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December 19, 2006

Comments on Child abuse:
#1 ::: Judith ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 11:47 PM:

This looks like a prime case for a governor's pardon. You know, one that would wipe this kid's record. But that would require an administration willing to do something about situations like this. I'm betting that the kid is screwed.

I feel sympathy for the Georgia Supreme Court. They are obliged to follow the law, even if they do not believe it is just. The only reason they can overturn the law is if it is unconstitutional. This is ridiculous, but not unconstitutional. Yet another reason why jury nullification should be discussed more often.

#2 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:08 AM:

A country seriously fucked up about its sexual life.

And is a bit wiffy about race as well.

#3 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:23 AM:

ok, that's just plain messed up.

They're bending the purpose of age of consent laws into a frakkin' pretzel.

I feel really gross right now, and I don't think I've ever set foot in Georgia.

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:30 AM:

And he goes to prison with "child molester" on his rap sheet, which means the other prisoners will go out of their way to make his life hell. Moreso than usual in prison, I mean.

I'd seen this in one or two other blogs today, but that one you linked to, Patrick, is the first I've seen with a photo of the accused. I hadn't realized he's black. I wonder what color the girl is.

#5 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:38 AM:

This one is sickening. He has already been incarcerated for two years for this. It's an outrage.

#6 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:54 AM:

I've never understood why people go to jail for discussing jury nullification at trials.

#7 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:07 AM:

My God.

#8 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:35 AM:

It's Georgia. I'm not surprised. Unfortunately, my ex and my two sons both live there. I plan to move closer, so that I can see my kids more often, but I'd rather live in Tennessee (Chattanooga, which is on the border), South Carolina, or, better yet, north Florida, than set foot in Georgia again. (I've other reasons for not wanting to live in Georgia.)

I've known people in Georgia who have been pulled over by the cops for something as dangerous as -- GASP! -- driving too carefully!!! And why? Well, they might be trafficking drugs and driving too carefully could be a sure sign that they're trying to avoid the law. And here I was thinking that they were simply trying to OBEY the law. Dopey me.

In places like Kennesaw (north and west of Atlanta), they've got laws against certain sex acts which actually encourage the cops to become peeping toms, because there's no other way they could possibly catch a couple in the forbidden act. It doesn't even matter if the couple is married, either. The act is verboten, and, as the Dutch say, dat ist dat!

#9 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:38 AM:

Avram: I'm afraid I had the same thought you did....I don't know what that says about my suspicious state of mind, but my brain just says "It's Tennessee and Georgia....hrm..."

This is sad and wasteful.

#10 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:20 AM:

This is an extract from my own state's criminal code, which I thought was enlightened on this matter. Not so.

CRIMINAL CODE - SECT 321
Child of or over 13 and under 16: Sexual offences against

(1) In this section, “child” means a child of or over the age of 13 years and under the age of 16 years.

(2) A person who sexually penetrates a child is guilty of a crime and is liable to the punishment in subsection (7).

...

(7) A person who is guilty of a crime under subsection (2) or (3) is liable to imprisonment for —

(a) 14 years;
(b) where the child is under the care, supervision, or authority of the offender, 20 years; or
(c) where the offender is under the age of 18 years and the child is not under the care, supervision, or authority of the offender, 7 years.

...But

(9) It is a defence to a charge under this section to prove the accused person —

(a) believed on reasonable grounds that the child was of or over the age of 16 years; and
(b) was not more than 3 years older than the child.

Thus, it would appear that it is not a defence even here simply to say that the accused was not more than three years older than the child. He would also have to show that he had reasonable belief that the child was sixteen or older.

And the max is still seven years. But that's the max, and here's where the unwritten aspect of this jurisdiction's laws come in. He would never get the max under these circumstances. He probably wouldn't get time inside at all. Community service, maybe. More likely a suspended, and the sheet wiped clean when he turned eighteen. That's if it was pursued at all.

Non-consent would be a whole different matter, of course.

I suppose the Georgia legislation has something like the same scale of penalties, but the judge was some loon who got elected on a promise of giving every one of them criminal preverts the maximum. I saw election material in Louisiana that promised that. It certainly hardened me in my belief that electing judges is, um, not necessarily in the best interests of impartial justice.

#11 ::: Judith ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:09 AM:

Dave: You can't blame the judge for this one, you have to blame the legislature. The 10 years no parole was the minimum sentence. The judge's decision basically said "I don't like this, and I think it's excessive, but I'm bound by the law." The Georgia Supreme Court said something similar in their opinion.

#12 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:31 AM:

The obvious answer to Patrick's question is the kind of country whose president is impeached over a blow job.

That said, I wonder how many other states' age of consent laws don't have exceptions for people close together in age. People might be suprised about where else Puritan or Draconian laws are in place. (IIRC, in Louisiana when I grew up there, the key difference was two years or less.) Is there a lawyer in the house?

#13 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:08 AM:

The judge could have said, "I'm so disgusted by this situation that I'm resigning sooner than pass that sentence." This might be too much to ask, but it was at least possible.

#14 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:17 AM:

Current state in the UK:

13 Child sex offences committed by children or young persons

(1) A person under 18 commits an offence if he does anything which would be an offence under any of sections 9 to 12 if he were aged 18.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable-

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.

(Sexual Offences Act 2003)

So over here he'd have a maximum 5 years, of which he'd usually only serve 2 1/2. This would always be further reduced to take into consideration a guilty plea. I strongly suspect he wouldn't normally be indicted, so he'd have a maximum in that case of 6 months (of which he'd serve 3). I'm not sure whether or not his offence would require him to register as a sexual offender; probably it would.

That said, our system isn't anywhere close to reasonable. Were he 18, he'd have faced 14 years under the current system -- but there's apparently a proposal currently being considered to extend that to a maximum of a life sentence.

#15 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:03 AM:

Well, today I have my fireproof pants on, so I'm going to ask the question. Let me state, that in this case, yes I feel the punishment is excessive, as was the Boston couple (a case from a few years back between two people, legally married in another state).

But, and you knew there was a but there, is the consensus that a 15 year-old can consent to have sex. Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?

I'm not asking "what is the world like today" in a world where 12 year-olds are having oral sex (yes, I know what the world was like when I was growing up and what it is like now). I'm asking if you feel that when you were that age, could you make a fully informed decision? What if the person "asking" was a star in your world, older (by 13% of your lifetime)? Keep in mind, at this age most states won't even allow a learners permit for driving (in Ohio it's 15.5, although there's talk about moving it back to 16).

When I was younger, we knew what the term "jail-bait" meant. This isn't a "new" problem. There are also the other issues of teen-agers being able to rent a motel room for the sole purpose of drinking (also a violation), drug use (ditto), and sex (and here we are).

In my mind, this is like the disparity between "crack cocaine" and "powdered cocaine" laws. There is no reason why someone with crack would get a sentence 10 time that of a powdered cocaine conviction would get.

#16 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:52 AM:

I'm asking if you feel that when you were that age, could you make a fully informed decision?

No.

I also don't feel I could make one now (I'm going to be 31 in a little over a months).

Sex is a funny thing. It screws with perception and what you think before it is not always what you think after it. But there's a difference between a fully informed decision and an adequately informed decision, and there are 15-year-olds who are fully capable of the latter...and 40-year-olds who aren't.

Unfortunately, there's no particular way to tell (for legislative purposes) which category any given person falls into, so we've pretty much got no choice but to pick an age.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:57 AM:

The same kind of country that until a couple of years ago imprisoned adults for having (certain kinds of) consensual sex with other adults.

Same state, too. Funny about that. (In case it's not clear, I refer to Bowers v. Hardwick, a SCOTUS ruling allowing states to outlaw "sodomy" between males even if they don't outlaw it between opposite-sex partners. A couple of years ago, all such laws were invalidated by Lawrence v. Texas. That didn't help Hardwick, though. He'd already spent 10 years in prison.)

Georgia is one of those states where some unfortunate people are forced to live (trapped by economic circumstances, tied down by family obligations, too young to choose for themselves, etc.), and some foolish people choose to live, and some evil people glory in living. There's no one else there.

#18 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:05 AM:

I think I see the pattern. Georgia's law enforcers were working from the argumentum ad Clintonem. They jailed the lad for getting a blowjob, because they know it could otherwise lead to reasonable, pragmatic government and a modicum of prosperity.

#19 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:30 AM:

#17 Xopher:

My favorite bit about that pair of decisions is trying to figure out which part of the constitution changed between them. I can imagine either answer being the one dictated by the constitution, just not *both* of them.

And if the constitution didn't have to change, then why can't a more right-leaning court reverse the decision as soon as the court's stacked far enough, and decide that maybe the constitution outlaws gay sex entirely?

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:44 AM:

As the linked story says, if the gentleman had had vaginal intercourse with the young lady and gotten her pregnant, the charge would have been a misdemeanor, with a maximum of twelve months in prison.

Clearly it wasn't the fact of having consenusal sex that got him ten years without parole, it was having oral sex. The difference between vaginal intercourse and fellatio is that gay guys can practice fellatio.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:44 AM:

#19 albatross: There's absolutely no reason they couldn't. But what changed was the political situation; Lawrence came from a more right-leaning court than Hardwick IIRC. Despite CHINO propaganda, fewer and fewer people in the US think that gay sex should be a jailing offense (or a gaoling offence for you Commonwealth folks). And SCOTUS isn't immune to political pressure, not by a long shot.

The other thing is that the lower courts are cutting these cases off, and the states aren't appealing as often. The longer Lawrence holds, the more likely it is to be considered "settled law." Roe v. Wade may be overturned, but it's unlikely; Brown v. Board of Education is pretty safe.

IANAL, yes I do, but I've been paying attention.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:16 AM:

I wonder how the girl feels, seeing an act she chose (soberly, even) to engage in send someone else to prison for 10 years. What will that do to her developing sexuality?

(I do, however, agree with a lot of what Steve @15 says. This area of law is a mess, but we need something to protect the vulnerable. And people are vulnerable an awful lot longer than they realise they are.)

#23 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:30 AM:

The issue isn't only what sentence the judge had to impose; it's what charge the prosecutor decided to go for. All the discretion was in his hands; and I suspect strongly that if he hadn't been white and the kid black, the outcome would have been quite different.

#24 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:15 AM:

abi--

Her decision doesn't appear to have been made while sober.

More facts of the case are here.

I don't mean to suggest that I find the court decision sensible, sane, or advisable. I just want to add in a little detail.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:19 AM:

Sarah,

The article says,

As for [the 15 year old]..., she did not drink or smoke that night

The other girl was intoxicated.

#26 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:21 AM:

abi---

Ah, got it. Sorry. Got my complainants mixed up.

My apologies.

#27 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:21 AM:

The kicker is that the law has now been changed, due to this case, and yet it can't retroactively be applied to his case.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:25 AM:

Sarah,

It was a fact that surprised me, and made me wonder what her state of mind was. If she were strong enough minded not to drink with the others, she was clearly resistant to a certain amount of peer pressure. Which makes her other choices sound a lot more deliberate.

It's a combination of facts that make her sound like she has the potential to grow into a very interesting woman. I hope this experience doesn't damage her too much.

#29 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:30 AM:

I don't know, abi. I succumbed to any amount of sexual peer pressure while remaining quite resistant to peer pressure to drink, smoke, or try drugs.

And, at the time, my logic seemed impeccable.

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:47 AM:

It looks like a wider pattern: not just attitudes to sexuality, but the whole steaming pile of "tough love" shit that gets dumped on any teen who dares to be different or foolish. And it doesn't help that the guy's black, and, maybe worse, a successful black in terms of school social life. I'm not sure just what "Homrcoming King" is, but it brings to mind the word "uppity".

Oh, and Xopher, I know people who live in Georgia. "Trapped by economic circumstances" doesn't seem like a good fit, but I suspect they're the wrong age to rebuild their life in another state, and healthcare costs in the USA can screw with anyone's economic mobility.

I may be about to get unduly cynical: are health costs in the USA a way of creating a form of slavery? If your employer pays the insurance, can you afford to quit?

#31 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Xopher, the Georgia sodomy law was struck down in 1998 by the Georgia Supreme Court, so it was gone even before Lawrence v Texas.

#32 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:14 PM:

Dave Bell @ 30 said:
If your employer pays the insurance, can you afford to quit?

That's the reason I'm still at a job that mostly drives me batty. I'm not sure I'd call it slavery, but there's a pretty hefty fear component. That may be personal, rather than company-mandated, though.

Cases like this make me wonder how I'll ever change the world in time for my son to grow up in it. That poor kid. Both of them.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:19 PM:

#30 Dave Bell: I think that would fall under "trapped by economic circumstances" or possibly "etc." They live there because it's impractical for whatever reason for them to leave.

#31: Thanks Avram. I didn't know that. Something good(ish) about GA besides Jimmy Carter.

#34 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:22 PM:

I hope this experience doesn't damage her too much.

I guess I'll save most of my sympathy for the boy, who is going to go to prison, and whose life is completely ruined in a way no therapy will fix.

#35 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:27 PM:

Xopher, I'm with Dave Bell. Please watch your generalizations. It makes me confused and distressed when people I like say unkind things about my family and expect me to agree with them.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:37 PM:

I have enough sympathy for both of them. And the others, not so featured in the news - the other girl, the other boys...

I admit that I identify with her, for reasons that are not the obvious ones.

Indeed it occurs to me that many of us, for many reasons, are identifying with people in this story. It might behoove us to tread carefully with one another in this thread.

#37 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:51 PM:

Reading the linked article in #24 from Sarah S. leads me to believe the racial angle to the case is more important than I first thought. (My first thought was "puritanism.") About half such cases involving white teenagers are sent to juvenile court, but only one quarter of those involving black teenagers are. (All those involved in this case, both defendants and victims, are black btw.)

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:52 PM:

Welcome to Georgia, where the law is an ass.

This is not the only such case that there's been; I recall one in which a significant penalty was imposed because the young man was black and the young woman white.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Xopher #33:

One result of the GA Supreme Court's 1998 decision was that while gay sex was legalised, unmarried straight sex remained a felony (until last year).

#40 ::: Greta Christina ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Steve Buchheit asks: "Is the consensus that a 15 year-old can consent to have sex. Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?"

No, I'm not going to flame you. I think this is a reasonable question. But I think the question really is, "Does a 15-year-old have the ability etc. to sexually experiment *with one of her peers,* with someone roughly her age?"

And I think the answer, in many cases, is yes. Definitely. I was. Hell, I was sexually experimenting with other kids when I was 10.

I get that age of consent laws are a tough nut. I get that you have to draw a line somewhere, and that the line will never be perfect -- there will always be people not ready for sex who are over the line, and/or people who are ready for sex who are under it. But I do think that fooling around with people roughly your own age should get a pass. Age of consent laws should be written to protect kids and teenagers from predatory adults -- not from consenting sex with other kids and teenagers.


#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:37 PM:

#35: Now what did I say that was unkind? If moving out of Georgia would impose undue hardship on them, they fall under "unfortunate." I don't consider that unkind to say of someone.

If they could leave easily, without undue life disruption...then perhaps I should add another category: uninformed. If they don't know such things go on in Georgia, I guess I don't blame them for staying.

If they DO know, and could easily leave, and stay anyway, then I'm judging them foolish, for reasons Martin Niemöller said better than I ever could.

If they know all this and stay because they WANT to live in a state where such punishments are meted out, then they are evil. I'm not backing off from that.

But...this sort of thing makes me SO angry that maybe I am being unduly harsh. I want everyone who has ever sat on an Islamic Court in Iran to die horribly, too. So angry was I during and after my earlier post that I thought it sounded reasonable and evenhanded.

Well.

Aren't you glad I'm not the arbiter of good-personhood? So am I, actually. I'm not capable of being reasonable on topics like this. Also, I want all decent people to abandon the state of Georgia, so that everyone who remains there can be roundly condemned. Even in my earlier post I acknowledged that this is impossible to achieve.

So for those of you with relatives in Georgia who aren't evil, foolish, or trapped: my apologies. And to them my sympathies. May they be activists to reform the state's appalling laws.

I could go back and edit this all to express all and only my current feelings, but I think I'll leave the whole thought process in there.

#39: Now THAT is just patently absurd. Wow. Even crazier than I thought.

#42 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:39 PM:

#40: I agree. And many states have such laws, with age ranges of protection. These are called "Romeo and Juliet" laws.

#43 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Steve Buchheit's question has another answer -- 15 year olds are going to consent to have sex, whether or not it's wise for them to do so. (Sometimes it will be.)

The whole notion of "age of consent" is (still) inextricably tangled with notions of property, which I don't think helps; "drawing the line" is from the wrong category of metaphor. So are all the "are they good enough? smart enough?" questions; the answer to those, for everyone, ever and always, in all cases, is no, because we cannot see the future and as such are always guessing. It takes practice to get better at guessing.

Sex isn't of its nature harmful; unfortunately, most laws regard it as inherently harmful outside certain narrow circumstances. (Which narrow circumstances anyone with the wits of half a stunned possum can recognize as having traditionally been about social control and property rights.)

I would say, what has brought harm?

A disdain for consent brings harm; a lack of attention to contraception brings harm. A lack of courtesy and truthfulness brings harm.

In this particular case of the 15 year old, the harm looks entirely invented in the laws that regard oral sex as especially nasty.

Going to that sort of party isn't sensible, but not even vaguely criminally not sensible.

#44 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:52 PM:

#15 Steve Buchheit: . . . is the consensus that a 15 year-old can consent to have sex. Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?
I agree with Greta that it's absolutely a legitimate question, but the alternative (if we follow Georgia's example) is prisons filled with teenagers who were simply sexually curious, something we all were at that age. It's a natural part of sexual maturation. For a teen to have sex (oral or otherwise) with another teen is one thing. For an adult to have sex with a teen is quite another matter. In my estimation, a teen who is barely over the age to be considered a minor is hardly worth the expense and bother of a trial, let alone a lengthy prison sentence.

#45 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Grotesque. I'm curious, though: the articles make it sound like everyone's hands were tied--or at least that everyone from the police to the Supreme Court believes they were. But even with the evidence, did the DA have to bring child molestation charges? Particularly given that (according to Dave @10):

9) It is a defence to a charge under this section to prove the accused person —(b) was not more than 3 years older than the child..

Wilson was 17; Tracy was 15. In my arithmatic class, that's two years' difference, not three. Am I missing something?

#46 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:00 PM:

#40 Greta Christina, "Age of consent laws should be written to protect kids and teenagers from predatory adults -- not from consenting sex with other kids and teenagers."

What makes you think that sexual abuse is only between a youth and someone older? You don't think it can be abuse when it's one teen on another, or from one adult to another, and even commiteed by a teen on an adult?

As for "experiementing" I don't think that's what was happening here. I understand that there is a portion of the population, many younger kids also hold this view, that oral sex isn't "sex." I disagree with that view (for those who think I'm a prude, notice I didn't say I disagree with oral sex, just the categorization of it not being "real sex").

I feel that there is a racial component to this sentence. It is way out of wack for the evidence discussed in the open. That this case is being handled differently than other such cases is one of those Very Bad Things(tm). But I don't think that this is a "kids will be kids" issue. The flip of that is, yes, kids are going to try everything they can. Should we, as the larger tribe/society, allow them? I also feel that this kid shouldn't be the only one facing charges. And I am less sympathetic to the emotions of the parents.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:10 PM:

#46: I agree, particularly as regards young people's attitudes toward oral sex. I have young gay male friends who call themselves "virgins," even though they've done everything but anal sex. I tell them that's bullshit, but they seldom listen.

#48 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Xopher at #41 - thank you for the latter half of your post. I understand this is a topic with the potential to make people really, really mad. Hence abi's warning somewhere between your post and mine.

I am not going to discuss the particulars of the Georgia-based portion of my family. Private matters are. But to clarify my sentiment here, I think it is unwise to make generalizations about people one doesn't know and to insist, sight-unseen, that their situation can be simplified and categorized according to a series of neat boxes labeled A) trapped, B) foolish, or C) evil. This sort of oversimplification is unkind; it reduces people to labels for the purpose of judging them.

I think what is kinder is granting strangers the benefit of the doubt, at least until more is known. They are as human as we are, their situation is as complex, and they make the best decisions they can given their multifaceted circumstances.

Some people we know enough about that we don't owe them the benefit of the doubt anymore. Sure. But every single citizen of the state of Georgia? I can't pretend to know the circumstances of any of them beyond those I'm related to, so I'm not going to make assumptions and judgements about them.

Sorry to lecture. Just meant to clarify my position. My previous post was probably far too terse for usefulness.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:16 PM:

#48: You're perfectly right, of course. I'm not sure I agree with your last sentence, since the rest of your post is more or less what I inferred from your "terse" one.

I try to do justice, love kindness, and walk gently, I really do. And I have for years, since long before I ever heard of Micah 6:8 (not being a Christian). It's hard to do the second two when you're so angry you can't think straight though. I wish I had the sense not to post when I'm that mad.

#50 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:35 PM:

#47 Xopher, that's not all that strange. There are some hetros I've talked with that also believe they are "virgins" because they haven't done anal. There's usually an implied "yet" in their statements. They have also contributed to this dent in my forehead (from banging it against the walls trying to get the stupid out that they just tried to put in). When did bad porno get to be our definition of good sex?

#51 ::: Vir Modestus ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:49 PM:

There are obviously times when age or status or other situations cause consent to be questionable. And, frankly, the fact that it was all down on video tape makes me question their maturity over all. But I agree with Graydon #43 that sex isn't in and of itself harmul, but we sure seem to want to treat it that way -- especially in regards to those under 18 -- in this country.

I strongly urge all of you who are thinking about this topic (and why else would you be on this thread and reading this far down the comments?) to read Harmful to Minors by Judith Levine. Caution: it actually considers humans under 18 to be, well, human.

#52 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:50 PM:

You can have Kansas. One of the reasons Kline lost as attorney general is that he was insisting on getting abortion records of underage women so he could prosecute those who impregnated them for child abuse. And presumably anyone else he could inconvenience to boot.

Then his buddies in the GOP in Johnson County appointed him into the position that the guy who beat his pants of in the election vacated. The voters are really really pissed, but I'm not sure there is much they can do about it.

#53 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Why did the DA prosecute? Because even now, in the local political climate, regardless of his feelings, he didn't dare not do so. Karl Rove may be a fading force, but his ilk are without number, and that job is an elective position. Feel free to join me in condemning people who can see these young people only as politcal problems, and not as humans whose lives and happiness are place at risk by the decisions and actions taken by their elders.

I have friends who live in Georgia, and most of them are quite liberal. They stay for many reasons, including, as one of them said "If people like us leave it will be much worse here."

#54 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:55 PM:

LauraJMixon, re #27: the state Supreme Court decision (linked by volokh) was based on the fact that the legislation which changed the law explicitly prohibited the change from being applied retroactively. Which makes it even worse.

#55 ::: Sean H ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:16 PM:

Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?... I'm asking if you feel that when you were that age, could you make a fully informed decision?

Yes, and actually I did - my first time was when I was 15, with another 15-year-old, who was also exercising their free choice, awareness, etc. I didn't appreciate at the time that what I was doing was illegal in a number of places that I (maybe foolishly) considered civilised, including my own country (I think; not sure about the law here). I don't know, either, how hard the law would have stuck to a pair of privileged straight-A upper-middle class white kids, but the thought still unsettles me.

In a lot of ways I wasn't yet an adult, but I was perfectly aware of what I was doing and what this choice meant. This I think is a mistake a lot of people make: thinking that the decision to have sex is the most adult decision that can possibly be made, and therefore if you're not ready to get a mortgage, get a job, join the Army or get married, you're not ready to have sex. Making that choice is a part of growing up. It belongs to adolescence, not adulthood.

#56 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Sean H @55

Making that choice is a part of growing up. It belongs to adolescence, not adulthood.

...in your case.

I was glad of anything I had to back up my own decision not to go there (for many values of "there") as an adolescent. Law, parents, danger of getting caught - all of them added weight to my simple "no", which was the correct decision (in my case), but was often in danger of being overridden by persuasion and circumstance. (Fear of getting pregnant was not a very persuasive argument, I found.)

I was right, but unconfident in my value as a person if I refused. Some of that was due to the feedback I got, for which I can only forgive a number of people due to their age at the time.

I agree that the law oversimplifies, but until teenaged boys are of a better caliber - and teenaged girls are more confident - than they were when I was an adolescent, it has its value to some of the people actually in the situation.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:27 PM:

I have never come closer to posting anonymously here than I did in the above comment.

Just saying.

#58 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:34 PM:

I agree with Graydon (#43): Part of the problem is when sex is generally considered harmful. What's harmful, IMO, is abuse of power, be it in matters of sex or in matters of the law.

Looking back at my schooldays, the only harm that came to the teens who had sex when they were 14 or 15 or 16 was that they tended to spend more attention to boys/girls than to schoolwork, and they would have done that no matter the age of consent (which was IIRC already 14 back than, at least for girls).

#59 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:37 PM:

steve,

What makes you think that sexual abuse is only between a youth and someone older? You don't think it can be abuse when it's one teen on another, or from one adult to another, and even commiteed by a teen on an adult?

this is why there are actual rape & assault laws, & the law that this boy was prosecuted under has nothing to do with this.

but, you might say, the very climate these teens find themselves in, gives them such skewed views of sexuality, pleasure, or consent, that they may do horribly damaging things to themselves or each other while remaining in the scope of "consenting."

maybe true. but the way to counteract that is not with laws, but with education. actually talking to high schoolers like people & examining our own views of sexuality in the bargain. laws can't be trusted to "educate" people, they can only put innocent kids in jail.

(i see it like the law that keeps getting voted down in california, that a minor seeking an abortion must legally inform her parents. is a decision like abortion something parents & teens should talk about? of course. but if a teen doesn't inform her parents, it's likely that she has a very good reason, including possibly fear for her own life. you can't legislate good relations between people.)

as abi(?) said above, this issue is hitting us all in our life experiences, & we are identifying strongly with one or more participant in this case.... & pardon me, but based on some of your comments, you seem to be starting from the assumption that oral & anal sex are, at the least, icky, & if teenagers are engaging in them it is a sign of something wrong. which i disagree with.

#60 ::: Sean H ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:41 PM:

abi #56: Sorry. Re-reading my post, I misspoke. It sounds like I was saying that deciding to have sex was an important part of adolescence; what I meant was that deciding whether or not to have sex was important.

Some people choose one way, some choose the other, and for a vast number of reasons - but making that free, fair and uncoerced choice, and understanding why you're making it, is, I maintain, part of growing up.

#61 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:06 PM:

#59 miriam beetle, Greta and others were making a comment about the intent of the law to stop sexual abuse, and then made the comment that this was only a "adult on teen/child" problem, which is wrong. I was pointing that out. So is the though that "rape" is with strangers, and we need to protect our kids from strangers when the overwhelming majority of abuse is between family members.

I agree with you about the education. Please get rid of the stupidity of "abstenance only" curricula (which has a strong hold here in Ohio, even though 1) it doesn't work, and 2) has been shown to be spreading misinformation). Please give kids all of the information, not just "tab a, slot b," or "this is how you use a condom." But the why, the whole anatomy, functioning, emotional ball of wax.

I also agree that parental notification laws need to be struck down, and screw this "you have to wait 24 hours after I give you this lecture" bullshit (sorry, way too emotional about *that* subject).

As for icky, you're projecting on me things I didn't say. And if you re-read my comments you will discover your error in this perception. You will also find that I am saying that this isn't "excusable behavior because it was just oral sex."

So, that said, since there seems to be a consensus that 15 is "okay" (I'm not syaing everybody here believes that, I'm just saying that many commentors are leaning that direction), are we okay with the social consequences and costs of "under age" pregnancy (which might be why Romeo and Juliet clauses have less punishment, and they aren't just having oral sex)? Are we okay with educating our children as to what consent means (I personally am, see above comment about education) (and I mean this not in a "your life is going to be hell" way but in a "not bowing to pressure and letting your words be twisted" way)?

Have you done such with the children/teens in your life? (For me, yes, for the nieces and nephews).

In this case I think the punishment is over the top, but they aren't "innocent." As I said up top, growing up, we knew what "jail bait" meant.

And, in case it really matters, I was twelve when I was no longer a virgin. At the time, and even now, I also thought it was consentual.

#62 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:10 PM:

Steve (#15), Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?

At 15, I had to make a lot of choices which were far more serious and consequential than whether to have sex or not. (Looking at the boys available, my decision was a heartfelt "not!") I was in 10th grade and had to decide if I wanted to continue school, if so, what type of school, and on which topics I wanted to specialise. Those of my friends who left school had to decide what job they wanted to train for. At 15, I learned FORTRAN instead of Latin, concentrated on math and sciences despite liking literature better and quit all sports. All of these decisions were in the end mine (because you can send a kid to school but you can't make her learn) and determine who I am today, what I can do, where I life, how I live, and if I can pay my bills. I think I chose well, while some of my friends curse their stupidity at 15 which kept them working McJobs until they were 35, or kept their dreams forever out of their reach.

At 15, you make decisions that affect most of your life. Having sex of not is not one of them. (Having sex and not using contraception is, though. But none of my classmates got that wrong.)

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:17 PM:

inge @62

At 15, you make decisions that affect most of your life. Having sex of not is not one of them.

Again, in your case. People vary enormously in both character and circumstances.

#64 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:19 PM:

steve,

it seems like we really mostly agree. but i'll respond to a couple of points that stuck out.

Greta and others were making a comment about the intent of the law to stop sexual abuse, and then made the comment that this was only a "adult on teen/child" problem, which is wrong. I was pointing that out. So is the though that "rape" is with strangers, and we need to protect our kids from strangers when the overwhelming majority of abuse is between family members.

it is true that society has the wrong perception that rape is mostly between strangers, but is this reflected in rape laws? if not, than i don't see why such laws, which focus on consent & circumstances, rather than age, aren't the way to go about prosecuting sexual abuse.

on the other hand, there is something inherently harmful, (ok maybe not in every case but in enough cases to make laws about it) about a sexual relationship between an adult & a child. in most such relationships, there is too large a discrepancy between emotional/mental development & power/authority between the parties.

In this case I think the punishment is over the top, but they aren't "innocent."

can you explain what you mean by that? not innocent because they had sex, not innocent because they should have known the law, or some other reason?

#65 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:20 PM:

abi, btw, thanks for sharing.

#66 ::: Pat Greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Xopher, at #41

Substitute "USA" for "Georgia" and your rant might still make sense. But personally, even if I could afford to leave the US, I would not do so, even though horrible things happen here: I have ties of history and family that make me want to stay. Do I grieve what this country does? Damn straight. Do I try to change it? You betcha. Does liking to continue living here make me an evil person? No way.

The same would still be true of Georgia. I grew up in the South and might someday return there. I have family in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. Being attached to those places does not make me a bad person -- nor does it *automatically* make people who choose to live in those places evil.

Besides, if all the good people left, who would fight for change?

#67 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:33 PM:

abi #56

My experience is largely parallel to yours.

I'd add, too, the experience of growing up being taught to be nice and polite and not to refuse requests and...well, all that gets complicated when sex enters the picture.

(Only marginally relevant to this discussion, but on my mind as I type this, is the essay "Betrayed by the Angel" published a while back in Utne.)

http://www.debraannedavis.com/essay_angel.html

#68 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:40 PM:

#64 miriam beetle
I believe, IANAL, that spousal rape is treated differently by the law, at the very least in investigation and prosecution, than "stranger" rape. It's even given different names to qualify it, such as "date rape," "sexual abuse," and "spousal rape," and there are different criminal codes for each.

"not innocent because they had sex, not innocent because they should have known the law, "

Both of the above, now that you bring it up, but I was mostly commenting on the second.

Do I need to explain "jail bait"? When I was growing up, I knew what the law was because everybody (kids) talked about it.

While not of the same emotional caliber, this is like protestors engaged in civil disobedience who complain about being arrested and given a criminal record.

The law, in this case, seems over reaching (and it's application is certainly in question), but I doubt the law was unknown.

#62 inge. True enough. But I have a feeling you also had help making those decisions, as you were making them. If not, your parents should be ashamed for not being involved.

I doubt either kids parents talked to them about this.

As for consent, most people seem to think that both of these (when they were) teens knew what that meant.

As an example;
"You like me, and you want to be near me and have me like you?"
"Yes"
"Then you'll (insert act here, any of them, or any other thing that one may be pressured into like smoking or drugs, or riding on the hood of the car, etc)."

That isn't consent in my book, but I know some teens who think it is (or was).

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:47 PM:

miriam @64:

it is true that society has the wrong perception that rape is mostly between strangers, but is this reflected in rape laws? if not, than i don't see why such laws, which focus on consent & circumstances, rather than age, aren't the way to go about prosecuting sexual abuse.

Because they focus on consent as well as circumstances, and consent can be a muddy issue with young people. (It's a muddy issue in many adult situations, too, but the law does try extra hard to protect children.)

Also, the examination of the degree of consent, in an adversarial court system, can be even more traumatic to the victim*. Younger victim*s, no matter how much the courts attempt to protect them, can be left feeling responsible for situations where they were truly out of their depth, because they said yes for reasons other than true informed consent.

It's easier on the victim* to do it as a comparison of irrefutable facts (age n, mitigating factors all Boolean and verifiable). And though I understand - and hate - the ways in which this leads to injustice, I can't entirely condemn it as an approach.

Sarah S @67:
Thank you for the link - that was very evocative.

--------
* or survivor, or whatever

#70 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Xopher #41: One thing that I used to do with my American government students, to illustrate the power of the states within the federal system, was discuss anti-fornication laws pointing out that these laws, if properly enforced, would throw large parts of the population in prison (in fact, there was a district attorney in Idaho who was trying unmarried women who got pregnant). Until recently, I'd get a lot of guilty chuckles.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Pat Greene #66: Well, not that I disagree with much of that, though I would point out that changing states within the US is much less of a hardship than moving to another country, but I wonder if you read the second half of post #41, where I made many of those same points myself?

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Fragano #70: Until recently? Do you think they lack the guilt, or the experience?

#73 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Xopher: I live and work in Georgia. There are worse places.

#74 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:34 PM:

steve,

It's even given different names to qualify it, such as "date rape," "sexual abuse," and "spousal rape," and there are different criminal codes for each.

if so, then that's what needs fixing, not statutory rape laws (except, statutory rape laws such as the one in georgia do need fixing. you know what i mean).

(but on the subject of perception, as well as on the subject of sexual mores taught to teens: i remember a discussion, in seventh or eighth grade, about how olympic swimmer mark spitz was infected with aids. apparently, his boyfriend (or even ex-boyfriend) raped him at knife-point. i remember my teacher saying, "oh, but if it was his (ex?)boyfriend, it wasn't rape.")

Both of the above, now that you bring it up, but I was mostly commenting on the second.

i'm one of those people who think the terms "virgin" & "innocence", when applied to sexual experience, are mostly backwards & harmful. when i was in my late teens, after i had had oral sex but not tab-a-into-slot-b or anal sex, i didn't think of myself as a virgin, but other people were very into insisting that i was.

(i also don't think having oral sex before penis-vagina sex [they say vaginal intercourse, but wouldn't cunnilingus be vaginal?] means someone is trying to "preserve their virginity." that's not what i & my peers thought, anyway. but it was a way of not getting pregnant.)

Do I need to explain "jail bait"? When I was growing up, I knew what the law was because everybody (kids) talked about it.

we talked about it, too (i was fifteen ten years ago). but we didn't talk about it when we talked about a fifteen-year-old with a seventeen-year-old. in fact, we were very sure that ohio law at the time had to involve one party over eighteen, one under, and four years between them. i actually don't know if this is/was true, because i heard this from other kids, not, of course, my sex ed class.

While not of the same emotional caliber, this is like protestors engaged in civil disobedience who complain about being arrested and given a criminal record.

The law, in this case, seems over reaching (and it's application is certainly in question), but I doubt the law was unknown.

you doubt the law was unknown? i don't. we've seen already in this thread mentions of puritanical old sex laws on the books in several states, sex laws that we have to assume go unprosecuted in 99.999% of the cases (fragano ledgister in #39: One result of the GA Supreme Court's 1998 decision was that while gay sex was legalised, unmarried straight sex remained a felony (until last year).). are you saying that two straight thirty year olds should not complain if they are imprisoned for ten years for having consensual sex with each other?

As an example;
"You like me, and you want to be near me and have me like you?"
"Yes"
"Then you'll (insert act here, any of them, or any other thing that one may be pressured into like smoking or drugs, or riding on the hood of the car, etc)."

That isn't consent in my book, but I know some teens who think it is (or was).

it's manipulative, sleazy, & all too familiar, but do you really think it should be criminal?

i think the only thing criminalizing such behaviour will do, is to make teens, in the eyes of the law, incapable of making their own decisions about anything. & i'm sure that would be worse than the current circumstances.


*breathes*

ok.

abi,

It's easier on the victim* to do it as a comparison of irrefutable facts (age n, mitigating factors all Boolean and verifiable). And though I understand - and hate - the ways in which this leads to injustice, I can't entirely condemn it as an approach.

absolutely. i think there is a place for statutory rape laws. i just don't think that sex between a fifteen & a seventeen year old should fall into that category.

(the real or imagined law of my ohio youth, one party under eighteen & one over, plus four years difference, sounds ok to me. & extra provisions for, you know, teen-on-prepubescent, etc.)

#75 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:35 PM:

& fragano came back & made my point about sex laws, better, while i was previewing.

#76 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:03 PM:

#45 Madeleine: I was quoting from my own state's criminal code, not that of Georgia. My state is Western Australia. It would appear that many states in the US have similar "Romeo and Juliet" laws, though Georgia apparently did not at the time of the trial. My state also has the peculiarity that small disparity of ages is only a mitigation in sentencing, and a complete defence only if the penetrator had a reasonable belief that the penetratee was sixteen or more.

Nevertheless, even here, ten years minimum would be impossible where there is no issue of ordinary consent. Seven is the maximum, and it would never apply to this case, or anything remotely like it. Whatever happened to the idea that circumstances alter cases, anyway?

My apologies to the judge concerned. The legislation was clearly grotesque. What were they thinking?

#77 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:08 PM:

Steve --

Of course that isn't consent, but that fix for that is full-blown societal, not personal. You'd need a general cultural consensus that internally sourced self-esteem is more important, better, more valuable, etc. than the externally sourced kind.

#78 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:15 PM:
As an example; "You like me, and you want to be near me and have me like you?" "Yes" "Then you'll (insert act here, any of them, or any other thing that one may be pressured into like smoking or drugs, or riding on the hood of the car, etc)."

That isn't consent in my book, but I know some teens who think it is (or was).

That *is* consent (well, if you add an "OK, I'll do it" at the end, which I assume was meant to be inferred). You have the right, and sometimes the responsibility, to walk away. The ability to refuse - and the decision not to refuse - is what defines consent.

Ill-considered consent is still consent; consideration is the right and responsibility of the individual. Nobody gets it right all the time, but that doesn't mean the law should get involved in every mistake, even every mistake that might possibly harm someone.

The fact that some people make foolish choices for the approval of others is (a) part of being human, and (b) not limited to teens in any case. (Some people even rearrange their lives to gain the approval of an Other who may not even exist - and it's rare for anyone to publicly second-guess *them*.) We don't even know that that's what happened here - the young woman's motivations for doing what she did aren't at issue, nor should they be.

I'll also point out that riding on the hood of a car is *much* more likely to lead to serious harm than a blowjob; the fact that it isn't subject to the same criminal penalties reveals pretty clearly that preventing harm has little to do with the real purpose of this sort of legislation and prosecution.


Humans, especially young ones, will continue to make errors in judgment whether they are illegal or not; all the law can do is increase the damage (as in this case). Or refrain from doing so. In this case there probably wouldn't have been any harm at all if the law hadn't gotten involved.

P.S. I am of course relieved to see no responses on this thread along the lines of "the filthy n***** deserves it", but it would be impossibly naive to think that nobody in Georgia is thinking that.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:33 PM:

Chris @78:

Humans, especially young ones, will continue to make errors in judgment whether they are illegal or not; all the law can do is increase the damage (as in this case). Or refrain from doing so.

Not necessarily. As I said before, I found the law a useful backstop when I was a young human. It was the last trace of a set of cultural norms that meant that the default answer was no, which helped me to make that answer stick when I needed it to.

I know that our principles, including the ones about the value of liberty over restraint, often include some collateral damage. But though I'd be willing, as an adult, to suffer that sort of collateral damage for the sake of freedom, when I was younger I needed all the protection and assistance I could get.

Nor was I unique in this matter.

In this case there probably wouldn't have been any harm at all if the law hadn't gotten involved.

In this case, probably not.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Xopher #72: No, the State Supreme Court struck down Georgia's anti-fornication law last year, rendering the issue moot.

#81 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Abi #22: And people are vulnerable an awful lot longer than they realise they are.

From as soon as they're recognised people till they're dead ?

Dave Bell #30: are health costs in the USA a way of creating a form of slavery?

Depends on your conception of slavery. I'd say no, because your employer still have the right to fire you and let you starve as soon as you're no more useful. A way of decreasing mobility ? Maybe.

Xopher #41:If they know all this and stay because they WANT to live in a state where such punishments are meted out, then they are evil. I'm not backing off from that.

Or maybe they think some good people have to stay to fight the good war.

Or maybe they like the place and won't abandon it to people and laws they don't like, not caring about the war that might make itself.

Or wathever, really, this have been told twice already. Yet since I typed it, I'll leave it, damn it.

Sarah S #67: thanks for the link.

The whole affair is really depressing. Reminds me of when I learned suicide was illegal where I lived. First thing I thought was, if your attempt fail, will the state really take you to court ?
And of course it didn't, anymore, as far as I know.
Why can't some laws remain the necessary fictions they're meant to be.

(I need to go look a bit more in details just to know who the hell's the plaintif here, and how exactly things actually work... I really need to get myself one of those computer brain thing, they say it's quite handy)

#82 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Steve Buchheit (#68): But I have a feeling you also had help making those decisions, as you were making them. If not, your parents should be ashamed for not being involved.

Sure, but then, I had help in deciding how to deal with wanting or not wanting to have sex, too, even if we giggled through more than half of the classes and pretended to read the letter pages in the teen magazines only to mock them. On a more personal note, I believe in research, but I was always quite good in not taking advice.

You were asking in #15, Do you all feel that a 15 year has the ability, the stength of personality, cognative awareness, and life experience to make the choice?

And I say, they better have, because they need the ability to chose and chose well for some far more consequential things than whether to have sex.

However, if I read e.g. abi in #63 correctly, for some people the decision whether they have sex or not is of vast consequence. (Or do you mean that it's the only decision of any consequence?) I do not doubt the authenticity, but the notion is quite alien to me and not supported by anything I saw in the limited sample of kids I knew, so I can't really comment on it for lack of data and scenarios.

BTW, what I'm wondering about in the case leading to that discussion: Didn't both participants have sex with a minor? Is she going to jail, too?

#83 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:05 PM:

#81: Reminds me of when I learned suicide was illegal where I lived. First thing I thought was, if your attempt fail, will the state really take you to court ?

When I first heard about such a law, I thought, "Well that's an incentive to get it right the first time... no half-hearted 'cries for help'..."

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:12 PM:

inge @82:

However, if I read e.g. abi in #63 correctly, for some people the decision whether they have sex or not is of vast consequence.

Yes. With regard to my own character, it's not really a matter that I am prepared to discuss in detail on the internet. On a more general basis, the simplest thing to say is that, even by the time we are teenagers, we already vary so much in personality and experience that what is inconsequential to some of us can be tremendously damaging to others.

I have a certain preference for social and legal structures that protect the most vulnerable in the community. I value individual liberty very highly as well, and I am aware that these two principles clash here.

BTW, what I'm wondering about in the case leading to that discussion: Didn't both participants have sex with a minor? Is she going to jail, too?

It appears that in Georgia the age of consent (in this matter) is 16. Since he was 17 at the time, he was not a minor. She was 15, and was.

#85 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:11 PM:

#74 miriam beetle, "it's manipulative, sleazy, & all too familiar, but do you really think it should be criminal?"

When it's performed against someone who may not have the social skills/ability to see that it is manipulation, and that person is the ward (there's that property argument again) of somebody else? Yes, it is and should be. It’s a bad argument in any case. Agreement to one thing does not mean agreement with the second. If this were a political argument that silly rhetoric would be ripped to shreds here and in other blogs. I doubt many 15 years can make that distinction though.

At best my example is a con job, which is also illegal. At worst, it's abuse. There's a lot of grey in between.

Again, the punishment in this case is excessive. If you read the articles, though, this boy (now man) isn't the only one that has been prosecuted under this law, nor the only one as an adult, but that the majority have been handle by the juvenile system, where this case should have been sent, IMHO.

As I remember the law here in Ohio was nothing below 15, between 15-21 only 3 years difference allowed. Which maybe wrong, but I knew there was a law, and I had to be careful.

And for silly laws, it's illegal to walk a duck down the road in Cincinnati. This isn't a "blue law." This is more recent, written to prevent predation. Most laws aren't applied to the lawbreakers. Heck, most speeding isn't penalized. Does that mean we should abolish speed limits? In all cases there are mitigating circumstances, and there are opportunities to not progress down the legal system (see comments above about the prosecution's role). My guess is that there are a whole floatila of other circumstances that aren't being put into the open here. I just hope they all don't center around "he is black."

It isn't discussed in the articles, but how's this for discresion. The party was put on for alcohol, drugs, and sex. All the participants were teens. Let's see, that's drug use (crime), under aged consumption (without the guardian present, another crime), contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and here's the biggie, I doubt the kid with the video cam was just there to document the drug use, so there's a Child Pornography charge right there. I don't see that anybody else was charged in this affair (although I haven't read all the article threads, so I may have missed it).

#77 Graydon, I agree completely, see my comments about sex ed. Unfortunately, IMHO, most parents these days are doing a lousy job of raising their kids to be fully emotionally developed.

#78 Chris, actually it's emotional hostage taking and manipulation. It's not the worst sort, but it isn't consent. Agreeing to one thing means that you agree to everything? This is the same argument as, "well, we got to second base, why not all the way."

"The fact that some people make foolish choices for the approval of others is (a) part of being human, and (b) not limited to teens in any case. (Some people even rearrange their lives to gain the approval of an Other who may not even exist - and it's rare for anyone to publicly second-guess *them*."

It's called "co-dependency." So many people have second guessed it there's a course of psychological treatment for it.

#82 inge, I'm not saying this is the only major choice kids will have. Nor am I saying that they should say no. If you actually had a sex ed class, consider yourself lucky. Especially if that class discussed real issues. (just a general note, when I said "tab a slot b" I meant it as a metaphor to the whole mechanics of sex devoid of emotion, excitement, or consequence, not to the missionary position). I was also thinking that as you made your decision as to take FORTRAN, my guess is that there was input from your parents at the time, right then. I doubt that as you were choosing to have sex for the first time (and I sincerely hope it was a choice) you called your mom or dad (or other non-peer role model) to get their input. As for doing research but not taking advice, me too.

As for both of them going to jail, I believe (and again IANAL) that the law considers the "older boy" to have done harm to the "younger girl." So he committed a crime upon her.

Just as a last comment in this way to long comment Martin Wisse in post #2 nailed it, IMHO.

#86 ::: Scott Harris ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Not necessarily. As I said before, I found the law a useful backstop when I was a young human. It was the last trace of a set of cultural norms that meant that the default answer was no, which helped me to make that answer stick when I needed it to.

Abi at 79: I see your point, but suppose the backstop provided by fear of the law failed you, and you made the wrong choice from your perspective. Would it have helped matters for you to have been prosecuted and imprisoned?

That, to me, is the test of whether behavior should be criminalized as opposed to discouraged in other ways - are we really ready to send people to jail for it? If not, then whatever other measures we want to take, we should not resort to making it a crime punishable by jail time.

#87 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Steve Buchheit #85: I don't see that anybody else was charged in this affair.

Six boys were arrested, all on sex-related charges. Nobody mentioned alcohol or drugs or child pornography so far as I read. Five made plea bargains that would lower their jail time but permanently put "sex offender" on their record. (Some had prior criminal records in other matters, and one has been prosecuted again. The sixth, the homecoming king, refused to plea bargain because he didn't believe a consensual blowjob should put sex offender on his record. He was right, but the law was against him.

Of the two girls involved, one was drunk. The other was under the age of consent, sober, and willing to give a blowjob or a few. Since, even in the circumstances of the party, she didn't do anythng else, and since she herself is indicated in one article as having NO intention to lay charges, and has herself said she consented. I think the charges were not only excessive but backwards. The girl over the age of consent but drunk was the one of the two who has a valid complaint. But the blowjobs were the ones which carried the required sentence of 10 years no parole, and even the plea bargains involved jail time.

As for your question about 15 year olds and sex, I was mature enough to break up with my boyfriend because I wasn't ready for actual sex, nice as the prelude experimentation had been. I know other people who weren't ready but went ahead, or were ready and went ahead, or were ready but opted not to. As abi said, YMMV.

Were some hurt by choosing early or not beign ready? I'm willign to hazard that the only people scarred long term by having *consenting* teenage sex were the ones who didn't use protection against pregancy. But short term (That year) or middle term (Until graduation or some other turning point)? I don't personally know what everyone went through with their boyfriends or girlfriends, what was said, who was manipulated, who, in spite of rumour, was a virgin how long. And I never believed a report of someone else's sex life that wasn't from the horse's mouth. I think everyone from 14-17 had at least one meltdown, not necessarily for sex, and it's hard to say until years after which were the permanent damage and which ones go away. The loudest of mine weren't the ones that scarred.
_______________________________

abi: I can see where you're coming from as to your personal experience, and I think it sounds like you did all the right things as regards yourself. Nobody but you can say otherwise.

#88 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 03:30 PM:

#86 Scott Harris, well, while not in all cases, more than likely it would be the boy that would be prosecuted and imprisoned. It would be the older child that would received punishment under the law.

So, what I haven't heard is how should we discourage this behavior without criminalizing it. Parental intervention? Yeah, that's worked so well in the USA. Given the lack of general sex educaton in US society ("Son, I'd like to talk to you about sex." "Sure, Dad, what do you want to know" has been a staple of standup, so old and cliche most people dont' crack the joke anymore) I doubt that's the route. Honest portrayal in the media? After school movies didn't work for my generation.

Or should we encourage the behavior? After all, for most of human presence on the Earth, sexual maturity has been in the early teens. At times youths as young as twelve have been married (sometimes younger). A women at 18 who hadn't had a child was considered "old" at times during the past thousand years.

I was thinking about this last night. There was a comment up thread about how if she was 15 and he was 17, and if there was only a 2 year difference defense, why is this a crime. First, people, unlike horses, celebrate individual birthdays (instead of being a year older every January 1). It is very possible that she just turned 15 and he was about to turn 18. It's possible the opposite was true as well. So (as I remember, and barring any other factors), she was either a HS Freshman or Sophomore, he was either Junior or Senior. At best, she was a Sophomore and he was a Junior. At worst, she was a Freshman and he was a Senior.

To the parents out there, would you be okay if your HS Freshman daughter was "seeing" or "dating" a HS Senior?

#89 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 03:42 PM:

#87 Lenora Rose, thanks for the extra info on the case. Also, thanks for sharing. Yes, I agree about the meltdown.

I will point out, that while the discussion of "who was harmed" has validity. I see that not many are asking, "what was the boy's intent in this case?" The easy answer is, "to get a blow job." That's not what I'm really asking. Why did he think it was okay to get one from this girl?

#90 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 12:56 AM:

To the parents out there, would you be okay if your HS Freshman daughter was "seeing" or "dating" a HS Senior?

And, would you be willing to send said Senior to jail for ten years with no possibility of parole, and force him to register as a sex offender?

He'll be 27 when he gets out. He'll never get an job with any contact with children in it. His life will be screwed up from here to the day he dies.

#91 ::: Andrea ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 10:11 AM:

I've been a lurker for a few months now, but this one inspired me to get out of the closet.

In my highschool, we too knew what "jail-bait" meant--and we treated it as a joke. The idea that on our sixteenth birthdays we would suddenly attain maturity and be protected from making bad decisions and/or no longer be harmed from semi-coercive sexual situations with persos more than a few years older than ourselves was considered laughable. All my close girlfriends in highschool, in fact, were "victims" of statutory rape under the letter of the law. None considered themselves victimized, coerced or harmed. Every freshman girl I knew was dating someone at least a few years older than herself. This might have been questionable; but the relationships were real, long-lasting (2 years +, with or without sex), consensual, and based on respect and affection.

To declare that this is legally impossible or harms the younger person by definition is to treat young teenagers, IMO, as gradeschoolers. The purpose of adolescence is to learn independence, which involves learning decision-making skills. Postponing this process until after some magic age upon which decision-making skills will somehow magically appear is harmful to teenagers.

My parents met when my mother was 16 and my dad 21. They got married a year later--my mother was still in highschool, my Dad about to graduate from university. Thirty-six years later, they're still together, happily. To decide that their relationship would have been illegal if they hadn't been married, or if they'd met a year earlier? Bizarre. (Mind you, I don't think it's necessarily a good thing that my Mom got married so young; but that she knew her own mind and was acting from her own convictions, and not under the coercion of my father, I have no doubt. She is a person of very strong will.)

I, too, have several times been involved with boys/men considerably older than myself (my husband is ten years older than I am--we met when I was 22). and yes, sometimes I made poor decisions; but those decisions were mine. I was not harmed by the people I was involved with, I was not coerced.

I simply can't wrap my mind around the concept that the law should exist to aid us in our personal, sexual decision-making. I can understand that being able to say "we can't, because..." is useful, in some situations; but I don't think the problem is most usefully addressed by a law. Anymore than a law compelling highschool seniors to take biology, arts and computer sciences is the ideal solution to teenagers making poor educational choices, or a law compelling people to save 10% of their income is the ideal solution to a culture of debt.

My daughter is only three, so who knows what will change in eleven years; but my first answer is to say that I would much rather her date a caring, sincere and compassionate senior than a jerk her own age. I hope that I'll respond to the person, when the time comes (if it does), and not the demographics.

#92 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Seeing only one side of the story, this looks bad.

But it is only one side of the story that we see? Who made the complaint? Who testified?

If this was something at an ordinary teenage party which neither of the two had a problem with, the police probably would never have heard about it. Teenage party goers generally don't invite the police along and give them a full synopsis of the night's activities. Something unusual happened.

Something else was going on, to bring this to the attention of the police. A complaint by the girl? A pattern in the school of younger girls being pressured to give sexual favors to older boys on the sports teams, which the school officials and police were trying to break? Develomental disablities or mental illness in the girl, so she was less able to cope than a typical child her age, and there was greater need to act to protect her?

It's a he-said, she-said, where we're only hearing what he-said, and only after it's been polished and edited by his lawyers. I'm not inclined to outrage based on that type of information.

#93 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 12:28 PM:

(Last post continued, I hit post too quick...)

We don't even know that it was consensual. He's telling us it was, but it takes two to consent. The evidence on the consent issue may not have been as strong as the evidence on the statutory rape issue, but getting to walk on statutory rape because it was nonconsentual rape and the nonconsentual part isn't as easy to prove makes little sense.

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:04 PM:

I've seen a number of posts here where people's opinions on statutory rape laws in general are derived from either their own or others' adolescent experiences. All of the experiences cited seem so simple and straightforward. This is all valid data, of course, but it's incomplete.

There are people whose adolescent experiences are off the baseline. They are much less likely to post them here, or to have discussed their experiences with their friends at the time. Their data is invisible.

Examples, with no implicit equivalence among them:

- I knew no one in high school who was openly gay. In my school, at that time, homosexuality was off of the baseline. It's wildly improbable that all of the 180-odd people in my graduating class were heterosexual, but that was the "norm".

- One of my closest friends in high school was molested as a child. This did very bad things to her self esteem, a fact which several boyfriends exploited and amplified (not intentionally, I am sure). Should she have had the self-worth to better resist them, or choose better boyfriends? Of course, but she didn't. I knew nothing of this till over ten years after we graduated, though I thought we shared everything.

- One of my university friends had been raped in her sophomore year of high school. (Pulled into the bushes while jogging; they never caught the guy.) She never told any of her high school classmates - nor her boyfriend at the time.

The first is included purely as an example of the lack of open communication about anything "unusual" to do with sex and sexuality at that age.

The latter two are examples of people who did not come to their adolescent sexual decisions by the standard path. They were unusually vulnerable to the sort of emotional blackmail that is common to the age, and - I think - could have used some additional protection.

Whether the law is the best protection is another question. Whether this particular law is the best protection is yet another. But when we discuss these matters, can we remember that the visible norm is not the universal?

#95 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 05:30 PM:

abi, I sympathize with the wish to protect the unusually vulnerable from emotional blackmail. And I acknowledge that crimes perpetrated against young people may make them especially vulnerable under circumstances that others would find unremarkable.

But I can't fail to notice that the existence of laws didn't prevent the traumatizing crimes that left your examples vulnerable.

I think that a law that criminalizes behavior that, under many, perhaps most circumstances, is NOT something worthy of prosecution, does a disservice to more people than it protects.

I was fifteen, several months shy of sixteen, when I chose to have sex with a young man who had just turned nineteen at the time. Not spur-of-the-moment, not coerced, and I provided myself with contraception beforehand. We were both aware that we were breaking the law. So we were careful to keep our mouths SHUT about it afterwards.

Had he been prosecuted (perhaps through parental overreaction had they learned, or perhaps if a police officer had decided to get nosy about the parked car!), it would have broken my heart as well as ruined his life.

I don't approve of a mechanism for protecting the vulnerable that can also destroy the blameless on a technicality.

It surprises me that the law worked as a backstop argument for you, although I don't contest that it did. In my experience, my partner and I were rarities for so much as bothering to keep our mouths shut about it, and if I'd used "I'm underage" as an argument with others prior to him, I can only imagine being laughed off. I was fortunate in that everyone prior to him accepted an "I'm not ready" or a simple "no" as sufficient.

If they hadn't... I do know where to kick, and while I might have hesitated to prosecute, I would have struggled enough to leave no doubt in THEIR minds that I wasn't merely being coy. Having an additional law apply because of my age? No more protection than the general laws against rape.

I don't know how I arrived at that sense of certainty, or else I'd be suggesting ways to reproduce the effect in other young people. I wish I could be sure I was providing my daughter with that same confidence. (She's eleven now.)

Would I want her to do what I did, at the same age? If she wanted to, of her own free will, and had the sense to take the same precautions I did... I'd worry about her if I knew, of course, but I wouldn't want to categorically prevent her.

I think, on balance, laws criminializing consensual adolescent sexuality do more harm than good.

#96 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Ursula L, the girl said it was consensual and she didn't press charges.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:28 PM:

Ursula,

The party came to the attention of the police because another girl, aged 17, reported that she had been raped. During the subsequent investigation, the police discovered that the party had been videotaped.

Although the tape didn't show any evidence that the 17 year old (who had been drinking and smoking marijuana) had not consented to the sexual intercourse, it also showed the oral sex by the 15 year old.

As stated, she said it was consensual.

#98 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:34 PM:

Rikibeth, this is why I'm against legislative minimum sentences for any but the very worst, and most unmitigatable crimes. One of the oldest and soundest ideas behind that generally sensible code of practices called the Common Law is that circumstances alter cases: and no legislature can conceivably know all the cases that might come into court. The court's hands should therefore never be tied. Sufficient remedy for excessively lenient sentences exists.

I have had a look at recent sentences for this particular offence in my local jurisdiction. They range from suspended sentences or minor community service to three gaol sentences of one, one-and-a-half and three years. The last was imposed on a twenty-year-old offender whose victim was a fourteen-year-old girl who was drunk at the time; but so was he, and there was no evidence that he either knew or cared about her age. Nor had he gotten her drunk. It was just about on the cusp of sexual assault, considering that she was clearly not capable of informed consent, but the lesser charge was a surer bet, and it brought a sentence on the upper range of the possible.

I regard these sentences as probably just, though.

#99 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:37 PM:

I can't tell from the NYT article if she actually said that it was consensual, or if he and his people are saying that she said it was consensual.

And in what context did she consent, if she did? Another girl seems to have been gang-raped at this party, so not making a fuss when sexual acts were demanded by one person may be a survival mechanism for avoiding drawing the attention of others, or trying to manage the unspoken threat of violence that such a situation would carry.

If you've just seen someone gang-raped, and you're surrounded by the people who did it, saying no may well seem pointless, at best, and fighting back may only mean increasing the chance of greater injury in a situation where you know you can't win the fight. That's not consent, that's giving up a fight you can't win, in face of an insurmountable threat. Someone saying yes when you have a gun to their head doesn't count as "yes" in any meaningful way, and the threat, if you've just seen another woman gang-raped, is as real as a gun to the head.

The NYT article speeks of the gang rape saying it did happen - since several men were charged with this, and most pled guilty, it is likely that it did happen, and that it can be treated as happening for understanding the context of the other incident.

It may be that the article is just written badly, so we don't know who is saying that she said she consented. Or it may be that the article is based on what his people said.

#100 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:51 PM:

Ursula,

Sarah S @24 had a link to this article, where I got more of the information.

It states that the 15 year old:

did not drink or smoke that night, but willingly performed oral sex on several of the guys, practically one after the other, as the telltale videotape showed. [She]...had not wanted to press charges and was as surprised as the boys that police showed up at the hotel that New Year’s morning. At no point did anyone at the party discuss their ages. They were all peers.

The same article doesn't come out to clearly about whether what happened to the 17 year old was rape or not. There are circumstances around the guilty pleas and her condition that make it a muddy situation. At least one witness says that she never said "no".

Nonetheless, your point about the climate in that party, and what that does to the degree to which the 15 year old had freedom to consent, is interesting and well taken.

(The article uses their names, which I have omitted. I don't know how much the participants care about their privacy; I may be being a prude.)

#101 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:16 PM:

It states that she consented to the oral sex, but, again, it doesn't say where or from whom they got the information. The statement that she didn't use alcohol or drugs, and that she consented, is oddly out of context, without the references to courtroom testimony or specific evidence that you see in other parts of the article.

One person saying they didn't hear the other girl say no is not really evidence that she didn't say no, she may have said no when that one person was out of earshot, or may have been unconscious, or may have been to drugged to know what was happening. Her voice may have been obscured by the voices of others, loud music, or other noise. It just means that in that situation, one person didn't hear one word. Was this person even in the room at the time? Going to a party with a friend doesn't mean you are joined at the hip, and much could have happened without her friend being there. Asking every witness if they heard the word no would bring a lot of negative answers, even if the witness was originally called to testify they saw what time someone came in to the party, but never claimed to have seen the incident.

Refusing to press charges doesn't mean nothing happened, there are plenty of reasons why a 15 year old would not want to be pressing charges against an older and popular person at the school she attends. Peer pressure, fear of retaliation, the suspicion that she wouldn't be believed in the face of denials from popular peers, etc. A fact that prosecutors would need to consider.

The primary voice in this article, again, is that of the accused boy and his supporters. And he has nothing to loose by making a loud public show of his point of view, particularly if he knows the girl is upset, and trying to keep things private, so that here voice will not be heard.

#102 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:18 PM:

I think there is something wrong with the presumption that laws should be based on the worst possible case - though I don't think that's what abi is trying to say. One of the problems with this idea is that there are certainly 20-year-olds who are incapable of giving informed consent, or 30-year-olds, for that matter, yet we can't solve this by raising the age of consent to 35.

At the same time, I think there are also many 15-year-olds, male and female, who are perfectly self-aware and in charge of their own behavior, and perfectly capable of consenting. I'm quite surprised that some people here, like Steve, are apparently arguing that's impossible. Criminalizing their having sexual contacts with people in their own approximate age range and peer group seems way offbase.

What some comments seem to be ignoring is that there are already laws regarding sex in which one party doesn't consent. It's called "rape". In age-based laws, we're therefore really considering the cases in which one party consented, or appeared to, yet the consent was not valid and it's presumed the other should have known that.

Like some others who posted here, I also see some very unpleasant barely-concealed racial overtones in the manner in which the court system pretends "we have no choice". In fact it appears that juvenile court is an option offered to some but not others; likewise, prosecutors usually have a great deal of latitude to simply drop charges, but they didn't. Isn't part of the dynamic here the result of the message "black teenagers are dangerous beasts!", regularly insinuated in the media and word-of-mouth? It's the same dynamic that gets black 11-year-olds who assault playmates tried as adults for first degree murder, rather than remanded to juvenile court for juvenile detention or psychiatric care.

#103 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:24 PM:

I'm somewhat disturbed at the way the older girl is being presented in the media. She was drinking, she was doing drugs, so the attitude is that therefore she can't be believed, and probably deserved what she got anyways.

But drinking and doing drugs doesn't seem to affect the credibility of the boy's story.

#104 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:17 PM:

#91 Andrea, I'm sure (and really hope) that you are happy. However, without knowing all the other facts about your life (and I really don't need to) your story set off alarm bells in my head. Those bells were there from past personal history, adult education, and research. It has nothing to do with your marriage arrangement (as all marriages are slightly different), but with the pattern between generations.

#90 Keir and #102 Clifton Royston, you're misrepresenting what I've said. Please reread my posts for clarification.

And Keir, many kids that young screw up their lives (see other posts about other decisions made at this time and their long term effect). He was also offered a plea bargain. Considering that an appeal would have also concerned "poor representation," he made that choice to go forward with the trial. While I didn't see it mentioned in the articles, a jury would have found him guilty. The judge imposed the minimum sentence for the crime of which he was found guilty. So 12 people, his "peers," who heard the whole case had to agree, without a doubt, that he coerced the girl or that she was unable to give consent (local morality). So this kid made several bad choices. Not just one.

Clifton, sure there are kids who are fully aware, etc. But I think that's also a load of bunk as well. Are they more aware than adults nearby, sure. But I know 30 year-old guys who go to college bars to pick up chicks, or go to other bars to into fights (I don't hang out with them, I know them through other people). And I know kids that I've been told are "very mature" make the stupidest decisions because they lack experience. Also, ask anybody whose purchased their first home just how prepared they were for it. Maturity of the individual isn't in question here. So I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it's very unlikely.

Again, to make another analogy, I know I can drive over the speed limit safely. Other people also feel that way (given how often I'm passed on my commute). Should we repeal all the speed limit laws? If you're saying "some kids can make this decision, why do we need this law" you are also saying that given the above argument, we should repeal speed limit laws. If you want me to make the case about abuse, predation, etc. as why this law is written this way, I have no lack of research to show its necessity.

This is a societal question. What, as the larger tribe/society are we willing to accept?

As for making laws based on worst case, that's a red herring. As someone who writes laws (for my local village), you write them because there is a problem (real or imaginary) and you're trying to protect people or help somebody. Were some "blue laws" passed because of "puritanical" reasons? You betcha. Most have been struck down. This law was made to stop predation, that's why it's still being enforced (unlike the un-repealed blue laws, which are rarely enforced).

I've demonstrated above how "consent" isn't always what people believe it is. How are we to know (given the facts displayed) if that consent that the girl (who didn't press charges for whatever reason, and I'd like to ad guilt and shame to those reasons) says she gave was actual consent (given freely, and fully informed)?

Or are we scratching people's sore spots and they're willing to defend this action rather than admitting they were stupid and mean as kids and maybe, just maybe, hurt somebody?

For everybody, here's another corollary, (and here I am going from sketchy information and haven't fully researched it, so I may have some details wrong), in some Asian cultures the second daughter is charged with making money for the family. In places like Indonesia, this often means this daughter leaving the house at an early age (14 or so) and making her way in the world. Many of these daughters wind up as either virtual slaves (sold by the family), work in the "sweat shops," or work in the sex trade. This is an acceptable profession for these girls (and highly profitable for some, although not for most) in their culture. These girls are considered as "adults" by their community. Not all of them are trying to get out of it. How many people here are okay with this practice? (in case you're wondering, I'm not).

I'm glad that most people here have healthy sex lives. I'm glad that most people here have never been forced, coerced, or tricked into sex against their will. I'm glad that most people here have had/are having healthy sex at a young age. I really am.

#105 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:13 AM:

Oh, I don't doubt that what this guy did was on the shady side of `experimentation'. Certainly, if it were my daughter, I'd be very pissed off.

Just, you know, not enough to send the kid to jail for ten years. Maybe a couple hundred hours community service, and a stern talking to on a proper way to relate to members of the opposite sex.

I don't think anyone is arguing for the great moral rectitude of this guy. Just that he shouldn't be going to jail for ten years.

#106 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Steve, Ursula: If we are going to frame the discussion by rejecting whatever minimal facts are available on the night in question, and replacing them with idle speculation, this will not be a discussion, just a rehashing of personal prejudices.

#107 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 07:15 AM:

When all the minimal facts come from someone who is an interested party, that party's interest has to be taken into account when considering the facts. It is really easy to take single lines out of a complex story or lengthy testimony and twist it into something completely different, if you want to. Without a solid information backing up a claim, there is no particular reason to believe the boy's story.

Particularly since a girl's story in this type of situation isn't believed unless she can back it up. In any other crime, the victim saying they didn't consent to the act, or a law where the victims consent isn't relevant, is considered enough for a conviction.

If your car is stolen, no one tears apart your entire life looking for reasons why you shouldn't be believed when you say you didn't consent to the defendant having your car, your word is enough. Even if the defendant says you consented to him taking the car.

When a banker steals money from the bank, or a CEO steals money from the company pension plan, the fact that the depositors didn't specifically say "no" isn't relevant, because the law makes the act illegal even without a specific "no."

But when it is a woman accusing a man of rape, her sworn testimony that she didn't consent, or a law that says an act is criminal regardless of consent, isn't good enough, and a defendant's claim that the victim consented is given an shocking amount of weight not seen in other criminal situations. A woman's word about what she agreed to have done to her body is given less weight than a property owner's word about what they agreed to have done to their property.

And a law intended to protect girls in a situation where their ability to consent or not is unclear is treated as something to be taken "in context" while laws intended to protect property owners in a situation where their ability to consent or not is unclear is seen as reasonable.

It's an old story playing out. Boys will be boys, even if it's illegal the girls (sluts!) were asking for it anyways, and how could you ruin a nice young man's life over a girl (slut!), anyway?

Particularly when the nice young man is the school's football hero. A second story playing out is male students who are good in sports being able to get away with doing all kinds of harm to their peers. Something you see in the sports team hazing cases, rape cases of this type, and even in the Columbine-type situations, where a school shooting targets the school's athletes and stars, with a long prior history of the targets harassing or abusing the shooter and the school and society tolerating it.

If the boy had been a goth or a loner, would people be supporting him? Probably not, from Sarah S's article again: "He would have seemed to be a model defendant. Attractive, popular and outgoing, Genarlow had been headed for a bright future. He had a 3.2 grade point average and athletic abilities that kept college coaches calling to offer football and track scholarships." He's popular and athletic, so he shouldn't be punished.

I suppose it comes from looking from two different perspectives. From a racial studies perspective, the problem is a racist court system striking out at a black man, from a more feminist perspective the problem is the public rallying around men, particularly attractive and athletic men, doing illegal things to girls.

#108 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 09:09 AM:

The facts in this case are complex, and you're right, Ursula, to treat them as complex, but I think you're muddying them. There are two sets of acts in question: Sex with two different girls, one of whom says she was raped, and one who says she was not.

I'm with you that, when a woman says, "I was raped," she should be treated just like someone who says, "My car was stolen." Each statement is rebuttable, but we still take them to be facts until further investigation proves them to be false.

On the other hand, if someone says, "My car wasn't stolen," I don't think there's any reason to believe it was. When a woman says, "I wasn't raped," we have little reason to believe she was raped. As you've pointed out, the context in which these acts took place lead us to question whether that second woman, who says "I wasn't raped," was capable of giving consent. Over time and out of that context, though, she has not changed that statement. I believe she's making an accurate statement.

I heard an appalling story on All Things Considered yesterday, about a mildly retarded woman with failing kidneys. She lives in a group home, but seems to lead a fairly regular life--job, boyfriend, bowling league.

When the giants of science at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center evaluated her for a kidney transplant, they turned her down, on the basis that she was unable to give informed consent. On appeal, they said they might consider giving her a transplant, if the was appointed a medical guardian, who could consent for her. The county agency which was asked to be her guardian turned her down, on the grounds that she was competent to make these decisions for herself.

So, while questioning the ability of someone to give consent in a particular situation is a useful exercise, we should also consider that questioning the ability to give consent can also be a means of denying a person's agency, even a person's humanity.

In the case of the woman in Oklahoma, she's being discriminated against in medical treatment because she's developmentally disabled. The pretext on which the discrimination is being justified is that she is incapable of giving consent. It wasn't that long ago that she'd've been denied the right to have a boyfriend, have sex, get married, or have a baby, on those same grounds. There comes a point where concern for consent becomes a pretext, a means of dehumanization.

#109 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 09:23 AM:

I live in Georgia.

Shall I leave in disgust, or stay here and vote?

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 10:29 AM:

Lila, I believe the consensus here is that you should stay and vote, and work to have the law changed to something sane.

Then if that doesn't work, you can leave in disgust. Or if you don't like Georgia for other reasons, you can add this to the "leave" side of your decision ledger.

#111 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:05 PM:

#105 Keir, if you read my posts upstream you'll see that I agree with you on this post.

As a second comment to your earlier post, by the time I graduated HS I buried 3 friends (and attended about 8 funerals). One was hit on his moped, the two others were drug related (1 car accident under the influence, the other as an OD). So teens have and are making decisions that have even greater ramifications than what is happening to this person.

#106 Clifton Royston, and you're framing your debate premised that the minimal facts presented are the only ones in this case (and are, in fact, unquestionable facts). I've meerly been pointing out that these "facts" may not be what everybody thinks they are (as another example, just what are "family values," because I think everybody has a different definition). And that the "logic" applied to people's sexual mores isn't very logical.

So, where is the line? If we all think that 15 year olds are fully aware and make this decision, do we think 14 years can? 13, 12, 11? Again, this isn't a "I was this way and could," or a "I think kids these days know more" question. This is where, as the larger tribe/society, do we draw a line? Or is the answer that we shouldn't have such arbitrary lines?

#112 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Steve,

I'll take the risk of giving an answer:

Sex and voting; 14
Driving and intoxicants that are neither toxic nor addictive: 18
Military enlistment and other intoxicants: 21

If you push me, I'd agree to raise the driving age to 21.

#113 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:49 PM:

adamsj #112: Basically agree, but non-toxic intoxicants? Unless you mean music or being in love (and it would be cruel to deny those to under-18s), even caffeine can kill you in sufficient dosage. [Imagine a grinning emoticon here, I do not know if they are allowed on makinglight.]

#114 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:51 PM:

#94, abi, They were unusually vulnerable to the sort of emotional blackmail that is common to the age, and - I think - could have used some additional protection.

From the description, it seems that they already had all the protection the law could give -- both child abuse and rape are commonly illegal -- and it failed them twice: first because they got hurt by lawbreakers, and second because they didn't get justice. Which is a horrible thing, but would better be fixed at the first illegal act than by enacting an unrelated and IMO overly broad law.

#115 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:00 PM:

inge,

When I think of "toxic", I mean fatal or permanently damaging in a dosage easily mistaken for a safely intoxicating dose. I'd include some of the psychedelics in that group, even though they aren't what you normally think of as toxic.

Would I deny caffeine to those under eighteen? That's a hard one. Let's talk about something simpler, like mandatory injectible birth control at thirteen instead. That should be just as required as vaccinations.

#116 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:03 PM:

#88 & #104, Steve Buchheit: what I haven't heard is how should we discourage this behavior without criminalizing it.

IMO the most helpful things we had as teens, but which are, it seems, not common in the US or do not reach those who need them most, were teenage magazines, which had fashion and music news, celebrity gossip and "true stories", as well as an agony aunt and a doctor answering questions on topics from school troubles to sex with equanimity and hammering home every week "understand what you want, consider consequences, know who you can trust and talk to them, educate yourself, use protection, be honest, hurt no one and do what is right for you." Which didn't probably do much to discourage anyone who really wanted to have sex from having it, but helped them to make informed decisions, and while it didn't prevent heartbreak, I guess it prevented a lot of stupidity.

Quite possibly being able to get the pill at no cost and without having to tell your parents didn't only help to reduce teenage pregnancies, but also ill-considered spontaneous sex, as a girl could always withdraw behind a "give me a few days to see a doctor" argument, and see if a few days later having sex with the boy still seemed like a good idea.


So 12 people, his "peers," who heard the whole case had to agree, without a doubt, that he coerced the girl or that she was unable to give consent (local morality).

Would the law have allowed for them to decide that the girl had given consent?


I know kids that I've been told are "very mature" make the stupidest decisions because they lack experience. Also, ask anybody whose purchased their first home just how prepared they were for it. [...] I know I can drive over the speed limit safely. [...] Should we repeal all the speed limit laws?

Without any additional legal or medical complications, ill-considered driving can kill you and a whole bunch of innocent bystanders. Ill-considered debt can have you live the rest of your life in poverty. Ill-considered sex, unless you forego birth control, can lead to heartbreak, shouting matches, or the most embarrassing moment of your life.

I know, YMMV, and most teenagers feel they'd rather be dead than embarrassed, but that does not look like equal-impact consequences to me in the long run.

(Hm, I just thought of a scenario with bad and lasting consequences, but it's bizarre.)


in some Asian cultures the second daughter is charged with making money for the family. [...] Many of these daughters wind up as either virtual slaves (sold by the family), work in the "sweat shops," or work in the sex trade.

Slavery is hardly an issue of age or consent. Without choice, consent is meaningless. I'm all for laws protecting a person's right to choose. However, a law that makes it impossible for a teen to tell anyone she's having sex unless she wants her boyfriend jailed doesn't exactly do that.

#117 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:24 PM:

I'm for not having arbitrary lines. I'm very much in favor of the Romeo & Juliet laws that distinguish between adult/youth and peer/peer activities.

In my own opinion, I'd make twelve-and-under criminal in ALL cases, because I don't think even a physically adult twelve-year-old has the emotional experience to handle that sort of choice, and even another teen should stay clear.

Thirteen and fourteen are very dicey in my head. I know I wasn't ready to deal with full adult sexuality then, but I knew that at the time, and set my own limits. I'd come down on the side of better enforcing standard rape laws , those cases, and making it possible for a teen to discuss his or her experiences with an adult and be believed and taken seriously if there was a problem, rather than send a couple of fourteen-year-olds to jail or permanently marking them as sex offenders for an action they both believed at the time was consensual.

Fifteen and up -- DEFINITELY Romeo and Juliet laws, to protect them from predatory adults, but allow them their own experimentation. And making the standard laws on rape function better, where the act of laying a charge is pretty much evidence in itself that there wasn't consent.

And, as Dave Luckett says, no mandatory minimum sentencing, to give the judges leeway to judge each case as it comes before them, based on the people involved. Because this is definitely something where there's a lot of variation.

There's never going to be any way to entirely prevent situations of "I was a child. I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it." "You knew what you were doing."

But there's got to be a better way to handle it than the case in the original post.

#118 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:39 PM:

#115 adamsj: Mandatory injectable birth control at 13 would have sent me to the mental hospital, and possibly left me dead from suicide. I react VERY poorly to high doses of progesterone, and I'm not the only one out there.

If the no-side-effects-100%-reversible implants so often postulated in SF utopias existed, I'd be right there with you.

I'd propose really USEFUL sex education at that age or slightly younger, the kind I got from an activist peer at college age. I will NEVER forget blue-haired Drew opening a standard-sized condom and unrolling it over his fist and halfway down his forearm, while saying, "And if anyone tries to tell you he's too big for 'em, honey, you remember THIS." And the applause and whistles that followed.

Now THAT's sex education.

#119 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 02:57 PM:

#116 inge, "Ill-considered sex, unless you forego birth control, can lead to heartbreak, shouting matches, or the most embarrassing moment of your life."

You may think I'm going to make an AIDS case here, but I'm going to make a much worse scenario. It's called hepatitus C, it's an STD (blood to blood transfer). More people are infected with Hep C every year than AIDS. And it has serious consequences, so do other STDs (which at the last reports I saw, were still on the rise, but it's been at least three years since I've looked for that data) when they are left untreated.

Then there is also HPV and the associated bruhaha over the immunization plan.

So, yeah, sex education is very, sorely lacking in the US (for both kids and adults).

Also, my point about speed limit laws is I know I can drive safely above the speed limit. Or to make an slightly different analogy, many of my friends who ride motorcycles have stopped. Not because they feel they are unsafe, but because they don't trust everybody else to be as aware as they are on the road.

#117 Rikibeth, all things being equal, I'd agree.

#120 ::: janet ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2007, 11:30 AM:

why do adults always underestimate teens.
so adults can go out and get wasted and have it with different men every night but when two teens who consent to it have it they get in trouble.excuse me but how is that fair???
15 year olds are perfectly able to make there own decisions, they learn plenty about it at school and if they know the law then its up to them if they want to take the risk or not.
I dont think its right to give him 10 years because the punishment wont last 10 years it will last a lifetime.

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