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.

Join the Conversation

  • JesusJonesSuperstar

    THey actually think it is a GOOD IDEA for a freaking 13 year old to get married?? my god.
    Yes, the lad was a true stand up guy, cause after he impregnated a near child, he married her. so good of him.
    In order to understand this logic, you must venture deep into bible belt territory and see how diffierent it is. It is basically a different country.

  • Zed

    I’m not sure the point is as much to make sure the girl is ‘pure’ as it is to make sure she’s supported, particularly when a pregnancy is involved. A marriage is more than purity in this context; it’s someone saying, “I’m going to stand by you and help you get through the hard times.”
    There’s a pretty good social reason to encourage this as a general case, and considering the potential cost to the state in terms of welfare costs, there is economic value to the decision to forgoe pursuit of vengeance in exchange for not making the new baby a great burden on the tax base.
    That said, I’m not absolutely certain how well this applies to someone sufficiently off-kilter as to be sleeping with a twelve-year-old, and sufficiently irresponsible as to actually manage to get her pregnant doing so, particularly given how young, and therefore probably poorly positioned economically, he is. I guess the perception of the result hinges on whether you think it more likely that this will make him grow up, or just become an irresponsible husband and parent.

  • Zed

    (bleh… forego, of course, not forgoe… not sure how that typo crept in there)

  • jmcchesney

    That is sick… just plain sick. Sorry. Any grown man that impregnates little girls (and 13 is a little girl in my book) deserves statuatory rape charges brought up immediately. It would be over my dead body that he would be allowed to marry my little girl… in fact, I don’t know that when I got done with him he would be able to. Here’s the thing… I very much believe that teenagers are capable of making a lot more decisions then society as a whole gives them credit for. But we have statuatory rape laws for a reason, that being so older and more experienced people don’t coerce much younger and less experienced people into something they don’t want to do. I’m certainly not giving this asshole any medals for marrying her.

  • qusan

    The article basically says the “husband” is slow and was rejected by his own peers. He may not be any more advanced in intellect and maturity than she is … which is just the kind of couple we need marrying and breeding. The parents seem a little “slow” too …

  • DJW

    Regardless of age, marriage isn’t negation of rape. “Wife rape” seems to be a crime in all 50 states.

  • D.J.

    The girl in this case was a victim of the damn redneck prosecutor, not of her husband. Yes, it is a double standard to say that a married couple should be treated differently because they are married. But we can’t be hypocritical in the other direction by being pro-sexual freedom only for UNmarried people!

  • antiestablishment

    Give Matt Koso a break. He
    may have been eight years
    older than Crystal Guyer and
    she may have been in her early
    teens when she became pregnant
    with his baby. However,
    when I saw the special about
    Matt Koso and Crystal Guyer
    on 20/20 back in 2005, the biggest gripe
    that Matt Koso’s mother had
    was that the law seemed to
    be applying a double standard
    by treating her son as a
    sexual predator and deadbeat
    teen dads younger than 18 as
    redblooded American boys who
    could do no wrong. If you want
    to call anyone sick, you
    ought to call LEVI JOHNSTON
    sick. Sure, he was only
    one year older than Bristol
    Palin (Sarah Palin’s daughter) when he started having
    sex with her and she was
    14 years old, but look at
    how disgraceful he has behaved
    since Bristol Palin announced
    she was pregnant with his child.
    He misused her and her family
    to build himself his 15
    minutes of fame and now he’s
    parading around the country
    like an out-of-control gigolo
    acting like the whole world
    is in love with him when probably
    a lot of people are able to
    see what a scumball he is.
    Whenever a suspicion of abuse
    against a young teenage girl
    arises, our society should
    focus more on the ACTIONS
    of her sex partner rather than
    his age. And I’m sure you
    would at least agree that
    if you had to choose between
    having Matt Koso as a father
    or Levi Johnston, you would
    likely choose Matt Koso. AND
    an option that only
    exists in Never-Neverland.
    Society goes too easy on
    deadbeat teen fathers younger
    than 18 years old, especially
    ones who physically abuse
    their teenaged girlfriends, yet our
    country continues to have
    among the most upside down
    age of consent laws anywhere
    in the world. One night I saw a show on WE about this 16-year old boy who regularly beat on his 15-year old girlfriend and told her that she had to have his baby at 15 or he would kill her. What possibly can make you believe that the life of a girl in her early-to-mid teens automatically becomes a bed of roses by being with a boy the same age as her? Teenage boys in this country have progressively become first-class assholes with their girlfriend over the past 10 years. The age of
    consent in the Netherlands
    was 21 years old up until
    1990. That is, 18 and 19-year old
    year old girls were also jailbait
    in that country back in the
    1980’s. Now that country’s
    age of consent is 16 years old
    and 12 to 15 year old girls
    are given the option to
    contest a charge of statutory
    rape against their boyfriend
    to a government agency there
    known as the Council for the
    Protection of Children. This
    government agency has the
    power to force the criminal
    court system to drop the
    charge against the accused
    if they don’t feel that the
    ends of justice will be served.
    This makes more sense than
    the way the laws are here in
    the U.S. Come on. Get your
    mindset out of 1957, and let’s
    stop treating this issue as a
    sore subject every time someone
    like myself suggests a change in
    her laws that is not consistent
    with the standpoint on this issue of
    the Puritanical Establishment.