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OMG, she's done the nasty! Go directly to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
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So some guy knows that his daughter has an “online presence” but he’s never much thought about it. One day he googles for her “usual” online handle and finds here journal and... zOMGWTF she’s not a virgin!

He does have some legitimate concerns. She’s young, and the guy was 18 at the time (a couple years back). Where he is it counts as stat rape, but his daughter obviously wasn’t being taken advantage of since he’s also horrified to find out that she “wants to win him back.”

That all aside, he spills enough electronic ink assuring his readers that it’s “not spying if it’s on the internet!” that I’m certain he’s trying to justify his prying. Call it what you will (um, “stalking”, “invasion of privacy”, “vaguely creepy”, “obviously not something his daughter trusts him to deal with rationally”...) but he certainly does seem to believe that he’s done something wrong.

Aside from his tainted conscience, he’s also certain that he can put the boy in jail. So, as I understand it, the chronology is (italics for will be) as such:
  • his daughter decides to have sex with a much older boy, evidently of her own choice
  • she is stupid enough to write about it in a public place, and hides the fact from her father for a couple years
  • father finds her journal and reads it thoroughly enough to pick up a “casual notation” that she’s had sex (and a lot of it, apparently)
  • father, in parentally-impotent fury, decides to put the boy behind bars for something his daughter chose to do
  • boy goes to jail for a sex act
  • girl doesn’t go to jail for same sex act, though she was a willing (perhaps even the instigating) participant
I don’t know if this is an example of the father being repressively fucked up or of his country being repressively fucked up and he’s just a product of it. Both, I’m thinking. I know that children need protection from sexual predation, but the false-positive rate that statutory rape laws have is horrific. This boy is, due to the fault of making one bad choice while being a few months the wrong side of 18 (otherwise it wouldn’t be statutory rape, apparently), going to carry around the criminal record of being a Sexual Predator for the rest of his life. Possibly, he will never be able to vote, not be able to get a job better than minimum wage, and not be able to travel by air, have to announce his criminal status in any neighbourhood he moves into, etc, etc. All for having the bad judgement to take a girl up on an offer of fun a few months on the wrong side of an arbitrary line (and one that varies from state to state and country to country).

You’d think he might be more concerned with making sure that she... oh, knows how to protect herself from STDs and doesn’t have any already more than he would care about punishing the boy who took away his illusions. But, no, even his government doesn’t believe in preventing STDs, just in preventing sex in the first place.

Oh, and did I mention how retarded it was of the father to make such a post public, and to include his daughter’s real name? If his internet-stalking wasn’t an invasion of privacy, he’s certainly made sure that she has none left.

(Link to the post in question via chili_das_schaf‘s journal.)

EDIT: Wow, the discussion has been more active than I could ever have guessed. I've never had to turn off comment-emailing on a post before. I love how the discussion has touched on a huge range of issues, some only tangential to the surface issue, and there's yet more room to contribute. So, anyone who hasn't commented already, don't be intimidated by the number of replies or feel that it's "too old" to respond to! Come and join the debate. :-)

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As I already said, the thing that disgusts me most is that "no it is not spying because it is the internet". As somebody commented on my post: This is like saying "It's not spying on you if you leave your diary where I can find it." or "It's not invasion of privacy if you don't barricade the doors."

I don't think the girl is stupid. She just doesn't expect her father to google her .

Maybe "stupid" is too strong a word. Certainly she was unaware of the potential consequences of making it known publicy that she and another person had taken actions that were illegal.

It's like someone posting pictures of themselves smoking pot when they live in the US—maybe not inherently stupid, maybe just ignorant of the consequences, but certainly not a wise choice.

... is that there are actually people there BACKING HIM UP in his stupidity. Oh my.

Remind me to stay away from the internet. It's just too damn depressing.

I don't mind the internet, but I'm still going to stay the hell away from that country. I know we've got our own repressions here, but damn do they have a lot of support down there.

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Probably nicer than me

... I was kinda thinking of posting (anonymously) something along the lines of:

"Did you ever stop and think that maybe the reason your daughter kept this from you was because she figured that you were too immature to handle this in a calm and sane fashion? And y'know what? She's right."

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I like it. It's reasonable, not ranty, gives advice without being preachy, and carries the (fallacious, I think, but necessarily it will come up if the case is otherwise) weight of coming from an other parent.

All things that I wouldn't be able to pull off if I answered... and I was tempted, too. (Instead I ranted here, as you can see. Much easier to be polemic when you're not shoving it in their nose.)

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Fabulous. It's well written and reasonable enough that he might even listen, or at least be disturbed enough that he talks to his kid first.

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Keep her safe from STDs? Didn't you know that STDs were invented to punish immoral people like her? If we didn't have them, imagine what morals would look like!

It's odd, but I gather that he's not very right-wing at all from the few other entries in his journal that I read. I think he's just blind to the realities of the situation (she's going to have sex whether he likes/knows it or not, and the best he can do it help her be safe) and suffering from the too-common American malady of litigiousness.

I think a lot of people use the spectre of STDs to partially mask other fears around pre-martial sex.

Although, to be honest, if/when I have a sexually active teenager, I think STD's will be the top of my concern list. I went to high school with AT LEAST one girl who honestly believed that withdrawl would keep her safe from STDs.

Safe from STDs, the Wrath of God, the Fires of Hell and the big bad monsters called "boys". Did he forget his teen years as soon he became a father?

Hmm... let's take a guess why she didn't talk to him about it but rather types it somewhere down? Funnily I never had the need to keep everything a secret from my parents but maybe just because I know that my dad a) wouldn't greet every date I would bring home with a shotgun and b) never would read my diary, even if it would lay around in the house openly.

Are most of the people reading this are against even the concept of statutory rape?

If not, in what circumstances are you for it being applied?

The problem with statutory rape is the mathematics, as I see it. (I have a problem with age-based legislation, but my thoughts on that aren't clear enough to base a position on. I'll stick to the mathematical problem.)

In reality, there's a sliding window around someone's age where it is generally reasonable for them to be sexually involved with someone whose age is in that window. For instance, two eight-year-olds playing doctor is "acceptable" (at least not criminal) to most people. Two teenagers having sex is "acceptable" (given the assumption that teenagers having sex at all is acceptable). Someone who's 15 dating someone who's 17 isn't unheard of, and is acceptable to a large number of people.

So, the problem with statutory rape laws is that, though they often include "windows" delineated by the permutations of the distinctions between adult/child and of-age/under-age of consent, these windows are discrete jumps: "if 13 < your age < 18, then it's legal to have sex with someone (say) 12-17. If your age >= 18, then it's legal to have sex with someone (say) >= 16." (Mind, I made those numbers up off the top of my head. They're meant to demonstrate the window thing, not to be "good" values for those positions. Otherwise I would have to look up a real legislation example, and that's not really necessary to demonstrate the point and would be a lot of work.)

The corner cases of the cusp of adult/child and people near those ages (like in this case), and other cusps, is where the model fails. If the boy had been 17 and 11 months at the time, the father would still be furious but not able to charge him with statutory rape. As it stands he was 18 and a few months make no relevant moral distinction, but they make a massive legal distinction. Laws like these that implement a model that so poorly fits the actual situation are bad laws. However, making a continuous sliding-window law would be horribly complicated to draft and probably confuse the lawyers to no end, and it would be far too complicated to sell to the voting population, let alone explain what it actually means.

In sum, statutory rape laws are just heavy-handed, bad kludges for a very complex social question, but the alternative is politically and logistically daunting. It's a case of the current laws being perhaps the "best" solution given the resources, but that they fail to be "good enough" solutions. (A local maximum of utility, but falling far short of the global maximum or even most of the alternative local maxima. However, getting to the global maximum or a better local maximum means backtracking through some of the legal and social assumptions about sex and about age... and that's where I run out of firm ideas on which to base a clear opinion.)

Your main metaphor is that the law is a two-valued function, sex_okay(age_f, age_m), that needs to be well-fitted to all possible combinations. Since sex_okay(12,17) produces the wrong answer, the law is bad.

I don't think that's how it works. The law has to be a bright line, therefore the law should err on the side of freedom, sometimes blatantly.

Personally, I find sex between a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old sort of creepy already. Putting the limit at 18 sets it far away from those grey areas, at least the ones I see.

Also see my answer to breklor below -- the law is not so mechanical, anyway.

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they use a strictly mathematical means for determining something that does not depend strictly on chronological age

I think that's deliberate. You really don't want judges deciding, with total license, what sex is and isn't appropriate.

On the other hand, the judges do factor here, and help us avoid the mechanical conclusion that sex(17.99,18.01) = jail. So I don't think there's a serious problem there, unless some dumbass puts in mandatory sentencing.

Age distinctions are less unjust than most, because you can grow out of them. Consider: banning females from being firefighters due to their being statistically weaker than men, versus banning teens for the same reason. The first is an abomination, but the second is perfectly okay.

they have utterly no room for consensuality.

Isn't that the whole point of statutory rape? The postulated harm is manipulation into a decision that a) they are not competent to make, b) will have great ramifications.

Kids willingly smoke cigarettes. But I for one am not cool with them being targeted in cigarette advertising. And for a kid, an older person is much, much more powerful than any corporate billboard.

Still, it would not be a big deal if sex were all fun and games. Plenty of thirteen-year-old girls might be ready to deal with handjobs. But do you feel she is also ready to insist on condom use? To her 18-year-old boyfriend? Take the pill on time? Decide whether she should get an abortion?

Consult amipregnant if you want evidence. Or a laugh.

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At the same time I hear what you're saying.

90% of the hysteria around child sex is because as a culture we have silly notions about their "innocence", that they have no sexuality, don't experience sexual pleasure, etc.

I wish people would look at the actual harm to children. Mostly I think they're enraged because their own illusions are shattered. That guy who kicked off the debate has some of that going on.

On the other hand, rage has a purpose sometimes. Jailing an adult who has sex with children who are barely past puberty -- that doesn't seem like a terrible outcome. At the very least it should be investigated. I'll bet you a dollar there are many more "girlfriends".

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As one mother said: “I might not be jumping with joy outside their bedroom door but it’s better they do it there than hide it elsewhere.”

Amen to that.

Harm reduction as a moral imperative

No, not surprised at all. :-)

I'm very much a subscriber to harm-reduction arguments around potentially harmful social issues. I mean, once you accept that teenagers who intend to have sex will manage it no matter the preventions a parent puts in place, it only makes sense to do everything possible to make their actions safer.

I don't think there's anything wrong with pot, but I really have a problem with hard drugs like cocaine and heroine. However! People will do those no matter how hard the government tries to ban them, so it becomes a moral imperative to ensure that a) these users harm themselves as little as possible and b) these users harm society as little as possible.

It's the same deal with sex. But then, I'm preaching to the choir, I know. :-)

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