A Brief History of the Age of Consent

August 20, 2012

An honest 21st century review of The Concubine Saga at ColReads.com brought up a good subject for a post—the history of the changing attitudes of when a girl becomes a woman (You may want to click on the link to ColReads and read the entire review).

ColReads said, “The girls were younger than 15, for goodness sake. I had a hard time getting past that,” which is understandable when we take into account that in 21st century America the law makes a girl/woman a child until age 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 depending on which U.S. state you live in (watch the video to discover the age of consent in each U.S. state).

However, the age of consent laws in the middle of the 19th century (the time period of The Concubine Saga, which is based on a real story) were not the same as they are today.

To understand the difference between now and then, today in the People’s Republic of China the age of consent for sexual activity is 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In Hong Kong, it is 16 and in Macau 18.

However, “Depictions of ‘child-romance’ in ancient or modern Chinese literature are not difficult to find. They include passages on joyous heterosexual or homosexual activities by children as young as 12 to13 years old with one another or with adults. Children are usually described as natural sexual beings and erotic stimulation and sex-play are seen as beneficial to their healthy development (Chen 2000).” In fact, “For most of Chinese history, the minimum marriage age suggested by the government had ranged between 12 and 16.” Source: Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong

 

For a comparison, in 1875 in the UK, a concern that young girls were being sold into brothels let Parliament change the age of consent to 13. Prior to that, the age of consent was 12.

However, in the United States in 1875, each state determined its own criminal law and the age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. It would not be until after the 1930s that the term “jail bait” came into use in America as the age of consent laws changed.

I could have sanitized The Concubine Saga and made both Ayaou and her sister Shao-mei much older to fit the attitudes of today but then that would have been historically incorrect. Sterling Seagrave in his book Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China, wrote, “He (Robert Hart) had just turned twenty. Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years.”

If Ayaou was barely 14, then there was only a six-year age gap between the two, while Hart’s arranged marriage to a young Irish woman named Hester Jane Bredon a decade later sees the gap double to twelve years when he was thirty and she was eighteen. In fact, Seagrave says, “He (Hart) sought a wife as straightforwardly as he had bought a concubine.” After returning to Ireland for a brief stay in 1866, Robert proposed marriage to Hester five days after he met her. The courtship lasted three months before they were married.

Should authors ignore historical fact and rewrite history to reflect the moral sensitivities of today’s readers?

This post first appeared on June 15, 2012 at Lloyd Lofthouse.org

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 5/5

April 3, 2011

In China, the concubine is a trophy showing a man’s success. No major religion on earth has had a lasting impact on the Chinese culture in more than a thousand years.

In fact, the concept that lust is a mortal sin does not exist in China unless a Chinese has adopted Christianity as his or her religion.

That does not mean China is without morals but the moral codes of China exist without the sin of mortal lust as Catholics and many devout Christians believe. In fact, I’ve known mainland Chinese that are extremely moral and would put most Puritans to shame.

The idea to focus on Robert Hart’s struggles with his Victorian, Christian morals while living in 19th century China’s concubine culture sprouted when I first read his journals and letters published by Harvard University Press.

Other influences were Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid and The Last Empress: A Novel, which go into detail about the lives of the more than three thousand concubines that belonged to the emperor.

After all, in 19th century China, the more power and wealth a man had, the more women he owned.

Another influence was the movie directed by director Zhang Yimou in 1991, Raise the Red Lantern, which “focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what is going on — taking his pleasures when he feels like it.”

For anyone that might agree with “colorado outback” or my “mother” that My Splendid Concubine should be censored, burned or put on a “DON’T BUY LIST”, Amazon Kindle offers a free preview of the first few chapters as does the Websites for My Splendid Concubine and the sequel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine.

Read the first few chapters of the novel free and learn if you agree with “colorado outback” that this novel is “soft porn” and should be banned. Why spend money for something you may want to burn unless you really want to burn it?

Return to Part 4 or start with Part 1

View as Single Page

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Concubines Return Riding Capitalism’s Wave of Wealth

March 23, 2011

A friend of mine sent me a link to an interesting post of China’s Second Wives (concubines). “A 2008 estimate says that Second Wives account for a third of the country’s consumption of luxury products.”

The area Director of JWT North Asia, Tom Doctoroff, answered questions for the piece. He said, “When I ask people how much it costs to maintain a second wife – a trophy concubine – the average I’m told is 50,000RMB (about $7,600US). This isn’t just a girlfriend, this is someone who is kept. And she is displayed as somebody that’s a result of this guy’s power and influence, and access to funds.

However, it wasn’t like that for several decades.

When the Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War and drove Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists from China, Mao announced that women held up half the sky; the practice of bound feet ended and women were considered equal to men for the first time in China’s history.

For thousands of years, the wealthy and powerful in China often had more than one wife and several concubines. The emperor had thousands of concubines.

Between 1949 and 1976, Mao’s goal was to change China by ending the old ways and building a new China that would be stronger and more capable of defending itself from invasions. Mao denounced Confucianism and literally waged a war against Buddhism (and all religions) in China. Mao ended the practice of having concubines too.

The goal to lead China away from its ancient cultural heritage ended after Mao’s death and recently the party had a statue of Confucius erected in Tiananmen Square in an effort to bring back some of the old ways.

Now that China is a hybrid capitalist nation, powerful and wealthy men are collecting concubines (those second wives) again.

However, there is a difference. The legal system in China sees women as equals so women cannot be legally bought and sold. This time, a woman has a choice.

In the embedded YouTube video of the Young Turks, it is mentioned that some wealthy and powerful men in America have concubines too, but in the US, those women are called swingers.

In fact, if a Chinese wife doesn’t approve of her husband having concubines, she now has the freedom to divorce.

Discover Modern Romance in China

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The “Da Mo” and a “Concubine”

November 25, 2010

Late one recent afternoon, I checked an e-mail account I haven’t visited for weeks. To my surprise, I discovered good news—which in this case adds truth to better late than never.

On October 25, 2010, The National Best Books 2010 Awards sent me an e-mail letting me know that my second novel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, was one of eight Finalists in Fiction & Literature: Historical Fiction.

The winner was A Sudden Dawn, YMAA Publication Center, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-594391989

A Sudden Dawn must be an incredible book. When I checked, it had 32 customer reviews on Amazon with an average of five stars.

I learned that the winning author was Goran Powell, 4th dan, GojuRyu Karate.

He is author of two martial arts books, a freelance writer in London and recipient of numerous advertising awards.

Powell is a regular contributor to martial arts magazines and has twice appeared on the cover of Traditional Karate magazine. This is his first novel. Powell resides in London with his wife and three children.

A Sudden Dawn is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born of the Indian warrior caste in 507 AD.

Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom.

Sardili becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.
 
He travels throughout India, brings Buddhism to China, and establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts.

It’s ironic that the winning novel was set in India then China but centuries apart from the China where Robert Hart lived and worked for more than five decades.

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, is the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, and continues the love story that Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

The woman was Hart’s concubine, Ayaou. She remained a mystery for more than a century.

Hart arrived in China in 1854. By 1908, he was the godfather of China’s modernization. The Qing Dynasty royalty called him “Our Hart”.

Both Powell’s novel and Our Hart are based on the lives of real men who had an impact on the history of China.

Then there is Ayaou, Hart’s Chinese concubine. Hart once wrote to a friend in England that Ayaou was the most sensible person he’d ever known and he was a fool.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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