The blade
of the insensitive

Veronica Berenice

…  it indicates a hybrid age in between childhood and adult life, leaning so much more decisively towards the first one rather than the latter.

In Italy, the age of consent is 14 years old, compared to the average age in the rest of the world, which is 16. In other words, the Italian law establishes that, please forgive the boutade, if I wanted to wait outside of a high school and verify how many 14-year-olds would agree to have consensual intercourse with me, nobody could arrest me. Nevertheless, I’m rather certain that more than one parent would go to the first available lawyer to get, to say the least, a restraining order.

This, only to the extent that the well-known Italian philosopher, Umberto Galimberti, would be wrong in declaring that – and here I quote by heart – «our youth is apathetic and depressed»; because the more this analysis proves itself true, the more it is likely that none of the youth in question would notice my proposition. Still, I am sure of the hostile reactions of the parents and the whole of society.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be just a minority of you who, depicting this little scenery in your head, would want to shake it off just as fast! The suspect of the writer is that if the majority of adults doesn’t glare at teenage girls and boys discovering their sexuality together, questions arise when adults come into the picture with those minors.

Our poor youth! Forced to deal with adults who, aware of their natural emotional instability and at the biological peak of their libido, consider them unable to make rational well-thought choices in almost any field of human existence, except when it comes to deciding who to sleep with – and let’s leave aside those puritans who, in various capacities, would want to take this freedom from those unwed adults with no intentions of reproducing.


Too young to vote and weigh in on the fate of the Country (it is, in fact, well known how easily the minors can be politically influenced); lest we forget our instinctive terror at the mere hypothesis of granting a 14-year-old their driving licence for a car or any other four-wheeled vehicle. And, as if this wasn’t enough, for many years to come, after coming of age, we heavily doubt their judgement regarding themselves and others. Not without any reason, teenagers are still too young for this: they are still minors.


This editorial takes on a difficult task: reflecting on this set of issues, this number comes back to mind – 14 – because it’s the age of consent, it indicates a hybrid age in between childhood and adult life, leaning so much more decisively towards the first one rather than the latter. Someone, and I can recognise the lively voice of my radio host friend, might mention how much of a “paedophile” our society is. It would be enough to ask our female friends if it ever happened to them, or have witnessed, when they were still minors, an adult having a relationship of sorts with a teenage girl. And it would not be necessary to be particularly gifted with the art of proxemics analysis to realise how hard it would be to digest such a scenario. Abuses on male minors, unfortunately, come to light less frequently than what is thought to be the actual hidden cases; my hypothesis is that this disparity is due to the social stigma that is still surrounding homosexuality – especially among teenagers from specific socio-cultural backgrounds – and to the social perception regarding relationships between an adult woman and a minor teenage boy. I wouldn’t want to resort to the usual trivial talks, but a significant age gap is certainly more accepted if the woman is the younger one. Whereas, at the same time, it is hard to come to terms with the idea – for both parents – that a woman might sexually abuse a man.


However, allow me to clarify something, before accusing me of suggesting conspiracy theories: I don’t believe in the existence of a clique of powerful, mean men who actively and consciously bend the masses to make some situations acceptable and completely unacceptable others. Had it been this way, everything would have been easier to understand – and to change! The issue, I fear, stems from a much lengthier and more complex reality.


Anthropological studies do nothing but highlight how in history’s darkest moment, that is during the first intercontinental travels, the most atrocities took place. By discovering cultures different from the western one, a system to classify the world appeared within the intellectual society of the time, it was both outside of and, in the years that followed, deeply rooted in Europe itself. If, on one side, the outside system organised primitive men in different categories according to their military strength, to the establishment of a polis or lack thereof, to the presence of a religious hierarchy or not; on the other, within European societies a comparative social pyramid was born. At its apex, reigns the authoritative rational man – usually belonging to the same socio-cultural group of the creator of the system itself, that is the intellectual person establishing the classification; we then go down the ladder to find labour men, women, children, people with mental illnesses, criminals, dogs, other animals, and nature.

(The detail about dogs stems from a funny story regarding Darwin and his close relationship with dogs – a relationship that became an object of study and that led him to name the primordial form of religion dogs. Darwin conceived religion as submission to a higher entity).

Going back to the issue of consent, those ramblings about primitives suggested by some literate missionaries are exactly what puts an already ugly painting inside an even worse frame. That primitive men were humans is clear, but they were a little less human than what they should have been, closer to being woodland men than civil ones. Therefore, it was necessary to push them towards humanisation (which sounds rather similar to the concept of exporting democracy), in order to save the soul of these godless derelicts – and if to fully complete the process it was inevitable to resort to violence, then not many holy fathers of our calendar desisted from giving their own fraternal help.

These treaties have been written and those who were operating in Europe for Europe read those writings as well. If there are hierarchies and if they are morally moulded, it isn’t hard to see how they acted beneath the surface, influencing the way in which, nowadays still, we think and act in a classist, paternalistic, judgmental manner. From this, what ensues is a sensitivity hampered by the feeling, now calcified over the centuries, of superiority of some over all of the others.


It is important to be aware of the historical route taken by our societies in order to better understand the present and limit the social disinterest created in a context of strict vertical classification not only among the various species, but also among the individual members belonging to the same category. And it may be useful to deeply reflect on issues such as the one of consent, so that the unquestioned consequences of the past, which are still scattering around nonsense and inconsistencies in our social and cultural structure. Because they constantly present issues  – sometimes in a far from reasoned manner – by feminists, environmentalists and activists in general, always conceal latent problems that we – as a society – have yet to address.


To conclude, I would just like to add this: the culture of indifference regarding anything that doesn’t affect us personally is a double-edged sword, which is already showing itself as such..

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