Professor Cynthia Godsoe Discusses Teen Sex Statutes on Ipse Dixit Podcast


Professor Cynthia Godsoe recently appeared on the podcast Ipse Dixit to discuss her article “Recasting Vagueness: The Case of Teen Sex Statutes,” 74 Washington and Lee Law Review 173 (2017). The podcast, which highlights legal scholarship, is produced by Brian L. Frye, Spears-Gilbert Associate Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

In this episode, hosted by Maybell Romero, Assistant Professor of Law at Northern Illinois University College of Law, Godsoe explained the concept of “vaguenets,” broadly written laws that punish common and largely harmless conduct, such as sexual contact between teenagers. She offered as an example statutory rape, a strict liability crime, as a law used by parents to prosecute minors who have sexual contact with other minors. “Why are we letting parents use the criminal law to control their children's sexual behavior, especially with another minor?” said Godsoe. “There could be legitimate reasons why the parents want to intervene but letting them use the criminal law for this purpose renders [the law] even more illegitimate.”

Godsoe concluded with a preview of her next related article, examining vagueness in the context of the child welfare and dependency system, to be co-authored by Carissa Byrne Hessick of UNC School of Law.

Godsoe teaches courses in family law, criminal law, children and the law, professional responsibility, and public interest lawyering. Her scholarship centers on the regulation of intimate behavior and gender roles through family and criminal law, encompassing topics including the path to marriage equality, the designation of victims and offenders in intimate violence, and the criminalization of non-conforming girls. Her recent works have appeared in the Yale Law Journal Forum, Tulane Law Review, and California Law Review Circuit, among others.