Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Garance Franke-Ruta made a suggestion in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that the age of consent for making naught pictures be raised from 18 to 21. Not being a big WSJ reader, I was going to let this slip by with the same level of attention I usually give to legislation proposed by people who are in no position to actually make it happen. But more and more people felt the need to weigh in, and the peer pressure started to weigh on me. But, like Lance Mannion, I didn't want to be the creepy old guy arguing for more teen porn.

But then Garance was good enough to weigh back in with a clarification that she only wanted to outlaw charging for pictures of unclothed women from 18-21, not taking them or looking at them. So free teen porn is fine, but charging for it is not. Well, then carry on!

(I allow that it's possible that I'm intentionally misunderstanding her just to be an ass.)

In all seriousness, what bugs me about this proposal and all similar ones that attempt to prevent young people from making stupid decisions is that I was once a young person, and I remember how the process works. Yes, I was smarter at 21 than 18. And I was smarter at 18 than at 16. Furthermore, I'm smarter at 36 than I was at 21. That's the way life works. But I got that way by making a bunch of decisions, some smart, most kind of dumb, experiencing the consequences, and watching my friends do the same.

This may not be the ideal way in which to create wise and capable adults, but it's the only one that I know of, and attempts to keep kids from making decisions until they've reached some magical age of wisdom aren't likely to be helpful.

1 comment:

Christie said...

Gotta say, I disagree with you on that one. There is something to be said for protecting the young from themselves until they develop the wisdom to make good decisions.

Young people in the 18 - 21 age bracket are very vulnerable to making poor decisions, especially in the arena of sex and love. That is the age when they are trying to figure themselves out, decide what the need in a mate, and exploring the limits of their sexuality. This is precisely a good time to protect them while they wise-up a bit.

It is pretty clear that as we live longer, our adolescence also is to extending longer. Making mistakes is not the only way to learn. (I did not have to get hit by a car to learn to look both ways before I cross the road.) When those mistaks can be seriously damaging and haunt kids for long after they have grown up - well, it seems the perfect time to protect them.