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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on June 16th, 2009, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 10, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 10, Issue 14

Jailbait or just a date?

Society's changing sexual standards create a confusing environment for the young and vulnerable

By ANDY CALDWELL


Recently, the former principal of Tunnell Elementary School in Santa Maria, Brookann Collier, pleaded guilty to three felony charges arising from a sexual relationship she had with a teenage girl. She reached a plea bargain that will result in her serving one year in county jail, five years on probation, and the surrender of her teaching credential. She will also have to register as a sex offender.

There are all sorts of rumors and opinions about this case flying around the blogosphere. Some claim the relationship was consensual, and thereby the bloggers exonerate Ms. Collier of wrongdoing. Others condemn Collier under any circumstances for having ostensibly used her position of authority in order to sexually abuse and exploit a child.

Most people in our society have no tolerance for those who prey on children. But, as evidenced in the blogs, we enter areas that are slowly but surely turning gray in cases involving teenagers and adults. In some cases, it seems that men get harsher penalties for preying on teenage girls than is the case when women prey on younger males.

Historically, when a teenage girl is discovered having had sexual relations with an adult male, we consider the girl was statutorily raped. When a teenage boy has sexual relations with an adult female, we say he got lucky, whether he was the supposed prey or the predator. Prosecutors and judges, of course, don’t think this way, but the social more is what it is, and I don’t think it will ever change. This instance of a lesbian relationship between adult and teenager coming to trial is a relatively new phenomenon, and it was interesting to see the resultant sentence, as an indication of judicial intolerance, arising from the plea bargain.

Changing times in our society are, in my opinion, causing some profound confusion. I have done a number of radio shows with educators and authors who maintain that all of the historic patterns of courtship and rules for relationships have been thrown out the window in the hookup culture of today. Kids no longer date to have sex, they have sex to get a date.

Another concept foreign to my generation is that young women are just as likely to be the aggressor in initiating sexual contact as is the male. Females are slowly but surely making the transition from perennial prey to opportune predator. We have in recent years witnessed several successful prosecutions of females who have “preyed” upon younger, underage males.

As the Collier case reflects the phenomenon of same sex adult/teenager sex, along these lines, kids today are being encouraged by some to question their orientation and to be “open” to exploring the possibility that they may be gay or bisexual. In essence, they are being encouraged to experiment.

My take on all this is one of consternation. My only comfort is that I am not a teenager living in a society that sends me mixed messages based upon cultural, societal, and sexual mores that seem to be constantly changing. My point here is, have you ever considered how confused kids and young adults (Ms. Collier herself was a young adult when the relationship with the student began) must be these days with respect to what are or are not proper codes of sexual conduct? Do younger folks even have any codes to follow anymore?

In terms of mixed messages, consider the fact that many high school campuses and even some junior high schools across the nation hand out free condoms to kids in school. Some elementary schools are even getting into the act. The underlying message is that we “know” kids are going to “do it” and we want to minimize pregnancy and sexually transmittable diseases (even though condoms don’t protect against all STDs).

Yet, with respect to pregnancy, girls who get pregnant can get an abortion without ever telling their parents, let alone getting their permission for the surgical procedure. With respect to STDs, did you know that kids can now order a sexual transmittable disease detection kit in the mail from L.A. County Health Department and get the results e-mailed to them, and subsequent treatment, again with no parental involvement?

So what are we communicating to young people? “We know you are going to do it, we know you might have resultant problems and complications, and your parents don’t have to know or be involved at all.” Doesn’t that message communicate to kids that there is some degree of acquiescence on the part of school administrators and parents that they are going to engage in sexual relationships? What is acquiescence if it is not tacit permission? Where do we go from here?

Consider the fact that we have already seen college presidents across America argue for lowering the age for drinking based upon the fact that they can’t seem to curb underage drinking on campus. Somehow these educators, with PhDs no less, have come to the conclusion that legalizing what is now considered underage drinking could curb binge drinking. I doubt any of these presidents asked parents for their opinion on this matter.

Isn’t it then just a question of time before an organization like the North American Man Boy Love Association succeeds in its demands for the right of adults to date teenagers? Why would parental permission be necessary for homosexual or heterosexual consensual sex? In many societies and cultures throughout the world, it is perfectly acceptable for adult males to court and marry teenage girls. It is even legal in our country with parental approval.

If sexual preferences and relationships continue to be considered a right and we are tacitly encouraging and permitting kids to engage in such activities, then can we escape where this is leading us? If we allow kids to be sexually active without being “judgmental,” what is the difference in the act and effect due to age differences? If and when this becomes the case, we will no longer consider Ms. Collier and others like her criminals worthy of doing time, but simply people ahead of their time.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of any of this! The ’60s generation introduced the “do it if it feels good” creed, which has now morphed into an “anything goes approach to life—no matter how much damage it does.” I believe the standards society embraced before the sexual revolution worked better for the health and wellbeing of our society than the trends we are witnessing today.

The “revolution,” in my opinion, continues to create nothing but battlefield casualties. Back then, at least we knew what was expected of us and who and what we were. Marriages lasted a lifetime. Kids grew up in stable homes. We had boundaries and traditional bonds that gave us predictability, security, and stability. We were fortunate as a country and culture that it was not acceptable to be in bondage to our own whims and left to suffer our own fate. Today, the resultant confusion of sexual experiments and exploits can literally kill, or at a minimum, scar our young for life emotionally, relationally, and physically. m

Andy Caldwell is the host of the Andy Caldwell Show that airs Monday through Friday from 
3 to 5 p.m. on local radio stations AM 1440 and AM 1410. For more information, visit 
calchronicle.com and click on the Andy Caldwell Show banner headline.