On paedophilia and hebephilia

But perhaps the most controversial presentation of all was by Philip Tromovitch, a professor at Doshisha University in Japan, who stated in a presentation on the “prevalence of paedophilia” that the “majority of men are probably paedophiles and hebephiles” and that “paedophilic interest is normal and natural in human males”.

 

Myself I tend to think that paedophilia is rare while hebephilia is entirely normal.

 

After a fierce battle in the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which produces it, a proposal to include hebephilia as a disorder in the new edition of the manual has been defeated. The proposal arose because puberty in children has started ever earlier in recent decades and as a result, it was argued, the current definition of paedophilia – pre-pubertal sexual attraction – missed out too many young people.

 

And that’s an interesting point. Earlier puberty is meaning that a hebephile might today be attracted to 12 year olds whereas in times gone past this might start at 15 or so: the age of marriage or at least betrothal in may past societies. And I do think it entirely normal that men be attracted to women in that first flowering of their womanhood.

 

Even so, there really is now no shortage of evidence about the harm done by child abuse. In the latest frenzy about the crimes of the past, it’s worth watching whether we could, in the future, go back to the intellectual climate which allowed them.

 

But that’s the real point. It’s entirely possible to state that hebephilia (or even paedophilia) is entirely natural but also to state that we don’t wish it to happen and thus to organise society so that, to the best of our ability, it doesn’t. Both salmonella and rape are “natural” but we do our best to curb both of them.

98 comments on “On paedophilia and hebephilia

  1. No – they are framing the possible discussion. Something that is wrong must be wrong in every possible way. Shagging a willing 15 year old is illegal – but it must also be immoral and evidence of “illness”.

    Moving to tax – taking advantage of tax allowances or jurisdictional differences in rates is apparently legal. But it is “morally wrong”*, therefore the law must be tortured (not changed, because that would be admitting that the evil b@stards had’t actually broken it), campaigns started, lots of pointless hipsters twunt about it, and the LHTD start up another campaigning group that will end up kicking him out because there’s no room for any ego other than his.

    So any hint, however reality based, that there might be shades of grey (even 40), different views, something “normal” about it has to be shouted down otherwise people might start being reasonable about stuff and then where would the world be?

    * Not my argument …

  2. Dunno Tim.

    I think most grown men have had the alarming experience of seeing an attractive young woman, thinking “phwoar!”, then realising she’s probably about 15 or 16. Especially these days, where many teenagers just don’t look like children.

    (BTW I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re putting human growth hormone in the school dinners. I used to be considered tall but it’s no longer uncommon to see school aged kids who tower over my 6ft 1 inches.)

    But I get the feeling that’s not what those academics were thinking about.

    Another attendee, and enthusiastic participant from the floor, was one Tom O’Carroll, a multiple child sex offender, long-time campaigner for the legalisation of sex with children and former head of the Paedophile Information Exchange. “Wonderful!” he wrote on his blog afterwards. “It was a rare few days when I could feel relatively popular!”

    All in the interest of scholarship, y’see.

    So I think Gilligan is spot on here in his concerns. I also think a lot of this LGBTQWERTY crap being shovelled at kids is, if not directly intended to sexualise them, then at least on a greasy gradient to doing so.

    One you start telling six year olds that they’re transsexual or what-have-you, it’s not such a big leap to this sort of thing:

    ‘childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.

    Which fits in nicely with all the noise about “cisprivilege” and “ending gender binary” and whatnot from the avant garde of the Twitter and Tumblr set.

    It’s entirely possible to state that hebephilia (or even paedophilia) is entirely natural but also to state that we don’t wish it to happen and thus to organise society so that, to the best of our ability, it doesn’t.

    Yes, it’s possible. But equally, ideas have consequences. It’s also entirely possible that, left to their own devices, Marxists or feminists could enjoy convivial discussions about how best to subvert our society without then acting apon it. But the historical record isn’t encouraging.

    So these gropey professors bear watching.

  3. “‘childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.”

    To be fair, that’s an entirely accurate statement.
    “Children”, as opposed to the legal concept of those below the age of majority, doesn’t much predate the 19th century. And then only in western economically developed cultures. For most cultures it’s “infants” as a separate age group & the point of “adulthood” a very flexible concept.

  4. B(n)iS – Yes. Taken in isolation, it’s a fair point. But you can see where this is going, right?

    Mark Steyn had an interesting piece recently where he pointed out that a lot of intelligent, well-meaning folks behave as if the world is like an Oxford Union debate. But it’s not. And Man is primarily a rationalising rather than rational animal.

    We know from the past century or so of experience how the clever intellectual acrobatics of assuredly rational and disinterested (ho ho ho!) academics tend to drip down to teacher training colleges, policymakers, and the courts.

    It’s how we got to this place where divorced fathers are treated as third class citizens and the shadow secretary of state is openly threatening white men that he intends to thin out their ranks in the judiciary.

    So by all means, let’s have open and free exchange of ideas, but let’s also not be afraid to get a bit torch-and-pitchforky when some sweaty little professor type suggests it might not entirely be a bad thing if he were to – purely hypothetically, you understand – introduce his penis to your child.

  5. Well, childhood may be socially constructed, but puberty isn’t. The particular feature of puberty that matters here is the development of secondary sexual characteristics, which are the “I am now a sex object” signal to the rest of humanity. And which know nothing of the law.

    So we can see (some) sexual abnormalities as category errors; paedophilia (too young), gerontophilia (too old)- both of which are attractions to the absence of fertility signals rather than their presence- homosexuality (wrong sex), and also anyone with a general sex phobia (we call this radical feminism these days). All of which are diverting or stifling the reproductive instinct onto the wrong target or none at all.

    So we can say that hebephilia isn’t so much socially constructed as a basically meaningless term, which tries to medicalise a legal status. Most cultures seem to have put the age of transition- for legal purposes- at around 13. In England, it used to be 12 for girls and 14 for boys, but that was not so much about sex as about marriage anyway, when marriage supposedly at least acted as your official license to have sex and babies.

    There doesn’t seem to be very good data about the transitional age historically; it’s very patchy until recent decades, like a survey of girls in Boston in the 19th century giving an age of 17, but put together it seems to imply an unusual period of very high puberty age around the industrial revolution, possibly due to environment. The 12/14 age- about the same as other societies implies it had been around then under normal circumstances. This book-

    http://archive.org/stream/sexuallifeofprim00fehluoft/sexuallifeofprim00fehluoft_djvu.txt

    -about the sexuality of primitive savages from non-PC times gives a wide range in different cultures.

    But it also seems that most of the data is for menarche (first period) which is not particularly coupled to physical development (of T’n’A).

    So anyway, what we’re looking at here is simply a manifestation of the human propensity for taboo- some fiercely believed, fiercely enforced moral convention about which even discussion is verboten. There’s no science or reason to it. I suspect that the primary reason it’s so popular is that, in an age of complete social flux and moral disagreement, it’s the one last thing about sex everyone can agree about in denouncing. Even if it makes no sense and nobody believed in the concept within living memory.

    That last point being the relevant one to remember perhaps. In olden times (up to,er, about 1985), parents didn’t chaperone their daughters for fear of targetting by some population of ‘philes; but because of a simple recognition that once they start to blossom they will be of general interest to males.

  6. Steve-

    Torch and pitchforky is never good. Particularly during a frenzied hysteria which is doing a great deal of harm.

  7. “…introduce his penis to your child.”
    Define child, Steve.
    Adjusted for population/jurisdiction, the average age of consent across Europe is a tad under 15. (Caveat: Many European countries, sensibly, don’t see AoC as absolute but variable depending on the age difference of the participants.)
    It’s actually the “clever intellectual acrobatics” of academics resulted in arbitrary AoC’s in the first place. People are people & all people aren’t the same. To be honest, there’s some would never rate as being capable of informed consent. Large numbers of those writing in the media, for a start. And there’s quite a few just pubescent females, of whom the best can be said about an AoC, is it protects otherwise vulnerable adults from their predations.

  8. It’s because most people, including professors, are really hard of thinking. Which leads to the obvious nonsense that the guy with a girlfriend of 16 years and one day is a lucky bastard while the one with a girlfriend of 15 years and 364 days is an evil disgusting pervert who should be strung up by his balls and have red hot pokers shoved up his arse.

    What really matters is consent and the maturity of the (usually female) party to give such consent. But that is too complicated for the law, so we have the convenience of a simple age limit, but then along comes IanB’s radical feminist anti-sex league and even with people over that age limit, bloke has to not only satisfy himself of capacity to consent but to accept the risk of consequences of its retraction decades later.

  9. Yes, get rich and famous and some bint will think to take you down because they are having an off day.
    I suspect that some of the claims against particular individuals may be someone trying it on for a bit of money. Not that there are not also victims of course.
    But someone who can be proved to be in the right place at the right time for nookie with the celeb can claim nookie happened even when it did not.
    And sound believeable, while evidence places them indeed on the show, in the studio etc.

  10. Out of interest, I just looked up Wiki on AoC in Colombia, from whence my amiga hails.

    “The age of sexual consent in Colombia is 14 years, according to Article 208 and 209 of Act 599 of 2000 (Effective Criminal Code). Sexual consent is valid as long as no violence, prostitution, and pornography occurs….
    For safety it is advisable to only have sex with older (fifteen) 15 years, and also that the adult is not more than 40 years. When there is a big age difference between the child and the adult, it is likely that tend to believe that there was coercion or violence (e.g., a 16 year old girl and an adult of 50 years).

    Youth covers the age range between 14 years and 28 years in the New Youth Citizenship Statute. In reference to man is considered young until about 40 years, for this reason a grown man who has not reached age 40 can have sex with girls aged 15, 16, 17 or more years, as long as there consent. In the case of women is culturally a celebration when it satisfies the 15 years, called party fifteen, in which symbolizes the transition or conversion from girl to woman.”

    Maybe academics haven’t penetrated so far south.
    But it does at least reflect a modicum of reality. Particularly in a place where the actual enforcement of arbitrary laws has about as much viability as snow-boading..

  11. BiS-

    This is the interesting thing really; the taboo is not so much about age as about age difference. It’s reminiscent of one tribe in the book I linked above (can’t be arsed to find the page number) which is described as having the view that sex with somebody the same age as your children (but not related) is incest.

    The assumption seems to be in our culture that one’s age preferences should age with oneself- when you’re 15 you fancy 15 year olds, when you’re 60 you fancy 60 year olds. But this flies in the face of reality, which is that women peak in attractiveness between the mid teens and mid 20s, and old people have sex with old people basically because that’s all they can get, not because they specifically are more physically attracted to people as grey and wrinkly as they themself are.

    Hence this appalling calumny against poor old Rolf, for looking at some ordinary 18+ year old porn, which the Crown are telling the press to imply was sex trafficked children. It’s basically becoming the everyday wisdom that any sort of interest in women of a significantly younger age than oneself is “paedo spectrum”.

  12. Ian B – You’re not wrong.

    I must be getting more reactionary as I get older or something, but I think I’d struggle to be outraged if the peasantry did for some of our ignoble institutions what they did for Frankenstein’s monster in the James Whale film. Sure, it’s not edifying and probably wouldn’t end well, but…

    You know what Willy Wonka said when Frau Gloop demanded he “do something” to save her greedy boy from the consequences of his folly?

    http://youtu.be/Y2gH2b2WcGI

    Off topic, but once we started seeing suicide bombers and then beheadings on our streets, and child rape gangs the authorities turned a blind eye to for years… and the clever people told us we’d better not let such things sour us on either their immigration plans or the religion of peace… I finally ran out of fucks to give about being fair to the clever people who are cleverly running this country into the ground.

    There is a general malaise in the institutions of the West, and academics who make statements like “normal males are aroused by children” are part of the problem.

    B(n)iS – I’d define a child as anyone under the age of 16.

    “Many European countries, sensibly, don’t see AoC as absolute but variable depending on the age difference of the participants.”

    Yes. No parent wants 40 year old men sniffing around their teenaged daughters.

  13. Most parents don’t want their kids to be gay either. It’s not a very useful metric.

    B(n)iS – I’d define a child as anyone under the age of 16.

    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to explain where you get that number from. Please show your working.

  14. Steve-

    No, that’s just a law that defines legal minority. I’m asking for something more ontological. We’re not discussing what the law is- we all know that- we’re discussing the rational basis of it (and of general attitudes).

  15. Vox pop: who here would, if the opportunity arose and absent infidelity to a loved one, or criminal sanction, a) have sex with a sexually developed girl (so, potentially from aged 12), b) want a relationship with such a girl?

    I’ll go first. a) I’m trying to imagine it, and i find it almost impossible to do so, for reasons i suspect closely allied to my answer to b) which is, no.

  16. Ian B – I’ve not read Hansard so no idea what the reasoning (if any) was behind it.

    However, we have to draw a line somewhere, and doing so at 16 seems as good a point as any.

    Arbitrary and not reflective of real world conditions all the time? Yes.

    Easy to understand and therefore avoid accidentally committing a crime? Also yes.

  17. Mr Lud
    As a long term resident of one of Europe’s centres of hookerdom I can assure you there’s absolutely no shortage of Brits of mature years scampering upstairs with lassies old enough to be their granddaughters, let alone daughters. The only reason they restrict themselves to the ones claiming (these are, after all, hookers – they lie) to be 18+ is because that’s what the law requires.The olduns actually have a disproportionate preference for young looking meat.
    A lot of these Brits are lawyers.
    That’s your category a)
    Category b)? Relationship? Most of the girls would prefer men who are bit more mature. Read that anyway you like.

  18. Steve, you still haven’t addressed the question. We’re not talking about what the law says, or how the law was arrived at. The question is how you, yourself, would define what a child is.

    Particualrly, you seem to be confusing “child” and the legal age of minority. In the USA, with regards to alchohol, a person is a minor until the age of 21. Are they thus, in your opinion, also a child?

  19. Mr in Spain, i don’t dispute that such tastes exist, so much as i’m trying a sort of poll of the mostly blokes here. It might provide an insight into the motives of those arguing from differing perspectives. For what it’s worth, i think the questions are primarily aesthetic, not moral. Pre-pubescence is, obviously, another matter.

  20. “‘childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.”

    Codswallop – so effing ridiculous that it could only come from a minor-league academic who is self-delusional about having any intellectual capacity.

    Because language. Simple as that. The word ‘child’ etc is, I venture, present in almost every language. That’s because language is what we think. Like a lot of words the meaning can be fuzzy, but the fact that the word exists is enough proof that humans recognise the state.

    The idiot could claim he meant that the meaning of childhood is socially constructed but was too thick to say so, but it’s the kind of faux-intellectual waffle without any evidence. The idiot would have to define to the terms. And couldn’t. Because idiot. I only wish they could be hit hard with a ‘social object’, but that’s not going to hurt because it’s a made up thing with enough vagueness to be able to be applied to everything and nothing.

  21. Mind you, i suppose aesthetic tastes often have moral implications. For me, no matter how dishy a girl, or how sexually developed, if it’s apparent that she’s a child, from her gait, her manner of speech, or even, where she is precociously adult in both of those senses, simply from her manifest youth by comparison with my booze-addled blotchiness, i think id repel myself from sexual contact with such a girl. I concede that may say as much about my own sense of self. As it does about anything else. But i think i would have answered question a) differently up until about fifteen years ago when i was still in my late twenties.

  22. Ian B – most places won’t rent a car to you till you’re 25 either – has as much to do with sex as the alcohol licencing laws in the US do.

    I personally would define a child as… anybody under the age of 16. Because I think the law has this one about right.

    How do I arrive at this conclusion? No great philosophical insight admittedly, but then I don’t think we need to overthink this one. I just think we need a working definition of what a child is for the purposes of protecting the young and the vulnerable from the old and lecherous.

    My definition, though crude, has the advantage of simplicity and broad popular recognition within our society. In other times and places it might be the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or when you’re able to withstand some trial of manhood, or whatever.

    But we don’t live in those other times and places.

  23. @ Mr Lud

    I’m mid-30’s (the younger end of the spectrum around here) and I find post-pubescent women attractive. Not in the early ‘grass on the wicket’, stage.. but once it’s bedded in. I wouldn’t want to have sex with someone, however, absent some kind of intellectual/emotional connection.. which probably rules out 14-16/17 year-olds irrespective of what the law thinks.

    So a) = not morally opposed, but my criteria puts them on a curve that rises later than the ‘mere physical’
    b) = it depends what you mean by ‘relationship’.

  24. @Doug
    “The word ‘child’ etc is, I venture, present in almost every language.”
    I wish you the best of luck with the direct translation of “child” into either french or spanish.

  25. TTG, i suppose i am defining “relationship” as anything much more than a one-night stand.

  26. Steve-

    Like many simple rules it has the advantage of simplicity, but the disadvantage of not necessarily being coupled to reality. That’s what we’re trying to get at here; where the coupling to some kind of facts about reality is.

    You also seem to have missed my point, which is that legal minority applies in a wide range of spheres and is not synonymous with “childhood”.

    Edward Lud-

    Personal feelings aren’t much use in this. It’s quite possible to have different intellectual and sentimental perceptions. For instance one might find homosexuality emotionally repugnant, but hold the intellectual view that there is nothing wrong with it.

    Commenter Ironman a little while ago decided (when losing another argument) to descend into “Ian B wants to fuck 14 year olds” which implies (rather strongly) that the arguments I make here are personally, emotionally motivated. Just therefore for the record, I find the concept of doing so, myself, utterly impossible. At an emotional level I actually adhere very powerfully to the taboo.

    So I am interested in a rational discussion of it nonetheless. Because many societies have taboos, and they are often not very rational and often rather harmful. Since the Age Of Consent has rolled over in the past few decades from being more of a pragmatic “social regulatory” rule to an all consuming hysteria, these things need discussing, whatever our personal sentiments. Especially when you consider that according to official figures, about 1/3rd of the population lose their virginity at an illegal age.

  27. @ Mr Lud

    It would need to be someone I was happy to spend time with. Not necessarily in a romantic/sexual sense though. So if I could be friends with someone, and found them physically attractive, no qualms at all.

    (Note re previous comment: the statement about being one of the younger ones here should have ended with a question mark, obviously.)

  28. Ian, i, too, am interested in a rational discussion and usually try to avoid ad homs (not always successfully, ahem). Nevertheless, whether one has a vested interest in a particular point of view is i think a legitimate line of enquiry.

    Using TTG’s example of a functioning relationship with a young but pubescent girl which might become sexual, i am trying to imagine myself into the situation… but i end up feeling like Humbert Humbert.

  29. Ed,

    I think part of the problem is that these kind of hypotheticals are difficult to imagine because we automatically think in stereotypes. If I try to imagine that, I automatically cast myself as some leering dirty old man, then I feel horrified, so it’s not much use.

    But the reality is that young people can be fully in command of themselves and “adult” in outlook and in the real world, one could find oneself in some situation where that happened and no abuse occurred. The reality is that after puberty, mental outlook matures rapidly (if it’s going to at all, heh) and also that teenagers have sex drives and feel attraction, even, yes, before they are 16. Which is why we sholdn’t just automatically condemn any man (or indeed woman) who does get into such a situation. It really is something that would need judging on a case by case basis. It’s not always “grooming”, kind of thing.

    Just to reiterate though, at an emotional level it’s just not something I can picture myself involved in. I’m 48, and my “dating” years were during the first PC years. I’m almost pathological about “consent”; whch is why in earlier posts I’ve commented that the only “harrassment” I’ve ever been involved in had me on the receiving end 😀

  30. So, what’s the conclusion, Ian? That the thought experiment of trying to strip out the taboo is almost impossible? I don’t know, i get your points. Bit just drawing on personal experience, my girlfriend is very gamine, very petite and not large-chested. She’s also ten years older than me. Am i a closet homosexual? Is there something wrong with me psychologically that i very happily have no sexual interest in any other female? I just don’t know. But taking things, as you say, on a case by case basis, I’m happy. Her first husband, on the other hand, now deceased, married her when she was about 24, he was about 52. And she would have looked a very young 24. Generally, before she became a cougar with me, cough, she has a thing for much older men. Is that a psychological error? I think, however, she felt a certain amount of sexual revulsion for him when she was very young.

    The more i find out, the less i know.

    but if we are to take things on a case by case basis, how does the legal age of consent adapt to this? Does it merely say that the legal age of consent in girls is from the time of the first period, in boys from the time of an ability to ejaculate?

  31. No parent wants 40 year old men sniffing around their teenaged daughters.”

    I suspect this is a geographically and chronologically local phenomenon. I further suspect that in a majority of cultures, historical and contemporary, parents would be perfectly happy with socially worthy 40 year olds showing an interest in their teenaged (and younger) daughters.

    Indeed, I would go as far to say that our perception of the value of children to parents is local. There are plenty of places where parents will ruthlessly exploit one child to benefit their others (or just themselves), whether that means horribly crippling them for begging advantage or selling them for sex with Gary Glitter types.

    It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  32. Aren’t we well-advised to go back to the Wiccan rede/foundation of all enlightened liberal thought here? Whereby groping/raping the 13 year-old daughter of your friend and using your celebrity to get away with it is clearly not on, due to the harm done to someone who knows no better?

    If as a 40 year-old (and presumably experienced in the ways of the world) man you’re planning to introduce someone just out of teddy bears to sex it should at least be in the context of showing them what wonderful mutual fun it can be, rather than just about getting your own rocks off just because they aren’t going to make a plausible complaint? To me, it’s the unwilling partner bit I don’t get, rather than age hangups. I know I wouldn’t enjoy it, and if it turns a young woman into a man-hating frigidaire you are robbing at least two other people (one unkonwn) of a lifetime’s fulfilment for the sake of an orgasm. That’s rightly a crime.

  33. BiG, aside from concerns over agedness of such complaints, i don’t think anyone is endorsing the use of brute force.

  34. “Aren’t we well-advised to go back to the Wiccan rede/foundation of all enlightened liberal thought here? Whereby groping/raping the 13 year-old daughter of your friend and using your celebrity to get away with it is clearly not on, due to the harm done to someone who knows no better?”

    Given the number of enlightened liberals who can’t see what the fuss is about what Roman Polanski did; or contemporary feminists being in favour of the genital mutilation of little girls for “cultural reasons” – I’d say we’d be ill-advised.

    In fact, I might even suggest we’d be well advised to machine-gun said enlightened liberals and feminists into the nearest ditch. But then I’m stuck at work on a lovely Sunday afternoon so am feeling somewhat less charitable than normal.

  35. Ed Lud-

    I don’t think we are anywhere near a conclusion. It’s hard enough to get people to even engage in a meaningful discussion. I’m a David Hume type, philosophy wise, so I recognise that you can’t get an “ought” from an “is”. But you need to know what the “is” is, before you can start on the “oughts”.

    And to get an “ought”, you need to decide what you’re trying to achieve, and whether that is actually a good goal, and then whether your proposed policy will achieve that end, and what undesirable effects it may have, and so on.

    One element worth noting in this though; a consent law is not intended to enable people to say “no”. We already have that, in rape and violence laws. Its purpose is to stop people saying “yes”. People forget that. It doesn’t prevent violation; it prevents willed action. I think that’s worth taking into consideration.

  36. “Vox pop: who here would, if the opportunity arose and absent infidelity to a loved one, or criminal sanction, a) have sex with a sexually developed girl (so, potentially from aged 12), b) want a relationship with such a girl?”

    a) is no, and so b) is also no (there’s a few socialists I’d shag, but I wouldn’t want to have a conversation with).

    No, because I think it’s basically wrong.

    Young teenage girls are moving from the phase of being Daddy’s girl to someone else’s girl and sometimes see people like older men as interesting. But they don’t know what they’re doing. You give them a few more years, they start dating people their own age as the boys become more mature.

    If you have sex with a 14 year old and you’re much older, you’re basically taking advantage of someone whose mind isn’t really mature enough to deal with what’s being put in front of them.

    It’s why roughly, age of consent at 16 is about right. I’d actually argue for 17 with a reduction to 15 if both parties are under 18. At 17, girls are able to spot if you’re a dirty old man.

  37. Stig,

    There’s the problem. Your chain of reasoning starts with your conclusion, and thus unsurprisingly derives that conclusion (from itself). THis seems to me a persistent problem with people trying to reason about taboos, because taboo is placed wherever in the brain axioms reside. So you get this, “eating pig is wrong therefore waffle waffle waffle therefore eating pig is wrong” kind of argument.

    Let’s look at your example. 14 year old girl A wants to have sex with 40 year old man B. 40 year old man B wants to have sex with 14 year old girl A. A and B have sex. Each has got what they want. Where in that do you derive “B has taken advantage of A”?

    “Take advantage” generally implies that one person in a transaction has got something and the other one hasn’t. That clearly does not apply here. Your justification seems to be that A will at a later point in life have different tastes (boys her own age[1]). Okay, then she can indulge that taste at that stage of life. The previous indulgence of her previous taste does not preclude that later indulgence of a different taste.

    I liked going to drunken parties at 20. I’ve no interest in that now. Does my current disinterest in that activity invalidate my earlier liking for it?

    So far as I can see you’re basically (though I imagine not intentionally) parroting the matronly feminist view that it’s just a bad thing if men get what they want. That is, the mutuality of the social transaction is ignored. Older men shouldn’t get what they want because waffle waffle because older men shouldn’t get what they want. Or perhaps another way to put it is that woven into the argument is the assumption that sex is not a transaction but an expropriation in which the man gets something and the woman loses something; the Victorian ideology that lives on nowadays among the Radical Feminists and their followers.

    If you see what I mean.

    [1] The evolutionist argument is that women are always hypergamous, hence the supermodel/elderly tycoon model. Whatever.

  38. @Edward Lud I’m a bit late to this one but no and no.

    I am very lucky in that my area of interest has moved with me. I remember being very interested in 14-year-old girls, but I was only 14 or 15 myself. I find the interest in teenage girls – the barely legal thing – most bizarre. I have young teenage daughters but I felt this way before they were even a twinkle so it’s not that.

    I used to have a thing about no women over 30; now I find I have a thing about no women over 40 (my wife is just over 40 but doesn’t look it), and the idea of having a ‘relationship’ with a woman of 18 or even 25 or so fills me with horror. I can’t see how we would have any common ground. If I wasn’t married I might be temped at the upper range of that age but to be honest these days it’s no longer the be-all and end-all for me and I’d only be shagging her in the hope that it led to something more substantial. Sounds weird even writing it, but it’s the truth.

    Like a Steve, I think 16 is about right. We probably need to have an age, it probably needs to reflect both the mental development of kids and the need for the law not to be made a laughing stock, and I’d say 16 is about at that point.

  39. IanB

    Some 14 months after we first crossed swords so to speak on the subject you have honoured me with direct response to the question I posed. I am delighted to find you have no personal interest in 14 year-old-girls and will happily refrain from all ad hominems in the future.

    I will also refrain from speculating quite why it took you so very long to issue this statement, given that a commentator’s potential vested interest in the topic will always be a line of enquiry, legitimate or not.

    I also note that your research is vastly, vastly more extensive than mine, which in itself causes me to point you back to that line of enquiry that fellow commentators will inevitably follow.

    As to the point at issue; I would thank Edward Lud for his contributions and say that I find myself, not for the first time recently, agreeing with Steve. Bloody Hell!

  40. Ironman-

    I will also refrain from speculating quite why it took you so very long to issue this statement,

    Because any denial of an ad hom in the midst of an argument usually ends up sounding like protesting too much and spirals off into more sound and fury. In other words, it’s usually futile.

    If you want more detail, I’m a boob man and always have been, so anything underdeveloped leaves me cold.

    As to my interest in the subject, it boils down to the fact that the Feminist Anti-Sex League are advancing on this front, so it’s the one that needs most scrutiny. If I can get one person to think about why they think what they think, I’ll have achieved something.

  41. “14 year old girl A wants to have sex with 40 year old man B. 40 year old man B wants to have sex with 14 year old girl A. A and B have sex. Each has got what they want. Where in that do you derive “B has taken advantage of A”?

    Earth to Ian B, Earth to Ian B.

    There appears to be something about the age “14” that is escaping you. If it helps, halve the age to seven and repeat your logical argument. It may help you further to consider that your hero Hume regarded morals as arising from passion rather than reason…

    You see, kids at various ages want to do things that appeal to them but will harm them in ways that they don’t understand. So we try to prevent them from sticking their hand in the flame, drinking the bleach, driving the car, having sex with the forty year old, yada, yada.

    When I was twenty three I had a genuine, heartfelt offer of marriage from a six year old girl. Now, being what I consider a normal person of normal passions, not only did I decline the offer I did so sufficiently carefully so as to leave her self esteem undiminished. But let’s say, for sake of argument, that her offer appealed and we followed it through. The six year old gets what she wants and the twenty three year old gets what he wants. No force, no coercion. And hey, she can divorce later if she subsequently decides she no longer likes the arrangement.

    Maybe seeing a problem here? Maybe, perhaps, seeing that a twenty three year old has a moral responsibility to accept the fact that a six year old isn’t capable of understanding the wider implications of her desires. That she isn’t capable of informed consent.

    Earlier you pointed to the technicality that the age of consent is a restriction on the consenter. I would offer that the age of consent is meant primarily as a restriction on the one seeking consent. I believe that because I do believe that a 40 year old man is taking advantage of a 14 year old girl who is offering sex. He should know better, and she doesn’t. She isn’t capable of informed consent, so his actions are little different to drugging another 40 year old and shagging the unconscious body.

    “…waffle waffle waffle…”

    Indeed. Thing is, this is no longer just a philosophical diversion. This country is steadily being occupied by a culture whose godsent example of earthly perfection is a man who began sexually assaulting a little girl of six before finally raping her at age nine.

    The enemy is inside the fucking gates, and here you are deliberating how many little angels can dance on the head of a penis.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/img/1/7/0/5/i/3/9/1/o/afghanistanchildbride_1.jpg
    .

  42. “Let’s look at your example. 14 year old girl A wants to have sex with 40 year old man B. 40 year old man B wants to have sex with 14 year old girl A. A and B have sex. Each has got what they want. Where in that do you derive “B has taken advantage of A”?

    “Take advantage” generally implies that one person in a transaction has got something and the other one hasn’t. That clearly does not apply here. Your justification seems to be that A will at a later point in life have different tastes (boys her own age[1]). Okay, then she can indulge that taste at that stage of life. The previous indulgence of her previous taste does not preclude that later indulgence of a different taste.”

    This is the exact argument that pedophiles use to justify their behavior. As someone else said, reduce the age down from 14 until you begin to feel awkward about it…so we need an age of consent, don’t we? And then we set it so that it avoids the likelihood of hitting too many children at that dangerous age where their bodies are growing up but their minds do not understand the implications of their sexual desires.

    16 sounds about right to me for this purpose, 14 too young, 10 or 11 (when many kids are starting to grow up physically) paedo territory. You can’t use puberty as the defining line because then you will have men having sex with people who are children mentally speaking, which is what we want to prevent after all isn’t it?

  43. Ian B,

    “So far as I can see you’re basically (though I imagine not intentionally) parroting the matronly feminist view that it’s just a bad thing if men get what they want. That is, the mutuality of the social transaction is ignored. Older men shouldn’t get what they want because waffle waffle because older men shouldn’t get what they want. Or perhaps another way to put it is that woven into the argument is the assumption that sex is not a transaction but an expropriation in which the man gets something and the woman loses something; the Victorian ideology that lives on nowadays among the Radical Feminists and their followers.”

    You can either put down that prism through which you read my argument or not. It’s up to you.

  44. This is the exact argument that pedophiles use to justify their behavior.

    It’s the exact argument everyone uses to justify their behaviour. It’s called “if you want to prohibit X, show me the harm”. What is interesting here is that neither PJF or tomsmith can do so. A rational person in such a position would go back over their reasoning and see where it’s going wrong.

    Yes, that’s a pompous response. But “X is wrong therefore X is wrong” is not at all helpful.

    Okay, let’s try a different tack. On what basis do we, as a society believe that-

    (a) a 14 year old is incapable of consent with a 40 year old but-

    (b) a 14 year old is capable of consent with another 14 year old

    Here’s a bit of data: according to official figures, about 1/3rd of us lose our virginity before the legal age. The government specifically does not prosecute when both participants are below the legal age, and actively blocks private prosecutions by parents. It gives out contraceptives to underage teenagers. This is because it is routinely recognised that teenagers have consensual sex below the legal age.

    So what we have here is a general recognition that 14 year olds are sexually capable, sexually active and sexually attractive. Why do we believe that these things are suddenly not the case if the other person is (some number of years) older?

  45. Sorry, missed one important term, should read-

    “So what we have here is a general recognition that 14 year olds are sexually capable, sexually interested, sexually active and sexually attractive.”

    By interested, I mean, they have a sex drive. Which seven year olds don’t, so no more seven year olds please.

  46. I suppose you could say, Ian, this is what this “tabooing” business is all about.
    Looking back over the comments above there seems to be a consensus developing – blokes like us don’t feel sexually attracted to females the age of our/our friends’ daughters. We wouldn’t like our/our friends’ daughters having sex with men our age. We need a law.
    It does, of course, ignore that the world isn’t made up of blokes like us & girls like our/our friends’ daughters. But that’s what taboos are, no? An attempt to force a group’s behaviour on all. Wasn’t that long ago, getting 14 y/o’s married & bedded was the norm & the pressure was to conform. Aided by laws saw 14 y/o females as little more than chattels with little rights to individual choice.
    We still do.

  47. Incidentally, if you step outside that blokes like us/girls like our daughters world, you can possibly understand why a 14 y/o might prefer a relationship with a much older man.
    At 14 they’ve already had quite an adequate experience of testosterone fueled men between puberty & mid-thirties. More than adequate. They’re looking for a bit more maturity. The same maturity they, themselves, have developed.

  48. Is it mere blind bigotry by which we conclude that a middle-aged man interested in a pubescent 14 year-old is a dirty old man, while we are not? Is it possible to picture such a man (or woman, as why not?) who might nevertheless be admirable not just in spite but even because of his tastes?

    keeping my chac ‘un a son gout hat firmly in place, i confess id find it very difficult. I think because id suspect him thereby of being incapable of dealing with a more mature woman. OTOH, as happy as i am in my current relationship, my experience of women of my generation has generally been uninspiring and i think they need to raise their game.

    where are Frances and JuliaM in all this?

  49. But this flies in the face of reality, which is that women peak in attractiveness between the mid teens and mid 20s, and old people have sex with old people basically because that’s all they can get, not because they specifically are more physically attracted to people as grey and wrinkly as they themself are.

    We’ve crossed swords on this before, and I still think you’re not quite right. For some men this will be true, but not all. For a lot of men, I think the peak age of attractiveness is between 25 and 32, something around there. The superstars who can take their pick generally get hold of women around 25-30, not 18-25. It’s not that they are not physically attractive in an optical sense, it is that the mental age and immature behaviour detracts from the overal attractiveness. A slightly older woman might lose a little in the physical sense, but gain so much more in the other aspects.

    I once had occasion to go to bed with a 22 year old when I was much older than her. One of the reasons I restrained myself from actually doing anything was that her immature behaviour (drunk, giggling, shouting out stupid things in public on the way home, asking stupid questions, using language I associate with teenagers) put me off: it was like being with a damned kid, annoying as hell, and despite her having a nice, cute, 22 year old body the behaviour put me off too much. That, and the fact that she got so drunk I thought it would not have been right, and it wouldn’t have been. My preference would have been for somebody a few years older, say 28, who acted like an adult.

  50. I think because id suspect him thereby of being incapable of dealing with a more mature woman.

    That’s the assumption I normally make about men trying to trap much younger women: they older ones can see he’s an asshole.

  51. Tim,

    I know we’ve done this before and I’m loathe to cross swords again. But I’ll go back to my previous argument; the women chosen for peak visual attractiveness in our society are in the 18-25 category and, prior to the SOA2003, it was 16-25 (nation’s darling Sam Fox et al).

    One might argue (which is another issue) that currently many people in their 20s are unnaturally juvenile kidults. Men get stereotyped as this, but I think it applies to both sexes. Whether they’re representative of a human normal is debatable. In particular, it seems to me we’ve developed a retarded form of growing up in which one isn’t expected to start being an adult until after “Uni”.

    In purely physical terms, 25 is about the point when people start getting old. By 30, many women’s bodies are going seriously south, which is why most nude models have dropped out by that age.

  52. That’s the assumption I normally make about men trying to trap much younger women: they older ones can see he’s an asshole.

    Or maybe they just want to have sex with good looking women.

    Many older women feel the same way, by the way, and are much saddened by their own age denying them access to the handsome young men they prefer.

  53. I know we’ve done this before and I’m loathe to cross swords again. But I’ll go back to my previous argument; the women chosen for peak visual attractiveness in our society are in the 18-25 category and, prior to the SOA2003, it was 16-25 (nation’s darling Sam Fox et al).

    Yes, but the point you never addressed last time is that looking at women and having sex with them are very different things. So if we’re going to talk about the ages at which men want to have sex with women of ages, the other attributes – mental age, behaviour, etc. – which don’t apply to men just looking at women must be considered.

    In other words, Sam Fox might have been the perfect age for looking at, but not to have sex with.

    Many older women feel the same way, by the way, and are much saddened by their own age denying them access to the handsome young men they prefer.

    This flies against the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen on sex dating sites: women get inundated with requests from younger men, and put exasperated notes in their profiles that they are not interested in men young enough to be their sons.

  54. Tim-

    The question becomes how interested you are in those other attributes. You have a particular preference (very similar to mine in fact) in terms of personality, shared interests etc. But we have to face the reality that this is not ubiquitous. Particularly for people looking for a lot of casual sex, physical characteristics are going to be very high on the list and may be basically all that matters.

    So me, if I were looking right now, I’d probably be hoping for a low thirtysomething- which is optimistic since I’m late 40s. But given the choice of the same mind in an 18 year old body? Hell yeah. I’d have that.

    But that really just comes back to free markets. We balance a set of priorities to make a judgement.

    Just as a general comment, I went for a long walk to B&Q yesterday. Hot day, strolling by the river, lots of people about including teenagers. So, this thread in mind I was casting a wary eye over them. So, two girls, some teenage year (wouldn’t like to guess an age). They have boobs. They are pretty. Why didn’t they trigger my phwooar reflex?

    The answer I came up with, FWIW, was the pelvic girdle. Not sufficiently developed. My tentative hypothesis was that that is the defining characteristic of “womanly”; such that even a slim, narrow hipped, flat chested woman has a fundamentally different shape to a child. So, right now, that’s my definition of a paedophile psychological tendency.

    Not something you can easily legislate on the basis of, though.

  55. The question becomes how interested you are in those other attributes. You have a particular preference (very similar to mine in fact) in terms of personality, shared interests etc. But we have to face the reality that this is not ubiquitous. Particularly for people looking for a lot of casual sex, physical characteristics are going to be very high on the list and may be basically all that matters.

    Now there I’m in agreement.

    Not something you can easily legislate on the basis of, though.

    Here too.

  56. ” It’s not that they are not physically attractive in an optical sense, it is that the mental age and immature behaviour detracts from the overal attractiveness. A slightly older woman might lose a little in the physical sense, but gain so much more in the other aspects.

    I once had occasion to go to bed with a 22 year old when I was much older than her. One of the reasons I restrained myself from actually doing anything was that her immature behaviour (drunk, giggling, shouting out stupid things in public on the way home, asking stupid questions, using language I associate with teenagers) put me off: it was like being with a damned kid, annoying as hell, and despite her having a nice, cute, 22 year old body the behaviour put me off too much. That, and the fact that she got so drunk I thought it would not have been right, and it wouldn’t have been. My preference would have been for somebody a few years older, say 28, who acted like an adult.”

    I can’t help but be reminded, this is a conversation amongst a bunch of middle class, presumably white Brits. With middle class, presumably white, Brit, life experience to draw on.
    There is another world, you know. I’ve certainly known 14 y/o girls* who are infinitely more mature than some of the Brit middle class bints who are regretfully looking at the menopause from the wrong side. But they haven’t benefited(?) from the middle class, presumably white, life experience.
    *My amiga’s daughter was 15 when I met her, was as tough as nails, came over as about 30 & had zero interest in boys, (children), whose main interests in life were football & competitive willy waving. I get the impression, her mum’s childhood lasted about a week somewhere around age nine. Like mother like daughter.
    And I don’t suppose that’s much different to the life experience of a lot of the kids from the not-middle class parts of the UK. But you lot write the laws, don’t you?

  57. There is another world, you know.

    Jeez fella, you don’t need to tell me! Dubai, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria… 🙂

    But yes, I go on what I, as a white, middle-class Brit prefers.

  58. BiS-

    Funnily enough I was going to bring up the class thing, then decided it would start another argument, heh 🙂

    But yes, there is a generalised trend that the lower classes grow up faster (or did) because they had to, rather than languishing through an extend juvenile phase. Which is part of the major lack of understanding between classes, and leaves the middle class- for whom Progressivism is effectively a campaign to impose their value system on everyone else- baffled. The differential is several years- highly significant in a discussion like this.

  59. Also BiS, I may be an outlier here since I’m working class- the exception being that until age 11 I went to fee paying prep schools (which my parents crippled themselves economically paying for until they could afford it no more). Then into the comprehensive system, among a cohort of mostly “working poor” families which at this point included my own.

    So I dunno. Growing up in the 70s, the prettier and more developed girls in my school year being sexually active- and with older boyfriends, invariably- is just not unusual to me. Maybe it is more unusual for the middle classes. But not being middle class myself, I wouldn’t know, and left that class’s educational sphere before the age we’re discussing. Even if there’d been girls at Wellingborough, which there weren’t back then.

  60. Problem being, of course Ian, those same Progressives are packing the UK with people culturally don’t share their background & assumptions. And not likely to adopt them.
    Should be interesting…

  61. “By interested, I mean, they have a sex drive. Which seven year olds don’t, so no more seven year olds please.”

    Not so fast. Seven year olds of both sexes are capable of sexual pleasure, and can and do masturbate to the point of orgasm. They also like to form relationships with adults.

    So, using your logic above (with the proviso that sexual activity excludes penetration by the adult, which would cause harm to a seven year old), what is the harm between a sexual exchange between a seven year old and a forty year old? Answer that.

    Since you don’t seem to see the harm of the “exchange” between the fourteen year old and the forty year old, what justification beyond “taboo” can you see in prohibiting the “exchange” with the younger example?

    (Good grief!)

  62. “Seven year olds of both sexes are capable of sexual pleasure, and can and do masturbate to the point of orgasm”.

    Really? Is that true?

  63. PJF-

    It seems to me that you’ve actually set a question that you yourself need to answer.

    For me, I’m going to be anecdotal. Which is probably unfair but, my own experience was that at one point in my youth my world consisted of Action Man, Hornby, Meccano and Spiderman. Then at another point it was GIRLS. As a junior artist I went pretty much overnight from drawing Spiderman and the Hulk to scantily clad fantasy females (and never stopped the latter). I believe this was due to the activation of a previously inactive sexual drive. That is, I believe that there is an objective biological change which occurs which radically alters the developing mind.

    That is, I think that children are not sexual beings. That they have a capacity to stimulate their nervous system is not relevant. They are not seekers of sex. That is, there is a distinction between capacity and desire.

    If you think differently fine. But then you’ve undermined your own argument that paedophile interactions have any rational basis, and you’re in the NAMBLA camp. So, careful where you go with this. I don’t mean that as an implication that that is your intention, I stress. Merely that I don’t think your argument takes you where you think it does.

    Maybe we should switch from thinking about consent to intent.

  64. Erratum-

    “But then you’ve undermined your own argument that paedophile interactions have any rational basis”

    should read “but then you’ve undermined your own argument that the belief that paedophile interactions are unnatural or harmful has any rational basis”

  65. Lo! after all these years I learn

    1. The definition of hebephilia
    2. Humbert Humbert was a hebephiliac.

    Who knew? However did I survive such intellectual darkness?

  66. Ed Lud – You originated a discussion by asking, somewhat rhetorically, who might want to have sex with a sexually developed girl who might be as young as 12. The answer, surely, is a sexually developed 12 year old boy.

    Is this paedophilia in your book?

  67. Churm, it’s not paedophilia in my book. Is it, in the mind of any sane person.

    and, yes, you’re, right, i shouldn’t have answered my own question as i did without someone else going first. I wanted to try and put my carkeys in the bowl to make it easier for everyone else, and largely achieved the opposite.

  68. “It’s the exact argument everyone uses to justify their behaviour. It’s called “if you want to prohibit X, show me the harm”. What is interesting here is that neither PJF or tomsmith can do so.”

    The argument was that since the 14 year old “wants it”, it is ok to give him/her it. The harm is that at 14 some children are mentally incapable of weighing up the implications of the decision they are making and so we prohibit them from making certain decisions so that they don’t live to regret those decisions and suffer the potentially resulting physical, mental and emotional damage.

    Bad decisions can result in harm. Children are on average worse at making life affecting decisions than adults due to a lack of experience and understanding of the world. Children are more likely to make poor decisions than adults in general and so we don’t afford them full autonomy until they have “grown up”, i.e. accumulated more knowledge of the world, more experience of human behavior, more time spent on earth. This is why parents don’t usually turf their kids out of the house aged 4 or 5, or 8, or 12, or even 14.

    To get back to the specific question, some kids enter puberty around 9 years old. If such a child expresses the hormone powered desire to have sex with an adult, is it ok for the adult to reciprocate, since the child obviously wants it?

    Is it also ok for an adult to have sex with a pre-pubescent child, provided that they can convince them they “want it”, so to speak?

  69. That second sentence needs a question mark, obviously.

    what prompted your question, btw?

  70. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travellers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as “nymphets.”

    That’s Humbert Humbert, giving a literary description of his hebephilia.

  71. That’s Humbert Humbert, giving a literary description of his hebephilia.

    And we treat the opinions of fictional characters with all due reverence. That being “absolutely none at all”.

    I have no idea how you thought you were advancing any sort of rational argument with that quote. Perhaps a CiF column beckons.

  72. Surreptitious Evil said:
    “I have no idea how you thought you were advancing any sort of rational argument”

    Is rational argument compulsory here now? Is there no more room for mere snark?

  73. Rational argument? Well, if you insist:

    First, let’s get our terms straight. When a distinction is made, “hebephilia” is sexual attraction to pubescent children, “paedophilia” to pre-pubescent children, and “ephebophilia” to post-pubescent adolescents. These stages of development are well defined.

    The law, however, concerns itself with the age of the child, and there’s a reason for that independent of any moral viewpoint on sex. We (most of us) teach children to show respect to adults, and usually to do as they’re told by them. And as a matter of social custom, we sometimes phrase commands as requests, or requests as commands. It follows that a child will often not feel able to make a considered decision about a request for sex from an adult.

    Ian B prefers to see this as purely a question of freedom – should a child be free to consent to sex? I take a more nuanced view than he does of the nature of human decision making: often the decision one makes in the moment is not the decision one would have liked in hindsight to have made. I don’t think it wrong to push people towards making decisions they are likely to want to have made. There’s a simple test to apply here: do adult women often wish they’d had more sex as children?

  74. “We (most of us) teach children to show respect to adults, and usually to do as they’re told by them. And as a matter of social custom, we sometimes phrase commands as requests, or requests as commands. It follows that a child will often not feel able to make a considered decision about a request for sex from an adult.”
    Not necessarily disagreeing with you but it’s amazing how, despite social custom, kids seem to enthusiastically make autonomous considered decisions about everything else but sex. Their reluctance to go along with adult preferences is the source of endless arguments in every home in the land.

  75. As is usual in these discussions, both TomSmith and PaulB fail to identify or describe the harm, as requested. I find people never can actually do this. Tom starts well with “”The harm is that…” but then topples straight into discussing policy to avoid it rather than describing it.

    I am convinced that this is because believers do not actually know what the harm is. They are simply following an axiomatic taboo; the same as a Jew who has no idea why he doesn’t eat pork, but it’s an abomination, so that’s that. When the great sex panic started in Victorian times, they did at least have a consistent explanation; the harm is sex itself. The whole campaign to not only prevent sex but anything associated with it- obscene publications, masturbation- was based on the belief that sex itself is a corruption (thus itself a harm) and that if young persons could be shielded from it they would never develop the interest. That is, it was believed that lust is learned, rather than innate (and learned from the corrupt society afflicted by Satan). Thus people would grow up to be chaste, and only do it reluctantly (while thnking of England, and all that) to produce children. Recreational sex would be a thing of the past.

    Which was total cobblers, but at least internally consistent. Unfortunately, we are now left with the taboo, divorced from it’s original justification. We don’t eat pork, young Jacob my lad, and that’s that.

    Paul B offers in his second paragraph a truly novel and inventive argument, only let down by reality. Teenage is routinely characterised as a time of rebellion rather than compliance. I commend the numerous Harry Enfield “Kevin The Teenager” sketches for perusal. (I might also recommend the particular one where Kevin is suddenly sorted out and grown up- because he loses his virginity).

    And this really brings us to the issue of teenage. It never used to exist. Why does it now? Well, here’s what it seems to me; the Progressive Era instituted teenage by creating an overlap period in which a person has ceased mentally to be a child, but is supposed to continue being one until some approved age. The characteristic of puberty in mental terms is a change of outlook from that of the child to that of the adult; the person puts away childish “pursuits” as they acquire adult drives. Sex is one of them, but more than that is a desire to individuate; to become their own person and, particularly, to acquire social status. Girls want to be women, boys want to be men.

    Progressive society, however is powerfully infantilist. Bizarrely, the loss of childhood “innocence” (which is seen as a Good Thing, an era when the mundane (originally, Satanically afflicted) world has not yet corrupted the person. Thus, rather than applaud the person’s acquisiton of adulthood, it is seen as a loss. In sexual terms, virginity is “lost”, rather than sexuality gained. The person is expected to continue with childhood when their mind is seeking to become adult. Society offers them childish pursuits rather than real ones; fake social situations like the infamous Yoof Club. Work experience rather than work. And tries to stop them having adult relationships altogether. In the middle class mind (the most infantilised class) the transition from child to adult is not meant to happen until after 18 in a playground called University. Many of this class don’t actually enter adulthood proper until their mid or even late 20s; it is thus unsurprising that they are now pushing for “youth” to be considered to only end at the ridiculously late age of 25.

    Meanwhile, ignorant biology continues effecting the actual transition at around age 12 or so. It is hard to see why evolution set it at this point, but then would leave the brain in a fragile state which cannot integrate sexual experiences without catastrophic trauma. Our ancestors would not have lasted very long with such a bad design. But that’s enough teleology.

    PaulB finally asks us whether many women regret not having more sex as children. Woven into this is a sly dishonesty; what we are discussing is not childhood sex, but where childhood ends. The question should be more neutrally put; do they regret not starting earlier?

    The answer to this I don’t know. I imagine many men do (I certainly spent some very unhappy virginal years) but of course really this is all about girls. The question should be whether their later appraisal is meaningful. Humans are the products of our past and our environments. Some of us have regrets, some don’t. People often feel that their own experiences were the right ones, but this does not tell us if they were the best ones.

    We could ask whether many elderly Christians regret not being Buddhists. Probably very few. But this does not tell us whether Buddhism itself is meritous, or whether the world would be a better place if those Christians had been Buddhists. If we add into the mix the powerful social convention that women should not be sluts, it really is a very poor question indeed.

    For me, I do not believe that there is any intrinsic harm to having sex once the lust is there as an emotion. Individual situations might be regretable, but that is no justification for a universal rule. On the other hand, the lack of it does seem to produce recognisable harm, ranging from the quiet misery of depression to picking up a gun and going out and shooting as many sexually active people as possible, as we saw recently in the USA. We should perhaps feel lucky that most suicidal male virgins choose to just kill themself rather than taking ten other people with them. But that’s boys again, nobody cares about them, back to the girls.

    These threads are always full of hypotheticals. Let’s do another one; your 14 year old daughter says to you that she wants to have sex with her boyfriend. He’s a nice young lad, you know he’s very fond of her. You’re confident they will use appropriate precautions. You’re confident that if she (or indeed he) is unhappy with the procedings, he (or indeed she) will not use any force to continue.

    What argument is there (ignoring the “it’s against the law” one, since effectively it isn’t if they’re both underage) against them going ahead? What is the actual harm which will occur?

  76. IanB “As is usual in these discussions, both TomSmith and PaulB fail to identify or describe the harm, as requested. I find people never can actually do this. Tom starts well with “”The harm is that…” but then topples straight into discussing policy to avoid it rather than describing it.”

    Nice dodge. To quote myself:

    “The harm is that [children] incapable of weighing up the implications of the [sexual] decisions they are making [may] live to regret those decisions and suffer the potentially resulting physical, mental and emotional damage.”

    IanB “These threads are always full of hypotheticals. Let’s do another one”

    I’ll answer your carefully constructed hypothetical when you answer mine which I asked above:

    1. Some kids enter puberty around 9 years old. If such a child expresses the hormone powered desire to have sex with an adult, is it ok for the adult to reciprocate?

    2. Is it ok for an adult to have sex with a pre-pubescent child, provided that they can convince them they “want it”, so to speak?

    3. Do you think children have the same decision making capacity as adults do? If so why do adults bother to look after them for a number of years following their birth?

  77. I think id accept Paul B’s description of commands as requests and vice versa on young children. But i cant see it applying to a pubescent, in the sense of being sexually capable, child of, say, 12. Assuming such a child was not mentally deficient, and even assuming he or she is not rebellious, i should have thought that this hypothetical child was capable of saying “no” to an adult importuning the child. We then enter the realms of brute force, which is rightly illegal anyway.

  78. And i should that it follows from this that a pubescent, in the sense of being sexually capable nine year old might fall prey to the tendency of young children to do as they are told/asked.

    None of which answers Ian’s question about harm. But physical interference with another, where consent has not or cannot be given, seems to me properly to be an offence.

  79. tomsmith, I’m fairly sure none of us is arguing that pre-pubescent sex is conceivably ok. And to be fair to Ian, you haven’t answered his question re harm. What you’ve done is point to a prior quote of yours which says a) a child might live to regret it – which may be true, but a regret is not harm, b) they’ll suffer damage.

    i think its actually a very good question. I mean, it’s icky, but a good question. And lets face it, most of us parents, try as we might to avoid, probably do do things which do indeed harm our children, at least from time to time. But its not illegal. Well, not yet.

  80. Tomsmith-

    Look at your quote of yourself. It alludes to “harm” but does not explain what the harm is. Using a synonym of “damage” doesn’t get you out of answering the question.

    I am reminded of David Hume’s rule that a concept only has cognitive content if you can rbeak it down into simple impressions. If I say that a certain act will cause “harm”, you ask what the harm is. I might say, “you will be burned” or “your finger will be broken”. What is the harm you are describing, in simple impressions?

    As to the nine year old. We are presuming here consensual actions. I wrote a long post at Counting Cats about consent once, and the fact that it is ongoing. If a woman (of say, 30) agrees to have sex with me, but then wants to stop, she is not obligated to continue. If she says “stop”, I must stop. Or it is rape. This is true of all contracts in a free society. If you agee to work for me, and then change your mind, you can just walk off site. I cannot chain you in place and force you to work. That is slavery, which is a violation of your rights.

    So a person may be able to persuade the nine year old to initiate sex. If the nine year old finds it unpleasant, they can tell the person to stop, and that person must stop (or it is rape). Do you believe that the nine year old would say “stop”, or not?

    If you answer yes, then there’s your answer. It’s not all right for the person to have sex with the nine year old. If you answer no, then you’re back in something of a fix about what is wrong with it, since you would then be arguing against them doing something that they enjoy. Me, I do not know much about nine year old precocious pubescents and their mental state.

    I can say with confidence though that a lot of 14 year olds will not say “stop”. Which leaves us with a major problem with justifying saying “stop” on their behalf.

    So you’d better tell me what this harm is. In simple impressions.

  81. The other point I want to make is that we keep talking of puberty as a unitary thing, and I’m not sure that’s right. We can identify (In a girl) perhaps three components; menarche, acquisition of adult sexual characteristics and the mental transition (“sex drive”).

    That a girl has precociously started menstruating doesn’t mean the other two are in place, and my guess (I am not a biologist and all that) is that menarche is the most variable and environmentally sensitive of the trio, which is why it went so high in Victorian times, and has dropped with better environment to such low levels. It may be entirely decoupled from the others.

    Part of this is because when I read these stats about girls reaching puberty at 17 or 18 in Victorian times, I find it very hard to believe they were walking around that late with childrens’ bodies (no breasts, hips etc). So the fact that a girl may start menstruating as young as nine doesn’t mean she has transitioned in general, just that characteristic. In mental terms, you’d probably need to know how much time she spends lusting after boy bands, etc. Or something.

  82. Ian B lives in a simple world in which all teenagers are characters from a Harry Enfield sketch, and if some 14-year-old sex is harmless, it all must be. Real life is more complicated than that.

    Where’s the harm in laws that make it a bit harder for children to get laid? So far Ian B has come up with Elliot Rodger, who was 22.

  83. PaulB lives in a world in which throwing people in jail for doing nothing that is actually wrong, so long as it suits his sentiment. Etc.

    This is the problem with the authoritarian (in this case, Progressivist) worldview. The law ceases to be a means of punishing wrongdoers, and becomes a regulatory system in which laws are used to achieve particular aggregate statistical outcomes. This is why the libertarian can never lie down with the authoritarian; they are diametrically opposed paradigms.

    Or to put it another way, paraphrasing Paul again-

    “and if some 14-year-old sex is harmful, it all must be treated as such.”

    This would not be so bad if the punishments for harmless but illegal sex were a slap on the wrist at the magistrate’s court. But in the midst of a furious moral panic in which people are utterly and gleefully destroyed, we must stand against it.

    And also, again, ask somebody, anybody to actually say what they think, specifically, the harm actually is.

  84. Ian B: so your concern is really not for children whose sexual activity is restricted by age-of-consent laws, it’s for adults who choose to ignore the law.

    If you want to learn about harm caused, try reading victim statements from trials where abusers have been jailed.

  85. PaulB-

    No, that would be a very bad source of information, since it is prepared testimony seeking particular outcomes. Additionally, it only describes abusive situations. It thus suffers a selection bias. It is equivalent to trying to understand the sexual experiences of adults in general by only reading the testimony of rape victims. That is, useless.

    My concern is for both. They are not contradictory. If you look at the Stammers/Forrest case, for instance, both parties were severely victimised by the State for a consensual and biologically/psychologically normal relationship.

    You still have not described any harm in any underage/post-pubescent sexual contact, which is not attributable to other factors (e.g. rape, coercion, etc). I at least have given an explanation for why I think it valid to prohibit sexual intercourse involving children. You haven’t yet made any attempt to describe the harm done to a physically and mentally sexually developed individual who happens to be below an arbitrary legal threshold.

    I’m still waiting. You seem very confidently to know what this harm is, and yet you refuse to describe it.

    I think it reasonable therefore to conclude that you do not know what it is at all, and are just supplying post-hoc justifications for a taboo. This is actually pretty commonplace, as with supposedly rational explanations for ancient religious dietary laws and genital mutilation. But we’re Enlightenment Personages here, so I demand something better.

    I will just remind you again that according to government figures, about a third of us discard our virginity before the legal age, and that the government itself actively condones this by not prosecuting and preventing private prosecutions.

    So if this harm exists, I want to hear what it is, and whether you think that that third of the population all suffered it and are therefore abuse victims.

  86. it only describes abusive situations. It thus suffers a selection bias

    It describes situations defined as abusive by the laws you are seeking to abolish. You are saying that the testimony of anyone who has been harmed by underage sex is irrelevant to determining whether underage sex can be harmful.

    You ought to be aware that there’s quite extensive academic research on the relation between underage sex and various medical harms. And the conclusion is that, while causality can’t be proved, the association is clear.

    Or you could look at the consensus among people whose business is the welfare of children. They will all tell you that, in their working experience, some children are harmed by early sex. It’s not surprising, and not at all persuasive, that people who want to fuck children think otherwise.

    Do I think that underage sex is always harmful, or that it would be a good idea to prosecute 15-year-olds for having consensual sex? No I don’t. You should read the CPS’s guidelines on prosecution: I agree with them.

  87. PaulB,

    I keep asking you to answer the question, and you don’t. Because you can’t. In fact…

    Do I think that underage sex is always harmful, or that it would be a good idea to prosecute 15-year-olds for having consensual sex? No I don’t.

    So actually, you agree with me then.

    “Can be harmful” is rather vague. I’d like you to list the “various medical harms” that afflict 15 year olds but not 16 year olds. Please. NB you’re not allowed rape and abusive behaviours. These are not sex; they are things which may occur in sexual situations but which we all agree are wrong. I’m asking what “various medical harms” occur due to consensual sex, before but not after the age of consent.

    You see, I don’t think there is a good answer to that. I don’t think anyone believes it is actually harmful; I don’t, you don’t, the CPS don’t and the government don’t. The Feminists do, but they think all sex is harmful regardless of age. All sex is rape, and all that.

    So this is actually just an age differential taboo, isn’t it?

  88. Also, PaulB-

    You are saying that the testimony of anyone who has been harmed by underage sex is irrelevant to determining whether underage sex can be harmful.

    I’m saying that testimonial is an extremely poor information source, which is why pre-enlightenment epistemologies (faiths etc) like it- “Testify, brother!”- and enlightenment epistemologies (science, good legal systems) prefer objective facts to work with.

    Considering that we know how badly poisoned the well of testimonial is in these particular issues, thanks to the acitivities of the Therapy Movement, we should not give it much credence at all.

    If I go with testimonial, I would believe in alien abductions, ghosts, telepathy, gods of all kinds, homeopathy, spoon bending and- perhaps most significantly- the existence of a global satanic cult that flushes children down toilets to secret rooms where they are raped by demons.

    I would also attend a divorce court and, depending who I ask, find that the marriage breakdown was all the fault of the husband, or all the fault of the wife.

    So, give me something objective, Paul. Not much interested in testimony, frankly. That’s for the tabernacle tent.

  89. IanB, I don’t have much time so can only offer my initial impressions of what you wrote.

    “I am reminded of David Hume’s rule that a concept only has cognitive content if you can rbeak it down into simple impressions. If I say that a certain act will cause “harm”, you ask what the harm is. I might say, “you will be burned” or “your finger will be broken”. What is the harm you are describing, in simple impressions?”

    The harm is that the breaking of the mind of a child.

    “So a person may be able to persuade the nine year old to initiate sex. If the nine year old finds it unpleasant, they can tell the person to stop, and that person must stop (or it is rape). Do you believe that the nine year old would say “stop”, or not?”

    It doesn’t matter if the 9 year old child goes on to say stop while the adult is having sex with them, or if they say stop later when the adult again tries to persuade the child that they want more sex. The harm is in the successful persuasion and how it changes the mind of the child, and in the trauma of the regretted sexual act which also alters the mind of that child and so their future life. Events change people. Children are vulnerable people. Adults having sex with children are exploiting a power and knowledge differential that has the potential to make the experience very traumatic indeed for a child that didn’t fully understand what they were agreeing to do.

    Does it matter if the 6 year old says stop or not if the child loving adult persuades them to have sex initially? How about the 4 year old? Harm is done, don’t you agree, in the persuasion and the trauma of the act?

  90. Ian B: read this, and then tell us again that the world would be a better place if prosecutions in child sexual abuse cases had to prove there was no consent.

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