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Socialist Review, May 1994

Derek Howl


Sex, laws and consent


From Socialist Review, No. 175, May 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Richard Purdie writes (April SR) to reject the idea that an age of consent is ‘of no use’. But his arguments are confused. Richard rejects the idea that individual cases need to be dealt with by looking at the circumstances of each case. To do so, he implies, would give greater discretion to judges and other agencies. However true this is, it does not amount to a defence of a legal age of consent. Who exactly enforces that? Is it not precisely the same people Richard is concerned about?

Secondly Richard insists (correctly, but abstractly) about the differences in power between adults and children and that the law has backed physical assaults on children. Precisely: the age of consent has done nothing to ‘protect’ children in this sense.

Thirdly Richard uses a traditional ploy of child protectionism by citing the extreme example of an adult and an 18 month old. In what way has a legal age of consent made this more or less likely to happen? Richard’s example fails totally to give any arguments for an age of consent. He should look at the history of child protectionism and how it developed as a class measure of control.

As he says, and where we can agree, socialism is necessary for the young to develop in human freedom. Laws provide no protection, and will be used to penalise the young themselves.


Derek Howl

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