Virginia: It’s for Lovers

WaPo – Stern Warning on Sex With Minors

The blunt message will be pasted on billboards and barroom coasters across Virginia: “Isn’t she a little young?” it will ask in bold pink and white lettering against a black backdrop. “Sex with a minor,” the wording will continue. “Don’t go there.”

The Virginia Department of Health is launching a campaign in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Roanoke to stop men from engaging in sex with underage girls. Health officials say they hope their program will reduce the number of pregnancies that result from such illegal conduct.

The campaign, to begin this month with the distribution of hundreds of thousands of coasters, cocktail napkins and postcard-size messages in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, is one of the few such programs in the nation, public health officials and consultants said.

“We are concerned about minors who are coerced into sexual relationships with adult men and the resulting health and social problems, which include pregnancy, fatherless children, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health problems,” state Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube said.

Virginia health officials said they became alarmed when they reviewed state studies showing that in 1999 and 2000, 219 babies born to 13- and 14-year-old girls were fathered by men over age 18. They also cited nationwide statistics that show that men older than 21 are three times as likely to father children with junior high school girls than are junior high school boys.

The concept boggles the mind. Still, one would prefer that they target the program–and the law–a bit more precisely:

Virginia law makes it a felony for an adult to engage in a sexual relationship with a 13- or 14-year-old. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone 18 or older to engage in consensual sexual intercourse with a child age 15 to 17.

It’s fairly typical to have 17- and 18-year-olds in a single senior class at high school. Do we really want to make it illegal for high school kids to have sex with each other?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. russ says:

    What are these billboards trying to say?

    Virgina’s female teenagers are sluts?

    Wrong Message!

    Sounds more like a tease…

  2. Boyd says:

    Russ, I think the idea is that children that young aren’t sufficiently mature or experienced to decide whether or not they want to be “sluts.” As a group, they’re much easier to coerce than even those just a few years older.

  3. Jessica says:

    These billboards have been in Norfolk, VA for quite some time. I just figured it was because of the navy (no offense intended).

  4. Carl Keller says:

    Why yes we do want to make it illegal. Anyway, it already is. I don’t want my underage children to have to deal with this in any way, shape, or form. I’d like them to focus on their education.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Carl: Well, fine, then raise them properly. But, surely, the distinction between a 17-year-old senior having sex with another 17-year-old senior versus an 18-year-old senior (possibly a distinction of days) is inconsequential. Indeed, I’d find a 17-year-old having sex with a 13-year-old far more problematic.

  6. McGehee says:

    I forget where in Georgia I saw it, but there was a billboard that read something like, “Is your girlfriend under 16? She won’t be when you get out of jail.”