I am a non-practicing heterosexual hebephile—and I think most men are—and find living in this society particularly difficult given puritanical, feminist, and parental forces against the normal male sex drive. If sex is generally good for both the body and the brain, then how is a teen having sex with an adult (versus another teen) bad for their mind? I feel like the psychological arguments surrounding the present age of consent laws need to be challenged. My focus is on consensual activity being considered always harmful in the first place. Since the legal notions of consent are based on findings from the soft sciences, shouldn’t we be a little more careful about ruining an adult life in these cases?
Since Bering whiffed most of the answer, more or less as I would have expected, I’ll give it a shot myself.
Dear Deep-thinking Hebephile:
The one thing Bering got pretty clearly correct in his answer to you is that your thinking most men are hebephiles doesn’t make it so. What it does do is allow you to tell yourself that what you want is normal and natural. It also allows you to cloak your impulses in the much-more-flattering cloak of daring nonconformity: Only you are brave enough to speak what all know in their hearts.
Except it’s not true. You are in the minority, and even within that minority, you are among those who work to justify their desires. That makes you extra dangerous, by the way, as does this idea that something needs to be “always harmful” in order for us to agitate against it.
There are good, solid reasons to prohibit sexual relationships between children and adults that have nothing to do with “moral panic,” even if you can’t think of what they would be. You hear someone say, “Ew,” at the idea. I, however, hear concerns about long-term planning capabilities and potential consequences of sexual activity, social maturity and the confidence to set boundaries, and severe power imbalances that call any kind of meaningful consent into question. “Soft sciences” or no, none of those disparities between childhood and adulthood is in serious doubt.
None of those require that children will come to harm in sexual relationships with adults, but they make it more likely. They also all but guarantee that wherever there is harm in one of these relationships, that harm will fall on the child, not the adult. That is why the penalty in these cases falls on the adult, even if it may “ruin an adult life.”
“But it doesn’t have to be that way,” I hear your letter pleading. It may even be true in the occasional case, but in those cases, that requires either exceptional maturity on the part of the child or that the adult be grown up–perceptive, wise, honest, patient, non-manipulative–enough for two. It would require that adult to be a better human being than the vast majority of those of us involved in relationships with people who can hold their own.
Are you that person? I don’t know. I doubt it, though, with your self-justification and your exceptionalism and your wish that “Someone think of the adults!!!” You come across as someone focused entirely on their own concerns and desires to the detriment of anyone else’s. At least you do to my practiced and studied–adult, if you will–eye. And that’s where those laws of consent come into play.
I do agree with you on one point, however. Please, whatever you do, be scrupulously careful about ruining that adult life of yours. I don’t want you taking any kids with you.