Those of us who, as libertarians, believe passionately in freedom, usually believe in freedom as the equal human right of all people.
In sexual issues, it is relatively easy to say that consenting adults should be able to do what they like in private.
But when it comes to teenagers, it is much harder to draw clear lines.
When do they become fully adult with adult rights to autonomous sexual choices?
IMHO not at puberty, even though that is when, as I understand it, the physical capacity for sexual functioning begins.
At 21? Or even older? In 2013 bbc.com reported:
” ‘The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,’ says child psychologist Laverne Antrobus, who works at London’s Tavistock Clinic. ‘My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.’ Child psychologists are being given a new directive which is that the age range they work with is increasing from 0-18 to 0-25.”
A 44 year old man in Florida, whom I will only identify by one initial “M”, since I believe he faces a horrible time in getting the presumption of innocence, has been arrested in Florida, as I understand it for shooting into a room in which he believed there was a 44 year old man who had been naked in bed with M’s teenage daughter.
If this girl was 13 years old, then I am inclined to be very sympathetic to M’s rage. Much less so, if she was 19. Yet in both cases the word pedophilia might be used.
Knowing what to do with teenage sexuality, in a world where online porn is free, is not easy.
When the 1981 production of Lolita ran on Broadway it had 31 previews but closed after 12 performances. Donald Sutherland starred with 24 year old Flanche Baker. (both pictured above)
When director Stanley Kubrik made his film Lolita (in 1962), the actress, sue Lyon, who played the title role was 14 years old.
Actress Sue Lyon starring as Lolita in Kubrik’s 1962 film.
Clearly one of the most abominable crimes one human being can commit against another is non consensual sex (i.e. rape) of a pre pubescent child.
Any rape is bad, but but rape of kids incapable of sexual response is possibly the worst imaginable. Lock him up (or sometimes her) and throw away the key is a pretty understandable response.
But consensual sex with a teen in his or her late teens is not so easy to automatically condemn and punish as hard. Yet both can be described by the one word “pedophilia.”
Sometimes words fail us.
Parents have a right and responsibility to protect their children.
Completely stifling all adolescent sexuality is going to often amount to counter-productive repression. but adolescence takes along time and the last thing any society should do is make parenting even harder by expecting parents to protect their kids but condemning them if they make the wrong call under enormous stress.
I think it is extremely difficult to say when parental rights finish and adult rights of adolescent children begin.
Geoff Fox, former Registered Midwife, 10th March, 2023, Down Under