Age: Is it Just a Number?

A 17-year-old cannot vote, buy cigarettes or alcohol, and cannot serve in the armed forces. Yet, a 17-year-old is an adult for criminal prosecution purposes and can legally have consensual sexual relations. Hell, even a 14-17 year old child can legally engage in consensual sex so long as his partner is not more than three years older than him. Despite the fact that kids can legally engage in physical sex, kids may not share nude photos with her lover. Sex is ok, but photos are not because that’s child porn. So, is age just a number? Does it have any real meaning? Is it meant to reflect a level of maturity? Mature enough for sex but not for photos? Is it meant to protect the innocence of childhood even where we prosecute children as adults? Is it reasonable to think that citizens can keep all the differences straight and know what is allowed and what isn’t?

Aldo Leiva, a 51-year-old math tutor, is now facing criminal charges for possession of child pornography and sexual performance by a child. The pornography stems from him receiving topless photos from the 17-year-old. The sexual performance originated because prosecutors claim he induced asked the 17-year-old to provide the photos.

Set aside for a moment that Leiva was a math tutor for this 17-year-old. Imagine he were someone she met at the mall. (Do kids even hang out at the mall anymore?) It would be perfectly legal for Leiva and her to engage in a relationship, even a sexual relationship. Sure, her parents may not like it. But, be that as it may, it would still be legal. Given that he could physically inspect her naked body, why is it that he cannot possess a photo of it? If see her naked body was such a heinous crime, surely Texas would also criminalize the sex as well.

Texas isn’t alone in this enigma. Colorado punishes possession of child pornography where the subject is under 18, yet, the age of consent for sex in Colorado is 17 in general, 15 if the other party is no more than 10 years older, and even younger if the difference in age is four years or less. Kids can engage in sex. They just can’t share photos. Again, makes zero sense!

It’s time to have some consistency in our laws. Consensual relationships are simply that – a product of consent. Yet, we choose to criminalize some acts between the two consenting parties and not others. It’s time to make age more than just a number, especially when the number is different for every crime and situation. Until then, remember, You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Not Photograph Them!

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