When should teenagers be allowed to have sex? This question has been the parting of the ways when talking to people from other countries, because every country defines the age of consent differently. Should it be 13 like in Japan? 14 like in Germany, Portugal and Italy? 16 like in Canada, Finland and Norway? 17 like in Ireland? Or even 18 like in some parts of the United States?
First of all, I think that age is mainly a biological figure. We can see 14-year-old girls that dress like adults and look way older than they are. On the other side, some of them still seem like small and helpless children. In the same manner, some 16-year-olds already live by theirselves independently while some are still very insecure and live at home. Some already earn their own money while some need a lot of support from their parents. Some have had relationships while some haven’t even had their first kiss.
Therefore it is clear that people of the same age can be in different stages of their lives: Not only in regard to living by oneself or having a job, but also with emotional and sexual experience with other people. Each person is mainly defined by their up-bringing, education, their experiences in the past and the current stage of their life. We can’t (only) define them by their biological age.
That is what law is doing, though: It is generally defining people by their age and therefore puts people in boxes. But of course, you have to draw a legal line somewhere. You have to define an age where it is legally allowed to have sex, simply to make it possible to sanction things like pedophilia and child abuse. That is why there is a nationally valid age of consent defined by each state’s law. But again, this statutory age line is influenced and shaped by each country’s background, culture and people. Law is never statically determined, it differs from country to country and it can also change. So once again, a universally valid law for the right age of consent doesn’t exist. There are various opinions, arguments and laws for the age lines in different countries.
In Germany for example, the legal age for sex is 14. But that doesn’t mean that over-14-year-olds are allowed to carry out sexual acts with whom they want, there are still several restrictions. For example, an over-21-year-old cannot engage sexual relations with an under-16-year-old if the younger one’s capacity of sexual self-determination is being exploited.
So, once you see the bigger picture, it becomes clear, that there is no objective truth and no universal answer, no perfect age for sex. Neither society nor the law can universally tell whether a person of a certain age is ready for sex or not. All we can do is to make sure that young people are educated well by parents and schools. In the end, teenagers decide for themselves when they are ready and it is the parent’s the responsibility to see if their child is able to decide properly. Parents should talk about it with their children and make sure they know about contraception and possible consequences like diseases and (teenage) pregnancy early.
Also, there should be a mandatory sexual education in schools (like it was the case in my school in Germany). That is the only way to make sure, everyone knows the facts of life equally – ideally before deciding to have sex. If teenagers want to do it, they might do it anyway, regardless of the age of consent – and then they better know what they are doing.
What is your opinion on this? When should teenagers have sex? Leave a comment! 🙂