November 16th, 2005


I've been meaning to write about the Pennsylvania teenagers whose secret romance precipitated the murders of the girl's parents. But wondrousbeauty just posted an entry that says everything that had crossed my mind and a whole lot more. It's a fine piece of writing, worth a careful read:
Finally, and probably most interesting to me, is how people respond to the notion of a fourteen-year-old girl who is also a sexual being. Her sexuality seems to be either dismissed (she's just a confused kid) or exaggerated to the point of absurdity (she clearly must be [insert your misogynist term here], and therefore she must have had a hand in the murders). I think that our society has a very, very hard time dealing with the idea of a fourteen-year-old girl who is sexually active, particularly when her situation involves Christianity somehow (both she and Ludwig were part of this Christian home school network). Despite their degree of sexual experience, Borden and Ludwig are both kids. And it couldn't have helped to have so many conflicting messages about what it might mean (a) for a fourteen-year-old girl to inhabit some kind of sexuality, and (b) for an eighteen-year-old boy to reciprocate her desire. They were both missing the key experience which most strongly disciplines us to segregate by age in the first place: a physical school space in which what it means to be fourteen is clearly marked differently from what it means to be eighteen by grade-level classifications and classroom boundaries. It doesn't surprise me one bit that perhaps Borden and Ludwig did have a sexual relationship, that they weren't equipped with the emotional or mental capacity to know what to make of that relationship in the community in which they lived, and they lived according to religious and cultural norms which gave them little space to even think through the issue rationally.
As most people are willing to acknowledge when the stakes are lower, the difference in emotional and physical maturity between your average fourteen-year-old girl and eighteen-year-old boy is a lot smaller than their ages would indicate. I wonder what this says about the educational institutions set up to "keep 'em separated."
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