Sending dirty stories to a 17 year old
March 15, 2007 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Is it illegal for me to send dirty, dirty stories to a 17-year-old in Oregon?

I need help proofreading a number of pieces of short fiction, several of which contain very explicit sex scenes. I've gotten one volunteer for the project, who happens to be 17 years old. My gut feeling is that the law would frown on me sending stories containing explicit sex to a minor, but I can't find any legal information to back this guess up. This teenager would have no trouble walking into a local Barnes & Noble and buying equally explicit material in the romance or erotica sections, but would the fact that an adult was sending (emailing, in this case) the material warrant fines or worse?

I am in California, and the teenager in question is in Oregon, if state law makes a difference.
posted by Kemayo to Law & Government (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From a non-expert point of view, I would say yes. The age of consent in Oregon is 18, so it looks like any way you legally slice it the person is a minor, which could land you in hot water if parents were to somehow find out. Better safe than sorry.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2007

We here in Oregon tend not to mess around with our statutory/child-porn/internet-soliciting laws. So I would say find someone 18+ to do this kind of thing. Plus You might end up on FoxNews12 with some kind of “California Child-Porn Creeps North!” cyber-sting story.
posted by French Fry at 3:44 PM on March 15, 2007

If you're aware that the person on the other end is a minor, your best bet is to steer clear of anything sexual.

It doesn't really matter what the law is. The problem here is there are so many places with jurisdiction: FBI offices in every state your communication passes through or is stored in; state prosecutors in every state your communication passes through or is stored in; etc. Basically you have no idea what law may be applied to your communication, so you have to adopt the lowest-common-denominator approach.

Here is the law in, say, Texas:

"A person who is 17 years of age or older commits an offense if, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person, over the Internet or by electronic mail or a commercial online service, intentionally: (1) communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor "

The consequences are so harsh that I would deeply advise against sending anything sexual to any known minor. Indeed, the "17-year-old" you're communicating with may be a 50-year-old FBI agent.
posted by jellicle at 3:48 PM on March 15, 2007

Let's say it's absolutely legal (I have no idea, but let's just go with that hypothetical for a sec...). Would you be okay with his parents, your employer and future employers, neighbors, friends, and relatives taking the worst possible interpretation of your intentions? (Keeping in mind how disgusted people were by Mark Foley even when it looked like the worst he'd done was far less explicit that what you propose.) If so, go ahead with considering this a question for the internets legal research service. But this doesn't strike me as a legal question. It's PR. Bad, baaaad PR.

You would be sensible to pick a different volunteer even if a bona fide lawyer is able to point to some statute putting this one in the clear.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:54 PM on March 15, 2007

Better yet, is sending this material to a minor something you can live with when you look at yourself in the mirror? This just seems so...creepy. Can't you find someone a little older to edit this content?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:55 PM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:55 PM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really hope for your sake you haven't sent anything already.

Myself? I just get visions of people going "Oh, that Dateline 'To Catch A Predator' thing couldn't possibly happen to me!"

The cops are actively out looking for sexual preditors. While you haven't shown anything so far that would even lead someone to believe you were one, something like this could get you attention that I assure you that you don't want.

I'd find another volunteer, pronto, and quickly forget the email address of this particular correspondent.
posted by plaidrabbit at 4:00 PM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

On second thought I'm going to side with nakedcodemonkey on the PR front, because I just saw the look on someone's face when they passed my computer here at work and saw "oregon age of consent" in my google search box.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:00 PM on March 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

I think you should tell this voluntary reading/editing organization that you need an editing partner who is old enough to read this material.
posted by parmanparman at 4:01 PM on March 15, 2007

Err on the side of caution - the potential consequences could follow you for the rest of your life.
posted by lekvar at 4:04 PM on March 15, 2007

If it's against your "gut feeling", who gives a flip what the law says. Just Don't.

"Gut feeling" were your words, not mine. It sounds like you are looking for an excuse not to send this stuff to the young person. The only excuse you need is "I don't feel comfortable sending you these sexually explicit parts, so I am not going to do so."
posted by ilsa at 4:05 PM on March 15, 2007

Perhaps you should have a chat with this person's parents, explain how you came to be in contact with their child, and send it to them, and then they'll have the option (and responsibility) of passing it on and then back to you? They may freak out, but no less than if you'd sent it to their child directly. They may call the feds on you, as this may even qualify as indirectly soliciting a minor. You certainly should consult with a lawyer before doing anything of the sort.
posted by Caviar at 4:18 PM on March 15, 2007

(I just realized that it may not have been 100% crystal clear that my last answer should be read as a resounding 'no'.)
posted by Caviar at 4:21 PM on March 15, 2007

While this is far from being a great source:

My roommate and I have been watching Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator lately. Your situation sounds like it fits into this program. The reason I bring the show up is that in it, suspects can be arrested and jailed for sending lurid pictures or even asking/talking about a sexual encounter with them. Having someone edit a dirty story and soliciting sex from them may not be seen as distinct in the eyes of the law.

These laws I know are in effect in at least California, Texas and Florida. I would have it edited by someone you know is >18 just to keep yourself safe.
posted by bigcheesegump at 4:33 PM on March 15, 2007

Post the story to your blog, or to some fiction community, with the usual boilerplate about looking away if you're underage. Maybe your young friend will find it and leave comments. Maybe you'll get comments from someone of a more appropriate age.

If a 17-year-old happens to stumble across your dirty stories, it won't be the end of the world for you. But if it looks like you're going out of your way to show your dirty stories to her (yes, that includes sending her a link to the blog post), you're gonna look like a pedophile. Sorry.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:48 PM on March 15, 2007

No. 17 years olds (speaking from a male perspective) are full of hormones and sexual urges and all that - it's not going to disturb the kid. But 17 year olds tend to share the sexual literature within their peer group - usually from their parents or older brothers secret hidden easily found stashes. An older person giving them some sexually stimulating material is just going to look bad. It's fucking creepy, even if it isn't meant to be. Sure, if it was a 17 year old kid in Norway, it wouldn't be a big deal. But if you were to send this kid in Oregon some D.H. Lawrence you could end up on FOX, or worse.
posted by Elmore at 5:06 PM on March 15, 2007

Without a doubt, yes. On a TON of levels.
posted by sandra_s at 5:18 PM on March 15, 2007

Er, I probably meant "yes", but now I'm confused. Let's try to sort this out. No, it's probably not legal. No, it probably doesn't matter whether it is or not. No, it's not a good idea.
posted by Caviar at 5:33 PM on March 15, 2007

Yeah, I'm confused too. I meant no, as in don't do it. Not no, as in it is LEGAL. I don't know if it is legal or not, but while the law might hurt you on this, I doubt it's going to protect you in anyway when the lynch mob starts lighting their torches.
posted by Elmore at 5:43 PM on March 15, 2007

Not a good idea. These days our culture does everything it can to sexualize young girls from 12 up and then turn around and act all prudish and scandalized when sex is mentioned around them. It's a dichotomy that makes no sense. And one that we are not even allowed to discuss. So, what do we get? Corporations pushing more kids to dress like sluts, while the subject of sex becomes even more verboten. It's weird. Bottom line: keep your explicit stories out of the hands of a 17 year old.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:44 PM on March 15, 2007

yes, you fool.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:09 PM on March 15, 2007

If when my kid turns seventeen and you did this, I would smack you so hard your whole family would die.

And I am probably the nicest guy who has spoken to you today.

In short, you don't know who (else) is really on the other end of this exchange. Don't be stupid.
posted by 4ster at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2007

Have you tried looking into the volunteer network of editors at

(That is a text page but it may have a NSFW banner ad)
posted by sparrows at 6:45 PM on March 15, 2007

You are telling us that you cannot get someone who is a fullfledged adult to read dirty stories???

Yeah, right. If you had posted here asking for volunteer proofreaders, you'd have had a line going around the block. (Not me, mind you but I know I am a minority here.)
posted by konolia at 6:47 PM on March 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Super double bad idea. "Child molesters" are the new boogey-man and there are unbelievably harsh laws regarding anything sexual and minors.

If, god forbid, you were convicted of something, you'd have huge restrictions on where you could live, you'd have to register with local cities whenever you tried to move, and you'd have to explain the situation to most potential employers.

I could just imagine the conversation afterwards:

"Well, who should we hire? Kemayo or that other guy?"

"Kemayo was great, he'd really fit in, and he's likeable..."

"Yeah, but he's a child molester..."
posted by bshort at 7:20 PM on March 15, 2007

State law absolutely does make a difference. Think of California laws and Oregon laws. Even if the age of consent in Oregon were 16, you might still be found guilty in California.

Then think of Federal laws involving (1) crossing state lines to contribute to the deliquency of a minor and (2) use of the mails to do the same. It is insane that it is illegal to communicate with a person, or write a description of that person, doing acts that that person can legally do, but those are the laws you have to deal with.

And another bit of caution: the next volunteer editor who says he is 19 might only be 17. Do you think that that misrepresentation would be a defense? Maybe. Do you want to spend $100,000 to find out?

Run like hell. And don't look back.
posted by yclipse at 7:32 PM on March 15, 2007

I'm a careful proofreader, and my email's in my profile. I'm 45.
posted by flabdablet at 9:23 PM on March 15, 2007

I'm also a careful proofreader, and would be glad to help. I'm 38. (And what a concidence, flabdablet, we share a name, almost...)
posted by owhydididoit at 9:36 PM on March 15, 2007

If when my kid turns seventeen and you did this, I would smack you so hard your whole family would die.

I would make it a day trip.

Find someone older.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 9:38 PM on March 15, 2007

Whack it on a web page with a splash page that has a button saying 'yes, I certify that I am over 18 years of age, please show me the dirty stories". Mail the URL to your editors. Your arse is covered.

There is so much stuff on the web that just requires a simple click to 'confirm' you are 18+, why worry about this? I can't see the downfall of western morals every being attributed to this.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:48 AM on March 16, 2007

Well. Unless the "dirty" text makes up the majority of the writing, why not just edit out the sections that contain the offending material and let the 17 year old edit the PG material? You'll still need someone else to edit that area, but again, unless every other sentence involves something suitable for adult only reading, you could get a significant amount of the writing taking care of.
posted by Atreides at 6:08 AM on March 16, 2007

yuck, please don't do that. find a nice grown-up to read your pornos.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:26 AM on March 16, 2007

Wow. I find the reaction in this thread rather bizarre. However, I'm not an American. These are words we're talking about, right? Not pictures. I'm shocked at the reaction.

For the record, I send explicit writing to anyone and everyone who signs up for my mailing list. I have no idea how old these people are--though occasionally when some have emailed me a few times they've revealed their ages. There are definitely teenagers on my mailing list (though the vast majority who identify themselves are adults).

As the OP mentions, people can walk into any bookstore and find sexually explicit material and read it right there in the store if they wish. Is America so fucked up that words are enough to throw someone in jail? When do you move onto making thoughts illegal?

As to the OP, I say don't get the 17 year old to proof your material not because of the law but because most 17 year olds aren't great editors. Find a mature reader for your project.
posted by dobbs at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2007

The question "should I have a 17 year old edit" [anything] is just weird on its face. What's up with that? You can't find a professional, adult editor? Are you looking for editing of content or prose style? Either way, what 17 year old could possibly be qualified to "edit" your stories?

Because frankly, the question sounds bizarre, as if you'd like to be sending dirty stories to a minor if you can get away with it. As many above have implied, it's almost certainly illegal, definitely stupid, and not acceptable to many non-hysterical people, likely including this 17 year old's parents. The question really doesn't need asking.

And I thought we had a policy against enabling illegal activities on AskMe, to boot.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2007

posted by fourcheesemac at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2007

fourcheesemac, the people on those pedophile tv shows aren't being arrested for their IM chats. The chats are merely serving as evidence about the crime they're intending to commit once they arrive at the scene of the crime.

If I write a story about bank robbery and send it to someone is it a crime? Of course not.

If I talk to someone about committing a bank robbery is it a crime? No.

If I commit a bank robbery, it's a crime. And if I previously chatted to them about it that can be entered as evidence, but chatting about it and writing a story about it are not crimes yet. At least I don't think they are.

In addition, the OP has not made it clear but I don't imagine that the stories that they're referring to involve pedophilia. If they do, that's a whole other kettle of fish as that *may* be illegal, I don't know as I'm not an American.
posted by dobbs at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2007

Response by poster: The question "should I have a 17 year old edit" [anything] is just weird on its face. What's up with that? You can't find a professional, adult editor? Are you looking for editing of content or prose style? Either way, what 17 year old could possibly be qualified to "edit" your stories? --4cm

I'm cheap, and was looking for volunteers to work in exchange for a note on the final product saying "thanks to [person] for helping out!" The respondent was 17. They have good grammar, and a decent grasp of how a story should flow, which admittedly makes them stand out somewhat from the average 17 year old.
posted by Kemayo at 11:53 AM on March 16, 2007

It is probably just a bad idea. We live in conservative-land these days, and we're probably three steps away from the erotica/porno obscenity trials of the early twentieth century.

I did my master's thesis on erotica and I've published (in real books and magazines no less!) some erotica. I'm (almost) 27.

Send stuff my way if you'd like.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:05 PM on March 16, 2007

Best answer: Oregon law:

O.R.S. § 167.080

167.080. Displaying obscene materials to minors

(1) A person commits the crime of displaying obscene materials to minors if, being the owner, operator or manager of a business or acting in a managerial capacity, the person knowingly or recklessly permits a minor who is not accompanied by the parent or lawful guardian of the minor to enter or remain on the premises, if in that part of the premises where the minor is so permitted to be, there is visibly displayed:

(a) Any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture or other visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body that depicts nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse; or
(b) Any book, magazine, paperback, pamphlet or other written or printed matter, however reproduced, that reveals a person or portion of the human body that depicts nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.

(2) Displaying obscene materials to minors is a Class A misdemeanor. Notwithstanding ORS 161.635 and 161.655, a person convicted under this section may be sentenced to pay a fine, fixed by the court, not exceeding $10,000.

Laws 1971, c. 743, § 259.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2007

It is, unfortunately, true that the fear of pedophiles has allowed governments to make words illegal. In fact, not too long ago an American web site owner had their site removed, it's contents banned and was charged with obscenity for stories that were being offered online to adults in a pay site format (in other words, they would need a credit card to see the dirty stuff), simply because of the "objectionable" content of a small portion of the stories....

Kemayo - short answer, it's a bad plan.
posted by DecemberRaine at 2:37 PM on March 16, 2007

« Older Symbols for night?   |   FashionFilter: Are plaid flannels wayyy out of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.