Chat With a Sex Offender

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Over at Reddit.

This seems like a good topic for a Sunday discussion. He was 20, and had consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl.

I’d guess most (but perhaps not all) readers of this site would agree that lifelong sex offender status for this guy is absurd. Assuming he’s telling his entire history, he’s hardly a predator. Still, 20-15 seems to at least to stretch the bounds of the Romeo-Juliet scenario. And I’d imagine if I were the father of a 15-year-old girl, and learned she’d just had sex with a 20-year-old man, I’d probably feel like my daughter had been taken advantage of.

So should this be a crime? If so, what should the punishment be? If not, what sorts of age cutoffs would you apply, and where?

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83 Responses to “Chat With a Sex Offender”

  1. #1 |  Stephen | 

    Dad should get a free pass for kicking this dude’s ass and that should be the end of it.

  2. #2 |  B | 

    I think that regardless of where you draw the bright lines (and I guess they have to be drawn somewhere), there should be a mechanism in place wherein a “victim” can determine not to press charges on the basis of sex having been consensual, and the court has a hearing to determine whether that person is competent to make that distinction.

    I don’t pretend that is a perfect solution, but I think it would be vastly preferable to the laws as they currently apply.

  3. #3 |  Achtung Coma Baby | 

    I don’t know if there is a perfect solution. (I kinda like #1 Stephen’s.) If a hard line has to be drawn somewhere, in my perfect world, a judge has to at least have the discretion to drop a case should the context of the situation deem it be an innocent love affair…Of course, my perfect world would require an honest judge not affect by the incentives of public choice theory.

  4. #4 |  nospam | 

    I heard a talk once given by a guy named Tom Baugh about all these registries for sexual offenders, wife beaters, dog abusers, etc. His take was that these registries would be gold mine for real terrorists looking to recruit newcomers. After all, these people are more or less free range pariahs due to being on these lists, forever excluded from fully participating in society and therefor not invested in survival of this civilization. I thought it was an interesting supposition.

    Gotta love those authoritarians…creating tomorrow’s problems today.

  5. #5 |  Betasattva | 

    A huge percentage of 15-year-old girls are sexually active and, frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction in consequences of consensual sex with a 15-year-old, 20-year-old, or 50-year-old man. The current social norm of plastering over traditional gender differences in sexual dynamics leads to young women being taught that it doesn’t matter how many partners they have and that they will still be as desirable at 40 as they are at 20. So given the information in this report, we don’t know if she’s a party girl happy to hook up with a different guy each night, or this was a carefully considered love affair. In neither case is the man a danger to society on that basis alone.

  6. #6 |  CB | 

    I agree with Stephen. Given today’s “justice” system (more like of a law cartel), vigilantism looks like a preferable alternative to me. Even as a father of a young girl, I don’t think that this act would not have pushed the bounds of society in many cultures of the past at all, even though people matured somewhat more slower than they do today. It doesn’t even push the bounds of many cultures today. It was only after the industrial revolution that the “developed” nation state found it useful to delay the onset of adulthood that this problem was created.

    Nearly all women are sexually mature by the age of 15 today. As far as “maturity of judgment” goes, I think that most older adults (I consider sexually maturity to delineate adulthood from childhood, because there is no other objective marker) are no better off with their decisions. Of course they think their judgment has improved since passing puberty and use this as an argument to control the adult youth.

  7. #7 |  CB | 

    Sorry folks–guess I need to proof my comments more carefully, if I’ve not had my morning coffee yet! I’ll start over…..

    I agree with Stephen. Given today’s “justice” system (more like a law cartel), vigilantism looks like a preferable alternative to me. Even as a father of a young girl, I don’t think that this act would have pushed the bounds of society in many cultures of the past at all, ….

  8. #8 |  Fred Mangels | 

    I certainly agree with #2. If the “victim” says she (or he?) isn’t a victim, they shouldn’t be.

    Granted, I’m a guy, but I enjoyed all my early sex encounters. The first girl I had sex with was 18. I believe I was 15. I don’t think she committed a crime then and I don’t now. If anything, I’d like to thank her for it.

    And speaking of older women, I have to say I feel the same way when I read about female school teachers having sex with teenage students (Yes, I know they shouldn’t be doing that).

    We had a local case where a pretty decent looking female high school teacher got in on with a student. They tried to make it look like she was a vicious predator and he some poor victim. I raised some eyebrows by publicly proclaiming the guy was no victim and enjoyed what transpired. Heck, I would have jumped that teacher’s bones in a minute if I was in his position.

    The most that should have happened to her, imo, was losing her job as that was inappropriate behavior for her position. But to make her a lifelong sex offender as they did? No way.

    But I’m sure that’s just me.

  9. #9 |  steve | 

    I don’t know where the bright lines should be. But, I would suggest that the girl should have the option of taking the guy off the list once she crosses that line. i.e. if its 18, then at age 18 she should be able to say the guy should be taken off the predator list.

  10. #10 |  JS | 

    Stephen nailed it. In the old days (and in Louisiana) this would be what was known as a shotgun wedding.

  11. #11 |  Nate | 

    Here’s a similar story:
    20 year old meets 18 year old on internet.
    After a few dates, meets the parents and finds out she’s 17.
    Says he can’t date her, and they insist that he’s the best boyfriend she’s ever had and that they wanted him to stay around.
    After a few months the girl becomes really verbally abusive, and after a while putting up with it the guy can’t take it anymore and leaves.
    She asks daddy for revenge (at this point only a few weeks from her 18th).
    Guy hasn’t been able to get a job for 5 years now because of background checks.
    This is my little brother.

  12. #12 |  Jim | 

    A recent case in Iowa hit on various elements of this. Some guy was convicted of “statutory intent”-he was suspected of wanting to engage a female not clearly over 16 [16 being legal in Iowa] and before that case went to trial, he was found to have stored media of females not clearly over 18 [this reminded me of the LittleLupe case]. He entered Alford pleas to the charges and received a special sentence of ten years, served as probation after counseling [dangerous pedo gets probation?]. He later had a consensual relationship with a 16 yr old female [16 being legal in Iowa], violating his probation and landing him in the big house. His female lawyer successfully argued he should have received time served while on probation, the SCoIA agreed and now 3400 offenders will be reviewed and have sentences adjusted.

    I am not advocating 16 as legal age, but 18 is an arbitrary age also and I find there are few females under 25 that can be considered mature, and have met some over 30 who will never be an adult. The age when Janey starts looking to do the supine bicycle (and with whom) has to be a personal decision-one she will hopefully discuss with experienced people she can trust, who are concerned with her long-term well-being, and be able to explain the possible outcomes of her desire without becoming an authoritarian.

    Or stop feeding her the milk and maybe stave off the itch for a few years.

  13. #13 |  Highway | 

    Here’s a question: Who’s taking more advantage of their ‘power’ over the supposed ‘victim’ in a case like this? The 20-year old guy who has sex with the 15-year old girl, or the girl’s father, who calls in the law to punish that guy, and probably bullies his daughter into turning against the guy? But apparently that’s ok, because dad’s not taking *sexual* advantage of her, just forceful and emotional advantage, I guess.

  14. #14 |  CB | 

    @Highway: An excellent point that I’d not considered!

  15. #15 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    These registries were brought into existence based on the assumption that once such information existed, it would be possible to do something useful with it. Wrong again.

    As for this individual case, it seems to me to be another instance os then problems that arise when we split up the reaching of adult status. It may not be reasonable or ‘fair’ to say that one day a girl is a child and the next she is an adult, but society doesn’t seem to be able to handle anything more sensible. Maybe we should have the State send every teen a card on their birthday saying “congratulations; you are now an adult, so WATCH IT!”.

  16. #16 |  Dan Z | 

    This country really needs to decide just how old 15 is. 15 is old enough that when they commit a crime such as murder, armed robbery, things like that, they are tried as adults because they knew what they were doing and are able to understand the consequences of their action. But on the other side of the coin people in this country claim that 15,16 is not old enough to know whether or not a party wishes to have consensual sex with another party. It cant be both ways, either a person is old enough to make adult decisions at that age or they arent.

  17. #17 |  PermaLurker | 

    I draw the hard bright line for legal adulthood at puberty. Of course the law hates that because it’s a different time for every individual and we can’t have individuality! Speaking as someone who was once an emancipated minor, I have always thought the arbitrary age of 18 to be a form of cruel slavery. Thankfully my father signed the paperwork or I might have killed my mother who couldn’t abide the fact that her “child” might not agree to follow her bizarre religious beliefs. Teenage “rebellion” is simply the natural consequence of treating a physical adult as a child.

  18. #18 |  JS | 

    Permalurker That was a great post overall but this-“Teenage “rebellion” is simply the natural consequence of treating a physical adult as a child.”

    Was a really thought provoking comment. I’d never thought of it that way but it makes sense.

  19. #19 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @8 – The general case is very very different to the one where one of the participants is a teacher or otherwise in a position where a duty of care is owed.

    I’m quite happy for a lot of “underage” cases to be dropped as simply not in the public interest to prosecute (as happens here in the UK), but a duty of care? Jail time, every time.

  20. #20 |  Pablo | 

    One thing about statutory rape laws that really bothers me is that in most states it is a strict liability offense–in other words, it doesn’t matter what the defendant actually or reasonably believed–it you diddle someone under the age of consent you are guilty. Doesnt matter if the “victim” lied about their age, is regularly sexually active, showed a fake ID to get into a bar, or looks older than their actual age.

    I don’t oppose age of consent laws because you have to draw the line somewhere. But what the defendant honestly and reasonably believed should factor in and intent should be a requirement.

  21. #21 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    Most of the commenters here are men and therefore see this from a male perspective; let me give you one (individual) female one.

    When I was 15 I was indistinguishable from an adult; in fact most people who guessed my age said “25” from the time I was 15 until I was about 34. I was carded for the first time in my late twenties once the “mandatory ID check” policies started to appear, but never before that (and I bought cigarettes and liquor for friends, walked into R-rated movies alone, etc without ever being stopped). I was well-spoken, intelligent and self-assured, so in conjunction with my physical appearance nobody ever asked my age.

    I lost my virginity on my 15th birthday to an 18-year-old LSU freshman, and never dated any boy under 18 thereafter. Due to an autumn birthday and a skipped 6th grade, I was 16 the day I arrived on the UNO campus and though the age of consent in Louisiana is 17 and I can assure you I didn’t wait. I’ve never been interested in men my own age, and I’m not remotely alone; lots of my friends preferred older guys as well.

    So when someone tries to tell me that it’s “rape” for a guy in his late teens to have sex with a 15-year-old, and that he should be socially ostracized for the rest of his life because of it, I can’t help thinking of the guys I dated without telling them my age, not to mention the ones my friends actually lied about their ages to. Statutory rape prosecutions which do not take the actions and mental state of the girl into account are an abomination, and should be banned; they equate young women with infants and portray them as asexual beings, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

  22. #22 |  JS | 

    Maggie McNeill “So when someone tries to tell me that it’s “rape” for a guy in his late teens to have sex with a 15-year-old, and that he should be socially ostracized for the rest of his life because of it, I can’t help thinking of the guys I dated without telling them my age, not to mention the ones my friends actually lied about their ages to.”

    Good point Maggie! This is just another of those “America’s war on ________.”
    In this case our idiot government is at war with nature.

  23. #23 |  TomG | 

    I’m curious about people’s opinion of putting someone on a registry for chatting explicitly with someone they were TOLD was underage, but was in reality a LEO. No actual encounter with a minor takes place. (Let’s say no jail time served, either, but just probation).

  24. #24 |  TomG | 

    (As in the infamous Chris Hansen show, where the person charged with the offender crime goes to meet someone they are led to believe is a minor, but is not).

  25. #25 |  Wesley | 

    I hate the idea of strict liability crimes. Statutory rape, the way most states word it, requires absolutely no intent, which on its face appears to blatantly violate due process rights. Bright lines in this case are simple, but pervert justice, especially if they’re set too high.

    I’ve thought about this a bit before, and what I thought of would be to have a low age range where there is a presumption of lack of consent, but allow a consent argument to be an affirmative defense (and would also allow the “victim” to refuse to prosecute if determined to be competent to a judge). The presumption may be removed in some instances, say if the people were within 3 or 4 years of each other in age. That soft line could be drawn at any arbitrary teenage year, but I think middle-teens would be best (15 or 16). It’s not ideal, but would certainly be more fair and logical than the current system.

  26. #26 |  homeboy | 

    I am shocked, disgusted, and sickened to find that so many people think that Stephen “nailed” it in message #1. How is it any better to allow people to do violence to others in a demonstration of their own emotional infirmities than it is to charge people and place them on a sex offender registry? This was consensual sex, and the girl suffered no more harm (and perhaps gained much advantage) by her partner having been 20 years old than she would have had he been 17. The idea that a person should be given impunity to beat another, simply because he lacks the emotional maturity to accept his daughter’s embraced of her sexual identity, is as repulsive to me as the notion that this young man should be placed on a sex offender registry.

    I was 14 years old when I first had sex, and my partner was 26. I learned and benefited a great deal more from having my first experience with an older partner than I would have with a younger one. The idea that someone would have been entitled to beat my partner, or to lock her up, or require her to register permanently as a sex offender is utterly ridiculous and absolutely grotesque.

    My extended family lives in Poland, and they comprise perhaps the most civilized people I know. In their country, a man cannot be prosecuted for having consensual sex with a girl who is fourteen or older, and if the girl is under fourteen the fellow still cannot be prosecuted unless the girl files a complaint and swears in a timely affidavit that she was harmed by the act. These sane, civilized, completely humane people find it shocking to learn of the deep, repressive perversion underlying the anti-sex statutes and sentiments commonly found in this country. I am sure they would share my revulsion at the sentiments expressed by Stephen.

  27. #27 |  JS | 

    homeboy “I am shocked, disgusted, and sickened to find that so many people think that Stephen “nailed” it in message #1. How is it any better to allow people to do violence to others in a demonstration of their own emotional infirmities than it is to charge people and place them on a sex offender registry? ”

    Because a dad ass whuppin is over in a couple of minutes and he’d probably wind up marrying the girl afterwards and everybody could get on with their lives. Violence is a hell of a lot more preferable to being a ward of the state for the rest of your life.

  28. #28 |  JS | 

    homeboy the Polish way of handling it makes a whole lot more sense to me too.

  29. #29 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Chat with a Sex Offender?
    Isn’t that, like, a crime these days?! They have major kooties.
    I saw it on TV.

  30. #30 |  homeboy | 

    Maggie,

    Two months before my twentieth birthday, I bedded a girl that I honestly believed was older than me. As we were preparing for coitus, she casually revealed to me that she was only thirteen years old. I freaked out, became immediately concerned about the potential loss of my freedom, and our sexual cavortations went no further. Besides her precocity, the most striking thing about this encounter was how developed her sexual hunger was. She was DEFINITELY the more aggressive and assertive party in our encounter, and yet statutory rape laws would have labeled me some kind of predator.

    Statutory rape laws serve no other purpose than to de-sexualize our youth and future society. They are culturally retardant, guilt affirming, and hold us forever in bondage to the dark social mores and sensibilities of the Puritan age. Such laws should be eliminated completely, and we should only concern ourselves with acts of non-consensual sex.

  31. #31 |  Fred Mangels | 

    JS wrote, “This is just another of those “America’s war on ________.”.

    And it’s probably gotten even more hysterical than the drug war. Just read the comments on stories that might show up in your local paper when some adult gets arrested for having sex with a minor, assuming the paper’s web site allows comments. Most do, nowadays.

    I’ve been appalled at the calls for castration, life in prison or death for men or women engaged in consensual sex with underage folk. I’m surprised we haven’t had at least one comment like that here.

    And if you make a comment along the lines of what many have written here, I’ll guarantee you’ll get at least a comments back saying you’re defending “child molesters”. It’s happened to me more than just once.

  32. #32 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    @ #16 Dan Z- Spot on. The double standard reveals itself again.

    Isn’t it amazing how the threshold of adulthood shifts depending on the interests of the State?

    Yet we are told that the law is ‘absolute’

  33. #33 |  Jeff | 

    #16 could not possibly have made a better point. The double standard regarding “adulthood” is hardly limited to the federal and state governments (the motion picture industry, for instance, will charge twelve-year-olds adult admission prices while denying sixteen-year-olds admission to R- and NC-17-rated films), but how do they justify charging fifteen-year-olds as adults for murder while denying them the legal right to consent to sex? I recall the purgatory being a teenager in Pennsylvania, where the age of consent and the age to legally drive is sixteen. One day when I was sixteen or seventeen, I browsed the “adult” section of a video store (which consisted exclusively of “Playboy” videos and no “XXX” fare) and was told it was illegal for me to look at the videos in that section. (Remember: it is legal for a sixteen-year-old to consent to sex in Pennsylvania–at least it was at the time.)

  34. #34 |  JS | 

    Like America’s war on terror

  35. #35 |  JS | 

    And America’s war on drugs

  36. #36 |  JS | 

    And America’s war on internet gambling

  37. #37 |  JS | 

    And America’s war on raw milk

  38. #38 |  JS | 

    And America’s war on lemonade

  39. #39 |  JS | 

    And of America’s on Julian Assange

  40. #40 |  MacGregory | 

    Here is the link to the West Virginia sex offender registry. Take a look.
    http://www.wvstatepolice.com/sexoff/mainsearch_r07.cfm
    Now tell me, at first glance, who raped the 12 year old and who got caught peeing on the dumpster behind 7-11? Does it matter? You think any of these guys got a shot at a decent job?

  41. #41 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    It would be nice to see some careful research about the effects of starting sex at various ages.

    And some social pressure to be meticulous about consent.

    I know middle-aged women who have no regrets about starting sex at 15, in addition to Maggie McNeil’s account at #21.

    Men can be pushed into sex they don’t want, and this includes the young man/older woman combination. He didn’t necessarily get lucky, and whether she’s good-looking isn’t the criterion. His consent is.

  42. #42 |  John C. Randolph | 

    Some guy was convicted of “statutory intent”

    Holy crap! A conviction for something that amounts to a thoughtcrime? What would happen if we locked up everyone who ever imagined robbing a bank?

    -jcr

  43. #43 |  Mattocracy | 

    I read this book in college. There was also a TV movie about it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_Living_Confederate_Widow_Tells_All

    The premise is that in the year of our lord, nineteen hundred, this 14 year old chick married a confederate veteran who was 50 years old. Just over 100 years ago, a grown saggy balled man could legally marry a teenager without the thought of it being a crime by the mainstream. At the time I thought, wow, had this guy wanted to marry a dude, he’d be lynched. Fast forward 100 years the exact opposite consequences would happen in these scenarios. Anyway, the point is that it wasn’t that long ago that 15 was an acceptable age for women to enter adulthood.

    This sex offenders list is a symptom of a larger scale loss of rights. Adults have property, so you take away property rights. Parents have kids, so you attack parental rights. Most teenagers don’t have those things, but they do have the desire to fuck like the rest of us. Bingo, that’s what you hit ‘em with. Best of all, no rights ever after this. No voting, no jobs, can’t even live any damn place since schools and churches are everywhere. The best way to control people is to criminalize natural behavior. The sex offender registry is for minors what the drug war is for poor people.

  44. #44 |  DonH | 

    I have it on the highest possible authority (http://xkcd.com/314/) that the creepiness limit is (age/2 + 7), which for a 20 year old would be 17.

  45. #45 |  c andrew | 

    #33 | Jeff | August 28th, 2011 at 7:18 pm
    #16 could not possibly have made a better point. The double standard regarding “adulthood” is hardly limited to the federal and state governments (the motion picture industry, for instance, will charge twelve-year-olds adult admission prices while denying sixteen-year-olds admission to R- and NC-17-rated films), but how do they justify charging fifteen-year-olds as adults for murder while denying them the legal right to consent to sex?

    Wasn’t there a comment on another thread – about 6 months ago – here on the agitator that pointed out that an 18 year old porn actress could be prosecuted for watching her own performance as she had not yet attained the full adult status of 21 years?

  46. #46 |  JS | 

    John C. Randolph “Holy crap! A conviction for something that amounts to a thoughtcrime? What would happen if we locked up everyone who ever imagined robbing a bank?”

    Oh don’t worry, another couple of years and we’ll get there.

    That will be part of America’s war on naughty thoughts.

  47. #47 |  JOR | 

    “Because a dad ass whuppin is over in a couple of minutes and he’d probably wind up marrying the girl afterwards and everybody could get on with their lives.”

    Well yeah, and throwing someone in jail for a year is less bad than summarily executing them. That doesn’t mean that someone who thinks people should go to jail for a year for, say, contempt of cop, rather than being brutally executed, “nailed it”.

  48. #48 |  wonkie | 

    Back in the eighties my mother was the child support reclamation officer for a county in Iowa. People who applied for AFDC had to state who the parents were of the child in the family and explain why the parents were not supporting the child. The most frequent senario was a minor female pregnant by a dead beat ex-boyfriend who was older. My mother’s job was to hunt down the non-supporting parent and make that parent pay child support so the custodial parent would not need welfare.

    My point? I can remember the discussions about how to prevent the unwed pregnancies and one of the solutions offered was to start treating legal adults who had consensual sexual relations will minors as sex offenders. The idea was that men would think twice about sex with under age girls if the concept of “jail bait” was restored and statutory rape laws, or similar laws that punished sexual relations between a legal adult and a minor, were enforced.

    I’m just bringing this up as historical background.

  49. #49 |  celticdragonchick | 

    @Maggie

    Outstanding comment. I could not agree more.

  50. #50 |  Fascist Nation | 

    In AZ they usually don’t prosecute if the girl is 15 years of age or older… well, unless her dad is connected.

  51. #51 |  SamK | 

    It’s not a popular sentiment, but…

    Sex should not be illegal. Ever. Force, intentional pain, etc? Sure. Sex? Fuckin’ please. WTB societal mores that are not enforced by men with guns.

  52. #52 |  Jesse | 

    I think there needs to be some activity which should be proscribed. As we’ve seen in some cases of adults charged with abuse, children can be manipulated to make false accusations. It stands to reason that children, especially those that previously suffered abuse, are more susceptible to manipulation or acting out. It’s possible for a deviant adult to manipulate a troubled 9-year old into otherwise “consensual” sex, but I don’t think many readers of this site would approve of that behavior.

    That said, I don’t think of a 15 year old as a child anymore. I’m thinking perhaps 10 or younger. The line falls somewhere inbetween I think. I concur that if a particular person chould be charged as an adult for a crime, they should be considered an adult capable of making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences.

  53. #53 |  John C. Randolph | 

    I’m a strong believer in the “no harm, no foul” principle. If the girl doesn’t want to press charges, I think the state should leave the guy alone.

    -jcr

  54. #54 |  homeboy | 

    @ #43, Mattocracy

    I once read a study published by a researcher at one of the campuses of the University of Nebraska on the topic of “Frontier Brides.” According to this research, the average age of a bride on the American frontier was less than 17, and in some areas it was less than 15. The truth is, we are a nation that was built by a bunch of teen-fuckers. Poe was hardly the only man of his age to take a 14-year old bride. It is truly comical to hear people today pretending that teenage girls are somehow incapable of consenting to full and fulfilling sexual relations, and that their willing consorts must be dubbed criminals.

  55. #55 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    I wonder how many of the conservatives who support statutory rape laws would also denounce Joseph, the father (step-father?) of Jesus, since Mary was probably only 14 when they got hitched.

    That would make for some hilarious sketch comedy, actually.

  56. #56 |  marta | 

    this is so tricky, laws about sex. obviously, we have to have them. people, especially (but not exclusively) women and sexual minorities, are vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation and violence with sex as the medium. i feel very strongly that the law should protect people from sexual violence and exploitation.

    on the other hand, i feel equally strongly that everyone should have the legal right to express their sexuality however the hell they want, as long as it is consensual (i.e. doesn’t involve exploitation or violence against somone else). i believe strongly that sexual acts themselves do not have any moral content, it’s all about the relationship of the people involved. i also believe that human beings become sexually mature at all sorts of ages, some of them startlingly young.

    the tricky part of course, is deciding on a mechanism for determining “consent.” just because someone says “yes,” doesn’t mean he or she has actually consented, or even has the capacity to consent. on the whole i’m not a big fan of strict liabiity where sex is involved, and while i understand all the dangers of leaving these determinations to judges and juries (because they are often biased against the class of people that victims often belong to), it strikes me that creating de facto criminals where no actual crime has taken place is also a problem.

    so i don’t know. maybe some sort of strict liability that draws clear lines, but with the possibility of exceptions where individual cases are determined on their facts, and then some sort of process by which the rights of victims are closely guarded against bias?

    of course, that sounds like a libertarian nightmare, doesn’it it? ;-)

  57. #57 |  Jay | 

    Strange how much things have changed rather drastically in the past 100 years or so. I would recommend reading the below link — hey, it’s Wikipedia, so it *must be* true. :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent#History_and_social_attitudes

    As for my opinion and my wife’s, we believe 15 is definitely old enough to have sex with adults of any age. We don’t agree with the law’s definition of “age of consent” (although neither of us would be remotely interested in anyone under 20, nor are we willing to break the law … we’re in our 40s, by the way) or how sex offenders are punished for life in circumstances such as these. It was not rape. It wasn’t even close to rape. That guy has been punished enough for breaking the law. His record should be expunged so he can get on and be a productive member of society…

  58. #58 |  Jim Collins | 

    homeboy,
    Read “Little House on the Prairie” sometime. He was 17, she was 15.

  59. #59 |  MassHole | 

    This is such a tricky thing because there is really no way to make a law that can work for every situation. I think a lot of romeo/juliet prosecutions are due to angry parents that use the state to get even since they can’t kick ass without going to jail themselves or use it to cover up their poor parenting. On the flip side, a 15 year old can be talked into doing a lot of things by a 20 year old they are infatuated with. So even if it’s consensual sex, it may not be the fruit of a healthy relationship due to the difference in mental/emotional maturity.

    Either way, no one should be hosed for life over consensual sex. Bad personal decisions are part of life. Dan Savage made a good point about dating people much younger than you: Leave them better than you found them.

  60. #60 |  SamK | 

    Honestly, I don’t think we ‘obviously need to have laws’ about sex. It’s sex. It’s not murder. If a sexual limit is to be proscribed make it pre-pubescent to preclude physical damage, possibly allow for punishment where established authority or other coercion is used.

    Seriously, what’s the problem with sex? It’s about as natural a bodily function as we have. They can’t consent? Jesus I got tired of that sort of treatment as a child. I remember it. It’s the one thing I really remember about childhood, being treated like I couldn’t make a fucking decision. Grow up? Oh, so the middle aged fuckers could pretend I was “just young” and couldn’t make a decision? How about middle age now that I’ve hit it? Old men still say I’m “young enough to act out” when I do something they disagree with. No, children don’t have the knowledge and experience of their elders. Yes, they’re hardwired to do as they’re told. No, I don’t think sex is harmful. Think about that for a minute. It’s sex. It’s just about as basic a biological function as exists. It’s right up there with eating for god’s sake.

    Just as an exercise, let’s throw out consent as an issue and physical damage…because the only certain trump card people seem to have is psychological damage. The wiki page on abuse is covered in it and it’s the fallback everyone seems to use (assuming you can get past “it’s just *wrong* derp!”). It’s suggested that a friggin huge percentage of us are abused. Look at those percentages…up to 25%? Are you kidding me? That means that sexual abuse is practically a founding principal of the country and is certainly a key component in the sociological foundation of our culture. Yet we function. If said sex is so damaging then sexual abuse is the ONLY thing that we need to conquer to make ‘murica strong again! Seriously. From 1/8 to 1/4 of our entire nation whose entire life is completely destroyed! If we reclaim that fraction we could do anything!…or it’s bullshit. It’s sex. Teaching children not to fondle themselves, and translating that into fondling adults can be a real bitch sometimes, especially with ‘special needs’ kids. They don’t get it and they don’t care…it feels good and makes people happy.

    I know, jackoffs everywhere have tried to prove it wrong in studies, and claimed to do so, but I’m still of the very firm belief that what fucks up kids and depresses them is being used by their parents, being unloved, being forgotten, being sidelined and put down, being beaten and having their sense of self suppressed so their parents can do whatever the fuck they like and keep the kid out of their way….and that the people who are likely to fuck their kids are the people who treat them like shit. It’s not the sex, it’s being treated like a tool without humanity. It’s being without love and care. Being exposed to sex early in this country is a hindrance because of the strict social mores surrounding it, and the likely collapse of the early learning structure where basic discipline fails.

    It’s sex. It’s not theft, it’s not murder, it’s not any damned thing but sex. You can crush someone mentally and emotionally a thousand different ways, but if you use sex to do it it’s a crime. I know men and women who were sexually active from the age of six up. Some of them are fucked up over it. The best example I have is a girl who was fucked up because her stepfather was raping her repeatedly for six years and threatening to kill her. Bad shit right? Why is she still happy she was ‘pleasing’ her uncle as a pre-teen? She actually hooked up with him in her twenties for about six months and they’re still great friends…but the man who threatened to kill her scares the hell out of her. She’s a biologist with a nice life and a nice man in it doing damned well…yet when we talk about what’s ‘wrong’ with her, it’s the sex. Not the evil imposed on her, not the actual removal of her autonomy, consent, happiness and love, it’s the sex. The man she’s good friends with would be in jail right next to the motherfucker that drowned her cat to show her how she’d die. That, friends and neighbors, is a pretty fucked up way to treat anything, much less the simplest way we interface as human beings.

    Yadda yadda early pregnancy, blah blah STDs. I’ll refrain from further cluttering the discussion.

  61. #61 |  Rune | 

    In my part of the world, age of consent is 15, so in this scenario nobody is guilty of anything. Anecdotally, my mother was 14 and my father 18 when they started dating. This year they have been married for 36 years. I don’t know when they started having sex though, I guess I never thought to ask, but in any case, if I am not mistaken, making out and kissing would make you equally as much a sex offender as intercourse.

    So, from personal experience such a relationship can be healthy.

  62. #62 |  FridayNext | 

    A lot of people have made a lot of good points and I agree that this person, or damn few if any people, should be branded for life with a place on a sex offender registry especially if that “criminal” is hoodwinked or legitimately believes to have informed consent especially especially when the ages are only a few years. I also think it is fundamentally unfair and wrong to have so many different age cut offs for so many different activities. If I can fight for my country or be tried as an adult, I should be able to have a GSD damned beer or have sex when and with whom I want.

    There have been a lot of good thoughts and suggestions on this thread and quality discussion. However, I think it would be improved greatly if we include consideration of the fact, supported by overwhelming scientific evidence, that adolescent brains are not the same as adult brains and that physical difference manifests in huge differences in behavior and reasoning. As so many have pointed out 15 year olds are physically and sexually mature and active. But that doesn’t mean they have developed the capacity to appreciate the consequences of their actions. (To adapt a rather crass adage from my own youth, just because there is grass on the field, doesn’t mean they know how to play ball)

    15 years worth of longitudinal studies of teen brains show that the area of the brain that is responsible for instinctual behaviors, amygdala develops quite early while the frontal cortex, the area that helps us reason and think through consequences develops much later, often as late as the early 20’s. This means teens are more likely to act on impulse, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions and engage in dangerous or risky behavior. (The automotive industry is well aware of this. It’s why insuring a teen driver is so expensive and few companies rent to anyone under 25.) The disparities in neural development create a perfect storm for a manipulative adult to engineer consent, pretty much the same way adults can manipulate false accusations of molestation and abuse.

    (as an interesting aside, the description of adolescent behavior trends match up pretty good with the type of person you need charging an armed redoubt of enemy soldiers which is why you can join the military as young as 17. I have no argument for those who maintain that the varying age thresholds for adulthood is set to serve the state’s interests. Absolutely.)

    The fact is consent from a 15 year old is not the same as consent from a 25 year old. Some good anecdotes here from people with good experience with early sex with an adult, but allow me to balance. A 15 yo classmate of mine in high school was already engaged to a man in his 20’s when she was a freshman in high school. From all outward signs she had consented to the sexual relationship and impending nuptials and her parents certainly consented. Long story short they got married upon her graduation and she promptly became an alcoholic and tried to kill her self a couple of times. At 15 she had no idea what she wanted separate from what the significant adults in her life wanted for her. To pretend she gave consent in the same sense we normally conceive of the concept in terms of mature adult behavior is ridiculous.

    How this translates into exact policy I cannot say at the moment. It is open to debate and there are lots of good ideas here. Certainly, from a legal stand point, youth should be allowed to develop together and allowed to experiment with each other naturally. That underage teens can engage in consensual sexual activity with each other and find themselves in trouble with the law is absurd. Even a 20 year old having consensual sex with a 15 yo could be tolerated. But at some point we should expect the adults in our society to not exploit the immaturity and underdevelopment of minors for their own needs and desires. Whether that line is 16, 18, 21, 25 or 30 (we can call it Logan’s Law) is negotiable as is the mechanisms and procedures for making exceptions and mitigating punishment, which there can certainly be. But there should be a line if only so adults can stay on the right side of it BEFORE take take their pants off and not at trial.

  63. #63 |  Highway | 

    FridayNext, the same argument that teenager’s brains are still developing and that they cannot fully comprehend the full consequences of their actions can be used against both the idea that their sexual relations should be allowed *and* that their accusations against sex partners should always be taken this seriously.

    Does a 15-year old girl who breaks up with someone and then accuses him of a strict liability violation like statutory rape really understand the consequences of that? That that guy’s life is now going to be a hell of dealing with the law, of being run out of towns and homes because of proximity restrictions, of being branded with a label as bad as the scarlet letter? I doubt it. She understands that she’s upset because her jerk boyfriend left and she’s gonna make him pay.

    I think what the real problem is is that the stakes are too high. All over our society, we’ve made the stakes too high. Zero Tolerance, Three Strikes, Getting Tough, all of these just make sure that people are over-punished.

  64. #64 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Looking at complex issues thru the lens of a law is a bad idea, but that’s what the state does…and the law usually has no actual basis on reality.

    Just Another War…

  65. #65 |  Aaron | 

    Nancy Lebovitz: Here’s one I ran across a few years ago:

    http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=3288

    Nov. 12, 2007 — A new study by University of Virginia clinical psychologists has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex. The study also suggests that early sex may play a role in helping these teens develop better social relationships in early adulthood.

  66. #66 |  cc | 

    I have a very good friend who’s son was married to a 15 year old girl, he was 19. They were having sex before they were married. The father, when he found out filed charges on the young man. The state of tx indicted him after they were married. She became pregnant and they were married. He was given probation. He had completed, I think 3 years of probation. He and his wife have 2 children. His probation was revoked after he took his family over to his moms for a dinner. You see, his 16 year old sister was there. The sister is under the age of 18, that was a violation of his probation. He is prohibited from having contact with anyone under the age of 18. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. While incarcerated the guards have informed other inmates that this young man (now 23) is a sex offender. He has been assaulted, threatened, had personal items stolen. His 19 year old wife and his 2 children are devastated and heartbroken. When will this stop.
    I know at the age of 15 I was fully aware of what I was doing when it came to sexual acitivity. I could have put a couple of boys behind bars. Men, beware, in TX it only takes an accusation and it does not have to be the truth. Thank you for addressing this issue

  67. #67 |  Katie A. | 

    I’d also like to offer a female perspective.

    I became sexually active when I was 15 years old (with my boyfriend who was 14), and had had several partners by the time I was 18, including two men in their twenties. Like one of the commenters above, I was also often perceived as older than I was, and never got carded.

    Nearly every woman I know has a “that guy”: the guy who was 22-28 when she was 15-17 and they hooked up. And they all have the same perspective on it now: it was possibly creepy and inappropriate, but it was not abuse and certainly not rape. I don’t regret any of my teenage sexual encounters, but when I was in my mid-twenties and one of my male peers would ask about bedding a teenage girl he was interested in, my flat response was always “don’t be that guy.” The worst-case scenario there (as outlined in numerous comments on this thread) is just too terrible, and far too common.

    I think teenagers (male and female) think they are a lot more mature then they really are (remember how you thought you knew everything when you were 16? and then it turned out you didn’t?), but they are certainly more mature than children. I think teens are capable of making choices about their own sex lives and dealing with the consequences of those decisions. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t agree with me.

    As a mother of three boys, you can bet I’m going to teach them to be VERY careful about the age of anyone they hook up with, and to know about the possible lifelong consequences of shagging the wrong underage partner.

  68. #68 |  Jim | 

    In the early 1900’s my mother’s parents were married. She was 14, he was 20. They had 11 children. Their descedents now number in the hundreds, myself included. I guess given the standards of our sexually-enlightened modern age today, Grampa should have been tossed in prison instead.

  69. #69 |  JOR | 

    Of course teenagers are less mature than adults (other things equal) but I’m not sure I see why it follows from this that them having sex with older people is necessarily creepy or exploitative. For one thing, immature people (i.e. other teenagers) will be at least as abusive or emotionally manipulative as more mature people. And they’ll be less stable and responsible. So if inexperienced, naive teens are going to be having sex with anyone, you’d think you’d want them having sex with older, more stable and responsible, less manipulative and abusive people. Which is to say, older people.

  70. #70 |  fwb | 

    This is a cultural more and is limited in its geographical distribution.

    Mohammed took a 6 yr old as his wife, consumating the marriage when she turned 9.

    My gggggf at 21 married his 14 yr old sweetheart.

    Spend a little time checking out your family history and I guarantee there will be plenty marriages/relationships like this.

    In a number of cultures, much older men take younger wives because young men don’t have the wherewithall to provide well for the offspring. There are numerous reports from research studies about this on the net.

    Just like the left, the right has those who want to tell everyone how to live. There always have been that kind and there always will be.

  71. #71 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Under UK law, the strict liability offences are for 12 and under, or if one person is has a duty of care to the other.

    In any other case, factors like the girl’s emotional maturity, if she lied about her age and so on can all be taken into account. And two fifteen year old people going at it? Not in the public interest to prosecute.

  72. #72 |  supercat | 

    #26 | homeboy | “How is it any better to allow people to do violence to others in a demonstration of their own emotional infirmities than it is to charge people and place them on a sex offender registry?”

    The supposed purpose of these laws is to protect children. I would suggest that the job of protecting children is in many cases far better left to parents than to governments. Indeed, I would suggest that while the vast majority of parents, despite their imperfections, fundamentally want to act in the best interest of their children, governments have their own interests which are often antithetical to those of the people they supposedly serve.

  73. #73 |  Mark Z. | 

    #1: Dad should get a free pass for kicking this dude’s ass and that should be the end of it.

    And in the far more common case where the guy is her dad? Do we tell him to go kick his own ass?

    If we’re going to embrace ass-whuppin’ as a punishment (which may not be a bad thing–it’s less stupid and cruel than any of the punishments we actually have), the judge should man up and beat the guy himself.

  74. #74 |  homeboy | 

    @ #72, Supercat

    That is a different discussion entirely. You are addressing the protection of children; Stephen was proposing an allowance that would permit someone to do grievous violence to another for no other purpose than to satiate frustrations created by his own emotional infirmities. The similarity is approximately the same as that between apples and orange-colored Volkswagens.

  75. #75 |  homeboy | 

    @ #59, MassHole

    “So even if it’s consensual sex, it may not be the fruit of a healthy relationship due to the difference in mental/emotional maturity.”

    MassHole, the vast majority of consensual sex, at any age, is not the fruit of a healthy relationship, and arises from a relationship marked by substantial differences in the mental/emotional maturity of the participants.

  76. #76 |  Doug | 

    I propose the 1/2 your age + 7 years standard become the legal rule. Run through some scenarios in your head and apply it. Uncanny isn’t it?

    Downside? Gold digging becomes impossible. Hugh Hefner is s*it out of luck. 80yrs old? 47 and older only, sir.

  77. #77 |  Tarnell Brown | 

    Honestly, this is a difficult question to answer. The truth of the matter is this is a case of culturally mandated moral relativism (which is why I believe in truth and evil, not necessarily morals). In our culture, consensual sex between one perceived as an adult and one perceived as a child is wrong. In other cultures, the fifteen year old would legally be an adult, and this standard would not apply.

    Of course, part of the problem inherent in this situation is that we as a society value the years that our children have to be children. A generally prosperous society, we do not face the types of hardships here that spur other cultures to abbreviate the childhoods of their offspring. As such, in many cases, our children are in, fact, children, emotionally and mentally.

    Personally, I would not wish for my fifteen year old daughter to engage in sex with someone’s fifteen year old son, let alone a twenty year old man. I would be angry beyond reason, and jail might be the only means of protection the law could afford that man from my wroth. I personally do not see the attraction that a twenty year old man in thos particular society can have to a teenaged girl.

    That being said, should he be branded with a scarlet letter for life? Probably not. God , should you choose to believe in Him (I do), requires penance for our transgressions whether or not there is repentance, but once repentance is given, forgiveness is granted, and beyond whatever penance He imposes, the act is no longer an issue with Him. Man, especially Americans, claim the penal system is rehabilitative and not punitive, yet fails to provide the sort of clean slate that true rehabilitation mandates.

    Ultimately, it is the role of government to impose order, and protect its citizens from threats internal and abroad, not to legislate morality. Only when acts of moral failure are threats to the fabric of society are they the province of government and its powers to impose judgment and penalty (theft, murder, rape, contract abrogation). Somewhere in that statement lies the answer to the question; it just depends on whether or not you believe that such actions are a danger to the order and efficacy of society.

  78. #78 |  MassHole | 

    homeboy says:

    “the vast majority of consensual sex, at any age, is not the fruit of a healthy relationship, and arises from a relationship marked by substantial differences in the mental/emotional maturity of the participants.”

    Maybe in your world. In my world of adults 30 years of age and older, that’s not the case. I think you need to chill on the armchair sex research or show some stats that back up your case.

  79. #79 |  MPH | 

    The following is my (possibly inaccurate) recollection from an article I read on the subject.

    The age of consent laws were created as a result of industrialization and the changes it made on our society. It used to be that a man was under his wife’s supervision all day. If he worked his fields, his wife merely had to look out the window to see what he was up to. If he had a cottage industry, he worked out of his workshop in, below, or behind his house, where again, the wife merely had to look out the window to see what he was up to. Kind of hard to start up a relationship with the hot 15 year old down the street under these conditions.

    Then came factories, and once he started working away from home, some men would run off with that pretty teen aged woman he saw regularly at the after work watering hole (in some cases she was a prostitute, in some cases not), leaving the first wife and kids to flap in the breeze (recall, this was a time where a 1 day train ride combined with an 8 hour walk would allow you to disappear completely from your current life). Older women, wives in particular, decided that they didn’t want to compete sexually with young women, so they lobbied their representatives to create these age of consent laws to discourage such behavior from men.

    So this change in our society, combined with the puritan ethic of “sex is bad because it feels good” (recall this is the country where the shakers felt this so firmly that they so thoroughly avoided sex that they died out though lack of progeny), over-hyping of the issue (it’s an epidemic), and politicians who wanted to look like they were doing something about it, resulted in these laws being created.

    As to my own opinion, if she can breed, she’s an adult. If her parents say “she doesn’t understand the consequences”, then I’d say to them “YOU FAILED AS PARENTS!” (and yes, I would yell). Parents’ primary responsibility is preparing their children for adulthood. That includes understanding the consequences of having sex.

    The real problem now is that these laws have been in force for so long, and people have been sold the lie that children aren’t adults until they’re 18, we now have to fight to make people understand that once a person is through puberty they are an adult, and adults WANT to breed. Too often the attitude is “she’s only 15, she shouldn’t even be thinking about sex” when “she” finished puberty at 13 and has been trying to get laid for 2 years.

    We need to accept reality, and change the laws, education system, and society’s attitudes to reflect it. But that’s an uphill fight, and we’ll still be facing that puritanical ethic hundreds of years after the Puritans as a defined group have died off.

  80. #80 |  Technomad | 

    I think that in a lot of this sort of cases, it isn’t the girl who’s complaining so much as Daddy Dearest, who found out that his precious princess was having *ohnoes* sex, didn’t like the guy, and went berserk.

    My own theory is that in a lot of these cases, Daddy Dearest wishes he could be where Boyfriend was (or where he thinks Boyfriend was), but, instead of admitting it to himself, thinks it’s wrong to even think such things, and covers it up with denial and outrage. Kind of like how a lot of the most fervid anti-gay people turn out to be deeply closeted themselves, or how the most ferocious whore-persecutors often turn out to be paying somebody for sex…usually in circumstances that make a brothel look like Disneyland.

    Of course, the Victorian cult of childhood innocence, combined with our modern habit of extending childhood far beyond what nature ever intended, also screws things up badly. My own take would be that if someone’s old enough to be thrown into adult court for a crime, they’re old enough to have sex, end-of-sentence.

  81. #81 |  supercat | 

    #74 | homeboy | “Stephen was proposing an allowance that would permit someone to do grievous violence to another for no other purpose than to satiate frustrations created by his own emotional infirmities.”

    Where did Stephen say anything about the father’s emotional infirmities?

    I would expect that most girls’ fathers would be very happy to have their daughter marry a man who was honest, trustworthy, and reliable, but would have a strong desire to protect their girls from men who lack such qualities. Indeed, I would aver that a good father should have such desires. Fathers won’t always be perfect in judging the quality of the boys or men their daughters see, but I would expect that most fathers of 15-year-olds have considerably more wisdom than those 15-year-olds, and are far more strongly committed to protecting their daughters’ interests than are any state officials.

    While I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that a girl’s father should have the right to kill someone who had consensual relations with his daughter, I would suggest that granting fathers some latitude in dealing with those who would take undue advantage of their children would in most cases be more effective than statutory-rape laws in protecting the children of good parents, while being less damaging than those laws to men who would seek to be productive members of society.

  82. #82 |  homeboy | 

    @ #81, Supercat

    “Where did Stephen say anything about the father’s emotional infirmities?”

    It implicitly suffuses his post @ #1.

    “I would expect that most girls’ fathers would be very happy to have their daughter marry a man who was honest, trustworthy, and reliable, but would have a strong desire to protect their girls from men who lack such qualities.”

    So?

    “Fathers won’t always be perfect in judging the quality of the boys or men their daughters see…”

    Quite right; in this repressive, perversely skewed, guilt-ridden culture, they generally have little capacity to render a judgment of any value relative to their daughters’ sexuality.

    “I would expect that most fathers of 15-year-olds have considerably more wisdom than those 15-year-olds, and are far more strongly committed to protecting their daughters’ interests than are any state officials.”

    I imagine, at some point, we are going to return to the issue of an emotional invalid doing violence to one of two participants in wholly consensual sex acts.

    “I would suggest that granting fathers some latitude in dealing with those who would take undue advantage of their children…”

    Undue advantage?!!! How did that get infused into the discussion? And why should latitude ever be given for someone to beat another as an expression of his malignant, subjective sentiments? If a father is so emotionally infirm that he cannot come to terms with his daughter’s free embrace of her sexuality, why should that provide him with a mandate to do violence upon another?

  83. #83 |  JOR | 

    Might I also suggest that a beating that has no legal restraint on it quite possibly can be worse than a prison sentence. If there is no legal restraint on some teenaged girl’s father beating up her sex partners, then he can quite easily beat them to death, or maim them for life. I dunno, maybe the idea is to end up with something like the ancient Israelite rule where a man that kills his slave outright is to be punished in some (unspecified) way, but a man who beats his slave fatally, but the slave lingers for a few days before he dies of his injuries, suffers no penalties. And of course, legal non-restraint on Angry Dad implies an equal legal restraint on his intended victim: what happens if the boyfriend defends himself (to whatever degree of success)? Does he go to jail? What if he (quite understandably) kills Angry Dad in self-defense?

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