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Older partner’s not good for teen girls or boys

Teen sensation Justin Bieber has been making headlines since 20-year-old Mariah Yeater came forward and alleged he fathered her child. As parents everywhere cringed over the graphic sexual details, others raised questions about the age difference between Bieber and his accuser.

Yeater, who was 19 at the time of the alleged sexual encounter — which Bieber has been vehemently refuting — was three years older than Bieber and therefore subject to potential statutory rape charges. In California — where the tryst reportedly occurred — it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 18. (In Yeater’s case, any charge would be a misdemeanor since she is not more than three years older than Bieber.)

Although paternity in this case has not yet been proven, I think the controversy raises an important teachable moment for parents and teens. We often hear “age ain’t nothing but a number,” and many couples with age differences are proof positive that May-December romances are valid, yet when it comes to adolescence, this simply is not the case. The teenage years are a time of intense physical, emotional and sexual development, and even a difference of a few years can lead to undue sexual pressure and serious complications.

A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that teen girls with older male partners are more likely to be sexually active, less likely to use contraceptives, and more likely to face an unintended pregnancy.

The same is true for young boys. In today’s society, people often applaud an adolescent boy’s initiation into sexuality, even if (or especially if) it involves an older woman. Yet a teenage boy’s body deserves the same protection and his sexuality deserves the same respect, and until we stop differentiating between the value of male and female sexuality, teens everywhere will be at great risk of unwanted sexual advances and peer pressure.

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