Are You a Rapist?
There is a period in the life of a person where he or she is legally defined as no longer a child, but still not past the 'age of consent'. What this means is that society has declared that people of this age (usually between the ages of 12 and 18) can not understand the consequences of having sex, and therefore even if he or she consents to it, the adult, other party is guilty of taking advantage of a weakness and therefore is effectively guilty of legal, not physical, rape.
Which is all very logical and moral but there are a few problematic issues here:
Exactly at what age does a person become fully aware of the consequences of having sex and who decides this? This issue is obviously very subjective and the age of consent in different countries (even first world countries) varies between 12 and 20. A 13 year old in Spain may look like a child to USA citizens, but a man legally having sex with a 16 year old in New Jersey looks like a pedophile to a citizen of Tunisia.
Is there a switch that gets flicked on a girl's 16th or 18th birthday that suddenly gives her awareness and responsibility she didn't have a day before? Obviously not. But the law, written down by fathers or mothers wishing to protect their teenage children, needs to dogmatically declare the boundary somewhere. This law has such a strong effect, that our perceptions of teenagers are altered so that we see 15 year olds as lacking awareness, whereas Spaniards see them as young adults.
Another issue is the definition of 'consequences'. It can't mean that 15 year olds aren't aware that having sex may get them pregnant or give them diseases. You would have to grow up in a cave not to be aware of these things. And recklessness is a trait shared by people of all ages and is not exclusive to teenagers.
So this must mean the law refers to more subtle matters: Responsibility in case something does go wrong, willpower to make the right decisions, understanding of sex and when it is correct to have it, being able to tell when you are being manipulated, and an understanding of the effects of sex on relationships.
Now I can go in an obvious but controversial direction with this and argue that the rare teenager may be mature enough to handle this, but this isn't interesting. What's much more fascinating is that I know plenty of 30 year olds who wouldn't pass these tests. How long does it really take before adults can tell they are being used? How long before they act responsibly and have the willpower to be consistent with what they know? How many ever reach an understanding of sex, its full consequences and its power? Who says that a superficial knowledge of how to use and control sex is enough? And what about having sex with people under the influence of alcohol, drugs or even strong emotions?
One can argue that responsibility is the key issue and that even if adults make mistakes, at least they are mature enough to handle it. But this isn't always the case either. If all adults were mature about their sexual decisions, they wouldn't need so much revenge and therapy after their errors in judgement.
So why don't more people look at a 26 year old after they get to know them and think "this person has not yet reached the age of consent"? In fact, why not declare casual sex as illegal since in this case one obviously did not have enough time to determine whether one's partner has reached the age of consent?
If reaching this kind of awareness is so crucial for society that one gets labeled a pedophile and gets put away in jail for decades even though she said yes, then it would be wise to understand exactly why we are putting these people in jail. I'm not saying that this law should be revisited. The law does the best it can by covering the majority of cases without having insanely tricky and ridiculous lawsuits. But the law should be enforcing our moral standards, not replacing them. In theory as well as in practice, there should be no difference in our deliberations between having sex with a 15 year old and a 25 year old.
As an example, women often claim that men are overgrown children yet they sleep with them nevertheless. I rest my case.