One of the biggest questions I ever receive from those--both within and outside of the MAA [Minor Attracted Adult] community--who supports the continuation of the age of consent [AoC] laws as we know them today is a variation of the following:
"I don't think the elimination of the AoC laws as they now stand is in any way a legitimate part of youth liberation politics, because I don't think that most underage girls [or boys, as the case may be] have any interest whatsoever in having sexual relations with adults. So, I think it's just pure selfishness on the part of MAAs [Minor Attracted Adults] for trying to alter these laws, as well as pure wishful thinking on their part that a youth liberated society would be some sort of 'pedo paradise.'"
Individuals who frequently make variations of the above statement clearly fail to realize that even if it did happen to be true, it is nevertheless totally and completely beside the point of the very foundation of liberation, including youth liberation. They also make the error of assuming that pro-choice MAA activists are in turn assuming that there would, for some reason, be lines of youths in our preferred gender and/or age group standing outside of our homes and begging for the sexual and romantic contact with us that they were denied for the duration of time that these laws were heavily enforced.
The point of liberation--the main point, in fact--is not to give people the right to do only the things that the vast majority of the population want to do, but rather to give them the choice to do what they want even if some of their decisions may be uncomfortable to the majority of both the people who comprise their particular group and the majority of people in the greater society around them. The key word here is choice. That is the crux of liberation, it's the crux of the pro-choice stance amongst MAA activists, and it should be the crux behind the platform of youth liberation, as well. This stance doesn't advocate any type of activity, nor does it say that everyone who belongs to a certain group should or should not engage in a certain type of activity, nor does it make any type of moral judgments on those who either do or do not engage in any particular type of activity. What it does advocate, plain and simply, is the importance of choice, which is why the stance is referred to as pro-choice rather than something less accurate and more loaded in context, like "pro-sex."
Making the above statement and supporting the continuation of the AoC laws more or less as they are today due to the strong belief that the above statement is true, is no more logical or ethical than the great heterosexual majority refusing to support the granting of rights to the homosexual minority simply because the majority of people have no desire to engage in homosexual relationships or marry someone of the same gender ourselves; or, for that matter, because we don't personally know anyone who supports these rights. Of course, the latter of which, if true, is more likely due to the case of us happening to live in an area of the nation, or under a specific political climate in any given era of history, where most people with non-normative desires are firmly in the closet and thus firmly silent about these desires. For instance, how many heterosexual people who lived during the 1940s were aware of anyone they knew being a homosexual? And how many homosexuals who lived during that era were open and honest with every one of their heterosexual friends about their preferences? Obviously, AAMs [Adult Attracted Minors, a term for gerontophiles who are legally underage] are mostly in the closet these days just as firmly as MAAs, and for very good and obvious reasons. Hence, I certainly don't understand why anyone would expect large numbers of them to be talking openly about their desire to date and socialize with significantly older people even with some of their closest friends, who in the current climate may very well panic upon hearing this and relay the news to their friend's parents.
I do not personally believe that the great majority of young adolescent girls would actually desire to have a more than platonic relationship with me even if we lived in a youth liberated society, and I do not believe that the great majority of MAAs believe this in regards to themselves either; but I do think that it's totally ridiculous to assert that very few, if any, would harbor such a desire, or that there wouldn't be a possibly significant minority of them who would do so, either as a result of their natural preferences or due to simple curiosity as to how well a relationship with an older man (or woman) may work for them, if the choice was allowed. Individuals who claim otherwise are not only ignoring the very real existence of gerontophilia [a sexual, emotional, social, and aesthetic preference for significantly older though not necessarily elderly individuals]--which may exist to varying degrees amongst the youth population as often as hebephilia occurs amongst legal adults today--but they are also ignoring the full range of diversity of desire and curiosity in regards to sexual preferences and proclivities that exists amongst the human species overall. Those that do deny such things may actually be the one's who are engaging in wishful thinking here, not those amongst the pro-choice segment of the MAA community.
As my fellow activist qtns2di4 noted:
"The argument that it's 'a very tiny minority' is well debunked, but the gay example isn't even the best example you can think of. 'How many slaves wanted to be free?' 'How many women wanted to go to university, work, and vote?' If you are willing to dive into more dangerous waters, 'how many people support some form of drug legalization yet have never taken drugs and don't plan to do it once it's legal?' 'How many people support abortion that have never had one and don't plan to have any?' Liberal audiences should be even more receptive to the argument, given the subsidies to opportunity that which liberals usually promote: those are usually for a tiny minority, at least when they begin."
As noted by my fellow activist Summderdays:
"Freedom is not an issue of, 'if we give these people this freedom, will it benefit us or not benefit us, overall?' Freedom is simply freedom. People deserve to be free - free to make choices, even when those choices are ones we don't like. Anything else is like saying, 'okay, you're free to choose, but only if you make a decision I'm happy with.' It would be less offensive if these people actually admitted that they don't support freedom, but what really bugs me is they act like they do support freedom at the same time that they deny it to people."
Hence, a youth liberated society would not be a 'pedo paradise,' of course (regardless of how someone may define such a place), but it would be a much more liberated and ultimately more enlightened society where the range of--and respect for--the right of choice would be considerably greater than it is today. Such a society would benefit younger people every bit as much as it would older people with a preference for much younger individuals, and such a system of tolerance of all activities that respected consent and didn't cause demonstrable harm to another human being would ultimately be beneficial for society itself. For a truly free, democratic, and liberated society to exist, people have to try to empathize with the perspectives of those who exist outside their own, and not to limit their respect only for the type of mutually consensual activities that they believe are either common or which do not have an 'ickiness' factor according to their personal sensibilities.
As such, and getting back to the comparison to gay rights, I will always support the right for individuals to engage in homosexual relations as their individual tastes and emotional needs decree despite the fact that it may appear on the surface that the criminalization of such relations wouldn't impact upon me personally, nor the heterosexual majority I belong to. Further, the large number of bisexuals in this country would continue to have a greater range of choices regarding who they may or may not date or have sexual relations with if the matter of choice is allowed and respected.
However, I would argue that if I supported the criminalization of any activity that was outside my personal tastes, as well as the personal tastes of the majority of society, then that would constitute selfishness on my part, not selfishness on the part of the minority of people who would desire homosexual relations to have this choice open to them. I would also be aware that the ramifications on our democracy over such an Orwellian decision would certainly be extreme, and if I agreed to allow one particular type of choice to be denied to others simply because I didn't think the taste was common or because it wasn't a taste that I personally shared, then this would make it easier for the government to rationalize further restrictions on choices in the future. Because of the tendency for such draconian legislation to be cumulative in effect, eventually I could expect one of my personal tastes to be criminalized, as would likely be the case for all of my fellow heterosexuals. As I always say, when discussing civil rights and the criminalization of any type of choice as long as it honors mutual consent and does not lead to the demonstrable harm of anyone else, the big picture always needs to be considered. An emphasis placed upon the much smaller picture that only relates to what our own personal desires happen to be, or what we perceive to be common amongst the general population, is highly counter-productive to the notion of freedom and the right to the pursuit of happiness in the long run. Minority desires and lifestyle choices always need to be repsected as much as the "normative" choices made by the majority in a democratic society.
It should also be considered that most people who lived during the decades prior to the 1970s would swear that no one they knew had any desire to engage in homosexual relations, because most mainstream gays back then were firmly in the closet. This is something that someone living in today's era should consider when they insist that they are totally (or almost totally) unaware of any teen who actually has gerontophiliac desires, regardless of whether or not they themselves are a teen and thus have a large group of peers and friends who are also teens.
Now, as for the question as to whether most young people would have no interest in having the AoC laws lowered or abolished simply because the great majority of them had no interest in having sexual/romantic relations with adults. Is this really the crux of the matter in regards to this one particular aspect of youth liberation? I would like to say there is some good evidence that the answer to the above question is a resounding no.
Back in 2000, there was an article by Nicole Martin posted on the online version of the British newspaper known as The Telegraph (still available today) that discusses what many adolescent girls in Britain consider to be the highly inadequate and hugely unrealistic sex education courses available to them in middle school and high school, which among other things was, "out-dated, uninformative and taught too late." A poll was taken amongst numerous schoolgirls in Britain between the age range of 12-16 by wickedcolors.com which yielded some results that make it quite clear that the majority of adolescent girls in the West may have attitudes about sexuality that contradict the moralizing values of the West's heavily gerontocentric culture:
Not only did 9 out of 10 of these girls polled say that it's unrealistic to expect young people to wait until they are married to have sex, but 87% of the adolescent girl respondents on that poll said that they wanted the AoC in Britain to be lowered from its current place at 16. In that article, Martin said, "Lucy Laverack, a founder of wickedcolors.com, which conducted the survey, said the poll showed how frustrated young girls were with the Government's inability to understand what they wanted. She said: 'Girls today are head-strong, opinionated and intelligent. They are career driven and politically and economically very aware.'"
That sounds like something that youth liberationists have been arguing about for years now, and this makes it clear that the question of sexual rights is far from irrelevant to the entirety of youth liberation.
As noted by Summerdays regarding that poll:
"There's a novel idea - ask the girls themselves who are underage rather than extrapolate from what adults retroactively believe(or have convinced themselves to believe) they would have wanted, or worse yet, what they want kids to want, regardless of reality.
"It's not about giving adults the right to be intimate with kids. It's not that at all. It's about giving the kids the right to choose for themselves what they want to do with their bodies. Whether that involves adults or not.
"Funny how anyone could get the idea that a position that promotes choice would be anything but disdainful of non-consent. The idea that people want to give kids a 'choice,' just so that they can then go and force them to do things they wouldn't want to do. How ridiculous is that? If I want kids to have a choice, that means I intend to respect that choice."
A link to that article can be found here. Many thanks to my friend and fellow activist Bella (no, not actress Bella Thorne!) for providing me with a link to that article.
So, should any of the naysayers be surprised about the above results from that poll? And do those results indicate that the great majority of adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 16 want to have sexual relations with much older adults? The answer to both questions is certainly no. That is not what the above poll results indicate, and again that is entirely beside the point of the AoC question when it comes to youth liberation. What I believe those above poll results do indicate is that adolescent girls support the simple freedom of choice to carry out their personal sex lives as they see fit, and that they wish that sex education classes would prepare them for making whatever decisions they might want to make for themselves from an early point in their lives--nothing more, and nothing less than that. No 'pedo paradise' (or hebe paradise, for that matter), but simply a society that honored freedom of choice, a situation that would benefit everyone whatever their age, race, gender, or personal tastes happened to be.
As Summerdays lamented on this point:
"I will never be able to understand how sex could be an exception to a person's freedoms. If sex is not included, then a person is not completely free. If it were true that kids aren't interested in sex, then what difference does giving them the freedom make? As long as we continue to honor choice, none of the kids will be having sex. And if it so happens that some of them are interested in sex, then not giving them that choice is a restriction of freedom. Seems pretty simple to me."
Thus, the question of the AoC laws most definitely is a valid aspect of youth liberation, even if some youth lib orgs are afraid to touch the issue due to the fact that it's such a highly emotionally charged question. Nevertheless, this issue is every bit as important as other major components of the youth lib platform such as voting rights, educational rights, labor rights, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of movement and association.
In an upcoming essay, I will be tackling the question of CP [what our culture all-too-often refers to as "child pornography"] as it relates to the overall issue of youth liberation.