Stop romanticizing statutory rape

Stop romanticizing statutory rape

Miyoki Walker, Entertainment Editor

Don’t let shows like Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars fool you. Statutory rape is illegal, unhealthy and should not be depicted on screen for teenage audiences. Riverdale, a CW produced adaptation of the Archie comics, is a perfect example.

Throughout the first season, Ms. Grundy, a 35-year old high school music teacher, has an affair with her student, 15-year old Archie Andrews. The two share many steamy on-screen moments and romantic words much to the delight of audience members ignorant to the crimes they are seeing unfold.

Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse by an adult with a person below a statutorily designated age. Although you may not be thinking of this when you see Ms. Grundy and Archie kiss on Riverdale, it is the only correct term to describe their relationship. Inappropriate child and adult relationships have also been romanticized on Dawson’s Creek, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.

These shows may be a teen’s first experience viewing sexual relationships between minors and adults, so the fact that they normalize it can greatly impact a teen’s idea of statutory rape.

The laws and definitions for statutory rape may differ between states, but every U.S. state prohibits sexual relationships between adults and minors in some way. These laws are in place not only to protect minors, but also to punish the adults who take advantage of them. In Rockland County, New York, where Riverdale is set, Ms. Grundy would be facing up to four years in prison.

According to the Family Planning Perspectives Volume 31, relationships with minors and adults are inherently unequal with their obvious power imbalances. As a result, these relationships can have life- long damaging effects on the minor involved.

When an adult is romantically involved with a minor whose brain is not fully developed and has less power and life experience, they can influence the minor’s idea of a healthy relationship. Since this relationship is already inherently abusive, the minor may go on to believe that the abuse is normal.

Statutory rape may not be the first thing that pops up in your mind when you think violence, but it does put minors in potentially harmful circumstances. These shows may not encourage statutory rape, but they normalize it which is just as dangerous.

The ideal solution for this issue would be for television networks to stop producing shows that romanticize these relation- ships, but since this is unlikely to happen, we must recognize the flaws ourselves. There are consequences for these relation- ships beyond what is depicted in these shows where the sole concern is ratings. If we acknowledge this, we are protecting ourselves from falling into the trap set by networks. Reminding ourselves that statutory rape is not normal is crucial when teen shows are doing everything in their power to normalize it.