Rape culture is real, and it is pervasive, and once you recognise and see it, you cannot un-see it. It yet another stunning example of the media aiding and abetting the saturation of rape culture, a number of news outlets reported that a 12 year old girl (who has since been found), had ‘ran off’ with an older man.
Let us be clear: she had not ‘run off’ with him. She had been lured, and it will quite likely transpire that she had been groomed. She is 12 years old – a child who, however tall for her age, however pretty or older than her years she might (to some) look, is rightly protected by law on that basis. The adult responsible for taking her from her home has abused the power that he has both as an adult and a man.
We see this situation repeated ad nauseam in the press: teachers who have taken advantage of their students are given ‘sympathy’ because society fails to recognise that the abuser has made a choice to use and abuse the young person concerned. Other adults talk about young children using their burgeoning, and insecure sense of their sexuality, as if this were some kind of power; time and again this is deemed as somehow the source of the power – and the ‘problem’ – in the situation, with the adult (usually male) deemed as too ‘weak’ to resist the onslaught of such ‘temptation’. (‘He was depressed’; ‘he was having problems at work/in his marriage’, ‘he was having a hard time’ and so on).
Society sexualises children in myriad ways, making commodities of their bodies, and is then shocked when abusers make the choice to consume and abuse them – and because society has a skewed and unhealthy view of what power is, inevitably, the child is blamed or disbelieved.
But sexuality does not equal power. And a child is not ever a sex object.
How is this not obvious? Why does it even need to be said?