Men Behaving Badly, Part III
I know, I know, three posts in a row on the same unpleasant subject. I’m going somewhere with this, trust me. Today’s topic is the one I originally was planning to write about, the recent unpleasantness on Pitcairn Island. Then Mr Fritzl and the FLDS case hit the news, and I had a surfeit of men behaving badly to blog about. Sigh. Men. The truth of the matter is that when they get alone or in small groups, sometimes their worst sides come out. This is the story of Pitcairn Island, and how the men there developed a culture that justified what can only be described as criminal sexual behaviour.
Pitcairn Island is one of the most remote inhabited spots on Earth. It was discovered and settled by Polynesians centuries ago, who mysteriously left or died out. Then in the late 18th century the mutineers of Bounty fame settled on the island. And settled down to a leisurely and peaceful island existence. Eventually at least, for the first few years the men murdered each other or committed suicide until there was one man left. Then they settled down to a peaceful existence. It was an inauspicious start though, and another example of men behaving badly when they get in small isolated groups.
Still, this isn’t a history post, though I may write about the Bounty Mutiny someday. This story starts in 1999 when a New Zealand policewoman stationed on Pitcairn Island was told of being raped when she was twelve by an inhabitant of the Island. Further enquiries followed and a full scale investigation was launched, eventually interviewing every woman who had lived on the island in the past 20 years. It turned out that the “age of consent” on the Island was generally considered to be twelve. The problem was that if a girl reached twelve, she was considered to be consenting. As a preacher living on the Island around 2000 said that “I think the girls were conditioned to accept that it was a man’s world and once they turned 12, they were eligible,” After the investigation was complete seven men, basically the island’s adult male population, was charged with 55 total counts of sexual crimes. Six of the seven were convicted and are serving their time on a prison constructed on the Island.
The islanders are none too happy about all of this of course, and some have left the island. Many of the women support the men and some even withdrew their statements after it all got ugly. The basic facts do seem to be correct though, there was a long time “tradition” of girls having sex starting at age twelve, and they were often pressured to coerced to actually raped. And this had been going on a long time. An official in the 1930s tried to get the British government to take action to no avail. Apparently 3 men were sentenced to jail in the 50s for having sex with underage girls. So was a visitor in 1999. For at least a century, under an outward veneer of devout Seventh Day Adventism, teenage boys routinely molested underage girls in the bushes.
Some tropical paradise. We can’t blame some sort of extreme religious beliefs. The men weren’t all Josef Fritzls, in fact they are mostly a pretty decent bunch by most standards. One thing in common is that all three cases took place in prisons. Josef and the FLDS built their own prisons, and Pitcairn Island, less than two miles square, is a prison by any standards. And of course it’s the men mistreating the women, while there are a few cases of women imprisoning their children, almost always they are at best accessories. It’s alos a fact that in both Pitcairn and in the FLDS, the older women played a role in the abuse, or at least covered it up and made excuses for it. What choice did they have?
I could find any number of similar examples. If there’s a point to all of this, it seems to me that males have an innate tendency to view women as sex objects and breeding stock, since when left to their own devices they tend to set up very male dominated societies. This pretty much ties in with my observation that for the most part people are little more than shaved chimps. I won’t go so far as to claim that people or men are inherently evil, and that’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m just saying our nature is more animal than not. And to me at least that implies that if we are to become a civilized species, we should try acknowledging that and working with it rather than pretend it isn’t so. We are capable of better, but honest self evaluation has to be the start of any transformation.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
(The image above predates 1927 and is public domain under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit. Credit: The Pitcairn Island Photo Album. It shows a group of Islanders in 1910 or 1920, sources vary. And my, what a cheerful looking bunch they are. View the full size version here if you dare. As always my posts are intended as discussion, not judgement.)