Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

Normalizing child grooming?

Entertainment | In a growing trend, a British TV show glorifies exploitation
by Mary Jackson & Leif Le Mahieu
Posted 6/07/19, 03:48 pm

A British TV show is sparking backlash for what some viewers see as normalization of child sexual abuse. Britain’s Channel 5 released a promotional video last week for the upcoming season of Age Gap Love with a clip of a couple whose relationship began when the man was 44 and the girl was 16.

The documentary series first chronicled Andy and Beth Telford’s relationship in an episode that aired last November. The season premiere of the show, which features a variety of (usually older) couples with large age gaps, airs this month. “Their 28-year age gap may make them look like father and daughter,” a narrator cheerfully announces in the promo. “But they are, every bit, a married couple.”

The Telfords had already been married for three years when the episode first aired. They met through Andy’s friendship with Beth’s mother. Beth and Andy also became friends, and she developed romantic feelings for him. Andy claims ignorance: “I didn’t know that Beth was getting these thoughts that she wanted me to be her happy man forever sort of thing.” When Beth turned 16, they started dating. Soon after, they declared their love for each other, got married, and now have two children, Timothy and Conway. Beth is now 19.

After the video aired, some viewers began to criticize Channel 5 for portraying child grooming for sexual abuse in a positive light. Marie Gardiner, a U.K.-based writer and photographer, tweeted that parts of the story “make this sound an awful lot like grooming rather than just a couple with an age difference.”

Channel 5 defended the show, telling the Manchester Evening News, “With tens of thousands of couples across the U.K. today involved in relationships where there is a significant age difference, Age Gap Love is a nonjudgmental observational documentary series which examines such relationships through the eyes of those involved.”

But the show signals a wider movement to normalize pedophilia, with perpetrators increasingly embraced as part of the LGBTQ movement. Last year a German medical student made international headlines with a lecture she gave calling pedophilia “an unchangeable sexual orientation, just like … heterosexuality.” A Slate article published in March questioned whether it is “a crime or an illness.”

Snapchat introduced its “Love Has No Labels” campaign this month in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. Along with photo filters featuring labels like gender, sexuality, religion, and disability, users can choose a “Love has no age” filter. Many users expressed outrage over the inclusion of age, and Snapchat removed the filter with no explanation.

In the United States, pedophilia is still a crime, and the #MeToo era has shed light on widespread child sexual abuse cases. But as society increasingly abandons Biblical sexual morality, expect the lines to blur and child exploitation to increase.

Earlier this year, actress Barbra Streisand dismissed two men’s claims that pop icon Michael Jackson groomed and sexually abused them as children. “His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has,” she said. Streisand later apologized for her remarks.

John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, warned about the increasing sexualization of children. “No culture wakes up and decides to exploit its children,” he wrote in an article earlier this year. “But the decades-long process of redefining human beings according to our sexual ideologies rather than their God-designed dignity is what brought us here.”

Hulu Hulu Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

Not the same

The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss encouraged pro-abortion protesters this week to keep comparing the United States to the show’s dystopian society in which fertile women are chattel.

The Emmy-winning Hulu show, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, depicts a society devastated by low fertility rates brought on by unspecified environmental damage. A theocratic patriarchy overthrows the U.S. government and conscripts the remaining fertile women—handmaids distinguished by red cloaks and white, face-shielding bonnets—to bear the children of the wealthy.

Pro-abortion demonstrators began donning handmaid costumes at protests soon after the show premiered. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California compared Alabama to The Handmaid’s Tale after it passed a law to make abortion illegal at all stages of pregnancy. (The law makes abortion a criminal act for abortionists, not women.)

“It’s an apt comparison,” Moss said Wednesday on the ABC talk show The View.

But the pro-abortion movement has more in common with the evil dictators in The Handmaid’s Tale than its supporters admit. The story’s villains treat babies as property as much as the handmaids who bear them. In Gilead, the tale’s fictional post-America dystopia, handmaids have children not because children are good and a gift but because the barren wives of the upper class want them. Prams, onesies, and cribs are status symbols in Gilead, where there’s no respect for the bond between mother and child. The wealthy steal the children of the poor and then cast aside the mothers.

In contrast, pro-life pregnancy centers work to nurture the bond between mother and child. Babies are respected for their inherent dignity and worth, and women are told they do not have to be rich to be a good mother. True, neither pro-lifers nor the evil lords of Gilead want women to have abortions, but for very different reasons. One group wants children born free and placed in the loving arms of their mothers, while the other wants children born only to serve the desires of the powerful. The pro-abortion movement says that whether a child lives or dies depends not on that child’s worth, but on the decision of someone more powerful—an argument well-suited for Gilead. —Lynde Langdon

HBO HBO A scene from Chernobyl

Radioactive appeal

A growing number of tourists are flocking to Chernobyl, Ukraine, after a U.S. television miniseries brought attention to the world’s worst nuclear accident that took place there 33 years ago.

Since the popular HBO miniseries Chernobyl aired last month, several tourist agencies have reported a nearly 40 percent increase in bookings compared to May of last year, Reuters reported this week.

The show gives a chilling depiction of the 1986 explosion, caused by poor engineering and a botched safety test, and its aftermath, including a Soviet inquiry into its handling and a widespread clean-up operation. The explosion sent nuclear material across most of Europe and forced tens of thousands to flee. It killed 31 people initially and an untold number of others from radiation-related diseases.

Visitors can see the plant and the wasteland surrounding it, including a neighboring ghost town, Pripyat, once home to 50,000 people, many of them plant workers.

Craig Mazin, creator of the Chernobyl miniseries, visited the site before writing the show. He told an HBO podcast, “I’m not a religious man, but that’s as religious as I’ll ever feel.” —M.J.

Associated Press/Photo by Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal (file) Associated Press/Photo by Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal (file) James Holzhauer in Las Vegas

Out, but not down

James Holzhauer, the gambler who reinvented gameplay on Jeopardy! this spring, finally fell in an episode that aired Monday after a 32-game winning streak. He did not break former contestant Ken Jennings’ 74-win record, set in 2004, but he can boast of earning the 16 highest one-day scores in the show’s history. His total winnings topped $2.4 million.

The streak made Holzhauer a household name and sent ratings soaring at a time Jeopardy! needed a boost following host Alex Trebek’s announcement that he had cancer.

Holzhauer lost to Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher, who was as willing as he was to make a high-stakes bet in the game’s final round. She risked $20,201 on the final clue, which both Holzhauer and she answered correctly. The clue was: “The line ‘a great reckoning in a little room’ in As You Like It is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death.” The answer: “Who is Christopher Marlowe?” Holzhauer high-fived Boettcher after she won and called her “a terrific opponent playing flawlessly.” —L.L.

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Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. Follow her on Twitter @mbjackson77.

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Leif Le Mahieu

Leif Le Mahieu is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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  • Nanamiro
    Posted: Fri, 06/07/2019 06:33 pm

    In reference to Grooming Children: All I can say is, "Love Is Love!" 

  • RC
    Posted: Mon, 06/10/2019 03:20 pm

    Hitler and his Nazis loved killing Jews, so love is love, so that O.K. according to you?

  •  John Cogan's picture
    John Cogan
    Posted: Fri, 06/07/2019 11:12 pm

    The line between age-gap romance and pedophilia is a fuzzy one at best. It will not be until it's too late that we will realize it has been crossed.

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 11:18 am

    All due respect, John, but I don't understand how the line between age-gap romance and pedophilia is fuzzy.  Pedophilia is not technically a legal term (it refers to the sexual obesession with children and is often considered a mental illness), but MOLESTATION and SEXUAL ABUSE are crimes which are clearly defined in the legal system.  A "romance," by definition is a love affair; so, if a pedophile keeps his or her feelings to himself or herself and does not act on them, it's not a romance. If he or she acts on them, it's molestation. 

    THIS is why I feel such despair right now.  Even though society has become more and more accepting of things that used to be considered taboo, so far it has been willing to protect children.  It's one thing to allow consenting adults to do things that may be harmful for them, but it's quite another thing if society won't protect children from adults.


  • Narissara
    Posted: Mon, 06/10/2019 07:12 pm

    notsilent, I agree.  If society won’t protect children, then children have to somehow protect themselves.  And they can’t.  That’s why parents have historically had the right and the responsibility to look out for them.  But normalizing pedophilia would change all that.  And then the burden of proving whether a relationship between a child and an adult was consensual or came about through coercion and manipulation would fall on the child.  If they’ve been groomed, how are they supposed to be able to distinguish the difference?!  And who’s going to have more power and credibility — not to mention money for attorney fees — to influence the court in their favor?  

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 12:09 am

    When I read the article about age gap romances, I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart. Although abusers may try to pass off "grooming" as love (heck, they deliberately try to make it seem like love so that the victim remains ensnared!), it brings lasting harm.  It doesn't just hurt young children, either. I know of one high school kid who was seduced by his teacher, and it casued so much pain he attempted suicide.

    Incidentally, it is classic for an abuser to blame the victim-i.e, "I didn't know that Beth was getting these thoughts and that she wanted me to be her happy man forever sort of thing."  Even if she WAS the first to develop those thoughts, he was the ADULT!  

    There have been people trying to say that pedophilia didn't cause harm since at least the 1990's, but I know a lot of people who experienced it and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM felt some level of trauma. There's a reason why molestation is a crime in the US. I am going to have to pray really hard for God to show me how to react in a way that pleases him because right now I mostly feel despair.  

  • VISTA48
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 12:14 pm

    Part of the problem with the LGBTQ agenda is how they push - quite effectively - the narrative that sex and love are the same thing. They are not. The fact that there is such a thing as rape proves that. From another angle, wouldn't it also mean that we would want to have sex with everyone we love? No, sex was ordained by God to be between a man and a woman within the bonds of marriage, with the added blessing of fruitful multiplication. Anything else is a perversion, and the second that the definition of marriage was altered, the door was open for every other perversion. This will be near impossible to reverse, just as satan would have it.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sat, 06/08/2019 07:36 pm

    "From another angle, wouldn't it also mean that we would want to have sex with everyone we love?"

    This story and your argument conjurs up thoughts of Sodom and Gommorah and the fall of Rome.  When is "love" actually just lust?  More and more we see people fall in lust (not "fall in love") with each other.  We are seeing more and more the actions and fruits of life in the flesh.

  • VolunteerBB
    Posted: Sun, 06/09/2019 02:07 am

    The NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) is alive and well.

  • Ann Marshall
    Posted: Sun, 06/09/2019 04:33 pm

    The relationship Beth Telford had with her father: what was it like? Her having an interest in a 44 year old man suggests her father wasn't all he ought to have been to his daughter. Teenagers need to *have* a relationship with their parents; adults need to be *in* relationships with other adults. 

  • gndgirl
    Posted: Wed, 06/12/2019 04:24 pm

    Your artical states that pedophile perpretraters are increasingly embraced as part of the LGBTQ movement. Could you provide documentation for that statement? I think it's important to document statements like that.  Thanks!

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Wed, 06/12/2019 06:46 pm

    Two examples follow the statement in the article.