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Peter Tatchell: ‘An age of consent of 14 might be more realistic and reasonable than 16′

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  1. While I understand that people are sexually developed by the age of 14, I don’t think that the age of consent should be lowered from 16. I personally (looking back at my own development) don’t think 14 year-olds are mature and grounded enough to apprpach sex in a healhy or respectful manner (despite what they themselves want to believe). Being under peer-pressure and wanting instant gratification encorporates eveything you do at that age.

    By lowering the age of consent, I think it will provide more opportunities for people to be pressured into sexual activity (both by older partners and those of their own age) before they themselves are emotionally ready).

    1. Pressuring at that age already exists regardless of the age of consent. We have a high teen pregnancy rate (I believe it’s actually the highest in Europe) even with the current age of 16.

      Kids do not care about the AOC law, just as they don’t care about smoking or drinking age. Teens develop at different rates, and it makes absolutely no difference what a government says.

      What this law does do, however, is criminalize activity between peers, which is actually much safer than them going out looking for older partners to experiment with. It also limits the education they can receive from others about this important issue.

      I have a knee-jerk reaction to things like this too, but we are obsessed with this notion of abusers around every corner. This is about changing society to deal with an existing teen pregnancy and sex education problem, and preventing 16 year old kids from being put on registers unfairly.

  2. Changing the law to enable them to have sex with each other is a good idea. But a blanket lowering to 14 will obviously allow older people to legally prey on very young people and I think that is wrong. Although they may have started to physically mature, at that age they are still very impressionable and I would worry that many could be coaxed into sex by predatory older people.

    1. Mumbo Jumbo 22 Nov 2013, 2:09pm

      As Peter made clear, he is not talking about a blanket lowering but one where a teenager below 16 but above 14 could legally consent legal providing the other consenting partner was not more than two or three years older.

      This is entirely sensible as it brings consenting teenagers (and officials offering advice to them) within the law but prevents older predators.

  3. The average age a child *starts* puberty is 11 (for girls) or 12 (for boys), but actually reaching sexual maturity takes several years. Saying “avereage age of puberty is 11″ is misleading.

    Lowering the age of consent to 14 would make it legal for sexually mature adults to prey on 14 year olds. Not great.

    Also, how often are two consenting 15 years olds charged with a criminal offence for enganging in consensual sex? I would propose that it is not often.

    1. Staircase2 22 Nov 2013, 7:12pm

      Perhaps you should read the article

  4. Hand in hand with lowering the age of sexual consent HAS to be Thorough Sexual Health Education or you are going to have another rash of STI’s and HIV infections – because parents and so called oral guardians will brush it under the rug and do something pointless like pray -

  5. There is a high level of regret amoungst those that have sex early. It would be better that we encourage young people to only have sexual relationships when they are really ready and comfortable to do so. These are issues of education to look at the pressures, from peers and the media, upon young people to be having sex. Our culture has to try to normalise, and remove the stigma of, being a virgin.

    1. That’s true but, without wanting to trivialise the issue, there can be a great deal of regret from those that didn’t too. I for one didn’t get down to it (depending on how you define ‘it’) till I was 19, but I can tell you I was certainly up for the possibility at least 5 years before – a wasted, frustrated time. I think this is often the case with gay people, who generally lack the opportunity to mate at quite the same rate as heterosexual teenagers.

  6. Isn’t the model used in Spain an age of consent of 13 but only if it’s with someone no more than 3 years older? (Sorry, no time today to look this up to confirm.) If there have to be restrictions, this sounds a fairly intelligent approach, minimising the possibility of pressure from much older people.

    1. de Villiers 22 Nov 2013, 6:10pm

      Yes. 15 in France. 14 in Italy. 13 in Spain. There are laws to prevent predatory behaviour.

      1. This link on Spain may be going backwards. On reading this the girl was 13 and the male ‘lover’ was 39! That smacks of a big difference on a law which speaks of a 3 year difference in age. How many incidents like this were there? Murder puts the crime in a whole different realm.

      2. de Villiers 24 Nov 2013, 4:50pm

        They did not raise it. It remains 13.

  7. Firstly is there anything Peter Tatchell isnt an authority on?
    Its strange logic to say more people than we’d like break this law so lets change it to accommodate them. Many 15 year olds dont see any issue with it because they argue that they are almost 16. If we apply Mr Tatchells logic we will be able to look forward to 14 year olds using the same excuse. So then what, lower it again?
    What is really is good sex education at home, school and other settings which make young people understand the potential impact of their actions. They are bombarded with sexualised images (when my daughter watched Scooby Doo the other say Daphne and Fred were having ‘relationship issues’ !!!) reinforcing myths that all the other young people are doing it and if you want to be popular you should be too.

    1. I hear what you are saying but I suggest you are missing the point. These kids ARE already having sex. Those that aren’t will not for various reasons. Not because it is illegal. I remember my time at that age……and it was a matter of not getting caught by my parents and keeping it just between the two of us. Thinking about the police knocking on my door was not one of my concerns. Sure, parents, teachers and clergy can speak against it……but we all know how fat that goes with some kids. Making kids labeled ‘sex predators’ for life is a high price for society to pay. Remember, they will become the society soon also.

  8. Mihangel apYrs 22 Nov 2013, 4:03pm

    Cue the DM to demonise Tatchell as a child-abuse enabler, an assertion that would be picked up by the rest pf the pack

    1. Beelzeebub 22 Nov 2013, 9:23pm

      The problem is, the likes of the Daily Hate and the TerrorGraph will jump on this as the “Gay Agenda” wishing to abuse children.

      It must be remembered that the readership of such rags tend to be unable of thinking and suck up the editorial opinions of the bigoted owners/editors of these comics.

  9. Erica Cook 22 Nov 2013, 4:32pm

    call me a prude but what the hell are these kids doing having sex at this age. Don’t kids ever get to have kids anymore. I don’t believe that children should be punished for being sexually mistreated, but changing the age of consent will be abused by pedofiles

    1. de Villiers 22 Nov 2013, 6:11pm

      15 in France. 14 in Italy. 13 in Spain.

    2. Staircase2 22 Nov 2013, 7:22pm

      I would say ‘prude’ – I’d say misinformed…

  10. Staircase2 22 Nov 2013, 7:21pm

    Well said. Peter. The issue needs to be looked at from, as you say, an evidential perspective rather than a knee jerk tabloid frenzy.

    I was concerned to note that there are several knee jerk responses in the comments here which have clearly been written by people who haven’t actually read the article, just the headline.

    Can I suggest it’s imperative that people commenting on an article actually READ it before posting.

    It makes absolutely no sense to criminalise the natural behaviour of sexually mature teens. I fully support Peter’s suggestion of the tiered system which exists in other countries to ensure teens do not fall victim to manipulation by older people while allowing them to express their sexuality consensually with others around the same age.

  11. In Arizona, where I live a prosecutor is charging a 41 yr old man for having sex with 17 and 14 year old boys. Fair enough, 18 is aoc here. He is also charging the 17 yr old for having sex with the 14 yr old, at the behest and encouragement of the 41 yr old, at the same time he defines the 17 yr old as a victim AND perpertrator…obviously aoc makes no sense in this context. Of course, it’s the fact that the two are boys that is the big deal for the ultra conservative prosecutor in this case…

    1. You are correct Philipem. As an American myself I am discouraged with the mentality on this issue within our country. Prosecutors are notorious for ego, chip on their shoulder, making an example, notch on their belt mentality IMO. I hear ‘the law is the law’ with common sense taking a back seat. Our lawmakers are just as faulty. Plus, gay sex is an added pariah on the plate. There was a case in Kansas where a teenage boy who was 1 day over 18 or thereabouts sent to prison for 20 years because he had consensual sex with a 16yr old male friend. That went to the Kansas Supreme Court. I think his sentence was thrown out. Sex in general among kids is a no no and making laws against it will not make it go away.

  12. I believe Canada until recently had a 14 aoc for oral sex, based on the premise that it represented fairly the actual age at which young people were sexually active. It is pretty silly to say kids who DO consent to sex are unable to do so. It is of course completely impossible to establish a uniform age at which one is equipped to consent. The RC Church says 7 is the age at which one knows right from wrong and it used to be the actual aoc in many countries…OK the problem is aoc cannot possibly accomplish what it seeks to accomplish, and no matter what age is chosen (though under 12 certainly would be bad), some inequities and stupid results will ensue. We might start by educating children and developing objective criteria for understanding and making sound decisions though…and a close in age exception is vital, though inevitably someone just outside the exception will be unfairly tried.

    1. Canada’s AoC law is presently 16 (changed by the Tackling Violent Crime Act).

      But there is a clause that specifies that someone 14-16 having sex with a partner LESS than 5 years their senior will not be considered illegal.

      Likewise, sex between a 12 yr old and a partner no more than 3 years older would not be considered illegal.

  13. “…The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. NONE feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.

    “While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.”

    Who wrote this ? Jimmy Saville ? Jamie Rennie LGBT Youth Scotland ? – no it was Peter Tatchell .Wonder if the police have the details of the adults involved ?

    1. Lippy Wakefield 29 Nov 2013, 3:51am

      Tatchell will get us all shot.

  14. Age of 14 would have helped me when I was a kid in 1960. The older guys were always so afraid someone would find out, that it made them really terrible role-models. I knew who I wanted to get together with, and I found them. Too bad it had to all be so secret and illegal.

    1. chris casey 27 Nov 2013, 3:47pm

      Sorry to say but you were clearly abused.

      1. Sorry, but I was abused by my stupid mother when she’d hit me. “Bill” didn’t take advantage of me, I knew what was what and what I wanted. Admittedly, I took advantage of him… I tried to use him as a father: turn him into a roll model, when all he was, really, is just another ordinary joe who couldn’t get it on with women. I’d been with other males, I wasn’t virgin about it. I think I acted very normally and he acted very typically. I now think that nobody should be with anyone more than three years older or younger than himself: the advantage Bill had over me was only that sex wasn’t magical for him anymore.

        The point for me, from it all, is that it’s wrong to take advantage of anyone, yes? I took advantage of Bill; he, opportunistically, of me. Are you trying to take advantage of me by turning my story into a little soap-opera? I’m really tired of you straights trying to tell me what being queer is supposed to be like.

        1. I’m not sure about your statement that “nobody should be with anyone more than three years older or younger than himself”.

          If you specifically men for young people (ie: below 20 or so), then I would probably agree with you.

          If you mean ANY couple, then I would have to disagree with you.
          My husband and I have exactly 10 years age difference, and quite honestly it is as though we are the same age. And we’ve been together for just over 10 years now.

          Now, speaking for myself, had I been obliged, when I was 15-16, to only have sex with guys within 3 years of my own age, I would have been incredibly unhappy. I hated younger guys than I, and I had no attraction to guys within my own age range. I always preferred older guys. Of course, I had facial hair when I was 15 and never really had that “young” look. By that I mean that I didn’t look like a little kid.

          1. Certainly, any relationship is possible, even marrying a tree.

  15. By thw same token, we should lower the age of drinking to 12. Afterall, most kids are drinking from that age. Yes Sir.

    1. Midnighter 28 Nov 2013, 8:01pm

      I appreciate you are being facetious, but there are gaping flaws in this comparison.

      In the UK it is already legal for a child of 5+ to drink at home with parental consent, so no change needed.

      Focussing on what happens off the parental radar, if we lowered the age at which alcohol could be legally purchased for or by a child, an understanding of basic economics would allow us to reasonably predict that an increase in availability would lead to an increase in consumption.

      By contrast, a lowering of the age of consent does not suddenly mean that there is “more sex” available for consumption.

      Furthermore, your conflation seems intended to suggest that the net harm to individuals and society arising from under-age sexual activity equates to those of drinking alcohol under-age. I don’t agree this is the case.

      Finally you claim “most kids” are drinking from age 12 – I can find no statistics to remotely support this idea, and so your proposed conclusion isn’t logically valid.

    2. .....Paddyswurds 28 Nov 2013, 8:13pm

      Again, absolutely not The drinking age should be a minimum of 21 and possibly 25. Too too many lives are destroyed by alcohol every year.

  16. .....Paddyswurds 28 Nov 2013, 8:00pm

    Absolutely not. 16 is low enough. If the so called “experts” discover in ten years time that 11 or 12 year olds are sexually active, should they lower the AoC to eleven or twelve. No, they are children and the age should stay at 16 or if any change is needed it should be changed to seventeen. This is the sort of thing taht gets Gay people a bad press and no wonder. wWe have equality now and we should leave it at that and stay out of further discussion on the matter at least until the mainstream raises the subject and it becomes national debate.

    1. Shortly speaking: we should pay for gay marriage with our souls. I’m sorry, I’m not into that kind of deal.

      Sorry for my English.

      1. And so you should be sorry; your English appears only capable of communicating deluded twaddle and hatred.

        If you don’t want to enter into a same sex marriage, then don’t. Its as simple as that.

        1. If you read that I’m against gay marriage, your English is far worse than mine.

          1. Midnighter 8 Dec 2013, 3:27pm

            No, it really isn’t.

            “Shortly speaking” – no such idiom. What you probably meant to say was “in short”.

            Incorrect use of a colon; the (incorrect) idiom you used was not an independent clause.

            “we should pay for gay marriage with our souls”
            Implies that paying with our souls is a penalty for gay marriage. This is a negative sentiment which echoes that of the religious opponents of same-sex marriage.

            “I’m not into that kind of deal”
            The demonstrative pronoun is pointing back to the subject of the prior clause, which is same-sex marriage. You are therefore not “into” same-sex marriage.

            If that wasn’t what you meant to say, then you need to work on your English. In either case you need to work on your attitude.

  17. Jason Strudwick 29 Nov 2013, 9:57am

    No no no.16 years is young enough and an age where most will be able to make an educated decision. Any younger would be wrong on so many levels. Makes me wkndet what agenda people who want this have.

    1. Care to actually explain what these “many levels” are, and why this would be wrong, please?

      Again with the implication that “if you want to lower the age of consent you must be a paedophile” cliché. Do you have an argument to reject the suggestions made to safeguard younger children by legislating for a relative age difference as other countries have successfully done?

      I’ve noticed many opponents of this proposal exhibit a lot of hysteria, and very little discussion of the facts of the issue. You may well be correct in your views, but you haven’t attempted to explain them.

      1. .....Paddyswurds 8 Dec 2013, 8:33pm

        When we were advocating for equal AoC, the bigots and homophobes all shouted that it was a slippery slope and that when we succeeded in that we would be looking to lower it again to 14 or even 12. Starting to look like they may have been right. No I say let children be children until they aren’t. Any 14 year olds and even 15 year olds say they don’t want it changed and that a change isn’t really of any interest to them. If anything I say it should be changed to 17….. Just sayin, like!

        1. Midnighter 9 Dec 2013, 11:41am

          Anyone crying ‘slippery slope’ was again going along with the hysterical conclusion that it was to help paedophiles. This is patent nonsense if you include legislation to limit how much of an age gap is permissible.

          “No I say let children be children until they aren’t.”
          1) No one is forcing people to have sex as soon as they hit legal age
          2) The current law potentially takes a ‘child’ who is suspected of having sex under age and subjects them to the adult world of the legal system, police, publicity etc.

          I agree with your sentiment, but I don’t think in being an ostrich and assuming things are rosy right now is the solution. And then you propose raising the age of consent!

  18. Bud Clark 9 Dec 2013, 3:40pm

    Did any of the negative commenters actually READ the article?

    We have a case going on right now in the US: a 17-year-old girl had an ongoing relationship with a 15-year-old girl. The MINUTE she turned 18, she was arrested (at the behest of the 15-year-old’s parents) and prosecutors threw the BOOK at her: child molestation, statutory rape (sex with an underage person in the US is “rape,” even if it’s consensual). She was summarily tried, convicted and sentenced to MANY years in prison, and forced to register as a sex offender. I believe (I HOPE) the case is on appeal, so there is (probably) no final outcome yet.

    I went through puberty VERY early (age 9); I already knew (from about age 4) that I was gay; I knew what I wanted, and I went out and found it. Nobody coerced me, seduced me, abused me, paid me, or anything of the sort. The sex was with other boys, from my age up through high school age (17 or 18). I was 18 when I had my first experience with an adult.

  19. I think Peter is wrong on this one.

    Yes, I knew what my sexuality was at the age of 14 and even younger than that. I even started an LGBT Youth Group in Tayside and Fife for those between the ages of 13 and 18 years old back in the mid 1980s, however, I was also being abused by the Father of the Church I used to go to up until I remember speaking out and stopping it at the age of 15 years old.

    There is no real need to lower the age of consent – yet there IS a need for proactive, healthy information, advice and guidance regarding love and relationships and other issues surrounding pregnancies, STD’s etc for teenagers.

    1. Midnighter 9 Jan, 11:27am

      You think Peter Tatchell is wrong wrong, and yet you cite an example that proves that considerably HIGHER age of consent laws than at present (age 21 back then) don’t stop child abuse.

      Not only does your example NOT give any reason against lowering the age of consent, but it shows that one of the oft-cited concerns about doing so – child abuse – is irrelevant to the issue since abusers don’t respect the age of consent whatever it is set to.

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