by Carmen Van Kerckhove The King Kong-esque imagery on the latest cover of Vogue is…
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 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
by guest contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?
Today I was reminded of my place in the female hierarchy.
I was in an impromptu meeting with a 50-something white man and a white woman who is my age, when this exchange occurred:
White male: The only people who liked that design were under 28.
White female: Under 37…I loved it.
Me: Yeah. Me too.
White male: (to white female, pointedly) Well, YOU don’t look older than 28.
White female: (to me–maybe attempting to soften white male’s comment) You don’t either.
White male: (eyeing me) Mmmm…I don’t know about that.
It is peculiar–in my experience, some white men don’t relate to black women as women. On more than one occaision, at more than one job, a white male co-worker has made comments to me that violate society’s codes of chivalry. What gentleman comments on how old a woman looks? This is not the first time the man in question has made a subtly derogatory comment about my appearance. I have also noticed how his eyes slide distastefully over my natural hair.
When I began typing this post, I worried that I was overreacting. In the re-telling, the offense seems so petty and maybe subject to interpretation. Maybe it wasn’t about race at all, maybe my co-worker simply finds me haggard looking and is surprisingly untactful. So, I called up a good friend–another black woman–that I can always count on for wise counsel. She understood exactly what I meant about the peculiar state of non-femaleness black women sometimes occupy in the mainstream. It is the weird flip side to the stereotype of the wanton black sexual temptress.
As I vented to my friend, I remembered a white male colleague from another job that seemed eager for me to join him in fawning over the beauty and style of our white female teammates. I still remember vividly the day he leaned over to me, while glancing admiringly at a female co-worker. He said something like: “Mary always looks great! She is tall and blonde and always has on the latest style or whatever. You and I just look like schlubbs.” Read the Post Not woman enough
by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse
(. . . Continued from Part 1)
The hypothetical situation I posed above is clearly as far-fetched as Jensen’s advocacy of ending masculinity, but in the long run, especially with so many supporters of the eradication of race and the installation of colorblind institutions, could an erasure of race as we know it lead to an altering of our fantasies and their portrayal on screen?
My answer is a definite yes.
Without a doubt, the use of race in fantasy scenarios aids the process of arousal. Taboo elements in porn assist in the option of living vicariously through the actors/performers on-screen. Particularly with regard to race, as one’s race is basically immutable, certain attributes assigned to the actors’ respective sexual prowess or lack thereof are also seen as immutable, rendering porn actors/actresses of color mere props in a fantasy, just like whips, chains, or clamps would be in an S&M flick. Their race, as set by the film’s theme or as interpreted by the viewer, becomes a vehicle for the fantasy, used solely for the sake of helping the viewer achieve orgasm. Race becomes a fetish element, if you will, and porn writers, producers, and the actors involved use essentialization as a key part—without it, the fantasy of interracial sex dissolves.
The very fact that interracial porn is a genre in itself is telling. With porn categories often catered to the specifics needs (or assumed needs) of its viewers, sex between a black man and an Asian-American woman, as an example, becomes comparable to sex between a dom and a sub, simply another image to fulfill the sexual desires of the audience, though through considerably dehumanizing means. For example, just as women in straight porn films are often degraded, usually supplying self-deprecating speeches to mirror the verbal abuse of her male partner, interracial porn performers must do the same, often spouting out racist rhetoric that would make a Neo-Nazi blush, solely to bolster the element of fantasy.
Stereotypes replace basic dialogue, with the characters often addressing each other in race-based sexual terms, most particularly those which employ synecdoche (i.e. a black man may be referred to simply as “big black d*ck” or, as commonly seen in films featuring American men with Brazilian female sex partners, a Latina may be referred to solely by the size and shape of her bottom). And just as in “mono-racial” porn, third person becomes the most common form of address, with the actors often self-narrating, giving some of the actions a more disturbing meaning if the dialogue is racist (i.e. lines like “watch me make this Asian b*tch my little Geisha whore”). Violence is often combined with sex in hardcore interracial porn, closely correlating with mono-racial porn, yet when added with racism and verbal abuse, interracial sex in porn takes on a unique meaning, that being mainly that in order to have proper sex with someone of a different race, or to enjoy that fantasy, defilement is essential. And again much like its mono-racial counterpart, interracial porn employs exaggeration as a device to enhance scenarios further, though in a racial context, often with stereotypes, race-based monikers, and objectification at a heightened level. Even the racial differences themselves are greatly exaggerated and, many times, inaccurate (much like mainstream Hollywood films), with people of color fitting a specific and predictable description physically (Latinas tend to have dark hair, olive skin tones, and physical proportions that weigh heavily on the lower half, black actors/actresses usually have dark skin as to provide a color contrast with their non-black sex partner, etc), transforming race into not only a prop, as mentioned previously, but also as a costume and a landscape upon which the cinematographic foundation relies for stability. Read the Post Interracial Porn: Holding Us Back While Getting Us Off? (Pt. 2)
by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse
I am by no means an expert on porn, nor do I pretend to be. Yet considering the volume of hits on xtube.com or youporn.com that could be traced back to my IP address, one would assume so. If not that, one would at least be able to mentally file away my name with all the other people in the “creepy” category. Some of you may be wondering about this new obsession of mine that has developed during my period of hiatus, but I can fortunately hold someone else partially responsible.
In November of 2007, Courtney, a contributing blogger for Feministing, reviewed a book aptly titled Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity by Robert Jensen. Much like fellow feminist theorist, the late Andrea Dworkin, Jensen considers pornography a visual manifestation of misogyny—hatred of women captured on film. With sexual arousal distracting the viewer, acts of violence and subjugation of women are interpreted through a different lens than, say, if they were portrayed minus the element of sex. Yet also like Dworkin, Jensen’s work borders on misandrist, stating as his major thesis that “If men are going to be full human beings, we first have to stop being men.” Using pornography as a microcosmic representation of the world as a whole, at least insofar as relationships between men and women are concerned, Jensen proposes that masculinity must be abandoned altogether as, in his opinion, it is inextricably linked to a world in which women are viewed as stupid, submissive, and deserving of abuse.
I agree with Courtney in her mention of the many loopholes within the book, in particular her comments regarding women who enjoy submission or even pain during sex. I also concur with regard to her discussion of images and scenarios within pornography playing out in real life. Many once-taboo subjects and sex acts, including, but not limited to, threesomes or multi-partner sex, anal sex, BDSM, and even the use and purchase of sex toys, have become mainstream. Porn is not entirely the culprit, but its proliferation has certainly aided Americans in their burgeoning sexual open-mindedness. With an orgasm only a click away, pornography has experienced a similar transformation to that of the music industry, with the creation of mp3s and pirate sites, and the film and tv industry, with the onslaught of youtube and bootleg dvds of sidewalk entrepreneurs.
After reading Courtney’s review of Getting Off (which you can read, in full, here) I wanted to take Jensen’s argument a bit further. Despite my disagreeing with him on some points, I felt that Jensen’s thoughts on gender roles in porn could be easily applied to the use of race in porn, particularly interracial porn. Following his thesis, in short, that masculinity by definition supports a system of misogyny, a characteristic clearly demonstrated in (straight) pornography, and the only way to progress beyond this conveyance of hatred toward women is to eradicate masculinity in its entirety, I came up with the following: Read the Post Interracial Porn: Holding Us Back While Getting Us Off? (Pt 1)