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Anti-youth policies both infantilize and criminalize minors, making them easy prey for the criminal punishment system. Youthful relationships involving small age differences are often persecuted - leading to a lifelong criminal record, or worse - if the country has a sex-offender's register. Some of these crimes relate to child pornography, and our article on research into that subject quotes some examples of child producers.
Further, the effect of these laws is very often discriminatory and misogynistic - meaning that teenage girls who get pregnant do not have access to healthcare without criminalizing their boyfriends. This was a major reason for Peru reducing the Age of Consent to 14 in 2007.
Examples of activities restricted by age range from the banal to the bizarre, such as US states that ban egg and toilet paper purchases for under 18s, and only apply distracted driving legislation to people under the age of 21. In early 2023, in a reversal of the "bipartisan" trend towards ageist lawmaking, American Congressional Democrats proposed a bill to lower the voting age to 16, by way of amendment to the constitution. Recent liberal reaction against the trend of so-called "parents rights" in conservative states, has moved away from a fight for the control of children, to questioning parents' ownership of children.
Ageism in the broader sense
Ageism is easily identifiable in curfew laws and other anti-youth policies. The idea of adolescence as a discrete life phase is often provided as justification, along with the pseudoscientific information scheme of "teen brain" literature and attempts to raise the age of majority to 25 or beyond.
Wikipedia seems to be somewhat confused as to what ageism against young people might entail, with multiple articles each discussing separate theoretical constructs, some of which appear to have been completely usurped by statist language, discourse and distraction narratives:
Organizations opposing ageism
- Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions - Anti-Age of Consent.
An organization dedicated to increasing the rights of youth under American law. [...] ASFAR opposes a wide variety of laws that limit the freedom of young people, such as voting age limits, curfew laws, compulsory education, child labor laws, age of consent laws, minimum drinking ages, pornography age laws, child prostitution laws and minimum ages for firearm possession. [...] The animosity that led to the schism with NYRA has largely subsided, and ASFAR enjoys amicable and cordial relations with NYRA. [...] Meanwhile, ASFAR's opposition to the age of consent continues to attract members to ASFAR, as NYRA objects to taking a position on the issue.
- National Youth Rights Association - No position on the Age of Consent.
Quotes on ageism
The ideology of adult supremacy is comprised of a set of beliefs, attitudes, policies, and practices that construct adults as developed, mature, intelligent, and experienced, based solely on their age and ensures that adults control the resources and make the decisions in society. This ideology means that adults can vote, take out loans, sign legal documents, run for office, drive, get a job, have sex, get married, and more without first securing someone’s permission or approval. Adult supremacy posits that adult thinking is superior to the thinking of young people and therefore adults are required to make and enforce decisions for young people, with and without their participation or agreement (J. Bell, 1995).
It is as young people that all humans first encounter the experience of domination and subordination. It is through the experience of youth oppression, humans are socialized to accept the attitudes and behavior patterns required to effectively fill the roles of dominant and subordinate. ... to accept and occupy the roles of dominant and subordinate that is required for all other oppressions to exist. (Love, 2014, p. 3) The subordinate role is experienced by all young people. This experience teaches the behavior patterns that accompany privileged/dominant status or disadvantaged/subordinate status. When called on to enact sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of oppression, this early socialization prepares young people to accept domination and subordination as normal, appropriate, and societally approved.
It is clear from this discussion that adults cannot lead the work of ending oppression alone. As former young people, adults must notice where they still carry the internalized limits and feelings of powerlessness installed through youth oppression, alongside a sense of entitlement to the privileges of adulthood. Many adults experience a kind of “historical amnesia” that leads them to forget what it was like being a young person. They lack the information that would enable them to be in effective partnerships with young people that are more liberatory and less oppressive. Through engaging a critical examination of the discourses of childhood and adulthood, adults can become more effective at challenging youth oppression in partnership with young people.
- See also Memes and Graphics.
Examples of ageism and criminalization
According to the US DOJ, over 1/3 of "child" sex crimes are committed by juveniles. On school property, 7 in every 8 sexual assaults were perpetrated by "children", although this might be unsurprising given the population demographics of a school. While numbers are hard to come by, it is likely that well over 100,000 minors are currently forced to register, having no say over a scheme of legal restrictions that can limit their opportunities for many decades. This is because of the naturally high level of sexual offending in this age-group. Due to the low detection rate among youths, the number of juvenile registrants could easily rise if and when survelillance increases, or further measures are introduced, doubling down on SORNA's push for states to put juveniles on the registry.
It should be pointed out that this is not an argument for special treatment of teen offenders. As per the above article, there is no solid evidence that teenagers are uniquely malleable, still developing mentally, or especially able to reform themselves. It does however, show how the overall system of sex offender laws naturally discriminates against youth sexuality.
Covert and Institutional Ageism
Adult institutions have been caught numerous times, conspiring against those they disempower. Ageist attitudes throughout the rest of society are very often implicit; those who perpetuate them are not aware that they are practising ageism.
- "In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care. [...] Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention, many of them first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families. “Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” Conner wrote Tuesday in his explanation of the judgment. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out some 4,000 juvenile convictions involving more than 2,300 kids after the scheme was uncovered. It’s unlikely the now-adult victims will see even a fraction of that eye-popping amount, but a lawyer for the plaintiffs said it’s a recognition of the enormity of the disgraced judges’ crimes."
- "e-HallPass, a digital system that students have to use to request to leave their classroom and which takes note of how long they’ve been away, including to visit the bathroom, has spread into at least a thousand schools around the United States. The system has some resemblance to the sort of worker monitoring carried out by Amazon, which tracks how long its staff go to the toilet for, and is used to penalize workers for “time off task.” It also highlights how automated tools have led to increased surveillance of students in schools, and employees in places of work."
- Salerno, J. M., Murphy, M. C., & Bottoms, B. L. (2014). Give the kid a break—but only if he’s straight: Retributive motives drive biases against gay youth in ambiguous punishment contexts. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(4), 398–410.
- Editor: This study demonstrates how anti-sex ageism is used as a crutch for suppressed homophobia.
- "In the ambiguous context of 2 juveniles having consensual sex, people supported sex offender registration more for gay, versus heterosexual, offenders. This punishment discrimination did not emerge, however, in the societally less ambiguous context of an adult having sex with a juvenile. Study 2 revealed that punishment discrimination again emerged against gay male juveniles but not lesbian juveniles."
- "A mother accused of cutting off part of her son's tongue with hot scissors avoided a 5-year prison sentence and was sentenced to 10 years probation. But before going on probation, Samantha J. Davis, 33, will serve 60 to 180 days in a detention center. [...] Henry County prosecutors had recommended that Davis serve five years in prison. But the boy's father testified Tuesday that he did not want her to go to prison. "He told the judge she is a good woman, and he doesn't feel his son is unsafe around her," Davis' lawyer, Rickey L. Richardson, said. Davis heated a pair of scissors on a stove in August 2004 and held it to her 6-year-old son's neck before cutting off a piece of his tongue as punishment for talking back, authorities said. Her estranged husband, Toby Davis reported the injuries to police and she was arrested."
Ageist "sex" criminalization
- See also: Adverse effects of hysteria.
- "In the United States, up to 70 percent of sexual offenses against children are perpetrated by other children, typically a slightly older relative or playmate who offends in the context of ignorance, impulsivity, and convenience, not predation. Many states subject these kids to the same criminal consequences as adults who have been convicted of sex crimes; the most impactful of which can be registration and public notification, which typically lasts for decades or life, depending upon the conviction or adjudication offense. The problem is registration and notification don’t work. All published research evaluating juvenile registration has found that these policies fail to improve community safety in any way. Studies informed by tens of thousands of cases examined whether putting kids on the registry reduces sexual recidivism—it does not; or violent recidivism—it does not; or nonviolent recidivism—it does not; or deters first-time sex crimes—it does not. What registration does is place substantial barriers in front of kids and make it less likely they will succeed. Which is why the American Law Institute is set to suggest a radical change to the nation’s sex crime laws."
- "A North Carolina teenager faces felony sex crime charges after police discovered sexually explicit photographs of a sixteen-year-old girl on his cell phone. Cormega Copening is a seventeen-year-old high school student at Jack Britt High School. Copening was playing quarterback on the football team before being forced to sit out because of the felony investigation. The Fayetteville youth was arrested and charged with violating state law prohibiting the transfer of “sexually explicit” photographs of minors when police discovered nude photographs of Copening and his sixteen-year-old girlfriend on his phone. Police found the photographs by asking his mother, who pays the bill, if she would permit a search of the cell phone so the police might look for any possible evidence in a separate investigation of statutory rape. Copening was not a suspect in that investigation. During the search, the police discovered the nude photos of Copening and his then girlfriend."
- "They were neighbors, aged 13 and 10, who played together in a toy fort at the older boy's home. But one summer afternoon, the teen began talking about masturbation, then performed oral sex on the younger boy. He said they should do it again the next day. And they did [...] Since 1997, more than 3,500 children in the state -- some as young as 10, though on average about 14 -- have been charged and convicted as felony sex offenders, a mark that remains on their records forever, barring them from careers in medicine, teaching or a host of other professions that serve the vulnerable. It also frightens many into under-the-radar housing arrangements to avoid landlords who require background checks [...] Now a student at the University of Washington, Tyler has a girlfriend and tries to live as normally as possible. But the childhood record has scuttled his hopes of becoming a doctor and, by alienating him from peers who might ask too many questions, paralyzed much of his social development."
- "Each [16 and 17] was charged with producing, directing or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child. Based on the contents of his e-mail account, Jeremy was charged with an extra count of possession of child pornography." [...] Cmt: "It's a strange anomaly. They're charged for making child pornography and tried as adults. However, the law calls the pictures they produced child pornography, so they should be trying them as minors. Anything less than this is hypocrisy.""
- "Providence, RI -- Two teenage girls face child pornography charges after posting sexually explicit photographs of themselves on the Internet. The pornographic pictures of Elizabeth Muller, 19, of North Smithfield, and an unidentified 16-year-old Lincoln girl were discovered on MySpace.com, a social networking Web site, said a spokesman for the attorney general's office."
- "NEWARK, Ohio - Police in Newark, Ohio, have arrested a 15-year-old girl on juvenile child pornography charges for allegedly sending nude cell phone photos of herself to classmates. The girl was arrested Friday and held over the weekend. Her defense filed denials in court Monday."
- "Three teenage girls who allegedly sent nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves, and three male classmates in a Greensburg Salem High School who received them, are charged with child pornography. Police said the girls are 14 or 15, and the boys charged with receiving the photos are 16 or 17. [...] "It was a self portrait taken of a juvenile female taking pictures of her body, nude," said Capt. George Seranko of the Greensburg Police Department. Police said school officials learned of the photos in October. That's when a student was seen using a cell phone during school hours, which violates school rules. The phone was seized, and the photos were found on it, police said. When police investigated, other phones with more pictures were seized. "Taking nude pictures of yourself, nothing good can come out of it," said Seranko."
- Carpentier, M., Silovsky, J. and Chaffin, J. (2006). "Randomized trial of treatment for children with sexual behavior problems: Ten-year follow-up," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74 , pp. 482-488.
- "For example, some state child welfare systems have promulgated special tracking systems for registering, segregating, and handling children identified as having SBP [sexual behaviour problems]. Children with SBP may be segregated within facilities and limited to specialized SBP units. Because preadolescent children as young as 9 years old or occasionally younger are adjudicated as delinquent for sex crimes, some states include these children on lifetime public sex offender registries and Internet sites, and federal legislation has been proposed and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would mandate including all adjudicated children with SBP on lifetime public Internet sex offender registries (Children's Safety Act, 2005)".
- SOR problems - The adding of children to public registries.
- Research: Cognitive ability
- Research: Youth sexuality
- Cyclical Paternalism/Infantilization
- Discussion of Youth Liberation, Youth Rights and MAPs
- Youth liberation movement
- Podcast concerning the Troubled Teen Industry (from a survivor)
- NYRA position on the Troubled Teen Industry
- Cracked Article on the Troubled Teen Industry
- The Criminalization of Youth - NAMBLA
- Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education - Peter Gray, PhD. on schools as a kind of prison.
- We use the term "criminal punishment system" in tandem with anti-carceral scholars such as Marie Gottschalk, Loïc Wacquant and Chloë Taylor. See a review of Taylor (2018) here: https://wapercyfoundation.org/?page_id=1086
- Lowered AoC in Peru: Misogynistic statutes were a reason.
- Kids under 18 banned from buying eggs, toilet paper in Abington this weekend - Boston.com
- Komu.com - Distracted Driving
- H. J. RES. 16 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States extending the right to vote to citizens sixteen years of age or older.
- Intelligencier: Children Are Not Property The idea that underlies the right-wing campaign for “parents’ rights.”
- Psychology Today: Raise the age to 25.
- US DOJ: Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors
- Hidden horror of school sex assaults revealed by AP
- How many kids are on the sex offender registry?
- TROUBLED TEEN ASSESSMENT - Christian Therapeutic Boarding Schools