OK – I have to admit to being a bit naughty here. Is this really going to turn into a series of posts prefixed with ‘Why did Carol Todd sanction..’? Well, for the moment, I guess so. Yes – I know it’s poor and it tends to go against what I seem to support (sensible reporting, non-sensationalist stuff and so on) but it is so much easier. And then, if I called the post something like ‘The effects of post-coital disappointment on young girls aged between 13 and 15’ who would read it?
I’ve already discussed at length the prevailing moral attitudes in British Columbia – and I still wish they would just change the name to ‘Columbia’. But is it a valid defence to keep on saying ‘Well, if everyone around is doing it, then it must be acceptable’? Of course not.
Civilised societies take years to develop a sensible approach to what is acceptable. They don’t always get the ethics right, but in general most of the them are based on experience of what not to do – whether it be murder or sleeping with a close relative! And the vast majority of today’s countries have at least one thing in common – they believe that sex involving young children is to be discouraged. So what’s going on?
In all of the Amanda Todd story, I have lost count of how many times common sense seems to have flown out of the window. Drugs, drink, sex – you name it – no common sense has been applied. And I’m at a loss in explaining why. Just why did Amanda’s parents not just seem to not be bothered by all this, but almost to actively encourage it? None of it seems right. If Amanda’s parents had been mentally ill, or if they had been alcoholics or drug addicts, or if they were suffering some sort of major hardship THEN I might be able to find some sort of excuse. But they weren’t. They were, by and large, similar to every other parent on the planet – so why were they just so incapable?
Don’t get me wrong. There is a certain amount of support from me for parents who let their kids experiment. I think it is important NOT to dictate a set of rules to children, and to let them work out things for themselves. But there are limits. There are some children who are up for it. They can go through life meeting all sorts of trials and tribulations and seem to breeze through it all. And there are many children who will maybe indulge in risky behaviour – it’s to be expected. Even the Amish have Rumspringa.
But in the Amanda Todd case none of the above applies. We know that Amanda was a vulnerable child almost from the get-go. We know that she had learning difficulties. So we know that she should have been more protected than other children. But her parents seemed unaware of this.
So just why weren’t Amanda’s parents concerned about the under-age sex? To be honest, I’m not sure I can even hint at an answer. We can see that it was in the prevailing culture, but that’s not an excuse. We can mention – yet again – laziness and unwillingness to tackle problems. Is there something more to it? Is it possible to read more into it than just plain laziness? I simply do not get it, and sometimes it sort of blows gaskets in my brain trying to get my head round it. So all I can do again is to seek to provide more information for those parents/people who might be concerned.
‘the evidence is that such early-onset sexual activity is rarely a sign that everything has gone superbly right for the girl in question. It tends not to be the case that she has accrued so many sociocultural, intellectual and emotional benefits in her short life that she is genuinely free, genuinely willing and genuinely able to make the decision to have sex and to comprehend and cope with any emotional or physical ramifications it might have. It really tends to be quite the opposite. If a 13-year-old is having sex, it is generally a sign that many things have gone wrong.’
‘Any sexual activity between a 13-15 year old child and anyone else is also an offence. However, Working Together states:
“Where it is consensual it may be less serious than if the child were under 13, but may nevertheless have serious consequences for the welfare of the young person. Consideration should be given in every case of sexual activity involving a child 13-15 as to whether there should be a discussion with other agencies and whether a referral should be made to children’s social care.”
Doing the information gathering for teen sexual activity wasn’t so easy, as so much of it was based on opinion – from newspapers like the Daily Mail who would have ALL sex made into a hanging offence, and articles from Church goers seeing abstinence as the answer, through the middle ground held by Guardian readers who provide both pros and cons, all the way to ultra-liberal views that it’s all quite a good thing (so long as you’re middle-class and your child is at public school and you’re not vermin from a sink estate). But in general, it all supported my original assumption – that under-age sex might just be OK for some, but is definitely NOT a good idea for the likes of Amanda.
So I might acknowledge a 50/50 on this one – but that’s being generous. This one really is a case of making your own mind up. With the marijuana and drink problems, it was basically clear cut – DON’T DO IT. But with the under-age sex thing, there’s no clear opinion one way or the other.
So my advice to any parents of kids at it like knives? Approach with caution. Warn them about all the horrors of chlamydia and pregnancy. Teach them about contraception. Teach them (if it’s possible) about love and respect. And keep your fingers crossed!