By Slade Sohmer
It’s downright impossible to keep teenagers away from Internet porn. Even with safeguards, filters and education, it’s always just one Google search on a friend’s computer away. And with the prevalence of such pornography via modern technology comes a warped perception of sex.
One only has to take a cursory glance at the news to find the Helen Lovejoy-esque freakouts about SEXTING, and junk shots and self-taken mirror pics and group action. But, after jumping the snark, perhaps these “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” moments have a point. Armed with the trappings of modern technology, kids today may not be hornier than ever, nor doing more damage than ever to their sexual health, but the long-term consequences of their actions have a reach and permanence like never before in history.
The latest such high-profile example of this comes from Cheltenham, England, where a 14-year-old boy has been arrested after posting to Facebook a brief clip of himself and a 14-year-old girl engaging in an unspecified sex act (it’s unclear if it was just a clip or whether the whole thing lasted just a few pumps). The sex was consensual, all parties agree. The boy got off … lightly. Rather than ruin the mini-pornographer’s life with the scarlet letter of the sex offender registry, police gave him a “final warning,” which means it’ll all be expunged from his record in six years, barring any additional indecent incident.
Surely the girl’s father may have a word (or a fist-to-jaw conversation) with this unnamed sextaper. Surely there will be giggles as he walk the halls of his school. Surely girls may think twice about a sexual rendezvous with him. But at least he won’t be branded a sexual predator for life, be forced to go door-to-door in new neighborhoods and disclose to universities and employers he’s a marked man.
And, for that, we say “cheers, mates.”
Teenagers, even the most mature, are shortsighted idiots when it comes to sex. But sex offender laws in the United States do not allow for youthful indiscretions. We’re not only talking jail time, but the other such measures: not being allowed to finish to high school, not being able to enter parks, not being able to go to sporting events, not being allowed near a library, having your picture and address posted on the Internet. Forever shunned by society. Just think what that does to a person. It’s cruel and unusual.
There are actual sexual predators out there. There are people who rape children. There are people who sexually assault women. There are very bad people who do very bad things all over the country. These criminals need to pay for what they’ve done. They deserve these harsh punishments.
In America, we tell kids they’re in possession of “child porn” if they own a yearbook which shows a boy’s hand down the pants of a fellow high schooler. In America, we throw eighth graders on the sex offender registry for life for aggressive (albeit, yes, deviant) horseplay. In America, we bestow Forever Pervert status on teenagers who just wanna show off what they’re working with via text. In America, we brand 19-year-olds as lifetime rapists for sleeping with their 16-year-old high-school sweethearts, and even if that man married the woman and raised four kids together, he still has to wear that crown of thorns.
Why? Because it makes us feel better? Because we’re so uneasy about morality that we need to make it about legality? Because it’s easier to codify a set of harsh penalties in black and white than deal with the gray areas? Hopefully we can look elsewhere, like Cheltenham, for guidance.