Julie Bosman, in today's New York Times, tells the story of a 19-year-old who meets another teen online; the teens meet and have sex. Not the recommended way to conduct relationships but common behavior now. It turns out that the partner who said she was older than the age of consent was not.
[The 19-year-old] was arrested and charged and, after pleading guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and probation.Ninety days. That slap on the wrist, however, is accompanied with lifetime on the sex offender registry.
Lifetime punishment for a single sexual encounter. How did we ever come to this?
...his story is a parable of the digital age: the collision of the temporary relationships that young people develop on the Internet and the increasing criminalization of sexual activity through the expansion of online sex offender registries.
“The whole registry is a horrible mistake,” said William Buhl, a former judge in Michigan who has publicly argued that laws governing registries ought to be relaxed. “I think it’s utterly ridiculous to take teenage sex and make it a felony. This guy is obviously not a pedophile.”That's the opinion of one retired judge, of course. The judge in this case thought differently.
“You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women, to meet and have sex with,” he said. “That seems to be part of our culture now. Meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.”Harumph. Totally inappropriate behavior.
Totally appropriate, though, to make sure young people are punished with life sentences for hooking up with a willing partner.
For some reason, [the prosecutor] told the judge in court, this generation seems to think it is “O.K. to go online to find somebody and then to quickly hook up for sexual gratification.”
“That’s not a good message to send into the community,” he said.Tsk tsk. Not a good message to send into the community.
So much better to send the message that if you have consensual sex even once, you can pay for it for the rest of your life.
Times change and, wouldn't you know it, young people still like to have sex. The online hookup might very well be a bad way to use the Internet, though there is a worse way to use the Internet: The sex offender registry.
Using the Internet to prevent people from moving on with their lives after they have learned hard lessons about bad judgments is totally inappropriate behavior, a milktoast description of the unbelievable cruelty imposed on those who have paid their debt to society.
Ninety days in jail? Done.
Punishment and public shaming? Never ending.
Abolish the registry.