Friday, July 18, 2008

Which girls deserve protection? (by Suzie)

         The Associated Press reports:
Gons G. Nachman, 42, pleaded guilty in April to possessing child pornography after admitting that he had sex with 14- to 17-year-old girls while serving as a consular officer in Brazil and Congo and documenting the encounters in pictures and videos.
          I want to use this case and others to talk about societal attitudes toward men having sex with teenage girls.
          Nachman has asked for leniency, citing cultural differences. He says girls grow up fast in Congo, and their parents want to marry them off to older men with money. (I don't know his excuse for Brazilian girls.)
          This is akin to the old argument that human life is valued less in poorer countries. If girls have a harder life there, sleazy U.S. diplomats have no business making it worse. Even if what he says about the culture is true, he knew the girls were having sex with him under false pretenses. 
         He's hardly alone in his attitudes. Plenty of men rationalize sex with girls in poorer countries, whether as girlfriends, prostitutes or some combination of both. 
         Nachman's defense also goes to the heart of which girls deserve protection. This was illustrated in the movie “American Beauty,” in which 42-year-old Lester Burnham lusts after a “sexually aggressive” and “flirtatious” friend of his daughter, according to Wikipedia. Burnham feels bad that he almost “consummated” their relationship, not because she’s too young, but because he finds she’s not a tramp after all – she’s a virgin.
         Men cannot control themselves when teens dress provocatively or flirt with them. If a girl lies about her age, a man is blameless, no matter what the age difference. Men are the victims of these scheming sluts.
         This is what a lot of guys said in their comments to an article on Kenneth Liles, 36, who “was charged with unlawful sexual activity” with a 16-year-old in Tampa. The article continued: “The girl's mother saw her daughter having sex with Liles, a criminal arrest affidavit states.”
         Only a couple of readers suggested that men are capable of saying no. I didn't see anyone suggest that men may trick girls into bed. It’s always the girls who are tricking men.
         Liles was charged with sexual assault of a minor, a second-degree felony classified as rape by the court, according to records.
        Societal anger at child rape seems confined to the prepubescent, as I noted in a comment to Phila’s excellent post, in which he noted the division between those who are innocent and those who are not, those who need protection and those who should know better.
        Some people will argue that girls have agency, and they can make choices. I agree. I just wish all men understood that they can make choices, too.  
         P.S. Nachman didn’t have sex just with girls. He acknowledges that he had sex with two women who applied for visas, but denies accusations he coerced them. Getting visas can be difficult enough without women getting the message that they need to offer themselves up to U.S. officials.