50 DePaul L. Rev. 897 (2000-2001)
Contextual Factors That Perpetuate Statutory Rape: The Influence of Gender Roles, Sexual Socialization and Sociocultural Factors

handle is hein.journals/deplr50 and id is 907 raw text is: CONTEXTUAL FACTORS THAT PERPETUATE
STATUTORY RAPE: THE INFLUENCE OF
GENDER ROLES, SEXUAL SOCIALIZATION
AND SOCIOCULTURAL FACTORS
Gary W. Harper*
INTRODUCTION
Childhood and adolescent sexuality are complex phenomena that
are impacted by a host of cultural, developmental, environmental, and
familial factors. As young people traverse the developmental path-
way to adult sexuality, some are confronted with unwanted or prema-
ture sexual activity with an adult that can have deleterious
psychological, social, or physical consequences. Given the power dif-
ferential that exists between adults and youth, one that is intensified
in male and female dyadic relationships, young people who are in-
volved in such sexual interactions are often not capable of protecting
themselves from the dangers of sexual contact with adults. Thus, vari-
ous statutory rape laws have been developed in the United Sates and
elsewhere to protect young people from sexual coercion and exploita-
tion by adults.1
Although these laws have a long history and have undergone nu-
merous transformations throughout the years,2 there has been a re-
cent focus on reexamining the status and heightened enforcement of
statutory rape laws. Many scholars view this reinvigorated examina-
tion of statutory rape laws as being attributed to the presumed rela-
tionship between heterosexual statutory rape involving an adult male
and younger female, and teenage pregnancy.3 If statutory rape does
* Ph.D., M.P.H. Assistant Professor of Psychology. DePaul University Department of Psy-
chology. I am especially grateful to the DePaul Law Review, the symposium editors Meg
Caponigri (class of 2001) and Krista Sorvino (class of 2000), and Michelle Oberman for inviting
me to participate in the Symposium. I would also like to thank Ana Pedraza for her reflections
and contributions to portions of this manuscript, and Tioni McCoy for her assistance in the
preparation of the final manuscript.
1. See Wallace Loh, Q:What Has Reform of Rape Legislation Wrought? A: Truth in Criminal
Labeling, 37 J. Soc. ISSUEs 33 (1981); Michelle Oberman, Turning Girls Into Women: Reevaluat-
ing Modern Statutory Rape Law, 85 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 15, 19 (1994).
2. Oberman, supra note 1, at 24-36.
3. Jacqueline Darroch et al., Age Differences Between Sexual Partners in the United States, 31
FAM. PLAN. PERSP. 160, 166 (1999); Patricia Donovan, Can Statutory Rape Laws Be Effective in

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