Andrew Sullivan points to this post arguing that the law is damaging many lives by not adequately distinguishing the difference:
The sex offender laws will kick in and are guaranteed to destroy any ambition your child may have for success. Any attempts to better themselves, or become productive members of your community, will be throttled by these laws. Every road they try to pursue will become a dead end. It may be impossible for them to finish school. Any job they seek will require them to reveal their “sex offender” status to their employer. Any curious neighbor can find out the “crime” that was committed, though not the circumstances. Years down the road, this child, now an adult, will be listed as someone who committed lewd acts on a child. People will imagine an adult raping a child, not two children playing doctor.
A girl in school has oral sex with a boy in school. She becomes a sex offender for the rest of her life. Streaking a school event, as a practical joke, becomes a sex crime in the new America. Two kids “moon” a passerby and are incarcerated in jail as sex offenders, where they may well learn a lesson or two about rape. A teenager, who takes a sexy of photo of him, or herself, is paraded around the community as a “child pornographer” for the rest of his or her life. Two kids in the back seat of a car have fumbling sex. The law says one is an offender because the other is a “victim.” One week later, a birthday passes, and it is no longer a crime. One week’s difference and a life is ruined. In other cases an act that is legal on Monday is illegal on Tuesday because the older of the two turned one year older. That becomes enough to qualify him, or her, as an offender.These laws are not so much protecting children from predators as they are turning them into predators. Look at this chart. Individuals who are legally defined as sex offenders. When you look at the ages of the offenders you see that 14-year-olds are apparently the most sexually dangerous group in America. The rate declines from there, but throughout adolescence the law is far more likely to deem kids as offenders. You may imagine the dirty old man down the street. But with age people are less likely to “offend”. One reason is that they are more mature. But another reason is clear. Once you reach a certain age, having sex with people your own age is normally not considered a crime. The explosion of “youthful sex offenders” is not the result of our kids becoming perverts. It is the result of the law criminalizing what is a normal part of growing up.
These kids are criminals, not necessarily because they violated the life, liberty or property of another person. They are criminals because the politicians defined them as criminals. These damned “family values” conservatives, and compassionate feminist Leftists, who banded together to “save the children,” turned America’s kids into sex offenders by fiat. And they feel good about it. They are satisfied by it and only wish more had been rounded up earlier. The Left wants everyone in therapy and under the perpetual care of the state, and the Right wants everyone in prison, or in fear of the law, and under the thumb of the police. And that is what is happening.