Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

A 15-Year-Old Girl Isn’t a Scheming Temptress, She Is a Child

This post was first published here - thanks to author for permission to cross post.

There have been some terrible things in the media lately in relation to a British case where a teacher raped and abducted one of his students, from saying teacher and student are ‘lovers’ who ‘ran away together’ to calling 15-year-old girls ‘scheming temptresses’ in a headline. It isn’t the first wave of “I was a teenage seductress” confessional stories and similar rapist-enabling shit in the media. It’s just same shit, different day. My rage at this has been simmering for a long while, but now it’s at boiling point.

Only a few days ago I saw a man calling himself Jed Jones argue on Twitter that the abducted girl who had been groomed by her teacher since age 14 and who has been given a media platform, using the name Gemma, to insist on the consensual nature of their relationship (which, I repeat, involved rape and abduction) was a young woman who should be free to explore her sexuality and all that jazz. This man, I later found out, has written a novel for young adults (meaning age 13+) about the ‘hysteria’ that supposedly exists around protecting children not only from seeing sexually explicit (i.e. pornographic) material but also from participating in it. In other words, he calls society’s rejection of child porn hysterical and promotes the participation of children in what he euphemizes as ‘child web modeling’.

Predators like Jed Jones try to frame the abuse and violence men commit against children, and female children in particular, as consensual because it serves their agenda.

Girls are raised in an environment that makes it very clear that sexual availability is an expected part of womanhood, and almost every teenager badly wants to be an adult. Of course girls are going to say, ‘But wait, I wanted this,’ if that’s what they have been raised to want because it is the only source of validation that exists for them. And don’t try to tell me the world is so full of possibilities for girls nowadays that they aren’t raised believing they must be sexually available to men and HOT above all else, no matter what they may aspire to in addition. Turn on the TV and look at what kind of representations of females you see and then tell me again that we grow up seeing a range of options.

I’m not a teenager, but I remember relatively well quite a few of the things I did and thought when I was one, and I am sick and fucking tired of seeing the media subtly and not-so-subtly tell the story that female children bring their own rape upon themselves, pointing to examples of their successful sexual grooming as proof. Girls grow up believing that getting a man to desire or want us is a form of power (depending on who you ask, this is in fact the ONLY power female humans have in a social context). Of course girls are not going to be inclined to see themselves as the hapless victim of male perversion when in fact that male desire for their bodies is their only current source of validation, of self-esteem. Identifying the adult man’s behavior as wrong means to let go of even the last vestige of flattery one may have felt at his attention. It really isn’t rocket science: by telling a teenage victim of social and personal grooming and subsequent sexual abuse/rape that she is a victim and nothing else, you are threatening their self-image which was shaped through this grooming. The victim’s whole reality needs to be reframed for her to be able to see what happened as entirely the perpetrator’s fault and as entirely wrong. I know because I have been that teenage victim and it took me years to understand it all.

There are such things as wrong and right. And it isn’t fucking ‘hysteria’ to be absolutely adamant about the point that someone who is definitely an adult should have no business sticking his genitals anywhere near someone who isn’t. It isn’t hysteria, it’s plain fucking common sense. We live in a world completely choc-a-bloc with male sexual predators. Sorry if this was news to you. They damage people, and they don’t care. That’s where they get their kicks all too often. And these predators are doing their best to frame their predation as loving, caring, consensual interpersonal relations with an equal. They are liars and manipulators at worst and delusional at best, because nothing could be further from the truth.

And this is why, although I don’t like speaking in prose about my own life in all that many words, I am now letting my rage at this bullshit pour out in verbal form. I am sick of it, and here’s why. Here’s MY story.

When I was 15 years old, I had sex with a 25-year-old man. I thought I had wanted to do that. I thought he was very attractive. But what had started as me eyeing him from afar and whispering and giggling about his sexiness with one of my friends progressed to him approaching me, buying me a drink, and finally taking me out on a date where he bought me more drinks. I may have been quite used to drinking alcohol at this point, but the point is that he knew very well that I was no older than 15.

And I ended up in his home with him, and ended up having drunk ‘sex’.

But nowadays, I’d have to describe this experience as an adult man plying a child, me, with alcohol before raping her. It wasn’t sex. It was statutory rape. And by the way, I was so drunk that when I woke up several hours after falling asleep, my legs gave out on the way to the bathroom and I ended up lying on the tiled floor with little idea where I was. But when I went home the next day, I figured I had gone out on a date and had a good time, even if it left me feeling kind of hollow and wrong. I had no real concept of this wrongness at the time.

Now, let’s get you some reluctant background on who I was at the time.

I had had penis-in-vagina sex for the first time when I was 14, almost 15. That was with a 17-year-old boyfriend of some months. It was utterly boring and a bit painful. I had another boyfriend after that, and it was a bit less boring and no longer painful.

But at that point, I had already been sexually abused several times.

I was sexually abused by someone I knew well over a period of time at age 12 (also not realizing it wasn’t my own fault, by the way, and not thinking of it as abuse at the time). I was abused by another person at roughly the same age (actually I had only just turned 12) who had plied me with alcohol and started groping and kissing me while I was barely conscious (I resented him a lot the next day, so I knew that what he did was wrong, but I still also blamed myself and felt ashamed. That was my first ‘kiss’).  And I had also been abused in the form of being exposed to pornography, both against my will at age 10 and as a result of my own curiosity as to the pornographic materials that could be found in the house I lived in when I was merely a year older.

So during the ages of between 10 and almost 13, I was exposed to a number of very harmful sex-related experiences.

And one, two years later, I’m out drinking cocktails with an adult man who has the singular objective of having sex with a child.

One would have to be willfully blind to think that I was an empowered, mature young woman expressing her liberating, somehow innate sexuality (though I was undoubtedly quite mature in various ways, mentally speaking) – I was a girl who had been groomed in different ways, both directly and by the culture surrounding me, and damaged in various ways, seeking validation and attention and reassurance and yes, trying to develop something like a sexuality of my own, even if it was filtered through the pornified, phallocentric culture I grew up in.

But I was a child.

No 15-year-old likes to think of herself as a child. And it’s understandable. At 15, you aren’t that far away from a stage that can be seen as adult, and you are at a point where life does start getting more complicated, demanding more from you, bringing with it more responsibility. You can clearly tell that your life is no longer the same as when you thought of yourself as a child without problem (perhaps compounding the issue in my case: I was always the youngest person in my family and social circle. Everyone I had contact with was at least one or two years older). So at 15, if you’re not an adult yet, I guess that makes you a very mature child.

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for an adult man to give you drugs and stick his penis in you. It just isn’t okay.

And this man, by the way, I quickly cut off all contact with him. You wanna know why? After that date, he quickly escalated by sending sexually explicit texts all the time about the things he wanted to do to me. And he turned out to want me to pee on him. I was frightened and grossed out and stopped responding.

Not much later, I saw him hitting on a girl from my class. I was full of something like hate for him at seeing that – possibly even from before – because I realized I wasn’t attractive to him because of who I was. That girl was almost my polar opposite but he was interested anyway, and the common denominator was that we were both very young. I was part of a predatory pattern. My gut instinct knew this even if my brain didn’t want to know it, and so it was only ever with a snarl that I thought of this man again.

At the time of dating him, I had no idea that what he was doing was utterly wrong in every way. I felt flattered and validated. But in the meantime, I have gone through years of depression and troubled behavior, including drug abuse. I don’t think these things can be separated from my experiences of abuse in childhood and adolescence; do you?

Harsh as it may sound, the victim just doesn’t always know best. Children certainly don’t know best, even if they don’t think of themselves as children.

Fuck all the rapist-enabling media outlets who have reported on stories of child sexual abuse, grooming and rape as if these things were the innermost desires of girl children. They have blood on their hands. It’s normal for a 15-year-old girl to develop her own sexuality, but not with an adult man and a bunch of intoxicants. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, because he is either a rapist or she is a sister who still has a lot to realize.

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