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Old 12-16-2010, 12:00 PM   #1
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Age of consent in fiction

I was going to ask this in the Amazon is Evil thread, but it would probably get lost with all the god and nazi stuff. What age do people in fiction need to be before they can either talk about or engage in sexual acts?
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Old 12-16-2010, 12:22 PM   #2
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about 14 to 16; lowest 12, may vary depending of country, acts in question and age distances of participants:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_...ious_countries
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Old 12-16-2010, 12:43 PM   #3
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what does one mean by sexual acts?
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Old 12-16-2010, 01:08 PM   #4
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I wondered that myself as I was writing Venom. In a story where girls are wed or otherwise urged/forced to reproduce as soon as they're physically able, it might ignite some people's wrath regardless. In my story, the human population is dwindling. I can't help but think governments would lower the age of consent if such conditions came about. In my story, that age is 14. In another story, it could be different.

As long as it's not kiddie pron masquerading as a story where the age of consent was low for a legitimate reason, I'd like to think it's not really an issue.
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Old 12-16-2010, 01:26 PM   #5
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I guess it depends on where you live. Considering that some countries see no problem with forcing girls to get married at 8 years of age, giving the "husbands" all of their "marital rights", it seems to me that one could argue that in those countries the age of consent can't be higher than 6 years.

Isn't the issue less one of age of consent than the combination of age and graphic description? I mean how big a deal is it to say that "Amanda was married at 5 years of age although she will not be permitted to cohabit with her husband until she is 16"? Isn't the big deal when it is written "Amanda was married at age 5 and on her wedding night was forced to . . . <insert graphic description>"?

I find the issue interesting to the extent that people seem to be significantly more concerned about sexual acts among and with minors (however minor is defined) than about murder, rape, and all the other horrendous acts people perform on other people at/of all ages in books. Americans in particular see no problem with the possibility of copycat serial murders unlike with the possibility of sex between any two people.
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Old 12-16-2010, 03:03 PM   #6
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@geoffc
in particular wikipedia mentioned that in some countries still is the difference between age of concent for hetereosexual being lower but homosexual being illegal before 18
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Old 12-16-2010, 03:24 PM   #7
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By their nature as fiction, like in KC's story, some novels might need to explore alternate ideas of human sexuality. I think of the part in Orson Scott Card's Ender series, when they're talking about the difficulty in colonization. What some of the colonies end up with is stable monogamy based upon a lottery, as they agreed it was the best way to ensure the biggest amount of their primary resource (children) with a minimum of strife. It was never spelled out, but there was an implication that some of the women would marry/reproduce quite young.

I wonder if something like this is more of an issue for independent authors. It might be from not having the direct validation from "professional" sources (I say that with a mote of irony). In addition, controversy reigns supreme and can be more of a friend to the average well-known writer, but I don't get a sense of cuddliness from Amazon or other retail places. One half-toe out of line, and BAM, so long whoever you are. There's no publicist, agent, or editor to defend it, and Amazon sure isn't going to lose any sleep on the subject; they can simply spam legalese until the cows, and then spam legalese with the cows.

Am I wrong, or does an indie looking for more of a mainstream audience have to be twice as careful about controversy? Though I suppose it might be more about erotica than anything else. Maybe that's what was discussed in the Amazon is Evil topic.

Last edited by Kemp; 12-16-2010 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 12-16-2010, 03:25 PM   #8
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Publisher

Publishers will often tell you what they consider their age of consent to be. Ie they will say no younger than 18 or 16. Its a very culturally subjective thing and will no doubt change over time.


Amy
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Old 12-16-2010, 05:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeoffC View Post
what does one mean by sexual acts?
Basically just female nudity in a sexual pose (bending over a chair or something) that ends in boy and girl both crying themselves to sleep, and some dialogue about things that happened to her when she was 12 or 13 (done by a man in his mid 20s).
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Old 12-28-2010, 04:13 PM   #10
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Surely it depends upon how you, the author, feel about writing a scene involving underage sex. This may relate to one's own views or experience. For example, I'd think nothing of writing about two five year olds saying "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" which is perfectly normal developmental behaviour, as is the move to petting at around 9. But I personally think it depends upon whether the partner is the same age, I'd feel very different if the partner were older and the sex non-consensual.

Of course, there is a market for underage exploitative sex. It really depends who you're writing for and how you feel about the subject imho
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Old 12-28-2010, 04:48 PM   #11
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In the UK it's 16, so I don't really see anything wrong with 16 year olds. But I'm really trying to second guess Amazon's next round of censorship. I could easily add a couple of years to her age (or not mention any age at all). I've seen a disclaimer in some stories that goes something like "all characters depicted here are over the age of 21". That seems pretty old to me, but presumably there is some reason for it?
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:22 AM   #12
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In this case its always best to stay on the side of caution and keep anything sexual between characters that are least 18 or suggested to be that age. If its a story thing, and the act needs to be between younger people then don't dwell on it or make it graphic, just suggest it. The age of consent is 16 in the UK, I think 14 in some European countries. I think in this case, and given the How To Be Peodo book that came out its all very sticky ground.
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:18 AM   #13
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Don't make it gratuitous

I would have thought it depends on the audience you were hoping to attract and in which country, as well as whether the sexual act was gratuitous, or something done to put over an important point or theme in the novel. In my own novel, Secrets From The Dust, there is a scene with an implied sexual assault of an under-aged girl. It is never seen, but when she leaves the abusers room, the reader knows what has taken place:

In a previous scene the reader is told that the abuser uses a baton that she carries like a man thing. Then later:
“All the other girls were in bed long before Lilly slithered into the dormitory as if she were stepping onto hot coals, sniffing back tears. She climbed with halting spasms into bed, and with each movement to get there she belched out a sharp moan. Margaret got up and crept to stoop by her bedside. “You alright, Lilly?” There was no response. The moonlight rested on Lilly’s face, which was ashen and vacant, and her red eyes were swollen with tears. Her two hands rested between her legs like a broken shield, guarding that place.”

The other day the BBC World Service reported about teen novels in Uganda, which are extremely sexually explicit. One deals with two twelve year old boys having sex with a girl and contracting aids. Another with a rape in a taxi cab. One mother explained that the reason she bought that type of book for her teenaged daughter was because it enabled them to discuss subjects that were important to her protection and that they would not otherwise discuss.

So it depends on your scene and its purpose, just don’t make it gratuitous is my opinion.
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Old 01-12-2011, 06:18 PM   #14
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I just make it 18 to be on the safe side for everyone. I even adjust what might be more realistic in a fantasy setting to make it fit. The princess in my second book is 20. I made it work that way because of numerous delays in the wedding due to treaty disagreements.
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Old 01-12-2011, 06:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I was going to ask this in the Amazon is Evil thread, but it would probably get lost with all the god and nazi stuff. What age do people in fiction need to be before they can either talk about or engage in sexual acts?
Depends on the country. And "talk about" is probably unlimited.

Australia: Explicit depictions of minors (under 18) are illegal. Pretty much entirely, except for educational purposes. What counts as "explicit" probably depends on the judge.

US: No age limit for fictional characters depicted as having sex. Age limits for *real* people, which can include underage actors depending on what they're doing, but "people" who were never born and can't die, have no legal rights to protect and don't fall under "child pornography" laws. They might fall under "obscenity" laws, but that's measured against the artistic/literary value of the work.

Many publishers won't publish books where minors have sex, or won't publish explicit scenes with minors, or won't publish scenes where minors have sex with adults, whether consenting or not.

Legal age to *have* sex in a given region has no direct connection to legal age of *depictions* of sex, whether in pictures or in text. The fact that many US states allow sex at 16 doesn't make it legal to have or distribute videos of 16-year-olds having sex.
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