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.
Disrupting Nabokov’s "Aesthetic Bliss"
Since Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 publication of Lolita, numerous feminist scholars have argued for rereading the novel from the girl’s point of view to understand Lolita not as a sexual agent, but as an incest victim. In this article, I examine how revisionary texts like Roger Fishbite (1999), Lo’s Diary (1999), and Poems for Men Who Dream of Lolita (1992) give voice to the girl in the text, disrupting Nabokov’s “aesthetic bliss” and emphasizing aspects of Lolita’s victimization. Ultimately, I discuss how a contemporary analytical shift from valuing the aesthetics to a consideration of the ethics of the novel has led to restricted critical readings of the narrative, which, nevertheless, remain open through the acknowledgement of the girl’s sexual desire and agency within these female authors’ revisionary texts.
The issue of age of consent for sexual activities has been bedevilled by the absence of any objective standards or criteria for what is meant by or involved in "consent." Despite this absence—or because of it—the social and political response has been to reach for blanket prohibitions on sexual activity by persons under particular ages—ages which have settled in the mid‐ to late teens. At the same time, the percentages of persons aged 15 and under who are sexually active in our societies indicate that young people are regularly consenting to sexual activities. Consent to sexual activity has also been a concern in relation to the lives of the cognitively or mentally impaired. In an attempt to clarify issues surrounding consent there, a significant proposal in regard to objectifying standards for consent was reported by Carrie Hill Kennedy, in her article “Assessing Competency to Consent to Sexual Activity in the Cognitively Impaired Population” (Journal of Forensic Neuropsychology 1:3, 1999), where she developed a two‐part scale for ability to consent, including twelve criteria involving knowledge and five criteria involving personal assertiveness and safety. Kennedy herself has maintained that there is no relevance for her research as applied to minors: adults have sexual rights, minors do not. However, it would seem clear that there is a certain relevance—if not in the use of a similar scale for assessing the competence of a particular minor to consent, then in generally comparing the age at which children attain the developmental level comparable with that implied by Kennedy’s five Safety standards, and using that information to critique the present, obviously unrealistic ages of consent. In relation to the Knowledge scale, the importance of sexual education becomes still clearer.
In California, where I live, an affirmative consent law was recently passed: often referred to as the “yes means yes” standard for sexual assault, it is now required of all colleges receiving state funds. Supporters of the law argue that campus rapists can no longer be exonerated because their victims did not resist or were incapacitated by fear, shame, or intoxication. On the other side of the country, a student at Columbia University became an icon in this ongoing legal struggle by carrying her mattress around with her everywhere, including to her graduation, as a sign of protest against the university’s refusal to expel the male student who raped her.
This article analyzes the evolution of sexual politics and cultures in post-unification Germany, tracing these through three stages. First is the more immediate aftermath, in the early to mid 1990s, of ostalgische consternation over the loss of what Easterners understood to be the special qualities of GDR sexual culture, analyzing this consternation in the context of the—mutually conflicting—fantasies that Easterners and Westerners had about each other, replete with Easterners' ideas about how capitalism deforms interhuman interactions and Westerners' ideas about the deformations caused by totalitarian surveillance. A second stage runs from the mid 1990s through to the early twenty-first century, and includes both the convergence between East and West on the governmental policy level and the growing similarities identified in Easterners' and Westerners' sexual habits and mores. The third stage concerns the more recent past of the last five years and emphasizes the paradoxical coexistence of, on the one hand, strong commitment (on both the governmental and popular levels) to liberal values of individual sexual self-determination and toleration of diversity and a general sex-positive climate with, on the other, tremendous anxiety about the rise of European Islam (with its purportedly intrinsic hostility to both homosexuality and female sexual independence) and about the precipitous decline of the German birthrate. Attention is also paid to the newest policy directions with regard to adolescent sexuality and age of consent laws, abortion access, and disability rights.
The Ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in McEwan et al v the Attorney General of Guyana
This review considers how another outdated postcolonial law has been struck down in a former British colony amidst campaigns, global change and action by an appellate court. This follows from the historic 2018 Supreme Court ruling from Trinidad and Tobago in the Jason Jones judgement, in which it was decided that existing laws prohibiting consensual adult intercourse and sexual acts between consenting same-sex adults were unconstitutional. This review adds to that decision to highlight further social and sociolegal change in the region which has direct implications for future challenges to postcolonial laws which are ‘sitting on the books’. My review looks at recent case law which has overturned Guyana’s Victorian-era cross-dressing prohibition, as it relates to 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act of Guyana.
Kim Knibbe, Brenda Bartelink, Jelle Wiering, Karin B. Neutel, Marian Burchardt and Joan Wallach Scott
sexuality come together around issues of sexual health and sexual well-being in the African Diaspora in the Netherlands. 1 Thus, as Brenda Bartelink and Jelle Wiering do below, I extend and discuss some of Scott’s arguments in relation to the Netherlands