« New Jersey Worries About Body Hair Removal | Main | Gordon Gekko is a caricature. »

On Widespread Gender-Based Double Standards

One more story for today that draws a parallel to the gender-bias in child genital cutting in America. (Note: The names of the minors should be redacted, but they're obviously known, so I'm leaving them in the excerpt.)

Alan Jepsen was playing videogames at his home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, when the cops came knocking on his door. He was handcuffed in front of his sister and thrown in jail. In the words of his attorney, Jeffrey Purnell, “This child, this 17-year-old high-school kid, had to spend a week in jail—they locked him up and they put him in jail with grown-ups.”

His crime: Having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. And, perhaps, being a boy.

The day after Alan's arrest, Sheboygan authorities arrested Norma Guthrie, also 17, for having sex with her 14-year-old boyfriend. Norma, however, did not have to spend a single day in jail. She was released immediately, on signature bond, while Alan was held on a $1,000 cash bond, which his family could not afford. Sheboygan County Assistant District Attorney Jim Haasch is handling both cases.

The disparity in the punishment of these 17-year-olds, both accused of having sex with the 14-year-olds they were dating, goes much deeper. Haasch charged Alan with a Class C felony, which, according to court records obtained by The Daily Beast, carries a maximum prison sentence of 40 years. Norma, on the other hand, was charged only with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of nine months in jail.

If the facts are as they appear, this is despicable. And entirely predictable. Males are viewed as possessing endless sexual appetities. Females are viewed as sexual victims. The typical defense of the non-existent ethical distinction between genital cutting on male and female minors rests solely on the mistaken notion that female genital cutting is strictly designed to limit the female's sexuality, if not destroy it completely. (And imposed by women, even when it isn't.) For males, we pretend that potential medical benefits dismiss the same ethical issues involved in female genital cutting because parents say their intentions are good. Anyway, we're told, males enjoy sex more than enough, and genital cutting doesn't affect male sexual experience. And if it does, although it doesn't, that's exclusively a good thing, except removing nerve endings couldn't possibly alter sexual experience, so why are you worried?

Here's an example:

Between 2002 and 2003, Turkish scientists studied how circumcision influences male sexual functions. They only studied men who were circumcised for aesthetic or religious reasons. The average age of those surveyed was 22.3 years old, and their sexual functions were equal before and after circumcision. After the survey was carried out, scientists concluded that circumcising grown men does not negatively effect their sexual functions. On the contrary, the fact that it causes a delay in ejaculation is more of an advantage than a complication.

Circumcision affects sexual function. It delays orgasm, which is an objective claim. Whether or not that is positive or negative is subjective to the individual, yet it's treated as an objective finding. It's not stated here, but most commonly the argument relies on some defense that women prefer this outcome, so it is good. (Check virtually any propaganda by Brian Morris or Edgar Schoen.)

If a man likes large breasts, he does not have the right to impose breast augmentation on his daughter to achieve this positive outcome. We understand that, of course, because it involves controlling a female's sexuality. But we embrace a double standard when the roles are reversed, even though the ethical issue is the same. We must not deviate from the belief that men are predators and women are delicate flowers. So, no, I'm not surprised that there is a double standard involving prosecution of these two Wisconsin teens.

Original link via Radley Balko.

Creative Commons License