Age of consent is a correlated trait fallacy

Almost everyone believes in the "age of consent" when it comes to sex: an age before which a person is *unable* to consent to certain acts and those acts should be prevented even if the "victim" wants to do them.

I've had this argument a lot, and the main explanation I get is "a child can't consent to sex because they can't understand the implications of that act". If that's how consent works then I can also argue:

Obviously that's not how consent works. Consent is only invalid if it's obtained through deception or threats; just not having relevant information doesn't invalidate it.

I find it telling that *all* the people I argue with about this draw the magic line at 18 (except for one couple who draw it at 25 because Muh Neuroscience). I guess it's just a coincidence that that's the number chosen by the government? But they don't *always* draw it there - sometimes, when talking about a case that happened in a state where the legal age was 17, *the same person who normally draws it at 18* thinks it's okay because 17 year olds aren't kids. And these are mostly anarcho-capitalists I'm talking about! (You know, the same people who have *no* problem with people being forced by poverty into prostitution?)


Be honest with yourself: are you *sure* you're not getting this from the government? What do you think of past societies where marriage long before 18 was normal? Were all of those people rapists?

I also want to raise the spectrum problem: if it were actually about maturity, then not only would it not be bound to a constant age (because not everyone matures on the same schedule), but *it couldn't be a hard line* because maturity isn't a binary.

A common response is to admit that the age chosen is arbitrary, but say we have to choose one as a practical matter (because god forbid we have to actually consider the individuals involved and judge case-by-case). But when you respond to an argument about legitimacy with an argument about practicality, the most you can be arguing for is that having a hard line age of consent is an evil means justified by its results - otherwise, you'd be committing the appeal to consequences fallacy. And that's not how any of the people I argue with see it.


I often receive a strawman that stems from an overly narrow definition of force. Deliberate deception counts as force:

Analysis of rights and force

That includes omitting information you know you're expected to give, which is a higher bar for children because children usually trust adults much more than other adults do. Children can also perceive threats from adults even when no threat is explicitly communicated or intended (because most kids are used to being coerced by adults) which obviously invalidates consent.

Clearly I'm not arguing that pedophilic relationships are generally consensual. Note the difference between "can consent" and "do consent". This is an argment about *can*, not about *do*.

Also, things can be immoral without being involuntary, and they can be punished without violence, such as through ostracism and reputation. When I was on Twitter I regularly reported open pedophiles, because I believe that pedophilia harms children even if it's consensual, hence the use of nonviolent means to impede its spread.

But I think this is actually a serious issue because of how far it's taken. It's not just that people are wrong about ethics. Almost every ancap I know thinks people who have sex with a willing 17 year old (in a state where it's illegal) should be *killed*. It's unbelievable how unanimous it is, and how against voluntaryist principles. You can post horrific memes about feeding people into woodchippers for saying "MAP rights" in ancap communities and you will never get a negative reaction.

And you don't even have to be a pedophile yourself to get the woodchipper! I had this argument on Twitter a lot, and every time I got *several* people talking about killing me. One time I said so to someone else, but I described as "*joking* about killing me", and multiple of them corrected me that it's *not* a joke. I think they would really kill me just for believing this.

It's also common for them to conflate someone who is *attracted to* children with someone who *acts on* that attraction. Attraction is not a choice. And in fact the word 'pedophile' ought to mean someone *attracted to* children, not someone who *acts on* that attraction. A homosexual isn't someone who has sex with others of the same gender, but someone who is attracted to others of the same gender.


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