Questioning ages of majority and ages of consent

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Certainly, in the realm of sexual ages of consent, we need to ask whether the law has any legitimate role to play in criminalising consenting, victimless sexual activity. As for protecting the young: the main protection they need, as do adults, is legal protection against forced, involuntary sexual acts which is afforded by the laws covering rape and sexual assault; plus protection against self-destroying feelings of guilt and anxiety which are so often strirred up by sexual encounters outside the ages of consent precisely because they are illicit and regarded as shameful. It is usually this social shame, more than the sexual act itself, which harms young people. The psychological scars of court cases and societal disapproval often remain long after the actual sexual encounter is forgotten; no more so than among Brittain's young gay men who are still the victims of a discriminatory age of consent of twenty-one.

In a fully democratic and egalitarian society, there can be no question of adults usurping the rights of young perople by keeping them in a state of ignorance, fear and guilt, or by resort to arbitrary and autocratic laws which deny them responsibility for decisions affecting their lives, especially about their own bodies and emotions.

source: 'Questioning ages of majority and ages of consent' by Peter Tatchell; From the book 'The Betrayal of Youth - Radical Perspectives on Childhood Sexuality, Intergenerational Sex, and the Social Oppression of Children and Young People'; Edited by Warren Middleton; CL Publications, London; 1986