Thursday, May 26, 2011

Study: Underage teen boys more likely than girls to be prosecuted for having consensual sex with underage partners

The Crime Victims' Institute at Sam Houston State University has completed a study called "Adolescent Sexual Behavior and the Law" after examining various state laws that have been adopted to protect minors from sexual abuse by adults or peers.  The study found that underage teens having consensual, close-in-age relationships are being processed through the courts and as a result often are labeled as sex offenders.  Many states have so-called "Romeo and Juliet" laws that decriminalize close-in-age adolescent sexual behavior, but many states do not. 

The study also found a disturbing gender bias when teens having sex are legally both the victim and both the offender: "In some states a gender bias in prosecuting offenders is especially prominent when both partners of a sex act are under the age of consent. . . . . it is more common to see the prosecution of only the male." (Adolescent Sexual Behavior and the Law at page 13.)

For example, the study cites an Arizona case where a 13 year old boy was convicted of having consensual sex with his older, 15 year old girlfriend.