating children about sexuality. My issue is with the "apparent" discrepancy between sexual education and sexual morality. I think that the entire scope of this issue would be much more clear if the above were more specifically addressed. Did that make sense?

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger Stine said...

PS - My apologies if this has been addressed.

 
At 5:16 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Well, granting that the statute, as posited by JJ and I, is more directed towards identifying adults that are having sex with children, its relation may be purely tangential. Worth noting, though, is that European students receive comprehensive sex education from an early age, and their rates of teen pregnancy and AIDS transmission are rather low (or so I'm given to understand). I've even seen data showing an extremely low abortion rate.

That addresses schools, but not families. The problem with parents educating their kids about sexuality is that we are the most Christian nation on earth. This needn't be an intrinsic obstacle, but when the dominant spiritual schools of thought are evengelical protestantism and hard-line Catholicism, the directive to be honest with your kids about what the world holds seems all to easily sublimated.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

You did a fine job picking a topic, Beigey. It just seemed to me to have more to offer before I really got into it.

Something else I'd like to see addressed is: Is the ever-younger age kids are exploring with each other (let alone with adults) normal, or has it been accelerated?

Y'know, I don't think it has changed much overall. People used to get married much closer to the age of physical sexual maturity. When most are married by 14, suddenly not having sex before marriage takes on a different meaning. I don't think the age of experimentation has changed much.

What is engaged in likely has, as that is the most vulnerable to the influence of media images. Douglas Rushkoff (yes, him again) wrote a nice little piece a while back about how popular cumming on a partner's face/hair/what-have-you had become in college, and how many of the guys that reported doing it reported being influenced by porn, and the money shot.

My guess is that we experiement most often based on hormones, the best reason, and often based on social pressure, a potentially problematic reason. I think the when skews toward hormone/natural influence, and the how toward social/cultural influence.

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I think that's all very astute analysis, JJ. Agreed.

Funny enough, as liberated as my parents were, I never saw my first porn film 'til well into college, and shied away from "money shots" in the magazines. I still haven't developed a liking for such, really; I find them funny, in a sad sort of way.

Here's an interesting hybrid topic: Why, in a market where pubic hair has become a fetish item, does the money shot come standard?

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger patrice said...

"come standard" - get it?

before I go there, I want to say that I was told by my son's elementary (that's k through 6) guidance counselor that children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade had already been reported to have "tried" sex. as in actual intercourse.

just the other day, I was at the mall reading when I saw some very young "tweeners" - ie, between 9 and 13 - walking around WITH A GROWN UP dressed like a lil hooker.

of course, people will blame the media and blame the parents. but have you ever looked at children's clothing stores lately? even if you wanted more modest clothes, your kid would look montgomery ward, which is just going to make his or her life harder.

personally, I think that the issue is that parents feel such pressure for their kids to fit in (which - why??) that they let them do and wear anything they want. and then the parents bury their heads in the sand when all the indulgence leads the kids down a path where they are basically masters of their own destiny, which I don't think is appropriate. then, when sex is broached because of the media hype and/or pressure, the kids are not equipped to know how to say no. they have been indulged at almost every turn and they see no reason to hold back anything.

anyways. money shots.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

Patrice, there's so much here that's so spot on and rich with potential discourse that one could build a whole blog post or stand-alone spout-off out of it. Well done. Just a coupla thoughts.

personally, I think that the issue is that parents feel such pressure for their kids to fit in (which - why??) that they let them do and wear anything they want.

In some ways, I think it's because an awful lot of us didn't fit in as kids; and for those who did (you guys just plain suck), many probably felt on some level that it was a lie. Members of every generation want their kids' lives to be better that their own. That used to mean more money, more property, more "opportunity"; as our values become more (take your pick) abstract, intangible or frivolous--as we value happiness, cultural savvy and/or a sense of belonging more than material comfort, as the notion of "moral fortitude" becomes entangled in a web of relativism and shifting norms--the "opportunities" we seek for our children start to look like pleas for social acceptance.

Add to that the fact that we retain more of our own adolescence, and are more likely to want to be the "cool" mom or dad, the one who knows what music our kids are listening too, the one who doesn't look like some old square next to other parents, etc., and you have a formula for parents who try to make their kids more cool as a function of being cool themselves.

I don't think this is as new as it looks. We may try to hold on to our "cool" for longer, but in the old days, that was simply replaced with a desire to look like a "good" parent, whatever that meant (kids getting good grades, staying out of trouble, having a mowed lawn and clean house, going to church and being good Christians). I don't necessarily think these goals are any less superficial than the other, just more classically "adult" (whatever the fuck that means).

I once read an article--I don't remember where--that pointed out that there was once a clear line between how kids dressed, how teenagers dressed and how adults dressed; and at certain kinds of occasions (like church), kids were "dressed up" as adults, and teenagers were encouraged to do same (which they either did or didn't). Now, you see both children and adults trying to be teenagers, everyone trying to hit peak earlier and stay there longer. Any thoughts as to what's happening there?

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

Any thoughts as to what's happening there?

Do you mean beyond the obviously youth obsessed culture we're inundated in?

'cuz, if you ask me, just as the right co-opted the left's ability to frame a story, our lives are currently run by Madison Avenue.

and I'm not just talking about the lack of individuality being encouraged these days, it's everything, from not being fit enough to whether our cheap furniture looks Ikea enough, to "I'm making myself emotionally vulnerable, that's uncool, screw this chick."

We all want to be the Thelma & Louise Brad Pitt, or the Friends Jennifer Anniston (or whoever else from that cast).

Being ourselves was not enough, much better to pretend otherwise. This instinct has always been there, it's just that somewhere along the way, within the Reagan and Bush the First's administrations; our ability to dis-associate ourselves from these impulses disappeared.

For instance, I sincerely doubt that when my dad was my current age (which would've been 1984), he would have wanted the Atari 5200, or look like Don Johnson. Me? I crave the PSP, the Sidekick cellphone and wish more people would say I looked like latter day Lawrence Fishburne.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I agree with all that . . . only . . .

For instance, I sincerely doubt that when my dad was my current age (which would've been 1984), he would have wanted the Atari 5200, or look like Don Johnson. Me? I crave the PSP, the Sidekick cellphone and wish more people would say I looked like latter day Lawrence Fishburne.

Fair enough. But then, my Dad wanted a gas grill and some of his contemporaries were attempting combovers. So there was still an impulse towards buying toys and making unflattering attempts to look younger. We've just changed context. If anything, it seems that we're more honest about what we want being frivolous.

Whatever. It's all madness.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

I think I'm going to take up the sexual education vs sexual morality question with a post today.

It's an interesting angle.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger amandak said...

I feel a little silly posting a tiny comment down here at the bottom of this massive accumulation of opinion and debate, but I have actually been thinking a little about this age of consent thing. My opinion, such as it is, is that teenagers shouldn't be having sex. I guess it's not a popular one, but, all I have to go on is my own experience. I was 18 (almost 19) when I lost my virginity, and it was PLENTY soon enough. Sex has consequences, which can be immense, and if you're not adult enough to deal with them, you shouldn't be having it, and I don't know about you, but I don't know ANY 14, 15, 16, whatever, year olds who are adult enough to fully comprehend having a child. As far as the law goes, I'm no expert by a long shot, but I'd say, if you're having sex with someone who's not an adult, there's a problem. I know I was raised in a highly moralistic atmosphere, but I do believe, even if I hadn't been, I shouldn't have been having sex any earlier than I did.

 

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