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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I'm probably gonna get in trouble

Marcus Dixon got let off. I heard this news first on NPR, where I do believe they said that sex was consensual. But other sources I've heard said it was not.
Not to be a pill, but if this was non-consensual sex, why didn't they pursue a regular rape charge instead of statutory rape and child molestation charges? If the prosectution truly believed it was non-consensual sex, they severely undermined their case by deciding to pursue the case on the basis of the inability for a "child" to consent to sex at all. It might have been easier to prove, yes, but it is merely contributing to a larger problem of sexual hysteria, hysteria that is increasingly being used as a tool in various other culture wars, including racial ones.
If the sex was consensual, then it's just more evidence that statutory rape laws are selectively enforced in service of larger social goals that are largely reactionary, in service of sexism, homophobia, or racism.
A fifteen year old having sex with an eighteen year old is not child molestation any way you slice it. In most ways, they are social equals. They are both in high school! Upon reading this, I reflected on how I met my first boyfriend shortly before I turned 16 and shortly after he turned 18, meaning, that every time he made a move on me, he was apparently attempting to child molest or rape or whatever. But I certainly didn't think so and nor did anyone around me, and it probably helped that we were both white. If anyone was to suggest to me that I was being victimized and I just don't know it, I would have to conclude this person was suffering from high-grade sexism, unable to understand that my sex did not and does not prevent me from grasping the basic reality of dating life.
But there are occasional flare-ups in every community with statutory rape laws where parents of a highly sheltered girl find out she is having sex and decide to use the law to enforce their sexual mores in the only way they can. Separating her from the hated boyfriend becomes a criminal prosectution. Next thing you know, kids are being treated like sexual criminals for normal teenage behavior; they were just unlucky enough to have parents who have no sense of proportion. Talk Left has some interesting information about how bad this can get.
Now we have a situation where it looks like there's two general possiblities of what could have happened. One is that a girl was actually raped, but the prosecution decided to pursue another case entirely under laws designed to protect prepubescents (child molestation) or delicate parental sensibilities (statutory rape), which is a travesty and an insult to a girl who is in fact old enough to consent or not as she sees fit. And of course it created a situation where at first glance it looks like a black teenage boy is being prosecuted for consensual sex with a white teenage girl under a law that everyone knows is kind of stupid on a certain level.
Or of course, it is exactly what it looks like and it's a situation where this couple had sex and that it was between teenagers and it was interracial is causing and ugly situation.
I full well realize that raising the age of consent was a big feminist issue in the 19th century, but that was an utterly different situation than the one we have now. Women were not men's equals in any way then. Legally, there wasn't much difference between a woman and a child, and the age of consent laws reflected that, in some states being as low as 7 years old. Raising the age of consent laws was an important step in creating a legal age of majority for women.
But those times have passed. Women are legally able to cross over from childhood to adulthood the same way that men are now. And statutory rape laws are retrograde and actually tend to function in the service of blurring the lines between woman and child all over again, such as in ridiculous situations like this where a girl who is nearly an adult and by common sense standards old enough to consent to sex redefined as a "child". Feminists need to be concerned about how teenage girls are being told that their choices are irrelevant, because it's up to others (through selective enforcement) to decide if they consent to sex or not, not themselves.


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