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1. June 2011

Sexual responsibility, and the question of sex with minors

Earlier in the month of February, The Telegraph reported that an English high court judge barred a man from having sex, due to that man’s incredibly low IQ and an inability to properly assess circumstances.  At first, the action seemed bizarre, and brought to mind eugenics programs of the Nazi Party.  But if one looks closely at the matter, this judge ruled far more closely according to the philosophy of John Locke than Adolf Hitler.

For instance, in Locke’s essential explanation of parental authority, he carefully explained that a man is born into liberty and equality, but only on condition of rationality and adherence to natural law. But as a child, without a proper understanding of the rights of man, and thus without the ability to consistently refrain from infringing upon the natural rights of others, the human was to be guided under parental authority until a state of maturity and rationality had been reached.  Otherwise, he would be a danger both to himself and to others.

Locke wrote of parental authority,

Adam’s children, being not presently as soon as born under this law of reason, were not presently free: for law, in its true notion, is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no farther than is for the general good of those under that law. [...] [T]he end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom: for in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom”.

So, supposing a person were to reach an age of generally recognized maturity (say, the age of 18) without necessarily having the moral character or the intellectual aptitude to conduct himself properly, he must remain under the authority of his parents, or another tutor must necessarily be provided for him: the state.  Without this government created through social contract, the absence of authority would provide the unprincipled criminal the ability to terrorize, to pillage, to rape, to murder, and to steal from others without serious threat of repercussion.  It is for this very reason that we grant the state special authority over people who engage in certain behaviors, the right to end both life and liberty when unalienable rights have been violated, when the criminal revokes his humanity and takes his place with the animal kingdom (Second Treatise, sects 16-17).

But in this particular case, in which a severely disabled man is engaging freely in sexual relations, does the state necessarily have a right to restrict him?

It must be noted, before proceeding, that there are very strong similarities between a severely disabled man and a child. They both, while possessing instinctual tendencies which have not been properly bridled into their proper functions, have the capability to do both good and harm out of immaturity.  And while certain children are born with stronger tendencies toward certain behaviors than others, a greater aptitude toward moral behavior does not necessarily negate the necessity of parental authority.

So if anyone is to argue that rational incapacity and a lack of wisdom are the sole reasons a good parent protects their child from sexual intercourse, and why our law prohibits sexual relations with minors, then we may arrive at two necessary conclusions.  First, that consensual sexual relations have the capability to infringe upon the natural rights of others both directly and indirectly, and thus a person does not deserve sexual liberty without understanding those boundaries.  Second, that a person who either refuses or is incapable of developing into rational maturity must necessarily remain either under the authority of caretakers or under the penalty of law.

In regard to the first conclusion, that sexual liberty only exists within certain boundaries, it is important to note that while the sexually liberated West has generally banned sex with minors, we have abandoned most punishments for fornication, adultery, divorce, illegitimate childbirth, and homosexual activity, acts which would otherwise be prohibited with minors.  But it would be silly to believe that children are restricted from engaging in these sexual acts simply because they are not a specific age.  Rather, it is because peoples’ sexual rights must be restricted when they are incapable of having sex maturely, otherwise our law would not prohibit sex with minors.  Again, Locke wrote of the matter,

for God having given man an understanding to direct his actions, has allowed him a freedom of will, and liberty of acting, as properly belonging thereunto, within the bounds of that law he is under. But whilst he is in an estate, wherein he has not understanding of his own to direct his will, he is not to have any will of his own to follow: he that understands for him, must will for him too; he must prescribe to his will, and regulate his actions;”

and furthermore,

This holds in all the laws a man is under, whether natural or civil. Is a man under the law of nature? What made him free of that law? what gave him a free disposing of his property, according to his own will, within the compass of that law? I answer, a state of maturity wherein he might be supposed capable to know that law, that so he might keep his actions within the bounds of it.

This brings all reasonable men to ask: from which kinds of consensual sexual behaviors are children being protected, in light of their immaturity?  And does being an adult necessarily grant anyone sexual liberty to engage in these consensual behaviors, even supposing that they spread terminal illness and have dozens of illegitimate children by dozens of partners?  Or are these clearly cases in which the person has revoked their liberty by acting outside the boundaries of reason, against the rights of people such as their abandoned children, their partner now terminally infected with AIDS, or the single mother they left behind?

In light of these questions, it is necessary to accurately define how much sexual liberty someone may be granted until sexual liberty isn’t actually liberty, but rather an infringement upon natural rights (as conservative philosopher Roger Scruton most clearly explains).  Libertarians and liberals may argue that rape alone, and perhaps sexual relations with minors are worthy of prohibition.  But if society restricts the sexual rights of minors, this can only be to keep children from engaging in the same behaviors society considers to be “for adults,” behaviors with the same direct and indirect consequences.  And it must also be understood that knowledge of the boundaries of moral sexual interaction does not necessarily grant license to disregard them.

Therefore, there is an answer to this question of sexual liberty, and it is one which provides a counter cultural, although thoroughly moral consistency. It is that children may not legally have sex with whoever they please, that sexual relations are only moral between a man and a woman within the bonds of permanent marriage, and that certain consensual sexual relations between adults are unacceptable, and prohibitable under the same valid reasoning we ban sex with minors (particularly those acts which are readily recognizable, such as illegitimate childbirth, no fault divorce, the spreading of terminal diseases, monetary exchange for pornography, and prostitution).  And if sexual liberty isn’t predicated with a sexual maturity which leads to sexual responsibility, perhaps instead of being angered, society should thank liberals for using organizations like The Girls Scouts to teach our kids how to violate one another “properly.”

4 Comments

  1. Legal proscriptions by the State don’t seem all that feasible on certain points. Bedroom police come to mind. It once was that the concept of shame, born of Cristian precepts kept blatant licentiousness at bay. A return to such a time is in the hands of Providence. If Providence tarrys, then in the end there can be either no bounds at all (anarchy), or totalitarianism, with depravities only State approved. In other words, an end to what we’ve come to regard as ‘Civilization’.

    Am I too pessimistic?

    Comment by M.kilpatrick — 6. June 2011 @ 16:02

  2. I would say the answer to such “totalitarianism” and bedroom police is a solid understanding of Biblical law. First, there must be two to three witnesses for any accusation. Second, if those witnesses are found to have professed against an innocent party, they receive the same punishment they were seeking for the defendant.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2019:16-21&version=NKJV

    Thank you for your comment!

    Comment by admin — 6. June 2011 @ 16:45

  3. …one of Mohammed’s many wives was the celebrated Aalea, who was only six when she married Allah’s prophet. So, to this day, it is not unusual within the Ummah for a guy in his 50s to take a teenage girl as a third or fourth wife. Indeed, in keeping with the Hadith, sex with pubescents is not only allowed by tacitly encouraged. As the number of Muslims in the US grows, polygamy and sex with pubescents will increase, and will be advanced under the banner of religous freedom. How Americans’ address this will impact not only the country’s future, but its’ soul…

    Comment by Ice Bandit — 16. July 2011 @ 14:07

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