There is something seriously wrong with the laws governing sex offenders in the States. I’ve read yet another article about a young man trying to be a responsible member of society, but being blocked at every turn due to his status as a sex offender. His crime? Having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 17.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think that makes him a criminal. I think that makes him a young adult who is being punished for expressing his attraction to and affection for his partner in the way he is biologically inclined to do. And, just for the record, I would apply the same definition to his girlfriend. But of course, his girlfriend is not being punished, because she happened to be the younger half of the couple, a few months shy of adult-hood in the eyes of the law.
Now I understand that age of consent laws are meant to protect not only young children, but pre-teens who might not make the best choices. And if the young man in this case had been 37-years-old, let’s say, rather than 17, I might think that his motives were a tad suspicious. But in this case, the “perpetrator” is almost as much of a kid as the “victim,” with the same good-choice-making disability of the average teenager. And while the girl might have suffered some discipline as the hands of her parents, he will have to live at least the next 10 years of his life with the close surveillance, restricted movement and prejudice that are the lot of more deserving pedophiles and rapists.
It just strikes me as a symptom of the larger problem of sex-negativity in the States. Our social mores rarely have any relation to the reality of human sexuality and the old-fashioned ideas that monogamy is easy, the female virtue must be protected, and that male prowess should be rewarded are still hanging around. Every time I read a story like the one above, I wonder how much money (and suffering) Americans would save themselves if they could just speak honestly, openly and scientifically about sex. (I’m looking at you, abstinence-only education.) It’s OK to be conservative about sex-related issues. It’s not OK to be ignorant.