I’ve spoken about age of consent many times over the years, but never actually wrote an article about it. When I say “age of consent,” I mean the minimum age at which sex becomes governmentally legal for a teenager or young adult.
There are huge and radical differences around the world regarding what the age of consent should be. As I’ve said many times, cultural Societal Programming is the strongest type of Societal Programming there is. This means that these differences in age of consent laws are an emotional hot button for a lot of people. Just read the comments below on this article and you’ll see.
For example, if you’re an American, you probably think age of consent should be 18, or perhaps even higher. Likely, even the thought of an older adult having consensual sex with someone as young as 15 makes your stomach churn. Even left-wing Americans feel this way, as evidenced by a recent political scandal in which it was discovered a Republican politician named Roy Moore used to date women as young as 15 or 16 when he was in his thirties. Left-wingers all over America freaked out like right-wing Puritans and called him a “pedophile,” which of course is inaccurate, since a pedophile means you’re attracted to pre-pubescent children, like under age 10, not 15 year-old’s who clearly have things like boobs and hips and the ability to make a baby.
If you’re from Europe, you probably think having an age of consent as high as 18 is insane, and are astounded at those silly Americans who think it’s somehow wrong or evil or disgusting for a 17 year-old girl to have consensual sex with an older guy.
Going even further, in parts of Central and South America, as well as Asia, the age of consent is 14, which is considered no big deal at all.
Who is right? Who is wrong? Is there even a “right” answer?
I shall do my best to analyze as rationally as possible, ignoring all Societal Programming as usual and only focusing on the facts.
Determining A Rational Age of Consent
Should there be age of consent laws? Yes. Clearly an eight year-old can’t make the decision on whether or not to have sex with an adult, and any adult taking advantage of that should be punished by the law. Therefore, regardless of my minarchist libertarian political beliefs, I think age of consent laws are needed. (Though again, as a libertarian, I would want those laws implemented only by a government that was small, local, and decentralized, but that’s a discussion for a different blog.)
The next question, and the more complicated one, is what this age of consent should be. Clearly an eight year-old can’t consent, but can a 14 year-old? A 17 year-old? A 22 year-old?
The rationale used by people who are for higher age of consent ranges (age 18 or above, and yes, there are people who think the age of consent should be higher than 18) is that teenagers can’t consent, since they aren’t yet fully formed adults, and don’t yet have full decision-making capacities of such.
The problem is those pesky facts. You want age of consent to be 18. Okay, but is an 18 year-old’s brain fully formed? Nope. Not even close. The human brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25.
Therefore, saying a woman (and I’ll use a younger woman example for the rest of this article since that’s what presses people’s hot buttons the most) cannot consent to sex at age 17 but can at age 18 makes absolutely no sense in terms of the science or the biology. It also doesn’t make sense if you say she can’t consent at age 14 but can at 15. In all of those cases, you’re talking about a person who can’t consent, by your logic, until age 25.
Therefore, to be logically consistent, age of consent, indeed age of adulthood in all things (drinking, smoking, going to war, driving, voting, signing contracts, etc) should only be for people age 25 and above.
The problem with that is obvious. We can’t even enforce an age of consent at age 18 or alcohol consumption at age 21. Most of the population these days has sex way before they hit 18 and drink alcohol (or smoke cigarettes, or do drugs) way before age 21, and often do both of these things to excess. It would be a logistical nightmare to raise the legal minimum age of all this to 25. As logical as it is, no society could handle that.
Therefore, if we agree that age of consent should be less than age 25, we have to acknowledge two things:
1. The “too young to understand / consent” argument can not be used as a sole basis for determining age of consent, since any age under age 25 falls into this category. It can be a factor, but it can’t be the sole basis. Again, I think we all agree that eight year-olds can’t consent, since they’re literally children who have not gone through puberty yet, but if you say that 17 year-old’s can’t but 18 year-old’s can, you’re just pulling random numbers out of your ass. This leads to the second item:
2. Any age you choose for age of consent between an obviously prepubescent age (like age ten) and age 25 is totally arbitrary, and one you’re just picking purely based on your emotions and Societal Programming, not anything objective.
That means that in debates between age of consent being 15 or 18 (for example), both sides are objectively wrong, since both of these ages are:
A. Well past puberty
B. Regarding humans who are fully sexually developed, can clearly have sex and procreate
C. Regarding humans who lack fully developed adult brains and full adult reasoning capacity
It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about what age of consent should be, or what the “appropriate” age teenagers should have sex, and with other teenagers or adults… it’s all arbitrary. And by the way, this applies to me as well. There are many people who think that age of consent should be literally when a person goes through puberty, of which is around age 12 or 13. I see the logic in this viewpoint, but I have to admit that I feel very queasy about the idea of someone having sex with a 13 year-old or 14 year-old, even if he/she is fully done with puberty and even if the sex is 100% consensual. But I’m rational and self-aware enough to realize this is strictly own feelings and cultural Societal Programming talking, not any objective, scientific analysis.
Another issue is that a huge amount of people under the age of consent are already having sex. And not just having sex, but having a lot of sex. In my past, I’ve had sex with 18 year-old’s who were shockingly sexually experienced, knowing how to do literally everything and do it well. Why? Because before she was 18 when I met her, she had already had sex with 10 or 20 other men! Choosing an age of consent that is well after most teenagers start having consensual sex (and enjoying it) makes literally no sense.
On the flip side, we also have to address the issue of pregnancy and STD’s. If you live in a largely free, secular, left-wing society like (today’s USA, Canada, Europe, etc) and then you start legally encouraging 13 and 14 year-old’s to have sex, you’re going to end up with a decent amount of babies that society doesn’t want and can’t afford. STD’s may also be an issue too.
Therefore, there are indeed some objective and rational arguments to keep the age of consent a little higher than “as soon as she starts her period” or “as soon as he gets his pubes.” Again though, what age is best? Now we’re back to arbitrary, emotional standards.
What The Hell Should It Be Then?
Based on all of the above data, I don’t know what the ideal age of consent should be, and I don’t think anyone else does either. Regardless, I will give you my opinion on what I think the least-bad answer. This is just my opinion; I don’t have all the answers on this.
I have always said that the age of consent should be 16, and I’ve been saying this for at least 25 years, all the way back to when I was a teenager myself. In addition, I think that in the modern age, age of full legal adulthood should also be age 16, meaning that as soon as you turn 16, you can legally:
- Have sex
- Get married (I’m against traditional marriage, but that’s another story)
- Fight in a war
- Own your own bank accounts
- Sign contracts
- Vote (I’m against the entire concept of democracy, but that’s another story)
- Drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, do drugs
- Be completely and legally emancipated from your parents
Obviously you can’t limit all these things until the brain fully matures at age 25, which means, at least to me, that you need to go the other route and go as low as possible on the age. I’m concerned that having a bunch of 13 and 14 year-olds having sex, driving cars, getting married, etc, would cause a lot of problems, so those ages are out. Age 15 is a grey area; I suppose I could be persuaded to make age of consent/adulthood age 15 instead of 16, but I think 16 clears enough problems, especially with the next aspect of my opinion, which is…
Make age of consent (and adulthood) 16, but change the way violators are punished. Right now, in sexually uptight countries like the US and Canada, if someone has consensual sex with someone even one day before they turn age of consent, that person can be (and sometimes is) immediately thrown in prison and branded as a sex offender for the rest of his/her life. I’ve documented many cases of this on this very blog, including this one. This is insane overkill and makes absolutely no sense. No rational person can defend this practice. Seriously; I’d like to see you try.
Instead, punishment for violating age of consent should be a tiered system where you get a slap on the wrist if it’s just a hair below age of consent, and for every age further below, the punishments get progressively worse.
For example, if 16 is age of consent, 16 year-olds can have consensual sex with any other persons they want as long as they too are age 16 or over, regardless if that person is 18 or 72, and regardless of which gender the younger person is. If an older person has consensual sex with a 15 year-old, it’s a misdemeanor and you pay a $500 fine or something like that. If the younger person is 14, the fine goes up to $15,000 (or something like that). If 13, now it’s getting very serious; it’s a class C felony where you’re on probation for two years, plus fines, and the felony crime goes on your record. If 12 or under, now you’re a fucking sex offender for life and you’re off to prison.
Don’t get hung up on the exact ages or punishments; I’m just giving you an example for illustration purposes. A tiered system like this makes much more rational sense than throwing a 22 year-old woman in prison and branding her a lifetime sex offender just because she has consensual sex with a guy four days before his 18th birthday.
I would also include into the age of consent law that age of consent minimums do not apply if you have power over the younger person. If you were that person’s teacher, coach, or boss at work, you could indeed be prosecuted for having consensual sex with a “minor” even if the minor was at or slightly over the age of consent. I think that’s fair. But, outside of that, there would be no other restrictions on this. That means if a 52 year-old guy does daygame at a mall and picks up a cute 16 year-old girl and they have consensual sex, it’s perfectly legal and there’s nothing anyone can do about it from a legal or government standpoint.
Therefore, my stance boils down to:
1. As long as you’re talking about post-pubescent people, you can’t use the “too young to give consent” argument, because biologically, you could make that argument for anyone under the age of 25 (since the brain doesn’t fully develop until then).
2. On the flip side, I don’t agree with the “as soon as she bleeds she’s legal” argument either, because I think that would cause a lot of chaos in society with STD’s, babies, stupid marriages, rampant divorces, and so on. I realize that’s how they did it in the middle ages or 1800’s, but as I so often have to remind right-wing conservatives, we aren’t in the 1800’s anymore.
3. Most teenagers are already having sex before the legal age of consent, making your age of consent stupid and irrelevant.
4. As usual, your feelings regarding this issue don’t matter. Your cultural Societal Programming also doesn’t matter (and is usually false anyway). You should make these kinds of decisions based on facts, not feelings, and not how your culture happens to do it. (Your culture is probably wrong anyway.)
5. I think age 16 (or maybe 15) is a good compromise given all these factors, particularly if you have punishments for violations on a sliding scale.
If you have a better system for handling age of consent, please let me know in the comments. I’m willing to have my mind changed on this if I see any compelling arguments.