|Posted by Shireen Mitchell|
December 20th, 2007
I recently posted a piece on teen sexuality, the Internet, and media. I felt compelled to respond to the recent media attention on Britney Spears’ sister, Jamie-Lynn, who at age 16 is pregnant. I will not discuss her deal with Disney or whether her sister (who was married before she had her children) is to blame for her behavior. I want to discuss the difference in how teen pregnancy and sexuality is discussed in the media and the justice system based on who the “teen” happens to be.
I mentioned this in my last post about Genarlow Wilson, a teen that happened to have consensual sexual relations with another teen. Wilson was 17 and the other teen was 15, a two year difference. Jamie-Lynn is 16 and reports indicate that her boyfriend and the baby’s father , Casey Aldridge, is either 18 or 19. The difference in age is the same. The differences in these two cases is that Wilson is Black. Wilson’s “offense” is oral sex vs intercourse in the Spears case, however both teen girls involved are white. Both incidents have been documented, one on video and the other via a pregnancy. I would add that 18 or 19 is considered an adult while 17 is still considered a minor. A recent teen oral sex scandal on Capitol Hill only resulted in expulsion.
Wilson was a promising football player, popular young man (crowned homecoming king), and college bound with recruiters waiting for his arrival. One teenage party, that happened to be recorded on video, branded him a sexual offender/rapist, ended his college career and any future job opportunities. His income level will probably max out at about $30,000 a year, if he is lucky.
NBC Nightly News recently did a story on African American women and their status. NBC indicated that Hip Hop was the cause for the low numbers of African American men who pursue a college education. There was no mention of the unfair treatment in the justice system before they reach the age of 18.
Davey D recently weighed in on this case, in the compelling, “Britney Spears Sister is Pregnant-Should We Blame Hip Hop?” Some teens don’t have to worry, as Fox News Reports:
According to the code, “unlawful sexual intercourse” is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.
“Police can openly investigate the case, but the biggest challenge would be to determine [in] what state the act actually took place,” Hammer said.
However, criminal defense lawyer Christopher Darden says charges are unlikely.
Aldridge is mentioned in the media by describing his age based on the relationship to what would be considered statutory rape depending on the state (LA or CA). He is depicted as a church goer, since Spears met him in church and the relationship seemed to be long term. Would you consider him a rapist? Even before he goes to trial the image is set.
“Abstinence Only” is a requirement in the state of Louisiana, do we blame the rise in teen pregnancies on this program or Jamie-Lynn’s pregnancy? The younger Spears has been depicted as a heroine for not having an abortion and being responsible enough to have the child, however every teen mom in a similar situation that my orgaization, Digital Sisters, works with is considered a “welfare mom.” This is a reflection of how the image of teenagers is portrayed in the media based on who they are and their ethnic and class backgrounds. These stories are examples of how main stream media’s views impacts our lives everyday and another reason for media justice and reform.