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Posted by themaurdian on February 15, 2011
BE WARNEDThis was an essay and is extremely long…. And not a little disturbing. 
Femininity is created within our society as an almost mystical experience – even now women will claim their right to be free and independent, but the man still has to pick up the cheque and open the door. Women are still viewed as more nurturing, more of the mothers, more emotional, more intuitive and better at multi-tasking then men.
But how does this portrayal truly assist in any sort of demand for equality between the sexes? Does raising femininity to the site of a sacred state, the implication that if women ran the world it would somehow be more wholesome, with less wars, is a further extension of negative feminization of the simple nature of being female.
Negative because it is extremely limiting – just as not all men are meat-eating football players, nor are all women nurturing, giving and ultimately peaceful.
The very definition of an aspect of human behavior as ‘natural’ raises immediate concerns – is the opposite then to be unnatural? We are raised to think of women as vessels of goodness, light and all things maternal. Yet time and time again, women prove that, just as much as men, they too are capable of committing base crimes.
Take for example the case of Myra Hindley who lured young children to their murders at the hand of her then partner. In all the articles pertaining to her, and the studies been done, extraordinary amounts of emphasis is placed on her damaged childhood, with a violent and overbearing father and her subsequent relationship with Ian Brad.
In her 30,000-word plea for parole, written in 1978 and 1979, submitted to Home Secretary Merlyn Rees, Hindley said:
Within months he had convinced me that there was no God at all: he could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west.
And there is an implication that his power was what drove her to commit these atrocities – she was damaged, young, a woman with a terrible past. But so are hundreds and thousands of other women across the world – and it seems an extremely small number of them that are willing to engage in murder.
During the 1990s, Hindley claimed that she only took part in the killings because Brady had drugged her, was blackmailing her with pornographic pictures he had taken of her, and had threatened to kill her younger sister, Maureen. She in essence arguing that his perceived power, or the power that she had given him over her, was the impetus to drive her to murder.
Whether or not this is the case it links into Foucault’s idea that body and sexuality are cultural constructs – if we accept Foucault’s belief, then in effect Myra Hindley is showing us that the perceived social superiority of men over women – this idea that she had to do as she was told or be punished and exposed and shamed, that his power over her in the social construct of a heterosexual relationships can form the drive, and the bond and the need to continue being with someone even after they have exposed themselves as being the worst of humanity.
But there is another argument – that for whatever reasons, despicable, twisted and horrific to all of those with social awareness they may be, that Myra Hindley did what she did because she wanted to.  That if we are to accept true equality between the sexes – we must remove these bodies of ideals that shape our perceptions. As Foucault discusses our obsession over the shaping of the cultural and social body to meet our expectations, the shaping of a person to fit our expectations there is a realization that to change this we cannot simply accept all the good and take none of the bad.
Myra Hindley is a prime example of the great challenge to the extremely sanitized version of feminism that we accept each day – her horrific crimes are more horrific because she is a woman, and she was a young woman at the times the crimes were committed. We are taught to believe, even perhaps by feminists, that women are less capable of acts of evil then men. However how are we to ever truly get a sense of equality, of truly throwing off the shackles of inequality, of our bodies of cultural and social creation, if we do not accept that all humans – regardless of gender, are mixtures of the divine and the impossibly cruel.
It is not only in the case of Myra Hindley that such disparity, such creation of myths and images can be found – the issue of the possibility and activities of female pedophiles is another little explored area of research and media coverage.
With every story that appears there are comments and cries that too much is being made of the activities of female pedophiles, that they are a tiny minority. But in this argument then we should ignore the activities of serial killers and male pedophiles – groups that form tiny, tiny percentages of the population of countries – but whose activities ruin lives and receive extensive media coverage.
In Pedophiles, child abuse and the Internet, Adrian Powell presents graphs gleaned from the helpline ChildLine’s recordings showing the incidents found recorded of female pedophiles. And his results found, that while much much lower then the incidence of male offenders, the results were equal to those who had been abused by their neighbour. These were the two lowest groups in the graph, and yet the image of the predatory neighbour stalking children has been much, much more prevalent in media coverage of attacks on children.
In the report on familiar abuse, the mother was found to have been the perpetrator in 5% of the cases reported in the Childline Annual Statistics of 2005. All told, including the category of both parents – women were perpetrators of sexual abuse in 14% of the cases reported.
However, a BBC documentary, The Ultimate Taboo: Child Sexual Abuse By Women (Panorama BBC1 October 6th, 1997) had experts who claimed that 25% of all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by women. More shockingly, they released statistics and a survey by children’s charity KidSpace revealing that of the 127 survivors interviewed 86% were not believed when they said their abuser was a woman.
In Child abuse, gender, and society By Jackie Turton explores the difficulty of accepting this sort of behavior from women.
We need to find some way of conceptualizing female offending rather then resorting to denial or pathologising events, since such reactions only serve to perpetuate myths about what it is to be a woman.
The BBC online news site completed a detailed news piece on female pedophiles, where they interviewed a number of victims.
One victim, Colin, told them, “I couldn’t sleep at night and I’d get flashbacks of my mum on top of me. I couldn’t hold down a job and I was scared of girls. I found it hard to even say it was sexual abuse because of the way society views mothers.”
This is a powerful example of our stereotyped ideals of sexual roles damaging people’s lives – far more then the trite teen movie where a boy doesn’t fit in because he loves to sew, or a girl who wants to be an athlete. Our societies demands upon us to confirm to what it has decided are social norms are damaging those caught up with individuals who don’t confirm to those beliefs. Who would ever believe a man who said a woman had raped him? And who find it easy to accept that a mother could have sexually abused her own child?
Our images, our created expectations of sexuality and the roles gender plays in shaping our lives, have given those who do not confirm to the system an easy means to escape. Prosecutors and police will have to work doubly hard to convince a jury a mother is guilty of molesting her son, the son will face triple the scrutiny and disbelief of a child who says he or she was abused by, say, a step-father.
The BBC also created the following list:
2007: Tennis coach Claire Lyte, 29 at the time, sentenced to two years in jail for sex with a 13-year-old girl
2007: Margaret Martin, then 47, put on probation for sexually abusing a 10-year-old
2003: Mother-of-four Joanna James jailed for having sex with a 13-year-old boy
2002: Hazel Hallam, then 36, jailed for sexual assault of two boys
1999: First woman goes on Northern Ireland’s sex offenders’ register after admitting abusing seven boys aged 11 to 14
Which details the most recent crimes of female sex offenders. The numbers are much smaller then the male perpetrators – as was also shown in the graph mentioned earlier. However the shame Colin mentioned, and he never went to the police with his mother’s abuse, also shows that there is a huge possibility that the abuse by women is simply not being reported. Perhaps it is being mistaken for love, or comfort and then the victim is left wondering if there is something wrong with the way they feel, rather then in the situation they were placed in.
This has also been mentioned in a news report by a Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
“A boy who is sexually abused by his mother is the ultimate taboo,” said Endre Førland, leader of the Incest Center for Men.
A third of the men who call the center now report that a woman assaulted them during childhood. The number has risen quickly, just six years ago the center had no registered calls accusing a woman of incest.”
The BBC documentary  The Ultimate Taboo: Child Sexual abuse by women aired in 1997 by the Panorama program aired harrowing cases of children’s abuse, a case of a girl abused between 8 -13 by her mother, while her father filmed.
Margaret Harris, a South Wales Probation officer described the ordeal of the child:
The older child was naked. Mother was naked. They strung up the older child and tied her, gagged her and string her up from a hook in the ceiling and beat her something like 100 times in about four minutes. They then laid her on the bed and further abused her. All the time mother was doing this, father was videoing the actual abuse. At the end of it all, at one point when the child was lying on the bed almost unconscious, mother and father sat on the edge of the bed and had a cup of tea together. I think that portrays very graphically the awful nature of this. To give it the name sexual abuse belies what actually happened in that house. It was torture. It was the most abhorrent torture I have ever seen.The documentary went on to describe a young boy, who was filmed during theraputic play with the Sexual Abuse Child Consultancy Service, who had been molested by a lesbian couple and a man.
Therapist: His abusers were involved in a lesbian relationship and he was also abused by men too, so actually he’s quite a confused little boy, which is shown very often in his play where he doesn’t really know whether he’s a woman or whether he’s a manThe conception that the act of being female, of knowing and understanding femininity or masculinity as an inherit gender with conformant social norms seems to be undone by the terrible abuse suffered by this child – he was shaped and changed by intense and deeply inappropriate sexual contact at an age where his identity was still being shaped and formed. Changing the nature of his sexual identification to the society pressured image of masculinity and blurring it into something else.
Foucault’s argument that it is our docile bodies which will shape our socially accepted gender roles  as society deems fit seems to come into play here – this abused child was not born with an inherent set of ideals of what it is to be male or to be female – he was taught, as all those who dwell in the socially constructed sphere are taught, that certain behaviors correspond with certain genitals.
The abuse that the child has suffered has changed the behaviours that he expects to enact, thereby challenging our perceptions of appropriate activities for a young male child.
The other implication that somehow if a woman is offending then it seems to be a lone woman, a damaged woman, is immediately blown aside upon examining the phenomenon of online pedophile rings and networks run exclusively for women, by women.
There is even a female arm of the male pedophile group NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) known as NAWGLA (North American Woman Girl Love Association).   NAWGLA runs a website known as Butterfly Kisses . Butterfly kisses was known online by a variety of abbreviations of the phrase butterfly kisses – was the sites name for a time, and various others with similar themes. The site was formerly closed in 2007 but who many believe lives on in the Internet under a different name.
The website was for a time one of a host that have since been found and closed, all the remains is
However a similr organisation aim can be found through NAMBLA. NAMBLA’s introduction: NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by: building understanding and support for such relationships;
1.    Educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love;
2.    Cooperating with lesbian, gay, feminist, and other liberation movements;
3.    Supporting the liberation of persons of all ages from sexual prejudice and oppression.
This idea of the society being wrong in judging their activities – the coaching of the abuse in terms of love and endearment is identical to the transcript of the activities of Butterfly Kisses.  The two groups also draw on historical so-called facts to support their right to abuse children.
So again there is no disparity in the activities of female pedophiles as opposed to male ones – they act sometimes with savagery, and sometimes with a terrible faux-love, they provide the same justifications and meet and exchange information online in the same manner. However, one group receives extreme amounts of coverage, while the other does not. As statistics have shown quoted here, women while not at the same volume of offences as male predators are nonetheless still a significant portion and rank higher then the oft quoted ‘Stranger Danger’ image of the malevolent man in a dark coat the hovers in our collective consciousness.
Foucault’s ideas of power as a field of relationships between free subjects , with the ideas that the subjectivity of our understandings of sexuality as objects shaped by forces within society and the concepts of power-knowledge, helps to reveal how and why we have created out mythical images of the mother and of femininity.
The image has been thrust upon us of women as extremely different to men, beyond mere physical disparity. Our society has shaped us to believe in our nurturing, in our kindness and in our inherent physical weakness to men and ability to ‘raise a family’ and ‘deal with children’. However, to take this socially constructed perception of what it is to be female is beginning to push down the dark, destructive natures that lurk in some humans. It is not purely a male or female condition to molest and abuse children, it is not an act that can be construed in terms of gender – it is the result of a terrible shift in an individual mind.
A disservice is done, therefore, to the children who are abused by women and whom society ignores because this is an interruption to the status quo.
If a woman rapes and abuses a child she needs to be judged not as a woman, with the deep seated disbelief that she as a female could ever commit such an atrocity, but as a person whose behavior is against our laws and damaging to the development and life of a child.