Ages of sex offenders
These laws are not so much protecting children from predators as they are turning them into predators. When you look at the ages of the offenders you see that 14-year-olds are apparently the most sexually dangerous group in America. The explosion of "youthful sex offenders" is not the result of our kids becoming perverts. It is the result of the law criminalizing what is a normal part of growing up.
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52 Responses:

  1. I agree very strongly with the author that America tends to panic over, and now criminalize, childhood sexuality, and that statutory rape laws that ignore age difference are absurd. However, I think that's a pretty lousy article. For all its stentorian intensity and biblical weightiness, it seemed to consist entirely of imagined hypothetical scenarios. Although the author appears to have spent some time combing through sex offender registries, they don't seem to think it's important to provide any stories that actually... happened. This is particularly egregious because I know those stories exist, and aren't that hard to find.

    More important is the lack of statistics on what crimes are being committed, and by whom. I don't think it's very likely that lots of 14 year-olds are committing violent sexual assault, but in the absence of actual information about that, you can't jump to the conclusion that they're all being arrested for playing doctor.

    • jwz says:

      It is shrill and light on actual facts, and I almost didn't post it for that reason.

      But come on. That graph is just insane.

      • Yeah, it is. I had no idea the sex offender population broke down like that. There's something severely wrong with how we think of sex offenses, or we're so bad at catching / prosecuting offenders that we end up picking on 14 year-olds (probably both).

        • strathmeyer says:

          What about 14 year-old boys who can't get with people their own age/size and thus are raping ten year old girls? Are you confused because we usually don't hear about youth offenders???

          • pavel_lishin says:

            You need a better userpic.


          • I wasn't very clear about this, but by "picking on 14-year olds" what I mean is that they're easier to catch, so they end up being overrepresented. Saying that they're overrepresented doesn't meant that I don't think they commit sexual assault, just that I wouldn't assume that they're committing more sexual assaults than, say, 20 year-olds.

            • strathmeyer says:

              My assumption is that we're just catching sexual predators early, and thus they aren't able to commit as many crimes as they age.

              • jsoursland says:

                If that is so, then why is the peak at 14. SOs age, and with the aging additional SOs are on the list. As such, a peak should tend toward the older ages.

                • strathmeyer says:

                  Uh, no, 14 is about the time people sexually mature. I don't think you understand what jails are for.

                  • jsoursland says:

                    It doesn't matter if they're in jail or not, they're still on the list. And once on the list, you can't get off of the list. The SO registry isn't like probation or parole with time limits.

                    If the avg violent SO is 14, then as the 14 year olds age and new SOs from other ages are added to the list the older groups should dominate over the 14 year old age group. There should be NO reason that the peak would be toward the bottom of the scale, unless something drastic has changed. And has been posited, with evidence mind you, that behavior that is common amongst sexually maturing males and females such as sending photos to one another of a prurient manner is now being treated very seriously and the teens involved are being charged with possession, manufacture and distribution of child pornography (of their own bodies).

    • kou says:

         >> More important is the lack of statistics on what crimes are being committed

      Very true.

      From what I've heard on teh intarwebs, I would surmise that a non-negligible chunk of that < 18 segment is from "sexting" and the ensuing morality-police panic that have led to said teens being put on the offender registry. These indcidents have been well documented.

  2. dr_memory says:

    It is the result of the law criminalizing what is a normal part of growing up.

    That's an extremely strong claim, which the article you link to spends exactly zero time backing up.

    I could just as easily claim that we are a "rape culture", and that 14-year-old boys are therefore in fact quite likely to be rapists (being presumptively under-socialized compared to their newly enlarged bodies and urges), and point to that chart as a hopeful sign that our tolerance for such 'boys will be boys' behavior is finally declining.

    That claim might well also be bullshit, but I would have just as much justification for it as Mr. CLS does for his.

    • niten says:

      So you don't think that being full of hormones and exposed to so much sexualised media means that 14 year old boys are going to be at least someone interested in sex?

      There have been quite a few articles of late that shows just how fucked up the definition of 'sex offender' is in the US, and at face value this is a clear demonstration of how wrong your system is.

      While there are certainly a few 14 year olds who are rapists, to suggest that the majority of the boys on that graph are actual sex offenders shows a very limited grasp of the subject.

      • dr_memory says:

        So you don't think that being full of hormones and exposed to so much sexualised media means that 14 year old boys are going to be at least someone interested in sex?

        I think that the answer to that question has nothing at all to do with what I was talking about.

        While there are certainly a few 14 year olds who are rapists, to suggest that the majority of the boys on that graph are actual sex offenders shows a very limited grasp of the subject.

        You and Mr. CLS are suggesting that they could not possibly be sex offenders. I am suggesting for the sake of argument that they easily could be. All of us are making assertions with no (or at best anecdotal and tangential) evidence: the difference is that I'm admitting it while you and the article's author are looking at the graph, getting a gut feeling that it couldn't possibly be true, and declaring your gut feeling by fiat to be authoritative. An appropriate response in the age of truthiness, but I'm afraid it doesn't make you right.

        Criminal trials are matters of public record in the US. If you want to assert that the majority of boys placed onto sex offender registries are there for engaging in "a normal part of growing up", there's a simple way to back up that claim: pull the trial documents and run the numbers. It's called doing the fucking research, and many people dislike it because it's much more time-consuming and effort-intensive than just shooting off your mouth.

        • jsoursland says:

          Rape is not a new crime and once on the registry you can never get off the registry. As such the statistics should be skewed towards the adult ranges. However the data disagrees. The question I have to ask is then, what has changed? What is the new crime that is more prevalent amongst the younger ages that isn't as common amongst the older groups.

          The answer to that is the obvious one: technology. While rape isn't something that can be committed over the internet, sending photos of one's self can be. And that is illegal when the participants are below the age of 18.

    • jhf says:

      Indeed, there are plenty of underage predators, male and female, to point fingers at. I will likewise claim that for every male who crosses the line from "bad adolescent sex" into "rape" there are 100 girls scurrilously claiming they were raped, 10% of which will make it into official channels, and 1% of which will end up in the legal system.

      And anyone with the standing and the means to do anything about it is obviously unable to move on... boys (and girls) will be boys (and girls) after all.

      Moral: backing up your rebuttals to a lack of statistics with a lack of statistics is fail.

  3. badgerbag says:

    Oh yeah, a totally normal teenage growing up sort of thing, like raping people.

  4. I wonder what the story with the 0.5% of sex offenders who are 7 years old is. Did they get caught playing kiss-chasey or something?

  5. chuck_lw says:

    I can't speak for the state of the entire nation, but I knew some junior high and high school-aged kids who could have used a few sex offense convictions.

    And I'm not talking about the kids who merely had sex (although some of those wound up in trouble if they were caught), I mean menacing predators stalking the hallways, bragging about the dominant sexual acts they supposedly committed. It was the kind of behavior dismissed as "boys will be boys," and that you couldn't do anything about it.

    Meanwhile, "displays of affection" such as hugging or hand holding were commonly reprimanded, but sexual harassment, groping, and open rape threats were rarely addressed (aside from acts of vigilante justice, but things shouldn't even have been allowed to go that far).

    But looking at that graph again, I have no idea if teenage predators are getting nailed, or if there's a rise in "display of affection" arrests and convictions.

    • strspn says:

      How do you feel about the fact that they are children and we should be rehabilitating them without retribution if at all possible?

      • That it would be just lovely if we had a society which made that possible. Since we don't, I'm willing to settle for stopping them doing any further harm.

        • strspn says:

          What harm do you belive sexters do?

          • Sorry, were we talking about sexters? From your previous comment I thought you were referring to people in need of rehabilitation.

            • strspn says:

              The article which you said was all hyperbole except the graph is about sexters. As for the menacing child offenders chuck_lw refereed to a month and a half ago, it's not clear that putting them on a registered offender list is going to have any influence on whether they do any further harm at all. It's pretty clear that putting them on the list, washing your hands, and saying, "Oh well, society can't do any better," will have less of an effect than opening a continuing dialog with legislators, policy makers about how society can do better.

  6. tkil says:

    Curious if you've ever ran across (or perhaps even read) this book. I thought it was powerful, well-written, and convincing. It looks at both sides of the "sexual offender" problem (making relatively normal growing-up experiences "offenses" and those commiting them "offenders"; also, putting the victims through the wringer and over-reacting far out of proportion to the actual harm.)

    Note, I'm not saying that there are no youthful offenders who really do commit crimes; I'm also not saying that no youthful victims are not truly ravaged and suffering. But I do feel that there is a substantial number of both that are made to feel much worse than the situation warrants.

    And I personally tend to blame the fact that our society can't talk about sex rationally. Talk about dismemberment and other violent acts? Sure! Talk about sex? Oh noes!

    Ooops, looks like I'm repeating myself, I'll shut up now.

    Just remember that "for the children" is one of the 3-4 root exploits to the USA Constitution.

  7. elevatordown says:

    Welcome to the "share your childhood tragedy" forum on livejournal!

  8. kyhwana says:

    That's some pretty fucked up shit..

    War on everthing..

  9. heresiarch says:

    agreed with you on the graph but that blog post is ew. couldn't get past the first few hyperbolic, florid paragraphs.

  10. blech says:

    There's also the Economist's article from a couple of months ago on America's sex laws: unjust and ineffective.