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Editorial columns

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Adults give up on girls in abdicating obligation

– If you’ve been reading the Washington Post, you might conclude that sexual abuse is the inevitable result of girls being girls. Betsy Karasik defends a 49-year-old male teacher who raped a 14-year-old girl (who later committed suicide). The argument appears to be that since teen-age girls have the nerve to go through puberty, then rape is the price they must pay. Congratulations, Jeff Bezos!

Karasik uses the Stacey Dean Rambold case to shrug off the severity of statutory rape. She argues that middle-aged teachers having sex with teen-age girls is no big deal and that the people who make it a big deal are the problem. Her reasoning is that she heard about some relations like that as a teen-ager, and she is happy to speculate that it all turned out OK because none of the people she knew in high school specifically called her up later to tell her otherwise:

“I’ve been a 14-year-old girl, and so have all of my female friends. When it comes to having sex on the brain, teen-age boys got nothin’ on us. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier. Throughout high school, college and law school, I knew students who had sexual relations with teachers. To the best of my knowledge, these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word. Although feelings probably got bruised, no one I knew was horribly damaged and certainly no one died.”

Well, as long as no one died!

Karasik goes on to imply, without a shred of supporting evidence, that the girl’s suicide was a reaction to the meanie government cracking down on the rapist. She then smugly suggests that criminalizing statutory rape hurts the young ones: “(T)he indiscriminate criminalization of such situations may deter students struggling with sexual issues from seeking advice from a parent or counselor.” As opposed to, say, discouraging adults with predatory urges from acting on them.

Teen-agers are going to experiment sexually in a variety of ways. None of this is an excuse to sexually assault them, minimize sexual assault against them, or indirectly threaten them by saying that sexual assault is what’s coming if they continue to play with their own emerging sexuality. Our job is to protect them by giving advice on sexual health and making sure there are safe spaces, such as schools, where they can be themselves without being preyed upon.

This isn’t hard. We’re the adults here, and it’s time we started acting like it.

Amanda Marcotte is a journalist, opinion writer, and author of two books on progressive politics. She wrote this for Slate.

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