Growing up as a teen I had no idea what age of consent meant. Typically most teenagers understanding of the law is obey the speed limit, don’t drink and drive, and basically, don’t harm another person. However, in today’s modern society age of consent issues have become an uncomfortable leap forward in birds and bees education because of its effects on families and anyone capable of holding a smartphone. Studies show that sexting and exchanging nude photographs is somewhat common among youth. Kids do not understand the law because sexting, to them, is a private exchange between two consenting parties. Essentially, to their interpretations, is has become a new safer sex method and replacement to defunct gloss magazines. When a parent or adult explains to youth the consequences of sexting as an issue that could wind them up in jail, it seems like a parental discussion rather than a stern warning. That is until it actually affects them with criminal charges. Youth understanding the effects of sexting is a hit and miss market because of public embarrassment to begin discussions about sex education. Long gone are the boy’s bathroom gang holding up proof of girls panties too as a measure they have reached some form of adulthood. Smartphones have replaced such high-school rituals. When parents become involved because of policing private exchanges, the complications get much worse and in most cases places adults in a precarious situation because there is no pamphlet to explain what crosses parental discipline versus notification of authorities. This is why children are now the most vulnerable to be listed as sex offenders in the United States because in many cases police bypass the parental obligations and enforce laws intended for professional performance to become cosigned parents and social workers.
If you ask youth in American what is the age of consent, meaning what is the legal age to engage in sexual intercourse or behaviors, then you indeed hear varied answers. A reason for this is that America has differing age requirements. Some states begin the age of consent at 16 and others allow at age 18. A few states remain at 17 throwing a wrench into what is the actual standard age. All of Canada age of consent is 16 while Mexico ranges from age 12 to 14. To make matters more complicated many states enacted stipulations for example where participants must be no more than five years older than the minimum age requirement. In many cases, the law is vague but enforced with rigor under a complicated and somewhat prejudicial system. When you throw in sexting requirements let’s say a boy from West Virginia meets a girl over the border in Virginia then it becomes a legal fiasco and a miscarriage of justice because the consent elements differ. If its confusing for youth or teens, imagine how it may be viewed by legal scholars? But it is more confusing for visitors from either Canada, Mexico, or Europe to understand our convoluted age of consent despite all those Hollywood films that assert two kids sneaking away while the folks aren’t home. The innuendo is clear, but the lesson for society is assorted and troublesome.
If the age of consent isn’t bad enough to understand imagine when kids lie about their age in an attempt to be older than they really are? Many children listed on the sex offender registry are placed there because the age mentioned is not a legal defense according to law. Police and prosecutors will defend that kids should be vigilant in requiring proof such as to never assume. Yet will continue to seek criminalized sanctions to send a message to others. It seems to me that any arrest sends a strong message which may be strong enough to curb particular behaviors. We have become a bit puritan without attempting to regulate reasonably the age of consent policies rather than teaching sex education, safer sex techniques, or perhaps why abstinence is beneficial? America continues to sideline critical conversations because it may lead to curiosities creating a mound of issues. The fact is that sex among youth is a crucial dam about to break because Americans have created cumbersome laws and basically criminalized the ability to openly discuss how to fix it.
First and foremost, children should never be listed on the American sex offender registry. But it appears to fall on deaf ears because youth are the most exploited segment of choice by police because of strict felonious anti-child pornographic laws. Essentially, the police mantra of “protect and serve” means protect the law and serve warrants. I agree that pornographic laws should be enforced if producers fail to maintain proper accountability and record keeping. However, youth exchanging should be left to the consideration of judges to provide a blanket of discretion. Prosecutors should be the peoples advocate rather than the politicized ax men relegating its interpretation of the law. Prosecutors and police should begin to embrace the spirit of the law to advocate communities how to curb or suggest improvements. Yet those individuals continue to pass the buck by saying, “if you want the law to change, talk to your politician.” Youth are not out trying to professionally produce porn materials as some in the moral leaning right tend to assume. Teenagers are caught in the middle of interpretations where technologies surpassed the law. As for sex education in schools? Don’t get me started. Just remember that President Clinton could expend his load on Monica’s dress. But Joycelyn Elders was fired for talking about it.
Sexting isn’t going away anytime soon. Youth have learned to circumvent technology by no longer engaging in SMS texting or using software to delete its traces. This is why smartphone applications such as Snapchat, Signal, or Smiley Private texting are huge hits. Applications such as Blur, WhatsApp, and Digify allow photos to self-destruct. I learned all about these apps from my cousin. He said, “its two people sharing intimate photos instead of having actual sex. But the way the law is written means that if we have [consentual] sex then its legal and we risk an accident of maybe getting pregnant. But if we get caught sending photos then its jail. It doesn’t make sense?” That phrase alone should make any person’s hair stand on ends. A 16-year-old kid appears to have more common sense than how a law was crafted. Additionally, it demonstrates that kids are responsible by reducing unwanted pregnancies. He went on to mention, “I can have sex at 16, but cant buy condoms until I’m 18?” Laws are just as convoluted as the age of consent laws. The amount of technology is outpacing public policy and keeping a step beyond authorities. The critical question is when will it backfire and be evidence down the road? Current public policy and laws are not attempting to facilitate a unified national age to protect young people.
This is a discussion that folks must engage in and advocate updates to current policy. The conversation shouldn’t be centered around what you find acceptable because any family can create its own house rules. However, the conversation should be at the heart of a feasible and humane age in keeping with the rest of the industrialized world. Once we institute a level field that everyone can understand then and only then will be able to engage in sensible dialog.
For more information about American Age of Consent may be found here. I am unsure how accurate or up-to-date the information is. However, it does provide a sensible discussion value that in America the spirit of the law and determining a basic understanding is critically flawed.