Keeping girls pure one marriage at a time

Last month Feministing wrote about a 22 year-old man being brought up on criminal charges in Nebraska for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The kicker? After she got pregnant, the parents brought her to Kansas where she married the man being charged with her rape. Sigh.
The New York Times covers the same story today, and it only gets more complex (and depressing).
Matthew and Crystal started “dating” when he was 20 and she was 12 years old. Despite Crystal’s mother filing a restraining order (though it seems she didn’t do much else to stop the relationship), Crystal became pregnant. Nebraska doesn’t allow marriages for people under 17 years old, so Matthew and Crystal went to Kansas to get married where children as young as 12 can wed. Nebraska is now bringing charges against Matthew for statutory rape.

“We don’t want grown men having sex with young girls,” said Jon Bruning, the attorney general. “We make a lot of choices for our children: we don’t allow them to vote; we don’t allow them to drink; we don’t allow them to drive cars; we don’t allow them to serve in wars at age 13, whether they want to or not; and we don’t allow them to have sex with grown men.”

Here’s what kills me: people are pissed that Matthew is being prosecuted because he “did the right thing” by marrying Crystal. Now, I take issue with a lot of consent laws because I don’t think it’s right to imply that a teenage girl can’t make her own decisions about sex. So I’m not going to argue whether their sexual relationship (or any other) was wrong or not. What is fucked up and needs to be addressed is that the only reason folks are backing this guy up is because they got married. If they hadn’t, people would be calling for his head on a platter.

…experts said it was extremely rare for a man to be prosecuted for statutory rape when he has married his minor partner.
A judge in Syracuse last September delayed a one-and-a-half-to-three-year prison sentence until this summer so that a 38-year-old defendant could marry a pregnant 16-year-old; in Florida in 2001, charges were reduced to a misdemeanor when a 17-year-old married the 13-year-old girl expecting their second child, and he received six months’ probation.
“It’s odd that the state would be prosecuting someone who did not leave the girl pregnant and unwed,” said Rigel C. Oliveri, a law professor at the University of Missouri who has studied laws on statutory rape since 1998.

If you don’t get married you’re a rapist, but if you do you’re a stand-up guy? In either case, it seems to me the point of all this is to make sure that the girl in question (who has no real say in the matter) stays “pure.” So if you have sex when you’re a teenage girl, you get two choices–you’re a rape victim or a wife. Can’t have a bunch of unmarried hussies running around, after all.
This bizarre desperation to make sure that young girls aren’t being “immoral” goes beyond consent laws; abortion laws reveal the same daddy-knows-best logic. In several states, parental consent or notification laws only apply to unmarried teens. I guess if you’ve made an “honest” woman of yourself through marriage, you deserve the right to make decisions about your body. Still an unmarried slut? Sorry, someone else has to make that decision.
Not to mention, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has been on a mission to get medical records from abortion clinics to look for “evidence” of statutory rape. If Kline is really concerned about child rape, why isn’t he all over this highly-publicized case where a 13 year-old got married in his state?
This kind of faux concern over teenage girls and sexual activity has nothing do with keeping girls safe. It’s about legislating morality and ensuring that someone–whether it be a parent, husband, or the state–is making decisions for young women. Because god forbid we make them ourselves.
Apologies for the long rant…I’m super-pissed.

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