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78 UMKC L. Rev. 241 (2009-2010)
Romeo and Juliet Were Sex Offenders: An Analysis of the Age of Consent and a Call for Reform

handle is hein.journals/umkc78 and id is 243 raw text is: ROMEO AND JULIET WERE SEX OFFENDERS: AN
Steve James*
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is familiar to most as the ultimate
tale of young love. The story, of course, centers on two teenagers-a thirteen-
year-old girl, Juliet, and an older boy, Romeo-who fall madly in love.'
Ultimately, though, their love faces great challenges and tragedy because of a
feud between their families, the Capulets and the Montagues. This seemingly
irrational focus on family ties that prevents her from being with Romeo prompts
Juliet to famously ask, [w]hat's in a name?92
Asking about the significance of a name perfectly captured the couple's
plight in Shakespeare's time, but if the two were transported to modem day
America, a more appropriate question might be what's in an age? Because
Juliet is only thirteen and Romeo is an older teen, their romance would face
serious problems regarding the age of consent for sexual activity. In many states,
Romeo, and perhaps Juliet, could be arrested and face prosecution because of
their ages When faced with multiple years in prison and a lifetime on the sex
offender registry, a family feud may not seem like that big of a deal by
comparison. While the idea of Romeo and Juliet being prosecuted as sex
offenders may seem absurd, the reality is that it has happened and could happen
to many modem teens.
One of these modem day Romeos is Frank Rodriguez. In 1996, Frank was
a Texas high school senior and his girlfriend Nikki Prescott was a freshman.4 At
Nikki's suggestion, the couple had consensual sex. According to Nikki, and as
many can probably imagine, what they did was not out of the ordinary.6 Many of
her friends were having sex and many were dating older guys.7 It did not seem
like a big deal. According to Texas law, though, it was a big deal.8 Because
Frank was nineteen and Nikki was only fifteen, what Frank had done was illegal
even though the two were dating, both parties consented, and Nikki even
* J.D., 2009, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. The author thanks Professor Sean
O'Brien for his guidance and assistance with this Comment.
I WILLIAM   SHAKESPEARE, ROMEO  AND   JULIET  act  1, sc. 2, available  at
http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeojuliet/full.html. The play does not specify Romeo's exact age,
only that he is older than Juliet.
2 Id. at act 2, sc. 2.
' See infra Part III.A.
4 John Stossel, Gena Binkley & Andrew G. Sullivan, The Age of Consent: When Young Love Is a
Sex Crime, ABC NEWS, Mar. 7, 2008, http://abcnews.go.com/2020/StosselVStory?id=4400537.
8 See. TEx. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.11 (Vernon 2009).

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