This is our truth, tell us yours
this post discusses the rape* of a child, please exercise self care
Sometimes you read a news story and think, can I be the only one who sees whole new layers of what the fuckness about it? The case of an 11-year-old who was raped, and the rapist was excused because apparently the victim was mature for their age was certainly one of those stories.
I wonder what images have come into your mind now? Perhaps someone like me at 11? I was already wearing a bra, as the boys in the line at playtime discovered, pinging the bra strap at every opportunity. I was interested in make up, I was certainly exploring my body, and the bits that felt good. Of course there was one huge difference between me and this child. He is a boy. This matters since it seems to have blinded the judge to what actually took place. There is so much wrong about the judge’s decision, and the reasons he gave for reaching it that it may take some time to unpack.
Kids get horny
Before you decide this makes me some kind of pedophile apologist, may I suggest, politely, that if you don’t know this, or wont accept it, you never reproduce. From toddlerhood children start exploring their own bodies. When I taught kindergarten one of the more complex tasks was to ensure the “wrigglers” at nap time were kept apart from the ones who complained about such wriggling.Self stimulation of the genital is perfectly normal childhood behaviour. Then kids grow up, they, hopefully in an age appropriate way, discover that sex exists. Maturity in this context is a meaningless phrase, since if you are referring to sexual arousal, that’s present from the very earliest years of life, and if the father is saying he knows the child here wanted sex, a whole host of other very worrying questions need to be answered.
Kids can want sex, that’s normal to.
In our pearl clutching neo Victorian hysteria we are told, simultaneously, that kids are pure sexless angels Ruskin would approve of, and that they are highly sexualized, watching hard core porn 24/7 and totally corrupted by modern society. It’s why it’s so galling to see the NSPCC leaping on this story. They have lobbied hard for a society where kids are criminalized for sexting kids, and used online surveys to create a climate of hysteria around children’s normal sexual exploration.
As children move through puberty it is normal for them to want to move from self stimulation to wondering what sex with others might be like. This is why we have put laws in place to protect them from adults who would exploit this normal, healthy curiosity. (My use of normal there is not to say asexual people are abnormal but rather that if you have this curiosity that is normal) I am no fan of the age of consent as if currently stands, we focus too much on age and not enough on consent. However its basic premise, that below a certain age children need protection from those who would sexually exploit them is broadly sound. Part of the reason we have an age of consent is a recognition that arousal is not enough to give consent, as in it recognizes a kid can be horny, they might even say yes, but they are not assumed to have a full understanding of the consequences to give full and informed consent.
As I have written before here and here, arousal is not enough when it comes to consent. In law, and in a decent society which wants to have meaningful consent, it must be an unimpaired, informed, and intellectual decision.
I have to tread softly now, partly because my esteemed fellow blogger is snowed under at work, and he is my go to legal advisor. In this cluster fuck of a case the defence argued that the abuser was “a small, immature, woman” and “‘clearly doesn’t operate at the level of a 20-year-old” and was “vulnerable”
The father in this case, the father whose opinions on his sons sexual maturity mattered more than the sons own words, had a previous sexual relationship with this immature, small, vulnerable 20-year-old.
Shall I leave you to paint your own pictures?
I do not believe in prison, I do not particularly believe the abuser in this case should be in prison, although they do have boundary issues and are clearly a risk to children. My mind even goes to the stories one sometimes comes across of Fathers who take their sons to brothels to “make a man of them”. What is very wrong though is that the judge in this case believes the apparent sexual maturity “being up for it” mitigates rape. This affects all of us. It is a mind-set that says rape of a sex worker is theft of services, that a woman’s previous sexual behaviour is relevant in a rape case. It is a mindset that denies men can be abused, since real men are always up for another notch on the bedpost, and a mindset that allowed abuse to go unchecked in homes, schools and churches across the country for years.
If you are a male survivor of rape or sexual abuse, these guys are awesome and can help.
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