"I am absolutely disgusted with statutory rape laws ..." Readers respond to Corrie Pikul's piece on Virginia's ads.

Published July 30, 2004 12:50PM (EDT)

[Read "Isn't She a Little Young?" by Corrie Pikul.]

Whereas I am, of course, in favor of eliminating sexual coercion, it always concerns me when simple age is cited as an indication of coercion. When I was 22, I had a girlfriend who was 17. I did not instigate this relationship; she pursued me. Moreover, there was nothing aside from the technical illegality of it that was out of the ordinary at all. It was a normal long-term (two years) dating relationship, with all the quarrels, cuddling, and nights out with mutual friends as any "legal" relationship. However, the fact that I could be charged with statutory rape (despite my knowing that I probably would never be) haunted me for a year.

The way statutory rape law is written, it requires no complaint to begin investigation or to charge the older partner. The younger partner can be fine with it; his/her parents can be fine with it. But if the state gets wind of it, whether anyone directly involved with these people agrees or not, the older partner can be charged.

In a country where many people are sexually active from their early teens (and are so by personal choice), it seems an incredible invasion of privacy to tell them they have no right to engage in physical activity with whomever they choose -- as though their bodies were not their own. While I will readily agree that teenagers lack the decision-making skills that (some) more mature people possess, I am wholeheartedly against the state telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

As much as we would like to, it is impossible to regulate people's choices, especially in the psychologically powerful and powerfully confusing realm of sex. If we have the parents of a minor or a minor him/herself complaining about untoward sexual advances from an older person, then we must respond. But otherwise, the state should stay out of people's lives and let them do as they will. Laws exist to keep the peace, not dictate morality.

Finally, my fiancée is seven years my senior. If we had started our relationship while I was in high school, she would have been in violation of these laws. Even against my expressed wishes, she could have been charged.

And the thought of that really pisses me off.

-- Aaron Batty

It's about time someone, someplace asks men to be responsible for their criminal behavior. Sex with underage girls is a crime! Paternity tests should be done to identify the criminal so that they can be prosecuted, sentenced to jail time, and required to pay child support when they get out of jail.

If you want to decrease teenage pregnancies, start by not allowing children (teens) to pretend to be responsible for other children (babies). If you are too young to sign a legal contract, you are too young to decide what is best for a baby.

Children having and raising children is just nuts!

-- Marlene Bundy

I am absolutely disgusted with statutory rape laws, and I have been since shortly after puberty. People will have sex when they want to have sex, with the people they want to have sex with. Stigmatizing this and adding artificial dangers and consequences can only cause damage.

Certainly, there are natural dangers and consequences, and it's absolutely true that younger people (regardless of gender) have less experience to base their decisions on. But how exactly are they supposed to get that experience? We don't want them to experiment on their own, and for that matter these days we refuse to tell them much other than "don't have sex" in so-called sex education classes. In fact, due to the "protective" statutory laws, more often than not someone in high school loses their virginity to someone else in high school, meaning both of them are equally inexperienced and uneducated. This strikes me as making accidents and consequences more likely, not less.

I have, at various points in my life, spent pleasant and intimate time with people almost twice my age, and with people almost half my age. Nobody involved felt that there was anything particularly wrong with the situation, either at the time or after the fact. No sex was had, though ... because of the fear of someone finding out, reporting it, and I or my partner (depending on exactly when this was) spending time in jail.

Rape is rape. If sex is non-consensual, a crime has been committed, regardless of the victim's age. But consensual sex is not rape. If we're worried that younger people are consenting when they probably shouldn't, maybe we should try giving them better tools to make their decisions with, instead of pretending their consent is meaningless.

-- Lief Clennon

So Dr. Rev. Darius Beechum "questions the heavy focus on male responsibility" when it comes to sexual relationships between adults and minors? Please. How about adult responsibility? How about the fact that these girls are children? It is the adult's responsibility to ensure that he or she is not choosing a child as a sexual partner. And, it just so happens that, most of time, it is men having sex with young girls, not women having sex with young boys. So, yes, it is the adult male's responsibility to ensure that he isn't bedding a 14-year-old girl. And if Dr. Rev. Darius Beechum is spreading the attitude that these young girls are essentially "asking for it" by dressing the way our society shows them to dress and that the adult male is not responsible for evaluating the age of his next conquest, he's part of the problem.

-- Teresa Kovarik

By Salon Staff

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