Taking Statutory Rape Seriously

From the Yes Means Yes Blog: “Taking Statutory Rape Seriously.” Among many other things in this article, Thomas (my hero) once again explains how COMMUNITY RESPONSE is the key to stopping rapists and other such sex offenders and predators. When we as a society make it unacceptable, the laws we currently have in place will be upheld…and newer, stronger laws will be made.

Excerpt:

Imagine the following rape statute: “If a person over the age of twenty-one years has sexual contact constituting oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a minor under the age of fourteen years, such person shall be guilty of a Class A felony and shall be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole.”

If the legislature passed it, it still wouldn’t happen.  Law does not exist in the abstract.  Law is a power structure, something that operates in a culture and operates largely consistent with the society’s values.  Lots of people in the process, from parents to school administrators and counselors to cops to prosecutors and judges to juries would collude to make sure that a statute like that would not work the way it is written — it would for some people, who didn’t meet societal approval, but it wouldn’t for others, who do.  Just like the “war on drugs”.  And the reason is that no matter how much lip service we pay to the notion that statutory rape is wrong, our culture (I’m speaking very broadly here, meaning the entirety of the world that is governed by a criminal justice system in the Anglo-American tradition) doesn’t really think that adults having sex with children are always wrong.

Just look at this shit.

Think this is an isolated event?  All these people signed a petition in support of Roman Polaski, maybe the world’s most famous child rapist.  And Whoopi Goldberg, defending him, said it wasn’t “rape-rape.”  You know where she was going with that?  That what he pleaded guilty to was statutory rape, which she thinks isn’t real rape.  (And she pointedly ignores that the woman Polanski raped told the Grand Jury and everyone who asked since that she said “no,” that he drugged her, that she still said no, and that he forced her.)  Even the term “statutory rape” conveys the impression that it isn’t “real rape” –after all, there’s a statute outlawing the conduct that is forcible rape, whatever it is called in each jurisdiction, so those are just as statutory as laws saying that fucking someone under a certain age is inherently nonconsensual and illegal.  We call it by the different term in a tacit acknowledgement that it doesn’t count the same.  Why don’t we call it “child rape?”

You know what Polanski (who reportedly has other victims including Charlotte Lewis andNastassja Kinsky) had to say, to Martin Amis in a 1979 interview that has been quoted more recently by journalists rediscovering just what manner of person he is: Everyone wants to fuck young girls!”

Or this shit, where Terrebonne Parish’s corrections officer repeatedly raped a fourteen year old inmate and the parish is trying to blame her for contributing to it because, being an inmate and pretty much at the mercy of her jailers, she acquiesced instead of yelling, kicking and probably getting beaten or disciplined by the corrupt guards.

So this guy Niel Wilson in England fucked a thirteen year old, and the system focused on the same old slut-shaming shit.  In rape cases with adult victims, there’s at least the figleaf of relevance, the pretension that this is something more than an exercise in attempting to label the victim a “bad girl” undeserving of vindication, because the defense argues that it goes to consent, or failing that, the defendant’s subjective belief in consent.  If that were true, then there would be no point in trying the same thing in a statutory rape case, where consent is not a defense.  But the same issues come up.  A barrister for the Crown Prosecution Service in this latest case said, “The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced,” he reportedly told the court.”  Leave aside for a moment that this is a vile thing to say … how is it relevant? It’s not a defense!

Except that law isn’t a set of words, it’s a discourse of power that will tend to bend the way the people in the process see the world.  Arguing that this child was somehow a slut undeserving of protection, indeed culpable for seducing this poor defendant (who was also in possession of child porn, by the way) seems relevant to the people in the process because the whole frame of reference in a rape culture is not actually consent, but whether the victim is a good girl deserving of protection.  That’s always the real question, the crux of what passes for the moral substrata in matters of rape.  It seems relevant to people that this thirteen year old was the alleged pursuer, that Mary Doe in Terrebonne Parish had drug problems and a sexual history … (she’s fourteen, which unless her partners were all similar-age means she has a history not of sex but of being victimized).

I’ve written before about statutory rape and I’ve written that I think there should always be a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception for similar-aged partners.  And I still think so, though in most places 13 is too young for those provisions to apply, and rightly so.  I also think that statutory rape laws ought to be enforced:  not just when the parents dislike one of the participants, and not just when the prosecution is homophobic — these laws have a history of much stricter enforcement against same sex couples and anyone else whose conduct violates race, class or other norms….

Please read the rest on the Yes Means Yes blog.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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