Monday, January 17, 2022

Sexual Exploitation and the Adultified Black Girl

Mikah K. Thompson has published Sexual Exploitation and the Adultified Black Girl in volume 94 of the St. John's Law Review (2022). The abstract is here: 

Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of entertainers Sean “Jay Z” Carter and Beyoncé Knowles Carter, celebrated her eighth birthday in January of 2020. To commemorate the occasion, Blue’s grandfather, Matthew Knowles, posted a picture of Blue on Instagram. Fans and journalists alike marveled that Blue looked so much like her famous mother, and many noted that she looked much older in the photograph. E! News tweeted Blue’s picture along with a question: “Can someone please explain to us when Blue Ivy became an adult?” The post went viral, and many people criticized E! News for referring to eight-year-old Blue as an adult, with some arguing that blurring the line between childhood and adulthood “ ‘perpetuates pedophilia.’ ” Others asserted that referring to a Black girl as an adult is especially dangerous because it reinforces the perception that Black girls are adult-like. E! News eventually deleted the tweet.

A recent research study confirms that society tends to view Black girls as older and more adult-like than they actually are. Thus, E! News’ description of Blue Ivy may reflect a larger problem that can have devastating effects for Black girls. This piece asserts that a two-tiered justice system exists for victims of sexual exploitation depending on their race. As we commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted white women the right to vote but kept Black women disenfranchised, we must address the racial disparities that persist among girls and women today.

Part I of this piece describes adultification bias, a societal phenomenon that can result in the unfair treatment of Black girls who experience sexual exploitation, including statutory rape. Part II discusses the traditional and contemporary policy reasons that underpin the nation’s statutory rape laws. Part II also defines reasonable mistake of age, an affirmative defense to a charge of statutory rape, and addresses the effectiveness of the defense where the alleged victim is an adultified Black girl. Part III of this piece examines the policy reasons that support the continued use of the mistake of age defense when the alleged victim is a teenager and the alleged offender a minor or a young adult. Part III concludes with my proposal for the enactment of a limited mistake of age defense that would be available to young defendants who may be more likely to overestimate the age of any sexual partner but unavailable to defendants who are significantly older than their alleged victims. This proposal increases protections for the adultified Black girl while recognizing the sexual autonomy of teen girls and avoiding the potential weaponization of statutory rape laws against young Black defendants.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2022/01/sexual-exploitation-and-the-adultified-black-girl.html

Race, Violence Against Women | Permalink

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