Youthful Sex Offenders
A posting at a blog called Classically Liberal, which apparently covers this topic with some regularity, draws attention to the criminalization of adolescent sex.
Not long ago a curious adolescent or child, caught exploring, or playing doctor in the back yard, was given a talking-to, sent to bed early, and warned to not do it again—a warning most heeded for at least another few years, after which time warnings were useless. Today, it has been criminalized, and criminalized in a way far exceeding crimes of violence. A youth who has sex with another youth, even if voluntary, could well face legal sentences far worse than if they had killed their friend.
It takes so little for this happen to a child. A girl in school has oral sex with a boy in school. She becomes a sex offender for the rest of her life. Streaking a school event, as a practical joke, becomes a sex crime in the new America. Two kids “moon” a passerby and are incarcerated in jail as sex offenders, where they may well learn a lesson or two about rape. A teenager, who takes a sexy of photo of him, or herself, is paraded around the community as a “child pornographer” for the rest of his or her life. Two kids in the back seat of a car have fumbling sex. The law says one is an offender because the other is a “victim.” One week later, a birthday passes, and it is no longer a crime. One week’s difference and a life is ruined. In other cases an act that is legal on Monday is illegal on Tuesday because the older of the two turned one year older. That becomes enough to qualify him, or her, as an offender.
This is indeed a truly bizarre situation. I understand the rationale behind and generally support statutory rape laws, which maintain that children lack the capacity to form consent. It makes sense to prosecute 35-year-olds who have sex with 13-year-olds. Not so much, though, 18-year-olds who have sex with 16-year-olds. And it’s just insane to criminalize 14-year-olds having sex with other 14-year-olds. Indeed, absent the use of force or other coercion, I’m at pains to understand how a child can commit sexual assault.