Teen Solicited for Sex? She Must Have Been a Slut!

Every time cases like this come up, the comments look pretty much exactly the same. A handful of people are asking why on earth a couple of adults were preying on a young girl, but the majority of the comments are trashing her parents and the girl herself.

Aug 6, 2012 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

What’s your first thought when you read an article about a pair of grown-up adult-type people who arrange to “have sex with” a 13-year-old girl? Is it perhaps that this is a really gross situation and grown-up adult-type people should know better than to solicit sex from girls on the cusp of their teens? Is it a grinding of your teeth in rage about the exploitation of young women and girls in the United States, and the kind of framing implied in the language “have sex with,” when girls of that age may have a compromised ability to consent?

If you’re a Chicago Tribune commenter, apparently you think of calling the girl a slut or blaming her parents for being careless, as Kate Harding pointed out this morning. On an article about how a couple in their twenties solicited sex via text message, commenters left some really charming notes:

Not defending the couple, but how did they get the girl's number? And you'd be amazed at what some 13-year-olds are capable these days...If they knew she was 13, yes, there should be serious repercussions. If she was leading them to believe otherwise, it's a bit unfair...love how people are so quick to judge the couple, but the 13 year old isn't as innocent as you think she is...nowadays their shorts are so short that it's possible to see what color panties they are wearing.

So, basically, this girl must have been a total slut, am I right? Asking for it with her cell phone and her booty shorts and who knows what else. Kids these days with their music and their TV, man, they’re just whoring it up left and right, and we shouldn’t rush to judge the people who are taken in by their wiles. I bet she totally deceived that couple.

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Indeed. 

Photo by Flickr user YoungLadAustin, Creative Commons license. 

Look. I spent a fair amount of time in Internet chat rooms doing some pretty stupid stuff when I was 13, including, gasp, giving out my home number because I was naïve and looking for attention. Luckily, I didn’t endanger myself or others by doing that, but that’s only a stroke of luck, and it probably had a lot to do with living in a rural area; it made it a lot harder for me to meet people local enough to me for me to meet them. Plus, people trying to call me got a busy signal because I was on the Internet. 

Did I lie about my age? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the attention? Well, yeah, that’s why I kept doing it. Did I end up dating boys much, much older than me in high school? Absolutely. Did the fact that I was naïve, wanting attention, and struggling with some serious issues make it okay for any of these people to prey on me? Absolutely not.

These people would have known this girl was young and vulnerable -- that was part of the appeal, for them, the knowledge that she was young, pliant and interested in earning approval at all costs. We don’t have a lot of information about the specific circumstances of this case, but we do know that they were planning on picking her up to “have sex with” her, until her mother went through her phone and called the police.

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And slut shaming seems to be a cultural imperative. 

Photo by Flickr user spanginator, Creative Commons License. 

Every time cases like this come up, the comments look pretty much exactly the same. A handful of people are asking why on earth a couple of adults were preying on a young girl, but the majority of the comments are trashing her parents and the girl herself. Because of course Good Girls don’t do this kind of thing, and girls who would entangle themselves in these kinds of scandals are already broken and out to work people for what they can get.

Being a teenage girl is really hard. It’s something that seems like it’s growing harder every year because the culture surrounding young women is so complicated. There’s huge pressure to hurry along and grow up, while at the same time, girls who grow up “too fast,” often because of external factors like, say, adult couples soliciting sex, are criticized. Young women are either “acting childish” or “not being as innocent as they appear” and there’s very little room for normal teen development, including the kinds of mistakes people make as they are developing and growing into themselves.

The responsibility here lies squarely on the people who went after this girl for sex, whether she contacted them first or they contacted her first. And the fact that commenters are hastening to defend these people is revolting, and it says a lot about the culture we live in; troubling, too, to know that they’d be saying the same thing if she’d been abducted, or murdered. Shouldn’t have been such a slut or she wouldn’t have gotten in trouble in the first place.

Being the parent of a teenager must be unimaginably hard, because there are so many things buffeting your child from every angle. And it must be really frustrating to know that when horrible things happen to your child, people are going to start by blaming your child first, instead of the culture she lives in.

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Heh, heh. 

Photo by Flickr user artgoeshere, Creative Commons License.

Prevention campaigns focused on situations like these often take teens to task, but the situation is a little more complicated than that, because this doesn’t wholly address the cause. Culturally, we need to discuss why the teen is blamed when she’s exploited by adults. And we need to talk about how to provide a safer world for teens that gives them room to grow without being caught in the virgin/whore complex.