Recently the debate about the age of consent has flared up in the United Kingdom again. Is 16 the right age or does it do harm to children and adults alike?
An argument that I haven't seen raised very often, but one that I have believed in for a long time points out that the age of consent is a much more complex issue.
As somebody that turned 16 a mere one week before I received my GCSE exam results in the summer between high school and college I have for a while considered how 16 really is just a number almost plucked out of the air. I point out here that none of the stories or scenarios below necessarily apply to myself.
All around me, in year 11 (and before) there were people in my class discussing their sex life and everything that comes with that. While I didn't experience it personally, and neither do I recall other people in my year experiencing this, I do recall that some people in my year throughout the country got called names, such as frigid, for being a virgin.
Of course, there's a whole side debate there about pressure amongst young people, both from peers and themselves to 'pop it' at a young age. But there's a key issue that very few people seem to ever consider.
We always say one 15 year old can be more mature than a 16 year old and vice versa. Within a couple of years of age, at such a young age, there really is very little difference, mainly because they have all been brought up in a very similar environment.
But to split a year group in a school into 'you can' and 'you cannot' is frankly ridiculous. It causes tensions, it causing bullying, it makes people feel 'left out' or like they have to break the law to fit in. And naturally they shouldn't have to break the law to have sex with somebody they are attracted to in their school year but had their birthday nine months before them.
Lowering the age naturally causes concerns, but I ask you to think back to the first time that you had sex, you did it because you wanted to and the time felt right, not because the clock struck midnight and suddenly you were legally allowed.
*warning chapter, contains sexual content that some readers may find distressing* The main issue with the age of consent is that it gives people a boundary that they aren't supposed to cross, but in reality it's hard to tell how much that applies. Some people have raised fears that it will lead to sexual predators going after younger people because they know they can get away with it, but let's remember that if the person doesn't want sex or doesn't agree to it then that is rape whatever the persons age.
I'm not saying that the age of consent should be lowered, I'm saying that having an age is never going to be the solution, because it will always divide people in school years and lead to tensions because of that.
Perhaps, people that educate young people should just encourage them to be safe when having sex, consenting and to make sure they are actually aware of what they are doing.
Because let's face it, I remember having one half giggling session on sexual health, safety and consent when I was in high school and actually it didn't really teach people enough to be able to be fully consenting of certain situations. That is not enough.
Most 16-year-olds leave high school with very little additional knowledge to when they start their final year as a 15-year-old the only thing that's changed is their hormones have got a little more fiery.