The answer really is probably simply “by better equipping teenagers to make good decisions by giving them real useful sex education,” but let’s put more words to it.
I came across this article via a friend on Facebook and while it is good in it’s own right, I want to use it as a jumping off point to talk about Statutory Rape laws in this country. I talk about this a lot because Sex Offender laws are terrible and no one seems to want to think any harder about the subject than “child molesters are bad.” Which is true, but not all who fall under the legal definition of ‘child molester’ are created equal.
I’m not here to debate that there’s something wrong with a 49 year old having sex with a 14 year old. There is, and the law should have worked better here and didn’t.
But no one can agree on an acceptable age at which one can consent, which makes such laws arbitrary bullshit. And many states haven’t gotten specific enough to excuse someone one day over the age of consent having sex with someone one day under. What we’re left with is a ‘solution’ that, while better than nothing, is still very bad.
The thing is though that you can’t put a number on when someone is mentally capable of consenting to sex. There are those that lose their virginity at the age of 14 and suffer no ill effects, and those that do at the age of 20 and wind up being complete train wrecks. Instituting laws that say don’t do it until you’re 16, 17, 18 is a dumb way to encourage teens to make sure they’re mentally and emotionally ready for sex. It’s almost as if lawmakers came to an agreement that taking advantage of children is a bad thing, but only wanted to do the bare minimum in terms of stopping it.
I hate when stories like this break. I hate them for the damage wrought upon the kids involved and their families, and I hate them for stirring up public ire for an issue that not many people understand very well. Sure that ‘child molester’ on a sex offender registry might be a creepy fifty year old who manipulated a young teenager into having sex. Or it might be someone who had consensual sex with a partner one or two years their junior when they were a teenager. Or it might be someone who was registered when they were 11 for doing something they probably didn’t understand very well at the time.
Or that fifty year old could be one of the above, but since many registries only give the current age of the offender and the dated age of the victim, it’s impossible to tell. A forty-five year old man having inappropriate relations with a 16 year old looks a lot different when you find out the crime was committed in 1986.
Specific outrage is good. The case cited in the first link is outrageous, but let’s approach this issue with nuance please?