Unfortunately, another example of #MenAreTrash has struck the news cycle: Alabama’s Roy Moore, who is campaigning for a Senate seat, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting a girl when she was 14 years old, about 30 years ago. Now, Moore’s defenders are shouting about how long ago it was, the age of consent in Alabama at the time, and whining that it is just a smear campaign by The Washington Post. All of which is utter BS. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, what she looked like at the time, or why The Washington Post published the piece when they did — that kind of behavior is abhorrent, and no one accused of it should be a legitimate senatorial candidate.
As reported by The Washington Post, it was an apparent “open secret” that Moore dated teenagers and “picked up” girls in courtrooms. Good luck not vomiting when thinking about a 30-year-old lawyer hitting on 8th graders while their parents are busy in court. Adding insult to injury, Moore still might win his Alabama Senate seat because the world is trash, and fellow Republicans would rather defend a serial pedophile than let a Democrat win.
In response to the Moore news, North Carolina lawyer Catherine R. L. Lawson tweeted, “Cant consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere. #MeAt14,” which inspired Daily Show writer Lizz Winstead to do the same. Winstead tweeted, “This is me at 14. I was on the gymnastics team and sang in the choir. I was not dating a 32-year-old man. Who were you at 14? Tweet a pic, tell us who you were and pic to the top of your page #MeAt14 #NoMoore.” Her tweet rallied thousands of fellow tweeters to use the hashtag. It took just an internet second for Twitter to explode with #MeAt14. Countless woman, and some men, shared pictures of their innocent smiling faces at 14 with descriptions of their early teenage glory. Alyssa Milano posted a pic, describing her love for her dog and big brother, statin,g “I was happy. I was innocent.” Katie Couric even joined in with a picture of her early teenage glory, stating, “I was eating a lot of chocolate chip cookie dough and learning to do the 'hustle' and not worrying about a 32-year-old man trying to hustle me #MeAt14.”
The point of the hashtag is to bring women together and show the world that we are young and vulnerable at 14, and for the most part not emotionally or developmentally ready to consent to a sexual relationship with anyone, let alone a 32 year-old man. Women shared stories of being harassed or assaulted at such a young age, bringing further awareness to what we all know to be true: the patriarchy starts young, and even barely teenage girls have to worry about grown men not respecting their boundaries. It is all too unfortunate that just last year the #NotOkay Twitter sensation brought attention to how young most women experience their first sexual assault/harassment.
What the #MeAt14 Twitter moment seems to be forgetting is that not every woman looks “innocent” and “immature” at 14 — puberty may pummel us all, but not in the same way. Some 14-year-olds have double-D breasts. Some may talk and “act” like grown women. Some 14-year-olds think they are mature enough to have a sexual relationship. The fact is, though, no adult man (or woman) should have sexual contact with a minor. It is up to the adult to know right and wrong and respect the boundaries of everyone around them, especially children. The teen brain is unable to truly understand cause/effect and the lifelong consequences of sexual experience — whether that be an unplanned pregnancy, an STI, or the lifelong consequences of being “sexually active” before one is emotionally ready.
So while the Twitter-verse is trying to do some good, bringing attention to how disgusting Roy Moore’s alleged behavior is, it isn’t perfect. There are lots of ways to be a teenager, not just innocent-Mary or rebellious-Madonna, but all 14-year-olds deserve to be protected from predatory men.
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