Why Have We Criminalized Love?

Readers — It is downright BIZARRE that we have criminalized normal behavior that’s consensual. That’s what has happened to teens who have sex, write Shelly Snow, author of the blog With Justice for All:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I just finished reading your birthday blog, and I realized, as I have before, that much that you advocate for is “the way it used to be.” It hit me so strong because I have just had an interesting–to say the least–commenting exchange on an article. I was trying to make the point of the necessity to distinguish between a statutory-but-otherwise-consensual situation, and a forced rape. I wrote:

…I started dating my first husband when I was a couple of months from 16 and he was 22. We married when I was 16 and he was 23. Pre-marital sex had not been part of the equation, but no one knew that. When we married, our friends all assumed I was pregnant.

The years in between then and now have brought massive changes in society’s and the government’s insistence that we protect our children to the point that today’s kids are virtually unable to do anything for themselves. We pretend that kids don’t have sex while all the while they are bombarded with sexual imagery from everything in their world, and when they do have sex, the law requires that someone has committed a crime.
This is a response to my post:
Your parents should have been jailed for inappropriate parenting. You do not allow a 16 year old to date a 22 year old. Your parents were criminals.
I simply wrote back, “Not in 1958,” but the whole thing has bothered me ever since.
Your thoughts?
My thoughts (Lenore here again) are that you have hit the nail on its bump-covered head. When we get used to treating kids as if they are in constant danger, the idea that they could do anything on their own without getting hurt seems impossible. The same society that thinks no child is safe waiting in a car for five minutes is the society that thinks adults accompanying field trips should be background checked, is the society that drives 12-year-olds to school because the walk seems too dangerous or difficult, is the society that thinks anyone under 18 in a sexual relationship was either duped or forced. The common denominator? It’s seeing kids as babies all the way up until they reach a magical age —  babies who need smart, strong adults to do everything with them or for them, because otherwise they’d get hurt.
The corollary to that belief is that if and when any child IS hurt (or even disappointed or upset), the blow is so severe that he or she just may never recover.
No one is saying that teens are never manipulated or coerced into sex, only that assuming that that is the case EVERY time is a depressing, dismissive view of  young folk. – L.

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