June 29th 2020
I remember taking part in the members’ poll last year when this unusual issue came up. I later discussed it with Anne Marie Waters herself and some older For Britain members at a meeting we had in Plymouth that summer (unfortunately, having to miss the opportunity to heckle some Remoaner rallies that day!). I voted to keep the age of consent at sixteen and argued at the meeting that it can be as low as fourteen or fifteen in European countries known for being socially conservative. Given the war on drugs has failed, I didn’t feel optimistic about going into a war on teen sex. However, I accepted how the membership voted and have actually been won round by the policy. Having thought about it, I’ve realised that I have my own reasons, as a young person, to advocate for raising the age of consent to eighteen – and after schooling scandals, such as the recent example in Hull, where sex education for pre-teens has been particularly inappropriate and explicit, I believe it’s something we should be talking about.
For a bit of background information, the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 states that in order to be considered legally competent to consent to sex, a person must be sixteen or over, irrelevant of gender or sexual orientation. In the context of reality, the law generally isn’t used against high school sweethearts getting frisky when their parents aren’t looking – as Anne Marie pointed out in her video on the subject, whatever the consent age is, it isn’t enforceable in this way. It exists to prevent perverted older people taking advantage of impressionable teenagers.
The arguments I would make for raising the age of sexual consent are the same ones I would make against lowering the voting age. I remember when I was fifteen, general election candidates took part in a rather amusing school assembly. The Green Party candidate, Diana Moore, made her opening speech about “equality” and her desire to get more women into parliament. When the issue of lowering the voting age to sixteen came up, she quickly jumped on the e-word in the hope of winning round some schoolchildren who couldn’t vote either way.
The truth is, when it comes to different age group, people are objectively not equal in many respects. Scientifically, sixteen-year-olds will not be as mentally developed as their older peers. It’s a simple fact that a young person is not equal to an older person when it comes to life experience, just as a very elderly person generally won’t be able to stand up on public transport as can someone in their prime. The same logic should apply when it comes to sex.
Ben Bradshaw, the Blairite Labour MP for Exeter, and Claire Wright, the “progressive” anti-Brexit independent councillor and parliamentary candidate for neighbouring East Devon, at least elaborate a little on why they support lowering the voting age. The classic argument is that you can leave school at sixteen, but given that young people are usually encouraged to stay in some form of education, such as college or sixth form, it’s a non-point. When I was in college, I had a job working in a homeless shelter; this shaped my outlook on life and my political views before I could vote, and I think this is an important transition stage.
Technically, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can get married, but in England and Wales they need parental consent, which illustrates that in the eyes of the law they are not fully capable of making such life decisions. Both voting and sex should fall into that category. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can sign up for the armed forces – but that also requires parental permission, and they cannot be sent to the frontline like those aged eighteen and over.
Often, when I have these conversations with young people in Exeter, I put it like this: if you’re not old enough to buy a beer (eighteen), then you’re not old enough to vote; by that same logic, surely you’re not old enough to consent either. While the law currently states that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are not old enough to drink responsibly, but are old enough to have sex, we perhaps risk sending young people potentially harmful mixed messages.
I remember watching the young people’s BBC Three discussion show “Free Speech” (which bore more resemblance to mob-rule when controversial contributors such as Tommy Robinson and James Delingpole were on the programme) when panellists were discussing whether or not to lower the age of consent after a scandal involving a secondary school teacher and a fifteen-year-old student of his. Similar calls have been made over the years by barristers and public health experts. I can’t find the video, but from memory, the panellists were overwhelmingly against the idea, stressing the fact that if it were to be lowered once, it could be lowered again, and sex would become more and more normal the younger you were. If the age of consent is more of a moral guideline than an enforced law, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who sleep together willingly will most likely still be able to do so if it is raised. It’s no secret that there can be a lot of pressure on even younger teenagers to lose their virginity, and changing those moral guidelines could help alleviate it.
Throughout our country’s history, the age of sexual consent has been progressively raised. In the Middle Ages, in law this was just twelve and technically only applied to girls. It took six hundred years for it to be raised to thirteen, until the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 made it sixteen. Based on our past, it would appear that the rightful and natural course of progress is towards raising the age of consent. From child beauty pageants, to drag queen story time, to schools teaching young children about pornography and self-stimulation, the sexualisation of children is real and warrants a political pushback. With reasonable proposals such as this one, the For Britain Movement can provide that option for concerned and protective parents.
For Britain – Exeter