Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Luz Alptraum's WHY 16?: Thinking Deeply About Age of Consent Laws

We wrote a post about Alan Dershowitz's op-ed that "Statutory Rape IS an Outdated Concept". Luz Alptraum wrote in the piece "Why 16? posted on The Cut that:

"[...] the knee-jerk response to Dershowitz’s op-ed is one we should take a moment to think more deeply about."

"[...] it’s worth asking whether consent laws are actually the best way to protect young people from abuse and exploitation."

"Age of consent laws are flawed. At best, they’re a somewhat effective strategy to protect young people from abuse and exploitation, one that mistakenly conflates a legal age of majority with a universal milestone of emotional maturity. At worst, they’re a weapon wielded by a punitive, sex-phobic system that polices young women’s sexuality and robs them of any sense of agency over their own bodies and desires."

"When American purity reformers began advocating for an increased age of consent in the late 1800s, their argument hinged on the idea of women as sexless, innocent creatures seduced into vice by immoral men."

"Where the age of consent was once intended to shield innocent, sexless women from male depravity, it’s now framed as a way to protect teens — whose burgeoning sexual desires often outpace the development of their emotional maturity and relationship skills — from their own urges [...]"

"Troublingly, this refusal to see young women as complex individuals with sexual agency continues once they’ve reached the age of consent. If younger teens are seen as off-limits, once someone has reached the age of 18 (or, in many states, 17 or 16) it’s presumed that anything goes, as though a switch is magically flipped in our brains the second we reach that milestone."

"And for young people who act on sexual urges prior to the age at which they’re legally presumed able, these laws can have severely negative impacts. In addition to criminalizing teens who have sex with other teens, or labeling a 16-year-old who takes a naked selfie as a child pornographer, age of consent laws can cause harm to young people who find themselves in sexual relationships with adults. Rather than protecting vulnerable young people from exploitation, these laws can discourage them from coming forward about their relationships, and isolate them from potential support systems [...]"

"Wendy Ortiz, whose memoir, Excavation, chronicles the relationship she had with her English teacher as a teenager, is intimately familiar with this unintended effect of statutory-rape laws. When she sought out a therapist, she tells me, “she laid out the limits of confidentiality,” limits that included mandatory reporting of child abuse. “Internally I thought, ‘Nope, I won’t be telling her, or returning,’” Ortiz tells me. “I wasn’t ready for the relationship to end” — or, for that matter, for the man she believed she loved to face harsh legal consequences for their relationship."

"A 15-year-old who genuinely believes she’s in love with an adult isn’t likely to be deterred from sex because the law says she can’t consent. If anything, she’ll assume that the law has misjudged her own maturity and the authenticity of her relationship. As a result, she’ll be more motivated to keep the relationship a secret [...]"

"What if we created a society that placed a priority on sex education, that raised young people to understand their sexual desires and curiosities as healthy — and encouraged them to explore them in safe, age-appropriate ways? What if we recognized young people as the confused, fumbling proto-adults that they are, rather than fetishizing them as “innocent” or preternaturally skilled? What if we encouraged each other to value relationships between equals, to truly prioritize authentic consent — as opposed to merely treating consent as a checkbox that can be ticked off once someone reaches a certain age? That might provide a pathway to a different understanding of youth sexuality, consent, and relationships. And it might give us a way to protect the most vulnerable among us without robbing them of their agency, their individuality, and their ability to seek support when they find themselves in potentially abusive situations."

We inserted ellipses where Luz appears to make contradictory points. For example, Luz wrote that age of consent laws "robs" nymphets "of any sense of agency over their own bodies and desires" and that age of consent laws "hinged on the idea of women as sexless, innocent creatures seduced into vice by immoral men." 

But then Luz makes the same argument that the American purity reformers/Women’s Christian Temperance made, which is that the age of consent laws protect nymphets from predatory adults, abuse and exploitation. 

However, we've shown from a plethora of books, movies, streams, and plays that, just like in non-fiction/life, age-gap relationships are most often initiated by nymphets and it's men who are unable to resist the allure of (underaged) nymphets (e.g., Elvis, Woody Allen, Marvin Gaye, etc.).

Furthermore, a 15-year-old nymphet is more likely to be abused and exploited by a 15-year-old boy than a 51-year-old man. And that is why (orthodox) Jews and (most) Muslims separate their congregations, after puberty, by gender.  

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