Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Acceptable Dating Range and age of consent

So last week a leading barrister claimed the age of consent should be lowered to 13 in an attempt to move with the times.
Does she seriously think this will do anything other than decriminalize paedophilia and give licence to predators like Nabakov's Clare Quilty? Already those children who ignore the law regarding age of consent are rarely prosecuted or even punished, being as they are too young to be considered responsible for their actions, so it will not protect them in any way.
The common argument for lowered age of consent is that once one hits puberty "the body is ready", and it kind of is, or at least is on the way. But that's not the sole reason we insist on a lower limit. These individuals are forming a personality, an identity. They are just peeking out from the parental wing and shaping themselves. Puberty is where most of us discover our own interests differ from those around us, where we stop viewing adults as mighty infallible gods and realise they're people and so are we. We are learning the intricacies of interpersonal relationships and all too often fall victim to those just a little more experienced than ourselves (who didn't fall for some con or prank in school?). Even among those we consider fully formed the less worldly are often tricked by the more. A popular erotic novel doing the rounds in recent months is such a tale, a young woman tempted into a world she couldn't have anticipated by a rich, handsome and far more knowing individual for his own interests.
But emotional immaturity is not the only foil to the proposal. We must also consider possible repercussions should the inevitable happen and intercourse achieve it's biological goal. One child is unable to support another. First, they are not given a minimum wage which assumes they will live on it, much less one which assumes they may need to. Second, they are unable to work the same hours as an adult, being compelled by law to fill 5 days a week in other occupation. Third, even were they supported financially such that they still managed to attend all their classes the stress of an infant dependent at such a crucial time of life can only hurt their studies, holding them back further down the road. That is not to say these individuals would necessarily suffer by having a child, or that the child would suffer by having them as a parent, only that the struggles would be greater than for one with the time and legal backing of adulthood.
Of course, there isn't really a set age where one stops being a child and is suddenly an adult. I've known actual infants with a remarkable maturity and grown men who act like children. Of all the measures of intelligence and intellect pure age is one of the most foolish, behind only arbitrary nonsense like shoe size or skin colour. But it seems there is no way more accessible than a simple numerical check, so I propose a simple modification to it. Rather than measure in absolutes (a system which allows an octogenarian to seduce someone who was 15 just a day ago) I suggest we measure according to the Acceptable Dating Range, commonly defined as the ages where it is not "creepy" to be dating, see below the geek line for actual numbers. I believe with this system we would limit the disparity of emotional maturity in relationships and thus ensure no one partner is doomed to be an accessory, while also protecting young couples without enabling child molesters.
The usual arithmetic is to take one's own age, half it and add 7 to find the lower limit or deduct 7 and double for the upper, so a subject aged 16 could date anyone from 15 to 18. The theoretical lower limit for any dating is therefore 14, the point where the upper and lower limit meet at one's own age. Anything below 14 has the upper limit value less than the lower, and as such 0 potential partners.
Graph: http://fooplot.com/plot/26t367mrfl

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