Most excellent Madame! It is what our readers have been waiting for—disputation! We have been seeing eye to eye quite a lot as of late (as you put it, I have been showing my brilliance by agreeing with you, lol), and now we diverge, and in so doing demonstrate the effect of one of the quotes on our page about “argument among friends.”
I’m not sure how I intimated that the described situation was “harmless,” but I do feel strongly that the circumstances, and others like it, are not criminal. Your statements about the older person having more knowledge and experience are true, but should be irrelevant as to criminality determinations. Further, giving emphasis to things like that, in my view, only reinforces the subtly misogynistic and debilitating “weaker gender” presumption that undermines the independence, strength, confidence, dignity, and treatment of young women in a way not all that dissimilar to prejudicial presumptions about math ability, engineering aptitude, etc.
And I did address the psychological, social, and emotional component—and the greater knowledge and experience of older “suitors”—when I said that male-female interaction information should be taught to both young ladies and young gentlemen just as they get to the immediate pre-pubescent stage. They also need to know that the successful track records of “relationships,” where the age difference is stark, drop considerably when the younger person is below the age of 25, and further, that many of the relationships end poorly or leave negative emotional effects. Maturation in many respects can be a slow and gradual thing.
But all that is a far cry from criminality. I fail to see that whether one makes good relationship or sexual decisions (on the part of the male or the female in this case) has relevance to whether there is criminality.
Presumptions against consent, as you seem to imply when you said that between a 22 year old and 14 year old there would be a “fine line between consent and coercion,” do harm in my opinion, because they serve to reinforce the patronizing idea that girls are silly, what they say can’t be taken seriously, they can’t be trusted to make decisions, etc.
Your point about the lack of nuance in the law or allowance for the exceptional is well taken. And I agree that magical points being reached on a birthday are quite artificial. See! You thought I was going to just be on a disagreeing roll! :)
Consciousness, internalizing, or accepting of the ramifications of his actions before he took them are anything but assured, given that he reached age 22 in a society that, during his “formative” years, likely coddled him, shielded him, and threatened him with consequences that never actually materialized.
Whether it was a pattern or a moment of weakness can be relevant—but should not be a criminal consideration, only an administrative one.
I am puzzled by your last two paragraphs, and there is perhaps conflation. Consensual biological coupling should not be a criminal matter in my view, but at most a societal or administrative one. You seem to imply that we should presume coercion. Far too many lives have been ruined by presuming that. We should instead accept stated consent (with some systemic safeguards; see below). By the way, it was the 14 year old in the case, in private questioning, perhaps even volunteering the information, who readily said it was mutual, non-coerced, even a “relationship.”
Of course his judgment was poor! His own maturity is probably deficient. But if poor judgment was a crime, there would be hardly any non-criminals left. I think it is a sign of a poorly connected, reactive, infantile society when it wants to criminalize so many things that are merely poor judgment.
We as a society contribute to these things by effectively narrowing social circles, forcing teachers into expending large amounts of time just to make it financially (while also meeting the expectations of serving, grading, coaching, etc.), and then we wonder why “inappropriate” relationships occur inside those circles.
We have a ridiculous hodge podge of age of consent/age of majority statutes in the various states, which apparently range (I have not looked at all 50) from 14-18, with 16-18 apparently predominating. We need standardization, even if it has to retain elements of artificiality.
Historically, the age of presumed puberty has been 14. That’s probably the standard with the most prevalent track record. Of course, the stuff in our hormone injected Frankenfood system has complicated things by frequently throwing that all out of whack, with 11 not being uncommon and even lower ages occasionally showing puberty. Your rail against Monsanto and other agri/”food” businesses seems well pointed. Another discussion!
Stated consent should, in this revised system I propose, normally be accepted. However, the prosecutor or the court can dispute the consent, and should especially do so in cases where puberty does not appear to have been reached. If the consent is disputed, the defense then is allowed to pick a psychologist, from a list provided by the local sufficiently large psychological professionals organization, and that psychologist will interview, at government expense, the stated consenter. That psychologist will make a professional determination whether the stated consent is not true, whether it is only stated because of fear, trauma, or excessive concern to not get the older person in trouble. If the psychologist determines that the consent is invalid because one of those things exists, and therefore is in reality coercion (rape), then the court will be informed and criminal proceedings can begin.
The prosecutor can also attempt to show that presumed puberty is not actual. The defense would select an MD, from a list of MDs (don’t even have to be pediatricians) that the local sufficiently large Medical Society has submitted as qualified, to make such a determination at government expense. If no puberty exists, or, in the MD’s assessment, no puberty had begun by the time of the first “incident,” then the judge can examine preliminary investigation evidence and make a determination that there is reason to believe that biology could not have been a factor, and therefore charges of child criminal molestation (a serious crime) can be pursued.
The rule of law is supposed to presume for the defendant, against whom, relatively alone and isolated, the power of government is arrayed in prosecution and judgment and imprisonment. Consent should be the first hurdle, and puberty the second, to restore fair treatment before the law in these matters. America already has a disgraceful and appalling incarceration rate, far higher than most countries, probably the highest in the world. Let’s quit adding to it and cease to criminalize biology.