The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Extreme May-December Marriage

Doug Hutchinson (51) tied the knot with Courtney Alexis Stodden (16) in Sin City

In my last post, I talked about Thandie Newton and the affair she had with a director at the age of 16.  This week, the celebrity world brings us more news about teenage girls and older men – except that this relationship involves a marriage.

Last month, actor Doug Hutchinson (who has appeared in The Green Mile and on TV shows Lost and The X-Files) married Courtney Alexis Stodden.  He is 51, while she is just 16.  In order for their marriage license to be valid, one of Courtney’s parents had to give legal permission, since she is still a minor.  In subsequent “media rounds,” Courtney’s mother has proclaimed her daughter a “good Christian girl” who remained a virgin until she was married, while her father has praised Doug as a “great Christian man.”

There is so much wrong with this story that I’m not quite sure where to begin.  How does a 16-year-old girl go about meeting and dating a man three times her age?  What kind of man in his fifties thinks it’s perfectly normal to marry a teenager?  And what kind of parents would so willingly sign off on their daughter’s marriage to a much older man?

This, I think, is the most disturbing aspect of this story.  The idea that parents would hand over their daughter in marriage echoes the practice in pre-modern cultures--such as rural areas in developing nations and Europe until the end of the Victorian era--of marrying girls off to adult men so that families would have one less mouth to feed.  Our society has now come to a point where women are offered the educational resources and support systems to provide for themselves, so the idea that a teenage girl would feel she had to depend on a much older husband is disturbing.

I just hope that Courtney can grow to become her own person within this marriage, instead of an appendage to her husband, and I hope she doesn’t feel trapped by matrimony.  I also hope that other girls can see that this relationship isn’t glamorous, but rather a sad reflection on the values of this girl’s husband and parents.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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