I’d hardly be the first to observe that when a small child falls and scrapes her knee, nine times out of ten she looks to her parent before deciding that it hurts. If the parent doesn’t signal alarm, the child will go back to whatever game she was playing.
Some people think something similar can be said about being sexually diddled with. If, in response to the child’s report, the parent shrugs if off, or better yet, tells the child how lucky she is to have attracted this attention, it’s highly questionable whether any harm has been done. Only if the parent registers horror might the child then be scarred, perhaps for life.
I have no opinion on this analysis, except to say that I do think sexual diddling is in at least some measure theory-laden. That doesn’t justify it, nor does it excuse it, but it does invite the question of why it needs to be justified or excused.
That said, I’m less tenuous about what counts as statutory rape. It’s called statutory for a reason, namely that but for her age it wouldn’t be rape. What age is that? That changes, across time and jurisdiction, with the alacrity of the weather. So, not unlike any number of other criminal offences, statutory rape is a political concept.
Some people argue that what’s wrong with diddling and/or statutory rape is the absence of consent. I agree. But it’s the absence of the consent of the child’s or minor’s ‘owner‘. It’s a violation of his or her property rights.
No, that can’t be right, because if it were there’d be nothing wrong with diddling one’s own child. Or with consensual incest. Or at least non-reproductive consensual incest. So obviously the proprietorship account needs to be supplemented. But with what? For that I turn to my moral betters.