The Idiocy that Occurs with Our Outdated Laws

I came across an article a couple weeks ago that baffled me. Let me get one thing out of the way right away, lest it become a distraction: Sidney Meyers is an idiot for calling in a school bomb threat on his cell phone. (And would still be a dummy even if he didn’t do it on his phone) With that out of the way – let’s set up the ridiculous situation here. Sidney Meyers is a 20 year old man. He met a girl who turned out to be 16 years old. They started a sexual relationship. This relationship was actually cool with the girl’s mother. And in South Carolina, where they live, the age of consent is 16 so there’s no big deal that they’re having sex. (Well, you might have some squick issues with the age difference or the fact that an adult would want to be with a minor – but legally they’re OK)

Mr Meyers also filmed himself and the girl having sex. He didn’t do this in a shady way – he had her consent. He wasn’t a jerk about it – he didn’t post the videos online, share them with friends, or email/text them. However, as I mentioned in the opening, he made the idiotic move of calling in the bomb threat with that phone. The cops searched his phone and found the videos. He was charged with possession of child pornography. WHAT? So in South Caroline it’s perfectly legal for them to have sex, but should they want to film it – they’ve stepped into child porn territory? The fact that Meyers’ dumb actions led to his phone being confiscated should not be the issue because there are multiple reasons nowadays for cops to go through your phone, computer, etc. This should not be the law. Lucky for him, the judge did not give him the full sentence – because that would be dumb. That’s why we have judges to look over the sentencing rather than auto-sentencing per crime. Unlucky for Meyers he is now a registered sex offender.

We all agree that child pornography is atrocious. We also need to have a cutoff for childhood pornography – it’s child porn at 17 and not 18? Why? Because otherwise, by the Ship of Theseus Paradox there is no age that would make sense. But, clearly, the age of child pornography should match the age of consent. If the people can engage in the act, why does filming it change anything? I know children have been given sentences for sexting, but that doesn’t make it right. These laws need to catch up with reality, but I’m afraid that won’t happen until some Senator or Representative’s kid is caught and arrested for something like this.


9 responses to “The Idiocy that Occurs with Our Outdated Laws”

  1. Why is the age of consent below the legal drinking or smoking age?

    I dunno, I’m ok with this. Don’t film sex with a 16-yr-old.

    • I disagree – if a jurisdiction has decided that sex is allowed at a certain age, then why should recording of the act be illegal? It’s the illogical nature of the problem that bothers me. I think the act of having sex is something emotionally and physically heavy and if the jurisdiction thinks the person is old enough to deal with that, then they must also be old enough for consensual recording of the act.

      • My point is more that there is relatively zero consistency in this. There’s zero reason, in my mind, why trusting a person to make a life-changing, important decision like whether or not to get married should be allowed at an age where the state thinks you’re too irresponsible to vote, buy cigarettes, or consume alcohol.

        He could go to jail for giving his wife alcohol or cigarettes too (maybe?). There are laws. They may not make sense in context, but you sure as hell should follow them when they have to do with child pornography. Lobby to get them changed or something. He had four years to do so.

      • What if he shared the video with friends? Or they broke up and he revenge posted them online? Would that be enough for a child pornography charge for distribution even if the act itself was consensual and legal?

        While choosing to consent is a big deal, you make the decision and you’re in control over what happens (as much control as you can – consent is given every time). I think filming has a lot of consequences that aren’t in the control of the consenter (sp?), unless we’re talking about sexting. And even then, once pics get out, what’s stopping them from making it to actual child porn sites. So to me, it still falls under “protecting kids from things they don’t know any better about” – even if they wouldn’t know at 18 either.

        • As for the first paragraph:
          To me that just falls in the category of behavior of which I think should be illegal no matter the age of participants. Consent to photograph is not consent to publish, especially when it comes to nudity. That’s why model releases are important in the commercial world. There are plenty of adult women who are revenge posted every day on scummy sites. (Some of these sitse post phone numbers and addresses of the victims)

          I tend to practice preventative measures when it comes to nude photography and videos – I don’t do them. That way I can never be in trouble. However, I do think there should be a way for people to engage in the practice while still having legal avenues to pursue if their trust is violated, regardless of age.

          As for the second paragraph:
          I see and acknowledge your points about agency. A sex act is a one-time thing with a fixed duration of time. You can call “stop” and the other person must stop or face rape charges. You must both agree for the act to take place. The possible sharing of the recording is out of one or both parties’ (in the case of a robbery) control. HOWEVER, I argue that sex is a bigger deal in that pregnancy or life-long illness can occur. And the state is trusting this minor to be old enough to consent to these possibilities or be old enough to demand protection. A leaked sex image or video will cause difficulties, but I do not think it would be career prohibiting or career ending. (With some exceptions like politics – and even then NYC was willing to give Weiner a second change – but not a third or being a CEO)

  2. I’m ok with this too. For any age laws, I think it’s mostly just a line in the sand. Drinking, smoking, voting, driving, consent, etc. If anything, it’s just one more reason you should think about the consequences of any naked pics and videos.

    The only downside I see is 1) having to register as a sex offender is a pretty big label for a very long time – though I think you can get the same label if you’re caught for public indecency (which is even more mild). and 2) people accused of child pornography (or child sexual abuse) don’t do well in prison. That’s troublesome to me.

    Is the difference in age of consent vs child pornography due to the fact that age of consent varies by jurisdiction? I thought child pornography laws are federal.

    • I don’t think the child pornography laws are actually federal with respect to cell phone photos and all that because, from what I’ve read about such cases – it appears to have different reactions from different states. Now, it’s possible that’s more of a function of whether a DA is more or less likely to press charges and press for harder sentencing. Either way, we have a very messed up system that no one has an incentive to fix because it would look bad when it comes time to get reelected.

      Arrested Development made light of the sex offender rules, but in some states or counties it becomes impossible to live anywhere. There was a story in the newspapers about a colony of sex offenders living under a bridge in Florida because it’s the only place they could live without being too close to minors. Should real sex offenders have to have living restrictions – probably . But this is not a true sexual offense – no one was harmed in any way by this guy’s actions. (Not counting the bomb threat dumb stuff) Given that more and more kids are getting trapped (including for having photos of THEMSELVES) I think we’ve reached a tipping point of absurdity.