In the 1950s there was little or no sex education in schools and there was a relatively low level of STIs and few single mothers. Today there is compulsory sex education for all children, substantially more single mothers (despite the legalizing of abortion and wider availability of contraceptives) and a huge increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many ask if there might be some connection. Certainly the value free content of much current sex education material, some of which is gratuitously explicit, reinforces the media message that casual sex is normal and acceptable. Abstinence programmes targeted at teenagers have achieved limited success in the USA, but they are underpinned by evangelical Christian beliefs which are not normally present in most British families.
In the fight against 'child abuse' the police can trawl for witnesses, decades after incidents were alleged to have taken place, offering inducements (and sometimes coaching) to help obtain convictions. Large numbers of teachers have been accused by pupils of sexual offences which, after investigation, are found to be false in the overwhelming majority of cases. This has led to a climate of fear in the teaching profession, particularly for male teachers, who can find themselves on the receiving end of malicious accusations by children with a grudge to bear who have been disciplined for misbehaviour.
Unfortunately, in our highly sexualised society sex, together with cigarettes, alcohol and now drugs, is seen by young teenagers as a rite of passage to adulthood. Many young people in their early teens no longer seem to want to be treated as children, or to be prevented from participating in what they see as the pleasures of adulthood. They no longer appear to need, or require, the protection that the law provides against 'under age' sex. If some recent surveys are to be believed over a third of teenagers under 16 are sexually active, and so if all those involved were charged and convicted, the number of prison places would have to increase tenfold to accommodate them, such is the extent of the activity.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated some of the more antiquated laws relating to sex offences. The increased penalties against sexual relations with children under the age of 13 are likely to have widespread support. However, the Act also criminalises all 'consenting sexual activity' among those under 16. In theory this would mean that two 15 year olds caught snogging would be committing a criminal act. Home Office guidance advises that prosecutions would not occur in such a situation. But what would happen if an 18 year old was found canoodling with a 15 year old whom he thought was 16? Theoretically, he (it is highly unlikely that a 'she' would be prosecuted) could receive a jail sentence. Another anomaly is that it is legal to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds, but possessing an 'indecent' image of the same person would be an offence that (theoretically) could attract a fourteen-year sentence. The extent to which paranoia over the supposed paedophile threat has gripped officialdom was demonstrated by the ban, introduced by one Scottish education authority, against parents taking photographs of their children acting in school nativity plays. It is amazing that Mary Whitehouse’s campaign in the 1970s to combat child pornography should have led to some of the repressive, arbitrary, alarmist and absurd measures practised by today's politically correct child protection agencies.
Since 13-15 year olds, in biological terms, are adults for whom sexual attraction is natural, there would appear to be no justification for the harsh sentences which can be applied. Although casual sexual intercourse by and with this age group should be strongly discouraged, as for everyone else, since it can lead to unwanted pregnancy and STIs, it is not in itself unnatural, as would be the case with genuine children, below the age of 13. Many European countries have a lower age of consent than Britain, and a more realistic outlook here on this matter would allow scare resources to be targeted towards real threats. It is difficult to understand the logic of those in the child protection industry who assume that sexual encounters for teenagers under 16 must, by definition, be always traumatic yet, once the age of consent is reached, sex suddenly becomes a liberating and fulfilling experience, that can be engaged in by near strangers without attracting any condemnation. The popular media is saturated with this ethos.
The tabloid media seems to be particularly confused, promoting casual sexual promiscuity for those over the age of consent, but branding those who have a sexual interest in teens of a lower age, even of the opposite sex, as 'perverts' or even 'monsters'. It is clearly ludicrous that young teenagers with normal sexual desires, and who are routinely presented, courtesy of our educational establishment, with graphically explicit sex education material, should be assumed to be incapable of giving consent to sexual activities, particularly as they are considered old enough to be charged with sexual offences from the age of 10. Laws that are based on fantasy rather than reality bring the legal system, and genuine child protection, into disrepute.
In the case of young adolescents, it is interesting to note how the politically correct establishment’s hard line stance on 'child' protection has collided with its demand for homosexual equality. Under current legislation, a predatory 40 year old homosexual who targets and 'grooms' 16 year old youths for casual sex of a biologically most unnatural kind, is deemed to be a fine upstanding member of our community. On the other hand, a 18 year old young man who is in a permanent, loving, biologically entirely normal sexual relationship with a 15 year old young woman, risks a long prison sentence and being placed on the sex offenders register for life. Moreover, children’s charities will condemn his behaviour as 'abusive' and 'exploitative', the tabloids will brand him as a dangerous 'paedophile', particularly if the couple met through internet chat rooms. The young woman will be assumed to be suffering from 'trauma' that will take years to recover from, for which she will be encouraged to receive 'counselling' the effect of which may well be to instil permanent guilt for participating in a natural, albeit unwise (since it is unlawful), activity.
The primary purpose of children’s charities these days appears to be to devise ever more invasive methods to combat sexual activity involving young teenagers, claiming that only they, or state agencies, can be trusted to provide advice and protection on this matter. This agenda is unrealistic, intrusive and a waste of scarce resources that diverts attention from tackling the relatively small number of men who target children below the age of puberty.