Melanie McDonagh

The devastating price of a teenage boy’s unwanted advance

The devastating price of a teenage boy's unwanted advance
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Oh God. Is there no end to this madness?

The fate of Jamie Griffiths is now known: he’s the teenager who touched – not groped – a girl he liked on two separate occasions last November on the arm and hip. The teenager was charged with sexual assault and now he’s been found guilty at Manchester and Salford magistrates' court; he’s on the sex offenders register for the next five years, he has to pay her £250 and do 200 hours of unpaid community work. Of course, with only a few newspaper reports to go on we can't be sure we know all the facts of the case, but it seems this is now the price you pay for an unwanted advance to a member of the opposite sex.

He was, he said, a 'shy, awkward and anxious' teenager who approached the girl to make a friend 'but the words didn’t come out'. He had previously Googled, 'how to make a friend'. Now his face is all over the papers – which must do him no end of good given he’s a first year undergraduate student now. He’s probably being talked about by everyone who knows him, the latest young face of the #MeToo crusade, or rather, the latest scalp. Meanwhile, the girl he made the mistake of approaching said that she was so traumatised by the whole thing that she was quite put off her revision for exams – she was hoping to apply to Oxford – and said every time she thought about the unwanted touching (she feared he might touch her breast) she started to cry. She, of course, preserves her anonymity; her fragile mental state will be unaffected by publicity.

Anyone with teenage sons will feel a terrible chill at all this, especially those of us who have to badger them to talk to girls at all. But those of us with daughters may feel a chill too; poor girls, if boys now feel they'll be labelled a sex offender for making a clumsy pass. Look if teenage boys can’t summon the courage to even make an overture to a teenager girl, the whole human race is going to die out, or at least middle class Brits. IVF can’t do all the work. There are societies in the world where girls can be pounced on and assaulted for so much as showing their hair or wearing a skirt, and where a few prosecutions might do some good, but this case isn’t one of them.

This case and this verdict is nuts. It’s going to make contact between the sexes more fraught than it would be in the natural course of things; the only possible effect will be to make teenage boys resort to the safe space of online pornography, rather than the dangerous world of face-to-face encounters with actual girls. What hell we’re in for.

Written byMelanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is an Irish journalist working in London

Topics in this articleSociety