Sex was not invented in the 1960's

Dr Peter Moore

Dr Peter Moore

At the first meeting of 2019, on January 24th, the Society President, Dr Peter Moore, presented a talk based on his research into the history of the law surrounding sexual offences.
This was another of the Torquay and District Medical Society's well attended meetings, but then as Peter said, "if you include Sex in the title of a talk people will attend".
Peter's enthusiasm for historical research in medical journals and the broadsheets is well known, and his talk covered a wide range of topics and a vast time span going back as far as the Greeks and Romans, through the middle ages to the present-all in an hour.

The Past is not Another Country

What Peter had to say was engrossing and yet so often horrific.
His 30 years experience as a Forensic Medical Examiner led credence to what he had to say, particularly as he had witnessed the changing of attitudes over the years.
What is most shocking is that nothing much changes in the behaviour of humans in relation to sexual offences.
The #metoo movement is currently reminding us just how cunning and devious sexual predators are, and how a sense of entitlement still prevails in many strata of society.

Changing Attitudes

Progress in dealing with offences is reflected in society's changing attitude to the role of men and women within marriage:
  • A woman is no longer seen as the property of her husband.
  • Opinions have changed about what constitutes rape, although marital rape was only made a crime in 1991.
  • Violence within marriage is no longer acceptable – a man can no longer hit his wife to show her how much he cares for her
  • The attitude towards the abuse of children has changed
  • Homosexuality was no longer a crime after 1967.
A truly memorable milestone was the raising of the age of consent to 16 in 1885.
Astoundingly, until then, it had been just 13 and previously only 12, in laws dating back to the 1200's.

Further Progress Must Be Made

Peter's talk made us aware of the prevailing shortcomings in the law.
All too often, the only statute that can be applied to an assault is 'The Offences Against the Person' Act of 1861.
We were shown examples of judgements where a rape charge was overturned because "no violence had occurred".
We heard that, historically, women accused in court were judged on how feminine they appeared and advised to dress and behave accordingly.
The discussion at the end of the talk raised more questions than answers.
How can we effectively protect children from incest?
How can we save a 13 year old from an arranged marriage and being taken out of school?
Despite improvements over the decades, it appears we still have a lot to do.
This was an important meeting to raise awareness and promote discussion presented by Peter with a light touch that kept the audience captivated.

Review by Lorraine Roberts