Monday, December 3, 2012

Convoluted Legal Restrictions on Consent

Although the age of consent varies from country to country, and in the US, from state to state, this blog is generally not about altering age of consent laws. An exception to this is that I think the laws should be consistent. By that I mean that if, say, a 17-year-old can legally consent to sex with a complete stranger, they should be free to consent to sex with, say, an aunt or uncle. An example of the problem that selective restrictions cause is shown below.

Here's another one of those articles that is missing some important information. Stan Maddux wrote at Indiana's
A 45-year-old Westville-area man admitted to having sexual contact with a family member.

The man entered a plea agreement Friday in La Porte Circuit Court. Terms call for a five-year prison sentence for Class C felony incest.
Notice that the charge is "incest" and it is referred to as "sexual contact," no charges or mentions of assault of any kind. From the official state website:
IC 35-46-1-3
Sec. 3. (a) A person eighteen (18) years of age or older who engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual conduct with another person, when the person knows that the other person is related to the person biologically as a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew, commits incest, a Class C felony. However, the offense is a Class B felony if the other person is less than sixteen (16) years of age.
    (b) It is a defense that the accused person's otherwise incestuous relation with the other person was based on their marriage, if it was valid where entered into.
So if half-siblings legally married in Sweden, and moved to Indiana, they could have sex all they want. But if their neighbors were half-siblings, not only could they not get married, but they could get prosecuted. Wouldn't it just be easier to let anyone of the age of consent have consensual sex with anyone else of the age of consent, and not get law enforcement involved?

While being questioned by La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor Beth Beckman, the man admitted to engaging in sexual contact with a female biological relative in 2009 at his home in the 8600 block of West 350 South.
In the US, there is something called the right to remain silent. Use it, people!
She was 16 at the time of the acts, which allegedly occurred during the summer. According to court documents, the man was also convicted of incest on the same victim in Michigan.
The age of consent in both Indiana and Michigan is 16. However, the law in Indiana says that while a 16-year-old can consent to sex with ten different 50-year-old strangers every night, she can't consent to sex with a guardian, custodian, adoptive parent, adoptive grandparent, stepparent, her child care worker, or a military recruiter who is trying to enlist her, until she is 18. Sex with biological or genetic relations is criminalized under anti-incest law listed up above, so it isn't legal for her to consent to sex with a biological relative no matter how old she is. So, if she's 18 and meets her genetic father, having never met him before or having any communication with him whatsoever (let's say she is the product of a one night stand,) it is illegal for her to have sex with him, but perfectly legal, apparently, for her to go home to the stepfather who has raised her since birth and have sex with him. Again, wouldn't it just be easier to let anyone of the age of consent have consensual sex with anyone else of the age of consent, and not get law enforcement involved?

In Michigan, the age of consent is also bumped up to 18 if the situation involves an authority figure.

He was serving a 5- to 15-year sentence at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich., when he was transported to La Porte County to face the charges in the local jurisdication.

The now 20-year-old woman told authorities she also had sexual contact with the man when he came to visit her while she was living with her mother near Detroit, court records disclosed.
She "told authorities." But was it in response to them interrogating her? Or did she call them to complain? If she didn't, who did? If this was some form of assault, why isn't he being charged under sexual assault or rape laws? The defendant obviously doesn't have regular custody of her. Whether he's her biological father or uncle, we're not told.
The victim told investigators he would rent a motel room where the sexual acts occurred in Michigan.
Although it is still possible this is a matter of assault, is it really likely that, given their recent history, she would have gone to a hotel room with him if she didn't want to have sex with him? She didn't live with him and they had "sexual contact" multiple times, in at least two different states.
The plea agreement was taken under advisement by the court and, if accepted, Judge Tom Alevizos scheduled sentencing for Dec. 21.
Please, Judge Alevizos, if this isn't a matter of assault, then do not send him to prison.

Considering he would have faced this same charge whether she was 16, 18, 25, or 40, this brings up an issue of concern to many. Some people who do support the rights of siblings to be together have a problem with parents and their adult children being together. The concern usually cited is that a parent will "groom" their own child, and then, when the child reaches the age of consent (let's pick California, where the age is 18,) the parent pounces on their brainwashed child.

Absent a severe disability that makes it impossible, I maintain that it is child abuse for a parent to neglect to raise their child to be an independent adult in every sense of the word. "Grooming" would be child abuse. If, however, as an independent adult, a woman (or man) were to return to her parent(s) and freely choose to commence sexual contact, marriage, etc., I do not think the law should interfere. I think the law is ridiculous when it says an 18-year-old woman can consent to join the military, vote, run for certain political offices, operate heavy machinery, and have sex with ten different strangers a night, but not marry two men at the same time or have sex with certain people she already knows and loves.

Some cite the power differential or the emotional imbalance. However, it is legal for her to have sex with a music or movie star she's idolized since she was 12, or the President of the United States, or a billionaire, or anyone else, so these reasons are not consistently applied, but rather seems like an attempt to justify putting or keeping a personal dislike into law.

Arbitrary lines create inequality. For example, it is illegal for a woman to have sex with a genetic uncle she never met until she was an adult, but not an older neighbor or an uncle-through-marriage who practically raised her. Other than age of consent, I do not see any restriction that consistently respects her choices with her own body. Not all choices will be good ones or ones I may like, but I do not support having strangers tell an adult (woman in this example) which other adults she can have sex with or marry.

We have real examples of states (like Rhode Island, for example) and countries where an adult can legally consent to have sex with their own parent. Has anyone noticed that those places have an increase problems correlating to this? I think the answer is no.

It comes back to this: an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion, should be free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage with ANY consenting adults, without prosecution, bullying, or discrimination. We're not going to like all of the relationships that other people have, but those relationships should be theirs to have, or not. Adopting this approach will make our laws less intrusive, less wasteful, and will promote equality and will help actual victims to come forward.
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  1. I personally think the federal age of consent should be lowered to 16. Once again, 31 out of 50 states have their age of consent set at 16, and I don't see them being havens of child abuse. Those states are doing just fine. In fact, I think those 31 states are just as serious about combating child abuse as the rest of the United States.

    Personally, I am debating whether the federal age of consent should be lowered to 15. 15 is the most common age of consent in the EU. The following European countries have their age of consent set at 15:

    Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

    Most, if not all, of those countries are doing just fine and are not havens of child abuse. In fact, most, if not all, of those countries are arguably tougher on child abuse and exploitation than we are and have lower child abuse rates than we do.

    Regardless of whether the age of consent should be 18, 17, 16, or 15, the age of consent should be consistent all across the board and should not be raised when someone in a position of authority is involved for reasons explained in your post(s) and my previous comment. Laws that make exceptions for positions of authority will inevitably be inconsistent and fail to include many other types of power-dynamic relations. They will also fail to take into account the fact that many seemingly normal or acceptable relations can easily involve power dynamics.

  2. You keep hitting the nail on the head, Keith! You're more professional and reasonable than virtually all of the journalists I've ever come across who have covered the topic of incest.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

    *There is just one thing I disagree with you on and it has nothing to do with marriage equality. I'm against your stance on bullying. I think censoring or criminalizing bullying will not make LGBT, consanguimory, and polyamorous lovers more accepted. It will make them FEEL more accepted (*emphasis on the word "feel.") Censoring hate speech and bullying will not change the opinions of bigots. It will only turn them into closet or underground bigots. People make fun of any couples they don't like, even normal heterosexual ones. Consenting adults should have the right to marry any other consenting adults without interference from the state. However, people should also have the right to criticize any relationships or marriages they don't like as long as they do not engage in actual discrimination.

    I'm sorry for spamming your comments section, Keith...but let me give you my reason on why hate speech should be legal:

    If you really believe that someone's speech is wrong and that you have some moral high ground, then you should have no problem debunking that person's speech. Simply telling a bigot to shut the fuck up and then trying to prosecute him won't change his hateful opinions. Censoring hate speech makes marginalized communities feel safer and more accepted (emphasis on the word "feel"). It doesn't actually make them safer or more accepted. Quite frankly, as a minority, I appreciate the existence of hate speech. It makes it a lot easier to separate the bigots from the tolerant.

    There is no 100% effective way of getting rid of hatred, but I can guarantee you that producing a stronger counterargument against a bigot will have a much higher chance of changing his opinions than simply telling him to shut the fuck up and then prosecuting him. If a bigot isn't even willing to listen to you, then you've already won. That also shows that the bigot's beliefs must be pretty weak if he's not even willing to hear you out.

    To everyone supporting hate speech laws, I must ask you the following questions?

    Does a small business owner in the Bible Belt need hate speech to refuse service to a Gay or Muslim?

    Does a police officer need hate speech to racially profile a minority?

    Does a racist on the subway need hate speech to refuse to allow you to sit next to him?

    The answer to all of those questions is NO.

    We should be cracking down on actual discriminatory actions rather than the mere expression of opinions. Censorship doesn't get rid of hatred or any other problems of thought, it only hides them and makes them harder to detect.

    Education and debates are the greatest weapon against bigotry. We can start by spreading your blog and then teaching gender and marriage equality in schools.

    Thank you.

    *If consanguimory couples are ever confronted by bigots, they should just make out right in front of them. They can show that they're stronger than those bigots.

  3. They should only do that in jurisdictions where consanguimory relationships are not prosecuted.

    *response to previous comment

  4. The power dynamic argument is a bunch of bullshit. If a girl is dating a guy who's a lot richer than her, is the breadwinner, handles all the bills, and controls all of the finances, isn't there a huge power dynamic involved? I don't see us prohibiting or placing a higher age of consent on those relationships. The age of consent should be consistent all across the board. Any laws that place a higher age of consent for certain "power dynamic" relationships will inevitably be guilty of restricting certain "power dynamic" relationships while letting other "power dynamic" relationships off the hook.

    I could've worded this better, but I'm sure all of you get the point.

  5. Power dynamic is an issue independent of the age of consent. In states where the age of consent is 16 (and raised to 18 for "power dynamic" relationships), if a power dynamic exists between a 16-year old and an adult, the same power dynamic will still exist when the 16-year old turns 18.

    I could've also worded this better, but I'm sure you all get the point.

    *response to previous comment


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