Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: It's Complicated

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  • "chris",

    Thanks for your response Ben. I obviously agree that we’re not socially ready to lower the age but I also readily agree that that our society has created a perverse outcome in this regard, ideologically I feel we’re on the same page.

    I think death is a far more serious consequence than impregnation

    Are these not of equal seriousness, polar almost? pregnancy is reversible, but who’s to make that decision, and who’s to provide for that child if that decision is not made, if the preventions fail.

    Unlike swimming, Nothing too much is required to grasp the ins and outs of sex, lovemaking yes, but again, so much of that revolves around empathy, communication and sensitivity to another’s needs, partly innate and partly hinging on a dose of maturity.

    As an aside, ours is a perverse society, but by degrees, here in China the age of consent is 14 for male and female, the age of marriage is 22 for males, 20 for females, which strikes me as more perverse and more prone to exploitation, in this environment.

    My main reason for thinking that legal ages for sex still make some sense and are practical is around the danger of predation

    I’m not sure about this. As I see it the danger of predation persists, predators being what they are regardless of the age of the prey or the legality of what they’re doing. In a sense I feel that many but not all predators are largely a product of this perversity of society you mentioned above, the perversity that the rule of law in a way propagates. I also feel that this hands-on education you espouse could largely empower children against predation. It’s this empowerment, the right of children to make up their own minds about things relating directly to them, that seems sorely lacking in this world;

    16 parental consent is required for medical/dental treatment
    16 deciding on which parent to live with (if separated)

    As long as we continue to deny our children the right to make these and other types of fundamental decisions about their own lives it seems like a pretty big ask to expect them to be able to decide whether they’re ready to procreate.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to "chris",

    Are these not of equal seriousness, polar almost?

    No. No, they're really not.

    pregnancy is reversible, but who’s to make that decision

    Are you seriously asking this question? Because there is only one morally-defensible answer, and I'd hate for you to accidentally get this particular can of whoop-arse opened on you.

    and who’s to provide for that child if that decision is not made

    Its parents, and if its parents cannot, the state. Because a child is not a punishment, it's a human being. It's part of the society we all belong to, and therefore it's in all our collective interests for that child to be adequately provided for.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to Emma Hart,

    Emma, thanks for your reply, as I understand it Ben was flirting with the idea of removing the age of sexual consent, but the age for medical treatment without consent as I linked to is 16, if we have a nine year old legally able to consent to sex who then becomes pregnant, who makes the decision to have an abortion or any other related treatment? it’s a genuine question that yes I guess I am seriously asking, it seems to me we can’t rejig just one law without reorganizing the whole gambit.

    Similarly with provisions for the children, as I posted in my previous post, children can’t leave school, leave home, get married or hold full time employment until they’re 16. So the state takes care of the child. I am not against a welfare state, but I recently encountered a mother who referred to her child as ‘an experiment’ and so at this juncture I’m deeply concerned about how is he going to feel about that kind of attitude once he develops language faculties . As you say:

    Its parents, and if its parents cannot, the state. Because a child is not a punishment, it’s a human being.

    So hypothetically how does the child in your example benefit from laws that would enable their parents to give birth to them without allowing them to leave school (quality time) or hold down full time employment (provide for them)?

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Sorry the editing period ran out before I finished my final paragraph:

    Its parents, and if its parents cannot, the state. Because a child is not a punishment, it’s a human being.

    With that sentiment I can’t agree more, so I feel the child whose parents are unable to legally leave school or take on full time work would be unfairly deprived

    I also failed to remove this in time:

    but I recently encountered a mother who referred to her child as ‘an experiment’ and so at this juncture I’m deeply concerned about how is he going to feel about that kind of attitude once he develops language faculties .

    in response to:

    No. No, they’re really not.

    And I believe my point there was that, without question, there are certainly many who regard birth as less serious than death, I guess on that issue I’m something of fundamentalist.

    OK, I’ve stopped responding now. not to the thread, just to that reply. And I’m not having a go Emma, I’m attempting to make a genuine contribution.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to "chris",

    OK, I’ve stopped responding now. not to the thread, just to that reply. And I’m not having a go Emma, I’m attempting to make a genuine contribution

    On this issue I don't have views set in stone, so I like your contribution, it furthers the debate. Yes, flirting with the idea of discarding the "age of consent", although not really in exactly that way - I actually said "legal sex" to avoid the consent concept at all. We could still have an "age of consent" but the possibility of a lower age for first period in which sex is legally possible. In fact, we do have that already as has come up earlier in the debate. But the conditions under which it's possible could be made clearer.

    And I believe my point there was that, without question, there are certainly many who regard birth as less serious than death, I guess on that issue I’m something of fundamentalist.

    Well I think birth is actually mostly a good thing, on the whole, and untimely death a bad thing. Childbearing from a very young age can be very physically dangerous. The same goes at the other end of the fertility range, and most of the danger is on the child, far, far higher chances of being a less healthy baby. But beyond that, the negative outcomes of young people having children are mostly a social construct, the idea that the child is the responsibility of the parent is not a necessarily correct one. I'd say they have some responsibility, but currently one's parentage is like 95% of the determination of how a child will turn out, with social class perpetuating in families because society virtually stipulates that it must be that way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to "chris",

    And I’m not having a go Emma, I’m attempting to make a genuine contribution.

    No, I understand that, that's why I asked for clarification on your earlier comment. I'd assumed you were talking about teenagers. You appear to be talking about children.

    if we have a nine year old legally able to consent to sex who then becomes pregnant, who makes the decision to have an abortion or any other related treatment?

    I don't believe that anyone is advocating that. What I wanted to do was peel the discussion on age of consent back to fundamentals: examine what it's actually supposed to do, and whether it's doing that. Also, I'm not terrifically happy with this example, tbh. The number of nine-year-olds physically capable of becoming pregnant is vanishingly small. This exaggerates the difference between physical and mental maturity to an extreme I personally find really unhelpful.

    Also, let's never ever forget that, no matter how old you are, you can't legally "make a decision" to have an abortion in New Zealand.

    So hypothetically how does the child in your example benefit from laws that would enable their parents to give birth to them without allowing them to leave school (quality time) or hold down full time employment (provide for them)?

    Age of consent laws are not contraceptives. They can't, and very obviously don't, stop under-age people having babies. So in a decent society we provide things like creches in high schools, and training allowances for people on the DPB.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    To be crystal clear what I’m saying here, I think it would be a wonderful thing if the average age of childbearing were to return closer to where it is most biologically suitable. I’ve seen far too much of the outcome of leaving it off until the 30s, practically my whole generation have done it that way. It’s great that it’s possible, but not great that it’s become almost an economic necessity. With better levels of support for young parents, it need not be an onerous, life-limiting burden at all. Beyond the last few months of pregnancy and the first few months after the birth, women should be able to lead lives that are much the same*, rather than becoming instant pariahs if they are too young, and forced to give up everything they ever wanted to do to look after a child. If that was how things were, we might have a very different view of how terrible a thing it is for younger people to be risking pregnancy.

    *ETA: Men too. Being a 14 year old father should not mean that one should be leaving school to provide for the family. I only forgot to mention it because in that situation, men are so often able to dodge the responsibility. Which is another reason it's a bad social construct, that practically puts most of the burden on women.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Thanks for your reply Emma

    No, I understand that, that’s why I asked for clarification on your earlier comment. I’d assumed you were talking about teenagers. You appear to be talking about children.

    Actually what set me off was Ben’s 7 year old learning to swim, it could have just been a random anecdote, but having followed the thread I took it as an analogue to this discussion, in the context of his previous posts. And as such no I’m not not terrifically happy with the example I provided either. I didn’t really want to go there.

    Age of consent laws are not contraceptives. They can’t, and very obviously don’t, stop under-age people having babies. So in a decent society we provide things like creches in high schools, and training allowances for people on the DPB.

    It’s these types of things that makes our country what it should be. Of course I understand that there are still underage pregnancies, as I mentioned it seems right that a number of important minimum legal ages correspond at 16. if for nothing more than to discourage the majority.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to "chris",

    Actually what set me off was Ben’s 7 year old learning to swim

    I'm certainly not suggesting that 7 year olds should be having sex. Just that the beginnings of their training in something very dangerous can begin very young. I'm challenging the notion that people are better off being completely protected from dangerous things when they are young. How that exactly translates into the age of consent debate isn't something I've got a clear plan for. It just seems worth noting.

    Another sporting analogy is that kids who play rugby are far more likely to become great rugby players than people who take it up later. But you have to put them into size/strength appropriate competition. 10 year olds won't get much out of playing against 15 year olds, other than smashed. If a 10 year old is the size of the 15 year old rugby players, though, with comparable strength, etc, then they might well be worth putting forward several years - indeed for the good of the other 10 year olds too, who would be royally sick of getting smashed by a giant. As I recall (I never played rugby so I'm not too sure), the main sorting procedure was on weight with kids. But of course by the time they're adults there's no weight limits. Adults sort themselves into appropriate groups. I'm loosely analogizing weight to "maturity" here for the underage sex connection. Both physical and mental (which is similar in rugby - if you're big and strong but totally unskilled you won't be pushed up so many grades).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to BenWilson,

    Thanks Ben, I’m sensing you may be a Brave New World fan. and rather than being colored, as in your case, by a missed opportunity in a bar at 14, my motivation here is Chlamydia, God bless her soul, and the requisite urethra swabs at 17, so the law or my understanding of it was never the issue for me as much as my own naivety and freaking pain.

    but the possibility of a lower age for first period in which sex is legally possible. In fact,

    My only issue is that the potential parent be legally in a position to handle all outcomes, As Emma mentioned we have creches, and welfare, and I probably should have mentioned it in my reply to Emma, darn it, if I’m not a little slow; but if say a mother doesn’t want to leave her child in the capable hands of the creche, say she wants to spend 24 hours a day with her child? Or say she wants to work full time and leave her child in day care, is there legal recourse to do so if she’s under 16? It’s nice to have safety nets but it strikes me as more egalitarian to have the right to choose. Sorry to harp on about this aspect. I have very little against lowering the age of sexual consent if young parents are accorded the same rights 16 year olds currently have, it’s just that laws actually make a lot of sense to me as is. Obviously were the age of sexual consent reduced I imagine that pregnancy would probably end up being one of the lesser concerns, but it seems remiss to jump into anything without first ensuring you’re not opening a hundred new cracks for people to fall through. Also I sense ancillary prickliness in reducing the age at which someone can be employed fulltime.

    In fact, we do have that already as has come up earlier in the debate. But the conditions under which it’s possible could be made clearer.

    Yeah it was news to me too, and yes definitely.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    into the age of consent debate isn’t something I’ve got a clear plan for. It just seems worth noting.

    Duly noted, I appreciate your candor, and I agree that the notion that people are better off being completely protected from dangerous things needs to be challenged, within reason, as for rugby, let me tell you Ben, rugby hurts and I’d be fully in favour of raising the minimum age on that. Though I get the gist of what you’re saying, foisting such a discriminatory approach onto sexual legislation seems potentially hazardous and fraught with deceit. The kids who are doing it already will continue to do it under the radar, whichever way the numbers go. And as you said one’s parentage will remain 95% of the determination of how a child will turn out.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to "chris",

    Thanks Ben, I’m sensing you may be a Brave New World fan

    It's a good book. A good think about what the psychology of a well-ordered scientific society could look like. I'm more of a fan of The Dispossessed though, and other works of LeGuin.

    I have heard those swabs are really painful. Are they still necessary? I'm not all broken up about the night club experience at 14, it's just one of a great many missed opportunities. All I can say is that if I'd had to be checked for Chlamydia at all I'd have seen it as a pretty minor fuss for the enormous good that I feel a bit of sex would have been. It happened to a few friends of mine, and yet the tale of woe of having to go to a clinic to have a sadistic nurse shove a cotton swab down one's penis was all part of being a more mature kid. I was jealous about every aspect of those stories, from the experience itself to the joy of the shagging that had caused it.

    Sorry to harp on about this aspect. I have very little against lowering the age of sexual consent if young parents are accorded the same rights 16 year olds currently have

    Yes, that's another aspect of the social unreadiness I'm referring to. In this I feel society has regressed quite a lot. The main "right" that young people lack is that of a reasonable income, something that is vital in raising children. We have a real problem with that now. Indeed being denied a decent income retards every kind of social development, as I see it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to BenWilson,

    Which is another reason it’s a bad social construct, that practically puts most of the burden on women.

    ... something something feminism.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to Emma Hart,

    Also, let’s never ever forget that, no matter how old you are, you can’t legally “make a decision” to have an abortion in New Zealand.

    Thanks for reminding me Emma, living here, I had completely forgotten about that anachronism. And thank goodness Judith Collins’ Care of Children Act 2004 was opposed,

    As to my previous point,hopefully with more clarity. lowering the age of sexual consent without also lowering this age of parental consent required for medical/dental treatment could end up alienating more people from treatment related to pregnancy/ delivery, residual complications of termination and other sexual health issues. At the very least, these ages should correspond.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    I have heard those swabs are really painful. Are they still necessary? I’m not all broken up about the night club experience at 14, it’s just one of a great many missed opportunities.

    To be honest Ben, I find that a little sensationalised. There are complications which as a 17 year old I was not mature enough to handle. If Chlamydia spreads into the uterus, it can cause scarring and decrease the chances of pregnancy. Not fully aware of the seriousness of these complications I was unable or unwilling to make a concerted effort to try to contact the individual from whom I contracted it. Secondly I ended up passing it on to my girlfriend, who also underwent testing and treatment, thirdly we failed to abstain for the full duration of the treatment period, passing it back between us and therefore had to commence the treatment again. Which come to think of it probably helps to clarify my position on the issue no end, i.e. I wasn't ready even though it was legal.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to BenWilson,

    And with due respect to your friends and their swabbuckling adventures, they possibly weren’t quite ready either. I understand that these kinds of mythologies are valuable currency in the schoolyard and I’m certainly not advocating raising the age. But in many ways I'm envious of your more leisurely stroll into adulthood.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    And with due respect to your friends and their swabbuckling adventures, they possibly weren’t quite ready either.

    Can you ever be ready for an STD? It's just one of the risks of sex, highly mitigable by taking precautions, and mostly treatable even if you don't. Nothing about that changes just by virtue of your age. In none of the cases with friends did they actually have an STD. They were just being cautious. Yes, children, being cautious. I'm not talking about underage people here, btw. 17 year olds.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Can you ever be ready for an STD?

    No you're quite right Ben you certainly can't, though I would contend that in some cases the recklessness of youth does seem to dull with age to some extent. Were your friends being cautious for cautious sake or because they'd failed to take adequate precautions

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Can you ever be ready for an STD?

    No, you're quite right Ben you certainly can't, though I would contend that in some cases the recklessness of youth does seem to dull with age to some extent. it's unwise of me to assume, but based on your school's denomination, I feel compelled to ask; were your friends being cautious for the sake of it or because they'd failed to take adequate precautions?

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • "chris",

    Well that was odd, both my question(s) and whatever just happened to the site. I thought I may have had a point regarding my failure to notify my sexual partner, but that probably says more about me than anything.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to "chris",

    Hey! Why aren't you on skype?

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to "chris",

    were your friends being cautious for the sake of it or because they’d failed to take adequate precautions?

    It was because their partner, or ex-partners of partners had revealed that they had an STD. Some of it was caution. A lot of it was at the insistence of the partners. It wasn't a particularly common story, nor a particularly interesting one, any more than someone having any kind of communicable disease ever is. We get sick every year, it's just part of life. STDs are probably under-reported in the underage because of the shame and potential legal danger in it. Which is why treatment for them should be free, anonymous, and non-judgmental, in the interests of public health, and children should know how they can access that treatment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to BenWilson,

    Which is why treatment for them should be free, anonymous, and non-judgmental, in the interests of public health, and children should know how they can access that treatment.

    Christchurch had this when I was a teenager. Was of huge importance to a lot of teens then. It's my understanding now that the clinic had to close from lack of funding. Perhaps relatedly, Christchurch has been in the news for high teen STD rates in the last few months.

    We get sick every year, it's just part of life.

    yes... but the consequences of untreated STDs or late treated STDs can be quite serious, as Chris pointed out, particularly the ones without symptoms which can lead to infertility... I remember one friend joking that since she had an STD she would be less likely to get pregnant, so she could have less protected sex (in the sense of contraceptives versus condoms)... She was legal at the time, though... and to be fair the issue is just as important for people in their 20s etc. Which really seems to support the 'maturity not age' angle, but that's near impossible to judge/police...

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Gee,

    yes… but the consequences of untreated STDs or late treated STDs can be quite serious

    The consequences of untreated meningitis can be death within 48 hours. Many things that aren't STDs are serious. Many things that are STDs aren't particularly serious. They don't really hold any special place in the medical seriousness stakes. The only relevance they have to this discussion is that you can't get STDs without having sex, so they are uniquely stigmatizing, if having sex is itself stigmatizing. To this end the endless stigmatization of young sex is a major cause of problems with STDs. It sets up a situation where the young are ignorant and afraid to seek help. It's a perverse outcome of our social treatment of the problem.

    Which really seems to support the ‘maturity not age’ angle, but that’s near impossible to judge/police…

    It's complicated :-)

    I think it's less about maturity and more about being informed, in the public health stakes. Framing the question in terms of information makes it:

    1. Measurable. You can test if people know something. You can't test if they are mature. It's, for starters, easy to bluff. Maturity relates to attitudes in life, and anyone can bullshit about what their attitudes are.
    2. Capable of being changed. You can't really make people more mature that easily. Nor is it clear whether you even should (I have already said I find the idea of maturity cards scary in that it could actually exclude MORE people from a basic birthright and a tremendous good). But you can rather easily and cheaply make them better informed.

    Then immature people can have sex without such severe consequences, and decide for themselves if it really is their bag. My own opinion is that genuinely immature people will find that it is not, but they wouldn't even try in the first place. Most people who want sex are to some degree ready for sex. Not necessarily the most full on kind, but it's rather crazy that it's a binary thing. Either you're a chaste virgin or a raging slut, with nothing in between. Little else in life is like that, because so few things in life are set up as binaries.

    But I don't have a clear picture how this could change, because sex is a private thing. You can't let your son have sex with someone and watch to make sure it's not going too fast for him. We don't have sex teachers that are charged with gently popping cherries, the way we have swimming teachers. I can't really see how that could be done within the context of current society. Which is not to say that such people don't exist - practically every personal story on prostitution ever told speaks plainly of the baby steps by which they went from being a blushing virgin to an experienced prostitute. The stories are extremely believable - anyone telling of being an absolute pariah has little reason to put false dressing on how it all happened. But we're a long, long way from a world where that kind of thing could be accepted. Ironically, the way they tell it is usually a whole lot gentler than a lot of people's first experiences go. Not surprising, since for most people it's left to chance what that will be like. We still learn to swim that way apocryphal stories about Pacific Islanders teaching their kids to swim go - chucked into the water, sink or swim.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Typo in last sentence, I hope it's clear what I really meant. We learn sex in a way that is akin to throwing kids in the deep end of a pool. Which would get you in trouble these days, if you actually did it at a pool.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

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