Hello Dear Constant Reader. It's been quite a week of news stories about young victims of sexual abuse. I want to put scare quotes around that as some of these victims still don't see themselves as such.
The chattering classes are up in arms in disgust at these disturbed adults preying on children, and the newspapers are full of disapproving stories about these "so-called relationships".
Just to bring a little bit of balance to this debate, I thought it was time to share my story.
I sometimes see pieces by homophobes on how older men abusing young boys is the main cause of homosexuality. That is certainly not how things went for me.
I lost my virginity to someone my own age who went to my school. I've never written about that because I do not wish to "out" him as he identifies as straight. I was 14. After that little event I was emboldened.
Now I am furiously shy. I still have issues with going up to the counter in a shop to ask for things. Yet when it came to sex, I was not backward in coming forward. My audacity seems alien to me now. I was very quickly arranging meets with men on newsgroups and going to cruising areas to pick up guys. Though I wasn't quite as gigantic as I am now, I was still extremely tall for my age and was able to pass myself off as 18. The men who I had sex with never realised I was 15/16. I feel a bit guilty now, for putting them at such risk of prosecution in my pursuit of sexual gratification. I was a horny teenage boy and I apologise. But I had fun, everything was done at my behest, I was always the instigator. Often, being the taller partner, I was the dominant one.
Yet many in the supposedly liberal media would say I was a victim of abuse, raped even (a disgusting misuse of the word that insults those who are forced or coerced into sex). Given the age of consent was, until I was nearly 18 myself, 18 my first proper boyfriend who I began dating when I was 17 and he was 18 was also guilty of breaking the law. But according to many my love for him was just a silly childish emotion and not real love. He was, as far as they are concerned, my abuser!
Rape is rape. But the age of consent is a ridiculously random thing. Are we to believe that somehow on my 18th birthday I was going to suddenly be able to more maturely handle sexual affairs? If someone is one week off their 16th birthday nowadays, are they completely without the right to engage in sexual acts they can freely have a week later?
I'm not suggesting dumping the age of consent nor even lowering it (when is too low or too high? It is a nigh impossible question). But please stop suggesting those below the age of consent have no ability to enjoy sex nor to feel "real emotions". That teenage love is somehow not "real love" is one of the most heartless things I've seen of late in the media. The love you feel as a teenager is one of the most powerful emotions known to our species.
We need to protect children from harm. People in positions of responsibility do have a responsibility to avoid sexual contact with those under their protection. But let us remember children should have rights too, and before we label them victims we need to ask them first.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist