Barbara Hewson, a barrister in the UK, has caused a massive shit storm with her call for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 in the wake of what she calls a prurient witch hunt against men who traded favors with underage groupies decades ago.
So much to unpack! Let’s start with the age of consent.
Based on the information contained in this world wide ages of consent chart (which I will assume is true), countries that police the sexuality of their young citizens (and not all of them do), have consent laws that range from 12 to 18 years. Interestingly enough, some countries have different ages for girls and boys. In Columbia, girls can have sex legally when they are 12, but boys have to wait until they’re 14. In Indonesia, girls can legally consent at 16, while boys must hold off until they are 19. In Swaziland and Lesotho, it’s the opposite. Boys can legally have sex at 14, but girls must wait until they are 16.
In the US, many states have age-gap provisions, and they allow a mistake of age defense. That makes sense to me.
This girl is 13 years old. Her name is Madison Gabriel, and she is professional model, and if you ran into her with her fake ID in a nightclub, there is no reasonable way you could know she is 13 years old!!!
This girl is 10 years old. Her name is Thylane Loubry Blondeau.
And here she is at 12 years of age.
This is Elle Fanning. 13 years old.
Courtney Stodden is 16 years old. Her husband is 51.
This is Jennifer Pinches. She looks 12 years old. She is 18.
The point being that it can be incredibly difficult to know, just by looking at someone, how old they are. Girls in particular. Clothing, hair, make-up, attitude …. they can all suggest a girl is much, much older than she is. The laws in the US are designed to reflect the reality that it IS possible to mistake a girl’s age and it probably doesn’t help much if she lies about it.
Gosh, that probably NEVER happens.
Let’s deal with emotional maturity. The underage girls above are all posed in very sexually suggestive ways. Does that mean they are ready to have sex? Just because they LOOK ready? Obviously not, but that doesn’t automatically mean they AREN’T either. A lot of it will depend on the emotional maturity of their partners. A 13 year old having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend is one thing. A 13 year old having sex with a 60 year old is quite another, no matter how hot that 60 year old guy happens to be.
And again, the laws in the US address that disparity. The gap in age between the partners has an effect on how consent laws applies. Statutory rape is not always statutory. Very sensible. Most American teenagers wait until they are 17 before they start having sex, so underage teenage sex isn’t really that big of a problem (except for all the poor schmucks who live in states where the age of consent is 18).
There are three important variables that effect the average age of first sexual intercourse.
Black girls are sexually active a full year before the average.
And girls who live at age 14 with both their parents delay having sex beyond the average and well beyond girls who do NOT have both parents present.
Not much of a surprise there.
Here’s the third, very troubling variable: 25% of kids from low income families are having sex and the average age of initiation is 12.
So there ARE girls out there having sex at age 12, and they likely come from poor families, which not coincidentally, tend to be fairly troubled.
The situation is not much different in the UK. The average age for first sex is 16 for both men and women.
Nearly a third (30 per cent) of men and a quarter (26 per cent) of women aged 16–19 had sex before the age of 16.
And it’s the girls from socially troubled, low-income families who are most likely to report early sexual experience.
Let’s consider all of this information in the context of “Operation Yewtree”, which is the name police have given to their efforts to round up a group of men who were extremely popular entertainers and musicians in Britain some time ago. All quotes are from the Daily Mail article.
Lawyer Barbara Hewson described the arrests of celebrities such as Rolf Harris, Dave Lee Travis, Jim Davidson and PR guru Max Clifford under Operation Yewtree as a ‘grotesque spectacle’ adding it had ‘nothing to do with justice or the public interest’.
She adds: ‘But the low-level misdemeanours with which Stuart Hall was charged are nothing like serious crime.’
Ms Hewson continues: ‘Ordinarily, Hall’s misdemeanours would not be prosecuted, and certainly not decades after the event.
‘What we have here is the manipulation of the British criminal-justice system to produce scapegoats on demand. It is a grotesque spectacle.’
Well, what ARE the charges these men are being arrested for?
I took a look at just one “victim”, and I have to say, I am very inclined to agree with Hewson. The link below will take you to the story of Karin Ward, who accuses both Freddy Starr and Jimmy Savile of assaulting her when she was 15.
Karin admits her life has been a train wreck.
A qualified legal secretary, she has rarely worked on account of her chronic depression and anxiety.
Last year, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She has been married and divorced three times and has seven children by five different fathers, the youngest of which — a 15-year-old son — lives with her. Three of her children were taken into care as babies, and a fourth at ten years old.
She spent a year in prison when pregnant with her fourth child in 1982 for deception, having written cheques knowing she had no funds to honour them. All the result, she believes, of the abusive childhood she suffered.
Yikes! She must have suffered some pretty serious abuse at the hands of Freddy and Jimmy to result in such a severely fucked up life. What on earth happened that led to all this?
Karin claimed that when she recoiled from Starr’s alleged attempt to grab her breast and buttocks, he humiliated her by shouting out in front of the guests that he wasn’t interested in touching her because she was flat-chested.
I’m sorry. WHAT?!?
He tried to grab her ass and then called her a “titless wonder”? That’s the “abuse”? Are you fucking kidding me?
Oh wait. There’s more.
On one occasion, Karin claims, Savile persuaded her to perform a sex act on him in his Rolls-Royce on the promise of seeing one of his shows.
So there was more than one occasion then?
‘We’d think: “Jimmy’s here, we might get to go out.” If he came in his Rolls-Royce, he could get several girls in there and he would take us to the park, to a restaurant or London.’ There was, as the girls found out, a price to be paid for such generosity.
‘He wasn’t interested in us as people, he was only interested in one thing. We’d say: “He’s a dirty old man, a pervert,” but we’d laugh about it. We didn’t care because we were going to get sweets and fags and be taken to London to be on his show.’
‘We’d sit at the tables, smoking, thinking: “Poor cow, I wonder what she has to do,” and then we’d go: “Never mind, another trip to London.” ’
So basically, the girls were groupies. They wanted all the benefits of hanging out with a big star and they understood it came with a price and they paid it, perhaps reluctantly, but with full knowledge that the trips to London and the fags and the sweet weren’t free.
Why should they be?
They came from horrifically messed up families and had tons of problems long before they ever laid eyes on Jimmy or Garry or any of the other accused men. What they wanted was an escape. A way out. A free pass. They clearly had zero adult supervision. Who lets their young daughter go to London with a much older, famous entertainer? Who lets their teenager cruise around with a man reeking of cigar smoke and alcohol in a Rolls-Royce?
And now they are claiming the MEN abused THEM? Looks to me like it was the other way around. The situations and incidents Karin describes as abuse were nothing more than girls out famewhoring. Desperate for male approval and love and attention and power by proxy, they tried shooting for the moon.
It’s a story as old as bloody time. Young women with nothing to offer but their youth and sexuality chase after powerful men in exchange for favors. If we are going to arrest every powerful man who has ever availed himself of willing women, we are gonna need to build a whole lot of jails.
Hewson says the men being arrested are scapegoats. Scapegoats for what? For the anger and embarrassment and jealousy and bitterness the women feel because they FAILED to land the big fish? Would any of these women be complaining if they had ended up married to one of the stars?
Hell no. They’d all be divorced now with half his assets in their bank accounts, gloating over what idiots men are to fall for youth and beauty.
Hewson wants to lower the age of consent so that prosecuting these men becomes impossible. While I understand her ire, I’m afraid I can’t agree with her solution entirely. Lower the age of consent to 13? Okay. Sure.
But put in sensible measures like the United States. An age gap consideration and a mistaken age defense. With power, comes responsibility. That’s part of the deal. Powerful men have some obligation to use their power judiciously. Underage girls are off limits, no matter how willing they are to comply.
With power, comes responsibility. It applies to the girls, too. Youth and beauty and enthusiasm have power, and the girls have some responsibility to use their power judiciously. Chasing after much older men in the hopes of currying favor and gaining benefits is off limits.
But humans are humans. Powerful men always have and always will delight in young women hunting them. Young women always have and always will hunt for powerful men. Both sides are equally culpable. Both sides are engaging in abuse. Both sides are behaving shamefully. Both side are being idiots.
But only one side is being held criminally responsible? Bullshit. If the girls are not going to be strung up on charges of solicitation and prostitution, and I absolutely do NOT think they should be, then fairness and equality under the law dictates the men get a pass, too.
Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.
Lots of love,