A reminder that things that seem obvious to feminist blog readers aren’t obvious to everyone
Boy, this girl's story written to Dear Abby is truly an argument for not having parental notification laws for abortion:
I'm 16 and pregnant. The father of my baby is my stepbrother. It's my fault because I seduced him when we were home alone. Last night my sister said I need to go on a diet because I'm gaining weight, and she joked that I look pregnant. I don't think she has any idea that I really am.
I won't be able to hide this pregnancy much longer. My parents will go crazy, and my stepbrother will also be in major trouble even though it isn't really his fault. I can tell you my mom will not be understanding. Please help.
The notion that women are the only ones who can say no to sexual temptation remains strong in many communities. The notion that a teenage boy cannot be expected to know that having unprotected sex with his stepsister is wrong probably seems ludicruous to most readers of this blog, but it's what millions upon millions of Americans tell themselves and each other every day. Which isn't to say this girl isn't also responsible, but the responsibility is 50/50 here, not 100/0, as she imagines. Even though this is a consensual sex situation, this notion that a man who has been exposed to sexual temptation is a ravenous beast with no self-control feeds the narrative that when a rape occurs, it's the victim's fault for being tempting, because, you know, men can't say no.
It's hard to say where the young woman got the idea that sexual decision-making is 100% on girls and women, but often these attitudes come from the family, which is why I found Dear Abby's response troubling:
You're right — this is major trouble. But your parents have to be told, not only because your pregnancy will soon become obvious, but also because for the sake of the baby, you must have prenatal care. If you are afraid to tell them by yourself, then approach them with the help of another adult, either a close friend or a relative you can confide in. The only thing you shouldn't do is wait any longer.
In situations like this, it shouldn't be blithely assumed that the girl will be safe telling her parents. This "another adult" stuff is simply too vague. I'd tell the girl first a) that she and her stepbrother share responsibility and b) that she really needs to think long and hard about how she believes her parents will react. And that if that reaction is "violently" or in any way that makes her unsafe, she should hold off telling them and instead get herself some professional care. I'd probably recommend Planned Parenthood or a community clinic; tell a medical professional. An adult relative she trusts may not be available, for one thing, and for another, such a person isn't working under strict HIPAA regulations to maintain confidentiality. A professional can screen for domestic violence and determine if the girl should go to social services or to her parents, and give her tools to go to her parents if that ends up being the choice.
I really question the automatic assumption that parents are safe, especially when you see red flags like this girl's sexist attitudes about sexual decision-making and responsibility.