- Towards a sexual ethics for adolescence
- Journal of Moral Education
- Volume | Issue number
- 38 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Which moral principles should guide us in evaluating sexual contacts of adolescents? This paper tries to answer this question by taking two steps. First, the implications of a liberal sexual ethics for adolescence are spelled out, assessed and refuted. The core principle of the liberal ethical view, the principle of valid consent, takes competence as a necessary condition of morally permissable sex. Because adolescents are not yet sufficiently capable of judging and acting prudently in the sexual sphere of life, their consent to sexual relations cannot meet the criterion of competence. Hence, if judged from the principle of valid consent, sexual contacts in which adolescents are involved are morally impermissible. This rather illiberal implication of a liberal sexual ethics is rejected for several reasons. Second, an alternative moral principle for evaluating sexual contacts of adolescents is proposed, explained and defended. Precisely because they are not yet sufficiently capable of looking after their own interests, adolescents are still placed under parental authority. With reference to that, it is argued that their free and informed consent to sexual contacts is not enough for making these contacts morally permissible. What is also required is the considerate consent of their parents. Finally, three guidelines for parental interaction with adolescents are recommended. If parents take these guidelines seriously, exercising their authority will be at the same time an important way of promoting the growth of adolescents into competent actors in the field of sexual relations.
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