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Debate Guide: The kids do not want it

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While young people are never consulted on lawmaking that disempowers them, ageists set an unrealistically high bar for emancipatory initiatives, sometimes even demanding that minors show "enthusiastic" support

I have not heard of a single minor taking to the streets and waving a placard for sexual relations with adults. Hmmm... curious.

For a starter, this argument is not fully based in reality, and runs counter to the accounts of former minors who are now in a better position to share their experiences without adultist intervention or censure. Regardless of these facts, the argument is still ethically unacceptable. This is because, not only does it justify the oppression of almost any subjugated/minority group throughout history, but it is in deep conflict with the unwilled foisting of criminal responsibility unto minors.

"Explicit will" is a red herring

This argument is illogical because:

  • It centers legal restrictions for which we never required the subjugated group's consent.
  • It then asks for said group's explicit will, i.e. consent (again, without official legal/political representation) to remove said restrictions.

Nowhere does the proponent feel the need to justify how age of consent laws bring about improvements in people's lives. In reality, liberalization of Age of Consent laws is something that has hardly ever been tried because said laws have always been so tightly bound up with a developing and very modern phenomenon of moral hysteria. Laws should not be passed to legitimize activities, but instead to prohibit them where evidence suggests this may be necessary. Liberties do not need to be justified, unless we are living in a dictatorship.

Selective representation is ethically questionable/hypocritical

Further, this argument listens to minors when they say "no", assumes their compliance when they are silenced or say nothing at all, and ignores them when they say "yes". The present discourse surrounding AAMs on social media attests to this fact, as does the dismissal of youth perspectives using the same rationales cited in favor of the ageist legal scheme against young people. By using the perception of widespread apathy and disinterest within sections of a class, this argument unfairly forces its conclusions upon the whole class.

If explicit will is to be upheld as prerequisite, we could also ask our opponent about how they would view a passport system for youth aged 12 and up, whereby they can sign to enjoy some or all of the freedoms/responsibilities of adulthood.

Socialized apathy

Socialized apathy is central to the subjugation of social/cultural groups. The very definition of oppression is to undermine liberties with physical or mental tyranny. Minors, women and slaves throughout history would have accelerated their emancipation had they collectively stood up and challenged the status quo. In many present societies, women, sexual minorities and minors are also silenced through (sometimes tacit) exclusion and alienation from traditional power roles and rights discourse. Very few people under the age of eighteen are taught about their rights, and they also lack the voting rights to challenge present day reality. More specifically, youth in a culture so dogmatically against youth sexuality will more often see their own sexuality as something aberrant. There is no way of confidently and authoritatively demanding the right to something you may not legitimately obtain accurate information on, ponder the nature of, let alone experience for oneself.

To expand the counter-argument, a common proposition is that the average western minor would struggle to express sexual feelings due to his or her inadequate understanding of sexuality. This problem is not inherently linked with age, and has instead come about as a result of contemporary cultural factors such as poor intergenerational relations and a lack of accurate information in the immediate environment of young people. History (for example, of adolescence) suggests that the aforementioned socialized apathy is not a biological deficiency, but can be found among individuals of all ages and classes when they are subjugated as a group. For example, when foreign powers would try to incite slave revolts in rival sovereignties, many a time they would face problems. Slaves would refuse to revolt, claiming their masters would not approve. These slaves lived their entire lives as subordinates to their masters; it is all they knew. They could not comprehend the concepts of liberty and freedom beyond what they could observe of their masters. When the feminist movement first began, most women were opposed to its very basic goals. They, too, lived their whole lives as subordinates to men and struggled to comprehend civil liberty. This inability was used by anti-feminist ideologues as a supporting argument as to why women should not be emancipated. The tendency of subservient groups to rationalize their position is covered by system justification theory, for example in Kay et al. (2007):

He concluded that with respect to slaves and concentration camp survivors, "It is no wonder that their obedience became unquestioning, that they did not revolt, that they could not 'hate' their masters. Their masters' attitudes had become internalized as a part of their very selves". Even in extraordinarily oppressive circumstances such as these, people find ways of adapting to circumstances that they cannot change, so that "the unwelcome force is idealized".[1]

Likewise, with the establishment of adult content censorship, youth are hidden from the knowledge that would allow them to better understand sexuality - or only gain access to it within "delinquent" environments such as furtive contact with pornography. When they do gain enough information to ask for further details, the answers are withheld, the child is punished, or otherwise presumed to have been "corrupted", ""groomed" or "abused". Victimization is learned to be the only outcome, and behavior is modified/conditioned accordingly.

18-year old Michael Alhonte put it this way:

Most of what has recently been said and written about man/boy love has come from adults. Few think to ask young people whether this issue is important to them and, if so, what their thoughts about it are. This oversight is directly traceable to two things: the adults who feel the opinions of children would be worthless anyway (since they canʹt fully understand the implications of these relationships), and the children who normally would speak out but who instead have internalized the ageism of their adult neighbors and discredit their own thoughts and feelings.[2]

Demographic disadvantage

One must also note that the number of pubescent minors is very small, compared to adults - around 1 to every 12 or less, as society ages. Even assuming these minors are politically aware and inclined to sexual precocity, their demographic disadvantage is a considerable one in sociopolitical terms. This is one reason why progress in this area is likely to be driven predominantly by other factors such as a third wave of MAP Activism, SOL Reform activism and adult perceptions of minors growing up faster. It is a brutal reality that the number of adults with a strong sexual attraction to minors is much greater than the number of minors with any interest in this subject. For example, look at the popularity of youth prostitutes in every society that has permitted this supposed "vice".[3]

Lack of natural motive

Further, there is little rational motive for a 14-year-old to make a civil argument in favor of obtaining rights they will be able to exercise in 2 or 4 years time. Any hopes of having a positive effect within this time span are very limited, making it all the more surprising that contrary accounts are not just limited to adults speaking of their earlier experiences. Almost as if by co-incidence, the laws just happen to be set up in such a way that the period of liberty curtailment is a) significant, but b) not long enough to provide the subjugated class with a justification for challenging it, assuming they have the knowledge and will to do so.

References