Monday, January 6, 2014

The History of the Age of Consent

I see it over and over again.  The idea that the age of consent must be there for a reason.  That whoever put those laws in place must have known what they were doing. 

The law is not a divine commandment.  The people who write laws are not unknowable wise men with inscrutable wisdom far divorced from the ability of the common man to understand.  The entire point of studying history is so that we can follow the progression, the whys and wherefores that lead us to the world we live in today. 

The age of consent came into being in the days of women as property.  Marriage was a business transaction between the groom and the bride's father, with the groom paying a bride-price to her father.  A virgin bride commanded a high price, and thus anyone who had sex with a man's daughter was literally diminishing the value of his property.  The age of consent was a way of protecting the investment, not protecting the person. 

Come the turn of the 20th century, a group of religious conservatives, terrified of the idea of women in the workplace, lobbied hard for the age of consent to be raised to its current level.  Their writings are still around explaining their concerns.  To summarize, they were afraid that women working outside the home might meet men and want to have sex without getting married.  They used the age of consent to push their social agenda.  That's why to this day there are still states which have exemptions in their ages of consent if the parents consent, or if the couple are married. 

After that, the age of consent was fiddled around with to discriminate against homosexuals.  Ages of consent were made different for different depending on the genders of the partners and the acts performed.  It was a way of hurting gays where legislation couldn't be passed to ban such activities entirely.  The famous Stonewall riots were partially a response to this kind of discrimination. 

The age of consent has never been the well-reasoned compromise between the twin noble ideals of individual sexual liberty and the protection of the vulnerable that its supporters claim it to be.  The age of consent is a historical accident built on a foundation of social mores our culture rejected long ago, and discrimination that even the bigots of our day at least pretend to be ashamed of. 

It's long past time we wrote a law that reflects what informed consent actually means.  Long past time we actually had the reasoned discourse that everyone who blindly accepts the age of consent as it stands assumed happened at some unspecified point in the past. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Origin of Pedophiles

Let's start by defining our terms. A pedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children. For those of you just joining us at this blog, I am a pedophile.

People have been putting forward ideas about why we exist for ages. Usually with the idea that if they know our origin, they can get to the business of snuffing us out of existence once and for all. Still, we can't just halt the advancement of human knowledge because genocidal monsters would attempt to make use of it. Better to just recognize that's going to be their intent and press forward with science aware of that risk, in my opinion.

The reason we know as little as we do about pedophilia's origin ties into the fact that there is a vocal minority intent on murdering us in the streets. It's the same reason that the interesting theories on the origin of homosexuality have come about only very recently. Because it's only very recently that homosexuals could participate in such research without putting their lives in danger.

All the current science relating to the origin and nature of pedophilia is hindered by the fact that the samples are heavily biased. Even when researchers take care to utilize phalometric devices in an attempt to confirm that the child molesters they've got in their prison sample are actually attracted to children, they're still dealing with individuals with complicating differences from the general population, and unknown sample biases that will differentiate them from the general prison population outside their sexual response. Of course, that's when the researchers bother to notice that pedophiles and child molesters aren't the same thing, which is not as common as you'd expect for people explicitly conducting research in this area.

Lay psychology using terms like "cycle of abuse" is a particular bad offender in terms of conflating pedophiles with child molesters. One can make an argument for or against "cycle of abuse" as an explanation for some child molesters, but acting as though it has anything to do with the origin of pedophilia is misguided at best. For those of you fond of anecdotes, I'm a pedophile, and was never molested.

Identifying a genetic connection is difficult with current sampling techniques, given all the noise involved with trying to tease out closeted sexual orientations and using prison samples. One of my family members is in prison on child pornography charges (though given what counts as child pornography, no guarantee that has anything to do with pedophilia). Might be coincidence, which is why anecdotes aren't data, but it is enough to make me lean in that direction in the absence of good evidence.

But really, the bottom line is, we'll likely never have good answers as to why pedophiles exist until it's safe enough for us to come out en-mass. At that point, science can get to work doing the research and answering the interesting questions.