DEAR ABBY: My husband's brother and his wife have been through a month of pure hell because of something their son unwittingly did. He thought it was OK to have sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend because she consented. ("Joe," our nephew, is also 17.) They had been dating for a year and seemed to be very much in love. Their first sexual encounter was three months ago.
To his horror, he learned the hard way that it is a felony in California for a minor male to have consensual sex with a female who is under the age of 18 and is not his wife.
Our society has been teaching sex education and preaching safe sex. Young people have been lectured on the danger of contracting AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, but educators and parents forget to reinforce the fact that sexual relations are against the law in some states if either party is underage -- even though both parties have agreed to it.
Abby, all it takes to land a young man in criminal court is for a girlfriend to become angry and seek revenge by crying rape, or for her parents to become irate and file a complaint. The boy can then be sent to juvenile hall, the boys' ranch or even the California Youth Authority.
We need to rethink our sex education programs to include the legal ramifications as well as the emotional and physical pitfalls. -- AUNT OF GOOD BOY IN TROUBLE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR AUNT: I agree; the legal consequences of sexual relations should also be taught in schools.