BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour recently gave a platform to Peter Tatchell (of ‘Protest the Pope’ and Guardian fame) and Jules Hillier (Deputy Chief Exec. of Brook) to push for the lowering of the age of consent to 14. Tatchell subsequently elaborated his view for the website Pink News, arguing that his real concern is actually the protection of children from abuse. Why, of course. See what he did there? He explains:
One way to protect young people against unwanted advances and exploitation is by promoting sex-affirmative attitudes that challenge the idea that sex is sordid and should be kept hidden. Sexually unashamed young people are likely to be less inhibited about reporting abusers.
Another way to protect young people against abuse – perhaps the best way of all – is by schools teaching assertiveness training to empower them with the skills and confidence to say no to unwanted sex and to report abusers.
This seems consistent with Tatchell’s 2002 article What Should Schools Teach Children? in which he states:
If education is about dispelling ignorance and imparting knowledge, then sex education has an obligation to give all the facts and tell the whole truth about every kind of sex and relationship. This includes sexual practices that some people may find distasteful, such as anal intercourse and sadomasochism, and harmful behaviour like unprotected sex and child abuse. Nothing must be off limits.
And his letter published in the Guardian in 1997, defending the publication of an academic book on ‘Boy-love':
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.
At the time of writing, the top-rated comments on Tatchell’s Pink News article come from Joe, who writes:
Wrong fight. Now is NOT the time to even contemplate things like this.
Regardless of our opinions, pro or anti, this is the time to get things like gay marriage.
And Robert S Kensington:
Now is not the time for this Peter. Let’s get equall married (sic) through first and foremost, far more important than the age of consent.
But, of course, there is no agenda. None whatsoever.