Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts

Monday, November 15, 2010

More thoughts on girls, sex, and our society

Having gone through all the comments on my previous post, Mothers, don't rely on the police to do the job of a father, I decided that I had reacted angrily, emotionally, and impatiently when I wrote it up.  Therefore, I changed the title and and made some edits because I do not want to give the impression that I think sex between an older adult man such as Raymond Bush and a very young girl is in any way condonable.  When Mary Kay Letourneau was molesting Vili Fualaau we called it molesting because she was an adult and he was a minor child, unprepared for all the repercussions sex can have and the onus was on her to behave according to the rules of society, rules she had many, many more years to learn.  Raymond Bush was also an adult and what he did our society considers illegal and completely unacceptable.  He was also apparently unstable and probably a danger to others, including other young girls.  So he was subject to the law just as Mary Kay Letourneau was.

I was also unfair to Taylor's mother.  I know almost nothing about her, only that she has children and is no longer married to Taylor's father.  My reaction to the circumstances which led to what happened to her daughter was speculation based on patterns I've seen in our society and not based on accurate information about her or her life.  I judged her without much evidence, and that was wrong.  I was wrong.  I can be proud, but I am not foolish enough to think that I might not have made the same or similar decisions had I been born her.   There but for the grace of God go I.  I have removed Taylor's last name and her mother's name from that blog piece.  I apologize sincerely.

However, both of those stories still illustrate quite clearly what our society has become and will continue to devolve into without the personal input, authority, and protection of men.  It absolutely exasperates me that we hear these stories night after night on the news and in our newspapers and among our friends and within our communities and we still are nodding our heads and smiling when Jennifer Aniston says stuff like:
Women are realising it more and more knowing that they don't have to settle with a man just to have that child.
and going to movies like Eat, Pray, Love in droves when we should be looking around and noticing that everything goes to garbage when the important contributions of men are ridiculed, shunted aside, devalued, and undermined.  Yes, some men walk out.  Some fathers bail.  And in the absence of ladylike behavior,  gentlemanly behavior has largely faded away.  But telling ourselves men aren't necessary and encouraging other women to go motherhood alone is, at best, unbelievably stupid and, at worst, actively evil.

Furthermore, sexualizing young girls as we do will only result in more of these tragedies.  The examples girls get in books, magazines, movies, fashion and from their older female friends and relatives tell them that sex is enticing, that sex is power and the sooner you can get that power the better.  We also as a society have told them that we don't expect chaste or risk-averse behavior from them every time we give them condoms or agitate for abortion without parental consent.  We have made it plain what we expect them to do, we do not adequately supervise them, and then we act like it's a terrible shock when they wind up pregnant in droves or when they take older lovers. The fact is that if you give a 14-year-old girl the encouragement, motive, and opportunity to have sex, she will choose the partner she finds most sexy, most powerful, most able to take her places or give her things or experiences, and a boy her age is unlikely to top that list.  We have to own that we as a society set up our boys and our girls to fail this test and that we are part of the problem.  Until we change ourselves, our own societal expectations, and what we teach girls, they will act sexually and be sexual, and there will be more chaos and violence.  Because a pretty, young girl has a transient but potent power, and it can be wielded disastrously.  This is why we used to clamp down on the sexual power of girls and young women because we understood the danger for her and for society and we did not consider her opportunity to enjoy her sexual power or "explore her sexuality" more important than the chaos that kind of power can and so often does cause.

We can choose to focus on Bush and his role of predator or we can see how we every day set the stage for this drama to occur and reoccur over and over and over again and watch the bodies pile up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Piece of Advice #78: Mothers, don't rely on the police to do the job of a father

There have been (at least) two cases in Michigan in the last few weeks involving young girls who died tragically after having had sex with older men.  Most recently Samantha Kelly of Huron Township committed suicide.  Samantha's case is complex; she was 14 years old and apparently had consensual sex with Joseph Tarnopolski, a boy who lived a few houses down from hers.  Tarnopolski was 18 and a senior at the high school Samantha attended.  The two were friendly, Samantha was, according to initial testimony she gave police and texts she sent, anxious to lose her virginity, and they had sex while his parents were out.  Apparently it wasn't that great or things went badly afterward because she told her mother about it, and her mother (featured below) went to the police and had "rape" charges brought against Tarnopolski.  To be more precise the police charged him with Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct which broken down is penetrative sex with a minor aged 13, 14, or 15.  It carries a possible sentence of 15 years in prison.

Yes, that's right: 15 years in prison.

About three weeks later on October 18th Samantha and June Justice, her mother, gave an interview to Fox News and the story she told was different.  In the new version Tarnopolski had prevented Samantha from leaving while they were having sex and had pulled her leg when she stood up.  Samantha implied rape this time instead of consensual sex between a minor and a fledgling adult man.  It seems logical that June didn't like what the police were concluding: that her daughter had wanted and initiated sex with this boy and that she was using them in place of Samantha's missing father to punish Tarnopolski.  More drama was needed to firmly convince everyone of the victimization that had occurred.  Unfortunately for Samantha, the Fox News report named Justice, Tarnopolski, and Samantha's high school in the interview.  From there everything went down in the halls of Huron High.  Samantha was bullied, branded a liar, and made to feel unsafe.  She killed herself this week.  Without a witness to the crime or any incriminating evidence, all charges were dropped against Joseph Tarnopolski.



The second case involves another 14 year old girl having consensual sex, this time with a much older man.  Taylor M. of Harrison had a year-long affair (beginning at age 14) with Raymond Bush who was 20 years her senior.  It was apparently serious - Bush had Taylor's name tattooed on his back - until her mother discovered what was going on and involved the police.  Again Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct charges were brought, and Taylor was sent to live with her father.  Bush was told to make no contact, but he repeatedly tried to communicate with her on the days leading up to the court hearing in which she was scheduled to testify against him.  The day of the hearing Bush abducted and killed Taylor, then killed himself.

What do these cases have in common?  Young girls from broken families, insufficiently supervised and wanting to be sexually active.  Also mothers who used the police as backup to help contain their daughters' sexual exploration and punish the men who had sex with their daughters.  And long prison sentences forecast for two men.

Frankly, fourteen is too young for girls to be sexually active.  There is too much at stake physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  But it is unbelievably hypocritical to punish men who sleep with 14-year-old girls who initiate consensual sex with long prison sentences when at the same time our government and schools push for birth control and access to abortion for these same girls without the consent or knowledge of their parents.  Let's pick one.  Either these girls are girls still and should not be having sex and should also have consequences for engaging in illegal sexual conduct or they are women who can choose to have sex with whomever they like regardless of the age of their lovers.

And here's a little more brutal honesty: Samantha at least was doomed to be precociously sexual the moment the hospital nurse tagged her baby wrist with her mother's name.  According to news reports, June has four children.  Those children have three different last names.  June was willing to put her daughter's sexual experiences on Fox News to get her revenge and her time in the victim spotlight.  June has obviously made any number of bad choices and, from the looks of it, Samantha was on schedule to follow in her footsteps.  Her death is sad, but her life was undoubtedly going to be sad too.  Taylor's mother didn't know her daughter was having an affair with a 35-year-old man for an entire year.  Obviously she wasn't totally plugged in to all the critical details of her daughter's personal development.

I completely support a mother's desire to delay her daughter's sexual activity well into adulthood and marriage.  I also would be angry to find out she was involved with either of the aforementioned men.  I would actively work to cease contact and step up supervision of my daughter - because she is my investment and concern.  As long as she continues to seek out sex and have the opportunity, she will get it, especially given the number of people out there working to undermine parents' control of their children's sexual exploration.  Does it really matter whether the man she has sex with is 15, 18, or 35?  With any of them she can become pregnant, contract a disease, or grow debauched/jaded.  It's all bad.

Finally, the steep prison sentence for Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct has to be considered a factor in the above tragic outcomes.  Would Raymond Bush have abducted and murdered the girl he thought he loved if he hadn't been looking at 15 years in prison?  Would the kids at Huron High School dropped the matter if Joseph Tarnopolski hadn't been about to lose any chance at a good life?  Even if the second version of events Samantha Kelly told was correct, the punishment on the slate for Tarnopolski did not fit the crime.  People who are threatened with the complete ruination of their future often get a little twitchy.  They make impulsive decisions.  Perhaps they let their friends try to even the score.  All actions have consequences.  None of us operate in a vacuum.  The laws for Criminal Sexual Conduct need to be reworked if we as a society plan to continue encouraging young girls to explore their sexuality.  If we don't want girls to be sexual at a young age, we need to stop sexualizing them early and give them consequences too if they participate willingly in illegal sexual conduct.

Addendum 11/15/10:  Read my follow up thoughts here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Piece of Advice #6: Encourage your children's relationship with their father

My son, a kindergartner, wrote this note today for his dad who had a tough week at work.

It's important that children, boys and girls, get to know their fathers, spend time with their fathers, and develop an appreciation of what fathers do for them in terms of providing stability, security, role modeling, and their personal talents, gifts, and abilities.

If you do anything to stand in the way of this relationship developing and maintaining itself, you are not acting in the best interests of your child.  It is, of course, a given that your children's father is not a criminal, an addict, abusive, or otherwise dangerous (and by "dangerous" I do not mean "interferes with your own agenda or causes you inconvenience" if the two of you are no longer together).  It is your job as a mother to not choose a man like this to impregnate you in the first place.  If you have, it is now your duty to work as hard as you can to find a decent, reliable replacement male role model for your children in a grandfather, uncle, brother or friend (and by "friend" I do not mean "lover, live-in, or boyfriend").  Having a mother is not enough.  Having a name on a birth certificate is not enough.  As long as the father has interest in his kids, work, work, work to facilitate their relationship.  Your children will need those ties as a security net and bulwark in the future as our lives become increasingly less secure.  Having concerned family on your side is the best backup anyone can have.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Piece of Advice #1: Stay married.

If you are married, first of all congratulate yourself.  You have managed to accomplish something many women of our generation and future generations have not and will not: persuading a man you are valuable enough for him to take himself off the sexual market and render himself vulnerable to a legal/economic system that favors women.

Now that you've congratulated yourself, don't screw it up.  Don't get complacent.  Don't get bored and have an affair.  Don't take him for granted.  And for God's sake, don't leave him and screw him over financially in family court.  Think long term.  Divorce is expensive, but separate lifestyles are financially ruinous.  Your children need a father (who doesn't hate their mother) living in their house parenting them, and you will not be happier divorced.  If you think Prince Charming is waiting on his white horse right around the corner to swoop you up in his arms and take you to the palace, think again.  Odds are, ten years ago you were better marriage material: younger, thinner, hotter, less desperate, and less bitter.  If Prince Charming wasn't making a bid then, why would he now?  Divorced you will be lonely, poorer, and harried taking care of your children on your own.  Your vacations and holidays will be exponentially more complicated since your ex-husband and in-laws will still want to see your children.  People get married because it is the least expensive, least complicated way to raise happy, healthy, successful children.

If he is not beating you or your children, sleeping with an army of skanks-on-the-side, or spending himself into an abyss of debt and taking you along, don't get divorced.  Trust me: happiness is cyclical, poverty lingers, and your kids have a better chance of staying out of jail or trouble if their father is present in their lives.  Isn't that worth staying for?