Columns

Is child abuse embedded in our culture?

Franklin Johnston

Friday, July 27, 2012    

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The sexualising of our kids in cultural performances continues and it will intensify over the holidays. At the same time the statistics on child sex crimes are horrendous and while we cannot cite causal links, it is disturbing. We need joined-up thinking. Our culture and child abuse may be linked. This is the elephant in the room, so let's talk now and child protection agencies must examine whether some of our cultural practices are gateways to child sex abuse. The salacious dances which girls with prepubescent breasts and derrieres perform pander to most voyeurs. Last week I saw headlines, "Sex predators on the prowl", which cite reports of older men and teen girls in sexual liaisons. Frankly, they don't have to prowl far, as the UN representative pointed out that forced sexual encounters mostly happen in the home and the Reproductive Health Survey reports 12 per cent of girls having sex before age 15. How come I hear no screams from mothers? The church? Or the child rights brigade?

So much of what we call culture is effete, negative and deviant. That we dress our girls like small versions of their mothers and we feminise our boys by risk aversity so many can't even climb a tree is really sad. A lot in our culture involves physical displays: face, body, attire and gyrations which mimic the sex act. Which cultural forms do you know that reflect our intellectual creativity and spirituality? We have laws to protect kids, but our culture may attract sexual predators. Sex across borders is exciting and age and skin colour differences enhance libido. For example, I did not see Lady Chatterley as a sexual predator. Today they would lock her up for sexually harassing an employee - her gardener - who needed the job and gave in to her advances. When I first read In Praise of Older Women I was blown away. When does a gentle, older, wise female muse become a sexual predator? What's the tipping point?

Teachers have been jailed for having sex with students, but when a teenage boy bedded his teacher and bragged, some men smirked rather than ask for jail time for sex abuse. Some men think sex was made for them, so however and wherever it happens they win. They are wrong, but our law and our culture about sex are at odds. The figures paint the picture of a country with a penchant for child abuse and males who think it is their right to have sex with any young girl, even family members. The figures on incest have no match for convictions. The oft-bruited notions of men "sampling" their daughters in rural areas - the bedrock of our culture - is an outrage. The notion that such matters are "domestic", not really crime, undermines justice in child sex matters. The police must act decisively.

Less well known but no less heinous is the abuse of boys by domestic staff. Initiation to sex by the family maid is real. I met my first au pair French girls who go to London, live and do chores with a family in return for immersion in English to be fluent in a year. As my friend's family had an au pair each year since he was 15, he was a master in sex and love. Was she the predator or was he? Some boys are coached and sexually exploited by live-in maids; gaining experience beyond their years; some so traumatised it affects adult relationships. Parents focus on their girls and completely miss this ball. My friend says the mantra now is "watch your boys too". Imagine a father sexually abusing the maid, who then takes payback from the son. Mom shouts, "How did disease get into my house?" My friend who counsels the good and the great says, "Under the sheets everyone is black." We are more "out of many" than we know; worse case is, Yu Daddy ain't yu Daddy but yu Daddy don't know.

Asymmetrical sex always fascinates the cognoscenti; Othello and Desdemona, Tess and Heathcliff, Lolita and Humbert and even an octogenarian newspaper owner and a 20-plus-year-old mate. The Italian (stallion) gigolo who mounts bored tourists is legend and recently we have rent-a-Rasta. The stimulus of youth affects men and women. Powerful people never outlive their penises or their vaginas, but monkey glands cost lots of money!

My experience of sexual abuse was of a teacher who was cock of the walk in the district and had several children by girls in his school. The girls were enceinte but would not "gie him weh" and the parents would not see their "son-in-law" locked up. Teacher was a nice brown man but "a so 'im stay". Sexual predator became victim's family - case closed! Stockholm syndrome? Official response to the teacher's proclivities was bizarre - the teacher could not be fired, he had land and a comfort level in the area and it would be unfair to transfer him to create havoc in a new unsuspecting district as parents there might kill him. He stayed.

Why is our culture so risqué? What of carvings of phalluses poking the North Coast roads? What do you say to your kids? Let's have carved vaginas too! I like the stylised sexual metaphors of our famous dance troupe; what would we lose if their repertoire changed? Sexualising our kids by salacious movement, skimpy outfits which focus on erogenous zones is deep in our culture. Much of it is exhibitionist, some almost criminal. Why put children in harm's way then beat your breasts in grief later? God help us! Grooming of girls by older men is passé for many mothers. Rich men are pursued to be godfathers and mother does not offer her son - always her daughter. Mom has to look out for her own and does not want "any big-foot man tek step wid 'ar daughta". Years ago I would be livid at an Indian giving his daughter in marriage to a patriarch, but arranged marriages have a good track record. The rich here also practise it - keeps the loot in the family. Arranged divorces are also in vogue; they refresh the bloodlines, especially if no son and heir was born. Carl Stone would be shocked to know 13 families own Jamaica. The godfather, goddaughter thing is as close as poor people come to an arranged liaison to better a daughter's life. Is this our culture too? "Mother seeks godfather for daughter, no big-foot man need apply!" Shoe size matters!

Jewish biblical lore on taboo of sexual relations between relatives is not part of the states which underpin our culture. Haemophilia ended the Royals' preference for breeding their cousins. They literally had to seek new blood. A cattle breeder looks at his herd book and knows which cow should not be "jumped" by which bull. It seems our culture has no such genetic markers. The father who avers his right to "blood" his daughter undermines family life and our nation's bloodlines - jail him! That STIs may be cured by an infected man going with a virgin is still cultural in Africa and Jamaica. Culture is not all sweetness and light. Gotta go, my goddaughter is on the line. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.

franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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