Features Sep 11, 2013 at 4:00 am

Psychologist Jesse Bering on What the Law Says Versus What the Science Says


Great article - intelligent, informative, and very well written.

We'd all benefit from hearing more voices of reason from psychologists on issues like this, and less ax-grinding from politicians, religious institutions, and advocacy groups.
It's the power differential that matters. I know of a 22 yo with a 50 yo. It seems quite seedy and exploitative, despite the legality.
Your point seems to be that people sexually and emotionally mature at different ages, while the legal age of consent may or may not match that reality. So what? Laws could hardly be written to mirror every single person's development. Lawmakers must pass legislation that does the best job of protecting the greatest number. Did you have any insight on how they could do it better?
Lawmakers had a better chance at doing a good job of protecting the greatest number if they listened to science instead of getting into a hissy fit of "you scientists are pedophiles, therefore we won't read your paper".

Science that has a grand total of 0% of ANYTHING to do with physical reality.

And/or, theory.

And/or rationalization.


What is your sex in physical reality, again?

Reppin dicks and vaginas since 1809, bitches.
Dawg, I'mma lay this out for you

There's physical reality, or there's noise you are making with your mouth.

"And the city was lovely, highly ornamented, like Paris, and untouched by war. It was supposedly an β€œopen” city, not to be attacked since there were no troop concentrations or war industries there. But high explosives were dropped on Dresden by American and British planes on the night of February 13, 1945, just about twenty-one years ago, as I now write. There were no particular targets for the bombs. The hope was that they would create a lot of kindling and drive firemen underground. And then tens of thousands of tiny incendiaries were scattered over the kindling, like seeds on freshly turned loam. More bombs were dropped to keep firemen in their holes, and all the little fires grew, joined one another, became one apocalyptic flame. Hey presto: fire storm. It was the largest massacre in European history, by the way. (...) Everything was gone but the cellars where 135'000 Hansels and Gretels had been baked like gingerbread men."
#5 - Oh, I totally agree with that. Please can't legislators start listening to actual educated experts instead of space loons! What chance do we have of solving any problem if lawmkers ignore the only people who deal in facts rather than uninformed opinion?
Gonna repeat here something I said on echidneofthesnakes (where the context was more specifically teacher/student relationships):

One of the things I think needs to be emphasized is that such rules don't just protect individuals -- they protect and nourish whole communities. A community in which teenagers aren't presumed to be completely off limits from adult sexual attention is not just being tolerant of a few eccentric relationships -- it's creating an atmosphere where abuse can (and almost always does) thrive, and moreover an atmosphere where it's very hard for the student to know what constitutes a normal and safe affectionate relationship with a teacher.

Also, it's not as if sexual attraction between people who can't reasonably have sexual relationships was in any way a rare event -- if you can keep your hands off that happily-married-to-someone-else co-worker, you can even more easily keep them off that cute needy kid who has a crush on you (especially as the stakes are a lot higher in the latter case). And the cute needy kid may unconsciously absorb a lot from you about appropriate boundaries.
Part of the problem may be that, as a culture, we normalize and actively encourage exploitation - economic, certainly, but also sexual i.e. rape culture. When exploitation looks "normal", it becomes far more difficult to determine if any particular situation is exploitative, because we wind up with a bunch of people defending what is in their minds a normal and therefore acceptable practice. So, in part, a hard line cutoff for sexual consent helps protect adolescents and juveniles from sexual exploitation or assault because without it (and, apparently even with it, as in the case of the 14-year-old girl raped by her teacher, who was sentenced to only a month of prison time) we'd have too many cases of actually-harmful behavior excused as 'normal'. Ideally, perhaps, rape laws would simply specify that a lack of consent is what constitutes rape, and for cases of age disparity where the power differential makes them coercive and non-consensual, one would simply have to demonstrate that (something far easier in a culture in which exploitation is not normalized and therefore far more easily recognized as exploitation). We're obviously a long way from that.

In our present culture, where exploitation and sexual assault are normalized, where even children who have sexual contact with adults that they don't experience as harmful at the time are likely to view it as harmful later, age of consent laws in some form are a very good idea (I think graduated laws that minimize the possibility of allowing age-disparate power inequalities to be used for sexual coercion while still respecting the sexual and bodily autonomy of minors to engage in sexual activity with similar-aged partners are the best option). That they're a good idea in the present context does not mean that universal, essentialized statements about sexual activity being categorically harmful to people under a certain age are true or even helpful (as the two studies cited found, even in our present context, a younger partner under age 18 doesn't inevitably experience sexual activity with an older partner as harmful, at the time or ever, though of course many do). There exists a place somewhere between enabling sexual predators/exploitation and full-blown sexuality panic (which are apparently the only two options, as far as mainstream understanding is concerned) where productive research and discussion regarding minors and sexuality might take place.
I think that the main gist of age of consent laws should be to protect children from physical harm (seeing as how there are already separate laws regarding forcible rape and also sexual coercion from authority figures).

I think it would make more sense to make the cut off at an age more to do with physical compatibility, like 14 or 15, and after that make the crime be for conceiving a child with a minor or for giving them and STD, or arguably for not using a condom whether or not something bad came of it or not.

As a teenager who actively pursued an older man (and the experience, when I got there, was beneficially to me), anything else is highly condescending to the teen, and leaves wide open the potential for the prosecution of a consensual sex partner to be the only victimization involved in an otherwise positive experience.
Just knock it off. Quit messin' around.
As I understood it, this article's point is that lawmakers all over the world choose to set quite random age limits on the age of consent due to the culture and fashion of the time and not according to science.
Apparently there is- as yet quite limited- science about the effect of "consensual" sex between post-pubescent minors and legal adults which shows that post-pubescent minors who enthusiastically "consent" to having sex with legal adults suffer little harm at the time and later on.
Against that you pose anecdotal evidence and Romeo and Juliet laws (which are not universal across all States, are they?). And the range of age of consent from 15 to 18 across the US is a mess that needs to be cleaned up.
@sweet g:
Age of consent laws should protect minors from physical and psychological trauma.
What difference does it make what the age of consent is when a victim comes forward and reports non consensual sex and the authorities decline to arrest, charge, and prosecute. Or worse, the legal system permits the revictimization of the victim on the stand in an way that isn't permitted for any other crime.
The problem is rape culture, not an arbitrary age cut off where consensual sex automatically becomes rape.
We have arbitrary age cutoffs for all sorts of things, from driving to voting. That's the nature of things. It's not going to kill anyone to wait a couple of years or to confine themselves to close-in-age partners.

These things don't happen out of context, in some little bubble where the only ones affected are the partners involved. Changing the rules changes how dangerous it is to be an adolescent. And John Horstman's analysis above is absolutely spot-on.
@ 15 - Nailed it in the last sentence.
Hey, if I can keep my person off of under aged kids, anyone can.

I haven't been a teenager since the 70's, but really, is it that much different now?

If there is no complaint between two parties I will look the other way, but I will also disavow any human that prey's upon the defenseless, and if you are under 18, the courts has decided you are at an disadvantage because of age.

I just don't understand the desire to sexualize our youth, but then again, I prefer to have sex with adults.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2… is enlightening.
@John Horstman - well put. But you misunderstand the comments section. This is where all the malcontents, deviants and mental dwarves hang out to get their version of "rhetorics" out of their system. Not a place for reason, debate and thought.

As an aside: I think that the age-of-consent laws make as much sense as free-speech laws. They are problematic in nature seen from a theoretical stand-point but pragmatic and functional as seen from a practical one. Its the shitty case of "This is the best we got right now"
So. let me get this straight. What you are trying to say is that it is okay to rape children, just not all of them?
I am going to look for a part-time janitorial job at a middle school now and keep my out for all those young things that are "asking for it". I will use this article in my defense.
Did you know that every red-blooded American male grows up playing a game called smear the queer?

It goes like this. You get the football and you attempt to evade the 20 kids trying to tackle you. No pads. Once you are tackled you drop/throw the ball and whoever has the biggest balls grabs the ball.

I recommend you try throwing soccer balls at one another's face. Pussies.

The alternative being your children suck one another's cocks.

The average age of a US boy seeing his first XXX hard core porno is eleven.

The average US boy sees hundreds more rapes than he has first kisses by the time he's of age to relate with a girl his age.

The rape culture sucks. Those who would want to explore this issue of age of consent should question the pornification that exists in this culture.

I don't mean erotic material or educational material - I mean gonzo rape porn.
This article would do well in the NAMBLA charter book.

Please wait...

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