Common Sense Needed in Consent Laws

Common Sense Needed in Consent Laws The sex scandal at Milton Academy has elicited both shock and sympathy at Andover and the prep school community at large. The five boys directly involved have been expelled, and their academic futures are the least of their worries. Under Massachusetts state law, the encounter constituted statutory rape; if charged, some of the boys can be tried as adults, and could receive a lifetime prison sentence. The behavior in question is undoubtedly deviant and degrading in the minds of many. But were it not for the fact that the girl involved was under 16, criminal charges would not be as likely. If brought to trial for statutory rape, the boys will likely be unable to escape the prevailing moral prejudice against their behavior, and be sentenced more harshly as a result. Regardless of any arbitrary legal definition of who can consent to sex, many instances exist where a 15-year-old is fully capable of understanding and choosing his or her sexual activities. While the Milton case is an extreme circumstance, it brings to light a frightening legal possibility, that sex between two consenting minors could land one of them in prison for life. The hard line set for age of consent by Massachusetts at 16 is unreasonable. A small disparity of age between two people in a sexual encounter does not make that encounter coercive, and to legally define these encounters as rape is simply unfair. A two-year span of age exists within students of the same grade level; coercion by seniority is unlikely to be a factor is such relationships. Students crack jokes and post signs about someone turning becoming”legal”, but when students decide if they want to engage in sexual activity, the age of consent laws have little to no influence on their choices. Sixteen is not a magic number; there are 20 year olds that might not be ready for sexual intercourse. Massachusetts’s law should mimic those of many other states, where minors with an age difference of less than two years can consent to sex with each other. The minimum age should be changed to 14, by which age most children have entered high school. These would appropriately curtail the potential for seniority to be used as an agent of coercion and prevent the possibility of outrageous sentences for teens that decide to persue their sexuality.