Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Age of Consent Must Not Trump Age of Innocence

Glamor, fame, the chance to live the high life among the rich and the really cool -- these are things that some teens obsess over but, most never get to realize. Mandy Smith who was involved with Rolling Stones bass player, Bill Wyman, got to live that fantasy at the extreme cost of her childhood innocence. In a story by Peter Smith at LifeSiteNews.com, Miss Smith talks about her past mistakes, her reversion to Catholicism and her quest to raise the age of consent in the United Kingdom to 18 years of age.

Mandy Smith speaks to the tragedy of innocence lost and the false sense of maturity that most teens think they possess, until later in life they realize the error of their ways. Most teens won't have the opportunity to become a sex groupy to a rock star, but what is concerning is the fact that they are able to live out a version of this fantasy amongst themselves.

According to the article, the Parliament of the UK, to the dismay of the Northern Irish, order that the age of legal consent be lowered to 16 from 17, placing them in harmony with the law in the rest of the kingdom. This decision concerns Mandy Smith because she views it as one more way that the emotional immaturity of young people with relation to sexual activity is being undermined if not completely ignored. Smith tries to use her past as a tool to help young girls recognize how the culture is poisoning their minds by sexualizing their young worlds. The article offers this about Mandy Smith's motivations:

But her biggest concern is for teenage girls she sees today being caught up in a highly sexualized culture and its expectations.

“My concern is that everything – clothes, films, talk – is so sexualised. The girls I talk to are under pressure to be a certain way,” said Smith. “They think they should be having sex, living a certain life. I try to say to them: ‘Hold on. You don’t have to do this.’”

While this article is certainly indicative of a global trend to compromise the innocence of our youth, I was curious to see what Virginia statutes say about the age of consent. According to information I found at Legal Match.com under the topic Age of Consent Lawyers, I found this:
In Virginia, the age of consent is 18 years old. At that age, a person may legally consent to sex with any other adult, regardless of the age difference between them.

This law only applies to heterosexual conduct. Virginia, likely in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling, has repealed its laws governing homosexual conduct. It currently has no statutory age of consent for homosexual conduct. It is probably safe to assume that the age of consent for homosexual conduct in Virginia is also 18, but this is not a sure thing.

Like most other states, Virginia makes allowances for cases in which two minors are below the age of consent, but close to the same age. The law recognizes that such relationships are not exploitative, and are therefore not what age of consent laws are designed to prevent. In Virginia, a person over the age of 15 can consent to sex with another person who is no more than 3 years older.
It clearly states that the legal age of consent in Virginia is the age of 18, when one reaches adulthood. However, when you continue to read, you recognize a disturbing loophole. It is not considered exploitation of a minor if two consenting teens between the ages of 15 yrs. and 17 yrs and 364 days decide to have sex.

What is it considered, then? Fun? Morally acceptable? These exceptions are made, I know, because the magic wand of maturity hits you over the head at the age of 18 and *BING*, you know better. But, not at 17 yrs. and 364 days.

Why is consentual sex between two minors who are no more than three years apart in age and over the age of 15 yrs. given tacit approval and afforded exceptions?

Is this not the type of rationale that leads to the dumbing down of morals in our society; kids will be kids?

What does this type of legislation say about our desire to protect and preserve the purity and innocence of our youth?

While the LifeSiteNews piece offers a hopeful turn of events in Smith's life, it also brings to the fore a disturbing complacency on the part of the general population to allow the further degradation of morals in our society. It is difficult, as any faithful Catholic parent knows, to teach children about the dangers of the culture and why it is important not to become too immersed in its ways.

It is never helpful to have laws that excuse behaviors in children that one hopes to encourage his children to avoid. If there is no real consequence to minors experimenting with sexually promiscuous activity, why is it so depraved for an 18 yr. old to engage in this same behavior with a minor? And, why is 15 yrs. the appropriate age? Why not 12 yrs.? Girls are physically maturing at a much younger age according to recent studies. If they are physically mature earlier, wouldn't emotional maturity also follow suit? I'm being facetious, of course.

Parents must be aware that they will have no legal recourse if their child should engage in sexual activity with another minor within the window of those ages. The only protection that your child has from the hazard of being introduced to sexual exploits by another minor in this age range is to be taught the moral tools and the self-respect they need to turn against any advances or enticements. They must be taught that their body is sacred and the temple of the Holy Spirit, to be respected and given in marriage to the one they love. Or, it is to be preserved and offered as a gift of sacrifice and purity to the Lord as His bride in the religious life.

Potentially, your child may balk at your involvement in their personal lives -- rules about what to wear, mandated participation in a Church youth group or CCD, being vocal about their choice of friends, monitoring their computer and TV choices -- preparing their souls for eternal life is your job. Take it seriously and provide your children with the age appropriate information they need to avoid the mistakes that took Mandy Smith down a tragic road. Thankfully for her, she recognized the mercy of Christ Jesus. Not all children who wander down this path find their way safely out of the dungeon of moral relativism.

The age of consent must not trump the age of innocence. Take courage parents, you are the ones who are in control. Laws should be there to protect you when something goes wrong. It is your responsibility to make sure nothing does.

5 comments:

D said...

You are so correct Kathy! We parents are left to battle this culture and it's laws to protect our children. We must never give up and continue to fight to protect the innocence of our children. This means teaching them about the dignity of their body, dressing modestly, not watching certain shows, etc., Unfortunately I've seen too many parents who do not seem to care and allow the culture to dictate regardless of the moral consequences.

Kathy said...

D,

Thanks for the comment and for visiting Faith on the High Wire. It is sad to see how some parents have decided that there is nothing they can do, the problem is too big for them to solve, or that the schools will teach the kids what they need to know in their "health" classes. Not, all parents think this way, but many do. This makes the allure even more tempting because the freedoms our children see other children afforded, they want, too. They are not mature enough to understand that what looks like freedom will really cost their peers dearly in the end -- teen pregnancy, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, loss of hope, a distortion of marriage as a relationship that lasts for a lifetime, etc. It is hard to watch, it is hard to explain to my children. But, we do the best we can and ask for God's grace to be ever present in the conversations, the information and the times when the kids have to make those tough decisions without us there.

Fred C said...

When natural law is discarded, lawyers step in with all of these arbitrarily chosen ages and situations (e.g., humanity begins at birth). We must work for (advocate) natural-law principles in society.

For our wayward child, we might try, "I was hoping that our entire family would be together again in heaven. By living as you are, you may not be with us."

Kathy said...

Fred,

Welcome to Faith on the High Wire. I agree that tossing natural law out and inserting secular humanism and moral relativism has created a gap of understanding for lack of a better phrase. There are some signs that natural law is still apparent, if not completely recognized as such, when people become victims of violence and/or unkind manipulation. There is that innate sense that something has wounded a piece of their soul and it must be rectified. Thus, they litigate instead of healing the wound interiorly through the mercy of God.

I really like the advice you offer to parents of wayward children. It is loving and sincere.

Allison said...

This kind of complacency is dangerous to say the least. People think I am crazy when I say this, but when society thinks it is OK for kids to have sex with each other, it is a very short step to society thinking it is OK for kids to have sex with adults. The kids are already doing it with each other, what's the difference?

It's just one more reason why parents and especially mothers need to be in constant conversation with their children, know where they are and what they are doing at every moment of the day. Period.