Age of consent should be 13 "To stop the persecution of old men"

(45 Posts)
nenevomito Thu 09-May-13 12:19:41

Story Here

A prominent barrister in reproductive rights has called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13.

Barbara Hewson told online magazine Spiked that the move was necessary in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to end the "persecution of old men".

She also said that complainants should no longer receive anonymity.

Its hard to know what is worst about this story. The fact that lowering the age of consent should be seen as a solution to the abuse of young girls, or that its a woman who is saying it.

emcwill74 Thu 09-May-13 12:36:16

It really is the sort of thing that makes you wonder why you got up today. Mind you, everything in Spiked makes me feel like that. I have to force myself not to click on linked articles that appear there as it was too bad for my blood pressure.

nenevomito Thu 09-May-13 12:56:57

Regardless of where it was published, its just vile isn't it?

The norm is still to blame or question the victim. I suspect that if Stuart Hall hadn't admitted what he had done then people would still believe that he was innocent.

Suggesting that the age of consent should be lowered doesn't address the problem of men (old or otherwise) taking advantage of young girls. Having a man stick his hand up your skirt without your consent is still sexual assault, even if you are 16 or over, so lowering the age doesn't make any difference.

Sex with someone against their will is still rape, regardless of someone's age too.

PinkFluffyJumper Thu 09-May-13 13:04:33

This is just awful. And to think that it came from such a high-powered woman who must have had to put up with all sorts of nonsense to get where she is now. sad

fubbsy Thu 09-May-13 13:07:31

It's just a manufactured media storm. Spiked paid someone to say something controversial. It worked, they got lots of publicity and presumably lots of traffic to their web site.

"Prominent" barrister? hmm Who says she is prominent and why? There is exactly zero chance of her proposed change in the law going anywhere.

MousyMouse Thu 09-May-13 13:08:58

just awful
makes me angry for all young women around esp my own daughter.

fubbsy Thu 09-May-13 13:12:53

'She said that "touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt" are not crimes comparable to gang rapes and murders and "anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality".'

AFAIK nobody ever said they were the same. It's a rhetorical tactic called an Aunt Sally - putting forward a false argument to distract your opponents from the real issue and waste their time.

SirChenjin Thu 09-May-13 13:21:01

Agree with Fubbsy - it's so ridiculous a suggestion as to be valueless. She is to be pitied, both for her loose grip on reality and her willingness to prostitute herself in order to raise her profile and that of Spiked.

It's just someone's opinion - a law degree does not necessarily confer common sense on its owner.

PinkFluffyJumper Thu 09-May-13 13:21:11

But as somebody has said on a different thread, fubbsy, nobody is comparing these crimes to gang rape or murder - but it doesn't mean they aren't still crimes. confused

fubbsy Thu 09-May-13 13:29:50

Yes exactly PinkFluffy. They are all crimes and people should be prosecuted for them.

TheGlorifiedSecretary Thu 09-May-13 14:29:41

So we shouldn't be prosecuting the theft of anybody's handbag, then? It's nowhere near the same thing as being burgled, tied to a chair and gagged while the robbers empty your home of any valuables after all. Right?

3hens Thu 09-May-13 14:37:37

Oh my. I hope she's not a mother.

I wonder is she looking to be a "prominent" barristerby means other than professionism. Has anyone googled her?


namechangeguy Thu 09-May-13 15:42:51

A couple of points. Firstly, touching someone who does not wish to be touched is a crime regardelss of their age, is it not? If Hall had put his hand up a 93 year-old's skirt without consent, he would still be liable to prosecution. This barrister's argument does not undo that, as far as I can see.

Secondly, the age of consent is not universal. It varies around Europe - it is 13 in Spain, 18 in Malta and Turkey. Arguing for a change in the age does not make someone wrong, or stupid, or corrupt.

Thirdly, Pink FJ said And to think that it came from such a high-powered woman who must have had to put up with all sorts of nonsense to get where she is now. Must she, really? Why does that have to be true? What if she wasn't? Unsubstantiated claims like this just undo the valid points that you do make.

PinkFluffyJumper Thu 09-May-13 15:53:16

Namechangeguy, speaking from experience, it seems more likely than not that Hewson would have been subject to even low-level sexism during her career.

I realise that this is an 'unsubstantiated claim', as I have no specific evidence that this was the case for her, but I do have experience of widespread sexism in the workplace. My comment was a generalised one stating that, particularly in male-dominated fields such as law and the judiciary, it is sadly still very very common for women to face all manner of sexist comments and behaviour.

reelingintheyears Thu 09-May-13 15:57:12

Yes,it is just fucking hideous.

What shocks me too is

Silly girl.

Chubfuddler Thu 09-May-13 15:57:43

I hope she's better at advancing arguments in court than that ridiculous straw man she's come up with there. Embarrassingly poor really, on logical grounds let alone moral ones.

Hardwicke chambers are distancing themselves I see.

Perhaps she has suffered a blow to the head.

PinkFluffyJumper Thu 09-May-13 16:03:20

It makes me so angry that there are people out there with opinions like this, who genuinely think that this would be an OK thing to do.

Best case scenario is that she's just been paid to say it, although from other threads (where the Yewtree investigations are being called a 'witch hunt' hmm), it seems as though lots of people really do think this way, high-powered barristers or not. sad

PromQueenWithin Thu 09-May-13 16:05:57

Here is a response, in the form of an open letter.

namechangeguy Thu 09-May-13 16:07:30

What are you angry about, PFJ? The lowering of the age of consent, or the trivialising of the crimes committed?

PromQueenWithin Thu 09-May-13 16:12:53

I think the lowering of the age of consent is a red herring, albeit a hugely insulting one in this context (i.e. one can believe in that without suggesting that it would stop the persecution of child sex offenders, ffs).

It's the contempt she appears to show for the victims that I think is just awful.

PromQueenWithin Thu 09-May-13 16:13:51

See, the fact that this led me to type "persecution of child sex offenders", as though that was actually possible, says it all really. sad

CoteDAzur Thu 09-May-13 16:23:14
CoteDAzur Thu 09-May-13 16:30:24

"Firstly, touching someone who does not wish to be touched is a crime regardelss of their age, is it not? If Hall had put his hand up a 93 year-old's skirt without consent, he would still be liable to prosecution."

I am guessing that you have never been a 13-year-old girl.

The point is that it is very likely that a girl at this age will consent because she thinks it is expected of her, because she wants to please the man, because she is flattered that an adult man has taken an interest in her, etc. Just because she hasn't put up a fight or even said "No" doesn't mean that she is OK with it, or will be OK with it when the old man in question pulls up his pants and leaves.

It takes a long time for girls to become women. Young girls look like women in many cases, but in their heads they are still vulnerable children and must still be protected.

namechangeguy Thu 09-May-13 16:31:16

As the dad of a teenage boy and girl, I'd happily see it raised to 25.

PinkFluffyJumper Thu 09-May-13 16:31:21

Namechangeguy, the trivialising of such crimes, victim-blaming and a culmination of the two; should the age of consent be lowered, which it in all likelihood won't be, the fact that this would make it much harder for victims to come forward.

namechangeguy Thu 09-May-13 16:39:06

Correct, I have never been a teenage girl. UK law would state that as a minor she is not capable of giving consent, so putting a hand up her skirt is a crime. I believe that Hall did this to a 9 year old, not a 13 year old, but the point is moot. He broke the law. He should be prosecuted.

If you want to widen the context of the debate, at what point would any person be able to give informed consent? Fact is, it's impossible to say, because everyone is different. Some people are far more mature at 16 than others are in their 20's. The only way to deal with this in law is to set an arbitrary age.

As for the point about whether a girl is likely to be flattered, give consent etc., at that point I get lost. It's another example of someone guessing at another individuals motives and actions. I can't debate that because I don't know, and frankly neither does anyone else.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 19:20:18

Have you read the article on the BBC.

the barrister is not putting forward a reasoned proposition as to why she thinks the age of consent should be lowered.

She is suggesting that the age of consent be lowered in order to protect men like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Saville from facing prosecution.

She is basically saying, well you can't expect dirty old men to keep their hands out of little girls knickers so let's legalise it.

Stuart Hall had an accusation of rape left on file as well FFS. No-one in their right mind would consider him persecuted.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 19:20:34

Oh sorry that post was to namechangeguy.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 19:21:47

namechange guy re. the last point of your post

"As for the point about whether a girl is likely to be flattered, give consent etc., at that point I get lost. It's another example of someone guessing at another individuals motives and actions. I can't debate that because I don't know, and frankly neither does anyone else."

Have you heard of grooming or coercion? There is a lot of information out there about these phenomenon.

CoteDAzur Thu 09-May-13 20:54:29

"whether a girl is likely to be flattered, give consent etc., at that point I get lost"

May I suggest that you don't try to argue on subjects where you know so little that you are easily lost?

BasilBabyEater Thu 09-May-13 21:33:44

That woman clearly despises men almost as much as she hates women and children.

The thing is, men are not en masse clamouring for the right to rape 13 year old children and have it called sex. Child rapists are of course, so that they can rape without it being called rape, but normal men don't see the need to have a law which enables them to have sexual contact with children of 13 and 14, because normal men know that it is wrong to have sexual relationships with much younger, inexperienced vulnerable people, so why would they want a law to give them a legal right they know they have no moral right to? But she seems to think that it's only the law which stops most of them all grooming and sexually abusing kids and actually they all want to really and should be allowed to because it's not fair that they get "persecuted" (or as most people would call it, held accountable) for their actions when they break this "unfair" law.

I mean really, what is she on? She manages to insult every man in the country who doesn't want to have sexual access to kids by implying they're all like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile really. No rapist is ever going to employ her as a defence lawyer because she's going to be forever associated with rape apologia and she'll actually be a liability in a defence. I really don't think she's done her law career any good at all by publishing this piece.

namechangeguy Thu 09-May-13 21:35:57

I am not arguing (well, at least I wasn't up to this bit, right here). I think 13 is way, way too low. I think 16 is too low. I think the men who have been caught by Yewtree should feel the full weight of the law. Age is not an excuse for them, nor is the time elapsed since they did it.

All I picked up on where the point at which I thought people were moving away from the facts and projecting their own theories and motives.

I'd also take issue with a bit of the OP - Its hard to know what is worst about this story. ... or that its a woman who is saying it. Why should it be worse because a woman has said it? Are they not allowed controversial opinions, especially in areas of expertise? That bit actually seems rather sexist. She is a barrister - they all have their consciences removed upon qualification.

Chubfuddler Thu 09-May-13 21:36:23

Fortunately she isn't in criminal practice.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 21:43:51

I think it's worse when a woman says it because she will almost certainly have had something happen to her in terms of unwanted attention / contact etc of a sexual nature by a man or men. That's just how it is and OK on MN when you say that there will always be one who says she has never been flashed at or had obscenities shouted or groped or grabbed or worse or much worse.

So when a woman says it, who is almost certain to have been a victim of some kind of sexually motivated incident at some point in her life - and most probably when she was in scondary school up to mid-twenties - then it seems like a real kick in the teeth. When men say stupid stuff like this you can think, well they haven't been born and grown up a girl, they've probably never had that type of attention - and if they have it's not considered to be the "norm".

I hope that explanation makes some sense, that's how I feel about these things.

CoteDAzur Thu 09-May-13 22:00:23

"the point at which I thought people were moving away from the facts and projecting their own theories and motives. "

Those weren't theories, as every woman who has ever been a girl knows.

We have all passed a good many years between childhood and womanhood, when our bodies were developed and we were attracting male attention despite still being a child in our heads. What I have wrote in that post was to inform you of the realities and there is not a single "theory" or "motive" there.

BasilBabyEater Thu 09-May-13 22:14:09

I get really antsy about men who project their own theories and motives onto the conversation of women while being totally unaware of doing so.

Beam, mote, eye.

Beamur Thu 09-May-13 22:19:20

I was appalled by these comments.
Comparison to more serious crimes is a crock of shit, it trivialises and marginalises what is actually a creepy unpleasant activity - exploiting and abusing children by men (or women) old enough to know better deserves to be held up to public shame and punishment.
The odd grope, kiss, comment is just the thin end of the wedge and should not be tolerated.

BasilBabyEater Thu 09-May-13 22:32:41

But also the odd grope, kiss, comment - again, this woman frames it in terms of how women respond to it - not in terms of the men who do it.

Why is she fighting for the right of men to have the odd grope, kiss, comment? Most men don't want the right to sexually harass their female colleagues. They recognise that it's wrong and they don't do it because they're not creeps, not because the law and their company policy tells them not to.

Smudging Thu 09-May-13 22:49:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GoblinGranny Thu 09-May-13 22:58:03
NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 23:08:30
NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 23:29:21

Question time there is a male barrister on who has just said that if there is not a conviction for rape in the court then clearly no rape has occurred, he said that in context of someone saying the estimated amount of rapes in the UK or similar. So he thinks if they don't report, or they get no crimed, or there is not the evidence etc etc etc then the rape has not happened.

Is this sort of attitude a barrister thing, I wonder?

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 23:31:11

Am spitting.

thecatfromjapan Thu 09-May-13 23:37:42

I don;t know about a barrister thing, but it is so definitely a wanker thing.


Perhaps I live in a right-on ghetto but I don't know anyone who thinks along those lines these days. Everyone i know realises that the CPS progresses a worryingly low number of cases; everyone I know thinks this is a problem.

But ... perhaps I need to get out more. <no wish to get out more and meet stripey-suited folk who think they are being hilaire and controversial when they come out with sad, stomach-clenching stuff like this.>

Chubfuddler Fri 10-May-13 06:29:10

I know lots of barristers. I've never heard any of them say anything so deeply stupid.

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