Getting It All Wrong about Online Predators

As usual,  the “It’s Complicated” author danah boyd has nailed it. In this piece, she contrasts the usual image we have of an online predator (middle aged guys lurking on Club Penguin) with the reality (teens talking sex with each other, or with adults that they KNOW want sex). This reality gap means not only do we teach our kids the least helpful lessons (“Evil strangers are out to get you!”). It also means we encourage cops to masquerade as sexy jailbait on line, as if they are combating an incredibly pervasive crime.

This is not to say that no adults prey on youth, online or off. Only that we’d have safer kids if we taught them to recognize, resist and report abuse, rather than, “You are in constant danger!” And we’d also have safer adults, without cops trying to create crime so they can “discover” and pounce on it. – L 

What if the sexual predator image you have in your mind is wrong? by danah boyd

(I wrote the following piece for Psychology Today under the title “Sexual Predators: The Imagined and the Real.”)

… If you’re like most parents, the mere mention of online sexual predators sends shivers down your spine. Perhaps it prompts you to hover over your child’s shoulder or rally your school to host online safety assemblies.

But what if the sexual predator image you have in your mind is wrong? And what if that inaccurate portrait is actually destructive? …. The facts highlight how we fail to protect those teenagers who are most at-risk for sexual exploitation online.

If you poke around, you may learn that 1 in 7 children are sexually exploited online. This data comes from the very reputable Crimes Against Children Research Center, however, very few take the time to read the report carefully. Most children are sexually solicited by their classmates, peers, or young adults just a few years older than they are. And most of these sexual solicitations don’t upset teens. Alarm bells should go off over the tiny percentage of youth who are upsettingly solicited by people who are much older than them. No victimization is acceptable, but we need to drill into understanding who is at risk and why if we want to intervene.

The same phenomenal research group, led by David Finkelhor, went on to analyze the recorded cases of sexual victimization linked to the internet and identified a disturbing pattern. These encounters weren’t random. Rather, those who were victimized were significantly more likely to be from abusive homes, grappling with addiction or mental health issues, and/or struggling with sexual identity. Furthermore, the recorded incidents showed a more upsetting dynamic. By and large, these youth portrayed themselves as older online, sought out interactions with older men, talked about sex online with these men, met up knowing that sex was in the cards, and did so repeatedly because they believed that they were in love. These teenagers are being victimized, but the go-to solutions of empowering parents, educating youth about strangers, or verifying the age of adults won’t put a dent into the issue. These youth need professional help. We need to think about how to identify and support those at-risk, not build another an ad campaign

What makes our national obsession with sexual predation destructive is that it is used to justify systematically excluding young people from public life, both online and off. Stopping children from connecting to strangers is seen as critical for their own protection, even though learning to navigate strangers is a key part of growing up. Youth are discouraged from lingering in public parks or navigating malls without parental supervision. They don’t learn how to respectfully and conscientiously navigate new people because they are taught to fear all who are unknown…..

It’s high time that we walk away from our nightmare scenarios and focus on addressing the serious injustices that exist. The world we live in isn’t fair and many youth who are most at-risk do not have concerned parents looking out for them. Because we have stopped raising children as a community, adults are often too afraid to step on other parents’ toes. Yet, we need adults who are looking out for more than just their children. Furthermore, our children need us to talk candidly about sexual victimization without resorting to boogeymen.

While it’s important to protect youth from dangers, a society based on fear-mongering is not healthy. Let’s instead talk about how we can help teenagers be passionate, engaged, constructive members of society rather than how we can protect them from statistically anomalous dangers. Let’s understand those teens who are truly at risk; these teens often have the least support.

Read the entire essay here.

Hi, Kid! Meet me at Burger King and I'll give you a stuffed animal! Don't tell mom!!

Hi,  Susie! Meet me at Burger King and I’ll give you a stuffed animal! Don’t tell mom!!

 

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77 Responses to Getting It All Wrong about Online Predators

  1. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Wonderful! I’m just going to copy the comment I left on her blog:

    Thank you so much for this piece! When my husband was 25, he was arrested in an online sting operation that involved an undercover officer (who, for what it’s worth, was several decades older than my husband was at the time) posing as a sexually-experienced 15-year-old in an 18+ adult sex chat room seeking out another hook up with an older guy (something “she” claimed to have done before and to have had a great time doing). Was he wrong? Yes. Was he a predator? No. He was not seeking out a teen; he was just too stupid, immature, and compulsive in his online behavior to have the good sense to say no when a mature-sounding teen (the officer never, in the months that “she” interacted with him trying to coax him into a meeting, mentioned school, homework, parents, curfews, friends, extracurriculars, or anything that would indicate youth or immaturity–the only things other than sex “she” ever mentioned were getting drunk, getting high, and shopping) sought HIM out.

    Was he wrong? Of course. Did the two years of probation he was sentenced to–and the mandatory therapy–fit the crime? I think so. But the 25 years on a public sex offender registry that he is now 11 years into was NOT fitting. He was not–and this was the conclusion of two therapists, his own and the state-appointed one–a pedophile, predator, or threat. To me, it’s the difference between a drug dealer who is standing on a street corner where adults go to buy drugs, is approached by a teen who asks him to sell to them, and does so, and a drug dealer who stakes out the local high school offering free samples to passing freshman in the hopes of getting them hooked. Both are doing something wrong, but while the latter may pose a genuine threat to teens in the community, the former is only posing a threat to teens seeking out the threat themselves. I think we have to take that difference into consideration, when we’re thinking about things like registries and community notification.

    The unfortunate truth is that you cannot run enough stings in the world to stop 15 year old girls who are actively seeking out sex with 20-something guys from finding somebody willing. The reason the type of sting my husband was arrested in can generate nearly 100 arrests in a single weekend is because MANY men–most of whom aren’t pedophiles or predators or even actively interested in sex with teens, but just want sex in general–will not say no when propositioned by a teen for sex, especially if the men are themselves in their late teens or twenties and still pretty immature and impulsive themselves. If we feel this is a serious problem, we need to address it in other ways, that focus on the needs of the teens who are actively seeking out these encounters, not seeding the internet with undercover officers pretending to be wild, eager teens in places where adults go to meet other adults for sex and then seeing how many men they can catch.

  2. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Just to add, I do find our double standards about males and females frustrating: female teens are “little girls” (a description I find completely bizarre, given that I consider my 4yo daughter a “little girl”–if 14 and 15 and 16 year old females are “little girls” and “little children,” who exactly is a “big girl”? Me, at 36?) but male teens are monsters.

    If a male teen were to be arrested for seeking out a drug dealer and buying drugs, we would not say that the drug dealer was preying on him and that the poor little boy was an innocent victim of a dangerous predator. We’d arrest them both, and hold the teen legally responsible. But if a female teen actively seeks out sex with an older guy, she’s an innocent victim and he’s a dangerous predator, period. You cannot even suggest that she might bear some responsibility for her choices, or that she did something wrong in propositioning somebody for an activity she likely knew was illegal. Even if she lies and tells him she is of age, she is still the innocent, victimized child, and he is the predatory monster.

    This is not feminist, this is not empowering, this is not right. Treating female teens as if they have the moral capacity of toddlers is wrong. Treating female teens as if they are sexually indistinguishable from prepubescent children is wrong. It is disempowering and a denial of their agency, and I do think, from what I’ve seen online and with my students, that we’re raising a generation of young women who revel in their victimhood and refuse to take responsibility for their own choices, especially around sex. Made a bad choice about sex when drunk? It was rape, even if they didn’t say no or even said yes (since a drunk yes doesn’t count). Made a bad choice about sex when underage? It was sexual abuse, even if the guy was only 4 or 5 years older and she was the initiator.

    Of course, when the only options we allow young women around sex are being sluts or being victims, it’s not surprising that so many choose victim. But I don’t think it’s any more healthy. Real rape and sexual abuse and sexual exploitation does happen, and must be taken seriously, but we cannot keep teaching young women that they are not responsible for their sexual choices.

  3. SKL May 9, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    I’m not an expert on this topic, but I don’t think it’s wrong when they catch adults trying to meet up and commit sexual acts with people they clearly believe are under 16.

    I agree that most of the time we’re talking about young people who know the adult is intending to get physical. That does not mean those immature kids do not need to be protected. Free range or not, kids who are emotionally confused enough to seek out sex with an adult stranger deserve to be protected from their choices in that regard.

  4. Rachel May 9, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    I think that the men should be in trouble for accepting solicitations from underage girls, but I don’t think they qualify as “predators”. A predator seeks his prey. These men are more like scavengers. They shouldn’t be considered dangerous like a predator. And I think its ABSURD that a man can get in trouble for stuff that happens if an underage girl LIES and tells him she is of age. How is that his fault?

  5. Gina May 9, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    I have always maintained that a teenager may be immature and make bad choices, but that s/he is still responsible for her/his choice. 15 year old girls (or boys, for that matter) who willingly have sex with 20 year old men (or women) are NOT victims and the adults are NOT criminals.
    Let’s give our children real power over their own bodies. Along with the right to say “no” comes the right to say “yes” and own it.
    I have always given my kids the power over their own bodies. No forced kissing or hugging of relatives or even their same-age friends. No uncomfortable touches no matter the well-meaning, harmless toucher. But I also allowed them the power to allow a touch that they wanted. The result? Happy, healthy adults in consenting relationships.

  6. Jen (P.) May 9, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    “What makes our national obsession with sexual predation destructive is that it is used to justify systematically excluding young people from public life, both online and off. Stopping children from connecting to strangers is seen as critical for their own protection, even though learning to navigate strangers is a key part of growing up.”

    YES! I read another article the other day about all the apps responsible parents should be blocking from their kids’ electronic devices. I’d estimate 75% of the comments were along the lines of “no teenager needs an iPhone anyway; giving your kid one is tantamount to handing him over to a predator, or at least the bullies at school.” Personally, I’d rather teach my kids to use technology responsibly while they’re young enough to accept my authority.

  7. marie May 9, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    One of the easiest ways to put youth “at risk” is to put one of their parents in prison. While everyone else’s children are protected from mostly imagined dangers (he looked at sexual images of underage teenagers so he is obviously interested in raping toddlers!!), children of incarcerated sex offenders suffer from very real dangers in a disrupted home life.

  8. Papilio May 9, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    @Gina: Yes, that.
    Just because adults have written a law saying that it’s illegal for 18yo men to have sex with 15yo girls, that doesn’t mean that 15yo girls suddenly stopped being interested in (having sex with) 18yo men. Are you kidding me? Those guys are about the most interesting thing on the planet for many girls that age: slightly older and therefore more mature and faaar more interesting than those babies their own age…

  9. Papilio May 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    And what’s with the lack of capitals in Danah Boyd’s name (making it stick out like a sore thumb!)? Had to scroll it out of sight just to stop my brain from constantly thinking something’s off there…

  10. J.T. Wenting May 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    IOW the average “sexual predator” is not an older man looking for sex with a young girl, but a young girl looking for sex with an older man and passing herself off as being older than she really is…

    (and equivalent with boys and older women of course, but “middle age woman arrested for engaging 15 year old boy in sex acts” just never makes the papers unless sometimes it’s a teacher).

  11. Donna May 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    SKL – It isn’t a matter of “know the adults intend sex,” the teens (or officers pretending to be teens) are often BEGGING for sex. They are the initiators in the conversation. They invite the men. They set up the meeting place (only way it works with police officers).

    And why is this one choice of teens so special that they are are victims if they make it and we prosecute anyone who aids and abets them in that choice? Children also make the bad choice to murder, rob a bank, sell drugs, etc, sometimes at the encouragement of an older person. We don’t consider them the victim if they do. We don’t insist on exclusively blaming the other party. We say that the teen should have known better. POSSIBLY, and it is a big possible, the juvenile will get a lighter sentence if it is truly believed that they were heavily influenced by an older person, but that is it.

    Nor does it offer the slightest protection. Do you really think that a 15 year old who is seeking out sex with a strange adult stops doing so just because that particular strange adult is arrested? No, she simply finds someone else.

    If my child was doing this, I would certainly want to protect her, but not by the completely irrelevant act of locking up the man, but by getting her the counseling that she needs to deal with whatever issues led her to make the choice to start with.

  12. anonymous this time May 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    News flash: women are sexual.

    Second news flash: females who have developed secondary sex characteristics are… um… WOMEN.

  13. Lisa May 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    It always seems so wrong to me that a teen can lie about his or her age, have sex, and the *adult* is held liable. An adult having sex, consenting or otherwise, no matter who initiates it, with a child is wrong (or at least illegal, and that should be enough reason not to do it, and warrants punishment). But consenting sex between adults is ok… so it should be reasonable for anyone in an 18+ chat room to pursue a sexual relationship with anyone else in there. By entering that forum, the girl is saying she is 18… how would a man chatting with her know otherwise. And since 18 year olds don’t magically look that different from 17 year olds, even when they meet in person how would he know? Should everyone insist on checking birth certificates before having sex? Seems ridiculous to prosecute for sex with a minor who lied about her age.

  14. Nadine May 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    There is a huge difference between a 15 year old who is experimenting with her/his older squeeze (with the consent of the parents)and a 15 year old sex date from the internet.

    To put any scrutiny on the kid is wrong. If the kid isnt old enough to make a large purchase, drive a car, vote, drink, buy sigarettes, gamble or any of the many other things we dont make kids responcible for, you cant hold a kid responcible for the decsissions they make about sex.

    What they do need is education. To talk about it with their parents and with their peers in class.and luckily there is youtube so all of the embarrassing conversation starters and pubic hair books my parents used for me arnt even needed. We parents have http://youtu.be/TD2EooMhqRI or http://youtu.be/xXAoG8vAyzI and all the perfectly wonderful people who can explain a subject so much better so we have a starting point to get nto the nitty gritty. We need to be involved and open to discussion and uneasy questions and not only judgemental to our kids or think that they will learn it from the internet (even when the right kind of internets can help)

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  16. Gina May 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Thanks to Papillo and Lenore (who emailed me) for your support…I sometimes feel like nobody else gets it…

    I think I need to add something to make it more clear. Of course I talked to my kids and taught them to consider the consequences of their actions. Enabling them to say yes means that they have to be aware of what the possible outcomes are…many questions, all through their childhoods, included “and what do you think will happen if you make that choice, choose that option?” So when and if they are confronted with a decision, they don’t just react. Their “yesses” are well-thought out. Their “nos” may not be, but that makes sense…uncomfortable is much easier to feel than comfortable.
    Example: It is your choice whether or not to have sex at 16 because it’s your body. But let’s talk about how you will feel if that boy dumps you the day after; if you get pregnant; if you decide you weren’t ready…” And I am not opposed to talking to the other party (boyfriend, girlfriend) if necessary.
    Giving children complete control over their choices with an understanding of the consequences is the best way to prevent them from making bad choices.
    BTW, as you may know, my kids are 16, 27 and 30 (boys) and 22 and 25 (girls): so far, so good! LOL

  17. John May 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    A few months ago, I was reading where a 24-year-old Saudi Air Force Officer was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old boy in a Las Vegas hotel room. According to the story, the boy smelled marijuanna on the Saudi in the elevator on the way down to breakfast so the kid, thinking it was cool, made a comment about it. Well, that got the Saudi’s attention so he invited the kid to smoke a little weed with him in back of the hotel. So the kid willingly went with him and while they both were smoking weed in back of the hotel, the Saudi then invited the kid up to his room for sex and the kid goes with him. Apparently during the disgusting act, it was a bit more than the kid anticipated so he excaped from the room.

    Stories like this give the helicopter crowd fodder for warning kids, “See what happens when you talk to strangers?” But that mentality is tantamount to demolishing a building because it has a rodent problem. Talking to the stranger was not the problem. In this case, the kid aggressively asked the adult stranger about him smoking weed. The kid WILLINGLY went with the adult stranger when he invited him to smoke weed with him in back of the hotel. Finally, the kid WILLINGLY went with the adult stranger back to his hotel room. Now, did the 24-year-old Saudi commit a crime by smoking weed and having sex with that kid? Absolutely. Should he be held responsible for commiting this crime? Absolutely. Was he abusive to this boy? Absolutely. Does he deserve a lengthy jail sentence? Absolutely. BUT the boy in this situation should also be held accountable for putting himself in the position of becoming a victim. While in the elevator, had the kid merely asked the stranger, “Excuse me sir, do you know what floor they’re serving breakfast on?” The string of events leading up to him being victimized NEVER would have even started. But if I provide that perspective on a blog or elsewhere, I get the same old crap, “He’s just a child and shame on you for blaming the victim!”

    Probably about 93% of all American 13-year-olds would have NEVER accepted a stranger’s invitation to go off somewhere to smoke pot and most likely 99.8% NEVER would have accepted a stranger’s invitation to go off to his hotel room to have sex. So I’d say the kid in this situation definitely came from a dysfunctional family and is in dire need of training. So yes, I guess you could say that I’m partly blaming the victim in this case despite of him being only 13. That’s how the real world is folks and it wouldn’t be helping this kid if he wasn’t held accountable for putting himself in that position. Kids need to learn how to make good choices if they want to survive to adulthood!

  18. Robert Monroe, Jr. May 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Some years ago I worked in a county mental health clinic and was tapped to be a co-facilitator in a sex offenders group. One of the men was a sexually immature man who went online looking for a girlfriend. He began talking to a 16 year old girl who said that she was 19 years old and attended the local college. One day she invited him over to her house. After he arrived she began to get physical with him, which he wasn’t prepared for (this man was in his 30’s and still a virgin) and he left. Some time later the girl’s mother went through her computer, found the correspondence with the man and called the police. The man was arrested, was embarassed, plead guilty and was sentenced to probation, the sex offender’s group and is listed as a sex offender. The other men in the group and I agreed that he had received a raw deal and that the girl was really at fault. The woman I was working with didn’t agree and put the onus on him. I had to sit her down and explain to her that we were dealing with a sexually immature 30+ year old virgin who just wanted a girlfriend…not a sex partner. She didn’t buy it and insisted that he was a sexual predator not a victim of a prococious 16 year old girl. Over the years I’ve wondered how many other men may have been approached online by underage girls looking to have sex with older men.

  19. Donna May 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    “If the kid isnt old enough to make a large purchase, drive a car, vote, drink, buy sigarettes, gamble or any of the many other things we dont make kids responcible for, you cant hold a kid responcible for the decsissions they make about sex.”

    You are correct that kids, by age, cannot do some things like drive a car or buy alcohol. However, if they choose to do those things, they are 100% responsible for that choice and any consequences of it. We don’t just pat them on the head and say “you are only 15 so we don’t hold you responsible for your choice to drive a car without a license.” In fact, we not only prosecute them for driving the car, but also for anything illegal they did while driving that car (speeding, running a red light, drag racing, running over granny).

    Again, why is sex different?

  20. Gina May 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    @John–PLEASE tell me that the “disgusting act” to which you refer is the rape and NOT the fact that there were two males involved….

  21. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Donna, fake setups with cops are not comparable to the real situation with actual kids. Also, I used 15 as the maximum age, but this happens with younger kids too. So what if they are the ones soliciting? There are some things kids under a certain age don’t get to decide. Should a 13yo also get to decide not to live with her parents, not to go to school, etc.? I don’t think so.

    Yes I expect adults to know better. And they do. They know the law. They know it is 100% wrong. In an online situation, the ONLY thing these men actually know about these girls is that they are “fresh meat,” willing, and legally off limits.

    This is not about 15yo and 18yo friends going a little too far.

    I also believe the “victim” discussion is irrelevant. (Though I personally think a 13yo who has had sex with a man is a victim.) The question is whether society has an interest in preventing adults from having sex with minors under age ___. Most people think it does, and I agree. There is no “victim” in a sting operation, and that too is irrelevant in my opinion. Not every crime involves one innocent victim and one evil aggressor.

  22. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    “There is a huge difference between a 15 year old who is experimenting with her/his older squeeze (with the consent of the parents)and a 15 year old sex date from the internet.
    To put any scrutiny on the kid is wrong. If the kid isnt old enough to make a large purchase, drive a car, vote, drink, buy sigarettes, gamble or any of the many other things we dont make kids responcible for, you cant hold a kid responcible for the decsissions they make about sex.”

    But we DO hold them responsible for making illegal choices about drinking, drugs, or gambling.

    That’s where this confuses me. People love to talk about how some 15 year old who goes into an 18+ sex site and propositions a 22 year old guy is being “exploited” by him.

    How, exactly? If a 15 year old teen sneaks into a bar where they know drug dealers hang out, and buys drugs from a 22 year old drug dealer there (who takes their money because, hey, it’s money, which is what they are after), would we say that teen was “exploited” or “abused” by the adult?

    No. That doesn’t mean the adult wasn’t also in the wrong, and there shouldn’t be appropriate consequences. It does mean that there are also consequences for the teen, who we hold responsible for their behavior.

    It’s not even like we *don’t* do this around sex. If a 15 year old had sex with a 12 year old, they’d likely face legal penalties. If they had sex with a drunken classmate, they could face legal penalties. Yet somehow, the one and only situation where we think that teens have NO responsibility for their actions is when they have sex with somebody even a day over 18, which ironically is probably one of the more natural things for them to want to do (relationships between post-pubescent teens and people in their later teens or early/mid 20s were historically seen as normal).

    Do I think that a 15 year old who goes online to places where adults go to meet adults for sex should be punished legally? No, but I do think she bears some moral responsibility for the situation and her actions must be addressed, and that simply telling her she’s a helpless victim is the absolute worst way to help her. Do I think a guy she sleeps with should be off the hook? No. In many cases, some legal consequences and/or therapy are warranted. But, we do not respond within reason, and instead put a 22 year old guy who has sex with a 15 year old who propositioned them will spend his life on a sex offender registry, while a 50 year old guy who manipulates an 18 year old into sex is off the legal hook entirely. It makes no sense.

  23. Donna May 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    “Should a 13yo also get to decide not to live with her parents, not to go to school, etc.? I don’t think so.”

    When a 13 year old does these things, we hold the 13 year old responsible for that decision. Who is prosecuted if a 13 year old decides to do these things? THE 13-YEAR OLD!!! The parents can also be prosecuted if they are also at fault for the behavior – don’t make any effort to send their child to school, for example – but the primary person prosecuted is the child.

    If you don’t want a 13 year old to have sex, criminalize the act for the 13 year old. Criminalizing it for an adult does nothing to stop the 13 year old.

  24. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I thought it was delinquency if a person under the age of consent had sex or solicited it. I am sure I’ve heard of cases where the kid was held accountable for this. That does not mean it isn’t still a crime (a worse crime) to be the adult who took advantage of the child’s willingness to do wrong.

    Yes, a child is held accountable for smoking marijuana, but selling the marijuana to the child is a more serious crime.

    We also have a crime called “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” because it is acknowledged that kids who make certain choices ARE delinquent, but that doesn’t mean the adults involved aren’t accountable at all.

  25. Donna May 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    And, no, I don’t really think we need to criminalize minor sex. I don’t think we should criminalize any consensual sex.

  26. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    @SKL, I think it’s unrealistic to lump all adults over 18 into the same category, as if the minute you turn 18, you are just as responsible as a 48 year old. I mean, even leaving aside things like neuroscience research that indicates that our decision-making brain parts aren’t really developed until we’re in our mid or later 20s, age matures you.

    So, I would expect a 45 year old who is propositioned by a 15 year old to make a much wiser choice than a 23 year old in the same situation. I do not expect that a 23 year old would feel some innate sense of responsibility to protect a teen–who may in fact be more sexually experienced than he is–from herself, or to feel any sense of parental-type protection for her. That’s not how the brains of 20-something guys work, even if we wish they did work that way. They may have some sense that it’s illegal that will stop some, but we also know that 20-something guys take stupid illegal risks all the time. The issue is that many times they don’t feel a huge generational or even maturity divide from teens–and, given how many guys in their early and mid 20s live, there may not be one–and so they don’t feel like an adult being propositioned by a child (I’m sure these guys would turn a 10 or 11 year old down) but a young person being propositioned by another young person. When I was 16 and 17, I had friends and boyfriends in their early 20s, and there honestly wasn’t a huge gap in maturity or intelligence.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying, our laws need more nuance. Should we want 15 year olds having sex? I don’t think so. But I don’t think we solve that by cracking down as harshly as we can on anybody a day over 18 who does so. We need to understand that a 22 year old guy–perhaps a virgin–who is hanging out on adult sex sites hoping to meet somebody for a meet up is probably not going to think “This is a little child I have a duty to protect” if a 15 year old with more sexual experience than he has had aggressively propositions him. At 32 and 42, he probably will feel that way, but at 20 and 22 and 24 many men won’t, and those often are the men these young women end up having sex with. These men need education, they need a wake-up call, I don’t even disagree they warrant some legal consequences, but they do not need to be labelled sexual predators for all of most of their lives or wear the stigma of a sexual felony on their record forever.

  27. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    @SKL, I actually think that “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” would be a VERY fitting offense to charge men with in these situations.

    But, we’re not doing that. Instead, we’re charging them with crimes like “criminally sexually abuse activity” (the original offense my husband was charged with, one that, before the county he had been arrested in started their stings, was basically only used for child pornographers or people who pimped out minors, and that carries a 20 year minimum) or “sexual assault of a child” (the charge that a man I know who, at 19, had sex with his willing 15 year old girlfriend was charged with).

    I totally agree that some 19 year old or 20-something guy who sleeps with a willing teen is contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and I would have zero qualms with them being charged as such. But, these men are being charged with extremely serious felony sex crimes–sometimes with crimes more serious than actual child molesters are charged with–and that is not the way to deal with this, if we think it’s a problem.

  28. Donna May 9, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    “I thought it was delinquency if a person under the age of consent had sex or solicited it.”

    Depends on the laws of the state. It is not a crime in my state, however, fornication (sex between unmarried individuals) is still a crime on the books and I’ve seen juvenile court judges use it against kids in order to get them counseling, but generally only in cases where counseling is thought to be needed, not in every case of underage sex.

    “Yes, a child is held accountable for smoking marijuana, but selling the marijuana to the child is a more serious crime.”

    Yes, but so is selling marijuana to an adult. SELLING is the pertinent part, not the child. There is no enhancement for selling it to a child over selling it to an adult.

    “We also have a crime called “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” because it is acknowledged that kids who make certain choices ARE delinquent, but that doesn’t mean the adults involved aren’t accountable at all.”

    Exactly. And contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a minor misdemeanor pretty universally. Not something that sends you to prison for years and puts you on a sex offender registry. If you want to penalize kids for underage sex so bad (I don’t think it would actually stop sex any more than laws against drinking stop underage drinking), I have no problem with the idea of charging their partner with contributing to the delinquency of a minor just like we would in any other crime.

  29. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Well I’ve never heard of a young man being given a huge sentence for having sex with a person below the age of consent. The example given here was 2 years of probation, for a person in his 20s who knew his actions were criminal and involved a person under the age of consent. What is the big travesty? (The sexual predator registry aspect of it is a different issue IMO. I agree that you aren’t a predator if someone solicited you on an adult website.)

    Sure, I know most crimes of all kinds – even murders – are committed by impulsive, immature people. Since when is that a justification for de-criminalizing an act?

    Last I heard, the age of reason was 7yo. I told my kids that they are now old enough to be incarcerated if they commit a crime. Choices have consequences.

  30. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    @Donna, regarding the law and teens and responsibility, the other weird thing to me is how inconsistent we are. For example, I’m pretty sure that in many states, minors need parental consent for pretty much any medical treatment UNLESS it relates to sex. When we’re talking about reproductive health, the 13 year old who needs parental permission to get an immunization is seen as able to make their own decisions about birth control (at least in many states). Teens are granted, medically, autonomy and confidentiality around sexual matters that they aren’t in any other area, but at the same time are considered completely incapable of decision-making when we’re talking about having sex.

    Honestly, I do not get it. I do not get my friends who are 100% sure that a 15 year old is mature enough to give informed consent to birth control and abortion, but are just as 100% sure that the very same young woman is incapable of consenting to sex with a guy who is 19 or 20. I don’t think it works that way, or see how it could.

  31. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Correction, I have heard of very rare cases where a young man was prosecuted for having sex with a younger girlfriend. These are the cases the cause uproar because pretty much everyone knows they are wrong. Also the one that comes to mind involved a mixed race relationship in the south, so IMO racism was a big aspect of that.

  32. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Correction to my correction, I didn’t mean “prosecuted,” I meant “dealt an excessive sentence.”

  33. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    “Well I’ve never heard of a young man being given a huge sentence for having sex with a person below the age of consent. The example given here was 2 years of probation, for a person in his 20s who knew his actions were criminal and involved a person under the age of consent. What is the big travesty? (The sexual predator registry aspect of it is a different issue IMO. I agree that you aren’t a predator if someone solicited you on an adult website.)”

    My husband, the person who I used as an example, and how did get two years probation, got off VERY easy. I’ve actually never met anybody in the same situation who got such a light sentence. And, as I said, I think his probation was fully fair and warranted; it’s the 25 years on the sex offender registry that I take issue with.

    But I know many families in similar situations, and my husband had the lightest sentence I’ve heard of. For men in their 20s, at least from the families I know, 5-10 years of extremely restrictive probation is not uncommon after an arrest in an online sting. In some cases, the men also get 1-2 years in prison. (In general, these stings don’t bring long prison terms, IMO because they want people pleading out and not going to trial, and that’s much more likely if you offer a deal with no prison time.)

    For actual contact cases, some prison time is the norm, even if were talking about 15 and 19 or 15 and 20.

    And, again, all of these men will spend decades or life on a sex offender registry, with a felony sex crime on their record that they can never expunge.

  34. Donna May 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    SKL –

    Even if you just get probation stat rape in many cases (as in the one described here) is a FELONY conviction for which you lose the right to vote, carry a firearm, sit on a jury, become a lawyer, become a doctor, often get a job of any kind.

    People in my jurisdiction convicted of felony stat rape (3 or more year age difference) get at least 1 year in prison and 10 years on probation. A guy in our state got 10 years in prison at 17 for having consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl. Ultimately, his sentence was reduced by the Court of Appeals but not before he spent 4 years in prison.

  35. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    anonymous mom, I agree with your comment about the inconsistency between the choices girls are allowed to make on their own behalf. It is ridiculous. I am against the idea that a 13yo should be allowed to consent to sex, or to an abortion without her parents’ knowledge. I do, however, believe a 13yo should be allowed to take an aspirin while at school. :/

  36. anonymous this time May 9, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Seems to me the “internet safety” lectures to young people should be warning about the following:

    1. Post something even remotely derisive or teasing about someone else, and expect to be facing legal consequences.

    2. Post something even remotely related to violence against others, and expect to be facing legal consequences.

    3. Take a photo of your own naked body and post it or send it to another and expect to be facing legal consequences.

    4. Receive a photo of someone else’s naked body and expect to face legal consequences.

    5. Circulate or post a photo of someone else’s naked body and expect to face legal consequences.

    6. If you are male, “hook up” with a female you have “met” online and expect to face legal consequences.

    7. If you are female, go looking for sex with men over the age of 18 and expect those men to face legal consequences.

  37. SKL May 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    Well it seems to me that it is very easy to say “no” rather than go through all those criminal penalties. You can’t even blame it on “the heat of the moment” when the solicitation is online.

    We talk about teaching our daughters how to be smart about sexual contact from long before the age of consent. So what is so hard about teaching our sons to stay away from jail bait? Now that is a double standard.

  38. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    And, just to add, we can’t just leave the registry issue aside. It is, in some ways, the central issue here. These kinds of crimes–single-time non-violent statutory offenses or victimless online offenses–are what MOST of the men on the registry have committed. Actual child molesters and/or those who actively preyed on minors make up a very small minority of those on the sex offender registry. We have 800K people on the registry because we are putting so many young men on it for a single stupid choice they made with a willing post-pubescent teens or a cop pretending to be a willing post-pubescent teen.

    So if immaturity is a defense, that’s why. Because, realistically, the 20 year old guy who agrees to meet up with a 50-year-old cop pretending to be a promiscuous teen a few months below the age of consent, is going to have far more serious consequences follow him for his entire life than an actual 15 year old who has sex with a 20 year old guy will have. To some extent, his life is over. Hers isn’t. I don’t know many women who spend their lives suffering because they willingly had sex with an older boyfriend as a teen, but these men will suffer their entire lives for one bad choice they made when they were still immature themselves. That’s why it matters.

    Take the registry away and, frankly, who cares? I wouldn’t. Other than the registry, my husband considers his arrest a blessing, because he was engaging in compulsive sexual behavior online that was sucking the life out of him and he needed a wake-up call. But, the registry is there and it becomes the central fact of the lives of those arrested in these kinds of cases. It’s not something we can just push to the side, not when 36-year-old men are unable to take their toddlers to the playground or watch their oldest in a school play because of a dumb choice he made with a real or pretend willing post-pubescent teen a decade or more before.

  39. marie May 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    What they do need is education. To talk about it with their parents and with their peers in class.and luckily there is youtube so all of the embarrassing conversation starters and pubic hair books my parents used for me arnt even needed. We parents have http://youtu.be/TD2EooMhqRI or http://youtu.be/xXAoG8vAyzI and all the perfectly wonderful people who can explain a subject so much better so we have a starting point to get nto the nitty gritty. We need to be involved and open to discussion and uneasy questions and not only judgemental to our kids or think that they will learn it from the internet (even when the right kind of internets can help)

    We have educated kids about smoking and drugs and booze and sex for a long time now. Kids still smoke, try weed and booze, and they still get it on in the back seat. I blogged about this just yesterday.

    We shouldn’t give up, of course, but we should question which part of their behavior deserves to be treated as criminal. In a time when law enforcement devotes more and more resources to uncovering criminal behavior on the Internet and a time when more and more teens share their lives online, we need to decide how many of our kids we are willing to sacrifice to the shame and ignominy of felonies and sex offender registries. Do you see the number of kids in trouble for online crimes decreasing? I don’t.

  40. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    “We talk about teaching our daughters how to be smart about sexual contact from long before the age of consent. So what is so hard about teaching our sons to stay away from jail bait? Now that is a double standard.”

    No, believe me, we do that. My sons aren’t having sex until they have a wedding ring or a signed contract with a woman over 18, and they will be fully aware of the potential consequences of not doing so.

    But, first of all, in these stings many men do not understand. My husband’s arrest was over a decade ago. He had barely heard of a sex offender registry. He was a 20-something guy: he didn’t think about things like that, and they weren’t huge in the public consciousness at the time. And, he had no idea that he could be arrested for just talking in vague terms about things (which is what happened). He figured some line would have to be crossed–like paying for a hotel room or something definitive–before an arrest could be made. He thought he was playing a fantasy game. Several times he told the cop he thought they were a cop. He thought the whole situation was kind of interesting and kind of a joke and kind of a mystery (is this a cop or is this a real person?). He thought that, worst-case scenario, he’d get a legal slap on the wrist. He had NO IDEA he was committing an extremely serious felony sex crime, when no images were exchanged or asked for, no explicit plans were made, and no money/goods were exchanged. That’s the case for all of the men I know of arrested in these stings. They knew they were playing with fire, but they didn’t realize that they had already crossed a line into a very serious felony offense just by having the conversation.

    I mean, it’s the same with child porn. These guys know they are doing something wrong. Most have no idea exactly how serious the consequences are. They have no idea that one image on their hard drive might get them 5-10 years.

    Most people have absolutely no idea how serious the legal penalties for even victimless sex crimes are until they or somebody they know commits one. People still think that rape is a “slap on the wrist” kind of crime. Certainly they don’t think that downloading a few images of topless teens will get them more time behind bars than molesting a child, or that a conversation in a sex chat room that’s just words on a screen will get them charged with the same offense that child pornographers are charged with.

    There absolutely needs to be more awareness about this, I will be the first one to agree to that. The problem is that most people have no idea, and think these kind of statutory or online victimless offenses are slap-on-the-wrist deals (like having a drink underage–which you know is illegal but don’t think will get you into very big trouble) and not extremely serious felonies that will follow you for life. But I’m the first to advocate for parents making their sons very, very aware of the reality of our sex crimes laws.

  41. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    @SKL, “Well it seems to me that it is very easy to say “no” rather than go through all those criminal penalties. You can’t even blame it on ‘the heat of the moment’ when the solicitation is online.”

    Maybe, unless the officer keeps re-initating contact, again and again, after the person tries to stop the conversation.

    The way these stings work, once a guy shows any receptivity, it’s over. The cop will keep working on him until he agrees to a meeting. It doesn’t even matter if the meeting is for sex. (In my husband’s case–and I’ve read the complete transcripts of all of his conversations with the cop–the meeting he agreed to go to was just to say hi. The cop asked if they’d be having sex, my husband said no. The cop kept pushing. Could they at least kiss? Maybe. What about more? What if “she” really wanted it? My husband finally said, we can see what happens. That was literally the extent of his expressed intentions: “We’ll see what happens.”) Basically, if the guy does anything other than close his chat window as soon as the officer drops in “her” age, it’s over for him. The cop will be sure to steer the conversation in a direction that results in arrest.

    Should these guys say no? Yes. In an ideal world, they would. But do we really want law enforcement resources wasted on rooting out the MANY men in adult sex chat rooms and other online sex sites who *won’t* immediately say no (especially when there is basically an endless number of such men out there)?

    These stings are run NOT to protect children, but to maximize arrests. That’s why they take place not on sites where teens or children go, but places where adults go to find adults to meet for or chat about sex. That’s why they pretend to be sexually experienced teens eager for sex, not innocent virgins who need to be coerced. That’s why they pretend to be a year or less under the age of consent–always 15, never 11–and not three or four years younger. That’s why they talk like porn bots, not like children who might mention things like parents or curfews or school or homework. They are casting the widest possible net, to make the most arrests possible, to justify the existence of their expensive “cybercrimes” units that are wildly ineffective at catching real cybercriminals and so instead need to manufacture them.

  42. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    I will stop after this, but I think what it comes down to is that it’s not the job of law enforcement to make adult sex sites safe for teens. Such a thing will NEVER happen. You will never make Craigslist “Casual Encounters” section–which you are supposed to be 18+ to click into–a safe place for teens to go, where everybody will immediately turn them down the minute they say their age, whether the person reading the ad is 52 or 22. You will never make the now-defunct Yahoo sex chat rooms–which you were supposed to be 18 to enter–safe places where teens can go without being exposed to adults interested in sex.

    It’s like deciding that we want to make it safe for teens to wander around bars. It isn’t. If a 15 year old went into a bar and started asking people to buy them a drink, even if they gave their age, somebody would eventually do so. Probably pretty quickly, somebody would do so. Maybe that person was drunk, maybe they were stupid, maybe they had just turned 21 and drank themselves when they were 15 and don’t think it’s a big deal: who knows? But a teen in a bar will be able to find somebody willing to hand them a drink, if they are persistent enough (and probably if they aren’t even that persistent). So, instead, we just don’t let teens in bars, because we acknowledge that we can’t make them safe, secure places for teens where all of the adults inside will make rational, sober judgments based on the best interests of those teens.

    Adult sex sites are the same thing. They will never be safe for teens. The people inside are lonely, desperate people willing to talk about or have sex with any willing, warm body. Sure, if somebody said they were 10, most would likely say no (again, which is why police don’t pretend to be 10 in their stings: not enough arrests would be made). But, 15, 17, 19? Who cares? What’s the difference? They’ve got the right parts, the right hormones, have gone through puberty, and are willing. Many of these individuals have problems with sex addiction, and are not going to be making wise, responsible judgments. These are NOT safe places for teens to enter, if we don’t want teens finding adults willing to have sex, and they never will be. Period, no matter how many arrests we make or how many men we register.

    There ARE parts of the web that should be safe for teens. In fact, I’d say most parts should be. Any adults going onto general all-ages sites or especially sites specifically for teens or children should NOT be trying to solicit teens for sex there or having sexual conversations with minors. Just like, a teen should be able to walk through a public park without somebody offering them a beer. But, should they be able to walk through a bar without somebody offering them a beer? No. Because that’s not the kind of places bars are.

    So, I just think this is a silly, futile effort. We will never make the seedy, 18+, adult sex internet a safe place for teens to hang out. Instead of punishing every adult there–no matter how much over 18–who won’t immediately turn down a teen propositioning them for sex, if we think this is a problem, we do need to discourage teens from seeking out this behavior, just like we spend more time telling teens not to drink than we spend telling adults not to give drinks to teens who ask. We don’t waste a lot of resources urging 22 year olds to not buy beer for their teen friends, or running stings to try to trick them into doing so. Instead, we spend most of our resources to combat teen drinking directly on telling teens to make responsible choices.

  43. SKL May 9, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Actually the cops do run stings to catch establishments selling cigarettes / alcohol or serving alcohol to underaged people.

    And, we’re never going to wipe out any kind of crime. Never going to stop people from beating or killing their spouses, therefore why bother to treat it like a crime? There’s no way to really put an end to child abuse, so why bother to make it illegal? Or incest for that matter? Or rape? Or assault? Or shoplifting? For that matter, is there any crime that has ever been wiped out as a result of prosecuting people for it? The logic just doesn’t work for me.

  44. Donna May 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    “Well it seems to me that it is very easy to say “no” rather than go through all those criminal penalties.”

    But why should he have to? She is offering it up and he wants to accept the offer. Personally, I think he should want to pass it up because sex with a stranger from the internet is gross. But to each their own. If you can’t teach your children not to troll for sex, it isn’t everyone else in the worlds fault or responsibility. Why do you insist on making it so?

    “We talk about teaching our daughters how to be smart about sexual contact from long before the age of consent. So what is so hard about teaching our sons to stay away from jail bait?”

    I don’t think that anyone is saying that boys should not be taught about these things. Much like you say all the time, kids don’t actually do what we teach them 100% of the time. People don’t actually make the morally perfect decision all the time. Should it be a felony that completely destroys a person’s future when everyone is a willing participant?

    “Now that is a double standard.”

    Assuming we are also teaching our girls not to troll the internet looking for men to hook up with and they are not listening, you are essentially saying girls can’t be expected to make good decisions, so we must protect them by prosecuting boys, but boys are expected to make good decisions and any failure on their part should result in a lifetime of punishment. That isn’t a double standard?

  45. Gina May 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Just to be clear..no double standard here. Our boys always knew “no means no”, if you get a girl pregnant it is as much your problem as hers, you can also get hurt by having sex being dumped…etc.
    The more information they have, the easier it is to make good choices.

  46. Donna May 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    “Actually the cops do run stings to catch establishments selling cigarettes / alcohol or serving alcohol to underaged people.”

    Yes, but they don’t run stings to catch patrons providing alcohol and cigarettes to minors. I believe that is what anonymous mom was talking about. Not the bar itself, but the other people in the bar who are often willing to buy for those underage. When I was in high school and college, I could always find somebody to buy alcohol for me at a club. I was never a smoker, but I would guess that I could have bummed a cigarette too.

  47. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    @SKL, but those types of stings–which do NOT result in people who sell to underage people being put on a public registry of predators–are aimed at workers and proprietors, not average customers. They are seeing if a bartender will sell to somebody underage, not going up to somebody in the bar, claiming to be a year under the legal drinking age, and asking if that person will give them a drink.

    Although, your example points to the futility of these stings, because if law enforcement DID want to stop teens from being in these places, they’d run stings to check whether the sites are doing a good job of screening out teens or whether moderators are doing their job monitoring ages. They aren’t doing that, though. They are making the easy arrests, to make easy arrests.

    It seems like you are saying that you think it’s a great idea for law enforcement to go into adult sex sites, pretend to be horny, sexually promiscuous and eager teens less than a year below the age of consent, proposition men there ranging from 18-50+, and then arrest anybody who gives any sort of positive response to the proposition, charging them with felony sex offenses that will follow them for life and land them on a public registry of sex offenders for 25 years to life? I just want to make sure that’s what you are saying, because I’m not sure how else to interpret your posts, since what I described is the reality of what is happening.

    If you are worried about your teen meeting an older guy online to proposition for sex, supervise your teen’s internet more closely. Teach them to make good sexual choices. But the unfortunate reality is that if you have a post-pubescent teen daughter dead-set on finding a guy over 18 to sleep with her, she is going to have NO TROUBLE finding somebody to take her up on the offer, no matter how many stings are run or how many men are put on the sex offender registry or how harsh the penalties for statutory offenses are. The only real option you have is addressing your daughter’s issues.

    Just like, if you have a 20-something son you are worried about getting arrested in an online sting, you can’t stop every underage girl from trolling the internet for sex. You have to address your son’s behavior. But the same holds true if it’s your teen daughter you are worried about. There is no safe place for a teen girl actively seeking out a 19 or 20 or 25 year old guy for sex, and an endless number of men, both online and in real life, who will take her up on her offer. All you can do as a parent is try to make sure she doesn’t offer.

  48. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    @Donna, yes. That’s what I meant. Sting operations are not run to find out if somebody at a table drinking at a bar is willing to share or buy a drink for a 20 year old who asks them (a person a year under the legal age). They aren’t run to see if a random person in a convenience store will bum a cigarette to a teen (which, as a teen who smoked, I will tell you that MANY adults are willing to do). They are instead aimed at people working in an official capacity in the establishment. And, if they are found to be in violation, they are not facing serious felonies. These stings, as far as I know, are never designed to make sure that sites that claim to be for people 18+ are actually doing a good job vetting who comes in.

  49. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Ugh, I can’t stop. Sorry. Obviously I feel very passionately about this issue.

    I also just don’t buy the “They knew it was illegal so they deserve whatever they get” line. The law does not and should not work that way. I mean, I know speeding is illegal, but does that mean if they made the legal penalty for speeding (whether I was 5 or 50 miles over the limit) sending me to prison for 5 years, not allowing me to drive for 20, and putting me on a public registry of public dangers for life a fair and fitting punishment? No. Just because something is illegal, and people know it’s illegal (and, again, in the case of these stings, many of the men arrested *don’t know* that they did something illegal or where the line was crossed), doesn’t mean that people deserve whatever punishment they get.

    Leaving a child in a car unattended is illegal in many states. That doesn’t mean that a parent who does so–even if they knew it was illegal, or at least suspected it was–deserves to have their children taken away, be charged with felony child abuse, and be put on a registry of child abusers.

    I know people don’t want their teens having sex. I don’t want my kids having sex as teens. But, we will not stop that from happening by punishing anybody 18+ willing to do so as harshly as we can (and the sex offender registry is about as harsh a punishment as you can get, in many ways, since it will limit or eliminate employment, housing, social, and relationship opportunities for many on it for most or all of their adult life), any more than Uganda is going to stop people from being gay by executing those found to be engaging in gay sex. If you fear for your teens, then deal with them and their issues, not with the literally incalculable number of people who’d be willing to have sex with them if they were willing and post-pubescent.

  50. SKL May 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Well first of all, don’t put words in my mouth. I think it would be just as easy and probably more ethical to monitor the chatting between actual people and intercept illegal hookups. However, I do believe there is a place for “age of consent” and I do not feel sorry for people who are arrested for intentionally violating that law.

    Donna:
    “[quoting me] ‘Well it seems to me that it is very easy to say “no” rather than go through all those criminal penalties.’

    But why should he have to? She is offering it up and he wants to accept the offer. ”

    Donna, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this point. If my or your 13yo offers sex to a 25yo maybe you are OK with him taking her up on it, but I am not and I’m very glad the law is on my side in that respect. I’m not even going to waste time arguing about that.

    As for the double standard, I never said I think it is OK for underage girls to be soliciting sex either online or in person. I think it is and should be against the law. But a teen’s choice to break that law does not relieve the other party of a responsibility to refrain. And yes, an adult should be held to a higher standard than someone below the age of consent. Again, we can agree to disagree on that because I’m not going to go on and on about why it’s unreasonable to hold a 13yo to the same standard as an adult. I certainly am not in the minority on that.

    Honestly, if people think it is OK to raise their sons to take every opportunity to have sex with a young teen, I hope you live somewhere far away. Where I live that attitude would not be appreciated. We have our share of pond scum, but people don’t stick up for their behavior.

    This discussion reminds me of the old “oh, he’s a good boy, he’s just sowing his wild oats.”

    And I come from redneck country.

  51. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    “What makes our national obsession with sexual predation destructive is that it is used to justify systematically excluding young people from public life, both online and off. Stopping children from connecting to strangers is seen as critical for their own protection, even though learning to navigate strangers is a key part of growing up.”

    I also meant to quickly reply to this.

    Honestly, segregating teens from young adults online may be our best course of action, for both groups, if we really, truly believe that sex between them is so dangerous that it will forever damage the younger party and should rightfully brand the older party as a predator for 25 years to life.

    Because, in reality, if you allow post-pubescent teens and young adults to freely socialize and interact, at least some sexual relationships will form. There’s going to be a 14 year old and 18 year old who totally hit it off. There’s going to be a 15 year old and 20 year old who have a ton in common and get interested in each other romantically. There’s going to be a 16 year old and 24 year old who want to start a relationship in a state where the age of consent is 17. It’s pretty much inevitable, because post-pubescent teens and young adults have been in relationships together, that were socially accepted, for pretty much ever. We won’t ever stop 15 and 16 year olds from finding 22 and 23 year olds attractive, and vice versa. Now, certainly that’s not going to happen to all or most people, and it’s not the norm, but it’s also not some pathological outlier, like a 40 year old finding 10 year olds attractive. How many of us, if we go back even just a couple of generations, have a couple in our family whose relationship would be a serious felony today? Probably most if not all. Because, again, post-pubescent girls in their mid-teens and guys in their late teens and early-to-mid 20s have been in relationships together, sometimes, for as long as their have been relationships. The law doesn’t dictate desire or change the way people think and feel.

    So, if we want to totally avoid these relationships because they are so scary and dangerous, I do think we should strictly segregate post-pubescent teens and young adults, and make sure they don’t have much time or opportunity for one-on-one interactions and relationship-building. Because people develop differently enough and mature at different enough rates and are attracted to who they are attracted to in ways that will ensure that, when teens and young adults are allowed unlimited, unsupervised one-on-one access to each other, some of those teens and some of those young adults will start having sex. I’d rather we just segregate the internet more, so that post-pubescent teens and young twenty-somethings *aren’t* interacting with each other, than freely allow such interactions but then freak out when the inevitable happens and declare the girl a rape victim and the guy a sexual predator.

  52. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    @SKL, “Honestly, if people think it is OK to raise their sons to take every opportunity to have sex with a young teen, I hope you live somewhere far away. Where I live that attitude would not be appreciated. We have our share of pond scum, but people don’t stick up for their behavior.”

    Wow, talk about putting words in people’s mouths.

    The issue isn’t the ideal or what parents want. It’s reality. First of all, you keep saying 13, when in reality many if not most of these cases involve teens less than a year below the age of consent, so either 15 or 16. One thing to consider is that very few 13 year olds are sexually active, with people of any age. Something like only 2% of young people have sex by 13, while nearly 1/3 have sex by 16. So we know that, in terms of sex, 13yos are much less likely to be sexually mature than 15yos, and yet it’s consistently 15 and 16 yos (sometimes 14, but rarer) that are impersonated in these stings. Again, are you really okay with cops impersonating 15yos who claim to have had multiple sex partners they met online and propositioning 21yo virgins in adult sex rooms who are then arrested for serious felony sex crimes and will be on public registries until they are nearly 50, at the minimum?

    Should young men take every opportunity possible to have sex with any willing post-pubescent woman? No. Of course not. But, realistically, will many? Yes, especially in a society where sex outside of marriage is completely accepted and promiscuity is not discouraged. So, if you are worried about your daughter, your role is to teach her not to proposition men for sex, not to change the sexual behavior of all young men everywhere, regardless of whether they are right or wrong in sleeping with teens.

    Similarly, should teen girls proposition every young man they possibly can, because after all it’s on them to say no? Of course not. But, if you are worried about your son being charged with a sex crime, you aren’t going to change the sexual behavior of every teen girl everywhere. Instead, you teach your son that he should say no, even if the young women shouldn’t be propositioning him in the first place.

    In reality, if a post-pubescent teen girl propositions a guy in his late teens or twenties for sex, there’s a good chance he might say yes. That’s just how it is, right or wrong. (And, I agree it’s wrong.) You can fight against that all you want, but to protect your daughter, your best bet is to teach her not to proposition men, not to hope that harsh legal penalties and sting operations will cause 23 year old guys to make smart, responsible sexual choices.

    It’s like the whole debate over drinking and college and responsibility. Should drunken college guys take sexual advantage of drunken college girls who are agreeing to sex they would never agree to if sober? No. Of course not. But the solution isn’t to say that college girls have an inalienable right to get as plastered as they want as much as they want and aren’t responsible for the sexual choices they make in that state, and instead punish drunk men who have sex with drunk women as harshly as we possible can. That probably won’t stop a single case of drunken sex, because drunk people don’t generally make great choices. Instead, regardless of whether drunken men should take advantage of drunken women, if women don’t want to be taken advantage of while drunk (and I’m obviously talking here about cases where a drunk woman agrees to sex she wouldn’t agree to when sober, not cases where a drunk woman is saying no, which is clearly, obviously rape and not anything she is responsible for, just as a teen girl who is forced to have sex by an older man is clearly a rape victim and not in any way responsible), the solution is for her to not get drunk, at least not in situations where sex is a possibility. That’s not giving men permission to have sex with as many drunk women as they want, or saying doing so is awesome, but acknowledging the reality of human behavior.

    A drunken women who is at a hook-up party with lots of drunken men will very likely run into a guy willing to have sex with her, as long as she doesn’t say no, even if he shouldn’t. A 15 year old propositioning 20-somethings for sex will very likely find a willing guy quickly, even if he shouldn’t. That’s reality, whether it’s ideal or not. And we empower women (and men) by dealing in reality, which means teaching your sons not to have sex with women who have had anything to drink (no matter how much she seems to want it) and not to have sex with anybody underage (no matter how mature she seems or how aggressively she propositions you) AND teaching your daughters not to get drunk at hook-up parties and not to proposition older guys for sex.

  53. Andy May 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    @marie “We have educated kids about smoking and drugs and booze and sex for a long time now. Kids still smoke, try weed and booze, and they still get it on in the back seat.”

    Yep, but all those things are on decline. They smoke less, take drugs less, have less sex then in 80ties and teenage pregnancies are going down.

  54. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Also, I may be wrong about this, but I’m not sure that sex with 13yos would be considered statutory in many places. Well, one other issue is that I’m not aware of many states that still have “statutory rape” on the books. Instead, statutory cases are prosecuted under other sexual assault charges (criminal sexual conduct, sexual abuse, etc.), which makes the registry particularly pernicious because you have no idea if, for example, “sexual assault of a child” means that a 45 year old raped a 6 year old or a 19 year old had sex with his willing 15 year old girlfriend. It’s often not easy to tell if a crime is statutory just by reading the official charge. (FWIW, my husband pled to “use of a computer to commit a crime.” That’s not very helpful or descriptive.)

    But, in many places, any sexual contact with a person 13 or under is going to be a first-degree sex crime, whether the younger person wanted it or not, whereas sex with a willing person over 13 but under the age of consent will be a lower degree sex crime. But sex crime laws, as far as I can tell, are like the definition of Byzantine, many times with the same act being something you could prosecute under a number of different statutes all with different levels of punishment.

    For example, we learned that, in our state, while talking about sex with an underage person who is in reality a middle-aged cop online is initially charged as a serious double felony–criminally sexual abusive activity (which carries 20 years) and use of a computer to commit a crime (which tacks on another 5 or so, because clearly somebody who uses a computer to commit a crime is more dangerous than a person who does it in real life)–actually having that kind of explicit conversation with a real-life teen of the same age would be, at most, fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, a misdemeanor that carries much less time on the registry and in many cases ends up not landing a person on it at all. How’s that for laws that make sense? Online conversations in adult sex chat rooms with police officers pretending to be teens is a far, far more serious crime than real-life conversations at the park or the mall with a real teen. So, basically, the 20 year old guy propositioned in Craiglist “Casual Encounters” by a 50-something cop pretending to be a teenager has committed a far more serious crime, at least in my state, than a 50 year old man who himself propositions a real-life 14 year old. But, that is the kind of sex crime laws that we have.

    I’ve often wondered about what would happen if, in one of these stings, a 45 year old cop pretending to be 15 was propositioning a 15 year old pretending to be 20. I’m sure it’s happened.

  55. Donna May 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    “If my or your 13yo offers sex to a 25yo maybe you are OK with him taking her up on it”

    Now who is putting words in people’s mouth. I didn’t say I was okay with it. In fact, I’ve said repeatedly that I think it is inappropriate. I did say that I don’t think it should be prosecuted criminally. If my child is trolling anywhere for sex at 13, the people who take her up on the offer are 100% irrelevant to me. I care only about her and protecting her. I don’t need to vindictively seek revenge, totally humiliating her in the process.

    Nor do I necessarily blame them. I think you are imagining your doe-eyed little 7 year olds. Those ain’t the 13 year olds we are talking about. My clients – who do often troll for guys – look and act like prostitutes, not 13 year old girls. They will generally sleep with anyone. The age of the man is irrelevant. I can’t count the number of teenage girls I’ve dealt with who are in detention or secure group homes for no reason other than we can’t get them to stop prostituting themselves unless they are 24-hour lockdown. At 12 and 13 and 14. It is horribly sad; but I am sympathetic to the men they rope in as well.

    Further, I can’t for the life of me understand why you would ever allow your child to be part of the criminal justice system for this. No way in hell will I begin a process that may end with my 13 year old child testifying in court about how she trolls for men on the internet. And it need not go that far. She also isn’t going to be the topic of stories for the cops, DAs, PDs, and court personnel for years.

    And as long as these laws are on the books, you can lose control. The cops and DA will think absolutely nothing of getting CPS to remove your child from your custody so that they can interview her and force a medical exam if they get wind of this. The entire system will tell her how much of a victim she is and how badly she should feel about what was done to her.

    There is simply nothing positive to be gained by your child from this process at all. It can be very empowering if you are raped and want justice, but absolute torture if not.

  56. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    @Donna, to a large extent I think that’s why the sting operations are as successful and popular as they are: imaginary teens are, by and large, far more sympathetic than real-life teens. The truth of the matter is that if we actually saw actual 14 and 15 and 16 year old girls trolling the internet or bars for older guys to proposition for sex, we’d find them entirely unsympathetic. Hell, if people actually saw the transcripts for many of these stings, I think they’d find the “girls” pretty unsympathetic. But when it’s a nameless, wordless, faceless teen, we imagine our own kids in a few years, or that sweet girl from church who babysits our kids, or our own idealized view of ourselves at that age.

    The first response of both my father-in-law and my father to my husband’s arrest was “How can that be illegal? Aren’t men on Maury who have sex with 15 year olds all the time?” And, it’s true. For a while, it was a talk-show staple to have the 13 or 14 or 15 year old girl who was pregnant and any one of half a dozen or a dozen guys–ranging in age from maybe 16 to 30–could be the baby daddy, and they were getting a DNA test to sort it out. If I recall that era correctly, nobody felt like those girls were victims and the men were predators who should all be in prison. No, the audience HATED the girls, because the girls were rude and foul-mouthed and poor and controlling and rebellious and basically the very opposite of how we view our own kids in a few years or how we think of the sweet church teen who babysits our kids. The audience thought they were sluts who deserved no sympathy or mercy. I don’t agree with that kind of judgment, either, but the fact is that if we actually saw the kinds of girls actually involved in the real-life versions of these cases, I’m guessing the people who are doing most of the hand-wringing over those awful men online waiting to prey on their sweet virginal girls would be the first to think those real-life girls were indeed awful, manipulative sluts who don’t deserve their pity.

    That’s not fair or right, but it’s also not fair or right to paint men who make bad choices with these young women as dangerous, pedophilic predators, something that is much easier to do when the “girl” doesn’t exist in real life and so we can imagine the most innocent teen girl we can, not the real-world teens who we actually tend to not like very much at all.

  57. SKL May 9, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Donna, I’m thinking of the law being used as a deterrent. I do believe it has a deterrent effect, though obviously not 100%.

    I don’t know exactly what I’d do if that happened to my 13yo. It isn’t something I’ve seen happen personally to anyone other than in cases of incest, which is obviously in a whole different category. Obviously I hope that my kids would not put themselves in that position in the first place. Kids who do so are usually suffering from problems such as being sexually abused at home, mental issues, etc. My kids might have some mental baggage and I obviously can’t 100% control how they react to it. But if they decide to hook up with an adult when they are young teens, the adult will not get off with not consequences if I have anything to say about it. If for no other reason than that I would like to reduce the chances of him preying on the next child. What those consequences should be would depend on the situation.

    I don’t agree with the view that men can’t and shouldn’t be expected to control themselves in the presence of an alluring young female.

    I was fondled/molested at age 12-13 and I didn’t tell anyone (except for some girl friends to warn them away), and I spent many years feeling guilty for possibly leaving that creep capable of doing it to someone else.

  58. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    @SKL, I don’t think you are understanding what is going on in these situations. There is no “preying.” There is an offer. And there’s a difference there. A 24 year old man who is propositioned by a 16 year old girl who snuck into a bar in a state where the age of consent is 17 and sleeps with her is not “preying” on teen girls. He was at a bar. He didn’t expect to meet a teen. A 22 year old guy who is propositioned by a 15 year old on an adult sex website is not “preying” on teen girls. He was on an adult sex website because he wanted to meet an adult. Are they taking advantage? Maybe. But that’s not the same as preying.

    I mean this in all seriousness: did you, when you were fondled/molested in your early teens, go to a place where you knew adults went to find other adults for sex (a sex club, a sex website, a hook-up bar), approach a guy, and ask him to fondle you (perhaps encouraging him by telling him you’d done it before with other guys and it was great, that you were totally into him and if he liked you he’d do it, or maybe urging him to “be a man” and touch you)? If not, then your situation is ENTIRELY different than what we’re talking about here. Nobody is saying that forcing sexual contact on underage people–or anybody–isn’t a very serious wrong, morally and legally. Nobody is saying that finding a vulnerable teen and manipulating them into agreeing to sex isn’t unethical and shouldn’t be illegal. But, again, that is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about post-pubescent teen girls actively seeking out places where adults go for sex in order to proposition men.

  59. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    I just want to add, again, that I think that throwing in 12yos is a red herring here. 12 year olds are generally not post-pubescent, even those who started developing early. Even 13 is quite iffy. But, many 14 year olds and nearly all 15 year olds (for girls) are fully post-pubescent. They have reached their full height. They have all of their adult sexual characteristics. Physically, they are women, not children. Again, I’m not saying that makes sex with them good or right or something we should encourage, but it does mean that finding them sexually attractive is psychologically normal, not abnormal, especially for men not that much older than them. So, yes, a man who fondles a 12 year old might be a pedophile and probably does pose a threat to other children around him. But, a guy who agrees to have sex with a 15 or 16 year old who propositions him is almost certainly NOT a pedophile–especially if he’s in his teens or twenties himself–because a pedophile doesn’t want sex partners with adult bodies, and since he wasn’t seeking out teens, he doesn’t pose a threat to anybody else. And, I’m willing to bet that, in nearly all cases, in a few years he’d make a different choice.

    When I was maybe 21 or so, I worked at a summer camp, and one of my coworkers was 15 or 16. He was cute. He was sweet. He was super fun to talk to. I kind of had a crush on him, but I was with my now-husband at the time, so nothing came of it. But, if I had been single, and he’d shown interest, would I have turned him down? Probably not. I was older, but I didn’t feel that much older. We interacted and felt and talked like peers. I mean, I was a college student living at home for the summer; he was a high school student living at home for the summer. We both worked in the same place. Our lives weren’t actually that different. Would I have been a sexual predator if he’d propositioned me and I’d said yes? I don’t think so, at all. But, today, at 36, would I even consider it? No! Now, I *am* a totally different generation from kids that age. They are young enough to be my children. It’s very different. Being willing to date or sleep with a 15 or 16 year old at 20 or 22 or 24 doesn’t mean that at 34 or 44 or 54 you’d be willing to do the same.

    I teach college students, mostly freshman, and when I started teaching at 24, I’d sometimes have 18 year old students I found very attractive. 12 year later, that doesn’t happen. Again, when I started teaching, my students and I were basically in the same generation. Today, we aren’t. Even aside from age, I’m no longer some freewheeling grad student who lives basically like a college student, but a mom of three with a job and bills and floors that regularly need mopping. Something that wouldn’t have seemed all that wrong or inappropriate to me at 24 or 25 would seem very, very wrong at 36.

    Most of us grow up and mature. Most of us grow up and mature A LOT over the course of our twenties, and leave our twenties much, much more grown up than we entered them. It’s wrong if not outright absurd to imagine that a guy who has sex with a 15 year old who seeks him out and propositions him at 22 would be actively preying on 15 year olds for sex at 42. The same can’t be said for genuine pedophiles–people attracted to pre-pubescent children, since that tends to be fixed–but it’s true for everybody else. We don’t think a 40 year old dating a 25 year old is weird or gross, but it raises eyebrows if a 60 year old does it, and we certainly don’t assume that a man who, at 35, would date a 25 year olds who asks him out is going to have some fixation on 25 year olds until he dies. That’s not how normal adult sexual desire works, and people who find post-pubescent teens attractive, especially as young adults, are sexually normal.

  60. Chuck99 May 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    This is slightly off topic,but I want to throw it out there.

    Have you heard about the case in Northridge, CA (part of the Valley, just north of LA. A 19-year old was arrested in Feb, charged with False Imprisonment and Lewd Act with a child, and freed on $150,000 bond. If found guilty, he faces 8 years in prison.

    What did he do that was that heinous? He played with a boys feet.

    The real trouble is that, in America at least, sex is believed to be evil and harmful. Sure a 25-year old having sex with a 13-year old is wrong, but the story that was shared here didn’t make it sound like the boy was forced into anything. Until we can realize that there’s a difference between actual rape, manipulation, and consensual sex there will continue to be ridiculous situations.

    One thing that I will always remember is that the same week I heard about 12-year old Alex King being tried as an adult in Florida, I heard about a 16-year old girl who had consensual sex with an adult male, but then later ‘realized it had been wrong’, so she reported him to the authorities. The man was arrested and she was being treated like a hero for coming forward, as well as a victim.

  61. anonymous mom May 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Finally, just to clarify where I’m coming from, I know the stories of a lot of sex offenders, due to some groups I’m a part of. (Well, mostly I know the stories of their wives/girlfriends, but it’s the same story.) The sex offenders seem to fall into three groups: child porn convictions (which may be the largest), men who molested children 12 and under (usually family members), and men who were arrested for either real-life or online statutory crimes, which in all cases I’m aware of involved, depending on the age of consent laws in the state, a very willing teen 14-16. We’re talking about the latter group here, and of those men, the ones who had actual, in-person sex with a real teen were quite young women they committed their offense (19-22 or so). The ones who were arrested in internet stings tend to trend a bit older but also be younger (maybe 22-30 or so) than we imagine the typical “internet predator” to be, and the “girls” were “15” in each case.

    To show how messed up these stings are, the newest way to do them isn’t even to state right out they are underage. It’s to post an ad claiming to be an 18-20 year old seeking out a hook up. A guy replies. In the e-mail back to him, the “girl” reveals that, instead of being 18-20, she’s really 15 (or, in one case I’m aware of, she is indeed 20 but she’s got this 15 year old sister who REALLY wants to be a part of things, and she’ll only do it if her sister gets included). If he doesn’t rescind his interest, he’s arrested. How exactly is this protecting children? How is this something that the government should be investing resources in?

  62. Donna May 9, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    “I’m thinking of the law being used as a deterrent.”

    A deterrent to what? A deterrent to young teen throwing themselves at men? Not at all. A deterrent to young teens having sex? Not in the least. A willing female will always be able to find a willing male. Even if you somehow manage to eradicate every male over the age of 18, the exact same girl will simply seek sex from boys under 18.

    I guess I just don’t get the problem that you are trying to deter. Personally, I think that there is a HUGE problem if my daughter is aggressively soliciting sex from anyone at 13. I don’t care if he is 15, 16, 25, or 26. I don’t want her to do it at all. I’d want to change HER behavior, not just change her partners. And if I succeed at changing her behavior, the 25 and 26 year olds are no longer an issue, and neither are the 15 and 16 year olds.

    “But if they decide to hook up with an adult when they are young teens, the adult will not get off with not consequences if I have anything to say about it.”

    So you’d put your kid through police interviews, medical exams, and let her to testify in a courtroom full of 20-30 strangers (even if they close the courtroom, there are that many court personnel and jurors there) about how she repeatedly solicits men for sex? For what? So some other 13 year old who wants sex will have to find a different partner? The other girls are going to find sex if they wants it so you aren’t stopping them, just changing their partners.

    “I don’t agree with the view that men can’t and shouldn’t be expected to control themselves in the presence of an alluring young female.”

    That is not what I are talking about at all. I totally expect a man to control themselves in the presence of an alluring young female who doesn’t want sex. I expect them to control themselves in the presence of ANY alluring female who isn’t interested. Understanding that they need to control themselves with a young female, not even particularly alluring, who is begging them for sex and who willingly rode a train with 5 guys the night before and slept with his best buddy the night before that and blew the local dealer for some mollie on Monday is a different story.

    I have girls who by 15 have very willingly slept with 40-50 males of all ages and very willingly performed sex acts that I have to look up online to even figure out what they are talking about. Even if you know how old they are, you don’t think of them as young teens when you interact with them because they are miles beyond their age in many respects. I often have to catch myself and remember that they really are that young when I talk to them.

    As I said, it is a horribly sad situation. My heart aches for these young women and where their psyche must be to do what they do and what they will think of their choices as they age. I wish I could fix them all. But I see it from both sides and I do feel for the guys that they wrap in their webs. They are usually alright guys who would never force themselves on anyone. These girls clearly are a victim of something, usually completely dysfunctional parents, but aren’t the victim of the men they are having sex with. Nor do they don’t consider themselves victims.

    I really think that you can’t separate you at 12-13 from the kids we are talking about. These are not kids who are being fondled against their will and are afraid to tell anyone. These are very willing participants who desire and aggressively seek out sex. Who beckon men in through their windows. Who take pride in every crazy sexual feat they achieve. Who regularly swap sex for drugs. Who sell themselves if they need extra cash. And they don’t currently feel bad about it at all. It is the life they want to lead.

    “that I think that throwing in 12yos is a red herring here. 12 year olds are generally not post-pubescent, even those who started developing early.”

    You’ve clearly never met some of my clients. They are more developed than me now even at 12, and I’m sizeable. They may not be completely post-pubescent, but they are going to be scary when post-pubescent. But 12 is on the young side. We have a few, but the numbers increase drastically each year toward 16.

  63. SKL May 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Like I said, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think an adult is culpable if s/he can’t manage to say “no” to an invitation from someone under the age of consent.

    Young men manage to say “no” all the time, just like young women do. Because it is not that hard to understand that choices have consequences.

    But if we decriminalize these acts, then a big deterrent will go away and things will get a lot worse. Even in cases where the child did not solicit sex, it will become he said/she said. Is this the kind of society we really want to become?

    I did not say these people were predators. Predation is not the only kind of sex crime.

  64. Donna May 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    “Even in cases where the child did not solicit sex, it will become he said/she said. Is this the kind of society we really want to become?”

    Huh? What are you talking about? Even in the sex with teens world, there is a HUGE difference in sentencing between stat rape and rape. He said/she said arguments over consent frequently come into play if the teen is not readily admitting consent.

  65. Jen (P.) May 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    I agree an adult who can’t manage to say no to someone below the age of consent is “culpable.” But the punishment should fit the crime, and requiring someone to spend years and years as a registered sex offender when there is no evidence that he poses a threat to anyone is a punishment that is vastly out of proportion with the offense. No one is made safer by it, and you can’t even justify it as a deterrent because most of the people who end up in that position had no idea their behavior could lead to such a result. What a waste of time and resources.

  66. John May 10, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    @Gina…..the “disgusting” act I’m referring to is anal sex between a 24-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy. Yes, that is considered rape.

  67. JKP May 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    I watched this play out in real life at a restaurant I once worked at. The owner’s daughter was 13, but she looked much older. She had already developed a large chest and a curvy hourglass figure, and she dressed like a hooker with tight, low-cut revealing clothes, lots of makeup. She could pass for 18. And she reveled in getting male adult attention. She was at the restaurant all the time with her parents, and she was definitely a predator. She was sexually aggressive with the employees and customers. Sometimes if they didn’t know her age, they would flirt back and respond to her. But when she stepped away, I would pass by and alert them that she was only 13, after which the guys would always back off.

    She pursued one of the employees for months. He was in his late twenties, and he knew she was 13. He kept turning her down over and over again. But she saw him as a challenge, and she kept trying. She was a master manipulator. Eventually, they were caught making out.

    If it were just her mother involved, he probably would have been arrested and put on the sex offender registry. Frankly, it was her mother that allowed or even encouraged the girl’s behavior to be so out of control.

    But luckily, the step-father knew who was really at fault in this scenario, and had expected something like this for a while. But he had previously only had so much parental leverage as the step-parent, so he hadn’t been able to rein in the out of control 13 year old with the mother constantly overruling his attempts at setting boundaries. But he was able to turn the situation around so the mother woke up a bit to her daughter’s behavior, and they were able to start making more boundaries and handle her better. And the guy luckily didn’t suffer for his momentary lapse in judgement, because he was a nice guy who was in no way a pedophile nor a predator.

    I think part of the solution needs to be not just about how do we deal with the underage kid and the adult who should know better, but also how do we stop the parents and other adults from overreacting? Some situations do warrant pressing criminal charges, but many don’t.

  68. Puzzled May 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    I’m generally in agreement with the majority here, but I’m surprised by all the slut shaming and insults about sex workers. I do agree that our mentality is to deny children any agency, except in certain criminal cases, which never made sense to me. If we decide to try a 12 year old as an adult, what is their status while awaiting trial? It seems to me that during that time, they should be allowed to vote, drink, etc.

    In response to a few rhetorical questions above, yes, I would grant children equal rights to adults, and see no reason not to.

    Skl, as much as I dislike stings, I’ll take them over your idea of constant surveillance.

    Donna, how do these stings work, anyway? You can say itit’s not entrapment since there’s no behavior they wouldn’t otherwise do, but how do you charge someone with endangering a minor or whatever when no minor is involved? Are most who go to trial convicted?

    Side note, why do they always say they’re doing laundry when the guy comes to the door? Is that what most teens home alone, waiting for a sex partner, would be doing?

  69. anonymous this time May 11, 2014 at 1:30 am #

    I hate it that we are giving girls who are “underage” but post-pubescent carte blanche to excuse themselves from any responsibility for their overt attention-seeking and the lives they ruin when they cry “rape” after CONSENSUAL SEXUAL RELATIONS.

    Some boy in our town is going through hell right now, being charged as a criminal. He’s in high school, she’s either in grade 8 or 9, they had consensual sex, I think the parents found out because the girl had a panic about being pregnant (she wasn’t), and the parents decided to CALL THE COPS.

    OH MY GOD. Call the cops? Really? I have seen this girl grow up. By the time she was 10 or 11, I saw her at the little league games all tarted up with her high-heel sandals, short-shorts, makeup, and glittery handbag. She was still pudgy-cheeked, but she was all about trying to put on the alluring demeanour.

    I can only imagine what she is like at 14 or 15 or whatever age she is now! I have no doubt in my mind that she sought out that high school senior and very much wanted the sexual relationship. The idea that he is being put on the registry and called a criminal is sickening to me.

    Just imagine if an 18-year-old girl was in a relationship with a 15-year-old strapping lad who had nice, broad shoulders, was 6′ tall, and shaving. Didn’t look at all like he was in junior high. I knew one of those boys. His mother said the older girls really took a shine to him early, like when he was 13. I think my own son is one of those. I’m more worried about him being led to do things he’s not ready to do by an eager, older girl than I am worried about him becoming a “predator” of any kind.

    I think people still are in a LOT of denial about young women and their sexuality. The idea that “boys want it more” is, in my experience, complete horse shit. All people coming of age have varying amounts of sex drive, and believe me, there are some supremely motivated young women out there, folks.

    I did my damnedest to get a 32-year-old university prof to bite on my 17-year-old bait. If he’d said yes, it would have been very weird for both of us, I was playing with fire, I didn’t even know what I really was after, I was a very hot-blooded, attention-seeking type. Frankly, I feel fortunate that all of the ways I went after my romantic interests turned out okay for me. I think I left more broken hearts and feelings in my wake than anyone had much of an impact on me.

    I hate the idea of warning kids against “online predators.” I don’t think that really exists in the way people think it does. I want my kids to be self-aware and self-responsible. I don’t care what your age, if you are post-pubescent and making offers you can’t follow through on, either because of laws or your “delicate psychological state” which leads you to later feel remorse, you are not the victim of a criminal if they took you up on your offer.

    Whatever happened to “Live and Learn”? I guess we’ve decided that even the suggestion of having sex with someone under and arbitrary age limit is so heinous that we must segregate them from society. What craziness. I value responsibility. It’s a two-way street.

  70. Papilio May 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    “I agree an adult who can’t manage to say no to someone below the age of consent is “culpable.””

    I don’t. First of all, that age of consent is just a number picked by whoever wrote that law. It’s not like teens under that age are sweet, innocent, little angels who are completely asexual, and teens above that age have suddenly grown a sex drive and frontal cortex overnight, allowing them to finally make responsible decisions regarding sex, too.
    Like many people said before, it is completely normal for 14-16yo girls to be interested in 17-22yo guys. It’s completely normal teen behavior that for some idiotic reason is criminalized in the USA. There is nothing wrong with an 18yo guy who dates a 15yo girl, and THEY know best if and when they’re ready to take it to the next level, just give them the information and support etc they need to make informed decisions for the right reasons.
    Even while having a law stating an age of consent, there is no reason why those normal young consenting couples can’t be left alone – just use that law to lock up the manipulating rotten apples who are truly up to no good, like loverboys, or that guy who sweettalked dozens of teen girls out of their clothes for the webcam and met them to have sex.

    Someone said that a relationship between a 14yo girl and a 19yo man was completely normal a few generations ago. I’d like to add that my cousin met her husband when they were those ages. They married 12 years later (and no, that wasn’t because he did time, lol) and now have a 1yo daughter.

  71. SKL May 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    “I have seen this girl grow up. By the time she was 10 or 11, I saw her at the little league games all tarted up with her high-heel sandals, short-shorts, makeup, and glittery handbag. She was still pudgy-cheeked, but she was all about trying to put on the alluring demeanour.”

    Sounds like my 7yo who happens to like heels, make-up, and glittery handbags. I guess I’m raising a slut. Guess I’d better google chastity belts ASAP.

    And to think I was contemplating delighting her by giving her heeled church shoes for her 8th birthday.

  72. JP Merzetti May 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Perhaps what really needs chewing on here is just what defines a sexual predator.
    I can easily think of at least a dozen attributes that fit the picture. And they’re all pretty obvious.

    But I’ve been hearing more and more lately about all kinds of young people winding up on the predator lists who don’t belong there.
    And curiously, the more this seems to happen, the more that real cases of it seem to fall through the cracks. Kind of like not noticing the grizzly bearing down on you because you’re too busy reacting to a bumble bee.

    Anonymous mom – I agree totally that this nitpicking about actual age differences clouds up the real issue: accountability on both sides, for sure – but focus on what is and what isn’t breaking a legal (or moral) law.

    We pretty much know that our society has evolved in such a way that many more teens at younger ages are determined to be sexually active. We do a real lousy job as a society of addressing where this really comes from. I was a young teen once…..just as curious, just as hormonal….but infinitely more free to arrive safely at the age where it posed no legal or moral threat.
    Now it appears that the path has been strewn with landmines. As if the more thundering the punishment – the more the attraction to the ‘forbidden’ fruit.

    An 8 year-old – a 10 year-old……is very much a child, in a way that a 15/16 year-old isn’t. I think it takes a wee bit of wisdom to know the difference between the two.
    But heaven help us if they turn it into required rocket science. We are not all Einteins!

  73. anonymous this time May 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    I do find it awkward for pre-pubescent girls to dress and prance in ways that seem to solicit sexual attention. That said, I would never expect even the most tarted-up 10-year-old to spark the desire of a high-schooler.

    When I heard that this particular girl’s parents had called the cops because they heard, only through the most alarming message possible (“I think I’m pregnant!!”), that their 14 or 15-year-old girl was sexually active with a boy who is a senior in high school, all I could think was, “Do you think your daughter might have had a role to play in her own experience, here?”

    “Fashion” choices do not necessarily equal promiscuity or dangerous sexual behaviours. But this girl gave off a vibe of wanting in the worst way to get ahead, to be sexually precocious. We all know kids who are whizzes at math, or amazingly artistic. I’ve seen little boys who insist on wearing fairy wings and high heels and tiaras, practice ballet moves, and want all things girly. You can kind of see, if a child is allowed to be authentic and true to their nature, what their passions are.

    This girl was passionately sensual, from an early age. As she started puberty, she was milking it for all it was worth. It did not surprise me in the least that she started having sex at 14 or 15, but why is this a matter for the police?

    I alluded to her fashion choices as a young girl because, well, of all the little girls I saw at the ballpark, she was the one who seemed to be in an awful hurry to get to adult places. I don’ t think it was just the clothes, frankly.

  74. SKL May 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Anonymous mom, you may have a few points somewhere in your posts, but I am reading a lot of “but she’s a sickening little pig” which makes objective consideration difficult.

    I do not deny that some girls seek physical attention at a young age. (By the way, there are boys who do this as well – I remember one in elementary school who would grab my non-existent boobs etc.) Usually it is because they have some problems, not because they are actually old enough to be sexually active.

    Young kids often want to drive motorized vehicles and some will try for a chance. Does that mean there should be no culpability if an adult gives them the car keys or knowingly allows them to drive down a public road?

    I didn’t see anyone suggesting that minors who willingly engage in sex should have no accountability. That doesn’t mean the adult party is blameless. Both parties need to have accountability. No matter how a girl dresses, talks, acts, the other party has to be in control of his own actions. If he can’t control himself then yes, some legal restriction is in order.

    There are separate issues here. Should youngsters be seeking sex with adults? Of course not. Should they have consequences to prevent it happening in the future? Yes, but they should also be evaluated for possible underlying causes of this pathological behavior.

    Should men respect the age of majority? Yes. Should they have consequences if they don’t? Yes. What should the consequences be? That is a question we have not even really addressed. At least I haven’t. I could understand parents deciding not to prosecute in a clear and simple case of consensual sex. However, the adult should have reason to fear that it could happen! It is not OK. “She’s just a slut anyway” does not in any way make it OK, and in fact, if the adult’s supporters talked like that, that I would assume the adult was raised in a culture that doesn’t value responsibility, and I’d be all the more in favor of throwing the book at him.

    And finally, does accepting an unsolicited invitation from another person make one a predator? No, not by itself. I think we all agree on that.

    In my location, you get on a list for sex “offenses,” whether or not you are a predator. I understand the arguments as to why this is problematic. I tend to agree that people who are not predators don’t need to be on these lists. That is a different question from whether or not there should be “age of consent” laws.

  75. Andy May 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    @SKL “I didn’t see anyone suggesting that minors who willingly engage in sex should have no accountability. […] Should they have consequences to prevent it happening in the future? Yes.”

    I think that minors who willingly engage in sex should NOT be criminally prosecuted. What exact good would come out of that? I fully agree with parents limiting freedom of their kids, taking away allowance or punishing them in some way.

    There is no reason whatsoever to use criminal system against them. I see no reason to limit their school selection, loans availability, financial support availability, employment chances and all that other things they will loose once they have record.

    Something being “wrong” does not necessary meant that it should also be illegal. Similarly, I do not want my kids to drink excessively, but if they do, I do not want them to be criminally prosecuted. I do not want my minor kids to smoke marijuana, but if they do, I will not call the cops to put them to jail.

    On young girls seeking sex: I agree that many of young girls seeking physical attention at a young age have some underlying issues. However, what do you mean by “actually old enough to be sexually active”. Which I do not want my daughter to be sexually active at 14-15 years old, it is already age when girls sexual desire can already develop. Their bodies are not ready yet in terms of “being responsible enough to deal with consequences” (not sure how to express that, I’m trying to differentiate physical preparedness and mental).

    15 years old having boyfriend and kissing is not much special. It is physical attention having to do with the same need, even as we do not want them to take it farther.

  76. anonymous this time May 11, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Back to the OP, I don’t think this girl in my town found her beau online, anyway.

    I just read, in a newspaper article about a recent case involving 15-year-old boys and 13-year-old girls, that the laws here state it thusly:

    “…it’s important for parents to educate their children about when it’s OK to have sex, and with whom…A child who is 12 or 13 can consent to sex with someone who is no more than exactly two years older than him or her, and at age 14, he or she can consent to sex with someone no more than five years older. If the age difference is more than two or five years, respectively, “by even a day, it’s a criminal offence.”

    Does anyone else think this sounds like a Monty Python sketch?

    “At 16, teens reach the age of consent; they can have sex with someone of any age provided that person is not in a position of authority, such as a teacher, coach or priest. In 2008, the age of consent was raised to 16 from 14.”

    Now *that’s* interesting to me. Six years ago, the law changed, and they upped the age of consent another two years. Did they send flyers home to all the parents of the grade-school age kids at the time? I bet not.

    And what precipitated the change? And how arbitrary does all of this sound? And what the hell is so wonderful about a 12-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old, but suddenly it’s a huge hairy deal if a 13-year-old has sex with, um, anyone?

    We’re groping to find our way through these times where sexual mores are seeming like vapours, dissipating before our eyes. We can’t agree on the terms, but we want all sexual children to be either criminals or not at all responsible for their actions.

    How about considering that girls and boys might mature at different rates, and individuals of both sexes absolutely so? The idea of turning cases over to law enforcement, when no violence occurred, seems insane to me. Aren’t many of these girls so ashamed and embarrassed when their parents find out that they actually DID THE DEED that they suddenly decide they were not ready, were coerced? We want to allow them to take on all the trappings of women, and then tell them they are too addled and immature to act the part.

    I think 14 and 15-year-old girls are, in some cases, every bit of a woman. Emotionally as well as physically. Not every single female has the same timetable, but I really do think there are those, even if they become sexually active with older teens and young adults, have no psychological “problems” other than being out of synch with our hysteria over sexuality of women in general.

  77. julie May 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    It is a good thing there was no internet when I was a teen!
    I was told from a very young age how distractedly beautiful I was by men and what a “grown up face” I had. WHen I was 12 I was told I looked like Elizabeth Taylor and became obsessed with practicing her looks in the mirror and being as alluring as possible. By 13 I could make a man blush with one look and had a man say to me I had eyes “that could melt butter” by 14 I had mastered the sexual innuendo with such innocence in my delivery that it would leave people perplexed…and I was sure I was in love with an adult male who was a friend of the family…who I beat in chess and had long conversations about literature and 1940s cinema… by 15 I decided I was going to make my move… It was at a party.. I waited till he had his second drink out of the heavy cut glass crystal… I slid sidewards on his lap and kissed his neck… He patted my hip..I moved in for my first kiss…” WOAH KIDO..NO! DO NOT! You ARE Not an Appropriate lover for me at your age mores the pity” And we never talked about it again…