The Musings of

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four-feet-ten in one sock.

Lately, I've had sex on the brain. Specifically, I've been thinking a lot about statutory rape (among other things). No, I haven't been contemplating committing said act, the thoughts were actually spurred by an interesting article published recently in the , thanks to recent articles I've read in the Dallas Observer.

I know you're busy, what with your social schedule and all, so I'll try to sum the thing up for you. The piece on the inequities within the statutory rape law here in Texas. The article's poster child was a guy who was prosecuted for statutory rape pretty much because his girlfriend missed her curfew one night. He was 19 at the time, and his girlfriend was 16. They'd been dating for two years, and had been having sex for half that time (well, actually, I think they had been "sexually active" for about a year -- having sex 50% of the time seems a bit excessive even for teenagers). One night they were out too late, and the girl's mother, in a fit of thoughtless anger, marched down to the police station and filed charges against the guy the next morning. To her credit, she did try to stop the case from going forward once her anger subsided, but by that time it was a state matter.

As the article notes, the law in Texas defines statutory rape as sex (or a sex-type act, I mean, what "is" sex? Really?) between anyone over 18 with anyone under 18 who is more than 36 months younger. (Oh, and according to the act, you can't expose your "anus" to a "child" either, so you may want to verify a recipient's age before you let them bask in the glow of your moonlight).

Anyway, since the guy's girlfriend was over the 36-month mark, he was, in layman's terms, toast. As in most states, here statutory rape is a strict liability crime -- for you lucky non-lawyer types, that means that if you had sex you're guilty. It doesn't matter whether she (or he, of course) told you she was 35, or that you met her in a bar, or that she begged you to play hide the sausage. If you "do it like they do on the Discovery Channel," the next sex you see will be face down on a prison bunk.

The guy in the article eventually pled to lesser charges to avoid jail, but he was forced to stay away from his girlfriend until she turned 17, to seek professional counseling, and to register as a sex offender. While most sex offender laws require the guilty party to register as a sex offender for 10 years, in Texas it's for life.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. When the "victim" turned 17, she moved in with him, they got married, and now, 10 years later, they are still together and have three kids . . . and he will always be a sex offender.

According to the article, only 5-10% of sex offenders are "predatory." Many of the rest are guys who picked up a girl at a party and had sex with her only to find out later that the "18-year old" was really 14. Even sexual assault prevention groups feel that the current law goes to far, but they can't do anything about it because no legislator wants to be seen as pro-rape. So there you have it -- an extraordinary view of the limitations inherent in the system. It's wrong; it's easy to fix; and no one can do a damn thing about it.

I'm sure most every guy out there has a story of a friend or acquaintance who has committed statutory rape. For example, he summer after college, I spent a lot of time over at a friend's apartment complex hanging out. One slow weekday, he, his roommate, and I were hanging out at the complex's secondary pool, when this nubile, Lolita-wannabe joined us. She was as subtle as starting a chainsaw in a library, and couldn't have been more obvious if she was riding the pool ladder. She told us that she had just moved from out of town to live with her uncle and aunt, because her parents were going through a rough patch and, boy, was she bored. She wondered aloud if there was anyone who wanted to hang out with her. Of course, it took about 10 seconds to get her to admit that she was 15. Crisis averted.

Of course, that didn't stop my friend's roommate from rounding her up as soon as he had a day alone. It's probably appropriate that he became a cop.

My fondest memory of this sort took place in college. One of the groupies at my fraternity brought her sister her sister's friend to a party one night. Both girls were attractive, tall, well-built, and well dressed. I would have guessed them to be at least 18. Wrong. Turns out they were 14. I was against letting them stay (we could have lost our charter), but no one else seemed to care (we had an elaborate warning system if the cops or anyone else showed up), so they stayed. I spent much of the evening warning brothers, pledges, etc. to not even have impure thoughts around the girls. Anyway, the friend finally begins challenging people to drinking contests, so I cut her off. Then I spent most of the rest of the night explaining to guys why this "hot brunette chick" told them I was gay.

Fortunately, the sister turned out to be much more mature than her friend. When I discussed the situation with her, she understood the fraternity's problem and was very gracious. I was impressed and knew I wouldn't have to worry about her doing anything stupid. I found out that three weeks later she came back to visit her sister and had sex with a 20-year old who I had specifically warned that night.

What amazes me when I look back on it was how mature the girls seemed (both physically, one emotionally). I have to set that aside and remember that they were in the 8th grade at the time. I remember considering this and thinking that it was disturbing that anyone could have sex with someone 7 years younger than they were (I was 21 at the time). Now I find it mildly ironic that, at the time, my wife was the same age at these girls.

All this said (translation: "please overlook my lack of organization"), I'm not so sold on Texas's statutory rape law. I know that the logic behind it is that girls need to be protected and that a bright-line law is necessary. The justification for the law is that children cannot rationally consent to sex. Then why doesn't the statute cover anyone who has sex with a minor? The answer usually given to that is that older men use their wiles (translation: "alcohol") to trick young virgins into their boudoir. I'm sure there is some truth to this -- we do need laws to stop true sexual predators -- but I wonder if it's not blowing things out of proportion. To assume that most 16-year old girls don't know exactly what they are doing when they have sex with 20-something guys is laughable, and yet we will still throw the guy to the sharks for doing the deed.

I don't like the problem, but I don't think there's an answer.

Addendum: R. Alex makes a good point in the comments regarding the threat of a statutory rape charge by parents as a means to force their daughters to have abortions. As the article noted, it can also be used against the "rapist" to ensure he does the right thing by his pregnant "victim." Despite the apparent unfairness, I can see a logical reason for allowing parents to decide whether or not to press charges. In Texas, parents can consent to marriage for children as young as 14. As the statutory rape law has an exception for sex with your spouse, the transitive property tells us that parent can therefore consent to a Jack Nicholson sexing-up their junior-high age daughter, as long as there's a marriage license involved. If that's the case, I don't see logically (not legally, mind you) why they couldn't consent to the statutory rape of their child after the fact (as long as the child was at least 14 and didn't object to Jack's ardent affections).
Centinel 11:27 AM #


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