This is a guest post by Ralph Sabella.
I read a short story at a read-aloud group. The plot involved a 30 plus year old woman seducing a boy of 13. The seduction, rather delicately done, only involved the woman being provocative in her dress and having the boy massage her feet. The reading produced considerable discussion, the most interesting element being the difference between the women’s and men’s reactions. The women expressed sorrow for the boy, for his confusion and the frustration he had experienced, but also for the seductress in her need to use a child to alleviate her own sexual frustrations. All the men couldn’t get past wishing they had been in the boy’s shoes. None of the latter voiced upset with the woman’s behavior.
How would it have gone if the sexes were reversed, i.e. a man and a young girl? There would have been a general outcry against the man, certainly no feelings of compassion for his having to relieve his sexual tensions through the mild and delicate luring of a girl, and, I’m sure, great concern for the girl’s welfare. No disclosure to any sexual arousal here by men or women.
This is not to condone the actions of the adults in either scenario, but interesting questions are raised if the attitudes of my small group of friends are those of the general population, and indeed the basis of how child molesters are judged and sentenced: men harshly and women less so.
I consider myself a non-sexist, liberal who generally believes in equal rights for everyone, and I’m a male to boot, yet I’m not disturbed by the legal gender inequity when it comes to child molestation, and I’m not sure if I shouldn’t be upset with myself.
Why should a man, say, for the same crime be given the more severe punishment than a woman? I think there is the understandable fear that men are often physically dangerous in such circumstances but to sentence a man on that basis seems to be convicting him of a crime he didn’t commit. If it’s meant as a warning or deterrent then, considering that women as care givers and teachers of children are far more conveniently positioned for wrong doing with the young, wouldn’t it make sense to warn and deter them more strongly?