It's arbitrary what requires informed consent

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Someone was recently telling me, "And the child-adult sex statements -- there are few libertarians who would say that consent can be obtained from someone who is mentally unable to provide informed consent."

The thought that always comes to my mind when I hear such comments is, "That makes it sound like kids wouldn't be able to do anything at all, if we assume that they're too stupid to understand sex till they turn 18. If they can't understand sex, what CAN they understand? And if understanding is necessary before taking action, what action can they take?"

Under current law, there seem to be three categories of activities:

  1. Those that kids can be allowed (or even forced) by a parent to do
  2. Those that kids can be allowed, but not forced, by a parent to do
  3. Those that kids can neither be allowed, nor forced, by a parent to do

In the first category, we have, for example, eating. Kids can pretty much eat whatever they want, as long as their parents say it's okay. Parents can also compel their kids to eat certain foods. But isn't it true that certain foods (e.g. trans fats) can be harmful to kids, especially if large quantities are consumed? And isn't it true that young kids might not understand these consequences? Of course.

In the second category is sex with other kids. As a parent, it's your call whether you want to tell your kid, "Go ahead and mess around with that other kid if you want" or "No, you need to keep your pants up or you're getting a spanking." Is it possible that harm might come from having sex with other kids; and is it possible that kids might not understand the potential for that harm? You tell me.

People say, "Kids trust and obey adults, and will feel betrayed if they find out the adult was seeking his own sexual gratification." Do kids ever naively believe what another kid says, and get suckered into some scam? All the time. When you were a kid, didn't you ever lend another kid a toy, or candy, or money, with the expectation that you'd get it back later, but it never happened? Isn't it conceivable that a kid might trick another kid into having sex? You tell me. So then, why isn't that criminalized? One can't argue, "Kids can't be held criminally accountable," because kids are held criminally accountable for many other offenses. What makes sex so different?

You can't tell your kid, "You WILL have sex with that other kid, or you're getting a spanking!" Sex is treated as different than eating, because while you could force your kid to ingest vegetables, you can't force him to accept another kid's penis into his body. Yet, non-sexual forms of affection do fall in the first category. You can force your kid to hug someone, for instance. You can also force your kid to provide non-sexual companionship; e.g. you can tell him, "You WILL go to this movie and dinner with me."

In the third category, we have, for example, sex with adults. As a parent, you can neither permit it nor order it. Of course, we know from Finkelhor's literature that the harm from adult-child sex is said to come from traumatic sexualization; stigma; betrayal; and powerlessness. One of those four, powerlessness, also pertains to forcing kids to do other stuff (e.g. eat vegetables). Betrayal might also apply if the parent, for selfish reasons, forces his kid to do stuff with him, even if it's not sexual in nature. Stigma is mostly a matter of culture, and might not apply in another culture. Traumatic sexualization? You tell me if you felt traumatized.

Traumatic sexualization seems to be based on the idea that if kids have sex before they're ready for it, they will be sexualized in a traumatic way. Wouldn't that also apply if kids have sex WITH OTHER KIDS before they're ready for it? All the other arguments for why adults shouldn't have sex with kids, such as that kids might develop of habit of seeking attention and love through sex, could also apply to sex with other kids. It doesn't seem implausible that a kid might say, "If you want to be part of our club, you have to pull your pants down and get sexed in." (Okay, that's more of a gang initiation ritual, but you get the point.)

Is there anything else besides sex with other kids that falls in that second category? What criteria does society use in deciding which activities will fall in which categories? I assume there was a very logical, systematic, orderly, and evidence-based thought process for making these determinations, right?