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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Age of Consent Laws (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Age of Consent Laws
Tashi
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I had a bit of an argument/debate with some friends over this issue last year, and I figured that I'd ask all you lovely people that work in the sex education area for some thoughts.

Should we even have age of consent laws for minors? Do states really need to dictate that youth under 16 (or how ever old) years of age can't legally have sex?

Now, I know that there are going to be young people out there that are not yet 16 that can engage in fulfilling and safe sexual activity. But there are also many that are not ready for sexual activity below that age. (Granted, this can also be applied to some people over the age of consent...)

I know that, personally, when I was in middle school/early high school - I was under 16 years - I was most certainly nowhere near ready to be involved in sexual relations.

The arguments that my friends presented amounted to "if people want to have sex, they're going to do it anyways." Which, granted, is quite likely true. But I was wondering what those of you that work with these laws and young people on a daily basis think.

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Cesario
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Did you just want answers from the Staff and others who are working in sex education?
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Tashi
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Other opinions are welcome, of course. If you've had the issue affect you directly or just want to add your thoughts, feel free too.

I just figured that those working in sexual education would have some good knowledge of the inner workings of the laws.

Comment away!

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Cesario
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I personally think that the entire idea is misguided in the extreme.

We quite rightly have laws against rape. We have laws against sexual exploitation. We have laws against abusing positions of power.

If none of those laws have been transgressed, and the only thing wrong with a particular sexual relationship are the ages of the participants, I don't feel there is a valid argument that anyone is being protected by having their consent overridden and treated as a victim dispite their opinion to the contrary.

Who benefits from being told their perfectly consensual, mutually desired, mutually satisfactory sexual experience was a rape and that they should be traumatized for life as a result and hate the person they had sex with? How does it help the designated "victim" in such a scenario to see their lover jailed, branded, and worse in their name over their vocal protests?

The age of consent is supposedly there to protect people who are vulnerable, who don't understand what they're actually agreeing to, and thus can't meaningfully consent. The problem is that this knowledge does not magically appear at midnight on a person's birthday. One can be completely ready to handle their sex life before whatever arbitrary date the state decides to use, or one can be completely unprepared after that same arbitrary date.

If we really care about whether someone is "informed" when we talk about "informed consent", we can test their informedness directly instead of relying on secondary indicators like age or height.

Your friends don't seem to have thought this through very carefully, which is perfectly understandable. Not a lot of people do. They work very hard not doing it, in fact. I'm rather forced to think these issues through at length for reasons I'm not entirely sure I can bring up here. (I don't have a personal problem talking about those reasons, but I'm unsure about the mod/admin feelings on the matter.)

Your friends seem perfectly fine with the idea that sex under a certain arbitrarily designated age is wrong, but they're bowing to the fact that while they're okay with the law, they recognize that it can't be enforced like they think it ought to be.

As I said, I feel the entire concept is morally wrong, shortsighted, and ultimately distracting from the idea of protecting people who need to be protected.

I could go on, and I probably will later, but if i go much further in this post, no one will dare try to read it.

[ 09-17-2010, 12:13 AM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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natattack.
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quote:
Originally posted by Cesario:
I personally think that the entire idea is misguided in the extreme.

We quite rightly have laws against rape. We have laws against sexual exploitation. We have laws against abusing positions of power.

If none of those laws have been transgressed, and the only thing wrong with a particular sexual relationship are the ages of the participants, I don't feel there is a valid argument that anyone is being protected by having their consent overridden and treated as a victim dispite their opinion to the contrary.

Who benefits from being told their perfectly consensual, mutually desired, mutually satisfactory sexual experience was a rape and that they should be traumatized for life as a result and hate the person they had sex with? How does it help the designated "victim" in such a scenario to see their lover jailed, branded, and worse in their name over their vocal protests?

The age of consent is supposedly there to protect people who are vulnerable, who don't understand what they're actually agreeing to, and thus can't meaningfully consent. The problem is that this knowledge does not magically appear at midnight on a person's birthday. One can be completely ready to handle their sex life before whatever arbitrary date the state decides to use, or one can be completely unprepared after that same arbitrary date.

If we really care about whether someone is "informed" when we talk about "informed consent", we can test their informedness directly instead of relying on secondary indicators like age or height.

Your friends don't seem to have thought this through very carefully, which is perfectly understandable. Not a lot of people do. They work very hard not doing it, in fact. I'm rather forced to think these issues through at length for reasons I'm not entirely sure I can bring up here. (I don't have a personal problem talking about those reasons, but I'm unsure about the mod/admin feelings on the matter.)

Your friends seem perfectly fine with the idea that sex under a certain arbitrarily designated age is wrong, but they're bowing to the fact that while they're okay with the law, they recognize that it can't be enforced like they think it ought to be.

As I said, I feel the entire concept is morally wrong, shortsighted, and ultimately distracting from the idea of protecting people who need to be protected.

I could go on, and I probably will later, but if i go much further in this post, no one will dare try to read it.

This is almost exactly how I feel about it. While I can see the thought behind Age of Consent laws, I really think it does more harm than good. I could go on and on about it, but I'll just keep it with saying I agree with the quoted opinion, cause it gets a bit too personal and heated for me from there.
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Heather
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I'd also very much agree.

I think it's also worth thinking about how young people are served and supported in their choices about sex, and educated about sex.

For instance, one of the big reasons for the AOC is that young people cannot meaningfully consent to sex. I'd agree that for many (though once we're getting into the teens, that tends to get iffy), that's true, but if more people educated even the youngest children about what consent to ANY touch was, and how they are entitled to withhold it, it'd be something far more young people COULD meaningfully give. If more young people were actively supported and served when it came to consent and their right to their own bodies, so much of this would be a total non-issue.

Of course, who knows when that's going to happen. Many parents still reserve the right to spank children, for instance, or otherwise touch them in a way that is or may be unwanted by a child, and that's something a LOT of adults are going to cling hard to. Same goes for how many people in the world still hold very rape-enabling opinions that are BIG barriers to ANYONE understanding and respecting what informed and full consent is.

[ 09-17-2010, 09:22 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:

Of course, who knows when that's going to happen. Many parents still reserve the right to spank children, for instance, or otherwise touch them in a way that is or may be unwanted by a child, and that's something a LOT of adults are going to cling hard to. Same goes for how many people in the world still hold very rape-enabling opinions that are BIG barriers to ANYONE understanding and respecting what informed and full consent is.

Thank you for bringing that one up, since it so often gets forgotten in these sorts of discussions.

It isn't just that parents reserve the "right" to touch their own children in ways the child doesn't want to be touched, but they also enforce the child being touched by other people in ways the child doesn't want. If the child has been forced to deal with Aunt Millie's sloppy kisses, and being picked up by Grandpa Joe, and having your face pinched and rubbed by various relatives I'm too lazy to make up names for, that teaches a lesson.

The child's body isn't treated as belonging to that child in day-to-day life in our society, and instead, the child is treated like someone's property.

In my darker moods I wonder if even these days prosecutions of age of consent violations have more to do with parents feeling that their property rights have been violated than any genuine concern about the child's well being.

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Heather
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Not my Montessori folks, it doesn't. [Smile] Or those of us who were touched as children in ways that were not okay with us.

But I agree with what you're saying here, and this is a BIG personal issue of mine that has been for decades, including when I worked in ECE. There is a popular adult convention where a parent says "Go give your Aunt Mildred a hug," and the child either does it because they want to, does it because it's rote and they understand they are expected to touch people parents want them to, or says no, and then gets presented as a rude child. Ideally, either the kind would be allowed to hug an Auntie when they wanted, or a parent or Aunt Mildred would say something like, "I'd like to hug you, can I give you a hug?" and then respect whatever the child's wishes are.

It's interesting, actually, to be an adult who always asks, because so many children who I know love me dearly, and who are affectionate with me on their own, will often say no when I ask. Sometimes, that's probably because they just don't want to right then, but I also suspect that often the no is because they're exploring what happens when someone actually asks them and accepts their answer.

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Not my Montessori folks, it doesn't. [Smile] Or those of us who were touched as children in ways that were not okay with us.

Hence the reason I phrased it as I did.

Big difference between an age of consent violation where that was the only reason it was treated as a crime, and something that would fit the bill for rape, harassment, etc. even if we ignored the ages involved.
quote:
Originally posted by Heather:

But I agree with what you're saying here, and this is a BIG personal issue of mine that has been for decades, including when I worked in ECE. There is a popular adult convention where a parent says "Go give your Aunt Mildred a hug," and the child either does it because they want to, does it because it's rote and they understand they are expected to touch people parents want them to, or says no, and then gets presented as a rude child. Ideally, either the kind would be allowed to hug an Auntie when they wanted, or a parent or Aunt Mildred would say something like, "I'd like to hug you, can I give you a hug?" and then respect whatever the child's wishes are.

It's interesting, actually, to be an adult who always asks, because so many children who I know love me dearly, and who are affectionate with me on their own, will often say no when I ask. Sometimes, that's probably because they just don't want to right then, but I also suspect that often the no is because they're exploring what happens when someone actually asks them and accepts their answer.

I wonder how much this lack of respect generally offered to kids contributes to the expectations they end up with about what is and isn't appropriate as they age. A lot of the articles here talk about situations where people aren't automatically seeking or respecting explicit consent.

Seems to me not respecting people's right to decide when and how they're touched or not touched when they're younger would contribute to that sort of negative behaviors and thought-patterns that we see far too often in adults and teens.

[ 09-20-2010, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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Heather
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I think, ultimately, that this has almost EVERYTHING to do with how people grow to conceptualize consent in life. Seriously, I think the influence is larger than most people think.

It's one big reason why people have been trying to get "sex ed" into early elementary and early childhood education, not so much about sex, per-se, but mostly about boundaries everyone should be entitled to with touch, yours and those of others. While some of the resistance to that is about the fact that those curricula also include telling children about how different families can be, including those of LGBT people, so homophobia and transphobia tends to ride that resistance-train, it's also about this, and that about how some parents REALLY seem to not want their kids to learn they get to have boundaries. [Frown]

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Tashi
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I know this is sort of off topic from where this thread went in terms of consent laws/issues, and I'm going to try really hard not to overgeneralize about anyone here, because I know that one of the awesome things about this site is that you realize that everyone is totally different from everyone else.

But sort of a question directed at the people that are in sex ed, but anyone can comment of course.

What do you think is "too young" when it comes to sexual activity. I'm defining sexual activity as sexual intercourse, manual, or oral sex, for the purposes of the question (I know there isn't a strict definition of sex, and it varies from person to person, but I'm mostly interested in those three types of sex).

I ask because I read a lot of the posts on the message boards, and every now and then I'll see someone who states their age as perhaps 11, 12, 13, or 14. And I don't judge them or anything, but all I can think to myself is "you're so young..."

And comments on this sort of thing? Again, not judging anyone or anything, I'm just curious what the professionals think about situations like these.

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Cesario
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As could probably be guessed from my first post, I'm not in the sex ed business.

I don't believe in any fixed concept of "too young". I feel that age is an utterly inappropriate metric by which to judge these things. What matters is informed consent.

Is a person fully aware of what they are agreeing to, and do they feel free to refuse if they so choose? That is the only thing that matters. If you can find me a two year old who can meet that criteria, my answer won't change.

There are certainly some groups of people who I would be reluctant to believe possessed the ability to give properly informed consent without some supporting evidence, but I believe that one should be allowed to present that evidence regardless of what my personal prejudices say about what a person of some given age is or is not capable of.

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Atonement
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I pretty much agree with you, Cesario, but would like to add one more requirement in my books.

That they're completely INFORMED as to what they are agreeing too. That means knowing the basic mechanics, the risks, the benefits, how to protect themselves from the risks, to be prepared for any negative attitudes about sex from society, people around them, ect.

And the problem is, many children (and when I say children, I'm talking maybe 10 and younger, though this problem can extend well into adulthood)are just not informed enough to consent.

It seems to be a popular belief among parents that the best way to protcect kids from the risks that come with sex is to ensure that they know as little as possible about it for as long as possible. But the thing is, if kids don't learn the facts from reliable sources, they'll very likely just learn the myths from unreliable sources instead, and that puts them in much more danger.

That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

However, I feel there should be SOME kind of limit. If you were to ask me if it was ok for a 45 year old to have sex with a 12 year old, I'd tell you no. But where do you draw the line? It's kind of a tough subject.

[ 10-01-2010, 08:07 AM: Message edited by: Atonement ]

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

Not to be pedantic, but while I agree with most of what you said, I don't see how it does ANY good to put a 17 year old in jail/on a sex offender list because they had sex with a consenting 16 year old. I don't see how a one year age gap between two teenagers is a serious issue in the majority of cases.

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Atonement
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quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

Not to be pedantic, but while I agree with most of what you said, I don't see how it does ANY good to put a 17 year old in jail/on a sex offender list because they had sex with a consenting 16 year old. I don't see how a one year age gap between two teenagers is a serious issue in the majority of cases.
Oops...

I agree with you 100%, Jill. That was a mistake of phrasing.

What I meant was that I think the law itself does more harm than good. (And it does do a bit of good, in my opinion, like protecting kids from being taken advantage of by adults. Though I'm not sure if it's the best approach as written now.)

Another thing I'd like to add is how completely backward it is to say that a teenager cannot have sex with an older person, it's perfectly OK if the teenager's parent signs a form saying it's OK for the him/her to MARRY the person.

First of all, they're taking the Teen's PARENT's consent instead of the teen's, which could lead to forced marriages/ ect. For another, I think marrying a person has a lot more danger potential than just having sex with them.

[ 10-01-2010, 10:04 AM: Message edited by: Atonement ]

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
I pretty much agree with you, Cesario, but would like to add one more requirement in my books.

That they're completely INFORMED as to what they are agreeing too.

That's what I intended to convey with "fully aware of what they are agreeing to".
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That means knowing the basic mechanics, the risks, the benefits, how to protect themselves from the risks,

Agreed.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

to be prepared for any negative attitudes about sex from society, people around them, ect.

How prepared? How does one demonstrate this preparedness? I'm inclined to agree with this part too, but the wording has me hesitent.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

And the problem is, many children (and when I say children, I'm talking maybe 10 and younger, though this problem can extend well into adulthood)are just not informed enough to consent.

I certainly agree that this is a major problem.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

It seems to be a popular belief among parents that the best way to protcect kids from the risks that come with sex is to ensure that they know as little as possible about it for as long as possible. But the thing is, if kids don't learn the facts from reliable sources, they'll very likely just learn the myths from unreliable sources instead, and that puts them in much more danger.

I would say the big problem is that somehow we've managed, as a society, to elevate ignorance to the status of a virtue. Also, of note, if the child is uninformed, they're very vulnerable to deliberately false information passed on by someone who is deliberately trying to exploit them, not just from well=meaning, but clueless peers.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

However, I feel there should be SOME kind of limit. If you were to ask me if it was ok for a 45 year old to have sex with a 12 year old, I'd tell you no. But where do you draw the line? It's kind of a tough subject.

The problem is, this isn't coming from your head. It's coming from your gut. The later situation squicks you out, and as a result, you feel it ought to be prohibited. The problem is that you don't have a solid rationalle for doing so.

As we discussed, the important thing is whether all parties are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, and whether they are actually consenting.

I'll readily admit that it may be unlikely that the 12 year old in your example is fully aware and consenting, but if he/she is, I feel it is fundamentally immoral to ignore that person's inherent right to decide what to do with his/her own body.
quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

Not to be pedantic, but while I agree with most of what you said, I don't see how it does ANY good to put a 17 year old in jail/on a sex offender list because they had sex with a consenting 16 year old. I don't see how a one year age gap between two teenagers is a serious issue in the majority of cases.
Personally, I don't understand what age gaps matter in the first place. If one party or the other doesn't understand what they're agreeing to, that's a problem. If one party or the other doesn't agree to what they're doing, that's a problem.

Both parties enthusiastically agreeing with full knowledge of what they're agreeing to is the exact oposite of a problem once we step outside the artificially imposed legal consequences that can haunt couples with one or both members under a certain arbitrary age line based on nothing.

quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That being said, I think it causes more harm than good to put a 17 year old in jail/on the sex offender list because he/she had sex with a consenting 16 year old.

Not to be pedantic, but while I agree with most of what you said, I don't see how it does ANY good to put a 17 year old in jail/on a sex offender list because they had sex with a consenting 16 year old. I don't see how a one year age gap between two teenagers is a serious issue in the majority of cases.
Oops...

I agree with you 100%, Jill. That was a mistake of phrasing.

What I meant was that I think the law itself does more harm than good. (And it does do a bit of good, in my opinion, like protecting kids from being taken advantage of by adults. Though I'm not sure if it's the best approach as written now.)

I've yet to see any good come of it. The only cases where age of consent laws actually criminalize are those where literally everything else about the situation, from consent, lack of coersion, etc. were all completely within acceptable legal standards.

I've yet to run across a case where I would agree people needed to be punished, yet where every aspect of the relationship would have been 100% okay had the individuals in question been different ages.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

Another thing I'd like to add is how completely backward it is to say that a teenager cannot have sex with an older person, it's perfectly OK if the teenager's parent signs a form saying it's OK for the him/her to MARRY the person.

First of all, they're taking the Teen's PARENT's consent instead of the teen's, which could lead to forced marriages/ ect. For another, I think marrying a person has a lot more danger potential than just having sex with them.

That's because children are treated like property by our legal system rather than like people.
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Atonement
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quote:
Personally, I don't understand what age gaps matter in the first place. If one party or the other doesn't understand what they're agreeing to, that's a problem. If one party or the other doesn't agree to what they're doing, that's a problem.

Both parties enthusiastically agreeing with full knowledge of what they're agreeing to is the exact oposite of a problem once we step outside the artificially imposed legal consequences that can haunt couples with one or both members under a certain arbitrary age line based on nothing. [/QB]

You know, you may be right about that.

We all are biased about one thing or another, and I have to admit I have a pretty strong bias against older adults that pursue teenagers.

This is mainly because a woman who I am very close to has had to suffer her entire adult life due to the fact that she married a 30 year old man when she was 16.


This probably isn't fair, and I'm sure there probably is exceptions, but because of this I must admit that I am VERY suspicious of the motives of any older adult who romantically and/or sexually pursues a child/teenager.

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Cesario
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I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I must ask, however, if nothing had been different about what happened to your friend except what age she had been when they married, do you honestly think the relationship would've been any healthier?

[ 10-02-2010, 01:50 AM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by Cesario:
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
[qb] That means knowing the basic mechanics, the risks, the benefits, how to protect themselves from the risks,

Agreed.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

to be prepared for any negative attitudes about sex from society, people around them, ect.

How prepared? How does one demonstrate this preparedness? I'm inclined to agree with this part too, but the wording has me hesitent.
This is actually the other part of what Atonement said that I disagree with, for the reason that, as far as I'm concerned, born homosapiens of all ages have the right to masturbate because their bodies are their own, and I would never expect that an infant know about good hygiene practices or the possible risk of soreness before engaging in that act, or that some ignorant individuals think that it's a bad thing to masturbate. As regards partnered sex, some people may think it's sick and wrong for infants to rub their thighs against those of other infants (which I understand has been observed when they are placed next to one another), for instance, but I reject the notion that it's acceptable to stop them unless you can come up with a better reason that "sex bad" or "parents own children they take care of" or "religion/culture/tradition/ritual says XYZ" (note I am not referring to stopping them because it's time to go home anyway/they need changing/they need feeding, I'm referring to banning them from doing such things either verbally or by physically restraining/assaulting them, or punishing them for doing them). I think it's good to inform someone of the possible risks and the attitudes they might encounter from others when they're old enough to understand, but I certainly don't think that preventing sexual expression prior to that point is acceptable (note I am not talking about adults doing this stuff with little kids, but the solo/age peer stuff I mentioned).

[ 10-02-2010, 08:21 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Atonement
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Well, a lot of things would have been the same had they both been the same age.

But the big thing is, he admitted that her age was why he sought her out. Because he believed a younger woman, who was still used to being "obedient" to her parents would be more receptive to being "obedient" to a partner. He targeted her because her age, or the stage of life she was in, made her more easy to manipulate.

Of course, not all young women would fall for this. But I know that I would have been a lot more likely to at 16 than I would be now, and I assume the same would be true for a lot of women.

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Jill2000Plus
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Sorry for the accidental double post, I meant to edit my previous one.

[ 10-02-2010, 08:19 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
quote:
Originally posted by Cesario:
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
That means knowing the basic mechanics, the risks, the benefits, how to protect themselves from the risks,

Agreed.
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:

to be prepared for any negative attitudes about sex from society, people around them, ect.

How prepared? How does one demonstrate this preparedness? I'm inclined to agree with this part too, but the wording has me hesitent.

This is actually the other part of what Atonement said that I disagree with, for the reason that, as far as I'm concerned, born homosapiens of all ages have the right to masturbate because their bodies are their own, and I would never expect that an infant know about good hygiene practices or the possible risk of soreness before engaging in that act, or that some ignorant individuals think that it's a bad thing to masturbate.
That's a good point. I'm so used to coloquially reffering to sexual activities only in terms of partnered acts. I tend to treat the universal right to masturbate as going without saying, so thanks for bringing this up.
quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
As regards partnered sex, some people may think it's sick and wrong for infants to rub their thighs against those of other infants (which I understand has been observed when they are placed next to one another), for instance, but I reject the notion that it's acceptable to stop them unless you can come up with a better reason that "sex bad" or "parents own children they take care of" or "religion/culture/tradition/ritual says XYZ" (note I am not referring to stopping them because it's time to go home anyway/they need changing/they need feeding, I'm referring to banning them from doing such things either verbally or by physically restraining/assaulting them, or punishing them for doing them).

How do you feel about "local, poorly thought-out law puts them in danger if they do this" or "fanatics of religion XYZ are going to harm them if they are noticed doing this", or "the people in the room with them are not comfortable being in the same room as two other people having sex"?
quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
I think it's good to inform someone of the possible risks and the attitudes they might encounter from others when they're old enough to understand, but I certainly don't think that preventing sexual expression prior to that point is acceptable (note I am not talking about adults doing this stuff with little kids, but the solo/age peer stuff I mentioned).

What makes the difference between peer activities and activities involving adults in your mind?
quote:
Originally posted by Atonement:
Well, a lot of things would have been the same had they both been the same age.

But the big thing is, he admitted that her age was why he sought her out. Because he believed a younger woman, who was still used to being "obedient" to her parents would be more receptive to being "obedient" to a partner. He targeted her because her age, or the stage of life she was in, made her more easy to manipulate.

Of course, not all young women would fall for this. But I know that I would have been a lot more likely to at 16 than I would be now, and I assume the same would be true for a lot of women.

It seems to me that you're putting a lot of stock in what an abuser says. Worse, this looks a lot like the "women should be sequestered in their homes and never reveal any skin because rapists claim they target people who dress like sluts" sort of thinking.
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Heather
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I'll come back to the bigger questions about this later, but just FYI, because of COPPA law in the united states, all of our board users are over the age of 13.

So, I don't know what sites you've seen those 11 and 12 posting about this, but it won't have been here.

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by Cesario:
How do you feel about "local, poorly thought-out law puts them in danger if they do this" or "fanatics of religion XYZ are going to harm them if they are noticed doing this", or "the people in the room with them are not comfortable being in the same room as two other people having sex"?

The last one: as far as I'm concerned, infants and arguably toddlers cannot possibly understand the concept of privacy and don't really have any considering their parents/guardians wipe their bottoms and help them get changed or dress them entirely, therefore I think people who complain about said age groups masturbating in public or engaging in the kind of very limited sexual contact that they may engage in in public are like people who tell them off for not being able to hold a spoon properly or pooing themselves (and of course not all adults are capable of holding spoons in the standard way, and some are incontinent, and someone who would tell them off for that is quite likely somewhere on the line from douchebag to ableist in the case of the former depending on the circumstances and is totally an ableist in the case of the latter), it completely ignores where they're at in their development.

As for the other two, those are much more complicated, though I will say that as much autonomy as possible under the circumstances should remain with the one who's body it is, the specifics are a much longer discussion though.

[ 10-02-2010, 11:47 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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I think one thing important to bring up in this discussion is the concept of developmentally-appropriate sexuality.

In other words, infants, toddlers, children and pre-teens absolutely have their own sexualities, but they're usually not the same, and often markedly different, than adult sexuality. Sexuality once puberty begins and during puberty tends to lie somewhere in the middle.

In other words, you're very unlikely to come across a small child who wants to have adult sex with an adult, or who can understand what that even is and all it will entail. Asking for instance about intercourse when it comes to most people pre-puberty will simply tend to be something those of those ages don't initiate themselves and aren't inclined to do, but which some adults may initiate, often considering only THEIR sexuality, not the different sexuality of someone who is not an adult or anything close to one.

On the other hand, it's highly common for children to be sexual with each other in ways reflective of their sexualities with where they're at. This is also relevant with things like small children being their kind of sexual (which may not even be so, but more about comfort) in contexts adults don't deem appropriate because they're projecting an adult sexuality unto a person who doesn't know what that is or feel that.

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
On the other hand, it's highly common for children to be sexual with each other in ways reflective of their sexualities with where they're at. This is also relevant with things like small children being their kind of sexual (which may not even be so, but more about comfort) in contexts adults don't deem appropriate because they're projecting an adult sexuality unto a person who doesn't know what that is or feel that.

That's basically what I was trying to say, though I forgot to mention the part about comfort though, which I do think is important, I hope I didn't imply that little kids have the same sorts of sexualities as adults do, because I know that's not the case and it's an important point in understanding sexuality and it's expression as it relates to developmental stages.

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Atonement
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I'm quoting here like this because it's too hard to edit out the last one:

"It seems to me that you're putting a lot of stock in what an abuser says. Worse, this looks a lot like the "women should be sequestered in their homes and never reveal any skin because rapists claim they target people who dress like sluts" sort of thinking. "

I think you're mistaking what I'm trying to say.

This is nothing like that.

Obviously I wouldn't take the abuser's words for truth if he didn't 100 percent back them up with his actions. To this day, he treats her more like a child than an adult.

I'm sure there's exceptions to this. There's exceptions to everything.

But in general, a 15 year old is going to have a lot different life experiences and a different mindset than a 30 year old. And I would be very suspicious as to why a 30 year old man would want to not just have sex with, but MARRY someone that is so likely to be at such a different place in life.

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Heather
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Atonement: it also sounds very much like his choice per her age was about identifying someone who he felt he could better exploit.

In other words, saying you want to choose someone for their age but still seeing and treating them as an equal is one thing. preferring that age because it seems like someone that age would be easier to oppress is very much something else.

(I do think Cesario got that, by the way, and think that might of been some of what he was trying to say, but everyone's wires got a little crossed.)

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Atonement
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Thanks, Heather, you explained t way better that I did, as always, [Smile]
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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I think one thing important to bring up in this discussion is the concept of developmentally-appropriate sexuality.

In other words, infants, toddlers, children and pre-teens absolutely have their own sexualities, but they're usually not the same, and often markedly different, than adult sexuality. Sexuality once puberty begins and during puberty tends to lie somewhere in the middle.

In other words, you're very unlikely to come across a small child who wants to have adult sex with an adult, or who can understand what that even is and all it will entail. Asking for instance about intercourse when it comes to most people pre-puberty will simply tend to be something those of those ages don't initiate themselves and aren't inclined to do, but which some adults may initiate, often considering only THEIR sexuality, not the different sexuality of someone who is not an adult or anything close to one.

On the other hand, it's highly common for children to be sexual with each other in ways reflective of their sexualities with where they're at. This is also relevant with things like small children being their kind of sexual (which may not even be so, but more about comfort) in contexts adults don't deem appropriate because they're projecting an adult sexuality unto a person who doesn't know what that is or feel that.

I'm not as familiar with the term "developmentally appropriate" used in this context. What does "developmentally inappropriate" mean in the context of an individual who's behavior or interests doesn't conform to the generalizations and tendencies you mention under "developmentally appropriate".

As I said, I'm not familiar with the term's use in this context, but from an outsider's prospective, it seems judgemental. In that "appropriate" and "inappropriate" seem to indicate value judgements rather than trends and tendencies.
quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Atonement: it also sounds very much like his choice per her age was about identifying someone who he felt he could better exploit.

In other words, saying you want to choose someone for their age but still seeing and treating them as an equal is one thing. preferring that age because it seems like someone that age would be easier to oppress is very much something else.

(I do think Cesario got that, by the way, and think that might of been some of what he was trying to say, but everyone's wires got a little crossed.)

Yes, that's what I was trying (and apparently failing) to communicate. Thank you for translating my ramblings.
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Heather
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I agree, appropriate can be a loaded term, but in this case, I don't use it about all individuals of a given age or stage of life, but about one individual: about what feels appropriate for and authentic to them, which we can generally tell by what THEY initiate or do, rather than what someone else initiates or invites them to do.

By all means, there is a lot of variance in this, but we do tend to see pretty common threads in and around these phases, and most often, when, for instance, a very young child is initiating activities that seem a lot more like adult sexuality, it's because some adult along the way has initiated them with them or otherwise exposed them to them.

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I agree, appropriate can be a loaded term, but in this case, I don't use it about all individuals of a given age or stage of life, but about one individual: about what feels appropriate for and authentic to them, which we can generally tell by what THEY initiate or do, rather than what someone else initiates or invites them to do.

This would seem to be something that ought to be applied to adults just as much as children in my mind.
quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
By all means, there is a lot of variance in this, but we do tend to see pretty common threads in and around these phases, and most often, when, for instance, a very young child is initiating activities that seem a lot more like adult sexuality, it's because some adult along the way has initiated them with them or otherwise exposed them to them.

"Exposed them to them"? That sounds like sex education to me. Is this related to the reasons people freak out over the idea of providing accurate information about sex, sexuality, anatomy and the like to children? Concern that providing that information will make them do "inappropriate" things?
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Heather
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I agree, that should be applied to everyone of every age.

My language there was clumsy, my apologies. When I say "exposed them to them," I mean sexually initiated by an adult, viscerally and directly, and in a way that is about that adult seeking personal sexual pleasure through that interaction.

That is incredibly different from someone whose motives are to educate others, whether or not that education serves their own interests or personal desires, and when the motive for education is not about fulfilling sexual desires and doesn't come from sexual motivation. Suffice it to say, it's also very important per sound practice and ethics in sex education to have firm boundaries there, with very limited exceptions.

[ 10-05-2010, 09:07 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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I'm not sure I understand what the thoughts of the educator have to do with anything when the actions are the same. If what the two individuals do is somehow different, that I can understand, but the motivations?

[ 10-05-2010, 10:27 PM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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Heather
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I'm not assuming the actions are the same. It's tough to think of a scenario when they would be, particularly between someone who is an older adult and someone who is a younger person.

To give you an example: if I want to educate someone about the vulva, I don't take my pants off, show them my own vulva, ask them if they'd like to touch my vulva, or decide that wanting someone to touch my vulva to make me feel good is about their education. If I want to educate someone about the vulva, I'm not getting off on it when I do (quite the opposite, usually). Rather, I tell them about the vulva with speech or the written word, maybe show a diagram, answer questions, and do so in a non-sexual context.

On the other hand, if I am having a sexual exchange with someone, I'm not pulling out diagrams or writing a piece, but this IS about touching, sharing my own body, and is also about my motivations to be sexual, rather than to educate for a learner's express benefit, not mine.

The point is that most of the time, young children will NOT initiate sexual activities with adults which resemble most adult sexuality. Rather, if and when young children (not a word I use for teens, mind) are engaged in more adult-like sexual activity, it's because an adult initiated/introduced them, and not because they aim to educate.

Obviously, there's a mushy area in there developmentally when a young person is growing into a more adult sexuality, and that's where you usually start to see that shift, and where self-initiated expressions of sexuality we tend to recognize as being more adult start to happen. Obviously, too, there's mushy areas in what is and isn't "adult" sexuality.

Additionally, healthy boundaries are a BIG DEAL in educational ethics, just like they are in, say, therapy, so motivation is absolutely an issue.

But I'm not sure this isn't starting to stray a bit from the initial topic, particularly since it seems like we're all agreed that informed consent is what's key here.

[ 10-06-2010, 08:44 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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