Monday, June 21, 2010

hypersexualize latino boys

This is a guest post by Gwen Sharp, an assistant professor of Sociology at Nevada State College. Gweb blogs at Sociological Images, where this post first appeared.


A reader who asked to remain anonymous sent in a video about a recent interview by Star Jones with the lawyer for Kelsey Peterson, a teacher accused in 2007 of fleeing to Mexico in order to live with a 13-year-old student of hers (he was 12 at the time they began having sex together). In the interview, the lawyer for Peterson says he “resents” the boy being referred to as a child because he is a “Latino machismo teenager” (a phrase that doesn’t even make sense) and “manly”:




Notice that the lawyer also argues, at about 1:25, that teen boys have a high sex drive, which somehow excuses an adult woman having sex with a 12-year-old. In addition, at 3:30 in Jones mentions that some individuals have implied the kid couldn’t be a victim because he was physically larger than other kids his age (5′ 6″ in 8th grade, which doesn’t sound super unusual to me); it sounds like Peterson’s defenders have questioned his age because of his size.

Jones calls him out on his implication that Latino teens are hyper-sexual and therefore this boy shouldn’t be seen as a victim. At about 5:45 one of her guests discusses the adultification of non-White children -- that is, the way they are often treated as adults, regardless of their age. Ann Arnett Ferguson discusses this process at length in her book, Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity. This adultification includes assumptions that they are sexual at earlier ages than White children.

From what Jones and one of her guests say, it also appears that the fact that he was an undocumented immigrant has also been used as a way to undermine his ability to claim victim status. At about 7:55 a guest discusses the way that referring to people as “aliens” dehumanizes them, making it easier to deny them equal legal protection. (Side note: Jones mentions the history of immigration in the U.S. and in doing so says everyone in the U.S. is descended from immigrants, something Native Americans might find surprising, though I suppose if you go back a few thousand years to the migration from Asia to North America, technically yes, they are immigrants.)

When I searched for news stories about the case, I came across one at ABC news in which the boy is described as “a sexually-active sixth-grade student with a crush on her,” which seems to me to be reminiscent of the way female rape victims are often asked about their sexual history, as though they cannot be true victims if they have been sexually active.

The ABC story contains this quote from Peterson’s lawyer:

From the beginning, he was trying to entice her. There’s no question about that. . . . He would try to kiss her, he would grab her, he would do these things. She didn’t initiate this relationship. That young man did.

Again the blame is placed not on the adult woman but on a 12-year-old boy. Peterson says she was shocked the first time he kissed her, which was in her kitchen -- a place that maybe a thinking person wouldn’t have a 12-year-old student in. She also says his parents knew about and were fine with their sexual interactions; they dispute this.

Perhaps drawing on the stereotype of macho Latino men, her lawyer said,

He used to tell her what she could wear. And whether she could wear makeup and the length of her skirts in terms of where they were gonna go and what they were gonna do…He had a very, very strong influence over her in terms of controlling her behavior.

The comments to the ABC story are pretty fascinating too.

This is a disturbing example of the way that boys, and particularly non-White boys, are generally denied victim status when it comes to sex because our cultural beliefs include the idea that boys want sex and attempt to get it at an early age, and thus can’t really be vulnerable to sexual assault or coercion. For another example, see this post about how Jimmy Kimmel reacts when Lil’ Wayne confirms that he lost his virginity at age 11.

31 comments:

  1. The whole "high-sex drive" excuse is but another way to dehumanize POC. It's close to implying the stereotype that POC, particularly black men, are more likely to rape. Thus, help promoting and maintaining fear.

    In this society people always blame the victim. No one would ask questions or consider that the victims are humans too. Society looks down upon its victims as if they were born inferior.

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  2. Forgive my derail- but I think hyper sexualize non-white boys is more like it:
    Accounts like these punch holes in the perpetual notion that white women are innocent damsels, for this happens more often than people are willing to admit. Media accounts of white women using their resources to abscond overseas, on cougar cruises are pretty much the norm now.

    If white women are to be portrayed as the innocent- wholesome purveyors of purity white men make them out to be, then the fault must lie with the non-white. He seduced her- yes he's to blame; it’s as plain as the nose on your face some will say.

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  3. PlusSizedWomanistJune 21, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Of course POC have those savage and weird sex drives. Where do you think the black rapist and jezebel come from? Because apparently, only white people have "normal" sexual desires.

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  4. God, I'm so glad she cut that idiot off. I feel like publicly shaming that sort of behavior doesn't happen enough during live TV. Usually, people are too shocked to really take the offender to task.


    Of course, I'm sure some people will deny her outrage as legitimate because she's a minority defending a minority.

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  5. I now we're talking about men, but I think this point is just as salient when it comes to young girls of color, ie, the 14 yo in the R. Kelly situation.

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  6. I also noticed (well, it's possible that I just missed it) that not once in this post or in the otherwise-great video clip is the word "rape" used.
    Tell it like it is. The teacher repeatedly raped him.

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  7. Agreed that white people hypersexualize latinos, but this professor's conclusion that purports to encompass all nonwhites (and her likely, common assumption that only latinos and blacks truly count as such) is tiringly problematic.

    This is a disturbing example of the way that boys, and particularly non-White boys, are generally denied victim status when it comes to sex because our cultural beliefs include the idea that boys want sex and attempt to get it at an early age, and thus can’t really be vulnerable to sexual assault or coercion.

    Firstly, this doesn't take into account the different sexual stigmatization of "model" minorities - a very common white tendency is to gloss over/FAIL on intersectionality within race, much less race and gender etc.

    Asian males are scorned as effeminate and/or asexual, so it's not as if an ostensibly high sex drive is what denies victim status under the auspices of white hegemony.

    Because last time I checked, there was a tiny little issue known as CHILD SLAVERY AND PROSTITUTION, FFS.

    Remember Mitterand, the French politician who decried the U.S. in its extraction of child rapist Roman Polanski? The same Mitterand who plainly recounted in his autobiography lurid scenes of frequenting brothels in Thailand and Indonesia where kids are sold to white Westerners?

    “I got into the habit of paying for boys… All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously… the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire.”

    Not a single well-intentioned white "ally" ever bats an eye over this shit.

    I'd like to know when the hell white antiracists will get it through their skulls that it is NOT the specific, ever-shifting stereotypes associated with nonwhite peoples that prevent us from being seen as human (and therefore being allowed victim status) - it is simply NOT BEING WHITE that prevents this.

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  8. @Graponal..
    Hold on 1 minute ....

    The quote you just quoted made reference to Non-white boys'

    Please explain how it does not take 'model minorities into account'.

    Thank you.
    cos last time I checked, model minorities are not classified as white.

    And do forgive me, but your conclusion futher makes the point of the quote which you quoted

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  9. I think Graponal has overly victimized model minorities, which is a reference to APIs I believe. There's a very strange split vision in society of APIs as being both hypo-sexual and hyper-sexual, and they have only taken account of the hypo part. Though there are good points made, I think you need to do a little more research into the complexity of the API community.

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  10. API = Asian/Pacific Islander?

    @ Graponal,
    >> "Firstly, this doesn't take into account the different sexual stigmatization of "model" minorities"

    That quote may say thus, but SWPD certainly has. (There are more threads where this has come up in the comments, but the search function doesn't cover that and there's no way I'm going to remember which ones).

    "Not a single well-intentioned white "ally" ever bats an eye over this shit. "

    Actually, there's a good argument to be made that American white allies bat LOTS of eyes over this, especially internationally, while ignoring the problems right in front of us.

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  11. @ Graponal,

    P.S. I'm not meaning to deny your anger. I wanted to point you to those threads in case you were interested. I fall all over myself apologizing if it came across as "well, not all WP do this."

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  12. >The quote you just quoted made reference to Non-white boys'

    And my response was clearly lampooning the professor's analysis that focused scapegoat minorities, then purported to analyze the dynamics of ALL nonwhites as an afterthought. Check your indignation and refresh your reading comprehension.

    >Please explain how it does not take 'model minorities into account'.

    Because model minorities - specifically Asian males - are often stigmatized as passive and having LESS sex drive than white people (the median norm, natch), whereas scapegoat minorities are often stigmatized as aggressive with hyper sex drives.

    Get it now? Or are you simply not aware of the former stereotypes?

    cos last time I checked, model minorities are not classified as white.

    >That's...exactly what I said the first time.

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  13. @Drowned Lotuses: This post primarily addresses MALE sexuality in the context of white supremacy, as did my comment. Sure when it comes to API females, the intersection of race and gender give rise to a hypersexualization that's almost more straightforward, if not any less infuriating of course! Racist stereotypes of passivity explode and intertwine with sexist stereotypes of femininity.

    >I think you need to do a little more research into the complexity of the API community.

    LOL. I think you need to internalize a little less racism before you start telling other APIs that they're "overly victimizing" themselves.

    Publish this comment.

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  14. @Willow - I'm not surprised that SWPD has addressed this, but I haven't read every single post this comprehensive blog has to offer, so cheers for the links.

    And most of my "anger" (righteous indignation? sense of injustice?) is directed at that academic, not necessarily the blogger who reposted her shiz.

    >there's a good argument to be made that American white allies bat LOTS of eyes over this, especially internationally, while ignoring the problems right in front of us.

    "This" being child slavery and prostitution (the former including labor) of APIs? Well, let's hear it.

    Cause, um, the very definition of being a model minority is not having problems (or at least less problems than the scapegoat minorities). Which ends up being a huge problem for ALL minorities for so many reasons - but before I bother listing all those, lemme know if you truly want to have that conversation.

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  15. @Graponal

    It was the "male" sexuality that I was addressing, though it's applicable to both males and females. I think you're still navigating the idea of API issues, because you seem to think you represent all of us...

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  16. >I think you're still navigating the idea of API issues, because you seem to think you represent all of us...

    Pot. Kettle. Black (or ya know, yellow/brown etc. whatever)...

    But seriously, your assertion that the collective issues of an entire socially constructed group comprised of a huge number of different nationalities is something that can be hierarchically known or "navigated" is unintentionally hilarious.

    And then to accuse ME of 'represent[ing] all of us' when I speak out against child slavery and prostitution and saying I'm 'overly victimizing'?

    Yeahhhh - gonna just let you continue to talk to yourself here, cause that's not a conversation I think I wanna be a part of. Peace.

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  17. Once again the attributes of the oppressors are placed on the oppressed.

    Why are any of you still surprised?

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  18. @ Graponal,

    My understanding of 'model minority' is, they don't cause problems for white people, not that they don't have any. By and large, I don't think WP care whether or not POC have problems until the problems start affecting us too. Given your definition of model minority, I get what you are saying; thanks for clarifying.

    Re: child slavery and prostitution of APIs:
    It's more like *mentioning* than actively engaging the problem. E.g.: most discussions of sex work among (mostly white) feminists start off with, "Now, I know sex trafficking is bad, especially when kids are involved over in Thailand and stuff" and then moves into "but sex work in the U.S. is totally legit and awesome." (A) totally erases child prostitution within the U.S. (B) doesn't really anything done for kids *anywhere* :o(

    RaceWire had an article today that mentioned how the *media* pay attention to "dramatic narratives of young girls lured into prostitution rings", which I guess I was interpreting as "white Americans care about kids who." Never a good assumption to make.

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  19. WTF???!???

    Never thought I'd ever praise Star Jones....

    In the meantime, what's with the Helpless White Woman bullshit?

    Again the blame is placed not on the adult woman but on a 12-year-old boy. Peterson says she was shocked the first time he kissed her, which was in her kitchen -- a place that maybe a thinking person wouldn’t have a 12-year-old student in.

    Again? What the fuck? How many times must this keep happening?

    The dehumanization is epic and disgusting. Hill is right: "alien" is a dangerous and convenient term. I am so repulsed right now that I've run out of shit to say.

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  20. @ Graponal

    There's not enough "co-sign" in the world. Brilliantly stated.

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  21. @ Willow

    My understanding of 'model minority' is, they don't cause problems for white people, not that they don't have any.

    A...MEN.

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  22. @Graponal

    Agreed that we don't seem to be speaking the same language. Though I don't discount your anger, you oversimplify a bit much for my tastes.

    peace.

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  23. someanonymouscommenterJune 22, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    >My understanding of 'model minority' is, they don't cause problems for white people, not that they don't have any.

    There's definitely that dynamic. But one often encounters the stinking assumption APIs don't have anything to "complain" about (and shouldn't complain) - certainly not compared to other nonwhite folks! And a fair few internalize that racist worldview to the point where pointing out despicable atrocities registers as "over victimizing." It's very sad.

    Because drawing light to our issues would somehow detract from those given to other nonwhites? Like there's some finite reserve of enlightenment we have to draw from whites, LOL.

    (Actually, that's probably true. What with the oppressor expending so much energy in OPPRESSION, there's only so much time and resources left over for rumination. Crap.)

    And in some specific contexts, it's true that APIs have less to "complain" about. But the second you move the slightest bit beyond the very specific decades and places that white antiracists like to focus on...

    To shed some light on this, I'll quote economist Dambisa Moyo from one of her interviews on Dead Aid:

    >China has 1.3 billion people, only 300 million of whom live like us, if you will, with Western living standards. There are a billion Chinese who are living in substandard conditions. Do you know anybody who feels sorry for China? Nobody.

    Whether or not one agrees with Moyo's conclusions on SYSTEMIC aid (not to be conflated with humanitarian/emergency) - and I do, strongly - she concisely sums up the "guilt" (i.e. White Man's Burden) complex that whites especially harbor towards the scapegoat minority, and how that seemingly altruistic sentiment actually plays out in the form of neocolonialism.

    Comparatively few if any of these "progressive" whites take into account the poverty and human rights atrocities with model minorities in their self-aggrandizing mission to prevent them in regards to scapegoat minorities. White Man's Burden 2.0 thus results in exacerbation of the suffering of the latter and purposeful ignorance of the former. Peachy all around, hey?

    >E.g.: most discussions of sex work among (mostly white) feminists start off with, "Now, I know sex trafficking is bad, especially when kids are involved over in Thailand and stuff" and then moves into "but sex work in the U.S. is totally legit and awesome."

    LOL, white feminists. Yeah. My experience with them has been among the more radical variety, who are totally against prostitution, but they fail just as much when it comes to intersectionality as the variety you're talking about.

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  24. This is absolutely disturbing. A child is a child, period. Also sick: the idea that a white woman couldn't possibly be responsible for initiating a sexual relationship with a boy. To me, this is a good example of how sexism and racism reinforce eachother. Though you do occasionally hear the "she tempted me" argument when it comes to girls being abused, I think it would be far less socially acceptable to make that argument, had this been a white male and a girl of color. Though perhaps that could vary, depending on the race and the specific stereotypes attached to it.

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  25. "My understanding of 'model minority' is, they don't cause problems for white people, not that they don't have any."

    Agree 100%

    Also the term "model minority" is supposed to be seen as some kind of "positive" stereotype. For instance with Asians, who are stereotyped as being good in math, hard working, etc. Though a stereotype is a stereotype, doesn't matter if it's positive or negative.

    This discussion has also made me think about how men of color are sexualized. With Latino men they're seen as being "passionate lovers." While with black men, there's the big penis myth.


    It's more like *mentioning* than actively engaging the problem. E.g.: most discussions of sex work among (mostly white) feminists start off with, "Now, I know sex trafficking is bad, especially when kids are involved over in Thailand and stuff" and then moves into "but sex work in the U.S. is totally legit and awesome." (A) totally erases child prostitution within the U.S. (B) doesn't really anything done for kids *anywhere

    Yes, you'd think feminists would know better, but I have came across that attitude.

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  26. @Moi, who said WTF???!??? Never thought I'd ever praise Star Jones....: Exactly my thought. Good to know that even someone who I thought didn't have two brain cells to spark together can still occasionally do something worthwhile.

    I'd be curious to know how often the victim in these situations is a PoC. The only two cases that came to mind were Mary Kay Letourneau (who raped a Samoan boy, IIRC) and Debra Lafave (her victim's identity wasn't released at the time, so who knows). I wonder if boys of color are victimized more than white boys, because 1) the cultural perception of hypersexuality as it's discussed here making it seem more acceptable to a teacher/aggressor, and/or 2) some predators actively look for children that are easier to victimize, and boys of color may be easier to victimize due to the lack of sympathy they'll experience from the public at large (due to #1), and/or less police interest in helping PoC who are being victimized in general.

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  27. @graponal...
    My, my my.. aren't we mighty defensive and aggressive neatly into one.

    If your response was clear, you wouldn't have soo many people questioning it.. silly.

    secondly - I'm not joining in with your oppression olympics.
    Keep lampooning the professor

    Thirdly,
    so my use of 'thank you', 'please' and 'do forgive me' - are signs of indignation?

    @all - see, how the stereotypes stream forth from the lips of other POC who expect us to fight for them.

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  28. Remember the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal (another white teacher having sexual relationship with underage POC boy who I believe was API?) Like Moi I find it sickening how much older white women are given the benefit of a doubt in committing these crimes! MKL (and another white teacher I forget the name of who bedded a white student) were not seen by the media as sexual predators but as "the hot teacher" any male student would fall for. And they were portrayed as the victim too (MKL's troubled relationship with her husband was constantly mentioned as if that justified her rape of an underage boy!) The boys were seen as acting like any average hormone driven male teenager ("boys will be boys"). This case goes further in not just painting the victim as a sex-crazed male but with his nonwhite status inserted into the equation for good measure. And the white teacher is painted the victim yet again!

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  29. As a former victim of sexual abuse by a woman, I despise how female sexuality (and, as this bears out, predominantly /white/ female sexuality) is seen as "weak" and "passive." It's assumed that women by and large /can't/ rape - that even with the victim being a child and the rapist being in a position of authority, it must be the male who is in control of the situation. As much as race and gender play into how the victim is characterized, they also play into how the rapist is characterized.

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  30. What really caught me about this, as a white female assigned individual, is that not only is there a hypersexualization of the victim, but in cases where a white male has raped or otherwise sexually violated a white female the media tends to demonize the white female. But in this case that involves a boy of color who is the young victim of this rape and sexual violation, the white female is made out to be some sort of helpless saint. WHAT...THE...FUCK.

    The dehumanization and the image of adult sexuality placed on this boy are disgusting. I say the following with acknowledgment to the fact that our experiences are different: as a victim of childhood sexual abuse myself and how it has scarred me, I cannot possibly comprehend how anyone could not see this boy as a victim. Then again, I am white and so I generally have the privilege of being able to tell someone this without them thinking the abuse was my fault or questioning my validity as a victim because of my race.

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  31. Being a Latino has more to do with language than with race seeing as White Latinos exist and the vile argument the one idiot spews is a form of sexism; I have seen other similar comments directed at male victims of female pedophiles, there is a widespread view that boys molested by women just had a fun time.

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