Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach is a page-turning novel about a woman who decides to confront the abuse she suffered as a child. It’s an unflinching portrayal of a sexual predator and the courage required to bring him to justice. As the traumatic story unfolds before judge and jury, our protagonist, Bobbie, her abuser, Craig, and her mother, June all give different accounts of the events in question. Through Bobbie’s story, Leimbach gives us a nuanced look at a situation that questions morality and sexuality, similar to cases we hear about in the news.
Though a sensitive subject, sexual abuse has long fascinated writers and filmmakers as it deals with themes of power, desire, and the loss of innocence. Stories like these can be hard to read, but they open the door to important conversations about a difficult topic. As politicians and activists raise ever more urgent calls for increased awareness of sexual assault, stories like Age of Consent are powerful statements about a pervasive and complicated issue. If, after reading this novel, you’d like to explore other works that are sure to spark thoughtful discussion with your reading group, we’ve compiled a list of other issue-driven movies and plays.
Most recently performed in the U.S. in a Broadway revival starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels in 2016, this affecting play is the story of a young woman who, after fifteen years, meets with the middle-aged man who sexually abused her as a child. The story takes place as a single discussion in one room, but the drama and emotions of this one-act play have far-ranging implications.
Lolita first shocked the world as Vladimir Nabokov’s masterful novel and has become a cultural touchstone in its second life as the iconic 1962 film by Stanley Kubrick. Sue Lyon played Lolita when she was only fourteen, and the film faced a lot of censorship due to Hollywood laws at the time. That said, in the fifty years since its debut, it has become a classic.
This 2009 film is the coming-of-age story of a young British schoolgirl and the con man who charms her. David Goldman seduces high-schooler Jenny after he meets her in town one day. During their love affair, Jenny accepts a marriage proposal from David and leaves school, only to find out that her “fiancé” is already married. This film is beautifully shot and explores the complex power dynamic of an older man’s seduction.
Diary of a Teenage Girl
This is another coming-of-age story and tale of sexual awakening, based on a graphic novel. As a teenager, Minnie decides she would like to lose her virginity to Monroe, her mother’s boyfriend, and they begin an affair. Minnie eventually loses interest in Monroe, though not before all hell breaks loose within her family. This movie explores a forbidden relationship in which the younger woman actually yields most of the power.