It’s tied into the “age of infancy”.
or rather the “Age of criminal responsibility” somewhat.
But moreso, consent has more to do with “power differentials”. An adult is more physically and socially and legally capable. The differences are set in law and establish the bounds of how maturity is determined.
Should this be tied to an age? That’s where alternatives get complicated.
Let’s go to the complicated case of the “love knows no boundaries” argument.
Love. Love is blind and stupid. This is true at every age. You get sucked into someone else’s world and in theory they get sucked into your world too. “head over heels” – “crazy in love” “drunk with love” – all the expressions tied to “love” tell you just what it is : a form of insanity. It’s beautiful yes and it’s also a little (or a lot) crazy.
So you have power differentials mixed with love, on either/or or both sides here.
Now, if this is a college professor and student over the age of majority, there’s a social power differential and love mixed together. But compare that to the social power differential between, say, a 21 year old babysitter and a 12 year old. (boy/girl/man/woman doesn’t matter].
How would a 50 year old professor and an 18 year old student be different from a 21 year old baby sitter and a 12 year old being watched?
One case is a contractual relationship between professor and adult student. Even if the student is financially dependent upon his/her parents still and in some ways (such as insurance) is still under the care of the parents, in every other way, the student has all the rights and privileges of adulthood.
The other case is “in loco parentis” – taking the place of the parent.
Are all adults who deal with children “in loco parentis”, either legally or implicitly?
If you are an adult working with children, who legally are “infant”, despite criminal responsibility in other acts of their own volition (theft, harm, etc), YOU are their parental substitute. Even if the parents don’t know you exist – let’s say you’re the adult Skype friend they just started talking to and you’re both planning to meet.
Despite ANYTHING expressed by either party, the adult is supposed to act in some *very limited* form of in loco parentis EVEN WHEN the parents do not know anything. It doesn’t matter what “special love world” you’re living in. Love is stupid and crazy.
I’m not saying that there’s not love in these cases: I’m sure there is. Doesn’t matter though. Every adult has a social responsibility to _not_ cause harm to those who are legal infants. The laws support this social responsibility and enforce it.
If I knew somebody in that situation, I’d say this: “Wait”. If it’s love, if it’s “true love”, if it’s “forever and ever to the end of time” it can wait. (I’d also suggest getting into a hobby such as gaming, a new TV/web series, take a college course, find other social avenues because *this* avenue is not a good one. I’d suggest something similar to the young person in the situation. Something has to stop become escalating into criminal activity that would ruin both of their lives.
I welcome any corrections to the above. It’s icky and awkward territory and when people get too deep into it they can lose credibility for their other arguments on other issues, such as voting age.