Thursday, February 26, 2009

Child Prostitute: Victim?

Recently, a 15-year-old British girl became a high-class prostitute without her parents' knowledge after duping an escort agency into believing she was of age.

Clearly, there's something wrong here. Her parents, who are legally responsible for her and her welfare, do not know that she is engaging in this (undoubtedly) risky behavior. The agency didn't do enough of a background check to make sure that she was of age.

But the article talks about her as a "victim," and lumps her into a group of real victims: child sex slaves.

This girl does not sound like a victim to me. The police have determined that her parents didn't know about it, so they can't have forced her into it. She was earning thousands of pounds, so she can't have been exploited financially for her body. She was doing it through an escort agency, which legally can't force a girl to have sex with a client, so if she were of age it would have been consensual.

She, from the story the article tells, approached the agency; duped them into thinking she was of age; kept her parents from finding out; and got paid a lot for her services. How is she a victim? If anyone abused her, it was she herself. What is it about this magical age, 16 in England (so she was just one year shy!), that makes a person suddenly able to do things like this without being a "victim"?

This is really a messed-up attitude towards sexuality. It's not a thing that blossoms, suddenly, overnight at age 16 (or 17, or 18, or whatever the age of consent in your country of choice). People grow into their sexualities over time, and just because they happen to be younger than some nationally decreed age does not automatically make them a victim for exploring it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Definition of Patriarchy

I've heard lay definitions of "patriarchy" as broad as "any exploitation of any group by any other group or individual" and as narrow as "oppression of women by men." What I mean when I say the term is pretty much what Merriam-Webster says it means: "a social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line, or broadly, control by men of a disproportionately large share of power; or, a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy."

So: Patriarchy is a social organization that assumes men take the role of caretakers, custodians, providers and rulers, and that women and children take the roles of dependents.

Unfortunately, this term carries the connotation that all men are more advantaged than all women. Women might be more advantaged than men in some situations; women of higher social classes might be more advantaged than men of lower classes; women and men of advantaged or disadvantaged races and of varying social ranks might have quite complicated dominance hierarchies. So, the term "patriarchy" seems a little too simplistic.

Maybe "kyriarchy," meaning "
a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression," would be better?

This term is ungendered, removing the common misinterpretation that it's men who are oppressing women rather than men and women who are engaged in complex social interactions dependent on gender assumptions of each; and it takes into account the complexities of society and does not assume that one gender will always have the advantage of the other (or even that gender is the most indicative factor in determining advantage or disadvantage).

Seems pretty awesome to me.

Sperm Donor Required to Pay Child Support

In a recent case in Pennsylvania, a male friend of a lesbian couple who acted as a sperm donor so that they could have children together was ordered to pay child support upon the dissolution of the lesbian couple's civil union because he took a relatively active role in the children's lives.

This seems like a clear-cut case to me: The children had two legal guardians. These legal guardians had a legal arrangement (civil union) binding them together. Then, the legal guardians dissolved the legal arrangement binding them together. Upon this dissolution, one parent got custody of the children, and the other parent was required to pay child support.

Nowhere in this is there room for another parent to be added to the equation just because the civil union is dissolved. Yes, the man was the biological father of the children, but he should never have had legal rights to the custody of the children nor responsibility for their care, because he never took on the role of legal guardian.

The argument from the court for why the man was required to pay child support was because "he was so involved with them. ... They called him Papa," and he spent "thousands of dollars on the children, including purchases of toys and clothing."

I don't personally see how this reason validates requiring him to pay child support. Many grandparents have spent thousands of dollars on their grandchildren and purchase toys and clothing for them. Some children call their grandparents variations on "Papa"- I personally know a girl who calls her parents "Mom" and "Dad" and her grandparents "Mama" and "Papa." If a hypothetical couple obtained a divorce and Parent A got custody of the children, should Parent B's parents pay child support? Certainly not, even if they were addressed as "Mama" and "Papa" and had spent thousands of dollars on the children already. This seems intuitive.

Could this be indicative of prevalent but understated gender assumptions? "Surely, two women cannot support this child on their own; we must find a man to provide the traditional caretaker role and provide the financial support necessary!" Sure sounds possible ...