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    Monday, July 17, 2006

    When Prudie Attacks

    Has there ever been a less intuitive advice columnist?

    Dear Prudie,
    I am a 16-year-old girl in love with a 26-year-old man. This isn't the problem; I love him and he loves me, and he's never abused or coerced me into anything. We haven't had sex, even though I wanted to; he wants to make sure that I'm not doing anything I don't really want to. What is the legal status of my relationship? I'm in New Jersey, so what is the age of consent? I am tired of keeping our relationship a secret, but I will if revealing it would get him in trouble. That leads to the other part of my question—if I have to keep it hidden, how do I respond when people ask if I'm involved? I don't want people to think he's a predator, because he isn't.
    —Not a Victim

    Dear Victim,
    If you're not able to find out on your own if the love of your life will be committing statutory rape by having sex with you, then you're not old enough to consummate this relationship. (OK, I'll look it up for you. In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16—if the male partner is not a relative or does not have a supervisory position over you.) If Hamlet is still taught in high school, you've probably heard the phrase, "The lady doth protest too much." When you write about how great your boyfriend is, it's hardly reassuring to hear your protestations that whatever it looks like, he's not a sexual predator. Yes, if you agree to have sex with him, he won't get arrested. But I wish the fact that you are worried he could be makes you realize you should run from this relationship. While this guy sounds like he only has half a brain, at least he's using it because it's kept him from taking advantage of you so far. Do your parents know about him? If not, please tell them. That they will want to throttle him will be evidence that they are the ones who really love you.

    Prudie is a fucking nutjob. She is so distracted by the fact that the letter writer is 16 that she can't even think through a response. She just knows she doesn't want these two together, whether because Not a Victim was "not able to find out on your own if the love of your life will be committing statutory rape by having sex with you" or because this guy, about whom she knows nothing except his age and his lack of sexual coercion, "only has half a brain" or because being "worried he could be [breaking the law] makes you realize you should run" or, finally, and this is classic, because Not a Victim "doth protest too much". In this day in this country of unyielding terror of teen-adult sexual relations, a 16-year-old girl must shout her sexual agency from the rooftops to be heard and then told she's too loud, she must not mean it. She has to tell us her boyfriend is not a predator again and again because idiots like Prudie won't hear anything else.

    Edited to add: Read Jennifer from Ravings of a Feral Genius on the topic.


    Blogger Bella Sultane said...

    I also read that column and was taken aback by how snarky/forceful Prudie's response was. I would have concerns about the age gap due to personal experience, but there's no reason to assume that the girl is being taken advantage of or can't make her own decisions about her sexuality.

    1:19 PM  
    Blogger CrackerLilo said...

    It's people like this who make it so 18-year-old high school senior girls can't take their 20-year-old boyfriends to the prom.

    My father was ten years older than my mom; my brother met his wife when he was 19 and she was 15. In the latter case, we were much more concerned about the tar-and-feather-wielding "Prudences" of the world than were were for the girl. The girl, after all, knew full well what she was doing.

    Concern is good, but it can blur into patronizing and scolding so quickly, the kind that turns a girl defensive and unwilling to reach out to anyone.

    9:35 PM  

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