Why you should care
Because sometimes the line between harassment and consent is blurry.
Welcome to Third Rail With OZY, our electrifying TV show where we debate provocative hot topics each week. Last week, we asked: When does a big age gap in a relationship become abuse? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.
Matthew Cole, Marietta, Georgia
As long as no one involved is a minor, someone’s lack of experience and maturity relative to their partner doesn’t nullify their consent. People the same age get in bad relationships all the time due to a lack of maturity.
Deidre Westover, Ashland, Mississippi
Is it really so hard to not screw teenagers? Just don’t do it.
Richard Hotchkiss, Anza, California
A difficult topic. When I think about my great-grandparents, if they were alive today, my great-grandfather would be in trouble with the law. Yet my parents, me and my children all exist because of their beautiful union. He was well into his 20s, and she lied about her age to get married in Indiana. They were a beautiful couple.
Allene E. Swienckowski, Dayton, Ohio
The explosion of sexual assault charges against prominent men just keeps escalating, so it would appear that we need a new dialogue that defines sexual assault for both men and women. The query about whether a 16-year-old has the capacity to make an informed decision about whom to engage with sexually seems to be pointed at only females. What about 16-year-old males? Respectfully, I believe that sexual activity should begin initially between two individuals with the same skill set. In other words, fully aged adult men or women should not be engaging in sex with virgins of either gender.
Terry Kruser, Federal Way, Washington
When it’s statutory, a reasonable age of consent is 18, that’s the legal standard for most other things. By 18, the majority of people have matured sufficiently to have a sense of responsibility as to all who is involved with a serious (sexual) relationship. Yes, it is arbitrary because there will always be those less or more mature as to their decision-making. Another rule of thumb: If they’re still in high school or are of high school age, hands off!
Sam Coulter, Fontana, California
When I was 17, I had a 30-year-old boyfriend. And I have dated [people] even up to 18 years older than me and wasn’t abused. So there.
Mary Lisa Fitzgerald
[The idea that teenagers need sexual exploration] is misleadingly manipulative. I believe that may be what’s wrong with today’s society. Teenagers are being asked to make those types of decisions and choices before they have both the necessary knowledge and mental capabilities to handle them responsibly.
Stephen Kunich, Pittsburgh
If an 18-year-old came and asked for my 14-year-old, I say, “No!” If a 21-year-old comes asking, I say, “Hell, no!” If a 31-year-old comes calling … they better move rapidly in a zigzag fashion away from the door while exiting the kill zone.
Dana Wallace, Kingman, Arizona
Teenagers should be studying and playing video games and annoying their parents, not having sex!
Britt Mann, Bellingham, Washington
Thirty- or 40-year-olds who go after girls not even in their 20s are most likely deemed undatable by their peers. Not being a prude, I just think some people need to work on themselves instead of using the trial-and-error method until they finally land a naive child.
Rebecca Milam Freeman, Buford, Georgia
I’ve been happily, lovingly married to someone 28 years older than me since I was 25. However, I was always an old soul [who] got along with adults better than kids since elementary school, and while my partner is a mature, responsible adult when she needs to be, she’s also the world’s oldest 2-year-old when she wants to be. Age, once you are of mature mental and physical age, is just a number.
I’d argue the most important thing is the stage of life that people are in. For example, if a 19-year-old has moved out, has a job and has been living on her own for a year, she is probably as mature as a 25-year-old man who is in the same stage of life. Conversely, a 23-year-old man who doesn’t have a job and is still living with his parents wouldn’t be nearly as mature as the 19-year-old. The genders of the people involved aren’t important here either.
Dora Valencia, Reno, Nevada
So I’m supposed to trust an 18-[year-old] with the protection of the country and political affairs, but they can’t make a decision about their body and sexuality? But they’re still fully allowed to make medical decisions …
Bev Kean, San Francisco
I’m 63 and date men half my age. I hope men in their 30s are fully grown adults by then.