Simonson Says: No, male victims are NOT lucky

In an unfortunate bit of “where are they now?” trivia, media outlets broke the news on Friday that former NFL cheerleader Elizabeth Garner was charged of trying to seduce a minor. Garner, who retired from cheering for the Tennessee Titans in 2008, is accused of trying to pull down a 12-year-old boy’s pants at a party, touching his clothed genitals and asking him if he’d “ever been with a woman before,” according to the report in the New York Daily News.

My point here, though, is not to speculate on Garner’s guilt or lack thereof. Whatever actually occurred is irrelevant to my point. What concerns me is a big portion of the responses to this case I’ve seen so far.

In the comments sections of the articles I read on the subject, a good number of the responses read something like this (actual examples):

“Where were these broads when I was 12????”

“I know, this kid must be a homo.”

“This is not a big deal, there are much more serious matters to deal with in this world, I had sex with an older woman when I was 12, it was great . . . this kid is a loser.”
“The best day in this young mans life I’m sure he will be horribly scared (sic) for life not ha ha ha ha.”
“. . . why the kid didn’t go through with this proposal baffles me.”

You know what baffles me? I don’t know, do I even have to say it? Guys . . . the kid is 12 . . . a child. I . . . I shouldn’t even have to explain this. Whether any abuse happened or not, if you believe it did and are actually judging the boy for going to his mother about it . . . OK, let’s put it this way. If it were your child — let’s say your 12-year-old daughter — and an attractive 42-year-old made anything resembling a sexual advance at her, would you be chastising your child for not “going through with the proposal”?

Of course you wouldn’t. You’d be calling the police. Hopefully, that response doesn’t change once you imagine it to be your 12-year-old son instead. I don’t even care if you (as one of the above posters claims) lost your virginity to an adult when you were 12 and loved it — this is not something that children, male or female, should even have to think about. It’s a sad symptom of our hypersexualized society when victims of child abuse that is sexual in nature are actually envied (not speaking of this case in particular, as no verdict has been reached; we see this with just about every similar case) or, even worse, criticized or belittled for not seizing the “opportunity.”

Another interesting commentary on how we view cases of this sort is evident in how Garner is being portrayed. Most articles I read on this case followed Garner’s mugshot with various photos of her in bikinis and seductive poses, and many of them also made a point of describing her as a “busty blonde.” You could argue that, because she was a cheerleader and something of a fitness idol, these are simply the kinds of photos of her that were available, but I don’t recall ever seeing this type of story about a possible male perpetrator that included three-plus photos of him in swimwear and sexy poses, or contained the phrase “the well-endowed muscle-man is accused of . . .” Again, I know Garner’s fame as an NFL cheerleader is the main selling point for this story and the media will want to capitalize on that, but framing articles in this way carries an uncomfortable undertone, as if we’re being encouraged to note how desirable she is and secretly agree with the cretinous comments that any 12-year-old would be lucky to get a shot with her.

Any article of this nature seems to bring out the worst in commenters. Articles about sexual violence against women often attract odious sexism and victim-blaming. On the flip side, articles that even suggest a male can be a victim, even if the male in question is a child, attract this disturbing double standard, strongly implying that males of any age are immune to being victimized — which, if you ask me, is alarmingly sexist toward both males and females.