Normally I see my social commentaries in terms of right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Rarely do I ever see things in shades of gray until I had to read a number of articles involving a crime out of Cleveland, Texas.
The crime is one in which there shouldn’t be a gray area. But I am finding it and I need the people who read this column to express their thoughts about that dilemma.
First off, I need to make you the parent of an 18-year-old male. He’s not perfect. He may be in school or have dropped out. He may have sold drugs or smoked some reefer. He’s been raised around younger relatives and you trust him implicitly with them, especially when his little 10-year-old cousin has a best friend who is crazy about him and he dismisses the girl because she is just a kid. He even blushes when you mention that the child has a crush on him. He dismisses even the potential of his interest in the girl, because it is not within his realm or reality.
One day your son and his friends pick up a girl they are acquainted with to go for a ride. In the world of bravado, all three boys and the girl end up having sex. Cellphone videos/pictures are taken, and the images of the activity are soon shared amongst their peers.
These are 1990s children and technology for them is like air. They live it and breathe it. Weeks later, the images of the encounter make their way around to all the other kids’ phones.
Soon someone in the girl’s class sees the pictures and turns it in to a teacher who calls the police. It turns out the girl is 11 years old and a student in middle school. Your son and his friends are arrested and charged with rape. The headlines in the paper call it a “gang rape.”
You visit your son in jail to learn “what” happened. Your son admits to having sex, but says the girl didn’t object and that they all thought she was 16 since she told them that. Worst, it wasn’t the first time. Over a period of months he and others had had sex with the girl. You believe your son. So, now, do you support him as he fights the charges or do you abandon him?
Now, the scenario I just pointed out may or may not have been totally what happened in the Cleveland, Texas case. Statutory rape (meaning that the law makes the sex act a rape because a child under a certain age cannot give consent) for most people involves an “involuntary” aspect to it.
Yet what is a parent to do when all indicators point to a percentage of culpability on the part of the girl? Are we to do as some have suggested and shout from the rooftops that “it doesn’t matter?” Do we say “it doesn’t matter” that the girl lied about her age? Do we agree that “it doesn’t matter” if the girl allowed the sex to happen by consenting personally, even though the law says she doesn’t have the right to give consent? Do we totally disregard her Facebook pages where she brags about being able to “pull” older boys?
How do we honestly judge the “wrongness” when in the eyes of a loving parent we can see our son’s side, that his actions were “poor judgment” and not that of a molester hitting someone over the head and dragging them into the bushes?
As parents, we will be labeled quite a few names for wanting to protect our son by finding fault with the girl. Are we wrong for worrying about our son’s future if he is labeled a sexual predator and/or child molester?
Now a little girl jumping rope who is pulled off the street and molested is very clear-cut. But in our oversexed world, where young girls are being inundated day and night with sexually explicit content – where the music that is played at a young child’s party includes phrases like “sex in the morning, sex at night,” where Abercrombie and Fitch are offering a bikini for young girls with a push-up bra feature and the Maury Show loves to show young girls acting like they are grown – then when those children purposely engage in sex, how do we judge both the male and female participants in the act?
Is there a gray area or is it cut and dry? And what does this society need to do about it? Are the males, because they are 18 or older, always guilty when nothing in this society is preparing them for proper adulthood? There is not a standardized “right of passage” that each young person undergoes as they turn 18.
Is there any culpability on the part of a willing female, or is she always the innocent victim? As a society we confer “adultness” to certain criminal acts like murder. Can the same be said for sex acts?
When you respond, please do so as the imaginary parent of the boy. I am most interested in opinions from that side of the fence. It will be a refreshing read.