I awoke today, 15th January 2015, to the sound of a feminist voice complaining via the BBC. It was the most common current complaint; some man had erred in his sexual behavior with a young girl, and the judge in passing sentence had not been harsh enough.
Louise Pennington of the campaign group, Everyday Victim Blaming, was furious because Stuart Kerner, 44, a former religious studies teacher, had engaged in sex with a girl of sixteen, but received only an 18 month suspended sentence because the judge said the girl had ‘groomed him.’
Inner London Crown Court heard that he’d had sex with her at Bexleyheath Academy in south-east London, where he was vice-principal. He later drove the girl to her home where they ‘d had sex again.
Ms Pennington said she was deeply concerned that the judge had made such a remark about grooming. She rightly pointed out that according to the law, no child under 18 can consent to a sexual relationship with a teacher.
‘It’s clear from Annex C of the guidelines on prosecuting child sexual abuse,’ she said,’a 16-year-old girl cannot ‘groom’ an adult. We will be reporting this case to the attorney general due to the low sentence.’
Of course she will. ‘Grooming’ and paedophilia are perhaps the last two social taboos we have. Almost the only cause of public shame, igniting all groups and classes in clamorous horror. So it cuts no ice with her that Judge Joanna Greenberg QC said the victim had become ‘obsessed’ with Kerner.
‘Her friends described her, accurately in my view, as stalking you,’ she told Kerner, who has been put on the Sex Offenders Register for life and has of course lost his career.
‘There is no evidence you encouraged her in any way,’ the judge continued. ‘There is no evidence you groomed her. If anything, it was she who groomed you. You gave way to temptation at a time when you were emotionally vulnerable because of problems with your wife’s pregnancy. She was intelligent and used that intelligence to manipulate people emotionally. She was vulnerable and needy and had a troubled home life.’
Of course no one approves of teachers having sex with their charges. It’s reprehensible and reckless and a shocking breach of trust. Middle aged adults should not be allowed to get away with seducing and abusing children. But as I listened I was bothered that Pennington made no distinction between a young woman of sixteen and a child of three, or even thirteen. It suits some feminists to pretend they are all the same. We all know they are not, and so does the law.
At sixteen you are allowed to drink alcohol whilst eating on licensed premises. You can drive a car or moped with a provisional license. You can buy a lottery ticket. More importantly perhaps, you are allowed to have sex with other people who are over the age of sixteen, and may legally get married. You can also leave school and work. Soon it is likely that sixteen year olds in England and Wales will follow the Scots and be given the vote.
So why is it that girls of sixteen, old enough to choose a spouse and of course to be mothers, are not deemed able to make appropriate sexual choices, any more than a much younger child? There was a time, not so long ago, when sexual responsibility fell almost entirely on the girl. If she got pregnant without being married she brought social disaster on her family. That held across all classes and girls were drilled to be strong enough to always say, ‘no.’
There were commonly held strictures which every young woman used to hear; ‘he’s only after one thing.’ ‘If he really likes you he will wait.’
Girls who didn’t follow the rules were held as ‘cheap.’ But the mighty institution which bound all this together was of course marriage. That was the most important rite of passage, not sex. A girl who had sex before marriage was told she had, ‘tarnished her wedding ring.’ Good men had to wait, or if they didn’t and the girl, ‘got into trouble,’ he had to ‘do right by her,’ ‘stand by her,’ or he would be discredited in the eyes of everyone in his community.
It worked, communities held together and babies had fathers. All that has been junked now and seems as remote as the feudal three field system. The law seems to rather hark back to those sexually stable days, when chastity and marriage were expected as the norm. It does not take account of the reality of the times we are living in, when young girls no longer seem equipped in any way, to make independent choices for themselves. They are no longer able to say ‘no,’ they cannot do it without losing face to their school friends, or foregoing the close attention and affection they might once have received from their parents.
We now live in a time where young girls, really young, even in primary school are pressured into displaying sexual behavior. It is now common apparently for girls from the age of ten upwards, from the onset of puberty, to text sexually explicit photos of themselves to boys who demand that they should do so.
We have recently read of many cases around the country where girls were sexually groomed over a long period, and had sex with older men in exchange for booze, fags and a bit of attention. They seem to have had no parents to guide them, let alone control them. They longed for the things the older men gave them, before the abuse started. The girls were free to go out and wander the streets at all hours of the day or night. That sort of independence might have been dreamed of by girls of an earlier time. But the result was savage abuse.
A school teacher getting embroiled with a sixteen year old pupil is not the problem, in fact it harks back to a more romantic era before young girls were seen as some kind of malleable dolls, put on earth for the pleasure of boys and men.
I personally know two men, both deeply religious, who married young girls who’d been pupils in their classes. One was a born again Christian the other was a C of E vicar. Both waited until the girl in question left school before they went ahead and married them. I am not sure if there is a connection between the religious man and sexual transgression. Apparently jurors in this recent case heard that Kerner, the teacher, had told the teenager their relationship was ‘written in the stars.’Perhaps some teachers in the arts faculty are still of the imaginative, overly romantic Lawrencian type.
D.H Lawrence of course, was a school teacher who ran off with his headmaster’s wife. He spent his literary and artistic life challenging Victorian social mores, and sometime in the late 1960s early 70s his argument won the day. The attitudes common to my parents and their ancestors, that girls should have self control and behave themselves, and that boys and men should behave chivalrously towards females at all times just disappeared. It seems incredible now, but there was a time within living memory when it would have been considered utterly despicable for a young man to take sexual advantage of a drunken girl.
Young women are out there now, unprotected, despite what the law may say, at the mercy of predatory boys and men who see them entirely as sexual objects. When the law steps in, girls, who are the descendent and offspring of first and second wave feminists, are now seen as weak and childish victims. After nearly five decades of feminism and tub thumping, young girls are as disempowered as they ever were, their situation is worse as there is no longer any requirement for sexual restraint in our culture. Sex is more than ever a commodity to be bought, used and thrown away.
Holly Dustin, director of the End violence Against Women Coalition, says that the case ‘highlights the need for schools and other institutions to prioritise girls’ safety from predatory men and to work with specialist sexual violence services in their community.’
As a society we have come to that, men seen as brutally exploitative and girls as weak willed victims. Feminists like Dustin will never get her way or achieve her ends because we are now a country of poor parenting and poor education. Nothing has turned out the way any of us idealistically hoped it would way back in the 1960s. In a video interview with police, played to jurors, the girl, summed it up as best she could: ‘It felt special. But, I dunno, it wasn’t really. And admitting that does kind of hurt.’ return to front page