Debate Guide: Power disparity

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"Power disparity" or "Unlevel playing field" argument:

"The child or adolescent is almost invariably in a position of lesser physical power and status. Considering this, any sexual contact will function only in the interests of the more powerful partner, and is therefore abusive"

First of all, if such an argument should be taken in the defence of an age of consent law, you will have to explain the cases in which, for example a 15 year old boy has more physical power, status and money than a 25 year old woman or man.

Secondly, we have to consider whether there is a gap, and it's very nature. Whilst an adult may excel in physical power, they may have absolutely no legal standing in such a relationship. Even the slightest giveaway could have the police knocking at the door, so the adult is technically on the 'backfoot', when trying to maintain a relationship free of threat. Do we ever consider psychological harm because of this? No, because our dogma tells us that the adult is an indestructible perpetrator. Much of a child's power over an adult is discreet and Foucauldian in nature. Most parents should also know that a minor can always say 'no', often in the most expressive of ways. What about voluntary sexual intimacy would override this impulse?

Thirdly, the presence of a natural power gap in no way means that it will be utilised or abused. As a child - lover, a Pedophile would view a sexual interaction as a means of pleasing and receiving pleasure from their partner, not of belittling them (as a violent offender may). Any relationship worth legalising would involve no abuse of any gap, by either party. The mere presence of a gap would cause no psychological harm, if the interaction was understood to be non - threatening, as in the case of a powerful man picking his daughter up with one arm. Frankly, love is neither a fistfight, nor a game of football, and besides, abuse of this physical or status gap would still be against the law, without an age of consent.

It is also no safe bet that an abuse of power will lead to any physical or psychological harm. Children suffer and repeatedly come through beatings and bullying, so to expect that being felt up against one's initial will, by a self - interested family friend, will torture a child for the rest of their life, can only be dangerously conterproductive as a social idea. Regardless of the general ethical soundness of such behaviour, a child may eventually enjoy such an experience, or it may at least help them overcome any socially instilled fears or doubts about being touched. The difference between 'adult leadership' or 'one way mentoring' and 'one way abuse' is unfortunately determined by our morality. In fact, the abuse of power gaps is often inspired by entirely or partly socially constructed gaps between, say, rich and poor, or adults and children. As well as child emancipation, what we need is a more intimate, sex - positive culture, to reduce the need for this occasional abuse of power, which can also be pursued for confidence, psychopathic satiation and social rewards, as well as the traditionally stressed sexual gratification. At the moment, morality is unhealthily crushing the human libido.

See also

  • Against: Cognitive ability - Some argue that sexual intimacy requires a level that minors have not yet reached.