So the debate about the age of consent has reared its head again.
Need I mention that like practically any debate about sex in the media, it ignores the elephant in the room and completely misses the point? Probably not, you probably already know that, but I can't help picking at it.
The latest argument for lowering the age of consent to 15, seems to be that 15 year olds would then find it easier to get sexual health advice. But that's surely an argument for lowering it further, so that any girl of any age finds it easier to get sexual health advice.
I was especially irritated by a discussion which said that in order to cut teenage pregnancies, STI's etc. girls would need to be educated about their right to say no, having high self-esteem etc.
No need for boys to be educated then? No need to let boys know that the absence of no isn't the same as the presence of yes, no need to educate them that if both people aren't fully participating and having loads of fun in a sexual encounter, then you have to stop - if one person looks like they 're not sure they want you to do whatever it is you're doing, you must stop, because otherwise you are at the very least doing sex very badly and at the worst you may be committing a sexual assault up to and including rape? No need to educate them that they aren't entitled to sex, however much they want it and however much they thought they were going to get it that day, no need to educate them about respecting other people's physical and emotional boundaries?
No, no need at all. Just concentrate on educating the girls, because clearly, boys have no role whatsoever to play in ensuring that sexual relationships are fun, happy and consensual. It's all down to the girls. They're the gatekeepers. They're the ones our educational efforts need to target.
In a culture where 1 in 4 women will experience either sexual assault or rape and where most of that happens when they are young and inexperienced; where coerced, unwanted sexual activity is so widespread as to be a rite of passage when you're a teenager, it still appears to have escaped most commentators, that the best way to stop unwanted sex, is to educate potential perpetrators rather than potential victims. Not one commentator that I heard today acknowledged how much pressure teenage boys put teenage girls under to have penetrative sex they don't want. There is some oblique acknowledgement of the problem; Professor Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health and the dude who raised the Age of Consent issue again today, touched on the issue of how prevalent coercion is in teenage relationships, but in a safe, no-naming-the-agent sort of way. "What we are seeing is more physical abuse and mental abuse in relationships". Interesting. Who is committing that abuse? Do we think teenage girls are inflicting physical and mental abuse on boys, do we think they're coercing or blackmailing boys into sexual activity boys don't want at the same rate as boys are girls? I wouldn't put money on it.
No-one suggested that it might be more useful to teach boys not to be rapists rather than raising girl's self-esteem. I'm not against raising girl's self-esteem, that's an excellent idea and I'm all in favour. But high self-esteem doesn't stop you being coerced, blackmailed or forced into sex you don't want. The only thing that will do that, is to cut the odds of meeting someone who will do that to you and the way you cut those odds, is to ensure that there are fewer of those types about. The way to ensure there are fewer of them about, is to educate them into not being that type of boy. But the people the media chooses to quote, don't seem to have cottoned on to that.