Warning: This blog post may offend you.
Every day in the Western World, some 14 year-old girl willingly has sex with a 16 year-old boy; pictures are taken to document and commemorate the act and shared with pride with a small group of friends and schoolmates. If the pictures escape the small group, society is upset that such activity actually occurs – “Where are the girl’s parents?” is the usual question. Every day, some 12 year-old willingly has some form of sexual activity (virtually or real) with another 12 year-old; pictures are taken and shared. Even just imagining such activity, society is absolutely shocked at the precociousness of ‘youth today’ and the decline in societal ‘values’. On many days, a 14 year-old girl will willingly engage in some form of sexual activity online with an older man (could be anything from 18-40 years old), sometimes leading to actual sexual activity. Society goes ballistic at even the thought! Internet police squads are constantly engaged in actively searching for evidence of such activity and in tracking down the man and putting him away.
These acts of virtual and real (documented) sexual activity by minors raise several important questions. With online bodies and spaces, what is deviant activity? When we think of agency within children and the power they hold, what makes power structures quick to dismiss their actions and to label certain among them as deviants? I am not referring to actual rape, unethical coercion, or someone being so drunk or stoned that they are not in control of their actions. I am talking informed consent. Everyone seems to want to overlook the word “willingly” in the above paragraph. Did you notice it or did you just choose to ignore it? Ignoring it is risky. “Deviant groups who regularly, because of their deviation, fall foul of the law, and are harassed by law enforcing agencies and the courts, may in response, develop programs, organizations, and actions directed at ending their stigmatization or redefining the legal injunctions against them” (Hall 64). In other words, if the kids are really serious about living their lives the way they say they want to, get ready for some serious changes in the near future.
Let’s look specifically at cross generational relationships, which Western culture defines as deviant activity. On the other hand, some cultures see child brides as desirable; and, not so long ago, the Catholic Church supported marriage as soon as a girl had her period and was able to conceive children. So, is this perceived deviance another product of cultural imperialism? “In contrast to cultural imperialism . . . globalization of culture encourages researchers to focus on cultural resistance and cultural consumptions as well as on the power of people, both on individual and collective levels, to read, appropriate, and use cultural products in creative and often counter-hegemonic fashion” (Demont-Heinrich 669). In other words, more change may be coming to our status quo.
Thus, to consider an “object of desire . . . as a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us” (Berlant 20), we need to consider if it is time to rethink the policy on child pornography in Canada. Just as there is a need for improved and aware regulation of sex work in Canada, might there not also be a need for improved regulation on underage bodies inhabiting space online – not to censor them, but to protect them in their intended desires.
P.S. I’m just asking. I have no desire for an inter-generational relationship. Clearly, others do.
Berlant, Lauren. “Cruel Optimism.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 17.3 (2006): 20-36.
Demont-Heinrich, Christof. “Cultural Imperialism Versus Globalization of Culture: Riding the Structure-Agency Dialectic in Global Communication and Media Studies.” Sociology Compass 5.8 (2011): 666-78.
Hall, Stuart. “Deviance, Politics, and the Media.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (1993): 62-90.