In the following paragraphs I argue in favor of redefining age of consent laws in much of the world, particularly in the United States and similar countries. Some countries have already implemented age of consent laws which I find to be close to the ideal, for example Uruguay. I encourage readers to be open minded to my arguments; after all, an open minded person can still find flaws in presented logic, but a close minded person cannot find truth in presented logic. If my arguments seem to be delusional and not founded in reality, nothing stops you from determining this if you are open minded, but if you have an immediate emotional knee jerk reaction, and shut down to the possibility that I might not be delusional, then you wont be able to realize if my arguments actually do make sense. I myself remain open to the possibility that I am completely delusional, and I welcome anybody to clearly and logically explain to me how I am so. Thus far, nobody has been able to explain to me why my beliefs are incorrect, although no shortage of people have rabidly called for my immediate dismemberment, torture, incarceration, and various other nasty things. I encourage all rational readers, regardless of if they agree or disagree with me, to be mature, logical, and truthful, and to politely correct those whom they deem to be immature, illogical, or untruthful.
Background on Age of Consent
Before we can discuss the age of consent, we need to describe what it is, as well as a little bit of background information on it. First of all, age of consent is the age at which an individual is legally deemed capable of consenting to a particular sexual interaction. Age of consent laws vary significantly depending on the particular jurisdiction in question; for example, some jurisdictions have close in age exceptions for young people, some have different age of consent laws for males versus females, homosexuals versus heterosexuals, married versus non-married couples, and for various different sexual acts. Multiple countries have fairly complex age of consent systems, with special rules applicable to different aged individuals, as well as to couples with different age ranges between them. Several countries have default age of consents as well as minimum age of consents, with the default age of consent applying across the board, and with the minimum age of consent having special rules applicable. The current global age of consent varies significantly, with a range from nine years old (Yemen) to twenty-one years old (Madagascar). Globally, the average age of consent is sixteen years old, with most countries having an age of consent between fourteen and eighteen years old. Various developed countries have age of consents as low as twelve and thirteen years old, for example the minimum age of consent in Uruguay is twelve years old, whereas the default age of consent in parts of Japan is thirteen years old.
The history of age of consent laws is well explained at the following website (https://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/230), however for the sake of this discussion I will summarize the link. The earliest non-religious age of consent law was passed in England in 1275, which set the minimum age of consent for females at twelve years old. In 1576, England's age of consent law was strengthened, making it a more serious crime if the female was under ten years old. In the 16th century, various European countries adopted twelve years old as their age of consent for females. During this time period, juries were more interested in the specifics of a case, such as the girls physical development and if they deemed her to have been exploited, than they were in a strict interpretation of the age of consent. During the 18th century, many European countries implemented age of consent laws around twelve years old. In the 19th century, age of consent laws in some countries were made to apply to boys and girls (France), and some were raised to be as high as thirteen years old (England, France). In the later 19th century, many European countries had implemented age of consents ranging from 13 to 16 years old.
In the United States, early age of consent laws ranged from about ten to twelve years old, depending on the particular state. At the time, age of consent laws in the US applied only to females. At the end of the 19th century, there was a global and concentrated effort to raise the age of consent. This was carried out by religious and feminist organizations, interested primarily in reducing prostitution rates by making it illegal for males to hire young female prostitutes. By the early 20th century, these organizations managed to raise the age of consent in the US to be between 16 and 18 years old, where it currently remains today. Support for high age of consent in the US fell within decades of being implemented, and by the 1930's young teenage females were referred to as jailbait, reflecting cultural sexual desire for them being at odds with the contemporarily implemented legal system. During this era various states lowered their age of consent from eighteen to sixteen years old, and some states implemented close in age exceptions.
By the later half of the 20th century, a new set of arguments arose in the USA in favor of age of consent laws being high. One of the arguments was that age of consent combated teenage pregnancy, this logic was also used to allow females and males to have differing age of consent laws. During this period social conservatives joined the debate in favor of high age of consent laws, as they perceived high age of consent laws as lowering welfare costs via the reduction of teenage pregnancy. Additionally, many countries began to implement sexual orientation agnostic age of consent laws, whereas in the past it was more common for homosexuality to either be illegal or to have a higher age of consent than heterosexuality.
Arguments in favor of Age of Consent
Before determining an appropriate age of consent, it must be determined what is desired to be accomplished by having an age of consent. In modern times, there are various reasons given for what the age of consent laws should accomplish. In a general sense, the age of consent is said to be required in order to protect those who are below the age of consent from sexual exploitation. The mechanism of action by which this protection is achieved is argued in various fashions; some people will claim that teenagers who become pregnant are at significantly increased medical risk during child birth, others will argue that below a certain age a person does not have enough intelligence to be capable of understanding the risks of sexual activity, or that due to the rate at which the human brain develops, the age of consent prevents those with immature brains from being taken advantage of. To summarize many of the arguments for what the age of consent should accomplish:
- Females below a certain age are at much higher risk of medical complications if they become pregnant, age of consent laws reduce the risk that these vulnerable people will become pregnant. More generally, age of consent laws can combat youth pregnancies, and avoid the potential medical and social risks that accompany these.
- People below a certain age are unlikely to have sufficiently developed brains and/or intelligences, by making it illegal for older people to have sex with these underdeveloped individuals, we can prevent the younger people from being manipulated and taken advantage of.
- Young people are not ready to have sex because they are not appropriately physically and/or mentally and/or emotionally prepared, having an age of consent reduces pressure on such people to have sex, allowing them to properly develop prior to engaging in it.
- Some segment of the population, typically males, consists of sexual predators who are pathologically attracted to underage individuals. These individuals have a form of mental illness, and acting on this mental illness must be criminalized, due largely to the three previously mentioned reasons. Lowering the age of consent will only encourage more pathological males to sexually exploit vulnerable youth.
Analysis of Age of Consent
Certainly it stands to reason that there should be some system in place to protect the vulnerable from sexual exploitation. Traditionally, age of consent systems are primarily utilized for this task, and it stands to reason that it is beneficial to utilize such systems. Indeed, any morally pure and intelligent individual will recognize that some people are simply not prepared for engaging in sexual interaction, and the preparedness of an individual does indeed tend to strongly correlate with age. Although there may be superior systems to age of consent, such as individual analysis and licensing of individuals for sexual competency, a rational human can hardly flat out reject the benefits of having an age of consent system. However, the question of the appropriate age of consent is very important, and it is this point that I shall argue.
The first thing to realize is that the inherent medical risks of teenage pregnancy are greatly exaggerated, even by many of those in the medical community. It is true that females are usually at the least medical risk from pregnancy between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine years old. However, contrary to popular belief, females over the age of thirty years old are at significantly greater medical risk from pregnancy than are young adolescent females (http://www.mamaye.org/en/evidence/mater ... -countries). The graph representing the medical risk to females of becoming pregnant over their lifespans has been determined to usually take a J shape; young adolescents are at slightly increased risk of medical complications, females in their twenties are at the lowest risk, and females in their thirties and beyond are at increasingly greater risk. The risk typically attributed to adolescent female pregnancies is more accurately attributed to pregnancies in females who are thirty years of age or older. Indeed, even this J shaped graph may be an exaggeration of the risk young adolescents face during pregnancy, due to the cultural phenomenons surrounding teenage pregnancy (such as unlikelihood of reporting the pregnancy early on and thus unlikelihood of receiving adequate medical support throughout the entire pregnancy). This is further supported by the fact that in some cultures young teenage females are at the least risk of medical complications from pregnancy, with the risk of medical complications consistently increasing with age.
Regardless, many people will argue, the children of teenage mothers are themselves significantly more likely to have troubles in life, such as educational shortcomings. However, this particular argument is also unfounded, as research has indicated that the children of teenage mothers are likely to be more intellectually capable than the children of mothers of more significant age (http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/1 ... 2.abstract).
Although there is more to take into account than medical and physiological risks to teenage mothers and their children, such as the socioeconomic burden the mother will face, evidence is increasingly such that arguments for high age of consent, based upon the medical risks of potential teenage pregnancies, are increasingly less objectively valid. But what about the social repercussions of teenage pregnancy? Certainly an advanced society would be likely to frown on individuals becoming parents before they are emotionally, socially, and economically prepared to do so; even though such individuals are not at significant risk of medical complications via becoming impregnated, and even if the offspring of such individuals are more fit. Those who argue for the virtues of early pregnancy are certainly few and far between! And indeed, the social risks of teenage pregnancy are real and plentiful; teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to rely on welfare, and more likely to live in poverty.
Even though the medical risks of teenage pregnancy, to both the mother and the child, are often overblown, the social and economic risks are clear and real threats. In general, the belief that teenagers should avoid becoming pregnant is reasonable. However, it is doubtful that the best way to combat teenage pregnancy is via high age of consent laws. Indeed, a parallel can likely be drawn between the age at which alcohol is legal to consume, and the prevalence of alcohol misuse, and the age at which sexual interaction is allowed, and the prevalence of poor sexual choices. Indeed, in the USA the age at which a person is legally allowed to drink alcohol is twenty-one years old, one of the highest ages in the world, and yet the USA still has the highest rate of binge drinking in the entire world (http://www.policymic.com/articles/57211 ... g-the-most). Conversely, the legal age for alcohol consumption in Germany is fourteen years old (sixteen without parents present), and despite this, young people are less prone to abuse alcohol in Germany than they are in the United States. Is it any surprise that the United States, with age of consent ranging from sixteen to eighteen years old, also has a significantly higher rate of teenage pregnancy than Germany does, with a minimum age of consent at fourteen years old and a default age of consent at sixteen years old? Indeed, despite it being potentially legal for adults (even above twenty one) to engage in sexual interaction with fourteen year olds in Germany, the United States had an order of magnitude more teenage pregnancies in 1998 than Germany did (http://www.nationmaster.com/country-inf ... -pregnancy)
Clearly, age of consent laws do not work as well at reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy as one would hope! The problem is likely that things which are forbidden intrinsically attract the youth. If you tell a young person that alcohol is forbidden to them, it stands to reason that they will be increasingly curious about alcohol. This is reflected in the high rate of underage alcohol consumption in the United States. The problem is that setting high ages for consent, just like for alcohol consumption, has the opposite of the desired effect in multiple ways! Not only are young people not convinced that they shouldn't drink alcohol or have sex at young ages, but due to the cultural constructs that arise, the young people who do decide to drink alcohol or have sex anyway are at a significant educational disadvantage. Abstinence only education, popular in the United States, and seemingly reasonable in a country that legally forbids young adolescents from expressing their intrinsic sexuality, is widely known to be ineffective and counterproductive (http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/public ... y-programs). The same failure that has led to the drug problem in the USA, and the alcohol problem, is also clearly leading to the problems associated with irresponsible sexual practices. Making recreational activities illegal, culturally taboo, and promoting abstinence only ("just say no!") educational programs, has failed time, after time, after time. Time after time countries with less restrictive laws and with more emphasis on useful, responsible education, have managed to greatly reduce the social ills that countries like the United States claim to be against (while insisting on known as ineffective strategies to combat them!). Yes, it is a good goal to cause it to be so that teenagers don't irresponsibly have sex, use drugs, or drink alcohol. No, this has not been accomplished via high age of consent laws, draconian punishments against drug use, and systematic police harassment against the youth. Reducing the socioeconomic penalties of teenage pregnancy is a great reason to have honest and effective sex education programs, it is not an acceptable excuse to have an artificially high age of consent, and this has been proven in practice time and time again.
The second thing to realize is that it is true that young teenagers do not have fully developed brains. Indeed, the human brain continues to develop and mature until a person reaches the age of twenty-five years old (http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/30/10937.full). If a fully mature brain is a prerequisite for sexual interaction, then clearly the age of consent should be twenty-five years old. Unsurprisingly, no nation on Earth has ever had such a high age of consent, and no reasonable person would truly argue for such an age of consent. Having a fully developed brain is no more required to engage in responsible and consensual sex than having a fully developed bicep is required for lifting a ten pound weight. Clearly, the argument that young people do not yet have fully mature brains is not a legitimate reason to have a high age of consent, unless it is deemed reasonable for the age of consent to be twenty-five years old. The real question is not "when does an individuals brain become fully mature", but rather is "when does an individuals brain become mature enough that they can legitimately consent to sexual interaction?". Determining this is difficult due to the fact that there is no clear indicator of when an individual is cognitively capable of consenting to sexual interaction. It stands to reason that an individuals level of intelligence will be the clearest indicator of their ability to engage in sexual interaction. Indeed, although age certainly correlates with an individuals ability to consent to sex, intelligence correlates with an individuals age. Clearly age in itself does not have an intrinsic causative relationship with ability to consent, after all a twenty year old with the intelligence of a two year old is no more capable of consenting to sex than a two year old is. I believe it stands to reason that intelligence is what causes a person to be capable of consenting to sex, and that the correlation with age is merely a typical coincidence.
If we agree that sufficient intelligence, rather than sufficient age, is the primary indicator that an individual is capable of engaging in consensual sexual interaction, then how do we determine what level of intelligence is sufficient? Well, first of all, we can measure intelligence fairly accurately with professional intelligence quotient tests, so we do have the tools required to measure intelligence. Second of all, it seems to go without saying that the average adult is capable of engaging in sexual interaction without coercion being inherent. The normal range of adult intelligence, as measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Test, is between 80 and 119 IQ points. Below 80 IQ points is considered to be in the realm of intellectual disability, and above 119 IQ points is considered to be in the realm of intellectual giftedness. The average adult IQ is 100 points. The Wechsler Intelligence Test is intended for administration to those who are at least sixteen years of age, however there are formulas that are capable of estimating the adult IQ of a younger individual based on a childhood (below sixteen years old) IQ test. The following diagram shows the expected adult IQ of a child of a certain age who scores 100 IQ points on a childhood IQ test. In other words, the following diagram should approximate the comparable adult intelligence level of the average child of a particular age. (formula: http://www.paulcooijmans.com/intelligence/childiq.html)
1 Year Old ---- 6.25 Adult IQ
2 Year Old ---- 12.5 Adult IQ
3 Year Old ---- 18.75 Adult IQ
4 Year Old ---- 25 Adult IQ
5 Year Old ---- 31.25 Adult IQ
6 Year Old ---- 37.5 Adult IQ
7 Year Old ---- 43.75 Adult IQ
8 Year Old ---- 50 Adult IQ
9 Year Old ---- 56.25 Adult IQ
10 Year Old ---- 62.5 Adult IQ
11 Year Old ---- 68.75 Adult IQ
12 Year Old ---- 75 Adult IQ
13 Year Old ---- 81.25 Adult IQ
14 Year Old ---- 87.5 Adult IQ
15 Year Old ---- 93.75 Adult IQ
16 Year Old ---- 100 Adult IQ
As can be determined after observing the previous chart, eleven year olds are on average comparable to adults with mental retardation, twelve year olds are on average comparable to adults with borderline mental retardation, and thirteen year olds are on average in the normal range of adult intelligence. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that sixteen year olds are on average at their peak adult intelligence, with fourteen year olds being on average within a standard deviation (15 points) of the global adult average IQ. If we agree that adult quality intelligence is the best indicator of an individuals ability to consent to engage in sex, we can immediately agree that the average eleven year old and below is incapable of consenting to sex. Of course, this methodology is fraught with peril, seeing as many adults with various degrees of mental retardation engage in sexual intercourse seemingly consensually, and without problems. However, exactly the level of intelligence required to consent to sex is unknown, but it seems ill advised to allow an age group that is, on average, retarded by adult standards, to engage in adult activities such as sexual interaction. Likewise, lack of intelligence is clearly not a reason to restrict those who are sixteen years or older from engaging in sexual activity, seeing as the average sixteen year old has a level of intelligence that is exactly equal to the average adults intelligence. This technique allows rational people to see that the age of consent clearly should fall somewhere between the ages of twelve and sixteen years old, if we are to use adult comparable intelligence as the primary qualifier, with thirteen years old being the most obvious age at which lack of intelligence is no longer a valid reason for making the age of consent higher (after all, the majority of thirteen year olds will score within the normal range of adults on an intelligence test, and therefore if lack of intelligence does not prevent normal adults from being capable of consenting to sex, it should not restrict the majority of thirteen year olds either).
The third thing to realize is that, in many ways, young people are ready to have sex. Although an appeal to nature is invalid in terms of ethics, it certainly seems appropriate in terms of biological development. The fact of the matter is that both males and females start puberty, on average, by the time they are twelve years old (http://www.webmd.com/children/news/2012 ... age-us-boy, http://www.dukemedicine.org/blog/when-puberty-too-early). Of course, merely because a person has reached puberty does not mean that they should begin engaging in sex, however it is indisputable that puberty is the most obvious indicator that an individual is biologically developed to the point that they are objectively biologically ready for sex. Of course, being biologically capable of engaging in sex is not the same thing as being ready to engage in sex. However, young teenagers are indeed not only biologically ready to have sex, but they are mentally determined to engage in sex as well, as evidenced by the fact that 46% of high school students in the USA have had sexual intercourse (https://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtool ... s-and-stds). Indeed, young teenagers are biologically mature enough to have sex, and are additionally mentally determined to do so. Emotional preparedness is harder to evaluate, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of teenagers do no regret their sexual experiences (http://books.google.ch/books?id=YqLr5zf ... et&f=false), and teenagers who continue to abstain from sex report increasingly negative feelings over time.
The final thing to realize is that male sexual attraction to young adolescents is not abnormal. Very commonly males who are attracted to adolescents from the ages of twelve to seventeen years old are labeled as pedophiles. This is technically inaccurate, seeing as pedophiles are (according to the diagnostic statistical manual) exclusively attracted to prepubescents, and the large majority of twelve to seventeen year olds are pubescent. Even by a more liberal medical definition of pedophilia, attraction to those who are at least fourteen years old will never qualify a person for a diagnosis of pedophilia. More accurately, attraction to pubescents who are about eleven to thirteen years old is called hebephilia, and attraction to those who are about fourteen to sixteen years old is called ephebophilia. These labels are not exceedingly precise though, and are merely rough descriptors of an individuals sexuality. Furthermore, both hebephilia and ephebophilia require exclusive or particularly strong attraction to the respective age range, meaning that a male who is equally attracted to fourteen year olds and nineteen year olds would not qualify as a hebephile or ephebophile. Additionally, it is important to realize that neither hebephilia nor ephebophilia are considered mental disorders, indeed hebephilia was explicitly rejected by the APA for inclusion in the DSM (http://forensicpsychologist.blogspot.fr ... three.html). To be clear, even primary or exclusive attraction to pubescents who are eleven years or older is not considered a mental disorder by the APA, and even groups of mental health professionals with more encompassing definitions of pedophilia do not consider even exclusive attraction to pubescents who are about fourteen years or older to be a mental disorder.
Indeed, multiple phallometric studies of males have revealed that the average male has a full sexual response to images of pubescent twelve year olds (https://www.ipce.info/library/books/taboo-sex-research). It is incorrect to characterize males with sexual attraction to pubescent adolescents as pedophiles, they are not by definition. It is incorrect to characterize such males as mentally ill, their state of being has been explicitly rejected as a mental illness by psychiatric standards organizations across the world. It is also incorrect to characterize such males as uncommon, indeed penile response studies have time and time again revealed that the majority of adult males have strong sexual attraction to pubescent adolescents, equal to that which they have for adult females. The reasons for this are quite obvious indeed, after all males who are attracted to the entire range of fertile females will have an evolutionary advantage, and evolution selects for such characteristics. If it is moral or immoral for such males to act on their natural sexual attraction to pubescent adolescents is another question all together, however I cannot think of why it would be immoral to have consensual sex with a person who is intellectually developed such that they have adult intelligence, biologically developed enough that they are capable of having sex, emotionally developed enough that they desire to have sex and seek sex out, and indeed even physically developed enough that they often cannot be reliably differentiated visually from adults, even by forensic specialists (http://www.theguardian.com/education/20 ... ner-scales).
Why Bother Changing Age of Consent?
Even if it is obvious that there is not much sense in keeping the current age of consent, why exactly should we change it anyway? After all, many people will perceive that only deviant sex predators would benefit from changes to age of consent law (despite the fact that there is more deviancy in not having sexual desire for adolescents than there is in having sexual desire for them, objectively). Also, most people are perfectly fine never having sex with people below the age of consent, and indeed many people would not be negatively affected even if the age of consent was changed to be twenty-one years old, as it is in Madagascar and various other countries. There are multiple reasons why we must change the age of consent to reflect our modern understanding of humanity.
The current age of consent implicitly supports the notion that "abstinence only" sex education makes sense. After all, why do people who are legally forbidden from having sex need to have any education regarding it? If we teach people below the age of consent how to have safe sex, isn't it possible for some people to perceive that we are sending conflicting messages? Indeed, the desire of some people to force others into their extraneous morality has led to seemingly asinine movements, including political attempts to legally age restrict contraceptives (http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/ ... -age-limit).
If the age of consent is set to be reasonable, with reasonable meaning that which is supported by modern science, it will make sense to change sex education laws, and laws related to the procurement of contraceptives, that are in line with the age of consent laws. After all, if we don't think fifteen year olds want to have sex, and we don't think they should be allowed to, then why do we even need to legalize the sale of contraceptives to such people? Obviously it makes sense to let people significantly younger than the current age of consent purchase contraceptives. The reason that these laws are at odds with each other is due to the fact that the age of consent is currently set to be artificially high.
The current age of consent laws, and the child pornography laws surrounding them, are starting to cause more social harms than they help protect against. Currently, approximately 25% of adolescents in the United States qualify to be put on the sex offender registry for child pornography alone, due to taking and sharing sexual photographs of themselves and their peers (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/one-in-four ... udy-finds/ , https://abcnews.go.com/Health/teens-sex ... d=16696292). The numbers are similar in New Zealand and other studied countries. And once again, known as ineffective strategies are being implemented to combat this, for example education courses on how sexting is a crime. Of course, drug use being illegal and alcohol use being illegal is widely known, but that is not going to stop teenagers natural tendency to desire to experiment with forbidden things that are allowed (or used by) adults. In the case of sexting and teenage sexuality though, the penalties for being caught with illegal child pornography (of oneself) are usually far greater than the penalties for being caught with small amounts of drugs. And this is not just a worry in theory, the number of police operations against American high school "child pornography" rings is growing at an alarming rate; thousands of teenagers have been placed under investigation, arrested, and imprisoned, all for the crime of photographing themselves naked or sharing such pictures with friends. In some operations, significant percentages of the students at entire high schools are being investigated and charged ( abcnews.go.com/US/police-bust-virginia-sexting-ring-involving-100-teens/story?id=23208357 , http://www.wkrn.com/story/21890154/spri ... xting-ring, http://article.wn.com/view/2014/04/12/H ... ax_County/ , http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/C ... 46361.html).
Laws that are meant to protect our children should not result in 25% of our children qualifying for long term imprisonment and potentially lifetime registration as sex offenders for child pornography crimes. The fact that 25% of teenagers produce, distribute, and share child pornography of themselves, should make it clear to people that the age limits regarding this activity have been set artificially high. It is time for countries to adopt laws more similar to those which are under consideration in Hungary, where the default age of consent is fourteen years old, where pornography featuring young teenagers is decriminalized, with some degree of special protection given to that class of people. ( http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/wor ... porn_x.htm )
Additionally, age of consent laws are leading to cases where obviously consensual and legitimate relationships are being criminalized, with older parties who are often minors themselves facing life time registration as sex offenders and decades behind bars, all for the crime of having sex with their fourteen year old girlfriends! (https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ ... -1.1353148 , http://www.rockdalecitizen.com/news/201 ... ape-of-14/ ). A sensible age of consent would not allow for tragedies such as these to take place. Additionally, although females typically receive light sentences such as probation when they are facing ridiculous charges like these, a male in the exact same situation could easily end up spending most of his life in prison (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2 ... ndard.html). Even if such a male does not spend the rest of his life in prison, he is very likely to be labeled as a sex offender, and have all of the life ruining consequences associated with that (http://www.annarbor.com/news/a-young-ma ... der-label/).
Furthermore, the current age of consent laws are costing the country a lot of money in incarceration and rehabilitation. The majority of people in prison for contact sex offenses are not pedophiles, rather they are hebephiles and ephebophiles ( http://www.jaapl.org/content/39/1/78.full , Gebhard, PH; Gagnon JH; Pomeroy WB & Christenson CV (1965). Sex offenders: An analysis of types. New York: Harper & Row. , Studer, L. H.; Aylwin, A. S.; Clelland, S. R.; Reddon, J. R.; Frenzel, R. R. (2002). "Primary erotic preference in a group of child molesters". International journal of law and psychiatry 25 (2): 173–180. PMID 12071103 ). The thing to realize is that rehabilitation of ephebophiles and most hebephiles is a wasted effort; assuming we use the terms as they are used by laypeople (not differentiating between exclusive and preferential versus generally encompassing attraction), the large majority of men are hebephiles. This is not meant to be an appeal to nature, there is significant evidence that a significant percentage of males will sexually assault females, and this observed evidence has backing in evolutionary psychology theory and is likely to be true, however rational and morally pure individuals would never say that the natural urge to rape is an excuse for actually raping. However, why must there be an excuse for having sex with individuals who are intellectually, physically, emotionally, and sexually objectively as developed as adults falling in the normal range of human development? Why should the empirically demonstrated as natural desire to have responsible consensual sex with such ready and willing individuals be criminalized and falsely pathologized by the legal system in the first place? Why are we wasting so much money on criminalizing these natural and morally acceptable behaviors, when we can look to the successes in countries that have opted to have rational sex laws, and see that what we are currently doing is not only failing but indeed is being counterproductive to our stated goals of protecting young people from harm? Certainly, it is far greater of a burden on the taxpayers to fund in depth forensic investigations of high school cell phone sexting networks, and to incarcerate countless men and women for the crime of (often not!) having sex with people who (if they existed..) would probabilistically be just as prepared for, and desirous of, sex as the average adult, than would otherwise be spent on attempting to reduce teenage pregnancies (and counter-productively failing to do so anyway!). The massive amounts of taxpayer money being spent on these endeavors is much better suited to be spent on effective social and educational programs that actually have a chance at succeeding at protecting young people from harm, rather than ensuring that harm is brought to them!
Conclusion & Suggestions
In conclusion, age of consent is a useful construct for protecting young people from pathological adults exploiting them into having sex before they are ready. However, it is not surprising that the age of consent range (16-18), selected by religious feminists in the 19th century USA, does not stand up to scrutiny. Although we all want to protect children from exploitation, the way to do this is through using science and reason to craft our policies. Indeed, sending harmless people to prison with life ruining sex charges is just as morally unacceptable as allowing adults to exploit the innocence of the youth. It is imperative that age of consent laws reflect our modern understanding of human development, that they reflect our modern social structures, and that they reflect our modern understanding of science, and our modern sense of morality. An age of consent above sixteen years old should be seen to be as disgusting as having no age of consent at all, and our sympathy for those who are cruelly ruined by illogical age of consent laws, should be equal to the sympathy we have for those who are truly sexually exploited.
My suggestion is that an age of consent system similar to that of Uruguay or Germany is implemented. In Uruguay, the minimum age of consent is twelve years old, and the default age of consent is fifteen years old. An adult who has sex with a twelve year old is not criminally liable if s/he is capable of proving that there was consent, and that consent was possible. One possible way in which this can be done is via having independent psychologists evaluate the individual who is younger than fifteen years old, and to establish a history of intent to have sex, and a history of perceived competency to have sex, prior to engaging in sex. In Germany, the minimum age of consent is fourteen years old, the default age of consent is sixteen years old, and the restricted age of consent is eighteen years old. Although it is potentially legal for an adult of any age to have sex with a fourteen year old in Germany, many restrictions are in place. For example, teachers and others in positions of authority are prevented from having sex with people below the age of eighteen, regardless of the perceived competency of such individuals. Additionally, it is illegal to provide sexual partners who are under the default age of consent with significantly valuable gifts or resources. Particularly vulnerable youth, such as the homeless, cannot give consent to much older partners unless they are at least the default age of consent. Additionally, individuals younger than the default age of consent, but at least the minimum age of consent, or their legal guardians, can file a complaint against sexual partners who are older than twenty one years old, retroactively contesting consent. If consent is retroactively contested in such a way, the legal system of Germany will attempt to determine if a crime has taken place. This can be accomplished with forensic psychological evaluations and similar, although ideally such evaluations would take place prior to the act of sex taking place.
I believe that the minimum age of consent should be twelve years old. At this age, a large minority of individuals will begin to have adult quality intelligences, though the majority still will not. Twelve is the minimum age at which a reasonable person could expect a person to have any significant chance of having an adult quality intelligence (outliers aside). By the age of twelve, a large majority of individuals are pubescent, and indeed have progressed to the third stage of puberty. It is the age when sex starts to honestly interest many individuals. We may not find it tasteful for such young individuals to engage in sex, and thankfully most of them will not do so at this age regardless of the law, but I can personally say that twelve is the youngest age I could fathom as acceptable for a person to be, if say a friend told me he had sex with a young person. If a friend told me he had sex with an eleven year old, I would immediately think he was exploitative in doing so and should be punished, but if he told me his partner was twelve years old, although I may find it distasteful, and although I may wonder if exploitation took place, I would still hold some hope that exploitation did not take place. And that is the age that the minimum age of consent should be, it should be the youngest possible age where a person could fathom that perhaps there was no exploitation involved. Additionally, although this really doesn't matter in terms of ethics, twelve is the youngest age I could imagine a normal person having sexual desire for a person. Certainly I would classify any friend who told me he was attracted to nine year olds as mentally ill, but if a friend told me he thought a twelve year old was sexually attractive, I would not immediately classify him as mentally ill. In my perception, all signs point to twelve as being the minimum possible acceptable age of consent.
I don't think that twelve should be the default age of consent though. There are plenty of ways in which a sexual relationship between a twelve year old and an older person could be very exploitative indeed! The minimum age of consent should reflect the youngest age at which there is any significant chance that a consensual sexual relationship with such a person is not exploitative, the default age of consent should reflect the youngest age at which there is no significant chance that a consensual sexual relationship with such a person is exploitative. I believe that fifteen is an adequate age for the default age of consent. The average fifteen year old has reached complete biological sexual maturity, has an average IQ that is well within the normal range for adults, and has a significant chance of already being sexually active regardless of the law.
I think that various protection mechanisms must be in place to prevent exploitation of those who are at least the minimum age of consent, but under the default age of consent (ie: 12-14 year olds). Of course, teachers and others in positions of authority should be legally restricted from having sex with those who are under the default age of consent. Similar to German law, gifts and other such things should be highly restricted when relationships involve someone who is under the default age of consent. Additionally, intent to engage in sexual intercourse should be established and documented prior to the act taking place, with at least two officials acting as witnesses, preferably psychologists who have evaluated the individual who is under the default age of consent and confirmed that they find it reasonable that the individual is capable of consent. Additionally, the individual who is below the default age of consent should be required to complete at least a basic course in sex education teaching proper use of contraceptives, and the individual who is at or above the default age of consent should be required to make the results of STD screening available to the younger individual, with results kept accurate to within a three month window of any sexual interaction.
Additionally, close in age exceptions of four years should be in place, such that by default people can consent to sex with people who are at least within four years of age, so long as all are at least the minimum age of consent. This means that twelve year olds can consent to sixteen year olds as if they were at the default age of consent, and thirteen year olds to seventeen year olds, and fourteen year olds to eighteen year olds. Having a four year close in age exception will allow high school sexual relationships to not be criminalized across the board. Additionally, cases of sexual activity between eleven year olds through thirteen year olds, should not be criminalized, to protect from prosecution of normal sexual experimentation between middle school students (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Mi ... 51921.html).