Straight Talk Advice

In California sex is illegal if under 18

Feb 16, 2005

Dear Straight Talk: Regarding your advice to “In love for good”, like it or not, it is illegal for unmarried under-18-year-olds to have sex. Parental permission is irrelevant and could lead to criminal or civil liability for the parents.

Many disagree with some of the laws governing sexuality, but it is our job as parents to present a consistent message. Telling our children that it is okay to pick and choose which laws to follow is unprincipled and teaches disrespect for the law.

Further, a 16-year-old virgin is unlikely to have found the man (or boy) of her dreams. A better response would have been to suggest she seek counseling to explore why cementing the relationship with sex is so important.—Attorney in Placer County

Dear Attorney in Placer County: I appreciate your input. However, my advice to teens remains: Hold back the tide. It’s a bigger force than you realize. If you must go forward, get the backing of your parents.

Though sex is indeed illegal if you are under 18, here are some bald facts: in the US, at least 50% of all teens are having sex prior to age 17.

Every year, one in four of these sexually active teens is infected with an STD.

Nearly one million teenaged women become pregnant each year—that’s about 2800 teen pregnancies per day—with a cost to taxpayers of nearly $7 billion annually.

What kids need more than anything else are available parents—or mentors—who voice their values, set limits, and at the same time provide unconditional love and safe space.

I can’t say this enough. The more I can influence parents and teens to communicate in the spirit of understanding and helping each other the more I will be doing my job.

From Farren, 17: It’s a ridiculous law! Why aren’t all the pregnant teenagers in jail? And why is there sex education that shows us methods of protection? In the past it wasn’t uncommon to be married at 14. Now, nobody gets married that young, so what do you do with these urges in the meantime? Sex usually has nothing to do with “cementing” the relationship, it’s simply what the body wants to do. I think this is an issue that should be between parent and child.


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