#MeAt14: Raising awareness around the age of consent

Alyssa MilanoImage copyright @Alyssa_Milano/Twitter
Image caption Actress Alyssa Milano posted a picture of herself at 14 years old

Women and men are posting pictures of themselves when they were younger to highlight how a 14-year-old child is too young to consent.

The social media movement #MeAt14 began at the weekend in response to allegations published in The Washington Post against Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.

The Republican firebrand has vehemently denied the allegations, branding the report as “completely false.”

The controversy escalated when Fox News host Sean Hannity became mired in a debate over the use of the word “consensual”, in regards to the accusations, on his radio show. However, Hannity has since apologised, saying he “misspoke”.

Twitter users have been posting the term #MeAt14 alongside pictures of themselves in their early teens and asking rhetorically how a child of 14 can be mature enough to give consent.

The first person to tweet the hashtag was North Carolina Lawyer Catherine R L Lawson, late on Thursday evening. It has since been used more than 50,000 times.

She told the BBC: “I shared a picture of me at 14 to illustrate there is no acceptable version of this story; teenagers can’t consent to a relationship with a grown man, ever.

“It’s not a question about the legal age of consent, but about affirming a shared social value that children deserve our protection.”

The legal age of consent is different for each state in the United States, ranging from 16, which is the minimum, to 18.

The movement began to gain momentum when Daily Show co creator Lizz Winstead tweeted a picture of herself asking: “Who were you at 14?” and asked others to do the same.

People began changing their profile pictures and sharing their #MeAt14 stories in response.

“This is me at 14. I was in the Glee Club and an art student. I made ribbon barettes and I babysat on weekends,” replied one Twitter user.

Another tweeted: “If she still needs a permission slip for a field trip, she cannot consent.”

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While another posted: “I like the #MeAt14 hashtag, but we live in dark times if women have to provide photographic evidence to prove children deserve a childhood.”

High-profile figures have also tweeted the hashtag, including actress Alyssa Milano, who was behind the prominent #MeToo social media campaign in which she asked victims of sexual assault to come forward in a show of solidarity.

And TV personality Katie Couric posted: “I was eating a lot of chocolate chip cookie dough and learning to do the ‘hustle’ and not worrying about a 32-year-old man trying to hustle me.”

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