When two underage teens have consensual sex should either be charged with a crime?
A recent piece from Reason.com argues they should not, but points out that often times the male in the relationship is charged while the female is not. That amounts to a double-standard, according to the article’s author, Robby Soave.
He cites as an example a case recently heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court in which a 15-year-old boy, identified as “B.H.,” was charged with misdemeanor sexual misconduct in 2011 for having sex with his 13-year-old girlfriend, identified in court documents as “C.W.” B.H. was also charged with felony possession of pornographic material featuring a minor for exchanging nude pictures with the girl via text message.
B.H. eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, according to a recent story from The Courier-Journal, a Louisville, Kentucky, newspaper. He was designated a juvenile sex offender and placed in a secure youth center for 11 months where he underwent treatment as a sexual predator.
B.H. is appealing the decision after the fact. Two courts have already upheld the conviction but the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and did so last month. It has not rendered a decision.
Assistant Attorney General Gregory Fuchs has maintained that B.H. pressured the girl to have sex and exchange photos with him and notes that B.H. had already been involved in another incident in which he exposed himself to a neighbor.
But as Soave points out, C.W. was just as guilty of every crime for which B.H. was accused. The age of consent in Kentucky is 16 -- meaning neither B.H. nor C.W. were legally capable of giving consent for sexual intercourse. The difference is C.W.’s parents went to the police and B.H.’s parents did not.
"There was only one victim in this case, C.W.," Fuchs wrote in his arguments, according to Soave. Fuchs went on to argue that it was “just as illegal” for the boy to possess nude pictures of his 13-year-old girlfriend "as it would have been if he was 51 years old.”
Soave says that’s a ridiculous argument. Apart from being a double-standard, it also unfairly labels children as sexual deviants who have done nothing more than engage in an entirely natural act, he argues.
“One is predatory and unnatural; the other is an awkward, yet remarkably common part of growing up,” he writes.
B.H.’s attorney, assistant public advocate John Wampler, agrees.
He says in his brief filed with the court that charging B.H. and not C.W. was a violation of his client’s right to equal protection under the law.
He also says Kentucky’s pursuit of B.H. as a sex offender for possessing nude pictures of his girlfriend is a troubling overreach with serious consequences.
"If the Commonwealth's position is held to be correct, then approximately one third of all teenagers, according to recent statistics, could be charged with a felony sex offense," Wampler told the The Courier-Journal. "That should strike fear in the hearts of every parent who has bought their child a smartphone.”
A decision from the court is expected in a few months, according to The Associated Press.
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