Age of Consent

Some great stuff from Joe.

The Age of Consent - Bronski BeatThe Age of Consent by Bronski Beat was released in October 1984. I always remember the quizzical look the young saleswoman gave me (so you’re queer then?!) when I asked for a copy in my local record store. Bronski Beat were the first openly G-A-Y band in the UK. Homos in showbiz were nothing new but wee Jimmy Sommerville was the first person in pop to wear his pink triangle (the rainbow flag hadn’t been invented yet) with Pride. The whole LGBT activist angle the band promoted in music press interviews was one of the main reasons I felt duty-bound to by the album. I was nineteen at the time and had just gone back to art school. A couple of years before I had been driven out of full-time education by homophobic students who were aided and abetted by equally homophobic tutors. On the day that I quit school my most ‘supportive’ teacher advised me not to “end up as another fag on the dole”.  Both the strange Americanism (fag) and its still-understood-by-Brits meaning ensured that I never forgot this unhelpful tip and remained angry and depressed for the next couple of years.

Equalizing the age of consent was a 1980s thing. Consent as a moral framework – a moral starting point or assumption for deciding “when to start” or “where to do it” – had to be established as “commonsense” before Bronski Beat could write electro-pop ditties about the social pressures forcing gay people to hide their love away.

Gay liberation was one strand of the 1960s sexual revolution. It was no accident that Harvey Milk was the “first openly gay person to be elected to public office”. San Francisco was the home of “free love” – gay and straight. The LGB & Ts only stepped out of the shadows and joined the hippy trail when it became clear that other flower power advocates weren’t going to beat them up. If there had been no straight “free love” movement, no common acceptance of divorce, serial monogamy, pre-marital sex, co-habitation, single parents etc there would have been no gay liberation.

Gay people are 2% of the adult population. They didn’t persuade the 98% to adopt the new moral framework based on consent.  The straight majority could have carried on believing that certain behaviours are intrinsically wrong (irrespective of consent) but in doing so they would have put limits on their own sexual freedom. Gay people simply took advantage of a much bigger straight liberation movement.  Just as they have taken advantage of the redefinition of marriage to mean “when we make vows to each other and we support each other”.

The Christian concept of holiness pre-dates all of this but how many Christians today would concede that it demands as much from the straight majority as it does from the LGBT minority?

For this is the will of God, your sanctification that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

Here’s the most famous track off that important album.

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