'Lower age of consent' says gay rights campaigner

Carolyn Moynihan
26 August 2010
Reproduced with Permission

A high profile British homosexual activist wants the age of sexual consent lowered to 14, on the basis that currently underage sex "is mostly consenting, safe and fun".

Peter Tatchell plugged for this change in America in one of a series of articles on "dangerous ideas" on the website Big Think recently.

Dangerous, certainly, but also just a little bit surprising in view of this year of paedophilia scandals and his campaign against Pope Benedict's visit to the UK -- one of the reasons being the Pope's alleged "cover up" of clerical sexual abuse of children?

By a tortured logic Tatchell claims that a lower age of consent is "the best way" to protect young people from abuse. His arguments boil down to three:

Actually, in making the last claim Tatchell puts no lower age limit. This fits with his recipe for protecting kids from peer pressure and paedophiles: "giving them frank, high quality sex and relationship education from an early age". As we have noted elsewhere on this site recently, for some people that means nursery school.

In the end, his case seems to rest on a view of sex as the driving force and highest achievement of human life -- from "an early age". It is a view that some adults may find convenient but which common sense rejects as contrary to the good of children and society. Thus the editors of Big Think conclude:

Why We Should Reject This

Of course there will always be underage people who have sex, but that doesn't mean the law should condone it. Sex is a very complicated part of human behavior that is too nuanced for young people to understand. In fact, studies have shown that people, especially girls, who have sex at a young age often regret it. One study in New Zealand found that 70% of girls who had sex before the age of 16 wished they hadn't done so. In a column for Telegraph, writer David Lindsay argues, "sex is for people who can cope with the consequences, physical and otherwise. In a word, adults."