October 28, 2007 – by Gregory Franklyn
I’m feeling a little better about justice in America today while watching the Genarlow Wilson case in Georgia unfold. You’ll remember that Genarlow Wilson was the 17 year old who had consensual oral sex with a 15 year old a few years ago and got sentenced to 10 YEARS in prison for it. It appears that while Genarlow was incarcerated, the law was changed because his case made it clear that 10 years was cruel and unusual punishment for a teenage indiscretion. Well, I guess so!
First of all, the sex was consensual AND no one in the scenario was over 18 and no one is suggesting that either party was forced against their will to participate. In addition, young Wilson isn’t a thug or a criminal type (we don ‘t know who the young woman is and I can understand that). The young man is an Honor Student and Football Hero at his High School. Of course being a Football Player or good student shouldn’t excuse anyone from accountability for criminal activity, but in this case I don ‘t understand what the crime is. Shouldn’t this have been an issue for both sets of parents or maybe a Pastor or two rather than the police, much less the Georgia Supreme Court?
I’m delighted that our legal system recognized how utterly insane this whole thing is and I sincerely hope that young Wilson doesn’t have to live with what goes with having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, for this youthful indiscretion. Since the statute of limitations on my own indiscretions is long since expired I can admit to having sex before I was 18. Can I have a show of hands here?
Not only was I not traumatized by it, I believe I may be a better, more balanced, person for having had the experience. In my case it was consensual too, and it was with another boy who was also not 18 yet. Looking back, if I had to make the same decision under the same circumstances, I would!
But our “Mature Adult” response to this incident is pointing up an issue that we, in the US, steadfastly refuse to have an informed, intelligent and rational discussion about. The idea of young people having sex is a discussion we seem to ONLY have with a knee-jerk emotionally charged sense of fear, loathing and often even shame.
Let me say, for the record, right here that I believe pedophilia is a bad thing! It’s predatory and almost universally results in serious damage on a number of levels for the victims and predators alike. I’m not talking about 30 year old people coercing 12 year olds into sexual situations.
I feel that we disrespect our young people when it comes to the subject of sex and, because of our own fear and shame about sex, refuse to equip them to make informed decisions about sex at a time when they are called upon, by nature, to make them.
If we educate our young people about sex at all it rarely begins before the onset of puberty when it would be of the most use. Most school districts that have any sex education at all start Sex education with 15-17 year olds. That s about 2, and sometimes as many as 3, years after young boys are already having very natural sensations and feelings of a sexual nature.
In those few school districts where sex education IS part of the curriculum, the education is sorely incomplete because of the things teachers are NOT allowed to talk about! A perfect example is “Abstinence Only” sex education models.
You might remember what happened to US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders when she suggested that masturbation should be part of a balanced sex education model and so should the use of condoms. You and I know that the use of condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancy and can prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS!
Right Wing Morality Thugs had a textbook MELTDOWN at the very suggestion. They claim that by teaching them about the use of condoms we encourage teenagers to have sex rather than wait until they’re married.
Jocelyn Elders was humiliated out of a job for suggesting that we equip our young people with what they’ll need for their very survival should they decide to disagree with us and have sex anyway! Teenagers truly aren’t ready to have sex, but not because all young people are too irresponsible at that age to make such a decision, but rather because we are too twisted up and polarized about sex to equip them with what they need at a time when it could make the most difference.
Here’s a little shocker for you in case you didn’t already know. Check my facts with any well-respected biblical scholar about this one. You might want to sit down for a minute! …Ready?
The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the teenager chosen by God Himself, to deliver His only Son was a mere 14 years old when she gave birth to Jesus! God Almighty chose a 14 year-old girl!
Exactly who do we think we are by disrespecting young women’s choices when God Himself felt a 14 year-old girl was ready to be the mother of his only child. She could have said no, but she made the decision to do so and GOD respected her decision!
I m not suggesting that we lower the age of consent to 14 because God thinks it s appropriate, notwithstanding the fact that he clearly does! I’m suggesting that some young people are going to make that decision one way or another whether we like it or not. I just don’t think they should have to die from AIDS for making a choice that you and I wish they wouldn’t.
So far, all studies that I m aware of say that “Abstinence Only” sex education has the opposite effect to what is intended; increased teen pregnancy and increased sexually transmitted diseases including HIV! When we teach our youth that abstinence is the ONLY option, when they make ANY other choice, we have left them hanging out there twisting in the wind. That simply does not make sense and disrespects them as people!
Which brings me back to young Genarlow Wilson. He got his sexual education the hard way because we didn’t give him the proper options to make informed decisions when he was called upon to make one. Whose fault is that?
So, God Bless America, our system of Justice got it right this time. young Genarlow Wilson is not going to spend the next 10 years behind bars because someone in our system of justice did their job with courage, with honesty and WITHOUT political partisanship! And, God Bless young Genarlow Wilson for helping us open a RATIONAL discussion about our responsibilities to the education of our young people. Let’s continue on this roll of getting it right for once. Let’s talk about this and have a little faith in how we have raised our children and respect their choices a little more.
It has always puzzled me that it’s technically a FELONY SEX OFFENSE, carrying a life sentence of registering as a sex offender and all that goes with it, when a person who is 18 years and one minute old has consensual sex with another person who is 17 years, 11 months, thirty days, 23 hours and 59 minutes old! Yet it’s completely legal if they do the very same thing 61 seconds later! Maybe we can start to look at this issue on a case-by-case basis and make decisions in the same way we expect our kids to!