In my recent blog 'Predatory Teenage Girls' I made the bold move of taking some responsibility for my under-age promiscuity. This was widely misunderstood by some readers as a rape apologist rant and endorsement of paedophilia. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My blog was not about the Jimmy Saville train wreck that has deeply affected many innocent lives. The recent rash of arrests connected to the music industry was simply a trigger for a discussion about my own experiences thirty years ago.
I was discussing the grey area of post-pubescent desire - with no talk of paedophilia which is a separate and disturbing issue of which I have no experience. My opinions and ponderings were on the differences in attitude and experience that the decades have brought since the 'swinging sixties' and 'free-loving seventies.' It peered into my old teenage world of sex, drugs and rock and roll of the early 1980s; a time when the word 'paedophile' was almost unheard of (we called them perverts), IDs were rarely checked at bars and music venues. There was less vigilant monitoring of teenage girls and no AIDS.
With all the focus now on that red line of 'age of consent', that small grey area of adolescence is being more militantly protected to the point that many young men, some only teenagers themselves are ending up on 'sex offender' lists for engaging in sexual activity with a girl only a handful of years younger than themselves.
I discussed my seduction of an older musician when I was still 15. I presented backstage at an over-18 club and did a very good job of looking like a more mature young woman. I did not look like a child, I looked like a woman. I am now 46 and see how dangerous my behaviour could have been but I own it and take responsibility for it. I would be devastated if a young girl ever did what I did to one of my sons and then pressed charges. My point is that at 15 a girl can have the mens rea to commit a sexual crime of entrapment. I know this to be true because I am guilty of it and know many others who were indulging in the same risky behaviour back in the rocking eighties.
Sexual intercourse before the age of consent is considered statutory rape. I protest that in the one example I shared, this was not the case. I resent the response from readers who demanded that I label myself a 'victim'. I was not. And by saying so, I do not trivialise other young women's stories of abuse. Some years later I was raped and I have deep empathy with other survivors of such terrible violation.
My blog was not intended to 'condone paedophilia' as one reader suggested. I was disappointed that my discussion of young women and their sometimes wayward and wanton desires was distorted into discussions of the rape of children. The definition of a paedophile is that of a person over the age of 16 who has a primary or exclusive sexual interest in pre-pubescent children (generally younger than 11).
Despite our heightened vigilance over our daughters' sexuality, STDs and teenage pregnancy statistics are soaring. What is needed more than anything else is education; earlier and more rigorous education. As the mother of five children, I am acutely aware of the need to warn young people of the dangers of predatory sexual offenders - both real and virtual. They aren't always dirty old men and more importantly, they aren't always men.
Every sexual encounter on this planet brings a unique set of dynamics and power imbalances that change and slide even between the same two people over time. To promote the idea that a girl is never, ever responsible for an irresponsible sexual act before the age of consent is a militant and dangerous stance to take, particularly when a 15-year-old boy will almost always be held accountable for any of his own misguided sexual behaviour. To suggest that a boy must take responsibility for his dangerous sexual desires but a young girl should always be cast as the 'victim' of sexual activity by an older male, is offensive and completely shackles the feminist sensibility. One young couple are still paying the price 15 years later, despite being married with four children.
With age and hindsight I can see the folly of my ways as a teenage girl but I was not a victim. I was playing with fire. I don't suggest that this is a common experience, but it was mine.
I am not a rape apologist and do not condone child sexual abuse.
The complex issues of consent and power imbalances must be discussed at great length with young people. The biology of sex and the pharmacology of contraception are only the tip of the iceberg. Sex while drunk or high. Age imbalance. Emotional coercion as well as physical. Regrets and recriminations. Rough sex. The unrealistic expectations of a porn-laden culture. False rape claims. We can't shy away from any issues. We need to provide our boys and our girls with maps to navigate the world of sex.
If we encourage sex education but refuse to look at all sides of the issue, then we are not being responsible.