By Ella Rucker:
A really scary thing is happening to some teens. According to this article, eighteen year olds are going to jail for dating their younger classmates. Ok. Ok. They are doing a little more than dating them, they are having consensual sex with them, and the punishment for this act is going to jail for statutory rape and afterwards being labeled and monitored as sex offenders. This has caused the parents of these kids and their supporters to fight against the sex offender laws. All fifty states have some form of advocacy group fighting these laws.
The “criminals” in these cases are the eighteen and nineteen year olds in high schools who just happen to date the younger students; students who just the previous year were not an illegal option simply due to the fact the seniors were a year younger.
We all have our experiences with this, no? I personally had a two month span of time in my life where my future ex-husband was an “adult” and I was not. This, of course, was when my father found out I was, um, to put it delicately, celebrating my birthday early. Mayhem ensued and threats were made. They were just threats and I doubt two months would have made a difference anyway, but would it? According to the article it should matter because the law is the law. If you are an adult having sex with a minor you should be punished. Case closed.
But don’t these young people all follow the same rules in these schools? Don’t they all have to be in class on time, turn in homework, address the adults with respect? And what about those minors who happen to be above the curve? Some children graduate at seventeen which means they’ve been in school for years with an older peer group. What happens when they start dating a classmate? Should they have to wait one or two years just because they have the maturity to matriculate with the upper classmen, but are legally precluded from making a hopefully mature and well thought out decision to have a physical relationship?
Oh, and let’s not forget to address the scantily clad elephant in the room. The kids LOOK older these days. They are dressing sexier in hopes of catching the older boys’ eyes (or just to be more grown up, or to give their parents small heart attacks. Reasons vary) so how are these young men supposed to restrain themselves? Is it right for these kids to have to carry the label of sex offender for the rest of their lives when what they’ve done is exercise poor judgement? Or are they in fact wrong and should not start or continue a relationship with a minor once they are a legal adult?
And what of the parents’ responsibility? Should they be culpable for any of this? They know the laws and they should know who their kids are dating. So why aren’t they stopping any of this? As if a parent can, right? Momma Syler restricted teenager Rene to dating boys only one class older, but we all know that only works until she turns seventeen, and after that her eighteen year old paramour would have been in a legal mess assuming Rene, the wallflower (her words not mine!), made the decision to turn the relationship into a physical one.
My groggy, 8:00 am take on this is if the kid doesn’t have a high school degree he can date high schoolers, and once you graduate, hands off, Buddy. But as I see it that would just lead to a bunch of forty year old men with no high school degrees. What do you think the solution is? Should these kids just learn their first adult lesson and obey the law? I can’t wait to see your responses so let’s get this debate underway!
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