This Is The Age Of Consent

Age of consent laws for sex Worldwide
Age of Consent - A little consistency here wouldn't go amiss

It is in the nature of humans to be frightened about the future. If we could look closely at the past though, really remember it properly, we’d find that pretty damn scary too. It is as they say a foreign country; we have no idea what they’re talking about.

There was a real campaign in the 70s to repeal the age of consent.¹ This seems unthinkable now, but in the context of the time it was, if by no means a popular argument, at least a rational one. The idea was that if anyone is mature enough to feel sexual desire, then they should not be prevented by law from doing something about it. Contraception was seen as a solved problem, so if you wanted to have sex with someone and they did too, why not? This follows logically enough from the premise that sex is a fundamentally good thing. It was natural to feel desire and natural to express it, interference from the laws of society therefore could only do more harm than good.

You have to admit, that was a very optimistic view of human nature. Gravely optimistic, I’m tempted to call it. But though it is hard not to judge at this distance, I do think it was more naïve than cynical. People who felt sexual desire for adolescents or even pre-adolescent children saw themselves as oppressed by an outdated Victorian morality, just as homosexuals had been until so recently. Many still do now I’m sure, but in the culture of the 70s, when people were far less conscious of the pervasiveness of sexual violence, it was easier to hold such a view.

Notably absent though from the campaign for children’s rights to have sex were, well, children. That was probably a clue. Children do have sexual feelings of course; confusing and diffuse in childhood proper, but becoming focused on the desired sex at the onset of puberty. Despite what some of the more shouty newspapers would like to pretend, David Norris was not the only adolescent to fantasize about sexual activity with an adult. It would be unusual not to. Longings begin at around the age of twelve, and nothing can be done to fulfil them for several long years. It is one of the most difficult, and vulnerable, times of life.

The crucial point though is that desire to have sex is not the same thing as consent to have sex – not when a person is incapable of free, informed consent. We don’t regard children as well-informed enough to know their own best interests, and even more mature minors are likely to be at a huge disadvantage in terms of how much control they have over the situation. Any sexual relationship where two people have a very different amount of control is likely to be exploitative – by which I simply mean, one person is able to manipulate the other to get sex. While no relationship is ever between perfect equals of course, we tend to frown on ones where there is a blatant power imbalance; where one has authority over the other’s career for example, or is responsible for their education, or where one can afford to pay for sex and the other needs money for drugs. And while we broadly consider it an adult’s right to form whatever the hell stupid exploitative harmful relationship they want, we accept that society has a duty to protect minors, even from their own decisions.

Is there a vast difference between sexual activity with a child who doesn’t even understand what sex is, and with a willing partner who is just a year below the age of consent? Of course there is. But there is little option except to say that any sex below a certain age is illegal. Certainly, those who are mature for their age will consider this a gross interference in their private lives. Certainly it is ludicrous that two underage people could be considered to be technically raping each other, or that what’s a severe crime one day becomes perfectly acceptable the next. But any way you legislate this will create some anomalies, none will be perfect. The simplest, fairest and most enforceable way to try to protect minors from abuse is to have a clear minimum age of consent for all. With no exception – not even for things that were perfectly normal in Ancient Greece.

I think David Norris believes that too. If he once thought otherwise – and I have to stress that there is no actual evidence of that, just inference and innuendo – we must remember that society’s understanding of this has grown a lot more mature since the ideals of the 70s. Adults have had to become less innocent, to better protect children. Whether being sympathetic to such ideas in the past makes you an unsuitable representative now is a matter for the electorate to decide.

  1. It does still exist, but it was only in the late 70s and early 80s that it even approached being a mainstream idea.

Sex With Satan

Well that was the Green Party. I wonder what they’ll do, now that politics is over.

I want to give them credit for bringing this government down. That can go in the ledger opposite keeping them in power for years, even when they were clearly being the worst administration we have ever known. And of course, going into government with them in the first place, when bells were clanging and red lights flashing all around Bertie Ahern.

You could have pulled the plug at any time, but you had to wait until they bankrupted the country first. All in the fond hope that Fianna Fáil were going to let you pass a package of measures that were against corporate interests. And against corporate donations. To Fianna Fáil. Really, Greens?

That can only be called culpable naïvety.

You were the party elected by the young idealistic voter. You forced them to watch while you made love to Satan. Not only have you played a supporting role in the ransacking of the public funds, you have destroyed environmentalism as a cause. In fact I feel like taking a piss in a river right now, to celebrate your demise.

Good riddance.

Galway’s First Sex Shop. Aw

polygamy-femaleBridie O’Flaherty¹ warned us last week that a shop which sells vibrators will attract undesirables. Hmmm… Apparently the most frequent purchasers of these things are actually long‑distance lorry drivers – male ones. Not because the job makes them kinky about vibrations, but in the belief that such ‘marital aids’ will help their wives remain faithful to them while they’re on the road.

Interesting that they don’t seem to purchase reciprocal devices (if that’s the phrase I want) for themselves. One can only assume that they find a different method of remaining faithful. Or perhaps Bridie is right, they’re simply undesirable.

This leads neatly back to my campaign against divorce. Last week I pointed out that the whole idea was fundamentally illogical, and the only sane option was polygamy. I should mention here that in practical terms the situation would be little different from divorce, in that separated partners would need nobody’s permission to enter into new marriages. Thus it would be a way to avoid the divisive process of having a referendum, (the constitution doesn’t even mention polygamy), and in principle we’d still have lifelong marriage. Instead of just lifelong alimony.

With polygamy however you wouldn’t necessarily need to be separated in order to marry someone else. Not that the husband, say, could wander in one day with a brand new wife. (‘Darling, meet Darling. Darling, Darling.’). Once two people are married, they both have to agree to any addition to the partnership. Presumably a certain amount of bargaining would occur. She may well insist on an extra husband too. Or something more useful. The point is that all parties have to consent, because they’re all going to be married to each other.

HANDFUL OF MEMBERS

With everyone having a veto like that it’s unlikely that many marriages would end up with more than a handful of members. On the other hand though, with the gradual addition over time of younger partners, a marriage could go on indefinitely. This ‘extended marriage’, being both voluntary and yet binding, would become a far more stable core unit of society than the old extended family ever was. It could be the saviour of social cohesion.

Okay, I could write a book on this new system. Maybe I’ll get into further details at another time; meanwhile, feel free to write to me with any faults you see in the design. I bet you won’t find one though. This is the best of all possible systems. It’ll work.

It’ll happen.

On a related topic, I was glad to see that in a recent survey, 21% of teenagers claimed to be sexually experienced. That’s very reassuring – when I was that age there’s no way 79% of us would have dared own up to being virgins.

But back to important matters, we have to halt this referendum campaign. You know what the real purpose of putting the conditions for divorce in the constitution is, don’t you? So that individual TDs will be able to say “I didn’t bring in this divorce law. The people did.” In other words it’s a neat trick to avoid accountability in government.

GET THE BOOT IN

Clever swines. And having got away with it once, they’ll soon be using it for every controversial measure that comes along. It’s a recipe for a form of dictatorship. A representative government has to find working compromises, please enough of the people enough of the time. For a referendum you only need 50% plus one to think it’s quite a nice idea, and it doesn’t matter a damn if the other not-quite-half hate it with every fibre of their collective being. What if PAYE payers got up a campaign to constitutionally gas people on social welfare? It could happen.

So in principle I’m against the idea of messing around with the constitution for political ends. But I guess if you can’t beat them, get the boot in first. I propose a referendum: Give the cash of the richest 25% of the population to the rest of us.

It can’t fail. Let’s start collecting signatures.

  1. I’ll just say she wasn’t our most liberal local politician.

No to Divorce

CRISIS. Galway September 1995. Supply of one of city’s vital resources virtually exhausted. Situation in danger of spiralling irrevocably out of control if action not taken immediately. (Note to Bureau Chief: Where the hell’s my plane ticket?)

marriageI refer of course to the shortage of rented accommodation. An annual problem, yes, but every year the system is pushed closer to collapse. One leviathan queue has its tail at the station, its head in Church Lane and a tentacle grasping every available public telephone. With the ever-growing popularity of UCG the unthinkable finally appears to be happening: there may be more college places than beds available. Hundreds of students could be left to roam the streets, with all-too-foreseeable consequences.

SEX IS THE ANSWER

Only one solution: people are just going to have to sleep together more. It saves so much space. Of course many people now searching desperately for a room of their own would much prefer to be sharing one, but by themselves they could take forever. This is a crisis, and something must be done to accelerate the process.

Therefore UCG ought immediately to run social gatherings purely for the purpose of getting people off with each other. Where are they going to stay while these gatherings are in progress? No problem, the party can simply go on all night – and all day and all night for about a week. If after that you haven’t managed to get heavily involved with somebody, you’re not trying.

And those sad souls who are too serious about study for a social life? Well they give extra points for doing the Leaving through Irish, so there could be bonuses for a degree done through a haze of sexual delirium. Yes it is the college’s responsibility. Getting it together is one of the main reasons people go; UCG takes advantage of this without doing a thing in return. And isn’t it a vital part of the education and development of the individual? Let’s face it, most people are crap at relationships. Quite simply the modern person is just too damned lazy to put in the kind of intensive practice that such an undertaking deserves. They really think they can just wander in and get it right first time. No wonder they end up wanting divorce.

And divorce is not the answer; it just doesn’t make sense. The law cannot stop marriages disintegrating anyway, all it can do is insist that people tidy up before they leave – and with judicial separation we’ve got that already. The only practical difference divorce makes is that it allows separated people to legally marry again. And why would they want to?

Why does anyone? Security. Life is uncertain, so we try to build our futures on the most unshakeable foundations that all the powers of state and church can provide. We can’t trust love and we can’t trust each other; for real peace of mind, we need the backing of sanctions. And people who have seen life go horribly wrong once are no less eager – are perhaps particularly determined – to make the unbreakable contract that marriage entails.

Or would entail, if there wasn’t divorce… Catch 22. The only point of divorce is to enable you to remarry, the only point of marriage is that it’s irrevocable. There is simply no way to square this circle.

Except one. Polygamy.

WHAT WAS THE QUESTION AGAIN?

Yes; keep indissoluble commitment – just let people make more than one. Why not? I can understand you having a certain resistance to the idea; probably the first thing the word brings to mind is Saudi princes who get a new wife when they don’t have quite enough spare cash for another racehorse. But I’m talking here about polygamy with sexual equality. That’s never been tried before, but I’ve thought it through and it would work. It would change society out of all recognition, but it would work. I’ll explain in greater detail next week – but feel free to start campaigning in the meantime.

No to divorce. Marry early and marry often.