There are other problems with the book/show, like the parents and whatnot, but I’m gonna talk about one thing here—we can discuss about the other issues, too.
Anyway, I’m a fan of the movie (I watch it every few years) and realized it was a book. So when I saw it at a library sale, I bought it and am now finally reading it. It’s a lot more different than I thought it was gonna be, but with some of the extra details, some of these differences make parts of it even more problematic.
The one thing I wanted to detail is how inappropriate it is with Bridget’s story. If you need a refresh, Bridget is a fifteen year old (in the book, sixteen in the movie) at a soccer camp for the summer and gets a major crush on a coach (who is at least twenty). They end up having intercourse because of how “irresistible” she is and how she keeps pushing herself to him in a romantic way.
This is what irks me. In the movie, she’s sixteen and lies to him, saying she’s seventeen. And they age him down to around 18-19. Still inappropriate, but at 18, you can somewhat breeze by it. Slightly.
But in the book, she’s fifteen! And he’s twenty! Just… what was the author thinking?!
Funny yet strange thing, in real life back when I was a teenager, I’ve actually met two fifteen or sixteen year old girls who were dating guys in their twenties. I thought that was odd, but it seems that their parents were completely fine with it.
Still odd though, but people are going do what makes them happy I suppose.
The author was thinking what’s accepted everywhere, irrelevant of personal feelings on it. Books like this become popular because we give major lip service to age gaps and pretty much nothing else. this is why a potential US president could use “she asked for it” as a defense in a rape case and win the case…and I believe that child was 13.
But that lip service runs deep. Let a father kiss his kid or let her sit in his lap in public, and of course the conclusion is that he is doing stuff to his kid. But keep those kids out of pictures of affection and you can get away with everything.
Give another example: Bill Cosby. I’m not even talking about what he did or didn’t do because it’s irrelevant: accusations rumbled around for years, the people in question didn’t really step forward until he was a counter-culture clash. It tells me everyone can do whatever they want as long as they don’t cross public opinion.
So, stories like this exist. You want to be creeped out? Pick up Land of Xanth books and dog around past the cheerful puns for a bit. Lolita shouldn’t exist. I mean, the amount of CLEAR children compromised is commonplace.
But as far as legality is concerned, 16-18 doesn’t get in trouble, in most states.
Age of consent changes from state to state, and some states have so called Romeo-and-Juliette clause, for age difference of 2 years and less. What the movie does is still a stat rape in, say, California where the consent age is 18 and there is no R&J clause.
Real life family cases where it’s a near grown child and a grown man and “illegal consent” (where the kid agrees, but doesn’t have the legal standing to) was cases where this was the lesser of evils that the child chose to save themselves with. 3 of those in one branch of the family one. The things you wish people would tell you.
I once had a friend who was 13-14 (I was 12-13 at the time) and claimed to have dated someone who was 24. Don’t know if it were true, but at the time, I thought that was lucky. It wasn’t until I got older when I realized how creepy and terrible that is. Though my brother’s friend, around that same time, was about 18-19, and had intercourse with a 13 year old. He was arrested later on, but only for like a week. I’m not sure what happened, though. His other friend was about 24ish when he dated a 15 year old and was arrested, too. But the situation was messed up because she lied about her age (said she was much older, like 18ish). Her parents also didn’t know she was dating anyone and freaked out when they saw him in her room with her. Then she claimed he was a stalker and rapist, etc. and broke into their house to be with her just so her parents didn’t find out she was dating him. I don’t think he got jail time, though, but there were court stuff he had to attend to to get it sorted out.
It’s odd that some parents are fine with it, but it’s worse when they’re in their twenties… Like I’m okay of large age-gaps if both parties are above the age of 18. If they’re consenting adults, whether one person is 23 and the other is 33, I don’t care. But if you’re 23 and getting with a teenage minor, then it’s a no. Off limits. Even if you’re 23 and dating an 18-19 year old, that’s okay. But any younger and nope.
It might also be because of the date it was published—back in 2001, and doesn’t even count when she started writing it (probably in the mid to late 90s, or depending… maybe even much earlier like the 80s). Like, the times back then may have been different and more accepting of age-gaps. Like, I knew my mom—back in the 80s—dated a guy who was 18 when she was 14. They went to the same school, but they broke up when he went off to college. Not to mention, other countries (though, it was usually middle eastern countries) who were fine with age gaps and child marriages. But then again, I wouldn’t necessarily know any of that since I was a toddler back in 2001.
3 cousins got married at 16 to older guys. One of the 3 is still together, and she started dating him at 13. I get along with them, she’s maybe 50 now. The youngest of the 3 is about 2-3 years younger than me, so still in her 30s.
Part of what affects this is also some mental growth is environmental, and no one acknowledges that. If I had worked an adult job since my early teens, I’d be pissed to be treated as a child. The more we coddle people, the later marriages happen, which is why that’s now trending to older than 25 in some cases…and also why college students marry later than those going directly into the workforce. It’s not a measure of “all maturity” but a very specific slice of development. Outside of impulsiveness, you’re shifting to thinking commitment through and the worst of why kids can’t handle marriage (when our ancestors did) is we’re not forcing them to think of the consequences of a permanent relationship when we’re asking them to not give up their barbies yet.
For me, I dislike giving responsibility without freedom. If you can’t drink until you’re 21, then I don’t want you to have any adult responsibilities until 21. No war, no marriage, no nothing, you don’t have rights or freedoms, but are a ward. The problem then is you have no practice weilding your autonomy and are so sheltered you’re bound to mess up.
Conversely, if you’re free to do it but the government refuses your responsibility (marriage), I’m just as annoyed. So, while I’d prefer everything to be at ages like 21, I want kids to have their parents involved in as legally binding a manner as possible, so I’m not wholly against the other end…which shows I’m older and have even older "peers’.
So, I get the arguments for everything. I know none of us would be here if some of our ancestors didn’t do what we find morally reprehensible. Just none of it is for me. I waited until I was mid-20s to settle down for a reason.
Your comment about maturity reminds me of a book I just finished called Regretting Motherhood, a study of Israeli women who regret becoming mothers, but felt pressured into it by society since getting married and having children are considered signs of maturity in certain countries, to the point of being almost compulsory.
I sometimes wonder if child marriages happen in America because teens are trying to prove they’re mature, and how many of them regret it later. Teens dating older guys could be a variation of the same theme. “Look at me, I’m an adult! I’m dating this 20-year-old!”
For a good chunk of them, yeah, it would be that. That’s how predators generally reel in children, by appealing to their supposed abilities. So the true: this kid IS mature enough to handle it runs hand-in-hand with the false.
There’s also an aspect of “never being prepared, no matter what”. I went from not being able to have kids, to losing two, to having 3, and this was from 25-40 that I had these changes. You’re NEVER 100% prepared. It’s just far easier to admit to the lack of preparation when you severely regret it in the aftermath.