Should marrying a child be allowed?
October 11, 2018 1:11 PM   Subscribe

She was 16. He was 25. Even in an era when the median age of marrying has climbed higher and higher, unions like Phil and Maria’s remain surprisingly prevalent in the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children were married, most of whom were girls, some as young as 12, wedding men.

"...it was her decision — her mistake, even — and not her mother’s. In [her mother’s] mind, it came down to this: Either a no, and they’d hate her for it, then marry anyway later on. Or a yes, and hope it would last."

Previously, when Delaware banned all underage marriages.
posted by hydra77 (101 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
No.

Next question?
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:20 PM on October 11 [34 favorites]


"surprisingly prevalent" TO WHOM

no woman on earth is surprised by the grossness of men creeping on children
posted by poffin boffin at 1:25 PM on October 11 [90 favorites]




True love, as I believe the conservatives put it, waits. Nothing wrong with a long engagement if you're not a giant creep.
posted by Frowner at 1:34 PM on October 11 [17 favorites]


In many ways, she was more mature than he was.

NO. This view is so fucking prevalent and it starts in the preschool years and apparently never stops.
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:39 PM on October 11 [130 favorites]


My nickname on one side of the family was "the dirty old man". I was 31 and my wife 23. She was the mature, responsible member of the union...
posted by jim in austin at 1:40 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


jim in austin your wife was also a fully legal adult at that time. (regardless of your relative maturity levels!
posted by supermedusa at 1:43 PM on October 11 [57 favorites]


Or a yes, and hope it would last."


this is the incomprehensible of incomprehensibles. if your 16 year old ran off and got married to some old creep, and you somehow justified giving your consent on paper so that at least she'd still speak to you sometimes, you'd hope it wouldn't last. you'd be counting the hours. you'd make sure she knew that the second she'd had enough and needed to get out, you'd wire her enough money for a ticket home, no I-told-you-sos, no you-made-your-bed-and-now-you-have-to-lie-in-it, just welcome home and let us pay for the divorce lawyer.

There was Maria Vargas, a shy and brooding girl who looked older than her 16 years

good of the WaPo to include a photograph of her so you can confirm that this is, of course, bullshit. a lie. she looks just exactly the age she is.

"she was more mature than he was" yes, a classic parentified child is exactly the type to find it natural that she's more mature than a grown man, that marriage means she has to take on responsibility for an old manbaby as well as her own real baby.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:43 PM on October 11 [104 favorites]


My first boyfriend was 9 years older than me. I was 16. I wanted to marry him. So I am, to some extent, the girl in this headline.

Unequivocably I can say that I have very few regrets in my life. He is one of them.

Every state should ban this.
posted by offalark at 1:44 PM on October 11 [73 favorites]


Samantha Bee (Full Frontal Youtube) did a segment on this last year. It's absolutely infuriating. Here's the article mentioned in the clip. From the article, "Generally, children cannot initiate legal action in their own name. In many states, that means a child is allowed to marry but not allowed to divorce. "

Also from what I've seen, as mentioned in the clip, the majority of these marriage are not two young adults wanting to get married like the article posted. They are full grown men marrying children in their early teens or even tweens. They are abusers. The children cannot consent to sex, but are somehow allowed to consent to marriage. I see no reason for child marriage.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:47 PM on October 11 [43 favorites]


“I got to get dressed,” she said. “And then get Douglas dressed. And get you dressed.”

God love her. How many women have lived and died accepting their husbands as the largest and worst of their children?

Phil at least is working at being a good husband, and they seem to be in love. It's no excuse for the currency of the law, of course, but this is the kind of economic partnership from which almost all of us are descended, some in living memory and some outside of it. The damned shame of it is that in 2018 AD, young people still feel sentenced to this kind of life. How easy must it have been for Maria to believe that Phil was the best she could do?

Michelle is my age, and she's a grandmother. I have a lot of complicated feelings about privilege and luck and how easily I might have been born into this situation, and I'm going to sit with those.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:48 PM on October 11 [28 favorites]


I mean, dating a teen when you're an adult is still pretty creepy, but when I hear conservatives shilling for child marriage I always wonder why they're shilling for that instead of long engagements. Or actually I don't wonder, because they're gross older men who want sexual access to tweens or young teens, I just wonder why they don't conceal that fact better.

~~~

The couple in the article don't seem like bad people, but they seem to have been forced into unwise decisions by deeply unfair circumstances. It would be far, far better if Maria's mother had the support she needed to care for her husband, if Maria had been protected from older men when she was 14 (that's the underlying horrible thing!) and had access to birth control, if her husband had whatever social and economic support he'd needed to avoid addiction, if wages were better and there were subsidized housing so no one was living in a moldy trailer. For that matter, if high schools supported pregnant students and students with children better.

She would decide to find another way, to change things. She would tell Phil she couldn’t have another baby, not now, and they would get back to using birth control. She would call Everett High School, and they would allow her to go part time in the morning, while Phil watched Douglas at home. She would start classes two weeks late, taking the ninth- and 10th-grade courses she’d missed. She would seize control of events. She would become an adult.

That's where she's at when the article ends, although it points out that if one thing goes wrong - if Phil loses his job, for instance (when the inevitable Trump slump hits...) the whole thing will fall down. I mean, she seems to be pretty on the ball for someone so young, but the precarity of the situation is a larger issue.

I bet precarity is a driving force behind a lot of child marriages, actually - not just that the girls are young and vulnerable, but that their economic futures are so foreclosed that a child marriage doesn't seem like the bad bet it obviously is.
posted by Frowner at 1:50 PM on October 11 [37 favorites]


she still didn’t know whether her mounting responsibilities at home would keep her from returning to the classroom.
Jesus christ. What kind of "responsibilities" does a 16-year-old have at home that her 25-year-old manchild husband can't take care of?

the second birthday of Maria’s son, Douglas, whom she’d had with another grown man
She's been raising a goddamn child for two years; you'd think (hope?) adding a parent to the equation would make her workload lighter instead of heavier. The whole thing is horrifying and heartbreaking.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:51 PM on October 11 [18 favorites]


"Generally, children cannot initiate legal action in their own name. In many states, that means a child is allowed to marry but not allowed to divorce. "

I feel like this is really the crux here. if you are a minor and restricted in consent then you are restricted across the board and should be under the legal protection from exploitation, desperation etc., that the gobmint is supposed to be providing. right?
posted by supermedusa at 2:03 PM on October 11 [7 favorites]


I'm so conflicted about this. My knee-jerk reaction is no, of course not, she doesn't need to marry him. But then I read the article. In her situation, she's already turned herself into a mini-adult and she has a 2-year-old child. Who am I to say no to her getting married? She's the most mature one in their little family.

Would it be better if she weren't in this situation at all? Yes, of course.

Do I want to prevent creepy, scummy men from preying on young girls? Yes, of course.

Is the husband in this article scummy or creepy? No.

Why did they need to get married though? I don't have a good answer for that. So maybe my first instinct is correct and yes, they could wait a couple more years.
posted by hydra77 at 2:03 PM on October 11 [9 favorites]


Sure. Caveat: instant divorce granted by nothing more than the filing of the party who was underage at time of marriage anytime up to age 30, with asset negotiations *starting* from the presumption of community property and an absolute minimum of 50/50 split with child support on top.

Oh, that sounds aggressive and prone to abuse? Gee. Better wait until they're 18 or older. Unless you're totes sure it's true love and the risk doesn't worry you.

To be more serious, I don't know if that's the specific correct approach, but I think allowing underage marriage with increasing protections for those who do might be a reasonable tradeoff.

My nickname on one side of the family was "the dirty old man". I was 31 and my wife 23. She was the mature, responsible member of the union...

I've never married but I've dated across a pretty wide age range, and I don't think the point here is about age difference per se.

Many 23 year olds are ready to get married to the right person, and some are even in a decent position to identify who the right person might be, even across a big age difference.

Some 16 year olds are ready to get married, but a lot fewer.

I also dated a few 20 year olds in my 30s. Two I regret passing on, seeing the people they've become as they got older. One is still a good person but I think we'd have had a rocky road. But that's the thing with someone who is 20. Many people aren't fully baked until adolescence closes out and don't really know who they are for a bit longer, which presents some problems for the premise of a long-term relationship of any kind, including marriage.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:18 PM on October 11 [5 favorites]


I don't care how "nice" he is, a 25-year-old man dating a 16-year-old girl is scummy and creepy by definition.
posted by noxperpetua at 2:18 PM on October 11 [73 favorites]


Yeah, that's not a good look.
posted by bq at 2:19 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


There was Maria Vargas, a shy and brooding girl who looked older than her 16 years

Every time I see this trope - every time I see a girl described as looking "older" than she is - I think of one of my childhood friends. She hit puberty earlier than average. Men started sexually harassing her before she hit her teens. She still acted and dressed like a child. She looked like a child.

But because she was a child with breasts, these men considered her fair game. Some of them have probably said, "if it bleeds it breeds." They'd probably protest that they're not pedophiles. If one of them had manipulated her into a relationship, they'd probably have said she was "mature beyond her years."

(She wasn't.)

Men who prey on younger girls are so common. Some of them target them deliberately. Others just do not give a shit about the welfare or mental state of a female human being as long as she's a hole they can fuck.

If you even think it's possible for a teenaged girl to be mature enough to consent to mature, the number of them who are that exceptionally mature is dwarfed by the number of garbage creepy men out there. Articles that focus on edge cases are really just functioning as apologia for these garbage creepy men, justifying a system that caters to their garbage creepy desires. It's like writing an article about someone speeding their injured loved one to the hospital and asking, "Is it okay for people to speed? Should we have laws against speeding?"
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:19 PM on October 11 [104 favorites]


Jesus christ. What kind of "responsibilities" does a 16-year-old have at home that her 25-year-old manchild husband can't take care of?

I think the the Venn diagram comparing the pro-child-marrying crowd and the “keep ‘em barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” crowd is a perfect circle.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:20 PM on October 11 [16 favorites]


"either a no, and they'd hate her for it"

this part, though! deciding you'd rather let your children be harmed than endure their hatred is the very definition of inadvertently abusive negligence. this is a very glib easy-for-me thing to say. glib and true. although I have great sympathy for her anyway.

but I think if you have kids when you're so young or so isolated or so unfortunate that your children are the closest people to you, the people you depend on, you can't let them hate you. and sometimes you need to.

and then of course you can't rely on your kid to act like an adult as long as you need another adult in the house and then turn around and expect her to forget what that agency feels like, when you need her to remember she's a child.

it's not like I think this is all or mostly her mother's fault. it's the 25-year-old's fault and before him, the unnamed man who abused and abducted her and went to prison for it. but it's so awful and unfair and her husband is so bad and the worst of it is Maria is so clearly a smart and strong-willed person who would never have fallen in this trap if she'd only been 25 herself when she met him. or 20, or even 18. and the most unfair thing is no matter how smart and tough they are, no 16 (15) year old should have to spot a Phil or his even worse predecessor for what he is and see through him. it shouldn't ever be up to them to protect themselves from him and his kind.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:21 PM on October 11 [18 favorites]


I grew up in Utah. Girls straight out high school marrying boys (men?) just back from their missions, so about 20-22, was perfectly normal in my town, and it got quite a bit more alarming from there. My dad had a 33-year-old coworker who bragged for months about marrying a 16yo.

It never didn't seem gross to me.
posted by gurple at 2:21 PM on October 11 [9 favorites]


she's already turned herself into a mini-adult

She hasn't. Plenty of other people, including her own mother, have done that to her.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:22 PM on October 11 [61 favorites]


>Is the husband in this article scummy or creepy? No.

He is by definition scummy and creepy! Please don't be taken in by the public face he puts on for reporters - or, for that matter, the public version of the story told by his child bride which was carefully constructed in order to keep herself sane.

I fell in love with a 22 yr old when I was 16. I didn't listen to my parents who forbid me from him because my parents had spent years forbidding me from going to movies with my friends or from wearing tight jeans with the exact same intensity as this. My parents, too, relented in the end because they thought it was better that their daughter was married than shacking up. I was also "mature for my age." I spent about 17 years publicly telling the romantic story of how we got together and how we belonged together...

I believed in it, too. I thought it was my own stupid fault I was miserable in spite of this wonderful man and this wonderful marriage. I *didn't know* that what he was doing to me was physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse all along. For instance I spent years blaming myself for not being able to hold down a job, when the truth was that my husband made it impossible for me to do it via insane demands like always, always, always making me responsible for 100% of the kid-related work and all the cooking, and refusing to allow me to buy my own car until I earned enough money to buy it on my own.

Anyway. I guess what I'm trying to say in my long and rambly way is, we have to judge this man by his objective actions. His objective actions so far are:

- creeping on a child

- marrying a child

- acting like her baby, making her responsible for his care

I mean fuck what more do we need.
posted by MiraK at 2:23 PM on October 11 [135 favorites]


Also, if we could avoid men defending their own marriages by saying "my wife is a lot younger than me and she's more mature," that would be great, because

(a) your wife was probably a legal adult when you married

(b) women being thrust into the role of the "responsible" or "mature" one in is itself a widespread form of exploitation

And (b) is especially tragic when the woman is actually not even a woman, but a girl, so it is doubly not a good thing to protest when talking about child marriage...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:28 PM on October 11 [90 favorites]


Sometime at a meetup I'll tell the story of how and why I got married at 16 to a man in his mid twenties. I make it sound funny and empowering when really it was terrifying. But it saved my life, even as I was aware that I was not the person that child marriage was meant to "benefit."

So while I'm conflicted about my own situation, I can without equivocation say, this shit needs to stop. Marriage is not a resource that ends these kinds of problems. We need a strong social safety net. Girls and women should not have to think that men want to save them, and they certainly should not think that these kinds of arrangements are any kind of rescue.
posted by bilabial at 2:29 PM on October 11 [29 favorites]


- creeping on a child

- marrying a child

- acting like her baby, making her responsible for his care

I mean fuck what more do we need.


how about:

- trying to pressure this teenager into having ANOTHER baby, because he wants a son. his own daughter isn't enough. his wife's infant son, who is his if he bothers to care for him, isn't enough. he wants another fucking baby out of her.

but yeah, we don't need to know that part of it to judge, and frankly I wish I didn't because it makes me feel so sick.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:29 PM on October 11 [59 favorites]


The "free-range kids" people have some good ideas, but they have not done a good job of distancing themselves from rhetoric about how much more "mature" teenagers (i.e., teenage girls) were in previous eras and how great it was that they had "adult responsibilities". Until they can assure me that wanting to go back to the days when 8-year-olds could walk to the park alone doesn't mean wanting to go back to the days when 15-year-olds could marry middle-aged men, I can't get behind their movement.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:31 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


The WaPo's house style in these pieces is usually to present the subjects' lives on their own terms, which is often humanizing and effective, but then there are pieces like this one where I feel like they glossed over two extremely salient details: the time Maria was kidnapped by an adult man and Phil's history in special education. Those two things in conjunction could explain like...85% of the dysfunction in the household.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:32 PM on October 11 [18 favorites]


Why did they need to get married though? I don't have a good answer for that. So maybe my first instinct is correct and yes, they could wait a couple more years.

They needed to get married so they could cohabitate without risking his arrest for statutory rape, and so her eventual pregnancy would not be prima fascia evidence for that.

If he thought that getting her pregnant or having it widely believed that he was having sex with her would very likely lead to a prison term, I think that would benefit all parties involved.
posted by skewed at 2:35 PM on October 11 [13 favorites]


I feel like they glossed over two extremely salient details

When you stop glossing over details like this, you start having to ask, "gee, do we need to change the structures in our society that reproduce misogyny*, produce poverty and systematically fail disabled people"? That's not as fun as "should adult men be able to marry children, y/n". Give young women (and working class people generally) more power over their actual material circumstances and I strongly suspect that the child marriage rate will fall right off.
posted by Frowner at 2:43 PM on October 11 [28 favorites]


I'm so conflicted about this. My knee-jerk reaction is no, of course not, she doesn't need to marry him. But then I read the article. In her situation, she's already turned herself into a mini-adult and she has a 2-year-old child. Who am I to say no to her getting married? She's the most mature one in their little family.

This young woman is 16, and has a two year old child. Per the article, she basically raised her siblings. Her mother was in prison. These people's lives - every one of them - are precarious and messy. But every single person here would (I think) say that she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy -- in some ways, a much more important and life-altering decision than getting married. If we trust her to make her own choice about her pregnancy, why do we then strip her, in an almost knee-jerk way, of her agency about deciding when to get married and to whom?

I come from a completely different family situation than hers, and a different socio-economic background, but by the time I went away to university I had been essentially fending for myself for years (my mother, my sole parent, worked nights). I took care of the house, made my own meals, my laundry, spent my evenings at home without supervision. I was functionally an adult, because I had to be. At 16 I was a freshman in college (I would turn 17 in November), and there met and started to date an upperclassman who turned out to be ten years older than I was. We were together for six years - all my time at University and two years afterwards.

I'm sure, today, that there would be huge amounts of gnashing of teeth about my college relationship. But unlike the posters above, I don't regret it at all. I never felt preyed on. We met in a natural situation as peers, and continued to treat each other as age peers for our entire relationship, which made a huge difference.

Are a lot of these relationships gross? Yes, they sure are. (The situations in which this happens to young women in a religious context, with no agency on her part, is particularly revolting.) But the poster above who said that the mother turned this young woman into an adult is spot on. Once motherhood and experience has turned her into an adult anyhow, I do feel like we should also allow her some agency to decide how she lives her life - marriage and mistakes included.

I'm aware that this isn't a popular attitude, and I'm certain I'm going to get a ton of heat for this, but I encourage you to think about her agency in this and compare it to the agency you would willingly give her about her body and motherhood, her own medical care, or any number of other things. I'd love for us to judge these relationships more about the people involved as having equal agency than simply based on age.
posted by anastasiav at 2:43 PM on October 11 [26 favorites]


Until they can assure me that wanting to go back to the days when 8-year-olds could walk to the park alone doesn't mean wanting to go back to the days when 15-year-olds could marry middle-aged men, I can't get behind their movement.

I'm only one datapoint, but I am pretty much fine with my 8yo walking to the park alone and totally not fine with her marrying a middle-aged man when she's 15. So.
posted by gurple at 2:45 PM on October 11 [28 favorites]


Came for Betteridge's Law of Headlines, was not disappointed.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:48 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


She's the most mature one in their little family.

good news, kid, you successfully adapted to survive the trauma inflicted on you by adults earlier in your life, so we will step back and leave you to freely make decisions that will further compromise your health, sanity, and future

you've earned it! now go make a tuna sandwich for a grownass man
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:50 PM on October 11 [45 favorites]


) say that she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy -- in some ways, a much more important and life-altering decision than getting married.

This is a very confused framing of the issue. Having a (legal, medical) abortion is actually not a much more important and life-altering decision than getting married, especially when we are talking about marriage to a significantly older man. With the availability of adoption, even having that child does not have the same effects. If you want to think that a child being married off to a significantly older man does not lead immediately and in the long term to the loss of her autonomy in just about every possible way, you can, I guess, but....you would be extremely out of touch with reality.
posted by praemunire at 2:52 PM on October 11 [25 favorites]


Seems like a good way to get around the conservative position of "no sex before marriage" - just marry 'em whenever. They've painted themselves into a corner and are fucking the drywall. So gross.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:52 PM on October 11 [12 favorites]


...in some ways, a much more important and life-altering decision than getting married. If we trust her to make her own choice about her pregnancy, why do we then strip her, in an almost knee-jerk way, of her agency about deciding when to get married and to whom?

Having an abortion is not the same weight as agreeing to prolonged sexual and mental abuse from a grown man, but thanks for playing. And trust me, this isn't a knee-jerk reaction. Women have to deal with, think about, fight against this kind of gross, misogynistic system that would set us up to be the caretakers of men. This is not the first time any of us have been met with this kind of story. I was a child when I first realized men like to use women as commodities. I've been dealing with this a long time
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:01 PM on October 11 [31 favorites]


But every single person here would (I think) say that she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy

had the right? you make it sound so empowering. she had the responsibility of deciding the outcome of her pregnancy as the result of an adult's actions, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about that. no amount of choosing her choice makes that any better. per the article, her mom notified that she "could" have an abortion. which, yeah, is good to know, if you don't know it already, and plenty of 14 year olds don't know or are unclear on the concept. on account of they're kids.

but you know one thing that's nice to have as an abused 14 year old is some fucking guidance and some serious discussions about whether the short-term solace of taking control of a bad situation by having a baby is going to make your long-term circumstances better or worse. doing this without being coercive is very difficult. then again, all kinds of things about parenting are very difficult. Pregnant people, all of them, have the right to choose what to do about their pregnancy. And minor children have the right to parental guidance and advice. Support in the event they choose to bear a child is not the same as leaving them on their own to work it out because hey, it's your choice! If you didn't want the crushing burden of making adult choices all on your own while still a child, guess you shouldn't have started menstruating, should you.


But the poster above who said that the mother turned this young woman into an adult is spot on. Once motherhood and experience has turned her into an adult anyhow


No, you cannot neglect and abuse a child into adulthood. I don't mean it mustn't be done because it's wrong, I mean wishing doesn't make it so.

labor and delivery turn a girl into a woman the way menarche or having sex do. that means: they don't.

What about once the baby's arrived and she's looking after it, didn't that responsibility make her into a 15-year-old grown-up? well, obviously no. Many people have grown up caring for infant siblings with little or no help from the time they were 8 or 9, or younger. Were they tiny miniature women? No. in fact, they were not.

"Young woman" is a fun thing to call a girl when you want to wash your hands of all responsibility to her.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:02 PM on October 11 [82 favorites]


One of the reasons some girls and women marry too young or the wrong guy is that it is harder for young girls and women to get jobs. Even worse, ALL the social safety net for women is basically for women with children. So a girls choices are not great. If she is disabled but not disabled enough to get on SSI a child or two will at least get her on welfare. There needs to be more help for young women leaving home. There aren’t cheap places to stay such as rooming houses anymore or the entry level jobs that my mother had to start with.
This is important. Having children too young can and will destroy a woman’s health. Young men in many cases could join the service if nothing else worked. Not that women couldn’t but it’s usually not what they want to do.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:04 PM on October 11 [10 favorites]


This young woman is 16, and has a two year old child. Per the article, she basically raised her siblings. Her mother was in prison. These people's lives - every one of them - are precarious and messy. But every single person here would (I think) say that she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy -- in some ways, a much more important and life-altering decision than getting married. If we trust her to make her own choice about her pregnancy, why do we then strip her, in an almost knee-jerk way, of her agency about deciding when to get married and to whom?

By this logic, if a fourteen-year-old (or a younger child) should be able to marry because she can choose whether or not to have an abortion, shouldn't she also be able to drink, drive and join the military?

But that's not why women get to decide on abortion. You don't get to decide on abortion because you're guaranteed to make the best decision; you get to decide because it is your body that the baby is in and somebody has to decide, and the majority of the world believes that it is a greater harm to force birth or abortion on someone than to let them risk making a bad decision.

When you're pregnant, you either have an abortion or go forward with the pregnancy; there's no opt-out. A decision has to be made. When you're sixteen and in love/targeted by an older man, there is no need to get married. You can absolutely put things on hold.

~~~
Adult men dating young teenagers is a bad idea because it's harmful to the vast majority of them, not because there literally can never be a successful relationship between an adult and a teen. The existence of the occasional successful, egalitarian relationship does not even come close to outweighing the harm that is done to most teenagers in that situation and the harm that is done to all of us as a society when we have a "go ahead creep on vulnerable teenagers, men, it's natural and it doesn't matter that it hurts them" mentality. The best you can say for adult men dating teenagers is that very, very occasionally it's not terrible. The worst you can say, well -.
posted by Frowner at 3:07 PM on October 11 [42 favorites]


I'm not sure why we even need to nod at the idea that there's some adult-teenage pairings out there that are kinda-sorta okay, maybe

I mean anyone out there going "well that's my lived experience!" cool for you but the 99% of these relationships that are gross and exploitative don't need the cover
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:11 PM on October 11 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure in Maria's particular case if, given everyfuckingthing else she's been through in her short life, I can say with any confidence that marriage to an adult makes her life any worse.

But that's not enough reason to extend it to everybody who wants to do it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:17 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


In many ways, she was more mature than he was.

I just want to tell these people that this isn't a testament to the maturity of a teenaged girl, but a fairly strong condemnation of the adult man. If an adult man isn't more mature than a teenaged girl, he isn't mature enough to get married.
posted by Groundhog Week at 3:30 PM on October 11 [94 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure in Maria's particular case if, given everyfuckingthing else she's been through in her short life, I can say with any confidence that marriage to an adult makes her life any worse.

why not? she's not damaged goods, she doesn't deserve fewer opportunities and freedoms than sheltered kids who didn't have to deal with the shit that got thrown her way.

"maturity" isn't an objective thing. "old souls" don't actually exist. she's a kid, full stop.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:41 PM on October 11 [16 favorites]


when I hear conservatives shilling for child marriage I always wonder why they're shilling for that instead of long engagements. Or actually I don't wonder, because they're gross older men who want sexual access to tweens or young teens, I just wonder why they don't conceal that fact better.


because teenage girls don't always know when they're being abused, or have been socialized to romanticize that abuse. they don't know they can leave, and/or they'll be shamed if they do. their families will tell them that they're "used" now and no one will want them. these conservatives are pro child marriage in order to trap and abuse women as early as they can, because cruelty to and abuse of women is how they enjoy life, and in any halfway decent society they would have fucking CHILD RAPIST tattooed on their foreheads and be driven out of town by force to die alone in the fucking wilderness.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:42 PM on October 11 [22 favorites]


why not? she's not damaged goods, she doesn't deserve fewer opportunities and freedoms than sheltered kids who didn't have to deal with the shit that got thrown her way.

I... don't see that this particular girl has fewer opportunities and freedoms than she had before she got married. Maybe I'm missing something.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:48 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy

Purely being pedantic, I don't think we are entirely sure that this child did have the right to make a legal decision to have an abortion; further, I don't think we are entirely sure that this child had access to safe, legal abortion; further, I don't think we are entirely sure that this child was even aware of how her reproductive system worked in order to know or understand that she was pregnant before it would have been too late to have a legal abortion performed.
posted by vignettist at 3:50 PM on October 11 [15 favorites]


Everyone and everything that makes this possible should be burned the fuck down and thrown into the sun.
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on October 11 [12 favorites]


"Plenty of other people, including her own mother, have done that to her. "

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Phillip Larkin
posted by Floydd at 4:50 PM on October 11 [17 favorites]


Banning child marriage will stop child marriages, maybe.

It's easy to point the finger at pedo-dudes. Pedo-dudes are creepy-gross, I get that. Easy to demonize. But the bigger and more important problem here is that at least some of the young girls who are more-or-less freely choosing to enter into these child marriages are facing significant, relatively-intractable problems in their everyday lives. These problems include but are not limited to: economic instability, generationally fractured family structure, low levels of education, substance abuse, single-parent households, non-existent parenting, and incarceration. (The article even highlights how some of these problems have maybe affected the subject of the article.) I respectfully submit that these problems may well be helping to drive at least some teenaged girls out of the frying pans of their everyday lives into the fire of very early marriage.

I live and work in the area referenced for this article. I graduated from one of the high schools mentioned in the article. I am really QUITE FAMILIAR (by way of having lived and worked here for forty years) with the sorts of things that drive teenaged girls in Everett and Bedford into inappropriate very early marriages in a way that I guarantee the WaPo reporter is not.

The teenaged girls who willingly get married (not the ones forced into creepy religious arranged marriages by their parents or church, but the ones who go more-or-less willingly to the altar, ones like the girl in the article) are likely opting for the marriage as what they see as the best of a bad set of choices. While their judgment is, indeed, immature and likely flawed, they are for the most part TRYING to make the best of the shitty choices available to them.

Making child marriage illegal isn't a bad idea and I think it would do a lot to stop the creepy religious/parent arranged marriage thing. However, we also need to solve some of the more complicated issues driving young girls towards child marriage of their own more-or-less free will. It's not as easy as changing the law, though. Not even close. Not as easy as pointing at pedo-dudes and shaming them.

What would need to happen for the subject of the article to be able to live at home, to finish high school, to find a job that could support her and her son? What services would they need? Could she get parenting classes? How is she going to afford day care on the wages you can make in Everett with a high school diploma?

Yeah, just easier to change the law and pretend everything is fixed.
posted by which_chick at 5:09 PM on October 11 [44 favorites]


I'm struggling a bit with the logic of most of the comments on this thread. I agree that children marrying adults is gross. But just because something is gross doesn't mean it should be illegal. I think the people on this thread would agree to a general statement along the lines of: "Governments have historically done a poor job when deciding who should be allowed to marry whom." Additionally, there are lots of examples of abusive, gross, immoral, terrible marriages where both parties are above the age of 18, and it seems people are ok with allowing those marriages to happen without government interference. I don't think we should focus on outlawing certain types of marriages, I think instead we should focus on programs that help prevent these circumstances from occurring. In that spirit, I just made a modest donation to planned parenthood.
posted by bigplugin at 5:24 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


I agree that children marrying adults is gross. But just because something is gross doesn't mean it should be illegal.

I would venture a guess that most people were reacting more emotionally because they assumed that people would not need it explained to them why selling off a girl who may not even be old enough to consent to sex legally to a substantially older man so that he can have a half-educated, powerless creature in his home he can fuck when he wants, force to bear his children, and use as a household drudge because she doesn't know she has options was morally problematic.

I guess we were wrong.
posted by praemunire at 5:48 PM on October 11 [55 favorites]


I agree that children marrying adults is gross.

Yes.

But just because something is gross doesn't mean it should be illegal.

Children marrying adults should be illegal. BECAUSE THEY ARE CHILDREN.

Honestly I don’t know to explain that if you don’t get that.
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on October 11 [32 favorites]


Uh... adults marrying children is LEAGUES DIFFERENT than marriage equality and if you don’t get that I don’t know if I can explain to you holy crap.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:51 PM on October 11 [20 favorites]


Upon preview: Jynx.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:51 PM on October 11


I agree that children marrying adults is gross. But just because something is gross doesn't mean it should be illegal.

What in the w....

We don't have a problem with it because we think it's gross. We have a problem with it because we think that it allows the sexual exploitation of children, and that shouldn't be allowed.

Comparisons to interracial and same-sex marriage are shockingly off the mark. (That is what you were going for, right?) I'll put aside how offensive the comparison is, and explain why: The reason for opposing interracial or same-sex marriage was to preserve a white supremacist, patriarchal, and heterosexist social order. The reason for opposing child marriage is to protect children from abuse.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:54 PM on October 11 [49 favorites]


I never even really thought about it, but I wonder why my parents signed the waiver for my underage marriage. If they hadn't - life would have been so different.

I went on to help a lot of other girls avoid underage marriages, and I can still remember the ones we couldn't persuade their families to stop. They were so young and so bright.

Escaping a legal marriage over moving out from a live-in is a lot harder. Child custody support is increasingly a separate issue in most places, and with an underage bride (how often is it a groom? hah), the bride's parents are usually supposed to be supporting her anyway AS A MINOR DEPENDENT.

It's an exchange of property.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:00 PM on October 11 [15 favorites]


My parents have a similar age gap and met at around these ages. They held off marrying until my mom was fully legal and held off having kids until she had graduated from university, but she was still so young. She went straight from living with her parents to living with her husband. No time to individuate. Hasn’t compensated for it with a midlife crisis to “find herself.” She is therefore very in need of validation from others, and appreciation from us offspring for her choosing to have us when she did. And we are pretty dissatisfied with the subpar parenting we received.

They are still together, but there’s an evident lack of mutual respect and open communication, and my siblings and I missed out on seeing these relationship qualities modeled for us as we grew up. I still have to walk on eggshells around them. They’ve found an equilibrium, but they’re clearly not very happy, and any little thing risks launching a serious argument.

My dad admitted to me recently that he wonders if he maybe rushed my mom’s life along too quickly. At the time, my mom was just a precocious kid who wanted to get out of her parents’ house and was flattered that an older man was paying attention to her. But now that she’s had some life experience, I seriously doubt she’d do it over again. One upside: my parents have never pressured me to settle down or have kids. They want me to be successful, but mostly on my own terms.

I’m pretty against people getting married or having kids before they’ve spent some time living on their own, getting to know themselves, establishing some maturity and self-confidence. For example, I learned about the concept of assertiveness when I was in my early 20s. I realized that not only was it a concept that my mom was unaware of and was thus unable to teach me, but she actively discouraged my natural assertiveness as selfishness and doled out frequent punishments and verbal tirades when I expressed it, rather than helping me find a communication style that would best ensure mutually beneficial outcomes. Took me quite a while to retrain my brain, and I’m still not the best at non-abrasive communication. My dad was pretty uninvolved, and when he was around, he generally parented me in the form of additional reprimands when I seemed to be making life difficult for my mom. So much for those extra years of age bringing some adult sensibility to the family.

I’m still routinely shocked when I see parents putting up with things from their kids that mine never in a million years would have put up with. If we weren’t being perfectly-behaved angels, then we were burdens, and they let us know it. Clearly, the main problem there was that they had gotten themselves into a relationship they didn’t really want to be in, with kids they didn’t really want to have. It wasn’t bad enough for them to up and quit, but there was nothing joyful about it, either. It was more of an endurance thing. But they started the whole thing before they were mature enough to realize there was another way.
posted by mantecol at 6:04 PM on October 11 [20 favorites]


I'm only one datapoint, but I am pretty much fine with my 8yo walking to the park alone and totally not fine with her marrying a middle-aged man when she's 15. So.

Make that two data points, though my daughters are younger and only walk to the corner/friend's house. I really don't grok any, like at all, conflation or overlap between free-range type parenting and full on fucking child marriage/abuse.

Maybe there's a movement/push out there that I'm unaware of, but damn that seems like a stretch.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:18 PM on October 11 [11 favorites]


I... don't see that this particular girl has fewer opportunities and freedoms than she had before she got married. Maybe I'm missing something.

She now has a legal obligation to this man that she didn’t before marriage.
posted by Monday at 6:40 PM on October 11 [13 favorites]


> But every single person here would (I think) say that she had the right to decide (at 14) if she would carry her child or terminate the pregnancy ... If we trust her to make her own choice about her pregnancy, why do we then strip her, in an almost knee-jerk way, of her agency about deciding when to get married and to whom?


This child has dealt with the consequences of being raped at age 13/14, therefore we should stop protecting her from every type of exploitation she can possibly experience from now on.

Is there a term for when we use the language of rights and empowerment to collectively evade our responsibilities towards the vulnerable?
posted by MiraK at 6:46 PM on October 11 [39 favorites]


Yes, I wonder if the people talking about this girl's "maturity" and so forth as a reason not to protect her realize just how close they are coming to "used goods" rhetoric. It's reaaaaaaaaally close.
posted by praemunire at 6:49 PM on October 11 [23 favorites]


not to mention the insistence that because she has other serious life troubles like poverty and less than ideal parents, a 'creepy-gross dude' wrecking her life is just a convenient easy target for people who can't handle, like, the really hard questions, man.

if men like that are such an easy fun target that everyone agrees on "demonizing" -- that's what we call it when we criticize men who do bad things, demonizing is -- you wonder how people have resisted fixing the one allegedly easy problem among so many harder ones, for so long. couldn't be that exploitation and abuse of girls is seamlessly connected to oppression of adult women, or that either of those things is connected to other issues. couldn't be that letting men marry children is, by itself, a really bad thing that has not gone away all by itself, only faded through strenuous opposition. it is a bad thing that is not best treated by minimizing it into insignificance just because its victims usually suffer in other connected ways, too.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:01 PM on October 11 [19 favorites]


Children marrying adults should be illegal. BECAUSE THEY ARE CHILDREN.

Honestly I don’t know to explain that if you don’t get that.



Oh, for Christ's sake, EVERYONE gets this.

Legislating these protections, however, isn't as simple "out-lawing relationships between adults and children". E.g., is the current "legal age" the best definition for "adult"?*

Would people be OK if the couple's ages were 17 and 26? 18 and 27? (When do we stop calling her a "girl" and start calling her a young woman?) What if she was 25, he was 55 and he treated her like a child?

*Given current thinking re brain development, the 25 year old is still operating with a less-than-adult brain, so referring to him as some pervy adult man preying on a child seems a bit extreme. (Frankly, I am at least as likely to think that the above hypothetical 55 year old man is preying on the 25 year old.)

Outrage is easy. Insulting those who talk about various complicating factors is not helpful.
posted by she's not there at 7:05 PM on October 11 [7 favorites]


"it's not that simple" is not in and of itself a meaningful argument for or against anything. Neither is "but the age of consent is arbitrary."

Do you have *anything* to say about why, in this or any other case, we should condone the rape and reproductive, domestic, and emotional exploitation of a child by a grown man?
posted by MiraK at 7:11 PM on October 11 [9 favorites]


When do we stop calling her a "girl" and start calling her a young woman?

18 in the U.S. this isn't rocket surgery.

YA is a marketing designation for publishers and booksellers, not real life.

Given current thinking re brain development, the 25 year old is still operating with a less-than-adult brain, so referring to him as some pervy adult man preying on a child seems a bit extreme.

16 year old's a woman, not a girl. but calling a 25 year old a man, that's extreme. got it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:13 PM on October 11 [34 favorites]


Indulging in bullshit whataboutism is in no way more helpful with “complicating factors” than outrage. This institution should be burned to the ground. Any “complicating factors” that make the institution possible should be eradicated also. Anyone using the “complicating factors” as an excuse for child rape is a bad and shitty person.
posted by Artw at 7:13 PM on October 11 [5 favorites]


what is a genuine complicating factor is the fact that exploitation and abuse based on power dynamics is always relative and always depends on the balance of power between any two individuals. so, the same 17 year old can have relationships with a 12 year old and a 50 year old and be the abuser in one case but the abused party in the other. plus, there are all kinds of ways for legal adults to mistreat other legal adults, and many of them are criminal even though nobody is a child.

but the thing is that this isn't really that complicating. we apparently don't all know it, but we should. it's not really a mind-expanding piece of knowledge. understanding it is kind of a prerequisite for talking about any of this. that doesn't make it relevant. sometimes when nobody is boldly saying a Fact it's not because nobody has thought of it, it's because everybody has.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:24 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, feels like this was going a bit sideways for no really necessary reason.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:49 PM on October 11


This article is incredibly misleading about the subject, and honestly even about this situation. It glosses over her being KIDNAPPED and having a child at 14, his past, all kinds of things. These two should never have had to come to this decision because neither of them (and their families) should have been so thoroughly failed by every single institution they came into contact with. This article and others like it give a huge amount of cover to pedophiles and to people who want to avoid the hard questions about how to prevent and mitigate the poverty, drug addiction, bad schools, lack of social safety net, etc, that are forcing this child to believe that getting married to a man 9 years older than her is her best and safest choice.

A quick search for "child marriage in the US" brings up a bunch of information, including this and this, interviews with activists and former child brides (from WBUR and The Guardian, respectively), which present a much less rosy view of the subject.
posted by polychromie at 8:36 PM on October 11 [13 favorites]


Outrage is easy.

As an argument against being outraged, as an intervention in a conversational subthread about what is worthy of our moral condemnation, this is really quite strikingly dumb. Not being outraged is also easy. Probably easier. Guess we'd better not do that either! Oh, wait. What shall we do, then?
posted by praemunire at 8:39 PM on October 11 [7 favorites]


16 year old's a woman, not a girl. but calling a 25 year old a man, that's extreme. got it.

right? honestly i can't believe i had to read that garbage with my own eyes.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:42 PM on October 11 [20 favorites]


18 in the U.S. this isn't rocket surgery

Not rocket surgery, but also not true. Age of consent varies by state.

Given that establishing an age of consent will always be somewhat arbitrary, it seems reasonable to reexamine the issue from time to time to take into account changes in society.

And establishing an age of consent alone is not enough. Say you have a couple of teenagers—15 and 17, for example, who are sexually active. What happens when the older teen ages into adulthood? (As I understand things, in some states, the older teen is now committing statutory rape.)

Fankly, if i ruled the world, i would be inclined to raise the age. At the same time, I can see dozens of potential negative consequences on this tack.

Not being outraged is also easy. Probably easier.

No idea where you got the idea that I am not outraged by inappropriate relationships between adults and children. My point was that emphatically saying "Adults shouldn't marry children! Full stop! " over-simplifies a complicated issue, beginning with the fact that there is no universally agreed upon definition for "child".

The issue seems worthy of discussion to me. Clearly, not everyone shares this view.

Anyway, I am bowing out of what's become an inexplicably hostile exchange, i.e., afaik, every single comment in the thread is anti- adults marrying children.
posted by she's not there at 10:51 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


you: "When do we stop calling her a "girl" and start calling her a young woman?"
me: "18 in the U.S. this isn't rocket surgery"
you again: Not rocket surgery, but also not true. Age of consent varies by state.


this has fuck-all to do with what you asked, which was: when do you get to call a girl a "young woman." the answer is, as I said, when she turns 18. later in a few states. you can do it sooner if you want to be smarmy or sleazy, but you really shouldn't.

if the question you meant to ask was when you can legally have sex with a teenager below the age of majority, that is a very different question and not one I am interested in helping with.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:24 PM on October 11 [6 favorites]


every single comment in the thread is anti- adults marrying children.

The horror....
posted by Pendragon at 11:29 PM on October 11 [19 favorites]


> emphatically saying "Adults shouldn't marry children! Full stop! " over-simplifies a complicated issue

directly contradicts

> afaik, every single comment in the thread is anti- adults marrying children.
posted by MiraK at 11:36 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


16 year old's a woman, not a girl. but calling a 25 year old a man, that's extreme. got it.

This is what i said:

When do we stop calling her a "girl" and start calling her a young woman?

That is a question, not a position statement.

Given current thinking re brain development, the 25 year old is still operating with a less-than-adult brain, so referring to him as some pervy adult man preying on a child seems a bit extreme.

The fact (assuming current research is true) that a 26 year old is not yet fully adult in terms of brain development seems relevant here.

My comment raised issues i thought worth considering. I did not say anything approaching the notion that she is a woman/adult, but maybe he gets a pass.

Got it?
posted by she's not there at 11:38 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


> That is a question, not a position statement.

Many questions inherently include a position statement, and yours was one of them. If you don't understand that, try this one:
When do we stop calling your arguments naive and start recognizing them as advocacy of child abuse? That is a question, not a position statement.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:23 AM on October 12 [12 favorites]


Age of consent in states do vary, but that means "we think a person of this age can consent to have sex with a person of similar age or any age" depending on the law.

It does NOT extend to a legal contract, marriage, divorce, or even getting your own bank account or credit card. Many places won't hire people younger than 18. So we could have an uneven marriage and contract law depending on the extremely variable age of consent depending on what city or county you live in - or we can say that marriage should not be entered until it's pretty much overall agreed that you can sign contracts and are a legal adult.

Because right now, young people (especially teen women married to older men) literally may not be able to get their own credit card, bank account, buy a car, buy car insurance, get a cell phone contract, sign a rental lease, get a loan, get a job, vote, join the military, or GET A DIVORCE! Therefore there's a huge area where young people can be taken advantage of or abused or isolated - even accidentally - because the law becomes a gray area where you are literally stuck in a marriage with no agency.

So yeah, sure. I'm okay if a 16 year old wants to have sex - even potentially with someone 19. (I think it is useful to try to proct 16 year olds from say, 50 year olds.) I don't think a 16 year old needs to get married. I don't think we need to rethink and rebend all the laws around contracts/life/adulthood versus matching ONE law - marriage - to legal adulthood.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:45 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]


I... don't see that this particular girl has fewer opportunities and freedoms than she had before she got married. Maybe I'm missing something.

She no longer has the freedom to marry anyone else. Or to leave her current marriage - she can't initiate divorce proceedings, on account of being too young. She also can't get the adult man having sex with her underage self arrested and charged for that. These would all be freedoms she would have without the marriage.
posted by Dysk at 5:23 AM on October 12 [19 favorites]


And like, that child marriage laws somehow trump statutory rape laws is fucking mind boggling. You can rape your spouse. Therefore, all sex between an adult and a child in this kind of marriage ought to be statutory rape. That it isn't is fucking atrocious.
posted by Dysk at 5:25 AM on October 12 [16 favorites]


My wife was over 18 when we married, but in Worldly terms she was still pre teens.
I found out some time later that her father had "arranged" for her to marry the rich farmer's son just down the road.
Being a farmer's daughter, even a rich one(her father), meant she was "useless to the farm" and therefore unwanted.

Her mother, however, had different views.
posted by Burn_IT at 5:31 AM on October 12


There are so many creepy dudes out there that want to bang teen girls and that is not ok in the slightest and I'm horrified when I think back on my friends' and my high school years and all the creepy older dudes in their 20s and 30s that would hit on us. And maybe I'm just feeling jaded today but I don't see this stopping (whether legal or illegal) until the patriarchy doesn't exist anymore...so never I guess.

She now has a legal obligation to this man that she didn’t before marriage.

I'm having a hard time trying to think of obligations that marriage creates. I can see many benefits or drawbacks (talking about marriage in general here, not this specific situation) but nothing obligatory...or maybe I'm just being pedantic.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:38 AM on October 12


Like, if you think twelve or fourteen or even sixteen year olds are or can be mature enough to be considered adults, let's start by giving them the vote, driving licenses, the ability to enter into legal contracts, the right to drink and smoke, etc. Marriage is not where you fucking start if you want to affirm someone's adulthood.
posted by Dysk at 5:40 AM on October 12 [13 favorites]


I'm having a hard time trying to think of obligations that marriage creates.

Legally, they're mostly financial. In practice, it often it creates a lot of obligations for women with regards to caring for their manchild/husband, and running an entire household. And sex.
posted by Dysk at 5:42 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


Given their respective ages when they met, a physical relationship at that time was a second degree felony for the man under PA law.

While the article reports that various friends, family, and co-workers "disapproved" of the relationship and tried to discourage the man from pursuing the girl, nobody -- not the girl, not her parent, not friends, not neighbors, not the parent(s) of the man, not the friends or outraged co-workers of the man -- bothered to pursue a legal remedy by calling the police.

The man was aware of the consequences of his "relationship" with the girl: "He thought about breaking up with Maria all of the time, and about how it could end if he didn’t. With him in jail. With his face on the Pennsylvania sex offender registry. With his life ruined."

So he knew it was wrong and he knew there were real, serious consequences facing men who behaved as he did. He pursued her in spite of it all.

And nobody did anything.

The girl's MOTHER let this man MOVE INTO HER HOME with her young daughter. "But instead he moved into her mother’s house, started calling Maria “wifey” and concocted another cover story. He was living there to help care for her mentally disabled brother, Donte, and nothing more."

How? I can't even.

Let me be clear. My vote is a strong and resounding YES for banning marriage under the age of 18. However, "marriage under the age of 18" is only one small part of what is going wrong here.

This man was not married to the girl when her mother allowed him to move into the home with the girl living there.

Banning child marriage may ban child marriage and that is A GOOD THING. But it isn't going to shut down the travesty of "Mother allows adult man to move into her home and pursue a relationship with her minor daughter."
posted by which_chick at 5:44 AM on October 12 [13 favorites]


I'm entirely willing to believe that teenagers should have more rights and autonomy than the US (and most countries) give them today. . . but, if you can't vote, drink, join the military, rent an apartment or a car, or sign most legally binding documents, getting married seems pretty hard to defend. It's time to stop pretending to respect judges who make these kinds of decisions.

(I guess you can still be tried as an adult throughout the US, even for truancy‽ At least that bit's internally consistent.)
posted by eotvos at 7:51 AM on October 12



Banning child marriage may ban child marriage and that is A GOOD THING. But it isn't going to shut down the travesty of "Mother allows adult man to move into her home and pursue a relationship with her minor daughter."


it easily could help cut down on that, given what happened to this particular mother when she was a teenager herself, as described in the article. you'd hope Maria Vargas won't be that kind of parent herself in 10 years. she doesn't have to be. but if she is, it'll be easy enough to trace how and why it happened.

it's not like adult men going after girls is somehow separable from generations of bad parenting. it's a huge, huge contributing factor in addition to being horrifying all by itself.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:00 AM on October 12 [6 favorites]


But the bigger and more important problem here is that at least some of the young girls who are more-or-less freely choosing to enter into these child marriages are facing significant, relatively-intractable problems in their everyday lives.

This times a thousand.

Like: I have a daughter Maria’s age. I would let a man cut my throat before I would grant my consent to her marriage. But also: my daughter has a lot of other options that I can provide. She’s not a 15-year-old single parent whose own parent has five kids.

What options did Maria have? She wanted to go finish school, but there’s only one high school with a daycare and she can’t afford to move there. She thought she could, because her now-husband had an income, and that income probably looked way bigger to 15-year-old eyes. Like - I legitimately think Maria made the best choice she probably could have - it’s just that all her choices were shitty.

Frowner is right, that solving these problems would radically lower child marriage, because the #1 reason for child marriage is economic desperation.
posted by corb at 8:46 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


afaik, every single comment in the thread is anti- adults marrying children.

When I see like seven comments in a row expressing very similar outrage, I often find it helpful to read even just a comment or two just before that one if I want to identify what people are reacting so strongly to, e.g.:

"I'm struggling a bit with the logic of most of the comments on this thread. I agree that children marrying adults is gross. But just because something is gross doesn't mean it should be illegal. ... I don't think we should focus on outlawing certain types of marriages, ..."

This is an entirely 100% explicit argument that adult-child marriages might be gross, but shouldn't be illegal. I suppose you can shoehorn that into technically being "anti"-adult-child marriages, because the poster paused to say "ew" first, but really there should be no doubt or ambiguity in your mind as to why people are so "inexplicably hostile." It's because we have someone coming out saying adult-child marriage shouldn't be illegal (and engaging in some very offensive comparisons along the way), and now you saying that "My point was that emphatically saying 'Adults shouldn't marry children! Full stop!' over-simplifies a complicated issue..." which cannot be read any other way than that there are some circumstances in which such marriages are acceptable. And chiding us for being outraged. Come on.
posted by praemunire at 8:55 AM on October 12 [18 favorites]


it isn't going to shut down the travesty of "Mother allows adult man to move into her home and pursue a relationship with her minor daughter."

True, but it takes it from "legally-recognized and -supported social arrangement" to "SVU episode." That is not perfect deterrence, but it is certainly desirable.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


IME there's often a clear split between the "youth rights" people who want mechanisms for parentified/unsupported teens to care for themselves and "youth rights" people who want to make it easier for adults to prey on teens. The latter can fuck off and die.

The cell phone company guy who let me enter a contract alone at seventeen should not have been breaking the law. The creep in this article should have.
posted by bagel at 9:13 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


I absolutely hate, with a burning passion, the "older than her years" bullshit. It is like a pure distillation of all the awful of patriarchy in a single short sentence.

What "older than her years", or the more common "girls mature faster than boys" line really means is: girl children are subject to sexual abuse, harassment, or at least ogling and sexualization, from infancy onward and for their sanity they have to learn to deal with that somehow. Most girls are sexualized long before they get breasts, and once they do patriarchy treats those girls as acceptable targets of male sexual aggression.

Boys are permitted a long childhood. You'll remember that one refrain from conservatives defending the misdeeds, sexual and otherwise, of men is that it was mere "youthful indiscretions". Men are permitted to be callow youths, people it would be deeply wrong to hold accountable for their own actions, for most of their lives. Well, white men anyway, black boys have something nearly as awful forced on them as white girls do.

But girls are always, by default, presumed to be "mature". Because creepy older men demand they must be so as to justify their own sexual aggression towards those girls.

I taught 8th grade in a rural school, and that's an age where people's bodies are all over the place in terms of physical development. I had students with the bodies of small children who were exactly the same age as students with the bodies of young adults. My fellow teachers, including and often especially the women, treated the girls who had more developed bodies as mini-adults, demanded much higher standards of behavior from them, held them to account for any sexual aggression they were subjected to, and basically fully bought into the "mature beyond her years" bullshit.

My principal, also a woman, once spent some time at a school assembly lecturing the girls to the effect that the dress code was in place so that they wouldn't distract the boys.

Simple possession of hips and breasts was assumed to have catapulted the minds of those girls into early onset adulthood. With the less physically developed girls only marginally less subject to the assumption of adulthood.

Yet the boys were not similarly assumed to be adult, and to have the responsibilities for their own actions as adults, regardless of their physical development. Tall muscular boys who shaved and otherwise had the bodies of young men were presumed to be their physical age, given the leeway granted to children, and certainly not held accountable for their own actions to the degree that the girls were.

We cannot fix all of patriarchy in a single stroke. But we can damn well ban child marriage and grant no exceptions at all to that ban. A girl does not magically become an adult, nor mature, just because she grows breasts and the creepy old men start leering at her.

There is never a justification for child marriage. Ban it and we can keep chipping away at the rest of the whole awful structure of patriarchy.
posted by sotonohito at 10:28 AM on October 12 [33 favorites]


> My principal, also a woman, once spent some time at a school assembly lecturing the girls to the effect that the dress code was in place so that they wouldn't distract the boys

In an on-line group I'm on for Girl Scout leaders, in a recent discussion about what Cadettes (ages 11 - 13, roughly) should be allowed to wear at meetings, one of the other leaders -- a GIRL SCOUT LEADER -- said that when a meeting was held at her house, she made one girl put on a sweater before she came in because the leader's husband and their teenage son would be home and they "didn't need to see skin-tight clothes on a teen girl."
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:23 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]


The idea that teenage girls are more mature than grown men or that women of any age are more mature than men is another perpetuation of the idea that women are naturally disposed to do all of the emotional labor and care-providing in any situation while men cannot be expected to even take care of themselves.

Even when the man in the situation is an actual adult, and the "woman" in the situation is a child, like here.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:08 PM on October 12 [26 favorites]


There is a lot of judgement in this thread, aimed at the husband (warranted), the mother (not so much) and your fellow site members (not at all). The last of these is exactly the behaviour that led many people to talk about the hostility in the recent Metatalk threads.

As for the mother: have you ever tried to stop a teenager from doing what they really, really want to do? When my brother was that age, he would not go to school. My mom would leave at 7am for work, and he would just stay in bed. She found out after a bit, but she couldn't make him go; she didn't have time to escort him to school, but even if she had he could have walked out and gone home. This went on for months, he failed his grade. Finally, when he was 16 (and it was legal), she took him out of school and took him to her work. She thought this would scare him back, experiencing how much more work it was to go to work. She worked at a non-profit, so she volunteered him, but he did full 8 hour days (just like her).

It didn't work. She thought he would run back to school for the next semester. I would have. But he didn't. He never did - and my mother couldn't do anything about it.

For this mother, what could she have done, short of confining her daughter? Probably would have had to literally tie her up. He daughter had already been hanging out with older people, been in a non-consensual-because-she-couldnt-consent-but-not-unwilling relationship with a 19-year-old (who was charge with kidnapping but that doesn't tell us whether the daughter wanted to go with him). Even after all that, her daughter was clearly getting involved with another older man. The mother may have thought that if she forbade the relationship, her daughter would just run away - and that by allowing it, maybe she could supervise it some. (Not ideal - but in her view a better of bad choices).

As for calling the cops: would anyone seriously suggest this if the mother were a black woman with a criminal record? She may be white, but she's definitely not in a good place with the authorities. If she had called the police on the husband, it was a very good chance she would have been found at fault as well by CFS and lost custody of the rest of her children. 'Good' some of you might think. But I've had experience with the foster care system and it is never a good option, just sometimes the only option. But the bad effects on children who go through foster care are well documented and scarring.

Reading this story: I remember being 13 and thinking I was old enough to be making out with my brother's 18-year old friend, regardless of what anyone else thought. And I remember my mom, desperate to keep my brother from going off the rails, and nothing that she tried made a difference.

Whether the mom did the right thing or not is something I don't care to debate. But I wish that my fellow metafilter members would remember that people are people and are sometimes just trying their best in difficult circumstances.
posted by jb at 12:25 PM on October 13


What does any of that have to do with wanting child marriage to be illegal?
posted by agregoli at 1:14 PM on October 13 [15 favorites]


(I can't help but think that if it WAS illegal, mom could put out a restraining order or file even more serious charges against the creepo who is "dating" her daughter. So THAT'S how you could stop a teen from doing what they really, really want to do.)
posted by agregoli at 1:22 PM on October 13 [6 favorites]


But the bad effects on children who go through foster care are well documented and scarring.

So are the bad effects of being a child bride.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:52 PM on October 13 [12 favorites]


At an absolute minimum, mom did not have to let him move in.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:18 AM on October 14 [2 favorites]


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