Age of Consent

This article is from Issue 1 of HUBRIS: The Journal of Cultural Horror, December 2017.

As I’m writing this it’s 13 November, 2017. Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who has been removed from the State Supreme Court twice, is standing in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions in the United States Senate. I have no idea how this will play out between now and publication of this issue if HUBRIS, but it doesn’t matter. What I want to talk about is the festering underbelly of an issue that will likely still be around long after the election is over.

Moore has been accused of having relationships with teenage girls. Specifically, he’s been accused of having a sexual encounter with a 14 year old girl back in 1979, when he was 32. Three other women have since come forward with similar allegations. A former colleague of Moore’s has stated that it was common knowledge that he’d date high school girls and hang out at high school football games.

A poll taken by JMC Analytics showed the 37% of evangelicals became more likely to vote for him after the allegations. Not because they support pedophilia, supposedly, but because they think the whole thing has been made up just to smear him. If liberals, journalists, Democrats, whoever, don’t like him, then that’s good enough and he’s okay in their book.

If I have to point out how reckless and dangerous this is, then you’re reading this in the far future and have either forgotten what 2017 was like, or are too young to have lived through it.

It seems unthinkable, but then there are the people who don’t think that an adult man being with an underage girl is that big of a deal. A lot of people turned to the bible to try to justify it, which is creepy enough. But then there’s the data on child marriage in the United States. We think about that a something that happens in developing nations, or in those Islamic countries the evangelicals like to rant about.

Between 2000 and 2015, over 200,000 minors were marriage. You might think that most of them were 16 and 17, getting married to other kids their own age. You would be wrong, because only 14% wedded other minors. 60% married someone between 18 and 20. That means that 40% of these kids married someone 20 or older. The youngest, according Unchained At Last, a group campaigning to abolish child marriage, and the documentary series Frontline, were 10 year old girls. Three of them, who married men aged 24, 25, and 31. It happened in Tennessee in 2001. I challenge any “family values” people to make that checkbook add.

The media frenzy around Roy Moore’s alleged tastes and proclivities will come and go. If he’s lost the election he’ll become a footnote in history, at least until the next time he pops up in the news. If he managed to win the election, the story will be about the things he does going forward. The four women who have accused him will get eaten up by the 24-hour news cycle.

But the people who think this is okay will still be out there. Those 207,000 American citizens who were child brides and underage grooms will still be out there. Their parents, whose consent it required in most states, will still be out there. The judges who have to sign off on child marriage in many states will still be out there. This issue doesn’t go away when one story about one public figure runs its course.

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