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Sexual Assault in Canada

Elizabeth A. Sheehy

Part II

22. Raising the Age of Sexual Consent: Renewing Legal Moralism?

Julie Desrosiers


In contrast to the 1992 sexual assault reforms analyzed by Elizabeth A Sheehy earlier in this section, the law reform discussed in this chapter was neither initiated nor shaped by feminist intervention. Instead, Julie Desrosiers argues that the 2008 reform that raised the age of consent is based in deeply conservative moralism. Although she acknowledges that feminists worry about the ability of young women to freely “consent” to sexual contact with adult men, particularly in the context of a society that teaches young females that their value lies in their attractiveness to males, she suggests that feminist process requires that we engage with young women to ascertain their experiences and their input on the issue. Like Alison Symington, who writes in Chapter Twenty-Five about the risks of criminalizing failure to disclose one’s HIV status, Julie cautions that using the repressive force of the criminal law will further disempower young women’s claims to autonomy and will discourage them from seeking services and information when they need it most