Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dismissing Garden Variety Sex Crimes

Last week I came across a post on an anti-feminist blog which dismissed "garden variety" aggressive sexual behavior by boys and men from the list of possible acts of sexual violence for no reason other than how common that behavior is.

That line of rape denial is so familiar and so blatant that I didn't bother highlighting it.

However, I was reminded of the twisted logic in that post by an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about protests from the parents of a boy who they acknowledge grabbed girls at his school.

In a case his parents consider prosecutorial overkill, a 14-year-old Mequon boy has been charged with five counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and faces the prospect of being tagged a sex offender for touching several girls in what his parents admit was an inappropriate manner.

So, last week in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, the boy's parents said no when Ozaukee County District Attorney Sandy Williams offered to reduce the charges to two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and, if he pleaded no contest, to expunge his conviction if he stayed out of trouble for a year.

The parents said their son was guilty of nothing more than disorderly conduct. [...]

Two girls at Steffen Middle School in Mequon told officials June 6, a Friday, that the boy, 13 years old at the time, during class had grabbed the buttocks of one girl, 14, and unhooked the bra of the other girl, 13.

Under questioning by police, officials learned of other unreported incidents going back to October 2007, when the boy was 12, when he grabbed other girls' buttocks or their breasts, licked a girl's neck and tickled another girl in the stomach, according to the petition.

This boy's parents sent their son to Utah for 2 months where he was enrolled in a wilderness camp for troubled teens, but if they continue to minimize his actions they will only help their son wrongly feel that he's the victim in this case.

The parents of this boy are choosing to ignore that those girls had the legal right not to be grabbed or groped irregardless of the motives of the boy who did so. The mother described her son's alleged crimes as "numskull friendliness" which utterly fails to acknowledge the impact of his method of "friendliness." That failure is dangerous to those around her son and it is dangerous to her son.

The story claims that the girls don't want this boy charged with a crime, they just want his behavior stopped by the school. The parents of the boy seem to take this stated position as proof that their son didn't commit the crime he's accused of, but that is wrong. It makes sense that the top priority for the girls who were grabbed is for the school to not tolerate students who grab and grope other students because that action protects those girls and other students from more than just an individual offender.

Twisting the girls desire to put stopping this illegal behavior above their desire for criminal punishment into support for the illegal behavior is nonsense.

These parents are attempting to use a so-called positive motivation to position their son as wrongly accused. By doing so they are teaching their son a dangerous way of thinking about the law and his behavior toward girls.

State law says fourth-degree sexual assault occurs when someone intentionally touches another person to gratify himself sexually, or sexually degrades or humiliates that person.

This boy's actions, which his parents don't deny, clearly fit this description. Their argument echoes the anti-feminist argument which seeks to dismiss all "garden variety" sexual aggression as normal.

The logic seemed to be that if sexual aggressiveness on the part of boys and men (refusing to stop at "no" or not bothering to get a genuine "yes") is common then it is normal behavior and therefore should be treated as if it were legal behavior even when it is not legal.

This twisted logic puts the target of that aggressiveness in danger, but it also sets up "normal" boys and men for rightful criminal convictions.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:57 AM   3 comments links to this post


At December 10, 2008 3:23 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

These parents by refusing to condemn their son's deliberate sexual assault of two teenage women is ensuring the boy will continue to enact sexual violence against women and girls. All one need do is ignore violent and sexually insulting behaviour boys and men commit against women and girls to ensure such crimes continue unabated.

This boy committed a crime and yes these two young women are not so much concerned as to whether or not the boy will be punished but they are rightly demanding that such actions will not be committed by other male peers against young women. Young women and girls have the right to attend High school without being subjected to male sexualised insults, physical sexual assault, threats of rape or other forms of male violence. It is not a question of 'boys being boys' but rather is society's refusal to acknowledge and then challenge so many boys' and men's beliefs it is their right to sexually insult, threaten to rape or even commit rape against another person who because she is female is deemed to be non-human and not worthy of being treated with respect.

The son too is being told by his parents 'your actions were not wrong but just normal boy behaviour - so what will this boy learn? Why it is acceptable for him to sexually harass and attempt to sexually degrade girls and women because he is doing nothing wrong. Then we wonder why so many men and boys engage in sexual violence against women and girls.

At December 14, 2008 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The boy should have been punished, but arresting him was overkill. Twelve year olds, it's commonly agreed, don't have the same level of self control and ability to judge their actions as adults, which is why the law and courts habitually treat juveniles differently. I am a feminist myself, but not so self righteous that I'd want to see a child treated like an adult sex offender.

At December 14, 2008 9:13 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


If you bothered to read what I quoted from the story you would see that:

1) This boy was not 12 when the offending behaviors happened. He was 13 and then 14.

2) This boy WAS treated differently than an adult who committed the same offenses as indicated by the plea deal.

Self-righteousness has nothing to do with enforcement of the law and communicating through the law that, yes, even 12 year old boys need to respect other people's legal boundaries and that there are real and serious consequences for failing to do so.

If he were caught stealing at that age and the police learned through the discovery of a cache of stolen goods that he was had been stealing multiple times over the last year then he would absolutely be arrested. Same goes for repeated auto theft.

Nobody would claim that there shouldn't be criminal charges in juvenile court because 12 year old boys don't have self control or the ability to judge their actions.

Yet when it comes to sex crimes too many people like you selectively dismiss criminal behavior and choose to infantilize teenage boys.

This boy had the self-control to not commit these offenses in front of teachers or administrators which means he absolutely had the ability to judge his behavior and in fact used that ability which directly contradicts your generic assessment of this boy as incapable of controlling himself.


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