As I was leaving on Friday, I wrote briskly about Genarlow Wilson and the illegality of teenagers having sex with teenagers. I want to address the second issue more completely now.
We legalize so much of human action. Now don’t get me wrong, I am no libertarian. I do not want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. At least some of those legal opinions are good and justified.
However, far too much of telling this person or that person what they can or cannot do is about our personal, intimate, sexual lives. And even more of it targets the choices and actions of young people. And then, to top it all off, there are the legal opinions about the personal, intimate, sexual lives of young people.
So tell me again why it is illegal for two 15-year-olds to have sex with each other? What on earth is the justification for that? I have to admit, I just don’t get it.
The only thing I can think is that it comes from a moralizing, religious perspective that infantilizes teenagers and dictates a moral code that puts marriage and marital sex on an unwarranted pedestal. I think both of those positions are poorly thought through and damaging to young people’s healthy, long-term sexual development.
Please take note, this is not to say that I think it is necessarily a good choice for two 15-year-olds to have sex with each other. I’m just saying a poor sexual choice by a young person should not be illegal. And the fact that old, white, male elected officials think they should know about and control young people’s sexual choices puts a bad taste in my mouth. Honestly, that sounds much closer to something that should be illegal (like pedophilia) than young people lusting after each other.
Teenagers having sex is really a family and a community issue. And it’s something that, I’ll be honest, I think is a critical developmental milestone. We are trying to help our young people prepare for adulthood. And part of adulthood is having responsible sex. So teenagers need to prepare for having responsible sex. Sometimes that means they will need information. Sometimes that means they’ll have sex. But making that learning process illegal (teenage sexuality laws) or unavailable (abstinence-only-until-marriage education) are serious issues, and could have lingering negative influences for the young people’s remaining sexual lives.