Friday, February 05, 2016

Sex, Laws, and Stupidity

I think some of our laws regarding sex crimes are draconian.  And sometimes their enforcement is just plain stupid.

Years ago, when my son was young, a neighbor suggested I check Megan's List.  I did, and found out a registered sex offender had moved into the neighborhood.  There was no indication that the person had anything to do with harming children, but all sex offenders are the same, right?  Someone who flashed someone is the same as a child rapist, that's the way the law is.

I noticed that, not far from me, there was a cluster of many sex offenders.  Turns out that there are requirements about where sex offenders--who, remember, have already done their time--can't live within a certain distance of a school.  So this one apartment complex has several sex offenders, because given its location (and cost relative to houses), it's one of the few places in the area where sex offenders can live after prison.  Doesn't matter if their offense had anything to do with kids or not.  They're all the same.

We don't label murderers when they get out.  Is there anyone--besides sex offenders--whom we do label and harass for the rest of their lives after they get out of prison?  I'm drawing a blank here.  It's clear to me we want them to suffer the rest of their lives, and this is how we do it.

This topic bothers me, not just because of what I see as the injustice of these particular laws, but also because of their application.  How many stories do we have to read of teenagers sexting each other and getting brought up on freakin' child pornography charges?  I can't believe that this is how our rather stringent laws were meant to be applied:
A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.

The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges...

Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.
I work with teenagers every day.  I know of students who have sent pictures of themselves, or even of others, to other students.  It's not something wise, it's not something I condone, it's not something I recommend, but I cannot imagine for the life of me that it's something worthy of lifelong stigma and legal harassment.

1 comment:

Ellen K said...

I think kids need to know the implications of such photos. Beyond the mere embarrassment of having the entire school see them, which is bad enough, if a teacher or administrator finds a phone with these images on it we have to report it to the Center for Exploited and Kidnapped Children to let them know that these are not children being forced into child slavery situations. In addition "collectors" of these images will perpetuate them on the internet for decades. Imagine trying to get your first big job only to have an image of you half naked pop up in the background check. It's stupid behavior and it's exactly what I said would happen once phones were equipped with cameras. Honestly what is the purpose other than gotcha moments for Instagram?