Young girls can behave in a predatory manner. I should know

Aged 14 I looked much older, and used to enjoy enticing men

Share
Related Topics

A week ago, Neil Wilson, a 41-year-old man who had admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl, walked free from court after the girl was described by the judge and prosecution as sexually ‘predatory’. The ensuing debate has flickered back and forth between those who are appalled at the description and see it as contributing to rape absolution, and those who, while not recommending its usage, are keen to highlight that some rape victims have shown ‘assertive behaviour’.

I was reading the comments on an article by human rights lawyer Barbara Hewson which argues the latter, when one of them struck home. The comment argues that girls under the age of sixteen can indeed behave in a predatory manner. This does not mean that ‘predatory’ is an appropriate word to use in a legal sense, loaded as it is with a sense of killer versus victim, but it certainly can be reflective of the truth.

I can confirm this first-hand. By the age of fourteen I already looked much older, which I exaggerated further with bleached blonde hair and eyeliner. I used to actively enjoy enticing men, only to crush them later on by informing them of my age. One memorable solo flight to visit my French exchange saw me, with sky blue nail varnish, consciously looking pensively out of the window, posing with my head cupped in my hand, flicking little glances at the unassuming-looking guy in his 20s or 30s across the aisle. I still remember the shockingly smug feeling when he told me on the shuttle bus that he liked my nail varnish; still more vividly the horrified look on his face when I informed him of my age after we’d chatted all the way through baggage reclaim. And that wasn’t the only occurrence of its kind.

Recalling such incidents got me thinking. What if I hadn’t told the truth about my age? Or what if the subject had never come up? It certainly shouldn’t have to, particularly within certain contexts. If two people are in a bar or club where the minimum age requirement is eighteen, it is customary for each to trust that the other meets this condition. We do not ‘ID’ potential love interests.

Before I am hit with a torrent of vitriol, I am not going to support the court verdict of last week. What Wilson did was rape, and always will be. The difference between a predatory fourteen year old and a predatory twenty year old is that the former is just a child. However, I find it baffling that the prosecutor’s description of the girl as ‘predatory’ seems to have induced more public hatred towards Neil Wilson. I think it should engender less. It was the wrong word to use in court, but we should let its usage, if remotely relevant, inform us as to how someone might be able to do such a thing. It by no means absolves him/her, but it is certainly an excuse in some form, and not a pathetic one either.

Last week, Brooke Magnanti drew an obvious but informative parallel between Wilson’s situation and that of Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita, stating that ‘if you got to the end of Lolita and though Humbert was a hero, you have utterly missed the point.’ Nobody’s calling Humbert a hero, but unlike Magnanti, I believe that Lolita is controversial because we do empathise with its narrator/protagonist. Humbert Humbert is simultaneously vile and likeable; we both understand and are revolted by his plight, and we pity him.

Children are many things, and some children are indeed predatory. Crucially though, because they are children, the way in which they behave does not and cannot excuse actions taken by others - whether that action be rape, or another damaging act. It can, however, help us to understand these actions. We would do well to remember the extent of Humbert’s self-delusion, and the way in which he was affected by Lolita’s sexually precocious behaviour.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

John Noakes was everyone’s favourite presenter in the 1970s. It’s a shock to realise the eternal boy scout is now an octogenarian suffering from dementia  

How remarkable that John Noakes still has the power to affect me so

Matthew Norman
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy