Romeo, Romeo, whyfor art thou headed to five years' prison time?

Bill Would Cap Jail Time for 18-Year-Olds Who Have Consensual Sex with Other Teens at “Just” 5 Years

It is a measure of how insane our sex offender laws have become, to announce that this proposed bill in Montana is a RELIEF! Senate Bill 26  would prevent 18-year-olds who have provably CONSENSUAL sex with another teen under the age of consent (younger than 16, but at least age 14) from having to register as sex offenders. It would also cap the time they can possibly serve in prison at just five years.

My heart actually aches as I write that. “JUST” five years?  For consensual sex with a fellow teenager?

And yet, a giant kudos to the bill’s sponsor, Montana State Sen. Sue Malek (D. Misoula), for even daring to propose a modification to our draconian laws. She is brave and compassionate. She also seems to have her head screwed on right, for being able to see the outrageous cruelty of current law that must allow for 18-year-olds who have consensual sex to sit in jail for MORE than five years, not to mention registering as sex offenders.

KPAX reports that:

SB 26 would not make it legal for an 18-year-old to have sexual contact with a person under the age of consent.

But if it was determined that no force was used and the offender is not a risk to the public, an 18-year-old offender could be exempted from registering as a sex offender, according to SB 26.

“[This applies if] the court finds that the alleged conduct was consensual as indicated by words or overt actions indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact,” the bill reads.

The bill would also cap the maximum penalty at five years imprisonment for such an offender.

If public registration of sex offenders truly exists to keep kids’ safe (this is highly debatable), treating teens who have consensual sex with other teens isn’t doing the trick. They are not pouncing on youngsters, they are not raping anyone. Sex between teens is as normal as Romeo and Juliet. As normal as my great-grandparents (my great-grandma married at 15). As normal as human history.

So good luck on Jan. 5, Montana, when the vote comes up. You have a chance to show the world that you understand young people and do not want to crush them for being…normal. – L

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Romeo, Romeo, whyfor art thou headed to five years’ prison time?

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30 Responses to Bill Would Cap Jail Time for 18-Year-Olds Who Have Consensual Sex with Other Teens at “Just” 5 Years

  1. C. S. P. Schofield December 27, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    Public registration of sex offenders exists to keep politicians safe. As such it is one more argument for institution term limits…with a guillotine.

  2. BL December 27, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    But just one year if they hold hands.

  3. theresa December 27, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    As much it is silly to punish kids for sex . at least this is less than the usual punishment. Maybe one day we won’t need laws about horny teens having sex.

  4. Jana December 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    This country is obsessed with sex. Such a hypocrisy one wants to shout out loud… I see the main part of this problem in certain churches who anxiously maintain control over their “sheep”.

  5. W.C. December 27, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    This is a common-sense start.

    Criminalizing teens for having sex is insane. Just shows you somebody’s making money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that there’s big money being made in the sexual abuse/sex offender management industries. Follow the money and follow the votes.

    This is a good start. Let’s hope SCOTUS makes the right call and upholds the 6th Circuit’s ruling against Michigan for retroactively applying newer restrictions to those who were on the registry before they were passed into law. Let’s also hope the S.C.O.T.U.S. rules the social media ban for sex offenders unconstitutional. This never-ending punishment crap needs to end. Period. No exceptions.

  6. donald December 27, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    Have you ever had a GPS that told you to drive in a direction that you know is wrong? (that’s a stupid question) Everybody has been instructed by their phone ( or another map) to drive north when they know that their destination is south.

    Bureaucracy can become the same way. It can become so mechanical that the human element has been removed. common sense no longer applies. It’s a relief that this bill is being proposed. I hope it passes. Five years is still too much but it’s a start. I like the direction it’s going.

  7. DocHal December 27, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Boy, have times changed. Many of the things I did as a teenager in the late 60’s, which were acceptable behavior then, would get me locked up today and put me on the sex registry for life.

  8. W.C. December 27, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

    Someone else touched on a very key point about the hypocrisy of our nation with regards to attitudes about sex.
    Our media from video games to music / rap lyrics, prime-time television shows, commercials, the Internet, and video games are satiated with sexual imagery and language. How then is it so shocking to a sex-obsessed society that teens and sometimes younger kids have sex???? It’s what they’re bombarded with from every side all day long every day, unless you have parents who actually parent and filter what their child(ren) have access to!!!! What they don’t hear from those sources will hear it from other teens/adolescents who have heard it from these previously enumerated sources. Look at how lucrative the porn. industry is on-line!! The most innocent search terms can lead to a porn site if you’re not super-careful. What do we expect?? How can we not reap what we sow?????

  9. W.C. December 27, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    One more thing: Society now looks at sex as a recreational past-time and not the highest expression of love between a scripturally married man and woman. Many teens, from what I’ve read on-line in recent years view oral sex as a recreational activity and not “real sex”….

  10. Amy December 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    This is a good step. A lot of stuff that goes on the registry shouldn’t and a lot of the rules imposed on offenders are unnecessary depending on their crime. My thing is, I do believe there is a place for it in some instances. It just has to be reworked to actually make sense. It is very rare for children to randomly be abused, but it’s not as rare for it to happen by a family member. My mom married a guy that molested me for 6 years as a child. She had no clue. Without any type of warning system a lot of times people seem perfectly normal to the outside world and even within their household. Some type of warning could help. Same could be said about domestic violence as sometimes by the time the victim finds out something’s wrong they may be stuck. I just don’t know what the medium is. Maybe there’s no real solution. Thoughts?

  11. Amy December 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    @WC

    I’m not convinced individuals look at send any differently than they have before. The difference now is people are not shamed (as much anyway) for making their own decisions about sex (assuming those decisions don’t infringe on the rights of others I.e nonconsenual). That’s a good thing. Particularly for women who have had to take the brunt of the shame. Everybody is not obligated to live by the same “scripture” as others. Those that choose to believe that sex is recreational have ALWAYS been around. You’re right. Society has changed. Good. It is now more acceptable to do what you want with your own body.

  12. BL December 27, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    ” It is now more acceptable to do what you want with your own body.”

    Really? Consider how many substances (usually called “recreational drugs’) are completely banned, and how many more (usually called “medicine”) are available only by prescription.

  13. Marie December 27, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    It is good that someone thinks consensual sex between teens doesn’t merit a spot on the registry. It is still outrageous that sex between consenting teens is seen as criminal In any way but the only way to keep the 18yo’s off the registry is to offer them up for prison time.

    THAT compromise should be criminal.

  14. Amy December 27, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

    @BL

    Yes, you’re right. I was speaking in the context of consensual sex, but I am not in agreement with drug use itself being criminal either (again so long as it does not hurt others, drug related violence, theft, neglect of family responsibilities, etc.) Shaming drug users is not a good thing. Not there yet, but I do feel society is changing its view on this issue with many states legalizing less harmful drugs and at least in conversation I am starting to see more talk (not enough action yet) about treatment vs jail. In regards to medicine, a lot of things should not need a prescription. Speaking of birth control specifically, needing a prescription for that (but not condoms) is a good example of how women have been more impacted by people’s views on sex. I’m not suggesting that everything is perfect. There is still a lot that needs corrected, but my point was that the idea that there was less recreational sex in the past is less fact and more an indication that it is less stigmatized. Certainly not true in every family or culture and certainly there are still laws, stereotypes, and practices that show that sex shaming and misogyny are still in action, but the fact that people believe people are having sex before marriage more frequently than in the past (unlikely) indicates progress.

  15. Beth December 27, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    @W.C. “parents who actually parent” have teens who have sex. “Parents who actually parent” might even have kids who experiment with drugs, get average grades, and don’t act appropriately every second of every day.

    Sometimes kids just do things regardless of how they were brought up or how they were parented. Accusing those parents of not actually parenting, absent any other information, is wrong.

  16. JTW December 28, 2016 at 12:35 am #

    “But just one year if they hold hands.”

    Certainly not. Touching a girl or woman of any age is rape, whether she agrees to being touched or not!
    Femminists have been saying that for a decade or more and you still haven’t got the message?

    “Criminalizing teens for having sex is insane. Just shows you somebody’s making money”

    If comes out of the whole idea of girls (and women in general) being saintly creatures unmarred by the temptations of the flesh. Boys and men of course are all evil lechers who need to be punished and cleansed of their immoral thoughts they get even looking at a female of the species.
    That that’s evolved into a multi billion dollar industry is only a natural result of the whole morality police thing that’s been sweeping the country (and most of the western world tbh) for a long time now (and in part is being strengthened even further by the ever increasing urge of western governments to bow to muslims and their demands for sharia law in our societies).

    ” Society now looks at sex as a recreational past-time and not the highest expression of love between a scripturally married man and woman.”

    Which it pretty much always has but never had the honesty to openly admit. And many in society, especially in positions of power, still don’t have that honesty and enact ever more brutal laws to replace the religious diktats that once were (at least in public) accepted by the bulk of the population (while being in private ignored).
    People have been having sex out of marriage in larger numbers than in marriage for thousands of years, nothing has changed there, nothing ever will.
    And there’s nothing wrong with that, we just have to let go of the false morality of “me is holier than thou”.

    “Good. It is now more acceptable to do what you want with your own body.”

    Well said. I’m no fan of hopping into bed with every person you meet, but that’s my own upbringing making me think there should be some connection between partners deeper than pure lust. Doesn’t mean I want to enforce that attitude on others, nor that I want others to enforce their attitudes on me.
    And least of all a government, which should have no say in how people lead their private lives as long as their acts do no harm to others so should have no say at all in what two or more people do together with the consent of all involved, and yes that includes group sex, bdsm parties, group marriages, or indeed any form of marriage, with the result that any government regulation about consentual sex or marriage, with the penalties and rewards associated with such regulations, should be scrapped.
    That of course does not mean I condone rape or pedophilia, but the laws on the book about those do need a serious review and probably need to be considerably loosened.

  17. sexhysteria December 28, 2016 at 2:06 am #

    Some confused people would prefer death by slow torture for those evil 18-year-olds. In more traditional cultures fathers of daughters who murder their daughter’s “seducer” in a moment of “raptus” have gone unpunished.

  18. BL December 28, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    “And least of all a government, which should have no say in how people lead their private lives as long as their acts do no harm to others so should have no say at all in what two or more people do together with the consent of all involved, and yes that includes group sex, bdsm parties, group marriages, or indeed any form of marriage, with the result that any government regulation about consentual sex or marriage, with the penalties and rewards associated with such regulations, should be scrapped.”

    The problems with that are:

    1) We expect governments to determine whether or not an act was consensual, despite the fact that this is notoriously difficult to determine in so many cases (and end up with either “she was asking for it” or “all men are guilty all the time”, depending on the era).

    2) We expect government to pick up the tab for resulting children in many cases (the welfare system), or pay for abortions, or treating STDs.

  19. zadig December 28, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    JTW: “Certainly not. Touching a girl or woman of any age is rape, whether she agrees to being touched or not!
    Femminists have been saying that for a decade or more and you still haven’t got the message?”

    Oh, please, strawman (sorry, strawperson) much? You can’t show me anywhere an actual feminist has said that. Feminists have been saying for decades that consent is everything. Let’s not confuse the issue of consensual relations (as described in this article) with your overblown fears of the Feminism Police.

    ” That of course does not mean I condone rape or pedophilia, but the laws on the book about those do need a serious review and probably need to be considerably loosened.”

    I’d be interested to hear how much looser rape or pedophilia laws should be. It’s OK on Tuesdays? Boys will be boys? 1st time is free? If we’re going to loosen laws, I have a looooong list of laws to examine before we get to the ones that protect people from non-consensual acts.

    And this bill seems reasonable to me, as long as consent has really been established. I can imagine a lot of scenarios where an 18 year old and a 14 year old can be in a coercive, if not technically non-consensual, relationship, and I can imagine scenarios where the same two ages are consensually and happily agreeing to be together. Let’s not lose sight of both cases, however.

    Also, please stop using Romeo and Juliet as your metaphor. Do I need to remind everyone of how that turned out?

  20. Nicole R. December 28, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    It’s not perfect, but I do think it’s a step in the right direction. I hope more states continue and expand the trend toward common sense.

  21. Havva December 28, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    It is pretty amazing when a teen in a consensual relationship can go to jail for longer than infamous convicted rapists who were proven to use drugs or violence to subdue their victims (ahem sports stars).

  22. JTW December 28, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    “I’d be interested to hear how much looser rape or pedophilia laws should be. It’s OK on Tuesdays? Boys will be boys? 1st time is free?”

    Strawman much? Or strawwoman?
    At the moment in many jurisdictions suspicion is guilt when it comes to rape accusations.
    Pedophilia? Boy on his 18th birthday has sex with his girlfriend who turns 18 tomorrow, he’s branded a pedophile and a sex predator for life.
    THAT needs to change. A sliding scale maybe, with a 2 year window or something like that. Maybe loosen the age of consent to 16 too, which in the US is the age you can crash the car with your girlfriend in it into a bridge support, killing the both of you, and in many countries is the age you can drink yourself into a coma on beer and wine.

  23. Anna December 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Interesting point about your great-grandparents. Now you mention it, I guess my grandpa would have been sent to jail these days, too – theirs was a “shotgun” wedding with their first child born when my grandma was 17. He was about 19, I believe.

    It’s deeply ironic that in our culture of sexual license we’re much harsher in such a scenario than our more strait-laced ancestors were. My grandparents’ families weren’t thrilled about them getting pregnant when they did, of course, but they accepted it as pretty normal and the appropriate response was considered to be getting married and getting on with life. I can’t imagine what they would think of the contemporary idea of punishment by jail time and lifelong pariah status?

  24. James Pollock December 28, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    The way to fix most of the problems caused by draconian statutory rape laws is simple: change the irrebuttable presumption that an underage person flatly cannot properly consent to sex, to a rebuttable one. (As it is now, if a person is underage, the law considers it impossible for them to choose to have sex of their own volition. Changing this to a rebuttable presumption means that if no evidence is brought forward or if the evidence is equivocal, the prosecution wins but the defense would be allowed to bring out evidence that supports the claim that the victim is, in fact, capable of making such a decision and has done so.) This is, I think, much closer to the absolute truth (some people are ready earlier, and some later.

    However, such a change is entirely unlikely, for a variety of reasons.
    One is simplicity of administration… it is very difficult for a court to determine if a decision was, in fact, performed by a person fully capable of making such a decision. It is very easy to determine exactly how old a person is. So, the law uses the second as a proxy for the first. You can see this throughout the law where arbitrary age limits are used instead of inquiries into the capabilities of individuals.
    Another reason is that these laws aren’t actually written for a 15-year-old girl who decides to have sex with her 15-year-old boyfriend (egads! they’re both child rapists!). They’re written for a 15-year-old girl who decides to have sex with her 30-year-old basketball coach or her 42-year-old English teacher. Those are the cases people think about when they think about these laws, and they support punishing people who have relationships like these.
    Finally, there’s the fact that politicians who try to reform criminal laws risk being labeled as a “friend to criminals” when they run for re-election This limits the field of politicians who can even propose reforms to those who are well-enough-known to either shrug off or overcome such claims… if an obscure state senator becomes known only for being “soft on crime”, they’re at a disadvantage in a blue district and dead meat in a red one..

  25. James Pollock December 28, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

    ” please stop using Romeo and Juliet as your metaphor. Do I need to remind everyone of how that turned out?”

    As a successful play that is still being put on hundreds of years later?

  26. Elizabeth December 29, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    I’m sorry, is no one going to point out that a 14 year old and an 18 year old are generally in two entirely different places, mentally and emotionally? I would say that the majority of cases where there is sex between an 18 year old and a 14 year old, there is an unbalance of power and cognition in the relationship, and that by definition means the younger party can’t truly consent. The author seems to think that it’s just totally ok and normal for 18 and 14 year olds to have sex, but it seems to me that more often than not, a relationship like that, even if it’s “consentual” at the time, is going to be damaging to the younger party, either physically or emotionally or both. I’m not saying that 5 years of prison time is an appropriate consequence, but I think it’s dangerous to normalize a sexual relationship between an 18 year old and a 14 year old.

  27. HotInLa December 29, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    I agree with you Elizabeth. I used to be a 14 yr old with an 18 yr old boyfriend. And while in my infinite 14 yr old wisdom I thought it was all fine & dandy, now at 38 I look back & see it wasn’t. A 14 yr old girl has no business in a relationship with an 18 yr old man.

  28. Buffy December 29, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    @HotinLA, would you have wanted your boyfriend to be arrested, imprisoned, and placed on the SOR for the rest of his life though?

  29. James Pollock December 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    ” A 14 yr old girl has no business in a relationship with an 18 yr old man.”
    Never? At no point in time or space has there ever been a relationship between a 14-year-old person and an 18-year-old person that was willingly entered, and satisfactory in all aspects to both parties? Not one?

  30. Papilio December 30, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    “please stop using Romeo and Juliet as your metaphor. Do I need to remind everyone of how that turned out?”

    IIRC, it had more to do with the negative reaction of their families than with any actual horizontal pleasures.

    @Elizabeth & HotinLA: one of my cousins has been in a relationship with the same guy since they were 14 and 19. Twenty-five years later, they’re married and have two toddlers.
    But you’re saying his life should have been ruined and he should have been thrown in prison, because “generally” “a 14 yr old girl has no business in a relationship with an 18 yr old man”?