Recently, a photo of a 13-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man went viral and stirred up controversy because of the age difference between the two. The girl is Willow Smith, daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith; the young man is Moises Arias, an actor and friend of the Smith family. In the photo, the two are on a bed. He is shirtless, sitting up. She is lying across the bed. The two are not touching.
Michel Martin, of the NPR program Tell Me More, talked to a few people about the photo. You can see the photo at the link.
Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family, said:
But he's 20 and she's 13. And I tell you, my parenting head would explode if my 15-year-old daughter or my 12-year-old daughter were found in a bed anywhere, anytime with a shirtless 20-year-old man. And if I discovered my 17-year-old son with a girl six years younger, I would be beyond furious.Phil Lerman, author of Dadditude: How a Real Man Became a Real Dad, said:
If you're OK with your kid, at 13 years old, lying around on a bed with a 20-year-old guy, then God bless you and good luck to you. We have so many stories on "America's Most Wanted," thousands of stories of child molesters and pedophiles. Stories that started out with - it seemed like such an innocent relationship.So there you have the Chicken Little reactions to the photo. A 13-year-old is lying on the same bed that a 20-year-old shirtless man is sitting on. There is no context given for the photo, no way to guess what was going on before or after the photo was taken...and yet Steiner says her head would explode and the photo makes Lerman think of child molesters and pedophiles.
My own reaction to the photo? I don't understand why there was a fuss at all about the photo. I do not think that a man without a shirt means sex. I do not think that a young girl next to an older man means sex. I do not think that the photo is evidence of anything untoward. If I were there and I knew what really was going on, perhaps I might be more (or less!) exercised about it.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow's mother, said something we should all listen to:
There was nothing sexual about that picture or that situation. You guys are projecting your trash onto it. And you're acting like covert pedophiles and that's not cool.I love her recognition that the people making a fuss are the ones thinking about sex when they see the 13-year-old.
Definitely not cool.