Age is a very fluid thing. On one’s birthday, one is legally a year older, but on that day one only ages a single day, not a whole year. Last October, I was 37 for most of the month, then 38. That day is little more than an arbitrary distinction, a line drawn strictly for convenience.
But lines have to be drawn somewhere. In a society where we often have to measure maturity and ability, calendar age is pretty much as good a universal yardstick as any. You may drive at 16, but not one day before your birthday. The same holds for voting, drinking, and running for national office.
Age of consent laws for sex are likewise black and white. If the age is 16 in your state, then it doesn’t matter if your partner is one day or one decade short of turning 16, nor should it matter how wiling that partner is. One day they are a child and “jailbait,” the next they are legal. It’s arbitrary and, in many ways, silly and meaningless, but the law has to draw a line somewhere and apply it equally. There are no exceptions.
Well, at least not outside Massachusetts, where a 26-year-old schoolteacher can boink a 15-year-old boy, and get off (pardon the expression) with no jail time when the judge decides that a month and a half is “close enough” to the age of consent.
The judge may have been influenced by the details of the case — initially, the teen said Mr. Pathiakis had raped him in a parking lot. Further investigation showed that the actual encounter took place in Mr. Pathiakis’ apartment, and no force or coercion had been involved.
The prosecutor didn’t care much. He had asked that Pathiakis get 4 to 8 years, and was disappointed when he was given 2 1/2 years — suspended — and five years probation.
Between this case and the Vermont case where a man who repeatedly raped a girl — now 11 — over four years and was given 60 days in jail, I’m starting to wonder if this is the beginning of a trend. And I hope not.
Because sooner or later some outraged parent will decide to take justice into their own hands — and the state will have put that offender back on the streets, within that parent’s easy reach.