My name is Rod Goodbun and I’m involved with a group called Action Reform Change
What does your group – what do you understand about the existence of an unequal age of consent in
Well we know that the law in relation to anal sex is different to the law in relation to vaginal sex. With vaginal intercourse, it’s legal to do that at age 16. So people undertaking anal intercourse at age 17 are criminal under the
We can no policy basis for this. No health basis for this. The only basis one might claim for this different law is a moral one. If it’s a moral argument, then it’s a moral argument around sexuality that really doesn’t stand up to tests on what community values are these days in relation to these issues.
I’ve worked in sexual health for about 18 years now, in a number of capacities – in a voluntary capacity in HIV prevention, as a researcher, as a adult trainer and educator. And I’ve found there’s a really interesting development in the way people think about sexuality over the last 18 years or so.
We’ve become much easier at talking about sexual acts, at thinking about the ways in which sexuality should or should not be regulated, but this area of legislation where anal intercourse is still considered to be, under Queensland law, somehow an extreme activity that needs to be regulated, is out of step with the way in which we think about the rest of the range of sexual behaviours.
It’s interesting that, even though there’s been a lot of information in the public domain about sexuality, about issues like HIV/AIDS, and now hepatitis, there’s still a level of discomfort in talking about the nitty-gritty of sexuality. The language around it is uncomfortable for many people. I think it’s important that we are able to conduct a public debate, to have a public discourse – an informed one, where we’re able to talk about vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral intercourse, and other forms of love and expression, without being squeamish about it. That’s something I think that our organisation, along with HIV/AIDS organizations and Family Planning organisations have been working towards for many, many years.
Action Reform Change
Well if we ask the counter-question “Why should someone be treated differently?” you would have to mount an argument on the basis of health reasons, or reasons related to psychosocial issues, as to why that should be the case. There isn’t any evidence – there simply isn’t any evidence to suggest that one form of sexual expression, i.e. anal intercourse, is more harmful or risky than any other form of sexual intercourse, i.e. vaginal intercourse. There are ways in which both activities can be risky or harmful to people engaged in them. If sex is happening through coercion, if there’s risk of sexual transmission of infections, then obviously that activity can be harmful. But there are ways and means in which society is working to minimise those risks – through education, through promotion of condom use, through promotion of resilience and self-advocacy, and self-esteem and confidence building so that people know what consensual sex is about and how they should ask for it. There are ways in which we’re learning, as a society, to deal with these issues.
Having a differential age of consent for vaginal sex and anal intercourse is really not part of the suite these days. It’s not part of a helpful range of strategies to promote confident young sexually expressive people who can ask for and know what they want.
British comedian Ricky Gervais – I’ve heard him, as part of his stand-up routine, make the comment that, in
Well, I would think if you were to poll young people you’d get a very clear view of what they would like from the lawmakers in relation to their expression and their right to choose. We tend not to ask young people. That’s the question that we could be posing – “What if we asked young people?” or “Why don’t we ask young people what these laws should be about and how they should be constructed?” Young people will advocate when they have the opportunity, but our society – and our political process – tends to lock them out.
So it’s not surprising that you don’t see people marching down the street. In addition to that, these issues are issues where, particularly for young gay or lesbian people – or for people questioning themselves about their sexuality - it’s often not the kind of place where they’re going to undertake that questioning behaviour.
If they’re wondering about their sexual identity, you’re not likely to see them campaigning in front of Parliament House – you’re likely to see them worrying in their bedrooms about what their future is, or perhaps ringing a counselling line. Political expression, political advocacy is something that does tend to come from people who are self-confident and mature and asserting their rights. So no, it’s not surprising that you don’t see young people marching down the street, but I think we should be asking them what they’d like – and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t say they’d like the right to choose.
(end of interview)