Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Reasonable Libertarian and Girls Gone Wild

At first glance, the proposal by Garance Franke-Ruta to raise the age of consent for someone to be viewed or filmed nude coincides well with the Reasonable Libertarian concept of transitional adulthood. Her idea, primarily, is to protect 18-20 year-old women from future humiliation for drunkenly consenting to being filmed naked by predators like the Girls Gone Wild video makers.

I'm unconvinced though on both practical and libertarian grounds. She hasn't been very specific about what she herself proposes, although she later supported the idea of a required waiting period for consent to be effective. This alternative removes some objections, except that it would be impractical unless applied only to people filmed in private locations, and not applying it to public locations virtually eliminates its usefulness.

Then there's the libertarian issue. I like the transitional adulthood idea, but not applied blindly to protect people from all self-imposed harm. The transition is a period for people to handle whatever bad upbringing or economic suffering in their childhood that drove the person to do something dangerous. Prostitution and professional boxing strike me as dangerous and things that 18 year olds are likely to fall into because something was screwed up in their upbringing. Being viewed naked, for pay or for no reason, doesn't fall into that category. Some people might not regret it (Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Madonna) and others who consider it a mistake might learn from it with relatively little harm.

A strong feminist might disagree about upbringing affecting a young woman's willingness to disrobe at the urging of the men around her. I understand that point, but people should be allowed to learn from mistakes (if that's how they see them). And anyway, the proposal is impractical from the perspective of getting video cameras off the spring break beaches and Mardi Gras streets.

A final note - I really dislike Garance's language choice, that this isn't a restriction on consent, it's "a greater right to control their own erotic images until age 21." Give me a break and just call it what it is. This framing stuff can go too far, like her implicit argument that the freedom (to consent) is (a form of) slavery.

(Despite writing all this, btw, I think Garance is a valuable blogger.)

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