This post is the one where you start to guess that I’m a libertarian.
Today, something happened again, as it often has, recently, which is a grave injustice: an adult was sent to jail for having consensual sex with a teenager.
David James, a teacher at a Cardiff school, was sentenced to 20 months in jail, registered as a sex offender for 10 years, and banned from working with children for life, for having sexual relationships with three of his female students, all 16 years of age. The oddest thing about this particular case is the remarks made by the judge, Christopher Llewellyn-Jones:
bq. It’s difficult to imagine a graver breach of trust than for a teacher to engage in sexual activity with those who are in their charge. *It’s plain that each of these girls were over the age of consent and did consent to what happened.* (But) the courts must make it plain that they will protect children in the care of others even if they are above the age of consent. [emphasis added]
This isn’t even an issue where the “victims” are deemed of an age where they are too young to be able to give informed consent to a sex act. This seems, to me, a clear case of where a government is using its power not to protect the rights or safety of anyone, but simply to enforce a moral position: that teachers shouldn’t have sex with students. Unfortunately, the BBC doesn’t report what charge Mr James was convicted of, but is it really possible that the UK has a law that specifically forbids teachers from having sex with their students “even if they are above the age of consent”? If so, then their government is involved too closely in regulating its citizens’ personal lives.
Not only does this case overstep the boundaries of just action by a government, but the judge’s comments also manifest the serious moral confusion involved in our society’s attitude towards adults having sex with teenagers. Is it really “difficult to imagine a greater breach of trust than for a teacher to engage in sexual activity with those who are in their charge”? Well, what if a teacher killed their students and harvested their organs for sale on the black market? I think it’s pretty clear that would be a greater and more harmful breach of trust, and it took me under thirty seconds to think of.
Putting consensual sex acts at the top of our society’s list of most reviled crimes is odd when one considers that there are other acts, such as murder, that are not only non-consensual, but also vastly more harmful and frightening. Would you like to have sex with someone you choose? I’ll bet you would. Would you like to be murdered by a deranged lunatic? I suppose not.
It disturbs me that a judge can’t imagine that murder might be worse than consensual sex.