Genarlow Wilson was convicted under Georgia state law of “aggravated child molestation” for receiving oral sex from a 15-year old girl who “willingly” performed it, according to facts undisputed at trial. News reports including this one from the New York Times describe the Wilson case as involving “consensual oral sex.” Such accounts appear to be accurate, insofar as the court record reflects that the girl’s participation was voluntary. But one fact in the case that is never mentioned is that however consensual the particular sex act was, but it was not reciprocated.
Had Mr. Wilson performed but not received oral sex, would he have been prosecuted? Probably. The prosecution had racial overtones. And because of the girl’s age, the law doubts (or ignores) the voluntariness of her participation, whether as performer or as recipient. But why is the same not true of his participation? Why is a male minor’s ability to consent not doubted or disregarded? Why was the boy prosecuted but the girl was not? [Update: I’ve checked the Georgia statute O.C.G.A. Sec. 16-6-4 and it appears that “aggravated child molestation” applies only where the victim is 13-15 years old. Therefore, because Mr. Wilson was 17 years old at the time of the incident, he would not be within the statutory age range for “victims.”]
By posing this question, I do not suggest that the girl should have been prosecuted. I thought that Wilson’s conviction and sentence to eleven years in prison was outrageous. I agreed with the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court to release him from jail. I do not think either of them should have been prosecuted. But note that the Wilson case takes a particular view of both black male sexuality and black female sexuality. The male is the predator and the female is the prey, with no possibility for role reversal or mutuality of desire.