The Atlantic - August 15, 2019

"Girls. Girls. Girls***. This is the crux of it. “He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,” Wild*** said. When the Epstein story re-broke as news in early July, however—because of anindictmentbrought by the Southern District of New York, andaided greatlyby Brown’s reporting—a common error began to spread: Many media outlets referred to Epstein’s victims, both acknowledged and newly alleged, as “underage women.”The New York Timesused the term. SodidNew Yorkmagazine.Jezebelcounted90 instances of it aired on broadcast news in the days after Epstein’s arrest alone."

On Monday, the New York Times columnist James B. Stewart published a remarkable article: a summary of an interview he had conducted last August with Jeffrey Epstein. The two were ostensibly talking together about matters of business—about rumors that Epstein had been doing advisory work for the electric-car company Tesla. But Epstein, in Stewart’s telling, kept guiding the conversation toward the secret that was at that point no secret at all: the fact that Epstein was a convicted sex offender. “If he was reticent about Tesla,” Stewart wrote, “he was more at ease discussing his interest in young women”:

He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable. He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world.

It’s an argument that is reminiscent of the glib comments Epstein made following his release from a 13-month semi-incarceration, the result of a shockingly lenient plea deal struck in 2008. (“I’m not a sexual predator; I’m an ‘offender,’” Epstein told the New York Post in 2011. “It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”) The 2018 version of the argument added a new element, though: It suggested that consent laws were little more than prudishly narrow accidents of history. It insisted that Epstein himself was that most tragic, and heroic, of figures: a person born in the wrong place, at the wrong time. And it attempted, in all that, a sweeping feat of erasure: Epstein’s claim attempted to undermine the testimonies of the more than 80 women who have come forward to say that Epstein molested them when they were girls. Some of the women say they were as young as 13 when the predations began.

“He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives,” said Michelle Licata, another of Epstein’s alleged victims.

Girls. Girls. Girls. This is the crux of it. “He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,” Wild said. When the Epstein story re-broke as news in early July, however—because of an indictment brought by the Southern District of New York, and aided greatly by Brown’s reporting—a common error began to spread: Many media outlets referred to Epstein’s victims, both acknowledged and newly alleged, as “underage women.” The New York Timesused the term. So didNew York magazine. Jezebelcounted 90 instances of it aired on broadcast news in the days after Epstein’s arrest alone.

The phrase is wrong in every sense: There is no such thing as an “underage woman.” Underage women are girls. But the mistake, repeated several times since July, has been in its own way revealing. It suggests an American culture that remains reluctant to equate the interests of powerful men and the interests of vulnerable girls. And it suggests an ongoing ambivalence about what it means to be a girl in the first place. ...
Read full article at The Atlantic