This New Yorker magazine article on the sex offender registry gives some insight into how adult Americans can profit financially when teenagers have sex (and not through the typical path of “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”). Here are some excerpts:
[Anthony] Metts [unwisely agreeing to be interviewed without an attorney present] told [police] that when he was eighteen he dated a girl who was three years younger. And he’d also had a brief sexual relationship with a girl more than three years younger, whom he met during his junior year of high school, when she was a freshman.
When the officers turned the information over to the Midland District Attorney’s Office, the D.A. filed two felony indictments for sexual assault of a child, based on the age-of-consent laws in Texas at the time.
He decided to take a plea deal: a suspended sentence and ten years of probation.
Metts, who was twenty-one by then, read the terms of his post-plea life. For the next decade, he’d be barred from alcohol and the Internet; from entering the vicinity of schools, parks, bus stops, malls, and movie theatres; and from living within a thousand feet of a “child-safety zone.” A mugshot of his curly-haired, round-cheeked face would appear for life on the Texas sex-offender registry, beside the phrase “Sexual Assault of a Child.” And he would have to start sex-offender treatment.
The treatment plan was extensive. He was told to write up a detailed sexual history, and then to discuss it with a room full of adults, some of whom had repeatedly committed child assaults. … To graduate, he would have to narrate his “assaults” in detail: “How many buttons on her shirt did you unbutton?”
The plan also included a monthly polygraph (a hundred and fifty dollars) and a computerized test that measured how long his eyes lingered on deviant imagery (three hundred and twenty-five dollars). He would also have to submit to a “penile plethysmograph,” or PPG. According to documents produced by the state of Texas, the PPG—known jokingly to some patients as a “peter meter”—is “a sophisticated computerized instrument capable of measuring slight changes in the circumference of the penis.” A gauge is wrapped around the shaft of the penis, with wires hooked up to a laptop, while a client is presented with “sexually inappropriate” imagery and, often, “deviant” sexual audio. Metts would be billed around two hundred dollars per test.
The PPG was invented in the nineteen-fifties by a sexologist from Czechoslovakia, and used by the Czech military to expose soldiers suspected of pretending to be gay in order to avoid service.
When Metts balked at what felt to him like technological invasions—not least the prospect of having a stranger measure his penis—he was jailed for ten days. A new round of weekly therapy sessions (thirty dollars for group, and fifty dollars for one-on-one) then commenced.
Eventually, he agreed to acknowledge how he’d “groomed” his “victims”: in one case, they’d gone to dinner, a movie, and—for a Halloween date—to a local haunted house.
Metts settled into his new life in the oil fields, reluctantly accommodating an array of strictures that he regarded as pointless. Each Halloween, for instance, he reported to the county probation office with dozens of other local sex offenders, and was held from 6 to 10 P.M. and shown movies like “Iron Man 2,” until trick-or-treating was over. “If someone’s that dangerous that they need to be locked up, what about all of the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year?” he asked me.
In 2006, he fell in love with a deputy sheriff’s daughter. One night, he took her out to his favorite Italian place in Odessa, ordered two steaks with risotto, and arranged for the waiter to bring out a dessert menu that read, among the à-la-carte selections, “Will you marry me?” She said yes, and a baby girl soon followed. “My daughter was a blessing and a miracle to me,” Metts told me. But it also introduced him to a troubling new aspect of his life on the registry.
Metts, then twenty-four, learned that he wouldn’t be allowed to see his daughter. His status banned him from living with her, and thus with his wife.
One night, a former classmate saw Metts buying a sandwich at Walmart and shouted a slur at him; she’d seen his face on the registry for “Sexual Assault of a Child.” Rattled, he went to Buffalo Wild Wings to down a beer, and got busted. Metts had a record of technical violations, so a judge ordered him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, administered by a private monitoring company that charged several hundred dollars a month. The device would notify the authorities of any infractions—stepping too close to a mall, park, bar, or church, or leaving the county without permission.
In the eighth year of his ten-year probation term, Metts decided to reënter the world.
He’d failed to charge his ankle bracelet properly, and the battery died at around 5 P.M. Shortly before midnight, his probation officer arrived at his door: she’d be filing to revoke his probation. A few weeks later, Metts was led into a courtroom in hand-cuffs, leg cuffs, and a chain around his waist connecting them. “I looked like Hannibal Lecter without the mask,” he told me. The judge’s name sounded familiar: she had helped prosecute his original case. … The judge took some time to think it over. The next morning, she sentenced Metts to ten years in prison.
This past July, I drove around Midland, Texas, trying to find the girls—now women—who were involved in Anthony Metts’s case. Having no luck with doorbells, I left notes, and two days later I got a call from one of them. “I never wanted Anthony to be prosecuted,” she told me. “It was a consensual relationship—the kind when you’re young and you’re stupid. My mom knew about it. We’d go on dates, drive around, hang out.” She was shocked to learn of Metts’s fate: his nine-plus years of probation, his current decade of incarceration. “I told [law enforcement] that I didn’t feel like he should have to be prosecuted,” she said.
Obviously life in the U.S. hasn’t work out well for Mr. Metts (nor for any of the other people profiled in the article who got onto a sex offender registry; the registry idea plus the Internet plus the fact that sex with a 15-year-old may be described in the same way as sex with a 3-year-old means that holding a job is generally impossible). But the groups of adults who profited financially from the two teenagers having sex includes at least the following: (1) police officers, (2) prosecutors, (3) defense lawyers, (3) judges, (4) court officials, (5) prison guards and managers, (6) probation officers, (7) therapists, (8) polygraph technicians, (9) penis testing technicians, (10) electronic bracelet vendors, (11) electronic bracelet monitoring technicians.