by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
The image above has been making the rounds of the feminist blogs, most notably Feministe and Feministing.
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