From the archives – May 2003

00000053 Age of Consent

When I was in Year 8, I think it was, I first heard this useful rhyme:

When roses are red
They’re ready to pluck;
When girls are sixteen
They’re ready to —-.

Such was our informal introduction to the 1950s version of Age of Consent Laws, and as such it may have served a useful purpose; it was at least memorable and was the only instruction we ever received on the subject. As for "pervs" (the favoured word at the time), there was no age of consent. Even if a perv was seventy (and he probably was) you couldn’t consent to him and he couldn’t consent to you, unless he was a she of course, especially if you were too. But there was no such thing as a female perv: everyone from Queen Victoria on knew they couldn’t possibly exist, and those maiden ladies living together, even in Sutherland, were just maiden ladies living together.

Then in 1984 we in NSW were decriminalised, but, in deference to some queer mindset that had (and has) considerable power and emanated from the ranks of the candle and choirboy set, somehow the magical Age of Consent had to be different for the penissed as against the penisless. But only when more than one penis was in play, so to speak. So in our wisdom we added post 1984:

When roses are budded
They’re ready to shoot;
When boys are EIGHTEEN
They may agree to a —-.

The law was almost as silly as my rhyme, really, and our state legislators are now considering doing something about it after close on twenty years. Fact is I don’t really care whether they choose sixteen or eighteen, as long as it is the same all round. It all has a rather tenuous connection with what really happens anyway, and no Age of Consent Law yet has helped stamp out real cases of child abuse, which certainly happened before 1984.

Yet what should seem a perfectly easy if limited concept is still such a minefield that a conscience vote has been called, and some letter writers have adduced arguments like the following in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. (Is it something Freudian that makes me nearly always type that as Herlad?)

The NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus ("Age of consent for gay males falls to 16 under sex reforms", Herald, May 7), says he wants to reduce the age of consent for gay men to 16 so it is in line with other states.

There must be many state laws that are different, so why is this law change so important? I hope MPs opposed to the changes can influence sufficient other members to defeat the bill. If it is reduced to 16, how long before there will be pressure from the gay community to reduce it to, say, 14?

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, May 7.

Really. I wish I knew where this unanimous "gay community" was and how the writer knows what "they" all think. Oh well, there will always be idiots, won’t there? Perhaps such "thinkers" should have a special Age of Consent (about 90) so they don’t risk reproducing themselves.

May 08, 2003