Up Front by Emma Hart

Read Post

Up Front: It's Complicated

114 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

  • nzlemming,

    And the fact that they waited till Kaitlyn was over 18 to press charges, so she'd be tried as an adult.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2929 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to nzlemming,

    And the fact that they waited till Kaitlyn was over 18 to press charges, so she'd be tried as an adult.

    This may not be true. The source for this is Kaitlyn's father. An early quote from Kaitlyn's mother said that while the girls had been friends for years, they hadn't started dating until Kaitlyn was 18. There must be a whole bunch of other people who know, but I can't find any independent source to support either contention. This is one of the worst aspects, that the parents apparently let this relationship go on so they could be vindictive, but it might not be true.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Can age of consent law be done well at all, when age is the only signifier of maturity and power dynamic we can use? What’s its purpose?

    I ended up in a very bizarre argument a while ago on a feminist website about an episode of Glee, where, as it was related by the site (I gave up on Glee years ago) an under-eighteen-year-old girl was depicted socially coercing an older (over 18 by some amount) boy into sex. The blogger was outraged that Glee was using "rape" (their description, due to the age-of-consent issue) in a titillating way. I objected to their description, on the grounds that sex involving someone below an age of consent was not automatically rape, and shouldn't be described that way. There was...extended objection on both sides.

    The one thing we could agree on, sort of, was that American media often uses the age of consent - always 18 on TV, despite its variance between states - in a creepy way, creating a fantasy of illegal sex. I think perhaps if 18 was not seen as such a hard line as an age of consent, there'd be less ability to hide what is often a nudge-nudge wink-wink evocation of non-consent and objectification behind a facade of worrying about law. The focus would be less on "is this woman (always a woman, of course) 18 or not?" and "is she someone who's appropriate for *you* to view/approach sexually?". Which is, of course, a much more difficult question that requires thought about consent and judgement and those other, more complicated things.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    In Canada – Canada! – the age of consent is orifice-dependent.

    That's just asking for theme cakes.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I tend to trust the ACLU. Other than that, yeah.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    I recall an attempt to introduce a Romeo & Juliet law here, which got shouted down as "Phil Goff wants 14-year-olds to have sex!!1!" Has anything else happened since then?

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    I thought the law was "half your age plus 7"? That's what my my classmates at high school said.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    it might not be true.

    Fair enough.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2929 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to James Butler,

    I thought the law was “half your age plus 7”? That’s what my my classmates at high school said.

    The surprising thing about that piece of received wisdom for me is how accurate it actually is to what are generally considered acceptable age differences in Western society (quirks of gender aside). (The graphical representation is always useful.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Josh Addison,

    I recall an attempt to introduce a Romeo & Juliet law here, which got shouted down as "Phil Goff wants 14-year-olds to have sex!!1!" Has anything else happened since then?

    Nope. The end result of that clause being removed from the legislation was that we ended up with a law that was harsher, not gentler. However...

    After nine years in the job he struggled to remember cases of consensual sex between under-16s reported to the police.If they were lodged the police, under the act, were obliged to first consider other options, such as family group conferences.

    So we still have this stupid law where two fifteen year olds could each face ten years in prison for having consensual sex, but even on the rare occasions when a complaint is laid, police here don't prosecute. The law in the States isn't harsher than ours, it's just that prosecutions are sometimes aggressively pursued and the consequences - felony conviction, sex offender registration - are worse.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I objected to their description, on the grounds that sex involving someone below an age of consent was not automatically rape, and shouldn't be described that way.

    I have had exactly this argument, in a different context. I had sex at fifteen. Nobody should get to tell me that whether I consented or not is irrelevant.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    The surprising thing about that piece of received wisdom for me is how accurate it actually is to what are generally considered acceptable age differences in Western society (quirks of gender aside).

    I always thought it should be exponential rather than linear, but yeah.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I have had exactly this argument, in a different context. I had sex at fifteen. Nobody should get to tell me that whether I consented or not is irrelevant.

    I have a strong dislike of the phrase "statutory rape".

    Rape is about lack of consent. Underage sex is underage sex. The presence of consent means that underage sex - which may still be illegal - is not not rape, and calling it rape is stupid.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    an under-eighteen-year-old girl was depicted socially coercing an older (over 18 by some amount) boy into sex. The blogger was outraged that Glee was using "rape" (their description, due to the age-of-consent issue) in a titillating way. I objected to their description, on the grounds that sex involving someone below an age of consent was not automatically rape.

    Whereas I agree with her, because the girl did commit rape. And that should not be trivialised.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1177 posts Report Reply

  • Konrad Kurta,

    You're right - it is a complicated area. I know people who were barely capable of talking to the opposite sex at 15, and others who had moved out of home and had numerous partners by that time. Is there a 'reasonable man' test involved if a case ends up in court? That's probably the only practical way to decide if a young person is mature enough to be giving any form of meaningful consent.

    South Korea • Since Dec 2012 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    One of the "moments of recognition" for me at university was being introduced to the idea of philosophical post-modernism. Suddenly I had a name for how I'd been thinking for a long time. Yes, it depends, there's more than one way to look at that, who's asking and why do you want to know?

    Here's the question that should be really hard to answer: is it wrong for an eighteen year old to have sex with a fourteen year old? Mulling this question led me to an even curlier one: should there be an age of consent?

    Should there be an age of consent is easy: no. But lacking a better way to deal with the situation that's widely accepted, that's the best we can do. It's (hopefully) clear to everyone that five year olds shouldn't be having sex. Even (especially?) with other five year olds. But a mature 15 year old? Sometimes, some of them, definitely. An immature 25 year old? No way. No fricking way Jose! But until the lawyers can agree with each other, and with politicians, the media, every other punter that thinks for some reason that they should have a say in the law, we just have to suck it up.

    It's one of those places where p*lice discretion makes sense, and judicial discretion when that fails. In a way I'd rather have judicial discretion only, but this is also one of those places where simply arresting and trying someone for the crime can be more punishment than the crime warrants (and, of course you can't un-punish someone after they're found not guilty). Sex offender panics are no fun for anyone except the media.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1177 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    An immature 25 year old? No way.

    I think it's more about consent than maturity - that's an incredibly subjective idea. Furthermore, having sex is in itself a driver of maturity, a rite of passage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think it's more about consent than maturity - that's an incredibly subjective idea. Furthermore, having sex is in itself a driver of maturity, a rite of passage.

    I found this column interesting, about re-examining the whole idea of 'age of consent' and its underlying concepts. But one of the places I slightly disagree with it is here:

    But competence isn't just cognitive. It's emotional, too. Steinberg reports that on tests of psychosocial maturity, kids are much slower to develop. From ages 10 to 21, only one of every four young people scores at an average adult level. By ages 22 to 25, one in three reaches that level. By ages 26 to 30, it's up to two in three... Lay out these numbers on a timeline, and you have the beginnings of a logical scheme for regulating teen sex.

    But isn't part of that development not just age, but experience? How do you learn to handle relationships if you don't have relationships?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But isn’t part of that development not just age, but experience? How do you learn to handle relationships if you don’t have relationships?

    Precisely. It's analogous to over protecting children from physical play. It doesn't really make them safer, because they don't learn what is actually dangerous, they don't develop the skills and strength to deal with the challenges, and they never learn to deal with pain.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    New Zealand doesn't have an "age of consent" at 16. There's no presumption that an under-16 year old can't consent. (If you took reasonable steps to discover age + had reasonable grounds to think the young person was over 16, and they consented, that's a defence to a charge of sexual conduct with a person under 16.) And if you rape an under-16, that's a different (more serious) crime, and presumably if the young person consented to sex, that would be a defence though haven't checked.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think it’s more about consent than maturity – that’s an incredibly subjective idea. Furthermore, having sex is in itself a driver of maturity, a rite of passage.

    Yep - arguably the most robust defence of ages of consent is similar to that of anti-polymarriage laws, that the intention (never mind the effect) is to protect coercion of the less powerful by the more powerful. Both of these are blunt instruments. When/if anti-poly laws are overturned in progressive Western countries, it will be at least in part because our society is less tolerant of oppression of women in general than it once was, so the extra protection of mono-only marriage is no longer necessary. I'm not sure what the analogue would be for ages of consent.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Connelly,

    Good article. Thanks

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2012 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Butler,

    I’m not sure what the analogue would be for ages of consent.

    No, I'm not either. If there weren't predatory pedophiles, there wouldn't need to be an age of consent? But there are such people. Perhaps that may change/lessen. Or it could go the other way. To me that seems more likely. If emotional and physical maturity are going in opposite directions, pedophilia would be likely to rise.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    From that link I found this one painfully amusing:

    When you're 35, "she's legal" isn't good enough.

    Classic. I wonder how that would go down as a rule in a brothel. Sorry, mate, you're just too old for our girls.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    When you're 35, "she's legal" isn't good enough.

    Classic. I wonder how that would go down as a rule in a brothel.

    I thought the whole point of brothels was that they swap compatibility for cash as the basis of consent?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1177 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.