By Robert Pattinson*
When it comes to celebrities speaking out on political issues, many think we should simply shut up and act. However, I feel it is more important to be true to myself than to satisfy any preconceived notation of what a celebrity can and cannot say. So today I speak to you not as Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, the actor adored by millions of teen and pre-teen girls alike. Instead, I speak to you as Robert Pattinson, an individual who can no longer remain silent while a terrible injustice goes unchallenged from New York to New Zealand. Of course, I’m talking about so-called “statutory rape” laws. Governments continue to enforce these draconian mandates from a bygone, puritanical era, and I for one think it’s high time we put a stop to it.
The original purpose of these outdated, sexist laws was to protect the virginity of young, unwed girls. The thinking at the time was that if an unwed girl lost her virginity her family would not be able to find her a willing spouse. Clearly society has evolved beyond the point where we treat a young girl like a head of cattle that is to be bought and sold. We no longer expect a girl’s family to "find" her a husband or pay the groom a dowry. So why do we still act like a 16-year-old girl’s virginity is so special? It isn’t! Trust me.
Another problem with the idea of statutory rape is the arbitrary nature of the so-called “age of consent.” In some jurisdictions, such as California, the age of consent is a staggering 18-years old, which is well beyond a typical girl’s “celebrity crush” phase. In more progressive areas such as Arkansas and Albania, the age of consent can be as low as 14. Now, am I to believe that a random 14-year-old girl in Arkansas is somehow more mature and better able to choose a sex partner than a hypothetical 16-and-a-half year-old girl from Santa Monica who, as it happens, lives twenty minutes away and is totally obsessed with vampires? Who in the hell decided that? Hitler?
While their sexist and arbitrary nature is evident, perhaps even more disturbing is the effect these laws have on our personal liberties. Western democracies have long prided themselves on the individual freedoms granted to their citizens. The United States goes as far as to call these rights inalienable. In the U.S., an citizen can walk into a gun store and walk out with a fully-automati weapon. He can speak his mind freely, even if his views are considered to be offensive or pornographic. He can join any religion or group he wishes, including any number of racist and radical organizations. But if that same individual has consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl sporting a chest so big she could totally pass for 19 (assuming her mouth is closed and you can‘t see her braces), they‘ll lock him up and throw away the key. So much for the land of the free.
I know for many the knee-jerk reaction will be to dismiss what I’m saying because I’m an actor, not a scholar or a pundit. To those people I ask that you attack my argument, not my career choice. I also know that many people will argue that these laws are in place to protect children. I ask them to remember that we are not talking about children. What we are talking about is consensual sex with pubescent and post-pubescent girls who will probably just end up losing their virginity to some 17-year-old scuzzball at the bowling alley anyway. So why not level the playing field? There’s already grass on it.
This editorial is dedicated to Roman Polanski.
* Not so much.
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