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He had three events in mind when he brought this up. The first was the well known incident in the state of Washington where a teacher became pregnant by one of her teenage students. Custody of her child was given to the boy's mother and she was convicted of felony child molestation and put on probation. When she subsequently became pregnant once again...by the same boy...she was returned to prison, where she is serving a seven year sentence...which incidently will keep her in prison until the boy becomes an adult. What will be the destiny of their second child is not clear. Perhaps he or she will be branded with a scarlet 'B,' for bastard, and put in an orphanage.
Much has been written about this affair. Completely overlooked, as far as I can tell, are the feelings of the boy on this issue. What was his part? He is obviously sexually mature, but little or nothing has been said of his emotional development, or, more to the point, how society's reaction to what has happened has affected him. One can speculate that he enjoyed the encounter...probably more than most adults, given that he returned to do it again under most unfavorable circumstances...that of his paramour being branded a criminal for having intercourse with him. You could also say, without much fear of contradiction, that his classmates...at least the males...are impressed in the EXTREME with this lad. I can picture them giving him high fives and saying "Right on, Bad Dude!" each day as he passes through the halls.
I also have a darker vision. Of sexually repressed adults tying Ms. Letourneau to a stake, spreading kindling and firewood about her feet and setting it ablaze. Or, of these same (mostly male perverts) coming in their jeans as the lever is thrown on the gallows, she falls to the end of the rope and her neck snaps.
In honesty, I don't really know what is going on here in detail. Perhaps Ms. Letourneau is actually a Svengali-like seductress who lured this innocent lad into her bed and defiled him, ravishing him over and over against his will. But, perhaps he had something to do with it too. Anybody out there with teenage children knows two things for sure:
The second incident on Roger's mind is the impending blacklisting of the movie Lolita, starring Jeremy Irons, an academy award winning actor, and directed by Adrian Lyne, director of Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal. As you may know, Roger was the first Teen Movie Critic and is a strong opponent of censorship, having been himself exposed, since a young age, to any and all cinema. By all accounts, the movie is very good, accurately depicting the essence of this famous novel by Vladimir Nabokov. In fact, this version of the book is a remake. An earlier version starred James Mason as the pedophile, and although it strayed quite far from the text...it was called a comedy by Pauline Kael...it was widely acclaimed.
However, because of its subject matter, no one will distribute the recent version of the film...at least at this time. Sex between adults and children has definitely becoming a no-no. Not only is it wrong to do, but wrong to talk about, wrong to write about, wrong to depict in movies. What is going on here? Have we completely forgotten that children are simply adults in the making? That they, especially teenagers, have thoughts and feelings of their own?
The final incident troubling young Roger is that, last year, in the state of Oklahoma, police conducted raids on video stores and PEOPLE'S HOMES to confiscate copies of the movie, The Tin Drum, an adaptation of a famous novel by Gunter Grass. The reason? This movie, which is about a boy growing up in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II, at one point depicts a sex scene between the boy and an adult woman. As if that were even close to being one of the worst atrocities of that era! By the way, the film, German made, won an Oscar as best foreign film in 1979.
The common thread running through all these events is the implied notion that the children consented to or even sought the sexual contact. The repression is due to the equally implied notion that there is no way they could have done so. Now, I suppose I could get into a deep philosophical discussion of when, exactly, a child can be considered to be possessed of reason, capable of deciding for his or herself how to behave. The recent murders in Arkansas, apparently committed by two young boys, brings this issue into stark relief. Our society has many rules on the subject. Most states, and Arkansas is no exception, have a cutoff line beneath which it is arbitrarily assumed that a child can not be held responsible for his/her behavior. It is fourteen in Arkansas, when concerned with violent criminal behavior, but varies widely from state to state, crime to crime. Sex between a man over the age of 21 is illegal in the state of Minnesota if the female is under 16. For the situation where the woman is older, the cutoff line is 18! Go figure! There are federal standards for the age at which smoking and drinking are legal, however, set at 21, this contradicts most assumptions about when a child becomes a legal adult and can vote in elections or kill people in the service of his or her country. So, I think any serious discussion of this philosophical point will have to await the time that our culture becomes a tad more sane and once again embraces common sense. Otherwise, it seems pointless.
Now I understand that the underlying rationale for these rules is that children are incapable of making rational choices about such serious subjects as sex, drugs and violence. This is certainly true about a two year old. Probably it is true about most six year olds. At ten, the lines are starting to get a little fuzzy. Especially with some children, who, for whatever reason, have been exposed to a great deal of knowledge on the subject. My own children, for example, had far more accurate knowledge on these subjects at age ten than I, or any of my friends, did at the same age. In those days, you were expected to learn about these things somewhat magically, without the intervention of ANY adults (except, possibly, your parents, who were usually far too embarrassed by the subject of sex to even broach it...and violence was considered too hot for ANYONE to discuss in public). This struck me as very irrational when I finally got some real knowledge on the subjects, and still does. Having children rely on OTHER CHILDREN to learn about such important aspects of life is simply stupid. I had been under the impression that the modern world, where anyone over the age of five can easily get whatever knowledge they want on the subject seemed much more sensible. I seem to have been a little premature in drawing this conclusion.
So, what I will do is relate an incident in my own life and leave it up to you to decide the implications.
One day, when I was living communally at Crow Farm, I was sitting talking with a small group of adults about something or other...I forget exactly what, but it was not about sex...and a young girl named Lonnie came and sat on my lap. It was not uncommon for any of the kids to do this, since we stressed that children should always be made to feel welcome by any adult...that affection should be denied to none of them. Lonnie was eleven at the time and in the "puppy" stage of physical development. That is, she was growing fast but her hands and feet had outstripped the rest of her and were comically large. In short, she was a funny looking young kid who was in no way sexually attractive to me.
At one point, I noticed that she had lightly straddled one of my legs and was rubbing her crotch slowly back and forth on my leg. I tried to ignore her, but it quickly started to make me very uncomfortable. So, I said, as quietly and gently as I could, "Lonnie, what are you doing?"
She looked at me through heavily lidded eyes and said slowly and clearly, "You know perfectly well what I am doing."
It was true. It was obvious that she was masturbating on my leg and that she was already quite aroused. The thought of what the others in the room...remember, I was trying to have a discussion with several people at the time...would think of me...or of her...if they knew what was happening, terrified me. Like most people, I had been raised with a strict notion of right or wrong in these matters and thirty year old men having sex...any kind of sex...with eleven year old pre-pubertal girls was definitely WRONG!
So, trying not to make a scene, I said...again very quietly..."Would you please stop?"
Lonnie replied "Why?" and instead of stopping increased both the pressure on my leg and the speed of her pelvic thrusting.
"Stop!" I said more urgently. But, she ignored me and, if anything, became even more vigorous in her actions.
I jumped to my feet in alarm, dropping her abruptly and painfully onto the floor. She gave me a poisonous look, burst into tears and darted from the room. Completely flabbergasted, I called a couple of the adult women aside and told them what had happened. To my surprise, they were much less disturbed by the incident than I. In fact, they thought I was being quite silly. What one of them said was, "I think it is time to teach Lonnie a little about 'consent.'"
I was very embarrassed. It had never occurred to me that this whole thing was about nothing more complicated than consent and that it was MY consent that was lacking. From that day on, the women at Crow Farm took over responsibility for teaching sexual etiquette to the girls and the men became responsible for teaching the boys. We wanted no rape, by anyone...EVER...to occur. It seemed to work, but there is far more to the story than this, which I will get into at another time.
As far as I can tell, our society still completely evades the question of consent when children below a certain age are concerned. We focus instead on the education or miseducation of our children about sex. For the notion of consent, we rely upon laws that are arbitrary, capricious, often quite sexist in their double standards of enforcement. I guess this allows us to avoid confronting what seems to me to be a quite reasonable issue. That is, what is the best way for children to learn about sexuality, from adults or from other children?
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