Debate Guide: Legal pragmatism
Here, so-called "legal pragmatism" refers to a series of legal and technical arguments for keeping the age of consent.
- "The AoC provides a firm line where one is needed; the public needs to know where they are. This also goes for the courts, since objective, simple legislation is technically superior to subjective interpretations. A few unfair convictions is no loss, when this law allows us to get the bad'uns".
A number of issues come to mind, all having a bearing on the viability of this argument:
- How common are these "bad" experiences really? Research may help us here.
- What meta-ethical system are we using? Negative utilitarianism would appear to support this argument.
- What time scale are we talking of. "Legal-pragmatic" arguments may hold water as precautionary measures in times of sexual repression when experiences are likely to be looked upon with guilt. This would, however, need to be coupled with reform of attitudes so that guilt could be reduced, laws changed and personal choice embraced.
- Can we afford harming individuals who have been caught up in arbitrary laws that do not take into account the positive nature of their relationships?
- In light of the variable nature of adult-minor (and indeed any human) sexual relationships, do we really need an objective test in court? Can abuse (regardless of age) be identified with a more humane test that depends on the subjectivity of those involved?