“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” & The Problem With Statutory Rape Laws

I have little to nothing in common with ultra rich mega-star teen Kylie Jenner. She is furnishing her first home and raking in piles of cash from selling self-branded lipstick while I, at that age, was grappling with a particularly awful DIY haircut — in a socially paralyzing move and against all reason, I decided to give myself lopsided bangs right before I went off to college. So yes, I would say Kylie is winning.

But we do have one thing in common; I lost my virginity to a man who was 18 when I was 16, breaking the law where I lived, and it’s likely Kylie did the same. On this Sunday’s episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” we got our first formal character introduction to Tyga, Kylie’s on-again off-again boyfriend. He comes on the scene as a love interest in the segment featuring her 18th birthday party. But the way the writers and producers, and even Kylie herself, explain away any awkward feelings about the 26-year-old father dating the newly-legal Jenner should be alarming to us all, for a litany of reasons.

“Tyga and I have always been friends,” Kylie tells the camera in the kind of video-diary-esque confession popularized by reality TV. “Now that I’m a little bit older, we’re together. And I guess we’ll just see where it goes.” This thinly-veiled narration is juxtaposed against footage of Tyga kissing Jenner and gifting her with a $500,000 Ferrari, hardly the gift you’d give a “friend.”

We all know reality TV is a version of the truth that’s massaged into weekly story arcs at best, and downright fake at worst. Popular blogs like Jezebel’s Keeping Up With the Kontinuity Errors chronicle the fudged timeline of E!’s most popular series, proving time and time again that the producers will stage scenes and splice them up into the episode, manipulating the timeline for our collective consumption. But as far as we know, they’ve never done it to cover up a crime.

When I had sex with my just-slightly-older-than-I boyfriend, nothing happened. My mom was moody for a week or two after I told her, but the world kept on turning. Not everyone gets that lucky. This year, Zachary Anderson of Indiana, 19 at the time, used the dating app Hot or Not and had sex with a 14-year-old girl who lied about her age, claiming to be 17 . When the authorities found out, he spent 75 days in prison and was placed on a 25-year sex offender registry. After public outrage, sparked largely by prominent sex advice columnist Dan Savage, the case was re-examined and Anderson’s sex offender status was lifted. Today, he remains on strict probation which prevents him from having any direct contact with someone under the age 17, except a sibling. Worth noting: a man who was misled and unknowingly had sex with a minor one time has had his life altered forever, while the man eight years Kylie’s senior is selling records and scoring a supporting role on a TV show.

A similar scene played out for Kaitlyn Hunt in 2012. The Florida resident, then 18, met and began dating her 14-year-old girlfriend while the two played on their high school basketball team. When the younger girl’s parents found out, Hunt was charged and spent 120 days in jail. For the following two years, Hunt was required to wear an ankle-monitoring bracelet and remain under house arrest.

In 2005, Genarlow Wilson, an honor roll student and football star from Georgia, spent two years in prison because when he was 17, he had oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Thankfully, his sentence was overturned and he was released, but not before completely derailing his education and causing irreparable pain to his family.

For Kaitlyn, Zachary, Genarlow and countless others, it appears consent was given, but the courts didn’t care. And they wouldn’t in Kylie’s case either, since California law dictates that you cannot give consent to sexual activity with an adult if you are under the age of 18. 

Here’s the tricky part: we can’t prove Kylie and Tyga were having sex before she turned 18. But for the pair that’s been spotted around town and in each other’s Instagrams since she was 16, not to mention posing as husband and wife in couple’s costumes while she was still underage, I’d say it’s a pretty safe assumption. 

Perhaps the most damning evidence comes in the form of Tyga’s recently-released single “Stimulated,” where he seemingly admits to this wrongdoing. On August 24, two weeks to the day after Jenner’s 18th birthday, Tyga dropped the sexually-explicit track. For posterity and everyone’s general amusement, let’s revisit the lyrics.

They say she young, I should’ve waited / She a big girl, dog when she stimulated.”

He continues, lest there be even a shadow of a doubt he’s referring to sex:

“I’m stimulated. / I’m at the bank, I’m penetratin’ / I’m puttin’ in. I’m penetratin’ / I’m getting big, I’m stimulated.”

We get it, Tyga. Yyou’re putting your big, hard penis into a teenage girl. And when the music video premiered shortly after, starring the youngest Kardashian spawn, it became crystal clear that girl was Kylie Jenner. Unless just moments after she turned 18 the pair went home and had a blissful night of totally legal sex for the very first time, and Tyga was so inspired by it that he wrote, composed, recorded, mixed, and released the song all in two weeks, we can bet something illegal was going on. But hey, stranger things have happened.

One would think Jenner’s massive army of over-protective family members might object, but statements from Kanye West seem to only confirm, if not applaud, the pair’s apparent relationship while she was underage. On The Breakfast Club, a leaked recording has the father of Saint West saying of Tyga, “I think he got in early. I think he was smart.”

Half-sister Khloe Kardashian’s comments also reflect a cavalier attitude toward the relationship. In her cover story for Complex, she brushes off Kylie’s situation. “I think at 16 I was probably fucking someone that was in their 20s, for sure,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I was even dating, probably just sleeping with them. But again Kylie is not a normal 17-year-old.” Khloe’s words only prove how common the Kyga predicament is. What’s not common is that because of Kylie’s celebrity status – because she’s not “normal”– we are encouraged to excuse, to forgive, and to forget, when others aren’t afforded that luxury.

It’s not our job to care about the sex life of a 17-year-old girl, no matter how famous she is. But it is our job to take issue with a government whose fractured laws convict some teenagers of crimes while letting others go free, based largely on whether or not a parent objects. We can’t stand by while our own judicial system forever changes the lives of young adults who had fully consensual sex with other young adults just a few years younger than they are. And we most certainly can’t let a major television network shove lies in our faces to exonerate some while others get persecuted. Kylie’s 18th birthday did not magically transform the friends into lovers. We’re smart enough to know better. Kylie might as well have said, staring blankly into the camera, “Now that I’m a little bit older, I can finally tell you the truth. Now that I’m a little bit older, you can expect to see Tyga as a series regular. Now that I’m a little bit older, my boyfriend won’t go to jail for our relationship.”

The absurd celebrity double standard has never been more apparent, and there’s no easy fix to this. These laws vary from state to state and exist in the first place to protect children. But when a mere matter of months separates puppy love from prison time, who’s really being protected?

Ali Drucker is a writer and editor covering sex, dating, and culture. She lives in New York City.