At the 47th annual conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) on Saturday, Dr. Marshall Burns, president of SOL Research, presented preliminary results of a new project underway.
“Soon after we first posted results of our research on sex laws back in 2007,” said Burns, “we began to be contacted by individuals complaining of being treated as abuse victims when they disagree.” He describes a call from a young woman he calls Amber. “She asked if was okay for her to contact her boyfriend in prison now that she was 18.”
Amber was 13 when she met Terry at a carnival. He was 18 and she lied and told him she was 16. They dated for eight months before a teacher in her school heard about the relationship and reported it. “Things were twisted around to make it look like he abused me,” complained Amber, insisting that isn’t true.
SOL Research launched the Consenting Juveniles project to find out if there are more people who enjoyed physical intimacy as juveniles with someone older and hold it as a positive experience in their lives. “It seems like a common experience, but many people are reluctant to talk about it,” says Burns.
Burns has now interviewed more that 50 people in this project and has found over 70 published accounts, such as autobiographies and broadcast interviews in which people talk about their youthful experiences. Most of his own interview subjects have requested anonymity, but the published accounts include such celebrities as Kirk Douglas, Kate Winslet, Ike Turner, Franco Zeffirelli, and Dan Savage. They also include Roger Baldwin, co-founder of the ACLU, and Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association.
First-hand accounts of all these cases are available on the “Cases” page of the project website, www.ConsentingJuveniles.com/cases .
A number of prominent psychologists have endorsed the research. Prof. Elaine Hatfield, former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, calls it “important research that makes a greatly needed contribution to the literature.” Prof. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University describes it as “a fascinating, urgently needed, heartrending project.” Prof. Alissa Ackerman says it “puts a face and a voice to a topic that is timely, necessary, and, too often, ignored.” Dr. Winston Wilde calls it “unparalleled in any previous research.” The late senator John Vasconcellos expressed an interest in writing a letter of endorsement before his death in 2014.
The complete letters of endorsement can be found on the “About” page of the project website, www.ConsentingJuveniles.com/About_the_Research .
Dr. Burns’ presentation at the AASECT conference, entitled, Consenting Juveniles: First-Hand Accounts of Sex for Fun or Love, was in the Research Briefs track at 11:45 am on Saturday, June 6, 2015. The conference was held at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more on the conference, see www.AASECTconference.org .
The point of the research, according to Burns, is to listen to what these people have to say about their youthful experiences. “We don’t have the answers about what is okay for kids to do and what is not okay, about what is healthy or not, or about what should or shouldn’t be legal,” he said. “But if you’re going to talk about those things, the thoughts and feelings of these people ought to be heard in that discussion. That’s the purpose of this research.”
More information about the Consenting Juveniles project is available at the project website, www.ConsentingJuveniles.com .
SOL Research™ (www.SOLresearch.org) conducts research on sex laws and their effects on people and society. SOL Research is a project of Ennex Corporation. Ennex™ (www.Ennex.com) is a family of small companies founded by Marshall Burns in 1975 to take on extraordinary challenges and opportunities.
“Consenting Juveniles” is a trademark of SOL Research.