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Consensual Sex with an Adult Step-Child: Acceptable or Not?

Is it okay to have consensual sex with an adult step-child? Ohio (U.S.A) man, Paul Lowe, has gone to jail for engaging in consensual sex with the 22-year-old daughter of Lowe's wife: his stepdaughter. Lowe argued that the relationship was consensual and that because she was an adult, the “incest statute […] to protect children against adults in positions of authority over them” did not apply to his case. Lowe was unsuccessful in his appeal that “barring consensual sex between an adult stepparent and stepchild was unconstitutional.” The opinion summary (including the direct quotes above) can be viewed at Law Barring Consensual Sex Between Stepfather and Adult Stepdaughter Upheld as Constitutional.

Legal opinion aside, debate around sex with adult children of a relationship (step-children, adoptive children, foster children, or natural children) raises a number of social concerns for me. What is the fabric of marriage made of: law, morals or ethics? Can this fabric be stretched to suit the lustful or conjugal needs of any family member? Was Lowe still in a cohabiting marriage with the stepdaughter’s mother? How long had the relationship been going on for? Was it really consensual or had family dynamics acted to sway the stepdaughters view of acceptable/unacceptable? What was the relationship between mother and daughter? Did the wife know of the affair between her husband and daughter or was it hidden and illicit? What is the social/religious/legal history of Ohio in relation to sex crimes?

My views on incest and child sexual abuse are very clear. Similarly, rape in marriage is a crime where I live and I fully support the abhorrence of rape in any relationship. Opportunistic prostitution (the exchange of sex for a concrete commodity – roof over your head, hot meal or shower, etc) is a recognised youth sub culture and funding is pored into services to provide young people with alternatives to opportunistic prostitution.

Despite my clear beliefs, I still find myself seeking more information to fill in the gaps behind Lowe’s case – how consensual is consensual and how did the relationship occur? Curious, I sought comment from the man I am about to marry. He also was unable to answer immediately: is it acceptable to enter into a consensual sexual relationship with an adult stepchild? He required time to think through the issues rather than knee jerk an emotive response. Neither of us can conceive of ever having sex with our adult stepchildren or entering into sexual relationships with any extended family member. In our view (albeit without all of the social answers to my above queries), it is incest.

Lowe has broken the law and is being punished. I am interested in your opinion. Do you think it is okay to have consensual sex with an adult step-child? Why/why not?

Photo by Megan: Step father and adult step daughter on her wedding day.

13 Response to "Consensual Sex with an Adult Step-Child: Acceptable or Not?"

Aerik said...

I think it's perfectly fine.

I actually submitted an article about the situation you're blogging about to and . I did the headline Fark style by following up a succinct title with a tacked on quip: "Next up, gunowners, bodybuilders, and the wealthy barred from having sex with anyone, on grounds of an inherit power imbalance." Because the "power imbalance" was the term used in the article, and presumably, the court.

Heck, I think adult natural incest is fine. Hot, even. I fully support the German brother/sister in the news right now.

Marcella Chester said...

Megan, in this case this charge was part of a plea deal after the man was accused of raping his stepdaughter while she was either asleep or passed out.

Many times these sorts of laws kick in either as part of a plea deal or when it can't be proven that the victim didn't freely consent.

I don't think it should be open season on stepchildren or immediate family members from the day they turn 18. In the US at least, this would happen while the stepchild was still in high school.

Megan Bayliss said...

Aerik and Marcella, thanks for your opinions and comment.

Aerik I don't share your view but many different views make up informed decision making and I appreciate your bravery on saying what you have on a site that clearly works against all forms of abuse.

Marcella I figured there must have been some plea bargaining in this one. Thanks for clarifying. It's interesting that people often form decisions often only on what is presented to them rather than finding out a bit more about the dynamics at play.

Vickie Farquhar said...

Hi Megan,
It's interesting to see the opposing views on this subject. Thank you for posting it.

Paul Lowe was a Deputy Sheriff - a position that behoves him to uphold the law. He failed abysmally. It seems that the Law applied to everyone but him. He's a very lucky 'man' to have escaped the rape charge.

Like you, I have adult children. Their step-father is younger than they are. In fact we have granddaughters who are over the age of consent. I've discussed the subject with him and we consider it only legally acceptable when the parent/step-parent are divorced. Then there are no legal reasons why such a union should not be OK.

Even then it's more than a little questionable in my mind, morally speaking.

I guess I believe that once someone takes on parental responsibilities and form bonds with a partner's offspring, then that bond is there for life.

Example: I have a friend in the UK. He has been married 4 times and has a total of nine step-children from these marriages. He is still regarded as 'dad' by all of them. When there's a problem, he's the first person they go to. All of them are adults now, but the parental roll didn't stop with the divorce or their reaching the age of consent. As he says, he's a great parent but a lousy husband...even though he's great friends with his ex-wives.

Laws are there for our protection. Just because we don't happen to agree with them, doesn't give us the right to ignore them.


Megan Bayliss said...

Hi Vickie
thanks for drawing this one to my attention last week. I hadn't heard anything about it.

A cop and an incest perpetrator. Ummmm...they are everywhere.

Your words, "...once someone takes on parental responsibilities and form bonds with a partner's offspring, then that bond is there for life" resonates with me.It is a cultural artifact of many cultures that sexual relations with family (including family through marraige) is taboo.

I am keen to hear what other people think too so keep the discussion alive people.

ERIK said...

Hi Megan,

Having sex is always a difficult matter to discuss; surely in such occasions.
In my opinion it is not acceptable; if such thing happen then there is something not ok with the relationship between him and the mother of that adult child. In fact he is the stephfather of her and he need to act like that


Megan Bayliss said...

Hi Erik
I agree. A step father needs to act like a step father, not a lover. The fact that this case was a plea bargain down from rape means, in my thinking, that this man was never a step father nor does he deserve to ever hold the special position of step father again.

My heart goes out to the step daugther and her mother. My passion goes out to the perpetrators: Their game is over. People will talk, people will tell and they will go to jail.

immy said...

I have an adult(27) stepdaughter living w/ me for another 6 months or so. Her mother and I divorced some years ago. While I will confess to admiring her as a young woman both for her looks as well as her personality, I could never live with myself if I were to touch her. People need to have boundaries and have the moral strength to not cross them. I can't stop some of the thoughts I have...but I can certainly not act on them!

Anonymous said...

I'm corey. My belief on these matters center on social norms. In no way should government tell us what to do with our bodies. Health departments should be able to advise citizens on what incest might do psychologically and to offspring. Families in America should set the social norms.When men are no longer the breadwinners, but the mere defenders of the family, they act like warriors. Not someone looking for the well-being of the family. I know todays laws against men are just payback for men treating women unjustly in the last century. Now that the tables have turned, now we see the behavior of men being casted as outsiders in the family role rather than the center. Women have used the law to cast men, who obey the law, as acceptably promiscuous, thus allowing obvious abnormal behavior to be a manly characteristic. Look at the most common female job, a nurse. Then look at the most common male job, a repairmen. The first is a educated, responsible job that earns a lot of money for the family. The second is a mobile, capitalistic job relying on experience to an broad scope of incomes that may or may not pay for a family. If society doesn't care about these skill sets, then it says a lot about what we think of men and what they are to the family.

Anonymous said...

First let me state I would never, ever accept or endorse any step-parent or any adult period having sexual relations with any minor child. They should go to prison, no excuses, end of story.
If a man and woman are divorced and he and his 32 yr. old stepdaughter (also divorced) have an attraction to each other and decide to have sexual relations, where is the harm? They are both single and have more in common than most couples who start out as strangers.
Odds are they are very close, feel very comfortable around each other, feel safe in each others arms and the next level would be very easy. I would understand the need for discretion and provide each other with a pact to never disclose their relationship for matters evident, but can you imagine the passion that would be there in that bedroom?

We seem to have no problem with people of the same sex marrying and having sexual relations. But, heaven forbid a woman who spends her life around someone and later in life as an adult falling in love with that man, or maybe not marriage but simply having a passion and desire to exercise that passion sexually in the bedroom between 2 adults.

Maybe we want her to keep having sex with losers closer to her age who will use her for sex and move on to the next one vs being with someone who would do anything for her, never judge her and be there for her always. I would support this type of relationship in every way possible.

Crystal said...

Hi my name is Crystal , I have a issue with this and I do not condone it at all . My husband and I have been married for 4 years we have a son that is almost 6 and we took on 3 children in 2012 who called us mom and dad . Well around 1 year ago I started seeing things that I didnt understand between my 51 year old husband and my 17 year old step daughter . I didnt think to much of it at first but when I started thinking about the things that happen to me and my sister as children, this started making me see what was going on and dear god I dont care what any of you people think because its wrong in so many ways . A husband or stepdad that can touch a child and say it just happened or its love is sick and needs help , Im sorry but its true . How can you help raise a child that calls you dad and then have wrong thoughts about her once she develops mutually, how could you look at her for more then just your child ? Think about your own birth children for a minute, would you be ok if a man that is triple her age sleeping with her and what if he made her think things would be ok just to sleep with her . What if your child was only 10 , 11 or 12 would it still be ok ? I think a man or woman that can look at a child that called them mom or dad and then have sex with them should be locked away for life . Thanks hope you guys understand where Im coming from .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is saying to you, confront him because it is wrong. She is 17 and knows nothing. He is taking advantage of a teen and in some states will go to jail. Confront him, but do not confront her. He is an adult at 51 and should know better. Now if you were to confront her, she will do what teens always do and rebel and may want to be with him even more. Good luck.
Now an adult man and his 32 year old step daughter like the situation right above your story is a totally different situation and I see nothing wrong with 2 adults doing what they want to do. Yes or No

Anonymous said...

Here is my take on this. And this scenario is playing out how this story and so many others have gone. This is why I'm here.

I met my current step daughter at 15. She and I are both introverts and. Bitg are shy and never make the first move. For over 3 years we've been locked into this perpetual circle of silence. However we seem to communicate through body language or some type of telepathy.

Anyway recently I started getting this feeling she is starting to fall for me. She started making a bee line to her room if we ever were in the same room together. She would go out of he way to avoid me.

Then I discovered she had spied on me showering. I didn't catch her, but she let water from her hands drip on the floor which could only have come from her. I then heard her masturbating in her bathroom that is right next to our laundry room as I was trying to do laundry.two days later she is loudly masturbating when she knows I'm the only one in the house. I also heard someone open the bedroom door while I was masturbating, then heard her masturbating once again. We seem to have this sexual tension phenomenon that is only present when we are alone together. It simply incredible how two people can have this connection by barely speaking to each other. I've always found her attractive but kept those thought to myself. Now she is an adult she at least to me is giving me all the cues that she wants me. I've found even though she was born in another country we have many similarities.

My state doesn't prohibit step daughter relations, only if its 2nd cousin or closer in the blood line. We have never established a father daughter bond. Since she is 18 she is well over the age 16 age of to me if we were to have sex, it would be no different than me banging some 18 year old I found at the mall.

I've always been the nice quiet shy guy that always finished last and rarely got the chicks. Her mother cheated on me and conceived this daughter. I only took the wife back because I was tired of being alone. Now I find myself slowly falling for the daughter. As we seem to have connected on a level that is hard to come by. We have never hugged, kissed, touched. But we both are attracted to each other reasons beyond just physically or sexually. I know its still early but we could end up going all the way.

If people have a problem with it, that's their problem not mine. I don't have an issue with gay marriage. As long as its legal, other people's opinion matters not.

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