by Carmen Van Kerckhove It’s been awhile since I perved out publicly on Racialicious over…
Month: February 2008
by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse
Author’s note: Before anyone jumps all over me, I use “brown” here as a general term for people of African or indigenous American descent, not solely South Asians or Central Americans, though the article discusses issues for all POC travelers, not just the ones with darker skin.
I had decided that for spring break in 2005, instead of going to Memphis as planned, I’d take a week-long trip to Paris and Madrid instead. After all, in a weird twist of fate, the plane tickets to Europe were only about 100 dollars more than those I had bought to go to the place Elvis and I both called home. I figured as I could speak, read, and understand Spanish and French, I’d be fine. I’d been to Paris before, and loved it, and had heard awesome things about Madrid from my friends, so I thought, “Why not? Just breathe, and take a chance.” So I did, though I wasn’t exactly prepared for the less than warm reception in one of the liveliest cities in the Iberian Peninsula.
Paris was no problem, possibly due in part to the city’s expressed love (read: borderline fetishizing) of black folks (Josephine Baker, anyone?) or the running assumption that I was Moroccan/generally North African and not a black American. Most people just treated me like I was French, before I opened my mouth, of course (despite my perfect French accent, my occasional pause to find vocabulary words from my high school French mental database was a dead give-a-way). No one was rude to me or my friend with whom I went out on occasion (who is half white American, half indigenous Mexican, and clearly “of color”).
Madrid, on the other hand, completely did me in.
On a super basic level, I wasn’t a big fan of the traditional Spanish food, and, instead, flocked to the numerous Middle Eastern restaurants like water in a desert mirage. And though I was only there for three days, these little hole-in-the-wall, family-run eateries ended up being my surrogate safe havens as walking around on the street proved, well, difficult. I would say the city, overall, was far from receptive. While I understood having a pride in being Spanish, or a Mardileño, to be more specific, what I did not understand was why that translated into racism. I faced constant stares, and I mean constant, many of which were steeped in anger or confusion, despite my more than proper attire (I was not one of those fanny pack-wearing, head buried in a map, incapable-of-speaking-the-native-language types of tourists, trust me). I was cat-called, a lot, and though I was conditioned to that from having lived in NYC for four years at that point, what I hadn’t been exposed to was the overtly sexual racist epithets thrown my way (none of which I will repeat here). I tried to search the eyes of other people of color for an explanation. People of Asian descent seemed happy, even moreso there than in Paris. And people clearly from Africa also seemed OK, though I am sure their black skin proved problematic at times (look no further than the Madrid soccer related racism or even the recent Formula One racing incident in Barcelona). It was the somewhat racially ambiguous brown folks who seemed to run into trouble. Read the Post Brown and Out of Town: a POC Traveler’s Guide to Racism
by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
“The only people trying to sleep with teenagers are lower class/ghetto/have that kind of culture.”
Now, back to the race and class part of this one. One or two comments I read were in this vein – that this kind of behavior was not okay, but understandable because these people were either low class, ghetto, or their culture permits it. I am projecting that these labels fit different groups of people – “low class” stands in for poor white; “ghetto” stands in for poor black; and discussions of culture normally stands in for Latino men.
Here are a few more stories and some back up information for the first ones I have you.
While I was in high school, I had two asian friends I was fairly close with. We would often end up hanging out after school at the mall with all the other teenagers our age. Occasionally, we would take the bus to the really nice mall in the upper class neighborhood, so we could be broke in style. It was there – in the affluent neighborhood – that my asian friends dealt with the worst of their harassment. I can remember that each friend, on different occassions, was approached by older white men in their thirities and forties and quizzed about their ethnic backgrounds, ages, and dating status. These men always seemed to slip cards into their hands, asking them to call them later. My friends smiled demurely, always waiting until the man had gone before throwing their number away.
The friend I mentioned who had the child at age eleven? She was white. The friend who met the twenty five year old at the park? She was black. A boyfriend I had around age fifteen was Dominican. We would often supervise his sisters (aged 10 and 11) at the playground and I recall two occasions where we had to chase older Latino men or older black men away from them.
Some of these men had money and the accompanying markers of class. Some of these men did not. While I did not have any real experiences with Asian men or Arabic men I am sure that some of my friends had those kind of situations go down as well. However, people try to use the “low class” defense to wash their hands of the situation, as if there is nothing they can do. It is as if they are saying “these people are savages – its to be expected.”
Which, obviously, is not the case. Men of all races on all ends of the economic spectrum have the potential to harass and sleep with teenagers. And a small number of men do. Read the Post Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 3 of 3
by guest contributor Brigitte, originally published at Make Fetch Happen Last season Vivienne Westwood raised…
by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
Continued from Part 1
“But girls lie about their age to date older guys, right?”
I am aware that some girls do lie about their age to date older guys.
When I was twelve, my best friend at the time had met a guy and lied to him about her age. She told him she was sixteen and she did have the body to back it up. The guy sleeping with her accidentally would make complete sense – except for the fact that guy was twenty-five. He eventually slept with her, taking her virginity, even after he figured out how old we were. After all, it’s kind of a dead giveaway if you’re picking your girlfriend up at a middle school.
They stayed together for a few months. She eventually tried to set me up with his twenty year old brother.
Now, in the comments on the feminist sites, I noticed that a few people argued that teenagers should not be in adult places. They mention fake IDs and older ways of dressing that allowed them to gain access into clubs and go home with college guys.
The first friend I referenced, dating the twenty five year old? She met him at a local park. You know, a park with swings and a seesaw and a merry-go-round? Yeah, that one. That park also had a basketball court where guys our age and older would go to play basketball.
I had another friend. We met in eighth grade, she was thirteen and I was twelve. My friend shocked me one day after a guy (man really) walked past us and she broke down into a sobbing heap where we stood. She confided in me that when she was eleven she had a child, but her mother had forced her to put the child up for adoption. The baby’s father was the guy who had non-chalantly passed her by on the street.
Later, I found out that she was at school when she met her future abuser/baby daddy. He was aware she was about eleven – what other age group is enrolled in Middle School? At the time, this guy was about nineteen. He strung her along in this grand relationship fantasy, helping her to cut school as they drove around and had sex in the back of his car. When she got pregnant with his child, he dropped her. However, living in the same area means she would run into him about once a month, normally leading to an outburst of tears or screaming fits on her end and cool indifference (with the occassional “you were just a slut anyway”) from him.
Some of the comments at Feministe and Feministing assume that stautory rape is a one time “oh, I met this girl at the club and slept with her – I didn’t know she was fourteen!” These were ongoing relationships. Read the Post Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 2 of 3
by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
The ad was intended to target perpetrators of statutory rape in Milwaukee. Comissioned by the United Way of Milwaukee, the PSA style posters attempted to address a growing issue in that region: an increase in teen pregnancy where the mothers were young to mid teen and the fathers were grown men.
While the images were apparently tested with a focus group, the ads were killed before they made it to the streets. Personally, I hate the images in the ad as they are so comically disorted the messages is lost. The young girls who these men are impregnating do not have seven year old faces on twenty year old bodies. Most of them do look close to their actual ages. And most of the men who would sleep with a developed fifteen year old would probably be repulsed by the idea of having sex with a seven year old.
The ad does garner attention, but by using a photoshopped image of a girl, as opposed to an actual teenager it fails to reinforce the actual message.
However, the ad itself isn’t what prompted me to write this post. The responses to the ad on mainstream feminist blogs did. As I scrolled through the comments in each thread, I was shocked to see how many women were willing to dismiss statutory rape as an issue of mistaken identity. While there were definately some commenters who spoke up as to why the ads were needed, I was astounded to see how many feminists defended the poor men in this situation, who were tricked by these age-bending teens into having sex. The prevailing assumption was that these girls were somewhere they had no business being, doing grown adult things and most of this statutory rape stuff was just an innocent mistake. Some women even threw in their own accounts of looking tragically underage and having to deal with being endlessly carded or having men leave them alone because they looked so young. Tough life.
But not as tough as a fifteen year old trying to cope with a grown man’s affections.
So, I write this post in hopes that some of those women – and a few men – who were so quick to dismiss my day to day reality (and that of my friends) as a simple case of teenage sluts gone wild will read this and reconsider what they know about statutory rape, how it plays out in communties, and how it isn’t easily dismissed as a race or class issue – though both race and class do complicate things quite a bit.
Some notes before we begin:
1. In the vein of feminist blogs, I am slapping this post with a trigger warning. I am not going to describe things graphically, but some of what happens will probably be hard for some people to take. For that, I apologize, but it has to be said.
2. Please do not judge any of the actions taken by my peers or myself. All these things happened from the ages of 12 – 15. One of the events I will describe starts at age eleven. We were not in the mindset to make adult decisions, or even good decisions.
[FYI, age of consent in Maryland is 16, with an exception for actors with less than a four year age difference. This means that a 16 year old can have sex with someone aged 16 – 20 and it would not necessarily be statutory rape.]
3. Settle in, this is the first of a 3-part post.
Ready? Here we go…
“People who have sex with children know what they are doing is wrong.”
Feministing Commenter stinsonnick said:
I think for the most part men who have sex with children know that it’s wrong, or at least understand that society views it as wrong. This isn’t going to help anything. Read the Post Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 1 of 3