BY S.M.A., AKA KarateG,
Recently, I read an article noting that Roy Moore met his wife in a Bible study class. However, after reading a couple of additional pieces with references to Moore’s own book, they mentioned that he originally likely saw his wife Kayla dancing at a recital several years before, when she was fifteen or sixteen years old. “I knew Kayla was going to be a special person in my life,” Moore recalls, in regards to the then teenager who later became his wife. Strange, I thought, most thirty-something men don’t think about teenage girls in this way, but with many accusations of Moore’s affinity for teenage girls and alleged sexual harassments, one can’t help but wonder if this was typical of his thinking. Most men at that age wouldn’t be caught dead carousing shopping malls for dates with teenage girls, or at least would be deeply ashamed of their proclivities. However, inside of some fundamentalist, religious communities, a grain of this idea supporting grown men dating underage girls is often idealized and not as far-fetched as many of us would like to believe.
Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson had once recommended, “You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16.” Apparently, Phil advocates that child-brides are preferable to their grown-up, adult counterparts. By, 20, he notes young women are less suitable. And, in fact, he married his a sixteen-years-old wife when he was twenty-year-old. Their age difference is not exactly scandalous, but my thought is why not wait until a child becomes an adult for marriage? Children are, after all, not like adults, as most developmental psychologists will assert.
People like Christian homeschooling leader Jonathan Lindvall actually romanticize stories about child brides marrying much older men, as was the tale told of Matthew Chapman and Maranatha Owen. Matthew told Maranatha’s father that he was interested in her when she was still a thirteen-year-old child and he was already a man of twenty-six. By fifteen, her father allowed the twenty-seven year-old man to marry his daughter, and several years later, Matthew argued that some girls are ready to marry this young, stating, “I have also seen that, oftentimes, a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.” In other words, he condones adult males marrying underage minor girls, and perhaps even encourages it. The girls who become child brides are not asked to marry, but are instead ‘given’ from their fathers to their husband, an exchange in which she may or may not have consented to and is likely too young to make a mature decision about anyway. For me, practices like this reduce a girl, dangerously, to a piece of property transferred from one owner to another.
Some in the Christian fundamentalist movement idealizes Matthew and Maranatha. In fact, their sixteen-year-old daughter Lauren has recently married a twenty-six year old man, following the family tradition of child brides. Matthew contends that home-schooled girls, like the Duggars on television, mature faster and are ready to be wed, sometimes before they reach legal age. Many fundamentalist religious movements encourage young marriage as a way to avoid sinful behavior, like engaging in sexual activities before marriage. However, it’s interesting to note that girls are often the underage partners, upwards of 90%. Their much-older male counterparts seem to generate less interest in whether they have been sexually active before marriage or not. In my view, this dichotomy of older males paired with child brides tends to benefit the male partners far more than the underage girls. Marriages for minor girls are much more likely to leave them living in poverty, suffering from depression and anxiety and abused by spouses. Also, very few attend college or develop skills that will afford them to be self-supporting or having a career, something that might come in handy if a spouse is derelict or abusive. Dependency is the constant, whether under their father’s control or their husbands.
Eerily similar to the age difference between Matthew and Maranatha is that of Moore and his accusers. Perhaps in Moore’s worldview, trying to have a relationship with a teenage girl had been somehow normalized because of his cultural or religious beliefs. I just don’t know, but instead of pursuing women also in their thirties, he sought out children and tried to date them. One can picture a group of teenage girls rolling their eyes and saying something like, “Here comes that old, creepy man again” as they pop their gum and look for boys their age. To most teenage girls, not home-schooled and from a fundamentalist religious group, a thirty-something year-old man is just plain old and probably deserves pity for trying to pursue them.
Even if Moore’s religious views prompted him to attempt courting these girls, the stories about him reveal a difference compared to those of Matthew Chapman or Phil Robertson. Those men courted and married young brides. They didn’t try to take them back to their houses or dark parking lots and frighten them by groping their bodies, as one then fourteen-year-old victim alleges. One could ask, “Was Moore an awkward individual searching for a partner or was he perhaps a more predatory creature waiting to pounce on a a vulnerable girl?” Either way, there is something disturbing about a man asking a mother if she wanted him to watch her daughter while the women enters the courthouse for a custody hearing and then later secretly picking up the child in his car for a ‘date’ at his house. Leigh Corfman’s story about Moore should be disturbing to anyone, even those fundamentalists who support marrying grown men to child brides. One would hope that the people of Alabama would think hard about this election and feel free to speak to those who claim Moore was banned from a shopping mall for harassing girls or to discuss with anyone else the signs that Moore was capable of this kind of behavior. Moore claims these allegations are false, but so far, I haven’t heard of him denying that he dated teenage girls, nor has he spoken of any plans to take a polygraph to clear his name of these charges. Let’s hope that those voices of women who claim they were victimized long ago are not silenced once again by a powerful man who has not yet been held accountable for his actions.