Tatchell repeats call for lower age of consent

Thu, 2 Sep 2010

‘Homosexual rights’ campaigner Peter Tatchell has repeated his call for the age of consent to be lowered to just 14.

His position has been strongly rebuffed in the past, with one commentator saying that sex is for people who can cope with the consequences, “In a word, adults.”

Mr Tatchell’s latest comments echo those made by him last year as well as in a controversial letter he sent to The Guardian in 1997, in which he talked about the “positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships” and even said he knew cases of nine-year-olds for whom sex with adults “gave them great joy”.

Choice

Mr Tatchell’s recent remarks feature on an American forum website, Big Think, during a month in which the site published debate articles about “dangerous ideas”.

The ‘gay rights’ activist claimed that: “Despite what the puritans and sex-haters say, underage sex is mostly consenting, safe, and fun”.

He believes that laws which put the age of consent at 16 are harmful to teenagers. “They signal that a young person is not capable of making a rational, moral choice about when to have sex”, he said.

Experiment

In an online article in 2009, Mr Tatchell wrote: “An age of consent of 14 might be more realistic and reasonable than 16.

“If sex at 14 is consensual, and no one is hurt or complains, is criminalisation in the public interest?”

He added: “Some teens, and even young children, innocently and spontaneously explore and experiment at an early age. In most cases this causes them no harm at all.”

But commentator David Lindsay, writing on The Daily Telegraph’s website, slammed these remarks saying “sex is for people who can cope with the consequences, physical and otherwise. In a word, adults”.

Condone

In an outspoken letter to The Guardian in 1997 Mr Tatchell went even further, saying several of his friends had had sex with adults when they were aged between nine and 13.

“None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy”, he said.

Mr Tatchell went on to say that while “it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful”.

The letter, dated 26 June 1997, is reproduced in full below

ROS Coward (Why Dares to Speak says nothing useful, June 23) thinks it is “shocking” that Gay Men’s Press has published a book, Dares To Speak, which challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive. I think it is courageous.

The distinguished psychologists and anthropologists cited in this book deserve to be heard. Offering a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people, they document examples of societies where consenting inter-generational sex is considered normal, beneficial and enjoyable by old and young alike.

Prof Gilbert Herdt points to the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, where all young boys have sex with older warriors as part of their initiation into manhood. Far from being harmed, Prof Herdt says the boys grow up to be happy, well-adjusted husbands and fathers.

The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.

While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.

Peter Tatchell.

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