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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
 
loove

63 Responses to Why Have We Criminalized Love?

  1. Bose in St. Peter MN November 29, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    The teens with parents who believe they are controlling the kids’ decisions about sex will also be the ones who don’t dare talk about it when they are thinking about, or becoming sexually active. Chances jump that decisions will be made with poor or little information, or avoidable risks will be taken.

  2. Andrew November 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Unfortunately, we live in a society that makes violence more acceptable than sex. Strike someone in a bar and you would probably get off with jail time and probation. Make a sexual remark and a life time on a registry is a real possibility.
    Robin Williams summed it up when he said “America was settled be the puritans. A people so sexually repressed that even England said “You people have to get the hell out of here.” I mean,what can you say about people who don’t want to give their kids the only vaccine that prevents several forms of cancer because it also prevents a common STD.?

  3. E November 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I’m sympathetic to the post, but I guess my question is — at what point/age do they think consensual sex with someone under, say 16, is statutory rape?

  4. Barry Sheridan November 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    It is not todays young who are the problem here, no matter what they get up to, real or imagined. The nightmare that raising the next generation is becoming is largely down to the ridiculous attitudes and behaviours of what are supposed to be adults. This site illustrates this point repeatedly! Unfortunately it can only get worse as the manias that afflict todays neurotic elders incite the various busybodies who staff authority to interfere more and more.

  5. Donna November 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    “at what point/age do they think consensual sex with someone under, say 16, is statutory rape?”

    I’m not the original writer, but I don’t think statutory rape statutes should exist at all. If you want to stop predatory sex involving coerced consent in a situation where one person has power over another – due to age, position, knowledge or any other reason – and uses that power to manipulate the subordinate into sex define THAT as a crime. But stop with the assumptions that age is THE determining factor in this.

    There is no magic enlightenment that you get on your 16th birthday that makes you all knowing about sex. You don’t suddenly become impervious to pressure and coercion. Society may not like May-December romances but that doesn’t mean that they should automatically be a crime. It takes all kinds in this world.

  6. PaigeN November 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    My daughter is 31 and started dating her (now) husband when she was 15 and he was 19. She was a mature young woman and he was a mature young man. When she graduated from High School, they moved into together, and then married. He’s a fantastic husband and father and I’m proud to call him son.

    However, that’s not to say that every 15 year old should be dating ‘adults’. But I do think it’s ironic that we have a society that wants marriage to be available for “everyone” yet we still look down on love that isn’t within the ‘appropriate’ age range.

    Let’s not forget that these same 12 and 13 and 14 year old girls are old enough to “consent” to abortion, but aren’t old enough to “consent” to sex or marriage without parent approval.

  7. Ann in L.A. November 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    We live in a “Grease” world. It’s a world where young adults are expected to act like teens, not adults. And teens are treated like toddlers.

    (Travolta was 24, Newton-John 30 when the movie came out.)

  8. Shelly Stow November 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Shelly here, the original author. “At what age…with someone under…16…” Very good question. I think the best solution to this is what some states have come up with; laws that make allowances for teens at and above a certain age as long as the age difference doesn’t exceed a certain number of years. Most of the states need to go down a little on their age limit and extend a little the allowable difference in years, but the structure is a good one.

    I respectfully disagree with the poster who said there should be no statutory charges. I think that whatever the cut-off point is, the ages below that down to a certain point need to be statutory, and it should not be a felony; sex offender registration absolutely must not be part of the equation. It actually shouldn’t be criminalized at all but handled by courts set up just for juvenile correction of many types with no criminalization and heavy on counseling. This is all dependent, of course, with it being totally consensual.

    And no, I’m not encouraging kids to have sex. I don’t believe kids should be sexually active because of the potential for consequences that they are unable to deal with. But none of that has kept them from having sex as long as the world has turned, and I don’t foresee it happening now. Active and involved parenting where all the right conversations have taken place helps but is no guarantee, and we have too many kids who aren’t blessed with that kind of parenting. They should not be marked as criminals and have their futures destroyed because they were unable to exercise restraint.

  9. Becky November 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    16 and 22 is criminal, but 18 and 24 (same people) is ok? it’s insanity! i’m not an advocate of premarital sex because of religious reasons, but i also do not believe it’s criminal if it’s consensual. no matter the ages.

    some have argued that 16 is too young to have consensual sex because they are too young to fully understand the ramifications and responsibilities of a sexual relationship. who which i say: WHAT?!?!?!? what idiot came up with THAT?!?!? granted, some 16-year-olds are VERY immature, but it’s because nowadays society has MADE them that way!

    omg, i could go on for hours on this very subject. but i won’t. lol!

  10. Ravana November 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    My grandmother was 16 and my grandfather was 24 when they started dating. My grandfather was the elevator operator who refused to stop on my grandmother’s floor on her first day of work until she agreed to go out on a date with him! (Can you imagine THAT happening these days and not resulting in an arrest?!) After they had been dating for about a month my grandfather moved in with my grandmother and her mother so that he wouldn’t have to risk returning home late at night. Everyone thought that was completely reasonable. They married when she turned 17.

  11. Maggie November 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    My brother and his wife started dating when she was 16 and he was 22 or 23. I don’t KNOW that they were sleeping together (didn’t really want to know) but since I know neither of them has/had any moral or spiritual objections to premarital sex, they probably were at some point prior to her 18th birthday. Far from freaking out and labeling him a big bad predator, her family adored my brother because he treated them and her with respect. Nine years later, they just celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and have two beautiful children.

  12. Nathan November 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Great commentary. I would add that people start to see *themselves* in the same way. They look back on their own teenage years, and see themselves at that time as an incapable child. Once that gets etched into the culture, it will be very difficult to change it. It will become self-perpetuating.

  13. Earth Waratah November 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    When our eldest started high school, we never banned her from having sex but asked her to wait until she at least 16-18 years old and should she have sex, to do so in her own bedroom. I also researched which are the safest free porn sites that won’t kill the computer and told her that if she views porn, remember that it’s not real.

    I don’t see any benefit to getting hysterical about these matters. Taboo only makes it attractive anyway.

    As for sex offences regarding teens, I would like to see an age bracket that permits sexual relations; 13 to 16 & 15 to 18.

  14. Ben November 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    When a 16 year old married a 23 year old back in 1958, I’m assuming the age of consent was 16. If that is true, they broke no laws, and by that definition, that means they were not criminals. If back in those days the law was different and it was in fact against the law, than that would be different, but I doubt that is the case.

  15. deltaflute November 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Andrew- I’ll answer your question. The same ones who believe in their child’s own judgement to make moral decisions. It’s a contradiction to teach your child to wait until marriage and then vaccinate with a vaccine that caused so many injuries that even Japan has removed support for it. If we expect our children to be responsible to take public trans what’s wrong with expecting the same about all morality? Or is free range only applicable to limonade stands not other moral quandaries like pre-marital sex?

  16. Kristi November 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I live in a city with quite a few young military folks, the majority of them being young, single men. There isn’t a month that goes by that we don’t have a young man getting in trouble for having sex with a young girl. These men end up with no career, being dishonorably discharged, a long stint in jail, and a sex offender record. In the mean time, these girls are treated like victims when they are, for the most part, are far from being victims. As a woman that was involved with boys that fell into the “statutory rape” category when I was younger, I feel like disregarding if the relationship is consensual or not, is a disservice to the young men. I know that people lie and in order to save their own skin, some of these young ladies say that the relationship was non-consensual, without thought to the consequences for the other party. I am also a mother of 3 daughters, 16, 10, and 3. I am very open with my daughters and they, hopefully, know they can come to me if they choose to be involved with a young man so they can be safe. It makes absolutely no sense that these sweet girls can consent to an abortion at 12, but can’t consent to the sex in the first place. Both can have life-long consequences, however, choosing to have safe sex is much different than choosing to have an abortion. I had an abortion at 22 and did not really understand the emotional consequences of having that “simple medical procedure”. I had a much better grasp of what I was doing having sex at 13! My parents were unaware that I had been having sex until I was 15 and pregnant. Had I been able to talk to my parents about it, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up pregnant. We cannot keep out children away from everything. We have to be able to guide them to the best of out ability and let them fall sometimes.

  17. Asya November 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I completely agree with these sentiments. A 210 pound, 6’2″ 17 year old young man is hardly a poor little “child” to be exploited by an evil 19 year old woman, although legally he has virtually no authority over himself or his property. Oh wait, at 18 he can go to war but not buy himself 3% beer, even if he has zero interest in operating a locomotive. Obviously he is not mature enough! Thank you MADD and Neo-Prohibition! Okay, okay, I digress…

    This is very amusing, as I met my husband (on the internet GASP!) when I was 16. At the time, he was 20. What evil young love! It creates these things like marriage, happiness, and children! We were so immoral, clearly when we are 86 and 90 it will matter so much! But how strange is that 16 is considered so infantile, but the Disney movies everyone likes to much have heroines like Ariel (who marries at 16), Aurora (who is 15 and Prince is 21ish), and Rapunzel (17 when running off with older man before she is 18 ooooo). Gee, maybe because true love = happiness, while authority = Madame Gothel/life as spinster?

    Clearly, no one over 18 gets hurt in love. Clearly, no one over 18 is EVER exploited, raped, lured with money, etc. When people talk about things happening to “minors”, and how to limit the freedom of “minors” even more to “protect” them, they never consider that shtuff happens to EVERYONE. But when teens make mistakes, it is attributed to their age.

  18. mystic_eye_cda November 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    This is one of the many reasons we need to lower the voting age because right now young people have almost no rights, almost no lobbying groups, and no power.

    Generally a 14 year old can be charged as an adult and punished as an adult, but can not consent to sex, does not have the right to privacy, can’t sign a legal document, etc, nor can they vote. You can be legally held accountable to a society you are not allowed to take part in.

    If we gave teenagers a voice and a lobbying group as powerful as the AARP how long would it be until poor kids were given anywhere close to the assistance of poor seniors, how long until the sex laws were changed to something more sane?

    I agree with Donna, coercion should be a crime which should be taken more seriously than it is now between adults. And certainly the courts should take into account the mental capacity of the person and maturity is a part of that, but age itself shouldn’t automatically mean you were forced. Cut offs and mandatory minimums make good sound bites, not good laws.

  19. anonymous this time November 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    We’re biologically designed to mate and reproduce years before 18.

    Hm. Wonder why that is?

    And I wonder why we work against that so very much?

    Could it be that when humans were more cooperative and interdependent, a young girl who had a baby was not on her own to try to manage this “life-changing event,” but rather that baby and mother were folded into the tribe and there was unending support for both of them?

    The reason we suppress the sexuality of sexually mature human beings is because our system can’t accommodate them. My father told me, when I was learning basic grammar again in high school after learning it in both grades 5 and 7, that high school was simply a “holding pen” for sexually mature young adults who were too young for meaningful employment in the system as it stood, and too charged up with hormones to let loose on the street. “They don’t want you to set fires and have babies,” he said. “So there is high school.”

  20. anonymous mom November 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    I think we need to accept that, even if we don’t like it, even if we think it’s not a good thing, even if we disallow it as parents or want to discourage it as a society, younger adults dating people in their mid-teens is nothing new and nothing pathological. These relationships have been common for most of human history, do not indicate any sort of psychological problems, and should not be treated the same way that we treat forcible sexual offenses or sexual offenses against prepubescent children.

    In some European countries, the age of consent is lower (around 14), but for people between certain ages (like 14-18), a higher standard for consent must be met. The older person must not have been in a position of authority over the teenager, must not have coerced the younger party in any way, and must not have used gifts or other material items to obtain sexual favors. I think this is fully reasonable. There are mature 14, 15, and 16 year olds who can not only consent to sex with a 22 or 23 year old, but can actually manipulate the older party into having sex (there are plenty cases of girls under the age of consent going into bars with fake IDs, telling guys they are overage, and then the guys being arrested later for statutory rape). In these cases, these teenagers should not be treated like children, and the older partner should not be treated like a criminal. In other cases, a teen that age is much more immature, and they were manipulated or coerced into sex, in which case there should be legal penalties. But we need to recognize that both teens and young adults vary wildly in their maturity levels, and things can’t be one-size-fits-all.

    I do have a vested interest in this. As I’ve shared here before, my husband is a registered sex offender, because when he was in his mid-20s, he was arrested in a sting operation involving an undercover officer (ironically, perhaps, a man several decades older than my husband was at the time) pretending to be a 15 year old. No matter how much I think about it, I cannot agree that a real-life 15 year old who acted the way this officer pretended to act–going into an adult sex chat room (a room that was clearly labelled for those 18+, that was saturated with pornographic images and talk, where adults went to meet other adults to engage in either “cybersex” or arrange sexual meetings with), bragging about her past sexual exploits with men she met online, urging my husband to “be a man” and meet her for sex–should be treated like a helpless child by the law. I know of a number of men who were arrested in similar sting operations, the more recent ones involving officer posing as teens posting in areas of Craigslist designed for adults seeking out sex with other adults, and I do not think this is right or just.

    We are okay, in the U.S., with treating teens who choose to commit adult crimes as adults. I think we should also be okay with treating teens who choose to engage in adult sexual behavior as adults. If an adult is coercing, manipulating, or abusing their power/authority to get a teen to engage in sex acts with them, that is wrong, and they should be punished. But if a 15yo decides to go into an 18+ sex chat room and try to convince guys in their 20s to meet her for sex by telling him how awesome it would be, how much she’s enjoyed internet hook-ups before, how if he were “really a man” he’d do it; or a 16 year old uses a fake ID to get into a bar and tells a 29 year old guy there that she’s 22 and he falls for it; or a 14 year old posts an ad in an adults-only section of Craigslist solicting sex that a 19 year old guy responds to, I just don’t think the guys in question deserve to be treated like predators or threats. I would have no problem with them facing charges akin to what they’d get if they were to get drunk with somebody underage (like contributing to the delinquency of a minor), but they should not face serious felonies, years in prison, or decades or life on a sex offender registry.

    I like the European way of doing things, where people 14-17 are seen as able to consent but in need of some special protections. I think that solves a lot of the “But at what age do we think the guy is too old” issue, because I think most of us can reasonably imagine scenarios in which, say, a 15 and 23 year old might actually have a lot in common and have a relationship that both entered into freely and with a healthy mindset, whereas it’s hard to imagine any relationship between a 14 and 50 year old that wouldn’t involve manipulation, coercion, or abuse of power.

    And I definitely think that teens who are actively seeking out sex with people over-age by going to places where people overage are going to find sex with other over-age people (or undercover officers pretending to be teens like that) should not be treated like children incapable of consent. In my opinion, any real-life 15 year old girl who was going into adult sex chat rooms trying to convince older guys to sleep with her is no less a “predator” than a 24 year old guy who went into tween chat rooms trying to get 13 year olds to sleep with him (an action I’d consider completely abhorrent and wrong). When teens knowingly enter adult situations and actively seek out sex with guys 18 and over, I don’t think they should forfeit the right to be treated like children legally.

    Sorry for the book.

  21. anonymous mom November 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    * I mean to say, in the last sentence, that I *do* think they forfeit the right to be legally treated like children.

    We wouldn’t, legally, treat a drug dealer who sells marijuana to a 15 year old who comes to them asking for it the same as we’d treat a drug dealer who went to a middle school and tried to coerce the students into buying drugs. And we certainly wouldn’t treat that 15 year old as a victim of the big bad drug dealer: we accept that the 15 year old knew what they were doing, and they will be charged with a crime. When teens willingly and knowingly seek out sex with people 18 and over, they should not be treated like helpless child victims.

  22. anonymous mom November 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    And I promise this is my last comment. ;)

    I do think that we have seen a rapid, rather inexplicable turn against these kinds of relationships in recent years, and there probably will be a backlash. I have seen 19 year olds who date 15 year olds described as “pedophiles” the last few years, over and over. That is INSANE. It is insane on every single level. It’s insane because a 15 year old is, in nearly all cases, fully post-pubescent and so no true pedophile would be interested, and it’s insane because such an age gap would have been perfectly socially acceptable even a decade ago.

    (I know that somebody above mentioned that maybe such relationships weren’t illegal in the past, and the age of consent has been raised. In some cases, it has, but in many cases, the age of consent has actually gone down. Historically, it wasn’t unusual for the age of consent to be 18 and the age of marriage to be 14-16. This is because age of consent laws were not originally about “protecting” teen girls, but about parents retaining control of their children. It meant that if some 20 year old guy knocked up your teen daughter, you could force him to marry her–with the threat of legal action if he didn’t. It was more about making sure that guys–who in most cases would be expected to marry somebody younger–weren’t sleeping with teen girls and then leaving them un-marriageable or, worse, with a child, rather than because society felt there was something fundamentally sick or wrong about a 23 year old being interested in a 16 year old, because it most certainly didn’t.)

    In some states, MOST of the men on the sex offender registry are on for a single non-violent statutory offense they committed with a completely willing (sometimes initiating) post-pubescent teen when they were in their late teens or early-to-mid 20s themselves. We should not be okay with this or feel that a ruined life is a fitting punishment for that kind of sexual mistake. The sex offender registry was NEVER intended to be a list of guys who, if your sexually-experienced teen daughter tried to talk him into having sex with her, might say yes. If that is the situation a family is in, then the issue is with your daughter, not the MANY young adult men who would make a poor choice in that situation. It should not be the job of the state or of the sex offender registry to protect post-pubescent teen girls who are actively seeking out sex with older guys from themselves, and it’s a job that neither can do.

    Forcible rape, sexual molestation of children, and genuine sexual exploitation of people of all ages is a real problem. We do not do any good by vilifying young adult men who have sex with eager, willing post-pubescent teen partners without any manipulation, coercion, or abuse of power on the part of the older party. Calling a 22 year old guy who slept with a physically and emotionally mature 15 year old a pedophile misuses the term, denies the sexuality of the teen, and glosses over the real harm that is done when adults project sexual desires onto prepubescent children. We have to stop doing this. But, right now, it’s an easy target, because there’s no shortage of young adult men who will make bad choices about sex; that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Addressing real sexual abuse is much harder.

  23. anonymous mom November 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Actually, just one more: I was just thinking about this. Let’s say that a 15 year old guy paid a 28 year old prostitute for sex (she is NOT hanging around outside the local high school; she’s hanging out around a bar or other place for adults). She knows his age, but he really wants it and gives her the money. Is he solely a victim of sexual abuse, or should laws against buying sex also apply to him?

    And is she a sexual predator? Does she belong on a registry because she didn’t say no when an underage person knowingly entered a place adults go to hire prostitutes and sought her out?

    If people think that she *isn’t* a sexual predator who poses a threat and belongs on a registry, then they should have an issue with a lot of the sting operations that go on (and that in some states that a ton of people on the registry), because with genders reversed that’s pretty much what happens, without money changing hands.

  24. John November 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    You are spot-on when you say “It’s seeing kids as babies all the way up until they reach a magical age”. When my grand nephew was 16, his mother (my niece) and I wanted to make good use of our time and drop him off at the dentist while we ran a few necessary errands. But nooooo! The dentist had this stupid policy of not allowing any child under the age of 18 to be unaccompanied in the waiting room. Talk about treating teenagers as if they’re toddlers! Of course, the whole motive behind this policy was the crooked Lawyers. If the kid trips in the waiting room and skins his knee, then the dentist will get sued for $100,000.00! Why? The root cause being the typical modern American mindset of him being a tender little child who should always have adult protection, yes even at age 16! Hard to believe when I always walked to the dentist by myself even when I was 12.

  25. Nicole November 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    My grandmother was 14 and my Aunt’s father was 30 when she had my aunt (and was 13 when she conceived her). Just because things use to be ok, doesn’t mean they are. Unfortunately proving coercion is very, very difficult.

    There should be decriminalization within a certain age range (perhaps 2-3 years), and perhaps after that an additional range that makes the first offence a misdemeanor. But at some point it is not OK, and it’s up to our society to decide when that point is. The argument that because we use to do it, it must be alright just irks me- there are a lot of things we use to do, some of them make sense and others don’t.

    I disagree with the sex offender registry, I think it’s misused and gives people a false sense of security as well as a false sense that government is protecting them. Plus, if we are registering sex offenders, what about child abusers and murders? Hit and runs and DUI’s? I mean, when we get down to it, if sex offender registries make sense then we should just have a database with all of the criminals.

    Protection would be indefinite detention for people who are considered to still be a significant threat after serving their conventional sentences. My uncle was convicted three separate times on child molestation (all children under 12), and his longest stint in prison was 7 years (despite being sentenced to 20 the last time). He is now out and actually sees his grandkids from what I understand, that just defies all logic.

    (wow, that was long)

  26. Papilio November 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    “It’s seeing kids as babies all the way up until they reach a magical age —”

    …at which they become predators…

    “babies who need smart, strong adults to do everything with them”

    Except having sex, obviously…

    The whole American society should be more relaxed about children growing up. Yes, dads, your 15yo DD is not a little girl anymore. Get over it.
    And for Pete’s sake, make comprehensive sex education mandatory for all teens! Informing is not the same as encouraging. They need to be able to make informed decisions about good and wrong and sensible and stupid and safe and unsafe, finding their way in who they are, who they like, what they like, when they’re ready for what – and that’s hard enough without the whole 30+ aged society going crazy over that, viewing everything through the lens of predator-boy – who can’t possibly feel love, hormone-driven as he is – and victim-girl, who can’t possibly want sex, because after all she’s daddy’s sweet little “good girl”. (So much for the emancipation of women…)

    Re laws: Just because you have a law saying sex with someone under 16 (or even 18 – so nice when the normal sexual development of teens gets stunted by stupid laws), it doesn’t mean you have to act on it every time some teenaged lovebirds break it. Just use it as an instrument to get loverboys and other manipulative sickos behind bars and leave the kids with a healthy relationship alone.

  27. anonymous mom November 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    @Nicole, I’m sorry about your grandmother’s situation. However, even back then, that was not the norm, and it’s not what’s being discussed here. We’re not talking about 13 year olds with 30 year olds. We’re talking about people in their mid-teens and young adults. At 13, many people are still pubescent; by 14, most girls are post-pubescent, and by 15 nearly all are (and some are significantly physically mature–when I was 14 and 15, I looked about 22 and was routinely mistaken for a substitute teacher rather than a middle school student and no pedophile would have given me a second glance). And, 30 is different than 20, even biologically. Frontal lobe development, in men, tends to be complete around 25-27. So most men, by 30, are capable of more maturity and rational decision-making than men in their early and mid 20s are. I think that a 13-30 relationship is significantly different, in many ways, than even a 15-23 one, and you will see a *much* greater disparity in maturity and far more room for coercion and manipulation.

    And we’re largely not talking about situations where coercion is even an issue. When a 14 or 15 or 16 year old girl is actively going to places where adult men are going to look for adult women for sex (whether online or in real life) and then start proposition those men for sex, there is no coercion on the part of the men. And, there are teen girls who do that. Not many, but some. The men who are stupid enough to take them up on their offer should not be considered dangerous felons.

  28. CrazyCatLady November 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    If we are going to force kids to intermingle with kids up to 4-5 years older than them in high school, then we should allow them to date legally, while either of them in in school (and after.)

    We expect teens to be able to ride the bus, eat lunch, take classes (gym, band, art, other electives) and play sports with people up to 4 to 5 years older. Familiarity WILL result in relationships. I don’t see our schools and sports changing, but our conceptions of “right and wrong” in these cases must.

  29. bmommyx2 November 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Lenore, it’s funny I was just thinking about this today. I am wondering at what point the helicoptering of children began & what caused event or series of events started this way of thinking. I’m 45 & that wasn’t that long ago, my parents were never like this. I am an older parent I have a 2 yr old & a 7 yr old & I meet a lot of parents. I most often feel like some sort of outcast for my thinking & actions when it comes to my kids. I used to think that it was younger parents then I thought it was the older ones like myself. I realized that it’s all of them no matter their age, culture, economic background even people that grew up in other countries. The other thing I wanted to add is that I met my hubby when I was 16, I was almost 17 when we started dating & he was 22. My best friend was 15 & her boyfriend was 23. Since my dad is 10 yrs my mom’s senior I don’t think she thought much of it & she liked him. Truth be told being around him was much better for me than being around boys my age who just wanted to party & goof off. I was more responsible with him & we’ve been married for 23 yrs now. Had we both been born 20 yrs later we might not have been able to date & he might be listed as a sex offender. Sad what has happend to the world we live in.

  30. Jenn November 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    This story is similar to my parents. My dad was my mom’s professor at college. My mom was in her late teens when she went to college in the 60’s and my father (a young prodigy) was a professor by age 24. My father taught one of her business classes and apparently, she was a terrible student. He failed her because she was a terrible student. I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea, but he decided to invite himself, and a buddy, to a party at her house at the end of the semester. He had heard through the grapevine where it would be and that it was a pool party. My dad and his friend showed up and, somehow, made a good impression on my mom (and her parents). At the end of the evening (now well into the early hours of the next day), he asked her out on a date. She agreed and they married a few years later, and two kids after that. When I tell people how my dad taught my mom, everyone comments on how that this would never happen today. I don’t know, does it?

  31. Donna November 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    “It actually shouldn’t be criminalized at all but handled by courts set up just for juvenile correction of many types with no criminalization and heavy on counseling.”

    “But at some point it is not OK, and it’s up to our society to decide when that point is.”

    Why do you, or anyone else, get to legislate the personal morality of other people’s teens? Why does society get to judge which relationship is okay and which is criminal?

    We are not talking about something that affects anyone else on the planet other than the two people engaging in the relationship (and their families if they get pregnant). Why does society even get a vote on this?

    And if society gets to vote on this, why not other relationships? Back in the day, society made interracial sex illegal. Gay sex was illegal in many states until just a few years ago. SCOTUS has said that society’s opinion of those sexual relationships doesn’t matter. Why does society still get to decide who my daughter has sex with until she is 18? I may be just fine with her 23 year old boyfriend. In other instances, I may detest her 16 year old boyfriend. This is a family issue, not society’s.

    “some have argued that 16 is too young to have consensual sex because they are too young to fully understand the ramifications and responsibilities of a sexual relationship”

    Quite likely true. Did you suddenly fully understand the ramifications and responsibilities of a sexual relationship at 17? Because I seem to have missed that great epiphany on my 17th birthday. I remember making a few mistakes and miscalculations in this arena well beyond that age.

    And are people in Georgia smarter than people in other states? See age of consent varies by state. In Georgia the age of consent is 16, not 17 or 18. By the way, I did not get the great sexual knowledge epiphany at 16 either.

    And, if the intent of the law is to stop teens from having sex they don’t fully understand, why do we criminalize the behavior of the OTHER PERSON but allow the teen to have sex with whomever they want without punishment?

    “I would like to see an age bracket that permits sexual relations; 13 to 16 & 15 to 18.”

    What exactly is the rationale for this? Why can I, at 18, have sex with someone 80, but at 15, I am only allowed to legally have sex with someone 18? Maybe I’m mature and find 18 year old boys obnoxious (I was and I did).

    I grew up less than 2 miles away from the main campus of the state flagship university. My high school was on fraternity and sorority row – frat house on one side, sorority on the other. Many of our high school students also took college classes during the day. Bagging a college guy was on every girl’s bucket list in high school. It was something we were all SEEKING to do, not manipulated into doing. Why should HE go to prison because we wanted to get our college-guy badge before high school grad?

    “Unfortunately proving coercion is very, very difficult.”

    As it should be if you are hanging the label of rape on someone and sending them to prison for many years. Our founding fathers INTENTIONALLY formed a system in which it was supposed to be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to send someone to prison. The basis of our legal system is “better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man perish.” The reality doesn’t live up to that standard but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still the standard.

    “We’re not talking about 13 year olds with 30 year olds.”

    Why not (although I admit that 13 is too young to be having sex with anyone in my opinion)? I totally had a major crush on one of my teachers in high school. He was about 45. I was 16 or 17. I would have done him in a second had he not been a happily married man who was not looking to cheat on his wife with anyone. Had my dreams been fulfilled, how was I victimized and why should he go to prison?

  32. Shelly Stow November 29, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    No, Ben, age of consent in my state is 17 and was then. And for getting a marriage license, females had to be 17 and males 21. Funny thing is, I lied about my age on the marriage license application and wasn’t even asked for ID, while my husband, at 23, had to show ID and prove he was 21.

  33. Lauramb November 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    I agree. Why is any form of consensual sex criminalized at all? If all parties agree (whether two or more), then all is good. If one or more parties did not agree, then it is rape. Pretty simple.

    My grandparents got married at ages 16 and 30 in 1948 and were married for 60 years. She was much more mature than any 16 year old today because she was expected to be. I am 26 and my husband is 41. Whenever anyone questioned our age gap (we met at 22 and 37) I pointed out that our age gap was not abnormal in the past. Crazy enough, people question that we want to start trying for kids next year because I am still young. Still young? Why should we wait until my fertility dramatically decreases?

  34. Kim November 30, 2013 at 12:15 am #

    My best friend in middle & high school looked much older than her true age. At 12, she was far more developed than other girls our age–even me, and I’m a year older than she is! She could easily pass for 18+ back then, and often did.

    At 13, she started seeing another friend’s older brother, who was 23 at the time. (She told him she was 18, he believed her, and we all kept their relationship secret from our friend, his younger brother, who would have been furious enough to blow her cover.) Their relationship was definitely physical, and we didn’t see anything wrong with that at the time. In fact, we were pretty proud of her little deception. We were young and dumb, and we both thought it was pretty cool that her boyfriend was so much older than she was.

    That guy was technically guilty of statutory rape, but he had no clue. (As far as I’m concerned, the only thing he was guilty of was extreme gullibility.) Had her parents found out and pressed charges, his life would have been utterly ruined, and all because he was stupid enough to trust that his girlfriend was really the age she said she was and appeared to be. How just would that have been?

  35. marie November 30, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Donna at 9:49 makes the best rationale for getting rid of age of consent laws I’ve ever read. Of course, I haven’t read too many attempts because arguing that teens can take responsibility for their decisions about sex is not a popular opinion and will often draw accusations that the writer/speaker is one of those NAMBLA types. Somehow we have come to a point where reason has no place in public discourse about sex.

    Perfect example is the guy who left the frothing-at-the-mouth comments for Shelly. Some people have no idea that moral decisions come from reason, not emotion.

  36. Puzzled November 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I think it’s interesting that the article title mentions criminalizing love, but much of the content and comments have focused on sex. Other forms of love are discouraged, too, even when beneficial. For instance, we are nervous about adults who love children who are not their own or close relatives, because we forget that there are many forms of love, and that Platonic love (or, as M. Scott Peck put it, intense concern for the spiritual and emotional growth of another) is an ideal, not an impossibility.

  37. Hels November 30, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I have a cousin who, when he was 20, brought home a 15-year old girl he was in love with. She was raised by neglectful, alcoholic parents. It was his mother who took her under her wing, made sure she graduated high school and went to college before she had kids. It has now been 16 years since that day, they have been married since she turned 16, they have two great kids, they are both working (and her career is progressing much better than his, actually)… who would have benefited if he was thrown in jail and she was sent to an orphanage?

  38. becca November 30, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    My husband is 8 years older than me but luckily I met him shortly after my 18th birthday or he might have been to concerned about being arrested to ask me out.

    He was a navy guy and had learned from others experience to check before dating anyone.

  39. Cara November 30, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    It’s statutory rape if sex is involved. It’s not criminal OR statutory rape if no sex is involved. So to me, the answer seems simple. No sex, no problem. So to me there is no problem, it’s not criminal. And if they get married, even if they’re very young in some states with parental approval, then it’s not criminal at that point.

    The idea that having sex is a normal part of being a teen is wrong quite frankly. There are an increased number of teens who are choosing to wait until 18. If the older person LOVES that teen then waiting a year or two isn’t that big of a sacrifice to make. This coming from someone who dated her husband for 4 years without having sex so yes I know how hard it can be.

    What’s so much worse about a 15, 16, 17 year old having sex over an 18 year old? First, there’s the impulsiveness of it. Yes, there is the person who has sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend at 15 and stays with them the rest of their life. Most don’t. For most, that sexual encounter is an impulsive decision made in the heat of the moment. If you’re an adult, it’s YOUR mistake. If you’re a teen, you can’t hold them to the same responsibility as you would an adult. To do so is ludicrous. Second, if they get pregnant the chances of them both being responsible, marrying, and staying together for the rest of their life is pretty slim. In fact most people would be horrified at the idea of a couple getting married because they got pregnant. Yet you’re all seemingly fine with letting a teen engage in sex that btw is the leading cause of pregnancy. A teen girl’s life is at risk if she becomes pregnant. And even if pregnancy DOESN’T happen, a teen who’s so bound up in a relationship is very unlikely to follow their own dreams or even know who they are separate from their boyfriend/girlfriend.

    It’s a pretty narrow-minded individual who thinks that just because a parent is fighting to keep their teen from making a stupid life-changing experience then they’re not going to talk about contraceptives.

    You DO realize that if a teenager gets an STD (and they’re in the greatest risk category because they think their sex is safe if they can’t get pregnant but that’s only half the battle…) then that’s their life we’re talking about? Or if they pass on an STD they can face criminal charges if it’s shown they had any idea?

    Protecting or fighting to keep teens from risking teen-sex isn’t overprotection, it’s common sense. And recognizing that a teen having sex with an adult has potential for power struggles as well as one entering it with full understanding while the other is not going to have that same level of knowledge is the purpose behind statutory rape laws. Yes, there is a DIFFERENCE between a 19 year old and a 16 year old that is more pronounced than when they are 25 and 22. If you’re that clueless that you don’t think there’s a difference, heaven help your kids.

  40. Michelle December 1, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    In California, where I’m a mandated reporter, there is additional weirdness in the law. 2 14 year old can have p*nis/v*gina sexual intercourse, and this is NOT reportable to CPS. If 2 17 year olds engage in oral sex, this IS reportable to CPS. I’m assuming this is a throwback to anti-sodomy laws. So, if my 14 year old patient tells me she is having sexual intercourse with her 14 year old boyfriend, I am required to keep this information in confidence. If a 17 year old patient mentions she has engaged in oral sex with her boyfriend or girlfriend, I am REQUIRED to report this to CPS.

  41. Jodie December 1, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    Please forgive the rambling nature of this post; it’s too early in the morning to coherently organize my thoughts, lol.

    Unfortunately, society does get a vote in the way our children are raised. Sometimes this is good, but in other cases, I want to tell them to just mind their own business and let me raise my kid!

    Dr Phil says a child’s reasoning abilities don’t fully develop until they’re in their 20’s. This is probably the reason teens are treated like toddlers by society.

    It used to be that parents could punish their child any way they chose and no one would interfere. It used to be that a husband could smack his wife around and no one would interfere. Little Charlie didn’t do his homework, so he’d be whipped bloody. Mrs Jones (just throwing out a name) didn’t have dinner on the table at home. I’ll give her a black eye; that’ll teach her to make me wait for my supper. These things are now considered abuse and should be. The problem is that the definition of abuse has become so twisted and distorted by society that anything could be considered abuse. Check out this link below and tell me if you think this was abuse. I don’t think so; I think the kid learned a very valuable lesson about respect. But I have heard some people, including social workers, have said the father abused his child.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl1ujzRidmU

    I have a toddler and she likes to climb on the couch. The rule is, “if you can’t sit nice on the couch, you have to get down.” We have a tile floor and we don’t want her cracking her head open. She has fallen a few times and one time she cut her lip; minor injury, but some would accuse us of abuse.

    If I let her climb on the couch and she fell and hurt her head, we would be accused of neglect. My fiancé and I are both blind and there are some in society who don’t think blind people should be allowed to raise children. There was a case where a mother had her baby taken away because she was breast feeding and the breast was covering the baby’s mouth. I tried breast feeding; formula made us both much happier for several reasons having nothing to do with cps. But I’m rambling; sorry about that. My point is that the nurse called cps and had the child taken away rather than show the mother how to do it right.

    Society is far too involved in our parenting decisions at times. I think the best thing we can do is make sure our kids have all the information we can give them regarding sex and relationships and hope they can trust us enough to come to us with questions rather than asking their friends or looking for the answers on the Internet. When my daughter is old enough, I’ll explain to her about the laws and the consequences for being involved with a legal adult before she’s of legal age. If Dr Phil is right, I don’t know how much good it will do, but I’ll do the best I can and pray she makes decisions that will benefit all of us and that won’t make society take notice. Am I being naïve about this?

  42. anonymous mom December 1, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    @Cara, actually, there’s probably a larger difference between a 22 and 25 year old than a 16 and 19 year old, in both biological and social terms. There’s no real biological difference between 16 and 19, and in both cases their circumstances will be similar: they will be supported by their parents, working part-time if at all, probably in school. At 25, on the other hand, a person may have undergone the biological milestone that a 22 year old hasn’t gone through (completed development of the frontal lobe), has probably finished college, and is probably self-supporting, while a 22 year old very well may still be living at home and attending school. And yet, we have no problem–as we shouldn’t!–with a 22 and 25 year old having a relationship.

    And that is what is so strange about all of this. Obviously, the differences–in power, in biology, in circumstances–between a 50 year old and a 19 year old are massively, massively greater than the differences between a 20 year old and a 15 year old. And yet the latter relationship is a felony that gets the older party on a registry for decades or life, while the former relationship is perfectly legal everywhere. That makes no sense.

    It is completely messed up that an 18 year old guy who takes a nude picture of eager, willing 15 year old girlfriend is a child pornographer under the law, but a 65 year old actual porn producer who offers a girl tens of thousands of dollars to undress for the camera the day she turns 18 is not doing anything legally wrong.

    We have to accept that people are different. And, frankly, we need to acknowledge gender differences. In many cases, girls mature faster than boys, which is why many teen girls date guys who are somewhat older, and some seek out relationships with guys who are significantly older. A 15 year old girl may actually have more in common with a 21 year old guy than with her 15 year old male classmates. (Anecdotally, my oldest is 9. The girls in his class are light years ahead of the boys in terms of maturity, both physically and emotionally. And, this is not going to go away when they are teens. Many of these girls will continue to be more mature than their male peers well into their 20s.)

    I’ve taught high school and I teach college, and the idea that 16 and 19 year olds are fundamentally at different levels of maturity is just nonsense. There are incredibly immature 19 year olds, who honestly behave and think far less maturely than many 14 year olds I’ve known. And there are 15 and 16 year olds who are more mature than many people in their early 20s that I’ve taught. That’s not always the case, which is why things like coercion and manipulation should be taken into consideration. But there are just NO significant biological or social differences between people who are 16 and people who are 19.

  43. Donna December 1, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Cara – So your argument is that because some teens WILLINGLY CHOOSE to act impulsively and stupidly, we need to have stat rape laws. Huh?

    First, stat rape laws do nothing to prevent impulsive and stupid acts by teens. All they do is potentially change the partners in crime (and I don’t really think they do that in large amount). All the things that you mention as negatives exist in equal likelihood in sex between 2 teens. Stat rape laws don’t address that. In fact, that is perfectly legal. If you truly believe teenage sex is so horrible that it should be criminalized, then TEENS should be the criminals (no, I am not really advocating this). Such a law would only stop a very small amount of teenage sex, but would be a whole helluvalot more effective in stopping teenage sex than stat rape laws.

    Second, the idea that it should be a crime for someone to fail to stop your teen from acting impulsively and stupidly is ludicrous. It isn’t even illegal for YOU to fail to stop your teen from acting impulsively and stupidly. I can’t for the life of me fathom why it should be illegal for someone completely unrelated and with absolutely no supervision responsibility for the child at all to fail to stop his or her impulsive and stupid acts.

    Third, simply because some teens will act impulsively and stupidly doesn’t mean that ALL teens who choose to engage in sex are acting impulsively and stupidly. Many teens who engage in sex do so responsibly and do not become pregnant, get an STD or have great regrets. I don’t believe that it is beyond the ability of well-informed teens to make the decision that is best for them about sex. In fact, I think that it is the ideal that we should expect our children to live up to rather than dismissing it as beyond their abilities. Yes, those decisions may not be the decisions that you would make, but that doesn’t make them criminal.

    Further, you confuse believing that something shouldn’t be illegal with believing that it is desirable. There is a HUGE difference. Personally, I hope that my child chooses to wait for sex until she is out of high school for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with stat rape laws or potentially older mates. I will explain my reasons and strongly encourage this course of action throughout her preteen and teenage years. However, I don’t think it should be a crime for anyone if she makes a different choice. It is ultimately her heart and body, not mine.

    I have no desire to treat my perfectly normal teenager (and sex between teens may not be ideal but it is absolutely normal) as a victim. We have enough true victims in this world; we don’t need to create fake ones. I also have no desire to teach my daughter that she has no control over her sexuality and that she is nothing but a pawn in male fantasies. Women have believed that for far too many years. I also have no desire to teach my child that she is incapable of making smart, informed, rational decisions regardless of her age. Or that her bad decisions are not her fault but are the responsibility of someone else. I expect more self-responsibility, self-control and understanding of consequences from my child than that.

  44. Art December 1, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    @Michelle,

    The odd sodomy laws are really a covert attack on Homosexuality.

    On the sex offender registry front, it looks like that Minnesota might actually be saying “whoa, wait a minute, perhaps this might not be working after all.”

    http://www.startribune.com/local/233945281.html

    Let’s hope that common sense begins to take hold.

  45. AnotherAnon December 1, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    I often use the example of Loretta Webb and Oliver Lynn, who married when she was 15 and he was 21, and were married for more than 40 years until he died. (Loretta Lynn and her husband Mooney)

    Also, Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin when she was 13 and he was 22. It was a scandal then, but nobody called him a pedophile. They were married for 15 years, which is not forever, but it was certainly well past her point of maturity.

    The issue with pedophiles is that they victimize children, and they want people specifically who are younger than the age of maturity. Like Stanford White, a noted ephebophile, who would deflower teen girls and then cast them aside a year or two later for more “virginal” girls to take their place.

    Pedophilia is not a case where a young man falls in love with an even younger girl, who is biologically past puberty but legally not yet an adult.

  46. Papilio December 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    It is funny for me to read that there are still people who think you should just tell teens to wait until they’re 18/19/married, because the adults have decided they shouldn’t have sex anyway.
    Just teach abstinence over and over and over again and expect a different outcome than the USA leading the developed world in teen pregnancy rate…

  47. Anna December 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    When I was 14 I was in love with a 21YOguy…he was in love with me too, but he had to leave for another town in four months so he choose to be just friend with me.
    My mom knew I had this friend, she never asked me what I was doing with him, she knew I would have said her everything if something important have happened.
    This is normal when you grow children that are responsible and trust in you as a parent. Also, this demonstrate that not every older guy is a danger.
    Here in Italy you can legally choose who you want to have sex with, if you are at least 14 YO.

  48. anonymous mom December 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    The idea that we should have stat rape laws to “protect” teen girls from their own stupid, willing choices is just wrong. The law shouldn’t work that way. Not only will it not work, it just means that your daughter, instead of just sleeping around, might create victims in her wake.

    If somebody has a 14 or 15 year old daughter who wants to have sex, I have no problem with them thinking that’s a bad idea. I would, too. But, that doesn’t mean that some 23 year old guy who would take her up on her offer is some kind of dangerous predator, any more than a 16 year old classmate who took her up on her offer of sex wold be. And, frankly, there’s no reason to believe that her having sex with a 16 year old classmate would be less reckless or potentially dangerous than her having sex with somebody in his 20s. Getting pregnant by a fellow 15 year old isn’t somehow better than getting pregnant by a 22 year old. And, I’m not aware of any evidence showing that 15 year old guys are more likely to use condoms than guys in their 20s.

    I wouldn’t want my children having sex at 15. But, if they did, as long as they weren’t forced, the issue is with them, not their partner. I’m not going to blame their partner for their irresponsible choices.

    Teen girls are not babies. I was a teen girl not too long ago. I was a very, very physically mature one, too (I could easily pass for 18 at 13, and for an older college student at 15). I had older guys–sometimes MUCH older–hitting on me from the time I was 13. They weren’t pedophiles, because I didn’t look like a child. And, I wasn’t a child. If the guy was not old-old (like not over 30 or so) and was cute, I’d be flattered, but decline. If he was old-old, I might be a bit skeeved out, but it was no big deal, and I’d still decline any advances. I didn’t somehow feel obligated to have sex with a guy just because he came on to me, at all. I was fully capable of shooting a guy down, and I did.

    Teen girls are not helpless in the face of boys 18+. They just are not, and it is really disempowering to imagine that they are. Most teen girls do NOT have sex with much older guys. When a teen girl does, willingly, that needs to be on her, assuming there was no abuse of authority or coercion used. And if we don’t like that–and I would NOT like my daughter having sex at 14 or 15 or 16–then we have to deal with that in our daughter, not by punishing any guy dumb enough to sleep with her as harshly as we can get away with. Because, realistically, if some hot 15 year old girl started knocking on every door in her neighborhood asking the men inside of they’d sleep with her, promising it would be great and nobody would ever find out, a LOT of men would say yes, and they wouldn’t be predators or pedophiles. If your teen daughter is going to be seeking out sex with older guys, she’s not going to have any problem finding many who will take her up on her offer, and there is no registry in the world long enough or no law harsh enough to prevent that. That is something that you need to deal with as a parent, and get to the root of what is motivating your daughter, rather than expecting the police to solve the problem.

  49. Angela December 2, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    This topic has always pissed me off.

    I know of 2 men that have to register as sex offenders – one was 18 when he had consentual sex with a 17 year old (She got an STD and handed her doctor a pretty extensive list of all her partners. Two were 18. The one from the ‘bad’ family was prosecuted, the one with an ex-cop for a dad was not. I know both these men, and they both tell the same story.) and one was 17 when he had consentual sex with a 15 year old (You know the girl – the one at the party giving it away to all takers. Apparently the multiple 15/16 year olds she was with that night didn’t deserve punishment, but the 17 year old did.).

    Then I think of the experiences of my sister and I. Mine would likely have been considered wrong by anyone who hears the story, but I KNEW what I was doing at the time (trying to get Mom’s attention) and when he got truly abusive, I left without a second thought. My sister, well, when two 12 year old virgins decide to have sex, who’s the victim and who’s the criminal?

    It more than annoys me that these things are considered crimes. I have daughters, of course I’d like to put them in chastity belts until I approve of the men they are with. I’d also like to pay for a driver for them 24/7, a maid to follow behind them so I didn’t have to nag so much and a body guard to keep them safe from everything. But if I am trying to raise future adults, then I have to teach them to be adults.

    People are shocked when they find out my eldest daughter (who will be 18 in March) came to me at 16 to inform me that she and her boyfriend were considering having sex and she wanted to see the Dr about birth control beforehand. The comments run everywhere from my obvious failure at motherhood to how others wish their daughters would talk to them about anything. I’m just glad she’s graduating without a child in her arms.

  50. Kirby December 2, 2013 at 11:47 am #

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  51. Papilio December 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    “People are shocked when they find out my eldest daughter (who will be 18 in March) came to me at 16 to inform me that she and her boyfriend were considering having sex and she wanted to see the Dr about birth control beforehand.”

    That just proves you’ve raised a smart girl who knows she’s ready, knows she can talk to you about it and knows she has to take precautions before having sex ‘in the heat of the moment’.
    Well done. I can’t speak for the Danish or Swiss, but I know the Dutch think this is pretty normal.

    The other day I heard a story from a woman about her son, who’d spend Christmas with them instead of with his foreign Catholic girlfriend and her (extended) family. Why? There wouldn’t be enough beds for all familymembers AND him, as he was not allowed to sleep in the same bed, or even room, as his girlfriend (they’re in their early 20s).
    She laughed, said her mom felt the same but that was 40 years ago, then said this dad was denying reality. She was fine with sleepovers, she just didn’t want her kids to start too young (14 was too young) and she didn’t want them to bring home someone else every time.

  52. Shawn December 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I lost my virginity at age 15. Folks didn’t find out till I was 16. My girlfriend’s parents found out as well. But no cops, no courts, not even threats of splitting us up. We got the “be safe, use protection” speech. My dad even gave me his “coolio” speech of how to hook up with girls and not get caught. lol Her mom, on the other hand, sat us through a video of “Safe Sex”. lol

  53. parallel December 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    When I was 13, I was ‘involved’ in a semi-relationship with a friend of my brother’s, who was somewhere around 23-24. He started coming over to hang out with me instead of my brother, would take me to the mall and buy me things, and in general was around quite a bit. My parents were aware of the situation, but didn’t intervene for whatever reason.

    Nothing ever happened…at one stage he did try to grope me, and he once pinned me down and demanded I say I liked him. I told my other brothers after that, and they made it very clear to him that his presence was unwelcome.

    But I think something COULD have happened, and I think if it had, it would have been very bad for me emotionally. While I was a very advanced kid in many ways, I wasn’t advanced at all sexually. As an adult, I consider myself asexual…it’s just not something I have any interest in. Indeed, I’m nearing 40 and a virgin (I’m saying this to demonstrate just how naive I am in sexual matters.) So this certainly wasn’t a ‘love’ affair.

    I believe kids of that age CAN fall in love and perhaps even be emotionally and sexually mature enough for a relationship. But I don’t know how one would ever tell the difference between a ‘real’ relationship and one based on coercion. If I had gotten involved with that man, it would have been because I didn’t really understand what was happening and didn’t feel free to say no. Looking back, I can clearly see that he was grooming me, but back then I just thought of him as a friend.

    Without laws based on age, I really don’t know how else one would draw a line. I don’t feel traumatized by what happened, but I’m aware again that I definitely would have been if things had gone further. And I would hate to think that if that happened, I would have been facing court at 13 to prove I didn’t really want it.

  54. parallel December 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    To be clear…I don’t think there should be laws punishing, say, an 18 year old who has sex with a 16. And I think it’s horrific that the 18 year old could be placed on a registry that continues punishing them for the rest of their life. I just disagree with earlier comments that there should be no laws based on age at all, and all relationships should only be judged by some vague standard of coercion. I don’t think two 13 years old who have sex are taking advantage of each other…but there is something that seems simply wrong to me about a 25 year old having sex with a 13 year old.

  55. Sarah December 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    “But at some point it is not OK, and it’s up to our society to decide when that point is.”
    I am thinking that that point should be puberty. After that if it is consentual, mind your own bees wax unless you are the actual parents of the teens involved.

  56. Sunny December 4, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Wow, the hate on women, especially teen girls, in these comments is mind-blowing. Look at them all — “Oh these stupid teen girls made this choice” “these teen girls are predators entrapping older men” etc etc.

    What does this REALLY say? Is this why people really believe that when a football team of 19-year-olds gang-rapes a 14-year-old, she was “asking for it”?

    Stat rape laws exist for a REASON — because adults rape children. Romeo and Juliet amendments also exist for a reason, and should be far more prevalent, but the majority of stat rape (please go look it up) occurs with a much bigger age difference than 16 and 22 — try 14 and 30. The closer to puberty, the less likely someone is to be raped by someone much older than they are (and the greater the likelihood they’ll be raped by someone close to their age, but that’s another story).

    In 1958 I doubt I would have looked twice at a 16-year-old and a 22-year-old being married, but there are pretty massive differences in life then and life now — a 16-year-old is barely learning to drive, a 22-year-old is out of school and likely has a job or is in college (or both) and has a lot more power in that relationship. I’m not saying it’s wrong or doesn’t happen but it’s definitely less typical now because people don’t go right from school to the family job or farm, and at 16 in 1958 she also likely already had a job and a whole lot of responsibilities we don’t give 16-year-olds now.

    To the people shocked that a 12-year-old can get an abortion but someone will get in trouble for raping them — what the hell is wrong with you? THEY ARE TWELVE. My niece is 12. If someone raped her and then expected her to carry a baby to term — BEFORE SHE IS IN HIGH SCHOOL, as a child herself who is growing into a wonderful young woman — her life would be crushed, she would be forced to rely on family to take care of her AND her child (and if she didn’t have them, then what? Kick her out in the street because she was raped? Oh but the man told her he loved her, so that makes it okay?).

    Seriously. Free-range is about giving kids the ability to live their lives, and to a young adult being told they are “so much more mature” than other 16-year-olds is a big red flag of abuse. I’ve BEEN there. I’ve been raped, and I sought out sex with older men because I thought THAT WAS ALL I WAS GOOD FOR. That’s not giving a 16-year-old the chance to live her life and figure things out for herself, that’s taking advantage of someone so damaged by being raped from 4 years old to 10 years old (and it only stopped because I could have gotten pregnant from it… and because I started to develop, and that made me less attractive to ding ding ding, a pedophile, and my father). It is, in fact, extremely common self-destructive behaviour for child sexual abuse survivors for them to seek out sex with older men and women because they feel they are worthless and have been taught that their only value is in giving older people pleasure. I didn’t know that for YEARS until I finally found counseling and realized wait a second, that was a really fucked-up worldview.

    These comments are coming from very fucked-up worldviews where a 14-year-old girl is a “sexual predator” somehow trapping men into sex and is to blame, when she’s the victim of RAPE.

  57. Sunny December 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    “if some hot 15 year old girl started knocking on every door in her neighborhood asking the men inside of they’d sleep with her, promising it would be great and nobody would ever find out, a LOT of men would say yes, and they wouldn’t be predators or pedophiles.”

    Actually, they would be both, and that is disgusting that you know so many rapists and think rape is okay.

  58. Peter December 5, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    There is one predictable result of today’s paranoia on things sexual. That will be a sex strike as the only sure way to be safe from the “inquisition” which we can all expect. In the UK there was the case of Abby Rae 2 years old who drown in a pond. A truck driver Clive Peachey drove past her on a road and decided not to pick her up because he was worried he would look like a pervert abducting a child. Google the story.

    In the west we have Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) and in Japan they have sekkusa shinai shokugun (celibacy syndrome) and grass eating or herbivore men call soshoku danshi who avoid sex and relationships.

  59. Peter December 5, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    Suuny states there is a lot of “hate on women” judging by the comments here. I think she is being disingenuous. Some of the comments talk about SOME teen girls and Sunny concludes this is hate for ALL women when in fact it may be a judgment, sound or unsound, fair or unfair and that judgment is independent of the sort of person making it. The argument may be wrong but that doesn’t mean the person is hateful. That argument is like creationists calling evolutionists “evil”. In addition I can not see any reason why a hateful person should be incapable of making a good analysis of the situation. If Newton was a “hateful” person the laws of gravity would still apply.

    It is too common of many feminists today to answer arguments they disagree withusing ad homenin insults. Let’s do better.

  60. Surani December 8, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Sunny,

    I agree with you. In general, I love this website and the views promoted. I also agree that in our culture men are given less freedom in certain things (like being in charge of, or enjoying the company of, children) – and also, being unable to express sides of their personality that are seen as “feminine.”

    But the comments on here really do sicken me.

    *****Not the argument itself – that our laws need to be updated to acknowledge the fact that teens and young adults are capable of consenting to sexual relationships, and that a 19-year-old boy, for example, should not be classed with a pedophile for having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. Or that adults with teens who lied about their age should be punished. THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.*****

    No, it’s the comments about how in situations like these, teens *girls* are always the “sluts” who are pressuring our innocent young men into having sex because they can’t control themselves, poor boys (boys will be boys *chuckle*) and so it’s the responsibility of the girl to put up barriers. It seems that many people on here really do want us to be living according to the culture a century ago – all of it.

  61. Surani December 8, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    After all, if a 15-year-old rang doorbells saying “Free sex!” what poor man could resist sticking his penis into her freely offered vagina? *Um, my husband. My brothers. My male friends. My dad. Adan, pretty much any man I would ever consider associating with.*

    Same for the 45-year-old teacher. If the 13-year-old student with the huge crush said “Stick it in me!” why should we expect him to resist? After all, he is a man.

    Same for the 15-year-old “girl” in a chartroom. If she said, “Hi I’m 15! Wanna f*ck?” – those poor men! I mean, can they actually say no? It seems that according to some, they are biologically incapable of doing so.

    Same for the most common one – the drunk unconscious or nearly unconscious girl getting raped or gang-raped. After all, it’s a vagina-with-a-girl-attached just *lying there*! How could a frat boy resist? It’s practically his duty to insert himself (and pee on her while he’s at it). If she didn’t want that to happen, why was she at a party drinking? She knows what happens there! Slutty, slutty girl. Poor, poor boy.

    Why, why, why are the people so against “feminists” the same ones that have such bad opinions of men? Why are free-rangers, who believe that individuals can and should be given responsibility, the same ones that are engaging in this pity party about those bad, bad teenage girls (no, not all of them, just the ‘bad’ ones) that entrap our poor, poor men with their out-of-control penises?

  62. Surani December 8, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    So let me put this out there. AS A FEMINIST, I believe that men are fully capable of controlling themselves in a situation where they see a huge imbalance of power. I believe that a large percentage of men, especially if they were raised to have respect for other people, WILL control themselves.

    They’ll control themselves with girls AND boys AND women AND men, whenever they see a situation with a huge imbalance of power, because they have a heart and a conscience and because taking advantage of such a power imbalance is repugnant to them.

    There are so many good men out there. Probably far over 50% (or at least I hope!) that would never respond to the situations being put forward here – taking advantage of an emotionally immature teen in full knowledge of their real age.

    Please don’t lump my husband, family, and friends with those men. While all men will be sexually aroused by a post-pubescent girl, many of them also fully utilize another organ as well – their brain.

  63. Surani December 8, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    P.S. I fully believe that the struggle to change our rigid laws about consenting teenagers, and adults trapped by believing in a fake age, is SLOWED DOWN because so many people arguing for a change in the law are also espousing this attitude.