Here’s a bold idea for you: Let’s invalidate all the laws that criminalize sexual contact with minors.
Dumb, right? Abhorrent! Who would dare suggest that we not protect young people, deemed too young to make informed choices about entreaties from adults who would exploit them?
Well, the entire consumer manufacturing sector, but especially junk-food manufacturers, and perhaps the courts, too.
This is despite, of course, that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges curbs on marketing to youngsters under 8 because they are unable to make informed decisions. Precisely the reason that we limit sexual contact below the age of consent.
It’s tempting to conclude that the law has made one form of exploitation a felony while leaving the other one alone because we just don’t value kids the way we used to. But apparently it’s because most child rapists aren’t agents of huge, monied corporations who can buy access to their victims on Saturday morning television.
Seriously. Both exploit young people, but the standard for statutory rape is that we must protect our children. The standard for commercial speech to minors is that corporations’ speech is protected by the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court made that quite clear in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, in which it ruled that a California law that sought to require parental consent to buy violent video games was unconstitutional because the games were protected speech. The fact that kids were being exposed to the games’ extreme violence and gore was immaterial — or, at least, didn't measure up to the damage to game producers would experience.
Who do you think needs more public protection: Innocent kids or innocent big corporations?
Note: I got onto this thread by listening to a Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity podcast featuring Tamara Piety of the University of Tulsa Law School, interviewed by the center’s director, Kelly Brownell.