DISCLAIMER: This blog was meant to be a writing exercise for me. Find a topic that I have an opinion on, and attempt to write a contrarian, or outside the box, point of view. Although the topic is one that will garner few supporters, if any, it’s important to know that although I may be making some good points, and I do believe I make a fair argument, I am not trying to say that I support it. I can only say that the critical thinking side of my brain wrote this blog, and the father of a daughter side of my brain has a hard time agreeing with it. If you choose to comment at the end, I would appreciate it if you would re-read this disclaimer first, and then proceed with some intelligent feedback, and not knee-jerk reactions. In other words, I understand that it may upset you, especially if you have personal experience to draw from, but as I am a firm believer that no topic should be above debate, I ask that you be respectful in your objections. Thank you.
I saw a story today about a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader who was found guilty of having sex with a minor, a 15 year old boy, and was sentenced to go to prison every weekend for two years, while remaining free Monday through Friday. As I read the comment thread that followed the article, most remarked that it was ridiculous that she got off so easy, because if the roles were reversed, and it was a grown man who had sex with a 15 year old girl, he would most definitely be going to jail, be forever listed as a sex offender, and would pretty much be despised by every person on Earth. Does that pretty much sum it up?
Well, I’m not so sure I believe that that’s the way it should be. I think maybe it’s time that we take a step back and stop trying to convince ourselves that we should view a grown woman having sex with a 15 year old boy, the same way we view a grown man having sex with a 15 year old girl. Maybe what we need to start doing, and I know this one is going to hurt, is start viewing a grown man having sex with a 15 year old girl, the way we ‘actually’ view a grown woman having sex with a 15 year old boy. Which is to say, not nearly as big a deal. Let that sink in for a second.
Let me just be clear that my comments are in no way meant to endorse the idea of adults having sex with minors, but I think it’s important that we understand I am talking about a 15 year old high school student, NOT a 7 year old child. Obviously, there is a big difference between those two ages. Additionally, I believe we need to stop throwing the words rape, sexual assault, and sexual predator around so casually, when this topic comes up. Consensual sex between a 15 year old and a 35 year old is not rape or sexual assault. It’s sex with a minor. PERIOD! Rape and sexual assault are terms that should only be used in instances in which one person is not a willing participant. We always talk about the words that the media uses to describe someone or something, or the way the wording in a law is, and how those words can truly shift a person’s opinion about the subject being talked about. These words and terms that are used in cases that involve sex with a minor are merely used to make that person sound more evil and more awful. We hear the word rape or sexual assault of a minor, and we immediately imagine a person holding a little child down, ripping off their clothes, and forcibly having sex with them, when in fact, in a case like the Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, this 15 year old boy was all in for having sex with this woman. No reservations whatsoever. Oh, and I don’t want to hear about how he, or any 15 year old, is too young to make that choice. If he can hold down a job, choose the classes he wants to study, and is a year away from driving a car, then he can make this decision, so get over it. Anyway, no matter how much outrage people want to pretend to have about the fact that she’s not being treated the same way a man would be in the same situation, it’s because we don’t for a second think that this woman held this boy down and ripped his clothes off and forced him to have sex with her. Yet the second the roles are reversed, that’s exactly what we want to believe, even if it isn’t the case. The reason why is quite simple. Conditioning.
Our whole lives we have heard stories of real rapists doing awful things to women. Everything about the act is heinous. Whenever we hear the word rape, or sexual assault, we immediately cringe because of the images that word conjures up in our head. As a result, we are unable to differentiate, in our minds, statutory rape vs. forcible rape. No matter what, we believe that the 15 year old girl did not give her consent, and the grown man is the devil, which of course makes us want to punish him as harshly as possible. However, when it’s the other way around, we only ‘act’ like the woman deserves the same treatment as the man, but deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, we all know we do not view her, or the 15 year old boy, the same way. You may still find it gross. You may still find it wrong, but the majority of us are only lying to ourselves if we try to convince anyone that we are as emotionally impacted by 15 year old Johnny “getting lucky” with an older woman, as we are about 15 year old Tiffany being “taken advantage” of by an older man.
I also find it highly disingenuous the idea that somehow 15 year old Tiffany has a much more fragile mind, and is much more easily manipulated than 15 year old Johnny. A thought process that completely flies in the face of everything we know as it relates to girls being more mature at an earlier age than boys. Nonetheless in the case of sex, the exact opposite is what we believe. Johnny is just being a horny boy, but Tiffany now needs to be treated like a toddler, and therefore the man she had sex with has to be a scumbag, sexual predator, rapist who needs to go to jail for a decade? I’m not so sure. I mean, I have a daughter, and believe me I would not be happy if my 15 year old girl had sex with a 40 year old man. Clearly I would have some serious words with this gentleman, but I’m not so sure that I believe that man deserves to go to jail just because he deflowered my daughter. Call me delusional all you want, but I’m just not one of those people who wants to see the worst thing happen to someone just because they wronged me, or did something I didn’t agree with, especially when I know for damn sure that my opinion would be far different if my 15 year old son had sex with a 40 year old woman.
In this country, more than any other 1st world country, we are so uptight about any and all things related to sex, that it borders on ridiculousness. It infiltrates every single part of our daily life, and in the case of adults having sex with minors, it has gotten way out of control. I’m not saying that I believe an adult who has sex with a minor doesn’t deserve some form of punishment. However, I believe if a child is 15 years or older, and both parties are complicit, then it should be treated like a misdemeanor, no matter how old the adult is. Nobody should be going to jail over it. Give the adult a year probation and 40 hours of community service and call it a day. If he or she is a repeat offender, then you can start throwing around words like sexual predator. In the meantime, we need to stop treating sex like it so taboo. Sex is sex. You may be pissed off if a classmate has sex with your daughter or son, but your damn sure enough not going to try to act like they belong in jail because of it. Once a child reaches high school, and decides they want to have sex, why should it really make any difference how old the person they have it with is? I know it kinda does (conundrum), but to me it doesn’t matter so much to the point that the person deserves to go to jail, be labeled a pedophile, and have to be a registered sex offender for the rest of their life. I think what is more realistic is that we stop thinking that every 15 year old is only being “taken advantage” of, if the person they have sex with is an adult. The truth is, your teenagers are horny, and if they want it, they’re going to get it. The only outrage should be if they were forced to do it.
In the end, all I’m saying is that maybe we need to rethink the way we view sex with a minor, and stop vilifying a grown man who has sex with a willing young woman. I say young woman because that’s exactly what we call our 15 year old daughters right up until a man has sex with her, and then we want to turn her into a 6 year old again. We’re all being hypocrites, because some of these people do not deserve to have their lives ruined forever over sex. We all know who the real sex offenders are, who are messing around with middle school aged boys and girls. Those people are sick and deserve whatever punishment they get, but this other issue is a little over the top, and needs to stop being treated as such a heinous crime. It’s just sex.
2 thoughts on “Don’t Kill The Messenger”
Having once been a 15 year old girl in pursuit of a 26 year old man, this speaks to me. To his credit, he wouldn’t… but he wanted to! And if he did, he would have been labeled a criminal, but the only actual sexual predator in that scenario was ME! So I am with you on this one!!
I know that I am a “bad feminist” for believing what you say is true but it is true. Equality is equality. Though I don’t have any attraction to teenagers, I know that I was complicit in the relationships I had with men much older than me when I was one. I wasn’t taken advantage of, it wasn’t rape, and what you’re saying is true. And the crap that is being written about Bowie is unfair. Did he card her? Would he have even thought about that in the seventies? Is she complaining? No on all counts.