Little Lolitas Lost In The Myth Of ‘Rape Culture’
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.