Jennifer Ginsberg: In the aftermath of child rapist Roman Polanski being taken into custody after trying to enter Switzerland on Saturday, questions about culpability, morality, and teen sexuality have arisen. The Academy Award-winning director pled guilty in 1977 to a single count of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, acknowledging he had sex with a 13-year-old girl, but fled the United States before he could be sentenced. It is alleged that in addition to raping the child, he also drugged and sodomized her after her mother dropped her off at Jack Nicholson's home for a supposed photo shoot with Polanski.
While I wholeheartedly believe that Polanski should be held 100% responsible for his egregious crime, I also feel that only focusing disproportionately on him seems hypocritical in a society that all too often celebrates and exploits teen sexuality. Everywhere we turn, we see splashy images of sexy young girls -- and often times their parents and other adults condone their exploitation.
A few days ago, I met with the photographer I hired for my stepdaughter's Bat Mitzvah. While we were discussing packages and options, he showed me the book of a 13-year-old girl's Bat Mitzvah that he had recently shot. In the opening photograph, I saw a provocative photo of a girl (who could have been anywhere from 13 to 30) with glowy makeup, blown-out hair, and a strapless mini-dress and silver stiletto heels. I was aghast.
I asked the photographer, "How could her mother let her wear that dress? For her Bat Mitzvah, no less?"
He replied, "All the young girls dress like this now -- their moms think they look cute."
"Cute" was not exactly the word that came to my mind. I found the photos disturbing and repulsive. How can this child's mother not know that she has made her daughter into a juicy target for pedophiles and other creepy people who hide in the shadows waiting for ripe opportunities and easy targets to present themselves?
This dilemma was illuminated again recently after Miley Cyrus performed her "pole dancing" routine on the top of an ice cream truck at the Teen Choice Awards. The overarching question was, "Is it appropriate for a 16-year-old girl to be sexualized in such a blatant manner?" There were those who were quick to condemn the act as exploitative and unacceptable, and others who felt that her display was no different than previous incidents of glorified teen sexuality, ranging from Brooke Shields' provocative ads when she was not yet an adult to Britney Spears' seductive schoolgirl routine in the music video, "Oops! ... I Did It Again." The glamorization of the sexy teenage girl has coincided with the growth of an industry punishing men for acting on their attraction to teenagers.
My point is certainly not that it is okay for a grown man to heaven forbid rape an underage girl. But while we rightly condemn these men who act on their imperious urges, what about the other adults who enable these teen girls to be sexualized so freely? Did anyone arrest Brooke Shields' mother, Teri, or demonize her as a sexual predator? And someone had to provide Miley with that pole. Was that person held accountable? And shouldn't these moms who dress up their children like junior hookers and drop them off at grown men's homes be held responsible as well?
Perhaps if we were more honest in our discussion of how we all contribute to the sexual exploitation of young girls, whether we are parents who think it is cute to dress them up provocatively or TV execs who provide them with stripper poles, we could remember that the finger we are so quick to point at Polanski also needs to be pointed back at ourselves.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles mother, writer, and addiction specialist with over 15 years of experience in the fields of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. After receiving her MSW from the USC School Of Social Work and MAJCS from Hebrew Union College, Jennifer served as the clinical director of a 120 bed drug and alcohol treatment facility. She also co-developed an addiction prevention program for Jewish youth, which has been implemented in synagogues nationally. Jennifer now works privately with people who are impacted by the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and writes about all topics related to motherhood, addiction, and women in politics. Read more about her life at angstmom.com|