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Inequality in human relationships refers to a status quo whereby one party is considered in some way superior the other. Whilst this situation is practically unavoidable, relationships in which specific (age, disability) and/or marked inequalities are present have been interpreted as inherently abusive by modern society and its scholars - particularly in the fields of popular thought, victimology and mainstream feminism. With said dogma taken for granted, the emphasis of anti-oppressive social theory moves from a pro-choice position to advocacy for social restrictions; "protecting children and young people from potential harm".

Inequality and power disparity

The central argument put forward against sexual contacts between adults and minors by victimologists such as David Finkelhor is that inequalities between the generations are concrete in nature and often lead to abuse and harm.

Critics point out that this argument could be applied to various other forms of unbalanced relationship, yet it is the taboo sexual interaction that victimologists focus on. Opponents such as Tom O'Carroll argue that power disparities need not lead to abusive behaviours. For example, scholars generally accept that homosexuality was for the larger part of its history, expressed in an age-structured form.

The mainstream of the growing Youth Rights movement not only disputes the assumption of abuse in sexual relationships, but also the belief that power differences and authority relationships between the generations need be as marked and exploitative as they currently are. Advocates of youth rights recommend emancipating minor youth as a means to equipping them with the legal protections, experiences and knowledge required to function safely as social agents. Current taboos, expectations and restrictions are said to disempower youth to the point of making them vulnerable to events that previous generations would have expected youth to have been able to comprehend.

See also