Last week Squeamish Louise discussed the case of Neil Wilson and the issues of class in sexism, rape and paedophilia. Because let's be clear, whether or not she was predatory as the is besides the point she was 13 and therefore a minor. I think some great points, some very true points were made. If you haven't read it you should - here. But I'd like to also focus on the responsibility of the man, of men here.
It is not the crux of the matter, the crime is the crux of the matter. I am so sick of people I love thinking the appearance or behaviour of the victim is relevant is somehow the point. The statutory rape is the point, the under-age indecent images are the point and the offender is the point.
There is something that I think maybe men might find hard to understand. About women, about girls, about female puberty and it really colours their understanding of cases such as that of Neil Wilson. Imagine waking up one day and your nipples are not where you left them. No, they aren't on the bedside table or on the floor with your crumpled school uniform. But they are no longer flush against your chest.
Now imagine everyone noticing this realignment of nipple to rib. Imagine having spent your life going unnoticed, maybe even neglected, then suddenly boys and more interestingly men are paying attention to you. This is more than exciting. This is power, no? Of course it's not. But it feels an awful lot like it and at 13 you think you can control it. You don't realise how much you rely on men controlling themselves.
XOJane writer Emily McCombs has written about how she misunderstood her new, puffy, pnuematic frame at 12 and tried to impress her dad by getting him a light for his cigarette by approaching other men at the venue they were in. Was Emily being predatory? Hm...debatable. Did she know what she was doing? No, because it is perfectly excusable to not understand boundaries on the brink of or even in your teens.
Another good example of a girl too young to be quite au fait with boundaries and appropriate behaviour is in the TV series The Inbetweeners in which Simon meets a girl who begins to touch him inappropriately on the dance floor.
We do not think toddlers are trying to woo us when they strip bare in public
A common thought pattern in many a teenager - I believe - is: This is what grown ups do and I am a grown up. Grown ups drink. Grown ups smoke. Grown ups have have sex. Ergo (they do not think 'ergo', I'm paraphrasing ok? [it goes without saying I was not a very usual teen]) I should too. Because I want to be grown up. Grown ups also do washing, ironing and bill paying. Those are not the fun things about being an adult and teenagers are nothing but sensible in not emulating this behaviour. They don't emulate it because they aren't really supposed to be hugely responsible and most teens aren't self aware enough to realise how little they do do.
We do not think toddlers are trying to woo us when they strip bare in public because we know the toddler is enjoying a blissful lack of self awareness. A teen girl doing this might be trying to woo us and as the adult it is our responsibility to be self aware and tell her she needs to either find someone her own age or wait until someone her own age has grown out of that awkward acne riddled phase.
More importantly the adults in these situations need to realise the old "she threw herself at me" isn't going to cut it. We need to stop this dangerous idea that male desire is so strong it is beyond control. It keeps women in fear and, well, men? It's not a very flattering excuse.