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Note: This is a touchy subject even for a fantasy-theory site. It's probably best that I say that this question stems from an conversation I had with a coworker the other day (we're software engineers). I told him I could foresee "age of consent" laws in the States dropping to 16 where they are currently 18, and then gradually lowering even more over the next few years. I then told him that if they lower just a little, what's to stop them from lowering a lot? What's to stop them from going away completely?

His answer was "science". Science has enlightened us to know that having sex with someone so young is "wrong". Ironically, my thought was that science, particularly biology, would be one of the very things to enact the lowering of age of consent laws, seeing as girls reach their physical maturity in their mid teens, some even in their early teens. Some smart sounding science plus a good dose of feel-good testimonials--imagine, for instance, the gut-wrenching story of a beautiful couple consisting of a 19 year old man and a physically mature 12 year old girl that is killed by the intolerant, uneducated, backwards father--and immediately you gain a small but seedy modicum of national empathy.

So what social and cultural dominoes could start falling to ease age of consent laws? What about to get rid of them completely? And taking it a step further, what could happen to normalize extreme pedophilia where one partner has not even reached physical puberty?

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    $\begingroup$ "touchy subject" <- understatement. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 22 '16 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ The most common age of consent in the US is 16. 31 states set it at 16, 8 set it at 17, only 12 set it at 18. $\endgroup$ – Werrf Dec 22 '16 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Software engineers... Figures. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 22 '16 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ To future downvoters: I think it's worth reading the answers before additing additional downvotes. The answers I see include historical evidence for both sides, suggesting that as far as the quality of question goes, this is actually one where there's more than meets the eye. Of course it is reasonable to question the morality of the question, but the question itself seems to yield very interesting results. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '16 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think the opinion expressed in the question may have been its downfall. This is a reasonable thing to ask, and downvotes exist solely because this is a touchy subject, but the way you phrased it - the opinion of "pedophillia" as opposed to "lowering the age of consent" has caused disagreement. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 22 '16 at 21:53
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Part of it is cultural and definitional. Today a 14 year old is a child, still supposed to go to school and unable to be drafted into military service, sign a legally binding contract or vote.

In 1400, a 14 year old could become the Lord of the Manor, with responsibilities including meting out justice, leading his troops in war and negotiating contractual arrangements with neighbouring manors, merchants, the clergy and the King. If this was a female, she could (and probably would) be married to some neighbouring family to cement alliances, secure peace or otherwise bolster the power of her family.

Of course, in 1400, living to 14 was already a considerable feat, and the wizened, battle hardened advisors would already be old men in their 40's.

So many of our current norms and mores have been gradually developed as society becomes wealthier, people live longer and more productive lives and society as a whole is becoming less violent. The imperative to "grow up" and become a man or woman is far less prevalent in our society and in much of the world, so people don't need to assume the duties and responsibilities of adulthood ASAP.

The other reason that sexual activity is discouraged at an early age is sex=reproduction. The 14 year old Lord of the Manor probably outlived several siblings already to reach his position, and out in the fields, the peasants and serfs suffered from even greater infant mortality, not to mention needing extended families to provide for them in their old age. If you needed to have an average of 5-7 children to ensure enough lived into adulthood, then you and to start as early as possible/practical. Waiting until you are in your 20's might actually be too late in that society.

So modern society does not provide any imperatives or incentives to dramatically lower the age of consent or the sexualization of children, and there is no pressing need to do so either. If we were to suddenly be thrust into a post apocalyptic society, special snowflakes who are unable or unwilling to take on adult responsibilities immediately will likely die, and people who survive will be facing many of the same choices their ancestors did in the pre modern age. A 14 year old will already be a man, and ready and able to take on adult roles and privileges, and a 14 year old woman will also be taking on her adult roles and responsibilities.

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    $\begingroup$ A 14 year old woman in the middle ages would not openly rule and wield power (true queens and empresses are rare), but many would be the power behind the throne, so to speak, supporting their 14 year old husbands..... $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Dec 22 '16 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Are the 14 year old children you're describing taking adults as sexual partners? I otherwise don't see the how the bulk of the answer relates to the question. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 22 '16 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ Young women could be married off to older men, but in the context of the times they were not considered children. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Dec 23 '16 at 1:24
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A regression of psychology's understanding of child development and a radical change in the morality of the zeitgeist.

Pedophilia is a crime because of emotional/mental maturity, not physical maturity. The age of consent won't be based on the physical ability to bear children any more than a license to drive will be based on the ability to reach the pedals or allowance to vote based on the ability to color in a box.

Like child labor, this is a situation where the probability of exploitation and permanent mental or physical harm is far too high to be legally allowed. This is likely where the appeal arises for people, a vast majority being men, they wish to have a "partner" who is more of a subject than a partner. That is not a healthy relationship.

Pedophilia is a mental illness according to the DSM-5. I would certainly have to agree.

So besides the mental issues with people seeking such relationships, also consider the children. Just think about being 12-15 years old. Did you really make good decisions then? Aren't you a little bit glad you weren't allowed to get a tattoo despite having inkable skin?

The laws are in place to protect the children. The on-going scandal with the Catholic Church and its global pedophilia ring is an excellent example of how such relationships can really mess up young boys and girls. The incident of depression and suicide of the victims is too high to ignore. The victims were as young as three years old.

The only people who want such relationships are either too mentally immature to make such a choice or are literally mentally ill.

So, to achieve the situation you describe society will have to ignore everything it knows about child development and/or radically change its morality regarding the mental and physical abuse of children.

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  • $\begingroup$ I do agree with you, but your last paragraph made me wonder. When you say "radically change its morality regarding the mental and physical abuse of children.", then I would like to point out that it's not that long ago that the civilized world started treating kids as human beings. E.g., just ~75 years ago they got no anestethics at the doctor/dentist since "they don't feel pain fully" and beating kids are today still legal in some places. My point is, we did a radical change for the better, but can we ensure that it's not going to happen again for the worse? $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Dec 22 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Mrkvička For the case of the doctor, I doubt that parents would have subjected the child to such operations except where necessary. Child abuse isn't legal, so I assume you mean physical reprimands used to enforce behavior. That's also quite different than letting a child enter a relationship where they have a high probability of exploitation. But, in any case none of these things are part of the moral zeitgeist, that is, they're not generally considered good things. At best they were considered a necessary evil. I can't conceive pedophila even getting to that level of acceptance. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 22 '16 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it would require quite a lot for any such drastic changes to make it to the western world; however, there are a significant amount of countries which has lower than 18 as marriage age and, as example, Spain increased from 14 to 16 just last year. Luckily, the average age for first marriage is 18+ in most countries, but it does not seem incredibly distant that other ideas might come around; I hope it will not change for the worse, but I don't see it as guaranteed. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Dec 22 '16 at 18:52
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First I'd like to point out that your question is couched in such a way that it seems to me that you should probably study the subject more first. The age of consent varies already. It's 16 in the UK for a start (I believe it varies within the US too). And there are countries where it is less.

Also many countries have Romeo/Juliet laws where it's not considered rape if the two participants are close in age.

Perhaps a general education in global sexual mores would be a good place to start since, with a better understanding of what is allowed, and in what countries, you might be able to figure out the answer.

I think the best answer is to say this: Never, in terms of paedophilia, but then again, what if it became impossible for a female to bear a child within two years of being fertile? What would happen then? (Or if males became infertile similarly?)

May I suggest watching the film "Children of Men" for one view of how infertility affects society?

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The age of consent is different in different countries. For example, in most European countries it's 14 or 15; Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom put it at 16; and in Ireland it's 17. In the USA the age of consent varies between 16 and 18 from state to state.

In different times there were different values for the age of consent. The Romans considered that a boy of 14 or a girl of 12 were of marriageable age and jurists argued that in certain circumstances even younger persons could give meaningful consent. Ancient Greeks had the notion that love between an adult man and a teen-age boy was a wonderful thing with great educational benefits.

  • To lower the age of consent to 15: promote the study of French language and culture.

  • To lower the age of consent to 14: promote the study of German language and culture.

  • To lower it even more: promote the study of classical languages and culture.

(The proposals aren't to be taken seriously. Seriously, I believe that each country and culture will find what works best for them in accordance with what people actually do in those countries and cultures.)

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  • $\begingroup$ So medical professionals who study Latin are more likely to be pro-pedophilia? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 22 '16 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel: And in civil law countries lawyers have to study Latin too. Note: the proposals aren't serious. Added this clarification to the answer. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 22 '16 at 17:39
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Science doesn't say that we are fully developed at age 14 or 16. In fact, our brains don't even reach adulthood, often until the mid-twenties.

And there's high mortality rate for accidental death because kids from 15-19 do stupid things. Because they just ain't fully cooked, so to speak.

Science tells me that the age of consent should be HIGHER not lower, if we are going by brain development.

A 12-year old who is fully sexually developed still has a 12-year-old's brain. More than that, he or she cannot have a job under the current laws, not for enough hours to be able to live on his or her own. And, it's very easy to take advantage of someone with only 12 years of experience on the planet.

A child is under the power of adults for quite a long time. Unless 12-year olds develop the ability and the societal mandate to be CEOs, be able to sign paperwork and be in charge of things that will not change. Moreover, there is such variance in the maturity of a 12 year-old that it cannot be taken on a case by case basis. That's why consent laws choose specific ages for consent. Otherwise it would be too much of a legal morass.

Things that might have to change in order for a 12-year old to legally consent:

  • They would have to be able to wield real power and be smarter than most 12-year-olds are today. This includes voting, being able to sign things legally, hold a job and not be required to go to school.
  • Shorter life-span. Back in Medieval times, a 14-year-old COULD rule, but that was because the number of people living past 40-60 were not as many.
  • There's an issue with fertility. Only the young can bear children. It's either biological, or a draconian mandate.
  • All 12-year-olds are equally mature. At 14-18, the variance in maturity is less pronounced, but at ages 11-13, the variance is much, much wider. By 16 or 17, the variance narrows considerably (though, of course, there is still variance, all the way to the 20's). These laws are written to protect the least mature in an age group, not to give freedoms to the most mature.
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Umm, this has already happened before... Germany in the 1960s legalized pedophilia, in order to fund a sexual experiment on orphaned children: https://sputniknews.com/europe/201612161048653141-german-pedophilia-project/

They recruited convicted pedophiles and sex offenders to act as foster fathers to the orphans, in the hopes it would produce beneficial effects of some kind. In other words, they were trying to find proof that pederasty was good for kids.

They outlawed it again soon after, when they started seeing the terrible effects it was having on the kids. As far as I'm aware, it wasn't legalized outside of the senate-funded experiment (which at any other time would've been highly illegal).

Despite this terrible incident, the German Green Party campaigned for pedophiliac rights in the 1980s, at the same time as North American Boy Love Association and the Childhood Sensuality Circle were campaigning for it in the US.


Now, what drove them to do this? The sexual liberation movement. In both cases, that was the driving force behind these policies, and why they were ever able to pass. The movement was about discarding modern values, and doing what would be obscene by modern standards, in the hope that this would lead to some kind of enlightened utopia.

I would suspect ancient Greek influence may be involved with the thought process. Because, notably, the western world is founded on a society that thought pederasty was good for boys (and probably girls). The West wouldn't be turning to ideas of pedophilia, but returning to them.

What would be Required?

Largely, just people to get excited for the idea the same way NAMBLA is.

What would get them excited

Now, how could you get a large portion of the population to abandon the previous generations' ideals and take on such an extreme view? Largely, by a major catastrophic event. In the Sexual Liberation Movement's case, it was World War 1. That war broke so much faith in the system, that dissent against it grew strongly. The SLM came about in the 1920s.

But it was still a very minority view. To really change such a deep-seated idea, you need a SERIES of catastrophic events. Another world war, a great depression, a terrifying cold nuclear war, the rise of hard drugs in the West, and finally a historically unpopular war with Vietnam. Only after all this did the SLM take off, before it was a minority of extremists movement. To put it into perspective, homosexuality was illegal in many US states until the start of the 2000s.

The other method is simply by cultural views evolving. Transexuality has had little to do with major events, you can't really link it to 9/11 or the Gulf wars or such. Its rising prominence and acceptance seems to be related to effective social movements, namely in colleges. If a society's teachers and reporters decide to teach something, and they are held in any respect or repute, then it is only a matter of time before their views become the dominant views of the public.

Already we are seeing some of this, with major feminists openly associating with and defending self-admitted and convicted pedophiles on twitter and twitch. You might also draw a parallel to the bizarre case (again in Germany) of a man who raped a boy in a public dressing room, but was let off without any significant charges. If you start accepting people who rape boys, then people who "consensually" have sex with them will seem reasonable.

Those are the two methods by which you get major social change.

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For age of consent to be lowered even if only by a few years what is expected culturally out of person that age. Would have to change. In the Middle Ages for example the age of consent was 13, but people at 13 had a lot more responsibility is and were expected to behave a lot more like adults then thirteen year old's today. Girls were already expected to know how to manage the house hold. Males we're expected to start an apprenticeship at that age. ( this is one of the reasons why males are usually older then their female partners sinces you usually don't get married till after your apprenticeship.)

Other social factors would have played a part one of the reasons why the marriage was so low was because of the need for children people wanted to have as many kids as possible since usually a couple of them tended who died before the age of adulthood. Best way to do that was to start Young.

Now how technology an impact age of consent in the future my first instinct is that it will raise the age of consent because will be less of a need for children too mature as quickly as he did in the Middle Ages. So they can stay kids for longer. However a lot depends on just how technology and scientific discovery develops. For example a drug to be created that allows children to physically mature faster. Or scientists could make the discovery that having sex regularly is important for the emotional development of teenagers. These things might help lowering the age of consent but I don't think they alone would lower it without the cultural changes mentioned in the beginning of my answer. I don't think that you can completely get rid of the age of consent. The concept goes back thousands of years and can be found in most cultures. In some ways it's similar to the incest taboo.

Alternatively if you want to lower the age of consent instead of changing what it means age someone is expected to be and act mature, you could change society's view of sex. First Make sex so much a part of the culture that it is impossible for you to shield your children from it. Second makes sex into something that's just ordinary part of everyday life by eating or using the bathroom, then parents could react to thier children having sex the way they react to them sneaking an extra piece of cake today.

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    $\begingroup$ For your alternative scenario (changing views on sex), I think you'd have to create a division between sex and reproduction (among other changes), in fact and in perception. This would entail universal availability and use of easy birth control, the elimination of most STDs such as AIDS to remove some of the risk perception, and probably cheap and painless abortions for those occasions where contraceptives/condoms/whatever didn't work. This doesn't require artificial wombs or similar technologies, but those would likely help. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Dec 22 '16 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Palarran good point $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Dec 22 '16 at 21:29
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A near-complete embrace of "might makes right".

In the ancient world, which was utterly ruled by brute force, children were essentially powerless. Unwanted children were routinely sold into prostitution.

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  • $\begingroup$ Downvoted, as this is simplistic, broad-stroking, and fairly incorrect. Several might makes right societies were against pedophilia, and many with more liberal views have been all for it. People of ancient times also cared about their kids. Many cultures, being more family-centred, cared more about their children than is common today. A child used to be, "your strength", your legacy. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Dec 13 '17 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'm looking for where I said that these were universal practices... Hmm, not finding it. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Apr 20 '18 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ ..... "In the ancient world, which was utterly ruled by brute force," How could you NOT find this, in the two sentences you wrote!? Three, if you include the title. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Apr 24 '18 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ I said that the ancient world was ruled by brute force; that children were essentially powerless; and that unwanted children were routinely sold into prostitution. I did not say that children were routinely sold into prostitution in every single ancient society. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Apr 30 '18 at 4:17

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