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Why we sacrifice young girls We're in denial about male desire

Russell Brand after the premiere of St Trinian's, in which his character is dating a schoolgirl (Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Russell Brand after the premiere of St Trinian's, in which his character is dating a schoolgirl (Dave Hogan/Getty Images)


September 20, 2023   6 mins

Age 13, Judy Wiegand was married off to the older man who sexually abused her. Age 15, already a mother, amid the indifference of neighbours and the police to her husband’s violent mistreatment of her, Judy finally fled when her husband threatened to hurt her child. In 2018, then 54, Wiegand’s testimony was instrumental in passing a Kentucky bill limiting child marriage.

It’s still common, though. Worldwide, more than 650 million women were married while still children. Nor is the practice normal only away from the “developed” West: most American states still allow marriage under 18, while California, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Washington have no lower age limit for marriage at all.

According to one campaign, between 2000 and 2018 in the United States, 222,430 under-18s were married, including 9,530 under-16s. Of those married under 18, 88% are girls. The age-gap in these marriages would often qualify the pairing as a sex crime, absent the legal formality.

Is there anything more paradigmatically “patriarchal” than thinking the solution to inappropriate sexual interest in an adolescent girl by a much older man is to marry her off to him, so he can molest her with the full support of the community? And there is often very little upside for the girl. International studies show, for example, that being married off under the age of 18 is associated with low education, poverty, partner violence, social isolation, and physical and mental health issues.

Given this litany of ills, we can hardly be surprised to see feminists calling for an end to the practice. And the smashing of this sort of patriarchy is going well: according to figures from Unchained At Last, the annual number of such marriages in America has fallen steadily over recent decades, from over 76,000 in 2000 to around 2,500 in 2018. (In Britain, marriage under the age of 18 was banned altogether in 2019.)

But what about the bit of “patriarchy” that involves the sexual molestation of young women by older men, sometimes with much more power? The smashing of that is not going nearly so well. Consider Epstein Island, or the accusations against Harvey Weinstein — some by women who were very young when they encountered him. Or, recently, allegations that comedian and social media star Russell Brand sexually assaulted four women between 2008 and 2013. One of them was just 16 at the time.

If the allegations against Brand are true, then they fit into a much larger pattern of sexual interest by older men in sometimes very young girls. Not all men, obviously; but clearly at least some of them have this predilection. It’s a pattern shaped by an ugly convergence of public hypocrisy, power, and sex. And a glimpse at the modern history of efforts to grapple with this convergence reveals a grim conclusion: we are busy trying to address everything except the root of the problem.

For even as feminists rightly began agitating on behalf of young women being married off to older men for the purposes of sexual access, the same women’s movement has also promoted ideals that ended up opening the door for the age-old pattern to re-emerge — just without the marriage bit. Even as second-wave feminists began challenging the presumption of early, lifelong marriage for all women, in favour of access to the full range of possible occupations and roles, the arrival of legal and reliable birth control saw that joined to a much more radical programme for sexual emancipation. These calls converged, after legalisation of the Pill, in texts such as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970): a rallying-cry for women to abandon the “castrated” condition of bourgeois domesticity, in favour of free, passionate, “deliberately promiscuous” self-discovery.

 

Many staid housewives were thrilled by the call of freedom. But some of the women “liberated” from bourgeois mores by this erotic libertarianism were very, very young: the same adolescent girls, in fact, who might in a previous era or different demographic have been the subject of a forced child marriage to their abuser. The Bafta-nominated 2021 Sky documentary Look Away records how this played out in the music industry, among the “baby groupies” of the Sixties and Seventies: girls who were groomed as young teenagers by some of the music industry’s biggest stars. Sable Starr, for example, was immortalised in Iggy Pop’s 1996 album Naughty Little Doggie, in which he sings about sleeping with Starr when she was just 13. And Aerosmith frontman Stephen Tyler notoriously persuaded the mentally ill mother of Julia Holcomb to sign over Julia’s custody to him in the mid-Seventies, when she was 16 and he was 25.

Still more modern “sex-positive” feminists might say: if the girls were consenting, so what? Some argue, in fact, that focusing on girls’ sexual “innocence” is itself further evidence of patriarchal efforts to control women’s sexuality. Why shouldn’t young girls explore their sexuality? Accordingly, contemporary “sex-positive” messaging aimed at young people vehemently de-emphasises the idea that lack of sexual experience should necessarily have any emotional or moral significance. “Virginity”, we’re told in one such book, “just doesn’t work any more in today’s world”, because there are too many different possible “first times” to fixate on “a person who hasn’t done a specific sexual act, traditionally a cisgender man or woman who hasn’t had penis-in-vagina sex”.

This will doubtless be news to the millions of viewers of Pornhub’s “teen” content, a category that consistently makes the website’s annual top searches for men. On the contrary: for some of these at least, defiling this supposedly non-existent innocence is precisely the point. In his memoir, Stephen Tyler recalls his relationship with “Diana”, clearly a pseudonymous Holcomb, in terms that vividly suggest how he eroticised what he saw as Holcomb’s barely-legal cocktail of innocence and experience: “She was 16, she knew how to nasty, and there wasn’t a hair on it.”

Similarly, “Alice”, the woman who reports having had a sexual relationship with Brand age 16 when he was already in his thirties, says of the moment she told him she was a virgin: “He was like, ‘Oh my God, my baby, my baby’, and picked me up and cradled me in his arms like a child and was stroking my hair. He’s like, ‘You’re like my little dolly.’” After that, she says, Brand was “preoccupied” with her innocence and purity.

If this happened as Alice remembers, it suggests a similar cocktail of protectiveness and objectification to the one that emerges from Holcomb’s account. As Tyler’s ward, she was dependent on him; during the three years she spent as his “girlfriend”, Tyler impregnated her, then later pressured her into an abortion at five months’ gestation. Holcomb, now a mother of seven, only broke her silence when Tyler published his memoir (including the porn-adjacent description of her as “Diana”) in 2011. In a hard-hitting essay telling her version of the story, she alleges that as she wept her way through a “nightmare” late-term abortion, Tyler snorted cocaine off the bedside table every time the nurse left the room.

Since the alleged Brand incidents took place, we’ve had #MeToo, Epstein, and Weinstein; scandals that have, in their wake, brought greater emphasis on consent and attention to the risks posed in sexual encounters by power asymmetries, of the kind that Holcomb experienced. It is perhaps a testament to how the public conversation has changed that last December, some three decades after the fact, she launched a lawsuit against Tyler.

In Look Away, many music industry operatives acknowledged their complicity: carefully not seeing, hiding perpetrators, covering stories up. Whatever the truth of Brand’s behaviour, The Sunday Times report tells the same story. As with Epstein and Weinstein and many other such cases, it points to a grim inference: power and social status almost always counts for more than sex crimes, or young women’s suffering.

We should welcome such a shift in public willingness to ask difficult questions of sexually voracious high-status men. But we shouldn’t imagine a new focus on power has done anything to expunge the pattern itself, any more than ending child marriage did. Rather, the focus on power seems to have come with a corresponding reluctance to focus on those perceived as powerless.

Accordingly, we find the pattern is still there, and still being given the benefit of the doubt — but this time among men perceived as “marginalised”. Whether due to race (as in the grooming gangs) or gender identity (as in sometimes flagrantly predatory behaviour, by men who claim to identify as women) actions that might prompt a witch-hunt against an out-of-favour celebrity are routinely met with stonewalling, silence, or excuse-making. And meanwhile nothing, to date, has stopped predators from predating. So how do we keep girls safe?

We’ve tried focusing on public hypocrisy, by campaigning to end efforts to make such abuse “respectable” via child marriage. This succeeded in clamping down on abusive marriages — only for the same dynamic to reappear in the “baby groupies”, and every other group of girls and young women whose exploitation has been whitewashed by narratives of “empowerment” or “liberation”. Then, with #MeToo, we tried focusing on the power aspect. That shone a salutary (if arguably selective and politicised) spotlight on the misdeeds of at least some powerful men — even as the powerless go on slipping through the net.

So perhaps it’s time to focus on the third and final dimension: sex. When men abuse very young girls, it may be about many things. It may be legitimised or concealed in many ways, and for many reasons. But it is, in part, simply a sex thing. That is: those men who molest very young girls do it because they can, and because they like it.

If this is so, it has immense implications for keeping girls safe. Effective measures would probably involve a realism about our sexed differences that would translate in practice to (for example) a presumption of suspicion toward adult men that would likely curb the operations of a serial womaniser but would also have far-reaching effects on our currently largely co-ed society. And this is before we get to the implications such realism would have for differential treatment of (and freedom accorded to) adolescent boys and girls.

And, thus, perhaps all of us — even feminists — have arrived at a tacit consensus is that it’s not worth it. That it’s better to blame power, or patriarchy, or whatever. That the overall liberal benefits of staying in denial about this distinctive form of male desire so far outweigh the risk it poses to a minority of young girls that we, too, look away as we sacrifice them in the name of everyone else’s freedom and pleasure.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
8 months ago

“Male desire,” of course, being dirty, shameful, exploitive, abusive, and violent. “Not all men,” naturally. Just very large numbers of them, as the author reminds us, as if grown men in western countries regularly marry teenagers.
“Female desire,” of course, and female behavior, is always sugar and spice and everything nice. To speak negatively of baby trapping, paternity fraud, abusive women (who exist in at least equal numbers to abusive men) or the misandrist meat grinder of “family courts,” as we call them in the US, would of course be misogynistic, bigoted and wrong.
We do next to nothing to protect men from being abused by women. And there are few defenses against vengeful exes, or decade old allegations.
But of course we must sound the alarm when women throw themselves at older, male celebrities, and end up with broken hearts or psychic scars.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew Vanbarner
Harry Child
Harry Child
8 months ago

I would repeat a comment made the other day ‘What I cannot understand is why these type of articles always hold the man responsible for the sexual acts and seem to suggest that the young women are helpless victims who cannot control themselves. It is further compounded by the fact that many of these complaints are being made years after the event, in some cases decades. Why were they not made at the time?
Come on Mary please explain why in your words ‘young girls’ indulge in these sexual activities is it because they can’t help themselves ?

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

Probably for the same reason that if someone is a victim of crime, we don’t blame them. For example, if someone is scammed online, it is not helpful or right to put the blame on the victim’s naivite (however true), with the implication that the solution is not so much to pursue the scammer but to tsk-tsk the scammed. That said, Harrington did not pick up on a rather obvious way forward – to raise women and girls awareness of & skills in dealing with predators and how to tell the differennce betweem them and ‘over enthusiatic men’. A friend told me of being frozen in alarm on seeing a masturbating man beside her on the tube – shortly afterwards a hearty woman on the opposite seat saw what was happening and shouted, ‘put your d**k away mister’, whereupon he scrambled off like a rat. The problem and the solution.

William Cameron
William Cameron
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

“Victim of crime” implies not being party to the act.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago

That is correct. The assumption is that there was coercion – (which is all on a scale from threatening your children with a gun at one end, to peer pressure at the other). My friend on the train, and the aforementioned scammer were not ‘party to the act’ in the way I think you mean (co creators, sharing responsibility). Only those with direct knowledge of the Brand situations know what happened (though as Harrington pointed out in the video with Freddie, he may well think he was just being horny) – but we are allowed to discuss and opine, we are not jurors, police or judges, but commenters. Myself, I find the Brand accusers credible, and the Brand supporters credulous. If I have to default to a supposition, it’ll be that the women is probably the one telling the truth – because it is incredibly common – just ask the women in your life (or many men who’ve been in boarding school or prison).

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Peer pressure on girls to sleep with hot famous rich celebrities is not “coercion”.

If I have to default to a supposition, it’ll be that the women is probably the one telling the truth

So innocent. Hope you never find out the proportion of rape accusations police estimate are false (when they’re allowed to speak off the record, of course). And that’s just with ordinary men.
Think about how often in recent years very public rape allegations turned out to be false. Pretty often!
The idea that women are probably telling the truth here just because they’re women is the misandry this thread is dunking on.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Coercion – the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.
As I wrote, peer pressure is the very mildest form of coercion. Like squashing a bug is the mildest form of killing. Coercion need not even be bad – you could, for example, use coercion to stop someone from commiting a crime.

Hope you never find out the proportion of rape accusations police estimate are false
I hope you have evidence of that? Of course I don’t, because that would be a terrible thing. I have some though – the FBI estimates 8% of accusations are false; NIH 2-10 %;CPS ; whilst CPS study found 5,700 prosecutions of rape and 35 of false accusations over a year & half period. Moreover anyone claiming they know the true stats, must be lying as the whole thing is shrouded in unknowns – he said/she said. That said, what I know from first and second hand evidence is that men’s sexuality is intense and frequently gets them into ridiculous and/or dodgy situations; and that the process of making a rape accusation is very unpleasant, likely to fail, and so probably (you seem to have ignored that qualifier in my previous post) not likely to made falsely – but of course it can and does happen.

Think about how often in recent years very public rape allegations turned out to be false. Pretty often!
Are you perhaps basing your opinions on a few high- profile cases – a classic bias. From a Scottish government report:
“Public perceptions of rape reporting are often skewed by misinformation, particularly around the issue of false allegations. Claims that these are common are not supported by research. Meanwhile, individual police officers, the men’s rights movement, popular culture and social media continue to reinforce both the myth and the damage it causes”

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I think you are a bit too far out on this one:

‘Coercion’ means something that is by definition bad and unacceptable. But it hardly makes sense to say that peer pressure is by definition unacceptable. In real life just about all decisions, are taken under some pressure and it makes no sense to say that sex should be an exception. How many people would do the washing up, clean the bathroom after use, or keep going to work if not under (sometimes considerable) pressure?

The CPS study is misleading – the number of prosecutions are *not* a good guide to the number of crimes. Prosecutions depend on what evidence is available, CPS resources, and a judgement whether prosecution is in the public interest. I gather that the CPS – quite reasonably – is reluctant to prosecute for false accusation, lest they discourage people with genuine accusations from coming forward. Shortest counterargument: If we think the 35 prosecutions for false accusation reflect the number of occurrences, we must also accept that the number of rapes in the UK is not much more than 5700, and that it is wrong to talk about the rapes that do not lead to prosecution.

Your 8%, 2-10% false accusations are actually decent numbers for the available literature, but your conclusion that ‘Claims that [false accusations] are common are not supported by research’ is not correct. Consider: Rape cases very rarely have a way of proving what happened – you can establish sex, but not consent (or its absence). So the best you can do in research is to look at a given material and decide which cases are false – to some standard of proof. Not surprisingly, the tougher the standard of proof a researcher selects, the fewer false accusations she finds. To get a proper picture you would have to divide in three groups: definitely false, definitely true (by the same standard of proof), and ‘do not know’. Only nobody does that. And since the ‘do not know’ group could easily be anywhere from a quarter to three quarters of the total, that underestimates how many false cases there could be.
A further complication is that rape requires not only that there was a lack of consent, but that the perpetrator knew or could reasonably be expected to know that there was no valid consent. That leaves a lot of room for cases where the victim not only had an awful time, or even definitely did not feel she was consenting when it happened, but the accused could still be justified in believing that he had consent. Those are the cases where the victim has a lot of motivation to go to the police, but the final judgement (with perfect information) would still be that no crime took place. I wold not call them false accusations exactly, since the accuser is quite likely sincere, but that still does not make the accused guilty.

In short, it is less simple than you seem to think.

Last edited 8 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

‘Coercion’ means something that is by definition bad and unacceptable.
No, it literally doesn’t. Some dictionary examples:
“Yet no society can survive without coercion.
“Mixed mode arithmetic and assignment is permitted with invisibly overloaded operators and automatic type coercions.
“These same Americans generally accept the soft coercion of friendship or love and, often, the hard coercion of authority relations such as adult and child, or boss and worker.
In any case the definition issue is tangential to my point, which if you read the thread was rebutting the claim – “Hope you never find out the proportion of rape accusations police estimate are false” – with it’s explicit claim that it is wrong to assume that a women is probably telling the truth. Y’all see to be struggling with the meaning of probably.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
7 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

We could solidify this by putting some numbers on it. What, according to you, is the proportion of rape accusations where the accused is guilty according to law, given that everything is fully known? I would say we know the probability of a rape accusation being correct is somewhere between 30% and 98%. My best guess (see my last post) is maybe 85-90%, but that is not because I know; it is because I think that whatever the true numbers, this gives about the right degree of (dis)belief for someone who might end up sitting on a jury.
What is yours, and why?

As for ‘coercion’, the use of ‘force or threats’ as you say, it does carry the implication of something bad, even if people say it is sometimes acceptable. If you want to say that a fair degree of pressure is an unavoidable norm in human interactions (as I do) you have to use a different word.

Last edited 7 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Dominic A
Dominic A
7 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m ok with your guesstimate – 85-90%, and so it is fair to say that it is probably the case that an accusation, is genuine (absent all other data). I think Norman was for some reason, thinking I am in denial about there being a great many false accusations; or thinking as though we are jurors in a law court rather than commenters on an opinion site (e.g. in the former, a 90% certainly, based on general stats is absolutely no grounds to convict). As for the issue of coercion – I was simply clarifying to WC/NP that my ‘victim of crime’ scenario was one in which I assume malicious coercion from the perp. WC seemed to be rolling out the ‘victim is not innocent’/she wanted it trope.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
7 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Close enough. I still think we disagree somewhere (phrases like the ‘victim is not innocent’ trope sound to me like you are taking for granted that the accused is 100% guilty and deliberately delegitimizing anybody who wants to consider messy situations that could arise through miscommunication and misunderstandings from both sides). But we seem to agree abnout the main facts, at least.

Thanks for engaging.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m surprised I’m disagreeing with you about this. But perhaps not, as your paradigm of sexual relations seems to be entirely liberal and transactional. It treats sex in a fundamentally trivial way rather than the powerful, dark, even tragic force our culture used to recognise.

“Coercion” applied to one’s partner to do to he washing up in no way compares with trying to pressurise a much younger inexperienced girl (or boy for that matter) into bed. And that guy usually knows exactly what he is doing.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

A solution in that moment but he will do it again because it’s a compulsion.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

True. But then so is breathing, and I think I’ll keep doing that!

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
8 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

Girls are fed fantasies from when they are very small. It is not about sex, but romance, which makes interpret as sex. I was young once! It is also very hard fir girls to be sexual without attracting the attentions of older boys and men who see them as “jail bait”. Girls who “indulge” their desires are still labelled s**t, w***e, gagging for it. Boys aren’t tarred with the same brush. Therefore girls and young women who are abused are reluctant to come – Shame, selfblame, the impact they think it might have on their families, and the threat that they will not be believed because that man is such a wonderful person… Sexual abuse is about power, the power a man has over a women and very occasionally ( less than 5% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by women on men, boys or other females) women over boys/men. People have to stop thinking men will be men, boys will be boys, when it comes to the sexualusation of young girls and the abuse they face every day for simply bring girls. Again, I know as I was one and it was dailly.!

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

So at what age to females have agency, because the law should be changed to make that the age of consent. Once they are older, females should be expected to take responsibility for their actions.
Based on the continuous stream of accusations from women sometimes decades after the supposed offence took place it seems like females never gain agency.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Shaw
Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Joan of Arc had agency by the time she was 14 years old, leading an army. But that was a few years ago, when working men started working full-time by the age of 10 as they still do in many countries, and well-educated men had composed their first piece of serious classical music or poetry by then. And no, they didn’t all die by the age of 30 as no end of “We have it so good and they had it so bad” fake political statisticians claim. Natural life-term absent fatal disease or war was 90 something, just as today. Richer, braver, effectively longer lives than our pickled perpetual middle-aged children finishing degrees at 25 or 26.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew Boughton
Jane Davis
Jane Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

When proven rapes are convicted and not excused on ground that the rapist is going to suffer harm to reputation, career etc etc etc
Cosby, Danny Masterson – two trials. Very hard to get convictions even with two famous blokes who were blatantly using drugs to get what they wanted.
Should I remind you that until mid 1990s there was no such thing as raping your wife.
Agency my arse.
Rapists do not care and they know there is an 85 per cent chance they will get away with it .

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
7 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Maybe Islam has it right? ..you certainly make it sound like girls/young women are not safe to let out on their own.. far too easily led, far too vulnerable, far too gullible. Men on the other hand are always guilty, often of just being men.. Mind you, over the several decades I’ve lived on the planet I’ve experienced the complete opposite! Females are wily, street smart, know exactly what they want and how to get it too.. Then when they get too old, or develop morals, or smell easy money they become converts!

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

I’ve upvoted you, because there is truth in what you say. I’m also tired of many of the same things. But there is also whataboutery: it’s perfectly reasonable for a writer to tackle one issue at a time without making reference to all the other unfairnesses in the world.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Its dishonest to do so when they are entwined as they are.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I hear a lot about “whataboutism” these days, David, which didn’t even exist as a word until very recently. I agree that it’s reasonable to “tackle one issue at a time,” but it’s surely just as reasonable to place each in its larger context.
It’s true that an argument on one side is not right or wrong just because the same argument occurs on the opposing side–which would be a non sequitur and therefore prove nothing. If A commits a crime and B commits the same crime, for instance, that in no way excuses A.
Nonetheless, pointing out parallels of this kind can be useful and even necessary for an entirely different reason: to reveal the hypocrisy of double standards. I found this over and over again in debates over misandry and misogyny. The existence of misandry doesn’t make the existence of misogyny right, but it does suggest that we need to take both forms of hatred seriously and look for the underlying causes of hatred in any form.
Otherwise, we have no way of insisting on moral accountability for moral (or legal) double standards. “Whataboutism,” despite the sneer that underlies this word (coined for defensive purposes in debates over ideology), is a perfectly legitimate and even necessary feature of moral discourse.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Sure – but we shouldn’t expect that in every article. And Mary’s track record is pretty good. There are some one sided feminists on Unherd, but she isn’t one of them.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
7 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I could let that go, David, because you do get my point. But I won’t, because I’ve heard and read the word “whataboutism” too often. And, in this age of concept creep and linguistic inflation, it’s by no means the only problematic word. By now, this one has become part of common parlance (as distinct from academic jargon). Consequently, it represents conventional wisdom and thus undermines moral clarity. Someone needs to challenge it, so I do. But I was referring to your (uncharacteristic) comment, not to Harrington’s article. 

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
7 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

A message says that I’ve already said this, but I can’t find it anywhere.
I could let that go, David, because you do get my point. But I won’t, because I’ve heard and read the word “whataboutism” too often. And, in this age of concept creep and linguistic inflation, it’s by no means the only problematic word. By now, this one has become part of common parlance (as distinct from academic jargon). Consequently, it represents conventional wisdom and thus undermines moral clarity. Someone needs to challenge it, so I do. But I was referring to your (uncharacteristic) comment, not to Harrington’s article. 

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I once read that ‘Whataboutery’ is short-hand for saying “Calling me a hypocrite, while likely true, doesn’t necessarily advance your argument.”

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
7 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

My argument, UnHerd, is precisely that we need to challenge hypocrisy. Even hypocrites can be correct in this or that case, it’s true, but calling attention to their hypocrisy in general is by no means irrelevant or trivial in public discourse. And irrelevance or triviality is precisely what the word “whataboutism” actually connotes. It’s a convenient rhetorical device that people use in order to escape from the need to argue in good faith–that is, to discuss a conflict’s larger context.

Last edited 7 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
7 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Was it okay for Mary H to invoke names like Epstein and the Rotherham groomers into the same box as RB.. has he been tried in a court of law? No.. but he haa been tried by so-called journalists and by every holier than thou, self appointed judges of moral conduct who always seem crawl our from under rocks or ooze up out of the slime to act as judge, jury and executioner! Good Christians all no doubt happy to throw stones knowing they are without sin themselves.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Curiously I was happy to lob the odd brick when said Celebrity was all the rage, and the BBC, MSM etc didn*t agree with me but supported him.
Ironically, I now agree, no matter how repugnant I found/find him (though I did begin to wonder if he had found God & repented of this former life), he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
PS IF we were in Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot was asking to find only 10 Christians, good or otherwise, to save us from the Wrath of God, I’d be ordering my fire resistant hazmat suit now.

Adi Khan
Adi Khan
8 months ago

In case you missed it, this article is about young, underage girls. We are not talking about adult women. If you don’t understand that older men should not take advantage of girls of this age, then something is wrong. Anyone who has children of that age understands how vulnerable and impressionable they are. Old(er) men who take advantage of them are predators.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
8 months ago
Reply to  Adi Khan

But it’s ok for boys the same age to take this advantage, that is the American morality. But not so satisfying for the young girl.

Adi Khan
Adi Khan
8 months ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Young boys are vulnerable and impressionable too, education by parents and school is the key.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
8 months ago
Reply to  Adi Khan

Why do you say underage? There are no allegations of him having sex with anyone below the age of consent, which is of course sixteen in this country.
Why are you so sure that it’s not the teenagers taking advantage of the older men? Countless girls get countless chances and opportunities that would not be offered to a boy of the same age.

Adi Khan
Adi Khan
8 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Anyone under the age of eighteen is still considered a child, regardless of whether they are legally able to have sex. An adult is supposed to be the one who uses their brain here, not something else. Since this involves a ‘relationship’ between an adult and a minor, there is by definition an imbalance of power. So there is no question of the minor benefiting here. The adult should know better and keep their hands to themselves.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
8 months ago
Reply to  Adi Khan

Age of consent means the 16yo has the autonomy and does not have to get permission from mummy, daddy, you or me.
As a society we have legislated not to replace her judgment of what is best with our one, as to whether she “benefits” from what she chooses to do.
There is no general law about imbalances of power between over 18s and under 18s: Brand wasn’t her teacher for instance.
What should be happening is a separate matter, on which I think we would largely agree. However it is important to distinguish what is right from what is legal. they are not the same thing.

Adi Khan
Adi Khan
8 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

It’s a bit of a childish discussion to talk about the legal aspect. What it’s really about here is that adults of a certain age should have the decency and moral values to know that you don’t go to bed with someone so young, regardless of whether they are legally old enough to have sex. It is clearly an abuse of power if you only give someone chances and opportunities if they go to bed with you.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I don’t remember being asked as part of the ‘We’.
Though I suppose that is the case in so many matters Society legislates on these days.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
8 months ago
Reply to  Adi Khan

No they are not considered a “child” for these purposes. Otherwise it’d be illegal to have sex with 16 year olds, which it isn’t. The law is clear on this. There’s no underage involved anywhere.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Would a teacher get away with it?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Adi Khan

It’s not their hands we’re concerned about.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I’ve noticed recently that more female teachers are being accused of having sex with their underage students. It’s an interesting dilema as to whether it should be considered rape because it’s a male. There’s a series currently on Hulu called ‘A Teacher’ that deals with the many aspects of the topic.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
8 months ago

The majority of research does not show that there are as many abusive women as there are abusive men, especially when it comes to domestic/relationship abuse. I grew up in a household where the domestic abuse was perpetrated by my mother not my father do I am not condoning female in make abuse. I know the damage it does to families. My partner is 13 years older than me so I understand done if the attraction that women have for older men, and no, he is not wealthy, no big house or yacht!!

There is a clear demarcation between women, aged 18 + who “throw themselves at older men” and girls who are married off to be abused by older men. No right minded soul should ever think a man over the age of 20 marrying a under 16 year old girl is okay and the older the man, the more likely there is to be abuse. Society needs to stop pandering to this “make desire” and see it for what it is, sexual, abuse, plain and dimpke, no matter the man or the culture/ society.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

There’s nothing inherently abusive about “male desire” per se, MJ, because sexual desire of any kind is at least partly innate (that is, not the result of cultural fashion or personal caprice, let alone of reason). What can indeed be abusive, however, is the behavioral response to desire. I’m attracted sexually to young men, for instance, and I see nothing inherently wrong with that. Others are attracted to young boys or young girls. I don’t see anything wrong with those desires, either, but I do see something wrong with acting on either of them in this (or perhaps any) cultural context.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
8 months ago

It requires a lot of wisdom and courage to muster the accurate words that you so perfectly articulated.

Kate Madrid
Kate Madrid
8 months ago

You know what’s a great solution to not getting “baby-trapped”? Keeping it in your pants. Don’t have sex with women you don’t want to spend your life with. Either at home or in court. Hey presto.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
8 months ago

Remind me who kills themselves more because of societies pressures on them?

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

Very large numbers of sexually abused people actually. Of both genders.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago

There is a lot of truth to this. MeToo, Weinstein, articles like this. The liberation of female sexuality has unfortunately resulted in a corresponding demonization of male sexuality. Some of that is historically justified, as for most of history, women were at the mercy of men in some form or fashion. We all know about the historical practice of child marriage. It still occurs in many places. This is a tragedy, of course, but everyone knows this by now. We’ve beaten this horse nearly to death. We know about the propensity of some men to desire and exploit underage women, and most of us are chomping at the bit to see them punished for their bad behavior, when it is actually criminal. If there’s a sexuality we’re in denial about, it’s female sexuality, as the trope of the teenage girl swooning over the rock star or the jet setting playboy is as alive and well as ever. Many powerful people exploit this for various self-serving reasons almost never written about by feminists. Many of the cases cited could be interpreted as being just as problematic from the point of view of female desire as well. Certainly, because the male is older and typically in a position of authority, the legal responsibility falls upon him alone to be the adult, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that a sixteen to eighteen year old girl is incapable of understanding how to entice male interest and has zero agency. Keep in mind the media cases we here about are from the ones who regretted their encounter and felt coerced. How many other women do we not hear about who enthusiastically participated in these flings with celebrities and didn’t feel compelled to talk about it decades later. How many who do talk about it now would have told a very different story at the time it happened? The most illuminating portrayal of this particular problem was a satire produced by two men, an episode of South Park from 2009 “The Ring”. Go watch that sometime. Companies sell sexuality to women just as much as men, even children. When we see a commercial of a woman in bikini drinking a Budweiser, we bemoan male desire and fret about the ‘patriarchy’, but when attractive male rock stars spray audiences of teenage girls with white foam, nothing is said, except by a couple of instigating satirists. Women are often attracted to power and status for the same questionable reasons men are attracted to underage girls. We are all, to some extent or another, at the mercy of our biological imperatives, the man to seek fertility and promiscuity, the female to seek status and material wealth. The origin of these drives is the same, the evolutionary push to pass genes to the next generation, but what was optimal for reproduction fifty thousand years ago isn’t necessarily optimal now and our biological urges are somewhat inconvenient. It would be good to acknowledge both sides of this particular coin.

Margaret Ford
Margaret Ford
8 months ago

If men behave decently they probably have little to worry about…
And men targetting underage girls is the subject here…

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago

Very well put!

Danielle Treille
Danielle Treille
7 months ago

That’s what you are: misogynistic, bigoted and wrong. In a matriarchy, creeps like you are sent to the castration shed…

Chipoko
Chipoko
7 months ago

Misandrist, bigoted and wrong!

xi dong
xi dong
7 months ago

Harrington has written a real click-bait article, with Unherd advertising it accordingly as ‘sacrificing young girls’.
She assumes what she purportedly sets out to prove. Heavily laden with pejorative wording. Really not up to Unherd’s usual objective standards.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago

This amounts to rather desperate special pleading. Apart from anything else the male form of abuse is much more common than the female, but anyway “two wrongs don’t make a right”

It’s also rather disingenuous – what about if some sleazeball 50 year old was grooming your 16 year old daughter?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

He doesn’t have to be 50 years old, a sleazeball of any age is all the qualification necessary to have fathers up in arms.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago

I have a few examples of male behaviour and female behaviour that are possibly relevant to the discussion. They determine my views but how accurate they are to others is moot.
I am a white heterosexual male, now elderly. Some 30/40/50 years ago (the events I will refer to were years apart) I was involved in education. Student, then teacher.
As a student in the early/mid 70’s I was attracted to fellow female students, and after one or two mis-steps (A product of a Catholic Boys school my female social skills were rather gauche) I found a girl-friend who I eventually married and who has managed to put up with me ever since.
As a student sportsman, I was loud and unpleasant when drunk. However, that unpleasantness was confined to lewd songs sung loudly and stupid drinking games. Now I actually like women. Yet it appeared that so many of my team mates did not appear to do so.
I regularly found myself absenting myself from the bar and their company because of their bragging about relationships with their supposed girl-friends. How much was true or not I don’t know. BUT I soon realised that some of my team-mates were best avoided off the pitch as I found their tales sickening and the damage to the reputations of their supposed girlfriends horrifying. I particularly avoided them if I was with my girlfriend.
I struggled to understand how they could repeat such things to their friends then laugh and denigrate the girls they were supposed to have some feelings for.
Eventually I left Uni and went into teaching. I was glad to leave by then.
For some reason I returned after a few years for a re-union and mixing in the bar with the current sports members I was horrified to discover that compared to the depravities I was hearing as funny stories from the current students, the lot I had thought depraved suddenly just appeared to be stupid and sleazy.
Quite frankly I believed that I listened to what was borderline gang sexual assaults, assuming they were true of course. I couldn’t believe they were true, BUT the fact that these students thought it funny meant I never returned for a reunion. I wonder to this day how many of those now men could ever expect to have a loving relationship with a woman IF they had that attitude toward any of them!
The next time I was shocked was some 15 years later. Supply teaching in a comprehensive I was repeatedly asked back because I believed in discipline – a dodge city style admittedly or perhaps a war zone style. My opinion being that either I was ruled in the classroom and life was pleasant for almost all, or else it was a war zone and that resulted in collateral damage.
As a consequence I would stand at my Laboratory door on class changes and ensure that my authority was projected the length of the corridor for students I recognized as being ‘my class.
One day, across the corridor, from me, a permanent member of staff appeared to be doing the same thing. However a 15 year old boy came along, not one of mine, his arms draped around the necks of 2 girls of the same age & same class.
As he arrived at the other classroom, he said to the teacher on passing into the classroom. “These are my bitches.”
Only the fact he’d disappeared into the classroom before I could react saved an embarrassing scene. Because my class pupil or not, I’d have grabbed him by the scruff of the neck & detached him from the girls and demanded of them first
“Are you going to let HIM refer to you like that?”
Then I’d have dragged him along to the head, regardless of what the consequences for me would have been.
I was totally shocked the permanent teacher didn’t go in and grab the boy and do the same. Soon after I gave up teaching altogether. What were we teaching those girls and boys by letting that behaviour go on?
Then another 10 years on circumstances meant I ended up at a primary in a poor district. I was a part-timer covering sick leave in a technical capacity though teaching reading and basic maths. I worked, fortunately by that time, in a semi-closed library area but clearly visible to passers by in the adjacent open hall.
The youngster were clearly children, 9,10, 11, because it was a primary. (In secondary sometimes a 13/14 year old was not quite so easy to see as a child unless one knew their age, but I digress, the needs were the same, but the development was not.)
Many of the children were from broken homes, and I can only assume that many of the girls had not come across an adult male who was so attentive to their needs. I mean educational needs, I was dealing with poor readers poor at maths. Those generally left behind, so in a very small group. Usually about 12 pupils often 50/50 split boys and girls.
The whole idea was to provide increased attention to those needs. Encouragement as well as help.
The effect on the girls without fathers was emotionally difficult to cope with as I had not been warned. The first time was a shock.
I was kneeling down between two young girls, close friends, after helping one i turned to help the other. While doing so I suddenly became aware of a small arm linking through mine, and a small head resting on my arm, turning surprised, I found myself looking closely into the face of the young girl.
She was hugging my arm and smiling up at me. At the end of the class at lunch time, I would dismiss the pupils, then on stepping out into the hall would find a number of the girls waiting and before I’d taken two steps both arms would be grabbed and I would be weighed down by up to half a dozen young girls wanting to hold my hand or arm as I walked to the staff-room.
Fortunately dinner ladies would help me gently disentangle myself. I mention this because when those girls went on to senior school. I wondered what happened there. My experience in senior schools was similar. There were young girls, in what I used to know as 3rd and 4th year (so 13/14) who also appeared to need a male father figure. The problem by then, however, is some 14 year olds have not the bodies of 9,10 year old children.
The girls I mention who needed male attention were not in my opinion being driven by sexual thoughts that I as an adult male may experience. Of that I am certain. They all seem desperate to satisfy an emotional need, not physical. No matter how many times I tried to gently explain that certain things were not acceptable, including some of the manipulations of the uniform and standing so close to me as to touch me, it was an unending effort.
Fortunately for me I was happily married to my beautiful wife, also a teacher and often a welcome confidant as to the issues I faced.
Also I believe I understood the gap in the lives that some of the girls had, I having come from a broken home.
Even so I very soon opted out of mixed sex schools because of what I think (and I’m no psychologist) is the danger of genuine concern being misinterpreted. That was 35/40 years ago. Now it must be almost impossible, and may account for the lack of male teachers.
Though in my case, perhaps it was more because of the emotional stress of trying to walk a very very difficult line between NOT encouraging a too close a relationship BUT also not inflicting further damage on potentially damaged children.
The Girls appeared to have an emotional need, but for me, it was a dangerous thing because the older girls were not easily discernible as children. That is I think where the problem lies, the male/female sexuality is NOT in my opinion the same (no I have no qualifications to claim that is so, it is just my belief), and I dread to think what the male examples I mentioned earlier would have done had these girls chosen them.
Though I point out the bad male examples were not picking on girls much younger. BUT perhaps the Victorian idea of protecting girls isn’t as bad an idea as many think.
As I said earlier, I do not think men and women think the same way, nor do I believe they see relationships the same way nor do they experience a physical relationship in the same way.
I’m open to any female on here saying I’m wrong, but, and I always find this amusing as it is inverts the classic male line “My wife doesn’t understand me!”
Despite all the years of marriage etc, 51 in all, not always a smooth path. Now, frighteningly, often my wife and I not only think the same thing at the same time, we then say what we think at the same time, such that I say we are 99.9999999% compatible. Yet I still don’t understand her when it comes to emotional and physical love. I know she loves me, but how she does so can be very confusing, if that makes sense which may not, perhaps I’m the problem.
The result of that essay being, I think we do need to protect young girls and women, and with fewer fathers around to do it, there perhaps may lie the real problem.
Though perhaps a counter-argument to my ‘lack of fathers’ is the fact of how often one of the celebrities in the news was at odds with celebrity fathers when it came to ‘dating’ their daughters.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
7 months ago

Abusive women do NOT exist in “at least equal numbers to abusive men”. This comment is so vile and self-serving in its entirety it’s worthy of Russell Brand. Such vast self-pity and entitlement. The men I know and love are nothing like you, thank God.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
8 months ago

One issue I have with this article is the elision of the phrases ‘young girls’ and ‘very young girls’ into an argument that is supposedly about 16 year olds. Surely they are young women, very young women if you prefer.
If one admits they are young women, then the question becomes what are we going to do about young women sleeping with older men, and in consequence getting into unequal relationships.
There seems little doubt that the cases mentioned here were at the time consensual. Subsequent treatment within the relationship notwithstanding, if ‘we’ are supposed to be ‘doing something’ about the whole older-guy- sleeps-with-willing-teenage-girl it would necessarily have to deny her agency until whatever age it is that we wish to impose as a once size fits all definition of ‘old enough’. Otherwise, you need to let her do what she wants. In these cases that appears to have been to sleep with a rich, glamourous, famous guy. There are sound evolutionary reasons why she might want to. She might want to impress her friends too, or simply live the high life.
That these women later in their life have regrets about their younger selves’ behaviour doesn’t mean that society should step in and hamfistedly start imposing other peoples’ norms on young women.
Who knows, Alice might have gotten lucky, gotten married and cashed out through divorce at some later stage. She wouldn’t have been the first attractive female to do so. Worth the risk to some. Not to others. Are the others to impose their caution on the some?
And yes, men can be assholes within relationships. Women are, of course, spotless in this regard.

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Men are told that all interaction with women must be consensual.
The problem for men seems to be that women frequently withdraw consent a decade later.
Other women, scenting blood in the water and a chance to destroy a prominent man, eagerly pile on with their own withdrawal of consent.
The man is left with the impossible task of proving innocence against a social media assassination attempt.

Paul T
Paul T
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

So you see no similarity between this withdrawal of consent and, say, the gender issue where women, not men, are cancelled and attacked and so feel forced to “agree” that trans women are women only to realise later that they didn’t actually agree and that the weight of, usually male, judgment and threats and aggression was what forced them to publicly go along with it? You don’t see that similarity played out in many different issues across society?

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

I see many similarities between a multitude of things.
Are you reprimanding me because I didn’t list them all?
With respect to trans-women, I’ve seen many young women marching and campaigning in support of them. In fact, young women supporters are usually by far the majority of the supporters and the most vocal. Male supporters are few and far between.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Shaw
starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

What about the ones wearing dresses and screaming, ‘TERF’?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Exactly.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I dislike Brand intensely and always have and this is no defence of him. But as my wife pointed out, I also can’t escape the observation that Alice had all the power at multiple stages in the proceeding relationship and chose to give it away. She was under no obligation to give him a moment of her time. I’ve never read an article decrying young women for not disciplining their fascination with noisy, narcissistic, arrogant, high status men. Some responsibility should be recognised for our own poor decision making, people who think the bad things that happen to them are always someone else’s fault never grow up. The underlying implication in so much of the conversation around these things is that men are accountable for their actions but women are not. That is not equality by any measure I can discern.

Last edited 8 months ago by Stuart Bennett
Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
8 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Her parents knew where she was going and allowed it to happen. What about their collusion?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago

Some of those parents are hoping to jump aboard the money train if they are lucky enough.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
8 months ago

Not to mention the BBC providing taxis to collect her from school (according to one source!)

Maighread G
Maighread G
8 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

This is a relationship between a 16 year old school girl and a thirty something year old wealthy celebrity. That’s why he is being held accountable for his actions. He was well into adulthood. She was still a child.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Maighread G

Legally she was considered old enough to make that decision. Age of consent in the UK is 16 unless it can be proven to be CSE and there has been no mention of this.
As harsh as this sounds, SHE chose to engage in sexual relations with him. It might not have been as satisfying as she’d hoped but not every man is. You learn and you move on.
At this rate we’ll be changing the age of consent to 30 as it seems that no woman wants to take responsibility for the bad decisions they make in regards to their love life! Sadly, many women make poor decisions, usually because they are shallow and/or naive, but they’ll remain naive until they have experience (usually bad) to learn from. Let’s stop protecting them from learning valuable lessons.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

The main allegation is that he was orally raping her and she had to stop him by punching him in the stomach.
She never consented to that particular act, ok?
I find Harrington’s article a tad patronising in places but it is accurate about child marriage which is mostly female
Germaine Greer published a weird picture book about fancying young teens called The Boy. It attracted flak as it should have done.
People assume that young teen boys are not bothered by having relationships with older female teachers . Not necessarily true.
The problem is not male desire per se but a selfish, immature self indulgent, narcissistic belief that it is the job of the desired whether male or female to relieve it or indulge it otherwise the poor bloke is being denied a necessity.
It is also the belief that when your desire is publicly expressed in inappropriate ways – including porn images being visible on newsagent shelves – those who think you need to keep it private are prudes and killjoys.
I’ll never forget this guy I was doing some teacher training with in Madrid becoming very upset because there was gay porn at eye level everywhere. He wasn’t used to seeing someone in his own category with spread buttocks etc
Feminists have taken the flak and the hatred for merely pointing out this ridiculous, one sided inability to understand that being fancied is not always flattering .
Consent and agency are not one time events. It is not a job contract .She was attracted to him and charmed by him but didn’t sign up for the rough stuff. Looking back, she found the whole relationship problematic.
The issue with the Dispatches program is that it did dilute some of the more serious allegations with groupies becoming upset about being dumped. The real problem there was not that they were upset but that the companies were enabling and pimping for him, eg getting numbers.
For the record, I was assaulted in a long term relationship and at the time I was very ill. Usually I would have fought back but even if I had, the fact that it was my boyfriend would have made it hard to prosecute.
Jurors rarely convict when rape happens within relationships. This is something this girl does know which is why she has gone the trial by media route.
As a teacher I’ve been in situations when someone a lot younger has had a crush – you deal with it like a responsible grown up – kindly.
Men bang on and on about responsibility but until you start to care about the prevalence of rape, stop denying who is doing it, and start being part of the solution, not the problem, no-one takes you seriously.
You, not the person you fancy, are responsible for dealing with your desire in a way that does no harm to others.
That applies to both genders but has traditionally only been applied to women.
Grow up and get over it.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jane Davis

She had obviously totally failed to engender any respect for her in him. She was and is a retard.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I’ve been saying raise the Age of Consent to 32 for years. As a joke,a bitter joke,it’s an odd world when a ridiculous joke you make starts to look like an actual policy!

William Cameron
William Cameron
8 months ago
Reply to  Maighread G

You cannot in law relating to sex be a child over the age of consent.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Cameron
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago
Reply to  Maighread G

Was she really a “child”? In what sense? How do you know? The cultural and even legal definition of that word varies greatly from one time and place to another. And the variation is not due merely to episodes of cultural permissiveness or repression.
Historically and cross-culturally, children have become adults when they’ve been able to take on the responsibilities of adult men or women–usually after demonstrating their readiness before the community affirms it in a rite of passage (an important feature of communal life that we now lack).
I can assure you that my own mental and physiological status at the age of 13, for example, had nothing whatsoever to do with adult manhood in my world, even though the Jewish community formally pronounced me a “man” (a.k.a. a bar mitzvah). My very remote ancestors, however, lived in a very different world.
In most or all societies until very recently, at any rate, both boys and girls are adults by virtue of being ready to marry and have children–long before their remote descendants graduate from college or even high school.
By the same token, what makes you think that “he was well into manhood”? I see no evidence that all or even most men and women in their thirties are mature adults. On the contrary, many of them live in a hedonistic society that acknowledges desire but not duty. And that, unlike puberty, really is a product of cultural fashion (although even the age of puberty varies by tune and place, which could be partly influenced by cultural factors).

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

As soon as I got a job just after leaving school aged 15 I was informed I was an adult,I had to pay my own way,and make my own decisions. I was told that by my parents. I made one bad decision aged 17,to enter into a relationship.
Because I thought it was compulsory in our society and if you were not in a relationship much of life’s opportunities like buying a house and travel were not available to you. What a silly Billy I was to think that! Notice I didnt enter this relationship out of passionate romantic sentient feelings of love and in order to assuage the raging hormones coursing through my body. LOL. The late sixties to mid seventies was big on raging hormones coursing through teenage bodies. At least I learned that relationships can be a lot more complex than.a Valentine card and people involve themselves in relationships for many reasons including financial.security,company,the trophy partner,power and a need to control – and the good motivations as well.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Maighread G

I don’t get that ‘Alice” did much that she didn’t want to do at the time.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

She never denies she had a consensual relationship. She also says looking back his attitude was controlling and patronising. But the main allegation – please note -was that he orally raped her and she had to punch him in the stomach to stop it

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jane Davis

So,not a unique experiece. The mere fact he casually thought he could perpetrate this on her shows that.she had not enforced boundaries or gained his respect and maybe that was because she wanted to be “liked” and knew,if not “liked” the “I’ve got a famous boyfriend” lifestyle would end. She was with him for a while after this,but i.kniw how these dreadful relationships can stagger on due to a not entirely unjustified fear of being alone.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

At the time those ones were triumphant smuggies “I’ve got a boyfriend,he’s got a ca-ar”.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Maighread G

No she was NOT a child. In that case either up the Age of Consent to 18 so it tallies with the Legal start of adulthood or make 16 the Legal start of adulthood. How can there be this strange gap when it seems you are/are not a child/,adult. Or make both 21 like it used to be. Or raise the Age of Consent to 32 and with luck everyone will get fed up waiting and give up in the idea. I heard Alice and she was obviously and is a retard. Oddly her “actors” voice and her real voice in another interview were exactly the same.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

IF what I read is true, I would be more interested in her mother. What was she thinking?

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Probably a trendy liberal luvvie type.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Agreed. Either women have agency or they don’t. If they do, then they are responsible for their own behaviour. If they don’t, then the law should be changed accordingly. A significant number of young women do throw themselves at (desire) pop stars and film stars. David Cassidy said he had a great time. Bowie was well known for his numerous encounters and interestingly, as far as I know, has had no retrospective complaints. Neither has David Cassidy.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
8 months ago

David Cassidy and David Bowie may well have been good and considerate in bed, though – -rather than plain abusive which it turns out Russell Brand was.Sex in itself is not the issue, violence, coercion and abuse is.Though, I agree that a girl of 16 is, in principle, capable of deciding and choosing to have sex with someone – no matter what that person’s age.
I suspect Mary’s deeper point is that women should be far more careful and far more picky over who they sleep with; that promiscuous sex is not really very liberating at all, and often has unpleasant and unwished for consequences, especially for women.Russell Brand was like Jimmy Saville. He was continually telling and showing people what he was like – but somehow people chose not to see this.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jane Anderson
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Precisely my point, responsibility is placed on the woman. Girls and boys should be made aware of the general differences between male and female sexuality during sex education rather than being brainwashed into believing men can be women, taught to question whether they are a girl or a boy and taught that there are 72 genders. I have not mentioned Russell Brand precisely because of the allegations against him, though he was, as he claims to have been, completely transparent about the kind of person he was and so far only a handful out of the thousands (allegedly) have made complaints which is not to excuse anything illegal.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
8 months ago

The issue, for the women involved, is that just because you have consented to a relationship or ‘experience’ with someone, you cannot know how it will turn out. Unless a situation is really traumatising, because obviously abusive – then it can just be put down to bad sex and a lesson learned, not to be repeated.
I’m not sure if at 16 ( or at any age) I would have had the confidence, or clarity, to take a matter to the police – especially if the man involved was famous.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

I just wonder where this 16 year old’s parents were.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I, effectively, left home at 16 and got up to all sorts. At 16 you are pretty independent and certainly do not involve your parents in your every move. Yes, you are green and naive……but still.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

How worldly are the parents? Have they tried to educate and prepare children for some unpleasant realities?A person has a chronological age but there physical and sexual maturities which may be two years in advance but emotionally and intellectually they are two years behind. I suggest the problems occur where unworldly parents have not prepared the child for the world and the physical and sexual maturity are years in advance of the intellectual and emotional.An unworldly sixteen year old girl with a body of an eighteen year old and the mind of fourteen year old is likely to have problems with certain types of men.
What is being ignored is that girls appear to be going through puberty much earlier which can life more difficult. Having the body of sexually mature woman and and the mind of an immature girl cannot be easy.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

exactly. I don’t know if it’s any better with parents nowadays but all I got from my mother was “if you get pregnant don’t come home”.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Parents should pass on some on their lessons they have learned from their mistakes. I read somewhere that in mid 19th century many girls did not go through puberty until fifteen or sixteen years of age, some now go through it at eleven years of age or earlier; hence many problems.
There is also background. Children growing up in slums and run down estates have to be more worldly wise otherwise they either will be raped or mugged.
Those children growing up in secure suburban homes with weak naive parents plus have gone through puberty early and have average or below average intellect and emotional maturity, can end up in dangerous situations very quickly. If the Mother has worked undercover as police officer investigating drugs, prostitution , etc and the Father similar or military with anti- terrorism experience, then hopefully the children will have the skills to spot, avoid and if need be, fight their way out of trouble.
It helps children if parents offer a secure loving home and are tough,worldly wise and provide practical life skills. An Aunt advised her daughters to wear tights and sewed a pouch into their bras so if they were mugged or had to drop their handbags they had money for transport. An uncle said if need be, punch the man in the eye with a key, do not get into a car with a child lock on, be prepared to smash a car window with your feet and climb out.
I suggest all women and girls watch Lynsey de Paul’s video on self defence.
Taking Control with Lynsey de Paul (1992) Self Defence For Women – YouTube
As part of school, all girls should be put through the physical and hand to hand combat training women went through in the Special Operations Executive.
Girls need to be be able to back the word NO with effective hand to hand combat skills.
The greater the awareness and skills girls and women possses the greater their freedom, especially from fear.
If Weinstein, Epstein , etc had been crippled by a woman early on, they would have stopped.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

and perhaps not having a father is the family.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Me too and went to London like a lamb to slaughter.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The mother knew and approved the liason just as Virginia Guiffre’s mother did. I’m waiting for for “Alice” to sue Brand.

Simon
Simon
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

This is the age old problem of ex ante and ex post for which there a few simple answers other than the rapid development of a bs detector, which takes us back to the beginning.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

The law provides a very convenient means of stopping matters going to the police when in the hands of well paid lawyers and aimed at not so wealthy or powerful people. Especially in the UK it seems.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

Sex education for girls shouldn’t be about what body parts fit where. It should be more in the Jane Austen style. No I dont mean discreet and refined. I’ve only read two of Janes books but heard and read discussions of the others and it can be boiled down to….
make the bastards pay….very unladylike language but Jane Austen.knew how IMPORTANT it was for females to marry even to someone you weren’t that keen on.
No marriage,even if it might not mean.poverty if you were lucky,still meant diminished status and lack of opportunity. And the gate to marriage was not to give.your love freely and unconditionally with no thought of return. Sorry to be so cynical but that’s the sort.of.sex education girls will always need..
As Mungo Jerry put it,” If her Daddy’s rich take her out for a meal,if her.Daddys poor,just do what you feel”. Jane Austen wrote about that.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

I believe that one of the 70s rock stars enjoyed urinating in his teenage girlfriends mouth. Not sure if it was done considerately. Also not sure if you get a free pass by being good in bed.

Perhaps it’s just that Bowie et al maintained their coolness – Gary Glitter, for example, less so.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I’m not quite sure of your point to be honest. You seem, maybe, to suggest that David Bowie ” keeping his cool” might be a good cover for abusive sexual practices?

Last edited 8 months ago by Jane Anderson
David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

No – I’m saying it may lead to less regret, and less later reframing of what happened as abuse. A woman might still view an encounter with Bowie as positive, and others might share this view. If the exact same thing had happened with Glitter or Saville this would now be associated with shame.

To be clear, I don’t think this is an excuse. I’m trying to understand a double standard.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

There’s two sides to this.

I take aside people in their 20s and who are into extreme sex, to work out why they are into it – is it legitimate interest or are they into it because they’ve been habituated to it as being the only way they can get a lover?

But OTOH , It’s also a bit naff to just equate sex that’s extreme because it’s dirty, with more serious forms of exploitation.

Issues relating to one can be cleaned away with incense & a squirt of Fairy Liquid.

The other, not so much.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Not just that people chose not to see what Saville was really like, but he was actually protected by people in the BBC and media.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

And I expect anyone who dared to.speak plain got media-shsmed as a boring,no fun,prurient,puritanical,maybe hypocritical,Mary Whitehouse clone who shouldn’t knock it till theyd tried it but if they did try it would be morally bankrupt anyway. I believe Russ wrote books in which he described the sort of rampant sexual predator he was at the time.
Maybe his girlies couldnt read.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

Back when John Peel the DJ had a column in radio times he used to boast about taking his pick from the underage girls hanging about outside the USA radio station.he worked in and demanding oral sex off the ones he’d chosen back at his apartment. If he hadn’t timely died just before hitting on famous people became a thing he’d defo be in prison now.

Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Would you date and/or have sex with, a 16 year-old girl?
If not, why not?
(The current legal definition of a child in the UK and according to UNCRC is anyone under 18. An 18 year-old is a young woman. A 16 year-old is a girl child).

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

What you have identified is the difference between the law and a code of conduct/ a moral code. Moral codes tend to be culturally embedded and as we are frequently told, we live in a multicultural society. Of course, there are times when the law and moral codes conflict, Rotherham springs to mind. Some cultures do protect women more and there is generally a concordant reduction in women’s freedom/ independence/ rights. This seems natural as freedom to choose implies freedom to choose the action and the consequences of the actions: responsibility. Less responsibility – fewer rights.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Freedom means responsibility and accepting consequences.

Safety comes at the cost of freedom.

You gotta pick one or the other.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Actually, people who want to trade freedom for safety are likely as not to get neither, as ‘safety’ has to be provided by somebody, somebody powerful, and all of human history suggests that power accumulates and seeks to expand itself, almost irrespective of whatever original intentions were had by whoever set down the rules. Individual liberty requires individual people to demand nothing less of their government. The moment we stop demanding liberty, it will be taken away. This is why Jefferson wrote “from time to time the tree of liberty must be cleansed with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. He concluded, so far correctly, that no conceivable government would ever be immune to the effects of humanity’s propensity to acquire and exercise ever greater power over one another. Tyranny will always re-emerge, and only a people who will refuse to give up their liberty and violently defend it if necessary will be able to keep it for any length of time. There is a great deal of Jefferson’s ideal left in America, even if it is out of fashion in the circles of the powerful, the intellectual, and the affluent.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thank you. Though what is left of Jefferson’s ideal in the US is under direct threat by the combined power of the tech elite, the media, and increasingly, the US government.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  starkbreath

The number of new gun owners, on the other hand, speaks to how ingrained the revolutionary ideal is in America. I agree the forces arrayed against traditional America seem vast and powerful, but they aren’t just fighting a group of people, they’re fighting parts of human nature and the history of the US. They are indeed a behemoth, but they’re a behemoth trying to hold back a rising tide.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Somewhat off topic. The US equivalent of the Monster Raving Looney party fancy dress day out in the Capitol does not strike me as an attempt to let the blood of the tyrants who usually occupied it however.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Well, no. For once this really is “not a binary” but an actual spectrum or sliding scale. The problem is where to set the cursor, degrees and kinds of freedom vs. responsibility.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

I can’t imagine many less appealing things than a relationship with a teenage girl. I’d rather have a root canal. It’s distasteful, but not illegal. Fact is that people are usually sexually active to some degree by that age so having a higher age limit is fairly pointless.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

No but it’s interesting that Harrington has to reach all the way back to the 1970s for egregious examples.
The point is sexual mores change. In previous eras when childbed mortality was high it was in no way unusual for middle aged men of means to marry teenagers if their wife died.
More to the point I remember as a child in the 70s watching things like ‘On the Buses’ where the main character would leer at schoolgirls out of the bus and wolf whistle at them, try to look up their skirts etc in that Carry On sort of way.
Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, the presenter of Crackerjack in the 70s, met his future wife when she was 13 and he was in his twenties. They were married for 30 years.
I also remember in the 70s/80s female sixth formers dating teachers.
None of this would be remotely acceptable today.
What Harrington also fails to point out is that child marriage, where it is still prevalent, IS largely a feature of very backward societies such as Afghanistan or parts of sub-Saharan Africa or the traveller community here in the UK or the Mormons in the US.
The idea that all men should in addition automatically be subject to ‘suspicion’ is really odious and divisive.
A muddled and wrong-headed article.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

The late Alan Clarke MP met his wife when she was 15 and he was 29. They married when she was 16 and were together for 42 years until his death.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

My wife was 15 and I was 16 when we first met. We were both still virgins when we married and have just celebrated our 61st wedding anniversary.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Sure – because presumably he had a specific thing about her, not a general thing about 15 year old girls.

Fair point to make though. An age difference does not automatically make a relationship predatory.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

One swallow doesn’t make a summer.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Being a teenager in the 90s, I clearly remember a ‘newspaper’, The Star maybe? Having a page 3 similar to the The Sun and they would have a 15 year old girl in a mini skirt and topless, arms covering her breasts, with a countdown beside her picture, the countdown being the number of days until she turned 16 and could legally pose fully topless.
I also clearly remember from back then, and see with my own kids who are in their early teens now, the wide range of development between 12-18 year old kids. Some of the boys and girls in that age group can look much older than they are, and are often (both sexes, but overwhelmingly more so the girls) dressed in quite overtly sexualizing clothing. Presumably they do it because they want to? I imagine girls today are similar to girls when I was younger and that a not-insignificant number of them dress and wear make up in order to appear older and gain access to adult spaces such as clubs and bars. They would consider an older male being interested in them as flattering and evidence that they did appear older.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Yes I remember that too. I think that era was the tail end of a very macho, industrial culture born of a mixture of Victorian values (married women stayed at home, young unmarried women were ‘available’, pubs were for blokes) and a large industrial proletariat that was slowly disappearing.
The funny thing is you only really notice how different it was when you see tv from the time.
It’s even noticeable watching 90s movies with my (teenage) kids. If it’s a comedy, the female characters are often just ‘babes’ whose sole purpose is to be alluring eye candy for the hapless male protagonists.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I miss those times.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Jerry Seinfeld suffered no approbation when he was dating 17-year-old Shoshanna Lonstein. Again, if you’re the right kind of person, everyone’s cool with it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Leonardo Di Capreo is known for only “dating” much younger women. He’s made fun of for this but not criticised.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Ah but child marriage is still prevelant in parts of America. I saw a documentary recently of the very subject. Heart wrenching stories from the mouths of women to whom this had happened. The one that sticks in my mind is that of a black woman who was abused by her pastor and had a baby by him at age ten. Then she was married off to him and had a baby each year till she was god knows what age. Another white woman was married off at age 13. It was the being married that that was the trap because they had no rights to their children or anything else.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Again, an aside, by chance, clearing out my uncles cupboard earlier to day I found an article from 1988 when Shevardnadze, Soviet Foreign Minister was talking about withdrawal from Afghanistan being dependent on the US stopping supplying weapons to the Mujahideen as he feared they were arming ‘extremists’.
The US response:- “We believe that the people of Afghanistan have the right to determine their own future.”
How times change.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

Actually, the Children & Young Persons Act 1933 defines a 14-17 yo teenager as ‘a young person’.

William Cameron
William Cameron
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

In the UK a 16 year old can consent to sex.In my view it should be 18 . Same as the age to marry.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Cameron
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Yes, that seems odd, doesn’t it.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
8 months ago
Reply to  Lang Cleg

Isn’t one of the complaints the 16 year old is making that Brand called her a “girl” and this is supposedly emotional abuse?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Maybe this article would be taken more seriously, if it weren’t for the timing and the picture of Russell Brand.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Who’s not taking it seriously? Brand does not photograph well, ever.

M Doors
M Doors
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

“One issue I have with this article is the elision of the phrases ‘young girls’ and ‘very young girls’ into an argument that is supposedly about 16 year olds.”
It is either just lazy or deliberate.

Last edited 8 months ago by M Doors
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

In the UK, girls of 16 are still considered children.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Except the age of consent is 16 unless some form of payment/evidence of coercion is made, then it’s CSE. Not sure if the kudos of bedding a celeb can really be considered the same thing.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

But they can legally have sex.

Maighread G
Maighread G
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Eighteen is legally an adult. Eighteen to twenty something would be a young woman. Sixteen to eighteen is a young girl.
I doubt very much that Mary Harrington thinks women are spotless in relationships. She certainly hasn’t implied such. It is just that this article is about young girls.

Dionne Finch
Dionne Finch
8 months ago

There’s no point having the age of consent set at 16 and then calling the 16 year olds ‘young girls’ who are not fair game for all those horny men who want to deflower them. We would need a higher age of consent or some age gap rule.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Dionne Finch

Sure, but that still will not stop the 16 yr old female from pretending she is 18 or 20 to get into places and be with men the law says she should not.

When I was in my early 20’s there was a gorgeous 16 yr old that worked as a hostess at the restraunt I bartended at. Now, she never told anyone her age, the only person that really knew was the owner. She lived away from her parents with her sister who was 20 in an apartment next to a college. She ended up dating one of the waiters who was 22 or 23. He did not drink and neither did she so no date they ever went on was to a place that she would have to show ID. It was only after a year of dating and a lot of sex that he found out from her sister how old she was. Now, she knew how old HE was, but she kept her age quiet. He never asked. He just assumed that since she was living away from her parents in an apartment, with a car, and with the ability to come and go as she pleased, that she was over 18.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

And if they were in the UK, she wouldn’t have had to hide her age as that would be perfectly legal.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

But what’s your point?

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

First: That young women, even as young as 16 can pass for older and will try to pass for older.

Second: That these same young women have sexual and social status desires and that often those desires are not for boys their own age but for men that they see as having more to offer. (note: research shows that on average women will select a man 3-10 yrs older than they are)

Third: That many, if not most of these young women, know precisely what they are doing and precisely what they want. That they are not innocents being mislead.They have agency. Not to say that they are not naive (there is a difference between innocence and naivete) or that the choice to go after an older man is not fraught with risk, but they have agency. Because they have agency they have responsibility for their choices and the consequences.

I have argued for a long time that we have entered some weird period of time where we seem to extend childhood and then adolescence beyond what is healthy or even natural. It is how we end up with 20 somethings that still do not want to grow up. It is how we get 27 yr old men who do not want to stop playing video games and get on with building a life. It is how we end up with young women who are convinced they can party on through their 20’s and put motherhood off until their mid 30’s or even early 40’s only to discover they cannot or cannot without a lot of medical help. It is how we let teenage criminals off with slaps on the wrist which then encourages them to repeat offend until one day they hit that magic age of 18 and the consequences come down hard. And worse, we are neurotic about this. On the one hand we will send kids as young as 17 off to war but on the other they cannot have a beer or rent a car.

Alexander the Great was 16 when he conquered Greece.

How many young women in their teens have run and managed homes successfully throughout history?

I think we underestimate what young adults are capable of and I think we are often naive about what they want and desire and how far the will go to get it.

I also think that our new social norms are in direct conflict with out biological imperatives. That is not to suggest that we should just roll over and reduce ourselves to the animal instincts in ourselves but that we should recognize that they are there and that they influence how we function, and that they exist for a reason. We do not have to like it, we just need to recognize the reality honestly so we can navigate the world.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

When I was in Germany some 30 years ago a very astute German said something similar. Many middle class people were taking degrees, masters an doctorates and were not entering the job market until late 20s.
Not long ago until the early 50s to 60s , 16 year olds could go to sea as cadet officersand people could enter apprenticeships at a similar age and be fully trained by the age of 21 years.
For many jobs, Lieutenants in RN/MN , Army, craftsman twenty one was the age when one sufficiently trained to be responsible for a ship as officer of the watch, a platoon, craftsman who could operate fully independently.
What makes a teenager grow up is to enter the world of work and justify their employment to adults.
What is being ignored are certain aspects; girls are going through puberty as early as eleven years old. Also girl may have the physical sexual maturity of several years in advanced of her chronological age and her emotional and intellectual several years behind it. A fourteen year girl with the body of a sixteen year old and the intellect and emotions of a twelve year old is very vulnerable.
The girl you mentioned may be sixteen years old but have the intellect and emotional maturity of an eighteen year old. I think the age of consent at sixteen is correct. What is important is that people receive comprehenive sex education which must include VD and AIDS. Keep marriage at eighteen. Few women will have the emotional maturity to raise children under the age of eighteen and they will unlikely be sufficienlty discerning to chose competent husbands. Educate The Mother and one educates the family.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

One thing I discovered teaching, is that many of the ‘disruptive’ pupils did so because they were more than ready and able to live in the adult world of work and wanted to do so. BUT they weren’t allowed. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘problem pupils” I knew of whom I’ve met years on who have made a success of their lives by abandoning the myth that school/academic education should continue to at least 18 and getting out at 16. Which in some cases was still 2 years later than they’d wanted.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Dionne Finch

Or we could simply castrate all male babies when they are born. But today, that might be a problem as we can’t call a baby with a p***s a “boy” anymore. So perhaps we need to wait until the boy says he’s a boy before we castrate him. Oops, sorry, can’t call him a him these days either.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Dionne Finch

Many are deflowered earlier.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
8 months ago

I always find this an odd topic. It always seems to be viewed through ‘men bad, women/girls blameless’ lens.

Firstly, some women/girls are attracted to men with money, power, access to illicit substances etc. AND are willing to use the tools they have (physical attractiveness) to gain access to these things. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but it is true.

This is after all, not a new phenomenon. It is as old as time itself.

That point aside, there is likely a alcohol/drug element to this. By that I mean men and women drunk or stoned out of their minds often make very bad choices. Shocker!

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago

Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago

Robert De NIro, Mick Jagger, Al Pacino….

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I just made that eeeeew face.

John Solomon
John Solomon
8 months ago

Hugh Hefner………

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
8 months ago

Some men are attracted to girls, or those who appear to be such, AND are willing to use the tools they have (money, power, popularity, access to illicit substances etc) to gain sexual power, domination, abuse and coercion. People close to them look the other way, approve, or enable it.
I know that’s not a popular opinion but it’s true.

Dylan B
Dylan B
8 months ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

Yes. You are absolutely right.

And am I to assume that the enablers, ignorers and approvers of the Russells and Weinsteins of this world were all men?!

I think not.

Russell’s reputation was well known. And yet he appears to not have struggled for options in his sex life. Which then begs the rather obvious question. Why is that?!

This desire for money, power and danger even, flows in both directions. It was ever thus.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
8 months ago

“If the allegations against Brand are true, then they fit into part of a much larger pattern…”
But if they’re not, they don’t. Given that you’ve no reason to think they’re true, and the politics of the media persecuting him, and the presumption of innocence, you shouldn’t add his name to the article.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
8 months ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Anyone who has seen Brand’s shows or read his books should not be shocked. He told us what he was like; what he liked to do. He was as overt about his inclinations, preferences and abuses as Jimmy Saville.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jane Anderson
David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

More so. And the belated outrage about his practices (ie those short of assault/rape) is a little strange. He was completely open about what he enjoyed, and the women apparently continued to queue up. So far as I can tell women we’re not shocked by his revelations at the time.

Jane Anderson
Jane A