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Little Lolitas Lost In The Myth Of ‘Rape Culture’

September 30, 2012

In a post entitled evocatively Little Lolita, legal blogger Amanda Bancroft ( @_Millymoo ) has presented a very ‘Guardianesque’ line on the Megan Stammers ‘abduction’ case. She writes:

‘The press coverage and social media commentary has been, to some degree, stomach churning. One tweet, summarising a seemingly popular opinion, said:

‘Megan Stammers should write a book: ‘My Teenage Years’. Or, ‘How I Cost My Maths Teacher His Job’.

This level of victim blaming – whatever has happened here, on the mere facts that this child was found in a foreign country with a teacher having been taken there without her parent’s consent, suggests she is a victim of a crime – is not, sadly, unusual in crimes relating to women and girls.  It is even more so when scenarios would appear to involve sex, as this one, prima facie, does.

This is rape culture. Rape culture is a ‘concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.

Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape’ (Wikipedia).’

I agree that the tweet she quotes and others like it, is a horrible way to talk about a teenage girl. I also agree with Bancroft as she says later in her piece, that the teacher in this scenario had a ‘duty of care’ to all his students, that does not include whisking any of them off on a ‘romantic’ tryst to France! I even have issues with university lecturers copping off with adult students. But then I am a bit of a secret ‘prude’.

However the argumentation the blogger uses, and the concepts she backs up her points with, I find tired, misandrous and suited to the Guardian’s Women’s section, not a supposedly ‘evidence based’ legal blog.

Readers of Graunwatch will know I have huge problems with the idea of ‘rape culture’.  In an article published at The Good Men Project and elsewhere I argue that ‘rape culture’ is a feminist myth, used to bash men, and to reinforce the cliche that ‘all men are potential rapists’ and all women are potential victims.

On twitter today, I added a further comment on the subject, that was greeted by Bancroft with a ‘yawn’ and minutes later, a block!

But I think it is lazy blogging to just go to wikipedia for a ‘definition’ of a term that is highly contested. Remember, anyone can contribute to wikipedia and say anything they like! And arguing with wiki geeks is even more soul destroying that arguing with feminists!

But apart from the unfair conflating of ‘rape’ and ‘rape culture’ with this rather poignant tale of a fifteen year old girl who ran off with her maths teacher, I think we could use the event to engage in a much more subtle and complex debate.

I recently reviewed an edition of the Gender and Educaiton journal which does just that. In their discussions of the ‘sexualisation’ debates in our culture, including the 2011 Bailey Report, the journal authors also invoke the image of Lolita. But rather than only presenting teen girls as ‘victims’ of predatory men, they counteract that position by identifying a ‘sexual knowingness’ that many girls and young women possess. And by exploring the contexts in which girls explore and experiment with their sexuality. The journal edition also asks the question relevant to this case: where are young people’s voices in these ‘debates’?

The problem with the law is it is black and white, when reality is often fifty shades of grey. If Megan’s maths teacher has committed a crime, and remember, that has not yet been decided by those who have the power to do so, then it still may not be helpful to call her a ‘victim’.

Victims don’t get to choose their own destinies, and it seems very limiting to label someone with their whole adult  life ahead of them in that way.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2012 8:41 pm

    It pisses me off when grown women pretend they have never once been a devious manipulative little bitch in order to achieve their own desires at least ONCE in their entire lives…that the time they were most likely to try it on and get away with it was when they were a teenager…ergo neither has anyone else.

    That tweet might not be very nice…or even factual…but it has a ring of truth to it that no woman can deny.

    If that offends anyone you’re lying to yourself.

  2. October 1, 2012 9:36 am

    Good piece.

    “But I think it is lazy blogging to just go to wikipedia for a ‘definition’ of a term that is highly contested”

    I had a bit of a debate with someone on the Independent website comments about this term “Rape Culture” – I think the article had referenced the wiki definition (which is no guarantee whatsoever of legitimacy). By the end of the discussion I’d seen about 3 or 4 different definitions of Rape Culture: was it a culture where rape is given tacit approval? ‘a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common’? A culture where victims are blamed? Where the law messes things up sometimes?

    In the first definition, for example, how many people in this culture are tacitly approving of anything? everybody in it? how many? what percentage does it take? Do we seriously think anyone has counted, or even thought about this?

    The best description of this that I can think of for all this is “taking the piss” Just because a feminist journalist confidently asserts that a “culture” thinks or approves of something, doesn’t make it true. But how do you prove (or disprove) it such a deliberately vague statement anyway?

    We certainly live in a culture where gangsters, crooked policemen, rogue intelligence officers, vigilantes etc are celebrated in films and TV often enough. We clearly do NOT see the same celebration of rapists anywhere*. So there goes this more than dubious concept of ‘rape culture’, I think.

    * if someone identifies some lyrics in hip-hop that do so, then go ahead and quote them, although this is not part of a “culture” that I belong to or see much of

  3. October 1, 2012 5:34 pm

    In the recent past female teachers have actually been prosecuted for having consensual sexual relations with pupils, both male and female, and in at least one case imprisoned for it even though her pupil/partner stood by her. The law dates from 2003 (it was a compromise inserted into the Sexual Offences Act at the time in order to get the gay male age of consent reduced to 16, buying off those who claimed that 16-year-olds were vulnerable to being ‘converted’ by men in positions of trust). The age of consent, where one party is in a position of trust, is 18. I find this law problematic, because it does not apply to work bosses as far as I know, only to teachers, priests, youth workers and the like. Also, the usual offenders are younger teachers and by definition, the usual ‘victims’ are older pupils.

    I also don’t believe that this has anything to do with ‘rape culture’. I think that term is quite appropriate nowadays when people use the word ‘rape’ as an analogy for very trivial things and where rape jokes are some comedians’ stock in trade (along with jokes bashing disabled people). What we don’t have is a culture in which rape itself is normal, which is what the American feminists who invented the term in the 90s meant by it. Stammers is also not a victim, but a willing, if misguided, participant.

    As one who remembers what it was like to be 15 rather more keenly than some adults seem to, I can well understand why what this teacher did is against the law, but do not believe that those in their mid-teens are in particular need of protection from this sort of thing. Kids that age know what they are doing; the law is made by parents who empathise with other parents more than with children or teenagers. It was the parents who are most distressed by this behaviour, not the young person involved (at least, not at the time). I would be more convinced by the concern for the ‘vulnerability’ of the likes of Megan Stammers if these same adults would better protect senior school-age children and teenagers from the very real threat of bullies — I didn’t get that protection, as a child, but I was prevented from going out on my own (I was at boarding school) so as to keep me safe from ‘undesirables’ outside school, when I was facing known threats inside. We treat young adults as babies at an older and older age, when the age of legal responsibility in this country is 10, not 18.

    Relationships between teachers and pupils are an obvious source of concern about exploitation and academic corruption (favouritism, etc) but I am not sure the teachers involved necessarily deserve to be sent to prison. The school should have every right to dismiss him from his post, though.

  4. Tim permalink
    October 12, 2012 3:16 pm

    “Remember, anyone can contribute to wikipedia and say anything they like!”

    You may want to consider visiting Wikipedia. You will find your statement above to be woefully short of the reality. Which is that unsupportable contentious edits are undone, usually within a minute or two. This is because they use bots, and making a ‘wrong’ edit that passes their muster is much harder to do.

    You should have written:
    “Forget the olde idea that anyone can contribute to wikipedia and say anything they like!”

    • October 15, 2012 8:37 pm

      Well has this changed since the activities of Johann Hari a year ago? The bots didn’t catch any of that behaviour.

      I happen to have read a fair bit about the discover of the structure of the DNA molecule. I’m appalled by the nature of the stuff that appears on the wiki pages with regard to this – the blatant attempts to rewrite history the way a few fanatics would like to imagine it.

      There are ways of dealing with these edit disputes, but why should these be especially trustworthy? Who elects the adjudicators?

      And if this is so in this and other subjects that I know a bit about – it does make me wonder about all the other stuff on there – particularly concerned with Gender Politics but not just those. There are some pages of extremely dubious scholarly value on wiki, in my opinion.

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