When “Child Porn” Isn’t, And The Woman Who Insisted We Differentiate

Hi Readers: Two important things today. The first, and saddest, is that Mary Duval has passed away. I wrote about her here. She was the mom-turned-activist after her 16-year-old son Ricky was put on the sex offender registry — for life — for having consensual sex (twice) with a 13-year-old girl he thought was his own age.

Mary fought first for him, and then for all the folks on the ever-expanding registry who pose no threat to children. She leaves behind her two beloved sons, a movement for more just and rational sex offender laws, and barely enough money to pay for her funeral. If you would like to make a contribution, please write it out to Ricky’s aunt, D. Logan, and send it to: D Logan,  765 Mesa View Drive,  Space 24,  Arroyo Grande, CA   93240.

One of the things Mary fought for was to help our country get a grip. None of us want predators preying on children – I mean, really, that’s pretty obvious — but as our fears for our children grow (inflamed by everything from Law & Order to Nancy Grace), politicians pander by creating “tougher and tougher” laws against sex offenders. Sometimes those laws end up going overboard, taking with them all common sense. For a prime example of where this can lead,  check out this article, about a California high school yearbook that was recalled because, according to CBS:

The background of a school dance photo shows a 17-year-old boy’s hand inside the clothing of a 15-year-old girl in a way that suggests sexual penetration.

“The photo was taken at a dance and the suspect and victim are not the focus of the photo. They are in the background and likely didn’t know they were in the photo,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman.

In fact, even the high school yearbook advisor didn’t notice this naughty bit. Nonetheless, now students are being asked to bring the books back to school for a refund. And what happens to the kids who hang onto them? 

THEY COULD BE CHARGED WITH POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. For real!

That’s why Mary Duval will be so missed. She fought the dumbing down of the terms “child abuse” and “child porn” to the point where normal, non-violent activities could qualify as crimes. She fought so that normal, non-violent folks like  teens who have sex with their girlfriends, or send sexts, or HOLD ONTO THEIR YEARBOOKS would not end up as official sex offenders.

Why is this a Free-Range issue? Because the more non-dangerous activities we start labeling as “dangerous to children,” the more society becomes convinced that our children are in constant peril. So the more ridiculous laws we pass, and the more we pull our kids inside, and the more we distrust our neighbors and everyone else. (For a lovely example, see my post on the church that will not allow married couples to teach Sunday School unless a third adult is in the room with them, lest the dad molest the students and the wife refuse to testify against him.)

It is so easy to inflate fear and so hard to bring it back down to the real world. This was Mary’s calling. I believe it is also mine.

R.I.P. Mary Duval. — L.

69 Responses

  1. I remember you posting about a church that didn’t allow kids to be watched by men… well look at this churches website on the things a 8 to 10 year old should be able to do!

    http://www.new-life.net/growth/parenting/age-specific-responsibilities/

  2. RIP Mary.

  3. My sincere condolences to Mary’s family. I pray that her fight will live on and that others will continue to take up the mantle so that our kids have the freedom to learn, to play, to know, to live without fear. You are missed, Mary.

  4. I am so sorry to hear of Mary’s passing. It’s sad that our litigious, out of balance nation throws people like her into a fight they didn’t choose, but bravo to her for fighting it. I absolutely see this as a Free-Range issue. How can it not be: fear + political expediency = laws that undermine our real well-being.
    I’d like to mention an awful situation that exists and is harming teens in California. We have been out in front in passing child abuse legislation, BUT the activities included in “sexual abuse” include ANY oral and anal sex, including consensual activity between two 17 year olds. Here is a website devoted to changing this crazy aspect of the law: http://reformcaliforniasexlaws.org/blog/our-proposal/
    You can imagine the terrible spot it puts “mandated reporters” like me in, and the additional stress it puts on gay teens.

  5. RIP Mary.

    Lenore, I’m glad that you’re willing to take the baton from Mary and fight against absurd laws that only serve to promote more fear. We need more people like Mary and you to teach parents to turn the tide against the fear and anxiety that seems to be so pervasive in the States now.

  6. “It is so easy to inflate fear and so hard to bring it back down to the real world. This was Mary’s calling. I believe it is also mine.”

    Lenore: this is one of the most important statements you have made, EVER. Mary’s passing is sad, yet at the same time I think it is just wonderful that you recognize your calling and are pursuing it. If you weren’t, I don’t know where many of us would be.

    You are our lead warrior, and I pray that you live long to lead this essential fight.

    What others who don’t understand all of this need to hear, those who may even perhaps even think that those of us here are following a “cult,” as if you (Lenore) are some Jim Jones or David Koresh, this is what needs to be understood–we largely ALREADY know how to parent free-range, but you give legitimacy to it by being someone of some success and highly educated who so publicly endorses and fights for it, and who gives us this “meeting place” to share our experiences, and to get support from others with things such as clarity on certain issues where we’re not exactly sure what balance of safety-freedom we should be striking.

    Rest in peace, Mary, and long live Lenore Skenazy.

    LRH

  7. In order to understand the absurdity of these sort of situations, really understand it, you need to examine what sexual exploitation is, and why it is such a heinous crime.

    Sexual exploitation, including rape and/or the use of violence, is the utter violation of somebody’s bodily autonomy and independence. The exploiter sends the message that no matter what the exploitee wants or is comfortable with for their own body, that does not set the limit. The exploiter (or indeed, anybody else) with the strength or guile to do so can do whatever they like to the exploitee.

    The victim feels dirty, used, powerless, victimised, violated, and utterly dominated. Really, sexual exploitation is the ultimate way to make somebody feel dominated and unempowered.

    This is why sexual exploitation is such a bad thing and why it’s such a horrible crime.

    Now, consider this:

    A 14-year-old girl has sex with a 19-year-old man. The girl consented to the sex (i.e. she retains bodily autonomy because she had the power to say no – and chose not to). The girl is emotionally fine with having had that sex.

    Then, her family finds out. Her parents fly into a rage and have the man prosecuted. The courts determine that the girl was exploited (because she’s only 14) and the man is found guilty of a sex offence.

    Who, in this scenario, has made the girl feel powerless, violated, damaged and used? Where has the emotional damage come from?

    How often do you think that scenario plays out in real life?

  8. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Thank Heaven I live in Australia!
    So some teenager was photographed groping his almost the same age girlfriend…she clearly hasn’t filed charges…and the rest of us are left wondering that the fuss is about.
    Oh and if the photo had been of her hand clearly in the fly of his jeans would there have been the same fuss?

  9. RIP Mary, you will be sorely missed.

  10. Remember the case of Marco Weiss, a 17 year old German teenager who went to Turkey on holiday and kissed and fondled a British girl? He and the girl became close while in the same resort and one night ended up in the girl’s hotel bedroom where they had physical contact but no intercourse. He also said the girl had lied about her age and said she was 15.
    He was arrested the next day, after the girl’s mother filed a complaint with Turkish police, and he was held for eight months in custody until being allowed to return home after an appeal from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
    More info here:

    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4697909,00.html

    I also thought this was very interesting: Teenage sexuality: The immense complexity of local laws, state lines and international travel http://tinyurl.com/3vulggy

    Thank heavens I don’t have children. I look at my friends and how they raise their kids – some of them overly protective – and because I have no children I am not allowed to have any opinion on how to bring up kids. Well, that was what a mother said to me “what do you know, you don’t even have kids”.

    My sincere condolences to Mary’s family. I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. So sorry to learn that Mary has passed away. And so relieved and grateful to hear Lenore will be carrying on her work.
    Rest in peace, Mary.

  12. [...] Here is the original post: When “Child Porn” Isn’t, And The Woman W&#1… [...]

  13. Condolences on her passing.

    I absolutely agree that child porn/statutory rape isn’t a couple of near-age people having consentual interactions but…saying premarital sex is a ‘danger to children’ is ABSOLUTELY, 100% RIGHT! And needs to be shouted MUCH louder than it is today. It’s not criminal on the same level as a 25 year old cohersing a 14 year old to have sex with him, but two 15 year olds, or a 16 year old and a 13 year old having sex, is wrong, is dangerous, and we as a responsible society must do what is in our power to confine, constrain, and prohibit such actions (which doesn’t logically include such insanity as sex registry). STDs are rampant, condom failure rate is abysmal for both pregnancy protection and STD protection, children are not ready for the emotional upheaval that comes with ‘casual sex’, and the consequences are life-long. Child should be told, repeatedly and from a young age, that the ONLY acceptable, safe, and proper sex is between two married adults. Anything else opens the floodgates for sickness, disease, pain, regret and even death. This worked for generations, for thousands of years, to keep family cohesive, children safe, unwed pregnancies low, single parent families low,and STDs under control, not to mention keeping sex related crimes incredibly low in reference to today’s standards. If our children in ages past could be trusted, while they played and worked freely and without hovering parents, to keep their biological urges under control until marriage, then so can our children today, as long as we are willing to demand it from them. This woman’s goals are absolutely laudable, but they *must* go hand in hand with returning to traditional values and sexual expectations or our children will continue to suffer (as will the rest of society).

  14. Jespren – You know that teenagers have ALWAYS had sex outside of marriage right? And the teenagers that didn’t want to do that got married at 16 and 17 years old… Unwed teenage mothers were usually forced to give their babies up for adoption even if they wanted to keep them.

    While I’m not a fan of 14-year-olds having sex (because I do believe they are too young to understand the emotional ramifications), two unmarried adults should be able to do whatever they want with each other, as long as they aren’t harming each other by withholding information about an STD or lying about using birth control. Condoms are remarkably useful if used properly.

    Also, your stance seems to suggest that gay people in a committed relationship ought not have sex with each other because they aren’t ‘married.’

  15. Jespren – A great book to read on this subject is “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. This is the summary on Amazon.com:

    In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade. An adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact with her mother, Ann Fessler brilliantly brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail.

    —–

    A million and a half women (and this is just in the United States) were unwed mothers, and a large majority of them were teenagers.

  16. Mary’s energy is now bigger than us all, yet part of us all. Every one of us can and should continue her mission, in whatever way calls to us. Make it so!

  17. So, because the boy had his hand in the girl’s clothing, he’s automatically a “suspect” and the girl is automatically a “victim”? Does that mean the PD is going to file charges?

  18. You said it best. And I agree with Sera 100%. I’m Tweeting you across The Twitterverse now! ;-)

  19. I have added a memorial page on my main site.

    http://www.oncefallen.com/maryduval

    If any of you want to add something to the comment board, email me directly, derek@oncefallen.com

    My site is not programmed for direct comments plus it will eliminate spam or nasty hateful comments. Sadly, some people are celebrating her death.

  20. I first came across Mary and Ricky’s story a few years back and used it in my college class as an example of the absurdity of these laws. I recently came across your blog through some random series of web links and was so happy to hear that Mary was successful in her quest to clear her son’s name. Now, I am saddened that she has passed – what a great loss to so many. Thank you for picking up where she left off.

  21. So if kids who have the yearbook can be charged with possession of child porn wouldn’t that mean the school could be charged with distributing child pornography? Ridiculous.

  22. My condolences to the family.

    My only complaint is when things turn ugly, and I doubt anyone would argue with that. No one supports a girl being mentally emotionally pressured into having sex. No one supports harrassing someone by forwarding a private sext all over the school. I do think there are cases when sexts truly get out of hand and that is when I do consider them child pornography. But we did a clear line, not a general grouping.

  23. Kiesha- That sounds like a good book. I will look it up and see if they have it on Kindle.

  24. @ Jen, I read that book about a year ago and it was very good.

  25. My condolences to Mary’s family, and those she helped. Someone has to stand up to this absurdity, and she did.

    @Jespren: don’t be ridiculous. Sex is only dangerous if you are forced into it, or ill prepared, or lied to. It might not always be the best experience, but that’s just as true for a married thirty year old as an adventurous 14 year old, and I know no one who regrets the decision to lose their virginity, regardless of age. It is attitudes like yours that keep teens from making informed decisions (teens who have learned abstinence only are more likely to end up pregnant, more likely to develop an STD, and less likely to have an enjoyable experience than their better informed counterparts, who have sex in roughly the same numbers, according to a wide variety of studies). You are free to do as you like and have your own values, but do not attempt to speak for everyone unless you can prove that you’re right (and the science is so far against you on that one).

    Apart from which, there was simply no point in history when everyone waited until marriage. History is rife with unwed teen mothers, girls who “went away to stay with their aunt” (who usually then adopted the child), makeshift abortificants, rushed weddings, and the like. It’s a common theme in older works of fiction, and the characters are seldom treated as villains (they are usually pitied, but that’s another thing entirely.) We are simply more open about it these days, making it appear more common. Furthermore, perpetuating this myth helps to create the illusion that teens are somehow less responsible than they have been in the past, making parents think they somehow need to be protected and helicoptered.

  26. Mary was a crusader who fought for all of our sons (and daughters). My son and former police officer is sitting in a federal Prison serving a 20 year sentence for looking at pictures on his computer. Never, ever think it can’t happen to you or yours. Our world is far worse off today without Mary Duval in it!

  27. RIP, Mary.

    About Big Bear High… they’re even trying to charge the 17-year-old boy with criminal penetration of a minor. Nevermind that he’s still a minor himself. To charge these kids with child porn… well, another guy on a different site put it best: if you’re going to charge the kids with child porn, you need to charge the school for distributing it. (Regardless, I think it’s ridiculous to even consider this a criminal ANYTHING. It’s two teens doing what teens who haven’t learned not to do this kind of thing in public will do.)

  28. @Jespren: Unless you somehow have the power over mother nature to make her not give young people hormones, periods, and other indicators that they are physically capable of having children and therefore sex (and hormones that drive them to indulge in said behaviors), you will find what you are advocating to be as hard of a sell as prohibition was in the 20’s and 30’s.

    The best thing you can do as a member of society is teach your children how to be responsible for their sexuality. That means, teaching them first to have self respect – they don’t have to feel pressured into doing anything just because others have done it. Second, you give them options. You tell them about birth control and condoms. Ignorance is not bliss – it causes disease and pregnancy – so simply telling them not to do it is not helping anyone – that is how your disease and unwanted pregnancies come about.

    You aren’t the sex police. No one is. Nor should we try to be sex police – it’s bad enough that everyone puts their noses into everyone elses bedrooms anyway. You teach, teach, teach and hope that when the time comes, your teen makes a solid and informed and intelligent choice.

  29. Your last words, “This was Mary’s calling. I believe it is also mine” gave me chills because I feel the exact same way. My son’s imprisonment broke my heart and destroyed something inside me but it also gave birth to a fire for justice that will never be extinquished until sanity returns to our legal system. It has become my own calling.
    Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off mom!

  30. [...] blog, Free Range Kids and highly recommend her book of the same name. In today’s comments, there has been a discussion about whether it’s reasonable to expect teenagers to abstain [...]

  31. Here’s my response to the subject brought up by Jespren. I agree that we need both fewer unreasonable laws, and more personal responsibility.

    BTW, MamaMay, I think I will have to borrow that responsibilities list for the next time I teach a parenting class. Thanks for the link!

  32. BTW, there’s an interesting Free Range discussion going on in the comments of this article:

    http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/06/18/pudding_pops_slide_show_ext/index.html

  33. Thak God Mary lived long enough to see her son released from the clutches of the registry.

    I am still waiting.

    He was relieved of the duty to register in the state that “convicted” him ( if you call railroading a 16 year old into a plea bargain with the very real threat of prison rape a “conviction”), but the state he has resided in his entire life now says it does not recognize the court order from that state. It’s the “thousands of dollars and seveal years” mery go round.

    If the Adam Walsh act gets forced upon us, he will not get off the registry, which is why it was critical THIS go around…years from now, this could be thousands of dollars and the rest of his life down the Judicial rathole.

    “Cause that’s how we roll.”

    BTW, Russell – living in Australia means what, exactly? Their laws and justice system have been overtaken by the same insanity as ours has.

    It would seem America has exported this particular insanity through out the entire english speaking world.

    The list of who HASN’T gone nutty is a sort one, and Australia is NOT on that short list.

  34. I have to agree with Jespren to a certain extent. Our kids are generally not well informed enough to be havin se, especially in places where strict abstinence is taught.

  35. [...] kids who hang onto them? THEY COULD BE CHARGED WITH POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. For real! http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2…differentiate/ more crazy shit Guaranteed to offend Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you [...]

  36. Lenore, thank you for posting about Mary’s cause. We have to stop the criminalization of normal childhood behavior. Here is a nother absurd result of our society gone mad. Parents and teachers can no longer be trusted to discipline children, including spanking. Consequently, the police are called on unruly children and they are tasered, shackled and caged. It must stop.

  37. @sera: “How often do you think that scenario plays out in real life?” less often than you think. More often nothing happens but the parents invent the story to get back at someone they don’t like and the girl goes along out of fear for reprisals.

    @jespren: “saying premarital sex is a ‘danger to children’ is ABSOLUTELY, 100% RIGHT” not so much. It’s pre-marital pregnancy that’s the danger. And part of responsible behaviour is knowing how to prevent that. Pills, condomes, can help here, as can abstinance of course.
    Of course 12-15 year olds having sex is not something I consider normal, but I was raised in the 1970s by rather conservative parents in a small community where it would have raised a major scandal, not in the 1990s in a major city.

    @Lori: “So if kids who have the yearbook can be charged with possession of child porn wouldn’t that mean the school could be charged with distributing child pornography? ” excellent idea. Even better, charge them with the production of child pornography, which probably carries even more serious penalties.

    @Emiky: “. I do think there are cases when sexts truly get out of hand and that is when I do consider them child pornography” yes, when they’re sent as harassment of bullying to other kids, or when kids start taking nasty pictures of other kids without their consent and mailing them around (think episodes of kids sneaking into toilets and showers with their cellphone cams to take pictures of girls (and sometimes boys) for extortion or bullying).
    But that’s a clear divide. Sending suggestive (or more than suggestive) messages to your girl/boyfriend is far away from that, and is no different from what love letters used to contain for decades if not centuries.

    @violet: ” We have to stop the criminalization of normal childhood behavior. Here is a nother absurd result of our society gone mad”

    not just that. It’s far worse as those fears have made any adult who gets into contact with children, even his own (his, women are never suspected even if they’re as likely to be guilty as are men in real crimes), suspected of being a pedophile, and any picture taken that contains a child, even fully clothed, considered to be “potential child pornography” and thus anyone with a camera a suspect of producing child pornography (as we’re already automatically terrorist suspects if we take pictures of almost anything, just because “a terrorist might use those pictures to plan an attack”).
    We live in a constant state of fear, created and perpetuated by governments and special interest groups who without that fear can’t exert the control they need over the population. Michael Chrichton’s book by the same name may be fictional, but the idea he lays out there is quite real (and it’s extrapolated on real events, making it more chilling).
    Criminalising the entire population, and creating a society where nobody trusts anybody else, is an important step on the road to totalitarianism. If noone trusts anyone, no groups can form to stop the government and those organisations it creates or allows from increasing its power. Survivalists and their hyper paranoia are an extreme example of what such a society is like, having neighbourhood vigilante groups hunting down “suspected pedophiles” based on nothing more than that they were seen walking alone near playgrounds and schools is another (and also quite real).

  38. @jespren it used to be “normal” for a girl to be placed in an arranged marriage ad 11, or sometimes younger, and live with her much older husband, to experience sex as soon as she “flowered” sometimes as young as 11 or 12, and to have had many babies by her 20s.

    I actually wonder if it is possible to research this side of our history anymore, or if it has all been censored.

  39. @ JTW:

    I don’t think parents do (or need to) “make up” stories of sex between minors, or between minors and adults. My point is that it shouldn’t be automatically illegal or classified as rape or sexual exploitation at all.

    I quite honestly can’t think of a more offensive, scarring, demeaning, terrifying mindfuck than telling a minor that they have been sullied, befouled, degraded and used – and here’s the kicker, they’re actually so stupid and ignorant and naieve that they did that voluntarily.

    Seriously. Think about that. In cases like that, it’s not the “rapist” or “molestor” that causes the emotional damage and turns the minor into a victim, it’s the way society reacts to the act of sex that causes it. This is, then, the law actually causing the damage that it is meant to prevent (or help to heal) in cases of actual rape and exploitation. Not to mention, of course, the terrible terrible effect that it has on whoever the law chooses to brand as a sex offender, especially when that person is also a minor.

    The fact remains that children as young as 13 (or possibly even younger) voluntarily have sex. (I direct you to the case of Alfie and Chantelle). I think this is really gross. I think this is probably really irresponsible. I think that sex other people have is totally none of my business as long as nobody is getting hurt or taken advantage of. I might think that gay, lesbian or interracial sex is gross, but that does not mean that I should make men criminals if they have sex with other men, or black people criminals if they have sex with white people.

    Moreover, there is the assumption that any sexual relationship between a minor and and an adult (or even an older minor) is always predatory, and the elder is always taking advantage of the younger. No. Not at all. Have you never met the 14-16 year old girls who seduce or date an older boy or man specifically because he has an income and/or car and/or can buy booze?

    Also, when I was 17, I lost my virginity to my 24-year-old boyfriend. He was also a virgin, and if anything, more nervous about having sex than I was. I couldn’t think of anything more offensive than the inference that he somehow took advantage of my naievity and youth to use me because I am somehow meant to be incapable of understanding sex or its consequences. I couldn’t think of anything more unreasonable or unfair than branding him as a sex offender as a consequence of that sex. Happily, 16 is legal here. Yet, under your laws, it would be illegal child rape and most people would think that it was an obvious case of predation, him being a whole 7 years older than me. That judgement would have been made without any understanding, or any effort to gain an understanding, of either me or him – the assumption is simply made that older male is obviously using his superior experience and guile to trick younger female into doing something she can’t possibly fathom the consequences of. Nothing could be further from the truth – and it is the responsibility of the law to find the truth and act appropriately, especially when handing out such harsh and lasting punishments, not to have a knee-jerk reaction and use a blanket rule when the grey area is a lot more grey than people think.

    Yes, of course rape and molestation and other sexual exploitations of minors do occur (e.g. child porn), and it is very important to lay down harsh punishments, including the sex offender registry, on people who do actually commit these crimes. It is therefore equally important to separate and differentiate people who are guilty of doing such things, and innocent people who have had consensual sex and never taken advantage of anybody.

  40. “it used to be “normal” for a girl to be placed in an arranged marriage ad 11, or sometimes younger, and live with her much older husband, to experience sex as soon as she “flowered” sometimes as young as 11 or 12, and to have had many babies by her 20s.”

    When and where was this “normal?” I’m aware it used to happen among the landed nobility in medieval Europe, but that was a tiny proportion of the population and the common people had no such practices, since there was no advantage to anybody in it unless you were making some kind of alliance.

    But maybe you’re talking about some other situation of which I’m unaware. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying that in the situation I AM aware of, “normal” just isn’t the right word.

  41. Pentamom, Looks like you should do some research on arranged marriages. They still happen in other parts of the world…and even in the U.S. now that we have a lot of immigrants for the Middle East and Africa. In ancient times it was pretty common and normal. Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, was 6 when she married him. Perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour for the time.

  42. Sgt Mom– “living in Australia means what, exactly? Their laws and justice system have been overtaken by the same insanity as ours has.”

    Every country influenced by the US or speaks English as a primary language shares Predator Panic. Australia, Japan, South Korea, England, Australia, and Canada.

  43. Even if we could agree that the yearbook picture was problematic–wouldn’t it make much more sense just to ask everyone who had a yearbook to tear that particular page out and throw it in the trash? That way everyone still has a yearbook and the school doesn’t have to refund thousands of dollars.

  44. Pentamom, hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty.

    The US in the last few hundred years:

    http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/Age.htm

    The world now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriageable_age

    With an average lifespan of only 30 years in the middle ages, one would expect early marriages (and consummation and giving birth at a younger age). But I didn’t find any evidence of it being normal at so young an age as 11:

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Minimum_age_for_marriage_in_the_middle_ages

  45. “They still happen in other parts of the world…and even in the U.S. now that we have a lot of immigrants for the Middle East and Africa.”

    I didn’t say they didn’t happen, I asked when and where they were “normal” happenings *in the way that Metanoia described.* Citing the fact that some form of arranged marriages happen in the U.S. or that Mohammad did it is a far cry from claiming underage marriages involving prepubescents are or have been “normal.” If you know of arranged marriages involving children under the age of consent in the U.S. you should call the police.

  46. Erin, being married at 6 or 11 wasn’t the same as having sex at 6 or 11. Most of those marriages weren’t consummated for years, at least until both parties had reached puberty.

  47. I am so glad that Mary was able to experience the results of work to free her son before she passed on. My condolences to the family for losing such a determined woman.

    National Public Radion (NPR) has a series called “The Hidden Life of Girls.” One recent one was on I believe South Sudan, and how girls are married off at age 8 or so, and having one or more kids by 13. They generally are married to 20 something men, and I got the impression that the sex does not wait until puberty. There is a public campaign going on to educate men on how their daughters and wives will be healthier if they wait for marriage until the girls are older. It is somewhat successful, but old traditions die hard.

  48. Those of you who are arguing that child brides are not something that is considered “normal” in certain parts of the world to this day should read the June 2011 issue of National Geographic, pages 78 – 99. When there is a 14 year old girl with a two year old daughter I think it is safe to say the husband may have waited until the girl was just barely in puberty. Besides which, puberty can begin as early as 10 in some girls.

  49. In Southern Civil War era culture, a woman was considered an “old maid” if she was not married by 20. Prime marriage age was around 16-18. Ever seen “Gone With the Wind”? They refer to that numerous times. The actress who played Scarlet was in her 20s but in the book Scarlet is around 16 when the book starts.

  50. Here is a story of a 16 year old marrying a 51 year old man this past May of this year. http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/ask_the_answer_bitch/b248321_can_51-year-old_green_mile_actor.html

  51. “In Southern Civil War era culture, a woman was considered an “old maid” if she was not married by 20. Prime marriage age was around 16-18.”

    This is a bit of a modern misnomer fed by literature and movies. The actual average age of first marriage for a woman in the 18th and 19th centuries was 22. This of course means some were older and some younger, but women did not typically marry at 16. Of course, for men, the average was considerably older – 32.

  52. Sky: yeah I noticed that too when I did some fact checking. Still an average age of 22 is still fairly young and that they did marry much older men.

  53. “When there is a 14 year old girl with a two year old daughter I think it is safe to say the husband may have waited until the girl was just barely in puberty. Besides which, puberty can begin as early as 10 in some girls.”

    Right. Which is different from what Metanoia said, that it was “normal” (and implied that it was normal not just in some places, but generally normal) for young children to be married off and then the marriage consummated when they reached puberty. There’s nothing in the story of a 14 year old girl with a two year old daughter to tell us that she was married off years before that.

    I was specifically questioning what Metanoia said, not the idea that girls sometimes have and/or still do marry very shortly after puberty, not the fact that there are arranged marriages, and not the fact that the thing Metanoia described “has” happened. Metanoia said very specific things were “normal,” and nobody’s yet said anything to back that up.

  54. I’m not sure what the point is of the “child bride” discussion. It is true that early marriage was the norm in certain cultures at certain times, and even in our own culture a few decades ago, 22-year-old brides were the norm and 17-year-old brides not exactly unheard of. It also stands to reason that a community where most marriages happen between people in their teens and early twenties, a smaller percentage of people will engage in premarital sex and vice versa.

    I went to a Mennonite college which, even though it was very liberal in many other respects, did preach a very strong abstinence message to its students, as did the Mennonite communities many of my classmates grew up in. Most of these kids took the message to heart, demonstrating that one can, indeed, influence teenagers to abstain from sex in spite of all the hormones, etc. But then again, my classmates also got married, on average, a few years earlier than their sexually active peers.

  55. And of course marriage at 16 or 17 in a culture where women are considered adults at 16 has nothing to do with child brides, either.

  56. The average age of 22 is misleading if not meaningless. Take ten women, 7 marry at 16 and 3 at 36, which leaves you with an average of 22. Yet, you would certainly call 16 the “normal” age of marriage for that group. A median age is the only real measure, but I can’t find it on a search for any period. Taking the two are close, that would still mean that 50% married under the age of 22.

    Given that the 11 to 13 year age of consent was common in Europe until sometime in the 17th century when it moved to 14 – 16, and that age of consent and marriage are loosely related, I doubt that 14 year old brides were unheard of among the poor. Menarche likely comes into play here too, it was around 12 in the middle ages as far I can find but marched up to middle teens and now back down to 11-12.

    One of the things I see this site rail against is our devolving view of childhood. Through fear we treat 10 year-olds like 5 year-olds, and 15 year-olds like 10 year-olds, with many believing that our relatively new concepts of childhood, including that of “teenager” stretch well back through time. They don’t.

  57. I work at a community newspaper, and a big part of my job is interviewing teens about things they are doing. In the past two weeks, I’ve interviewed about ten teenagers on various things they’re doing.

    I was impressed by how well-spoken, confident and just generally mature they were. They were able to excel in multiple and varied extracurriculars. They articulated clear, carefully considered rationales for their choice of college. They knew the value of teamwork, responsibility, and giving back. They’ve held statewide positions of responsibility, formed their own organizations, learned multiple languages. We can trust these students with complex life decisions, but not the simple decision of how much they should physically give in a relationship?

  58. I don’t know if this is related or not but I get tired of someone is unable to handle themselves till this certain age laws. I think they should take it on a case by case basis or have some room for leeway at least. For example, a man at age 18 can be tried as an adult for any crime they commit. They are legally able to live on their own. Work any job. Support a family if they have one. Vote. Pretty much are considered an adult. They can join the army and become trained to fight and kill and put their lives on the line for their country. BUT, the legal drinking age is 21. So you can be trusted at 18 to pretty much do EVERYTHING, but handle drinking responsibly. I call bull to that. If you can support yourself and your family, go to war, have a job, own a car or house, then you can handle drinking responsibly. If you can’t handle it, it has nothing to do with your age and whether you are 21 or 18 is not going to make a difference.

    A 16 year old can be legally emancipated and raise their child, but still can’t go see an R rated movie or have a cigarette if they want to? I find that bull.

    We need to stop making laws that are absolute when they really don’t apply. Some 18 year olds still live at home and are in high school and act like kids. Some are out on their own, working a full time job and supporting a family. One should be able to be treated as an adult and be respected as such since they act like an adult. One obviously has not earned that respect yet.

    Age is nothing but a number sometimes.

  59. I am personally shocked at the EXCELLENT comments on this article. Many in the general public were touched by Mary, as was I. Maybe things are turning around after all!

    Visit our blog: http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

    And on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OfficialSOIssues

  60. God Bless Mary
    When I first talked to Mary about my sons situation she told me not to give up. I had to keep fighting for him. As of today, 9 months later I am fighting for my son and every other non-violent sex offender that has been placed on the registry. I have been speaking to legislatures and making some headway. I have opened my home up to non-violent sex offenders, helping them get jobs and trying to give them a piece of hope that this will end. These individuals need hope because this is a very hard place to be. I will keep the fight going until every state changes their laws and puts common sense back into them. Thank you Mary for showing me what is important in my life, Your mission will not be complete until I am finished with the atrocities in the world.
    Christine
    Families Advocating for Individuals Through Hope (F.A.I.T.H)
    faithinflorida2011@gmail.com

  61. I knew Mary and can hardly think of her without tears. Here was a woman who took on possibly the most unpopular cause in America(sex offender laws) simply because it was the right thing to do.

    I watched her stand her ground as the ignoramics took their cheap shots and called her a “pedophile sympathizer”.

    She never so much as blinked, as she would not allow this insanity to destroy her son.

    Mary suffered from a physical disability, she was blind yet she shed the light on both the press and the politicians who suffered from “political blindness” caring far more about ratings and votes than the truth or actually preventing crimes.

    Mary also cared about the families of those who were caught up in the ever growing sex offender registry/Industry as horror story after horror story came out over the years and the government abuses were documented.

    She brought to light America’s first “leper colony” for sex offenders that was located under the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Miami.

    As the American media ignored the colony film crews from all over the world would come to interview the residents and stood in awe that this kind of thing could take place in the “home of the brave”.

    They are proposing several new registries now that we have given the government the power and I imagine this will all come to a boil in the coming years as the numbers grow and grow and people are forced to take a hard look.

    I hope Mary will some day be remembered as the courageous fighter she was and her pioneering efforts to repair a very broken system.

  62. Jespren I am afraid you are wrong. Marriage was one man and one woman chosen by their parents. After the heir was born as long as both sides where descrete they then could fall in love and have relationships with others. Fidelity wasn’t expected or demanded unlike now.

  63. @pentamom: “I didn’t say they didn’t happen, I asked when and where they were “normal” happenings *in the way that Metanoia described.*”

    In Muslim countries (mostly African and Arab) and parts of India it’s still the norm (though the age has gone up a bit in some cases).
    While those countries might have theoretical laws against the practice, in reality those are worthless as it’s so ingrained in their culture that the very people who have to enforce those laws are among the worst offenders (the laws being put in place merely to make countries like the US happy so they would not be barred from getting free money in development aid).

  64. @Sera: “I don’t think parents do (or need to) “make up” stories of sex between minors, or between minors and adults. My point is that it shouldn’t be automatically illegal or classified as rape or sexual exploitation at all.”

    I’m pretty sure some do, and others exagerrate things their kids tell them or come to incorrect conclusions because of fears and preconceptions about their kids. They’ve been so brainwashed into thinking everyone out there is a sexual predator, the moment they see their kids with a stranger (to them) they’ll start fearing for the worst.
    If they then see their kid be friendly, it must indeed be true.

    It’s no different from the massive “sexual abuse” scares of the 1990s when suddenly everyone had been abused by their parents. If you weren’t, it was only because you’d repressed the memories and couldn’t talk about it except under hypnotic suggestion. Lawyers and hypnotherapists got very rich that way.
    It never happened of course, the vast majority of people who now think their parents abused them as kids never suffered anything until false memories were planted by “therapists” “trying to help them cope with suppressed memories”.

  65. First off rip Mary!!
    Second this makes me soo mad. I have read stuff ever since this happened. I am the ex girlfriend that Ricky had sex with.. I had let this go for so long but reading all the names and horrible stuff that her and all these people say about me I can’t stand by anymore… After what happened they nor do anybody else that just pops up know what has gone one in my life so who are they to talk about what they think goes on after Iowa?! I never lied about my age that’s what THEY told me to say I was young and stupid and did so.. He they knew what school I went to how old I was all my friends and yes the sex was agreed on from the both of us. And it was more then two times. For them to sit and talk trash about me is not okay especially as I’ve sat and watched how they keep lying to everyone. Ricky had no right to be on the sex offender registry but I did not lie to ricky of his family!!!! I have emails from her and him before and after this happened. I’m not trying to cause trouble but really people your only hearing one side of the story so nobody has any right to say the things they are saying about me!!

  66. Dear Amanda,

    I have know been aquainted with Mary for many years now. Never once did I read anything that was derogatory or demeaning toward you or about you.

    If you feel Mary was less than sensitive toward you or your feelings, I can only say it is VERY hard to be charitable toward the person responsible for the hell her son and entire family was forced to endure.

    By “responsible” I am not accusing you of intentionally setting out to do harm…I will point outt, in the overall scheme of things, one person suffered FAR more horrifically than the other did.

    The trash talk was about The System, and the people in The System banking careers and monetary rewards on the mistakes of mutually consenting and participating kids.

    It shouldn’t have happend.

    It’s unfortunate you waited until Mary’s death to speak up about your concerns. I have no doubt Mary would have given you to opportunity to tell your side of the story, or corrected any mistakes made.

    If Mary hadn’t done what no Mother had done before – tell her son’s side of the story sympathically – YOU would be living happily ever after while his life would have been completely ruined. Forever. He would have been publicly registered forever, shamed and reviled, his wife, his family included. That means no job, being run out of any “nice” area to live, not able to attend his children’s school events, registering four times a years, and living in fear every day of his life that a camera crew or a gunman would be showing up on his doorstep to make a name for themselves.

    I don’t know what punishment, if any, you paid for your part in this event, but personally I’d take being bad mouthed by a boy’s Mom over being on a sex offender registry for the rest of my life any day.

  67. Dear Amanda,

    Why do you speak up NOW? Years have passed. I’ve known Mary for many years and she never once said anything derogatory about you. Perhaps you are being truthful when she say Ricky and Mary knew how old you were, or maybe not. I’m just saying that waiting until after Mary’s death to speak up will only raise suspicions about you because now Mary cannot defend herself.

  68. Before anyone buys into this, remember the fact that Mary had her detractors, in particular a fanatic group called Absolute Zero, who have been known to impersonate people online. I smell a rat.

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