It should be illegal for middle aged men to date 16 year olds

A bus stop vision in orange Dream Matte Mousse and a carefully burnt side fringe, there are many words I’d use to describe myself at 16.

And many more, perhaps, for the sort of grown men who would be attracted to a child who still drew hedgehogs on her GCSE history folder, wanted mummy to let her go on the ski trip, and fantasised about being a vampire.

Following Saturday night’s Channel 4 Dispatches, where four women accused Russell Brand of sexual assault, abuse and rape, I was left thinking about ‘Alice’. 

Alice – who was speaking under a fake name – says she was just 16 years old when she entered a relationship with then 31-year-old Brand. It made my blood run cold.

It then started to boil when I saw the number of men on X, formerly Twitter, pointing out that – despite Alice’s claims – going out with a 16-year-old isn’t actually illegal.

In a fit of rage, I tweeted: ‘The age of consent is 16 because 16 year olds bang each other, not because it’s ok to have a girlfriend in year 10 when you’re 42, Clive’.

And it’s something that needs to be said, over and over. In fact, I think we need an ‘Alice Law’.

I propose that this law makes it illegal for those older than 21 to pursue those under the age of 18.

I’ve always hated the phrase ‘the age of consent’, not because it sounds like a bad Tolstoy novel, but because it implies that you wake up on your 16th birthday embodying the intangible wisdom of sexual power dynamics and autonomy. 

You don’t. 

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It’s not because teenagers are stupid (I can speak from first-hand experience about how cunning, manipulative and sneaky I was) but because the complexity of what sex is – and what it can do – amounts to far more than a few sex ed classes on how to put a condom on and why developing AIDs is bad.

I’m talking about what you like, what you enjoy, what you need, what your boundaries are; all the messy individualities that inform what our sexualities become. 

It’s the kind of thing you can only learn through your own experiences and time.

And I hope to God you have that ‘experience’ with an equally foppish 16-year-old, instead of a dangerously calculating adult. Because, in my opinion, any grown up who wants to have a sexual relationship with you isn’t looking for an equal.

They aren’t looking for someone they respect. They aren’t looking for someone who can enforce clear boundaries, vocalise discontent, and push back against their own wishes. 

Women know what the men who tell your daughter she’s ‘mature for 16’ really think. We know they aren’t actually mistaking young adults for women and that they ‘honestly couldn’t tell’. 

It’s dark, nefarious, and born from their own deep misogyny about having a woman they can control.

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According to the NHS in 2023, most teenagers become sexually active between the ages of 16-17. 

Some are a bit later, some a little earlier, but that’s to be expected.

Hormones are raging and I don’t think amending legislation to raise the age of consent will stop a 16-year-old having sex with her boyfriend in Year 11 any more than the usual preaching on abstinence does already. 

But what might protect these young people is if we change the law to shield them from older adults who seek to abuse their innocence, naivety, and inexperience.

The power imbalance of a man in his 40s with a vehicle, income, and housing alongside a GCSE student is frightening. 

More from Platform

Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk’s first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.

Find some of our best reads of the week below:

Emily Bashforth explains that, even though Katy Perry was married to Russell Brand, she doesn’t owe anyone a response.

A mum to a 15-year-old vaper shares her concerns about the proposed ban on single-use vapes and how it might impact addicted teens like her own daughter.

An uplifting piece from Emily Powell, who ran away to Vegas with her groom and got married in a 15-minute-long, $150 ceremony officiated by Elvis.

And Pranjal Jain made us all cringe when she shared that she accidentally said ‘I love you’ on a first date after a language translation error. Her date’s reply left her gob-smacked.

He can choose to drive home if he feels frightened or uncomfortable, she can’t. He can choose to live somewhere else if it doesn’t work out, she can’t. He can choose to spend his money on that train ticket, plane or bus home to people who love him, she can’t. 

Anyone who has experienced a controlling partner should be able to relate to how dangerous a situation is where a vulnerable person without independence, employment, or financial means ends up with someone who holds all the cards.

I’m not one to moralise on the personal preferences and sexualities of consenting adults in their private lives – personally I find myself primarily attracted to women and men who are older than myself – but I am adult and can clearly make my own decisions and will not be impacted by a power imbalance. 

It seems patently clear to me, and many others, that more needs to be done to protect young girls at bus stops, takeaways and shopping centres from the lure of a grown up telling them they’re special.

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