Sexually explicit novel about female sex offender divides critics

k-bigpicA controversial new American novel about a paedophile teacher who preys on prepubescent boys has divided critics, been shortlisted for an award and banned from some bookstores.

Described as a modern day Lolita, the book Tampa by author and professor Alissa Nutting exposes our double standards towards female perpetrators and  male victims.

Nutting told Lifestyle Mirror: “Our culture isn’t accustomed to viewing males (even underage teen ones) as the sexual victims of women, and I find that very problematic.”

The novel centres on Celeste Price, a 26-year-old sexual predator and high school teacher who abuses a 14-year-old boy. Nutting was inspired to write the book after a woman she went to school with was exposed as a female paedophile.

According to Daily Life in Australia, Nutting began to keep an eye out for the stories of female predators that kept cropping up and started to notice discrepancies in the way they were reported saying:

“I was really interested by the disparate reaction when the offender is a woman and when the offender is a male. I wanted to write a book that drew attention to the ways that we seem to give female sexual predators a pass. We live in a society that has a really hard time seeing women as being able to sexually victimise men at all. There’s this widespread view that men always want sex so there’s no way they can be sexually victimised. And also we tend to look upon the offenders with our very adult gaze and judge their behaviour that way when it’s women. I think a lot of times heterosexual adult men will look at the women and think, ‘Well, I’d want to sleep with her – where’s the crime?’ in a way that we don’t when it’s a male offender with a 14-year-old girl.”

Despite the controversy around the book, Nutting says that she’s received many messages from male victims who have thanked her for telling their story and spoken of the negative impact the abuse has had on their lives.

According to an interview with Jezebel, Nutting says:

“I want to draw attention to the ways we view predatory female sexual behavior, and to the limitations of sexual discussion in our culture.”

She says  one of the reasons that we don’t view female sex offenders in the same way as male sex offenders is because sex is often  “packaged as something for men to enjoy”.

“ There’s a sense of, ‘adult men would want to have sex with this woman, so she’s incapable of committing a sexual crime.’ This perpetuates the harmful patriarchal stereotype that female sexuality can’t be violent—that it’s simply there for male use with no agency of its own, that it doesn’t hold power,” she told Jezebel

“Once caught, the main character Celeste is ultimately treated very differently than I think a male offender would be. For readers I think the reversal is somewhat of a challenge, because there are conflicting messages about how to respond to female sexual predators in our society. This is something the book engages: do we condemn her? Idolize her? Become aroused by her? And what cultural messages inform our reaction?”

The book has been compared by some with Fifty Shades Of Grey, a comparison Nutting dismisses:

“Tampa is sexually explicit, so I understand a dialogue surrounding the two of them. But I think the fact that Tampa is about an illegal predatory relationship, with an abuser and a victim, instead of about two consenting adults, negates any sort of direct parallel.

“I’m interested in the ways that these cases are often portrayed in the media. When it’s a female teacher and an underage male student, there’s often a discussion surrounding the case that implies it’s a victimless crime. I’m also interested in the ways that, for women, our culture tends to prioritize beauty and maintaining a youthful appearance above all else.

So what have critics made of the book? Well, Publishers Weekly says, “Nutting’s work creates a solid impression of Celeste’s psychopathic nature but, unlike the much richer Lolita, leaves the reader feeling empty”, while Entertainment Weekly says “the writing is often excellent, hilariously dark, and mean”.

The issue of male victims of rape and sexual abuse is a topic covered at the National Conference for Men and Boys. You can buy your tickets online today.

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Why do we blame male victims of rape?

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Do we blame male victims of rape and sexual assault?

Abigail Rine writing in The Atlantic says we do. Rine who teaches gender studies at George Fox University in Oregon in The US explores why we seem to be more likely to blame male victims of sexual violence.

Supporting male victims of sexual violence is a topic that gets raised each year at the National Conference for Men and Boys. To take part in this year’s event  BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE TODAY.

While I’m not going to dispute the pervasiveness of misogyny in most cultures, this standard narrative doesn’t fully account for what happened in Norwood, where there was a similar epidemic of victim-blaming, but no female victim. In fact,

According to Rine, victim blaming in rape cases is often put down to the hatred of women. But Rine says that research into sexual violence suggests that male victims of rape elicit comparable or even more blame for their attacks than female victims. The roots victim-blaming attitudes are not in misogyny (or misandry), but in perceived violations of traditional gender roles, she argues.

Rine observes that the study of male rape has been comparatively neglected with some saying that research and resources for male victims lags behind female  by a good 20 years. In recent years, she says, women’s advocates have focused on debunking myths about female rape that they say contribute to victim-blaming.

According to Rine:

“Distinct but corresponding myths about men likewise fuel victim-blaming, as burgeoning research on male rape demonstrates. A 2009 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence surveys a number of these false beliefs, including the perception that males, as the physically powerful sexual instigators, can’t be raped, or are not as traumatized if they are assaulted.

“These rape myths spring from deeply entrenched gender norms about permissible and idealized behavior for men and women, and rape victims of both sexes are blamed when they openly transgress the social expectations of their gender. A woman who goes out alone at night, for example, is prone to blame, as is a woman who is slut-shamed for having had prior sexual partners. A man who fails to physically overcome his attacker is likewise seen as contributing to his own victimization; he must have secretly wanted it.”

For male victims, coming forward and speaking out about his assault can further transgressed the gendered expectation to “man up,” and remaining stoic and invulnerable in the face of violence.

According to Rine, while all victims are susceptible to blame the groups most susceptible to blame for being raped are gay men raped by men and straight men raped by women. This she says is consistent with the gender role expectation hypothesis, as victims in those scenarios “fall prey to the pervasive ideal of the hyper-sexed, insatiable male who invites and enjoys any sexual encounter.”

Rine states that men will generally judge rape victims more harshly than women, but that recent research indicates that the tendency to blame victims has more to do with an individual’s belief about gender roles . In other words, she says, “men blame at higher rates not because they are more susceptible to misogyny or misandry, but because they are more likely to endorse traditional views of masculinity and femininity. On the flip side, both men and women are equally inclined toward “benevolent sexism” says Rine, which means reserving your sympathy for those who fulfill gender ideals.

Rine concludes by pointing to a recent study of attitudes in Sweden published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression where victim-blaming amongst men and women is said to be scarce. “If we want to get at the underlying cause of victim-blaming attitudes”, she says, “we can’t afford to focus only on female victims or misogyny, lest we risk misdiagnosing the root problem. This is not simply a woman-hating world; it’s a world that polices the boundaries of gender to the detriment of all.”

Read the full article, No Rape Victim, Male or Female, Deserves to be Blamed

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