Published on November 22, 2013 | by Juliet Atto and Rebecca Bourke0
#AgeOfConsent: Should it be lower in the UK?
The debate about changing the age of consent has turned into a hot topic again. Professor John Ashton, the president of the Faculty of Public Health, called for the current age to be lowered from 16 to 15, in order for sexual education to improve and information to be more readily available to younger teenagers. Prime Minister David Cameron rejected Ashton’s proposal.
Here, ALN writers Juliet Atto and Rebecca Bourke weigh in on the argument; do they think that lowering the age of consent will lead to social degradation? Or do our fellow students simply believe that one year doesn’t make that much difference difference…
ALN Sub-Editor – Juliet Atto
Whether you agree with lowering the age of consent or not, you must admit that your first sexual thought probably came a little bit earlier than your sweet 16. Instead of chastising teenagers for reacting to their hormones, and you know, biology, we should let them know that it’s okay, so they can have a support system and thus make wiser decisions regarding sex.
In countries like Sweden, where the age of consent is 15, sexual education has been mandatory since 1955 (2010 in the UK), STDs are at an all-time low and only 4% of first-time mothers in Sweden in 2009 were under the age of 18. While in 2010, the UK experienced the highest teen pregnancy rates in Western Europe.
As the old saying goes, ‘if you know better, you do better.’ So shouldn’t we teach these kids about safe sex before they become sexually active so when they’re ready to ‘get it on,’ they’ll know the importance of ‘putting it on’? How many more seasons of ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ do we have to endure before we realise, that maybe we’re doing something wrong here?
We want children to remain young for as long as possible and not be burdened by the responsibilities of ‘adult behaviour’ such as sex. But let’s face it, they’re already engaging in said behaviour and they’re doing so without knowing a thing about it. So instead of fighting the inevitable, we should face it head on and get with the times.
Of course lowering the age of consent won’t automatically solve the problem, but I think it serves as a start for a more open and honest debate concerning teenagers and sexual health. The problem isn’t young people ‘doing it’ – because they already are – the problem is that they are doing so without the proper means, support and information.
So let’s teach our young ones that there’s nothing wrong with doing it or wanting to do it, just do it right.
ALN Features Writer – Rebecca Bourke
So, the call for consent to be lowered to the age of 15 caused a furious backlash. And rightly so in my opinion; there is absolutely no need for us to encourage youngsters to have sex at an earlier age.
It is a well-known and slightly embarrassing fact that Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. I see nothing wrong with holding onto childhood for as long as possible in a time when celebrities are making children want to grow up faster than necessary. There’s plenty of time to be having sex, from the moment a young person feels comfortable enough to. I remember at the age of 15, there was already a certain amount of pressure at school to be having sex. I think that lowering the age of consent would only increase that pressure.
In a time where there has never been a greater struggle to find oneself, it should not be encouraged to have sex as a way of creating an identity. Yet I think that the media is guilty of this.
Though there may be some who argue that by 15, they are mature enough to deal with sex physically and mentally, the reality is we are still growing and are in no way adult. Most people are still maturing in their twenties. I am one of these people, and when I look back at my 15 year-old self I know that I was not able to make such big choices.
There is an argument that children are already ‘doing it’ by 15, however this is not excuse to lower the legal age of consent. Barely any adults actually get prosecuted for having sex with 14 and 15 year olds as it is, so this is sending an even more dangerous message. Children and adults alike find themselves not adhering to many laws – this may include underage smoking, taking illegal substances and something many consider petty, such as speeding in a car – but it does not excuse the argument that these things should in fact be made legal. I think it is important to have “guidelines” around the things we should and should not be doing as a society.
Are we really comfortable with our sexual identities at the age of 15? I think not.