The Daily Mail is running yet another of its victim-blaming stories claiming that teenage girls are responsible for their sexual abuse by being “temptresses”. This article, penned by Petronella Wyatt, is basically nothing more than rape myths held together by stories of Wyatt’s own experiences of sexual violence. The fact that Wyatt doesn’t see these events as sexual violence is the problem. I read the article expecting to be angered and outraged; instead, I find myself saddened that Wyatt was raised by a father who clearly viewed her as nothing more than a playtoy and who clearly put her in vulnerable situations with powerful men.
Wyatt may have thought she was writing an expose on “predatory teenage girls” but she’s actually written a catalogue of her own sexual violence; sexual violence that she groomed for by her father.
The whole article broke my heart. What are we doing to our daughters if we are raising them to believe this normal?
The full Daily Mail article is reproduced below:
As the sun beat down on the Mediterranean villa, I found myself dazzled not by the brightness of the day but by the fame of the elderly man sitting beside me.
The legendary actor Laurence Olivier was an acquaintance of my father’s, who had rented a holiday house not far from where Olivier was staying.
My father and I had been invited to lunch that day. The others had gone swimming, leaving Olivier and I alone. He asked me how old I was, and I told him I was 15.
‘ “San Quentin quail” as they used to say in Hollywood,’ he replied.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, puzzled, blissfully ignorant of his reference to the notorious jail.
‘Forbidden fruit, my dear. What a pity. You have such a lovely little figure.’
It is true that I was very curvaceous, and often passed for 18.
Olivier was undaunted. ‘Come and sit on my lap,’ he instructed. Awestruck, it did not occur to me not to comply.
Once I was perched on his lap, Olivier planted a wet kiss on my lips. It was not a pleasant experience, since his breath smelt like a starving coyote’s. He complimented me on my breasts, touching one of them with his hand. Then he sighed and released me, thanking me for being ‘kind to an old man’.
No doubt many people will be offended by this, arguing that as Olivier had suborned me, he might have suborned others. They will assume I was traumatised, my innocence lost. How full of righteous vengeance must my father — the politician and journalist Woodrow Wyatt — have felt, his precious child having been violated.In fact, I had never felt more flattered in my life and, on the journey home, I burst out gleefully: ‘He groped me! Laurence Olivier groped me!’
Did my father choke on my words and threaten vengeance? No, he laughed.
‘The old devil! Did he do anything else?’
When I said Olivier had also kissed me, my father asked: ‘Did you enjoy it?’ Many will argue that my father should have been thrown into jail with Olivier. But when I was growing up, so many of my father’s friends made passes at me that if I had sued each one, I would still be in court to this day.
As well as Olivier, there was broadcaster Robin Day, the actor Albert Finney and Lord Lambton, the notorious Conservative minister who was secretly photographed smoking cannabis in bed with two prostitutes.
There were other politicians, too, and members of the peerage, who are still alive as I write
Rightly or wrongly, I was brought up to believe that this sort of thing was simply a part of life. If a man found a young girl pretty, it was in his genes to want to make a pass at her.
Last week, Professor Linda Merrick, of the Royal Northern College of Music, said teachers were no longer willing to give pupils traditional one-to-one lessons for fear of being accused of sexual abuse. Failure to act against such men, she warned, could lead to a witch hunt.
I agree with the professor — it is time all of us grew up. What is wrong with the occasional wistful pass made by a man whose youth has faded?
The Duke of Wellington did it, as did the great Prime Ministers, Lords Melbourne and Palmerston. Lloyd George was known as ‘the old goat’.
Today, their peccadilloes would render these men ineligible for office. Furthermore, some of our greatest intellects would have been hounded and vilified.
Take the late genius Robin Day, who was one of my father’s closest friends. Sir Robin took an enthusiastic interest in the female sex — and took an interest in me from an early age after discovering I enjoyed singing his favourite songs from the Forties.
When I was 17, he invited me to dinner at an expensive restaurant. I was dressed to the nines in an outfit borrowed from my mother, who fully approved of my rendezvous with an esteemed friend of my father’s.
After we had eaten, Day invited me back to his flat to listen to some of his records. As the music played, he began to dance with me. His hand moved from my back down to my bottom. I extricated myself and sat on the sofa. Day sat down beside me.
‘Don’t you want to be held in a man’s arms?’ he asked.
He put one of his arms around me. There was something of a minor tussle, and I said I had to go home. He found me a taxi, and helped me into it.
Once again, I was not in the least distressed. In fact, I felt rather sorry for the old bird. Though Day tried unsuccessfully to seduce me again on numerous occasions, we remained friends until his death.
Then there was the film star Albert Finney. He was a keen race-goer, and at the time we met, my father was chairman of the Tote.
Finney often lunched in our private room at various race courses. I was 15, but looked older, when he turned to me over the chablis and began to pay me extravagant compliments.
‘You look like the young Liza Minnelli. She was a very sexy woman,’ he told me on one occasion, then, possibly inadvertently, placed his hand on my thigh.
‘May I take you out during your school half-term?’ he asked.
‘Yes, please,’ I gushed.
My fury knew no bounds when I told my mother about the invitation and she forbade any such meeting on the grounds that Finney had a regular girlfriend, the actress Diana Quick. Shortly after, my disappointment was assuaged by my introduction to the notorious Tony (Lord) Lambton. Lambton, who had resigned as a Tory minister after a sex scandal, spent most of the year in a magnificent villa near Sienna.
‘In the scheme of things, a grope or a fondle is hardly worthy of legal censure, yet has come to be regarded as akin to attempted murder. Sexual overtures to a young person who has not yet reached puberty are, of course, unforgivable in a civilised society. But never once was I subjected to physical force, intimidation or child abuse’
There was a smaller house on his estate that my father decided to rent, having known and liked Lambton for many years. It was summer when we drove to Lambton’s villa for lunch.
‘You are now going to meet a wicked earl,’ my father said.
He was right. Lambton, who always wore dark glasses, was one of the most famous lotharios of the last century.
By then he must have been in his late 60s, but his libido seemed not to have waned. He pronounced me ‘a great beauty, like a lily drenched with dew’.
His swimming trunks, meanwhile, were slipping off his bottom.
‘Are you a virgin?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered, disconcerted. Fortunately, this line of conversation was brought to an abrupt halt when a house guest arrived and I was able to make a quick exit.
My father was greatly amused when I described this encounter to him later, and the following day sent me down to the villa with some books he thought Lambton might like to read.
No one seemed to be about, so I wandered up to the first floor, calling his name.
‘I’m in my bedroom,’ Lord Lambton shouted back, and with that he flung open the door.
I found myself staring at his stark-naked body. It was not an edifying sight: I thrust the books at him and left.
Far from being embarrassed, however, he continued to flirt with me on subsequent occasions when we met, often attempting to make me tipsy, because, he said, I was much more pliable when I was drunk. From the age of 13, I was encouraged by my father to drink red wine and quickly became inebriated.
Equally shameless was a married member of the House of Lords who invited my parents and I to stay at his country house.
He kissed me while showing me his greenhouse one day. On another occasion, he rang my father at our London home and, after discussing the political situation, asked to speak to me.
‘It’s your admirer on the phone,’ my father said, amused. ‘I think he wants to ask you for a date.’ I asked if I should go. My admirer, though in his 50s, still had the form and face of a Greek statue, and a brain as sharp as a laser.
‘Yes,’ my father replied. ‘Why not? He’s a man of taste. It’ll be good for your ego and you might even learn something. Of course, he’ll want you to go to bed with him, but I wouldn’t go that far.’
I did learn something. I learned to accept men as they are — fallible, vain and driven by their sexual organs. My admirer, when I turned down his offer of sex, complained that he hadn’t had intercourse for three weeks and could no longer stand this privation.
Far from feeling angry, I commiserated with his forlorn admission and suggested he contact an escort agency. ‘I can’t,’ he wailed. ‘I’m a politician.’ Many people would regard these anecdotes as depressingly illustrative of inappropriate male behaviour, but I say how dull life would be without these improprieties.
In the scheme of things, a grope or a fondle is hardly worthy of legal censure, yet has come to be regarded as akin to attempted murder. Sexual overtures to a young person who has not yet reached puberty are, of course, unforgivable in a civilised society. But never once was I subjected to physical force, intimidation or child abuse.
I am not convinced that we should penalise those in a position of trust for falling from grace occasionally, nor should we forget how manipulative teenage girls can be.
Whenever our English drama teacher took the class to see a play outside school, we would fight each other to sit beside him.
One girl in particular, who already had breasts like the Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield, would rub herself up against our teacher, much to his delight.
That many teenage girls are simply not to be trusted around attractive older men is a fact that appears to be all too often ignored — but it is high time we reminded ourselves of it.
Speaking for myself, from the age of 13 I was an incorrigible flirt. I still feel guilty about my deplorable behaviour towards an elderly Italian count our family used to visit every summer.
Piqued that he was not taking sufficient notice of my presence, I was utterly determined that I would seduce him into kissing me. I was 17, and he didn’t stand a chance.
My bedroom was next to the room where he watched television after dinner. One night, I made my entrance. After half an hour I had extracted the desired kiss. To his great distress, I then dropped him.
So you cannot blame me for thinking that it is often precocious and predatory girls who should be arrested, and not the men who show an opportunistic interest in them.
After all, it was Eve who tempted Adam.