A Thirteen-Year-Old Talks About Sex–OMG!

The video below has gone viral recently, scoring over a half a million hits, and generating a lot of controversy about the fact that a thirteen-year-old girl is talking about…wait for it…sex!

It seems that many adults are blown away by the fact that “Astrorice” is so knowledgeable and articulate about sex. They obviously see a thirteen-year-old as a child who has no business knowing, much less talking about, things like “slut-shaming” and rape.

I for one am encouraged by this young woman. She really has a handle on what’s wrong about judging people for their sexual activity, whether real or presumed. And I was really impressed by what she said about rape culture. The adults in this next video, not so much; they thought she crossed some kind of line.

What disturbed me is that the panelists spent more time talking about her precociousness than they did about the issues she raised. I thought the most important part of her video was when she talked about “the rape culture.” She’s absolutely right that slut-shaming (or judging people based on their sexual activity or appearance) does contribute to the attitudes that make some men think it’s all right to push sex on women against their will. That’s rape whether the woman is drunk or dressed in a mini-skirt or just minding her own business. I don’t understand people who say that “date rape” isn’t really rape, or that there are degrees of rape, some barely worth mentioning.

Just sayin’.


Why Fight the War on Women?

There’s been a lot in the news lately about the War on Women. What most people don’t realize is that this “war” isn’t only about abortion. It’s a series of battles over a woman’s right to live her life purposefully. This doesn’t just mean her right to birth control or abortion. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Women are still having to fight for these things and more:

  • access to education
  • jobs, promotions
  • health benefits
  • reasonable rates for life and health insurance
  • maternity leave and other accommodations for child-rearing
  • effective prosecution of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence
  • elected office and other positions of power

Many people think that the War on Women was fought in the ’60s and ’70s and that women won it. They point to female CEOs and other professionals, to the number of women obtaining higher education, to greater attention being paid to women’s health issues and  to greater protections in general under the law. But these advantages are not being given equally to all women.

As long as there is one woman who is treated wrongfully and unequally because of her gender, the war has not been won. And the fact is, there are still millions of women who need things that many of us, privileged as we are, take for granted. Not only that, but women who feel that they have never suffered gender or sexual discrimination are either unusually fortunate or delusional.

One of the most insidious ways to keep women down is socialization. It’s hard to point a finger to the culprit here when the entire society participates in the practices that keep women from fulfilling their full potential. Even women themselves cooperate in their own socialization and often seem proud of it. The woman who drops out of college to get married, the professional who stops working to have children, the mother who praises her daughter for being pretty, but not for her participation in sports—all of these women are shortsightedly dooming themselves and their children to discrimination in the future.

These women protest that they have the right to choose to work part-time or not at all (except for in the home of course), to have as many children as they want and to raise them however they see fit. I’m not saying that they don’t have the right to choose whatever they want to do with their lives. I’m just asking them to think about the long-term effects of their choices.

The War on Women can’t be fought only by the people who already have the advantages some women only dream of. It has to be fought by all women. Each woman has to think purposefully about her life and do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. She has to stop thinking about what everyone else wants her to do and start thinking about what she wants.

Some say that the feminist movement has done nothing but create a society of self-centered and selfish women who think nothing of abandoning husbands and children and who could care less about their families’ fates. There will always be those who think only of themselves (female and male), but the feminist movement didn’t cause that. And that is certainly not its goal.

All that feminism asks is that women think and act responsibly with an eye to the future, both their future and that of their children. Do they really want their daughters (and sons) to be saddled with children they didn’t want and can’t care for? Do they want their daughters to continue to have to bear the brunt of housework and child-raising? Do they want their sons to take women for granted, even to the point of abusing them?

Maybe the War on Women will never be over. Patriarchal attitudes are ingrained in nearly every society. Add to that the resistance people have to change. But humankind’s progress doesn’t depend on staying in the present or even going back to the past. Progress means to go forward. What was “usual and customary” for our ancestors has to be re-examined and reworked in order to serve our future.



Book Review: Girls Like Us

Sometimes a book is singled out not just for its writing, but for its topic. Girls Like Us is such a book. The author, Rachel Lloyd, has turned what could have been another “terrible childhood” memoir into both a social commentary and a call to action. Her own story of commercial sexual exploitation and how she made her way out of it is interesting enough in its own right, but Lloyd makes it into so much more by weaving the stories of “girls like her” throughout her narrative.

Lloyd’s main message is a strong one: she contends that teen prostitutes are not criminals or bad girls, but victims of commercial sexual exploitation. She even goes so far as to say that children and young women are being trafficked in this country. She makes her case so well, I came away from the reading of this book with an entirely different view of prostitution.

I took a course on “Sex Work” in college a few years ago where we debated whether or not prostitution was a victimless crime, or even a crime at all. Were prostitutes and other sex workers exploited or empowered by what they did for a living? Some feminists insist that all sex work is a form of exploitation, even a rape of sorts. Others feel that we have put down sex workers far too long and that we should accord them agency to dictate their own lives.

Lloyd has come up with a different perspective and once you’ve read the book you wonder why you didn’t see it for yourself. When a person is tricked, cajoled, and even terrorized into “the life” (of prostitution) the victim is the prostitute herself. And when we’re talking about children, who have not reached the age of majority by a long shot, it’s clear that something is wrong with this picture. All too often these children are victimized not only by their pimps and their johns, but also by the system that should be protecting them: the social workers, police, lawyers and judges who see them as criminals who must be punished for their transgressions.

This book makes it clear, without heavy arguments or specialized jargon, that these girls have much more in common with the rest of us than we would like to believe.  They have hopes and dreams and interests like any other children, but they’ve been deceived into thinking that “the life” is going to give them the security, both financial and emotional, that they are so desperately seeking.

When I told an acquaintance about this book, her reaction was that she just didn’t believe that police and the legal system would see these under-age prostitutes as seasoned criminals. I told her that she should read the book. She still insisted that I had to be wrong (meaning that the author had to be wrong).

Her reaction may not be unique. People are so uncomfortable with the underside of life, they would rather assume that those who inhabit it have chosen to live that way. They refuse to believe that fear and violence and self-loathing are powerful determinants. Especially for children.

Twenty years ago I read Savage Inequalities by Jonathon Kozol which was about the horrible conditions in our country’s poorest schools. Almost overnight I became painfully aware of something I would rather have not known about. There was no answer for why we would allow poor children to go wanting for even the basics of a decent life. When I read Girls Like Us, I had the same reaction. How can we look the other way when children are being destroyed daily? How can we allow such a total loss of innocence and potential?

The best part of this book is that the author offers hope, not just to the reader, but also to the young girls themselves. Because this is not just an exposé or expanded article from a socially conscious magazine. This is also a chronicle of one woman who was able to climb out of “the life” and go on to make something of herself. The really amazing thing is that she didn’t stop there. She founded an organization when she was only 23 designed to reach out to young women and children who are caught up in sexual exploitation and to help them, too, to extricate themselves from their (sometimes literal) prisons.

Lloyd doesn’t sugarcoat the process. This is no sunshiny, pie-in-the-sky approach to human redemption. Lloyd’s been there herself and has done this work long enough that she knows exactly how hard it can be. But she refuses to give up. Today she serves as the executive director of her organization, Girls Educational &Mentoring Services, otherwise known as GEMS, and devotes her time to spreading the word about its important work and the work of so many other organizations and individuals who share the same concerns and vision.

I urge you to read Girls Like Us and to visit GEMS’ website. You owe it to yourself as a concerned citizen and a human being. These young women are not “throwaways.” They deserve the chance to remake themselves and achieve their potential. But they need our awareness and our support. Reading this book is an important first step.

Protecting the Rapist

Representative Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta, GA) apparently has a soft spot for rapists. He doesn’t want them to be traumatized any more than is necessary when they’ve been accused of rape. He’s introduced a bill that would change the language of state criminal codes so that those who file charges for rape, stalking, and domestic violence will be called accusers, not victims, until there has been a conviction.

For some reason it’s still okay to say that people who have been burglarized, assaulted (other than sexually) or defrauded are victims as soon as they (or the police) file charges. But Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, points out that ” … if you have the misfortune to suffer a rape, or if you are beaten by a domestic partner, or if you are stalked, Rep. Franklin doesn’t think you have been victimized.”

Either that, or he thinks you’re lying.

Why is it that some men are so insensitive about the suffering of rape victims? And so protective of the men who have been accused of rape? They wouldn’t protect someone who stole their car or their wallet. But when it comes to a sexually-motivated conflict between men and women, they’re awfully quick to blame or discount the woman. Because we all know that the man can’t be at fault; the woman is the one who brought the action upon herself. 

A woman who accuses a man of sexual violence is basically saying that men don’t have the right to do anything they want to women. And men don’t like being told that. There are still plenty of patriarchal Neanderthals out there who think they have been ordained by God to keep women in their place, by whatever means necessary.

They also think that women should be punished, for being too sexual (slutty), independent (uppity) or disrespectful (bitch). So if a woman dares to stand up for herself and accuses a man of sexually assaulting or abusing her, Representative Franklin wants the law to warn her that she better have an airtight case—enough for a conviction—or no one is going to believe her.

The law enforcement system is reluctant to prosecute cases of violence against women because it’s a woman’s word against a man’s. Also, it’s harder to prove rape than it is the theft of a car, for example. The reason why there was so much outrage over the wording in H.R. 3 was because the bill’s originators were basically saying that rape is not punishable unless it’s clear that it was “forcible.” Unless there’s undeniable proof that a woman was raped (by bruising or tearing, etc.), she is simply not going to be believed when she says she was raped. If the wording had gone through as planned, it would have been the same as saying that it’s the federal government that doesn’t believe her.

Why wasn’t I surprised that it was a man who introduced this bill (Rep. Chris Smith [R-NJ], who is also the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus Co-Chair), and that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) supported him? Thank God they had enough sense to back down when they saw how pissed off people were about the wording.

[To clarify: HR 3, which purports to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions and ensure that the healthcare reform law does not cover the cost of abortions, had provided for an exception only when the woman’s life is endangered, in cases of “forcible” rape, or in cases of incest if the woman was a minor. The exemption in the bill will now cover all forms of rape.]

Media Resources: CNN 2/7/11; Huffington Post 2/8/11; Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Website 2/8/11; Feminist Daily Newswire 2/4/11; RH Reality Check 2/4/11.