There is ample medical and scientific evidence which indicates that children are sexual beings from a very early age. Throughout history, there have always been adults who have been attracted to children. Both coercive and consensual relationships between adults and children are well-documented.
While many maintain that moves to accept adult-child relationships are a new development, some sort of ‘final frontier’ for sexuality, this is simply not the case. On the contrary, what is new are restrictive laws governing ages of consent and sexual activity with minors. Industrialized nations did not begin a concerted effort to raise ages of consent until the turn of the 20th century. In some cases, such laws were adopted to combat child prostitution, whilst in other cases, these agendas were pushed by a vocal minority of religious conservatives. Unfortunately, this type of legislation does not achieve what its proponents claim it achieves. Those who would molest children or exploit them do so regardless of what laws are on the books. Punishing this needs to be handled by legislation which regulates molestation, rape and exploitation of children. Consent legislation, on the other hand, achieves nothing but discriminating against those consenting young people and adults who have grown to love each other and wish to express that love in an intimate manner.
Rather than prohibiting activity and forcing many to suppress their sexuality, society needs to work harder to educate both children and adults about sexuality and learning to express it in a positive and consensual manner which does not cause harm to come to any of the participants. Prohibitions only result in people developing negative perceptions about their bodies and their sexuality, which can lead to immense psychic and emotional stress as well as negative attitudes towards sexuality.
Of course, adult-child intimate relations need to be regulated by a standard of ethics which is transparent and understood by all parties involved—not only the adult and the young person who love each other, but the parents of the young person as well. Parents have a legitimate reason to be concerned about the welfare of their children. Therefore, we have proposed a four-point compact between these parties in order to ensure a safe and open framework in which such relationships can develop and flourish. The four points we propose are:
These four points are a synthesis of two sets of proposals made in 1998, the first by Gerald Roelofs and the second by Dr. Frans Gieles in conjunction with the JORis workgroup of the JORis workgroup of the Dutch Association for Sexual Reform (NVSH). The four guidelines were first introduced in this form by CLogo. As well as being adopted by us, they were officially adopted by the Dutch advocacy group MARTIJN in 2004.
Consent of both child and adult
Right now, most countries have an age of consent, which is the legally-mandated age at which a young person can consent to sexual activity without risking prosecution for himself and/or his partner. However, the age of consent ignores the fact that the sexual and emotional development of children is not bound to a certain age. Rather than protecting children, it sets intolerable limits to their freedom. Young people are often believed to be unable to give consent, even when the meaning, purpose and responsibilities of intimate physical activity have been, either explicitly or implicitly, explained to them.
In an environment where children are properly educated about their sexuality, rather than kept in an enforced darkness, they will be better equipped to decide for themselves whether and with whom to share the joys of intimacy. Rather than simply telling them that the feelings they experience are 'bad' or 'wrong', or that they are 'too young' to be experiencing them, they ought to be taught about the responsibilities and risks of expressing these feelings with another person. Empowering them to make choices for themselves gives them a positive feeling about their sexuality which they will carry with them into adulthood.
Freedom for the child to withdraw at any time
The child should have the freedom to withdraw from the relationship at any moment. Dependence relationships (by law or social) in which sexuality plays a role may hinder children in this freedom. However, this is dependent on each individual situation. By freedom to withdraw, we mean that the child should have the right to dictate the extent and tempo of the relationship on every level, and to choose which facets of the relationship he wishes to continue in and which facets he wishes to discontinue or refrain from altogether.
We believe that a child's right to withdrawal includes a right to be treated with continuing respect by his partner or previous partner, and a right not to be subjected to any sort of demeaning or vindictive behavior. Part of affirming a child's ability to choose is honoring his freedom of choice, regardless of how unpleasant these decisions may be for the partner.
Harmony with the child's level of development
Any contact should be in harmony with the child's level of psycho-sexual and physical development. This means that the contacts should be appropriate not only to his wishes, but to his level of experience, and should not in any way cause harm to come to the child's body. This requires that the older partner exercise a high level of responsibility to educate the child about what his body can sustain and to what he can do if he wishes to do so.
In a loving consensual relationship, any physical activity will likely be gradual, with the older partner not attempting to do anything with a child until the child is comfortable with lower level of intimacy and can engage in them without any adverse physical or emotional effects.
Openness towards the child's parents
Openness towards the parents of the child is of utmost importance. The child should not be required to keep secrets from his parents. The child's experience of events is dependent on the entire situation, including the quality of the relationship and the support of adults around it—including his parents. In most societies, amaros is an emotionally charged concept. Because of the many prejudices, childlovers will be afraid to be open about a relationship towards the child's parents. Nonetheless, this openness is a crucial condition.
Children should be protected from everyone who uses force, coercion or manipulation to cause a child to engage in sexual activity he does not want, or would not normally consent to. A child's parents should thus be able to determine to what extent the three other suggested guidelines are being respected. The childlover's feelings are private, but his or her actions are not. The parents of the child have the right to ensure that the childlover is not doing anything with their child that could cause bodily or emotional harm and to intervene if they have reason to believe that the child is being coerced or manipulated into physical activities he is not ready for or desirous of.