Measuring Words

-At what age can a child be considered as “consenting” to an adult sexual act?

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Please be forewarned that content might include
details of abuse and potentially triggering language.
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Language and context can be life-altering–making or breaking a relationship, sales pitch, or political campaign.  “He said what?” one might hear about a vocal faux pas committed by an otherwise viable candidate.  In a moment, his career, or the hope of having one, is over.  Fortunately, with the advent of smartphones and the instancy of social media in the last decade, hot-mic moments — including behind-the-scenes banter of a demeaning or objectifying manner — can be picked up on and called out.  And Twitter?  A minefield of grenades thrown out by those with a toxic combination of impulsiveness, strong opinions, and no filter. 

Since Spotlight, the 2015 film about The Boston Globe’s report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, media increasingly covers news of that genre.  Although I’m grateful that the topic is being addressed, I believe that some journalists might need to tweak the terminology that they employ.   For example, I recoil when I see a headline stating that a teacher and a child — be he or she a ten, twelve, or sixteen-year old student — “had sex”.  The teacher possesses an inherent position of power and ultimately is violating and victimizing a weaker party.  When people “have lunch” together, it isn’t one person manipulating the other to go to a restaurant or force feeding that other person once they get there.  “Having lunch” and “having sex” both imply something that people willing do together.

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