Another day, another teenager hooking up with an adult. Only this time, we've got much ado about nothing. Eliza Kruger is a 17-year-old rich girl from New York City who told Deadspin she has allegedly been dating Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez is 24. Cue the calls for Sanchez's head, the claims that he's a pedophile or worse (is there anything worse?). Yup, they're all coming out of the woodwork to call the head of gang green every name in the book and comparing him to some of the biggest pervs in history and calling him a statutory rapist.
Unfortunately -- fortunately? -- they're all wrong. Sanchez is nothing like Stacy Schuler, the teacher accused of having sex with five of her students this school year. He's nothing like Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who first made the Van Halen song icky when she got pregnant by her 13-year-old student, then married him.
Why not? Because what Sanchez and Eliza Kruger have been doing -- if allegations prove true -- is 100 percent legal. According to the Deadspin story, Sanchez even made it a point to tell the 17-year-old he'd keep his hands off her until she was 18. Not exactly pervy material there.
But even more importantly, Mark Sanchez -- or the average adult male dating an older teen -- does not hold the same power over a teen as, say, a teacher or a clergyperson, people who are in positions of authority and are abusing them when they have a relationship with a teen in their care.
Let's look at the definition of a pedophile, shall we? According to Dictionary.com, it's:
A person who is sexually attracted to children.
As parents, it's hard to face this, but eventually our teenagers aren't children anymore. State laws vary, but a host of them consider not 18 but 16 or 17 as the "age of consent" for sexual acts, even with a man of Sanchez's age. In the eyes of the law, they're not children. They're adults, legally able to make their own choices in the bedroom.
I'll admit some bias here. My husband is four and a half years older than me. We started dating shortly before my 17th birthday. The age difference was smaller than that between Kruger and Sanchez, but not by much. I was also a high school graduate, and my parents' hands were tied. I was legally allowed to call the shots, and hindsight offers me the ability to say it worked. We later settled down, married, bought a house, had a kid.
We expect our kids to make adult choices all the time. These days many kids enter college at 17. They leave home. They're acting as adults. But we remain terrified of them making their own sexual choices. Sure, parents should worry when an older man starts paying attention to their teen daughter. Why can't he pick someone his own age, is he taking advantage of her inexperience? It's good parenting to care and to say something.
But the law has spoken. Teens need to shed us at some point. Choosing their own sexual partners is part of that waltz into independence. The key is whether they're choosing them or being forced to choose. With a teacher, it's clear "free will" is out the window. But in the case of Eliza Kruger and Mark Sanchez, it's a case of a 17-year-old legally doing what she wants with a sexy older guy. It really is her problem, not the world's.
Do you think Sanchez is a perv?
Image via Seamus Murray/Flickr