A Colorado Law Could Make Teens Go From Sext to Sex Offender
Don’t unzip your pants just yet, kids. Especially if you happen to live in Colorado. This may come as a surprise, but teenagers are hormonal, have access to the Internet, and know how to press a button to take a photo. Those three shocking revelations add up to a perfect recipe for sexting, which has parents horrified and police stuck in an incredibly difficult situation as they attempt to handle one of the biggest sexting scandals in the state’s history.
The thing about growing up in the age of the Internet is that no amount of child blocking or abstinence-only education can stop the endless flood of nude photos that teens send over Snapchat and texting as if it’s nothing more than Pokémon trading cards. Official surveys have estimated that one in five teens have sent a sexually-suggestive photo of themselves to someone, which is probably an understatement given that studies also say millennials only spend thirty hours a week online, when in actuality it seems more likely that we spend thirty hours a day online.
Sexting is the new handshake in the digital age of flirting, and the fact is, a lot of things simply can’t keep up with the rapid pace of technology. That would be fine if we were talking about your grandpa who needs you to set up the computer machine, but technology is also outpacing laws, which is a huge problem.
Colorado has one of the strangest and most uneven set of laws governing teenage sexuality in the country. When it comes to underage sex IRL, the laws are more relaxed than half the state’s inhabitants after marijuana was legalized. As The Daily Beast explained, teens under 15 can consent to having sex with someone up to four years older than them, teens between 15 and 16 can consent to having sex with someone up to ten years older than them, and 17 is the legal age of consent. That means a 15-year-old can have sex with a 25-year-old with consent. However, the minute they send a nude photo of themselves to someone, they risk being slapped with a lifelong label of “sex offender.”
This crisis of unequal, disproportionate punishment has targeted hundreds of students this year at Cañon City High, Bear Creek K-8, Pine Creek High School, and Challenger Middle School, where police are currently investigating the spread of nude photos between groups of friends. No files have been charged yet, but at Pine Creek and Challenger, the cases have been moved to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which could lead to at least some of the students getting hit with felony sex offender status.
For their part, state legislators are trying to change the laws to fix the discrepancy, but the question that’s emerging is whether there should be punishment at all. Teenagers aren’t going to stop sexting anytime soon, and yet one of the proposals would only gone as far as lowering the crime from a federal offense to a misdemeanor—something eleven other states have done. The fact is, these laws still pass down punishment that will unfairly target teenagers and, for Colorado teens, it’s doubly ridiculous considering their disproportionate consent laws. Bills have stalled and nobody really knows what to do, but the fact remains that, under current laws, the kids aren’t alright.
Images via The Guardian and The Denver Post.
Stay tuned to Milk for more disproportionate punishment.