Why not lower age of consent to 14?

(107 Posts)
CustardSliceAndAMugOfCoffee Fri 11-Jan-13 12:20:56

Becoming sexually active - why not lower the age of consent to 14?
This was one of the topics for discussion on The Wright Stuff on channel 5 this morning. What are your opinions? I personally think the age of consent should remain 16 years of age.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 12:25:39

I think 16 is awful young, but then I also think the only time this law matters is in cases of statutory rape. I don't think two randy 15 year olds will necessarily wait a few months just because the law tells them to.

But lowering it to 14 means older people can sleep with 14 year olds with no legal repercussion. I do not agree with that.

TaggieCampbellBlack Fri 11-Jan-13 12:26:53

Because 14 year olds are completely incapable of parenting effectively.

Conflugenglugen Fri 11-Jan-13 12:29:09

Taggie - I think that is the most compelling argument for keeping it as is.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 12:42:22

Taggie - though I agree in principal, I don't like the sweeping generalisation, sorry. I know a girl who had her DD at 14. She is a wonderful mother.

I think there are better arguments TBH. There are some 16 year olds who would be incapable of parenting effectively. There are some 25 year olds who would also fit this description.

Lowering consent means it will be legal to sleep with a 14 year old. Regardless of your age. Surely that is a more compelling argument?

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 12:44:20

In what cases of statutory rape? It's not a term used in English law although the concept is sort of defined when it comes to sexual activity with a child under the age of thirteen I suppose.

Think the law is already quite well set up around protection from predatory older adults (it's not used to prosecute 16 year olds for having sex with 15 year olds is it) so it probably wouldn't hurt to lower the age of consent - once all teenage boys are vasectomised of course

FastidiaBlueberry Fri 11-Jan-13 12:51:09

Because then a 40 year old perv could legally sleep with them.

Good idea? Really?

I believe there are countries where the age of consent isn't a single thing, but depends on whether both parties are "young" (can't remember the details), so that e.g. two 14yos can choose to have sex, but a 14yo is not legally-available to adults. I certainly don't think it should be lowered without that kind of protection.

Not sure about lowering it at all, but the current situation is an odd one, where people who are through puberty and in longterm caring relationships are barred from acting on it by law. But, as above, its not good for society for them to get pregnant as a result, and we can't make longterm contraception mandatory, so it may be the best compromise between individual liberty and what is good for society in general.

FastidiaBlueberry Fri 11-Jan-13 12:55:42

We could also try teaching kids that PIV sex isn't the only type you can have. For many teenage girls, it's not even the best type.

ForkInTheForeheid Fri 11-Jan-13 12:55:45

Personally I feel that teenagers experimenting with sex in consensual situations shouldn't be criminalised, but that there should be a provision for age differences. Say more than two years or something? Ability to parent is a red herring. We don't make that provision for irresponsible/criminal adults so why teenagers?
I think what is hugely important for teenagers is to warn them about the dangers of unhealthy relationships and look out for the warning signs of emotional and physical abuse. I was very aware of safe sex and always made sure I had condoms, went on the pill etc. (all under the age of consent) but I wasn't aware that I was picking someone a bit rubbish as my sexual partner as he slowly chipped away at my self-esteem. Teenagers seek sex because they have sex drives, this is not wrong and should not be demonised. They need to be supported to make safe choices and protected from exploitative adults.

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 12:55:52

We would have to have something like the Romeo and Juliet laws wouldn't we, which I think we sort of have covered already for 13-15 year olds? But I agree it is more important to protect young people from older predators than to worry about criminalising consensual activity between similarly aged couples - which never happens anyway (the criminalisation I mean not the activity itself)

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 13:12:03

mitchy statutory rape is the commonly used term for someone having sex with a person under the age of 16. As they are legally not able to consent.

And yes, it is used to prosecute 16 year olds for having sex with 15 year olds.

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 13:19:31

In England and Wales, are you sure?

I am wildly out of date then, but we have never had an offence called 'statutory rape' as far as I remember.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

meditrina Fri 11-Jan-13 13:29:15

I think the age needs to be set no earlier than the time when most children have completed the major changes of puberty (even if the process is not totally complete).

Even though the menarche is typically at a younger age now, it is not uncommon for periods not to begin until 14 (or even slightly older); it is however very rare for them not to have started by 16, so that does seem a better age for legal sexual maturity.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 13:37:00

mitchy 'statutory rape' is the term used when an under 16 gives consent to sexual relations. They have given consent, so rape, by definition, cannot be committed. However, as the law considers them unable to give such consent, the term 'statutory rape' is applied.

It's not a law, its a term to define a law.

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 14:05:39

Thanks. I didn't think it was a term used in England and Wales, that's all. I also thought the closest we came to (statutorily) defining the concept, as an offence, concerned under thirteen year olds with separate provision made for thirteen to fifteen year olds. But it is nice to learn something ever day, as they say.

meditrina Fri 11-Jan-13 14:27:17

You cannot be charged with statutory rape in England/Wales as no such offence exists. There are however a range of charges available for those who have unlawful sex with a minor.

Statutory rape is a charge in other jurisdictions and is widely used on the Internet.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 14:31:42

You can be charged with unlawful sexual intercourse, which is commonly referred to under the term 'statutory rape', even in court. Though in England/Wales, this only applies to young girls.

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 14:32:56

I think what I was trying to say was that the presumption that a young person can't consent to sexual activity is rebuttable between similarly aged teens but not between a young person and an adult or anyone under the age of thirteen - but this could be wishful thinking on my part. It would be sensible, especially if all else was equal.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 14:35:27

So you think the age of consent should be lowered?

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 14:36:38

It is not a sweeping generalization to say a 14 year old is not even legally allowed to live on their own and look after themselves so in my mind should not not be parenting anyone alone. They would still need their parent to "supervise" would they not?

I wouldn't even let a 14 year old baby sit.

But to me more important than even that, is that I feel a 20/30/40 year old who would have sex with a 14 year old is a sex abuser and I don't want to make it even easier for them.

Viviennemary Fri 11-Jan-13 14:36:42

I think it should be raised to 18 never mind lowered.

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 14:38:24

Like I said, when all teenage boys are vasectomised (ie never).

But if all else was equal I don't see why not. Except of course it isn't.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 14:41:07

A 14 year old girl that gets pregnant does not necessarily have a parent to 'supervise' them, so no, they don't.

Whether or not a 14 year old can be a good parent is not the issue.

I agree with your second statement wholeheartedly, likewise with vivienne's statement.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 14:42:00

What do you mean mitchy when all else is equal?

And I don't really get the humour in vasectomising teenage boys.. hmm

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 14:49:16

It's not humour, I think it would be great if we had a chemical vasectomisation program for young men. Reversible when they are ready to become parents. Maybe it would lead to a surge of disease though if they went condomless as a result.

When all else is equal, I mean when all else is equal! When women aren't the 'sex class', that kind of thing?

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 14:49:19

I meant legally, they couldn't just go and rent a house could they or even obtain a jo. Also with funding being dropped left right and center there would be no guarantees of special housing provided for them so they would end up vulnerabel if they couldn't stay at home.

AnAirOfHope Fri 11-Jan-13 14:50:58

If it was lowered and children of 14 could have sex would children younger be talking about it or more likely to try sex?

Would you be happy for you 14 yo to have sex in your house with their 12yo g/bf?

If you lower the concent age what about the concent for same sex?

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 14:51:54

*obtain a job

AnAirOfHope Fri 11-Jan-13 14:52:55

14yo is not an adult they could not support a child on their own.

I think it should be raised to 18yo.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 14:54:33

Mitchy I can't even begin to respond to 'I think it would be great if we had a chemical vasectomisation program for young men. Reversible when they are ready to become parents'.

Utterly disturbing POV. Are we living in a dictatorship now? Who assesses when one is 'ready' to become a parent?

ForkInTheForeheid Fri 11-Jan-13 15:00:20

Where is all this stuff about the ability to raise a child coming from? Seriously? A lot of adults don't have the resources or maturity to raise a child and a great many teenagers may have the potential to make great parents. Sex, whether we like it or not, is not solely about procreation, it's much more often about recreation for all who engage in it. I can agree with raising the age of consent to 18, with the proviso that those between (say) 14 and 17 would legally be allowed to have sex within a two year age difference. Making it illegal for an 18 year old to have sex with a 17 year old is crazy!

I know I'm repeating myself but building up young people's self esteem and educating them on building positive relationships should be the focus. Children don't magically become adults at any age, childhood is essentially a social construction with some common attributes. We have to protect the vulnerable but accept that mid-teens are people with their own drives and criminalising their behaviour has no benefits that I can see. (I would absolutely never recommend lowering the age of consent without the age difference proviso though).

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 15:06:06

I don't think it's being ageist to say that becoming a parent at 14 would ruin most children's lives and that as our society is not set up for them to live independently or work or even work for a reasonable minimum wage (why does the UK still have a staggered age dependent minimum wage).

I also belive that with very young children who do have sex procreation very much does come in to it. It's a fact that children with lower self esteem will engage in riskier sex at a younger age. The idea that a child with no family support system will feel the urge to create family of their own is not a crazy one is it?

This will only serve to put the child in a cycle of vulnerability they can't get out of. Once a baby is born there is no undoing it,

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 15:07:33

Society can not tell an adult who can not afford to have a child not to have one but surely it is society's job to act in the best interest of young people and say no, you can't do that?

Mitchy1nge Fri 11-Jan-13 15:13:04

DSM - did I say an enforced program or that men couldn't or shouldn't decide for themselves when they are ready to inseminate someone?

As a sixteen year old who was out of control and had sexual relations with both a twenty four year old man and a thirty year old man, I am all for raising the age to eighteen.

Narked Fri 11-Jan-13 15:16:16

I'd be happy to say that 14 year olds sleeping with 14 year olds won't be charged - this is already the case in practice. I would like a change in the law so that anyone over 18 sleeping with someone under 16 was automatically charged.

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 15:16:44

Some people will be ready and able to consent at 14. Some won't.

Picking a number is a compromise that says "most people will be capable of fully consenting in an informed manner by this age".

ForkInTheForeheid Fri 11-Jan-13 15:17:10

I think acting in the best interests of young people is not necessarily about laying down the law but taking them seriously as human beings with rights to make decisions about their own lives. There does need to be law in place protecting the vulnerable, but I don't think the current way of legislating (or indeed a simple raising of the age to 18) is the best way to achieve that. Making sex taboo for teenagers creates a barrier between them and the adults around them where they are less willing to be open and, IMO, more likely to make poor decisions. The reasons for starting to have sex (consensually - obviously not talking about any abusive situations) are complex but IME and that of my friends had nothing to do with the age of consent.

My DS is only 5 so I'm not going to hit this for a few years yet, and am prepared to eat humble pie when he's 14 and suddenly it seems very young indeed. Regardless, the authoritarian approach is, to me, less likely to work than an open and supportive atmosphere where the development of a sex drive is seen as natural and people respect themselves and have better self-esteem, with the hope that as a consequence their decisions around their bodies would be better.

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 15:18:50

I do think that the ages at which you can legally do stuff in the UK do not at all look as if they have been thought about in a coherent manner.

Probably because they haven't.

I wouldn't agree with putting up the age of consent.

In Germany you can buy beer and wine at 16 but have to be 18 to buy spirits.

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 15:21:55

When it comes to making your own medical decisions we have the concept of Gillick competence where an under-16 can be deemed to have sufficient understanding to consent to their own medical treatment.

I would hope that the law (as it stands) uses a similar approach when dealing with 14 and 15 year olds having sex. Some are competent to consent. Some are not.

Locketjuice Fri 11-Jan-13 15:23:05

I really don't understand what benefit there would be to lowering the age? I'm young, I am a mum.. And was a teenage parent.. Not 14 mind! So I don't see the teenage parent arguement being a very fair one as it doesn't really matter if your 14,16 or 37 when it comes to parenting.. I do think that it is a stupid idea to lower the age limit none the less.. If my 13 year old neice came home to tell me she was having sex I would be mortified she's still a baby in my eyes... Just seems very wrong.
All I think it would achieve would be the dirty 20/30 something's thinking its ok to be with 16 year old would then think its ok to have a go with a 14 year old. Very very wrong.

KRITIQ Fri 11-Jan-13 15:37:41

I think it should stay at 16 but not result in automatic criminalisation of those under 16 who engage in sex. There needs to be consideration of the context and the emotional and social maturity of those involved. Perhaps that could also be the case for those just over 16 who have sex with those under 16 (i.e. they could only be a few months in age apart,) but that also would have to be weighed up on the context.

It's important to recognise the rights of the young person as well as the need to safeguard their well being when they may not be in a position to give full, informed consent for sex (and where they might believe that they actually CAN do that.)

I think lowering the age to 14 as a general rule would not be wise. As others have said, this would legitimise sexual contact between much older people and young people, many of whom are not physically mature, nor close to being emotionally or socially mature enough to fully understand the consequences of sexual relationships. Another worry is that if the age of consent drops by 2 years, that also indirectly sends the message that the "grey area" where sex isn't legal, but isn't "that bad" which we have in our culture will also drop. Now, it's notionally about 14, maybe 13. It could become 11 or 12.

What bugs me about these debates is when someone brings up the issue of physical development. Yes, girls and boys are developing secondary sexual characteristics at a younger age than they did say 100 years ago. But, just because a girl starts periods at age 9 doesn't mean she has the emotional or social maturity or the ability to understand the complexities of sexual relationships and possible consequences of this that an adult person would. Even very young children have some version of sexual feelings, have a awareness of themselves as sexual beings, but that's not the same as being capable of giving consent to have sex, particularly with an adult who has the capacity to manipulate and control the situation, thereby exploiting the child or young person for their own purposes.

Another thing that worries me about some of these discussions is the number of adults who insist that their experiences of under age sex, including sex with much older people, was a "good" thing. I don't doubt that there are some for whom this was genuinely the case. However, evidence shows there are a great many more who have been seriously harmed by childhood sexual abuse (for that is what it is,) and it has blighted the remainder of their lives. I also sense there are some who "cope" with having been sexually abused by convincing themselves that it wasn't that bad, that they were active and willing participants in sex, because this means they don't have to see themselves as victims, as controlled, as exploited. I sometimes wonder if this kind of thinking may be behind the words of some adults who maintain that having sex when a child "did them no harm." sad

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 16:04:25

I sometimes wonder if this kind of thinking may be behind the words of some adults who maintain that having sex when a child "did them no harm.

I agree and this may one of the few times where I have seen men be the most vulnerable. The idea that having sex with an older teenager or a woman is seen as something young boys should aspire to is quite frightening really,and while most people would assume that a 14 year old girl who had sex with an older man had been abused it isn't always felt that way for boys. Even grown men will say they would have "loved it" when a pretty young teachers gets caught shagging a student. It's disgusting.

One other worry for me for changing the age of consent is that currently abusers have been let off with lighter sentences because they have said they "couldn't tell" that the person was underage.

Think about that, an 11 year old who could pass for 14 in a judge's eyes is suddenly a possibility for a pedophile.

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 16:08:21

An 11 year old who could pass for 14 would not be attractive to a paedophile, that's not what it means.

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 16:09:54

I'll agree that if the age of consent were lowered people who wanted to have sex with young/vulnerable/emotionally immature people would think it would be easier to get away with "but he/she looked old enough".

TiggyD Fri 11-Jan-13 16:36:18

I'd support a lower age of consent with the proviso that the lowered age is only allowed between people of less than 2 years age difference, as is the case in some countries. I'd lower it to 15 and see what happens.

"I think it would be great if we had a chemical vasectomisation program for young men. Reversible when they are ready to become parents."

"Who assesses when one is 'ready' to become a parent?"

I've thought of a good test. The man who wants to de-vasectomised has to travel to a city at least 200 miles away and sign his name on a form. That's all. Only the stupid or feckless could fail to do it, and they're 2 types who shouldn't be allowed to breed.

A bit of a tangent but as Mitchy mentioned reversible vasectomies, it's worth noting that exactly that is being developed now in India.

PiccadillyCervix Fri 11-Jan-13 16:51:13

An 11 year old who could pass for 14 would not be attractive to a paedophile, that's not what it means.

I realize but I am not sure of the word for a man who would like to fuck 11 year olds but is able to convince a judge she could pass for 14. What is the word for that? I am fairly sure in most cases where the "she looked old enough defense" was used the criminal did not really believe she was 16. But the case could be made (and has been made) to a sleaze bag judge.

ProzacHelps Fri 11-Jan-13 18:21:07

The age of consent should not be lowered. 16 is too young in my opinion. Young people this age need to be focusing on their education. Lowering the age of consent to 14 will cause peer pressure. Let kids be kids, I don't agree with encouraging them to grow up too fast. Paedophiles would take advantage. It is a terrible idea.

I think if anything it should be raised.

16 made sense when you could leave school at 16, but now that is changing. It used to be theoretically possible to leave school at 16, have a baby, work a job (or have a same-age partner working a job). Now it would be harder and all your peers would still be at school. I don't feel right about children who're still in compulsory education having babies.

I know some teenagers are amazing mothers but it seems there's such a huge, huge gap between the average 14 year old and the average 16 year old anyway.

Surely the law isn't there for the few who might be mature enough - it's there to protect the majority who won't be?

I mean, what possible harm does it do someone who is 14 and mature to wait? If they're really mature, they will wait. IMO.

AbigailAdams Fri 11-Jan-13 19:41:00

The law is there for the reason Fastidia stated, to protect young girls from predatory older men.

Blimey I would say because a 14 year old would still need to go to school to even think about being capable of earning enough money to raise a child when she was 20 let alone 14 and how many 14 year olds do you know who you would leave in charge of a 7 year old and be on the ball enough to not forget about the 7 year old whilst they were painting their nails or on the phone to a friend let alone a new born.

And surely the fact that at 14 kids do not have a clue about the wicked ways of the opposite sex and would lead to lots of horrid encounters between predatory men and young girls.

ProzacHelps Fri 11-Jan-13 20:07:38

*Why Not Lower Age Of Consent To 14?
First up were the condems right to dismiss civil servants requests to lower the age of consent to 14? With 40 per cent of girls doing it before they’re 15 we’re currently criminalising hundreds of thousands of youngsters and maybe making their first sexual experience even more daunting - but then if we lowered it to 14 from 16 as it is as present, would even younger teens start getting jiggy with it?*

Here is clicky link if you would like to watch discussion...

www.channel5.com/shows/the-wright-stuff/episodes/friday-11-january-2

AA - not denying that.

I just think that commenting that girls - and boys, because I would think boys could be just as traumatized by inappropriate sexual contact - of the same ages are at different levels of maturity, isn't relevant.

Sure, they are, but that's no reason why people who are extra mature should be used as a reason to change the law.

It is like when people trot out the old 'oh, but some girls love an older boyfriend, I had one and it never did me any harm'. So what? So that means someone else in what the law judges to be the same situation should be put in harm's way? I don't agree.

I think possibly if you could have a law that 14 - 17 year olds say could legally have sex with each other that might not be a bad thing - so as some have described a Romeo and Juliet style law. It's a shame to make early sexual relationships illegal, possibly adding to the stress in relationships and teenage lives. But it may be the lesser of two evils (the post 16 law) if it maintains some protection for young girls in particular.

AbigailAdams Fri 11-Jan-13 22:27:05

Yes I agree LRD. I just thought that the thread was generally forgetting why the law was in place. Because men thought it was OK to have sex and marry young girls. And talk of maturity in girls (only it seems) really smacks of the excuses that these men used to make (and the excuses that child rapists still do make).

Oh, sorry! I agree with you too, then.

AbigailAdams Fri 11-Jan-13 22:35:56

I'm on my phone, with a dodgy touch pad. I'm keeping it brief grin

AbigailAdams Fri 11-Jan-13 22:39:21

(Hence why I didn't expand in my first post, I mean)

Fair enough! smile

Trills Fri 11-Jan-13 22:50:30

Having sex is not just about making babies

No, but babies are a consequence of sex that needs to be taken into account.

Pushthebutton Sat 12-Jan-13 01:03:55

And Sexually Transmitted Diseases!

ZooAnimals Sat 12-Jan-13 01:22:34

'it doesn't really matter if your 14,16 or 37 when it comes to parenting'

It kind of does beacause at 16 and 37 you can leave home/live independently, leave school and get a job. You can't at 14 and somewhere to live and money to live on are kind of essential to being a parent imo.

Startail Sat 12-Jan-13 01:25:24

Because no 14 or even 18 year old can afford to support a baby.

Because no 14 yo should have to choose whether to have an abortion

Because my DD is 14. however grown up and sensible she is, she's a lot more important things to worry about than boys.

No I'm not in favour of prosecuting two consenting 15 yo.

But what is close in age?

At 20, DHs 3.5 years older didn't matter we were both students.

When I was 16, I was still in my school uniform.

He'd spent a year away from home at uni and slept with his first girl friend.

piprabbit Sat 12-Jan-13 01:35:55

In the recent Bradford abuse cases, at least one 15yo girl's parents were told that she had made the lifestyle choice to be a prostitute by social workers. She was below the age of consent, but almost 16 so they shrugged and let her get on with being passed from man to man and raped repeatedly.

I think that lowering the age of consent would just make the most vulnerable children even harder to protect.

TeiTetua Sat 12-Jan-13 01:58:43

I'm not sure if the original proposal was intended to come with the restriction that under age 16, the kids would have to be close in age to be legal.

As things are now, a large number of teenagers are breaking the law. Should it be enforced against them? Or changed? I realize that it's an awkward thing that we don't want to think about, but we also have to ask what good the law is if it's broken with impunity so often.

sashh Sat 12-Jan-13 03:35:56

Would you lower the age for marriage too?

It is possible to have a religeous marriage ceremony without the legal bit.

It used to be really common when you could only have a legal marriage in a register office or a C of E church (unless you made complicated arangements with a registrar, but I digress).

How would you feel about a 14 year old being married? Or a 14 year old being taken to another country where child marriage is legal, to get married, and then coming back to the UK to live with husband / wife and have children?

It used to be 13 until Victorian times, it was raised because of child prostitution.

mysterymeg Sat 12-Jan-13 10:03:59

I know someone who had a child at 14. Her mum had to be downs guardian for her and her little girl. Apparently if you have a child before 16 you legally have to have an adult's support. E.g if you are chucked out by your parents you are fostered together with your child. My friend couldn't move out to live with her boyfriend. She was a good mum by the way just not legally considered capable. Thus I think the legal position is that you're not allowed to be the sole carer of a baby under 16 (but not sure of the precise terms etc.).

mysterymeg Sat 12-Jan-13 10:04:32

*down as

DSM Sat 12-Jan-13 10:14:27

mysterymeg maybe it's different in England, or maybe things have changed but the girl I know who had a baby at 14 was the sole carer and parent for her DD. She didn't have any parents to take responsibility anyway, and wasn't in foster care. I

I honestly think its a wasted argument as it can be argued that 14 year olds can bring up children with success. My acquaintance won't be the only one!

There are much more pressing reasons - 14 year olds as legal prostitutes? 14 year olds sleeping with 50 year olds?

Raise it to 18. And raise the drinking age to 21 too.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 12-Jan-13 10:19:32

'It's not humour, I think it would be great if we had a chemical vasectomisation program for young men. Reversible when they are ready to become parents. Maybe it would lead to a surge of disease though if they went condomless as a result.'

shock And chastity belts for the girls? Or just sew them shut?

That's a bit of a shocking think to say Nebulous in view of what does happen to girls around the world ie FGM

notcitrus Sat 12-Jan-13 10:54:07

The only problem with 16 is that currently it means over 40% of under 16s are lawbreakers, and that fact leads them to think laws in general are silly and shouldn't apply to them. But given the culture we have here, I would only support lowering the age of consent IF it went in conjunction with making it illegal for under 16s to have sex with someone more than 4 years older, and extra penalties for anyone found to be doing so, to abolish the "I thought she/he was older, guv" defence.

About 15 years ago I was at a debate on the age of consent with Peter Tatchell who was arguing for 12 on the grounds that it worked in Netherlands etc where far fewer teens have sex or get pregnant, and would avoid making so many consenting teens into lawbreakers. After hearing a bunch of students tell their ezperiences, he agreed it wouldn't work in the UK with its drunken-sex, "naughty" non-explicit sex culture and 16 was probably better for an equal age of consent. We didn't know the term 'rape culture' back then but that was pretty much what we meant.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 12-Jan-13 11:05:17

'That's a bit of a shocking think to say Nebulous in view of what does happen to girls around the world ie FGM'

Exactly, to attempt to control someone's sexuality through mutilation or drugs is unacceptable. The proposer didn't see it as a joke, and I also didn't get the impression that she was thinking of it being voluntary either.
And no, I think lowering the age of consent would be a bad idea and send very wrong messages to opportunists and abusers as to the readiness of juveniles to become sexually active.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 12-Jan-13 11:10:42

I think we need a huge cultural shift, and we could begin by looking honestly at other places that don't have the same issues as the UK and working out why, and WTF we are doing so very wrong.

Most people here seem agreed you couldn't just lower the age to 14 without some special measures for teenagers - such as notcitrus suggests about the 4 year age range - Romeo & Juliet law etc.
But I can certainly appreciate your thoughts too Nebulous about whether any change might just give the wrong messages to opportunists and abusers.
You'd think it ought to be possible to have a workable law to protect young people in a suitable and effective way though wouldn't you ?

Pushthebutton Sat 12-Jan-13 12:10:31

"Or just sew them shut?" Comments like this are not necessary.

Pushthebutton Sat 12-Jan-13 12:20:46
FairPhyllis Sat 12-Jan-13 12:46:36

No, it should not be lowered, for the reasons offered above, but here's another one: it would fuel the culture of sexual bullying by peers in schools which we already know exists. It would be seen as legitimising 14 year olds, particularly girls, as sexual objects. It's not just older people who sexually exploit the young - it can be their peer group too.

I am also sympathetic to calls to raise the age of consent, but then I also think everyone should have to get a shagging licence, obtained only after passing heavy duty exams in contraception and childcare. grin

The real key though is getting young people to be able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and being able to reject unhealthy situations without fear or hesitation. It is very difficult to create those conditions in a rape culture though.

There does seem to be a better culture including for young people in some other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Scandinavia ?

(They are very good on early years ed which I'm involved in too. A coincidence ?
Or important social skills such as respect learnt at an early age ? Or just countries that have many of their priorities right ?)

TheSecretCervixDNCOP Sat 12-Jan-13 13:42:02

I don't think it matters what the age of consent were changed to if at all, if someone underage is going to have sex they are going to do it aren't they. Same with smoking and drinking, if they get hold of the appropriate items they're going to use them. Not much in place to stop them?

OneHandFlapping Sat 12-Jan-13 13:48:32

Nobody should be having sex until they are mature enough to deal with:

Unwanted pregnancy
STDs
Sexual coercion
Heartbreak

Just because you are old enough to experience sexual desire doesn't mean you should be having sex. You don't die from celibacy and sex is potentially something with life changing consequences.

I would raise the age of consent to 18 myself.

TeiTetua Sat 12-Jan-13 18:52:13

And having raised the age of consent to 18, would you be willing to prosecute (let's say) 60% of young people? There's a lot of difference between saying people shouldn't have sex before such and such an age, versus trying to run a legal system which calls it a crime and has to deal with the result in practical terms. No, they shouldn't have sex (maybe). But they do, and most likely they'll continue to, whatever the law says. So what's the answer?

TheSecretCervixDNCOP Sat 12-Jan-13 20:12:42

What exactly is the punishment anyway, when two young people have sex below legal age, what happens to them? Highly doubt they will sling them in a jail cell?

Viviennemary Sat 12-Jan-13 20:29:24

I have already said I think the age should be raised to 18. There is absolutely nothing at all done about under age sex. Sex under the age of 16 is illegal or it isn't. What's the point of it being illegal if nothing is ever done about it. I think lowering it to 14 would be a total disaster. You'd have 12 year olds thinking I am as mature as a 14 year old so it's OK for me. It isn't OK.

44SoStartingOver Sat 12-Jan-13 20:38:37

My dd is 13 1/2 and is averagely intelligent and mature. She is fairly thoughtful and reasonably sensible.

There is no way she will be ready in six months to actively decide to have consensual sex with all the possible ramifications.

I know she flirts a bit, but I don't think she has had her first proper kiss, so if she is fairly typical, I cannot see how most 14 yos would be either.

Anecdotal I know, but in an age when people seem to be 30plus before they are independent how could they make a smart decision at 14?

PiccadillyCervix Sat 12-Jan-13 20:53:54

Raise it to 18. And raise the drinking age to 21 too

Why confused

Go ahead and die for your country or become responsible for another human being or run for fucking office, but don't you dare have a beer hmm

I'm American we all know it's a ridiculous (totally arbitrary date in your life) and patronizing law over here can't imagine why it should be expanded to other countries.

Why is 15 never mentioned as an idea ?
Though I'd like to see a Romeo & Juliet style law introduced if the age limit was lowered at all.
I do see the argument for not making teenagers lawbreakers when apparently 40% have sex under the current guidelines/ legal age. Is that right ?
I know young people (in our extended family) who have and seem to have come through the experience OK, but hope my DC's will wait a bit longer as it seems a lot for them to handle to me.

Must be slightly weird going through college in a culture where students aren't meant to be drinking Piccadilly ? How does that pan out ?!

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 21:15:21

Hmm. This is an interesting one. My parents were 16 and 18 when I was conceived. It was not ideal, but they were considered to be adults and got married etc. My mum was just turned 17 when I was born. I first dtd aged 15 and knew all about contraception etc. I felt that I was old enough and switched on enough. I don't look back at it with any regret.

The idea of my pfb having sex at 15 or becoming a mother at 17 totally freaks me out though. I will be having some long chats with her in the coming years.

grimbletart Sun 13-Jan-13 13:39:47

Just because a girl has boobs and uses tampons doesn't make her an adult. We (rightly) complain about the pressure early sexualisation puts on young girls and now there is a suggestion to change the law to make it even easier for early sexualisation.

Is society mad?

Trills Sun 13-Jan-13 15:27:46

What needs to change is not laws but attitudes.

You can't legislate a change in culture.

No way should it be lowered to 14. Of course you can't stop teens from experimenting, and some will still have consensual sex at 14. Not ideal, but that's not my main concern.

My concern is that lowering the age to 14 will make it easier for sexual predators to get away with abusing children. Because then they will no longer to breaking the law when they persuade children to have sex with them; children who desperately want to feel grown-up and are flattered by the attention of an older man.

I would also agree that teens should be taught way more about alternatives to PIV, and how it can bring greater pleasure to both partners plus removed the worry of pregnancy. PIV is far too much of a big deal. Though last time I expressed this viewpoint, I was told that PIV is considered boring these days and teens are into anal and other stuff they learn from porn instead. Lovely.

Xenia Sun 13-Jan-13 16:24:03

I am in favour. As it currently, stands 40% of children are criminalised by the 16+ age. The proposal is just that it's lawful with someone up to two years older than you are. I doubt it will happen however.

It is part of a Government proposal to increase our rights and freedoms something we very very much need so if people have ideas of abolition of a lot of other laws Labour brought in which curb rights and freedoms now is the time to campaign for them (not something most mumsnetters are remotely bothered about as they seem to want rights hugely curtailed whenever it's debated ).

If it was lowered it would have to be with those constraints Xenia.
Without the 2 year age range rule the proposals would be quite different and totally unacceptable IME.
Am glad to hear the proposals do include them.

JustAHolyFool Sun 13-Jan-13 16:33:47

It doesn't really matter. The age of consent is 13 in Spain. 40% of girls report they're sexual active at 15 in England, compared to 13% in Spain. We'd be far better off actually talking to children about their sexual choices (and about drinking so much they don't know what they're doing, which sure as hell accounted for a lot of my early sexual experiences.)

AbigailAdams Sun 13-Jan-13 16:45:32

I disagree that legislation can't change attitudes. The age of consent has already changed a lot of attitudes towards young children and their rights. Drink driving laws demonized that act. Laws can change attitudes. It is the state saying this is not acceptable in our society (providing they actually enforce those laws. Rape laws are having no effect. FGM laws have no effect because they aren't actually applied)

Xenia Sun 13-Jan-13 16:59:33

I think 14 is acceptable (particularly with the caveat that your partner is no more than 2 years older). 14 is the age in Italy i think (and indeed in the Roman Catholic religion which says 14 or the age of consent in the country where you are based if higher).

In Saudi there is none and that is unwise and ought to be changed.

HopAndSkip Tue 15-Jan-13 17:29:30

Personally I think it should be 18.

GunsAndRoses Wed 16-Jan-13 00:14:11

Age of consent should be 18! To suggest 14 is ludricous.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Thu 17-Jan-13 23:42:35

I think 16 is Ok, as long as it's interpreted as a guideline rather than an absolute. People can be naive, gullible and vulnerable to predators at any age, depending on their circumstances and history. People can also be emotionally resillient, physically mature and thoroughly competent at a younger age than their parents would believe. But if you start by teaching children that sex is enjoyable and it you're doing it but not enjoying it then there's something wrong, that would be good as well.

Trekkie Fri 18-Jan-13 17:20:06

Current law in the UK is here

From that source, CPS guidance says this:

"In addition, it is not in the public interest to prosecute children who are of the same or similar age and understanding that engage in sexual activity, where the activity is truly consensual for both parties and there are no aggravating features, such as coercion or corruption. In such cases, protection will normally be best achieved by providing education for the children and young people and providing them and their families with access to advisory and counselling services. This is the intention of Parliament."

There is no such thing as "statutory rape" in the UK - that is not a term used anywhere.
A child under 13 cannot in law consent to sexual acts. So any sexual act with a child under 13 is by definition an offence, and there is not supposed to be a defence of "they looked older" although in practice this seems to happen confused.

For children 13-15 the law is designed to protect against coercion, predators etc. It is not there to prosecute children of a similar age in a consensual sexual relationship - that is written in black and white.

Personally I am happy with age of consent being set at 16.

Trekkie Fri 18-Jan-13 17:22:30

Oh I say "the UK" but thinking about it I think Scotland have their own laws and NI is probably different too.

The above is correct for England & Wales though so hopefully helpful in clarifying some of the points raised on the thread.

That is good to see Trekkie - some flexibility in the law !
Where it says "it is not in the public interest to prosecute" ...
you'd hope they mean it is not in the young people's interest either - or in the interest of their well-being

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