What does it mean to be a victim?

When a 35 year old sleeps with a 15 year old, but it is never explicitly or even implicitly suggested that he is a pedophile, is this type of sexual conduct normalized? When the individual that would typically be considered the victim has the power over their supposed abuser, are they still the victim?

I am disturbed and confused after watching Diary of a Teenage Girl, not only by the troubling relationships explored within the film, but also by my own reaction to the storyline. I want to be able to see 15 year old Minnie as a victim of sexual exploitation at the hands of a significantly older father figure because in technical terms, that’s what she is. However, I feel an immense amount of guilt when I think about the fact that Monroe may be as much of a victim as Minnie is – a victim of his own lack of accomplishments, and a victim of blackmail by a manipulative, potentially nymhomaniacal, young woman.

I am still attempting to decide whether it’s possible that the fact that Minnie “wanted it” makes their relationship somewhat excusable, but this is definitely up for debate, because I don’t think what Minnie really wanted was sex. I believe that she was riding a newfound wave of validation and recognition, and she was more attracted to that sense of appreciation than Monroe himself.

I am left wondering whether someone can be both the abuser and the victim, and whether the conventional moral norms about sex should be reassessed when the power dynamic and relationship itself cannot be shoved inside these conventional societal norms.

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