The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.
Thomas K. Hubbard
Classical Athens offers a useful comparative test‐case for essentialist assumptions about the necessary harm that emanates from sexual intimacy between adults and adolescent boys. The Athenian model does not fit victimological expectations, but instead suggests that adolescent boys could be credited with considerable powers of discretion and responsibility in sexual matters without harming their future cultural productivity. Contemporary American legislation premised on children’s incapacity to “consent” to sexual relations stems from outmoded gender constructions and ideological preoccupations of the late Victorian and Progressive Era; that it has been extended to “protection” of boys is a matter of historical accident, rather than sound social policy. Rigorous social science and historical comparanda suggest that we should consider a different “age of consent” for boys and girls.
Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations
Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.
Themes in Male Engagement with Music
This paper examines the cause of exclusionary practices in music, documenting the core values that underpin this issue in relation to males’ engagement with music. The focus for the paper is on the way in which gender has been one of the primary principles for the exclusion of boys, based on presumptions without foundation except in the erroneous hegemonic stereotypical images that prevail in social institutions such as schools. Through historical investigation of philosophy and practice combined with results from interviews with participants, the study reveals experiences in relation to genderbased exclusion from music. It concludes by offering an insight into approaches that deal with addressing this issue.
Hobbledehoydom in Anthony Trollope's "Ayala's Angel"
Using Anthony Trollope’s character Tom Tringle ofAyala’s Angel, I argue that in his portrayal of the hobbledehoy, Trollope is imposing on Victorian boys and young men a code of behavior every bit as restrictive and every bit as unnatural as the “suffer and be still” doctrine imposed on girls and young women. Using critical tools from the fields of Masculinity Studies and studies of literary character, I discuss Trollope’s portrayal of Tom Tringle as emblematic of the restrictions Victorian gender ideology placed on women. What emerges is a new dimension to Victorian gender studies. The admonition addressed to Victorian women of all ages and classes that they should “suffer and be still” in the face of any adversity is well known, and is often accompanied by the assumption that no similar restriction is placed on boys and men. In the world of Anthony Trollope’s novels, however, unlike that of many other Victorian novelists, women seldom need much taming, as obedience is a strong character trait in the majority of his heroines. His young men, on the other hand, tend to be far less morally evolved, and in Trollope’s love plots, if anyone has to undergo profound changes of character before being fit for marriage, it is usually the man. I argue that Trollope’s stern but gentle treatment of the misfit Tom provides further answers to the often debated question of Trollopes relative conservatism.
Substitute Sons and Damsels in Distress
Jeffery P. Dennis
Three recent mass media texts are analyzed in which the object of rescue for a male hero is a teenage boy rather than the traditional damsel in distress. These rescues and their aftermaths display considerable slippage between custodial and romantic conventions, blurring the image of the hero as father and the hero as lover. It is argued that their function is to evoke the possibility of same-sex desire while safely pretending that same-sex desire does not exist.
An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths
Baby boys can and do succumb as a result of having their foreskin removed. Circumcision-related mortality rates are not known with certainty; this study estimates the scale of this problem. This study finds that approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths (9.01/100,000) occur annually in the United States, about 1.3% of male neonatal deaths from all causes. Because infant circumcision is elective, all of these deaths are avoidable. This study also identifies reasons why accurate data on these deaths are not available, some of the obstacles to preventing these deaths, and some solutions to overcome them.
The Challenge of Constructing and Communicating Acceptable Boyhood
This paper describes a digital interactive book targeted at 10-14 year old boys which aims to educate about how the voice develops during puberty. The contents are based on a conventional print book for adults. The D-book has an advocacy as well as educative role—it attempts to argue in a “boy friendly” language that singing is part of a rounded and fulsome boyhood. It has had to consider carefully how this might be communicated to a potentially skeptical young audience. “Boy friendly” literature has been condemned by the critics of right wing recuperative masculinity politics. The paper therefore critiques the picture of boyhood that has been conveyed and discusses the justifications for the compromises that have been reached.
Our Sons, Our Schools, Our Future
Is there a boy crisis, and if there is, what are its symptoms? And what are the dynamics underlying those symptoms? We know that in the last quarter-century, there have been books of federal programs as thick as a Manhattan phone book on programs for girls only, on girl power, and female-only scholarships. The equivalent book of federal programs with boy-only scholarships and special programs for boys only, is, well, invisible.
How many men in this room have ever heard the words “You’re not dealing with your feelings”? Raise your hand. (many of the men raise their hands) Yeah, that’s most of us. And hopefully, in the next 20 minutes or so, as we talk, you’ll begin to have a different way of looking at that. I’ve spent about 25 years of my life working with traumatized men—men who were in deep trouble, and I’ve learned that men have a different way of handling their stress, loss, and emotions and it is often overlooked or misunderstood.