We are currently in a battle for personal freedoms the founders of this nation took for granted. As big business tightens its grip on our self-determination and special interest groups master the art of chicanery, those few hopeful souls who still participate in our democratic process by turning up at the voting polls, are finding it more and more difficult to decipher the true intent and potential impact of proposed legislation.
Take for instance the always popular stance against human trafficking. I mean can you imagine anyone who would be in favor of modern slavery? Of course not. And so no matter the merits of proposed laws against trafficking, all politicians will feel compelled to lend their endorsement regardless of the actual repercussions of the new law(s).
Similarly, uninformed voters can feel inclined to vote yes to any legislation purporting to rescue the innocent and punish the perpetrators. And who can blame them? Who doesn’t want justice to prevail? And when it comes to sex trafficking, especially the sex trafficking of minors, the level of disgust, contempt and outrage most of us experience at the very thought is almost too much to bear. We may reason that the legislation may not be perfect, but anything is better than allowing such atrocities to persist.
But is poor legislation really better than no new laws? In the case of California’s Proposition 35, you may be surprised to learn just how bad this new piece of proposed law really is.
For instance, the wording of Proposition 35 is so vague that instead of creating better enforcement against the trafficking of minors, it could wind up being used to put teenagers in prison for 12 years and force them to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. If Proposition 35 passes, simply having sex with another teenager could garner a sex trafficking conviction. How you might ask?
Well, let’s say an eighteen year old boy takes a seventeen year old girl to the movies and buys her popcorn to eat during the movie. Then let’s say these two teenagers share some sort of consensual sexual interaction after the movie. You have to admit this scenario is pretty pedestrian. It happens every night of the week all over the state of California.
Yes, it is illegal to have sex with someone who is underage. But do we really want to see a penalty intended for sex traffickers imposed upon someone who has barely become an adult and perhaps didn’t even know that their sexual partner was underage? If you stop for a moment and envision this scenario happening in the case of a teenager you know, your first response will probably be, “that could never happen.”
But the wording of Proposition 35 allows anything of value being given or received by any person to qualify as “payment” for an act of prostitution. And since we are talking about statutory rape, construing popcorn and a movie as payment for sex is well within the wording of this proposed legislation. While it may be unlikely that the boy next door will see the inside of a prison for getting carried away with his underage girlfriend, imagine how this law might be used to persecute less beloved citizens of the state. What if the teenagers are gay? What if they are black or Latino? What if someone decides to prosecute to the full extent of the law? Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if our laws were clear, concise and devoid of any ulterior agendas?
Californians deserve better. Send Proposition 35 back to the drafters by voting “no.”
Veronica Monet, ACS, CAM
Certified Sexologist and Host of The Shame Free Zone