Document Type



Although statutory rape laws were initially developed to protect youth from coercion by adults, youth are sometimes also prosecuted under these laws. This article investigates public attitudes regarding sanctions for youth engaging in sexual behaviors with peers. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to determine if age and gender of the offending youth, and sexual orientation of the relationship,has an impact on the public's level of agreement for sanctioning youth for three types of sexual behavior: intercourse, oral sex, or touching. The study participants (N= 757) were drawn from the general population of adult Michigan residents; the sample was racially representative of the state but included an overrepresentation of women (66%). The findings show that respondent support for sanctions varied by the age difference between the youth. There was also an increase in level of sanction agreement by type of sexual behavior. Gender of the offending youth was not shown to significantly impact sanction agreement. Sexual orientation of the relationship was only significant for certain types of sexual activity. The public's beliefs about youth sexual behavior is in concert with the intended goals of the juvenile justice system, in that the suggested sanctions are focused on rehabilitation for 15-year-olds. However, the public is more supportive of severe sanctions for 18- and 22-year-olds, but also suggest counseling and probation. The significance of these findings informs policy making in that they suggest a more balanced approach for sanctioning consensual sexual relationships between youths.


Gender and Sexuality | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Work


Published as Comartin, E. B., Kernsmith, P. D., & Kernsmith, R. M. (2014). Identifying Appropriate Sanctions For Youth Sexual Behavior: The Impact Of Age, Gender, And Sexual Orientation. New Criminal Law Review, 17(4), 652-672. DOI: so.525/nclr.2o14-17.4.652. © 2014 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.