Category Archives: Genarlow Wilson

Genarlow Wilson is Free

I posted yesterday at that he had been ordered freed, but this morning’s Times has photos of him outside the prison. It’s about time!

That’s the good news, and I wish the best to Wilson and his family. We’ve been pulling for Wilson for a long time here at Sex in the Public Square. And we know it is not easy to put a life back together after spending time in prison, and Wilson’s prospects — which had looked bright — have been damaged. We hope he finds the kind of external support and inner resources necessary to make things work.

At the same time, we need to remember that Genarlow Wilson was not the only one. The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran this piece yesterday describing how other teens have been caught up in sex offender registration rules for consensual sexual activity.

We need a serious discussion in this country teens and sex. Right now we’re in the untenable position of denying teens sex education, thus making it very difficult for them to make smart sexual decisions, and then treating them like criminals when they have sex.

We need to treat teens like they are people with rights, and we need to treat sex as a legitimate human interest. There are lots of ways that teens need support as they develop their sexualities. Draconian enforcement of age-of-consent laws is not one of them.

UPDATE: I’ve created a forum on where we can have that discussion. Click here if you’d like to join in

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Filed under culture, Genarlow Wilson, moral panic, News and politics, public discourse, sex, sex and the law, sex crimes, sex education, sexuality, sexuality and age

Genarlow Wilson is not yet free

Many many thanks to our indefatigable virtual-girl-reporter JanieBelle for her continued updates on the Genarlow Wilson debacle. She’s been leaving her updates in the comments on this post, but I thought I’d summarize here.

Last Thursday Wilson’s defense team was in court before Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson asking that he be released because he was being improperly imprisoned. This was a habeas corpus action. The judge issued his ruling on Monday,and according to a CNN story pointed out by JanieBelle the ruling stated that:

Genarlow Wilson’s punishment was cruel and unusual and voided it on constitutional grounds. The judge reduced the sentence to one year and said Wilson should not be put on Georgia’s sex offender registry, as the old law required.

Georgia’s Attorney General Thurbert Baker immediately appealed. At issue according to AG Wilson is whether the Superior Court judge has the authority to modify a sentence passed by a trial court. On a habeas corpus action a judge can throw out a sentence, but he generally can’t modify it. (Tom, do please consider stepping in here to keeping me from drowning. I’m just about over my head!)

So, Genarlow Wilson remains in prison despite what sounded like good news earlier in the day, and the lawyers will fight over an important procedural point that may not lead to justice when what is really needed is a quick path to a just and rational outcome.


Filed under civil rights, culture, discrimination, Genarlow Wilson, inequality, News and politics, public discourse, racism, sex, sex and the law, sex crimes, sexuality and age

Update in Genarlow Wilson Case

Today Wilson’s supporters were in court petitioning for his release. They report on the Wilson Appeal web site that the judge will issue his ruling on Monday. Watch that space (and this one) for information.

Genarlow Wilson is the young man, now 21 who was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole — and lifelong registration as a sex offender — for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. He has served more than two years of that sentence. Since his conviction of aggravated child molestation the Georgia state laws have been changed to make what he did a misdemeanor rather than a felony, but those laws were not made retroactive and so have not affected the outcome of his case.

The Georgia Assembly has grappled with that omission and, though hard to believe, some have actively argued that the new law should not be applied to Wilson or any others similarly situated. In fact, Georgia Senator Eric Johnson, who believes Wilson’s sentence to be just, continued to trot out the videotape of a rape that occurred at the party where Wilson’s sex act also occured — a rape Wilson was found innocent of having any part in — in such a way as to inflame the moral panic around teens and sex, and to conflate force and consent.

I hope the judge who presided over today’s hearings is a reasonable one.
Click here for all Sex in the Public Square posts that make reference to Genarlow Wilson’s case.

And a tip of the hat to JanieBelle for sending this CNN story on Wilson’s hearing today just as I was finishing this post!


Filed under Genarlow Wilson, moral panic, News and politics, sex, sex and the law, sexuality and age

A stroll around the square

My partner and I are unplugging ourselves from the grid for 10 days!

Well, perhaps we’ll check email now and then, but probably we wont, and if we do, we probably won’t answer. We’ve spent altogether too much time at our desks in the same room studiously ignoring each other while we’ve been working feverishly on assorted projects, and now we need to spend some time being more than “co-present.”

We’ll be in a pine grove in New Hampshire, in a cabin without a telephone, on bit of land that separates a lake from the river that it feeds. It is a beautiful spot, and after the electronic withdrawal wears off I intend to enjoy the chirping of crickets and the calls of the red wing blackbirds, instead of the chirping of my email and the calls of my IM (though I very much love the conversations that those beckoning sounds elicit).

You, in the meantime, should feel free to wander the public square looking at the artifacts left here over the past 11 months. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since I started this blog, but indeed it has.
In that time, we’ve talked about sex workers, sexually oriented businesses, abortion and contraception, the pink ghetto, the complications of sexual orientation and gender categories, age of consent, sex offender legislation, and, of course, we’ve talked about the way people talk about all of these things.

If this were a public square in real physical space, I imagine it would be populated with interesting coffee shops and book stores and lamp posts where flyers for parties and discussions and workshops and demonstrations would flutter, ragged bottoms where all the “call for more information” tabs have been torn off. There would be groups of people standing around, hanging out, chatting, gossiping or engrossed in serious conversations about local or national or international issues. There would be kids playing and arguing and sorting things out for themselves. There would be music and their would be art.

If this were a public square in physical space I would take you on a tour and point out all the spots where groups of people gathered to discuss this issue or that bit of news. So imagine for a moment that it is. Stroll for a little while through the less well-lit, less popular but very interesting spots in our public square.

There are, of course, the spots that everybody stops by: the place where we talked about the perils of posting naked pictures on the Internet, or the place where we argued about whether teen girls had gone wild differently from teen boys, or the place where a Tom Joaquin informed us that vibrators were more dangerous than guns if you lived in Alabama.

But there are other spots that people forget and I want to take you for a walk past some of my favorites.

Here, back in July, I stood on my soapbox and argued that we really must reconceptualize sexual orientation categories, and that “heterosexual” people need to come out about all their orientations to sex. I was on this particular soapbox in part because of a ridiculous policy decision about condoms for prisoners (namely, not to distribute condoms because the prisoners weren’t “gay”.) Frank discussion of sexual practices is going to be a big focus of the forums in the expanded Public Square.

And here, back in August, just a few months before the Mark Foley scandal broke, I raised questions about an article in the New York Times that profiled teenage interns of 30-something employers who seemed to blur the lines between employer and friend.

Earlier, near the opening of the Public Square, we argued about whether conservative Christian kink-friendly web sites and stores were a positive development or an exploitive maneuver.

And more recently do you remember when we stood around and talked about whether or not sex offender residency restrictions made sense and about the absurd outcomes of certain sex-offense prosecutions? Remember Genarlow Wilson and Jule Amero?

There’s been a lot going on around here, and there’s a lot more to come. When I return in 10 days we should be just about ready to cut the ribbon on the new space.

I think we need to plan a block party!


Filed under culture, Genarlow Wilson, public discourse, sex

Sex Ed(itorials) in the New York Times.

The New York Times had two important editorials in the past three days dealing with important issues of sex and policy.

Today‘s took up the case, again, of Genarlow Wilson, the young man in Georgia who is still serving time in prison for the consensual oral sex he had when he was 17 with a girl who was two years younger. Specifically, the Times chastises the DA in the case for continuing to focus on the rape that occurred at that party (of which Wilson was acquitted) and even circulating the video that was made of the rape, as part of his lobbying effort against Genarlow Wilson’s release. This after the legislature in Georgia corrected its own laws to make the sex that Wilson had a misdemeanor rather than a felony as it was when he had it. (My other posts on Wilson’s case here, here, and here.

And this past Saturday, the Times called on Congress to drop the “abstinence only” and encourage teaching about abstinence to be a part of a comprehensive sex education program. This after a major study, mandated by Congress, of four abstinence only programs implemented in middle schools showed absolutely no impact on the choices that subjects made about whether and when to engage in sex. Saturday’s editorial mentions that at least 9 states have given up the federal matching grants because they could not, in good conscience, bring themselves to “forbid the promotion of contraceptive use and require teaching that sex outside marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects” which is what the federal program requires.

It’s good to see sensible sex talk in the mainstream press, and since it happens not-as-frequently as I’d like, I’ve decided to spotlight it when I can. If you come across an editorial about sex that you think is particularly appropriate for this site, please feel free to send it along! (Use the Email Elizabeth contact form.)

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Filed under abstinence only, Education, Genarlow Wilson, Health, News and politics, public discourse, sex and health, sex crimes, sex education, sexuality and age