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Sexual Maturity and the Law

  1. Oct 17, 2004 #1

    Les Sleeth

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    In the PF Announcements area, an 18 year old tells the story of being convicted and sent to prison for rape after having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend. Setting aside moral and social issues, is this something teenagers can be expected to make sound, and particularly, legally correct decisions about? Are the expectations of the law unrealistic given a teenager's brain development, emotional experience, and ability to handle new hormonal levels?
     
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  3. Oct 17, 2004 #2

    Hurkyl

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    If we don't expect them to make sound decisions, they won't.
     
  4. Oct 17, 2004 #3

    Kerrie

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    age 18 is sure a lot different then age 28...
     
  5. Oct 17, 2004 #4

    selfAdjoint

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    An 18 year old is liable for military service and allowed to vote. So whatever you may think of an individual's maturity, such a person is adult for legal purposes. The question I have is, was the 16 year old girlfriend incapable of judgement? Considering that girls are reputed to mature faster than boys? Indeed in some states the age of consent is below 16 - or is that no longer true?
     
  6. Oct 17, 2004 #5

    Les Sleeth

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    I'm no spoiler, I am for giving responsibility as fast as kids can handle it.

    But my question is asked from a biological point of view. Do you expect a 5 year old to make the same level of "sound" decisions as a 25 year old? If not, is there a biological reason that should be factored into the equation? Specifically, is 18 years old the proper age, developmentally, to expect what the law expects?
     
  7. Oct 17, 2004 #6

    Les Sleeth

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    True, but what is "legal" is a different question. We all know lots of factors go into making a law, from religious beliefs to the demands of a congressperson's constituency. I am specifically asking if the expectations of the law is in line with what we know about the rate of development of kids' sexuality.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2004
  8. Oct 17, 2004 #7

    Hurkyl

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    However, you sound as if you're suggesting they should not be held responsible in this situation.
     
  9. Oct 17, 2004 #8
    I'm wondering why the 18 year old went with it. Shouldn't he have known better and stop it before it went too far?
     
  10. Oct 17, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    Let's say I catch my 7 year old son playing doctor with his 5 year old sister. Should I put him jail?

    Holding someone responsible is a different issue from what we hold developing humans responsible for at what age.

    Can we leave the moral-legal arena for a minute and just consider this problem from a biological-developmental point of view?
     
  11. Oct 17, 2004 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    ???? How do we decide "should"? That is exactly what I am asking. Are you saying he is a boy, she is a younger girl, so that automatically determines he should be capable of making a sound decision?
     
  12. Oct 17, 2004 #11
    I'm saying that he should have considered the consequences before going along with it. Or, perhaps, he did and he figured that he wouldn't have gotten caught?
     
  13. Oct 17, 2004 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    You are not addressing how we determine "should." What is your basis for what an 18 year old "should" know about sexual behavior? A few decades ago, Blacks "should" drink from separate fountains, "should" use separate bathrooms, "should" not marry Whites, "should" . . . Before that women "should" stay in the kitchen . . . need I go on?

    I don't want to sidetrack my own theme (biological readiness), but even if we think an 18 year old can be held accountable, isn't the government (since they made the law) required to provide training to help change the standard of behavior? Kids in high school are in one big club, and they tend to think the whole world is contained in that environment. Seniors aren't thinking sophmores are too young, they are thinking they are cute or hot; and sophmores aren't thinking a senior is too old, they see a cute guy/girl. The world outside of the school isn't going to penetrate it by just passing a law.

    Besides, just how "bad" is it that an 18 yo and a 16 yo had sex? I lost my virginity at 16 to a more experienced 18 yo girl. Should she have been put in jail for rape? Get real!!!!! It's consensual sex, not forced sex, and biologically sex is probably the most powerful of all human influences during adolescence. So is that force adequately addressed by passing a law and then sitting around saying "should"?

    Isn't the real agenda to stop kids from having sex and finding someone to punish to force it to happen? And who's/what morality do you think is behind that? Is teenage sex really "bad" or is it that religious morality has won the battle about this in spite of whether or not the law makes any sense?
     
  14. Oct 17, 2004 #13
    You make a good point, there. I can't really give you an answer on that.

    I don't really think it's that bad that a 16 and 18 year old had sex. Dude, I'm 20 and I almost went out with a 16 year old. However, when I was contemplating it the thought of me going to jail did come up a few times. I still tried to go out with her, but I don't think we need to go further into that. The point is that I would have dated her.
     
  15. Oct 17, 2004 #14

    Hurkyl

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    Are you saying parents shouldn't have at least some of the responsibility in raising their children?


    Anyways, let me ask you a question that leads into what I recall was the justification for the law: you've been pushing the idea that teenagers have not yet learned to resist their urges. What's to stop those who are more in control of themselves from taking advantage of this fact? If teenagers are as unable to control themselves as you seem to suggest, then "consent" is meaningless.
     
  16. Oct 17, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    No, I think lack of parenting, or maybe I should say quality attention, is the biggest problem that troubled children have.


    You don't seem to want to separate out catagories of humans. Is there really no difference developmentally between a 2 yo and a 5 yo? Between a 7 yo and a 10 yo? Between adolescence first experiencing raging hormones with no life experience, and an adult who has had the opportunity to live and learn?

    By your reasoning, out of fear that sane people will do bad things by claiming to be insane, we should indiscriminately punish the insane with the faking insane (which we currently do). Is fear going to dictate this situation too?

    You know, most of us will have a hard time admitting it, but this issue is super-inflamed by the fact that it involves sex. Do we ever question why we have so much paranoia around the issue of sex? Where did that come from? Is it inborn, a universal principle of morality, or socially conditioned? If it is socially conditioned, what do you think it was that created that social standard? Couldn't be Puritanical or Calvinistic etc. could it? As educated people, can we admit we've mindlessly allowed ourselves to view something quite natural (sex) as shameful or even evil, and that that conditioning is influencing how we make laws and judge our fellow humans?
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2004
  17. Oct 17, 2004 #16

    Hurkyl

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    I'm not really sure I understand your reply; I'm not really sure at all what argument you're trying to make.

    You seem to have argued that the urge to have sex is so powerful that it overwhelms the abilities of teenagers to behave rationally.

    Then does it not follow that there should be protection for those unable to control themselves?


    As a side note, I strongly dislike believing that people can't control themselves: they simply choose pleasure over restraint. Alas, I don't have any evidence to refute such a claim. :frown:
     
  18. Oct 18, 2004 #17

    Les Sleeth

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    Well, who do you want to protect? Just girl teenagers . . . what about the boys doing what most boys are biologically set up to do, which is pursue? How do you want to protect? By putting kids in jail, sticking them with lifelong sexual offender status? Do we pass a law, and then just say obey without understanding the human physiological, developmental, psychological factors involved?


    Not very scientific is it? However, if you think I am preaching liberal propaganda you are wrong. Just as you have strong feelings about lack of control, I am passionate about the trips we lay on kids. First we subject them to incessant sexual stimulation on TV, commercials, etc., and then when they behave outside our "official" norms, the solution we come up with is jail.

    Further, who is the blame when we fail to understand developmental psycholgy and then design laws that a human can't live up to? It is just like the early days of assembly lines, when those in charge thought humans should adapt to any conditions a factory had. The employees were being paid weren't they? Human nature? We don't need no stinkin' human nature.

    What if you had a law that put a starving person in jail for overeating when he finds food? Starving is what a lot of teenagers are like, starving for affection, acceptance, love, sex, guidance . . . something!!!! They don't really know yet. And a lot of that confusion is due to those responsible for helping them develop.

    This trend of treating kids like adults disturbs me. Kids are NOT adults. They are developing, not developed. The adults, the home, and the society we maintain play major roles in that development. When we start punishing children for their developmental failures, to me that is the height of shirking responsibility.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2004
  19. Oct 18, 2004 #18

    Les Sleeth

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    I would still like to hear some opinions from the biology point of view. For instance, I read something the other day about teenagers' brains not being fully developed.
     
  20. Oct 18, 2004 #19

    matthyaouw

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    Here is a quick question- One arguement for setting a legal age on sex is that upon reaching that age, the person is supposed to have more maturity, and better judgement in such situations. My question is does the judgement come about from age & brain development, or is it past experience? deprive someone of sex until they are 18, and will they be any more likely to make sound decisions than a 16 year old with their first partner?
     
  21. Oct 18, 2004 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    Good point. As I said in another thread, the statuatory rape law is meant to protect the innocent from being manipulated by the experienced. So how does it make sense to apply it when two inexperienced people are involved?
     
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