I feel the need to say it out loud: Predation is not cool. Adults turning to children for their emotional and sexual satisfaction is not cool. Sound obvious to you? Ok, but there seems to be a missing component for some folks in our culture about what it means to grow up and enter the adult world of responsibility and mature action. It turns my stomach more than a little that it’s so necessary to be talking about sex with minors, even in opposition to it.
Here’s the short version: Leave the children alone. Date someone your own age or at least in the same legal and developmental demographic as you, as in adults need to date adults, not minors. I don’t care if you’re 45 and your life’s love is 25. You’re both adults. Adults: If you know me, then you know I don’t personally care if you’re straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered or still a work in progress, if you date another adult. We just have to leave the children alone when meeting our needs.
I know that High School is a tough time of transition for our young people, moving from minor to adult status. They need our clear and unambiguous help to navigate that transition. They deserve our help when navigating that transition. Too much is at stake. We must be clear on this as a society. Young adults need to know what this time of transition means for them.
There are two higher profile legal cases in the media right now dealing with this problem. One case is of an 18 year old Florida girl (a legal adult) having sex with a 14 year old girl (a minor not able to give consent by law for sexual activities). And another case is of a 20 year old Maine man abducting a 15 year old girl after a stint of Facebook predation, but she dies with duct tape over her face in the back of his pickup. He claims that the abduction was a ruse to later “rescue” her and be her hero/love interest. Again, a legal adult preying on a child, a minor.
Where were the older girl’s friends? When I was 17 or 18, if I had decided I was crushing on a 14 year old girl and did anything to pursue her, my friends would have mercilessly put me in my place for my stupidity. We did that for one another. The age range is not only HUGE when it comes to personal maturity and responsibility, but there’s a giant legal issue involved.
I might feel some empathy for both young ladies being “in love.” I might understand that both are capable of intense physical attraction and authentic feeling of love for one another. That might even be the most mature 14 year old girl you will ever meet. But it is not the time of her life for a sexual relationship with a legal adult. The gap is too large in their ages. The weight of responsibility weighs too heavily on the 18 year old. Welcome to adulthood.
Again, I don’t care that the two girls are gay. In fact, I don’t think there would be the public campaign on behalf of the older girl if they weren’t gay. The younger girl’s parents have said they don’t care that it’s gay sex instead of straight sex. Florida has said that their law makes no distinction and that they prosecute many of the same kinds of cases every year dealing with straight couples. It’s about protecting our children.
The older girl clearly broke the law. In fact, according to the younger girl’s parents, the older girl removed their daughter from their home without their consent. What parents would not be up in arms about that? They are legally responsible for their daughter, their daughter’s girlfriend is not.
Under the law in Florida, a 14 year old cannot give legal consent for sexual relations. We have these laws for a reason. Our children need the space and protection to grow, even if the person preying on them is a very pretty and vivacious 18 year old girl instead of a scary looking, hairy guy. If an 18 year old guy was charged with statutory rape of this 14 year old girl, there would be very little outcry for him, no massive internet campaigns, whether both were “in love” or not.
Of course, even as a country of law, we have considerations. In Florida I am given to understand that if their ages were closer, the law has some considerations that come into play. If they were only a year apart or if the younger girl were closer to the age of legal consent. But 14 is simply too young. These two girls are not a fairy tale love story… that happens between consenting adults who are responsible for their own lives.
He’ll Kill Them, But No Sex
If you’ve never seen Bobcat Goldthwait’s movie, God Bless America, then you probably shouldn’t. I was drawn in by the hope a far lighter and comic plot line than I got from the movie. It’s a nihilistic parade of two spree killers sucking all meaning from life and the human endeavor. It’s guaranteed to make you depressed. BUT! Here’s the deal: In the middle of this movie is a little story line about an adult male who rebuffs the sexual advances of a teenage girl. He’ll gladly kill an annoying teenager, but he won’t turn to one for his sexual needs. He says, “You’re a child.” Here are a few lines from the movie:
Roxy: You’re seriously not interested in me at all as a girlfriend?
Frank: What the hell are you talking about? I’m not a pedophile.
Roxy: So we’re Platonic spree killers?
Frank: Yeah. And that’s all.
I’m pretty sure I don’t want anyone using that movie as an an overall framework for ethics or morality, but at the same time, I’m also sure that there’s a serious discussion to have about that story line in the movie. Children do not exist for the sexual gratification of adults, even if they say they want to. It may be easier for us to look at a person in their 40’s or 50’s and say “He’s an adult, sex with her is wrong.” But the law sees adults and minors, period. And the minor’s need for protection is the same, regardless of the age of the adult.
Ok, the 20 year old guy from Maine? That story is tragically stupid in too many ways. If you’re 20 years old and you decide that the love of your life is a 15 year old, that’s a cue to enroll in counseling, plain and simple. You don’t abduct her. When you’ve crossed the line into adulthood, you carry a mantle of legal and moral responsibility for your actions.
I’m not sure it matters to me much whether he intended to fake rescue this girl after he kidnapped her or not. Maybe it can play to his defense in the sense of removing premeditation in the murder charge, but he definitely premeditated many crimes here, while knowing right from wrong, and kidnapped a young woman, and while knowing there would be some bodily harm to her and wrecking of her life, for his own gratification. And that happened after he preyed on her through Facebook, using lies and social media to entrap her. He should face the lawful consequences of his actions.
Again, it seems too obvious to have to say it. Life doesn’t work like that! You don’t abduct anyone, much less a minor. You don’t prey on minors with fake Facebook accounts! You don’t enter their life and achieve their love by means of criminal activity. Minors need our protection for good reason, and when you enter the adult world, you must begin to shoulder your part of that burden.
These are both very sad stories. I feel relatively sure that the 18 year old young woman in Florida did not set out to prey on a underage minor and break the law by committing statutory rape. I think she fell in love with a bright and beautiful young lady, a fellow student, and then lacked the moral or ethical compass to further navigate the aspects of their relationship that come into play because of their age gap. I am sad for her at the thought of her carrying a conviction and the stigma of “sex offender.” But do we really want to set a legal precedent as a society that it’s ok to for an adult to have sex with a minor who is only 14 years old, for any reason?
I’m not simply equating the two cases. They are totally different in many respects of the relationships involved and the crimes committed and the outcome of each. What brings the two cases together is the basic wrong of predation on a child, a legal minor. An adult cannot turn to a child for his or her sexual, emotional and relational needs.
Our culture is in need of some new voices and new ways to be saying this out loud: Children must have the space to grow and develop their lives without the intervention of a sexually needy adult! Let’s get both these accused people some help. Get some counseling and help for both the 18 year old woman and the 20 year old man, yes. But for our children’s sake, let’s not ignore the realities of their crimes.
Predation is not cool. Our world is filled with bright and beautiful 14 and 15 year olds who deserve better. Our world is also filled with the moms and dads of bright and beautiful 14 and 15 year olds who need our help and support.
Predation is not cool. Not then. Not now. Not ever. Do you see it happening in the life of someone around you? Does it seem that someone you know is being preyed upon or preying upon another? Be wise. Ask some questions. Speak up. Intervene. Do you have a young adult in your life who is making this transition from minor to adult status? Is someone you love making their entrance into legal adulthood? Help them out. Talk to them about the changes in their life and their evolving responsibilities. We have a moral and social obligation to say this stuff out loud. Predation is not cool.