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Oregon sex crime laws call a young queer a “child pornographer”

Jenkins (R) and Brown together. Scandalous.

Amidst a year of horrific gay teen suicides young queers have yet more to worry about. Yesterday Willamette Week published a heart wrenching story about 19 year old Antjuanece Brown‘s battle against felony charges of sex abuse, creating child pornography and luring a minor.

The crimes that prompted Washington County to press these charges came only from a few suggestive cell phone pictures between Brown and her 16-year-old girlfriend Jolene Jenkins.

Among teenagers who have cell phones, more than one in seven say they’ve sexted, according to the Pew Research Center. “Acting stupid isn’t always a criminal offense,” says Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk.

Indeed, few find themselves in court over sexting. Antjuanece Brown was not so lucky. “I’ve never been in trouble in my life,” Brown says. “I’m not a sex offender.”

Both girls agree that the relationship was not only completely consensual, but that the 2 never even had sex.

Since 2009, a growing number of states have carved out exceptions to their anti-pornography laws to make sexting among minors a misdemeanor or juvenile offense rather than a felony but not Oregon. Instead, the decision has been left to the 36 district attorneys in each of this state’s counties. And in Washington County 19 young people were indicted  in comparison to Multnomah County, which has almost 200,000 more residents,and just 4 indictments.

It seems plain that queer youth and youth of color can be arbitrarily targeted. This is pretty clear here as it was Jenkins’ mother, Carmen Brant, who took her daughter’s cell phone and turned it over to Tigard police. Though Jenkins says her mother never seemed to mind when she dated older boys, Brant could never accept Jenkins’ relationship with Brown, Jenkins says.

“I love my mother,” Jenkins says. “I thought she’d take it better, but she didn’t.”

Now it’s our job to make sure that parental homophobia or a prosecutor’s racism, bias, morality or zeal doesn’t ruin the lives of other young people already struggling to cope, make connections and come out in such a dangerous world.

11 comments to Oregon sex crime laws call a young queer a “child pornographer”

  • Jon Agee via Facebook

    Although a sad circumstance, I think the slant on your article is concerning. Also, your article offers little to justify the minor’s mother’s reaction as homophobia vs. a concerned parent – that’s a very serious claim. I really think it’s ok for society to expect better judgment from the 19 year old. She can’t expect to be allowed to participate, encourage or reciprocate the “sexts” — it’s against the law for a reason. I would feel no differently if one or both were male.

  • April Landers via Facebook

    I agree Jon…how do we know this mom was out for some sort of homophobic which hunt and not reacting as a concerned parent. Bottom line, there have been cases of male/female couples in similiar situations. I also don’t understand how race came into this discussion. Based on current laws this broke the law, and what would you expect the law enforcement to do when they are brought pictures of a minor that appear to be child pornography?

    Instead of just talking around the issue and throwing the mother and officials under the bus, why aren’t we talking about educating our children? When you hit 18 you are an adult, time to start having those conversations folks…

  • I think it’s important to look at which boys are getting in trouble and which aren’t. I also believe it would be unfair for a heterosexual couple, and while it does happen to them as well it’s far more disproportionately aimed at heterosexual teens of color.

    I do also believe there’s a big difference between a 19 year old and someone much older. Were we all really as responsible and grown up at 19 as we expect these kids to be? We may not have had cell phones but I’m sure we had naughty notes. Do we really believe Brown is a child pornographer and deserves to be on a sex offender list? I do not. -Alley

  • I also think it is important to examine laws and not just saw “the law is the law.” Many laws are wrong or outdated. I think most LGBT supporters recognize that. And indeed, in this case other states have already changed the laws. We haven’t. I believe that is wrong.

  • Sad to hear. But I’d like to suggest you edit this article. I doubt these young people are “arbitrarily queer”. You’ve misplaced arbitrarily in this sentence and misconstrued its intended meaning. Queer youth are being arbitrarily targeted, nor arbitrarily deciding to be queer.

    Thanks…

  • Tita Compere via Facebook

    I have to agree with Alley. While I understand that “the law was broken”, we have to ask ourselves about the particulars of this law. Clearly it was passed as a protection for children in situations that could constitute as sexually assaultive. However, I personally can say that there was not any marked difference in my responsibility meter that magically changed the day I turned 18. I am NOT condoning huge age differences between sexual partners- especially when one is a minor, but it is ridiculous to make these cases ( homosexual, heterosexual or anywhere on the sexual spectrum) against people with a few years between them. A 19 year old is not THAT much different from a 16 year old- neither has any serious life experience to speak of. I think the whole business is a related to the fact that adult Americans are freaked out about the reality of their children being sexual creatures- the abstinence only mindset is clearly prevalent in many legal statutes.

  • Good call Tangerine. Sometimes phrasing is off when I try to get stories up too quickly. You’re right, the placement was off here and I corrected it. Thanks for the heads up.

  • And to doubters from FB here’s a timely example of why I’ve called this homophobic and unfair: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/05/AR2010120503852.html

  • And to doubters here’s a timely example of why I’ve called this homophobic and unfair: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/05/AR2010120503852.html

  • Andi – Just want to make it clear that the 19 year old didn’t just receive the photo from some anonymous source, the 16 year old sent it. Just wanted to clarify as I wasn’t sure what you meant by “Trust me the 16 year old would be feeling a whole lot different if a 19 year old man some how received this photo”

  • jerzii love

    I kno them and They had sex multiple times with a strap on named woody.. she was 19 and after everyone told her that dating a 16 year was not okay she still did it.. now they are making it seem like they been singled out … no jolenes mom didn’t want them together and they would always sneak around together.. miss me.. she was stupid and should of been charged as well as havin to register considering a court order said they couldn’t see each other and they still did..