[The Sexuality Blog] Why do we downplay rape when the person doing it is a white woman?

Look at this headline from an American news platform, reporting on the arrest of a woman for sex related crimes. What is the first thing you notice about it? Is it the age of the boy at the time the sexual encounter occurred (he was 11) or the fact that the woman being accused became pregnant as a result of the sexual encounter. Or is it the fact that she was arrested for it, after all, the headline clearly states all she did was have sex with the boy.

For us, it is the fact the headline describes what is clearly rape and assault as ‘having sex’.

Words matter. They are instrumental to escalating or de-escalating a situation. They are vital to downplaying what was obviously a horribly traumatic incident.

Here is what really happened to this 11-year-old boy. In 2011 when the boy was 11 years old and the woman was 22, she began a sexual relationship with him. This is long before he hit puberty or even had the slightest inkling of what it means to consent to sexual activity. She continued to rape this boy for four years, during the most formative years of his transition into adolescence and even got pregnant by him, giving birth to a child in 2014. She did a terrible, terrible thing, and she did it with the premeditation and willfulness of a predator and hopefully she will get the full extent of the law.

However, there are specific reasons why her crime is described as such. Racism and Misogyny. In Trump’s America, and by extension, the rest of the world, we are seeing first hand that white people are given the benefit of the doubt, presumed innocent until caught in the act, no matter what they do. This white innocence is particularly evident when it comes to crimes perpetrated by white women. If it was a black woman who perpetrated this crime, her race would have played heavily into how her case was framed and how she was either vilified or victimized.

But it isn’t just this woman’s whiteness at work here, the much more insidious forces of patriarchal misogyny also influence how her crime is seen.  Sex is seen as conquest for men, no matter how young they are. Men are believed to be incapable of being raped, this is why in many legal systems around the world, there were no provisions to handle the rape of a man by a woman. Even though the United States legally recognizes rape against men, the language its people use to describe long term rape against a minor downplays the severity of the crime and frames it as though an 11-year-old can give consent in any way.

The 11-year-old victim of this crime did not give consent. He cannot give consent. He simply doesn’t understand sex and its consequences enough to take any informed decisions regarding it. Just because he is a male doesn’t mean he wanted to have sex with this woman and wasn’t damaged by her raping him. It is terrifying to think that this woman could go free because this boy will be seen as a ‘victor’ in this situation, not the victim that he is.

Patriarchy and racism affect everyone, especially men.

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