Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Dershowitz’ ‘statutory rape is an outdated concept’ is abject wishful thinking

If minors supposedly could say no, then for sure grownups must be expected to be able to say no!

When top lawyer and world renown-columnist Alan Dershowitz in 1997 wrote the newly unearthed column headlined “Statutory rape is an outdated concept,” we may just guess what he had in mind. When an anarchist opines to be against ownership, he doesn’t mean that he wants to part from his guitar. Rather, he wants his fair shake of the wealth. Would only an old selfish man write a thing like that? Is this a case of someone who would easily take sex above romance, love, and closeness? Do we see here someone who can fathom or fancy sexual adventure with one 50 years younger but not 50 years older than them?

Everybody understands that a baby cannot give consent and a teenager of a certain age may. One can argue about the best age of consent but there must be a legal limit below which a grownup being too close to a minor is statutory rape no-questions-asked. Those who says differently must be led by their hormones, not by common sense, and should be stopped. Just like laws against theft are for people who have trouble knowing the difference between mine and thine, this law is exactly for people who “reason” that we can “now” skip the idea of statutory rape. The different legal ages of consent don’t mean that it’s all arbitrary and can be done away with.

The ‘paradisiacal’ vision the columnist brings forth, make no mistake, means that any sibling could have sex with any other sibling, any parent or teacher with any child, any older stranger with any youngster, unless the latter would scream no. And it also doesn’t matter who “took the initiative.” If minors supposedly could say no, then for sure grownups must be expected to be able to say no! The incest epidemic that Freud discovered and talked down with theory upon theory is still raging. Many may be in denial but our youth needs protection against elders’ sexual advances no less than ever.

Young people deserve to be surrounded by closeness, love, and support without worry that this could end up in sex. Could such sex ever be pleasant for the young person? For sure it can be. But A, expectations generally will be different between the two parties: the older wanting sex, the younger immediately wanting a life-long commitment. This means that the young person is just (ab)used. And B, this opens the door to all older people who have a hard time understanding boundaries.

Young people are not busy with sex as old people are. Younger people may be easily plied or seduced because they don’t know all the tricks in the book yet. Look how a practiced con artist like the present president of the United States fooled almost half of the country. Experience counts and therefore, grownups should not be allowed to be sexual with young people. This is especially meant to keep away those who cannot tell the difference between love and lust or who project their wish on what someone else wants — a lack of empathy that is very widespread.

Dershowitz’ lead argument is completely false. The wish is the father to the thought, the saying goes. “If a 16-year-old can choose abortion she should be able to choose to have sex.” Not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term is saying: I don’t want to. A proper parallel with sex would be a 16-year-old saying about sex: I don’t want to. But from a 16-year-old being able to say “I don’t want to have sex,” one cannot deduce that s/he then should also be able to give consent for sex with grownups.

Horribly, the columnist completely misses the point when he doesn’t distinguish sex between two minors, in full agreement, from sex a grownup with a minor without possibility of consent. I’m reminded of this abuser who declared that at the times of the abuse he was “34 going on 17.” Especially for such people, we must have such a legal limit!

He talks about consensual sex in cases of statutory rape. There is no such thing. A minor saying “I want to” means as much as I saying that I’m going to set the agenda for the UN. Consensual sex in cases of statutory rape is like violent peace or a peaceful war. He knows that. He’s a superb lawyer. When he’s here playing the Devil’s advocate, he surely is.

He then claims that “99%” of the cases of statutory rape are never prosecuted because the victim will not complain because she liked it — and then the prosecuted cases are because it was real rape, not statutory rape, so we don’t need the legal limit. I don’t see any proof for this 99% and the whole issue is that a lack of protest before, during or after sex doesn’t mean consent from someone who cannot give consent. Some people will say after 20 years, yes it was illegal but I’m fine with it. Many more will be scarred for life — who wants to take such a risk with our young people?! And most, I guess, will have buried the memories because they were so painful, being used and then tossed away. That’s not the way a person’s sexuality should unfold. Besides, with no legal limit, young people will be surrounded by steamy grownups who want it all the time — hurting growing up feeling protected and in true safety. This will hurt almost every child everywhere. Children are bossed around enough. At least the area of sex should be sacred and off-limits.

He argues that a better limit would not be maturity but puberty. That is completely trashing feelings over body. The fact that they look great or ready to you doesn’t mean that they will feel great about it! If you like the age difference, look for someone who is 50 years older than you.

Last but not least, may I ask why it’s so important to open a possibility of grownups having sex (and marriage, of course) below the age of 16, 15, sometimes 14? Do we lack enough grownups to be intimate with? What’s so wrong or difficult about no? A 14-year-old should not drive a car and also not have sex with you — even if no one got hurt in the process. We grownups should take pride in protecting young people instead of chasing them.

In any case, the VIP is “unapologetic” about defending alleged villains. And about his old column, 22 years on, he clarifies that his position was not that it was moral to have sex with a 16-year-old but that such youngsters should have “a constitutional right” to choose sex.

This is clever but untrue. He wrote that grownups should be able to [have a right to] have sex with 16-year-olds. He never considered the right of young people not to be bothered about sex — by grownups.

Lastly, the law as it stand is also great because there is no burden of proof. The girl or boy doesn’t need to convince judge or jury that s/he felt forced, indicated confusion or resistance which was ignored, etc. You start up with a minor, you’re guilty no-questions-asked. Great!

(I love this special legal provision for young couples when one partner passes the age of consent. S/he’s not suddenly culpable as long as their age difference is only a couple of years.)

Being liberal or nice can’t mean chucking all limits. The law must protect the vulnerable. The idea of statutory rape is not going anywhere.

Talking of Epstein (Dershowitz was the lawyer who got him almost off totally), some support has emerged for my earlier post that Barak has no proof that he was hiding his face from the cold when entering Epstein’s palace. Yet, in election time, let’s not believe any unproven innuendo.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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