Although it is never directly stated in the film, an important background issue in The Deep End (2001) is the age of consent: “the age at which a person is held to have the capacity to voluntarily agree to sexual intercourse.”1 When Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton) discovers that her 17-year-old son is having a sexual relationship with a 30-year-old man, she offers him $5,000 if he will leave her son alone. As a parent, Margaret would not be faced with this dilemma if the age of consent in Nevada were raised to age 18, the age of majority, when a person “is recognized by law to be an adult.”2
Margaret’s objection to her son’s same-sex relationship is not because of homophobia. She loves Beau (Jonathan Tucker) and never condemns him for being gay. The reason Margaret objects to Beau having sex with Darby Reese (Josh Lucas) is because of the large age gap between them. Indeed, Darby is almost twice the age of her son. Because of this, their sexual relationship violates Margaret’s conscience as it would most other parents.
Consider a parent with a 17-year-old daughter who was having sex with a 30-year-old man. Few (if any) parents would approve of such a relationship. Whether gay or straight, a sexual relationship between a high school student and an adult 13 years older should not be tolerated. With such a large age gap, there is a maturity gap, and the younger person is vulnerable to sexual seduction and exploitation.
In Nevada, an adult (who is not a school employee) can legally have consensual sex with a minor who is 16 or 17.3 The state defines statutory sexual seduction as “ordinary sexual intercourse, anal intercourse or sexual penetration committed by a person 18 years of age or older with a person who is 14 or 15 years of age and who is at least 4 years younger than the perpetrator.”4
Nevada should follow the lead of other American states and raise the age of consent to 18. Under the current law, parents are powerless to prevent an adult of any age from having sex with their 16 or 17-year-old daughter or son.
- US Legal, s.v. “Age of Consent,” accessed August 27, 2016, http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/age-of-consent/
- West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, s.v. “Age of Majority,” accessed August 27, 2016, http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/age+of+majority
- “Nevada Statutory Sexual Seduction Laws / Nevada “Statutory Rape” Laws (NRS 200.368),” Las Vegas Defense Group, accessed August 26, 2016, http://www.shouselaw.com/nevada/statutory-sexual-seduction.html
- “Chapter 200 – Crimes Against The Person,” Nevada Legislature, accessed February 17, 2017, http://www.leg.state.nv.us/nrs/nrs-200.html#NRS200Sec364