Who do you blame?

After reading several articles and commentaries about “sexting” today, the subject of bratty children and their equally bratty parents came back to mind.

I have a friend who had a long-term foster child.  The kid came from a very bad background, but was quite the actor and had learned, Eddie-Haskell-like, to behave like the obnoxiously perfect Mr. Future Civic Leader when within sniffing distance of anyone older than 25.  He fooled a lot of adults, including my friend.  He did not fool me.

Gradually, over a period of years, his charade broke down and he ended up in the state’s care again until he was old enough to be on his own, which was not very long ago.  He was arrested almost immediately after attaining that shadow majority that one endures between the ages of 18 and 21.  Now he is in prison, having been convicted of a string of crimes that began back to the days when he was in my friend’s care.

That did not surprise me.  What did surprise me is my friend’s reaction.  She’s an intelligent woman, but with this kid she has massive blind spots.  According to her, nothing is his fault.  The fault lies with the schools he went to, the company he kept, his birth family, etc., etc.  And — oh yes — according to my friend, the crimes he commited were not really that bad; after all, he wasn’t armed and he was nice to his victims.

Certainly some of the blame lies with the kid’s birth mother, who should never have had children.  But the rest of it — particularly the crimes the kid committed in the short time after he attained majority, are entirely the kid’s fault.  For all the dishonestly and charades in the years that immediately preceded this, he is not blameless either.  A teen should know right from wrong, not just how to play-act to gain favor.

This kid was also into porn.  I think a lot more teens are than parents realize.  Parents choose not to remember how stupid they themselves were at that age — the age when one normally takes up smoking and drinking and sex, etc., usually out of peer pressure.

The fault of my friend is in loving him so much that she went blind where he was concerned.  This is an aspect that’s hard to control, but apparently it’s something every parent and foster parent has to try to achieve — love with some distance.

But the subject today was “sexting,” which is the result of a child’s poor judgement coupled with too much freedom.  Apparently kids need to be chaparoned on the Web and on cell phones just like they used to be at parties. 

Some columnists were whining about young boys being branded as sex offenders just because they passed around nude photos of their girlfriends — which the girlfriends had sent to them.  The inference was that the situation was entirely the girls’ fault.  My answer: no.  It’s the boys’ fault, it’s the girls’ fault, and if the kids are minors, it’s often also the parents’ fault.

For some time society has been sexualizing females to the point where teen girls are now feeling pressured to take their clothes off and send pics to their boyfriends.  Burkas are not the answer — they only sexualize girls more, when you think about it.  Peter Pan collars won’t solve anything, either.  Nor will enforced religion. 

What’s needed here is for society to stop sexualizing young girls.  Period.  The next teen singer/dancer/actress/model/heiress-dilettante who declares she’s all grown up by wearing “ho clothes” (or no clothes) should lose her career, or lack thereof.  Ditto all those toy companies with the “Bratz” dolls and all that other crap.  Girls need to find self-esteem through education and achievement, and they must see examples of positive results for those attaining education and achievement.  If they have that, the sexualizing thing will not appeal to so many of them.  (I recognize that there will always be a minority that you can do nothing with.)

As for boys, some research indicates that they lack self-control.  But that’s no excuse, and it certainly does not hold true for all of them.  Branding them as sex offenders is not the answer.  Humiliating them for such behavior might come closer to being an answer.  Right now, there is no negative attached to “sexting” for boys except that they might get caught and have to join a list of real sex offenders.  There is no other such strong deterrent except for being ostrasized, and that is not happening to the extent that it should.  Making excuses for this behavior, or deflecting blame to some stupid teenage girl, does not help.

As for parents….well, I’ve already tackled that subject.  Most of them do a good job, and sometimes all their work comes to naught, anyway.  When that happens, it’s not their fault even though most of them will readily take the blame.  It’s the parents who abdicate responsibility…those are the ones who need to be punished right along with the kids.

Parents like my friend, who tried to be perfect with a child who was a hopeless case, are more in the first category than the last.  But denial and deflecting blame for the child’s behavior doesn’t accomplish anything, either.

All in all, while I agree that the current punishments for “sexting” are too harsh, there still have to be punishments, and those punishments can’t feel good.  Again, it comes back to community standards.  Those standards can only exist when there are real penalties for not meeting them.  Appropriate penalties do not exist, and so appropriate support to deter the behavior does not exist, either.

I’m sorry that I’m not making any of my usual tepid attempts at humor here.  This is not a funny situation.  But maybe if more people start to look at it as a subject not containing any humor at all, boys will stop “being boys,” and girls will stop acting like whores, and their parents will open their eyes to what’s going on.


2 Responses

  1. Hate to say, but if we had the toys kids today have, we probably would have done the same thing with them. We got away with alot more back then, mostly because many of the laws in effect now are because we did stuff when we were kids. Putting some stupid kid on a sex offender registry for this kind of thing is ridiculous. But what do you expect in this “kinder-gentler-machine-gun-hand, takes a village to f**f up our kids” world we live in?

  2. Great point! Thanks for the comment.

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