Laws regarding explicit digital communication with a minor vary from state to state and are separate from age of consent laws, which encompass physical contact. In Ohio, where Ava lived, it is a felony to solicit, exchange or possess any material that shows a person under 18 engaging in sexual activity. New York, where Adams was during some of these exchanges, has similar laws regarding children younger than 17, and federal statutes use 18 as the age of adulthood.
Several legal experts said that prosecuting such cases could involve disputes over jurisdiction and whether the adult reasonably believed the minor was of legal age, taking into account context from their conversations.
Ava said that as her communication with Adams went on, she grew uneasy about their unequal dynamic. Once, she said, the two agreed to video chat, but when they connected on Skype, Adams was already naked. “It was just sexual power,” Ava said.
As their relationship waned, Adams returned to the possibility of recording together. But for Ava, the idea that she would be objectified or have to sleep with people to get ahead “just totally put me off to the whole idea” of being a musician, she said. She never played another gig.
The music world, in which a culture of late nights and boundary-pushing behavior has been normalized, hasn’t been as roiled by the #MeToo movement as other sectors of media and entertainment. But many in the business say that harassment and inequitable treatment of women is pervasive and that the “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” ethos has shielded men from being held to account.
In an industry where musicians are often the most trusted gatekeepers, Adams was more than just a singer. His Pax-Am label was connected to Capitol Music Group, a major conglomerate, and an opening slot on one of his sold-out tours could introduce an emerging artist to fans and business partners. For more than a decade, until last year, Adams was managed by John Silva, who has worked with Nirvana, Beck and St. Vincent. (Silva and Capitol, which is scheduled to release three albums by Adams this year, declined requests for comment.)