Two things that can both be true:

- Teens can be sexual beings who feel desire and want to explore sex
- Adults should not have sex with teens
Conversations about statutory rape tend to lean heavily on this idea of teens being asexual kids who couldn’t possibly want sex and are being forced into it by adults, a framing that I think is actually harmful *to teens*.
This came up a lot during the Roy Moore election, when women tweeted out photos of themselves at 14 to prove that 14 year-olds are kids, actually, and therefore gross to sexually pursue.
Here’s the thing about that: when I was 14 I looked like an adult woman. And I had sexual desires. If your argument is, “Teens are kids actually, don’t fuck them,” then someone like me can be held up as the outlier who *is* okay, because maybe I asked for it.
This is the point where I strongly urge you to read Excavation by @WendyCOrtiz, which beautifully lays out how a teenage girl can want sex with an adult, feel that she is consenting — and even pursuing! — sex with an adult, and still be harmed by it.
Now, if we recognize that teens can be sexual beings with sexual desires, but still have a gut feeling that adults having sex with them is wrong, we need some explanation beyond, “They’re asexual kids.”
The answer I would give is: relationships that involve a power imbalance are relationships that are prone to abuse; if one person has more power than the other, it’s easier for them to wield that power in an abusive way.
Adults have more power than teens. In most adult/teen relationships, adults know more about the world, know more about sex, know more about relationships, know more about life.
It is *possible* for that adult to wield that power gently and act as a mentor to their teen paramour — and I suspect that this is why some gay men will attempt to defend pederasty — but more often than not, that power imbalance fosters abuse.
And, more often than not, adults who *seek out* sex with teens do so because they *want* that power imbalance, because they crave the ability to wield power over their partners and abuse them, because they do not want a relationship with equals.
The reason adult men who habitually fuck teens are creepy is because they are almost definitely men who want to control their partners and target a population that will be most pliant to their desires.
You see this in the language that is used to frame attraction to teens: it’s always about innocence and presumed purity and the idea of being the first man to “conquer” and leave an impression on the teen.
Ironically, our insistence that teens should be hands off because they are innocent young children upholds and aids that fetishization of presumed “innocence” rather than dismantles it.
I would suggest that a better way to think of teen/adult sex is to think of it as, say, different weight classes in wrestling.
We all know that it’s unfair for someone from a heavier weight class to wrestle someone from a lower weight class, not because the latter person doesn’t want to wrestle, but because they will pretty easily be overpowered.
It’s not that teens are all physically and emotionally incapable of feeling sexual desire, it’s that they need to explore those desires with someone more evenly matched with them, someone who can grow *with* them rather than impose a fully formed adult worldview onto them.
I think that framing makes people uncomfortable because it requires acknowledging that some teens *will* be attracted to adults or attempt to pursue them, and that adults should still say no to those advances.

It’s messy, it’s complicated, it’s difficult. But it’s how life is.
PS @QueenOfRats correctly notes that I probably should have said “sexless” or some other term rather than “asexual” in the thread above since ace identity is far more complicated than the “innocent teen” trope I was describing. I‘m for that word choice and will be more careful.
* I’m *sorry* for that word choice, rather! Not sure how I dropped the most important word in that sentence!
PPS Since this thread is getting a good deal of attention I should do my self promo due diligence and say that if you like the nuanced critical thinking about sex on display here you will love my book.…
An additional addendum: I understand why people want some hard and fast guideline about what age makes things okay — that’s part of why we have age of consent laws! — but it doesn’t really work that way.
You could be the exact same age as someone and have a power imbalance that makes the relationship abusive. You should just use your judgment and not be an asshole.
I would say my mom is ten years older than my dad, and some of my most loving relationships have been with people who are a decade older or younger than me, and you misread the thread.

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