BAIT BREATH: State Senator Peter Goudinoff wants to tag girls with the long-buried term "jailbait" if they are under 15-years-old. As a member of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force, he wants men prosecuted for having sex with girls that young.
What Goudinoff's hope is, of course, is to force some daddies of babies to take responsibility. He's struggling, like everyone else, with how to manage the funding and life-draining problems of teenage pregnancy.
But while trying to call men's attention to a law making it an offense to have sex with a minor, the retiring senator wants an offensive label placed on the wrong sex.
I went to a central high school where grades seven through 12 were in one school. The same high school guys who used to come up behind you and snap your bra strap were usually the ones standing around the lockers eyeing girls and laughingly calling them, among other things, "jailbait." Did they know they could go to jail for messing around with a girl under 15? Who knows, it was just another derogatory tease they could pull out of their bag marked "How Guys Think They Can Get Girls' Attention." And for the few who did understand what they were talking about, did that stop them?
Goudinoff thinks prosecuting these men is one way to reduce teen pregnancy. But it could end up being one of those how-are-we-gonna-prosecute-this ideas. Teenagers are reluctant to talk about the who, what, where and why of everything. Naming names and teenagers don't go together. And if we were able to prosecute guys, some of whom are no doubt under the age of consent themselves, we better ask the governor to allocate a lot more money for juvenile beds than he's getting ready to ask the legislature for. Keep in mind that we prosecute people all the time for crimes like murder and child abuse and those rates continue to increase.
Teenagers are not going to stop having sex. Goudinoff has been quoted as saying that brochures stating that a person can be prosecuted for having sex with a minor should be put on the desk of every junior high and high school boy. That's okay, but take it further: Put one on the desk of every girl who may not want to get someone else, or herself, in trouble, and attach it to a bunch of information on HIV, teen pregnancy and birth control. Staple it to some tickets to a ball game or concert, too, or maybe a college tuition waiver if you go pregnancy-free through graduation. And since brochures aren't the best form of birth control, let's think hard about attaching a couple of Condoms to the whole shebang.
Yes, there are too many teens having babies. Tell guys they can be prosecuted; it might stop one couple from having sex, maybe two. But girls don't need derogatory names pinned to their budding chests. Tagging "jailbait" onto girls would be as effective as tagging "babyfate" onto guys.
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