Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Older and Weaker


This afternoon I listened to the proposed omnibus bill that will deal with a number of significant changes to the criminal code. Included in this bill is the intention of the government to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. Now while most people might think this is good thing – I for one am pretty much against it.

Now on the one hand I readily recognize what this legislation is intended to accomplish. It seeks to give greater teeth to enforcement and the judicial system in penalizing offenders with stiffer sentences and generally greater consequences. And to be fair it will like do that. And who in their right mind wouldn't want to 'spank' offenders harder for this type of crime. In my opinion the law is not strict enough in penalizing sexual offenders but…

I'm not sure we are fully appreciating the latent or unintended function of this type of legislation. We have worked hard in our society to establish a more gender equality. We have a long way to go but many strides have been taken to help women gain more social power and relieve the oppression that they have suffered in the past. I'm not just talking about more equality in the work force but in more general ways – women today are the beneficiaries of a sense of common ground. I think this is a good thing. And while I recognize that there are still some who would argue that this equality is a negative thing and that it somehow challenges God design – I think that most people recognize that women were unfairly treated in the past and that the partial redemption of their social status is more inline with God's view of our standing in his eyes. I think that is precisely why this legislation moves in the wrong direction.

I think this legislation suggests that women/girls are actually weaker than men/boys and need to be protected. This is because an overwhelming majority of non-consensual sexual offences are perpetrated on females and although the legislation does not discriminate between genders it clearly is aimed at the problem that exists in one specific part of the population. Girls being essentially…raped. The legislation actually deals with the ability of a girl to make a decision about whether or not she wants sex. Essentially the government would like to suggest that a girl under 16 can't really make that decision and actually know what she is doing. This unintentionally communicates the notion that girls are actually exactly the things we have been working so hard all these years to remove – Girls are dimwitted ninnies that need to be rescued and saved and certainly can't process these types of decisions on their own. So in my mind we take a step backward.

On top of that we essentially extract the responsibility of the girl in almost any sexual encounter if she is young enough. Sex is rarely just the action of one person. There is no question that girls who are looking for sex at 12 and 13 are seriously ill. But I have seen enough provocative sexually stimulating behaviour from girls in middle school (from the way they dress to the way they talk and flirt with boys) to know that girls are still caving in to the objectifying attitudes that still dominate our culture and which fly in the face of the equality we have worked to achieve in our society.

Another factor that goes unnoticed is how this type of legislation affects parenting. My question is if the government wants to step into the role of parenting in deciding what kind of behaviour should be acceptable or not they will inadvertently disable parents from providing the first line of behaviour modification which is essential for youth who need personal connected consequences to affect them rather than the disconnected relationship to the government to force them into some behavioural paradigm. I for one expect that my boys will clearly understand the importance of respecting women enough to honour them with a proposal of marriage before engaging in sexual encounters. I also anticipate that in the back of their mind they should fear the consequences that I would deal to them should they 'screw up'! I expect they will fear that more than any jail term could invoke.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does the bill specify females? I think that it is great idea, because it empowers mothers with older boys to pursue harsher sentences for these female teachers who think it's ok to have sex with their 16 year old students.

Outgoing... said...

no the legislation does not specify males but when you look at the fact that over 85% of the people who are arrested for sexual offenses are males - its hard not see the legislation in that light as well

jenivere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jadon said...

Good post, Dale. I think this is what is easily overlooked, because fathers tend to see consent laws as protecting their daughters.

Freezer said...

I think that it should be clarified that under this proposed law any two teenagers can still have concentual sex and it be legal. This legislation is that adults - those over the age of majority, are prohibited from having sex with someone under the age of 16.
I would suggest that whether male or female - psychological immaturity is a factor that places the early adolescent at a disadvantage of being manipulated by someone who is older and as a result holds some measure of power over the adolescent.
In our parenting we should never assume that a law protects our children from anything. Just because there is a law against drinking and driving doesn't unilaterally protect me or my child from being hit by someone who is. The law is a stick that tells us when we have crossed the norms of society.

Outgoing... said...

pmpsbhI think you bring up an interesting point Pat. Justice must both be done and seen to be done. In this case, the law is intended to show that an older (predominately) girl qualifies as an individual against whom sexual intercourse is not permitted by an adult even if she agrees to it. Essentially, as I have argued, this means that the girl is considered to be less capable of making an accurate decision about her sexuality until after she is 16. Because the law describes who can consent and at what age - it is trying to make a distinction about this case that is especially immoral vs. any other situation where a person might refuse to engage in sexual activity or whose consent might be given but not fully understood.
If the law for instance was worded in sucha way as to implicate the perpetrator it woudl bear distinctly different meaning.
this bill seeks to define the status of girls of a certain age - even if that definition is unintended.
There is no question in society that there are psychological disadvantages that younger people possess. But this legistation ennacts into law those precise disadvantaged as being normative. In essence you are qualifying the life of pre16 year old girls. We may be really comfortable with that but we may not want to deal with the consequences of typifiying girls in this manner...
Your comment about parenting is bang on.

Bonnie said...

So is it wrong of me to laugh because you used the word penal and stiffer in the first paragraph of an essay on sexual consent?? O.K, I can't believe I typed that either, but I'm not, I repeat NOT taking it back, you know you will laugh. Although in all seriousness as a mom of two girls, almost 14, and a son nearing that age as well, I could'nt agree with you more on so many levels. We don't protect our kids anymore, is willy nilly a phsycological term? If it's not it should be it seems to be the way all our core values are going... although if it were a proper phsycological term I don't think I'd use it in this essay either. Ah, apparantly I shouldn't be trying to be serious... I'll run and do the dishes. maybe I'll come back when I can behave. Cheers, I hope you're having a fantastic weekend

Outgoing... said...

I knew if anyone was going to catch that you would - hehe!