In which I become a Raging Social Conservative


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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111 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but won’t the poor stupid fisher also be registered as a sexual predator and effectively have his life ruined in perpetuity now? In the absence of the registry I think I’d join you in unabashedly considering this idiot an idiot who should have known better. With the registry floating out there I don’t know if it’s quite as open and shut.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Well, that, and also the kind of underage person who might lie about their age regardless of the kind of trouble it could get the other party in, is the kind of underage person who might think to obtain a fake ID. Would a fake ID be a valid defense? “Hey, I checked the ID.” I doubt that would save your bacon. Maybe I am wrong though, since if you got a copy of the ID at least it could move things out of “he said/she said” territory.

      Plus, what experience do most people (who are not bouncers) have in telling fake IDs from real ones anwyay?

      I am fully of the opinion that people need to be very, very, very careful, but 19-year-old boys are notoriously dumb. I was one, and I know.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        What do you mean, “was”?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        “Plus, what experience do most people (who are not bouncers) have in telling fake IDs from real ones anwyay?”

        You got an address. “What’s the color of the house in front of yours? to the left? to the right?” Check it on google maps.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          Google maps can be outdated. For a while, they were still showing my neighbours house as it was before it had been renovated.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Of course. that’s why you check three.
            And you can actually throw in a few good questions on someone’s age… if you’ve had time to think of them beforehand. (I think you’re shooting for things popular when the kid was about seven or so… it won’t catch a single year difference, but three? Definitely doable.)

            Or you could just have your dates perform calculus for you…Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Glyph, in statutory rape cases it is always a crime to have sex with a person under the age of consent. You can do everything possible to check that a person is of age, including asking for and looking at ID, and still get in trouble with the law. Mistake of age is not a defense.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          That’s what I figured, and probably rightly so. Still, it does create a situation where someone could try to do all the right things and still get whacked, so at bare minimum there should be some mechanism for not ruining the perpetrator forever in cases where it does seem that he or she was acting in good faith.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          Didn’t a huge swath of the porn industry get let off the hook in the Tracy Lords case because, while she was underage, her driver’s license was real? It had a false birthdate, but she had fooled the DMV. My recollection was that there were prosecutors entirely happy to go after everyone involved in any of the innumerable pornos she had made before turning eighteen, but they had to let the whole thing drop. Or perhaps I am misremembering everything about this.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            I was only in elementary school at the time of the Tracy Lords fiasco, so I don’t know how people got off the hook. My guess is that the fact pattern was just so fished up that the prosecutors thought that bringing everybody to court would be too much trouble. Every person who had sex with Tracy Lords would need a separate trial. If all of them attempt to amount a defense rather than plea bargain, it could take a lot of time. The porn industry also tends to be pretty lawyered up for these sorts of situations out of necessity. Prosecutors probably decided it wasn’t worth the effort.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            Wikipedia isn’t especially clear about the Tracy Lords prosecution. Apparently, the executive types were charged but not the actors for some reason. My guess was the sheer number of people involved led the prosecution to limit who they were indicting. The prosecution also seemed to have occurred in Federal court rather than state court and there were constitutional challenges to the law the prosecutors applied on a vagueness challenge that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. I think that if the prosecution occurred on the state level and involved simple statutory rape charges there would have been a much larger prosecution.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            I thought Traci Lords was under the age of 18, so couldn’t legally have pornos make of her, but *was* over the age of consent, so no one having sex with her was actually committing a crime.

            Or, at least, not committing the crime of rape…I guess technically, they would have committed conspiracy to make child porn?Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              That makes sense. It also explains why the prosecutors went after the executives in federal court rather than everybody in state court.Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          This is an interesting problem. What other crimes are there with comparably serious penalties that work like that? No intent–in fact the opposite of intent. You can do as much due diligence as you want and it makes no difference whatsoever. That sounds like the type of thing you do for crimes that come attached to a stiff fine, not hard time in prison and a lifetime as a pariah.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            What other crimes are there with comparably serious penalties that work like that?

            I’m not real big on criminal law, but in tort law, there are three types of torts: negligence, intentional, and specific liability.
            A negligence action has no state of mind requirement.
            To my understanding, most, if not all, specific liability torts are without state of mind requirements. E.g., in an action for breach of contract, the motivation of the tortfeasor is irrelevant for liability purposes, but may be assessed for other reasons, e.g., witness credibility, determination of sanctions, etc.

            I believe the analogy holds true here.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        When I was right out of school I met a girl at a bar in New York City. I was close to taking her home with me, but she let slip that she was 15. I found out later from a lawyer friend that, “I met her at a bar,” would not be sufficient defense for thinking she was older than 18.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Registries (I think) are of questionable value and may in fact inhibit people from reintegrating healthily into society. In this case, however, Reason seems to be against this guy getting punished at all. There are good arguments to be made against registries in particular, but I have no problem with this guy spending 90 days in jail.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I join you in having no concern about the 90 days of jail time. That’s harsh but the guy was an idiot. I do not think he should have his entire life ruined over this and the registries will most likely pretty much accomplish that.Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          Registries for crimes like this are a manifest evil and needlessly destroy lives.

          Which, I understand the desire to note the presence of pedophiles and rapists, but a nineteen year old man who makes a mistake with a teenager who lied…

          Yeah, that’s fucked up. 90 days — fine. Let him do his time. A lifetime on a registry with pedo-shits — nope. That is unjust.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            There are states where you go on the registry for such things as public urination and being caught at Lover’s Lane or some such. So yeah these things go overboard.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              Even worse, in CA once you’re on the registry you are often forced to be homeless. It works like this:

              1. CA prison sentences all have a post-release parole (i.e. parole isn’t for getting out early)
              2. CA requires you be paroled in the county where you were convicted.
              3. Many counties have enough schools/parks/etc that there are no valid locations where a sex offender can live (which is no accident).
              4. The parolee, who cannot leave the county or live anywhere in it, must live on the streets.

              When you combine that with the relatively tolerable behavior that can get one registered (though, of course, terrible behavior can also get one registered), it’s a complete train wreck.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              This is the whole ‘tough on crime’ bullshit that has paralyzed politicians for several decades, despite the worry being very very out of date. (It’s not the damn 80s anymore, idiots.) They think they can’t do anything to reduce penalties at all.

              In the actual real world, it’s pretty easy to make a distinction between actual sexual assault, and indecent exposure. Laws about indecent exposure seem to have slipped into pretending it’s all sexual assault…when in reality, none of it really is.

              There are really only two types of indecent exposure. A good chunk is accidental, by a person or multiple people who did not intend anyone see them. Public urination, sex in a car, whatever. And the rest is done by people who have actual psychological problems…and the correct solution is not ‘throw them in jail’, it’s to get them counseling to figure out why they feel like they need to do that. (And there’s a tiny amount done as a political protest, but that’s been seriously reduced as the laws have become insane.)

              Let’s all recall that naked people are, uh…normal, biologically. A person seeing someone else naked *does not actually cause them harm*. It’s outside societal norms for people to expose themselves, far enough outside the norm we’re willing to have laws about it, and by all means let’s get that person’s behavior *inside* the norms, but let’s stop pretending it’s somehow at the level of sexual assault.

              Indecent exposure is one of those crimes that should have no punishment at all, it’s like the whole ‘obstructing traffic’ and ‘loitering’ laws that should be crimes simply so the police can say ‘Hey! Stop that!’, and not so people can be actually *punished*. If they refuse to put their pants on, they should get the equivalent of the drunk tank and hit with a small fine.(1)

              1) And, yes, I’m describing police behavior that does not actually exist anymore, and I know that. But we can, at least, alter the laws about this to where this *could* be the results.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I could not agree with you more Veronica.Report

      • Avatar Pyre says:

        Pretty much.

        With the registry, I can honestly say: “At this point, the guy would have been better off hunting her down and killing her because his life is essentially over. Every job interviewer and every landlord will know that he’s on a sex offender list. At that point, he might as well serve a life sentence where the state will have to provide for his well-being the rest of his life because he effectively won’t be able to do so.”

        In fact, that actually might be the best option. If every 19-year-old who was lied to by a 14-year-old killed said 14-year-old and then put the state in the position of either being forced to put them down or put them up for the rest of their lives, I imagine that the registries would be overhauled before the end of the year.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        There are good arguments to be made against registries in particular, but I have no problem with this guy spending 90 days in jail.

        So, this is why you became a raging social conservative? Not because of the jail sentence, but because of the registries?

        Are registries something social conservative have been raging against all these years?

        I mean, I don’t know the answer to that, myself. Just strikes me as more of a “across the board” issue. Maybe tilting conservative actually (using the same methodology you apparently used. 🙂Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

          This is not the first time I’ve written a headline that very much oversold whatever I was actually claiming.

          I characterize this post as leaning socially conservative because it is indifferent to the needs and concerns of people having casual sex.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Me thinks you are expecting a greater degree of jaded cynicism than most 19 year olds are equipped with.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I, for one, will be happy when our species has fully rationalized sex, but we’re not there yet. Give it a few thousand more years. Also, expecting a 19 year old to ask partners for their ID just raises the question- haven’t these prosecutors heard of 14 year olds with fake IDs?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I agree with this. See my remarks bellow. People aren’t always going to do a cost-benefit analysis and complete background check before having sex. In an ideal world they might but we do not live in an ideal world and people get caught up in the moment at times. Any useful version of sexual ethics needs to reflect this. A lot of people do not want to recognize this though.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    Some punishment for this seems reasonable. Just not the level he will get with the sex offender registry. There is no evidence here that he is a danger to the general public at all. In fact a few days in county jail and some probation is probably fine for this. No need to nuke the kid.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      This is where I come down as well.
      As a society we struggle with ambiguity, and the zone between childhood and adulthood is very gray and murky.
      However, lines need to be drawn. But mitigating factors also need to be weighed.

      Was the girl harmed, emotionally? Do we have reason to think there was some sort of manipulation or exploitation?
      Or was this just 2 kids testing their boundaries?Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The defense attorney was just doing his or her job, finding the best possible defense for Zach Anderson. The best possible defense turned out to be that it is unsexy to ask about a person’s age before you have sex.

    In law school, we had a spirited debate about whether mistake of age should be a defense in statutory rape cases. The arguments for the proponents were similar to the ones advocated by Mr. Anderson’s defense lawyer, that teens do lie about their age and use false IDs to go to clubs and such and that even if a person did everything right, they could still get in trouble with the law.

    A lot of the debates in sexual ethics revolve are about when it is fine to abandon yourself to passion and not do a cost-benefit analysis of the situation. To a lot of people, having to verify everything before you do the deed is unsexy. To them the entire point of sex, especially the random hook up, is the rush of intense lust and asking questions disrupts this. The other side argues that safety comes first and you should rarely if ever abandon yourself to emotion and lust in order to prevent harm.Report

    • There’s something else, as well – statutory rape is one of the only, if not the only, felony with strict liability for a mistake of fact/no mens rea requirement for the central element of the crime.

      It seems particularly unfair here because the age difference between the defendant and the age on the girl’s profile was only 2 years, and their actual age difference only 5 years. Add to that the fact that the alleged victim and her family both wanted the case to be dropped, and you’ve got something that reeks of unfairness.

      I could probably get on board with having no mens rea requirement if the victim’s represented age is, say, five years or more less than the defendant’s age or if her actual age is at least five years below her purportedly represented age, but something like this?

      There’s something else at play here, too – prosecuting this young man seems to be traumautic for the victim as well. So exactly what purpose is served by this prosecution?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Mark Thompson: So exactly what purpose is served by this prosecution?

        Pour encourager les autres, presumably. Statutory rape laws in general are an attempt to draw a bright line, and absolutely wrecking someone who crosses the line makes it brighter.

        That said, age differentials should definitely be at least part of the equation.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        If the girl and her family wanted this case dropped, Mr. Anderson was dealing with a really aggressive than usual prosecutor. Its understandable that people are disgusted by the idea of a young college student having sex with a young high school or even junior high school student but this case seems a tad egregious. I’m surprised the jury didn’t go for the nullification option.Report

        • @leeesq The case never went to a jury. Apparently there was a plea deal where the young man would accept the 90 day sentence, and the prosecutor would remain silent on the question of whether he should be put on the sex offender registry at the plea hearing – there is a leniency provision under the state law that allows first time defendants to stay off the registry if they are under 21, provided the judge applies the provision.

          At the hearing, the prosecutor seems to have reminded the judge that he has declined to apply the leniency provision in the past. The young man’s family is hoping that the prosecutor’s decision to do that will be viewed as a breach of the plea deal allowing the withdrawal of the guilty plea.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Yeah that sounds like a highly wise plea deal and an absolutely incredibly douche move by the prosecutor in undermining it. The registry is a life sentence, 90 days in jail is nothing.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          This assumes the jury (if it got that far) is aware it has the option to nullify. My understanding is that judges & prosecutors make an effort to keep knowledge of this power away from juries & potential jurors.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            Strictly speaking, juries are not supposed to nullify. If the prosecution makes their case and prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt than the jury is supposed to convict even if doing so is really dumb and not that just in a particular situation. Sometimes juries do use their common sense and refuse to convict the guilty because it is unjust to do so.Report

            • Avatar Bruce Webb says:

              Yeah I only took a single law course and that in Business Law but the teacher was a top notch defense lawyer. And as explained to us there is no such thing under law as “Jury Nullification”. There is also no recourse against a jury that decides to do so anyway. Juries don’t decide law, they decide facts. Unless they go rogue. In which case the judge and prosecutor are stuck with it. Occupational hazard of overcharging.Report

  6. Avatar R says:

    The big problem with asking to see ID is not that it’s uncool (some people think condoms are uncool, too, but most realize they’re necessary). It’s that the ID could be fake. As the Reason article points out, “if the I.D. is fake and she is actually underage, you can still be convicted of statutory rape.”

    Of course most rape cases don’t involve one person lying about their age, but most rape cases also involve lack of consent. If we’re just talking about statutory rapes, where consent isn’t an issue, what percent of those involve one person tricking the other into thinking it’s legal?

    Compare statutory rape to other crimes. Possession of stolen goods is illegal, and if you knowingly do so it’s a crime. If you didn’t know, you’re still responsible for returning the goods, but many jurisdictions will not prosecute you. Why shouldn’t statutory rape be the same? The of-age partner should be held responsible for any consequences, like pregnancy or STDs, but if they didn’t know the other person was underage then what is the basis for calling it a crime?Report

    • Avatar R says:

      On second thought, a closer analogy might be liquor stores’ requirement to check ID. Liability varies state by state, but even in the states where the store is responsible for not accepting fake IDs, this is because they can scan an ID to make sure it’s real. Nobody is going to bring a barcode scanner with them just to have risk-free sex.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        R: Nobody is going to bring a barcode scanner with them just to have risk-free sex.

        Hey, what I do with my barcode scanner in the privacy of my own home is my business.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m going to get flamed for this but…

    What are the purposes of statutory rape laws? Presumably to protect those who need protecting from being taken advantage of physically/sexually. Which seems like a damn good reason for a law. But was this girl taken advantage of? As I understand it, she went out of her way to have sex with this guy — lying about her age not once but twice (with one lie showing a certain amount of premeditation). Now, we can still question the ability of a 14-year-old to consent to such acts or to exercise proper forethought before engaging in such acts. But, I mean, who is the victim here? The girl? I think that is questionable. I mean, she is arguably a victim of broader societal forces that might have made her feel the need to sexualize herself at such a young age. But did this guy harm this girl? If not, should he really be in jail?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      My understanding that the purpose of statutory rape laws is for one a person in authority uses such authority to have sex with a minor like a teacher-student affair. Its really difficult to prove lack of consent when the pressure used is emotional or mental rather than physical. Statutory rape laws get around this problem by making all sex with people bellow a certain age illegal regardless of consent.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      @kazzy No flames needed. Statutory rape laws, are like many rules, difficult to map onto every situation. There are older guys who want young girls and the law needs to be there to protect youngsters. It is really hard to tell in many situations how consensual sex is or if the older guy/gal used the significant power differential or money or something else to sway the young person. If you had an older person who was in a controlling relationship with a young person, the youngster might be told to say it was voluntary even though there would be significant consequences for not cooperating. If you had a runaway teen under 16 they certainly might say it was voluntary sex if they knew they would be back out on the street in winter if they were honest with the cops.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @greginak and @leeesq

        I agree with all that. But if the underage person is the one who seems to be seeking out the sex, then what?

        Again, we can say, “You are too young to know you want sex.” But that is problematic, both in terms of denying the person (almost always a female) her agency and in situations like this, where everything about the girl’s actions communicated that she wanted to be having sex, up to and including lying multiple times about her age.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          The law deals in lines. She’s legally incapable of giving consent. That means that lying about her age, dressing alluringly and even prostrating herself before you and screaming “Fish me I’m yours, I want it so bad!” accomplishes nothing. She cannot consent therefore it’s rape.

          Yes her behavior in this case is problematic to say the least but she’s a barely pubescent child; this kind of erratic behavior is the sort of stuff statutory consent laws are in place to guard against.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            A girl at age fourteen is hardly a barely pubescent child.
            Not anymore, at any rate.

            Barely pubescent starts at … ten now, is it? Young, at any rate.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Kazzy, that is why judges have hard jobs. I think each situation needs to be looked at individually even though that is messy and hard. Well we are denying young people agency until they reach certain ages….yeah that is the point of lots of laws about drinking, driving, voting, getting a credit card, joining the military. Also Stat Rape laws usually have provisions for kids close in age. The laws are aimed at older types “preying” on younger people.

          In this case the harsh punishment seems wrong.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          North has the right of it. The law can’t prepare for every contingency so in order to function it needs bright lines. We might as society realize that some young teenagers are perfectly capable of a rational cost-benefit analysis or voluntary irrational actions but lots of young teens are also easy to manipulate into activities they wouldn’t want to participate in. A young teen can be all three things at different times. In order to protect kids from manipulation, a bright line of the age of consent is created.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            I would think that the fact that the law can’t deal with every possibility means that it needs shades of gray rather than bright lines. Presumably, judges and prosecutors have discretion exactly because you can’t write a law that produces a perfectly just outcome for every possible case. The problem here seems to be overzealous prosecution and a failure to use good judgment when swinging the sword of criminal justice system, not so much that their hands were tied by the law as written.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              Statutory consent laws usually do have shades of grey like Romeo and Juliet laws and sliding scales of consent but a 19 year old and 14 year old never falls under the exceptions.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Troublesome Frog: Looking up above in the comments it looks like the law has plenty of latitude and grey built in but this particular case has run afoul of a truly cruel and crusading prosecutor.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @greginak — Can we say “older people will want younger people“? There is no reason to gender this.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      A 14 year old girl is just as incapable of consent as a blackout drunk girl. At least according to the law in that state.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      There was a girl in my high school who went to the prom with a 35 year old dude. I think the school was really unhappy about it but she was 18 and there was nothing they could do.

      But when did the relationship start? There is something cringe worthy about a 35 year old guy dating an 18 year old but nothing legally should be done. But what if the girl (or guy) is 16 or 17? Are those teens old enough and mature enough to consent to a romantic/sexual relationship with an adult? Statutory rape recognizes that teenagers can make dumb decisions but adults shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of this.

      Now where the laws stumble is when you have someone who is barely adult with an underage girlfriend or boyfriend. I think we can easily agree that a 36 year old should not have sex with 16 year olds. The problem is that the laws are overbroad and 18 year old kids get caught in a dragnet.

      It doesn’t seem to uncommon for teenage girls to have college boyfriends and a disdain for boys their own age. I know a lot of women who talk about how they were much more mature than their high school boy counterparts. So I know lots of women who had a 20 or 21 year old boyfriend when they were in high school. The tricky questions are whether girls really that mature or are they just fooling themselves. The cut-off age is also trickier. When does it become creepy for a guy to have a high school age girlfriend? IIRC there was something about Lorde (16 or 17) having a 24 year old boyfriend (which was legal in New Zealand) and a debate whether this was creepy or not.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @saul-degraw — I know some states relax the statutory rape laws in cases where the older person is within some age range of the younger person. For example, the law might allow five years, and thus a 22 year old can date a 17 year old. Anyway, yeah that would also let a fourteen year old date a nineteen year old. So, it’s a thing.

        Such laws are probably good compromises, given how murky this is and how we do not want to ruin the lives of young people.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Rome and Juliet laws tend only to be applicable for when the parties are within a year or two of the age of consent like a seventeen year old and a fifteen year old when the age of consent is sixteen. They are definitely not applicable in a five year age difference case.Report

      • Avatar Bruce Webb says:

        In most or all States a 17 year old person can’t enter into an enforceable contract. At least enforceable by the other party. Given that rules that deny 14 year olds or 16 year olds the right to consent to sex don’t seem particularly out of line.

        Now does that mean putting some 18 year old kid on a sex offender registry for life reasonable? No. But unless you are just looking to extend legal competence to any teenager who can distinguish right from wrong (like we do into too many criminal cases) I am willing to live with some bright lines between legal adulthood and legal childhood. Which maybe should be put at 16, heck in my lifetime for most civil matters it was 21. So move it.

        The problem here is not the existence of a legal line, it is in the absence of application prosecutor and judge discretion. As a number of commenters noted above.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @kazzy Part of the reasons that we have these laws is that it is not always so easy to tell to what degree a minor is a victim. Is a twelve-year old a victim if he fully consents to being molested because the perpetrator is a family member, or a trusted member of the community? A fourteen-year old girl hooking up with adult strangers they met on the internet is, statistically speaking, quite likely to be a victim of sexual crimes. Assuming that this is indeed a possibility for her, is it alright to take advantage of someone that young simply because they have been repeatedly abused?

      We tailor much of out laws and justice system in this country to the idea that until a certain age, people are not mature enough to handle the consequences of the decisions that they make, and that this means that certain decisions must necessarily be taken out of their hand until they reach an age of adulthood. For us that’s 18, which may be a somewhat arbitrary number, but it is still the number we’ve picked and collectively agreed upon. This is why it’s more of a crime to sell alcohol to a minor than it is to buy a six pack as a minor, and it’s why our statutory rape laws read the way they do. The assumption is that a 19-year old is mature enough to deal with matters of sex; it is therefore he or she that must therefore deal with the consequences.

      It’s not a perfect system, but it’s really the only one that doesn’t allow legal loopholes allowing adults to molest children.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @tod-kelly et al.

        I hear what you’re saying. I’m not saying we should do away with statutory rape laws. I’m just wondering exactly how we should respond to situations like this. This dude seems to have wanted to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, not a 14-year-old. As a 19-year-old, that doesn’t seem all that strange.

        Perhaps I should have phrased it this way… what purpose does locking this guy up serve? Is he a danger to the 14-year-olds of the world? No. Only those who lie about their age on the internet in order to have sex with men. That is probably a pretty small subset of the population. Yes, he fucked up. There is no denying that. It just feels like the harsh jail sentence is much more about how we view men and women and young people and sex than serving any sort of public interest, which is how my naive brain likes to think of the criminal justice system.

        This guy wasn’t preying on girls too young to appreciate the consequences of their actions. There should be consequences for his actions but a long jail sentence seems disproportionate.

        But I’m crazy in thinking that jail should only be for the worst offenders… I don’t think this guy qualifies, no matter how salacious “19-year-old guy rapes 14-year-old he met on the internet” sounds.Report

  8. Avatar neal says:

    I do know know. Extended courtship, meeting the parents, and friends.
    Probably what makes sense is too much bother.Report

  9. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    The thing I’m most surprised about this story is that there’s a Hot or Not app – I mean, I remember that site from the early 2000’s. Unless it’s connected at all.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    This seems to be a rather tricky area of the law.

    I agree with the need for bright lines rules. A 16 to 18 year old age of consent seems very reasonable. But there always problems like in this case. It seems absurd to punish a 19 year old for having a boyfriend or girlfriend who is 16 or 17 but that is what a bright-line rule does.

    Several states have “Romeo and Juliet” clauses to handle these situations but I think those are in the minority. Others have scaling age of consents. So a 16 year old can consent with anyone between 16-20 and an 18 year old can consent with anyone but if you are 21, you can only have sex if your partner is 18 or over.

    This is probably a felony that gets broken more often than not. The age of consent in California is 18. Lots of people turn 18 during their freshman year of college. Some people start college a year early because they skipped a grade in K-12 education. So if a 17 year old college freshman has sex with a someone between 18-22, there is a lot of statutory rape going on.

    The big question is when does an age difference become creepy and somewhere where the law and society should step in? I seem to know or know of a lot of women who had older boyfriends when they were teenagers. So they might have been high school sophomores or juniors but their boyfriends were around college age. The usual range is 20-25. These guys have a varying degrees of financial and actual independence and can seem cooler than high school boys. Lots of women seem to think that they are more mature than guys their age and this might not be completely incorrect. There is a separate question of whether this means we should be cool with a 24 year old guy (or women in some cases) having a 16 or 17 year old girlfriend or boyfriend. 24 is still pretty young but it seems kind of cringeworthy to think of a 24 year old dating a 17 year old.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      This is probably a felony that gets broken more often than not.

      This is a really good point. At what point does a crime being committed all over the place by otherwise law abiding people stop being a “crime wave” and start being an indicator that the law wasn’t written correctly?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The Volstead Act failed before the ink could dry but it took over thirteen years to get it repealed. The war on drugs is only slightly winding down but it’s advocates are still going strong. The answer is a long time.Report

      • Avatar SaulDegraw says:

        What Lee said. There are lots of bad laws and policies out there. There are lots of people who know that various laws and policies are bad and/or don’t do what they intend.

        But people are driven by emotion and stuff like registries go straight to emotion. I have read a lot of articles about why Meghan’s Law does not work or Amber Alerts do not work. People still post them all over social media because not doing so seems cold and heartless.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          What Lee said. There are lots of bad laws and policies out there. There are lots of people who know that various laws and policies are bad and/or don’t do what they intend.

          Personally speaking, I think T Frog gets all that. Which is pretty much exactly his point. FWIW.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I wouldn’t lump Amber Alert in with registries. Amber Alerts may be ineffective, but I don’t see any real downside. Maybe a few bucks are spent on them, the give people some hope, some sense of control, but nothing really pans out. Okay… no harm, no foul.

          Registries? Registries seem actively harmful with little positive. That is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            Amber Alerts contribute to the fear that fuels things like registries.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:


              That feels like a pretty tenuous connection. Can you show your work on that?

              Amber Alerts are a notification of a crime-in-progress, soliciting the help of the citizenry. Yes, it is highly ineffective, but I think it is geared towards empowering folks, not scaring them. I don’t think they tell us what the missing child looks like so we can hide our similarly featured children. They want us to look for the child.

              Registries, on the other hand, send the explicit message that these folks are so super dangerous and should be avoided at all costs… even if that entails illegal or immoral means.

              I don’t think they have any real relation to one another.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                It seems obvious that Amber Alerts emerge from the same zeitgeist that gave us registries: “Will no one think of the children!!!!”

                So sure, they are correlated. Obviously. However, that does not show causality from Amber Alerts to increased support for registries. To show causality, you need to do extra work.

                That said, if you want to attack the underlying zeitgeist, then indeed pointing out the failure of Amber Alerts might be a good argument, under the rubric that “An irrational belief in X leads to irrational policy Y.”

                Fine, but I don’t think you’ll get too far with that. For one thing, if Amber Alerts save even a few kids, then yay! You can attack them on cost/effect, but not on first-order moral grounds.

                Sex offender registries, on the other hand, are a complete mess and can be attacked on first-order moral grounds. They hurt people way out of proportion to their crimes.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Very well said. And with all sorts of smarts words I have no idea how to use!Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                Amber Alerts really don’t protect against Stranger Danger. They usually end up being used in situations where the child was in no serious harm or danger like a very bitter custody dispute gone wrong.


      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        When the cops start arresting middle class white people for it.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Mr. Anderson is a middle class white person.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            I think we as a society manage to un-person anybody convicted of anything that sounds remotely like child molestation, even if it’s a much less clear case like this one. It’s one of those crimes where people fall all over themselves to express just how much more against it they are than the next person.

            “You’d have him executed? I’d have him burned at the stake! Hell, I’d light it myself!”

            When the mob is talking like that, it’s a lot easier to hand him over to the mob than to explain why you’re letting this one go. Best not to rock the boat and just hope that your kids never get unlucky enough to get caught up in it.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    A friend of mine was very active in getting registries established after her daughter, aged four, was raped by her preschool teacher, a man with a history known to law enforcement.

    That was the intent.

    I can stand behind that. My pedophile should have been on a sex-offender registry. As should some folks who’ve been shown to be repeat offenders or who commit violent sexual assault.

    But not this; and so I detest sex-offender registries; they do more harm to actually helping convict violent and serial predators than not, I think; and they’re just as gross a violation of liberty as most sexual assaults — perhaps worse, since a victim of an assault can recover and move forward in a way that this young man will never be able to.

    At the very least, there should perhaps be a mechanism to release people from registries or (even better) a second round of consideration before placing someone on a registry.

    With this, I don’t know. She was 14 and consented; but that does put an incredible burden on an age cohort who’ve a long track record of being at peak poor-risk-management.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      I would think that your friend’s daughter could have been protected without a registry. Any institution that allows adults contact with children should conduct background searches. Crimes of this nature should show up on there absent a registry.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        This was a several years before background checks became a thing at schools, @kazzy

        And while, yes, they may help keep serial pedophiles and rapists from working in schools, I think they also help keep away volunteers, who aren’t a threat but resent the invasion of their privacy; I think it weakens the bonds between the community and the school.

        Like all things, it’s complicated.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:


          You think background checks do that? I can say that in all my years in education, I’ve never met anyone who was put off by a background check.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            After 9/11, schools all over the country put in safety protocols that included background checks, not only for staff, but for volunteers, and volunteerism (by people who aren’t parents) dropped.

            I heard people complain about it. I ran after school programs at our middle school, had for a couple of years, recruiting people from the community to share skills and interests with kids. I couldn’t get many to volunteer knowing that they’d have to go through a background check.Report

          • Avatar veronica d says:

            I volunteered at local schools last year for this computer science thing, and indeed I got a background check. But the thing was, it was effortless. I gave the organizer my information, they ran the check. Easy peasy.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          I have just finished going through the background check thingy so I’m allowed to babysit some foster kids of my mom’s, and can I say:

          It was annoying *as hell*. An absurd, month-long process.

          Not ‘the background check’, but the half a dozen tiny little thing I had to do. Oh, you need my to sign ten different forms so you can information from different agencies. Oh, you need me to go get my driving record *myself*. Then fingerprint me, wait weeks.

          And apparently all this only counts for *the specific fostering agency* I did it for. (Also, apparently, they had to pay for it?!) If I wanted to, I dunno, apply to volunteer with kids somewhere else, it would all have to happen again.

          This is criminally stupid and wasteful. Really? The state can’t just have some place I *apply* at, and get a card or something?

          Forget the ‘registry’…how about a *reverse registry*?Report

    • Perhaps there should be a periodic renewal of the registry, say, every year, in which the state would bear the burden to prove that the person ought to stay on the registry. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a beyond the reasonable doubt proof, but offer some sort of proof.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Maybe the clear and convincing standard would do. I understand the logic of registries but they seem to be stretching punishment beyond what it should be and make rehabilitation nearly impossible. They are also to broad in who gets put on them. A man who goes to the bathroom in an ally is not a child molester.Report

        • Avatar Bruce Webb says:

          And a person who brutally murders a child might not end up on a registry.

          As a society we have decided that crimes with a sexual aspect are irremediable and require permanent enforcement up to an including civil confinement for life. Or as in the case of registries effective banishment from civil society (staying 500 feet from schools etc). This seems to be an odd bleed-over from addiction theory, once an addict always an addict and the only possible ‘cure’ is to isolate you away from the source of your addiction.

          This seems odd to me and all too similar to fundamentalist ideas about sex and sexual purity that make certain acts of violence, those which violate the patriarchy, more punishable than those that don’t. I am just not sure why we have to have this particular line between criminal assault with or without violence and criminal assault with a sexual component. “Don’t hurt kids or you will get punished” along with some scale of punishment which matches the hurt makes sense. But treating indecent exposure as somehow more deserving of permanent punishment than violent non-sexual child abuse because either the perp or the victims ‘pee-pee’ was involved seems to fetish ‘decency’ in a non-helpful way.

          “Don’t hurt kids”. Seems simple enough to me.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Part of that is people have little knowledge about sex offenders in general. The old and still prevalent assumption was that every sex offender will continue to offend and get more dangerous. Any minor offense is the harbinger of worse. That is, to say the least wrong, but it led to a lot of the current set up.Report

  12. Avatar NoPublic says:

    Troublesome Frog:
    This is an interesting problem.What other crimes are there with comparably serious penalties that work like that?No intent–in fact the opposite of intent.You can do as much due diligence as you want and it makes no difference whatsoever.That sounds like the type of thing you do for crimes that come attached to a stiff fine, not hard time in prison and a lifetime as a pariah.

    In fact drugs crimes are the exact opposite of this. If I buy or sell a bag of washing powder or oregano from/to a cop alleging or believing it’s drugs, that’s a crime. Even though buying or selling a bag of washing powder or oregano is in no way a crime.Report

    • Avatar Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec says:

      Hey…I heard you’re holding some primo oregano. Wanna party sometime?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec: I honestly enjoy the heck out of every comment from you!Report

        • Avatar Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec says:

          If you enjoy witty commentary like this, you should definitely go see Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Jurassic World, starring Chris Pratt, in theaters now!Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      I’d think the crime would be fraud in that case. Do they actually charge you with selling the drug you claimed to be selling but weren’t? Or is the crime simply advertising the drug for sale independent of your making good on the sale?Report

  13. Avatar Guy says:

    No. Wrong. No crime committed.

    Her profile said she was 17, when asked she said she was 17. Believing your partner is telling the truth is not (or should not) be a crime. There are murky cases where the older partner had some kind of extenuating circumstances but really should have known and we can give them 90 days in jail for not being bothered to check that everything was on the up and up. This is not one of them. This is the once-in-a-blue-moon scenario where due diligence was actually done and the man in question did no wrong, whatever the law says.

    Society doesn’t get to take away a quarter of one of the most important years of this man’s life because he failed to demand an ID from someone who solicited him for sex. This is where prosecutor and judicial discretion should (and obviously have not) come in to play. The bright lines in the law exist because we can’t write a perfectly tuned grey law that captures all the nuances and bizarre circumstances a country of 3+ million people can produce. We trust those people to do the necessary tuning on the ground, usually because we can’t trust them to tune the other way. Obviously, in this case, they failed to do that necessary tuning. The solution, probably, is to retune the law. Maybe introduce some kind of logistic function for age of consent, or something.Report