The parenting website Mumsnet has a campaign underway called Let Girls Be Girls. It aims to dissuade UK retailers from stocking products which contribute to the premature sexualisation of girls.
The age of sexual consent in the UK is sixteen. But a massive grooming exercise has been going on for years, with children who have hardly begun primary school its target. Mumsnet gives a few examples of the items it doesn't want to see on sale to young girls: children's underwear which mimics adult lingerie, 'grown up' heels for little girls, 'sexy' or provocative slogans on clothing...
But the retailers aren't the only ones at it. Children are being bombarded on all sides by the mass media with images and examples of behaviour designed to turn men on. So young girls walk around with T-shirts emblazoned with glittering "Porn Star" slogans or use a Playboy pencil case in the classroom. They are being conditioned into regarding themselves as an object of sexual attraction and being brainwashed into believing their only value lies in how much of a sex object they can be.
So is it the girls' fault that grown men believe them to be fair game in sexual terms? Certain members of the legal profession would certainly think so. Take Judge Peter Fox QC, who gave a paedophile by the name of David Barnes a suspended sentance for online activities (including grooming a young teenager), with the following words:
I accept it has been a dreadful shock to your mother, to your father and to your grandmother and to those others who have known you.
And in addition (to the images), there was your perverted activities over the internet with the 13-year-old, who, I accept, appears to have seduced you.
Or there are the six male footballers, aged between 18 and 21 who raped two twelve year-old girls in Reading in February 2010. The evidence in court showed one of the two girls had exchanged text messages with one of the men to set up a meeting. One of the girls was then raped by five men, the other by one.
Whatever the girls may have said or texted to the men, the issue of consent is clear. Under the age of 16, they are legally unable to give consent, so they were raped.
A local newspaper reported:
The court heard that all six defendants had believed the girls to be at least 16 or 17 although two witnesses in the car recalled one of them saying they were 15 which matched a false date of birth on her Facebook page.
So in fact, the issue of the girls' ages was raised by at least one of the men, although it seems it either didn't occur to him that sex with a fifteen year-old would be viewed as a sexual offence or he simply didn't care. He went ahead, anyway.
In mitigation, defence lawyers raised the following point:
in the circumstances, if the activities had taken place just four weeks later than they had, when the main girl would have turned 13, none of the defendants would have faced any criminal charges because of the defence provided by her actions.
In other words, a girl cannot legally give consent to sex below the age of sixteen. But, going by what those lawyers said in Reading Crown Court, at the age of thirteen a girl can effectively consent to what amounts to her own rape.
So at what age does a male perpetrator actually take responsibility for committing a sex crime? All too often, the answer to that question is depressingly simple.