A couple of days ago, Claire Roundhill, a woman who knowingly had sex with a 15 year old and his overage brother – and supplied them with cannabis as well as sending them explicit images of herself – was spared jail: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/10/10/mum-of-three-had-affairs-with-brothers-aged-15-and-17-and-became-pregnant/
She was given a 9-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and will be on the Sex Offender’s Register for 10 years.
For a man in this situation, the defence that he didn’t know the girl was under 16 is not valid; he must have good reason to believe she was over 16. And this woman admitted to knowing the boy was underage the second time she had sex with him.
The astonishingly lenient sentence may or may not set a precedent for Forrest, though in my estimation his crime was worse as he was in a position of trust and he took Stammers abroad without her parents’ consent. But at least he loves her, instead of using the child for sex like Roundhill did.
WHY IT IS HARMFUL TO BOYS
Sentences like this hurt boys. All children deserve protection – EQUAL protection. We cannot discriminate on gender any more than we can discriminate on race or religion. Yet some commenters on the story seem to think that boys are so slutty that they cannot be abused as they’d go with anyone, or that a boy would enjoy being sexually abused. This issue is quite obvious, and I won’t dissect it here, except to quote the article on the effect Roundhill’s predating had on the boy:
The 15-year-old boy said Roundill bombarded him with hundreds of text messages and photographs every day. He said: “She would be in sexy outfits or topless. I now know she took advantage of me. I just want to put it behind me.” …there has been a victim personal statement from the boy which says he wants to put all this behind him and he is relieved that he does not have to give evidence in this case.”
The father of the two teenage boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has said Roundhill’s sentence was too lenient.
He said: “If it had been the other way around and this was a man having sex with a 15-year-old girl, he would have been locked up, without a shadow of a doubt. But, because she is a woman, she has walked free. She took advantage of both my sons. When my elder son dumped her, she targeted the younger. She planned it. I hope she now realises exactly what she has done. If she had gone to prison, I would have been happy but she has just got a slap on the wrist. We are disappointed. This doesn’t send out a message. Before this, he was a lovely boy and now it has changed him. He has gone off the rails. He has been in trouble with the police and this has never happened before. It was disgusting what she did. She has taken advantage of my family. If we had known what was going on, we would have put a stop to it straight away.”
Indeed, the court accepted the excuse that she was having a troubling time and a bad marriage – as if that somehow excuses child abuse!
The reporting of this case is full of the sexism that used to – and still does – categorise tabloid reports of women being raped. The headline uses the word “affair” instead of “child abuse” and the facts that the abuser is married, is a parent and that the victim had an older sibling who lawfully had sex with the abuser is totally irrelevant.
IT HARMS WOMEN AND FEMINISM
So far, so obvious – especially to parents of young boys. But let’s go on to the less obvious stuff, about how leniency towards female sex offenders, far from granting women superiority, actually harms feminism and women in general.
Firstly, women are harmed because female relatives, friends and carers of boys are harmed. How would a mother of 15 year old twins feel, knowing the female twin was protected but that the male twin was not protected? How does the mother of the boy in the article feel now that she has to live with the knowledge that her son was abused and violated, perhaps running all the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ daily through her mind? Constantly wishing she’d realised what was going on, or talked to her son more about women and sex so he wouldn’t fall for her lies and promises, or had been there to protect her son. Similar thoughts might be racing through the minds of the boy’s older sister (if he has one) or his aunts.
Secondly, and here is the more complex bit: When female sex offending is not taken seriously and male minors can’t get justice, it perpetuates the view that only women can be hurt by sex while men – even boys – always enjoy sex or are at least immune to emotional pain from sex. So we start to see women as vulnerable and in need of protecting. We monitor daughters’ sex lives more than sons’, ‘for their own good’. Males are seen as sexually aggressive and females as sexually passive – great conditions for the sexual double standard, paternalism and male control of female sexuality to flourish. If sex is seen as dangerous to women then confusion or derision will be directed against women who do enjoy and seek sex. If sex as seen as harmful to teenage girls and young women then it justifies parental control over daughters’ sexuality.
The message of this case is that only teenage girls’ innocence (or virginity) is valued enough to be protected. Boys’ innocence is worthless (or nonexistent)? This might actually harm girls even more than boys, as this sort of thinking is full of that antifeminist social conservatism which buoys up slutshaming and the sexual double standard.
Thirdly, and this is the controversial bit: In a way, it is a good thing for women to be seen as sex predators. (To be SEEN AS, not to actually DO child abuse. I AM NOT ADVOCATING THAT WOMEN MOLEST CHILDREN IN THE NAME OF FEMINISM. And I’m talking about women who are guilty of being sex predators being seen for what they are, not innocent women being seen as sex predators.) It is a good thing because when we accept that women are sexx predators, we can offer support and counselling to their victims. Men will be more confident about reporting sexual assaults by women and recieving support from rape centres. It will no longer be acceptable to joke about men being raped, as if somehow they’re incapable of feeling as bad as women, as if somehow they can’t be violated because they’re sluts anyway, so who cares? It’s not as if dignity and bodily integrity could actually mean something to anyone with a penis, right?
Also, when we accept that women can and do commit sex crimes, the double standard will crumble to dust. The double standard is based on a conservative view of female passivity, chastity and asexuality – women want love, marriage and children while men want sex. The acceptance of the existence of female sex offending will prove that this is nonsense – anyone can be sexually aggressive, romantic, or chaste and it’s got nothing to do with either gender or biological sex.
With the fall of the double standard, stigma against lone mothers, “sluts” and (female) sex workers would also start to lift.
The culture of telling women how not to get raped, holding women responsible for rape (victim blaming) and paternalism would also fall once men realise they could become the victim of rape by a woman. And if men fear rape by women, they might be happier to accept that rape is real (step forward Todd Akin) and not oppose abortion in such cases – after all, would men really want to pay child support towards a child concieved by rape? (Claire Roundhill got pregnant, by the way. She had an abortion. But if she hadn’t and it was the 15 year old’s baby, he would be paying child support as soon as he turns 16 or gets a full-time job.)
In conclusion, this sentence was very unjust, unfair and insulting to the 15 year old victim and his family. It may set a worrying precedent about how male children are protected from exploitation and abuse. The comments below it seem to mean that male victims of female sex offenders can expect to be ridiculed and shamed as “wimps” for showing distress, or at best have their abuse dismissed as “a great experience”. Angry parents seeking justice can expect to be ridiculed as overprotective and restricting their child’s sex life. And female sex offenders will be propositioned, praised, or shamed as “slut” instead of “sex offender” – (the second one is the WORSE title, people!). The victims and their families suffer with little of the sympathy, understanding or support given to female victims – all because the kid is the wrong gender. And feminism suffers alongside them, as the message given is “Only females’ innocence is important enough for the law to protect”.