Home > Children, Sex Education, Teenagers > ‘Lower age of consent’ says gay rights campaigner

‘Lower age of consent’ says gay rights campaigner

August 27th, 2010

Now here’s a good idea. (Heavy sarcasm)

by Carolyn Moynihan

A high profile British homosexual activist wants the age of sexual consent lowered to 14, on the basis that currently underage sex “is mostly consenting, safe and fun”.

Peter Tatchell plugged for this change in America in one of a series of articles on “dangerous ideas” on the website Big Think recently.

Dangerous, certainly, but also just a little bit surprising in view of this year of paedophilia scandals and his campaign against Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK — one of the reasons being the Pope’s alleged “cover up” of clerical sexual abuse of children?

By a tortured logic Tatchell claims that a lower age of consent is “the best way” to protect young people from abuse. His arguments boil down to three:

* The kids are doing it anyway.

* Current laws criminalise teenagers.

* Young people under 16 have the right to decide when to have sex.

Actually, in making the last claim Tatchell puts no lower age limit. This fits with his recipe for protecting kids from peer pressure and paedophiles: “giving them frank, high quality sex and relationship education from an early age”. As we have noted elsewhere on this site recently, for some people that means nursery school.

In the end, his case seems to rest on a view of sex as the driving force and highest achievement of human life — from “an early age”. It is a view that some adults may find convenient but which common sense rejects as contrary to the good of children and society. Thus the editors of Big Think conclude:

Why We Should Reject This

Of course there will always be underage people who have sex, but that doesn’t mean the law should condone it. Sex is a very complicated part of human behavior that is too nuanced for young people to understand. In fact, studies have shown that people, especially girls, who have sex at a young age often regret it. One study in New Zealand found that 70% of girls who had sex before the age of 16 wished they hadn’t done so. In a column for Telegraph, writer David Lindsay argues, “sex is for people who can cope with the consequences, physical and otherwise. In a word, adults.”

Found here.

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  1. Heidi
    August 28th, 2010 at 19:25 | #1

    I support age of consent laws that punish adults who have sex with children. I do not support laws that punish the children themselves, or an older teen who is less than a few years older than the younger one. I got pregnant at 15. My boyfriend at the time was 17. The idea that I didn’t (or couldn’t) consent is ridiculous. I knew exactly what I was doing. But I really dislike the implication of this article’s title as one that suggests that gay rights activists are trying to encourage kids to have sex or are trying to lower consent laws for nefarious purposes. It contains undertones of the despicable and discredited slanderous claims that gays are pedophiles. And as the mother of a teenager, I fully support comprehensive sex education.

  2. Marty
    August 29th, 2010 at 09:19 | #2

    It wasn’t that long ago when the U.K. lowered it to 16. I remember the pictures of the party they threw afterwards — with Elton John (sir?) performing on stage with go-go boys dressed as cub scouts.

    Vile and disgusting.

  3. Jose G.
    August 30th, 2010 at 00:49 | #3

    “It contains undertones of the despicable and discredited slanderous claims that gays are pedophiles.”

    Sex with underage males is, to some extent, part of homosexual culture. Among homosexual men, coming of age stories involving sex with adults are MUCH more acceptable than they are among heterosexuals.

    Kevin Jennings being but one example.

  4. Heidi
    August 30th, 2010 at 10:57 | #4

    Jose, that is BS. Plenty of heterosexual ADULT men have sex with underage girls. Some people are disgusting pedophiles. Sexual orientation has NOTHING whatsoever to do with that. Just look at the market for “barely legal” pornography for heterosexual men. Hello? To say that this is an issue belonging to “homosexual culture” is a total lie. Not to mention that there is no such thing as some ubiquitous “homosexual culture.” LGBT people are as varied as straight people. Some are liberal, some are conservative. Some are monogamous, some are not. Of all of the gay men that I know, not ONE of them believes that it is acceptable to have sex with underage children. And if I met someone who did, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, I would say that he or she is sick and needs some professional help. Stop spreading lies about gay people. Straight men are just as likely to engage in this vile practice.

  5. Jose G.
    August 30th, 2010 at 17:17 | #5

    Heidi, in short, nonsense.

    Yes there are adult heterosexual men who have sex with underage girls, and adult homosexual men who do not have sex with anyone under the age of consent. But the acceptance of sex between adult and teenager (note that I didn’t say anything about “children”) is clearly more favorable among homosexuals than it is among heterosexuals. While heterosexual men are still seen as predatory, sexual activity between adult homosexuals and teen boys is seen more as a rite of passage by many.

    Is there an organization you know that advocates for sex between heterosexual men and teenage girls? It’s rather stunning not only that NAMBLA exists, but that it hasn’t been shouted down by homosexual men. Likewise, it’s hard to fathom that a federal official would have advocated for or nodded at reports of adult heterosexual men having sex with teenage girls and still be able to keep his job. Yet I would submit that Kevin Jennings keeps his job because that type of sexual activity is more the norm.

    Again, I didn’t say anything about sexual orientation creating some predilection towards this type of activity — but that the varied cultures respond much differently to these acts.

  6. Sean
    August 30th, 2010 at 18:51 | #6

    Why should homosexual men be responsible for “shouting down” NAMBLA? There’s a whole television program called “Dateline” that documents heterosexuals preying on underage girls! Why don’t straight men “shout down” sex with teenage girls?

  7. Jose G.
    August 30th, 2010 at 21:21 | #7

    So to be clear: we’re comparing a show that increases the shame and highlights the criminal penalties for those who engage in a certain illegal behavior…with an organization that encourages and desires to legalize a certain illegal behavior?

    And yet it’s somehow controversial that there are strict taboos against heterosexual men having sex with teenage girls whereas it is more acceptable for a homosexual man to have sex with a teenage boy?

  8. Joe
    August 30th, 2010 at 22:03 | #8

    Sean, they do. That’s why there’s a whole television program called “Dateline” that exposes such behavior. If, on the other hand, Dateline was a man-girl dating service, you can bet that straight men would indeed shout it down.

    I think most people are more likely to view males as the aggressors and women as the pursued (and/or victimized) in analyzing sexual situations. For example, Fox News runs periodic stories about female teachers who sleep with male students, and it’s very much in a “nod and wink” vein. In contrast, when male teachers sleep with female students, it’s (rightly) viewed as predatory. The logic seems to go: the teenage boy obviously wanted it; the teenage girl was obviously a victim. Frankly, I think that this is wrong — regardless of whether the teenager wants a sexual relationship or not, the adult is supposed to act like a grown-up, and not give in to every sexual urge. Consent shouldn’t be the only criteria.

    Apply the above to gay and lesbian relationships. A grown man with a gay teenage boy is less likely to arose anger amongst homosexuals precisely because one assumes he could stick up for himself, and that he must have wanted this contact. Likewise, a grown woman with a lesbian teenage girl is less likely to arose anger amongst homosexuals because the grown woman is less likely to be viewed as an aggressive, dominant party — as opposed to a grown man in the same position. Because the sexual coercion associated with masculinity isn’t present, one’s more likely to assume that the contact was consensual.

    All of that can be conceded without even considered the GLBT subculture(s) at all, which could add additional elements (e.g., whether same-sex partners are more likely to view their contact as a “rite of passage” into manhood/womanhood).

  9. August 30th, 2010 at 23:46 | #9

    When he was Belgium’s Vice Premier, Elio Di Rupo was caught in a controversy over whether his promiscuous life included having sexual relations with underage boys. The Belgian government soon resolved the controversy by lowering the age of consent from 16 to 14.

  10. Heidi
    August 31st, 2010 at 11:28 | #10

    If you bothered to read any mainstream publications geared toward the gay community, you would learn very quickly that NAMBLA is a discredited organization. It is NOT more acceptable for a teenage boy to have sex with an adult male. I don’t know where you get your information, but clearly it’s not from gay people.

  11. Leland
    August 31st, 2010 at 12:58 | #11

    Actually, the only reason the International Lesbian and Gay Association expelled NAMBLA (and two of at least three other pedophile organizations that were members in good standing with ILGA at the time) in 1994 was in an attempt to avoid losing consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

  12. Leland
    August 31st, 2010 at 13:15 | #12

    And do be sure to read NAMBLA’s response to the ILGA’s “…request [for] NAMBLA to resign…”. (Linked on the newgon.com page at http://newgon.com/prd/hist/ILGAexp/NAMBLAtoILGA.html)

    It turns out that “…NAMBLA delegates to ILGA helped write ILGA’s constitution…” as well as its “…official positions on the sexual rights of youth…”.

  13. nerdygirl
    August 31st, 2010 at 14:16 | #13

    I always thought NAMBLA was the PETA of the gay rights world. No one with any sense takes it seriously.

  14. Leland
    August 31st, 2010 at 14:37 | #14

    I always thought NAMBLA was the PETA of the gay rights world. No one with any sense takes it seriously.
    Yeah, why would anyone take pedophiles seriously?

  15. Leland
    August 31st, 2010 at 14:47 | #15

    Maybe you could assure Jeffrey Curley’s parents that they needn’t take NAMBLA seriously:

  16. Heidi
    August 31st, 2010 at 16:03 | #16

    nerdygirl, no one with any sense does take it seriously, In fact, the only time the organization comes up in conversation is when social conservatives try to malign LGBT people by linking a push for equal rights to pedophilia. It’s the whole “save the children” crap that we’ve been hearing for decades. Just like most adult heterosexuals, most adult homosexuals and bisexuals are NOT interested in children or teenagers. To suggest otherwise is to lie about gay people as a class. But hey, when have social conservatives been above lying and fearmongering to promote their agenda? All you have to do is look at the recent ads from the Prop 8 campaign. They like to suggest that we “recruit” children to be gay, that we’re pedophiles, that we’re harmful to children, etc. It’s defamation, plain and simple.

    This is slightly unrelated, but when you get the chance, check out the latest People magazine (9/6/10 issue). It features 3 families headed by lesbian couples in which one of the partners was artificially inseminated. One woman was inseminated by her partner’s brother’s sperm, one by a close male friend of the family, and one by an anonymous donor. The kids are quoted in the features too, as are the donors. Not surprisingly, the kids were all happy with their moms and families and weren’t pining away for donor daddy. The kids in the first family had a relationship with their donor, but strictly thought of him as their uncle, which, of course, he is. The child in the second family had a lovely relationship with the donor based on the friendship between him and her moms, and the adult child in the third family was thrilled to meet her donor (with the support of her moms) to satisfy her curiosity, but she made it clear that this man was not her father. In fact, she was quoted as saying, “I know who my parents are,” meaning her moms. The kids really ARE alright.

  17. Heidi
    August 31st, 2010 at 16:08 | #17

    Leland, your own links refute your claim. According to what I read, NAMBLA was expelled because it was considered to be a pedophilia organization, and opposition to the organization began as early as 1979. No self-respecting LGBT person supports pedophilia. And while what happened to Jeffrey Curley was horrific, many children are killed every year by heterosexual men. Most children who are the victims of child sexual abuse are abused by male heterosexual family members. Stop spreading lies about gay people.

  18. Jose G.
    August 31st, 2010 at 17:32 | #18

    1. Pedophilia is one issue. Normalization of sex between adults and teenagers is another, entirely separate issue. Efforts to lower the age of consent don’t target, for instance, age 6 or 8 — but the teenage years.

    2. So People magazine found a few couples who deem themselves happy? Many of us don’t find this entirely surprising. Why don’t magazines like this, however, do detailed stories of those who yearn for a father or feel a deep sense of longing? Let’s be clear — manufacturing children for adult reasons often does have a lasting effect on children. Just because those involved in such a relationship can justify it, one thing is always clear — the child is deprived of a father or mother because of the desires of the other adults. When children in difficult upbringings are deprived of a father, we call it a tragedy. When that situation is created ON PURPOSE, we call it adult choice.

  19. Jose G.
    August 31st, 2010 at 17:58 | #19

    One more point. Heidi, you said:

    “The kids in the first family had a relationship with their donor, but strictly thought of him as their uncle, which, of course, he is.”

    Not so fast. An uncle is the brother of the child’s mother. The child’s mother is the birth mother. The child’s father, as you pointed out, is the brother of the mother’s partner. The mother’s partner is not the mother, but the partner of the mother. Have you simply declared, or allowed People magazine to declare that the child has two mothers? And if we do that, could we not have three, or more? Or perhaps temporary mothers?

    Or have you simply declared that anyone with an emotional attachment to the child can call themselves mother? If so, need it be based on gender? Need it be based upon a generational quality, or can grandmothers be declared to be a mother?

    At some point, the terms are tortured beyond meaning. But just because those in People magazine have engaged in fiction does not mean that we must abide by it.

  20. Leland
    August 31st, 2010 at 18:15 | #20

    Yes, it’s true that only between 25% and 35% of males who molest target children of the same sex. But homosexual males are somewhere between 1% and 2% of all men. (You do the math.)

    And if NAMBLA was always so unwelcome at ILGA, then why did it take 15 years for them to be expelled? (And even then only when ILGA’s standing at the UN was at stake…)

  21. Marty
    August 31st, 2010 at 18:48 | #21

    Can anyone show me a group of activist heterosexual men who are advocating lowering the age of consent so that they can have sex with young girls? Anyone?

    Examples of gay activists advocating for this are rampant.

  22. John
    August 31st, 2010 at 20:32 | #22

    Oddly enough, though you claim that you knew what you were doing with underage sexuality, your comments suggest strongly otherwise. I would suggest, in fact, that you did not know then, do not know now, and even wish to remain uneducated with regard to what sexuality is and what it is not.

    Your comments make it quite plain that you consider the gift of sexuality to be mostly a plaything, something to be used as you see fit. Or something to be defended when others willfully misuse the same gift.

    I pity you and your teen-ager. Comprehensive sex education will not solve your problem, much as you will deny it.

  23. nerdygirl
    August 31st, 2010 at 20:44 | #23

    I’d say examples for this are no more rampant then examples of “christians” acting like the Westboro Baptist Church. Like the WBC, despite fringe elements making up a relatively small percentage of any large group, they get the most exposure because they are 1. The loudest. 2. Controversial, thus more able to generate news sales and ratings increases. But hey, let’s pay attention to the crazies.

    Here’s one.

    Legislators! A court system getting slammed with parents complaining about the criminalization of their horny teenagers for consensually banging other horny teenagers!

    I want no part of a system that criminalizes a 14-15 year old for having consensual sex with another 14-15 year old. But I also don’t want any part in a system thats okay with a 35 year old having sex with 14 year old. Surely there’s a compromise in there somewhere.

    @leland- Jeffery Curley’s case is a tragic one, sadly there is little to no evidence that suggests the actual organization, though despicable in it’s goals, in any way encouraged or caused his stalking and murder.

  24. Heidi
    August 31st, 2010 at 21:17 | #24

    If ANYONE on this site is interested in FACTS, not falsehoods, here are some sites to consider:


    The vast majority of child sexual abuse is committed by heterosexual men against female victims. Even among male offenders who molest boys, the majority identify as heterosexuals. Not all child molesters are pedophiles, who are individuals that are specifically interested in children and are unlikely to be able to have a sexual relationship with an adult partner of either sex. As for child molesters, most of them are heterosexual men who molest children they know, or who are in their own family! This myth about gay men being more likely to be pedophiles, child molesters, or attracted to teenage boys is just that: a myth. No CREDIBLE study supports the conclusion that gay men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children or to seduce teenagers. Just like the normal and healthy heterosexual, the normal and healthy homosexual is attracted to ADULTS.

    Marty, you apparently haven’t read any anti-feminist blogs lately. Those men are forever arguing that age of consent laws should be lowered and that the only reason we have them is because older ugly women want to prevent heterosexual men from having any fun. Here is just one slimy example (many more exist):


    I just have never met another group of people who are so capable of believing ideology and lies over FACTS. Come on people, educate yourselves!

  25. Jose G.
    August 31st, 2010 at 22:49 | #25

    Heidi, you’ve repeatedly charged that those of us who disagree with you are dealing in falsehood, engaging in slander, and are likely not to know any gays or lesbians.

    Feel free to maintain whatever preconceived notion you wish, but some of us have come to understand a culture through friends and family — and by asking questions of those who are comfortable enough to answer. In short, we love ALL of these individuals, and yet we feel bound not to ratify “whatever”, but to plead that there are some behaviors and fashions that lead to destruction.

    You’re familiar with, I assume, terms like “chicken”, “chickenhawk”, “twink”, and “boi”. There are clearly patterns and roles in homosexual culture that raise serious concerns. You might be able to compare these types of terms with similar ones in heterosexual culture, but I would just ask, are you serious?

    The term “Daddy”, for instance, describes an older homosexual male who desires sex with much younger men, if not teen boys. This type of role is so heavily inscribed within homosexual culture that it is nearly normalized. It perhaps remains with a touch of shame, but in reality it exists with more of a demonic, devouring presence that is clearly understood and basically inseparable from the culture. This type of term appears within the lexicon of the community, in dating/sex partner ads, and is not a slur but an archetype.

    To compare these types of roles with similar ones in among heterosexuals — and claim they are nearly equal or similar — is just hogwash.

  26. Heidi
    September 1st, 2010 at 15:54 | #26

    I don’t know where you are getting your information or stereotypes Jose, but it appears that you know a whole lot more about gay subculture than most gays…

    In fact, I think you are assuming that what occurs on the extreme fringes of gay society (if there even is such an idea) is indicative of the entire class. Typical conservative tactic. It’s like taking pictures of the leather men and the drag queens at a gay pride parade and using them to represent the event while ignoring all of the normal families that comprise the vast majority of participants.

    I suppose that this means that we can judge heterosexuals based on the beliefs and practices of the minority of them, huh?

  27. Jose G.
    September 1st, 2010 at 17:20 | #27

    “but it appears that you know a whole lot more about gay subculture than most gays…”

    I sense a slur. One that I would not engage in.

    “I think you are assuming that what occurs on the extreme fringes of gay society (if there even is such an idea) is indicative of the entire class”

    Am I assuming that? Or is that your read? I said at the beginning that I am not arguing a predilection. Nor am I assuming that all/most/majority engage in such. No, ma’am. I discussed that certain attitudes might be more acceptable, and have supported this. You are free, of course, to disregard any of it.

    “Typical conservative tactic.”

    And what typical tactics might you engage in? I had assumed you were arguing from personal experience combined with reason. Yet if we’re to degrade to personal insults and name calling, feel free to tell us a bit more about you.

    “I suppose that this means that we can judge heterosexuals based on the beliefs and practices of the minority of them”

    Again, that was not what we were engaged in, yet you show a capability to such judgment yourself.

  28. nerdygirl
    September 1st, 2010 at 20:13 | #28


    If there’s grass on the field, play ball.
    Hard candy.

  29. Chairm
    September 2nd, 2010 at 13:42 | #29

    Heidi, what is the difference, really, between your version of consent for teenager-teenager sexual behavior and consent for teenager-adult sexual behavior? It is not the behavior, right? How is the capacity to consent, in fact, different in the two scenarios such that within your view of sexuality one is okay and one is sick?

    In short, what is the actual basis for your strongly stated opinion?

  30. Ginny
    September 3rd, 2010 at 16:33 | #30


    I always thought NAMBLA was the PETA of the gay rights world. No one with any sense takes it seriously.

    Yeah, why would anyone take pedophiles seriously?

    Actually, I take any whack-job extremist group seriously, whether it’s PETA, NAMBLA, ELF, or FLDS. I don’t take their ideas seriously–some of PETA’s demands make great fodder for stand-up comedy. But we can’t just laugh off and disregard the organizations themselves; we need to oppose them, expose them, work against them, so they don’t end up enacting their agendas while we aren’t looking. (Or in the case of the Earth Liberation Front, blowing up and burning down millions of dollars worth of property, and endangering lives.)

    If the mainstream LGBT community disagrees with NAMBLA, that’s great. But please, don’t just ignore them.

  31. December 26th, 2010 at 02:49 | #31

    Chairm :Heidi, what is the difference, really, between your version of consent for teenager-teenager sexual behavior and consent for teenager-adult sexual behavior? It is not the behavior, right? How is the capacity to consent, in fact, different in the two scenarios such that within your view of sexuality one is okay and one is sick?
    In short, what is the actual basis for your strongly stated opinion?

    Why on earth are you trying to reason with these crazy bible thumping freaks? They feel rage and jealousy when they see an older man with a beautiful, young girl and will therefore legislate against it. You may as well argue with the wind.

    In the words of the great Arthur Schopenhauer :

    With young girls Nature seems to have had in view what, in the language of the drama, is called a striking effect; as for a few years she dowers them with a wealth of beauty and is lavish in her gift of charm, at the expense of all the rest of their life; so that during those years they may capture the fantasy of some man to such a degree that he is hurried away into undertaking the honorable care of them, in some form or other, as long as they live—a step for which there would not appear to be any sufficient warranty if reason only directed his thoughts. Accordingly, Nature has equipped woman, as she does all her creatures, with the weapons and implements requisite for the safeguarding of her existence, and for just as long as it is necessary for her to have them. Here, as elsewhere, Nature proceeds with her usual economy; for just as the female ant, after fecundation, loses her wings, which are then superfluous, nay, actually a danger to the business of breeding; so, after giving birth to one or two children, a woman generally loses her beauty; probably, indeed, for similar reasons.”

    In other words, marriage is a trick played on men by nature (through women and religion). Now that men are increasingly not falling for it, women have to resort to even dirtier tricks.

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