Sunday, March 15, 2020

Levine's "Crimes of Passion: Statutory Rape and the Denial of [Teen] Female [Sexual] Desire"

We wrote previously about Judith Levine's Harmful to Minors, but we saved chapter four for a distinguished post.  Levine opens the chapter "Crimes of Passion: Statutory Rape and the Denial of Female Desire" by sharing the story of 13-year-old Heather Kowalski and Dylan Healy, her 21-year-old boyfriend. 

Dylan would call Maple Street Junior High, where Heather was, unsurprisingly, an honors student and pretend that he was Heather's father. Thereby, giving Heather an excuse to go to Dylan's apartment for sex. 

Subsequently, but before they appeared on The Maury Povich Show, Heather's parents had Dylan arrested and charged with interfering with the custody of a minor. Dylan was released on bail and ordered to end his relationship with Heather. However, the age-gap couple fled town. Consequently, unlike Elvis, Dylan was charged with eight counts of felonious sexual assault with a minor (i.e., statutory rape) and sentenced to 12 to 24 years' imprisonment.  

Following the story of Heather and Dylan, Levine shared a history of the age-of-consent law. Levine wrote that the law dates to the late-thirteenth-century British Statutes of Westminster and that it was passed to draw a: "[...] bright line between childhood and adulthood, and then by criminalizing, in statutory rape, an adult's trespass over it. [Unlike Betsy Karasik of The Washington Post] [t]he law conceives of the younger partner as categorically incompetent to say yes or no to sex."

Like Karasik, Levine deems the age-of-consent law to be sexist, because the law has determined "[...] that in [age-gap] sexual relations there is only one desiring partner, the man." 

Levine goes on to write: "But statutory rape is not about sex the victim says she did not want. It is about sex she did want but which adults believe she only thought she wanted because she wasn't old enough to know she did not want it. [However] [s]till, teen girls persist in expressing their own desires."

Notes from the chapter:

Two-thirds of statutory rape cases are reported to the police by parents.

"In 1995, a California sociologist uncovered the datum that at least half the babies of unmarried teen mothers were fathered by men over twenty." 

"Research from the 1970s on has consistently found that whatever the law, a majority of girls lose their virginity to someone older than they are."

Allie Kilpatrick, a University of Georgia social work professor, found: "[...] 55 percent of her [survey] respondents had some kind of sex as children (between birth and age fourteen) and 83 percent as adolescents (age fifteen to seventeen) [...] "the majority of young people who experience some kind of sexual behavior find it pleasurable. They initiated it and didn't feel much guilt or any harmful consequences."

Lastly, while it's a crime for a minor to have sex with an adult, [mostly African-American] minors are being tried more and more as adults for committing violent crimes. #ironic

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