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The Kids Are Alright:

From the Washington Post:

Researchers at Ohio State University garnered little attention in February when they found that youngsters who lose their virginity earlier than their peers are more likely to become juvenile delinquents. So obvious and well established was the contribution of early sex to later delinquency that the idea was already part of the required curriculum for federal "abstinence only" programs.

There was just one problem: It is probably not true. Other things being equal, a more probing study has found, youngsters who have consensual sex in their early-teen or even preteen years are, if anything, less likely to engage in delinquent behavior later on.

Daniel Chapman (mail):
"... consensual sex in their early-teen or even preteen years..."

mmm kay
11.11.2007 2:16pm
Oh My Word:
"It is probably not true" is a biased overstatement. Anyone who has worked with statistics and fiddled with regressions to any meaningful extent can tell you that these things are notoriously finicky and peppered with biases and shortcomings. Until you see three separate studies that say the same thing, no one study can really give much credence to a particular proposition.

MOREOVER, all a finding of "no significant correlation" says is that there is not a correlation that can be asserted with scientific confidence. It does not mean that none exists. My guess is the reporter does not understand the distinction and the scientist easily steamrolled the reporter on this point to help generate some interest in the study.

One could just as easily say that identical twins have a special dynamic and relationship that helps one who has teen sex stay away from crime by wanting even more to keep her/his life straight in other areas--some sort of ying-yang effect.

Moreover, by limiting the study to identical twins (who generally grow up the same family), you are selecting out what may be the most significant variable there is--that birds of a feather flock together (sex and delinquency in a family's disciplinary structure or lack thereof--and that an ideology that allows early sex is prone to other problems). That is the whole point.

Generally, these studies are promoted or denigrated based on the predilections of the reporter more than anything.
11.11.2007 2:19pm
Dave N (mail):
a more probing study
I am hoping against hope that the pun was unintentional because it was REALLY bad.
11.11.2007 2:23pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I don't find the idea of an inverse correlation between early sex and delinquency surprising: perhaps sexual frustration is a source of crime?
11.11.2007 3:10pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
This sounds like a confusion of cause and effect. I'm sure juvenile delinquents are more likely to have early sex because those "bad boys" are the ones the young girls are sexually attracted to. The asian kid studying 24/7 is not getting in trouble nor is he getting laid, the latter not being voluntary.

That being said, young males who can't get laid because they're ugly, nerdy, unpopular, not athletic, etc may very well end up acting out and getting in trouble. I don't see how any positive correlation can be made either way, let alone quantified.
11.11.2007 3:14pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Ahh yes... the "saved by the bell" analysis.
11.11.2007 3:19pm
NI:
I actually have some personal experience with this one -- I lost my virginity at age 12 (to a 26 year old). Looking back on it 30 years later I don't see that waiting would have hurt me, but neither do I see that not waiting did me any harm, and I'd be surprised if there is any kind of a cause and effect relationship between early loss of virginity and anything.

I think half the problem is that sex is treated as a special case rather than as just another biological function. We don't try to teach kids they can't eat at all; what we teach them is to eat nutritional stuff, limit their quantities of junk food, and learn good table manners so they will be pleasing dinner company. Likewise, rather than expect kids to not have sex (we may as well expect it to rain chicken soup) how about telling them that like all other biological urges there are appropriate times, places, and manners? Oh, and protect yourself -- I'll stick with my food analogy and say that they should protect themselves from disease and pregnancy for the same set of reasons they should protect themselves from food poisoning.
11.11.2007 3:34pm
Oren (mail):

sex and delinquency in a family's disciplinary structure or lack thereof--and that an ideology that allows early sex is prone to other problems


As I recall from high school it was the daughters of the strictest parents that slept around the most.

Also, the phrase "ideology that allows early sex" has roughly the same meaning as "ideology that allows the sun to rise and set" - you can approve or disapprove but to think that your children will ask your permission before doing the nasty is somewhat delusional.
11.11.2007 3:35pm
Oren (mail):

how about telling them that like all other biological urges there are appropriate times, places, and manners?


If that's your goal, you should start working on the current crop of puritan adults before messing with the kids - the kids are at least 20 years ahead on that one. Remember, it was mostly the 18+ crowd that got all worked up about Janet Jackson's "striptease" (PTC called it that).
11.11.2007 3:41pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
What? You expected the majority of the complaints to come from 12 year olds? Seriously?
11.11.2007 3:42pm
Oren (mail):

What? You expected the majority of the complaints to come from 12 year olds? Seriously?


No. I expected most of them to have seen a nipple before. Most had and therefore didn't think it was a big deal.
11.11.2007 3:44pm
methodact:
In the Russian understanding of the DIALECTIC, opposites often have mutual validity. This is something that I have known for a very long time: As bad as the neo-puritans, prudes and government say pre-teen sex, teen sex and child pornography are, the exact opposite is true. They are every bit as GOOD as their detractors are maintaining that they are bad
11.11.2007 3:51pm
Oren:
I don't get it methodact but I'm intrigued by your theory about how the Russians are out to make our teens have sex. Where can I subscribe to your newsletter?
11.11.2007 4:00pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
From what I remember, it wasn't "a nipple," it was some sort of gold nipple decoration. And your only evidence that "[kids] didn't think it was a big deal" was that "only the 18+ crowd got worked up over it."

Sorry, but that doesn't follow. I didn't see any polls going around and asking 12 year old boys what their thoughts on the matter were. OBVIOUSLY it's going to be adults who are going to complain.
11.11.2007 4:01pm
A. Person (mail):
NI -- You are right on.
11.11.2007 4:01pm
Oren:
DC:
I'll grant you that the logic of my above post doesn't strictly follow but you can't seriously believe that a 12 year old boy would find that halftime show objectionable. Think back to when you were 12.
11.11.2007 4:14pm
Carolina:
Am I the only person who questions the accuracy of these sorts of studies?

Thinking back to my own adolescence, there are only a handful of people I would have had honest conversations about my sexual activity with. University/government researchers were not among them.

What kind of normal kid sits down for a stranger to ask incredibly intrusive personal questions? What is the incentive to tell the truth?
11.11.2007 4:23pm
Eli Rabett (www):
It's a slow news day
11.11.2007 4:26pm
Chimaxx (mail):
OhMyWord: It may not prove that there is no correlation, but it does show that the correlation is not clear and strong enough to make make it "part of the required curriculum for federal 'abstinence only' programs."
11.11.2007 4:44pm
methodact:
Oren, I became acquainted with the Russian understanding of the DIALECTIC with the book, "The Language of Dialectics and the Dialectics of Language". The Russian understanding differs somewhat, from that of the German philosopher, Hegel and his HEGELIAN DIALECTIC.

I do not publish a newsletter on this topic, but I generally study it, nearly full time, as virtually a career. You may observe that my comments on this site are frequently at odds with prevailing orthodoxies.

The true nature of pre-teen and teen sex is made pellucidly clear with the study of child pornography. What did you suppose is the REAL reason that your government does not want you to examine this material?
11.11.2007 4:49pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
If you think it's a 12 year old's place to be objecting to stuff like that, you've obviously not a parent.
11.11.2007 4:59pm
methodact:
That very logic scales up to how government tends to perceive at it's People, id est, that the People are in no place to be objecting to government's authoritarianism, (a nanny), because the People obviously are not the government. Few people will actually stand up to their government, regardless of their "of, by & for" title.
11.11.2007 5:17pm
Chris Bell (mail):
This reminds me of discussions about suicide bombers (and the 9/11 hijackers). These well-educated men who perform horrible acts of violence almost always still possess their V-card.

New solutions for 'peace in the middle east' are swirling through my brain . . .
11.11.2007 5:23pm
A.C.:
Gee, I thought the problem with the Middle East was that people can have all the coffee they want, but can't relax with a beer.

As for the sex thing, how about this: premature sex and petty delinquency are ALTERNATIVE ways to assert independence and rebel against authority. A teenager who chooses one has less need to do the other as well.
11.11.2007 5:37pm
methodact:
Now this kid has class.
11.11.2007 5:46pm
Dave N (mail):
It's a slow news day
When I agree with Eli Rabbett it has to be true.

Btw, speaking as a father, your average 12 yo would rather eat glass than talk about sex with ANY adult.
11.11.2007 5:59pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Oren

...you can't seriously believe that a 12 year old boy would find that halftime show objectionable.

Maybe that's the problem. Also, who would have thought that oral sex would become common place among teens due to Monica's well publicized adventures. Can you say "setting a poor example?" It doesn't appear from your comments that you have thought about this. So many think that todays coarser society is a natural progression. It is if we tolerate poor examples.
11.11.2007 6:19pm
Oren:

Also, who would have thought that oral sex would become common place among teens due to Monica's well publicized adventures.


It's quite a stretch to imply a causal relationship here. I was a teenager in the 90s and I don't recall particularly caring about the misadventures involving the head of state. I imagine next you will assert that bike riding has become common place among the teens because of Lance Armstrong. Oral sex is popular because it's, you know, pleasurable. One doesn't need to trot out explanations involving indiscreet presidents to figure that one out.

I don't know where you got the idea that our society was "coarse" just because people might chose to talk about sex in a way that doesn't comport with your morals.
11.11.2007 6:45pm
therut:
I can not help to say that the idea of looking at sex as just another bodily function is something I have heard before. Of coarse, it is a bodily function but just another one compared to what? I had a patient ( male) who was telling me why he was not interested so much in sex. He said he lived such a wild life as a young guy that sex had become to him nothing more exciting than having a BM. So the above analogy made me laugh.
11.11.2007 7:03pm
Oren:

Btw, speaking as a father, your average 12 yo would rather eat glass than talk about sex with ANY adult.


I've got two nephews (preteen) that are quite comfortable talking about sex with me (they might not quite consider my an adult, I'm only in my 20s). The key is to listen to them, not deliver a monologue - it's supposed to be a conversation.
11.11.2007 7:05pm
Le Messurier (mail):

It's quite a stretch to imply a causal relationship here.

I recall several studies purporting just that. That the age of having/giving oral sex had declined significantly as a result.


I was a teenager in the 90s and I don't recall particularly caring about the misadventures involving the head of state.


"You don't recall", but being young you probably were aware more than you recall. Also, what you lack, Oren, is the perspective of time. I was a teenager in the 50's and believe me, only the wildest of the wild had oral sex before they were, say, 18yo. Much has changed, and yes we have become a coarser society. We can't go back, but modestly, decorum, innocence, respect, and "good morals" are words I'll bet were rarely if ever spoken by parents to their teenagers in the 90's. I certainly didn't have a strict upbringing. It was, in fact, a rather privileged one without strict rules. I was expected to behave, however. And I was taught how to recognize "coarse behavior" and to select my friends accordingly and to behave "appropriately". Dare I say it? I was taught to discriminate against those who behaved badly. By the way. I taught my own children the same way. And they are a source of great and well earned, pride as a result.
11.11.2007 7:15pm
Oren:
therut - I think what is meant is that no one makes moral judgments about the act* of taking a BM and likewise, I make no moral judgment about consenting adults doing the nasty*.

The threshold of ability to consent is a tough one but that's not the point of this thread.

*The act itself. Doing so on a public sidewalk is a different matter altogether.
11.11.2007 7:21pm
Dave N (mail):
Oren:

Trust me, you are a quasi-peer. Just wait until you are an actual parent and you bring up anything to do with sex, "Oh, Dad, gross."

Second, you said your nephews were pre-teens. Perhaps I was inexact in describing the ages, but I was using 12 as a proxy for early adolescent/pubecent. The body starts changing and the kid thinks he or she is an absolete freak.
11.11.2007 7:25pm
Oren:
LM:
I understand that you have a particular view of what constitutes "good morals" but you seem to be oblivious to the fact that some of us have differing morals. You are perfectly free to disagree, of course, but you can't seriously claim that your opinion is the final authority on the matter. Nor can you claim that any particular time period served as the moral benchmark against which to judge all later developments.

Societies are fluid and subject to change. Sometimes they change in ways that you disapprove of. As such, your complaints about a coarser society amount to little more than sour grapes.

Finally, let's end with a pertinent quote:


"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders.... They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers." ~Socrates (attributed)


Le plus ca change . . .
11.11.2007 7:51pm
Oren:
Dave, I guess I'll have to ask my nephews to step in for me there.

PS. Couldn't resist, here's another one


"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint" (Hesiod, 8th century BC).
11.11.2007 7:53pm
noname (mail):
As absurd as much of this thread is (I'm particularly fond of the idea that Clinton's shenanigans had a causal relation to teens' oral proclivities in the 90s - as someone who was a teen in the late 80s, I can attest that oral sex was considered highly desirable in the pre-Clinton era), my favorite part has to be Methodact showing up to inform everyone of what a dialectic is (with the helpful added information that it is not the Hegelian dialectic, but rather, evidently, just stating paradoxical opposites... hey it must be true, it's Russian!), not to mention his curious conflation of pre-teen sex, teen sex, child sexual abuse, and child pornography.*

One can only hope that he's living up to his name and engaged in some sort of Stanislavsky exercise to get in the mind of Humbert Humbert (though, if so, he's no Nabokov).

*Though, a number of people in the thread seem to be confusing those, starting with the first post.
11.11.2007 9:03pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I "confused" nothing. The first post was a comment on the fact that "consensual" pre-teen sex is an oxymoron. Kids can't consent to sex.
11.11.2007 9:37pm
Eli Rabett (www):
You might enjoy this bit of jurisprudence (see note 51 for sure)
11.11.2007 9:40pm
noname (mail):
Legally, minors can't consent to sex.

Age lines are pretty much the quintessential example of rules as opposed to standards. Obviously there are people who are minors who can consent to sex (especially with other minors), regardless of the legal definition. That was all I meant by the "confused" comment - mixing factual stuff (like people of a certain age having sex, i.e. teen sex or pre-teen sex) and and legal stuff (legal definitions of consent that define child sexual abuse).
11.11.2007 9:51pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
If the people who did this study can show me the psychological profiles that show the particular "pre-teens" studied were capable of making those decisions, then maybe I'll retract my comment.

In the meantime, Kids can't consent to sex, so the idea of studying the effects of "consensual" sex on a pre-teen is a joke.
11.11.2007 9:58pm
frankcross (mail):
How about a reference to just one of those studies, LM? I don't think I believe they exist. At least not any methodologically valid studies
11.11.2007 10:16pm
Oren:

I "confused" nothing. The first post was a comment on the fact that "consensual" pre-teen sex is an oxymoron. Kids can't consent to sex.


Consent here is used in the non-legal sense. Of course, if we take your legal jargon seriously, the next logical step is to put a pair of 13 year olds in juvie for mutual statutory rape. I'm sure the kids there will teach them appropriate sexual mores and practices and they will come out paragons of virtue.
11.11.2007 10:17pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Uh huh... and I suppose you think that law exists in a vaccuum, merely to punish otherwise completely mature 8 year olds from expressing their sexuality in a healthy way?

You've proven repeatedly on this thread that you're really not worth taking seriously, oren. Luckily I'm almost positive you'll change your tune when you have kids of your own.
11.11.2007 10:21pm
Oren:
Actually, I did some reading on the material (shocking, I know) and found out that in most states, it's not statutory rape unless one of the partners is above the age of consent. Many other states have a lower AoC if the partners' ages are close enough.

In that sense, pre-teens can have boatloads of consensual sex with kids their own age, so long as they live in the right state.
11.11.2007 10:29pm
Oren:
Now here I thought we could disagree politely and you have to insult me. I've said nothing in this thread that I didn't think through and I stand by all of it as my sincere opinion, whether or not you deign to take it seriously.

As far as your straw man goes, I was attempting to say that an curious 8 year old needs to be set straight, not punished for something he probably didn't even know was against the rules.

Finally, I may not have kids ATM, but I've talked with my brother extensively (re: nephews) and he's on the same page with me. Perhaps I should get you two in touch so you can set him straight about proper parenting.
11.11.2007 10:38pm
methodact:
I named pre-teen sex, teen sex, and child pornography. Another someone has injected the exegesis "child sexual abuse" into my original words. I do not thrill nor celebrate at the sexual abuse of anyone. The UN's own rappateur in early reports states that the difficulty that prosecuters have with showing the material to juries is that most of the time, the kids are having a great time and are happy as can be.

Age-of-consent varies in time and place. My point is that most adults are unable to consent to much. They are slaves to the state, "good little Germans" and toe party line without question, regardless of loss of freedom or rights or of humanity and believe what they're told to believe simply because they're told to believe it until all books and pictures and films and diaries and evidence to the contrary get completely destroyed.

I can make the outrage against sexual abuse as well as the next guy, probably a whole lot better, because I frequently do so. Lines drawn in law here are arbitrary and as I am familiar with a great many of the frauds that were used to enact them, I choose to contest them specifically because of their iniquity.
11.11.2007 10:40pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Speaking of straw men, who the hell said anything about punishing anyone? I just said the idea of studying the effect of "consensual sex" on a pre-teen is a joke.

And YOU talk about straw men...
11.11.2007 10:45pm
Oren:

Uh huh... and I suppose you think that law exists in a vaccuum, merely to punish otherwise completely mature 8 year olds from expressing their sexuality in a healthy way?


I believe you used the word punished first.
11.11.2007 10:47pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Reading comprehension is key, oren.
11.11.2007 10:49pm
Oren:

I just said the idea of studying the effect of "consensual sex" on a pre-teen is a joke.


OK, let's go back and add a little footnote to every use of the word "consensual" in the study (and wherever appropriate) that reads "Consensual is used here in the sense of 'not coerced'". Then we could address the issue instead of playing semantics.

How do you feel about "Non-coerced preteen sex" Dan?
11.11.2007 10:50pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I think you should look up the word "consensual." It doesn't mean "not coerced," and I'm not using it in a legal sense. It means "with consent." Children are not CAPABLE in both a legal and psychological sense of making decisions like that.

Feel free to argue otherwise... I'm sure it just lowers your credibility even among the readers of a libertarian weblog. Among the population at large, you're closer to NAMBLA.
11.11.2007 10:55pm
Oren:
Care to set me straight on what I didn't comprehend? You implied the propriety (or at least mocked my disapproval) of a law that would punish curious 8 year olds for non-coerced sexual content. Perhaps you could set the record straight as to what you believe the legal code ought to be for under-but-same-age non-coerced sexual conduct.
11.11.2007 10:56pm
Oren:
To make it clear, I am quite in favor of laws against statutory rape where the age difference is non-trivial (e.g. NAMBLA). There is such a chasm between NAMBLA and kids fooling around with their peers that to consider them together makes no sense at all.

Also, it is only the legal meaning of consent that makes any reference to mental capability.

con·sent (kən-sĕnt') pronunciation
intr.v., -sent·ed, -sent·ing, -sents.

1. To give assent, as to the proposal of another; agree. See synonyms at assent.
2. Archaic. To be of the same mind or opinion.

n.
1. Acceptance or approval of what is planned or done by another; acquiescence. See synonyms at permission.
2. Agreement as to opinion or a course of action: She was chosen by common consent to speak for the group.
11.11.2007 11:00pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Actually, I never "implied the propriety" of the law... that's what you didn't comprehend. You accused me of using "consent" in a purely legal sense as used in statutory rape laws. I pointed out (through a rhetorical question) that the purpose of those laws is NOT to "punish" 8 year olds, but to protect them from predators.

Seriously... it's pretty clear that the question you quoted is not endorsing the idea of throwing abused kids in jail.
11.11.2007 11:00pm
Oren:
Alright, then I read too much into your rhetorical question, I concede that point. I've already made clear that sexual predators ought to be locked up.

So, two 8 year olds that fool around - not illegal. Care to tell me at what age it does become illegal, before, of course, becoming legal against at the AoC.
11.11.2007 11:08pm
Oren:
s/against/again
11.11.2007 11:09pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
kids shouldn't be having sex with each other, and if they are, I'd blame the parents more than the kids. Unless you're a complete idiot, however, you already know that the real concern behind these laws is the vast majority of the cases just like NI's, where someone quite a bit older is involved.

Now how about you admit that the incidence of child-on-child sex is negligible on this study and stop tossing red herrings into the debate?
11.11.2007 11:21pm
Oren:
How many times do I have to disclaim any desire to make sex between a minor and an adult legal? Adults should not be having sex with minors. Period. Lock em up. Done.


Now how about you admit that the incidence of child-on-child sex is negligible on this study and stop tossing red herrings into the debate?


Care to back that up? From what I remember of high school there was a lot of sex and not a lot of weird-old-guy-sex. In fact, I'd venture to say that weirdo-on-child sex is the negligible factor here.
11.11.2007 11:41pm
AK (mail):
Another quintessentially pseudointellectual internet debate in which all participants dress their biases in snark and call it insight. Absolutely nothing of value here. Well done, Volokh commenters!
11.11.2007 11:42pm
ReaderY:
What if people who take things from stores without paying for it in their teens aren't more likely to be delinquent later on? Doesn't it depend on what we mean by "delinquency"?

After all, one could argue that there's nothing inherently wrong with taking things from stores, it's just that society has this obsession with little green pieces of paper and imposes taboos on kids. Is requiring little green pieces of paper rational? Is limiting their supply rational? Any more rational than discouraging children from having sex? Presumably kids would be perfectly fine and healthy if society didn't require the green-paper thing.
11.11.2007 11:42pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
We're not talking about high school... we're talking about "pre-teens"

AK: Yep. I guarantee I'll never have to have this conversation in the "real world," and if I weren't bored I wouldn't waste my time with it now.
11.11.2007 11:43pm
AK (mail):
Daniel Chapman:

I'm pretty sure your time is better spent finding a twelve-year-old who will consent to having sex with you.
11.11.2007 11:46pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Doesn't anyone listen to me? That's IMPOSSIBLE! Geez!
11.11.2007 11:48pm
AK (mail):
Nevertheless, it remains a better use of your time.
11.11.2007 11:55pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Daniel,

Your claim is that "pre-teens" (e.g., 12 year olds) are psychologically incapable of giving consent, even to other 12 year olds. Could you please offer what fact might persuade you to change that view, or is it not an empirical claim in your mind?
11.11.2007 11:59pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Common sense. Not open to debate. Feel free to disagree, but not in polite company.
11.12.2007 12:04am
methodact:
Until the house of Representatives under Tom Delay, forced them to withdraw it, the American Psychological Association reported that their research found that sex between children and adults was not automatically harmful, that many found it helpful. Prudes in Congress made that study go away.

Now add body self-image problems from all the puritanism going on, and you have suicides, obesity of kids overeating for pleasure because they have been sold on a shameful body image and kids who smoke just to look older in order to feel acceptable instead of marginalized from their whole-person humanity.

HBO has broken through the present prude psychosis and produced Katie Morgan's show on the history of sex toys. It turns out that the husbands' neglect of their wives' sexual needs during the Victorian era caused them a condition diagnosed as hysteria. The doctors then invented the sex toys to get the women off with, in their doctors' offices.

In our neoPuritan era, it's not just little girls sold on this disatisfaction which their bodies. Adult women too, now get tattoos and piercings to try and overcome that dirty uglyness of the neoPuritan message. They also flock to their doctors once again, for the same or similar problem as in the Victorian era, but this time for breast implants and other surgeries to look and feel ok about their bodies. But even after that, society still shames their sexuality so it ultimately often does little good.

HBO has also broken brave new ground with "Tell Me You Love Me", where pre-teen Isabella, played by Aislinn Paul, is shown watching pornography that she has enabled to play on her video toy. She inquires of her mother if her touching herself is normal and her mom assures her that she is ok.
11.12.2007 12:22am
Oren:

After all, one could argue that there's nothing inherently wrong with taking things from stores, it's just that society has this obsession with little green pieces of paper and imposes taboos on kids.


So long as the shopkeeper consents to your taking things from his store, I see no harm in it. The shopkeeper's property is his own and he may give it to everyone or no one or only some people without any explanation or reason. He need not explain the utility of his decision to anyone - that is the essence of property rights.

Statutory rape laws, OTOH (oblig for DC: as applied to same-age relations), were not passed to protect anyone's rights but rather paren patriae, as it were. As such, it is subject to some sort of utilitarian analysis (after all, nobody contends that children have the right to have sexual conduct forbidden to them). It is in this respect that I find them lacking.
11.12.2007 1:10am
Oren:

Common sense. Not open to debate. Feel free to disagree, but not in polite company.


Lol, now my day is complete: I've been told that something is common sense but cannot be explained AND that I can disagree but it's impolite.
11.12.2007 1:11am
PETER s. cHAMBERLAIN (mail):
Did I miss something? I have not found the studies, or even any citations to the studies, referenced, so I could not judge their methodology,leading, suggestive, or otherwise defective questions, selective samples, sponsorship, biases, etc., on any side of this issue.

You don't have to look beyond readily available health statistics, or even ads for contraceptives and the disclosures thereof, to realize that sex with multiple partners, more likely if starting at younger ages, etc., carries very significant risks of, among other things, currently incurable or otherwise damaging or risky sexually transmitted diseases, apart from any relational, psychological, etc., risks or harm.

The organizations and key people who publicly advocate early sexual activity, and sexual activity with more partners, and who argue. in effect, that there is no generally empriically or other valid basis for a moral code restricting sexual activity, or much of anything else, and that nothing is objectively right or wrong, some of whom appear to have financial interests in abortion, etc. though that may be harder to prove except in specific cases, fail to provide a valid rationale for this view or to deal openly an honestly with the negative consequences that can and do often follow as results of early sexual activity by the immature and gullible.

I have seen only the results of one poll in which aslim 51% majority of a population of prospective jurors indicated that they did not believe that there was any such thing as objective right and wrong. Now consider picking a jury from that panel, and trying a sanity hearing, in which the issue is whether the defendant knew the difference between right and wrong, before a jury, from such a population.

Incidentally, the pro-easy-sex-at-young ages arguments posted here are logically and practically indistinguishable from those of NAMBLA etc. They remind me of a client, already on probation for and facing his second charge of burglary with intent to commit rape, but formally charged only with DUI and revocation on that ground, who suddenly piped up and asked me, loudly enough to be heard clearly by the court reporter, prosecutor, and judge, and be recorded, saying "What did you expect me to do? My ---- got hard." Of course, the case got hard, too.

Regretfully, I was not blessed with children either by birth or adoption, but I devoted increasing parts of my 35 year law practice and longer life to children and young people, many of whom I came to know surprisingly well as clients, secretarial trainees, and in other relationships, including some other privileged and confidential relationships. I have also had such extensive and open communication with school personnel, mental health and child abuse experts, etc. I never ceased to be amazed at what children and young people volunteered or asked me about concerning, among other things, sex, right and wrong, or ultimate, i.e. religious or theological, beliefs and what followed from each of these. You can learn more about such things in an extended interview with a young secretarial candidate or client, without asking anything that even remotely mentions sex, than I ever did in most of the dating process until things got to the proposal or engagement point, including having been seduced with the old "We're going to be married," line and dropped and laughed at when the girl became pregnant--I never have figured out what prompted that out of the blue the first day on the job. Disclosures in group therapy for suicidal depression can be very revealing, too. Shall children came up with res gestae statements such as and including "You're a nice man and don't )a) bite, (b) hurt (c) ---- me!," etc. I have dealt, professionally and in other privileged and confidential relationships, with a lot of dangerously suicidal kids starting well before first grade, discovered a significant correlation with child abuse, particularly but not exclusively sexual in nature.

That's the kind of information you can get just by being willing to listen and being trusted, without asking or saying anything about sex or anything else of a pesonal, private, or prohibited nature, etc. Try telling a new secretary or some lady you just met at a Chamber mixer that you were representing an incestuously sexually abused child; you would be amazed at the disclosures that kind of statement has elicited without your even asking a question.

School people who sent me trainees, many of whom suffered the lasting results of sexual abuse from family members and others, and told me they had to quit sending young people to certain law and other offices because of not only sexual harassment but what crossed into other sex offenses. I know judges and a bailiff who had to intervene to protect courthouse employees from, among others, their bosses including judges, and some of their victims and intended victims, some of whom have talked to me themselves.

As for informed and effective consent, don't let anybody tell you a child of 8 or 12 is capable of that, apart from the law, whether the perpetrator is an abused child himself only a few years older or an adult. Force, threats, fraud [including false professions of loe or promises of marriage], or colorable authority destroy any manner of effective consent anyway. You don't get and require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal depression, etc., from falling off a bicycle, as one girl's father claimed, or from any manner of sexual activity which is or should be lawful.

Why would any adult, much less any adult who was the parent of or otherwise cared about children, argue against the existence or validity of any objective standard of right and wrong, whether moral or legal, and for early sex with multiple partners? By what scientific or other criteria could it be said and proven that this is in these chidren's and young people's long-term best intertest, given the known risks and facts?
11.12.2007 3:43am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I've had a lot of sex in my life. I've moved my bowels a lot in my life. I'm not sure which is more pleasurable, but I can go a lot longer without the former than without the latter.
11.12.2007 5:09am
Hewart:
Good grief, Chapman. it seems like every time a thread comes up with a topic related to sexual intercourse between kids, someone has to play the tedious game of semantics about what "consent" means.

Yes, an 8 year old can "consent" in the non-legal sense, to pretty much anything. That is, he can agree to it. That's what the word means when not used in the technical sense. It doesn't matter if he has the psychological development to make such agreement meaningful or emotionally mature or well informed. He can still verbally agree (consent, in the colloquial sense).

Of course, an 8 year old can not "consent" in the legal sense, because he lacks the emotional maturity to make such agreement a morally and emotionally meaningful choice.

Playing a kind of cheap semantic ping-pong as a way to dodge grappling with the thesis of your interlocutor, or making an ad hominem argument against him because he doesn't personally have children (and you do!), is as hackneyed and stale as they come. If this is the result of your "boredom", please do the art of discourse a favor and get a hobby.
11.12.2007 10:15am
noname (mail):
Wow, this thread has certainly taken off!

I think it's fascinating actually because my initial comment was largely a critique of Methodact, not Chapman (though I stand by the idea that "consent" in a legal sense is not the only operative version we should consider).

Methodact, I added "child sexual abuse" to your list of non-horribles since child pornography (as we usually understand it - i.e. involving a child and an adult) is almost universally understood to involve (or to be) sexual abuse.

I suppose I'm the only one responding to Methodact since he seems really out there, but I guess that's just because I feel that he's got a point (these ARE moralistic judgments and ideologically determined, as the citation to "common sense" makes clear) but his confusing presentation (I don't think there's anything particularly revolutionary about HBO's showing minors watching and appreciating pornography) (the history of hysteria as a pseudo-diagnosis also seems pretty far off point - and the idea that sexualizing young women MORE will lessen their problems with food and body image and smoking and the like seems laughable - and this is coming from someone who also thinks we're living in a neo-puritanical age) smacks of confusion, to put it charitably, and a bad faith attempt to justify statutory rape or even child abuse, to put it less charitably.
11.12.2007 10:53am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Reading the comments here makes me increasingly worried about the sort of society that we are creating. Methodact's rationalizations in particular are terrifying, especially because he is probably a law professor.
11.12.2007 10:56am
Oren:
Peter,

The health risks come exclusively from unprotected sex, something I would not recommend to anyone outside a stable monogamous relationship. I don't dispute that there are significant psychological and relational risks that accompany having sex before being mature enough to understand it.

That said, in the final analysis, there is very little we can do to coerce teenagers into not having sex - after all, it's something they very much want to do (judging from the data). A punitive legal system is virtually impotent here, given the voluntary nature on the part of the participants (every once in a while though, you read about some random high school junior hauled in for boinking a sophomore but I assure you that most of the near-age statutory rape goes unpunished by the legal system).

So we come to the question of how best to dissuade children from having sex in a way that fosters healthy attitudes and safe behavior. It is evident to me that moralizing at the kids accomplishes nothing in this regard and actually leads to less healthy behavior than nothing at all. Consider that teenagers that take a "virginity pledge" are 3 times less likely to use a condom when they finally break that pledge (and the majority do, the pledge is only good for 18 months on average). Given the option of trying to channel the water versus swimming upstream, I'll take the former any day.

By what scientific or other criteria could it be said and proven that this is in these chidren's and young people's long-term best intertest, given the known risks and facts?

I'd say it's in their long term best interest to not get an STD or pregnant and that alone justifies personally showing every child how to properly use a condom. Moreover, do we want to simply 'tide them over' through their teenage years so that they enter adulthood without any clue or do we want to provide them with the tools they need to navigate adulthood for themselves. It seems like the whole world is at pains to the former without realizing that adolescences is a transition, not a holding pattern.
11.12.2007 11:18am
Randy R. (mail):
Considering the fact that Romeo and Juliet were 14 year olds, I say that sexual activity by teens and even pre-teens has been going on a lot longer than people think.

And somehow, society has survived....
11.12.2007 11:39am
DeezRightWingNutz:

The health risks come exclusively from unprotected sex


Aren't there several STDs that can be transmitted even in the presence of correctly used barriers?


[S]ex with multiple partners... carries very significant risks of, among other things, currently incurable or otherwise damaging or risky sexually transmitted diseases...


I thought some epidimiological models showed that widespread multiple partner sex led to fewer STDs than several other scenarios. I'll search for a link.
11.12.2007 12:14pm
Oren:

Aren't there several STDs that can be transmitted even in the presence of correctly used barriers?


Nobody claims condoms are 100% effective. The idea seems to be that we should therefore pretend that they are 0% effective is nothing short of absurd.
11.12.2007 12:30pm
DeezRightWingNutz:

Nobody claims condoms are 100% effective. The idea seems to be that we should therefore pretend that they are 0% effective is nothing short of absurd.


I agree. Can you point me to someone who holds this notion so I may attempt to disabuse him of it?
11.12.2007 12:32pm
methodact:
Juliet is a pre-teen, she 12-years-old.


ACT I
SCENE III A room in Capulet's house.
[Enter LADY CAPULET and Nurse]

LADY CAPULET: Nurse, where's my daughter? call her forth to me.

Nurse: Now, by my maidenhead, at twelve year old,
I bade her come. What, lamb! what, ladybird!
God forbid! Where's this girl? What, Juliet!

[Enter JULIET]

JULIET: How now! who calls?

Nurse: Your mother.

JULIET: Madam, I am here.
What is your will?

LADY CAPULET: This is the matter:--Nurse, give leave awhile,
We must talk in secret:--nurse, come back again;
I have remember'd me, thou's hear our counsel.
Thou know'st my daughter's of a pretty age.

Nurse: Faith, I can tell her age unto an hour.

LADY CAPULET: She's not fourteen.
11.12.2007 12:36pm
jvarisco (www):
I thought that young teens were legally incapable of consenting to sex. So this post is sort of an impossibility.

And, the last time I checked, early sex was delinquent behavior...
11.12.2007 1:43pm
fishbane (mail):
This is the best thread in a long, long time. I especially appreciate methodact - I have to wonder if Charles Stross isn't trolling here.

For the record, as someone in his middle ages, I first got laid when I was 14. My first experience with oral sex was well before Clinton. I graduated at an Ivy in the top 5%. I'm in contact with most of the people I slept with through highschool and college, and they're all similarly well adjusted. At least from my peer group, the only lesson I can take away is that using protection and having fun early and often is a life-affirming and fun extra curricular activity.

I can only hope that the repressive mores championed by the Cramers of the world are eroded. More harm has been caused by shaming people over sex than has ever been caused by the enthusiastic embrace of one of life's more gratifying joys. That isn't to say don't be careful. Like fast cars, guns and wine, one can always get in trouble if one isn't responsible.
11.12.2007 1:51pm
Oren:
^^ A man after my own heart
11.12.2007 1:53pm
TJM1 (mail):
Oren (and others): I would strongly recommend the book "Epidemic: Raising Great Teens in a Toxic Sexual Culture" by Dr. Meg Meeker. It is an excellent and sobering read in which Dr. Meeker explains the exponential increase in STDs over the last decade and the link between teenage sex and depression.
11.12.2007 1:57pm
Oren:

I thought that young teens were legally incapable of consenting to sex. So this post is sort of an impossibility.


Whenever the word (or any derivative) "consent" is used in this thread AND that word (or derivative) is not prefixed by the word "legal" (or derivative) it shall be understood to mean "voluntary, non-coerced, with permission" completely irrespective of the legal definition.


And, the last time I checked, early sex was delinquent behavior...


According to some normative definition of delinquency (or are you confusing the legal meaning of words with their commonplace meaning). Would you at least grant other parents the right to teach their children morals that are different than yours?
11.12.2007 2:01pm
methodact:
I am not writing in this thread for fun, nor for my amusement. I am serious. Intellectual honesty requires an open mind, it requires considering all the available evidence, not just that which conforms to the current orthodoxy. The Unites States does not allow that in this area. Any and all conclusions are therefore suspect. As others might suggest to me, I suggest right back, check your assumptions.

It is quite the simple exercise to parrot the current orthodoxy. Original thinking is more difficult.

I am sad to say that I have just been informed, not many minutes ago, (by her friends), that yet another young girl around the age in this discussion, has taken her own life. Her last words that she wrote are, "I die at [she gives the time], goodbye".
11.12.2007 3:06pm
HappyConservative:

Other things being equal, a more probing study has found, youngsters who have consensual sex in their early-teen or even preteen years are, if anything, less likely to engage in delinquent behavior later on.


I would guess that teenage pregnancy does reduce delinquency. It is harder to go out and party and be irresponsible when you have to take care of a baby.
11.12.2007 3:29pm
amy (mail):
Surprised no one had brought up cases of teens under sixteen who are sexually involved being criminally charged.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=163688

There are more examples but couldn't find them off-hand.

Also the vast majority of teenage girls who have sex don't get pregnant, and a good number of those who do have abortions, so I doubt that teenage mothers are a big factor in the study.
11.12.2007 4:29pm
Oren:
amy, thanks for the example post (linkified).

I was looked for such a case to disabuse Daniel Chapman of the notion that some prosecutors are not going after kids for the absurd crime of mutual rape / mutual abuse. It is logically impossible for two people to simultaneously rape each other.
11.12.2007 4:52pm
HappyConservative:

a good number of those who do have abortions


This is the very definition of juvenile delinquency.
11.12.2007 5:24pm
noname (mail):

a good number of those who do have abortions



This is the very definition of juvenile delinquency.



It is? What's the crime the underage person is committing?

(All right, we probably don't want to go there int his thread, but I had to point it out.)
11.12.2007 5:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Chapman: "Incidentally, the pro-easy-sex-at-young ages arguments posted here are logically and practically indistinguishable from those of NAMBLA etc."

No, it isn't. No one here is arguing that adults should have sex with children. We are talking about teens and pre-teens having sex with their peers.

"Nobody claims condoms are 100% effective. The idea seems to be that we should therefore pretend that they are 0% effective is nothing short of absurd.

I agree. Can you point me to someone who holds this notion so I may attempt to disabuse him of it?"

Dr. Laura, for one. Phyllis Shafley for another. And their legions of followers.
11.12.2007 7:50pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I didn't say that, Randy.
11.12.2007 8:23pm
Oren:
If you are still reading this thread, do you endorse the prosecution linked above? At what ages ought mutually agreed sexual conduct be a crime. I can assume from your previous answers that 8 and younger is not a crime and presumably 16+ is likewise not a crime. That leaves very little room!
11.12.2007 8:55pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You can assume whatever you like, oren. You brought up the topic, and you can argue about it until you're blue in the face. You're on your own though.
11.12.2007 8:59pm
theobromophile (www):
Amy,

If you would like data regarding your assertion that the "vast majority" of young people who have sex do not get pregnant, here they are.

"Vast majority" is, to some extent, subjective. If there are 75 pregnancies, annually, for women aged 15 to 19, and only 70% of those women have ever had sex, the rate is 2 in every 19 every year. Now, I'm sure some women get pregnant and abort more than once, thereby increasing the stats, but there are still those 75 pregnancies per 1,000 women, per year. Multiply by five years, take off the 30% who never have sex during that time, and it looks like a lot of women get pregnant.

As for the study: well, it depends on whether or not you think that juvenile delinquency is the only problem associated with early intercourse. There are issues of grades, extracurricular activities, and rates of high school graduation and college attendance which are all influenced by early intercourse, especially for women.
11.12.2007 10:16pm
theobromophile (www):
I should amend the first statement in the 2d paragraph to read, "75 pregnancies per 1000 women...."
11.12.2007 10:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Randy R. writes:

Considering the fact that Romeo and Juliet were 14 year olds, I say that sexual activity by teens and even pre-teens has been going on a lot longer than people think.
Next you will be quoting Julius Caesar as an authority on Roman history.
11.12.2007 10:44pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
fishbane writes:

I can only hope that the repressive mores championed by the Cramers of the world are eroded. More harm has been caused by shaming people over sex than has ever been caused by the enthusiastic embrace of one of life's more gratifying joys. That isn't to say don't be careful. Like fast cars, guns and wine, one can always get in trouble if one isn't responsible.
There's a reason that we don't let 14 year olds drive fast cars, buy guns, make enforceable contracts, or drink wine. The vast majority of 14 year olds aren't terribly responsible with any of these things.

Any line drawn based on age is, of course, going to be arbitrary, and no matter where you draw it, there will be some people on the wrong side of the line. But that's part of why legislatures draw those lines where they are, and why different states have drawn those lines in somewhat different places--a trade-off between the risks of giving 12 year olds driver's licenses, and the absurdity of requiring you to be 25 to make adult decisions.
11.12.2007 10:49pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Randy R. writes:

No, it isn't. No one here is arguing that adults should have sex with children. We are talking about teens and pre-teens having sex with their peers.
So you don't think there's any responsibility problems that might arise from 12 year old boys persuading 10 year old girls to get naked and spread their legs?

One of the more depressing aspects to the improvement in nutrition is the number of 10 and 11 year old girls who get pregnant, and the number who end up with STDs. Even if you think abortion is perfectly fine, don't you think it might be something of a bad idea for a child to be undergoing a fairly significant surgical procedure at that age? Do you honestly think that there might not be some significant emotional or psychological damage involved in being sexually active that young?

Normal people can figure that out. But Randy R. sure isn't normal, that's for sure.
11.12.2007 10:53pm
noname (mail):
The Bromophile:

If there are 75 pregnancies, annually, for women aged 15 to 19, and only 70% of those women have ever had sex...

So, the remaining 30% are miraculous virgin pregnancies?

I know what you meant, but the phrasing was humorous.
11.13.2007 7:40am
abb3w:
Oren: in fairness to your critics, this is a legal blog, so their presuming that the legal meaning of "consent" was intended is an understandable mistake. In your defense, I'll point out to them that you were quoting from the Washington Post — hardly a prime repository of legal scholarship.

TJM1: Oren (and others): I would strongly recommend the book "Epidemic: Raising Great Teens in a Toxic Sexual Culture" by Dr. Meg Meeker. It is an excellent and sobering read in which Dr. Meeker explains the exponential increase in STDs over the last decade and the link between teenage sex and depression.

Scanning through the book's TOC and an excerpt courtesy of Amazon.com and checking the booknotes at B&N turn up two data points: first, she is an MD specializing in adolescent pediatrics, not a psychiatrist; and second, the book suggests she is mostly reporting from anecodotal experience, not rigorous statistical study... which certainly may indicate correlation between the two, but not the nature of a causal relationship — cause and effect, effect and cause, or both effects of something else. And TFA indicates:

Paige Harden in The Washington Post: The way to reconcile that with the previous evidence of a link is to conclude that some other factors are promoting both early sex and delinquency, she said.

This makes sense.

Perhaps depression may be the root cause of promiscuity and delinquency, not just an effect of the former. I've been dealing with bouts of depression since I was about eight. During one of the nasty bouts in college was when I first became sexually active... and some of my other activities of the time could well qualify as "juvenile" and "delinquent". I've since noticed that getting laid on a regular basis definitely helps ward off the initial onset of depression, though it can be overcome by major pressures the other way. (This can make for abrupt and unpleasant transitions, as depression cuts sex drive; worse, lack of sex drive can get you dumped if the relationship isn't a committed one.) Perhaps those becoming sexually active are attempting a crude form of self-medicating their serotonin levels?

As for the ultimate cause, I'd wonder about the decreasing amount of time kids spend in the sun these days, in favor of the computer or TV. Light levels affect serotonin production (which is why my doctor has me wearing a funny hat for half an hour each morning. High fructose corn syrup is another suspect whose use has been on the rise in the last few decades. It may be a perfect storm of factors.

So, if the delinquency and promiscuity link is merely a common cause, what new would that say about abstinence-only education? (That it evidently doesn't work worth a damn is old news.)
11.13.2007 10:41am
methodact:
That this is a law law blog, suggests that it invites opposing opinions, unless one has already resigned oneself to an utterly rigged system that will not and cannot examine the facts and evidence to get to the truth.

It would seem desirable to have opposing points of view in such a setting. In this area of "law", the deck seems to have been stacked by excluding much examination of the evidence and playing a "hot-button" issue as politics and/or religion, into law where it doesn't properly belong.

As such, there has been constructed an entire "sexual abuse industry" that churns out tomes that stoke the bugaboos and frights beyond logic and reason. That industry of so-called sex abuse experts have literally billions of dollars to make the case for one side.

There are barely nominal resources that exist to offer understandings that comprehend outside of the prevailing "conventional wisdom". Those interested in the fairness and justice and equity presumed under the rubric of "law", (rather than simply propounding what amounts to particular religious mores), should welcome opposing views and recognize they are currently conspicuously lacking in this area of law. That should be a signal that something is greatly amiss at the moment within the entire body of law in this area.

One such Web site that had offered opposing views, information, links and editorials was ageofconsent.com which now seems to have been taken down.

More recently, Growing Up Sexually: A World Atlas has appeared out of Germany.
11.13.2007 12:26pm
amy (mail):
"One of the more depressing aspects to the improvement in nutrition is the number of 10 and 11 year old girls who get pregnant, and the number who end up with STDs. Even if you think abortion is perfectly fine, don't you think it might be something of a bad idea for a child to be undergoing a fairly significant surgical procedure at that age?"

Giving brith at age 11 is much more dangerous than having an abortion at age 11. I certainly don't support young teens having sex, it does have emotional and psychological consequences, and physicial consequences in the case of pregnancy.
11.13.2007 12:39pm
methodact:
Is it the sex that causes the problems or the laws themselves? As an abstraction, suppose that country "Foo", enacted laws that possessing or reading the Bible, was punishable by crucifiction.

In our hypothetical, country Foo maintains that the Bible contains dangerous and heretical ideas that are so extreme, that in response, only an extreme punishment is appropriate.

Some people continue to read the Bible at great risk to themselves. Entire infrastructures are set up to discover and apprehend these Bible readers. Now, when the Bible reader gets caught and punished so terribly, was it really the reading of the Bible that was what destroyed him or her, or the laws themselves that brought the harm? (malum prohibitum v malum per se)

Continuing along this line of thought, consider that conservative groups in the U.S. such as the Family Research Council and the group Focus on the Family have publicly opposed the concept of making HPV vaccinations available to pre-adolescent and adolescent girls on the grounds that it invites them to engage in early sexual relations. They are opposed to birth control for the same reason.

Without the frightful bugaboos in place as they are now with these draconian laws which are so inappropriately enacted, society would surely advance medicine and opportunities to mitigate harm and instead, be consistant with whole-person humanity. If, as in the Victorian era, women were developing hysteria from want of sex, then clearly girls are too. Ample evidence abounds that these "problems" associated with young sexual relations, are celebrated more as deterrents to sin, and not as a genuine concern for the welfare of anybody.
11.13.2007 1:24pm
TJM1 (mail):
abb3w: Dr. Meeker's book exhautively details the rise of STDs using statistics from the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere. It is worth the read
11.13.2007 2:40pm