Aug. 3rd, 2009

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
First of all, I want to make absolutely, explicitly clear at the beginning that I am in no way condoning sex abuse, child molestation or non-consentual sexual acts. I am speaking ONLY of the system of justice and punishment that deals with actions and activities regarding people's genitalia.

I have a BIG problem with the way laws dealing with sexuality and genitalia are written in this country. In people's non-logical, emotionally-driven absolute terror when it comes to anything related to sex, to say that we go overboard on protection laws is an understatement.

I wrote once before about how people were so freaked out about sex offenders living in the same neighborhood as their children that they increased the prohibitions to such an extent that they increased the homelessness problem by something like 800%, thereby actually making these sex offenders more difficult to track and monitor and more desperate, which significantly increases the likelihood of lawlessness.

Then there's the fact that pretty much everything dealing with penises gets labeled as a "sex offense", with very little distinction between "indecent exposure", consensual sex between minors, violent rape and child molestation.

For instance, in this article, a man has finally been pardoned, after 15 years, from his sex offense crime.  This is 15 years too long, IMO.

A 19-year old kid (yes, a kid, in the grand scheme of things) fell in love with a 14-year old girl.  I'll be honest and say I don't think very highly of a 19-year old who believes he has enough in common with a 14-year old, and that they have a similar level of emotional maturity, to call it "love".  But the fact of the matter is that 19 and 14 is not such a large difference that having sex with her should result in him spending the rest of his life labeled as a "sex offender".  XKCD provided a formula to determine a minimum age for any given person that I happen to think is a pretty good guideline*.  

And the reason I think that he should not spend his life labeled as a sex offender is because being labeled as a sex offender means that this 19-year old kid with poor judgement will spend the rest of his life suffering for a mistake he made as a kid - and a mistake that did not leave behind any victims.

The girl was consenting (yes, I realize some people will debate how "consentual" it can be when the person is not a legal adult - the point was she wanted it) and biologically old enough to have sex.  He didn't coerce her, he didn't violate her, he didn't abuse her, he didn't beat her, he didn't steal from her.  He dated her.

And they got married.

And had 4 kids.

And because he had the misfortune (or the stupidity) to fall for a girl who was 5 years younger than he was, he has been unable to hold a job or provide for his WIFE (y'know the "victim") and KIDS for 15 FUCKING YEARS.

Now, again, I realize there are people who will debate whether or not she was victimized because of her age.  And I agree that we should take extreme caution when analyzing the mental and emotional fitness of young teenagers when it comes to sex, particularly with sex and older partners.

But I was 14 once.  And anyone who thinks that I was a "victim" to any of my partners at that age doesn't know me very well.

I gave my first blow job at age 12.  I lost my virginity at age 15.  One could say I was "precocious" if one tended towards the understated.

When I was about 14 and a half, I decided it was time for me to lose my virginity.  So I very deliberately set out to find a person for this function.  The point was to not be a virgin, not to find a boyfriend or have a romantic adventure.  I wanted to know what the big deal was.  I had already been making out with guys, so what was so epic about the act of penetration that it was to be held so far high above all other acts?

I decided upon a particular guy I knew.  He was 17 or 18 and he seemed much less antagonistic towards me than the other guys in the neighborhood.  He stood up for me when they picked on me and he seemed to enjoy talking to me.  So I began flirting.  He seemed to flirt back, and in short order, we began candidly discussing whether or not to begin a sexual relationship.  We had not yet kissed at this point.  He actually began to plan with me how to help me lose my virginity (it had to be planned - we both lived with our parents).

But then, before the date happened, he suddenly began acting elusive and awkward around me.  Finally, he confessed that he was uncomfortable with the idea of being someone's "first".

So I set out to find another person to take my virginity.

A couple of months later, my best friend's older sister's boyfriend began spending more time at the pool where I worked (he lived in the neighborhood but didn't work at the pool like everyone else in this story did).  He was 19 and kind of cute, but I didn't really know him very well.  I realized that he started to spend time chatting with me when I was on duty.  Throughout the conversations, I learned that he and his girlfriend (my best friend's sister) had one of those rocky relationships that break up every time they fight.  Even at the time, I never understood those kinds of relationships, but whatever, he wasn't *my* boyfriend.

So, I come to find out that he's throwing a Fourth of July party and he invites me to come.  He pointedly mentions that his girlfriend won't be there.

So I went.  Most of the party was pretty boring for me - a lot of his relatives that I didn't know, food I didn't like.  I have a very vague memory of fireworks and a roof, but I can't be certain that has anything to do with this party.  Eventually, though, the party wound down and I found myself alone with him in his kitchen.  

Suddenly, he starts flirting with me.  Then, from out of nowhere, he picks me up by the waist and sets me on the countertop, stands between my legs and starts kissing me.

So I kiss him back.  We begin making out, but when it seemed like it was going further than just making out, I stopped him and explained that I was a virgin.  He pulled back, and there was a bit of awkwardness, and after a while, I went home.  But I thought a lot about what had happened.  Somewhere in all of this, I learned that he and his girlfriend had broken up, yet again, and that he had signed up for the military.  He was scheduled to leave for boot camp later that month.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me.  I wasn't all that attracted to him, but he was nice enough-looking.  But the important thing was that he was leaving soon, and the most important criteria for me in finding someone to lose my virginity to was a person I could trust not to blab to all the other guys in the neighborhood.  I decided that I would approach him with the idea of sex.

So, a handful of days before he was scheduled to leave for boot camp, he calls me up to ask if we could get together before he leaves.  So I go to his house, and we hang out for a few minutes, but pretty quickly, we're making out.  I honestly can't remember who started what, but I know that I went over there with the intention of having sex with him.

He takes me into his room and we end up having sex.  It was not good.  It was painful and quiet and not a lot of time was spent getting to know each other physically so I wasn't really all that aroused.  But I definitely wanted to have sex and I set out for the express purpose of having it.  I was 15 and a half, to the day.

Should he have been punished for the rest of his life for this?  Should his decision to have sex with a 15-year old girl who very clearly and consciously decided to have sex result in him being refused housing or losing jobs for the rest of his life?

I don't think so, and I don't think the guy in the article should have either.  She might or might not have been as deliberate as I was, but she obviously didn't mind so much, seeing as how she married him 4 years later and had 4 kids with him, and remained married to him for 9 years with no indication that it will end in the forseeable future.

I have no problem with making a blanket statement of no sexual activity prior to puberty, regardless of the "victim's" "consent", because the body just can't physically handle the act of sex prior to puberty.  And I have no problem with making blanket statements of no sexual activity without consent regardless of the age of anyone involved.  But past that, I do have a problem with making blanket laws that do not take into account individual circumstances, with making punishments fit on a chart that a judge does not have to actually "judge" but just move his finger down the side to find the guilty sentence and across to find the punishment that goes with it, and with making laws at all prohibiting consentual sexual acts.

Maybe we can have a suggested age guideline for what determines "consentual", since we have age barriers for giving informed consent to legal documents, but I think each case needs to be investigated individually.  

A 13-year old girl who is given to her 45 year old uncle as a bride with no choice in the matter benefits from an age of consent law.  A 16-year old girl who voluntarily (and joyfully) gives an 18-year old boy she knows a blowjob at a party does not.  These cases should not be treated equally.  

A man who physically assaults a woman, beats and rapes her, should not have the same repurcussions  with regards to life-long consequences in job and housing availability as a man who is driving through the middle of nowhere and stops to take a leak on the side of the road while his 2-year old child sleeps in the carseat a few feet away.  These men should not be treated equally.

And people who have served their time and have been released by the state without any notes in their file that their rehabilitation is not complete should not continue to be punished by lack of housing and job opportunities because of prejudice for past mistakes.  If a person is considered to be still a danger to the community, then they shouldn't be let back into it at all.  If he has served his time, if he expresses regret, if he is not a repeat offender, and if his "crime" did not leave behind any victims, then he should not continue to be punished by registering as a sex offender, having his home address listed publicly, by restricting his job and housing opportunities, and being reviled and shunned for a past mistake.  But apparently, when it comes to sex, you are guilty until proven innocent, and you are never innocent.



*It's (your age) / 2 + 7 and I would like to tack on 2 qualifiers because it doesn't work well for very young or very old.  If the resulting age gap is enough for the older person to have parented the younger person, then the minimum age should be re-examined, in particular for what stage of life each person is in.  Personally, I don't see anything wrong with someone who is 70 dating someone who is 50 - at that point, they're both in similar life *stages*, whereas a 16 year old and a 36 year old are clearly in differen tlife stages and the parental age gap is more apparent.  

The second qualifier is that the formula doesn't work for anyone 14 or under, so I would just say 2 years in either direction for age 14 and younger to be "dating" is acceptable.  At any rate, 19 and 14 is outside of the acceptability with this formula, but I wouldn't say it's "disgustingly" outside.  I would say that 19 and 14 are not the same life *stage*, so I would question someone's interest and maturity level with this particular age gap, but I don't think it's a clear-cut case of abuse or rape.  Just questionable maturity.

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