By now, chances are pretty good you’ve heard of Courtney Stodden, who, though she has several singles and videos that you can watch/listen to on her YouTube page and has apparently been working diligently on becoming famous for some time now, entered the public eye when she married actor Doug Hutchinson in May.
Obviously people get married every day, so what makes this union so special? Hutchinson is 51. Stodden, at the time of the wedding, was 16 (she has since turned 17). Creepy, right? The worst part: Stodden’s parents consented to the marriage, making the whole thing legal. If you’re not already familiar with this story, and want more than this very brief overview, you can read more about it here.
Since the marriage, there’s been a lot of focus on Courtney–how young she is, how overtly sexual her appearance and behavior are, whether or not she’s had plastic surgery, whether or not she was a virgin when she got married. Admittedly, Courtney’s good-girl-gone-bad routine puts Britney Spears’ to shame. Remember when Britney was on the cover of Rolling Stone in her underwear and a TeleTubby doll? Yeah, that’s child’s play in comparison to Courtney. But I digress. The general attitude, from what I’ve heard, toward Courtney is pretty much summed up in a Ridiculist segment Anderson Cooper did about her. And it’s true, she’s pretty ridiculous. But I don’t really understand why so much of the focus is on her (okay, yes I do–I mean, a young woman dresses and behaves provocatively, therefore we can all rag on her, right?)–shouldn’t someone be asking what possessed her parents to consent to this marriage? Shouldn’t someone be wondering what a 51-year-old is doing hanging around a 16-year-old?
I know that teenagers are having sex at a young age, and I also know that when you’re 16 you think you’ve got the world figured out. But as anyone who has survived their teenage years and moved on into adulthood can attest, you haven’t. You’re actually still very young, very inexperienced, and very much dependent on your parents to guide you through the world and step in when things really start going wrong. I mean, when I was 16, I wanted to marry Roger Daltrey, and seriously thought that a 37-year difference was nothing. And that it would be totally normal for him to want to marry me. 16-year-olds are not exactly known for their sound judgment. I imagine, that if Roger Daltrey had met me and we’d had a relationship when I was 16, my parents would not have been pleased. And I highly doubt they would have agreed to allow me to marry him. And since that would have been the decision made by my legal guardians, that’s how things would end up. At the age of 16, I would have resented my parents for it. But sitting here at the age of 30 and thinking about what it would have been like to be in a sexual relationship with someone 37 years older than me when I was 16, I can honestly say that my parents would have been absolutely right to have the whole thing called off.
You can’t predict how the things you do at the age of 16 are going to affect you when you’re 17, let alone five, 10, or 15 years later. A relationship with a 51-year-old at the age of 16 could end up being a serious source of trauma and regret later in life. Regardless of what anyone says, when you’re 16, you really are still a kid in a lot of ways.
I can’t help but see Courtney Stodden’s parents’ failure to intervene in this situation as a serious failure on their behalf. A parent’s first priority should be protecting his or her child from any and all harm, at least to the extent that that’s possible. And in this case, it would have been possible for the Stoddens to prevent their daughter’s marriage, or at least postpone it until she turned 18 and (maybe) had a teeny bit more perspective. So why didn’t they? Courtney Stodden may feel lucky and in love now, but it’s impossible to say how she’ll feel years from now. It saddens me to think about how this story could end, and about the fact that her parents acted with the same kind of judgment that one would expect from a 16-year-old.