Friday, July 11, 2008

Polanski, age of consent & 'gray areas'

At Slate, Juliet Lapidos discusses the Roman Polanski case and statutory rape laws:
This particular case is likely just plain wrong and out of the gray area . . . but in general I find myself saying, "yeah, but..." when it comes to the age of consent. 13 is young. No doubt about it. But 18 strikes me as a little old if we're talking about the youngest age at which someone can say yes and mean yes. Isn't it just a little condescending? . . .
I entered into a relationship with an older man when I was 18. I knew what I was doing, and frankly, I would have known what I was doing at 17 or at 16.
(Via Instapundit.) When I was a teenager in Georgia, the age of consent was 14 (i.e., statutory rape was a crime involving someone 13 or younger), yet other laws tended to extend the umbrella of legal protection to those under 18. Involvement with a minor could be prosecuted under "contributing to the deliquency of a minor" or similar laws. But it was the '70s, and law enforcement was not particularly zealous about discouraging teenage sex. The boyfriends of teenage girls had more to fear from angry parents than from the law.

Since then, Georgia attempted to make its laws more stringent, so that sex with anyone 15 years or younger could be prosecuted as a felony, resulting in the Marcus Dixon case that gained nationwide attention.

Juliet Lapidos' concern about criminalization of the consensual affairs of 16- and 17-year-olds is misplaced. The age of consent varies from state to state, but in few states is it as high as 18.

Anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that American teenagers are not suffering from excessive sexual repression. Thus, to fret that the threat of statutory rape prosecution might have a "chilling effect" on youthful romance is to worry about a non-existent problem. If you want to worry about a real problem, worry about the pandemic of sexually-transmitted disease among our unrepressed adolescents.

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