Yes, women sexualise children too
06 November 2014, 14:39
Nairobi - I’m a sucker for a documentary. Give me a bit of investigative journalism and I’m as happy as a pig in mud. Recently, I watched a documentary by the UK’s Channel 4 called The Paedophile Hunter.
Stinson Hunter is a vigilante who fights crime by creating fake online dating profiles, entrapping predatory men who are seeking out sex with underage girls.
Upsettingly, we hear about men seeking out inappropriate sexual relationships with young women via social media and online dating apps almost every day. But when women are pointed out as the perpetrators, we tend to shake our heads in disbelief. Women don’t do this kind of thing, right? Wrong.
Yesterday, Hunter alerted the public to a tweet sent by a 20+ woman, after 10-year-old Romeo Beckham was signed to model in the new Burberry ad campaign:
‘Romeo beckham you are like 10 and so hot’
Hunter attacked her on Facebook, as he would any other sexual predator, saying: ‘I wanted to see what people thought about the whole subject but it seems to me that a lot of people think it's ok for women to say a child is 'hot' but if a man say's it then it's not ok.
‘Like I have said this was to get people's opinions but sadly some people can't read and jumped the gun and started saying I accused somebody of being a paedophile when if you read properly I haven't even said anything that could draw anyone to that conclusion, I only asked if it was acceptable.
‘That's it. But because it's a woman it really does seem like a lot of people think it's ok. Really worrying attitude to have.’
Worrying indeed. It was perceived by most as a throwaway comment, not to be taken seriously.
We’re not suggesting the woman in question is a sexual predator, but it would have been taken seriously if a man tweeted it, about a 10 year-old girl. There is definitely a double standard that excuses seemingly ‘harmless’ remarks like this from women.
My fear is that it might be rooted in the fact that women are still viewed (by both men and women) as the weaker sex, the nurturing sex. Not capable of doing serious damage to another person, not with her words or actions.
In the same week, controversy has surrounded Lena Dunham, the creator of TV series Girls and author of Not That Kind Of Girl.
In a chapter of her book she writes about her younger sibling, Grace. In it, she details her coming out and how she used to do (almost) anything in order to get some affection from her little sis. Yet, there is one part that sparked molestation claims against Dunham:
‘Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn't resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.’
In her defence, Dunham tweeted saying: “The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn't just LOL- it's really fucking upsetting and disgusting.”
And her sister Grace Dunham tweeted in response, saying: "As a queer person: I'm committed to people narrating their own experiences, determining for themselves what has and has not been harmful.”
This opened up a debate about victimisation. Was it an overreaction to an innocent, curious child comparing her and her sister’s private parts? Or was it a 7-year-old sexual predator touching her sister’s vagina for her own sick, twisted pleasure? I have to say I lean towards the former.
One must determine for yourself what you find harmful, as Grace Dunham says. But tweeting about an underage child saying they are ‘hot’ sexualises them, whether they feel directly affected by it or not. It creates a discourse wherein children become sexual objects.
We often overlook derogatory comments made by women, simply because they seem less harmful then when made by men. Is it less harmful or should we be policing women more harshly? What do you think?