a distraction that none of us want
November 20, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe


 
this is kind of a bummer
posted by the theory of revolution at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


Terrible that this might have destroyed his career if these partners were truly of legal age. Not only would being believed to be a pedophile be bad for you but in this day and age I doubt there's much tolerance for him to be gay.

Was he outed in Being Elmo? I can't remember. Seemed more like a man-child in my recollection.
posted by Napierzaza at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

Really. I just don't know what to say about this. I really want to say "Not Kevin Clash! He's too good for this!" but I know where that kind of thinking leads. I just hope that these accusations are false...for everybody's sake.
posted by schmod at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah sadness.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2012


Yeah, bummed out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:35 PM on November 20, 2012


Was he outed in Being Elmo?

He came out after Being Elmo. To be honest I'm amazed that they allowed the film to go forward at all, assuming (as always seems to be the case in these situations) that someone somewhere at CTW knew this bomb was out there waiting to go off. I'm surprised him himself allowed the project to go forward.

Terrible that this might have destroyed his career if these partners were truly of legal age.

Putting aside the question of whether or not the legal standard is the only moral standard for predation here, the latest accuser says he was 15.
posted by gerryblog at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yes, this is awful. I was too old for Elmo, but loved Being Elmo a whole lot.
posted by gerryblog at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


believed to be a pedophile

Not that anyone is going to distinguish between a pedophile and an ephebophile. But there is a difference.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:39 PM on November 20, 2012 [36 favorites]


Crikey, this all just strikes me as largely an opportunistic dog pile, truthfully.

Blood in the water and all that.
posted by Samizdata at 4:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


One of the things I'm trying to unravel in my head about this stuff is that I accompanied more than one high school friend to meet older dudes they met on the internet when they were 14-15 (to make sure they weren't "creepy" in the parlance of us high schoolers). Those relationships were short-lived and sexual, but when I've spoken to my friends about them now, they're spoken of as consensual dating experiences. Legally, of course, this wasn't the case, and the power imbalance between a fifteen year old and a fifty-something year old is vast. But the experiences of these boys aren't unusual. Not that it excuses it. I just--I don't know. Feelings, sad complicated feelings.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [45 favorites]


Wow, this is very upsetting and troubling. Seasame Street is kind of sacred to me. I believe in general everyone involved in that show is a good person who honestly cares about children and values education. For one of them to betray that trust is beyond words for me. I... I'm not sure what else to say.
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:45 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy mackeral. I got nothin' else.
posted by jquinby at 4:47 PM on November 20, 2012


Crikey, this all just strikes me as largely an opportunistic dog pile, truthfully.

That's the vibe I'm getting, too. I hope we are correct and Kevin Clash is found innocent of these charges.

My 11-month-old LOVES Elmo and I truly enjoyed Being Elmo.

I'm not going to flip out and boycott Elmo, however. As Sesame Workshop stated: Elmo is larger than one person.

This all makes me sad.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe in general everyone involved in that show is a good person who honestly cares about children and values education. For one of them to betray that trust is beyond words for me.

I'm....not seeing that Kevin Clash's actions, ill-considered as they are, give any indication that he doesn't care about children and doesn't value education.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2012 [32 favorites]


I love and admire Kevin Clash, and this story has broken my heart. As it is I'll believe he made some bad, stupid decisions, but I won't believe he's done anything illegal or immoral until proven in a court of law.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crikey, this all just strikes me as largely an opportunistic dog pile, truthfully.

That's the vibe I'm getting, too. I hope we are correct and Kevin Clash is found innocent of these charges.


I'd like that, but that's not what my intuition tells me; it certainly doesn't seem like anyone is making a vigorous defense of Clash's innocence. I'd love to be wrong, but these stories seem to have the same basic arc from denial to acceptance, which this one is tracking.
posted by gerryblog at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


ill-considered as they are

Don't you think "ill considered" is a pretty underwhelming way to describer a possible pattern of statutory rape?
posted by Justinian at 4:54 PM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, the report from the second accuser is kind of confusing:
"[There was] groping, masturbation, and just a lot of intense kissing, touching, that kind of thing. Dry humping," he said. "But we did not have sex and it's imperative to note that. We did not have…sexual intercourse until years later when I was an adult."

Singleton added that he broke things off after two weeks.

"I just remember telling myself that he seemed to really like me and... let me spare him now because I know that I can't do this," noted the accuser. "If I had to make an educated guess and say if we had stayed together we more than likely would have had sex at that age."
He broke things off after two weeks but they had sex years later?

That being said, older men who seek out underage ones for sexytimes in internet chatrooms are gross. I can believe that Kevin Clash is both a talented performer and a statutory rapist.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:56 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


the power imbalance between a fifteen year old and a fifty-something year old is vast.

Not a substantive difference, maybe, but just for accuracy, the Second Accuser link reports that the accuser was 15 and Clash was 32 at the time.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't you think "ill considered" is a pretty underwhelming way to describer a possible pattern of statutory rape?

"Possible" being the key word there. When he is actually found guilty that "ill-considered" will become "heinous."

But that has nothing to do with my larger point, which is: we are more than our worst actions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not a substantive difference, maybe, but just for accuracy, the Second Accuser link reports that the accuser was 15 and Clash was 32 at the time.

Apparently the interactions were actually in 2003, so Clash would have been 42.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:58 PM on November 20, 2012


This whole thing is such a constellation of awfulness, and now I have to do math on top of that?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:01 PM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Joining the bummed out chorus. If it's true, it's sad. If it isn't true, it's still sad, just in a different way. Lose/lose.
posted by ambrosia at 5:01 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I can believe that Kevin Clash is both a talented performer and a statutory rapist.

He'd have a lot of company, if that's true.

The whole situation sounds sad for all concerned.
posted by Forktine at 5:02 PM on November 20, 2012


This makes me sad. What fills me with dread is remembering the part from Being Elmo when a young Clash came up from Baltimore to visit Kermit Love. If Clash did these things, I really don't want them to have been learned behavior.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:06 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


So much frustration and swirling feelings about this as I've watched it unfold over the past week or two.

I guess my first reaction is AAARGH! CAN'T YOU KEEP IT IN YOUR PANTS? I mean, okay, so you shouldn't have to keep it in your pants, but millions perhaps billions of people every day manage to find someone to have sex with, even someone quite a bit younger than them, and not run up against age of consent laws.

My second bit of outrage is that it ALWAYS seems to be men fucking teenage guys who end up losing their jobs over this kind of thing. I can't think of when I've heard of a heterosexual man losing his job because he slipped it into a 17 year old female. Is it because the women never come forward to complain? Is it because our culture still has, at its root, a serious squick about man-on-man sex? Is it because our culture has a giant attaboy laid aside for any 50 year old guy who can get a teenage woman into bed? Why does Dave Coulier not suffer serious cultural fallout for fucking Alanis Morrissette when she was 16?

Next I'm feeling sad for Clash. It has to be just miserable for him to be at the center of all this.

Also, I'm not rushing to judgement either way where the truth of this lies. There is a process which has yet to take place which will determine some form of official truth about all this, and I'm going to wait and see how it all shakes out.

It's all just sad-making.
posted by hippybear at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2012 [34 favorites]


Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants
Oh, and The Sesame Workshop's statement strongly implies that Clash's resignation wasn't entirely voluntary, which is just really icky if the accusations turn out to be false.

I've known that Clash was gay for a few years (from two separate people who work in the business). That knowledge was always attached with a memorandum of understanding that this information would never be shared with the press (and that there were people in the press who would kill the story if it got to them – outing a Sesame Street actor for no reason would violate too many journalistic ethics).

I also knew that (prior to Being Elmo) CTW really didn't want any photos to be published that showed Clash playing Elmo. I don't know if this was because they didn't want to break the illusion, or because they didn't want people to associate Elmo with a 6'4" gay black man.

In light of these accusations (and his resignation), I'm now a little curious about the rationale behind the widespread desire to suppress the details of Clash's personal life. I'd always bought the argument that CTW didn't want to break the illusion of one of its characters, and that Clash had his own reasons for not wanting to out himself. Now I wonder if CTW were just being homophobic, or if Clash was trying to hide something less innocent than the fact that he was gay.

Just..... sigh.
posted by schmod at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


While it's yet to be proven that Kevin Clash is a statutory rapist, it certainly seems that he has a predilection for very young adults. He may not have committed any crime, but his conduct seems highly unethical.

I've not seen Being Elmo. Doubt I will now.

Yeah, bummed.
posted by dumdidumdum at 5:09 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


My second bit of outrage is that it ALWAYS seems to be men fucking teenage guys who end up losing their jobs over this kind of thing.

I get your complaint, hippybear, but, to be fair, is also happens in the older woman, younger man scenario.
posted by 256 at 5:16 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really want to believe there is no fire behind this smoke, but as I can see how the winds of this thread are shifting towards some people staking their ground, I'm just going to leave this link here and encourage everyone to read it before saying something they'll regret:

The Onion - Nation's 10-Year-Old Boys: "If You See Someone Raping Us, Please Call the Police"
posted by Muddler at 5:17 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've long held the opinion that Elmo did more harm than good to Sesame Street by making the program excessively cute when just plain ol' cute was working fine (think Jar-Jar or Wicket). Yes, I know that Clash didn't invent Elmo, but there's little doubt that the guy popularized the character by cranking the Adorable knob up to somewhere around the 13 mark.

The documentary won me over on Clash the human, though, even if his characterizations never really won me over on Clash the Muppeteer, and it's a shame that this is looking like the way his career's going to grind to a halt. I can only hope that in the future he finds an outlet for his desires that doesn't involve stepping on any budding teenage sexualities.
posted by item at 5:17 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


hippybear already said everything i'm thinking, but better than i could have said it.

also - i was a queer teen in the mid-90s and i had some relations/relationships that ran afoul of age of consent laws. i generally told the truth (or the truth-ish) about my age, but i knew other people in similar circumstances who would lie ("say you're 19. when you say you're 18, they know you're actually underage and they might get freaked out!" was actual advice i received from a fellow queer teen).

i guess i'm saying it just all seems less than straight forward and leaves me feeling conflicted.
posted by nadawi at 5:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


We'd have to check, hippybear, but I suspect that we only hear about this more often because it's newsworthy.
posted by ODiV at 5:21 PM on November 20, 2012


256: I get your complaint, hippybear, but, to be fair, is also happens in the older woman, younger man scenario.

Teacher-on-student always gets the teacher fired nowadays - male teacher with female student usually gets even more of a response, and I've seen female teacher with female student show up occasionally in the news as well.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:22 PM on November 20, 2012


I dunno, people who sleep with underage girls tend to lose their jobs post haste when they work with kids. I think it's a real stretch to see a differential treatment unless you're going back decades.
posted by Justinian at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, even if Clash never slept with anyone underage - sex with teenagers after one's very early twenties is not okay. I'm a straight man in my late twenties - my friends would be absolutely disgusted if I got involved with a 19-year-old woman. There would be nothing resembling an attaboy.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 5:26 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Elmo got on my nerves, but Clash always seemed like a talented and very nice guy. And Goriddle Gorilla? Genius. I sure do hope it turns out Clash is innocent... But I suspect this will be one of those Michael Jackson deals, where none of the stories pro-or-con completely add up and there's a lot of money involved and there's some reason to question the motivations of the accusers but maybe something really did happen and even if it wasn't actually molestation it was still creepy as hell and...

Whether he broke the law or not, whether he actually did anything wrong or not, Clash is finished as a children's entertainer. This scandal will follow him to the grave. So sad.

I am not floating this as a conspiracy theory I totally believe in, it's more one of those, "Hey, this is a weird coincidence" things... But, hey, this is a weird coincidence: Mitt Romney brings up that nasty Republican LET'S GET RID OF SESAME STREET thing that nasty Republicans like to bring up. So then Big Bird is back on the front page, under headlines about how the Republicans want to take away the lovable PBS puppets we grew up with. It ends up working against the Republicans (again) and they spend weeks doing damage control (again) and huffing about how PBS is full of commies who want to corrupt our precious bodily fluids or whatever.

So then the Republicans lose an election they felt so, so entitled to win, and now they are stewing in their own hate and bitterness. And what do you know, suddenly some kind-of-shady dudes step forward, accusing a beloved Sesame Street puppeteer of horrible gay pedophile crimes. Whether the crimes are real, fabricated for blackmail's sake, or some gross combination of both, they effectively take Elmo down and cast a dark shadow over a series that the Republicans have been trying to get rid of for decades.

Like I said, I don't know if there's anything to this at all. But I do think that this news is going to bring a little joy to the hearts of some really horrible people.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


But I do think that this news is going to bring a little joy to the hearts of some really horrible people.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:28 PM on November 20 [+] [!]


Flagged as eponysterical. Too soon.
posted by gerryblog at 5:30 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've long held the opinion that Elmo did more harm than good to Sesame Street by making the program excessively cute when just plain ol' cute was working fine (think Jar-Jar or Wicket). Yes, I know that Clash didn't invent Elmo, but there's little doubt that the guy popularized the character by cranking the Adorable knob up to somewhere around the 13 mark.

I believe it was a conscious decision by the Sesame Street people to narrow the focus of the show toward younger children than it had been. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sesame_Street#1990s
posted by gjc at 5:30 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a kid growing up - I was focus of some pretty heavy duty unwanted attention by much older men. It's the kind of thing that can really fuck you up.

I hope Clash is not guilty - cause he is a monster in the worst sense if he is. I hold out hope he's found innocent.
posted by helmutdog at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Elmo suffered from overexposure and too much merchandising. I say that as someone who used to hate him and came to love him after having kids forced exposure to him. He's an amazing character, very much worthy of Sesame Street.

No matter what the truth or outcome of this is, whether Clash is guilty or not, there is nothing about this situation that isn't sad. I've had a shitter of a month, and to see this happen has just multiplied the hurt in my heart.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:33 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even if Clash is guilty of nothing more than what he admits to, it's pretty bad. He admitted to a relationship with the first accuser, but insists he was 18 at the time. That makes it technically legal, but still, it'll be creepy in the eyes of many. Furthermore, it sounds like he groomed him before he turned 18, which is bad, and the articles I've read about the accuser suggest to me that it wasn't so much a 'relationship' so much as a sugar daddy sort of thing, which I find contemptible for both sides.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm pro-Grover so anti-Elmo by definition. Elmo stole Grover's screen time.
That being said, I too loved Being Elmo. I didn't know Clash was gay until all of this. And have to say I was really surprised by how not about him being gay the reporting seemed to be.
posted by atomicstone at 5:35 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mind you, 17 is legal age in New York, though 15 is still younger than that, and is decidedly not (the Onion's) 10.
posted by Casuistry at 5:36 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Basically if the allegations are true, Kevin Clash's personal life is Woody Allen/Silvio Berlusconi gross, not Michael Jackson/Jerry Sandusky gross. Which is admittedly still pretty gross.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:38 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I preferred Grover.

I think it is absolutely possible for an adult and a teen to have a healthy and consensual sexual relationship. Not for everybody, and sure there are cases in which coercion or abuse of power and authority can make it wrong.

Please guys try to be at least somewhat open to the possibility that it is not always a terrible crime. Anyone throwing the label pedophilia at this guy really needs to get their terms straight. Being attracted to sexually mature young adults is ephebophilia. And statutory rape is very much a social and legal construct, but yeah you guys already understand that.

I look back at my first sexual experiences with my "mentor" very fondly, and I am sure there are many others that do as well. I was not in any way exploited, although technically there were crimes committed.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:38 PM on November 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


So we get one accusation, which is recanted fairly quickly, followed immediately by another accusation, which just happens to be accompanied by a $5 million civil suit? Am I the only one who is more than a bit suspicious of the plaintiff's timing here?
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:40 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can we please stop equating the names of people who were never convicted of any crime with the names of people who were?
posted by girlmightlive at 5:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


So we get one accusation, which is recanted fairly quickly, followed immediately by another accusation, which just happens to be accompanied by a $5 million civil suit? Am I the only one who is more than a bit suspicious of the plaintiff's timing here?

If Jerry Sandusky was hurting kids, someone at Penn State would have stopped him.
posted by gerryblog at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gerryblog: Too soon.

How so? Nobody died. These crimes are years old, and the accusers are now adults. The whole Romney vs. Big Bird thing was recently in the headlines, so my little conspiracy theory (which I freely admit may be complete hooey) is timely. If there is anything to it, now would be the time to find out.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2012


Oh, I just meant my own joke was "too soon." Sorry for the misfire.
posted by gerryblog at 5:44 PM on November 20, 2012


Why does Dave Coulier not suffer serious cultural fallout for fucking Alanis Morrissette when she was 16?

He says he met her at the All Star Game in Montreal which was in 1993. That would make her 18 (born in 1974) at the time they dated.
posted by Gary at 5:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meatbomb, I agree there is a different between this and Jerry Sandusky both legally and morally. But that doesn't mean it isn't wrong. Statutory rape is, as you say, a social and legal construct. But it is such a construct for a very good reason and should be enforced regardless of whether the victim considers himself or herself to be a victim.
posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's interesting to note that the new accuser says he came into contact with Clash when he was age 15 via a gay phone sex line. Meaning, this wasn't some kid who had an uncle that gave him unwanted attention. The kid didn't accidentally end up on a gay sex line. He was himself probably violating some kind of statute simply by dialing the number.
posted by hippybear at 5:47 PM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


gerryblog: "If Jerry Sandusky was hurting kids, someone at Penn State would have stopped him."

Whose victims sought justice through a criminal investigation and subsequent trial, not a $5 million lawsuit.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That seems uncomfortably close to victim blaming to me. What does it matter if he called a gay sex line?
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, a criminal investigation, trial, and a million dollar lawsuit anyway, Zira.
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2012


I should add that it does feel weird and wrong to call the accusers in a case like this shady. I'm not big on victim-blaming. But there's she was asking for it dressed like that, and then there's questioning the motives of somebody making accusations and then recanting their accusations and then re-making their accusations, quite a long time after the alleged crimes. When the accused is a celebrity. And a big pot of cash is at stake.

All that being said, the people who are saying we should let the courts decide are right. I don't know if Clash did anything wrong or not. I hope he didn't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:51 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't want to bicker, Dr. Zira. I've just been in a ton of these threads over the years and the accusers' actions always mark them as uniquely untrustworthy.

When the accused is a celebrity. And a big pot of cash is at stake.

A person's celebrity and wealth would make me less likely to report an accusation, not more. Who is the role model for the "easy payday" theory? It seems like these cases are always total shit-shows and the accuser's name is always dragged through the mud by the celebrity's lawyers and admirers.
posted by gerryblog at 5:55 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


hippybear --- Oh yes indeed there certainly are scandals where older men are having affairs with young, sometimes under-aged females: right off the bat the United Way mess featuring William Aramony comes to mind. Without looking it up, I seem to recall it began in 1986/1987 with the 70-ish Aramony and his 22-year-old girlfriend, then expanded to include Aramony's other two girlfriends (the 22-year-old's 17- and 15-year-old sisters), whom he bought a NYC apartment, jewelry, trips, etc. etc.; then it expanded again to include another girlfriend whom he bought a Florida condo and a half-million-dollar racehorse.... the final laugh was when he claimed all of his embezzelment and the underaged girlfriends were caused by (and here I quote because it's so funny it's stuck in my mind for the last twenty years) "brain shrinkage" --- apparently according to Mr. Aramony, he was not legally responsible because, being in his 70s as he was then, his brain had atrophied and shrunk. (The judge didn't buy it, by the way.)
posted by easily confused at 5:55 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


That would make her 18 (born in 1974) at the time they dated.

Well, it would make her 17, as her birthday is June 1 and hockey all-star games take place during the first couple of months of the year.

Snopes says they met in 1992, but doesn't give any sources.

Hard to know what the truth is about all that situation (if the song is even about Coulier, for starters). But my point remains -- men who have sex with younger women don't find themselves being accused in the media nearly as often as men who have sex with younger men.
posted by hippybear at 6:01 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


again - muddled, complicated. not straight forward.

as far as i know we don't have an accusation of non-consensual rape, we have accusations of statutory rape. that immediately throws out comparisons like sandusky and michael jackson. it also changes the dynamic of what would be considered victim blaming in non-consensual rape situations. this isn't a question of "asking for it" or not - the reason the gay chat line is an important detail is because you have to say you're 18 to use them. so, if the story is true, kevin clash met the second accuser in a place supposedly populated by adults. did he ever know the guy was underage? when did he know? that's pertinent to the conversation.

as a survivor of rape and an underage participant in consensual, but illegal, statutory rape, i wish they had different names from each other. i don't wholly disagree with the laws and i think it's generally good for society to draw a line between adults and minors, but it's still a different situation than non-consensual rape.
posted by nadawi at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


Maybe I am cynical, but it think men having sex with younger women happens so often the media doesn't even notice.

The issue isn't that he was simply younger, the issue isn't that he didn't want to, the issue is whether he was too young to consent.

Hey, I understand the impulse in the part of the 15 year old, I was 15. If I had a shot with a 42 year old woman I would have gone for it. Unfortunately, the law says a 15 year old can't consent. It is up to the adult in the situation to not fuck 15 year olds.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:08 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


That seems uncomfortably close to victim blaming to me. What does it matter if he called a gay sex line?

Well, you can call it victim blaming if you want. I'd say dialing a gay sex line when you're 15 is pretty much way beyond the sort of "she was asking for it, wearing that skirt" sort of rape-excusing nonsense.

It DOES mean that this wasn't the situation others have mentioned, where they are receiving unwanted attention from an older man. This guy was interested in gay sex, was actively putting himself into sexual atmospheres.

Doesn't mean older men should be having sex with 15 year olds. Doesn't mean that the older man shouldn't have hung up the phone immediately when he found out he was talking to someone underage. Doesn't mean that the older man should have never attempted to have real life contact with that kid.

Does mean, this wasn't some kind of forcey-rapey kind of situation. Age of consent laws are odd beasts, but there are plenty of teenagers of both sexes out prowling for older partners. It's up to the older person to make the clear judgement call, but doesn't mean that the younger person isn't wanting the attention.

Call that victim blaming if you want, but I think it's something that has to be acknowledged when you read details like "I met him on a gay sex line when I was 15".
posted by hippybear at 6:09 PM on November 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Unfortunately, the law says a 15 your old can't consent. It is up to the adult in the situation to not fuck 15 year olds.

Or meet them in a neighboring state.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:12 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe I am cynical, but it think men having sex with younger women happens so often the media doesn't even notice.

Jimmy Savile
posted by briank at 6:13 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


" I can't think of when I've heard of a heterosexual man losing his job because he slipped it into a 17 year old female."

This happens plenty -- I can think of two cases in my state in the past two years in schools (not mine, thank God), and I know there are more -- but it doesn't draw NEARLY the media attention of an adult female with a young male or an adult male with a young male (and, yes, media coverage of the former is usually has some "that dude scored!" overtones and of the latter has some "ewwwwwwwwwww, perversion!" overtones.)

Adults in education get fired for having sexual contact with students, full-stop. Even if those students are over the age of consent, even if they're over 18 but still students. But adult men who have sex with teenaged girls just draw far less media attention. (Actually, I bet you could pretty easily run up some stats on this with your state's sex offender registry, if you could narrow it to just teachers, and it would overwhelmingly be male teachers with female students.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2012


the law says a 15 year old can't consent

Except in much of Europe, South America, etc.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've long held the opinion that Elmo did more harm than good to Sesame Street by making the program excessively cute...

More than that I didn't like how Elmo didn't have any responsibility or anything. He was just kind of cute, clueless, useless. Big Bird was dumb, but he actually had a place to live and he was on his own in a way that was kind of scary. Grover had a shitty job waiting tables. Muppets were dealing with adult things in their imperfect way and that was sort of what Sesame Street was about. Elmo changed that. ELMO IS BAD FOR AMERICA is what I'm saying.
posted by fleacircus at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


hippybear said it better than me.

The fact that we use the same words to describe shady, icky, people failing to live up to the social contract and laws of the land, and pederasty doesn't help anything.
posted by DigDoug at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2012


Sure, Jimmy Saville. my point wasn't that men who commit statutory rape with women get a pass and everyone shrugs it off. I think they face immediate consequences losing family and friends and most likely jobs and sometimes end up in prison. I just think 99% of the time there is no reason for the media to care. jimmy Saville was incredibly high profile, and part of the media himself, that is why they cared.

We have laws because, in general, they are correct. For the handful of 15 year olds who wanted to hook up with some hot 42 year old there are hundreds of young girls that were sold into marriages or brothels. When they were passed, they were important. If we want to re-examine consent in the age of gay sex phone lines lets do that.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:24 PM on November 20, 2012


It's a sad and troubling story, and without making any assumptions about any particular facts I want to observe that underage sex laws don't kick in for partners under 18, 17, 16, or whatever because such relationships are necessarily bad, but because our historical experience informs us that young people are more vulnerable both to seduction and to the consequences of a bad relationship.

Also, an adult who is motivated to seek out sexual relationships with young people is not only seeking out relationships with an intrinsic power imbalance but, in my opinion, objectifying his amatory objects with the most superficial and temporary characteristic imaginable. Relationships like this cannot end well, and I have no sympathy for treating them as merely another form of sexual attraction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:25 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Since when did it become such a crime to have sex under age 18? People used to get married by then.
posted by Melismata at 6:28 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


seeking out relationships with an intrinsic power imbalance but, in my opinion, objectifying his amatory objects with the most superficial and temporary characteristic imaginable. Relationships like this cannot end well, and I have no sympathy for treating them as merely another form of sexual attraction.


What you describe is a wide variety of forms sexual attraction takes.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man , I never thought I would feel like some kind of asshole saying adults shouldn't have sex with 15 year olds. 15 year olds have no rights whatsoever, they are almost entirely at the mercy of adults around them. They can't move away and disappear, they can only hold the most menial of jobs.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:32 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Since when did it become such a crime to have sex under age 18? People used to get married by then.

Is this a joke? It isn't a crime to have sex under age 18. It's a crime for 40 year olds to bang 15 year olds.
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


gerryblog: "A person's celebrity and wealth would make me less likely to report an accusation, not more. Who is the role model for the "easy payday" theory? It seems like these cases are always total shit-shows and the accuser's name is always dragged through the mud by the celebrity's lawyers and admirers."

I've seen it quite often in tort claims, actually. Accuser #2 watches accuser #1 get a payday through a settlement, then decides to file suit in hopes of getting a similar settlement. Sometimes, it's less expensive to just offer a plaintiff a settlement instead of spend the money on legal fees, which could end up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time they get to trial. That's why typically, settlements should include confidentiality agreements as a condition of settlement.

In cases involving celebrities, plaintiffs know they're suing someone who's got deep pockets and reputations to protect, and stand to lose tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees if they don't settle and take the case to trial. By contrast, a plaintiff who can find a lawyer to take the case on a contingency doesn't have to pay attorney fees unless and until there's a payday.

You also have to remember than in civil cases, there's not only a much lower burden of proof for a plaintiff versus a defendant, but under our system, a plaintiff doesn't even need to make the allegations in the complaint under oath under penalty of perjury, at least in a federal suit, which is what the Gawker article states was filed. Some state rules of civil procedure do still require verification of a petition or a complaint by the plaintiff, but this suit was filed in federal court (Anyone have a link to the papers? Was SMJ based on diversity or fed question?), not state court, where the only real obstacle to filing is FRCP 11 - but that's an obligation on the attorney filing, not the plaintiff. So already, Clash has had to leave his job, and is looking at massive legal fees to defend himself against an accusation that the accuser doesn't even have to swear to under oath, and without any sort of impartial factfinding/investigation as there would be if the accusations had been investigated by law enforcement pursuant to a criminal investigation.

So am I suspicious of the accusers in this case, who went straight to a civil suit instead of taking their allegations to law enforcement? You're damned right I am, for all the reasons I explain above.

I also object to any skepticism of the accusers as "victim blaming" as that implies Clash has already been tried and convicted of accusations, when he has yet to be the target of a criminal investigation, much less charges filed. He's a defendant in a civil suit right now. That's all.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:39 PM on November 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


Man , I never thought I would feel like some kind of asshole saying adults shouldn't have sex with 15 year olds. 15 year olds have no rights whatsoever, they are almost entirely at the mercy of adults around them. They can't move away and disappear, they can only hold the most menial of jobs.

But this kind of isn't true.

It isn't a repudiation of age of consent laws to recognize that they sometimes don't quite apply cleanly to every situation. Furthermore, 15 year olds can legally assume all kinds of responsibilities, (up to and including marriage in my State, with the permission of their parents or legal guardians).
posted by 2N2222 at 6:40 PM on November 20, 2012


Starring Grover as The Monster At The End Of This Lawsuit.
posted by Aquaman at 6:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Since when did it become such a crime to have sex under age 18? People used to get married by then.

It looks like Title 18 Chapter 17 USC was largely written and passed around 1940. That seems to be the federal law which deals with sexual contact involving someone under the age of 18, largely from an interstate standpoint (transportation, etc).

In general, age of consent laws are very complicated things, taking into account age differences and even the type of communication taking place. In my state of Washington, for example, it seems to be okay to have a general sexual discussion with someone age 16, but to talk to them about having sex with them before they are 18, if you're more than 5 years older than they are, is itself illegal. That's without even actually touching or ever meeting them.

That is, unless you're married to them. Which is something else what I can't even...

I'm probably not interpreting what I'm reading correctly. It's far from straightforward to understand. But here's a federal and state-by-state wrap-up if you want to try to disentangle it all for yourself.
posted by hippybear at 6:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taking absolutely no position about whether or not it should be legal, the Google says it's currently legal for 40 year olds to bang at least some 15 year olds in Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, and Virginia.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:42 PM on November 20, 2012


or for 15 year olds to have sex with some adults? This stuff is byzantine.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:45 PM on November 20, 2012


Well, it would make her 17, as her birthday is June 1 and hockey all-star games take place during the first couple of months of the year.

Snopes says they met in 1992, but doesn't give any sources.


Well, if the events of "You Oughta Know" happened in Canada, even if she was 17, it would have been fine, legally speaking. The age of consent up here is 16 -- and back then, it was 14. (I know, right?)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've really been saddened by this. I love Sesame Street with the kind of love only someone born the same year as the show can feel, and even though I thought Elmo was latter-day and lesser, he won me over gradually, and Clash seemed like just a great guy. I also hope the accusations are empty.

However, I'm acutely aware that my favorable feelings toward Clash are actually leading me to toward what would be a double standard if I allowed myself to indulge it. I don't. I've spoken up here and elsewhere dozens of times about the important reasons for statutory rape laws. I need more than one hand to count the number of men I know who have extralegally taken advantage of the curiosity, emotional set, and availability of girls who were under the age of consent (and yes, have lost jobs, and in one case went to prison for several years). I have always condemned that, and I can't not condemn it just because the gender and sexuality arrangement here is different or because I really happen to like this guy. If there's a reason it's wrong, there's a reason it's wrong. If people well over 18 have a great psychological advantage over people under 18, it's reasonable to ask our society to observe constraints on crossing that divide - no matter who is on the other side.

I really, sincerely, hope Clash isn't guilty. We have a court of law to decide. But I also know that if he were guilty of this, he'd be far from the only otherwise kind, friendly, decent, funny, talented, respectable and nice guy who was not able to control himself when presented with an opportunity in which he had the upper hand and sat in a position of relative power and control. It isn't always someone who looks to you like your stereotyped idea of a "creep." Usually it's someone who's really appealing, or at least tries to be. The sad thing isn't that it's unusual; it's that it is all too usual for it to be exactly the person you feel you know, you love, you defend, and you wish to your heart it weren't true.
posted by Miko at 6:50 PM on November 20, 2012 [28 favorites]


So am I suspicious of the accusers in this case, who went straight to a civil suit instead of taking their allegations to law enforcement? You're damned right I am, for all the reasons I explain above.

Is there a statute of limitations issue, though? I don't know that they'd have recourse through law enforcement as an option, depending on the state.
posted by hoyland at 6:51 PM on November 20, 2012


Accuser #1, has now decided to recant his recant and is very generously offering to return his $125k settlement after Accuser #2 filed his $5 million suit.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:52 PM on November 20, 2012


I wonder how this thread would have gone if it was Rush or Bill O'Reilly that had been accused.
posted by Keith Talent at 6:59 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


> It isn't a crime to have sex under age 18.

I've been informed that, in California at least, sexual contact between two minors is legally considered to be a situation that involves two rapists and two victims. It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine how intercourse among minors is classified in their home state.
posted by Nomyte at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking about our Jimmy Savile thread, and how we were collectively surprised and frustrated by how many adults knew what Savile was doing but didn't say anything.

The contrast between that thread and this thread is saddening me.

I'm sure a lot of people who saw Savile with teenage girls convinced themselves that the girls really wanted it and it wasn't an exploitative relationship, too.
posted by Georgina at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I wonder how this thread would have gone if it was Rush or Bill O'Reilly that had been accused.

It's a fair point.

I've been in so many of these conversations here, and was just perusing the AskMe files for things like this. There are many, many. I will also never forget the Bill Zeller thread.

It matters. Kevin may be innocent, I hope so, but in our wish that he's innocent, let's not rush to decide that pursuing underage people for sex is AOK.
posted by Miko at 7:03 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder how this thread would have gone if it was Rush or Bill O'Reilly that had been accused.

Totally different, in that there would a be a puppet of demagoguery with a career-killing fetish for loofas with googely eyes.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:11 PM on November 20, 2012


savile has been accused of many not even close to consensual relationships involving the under age and adults. this is a very different situation, so the reaction is somewhat different. i don't think anyone is arguing that it's a morally neutral thing for an adult to pursue someone under 18 (or 17 or 16 or 15 or whatever your jurisdiction dictates). it's possible to think it's bad judgement, even criminal, and still not even close to sandusky, jackson, savile.

re: rush - he was caught with viagra that wasn't prescribed to him coming home from a location known for its sex trade. he seems to have weathered that storm just fine.
posted by nadawi at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


If ephebophilphobia is a word, can we make it one?

When I was 19 I thought 17yo girls were far too young for me.
Now I am old enough to be a father, I still think 17yo girls are far too young.

I can't imagine what a 30+ year old and a 15yo might even talk about, or how that might end in dry humping.

I guess that's why I've never been in a situation like this.

I'm sure a lot of people who saw Savile with teenage girls convinced themselves that the girls really wanted it and it wasn't an exploitative relationship, too.

I expect a lot of those teenage girls at some point did think they wanted it. I suspect the really, really creepy predatory behaviour came further on down the line.
posted by Mezentian at 7:18 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also object to any skepticism of the accusers as "victim blaming" as that implies Clash has already been tried and convicted of accusations

Without claiming whether or not any victim blaming has been going on, this is not what victim blaming means. There does not have to be a verdict in a criminal trial for someone to engage in what we generally refer to as "victim blaming".
posted by Justinian at 7:19 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I expect a lot of those teenage girls at some point did think they wanted it.

This is exactly why the laws exist. Self-reporting of interest on the part of someone not legally responsible for their statement of interest is inherently unreliable.
posted by Miko at 7:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


re: rush - he was caught with viagra that wasn't prescribed to him coming home from a location known for its sex trade. he seems to have weathered that storm just fine.

Well, mountains the size of him take millennia to wear down.
posted by hippybear at 7:20 PM on November 20, 2012


Here's a copy of the complaint, if anyone's interested. Singleton is relying upon 18 USC 2255 as his cause of action. Here's the relevant SOL provision of the statute:

(b) Statute of Limitations.— Any action commenced under this section shall be barred unless the complaint is filed within six years after the right of action first accrues or in the case of a person under a legal disability, not later than three years after the disability.

So Singleton had three years after he turned 18 to file the suit; news reports state that he is now 24, so if he was 15 in 2003, so that meant the SOL would have run 3 years after the he turned 18 so the SOL for the portion of the allegations which occurred while he was a minor should have run in 2009. However, the statute also provides for a way to file under an accrual theory, hence the allegation in paragraph 15 that he "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects" until 2012.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, note that by filing a civil suit under this statute, in fed court, the accuser is essentially able to levy an accusation of a federal crime without having to sign his accusation under penalty of perjury or referring his accusation to a law enforcement agency for investigation.

By contrast, if the accusers were to take their accusations to federal law enforcement officers, they'd be held accountable for the truthfulness of their statements under 18 USC 1001, which criminalizes false statements to feds.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:33 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I reserve judgment until this goes to trial. However, as someone who has worked quite a bit with teenagers, hell yes they are minors. This isn't (allegedly) a case of an 18 or 19 year old having sexual relations with his 15 year old boyfriend; it's the question whether it's appropriate for a grown-ass man or grown-ass woman to have sexual relations with a 15 year old.

It is up to the adult in the situation to not fuck 15 year olds.

Exactly. If it's that special, it can wait. If it's not that special, find someone else.
posted by smirkette at 7:37 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is an interesting, thoughtful discussion; thanks for that. Really appreciating the legal info, too, Dr. Zira.
posted by mediareport at 7:41 PM on November 20, 2012


I can't imagine what a 30+ year old and a 15yo might even talk about, or how that might end in dry humping.

I suppose the simple answer is that they talked about dry humping.
posted by davejay at 7:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


When dealing with contract law it's common to argue about the parties' respective mental states at time of signing, knowledge and expertise that they didn't have and should've, etc.

That type of argument can get a person out of having to follow all or part of a contract without ever disputing that they did in fact sign the contract.

In cases of medical malpractice for instance, you can even sue for surgery that you asked for if it wasn't done right, and you don't have to argue that you didn't understand the risk, only that the surgeon didn't do his job right.

Yet when it comes to sex, the issue always gets narrowed to whether consent occurred, rather than whether the sex was ethical and legal in any other respect.

I find this strange.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


In cases of medical malpractice for instance, you can even sue for surgery that you asked for if it wasn't done right, and you don't have to argue that you didn't understand the risk, only that the surgeon didn't do his job right.

Yet when it comes to sex


I've certainly felt like suing because it wasn't done right on more than one occasion.
posted by hippybear at 7:50 PM on November 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure I feel comfortable about having my kids watch a children's performer who has sex with adolescents.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:21 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blame the Muppeteer , not the Muppet.
posted by Mezentian at 8:26 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


item:I guess this might be a good time to mention that I used to know someone who worked sound on the Barney & Friends show back in the 90's, and the large gay black man who inhabited Barney's suit at the time was known for his excessive partying and fondness of a little rock called crack.

Barney's on crack is a much more awesome story than Elmo's got male.
posted by dr_dank at 8:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So sad. :(
posted by ericb at 8:52 PM on November 20, 2012


My 17 month old just started saying "Elmo" today. Just think, in 12 or so years he'll be ready to date middle-aged puppeteers.
posted by gentian at 9:16 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ew.
posted by mazola at 9:30 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


What does it matter if he called a gay sex line?

Before you can connect to a gay sex line, you have to agree to a statement declearing that you are 18 or over. That mean that when Clash made the first contact, it was with someone who presented himself as an adult. Singleton admits that any activity they had after that was consensual. So unless Clash took the trouble to question Singleton further about his age (and Singleton then told the truth), from Clash's point of view, he was having consensual sex with an adult.

Let's face it, nobody makes a photocopy of a hustler's ID to file against the possibility of a lawsuit 10 years in the future-- even assuming that ID is genuine...
posted by La Cieca at 9:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are we victim-blaming yet? Or is that just garden-variety slut-shaming?
posted by mediareport at 9:51 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus, this thread.
posted by downing street memo at 9:59 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dated a much-older man when I was in my teens. Same as straight-up pedophiles, ephebophiles target teenagers who are vulnerable in one way or another and thus open to their advances. Yes, I liked him, but if I'd felt that I had more prospects my own age, I doubt that I would have been so interested.

This guy, my "ex," had a crush on Clarissa from "Clarissa Explains It All," who is my age. YouTube the intro from that, which he found very exciting. (I'd link it but my mobile device is uncooperative.) Watch that and try to tell me that there's a substantive difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia.
posted by gentian at 10:07 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


downing street, what do you mean?
posted by mediareport at 10:09 PM on November 20, 2012


Gawker has pictures of the alleged victim.

I lack the ability to judge the photos in a Metafilter-approved context (so I'll leave it to others), but they're certainly selected to raise eyebrows, pageviews, questions.
posted by Mezentian at 10:18 PM on November 20, 2012


I can't imagine what a 30+ year old and a 15yo might even talk about

15 year olds aren't toddlers. It may not be particularly interesting to carry on a conversation with a teenager, but it is certainly possible. What kind of music do you listen to, are you in school, so you live at home? Anyway, the talk was just a formality before the sex stuff, so presumably around the five-minute mark, the topic likely changed to "So, do you work out? You have a great body" and so forth. Really it's not all that much different from the small talk that precedes sex with a 25 year old or a 35 year old or whoever.

Besides -- not to be overly cynical-- but my guess is that the first conversation included the following exchange:

"So, are you really 19? You look a lot younger."
"Yeah, I get that all the time. But I'll be 20 in two months."

or how that might end in dry humping.

"Uh, I hate to rush you, but like I said, I'm meeting some friends later, so if you want to get down to business..." Crass, true, but it's pretty much guaranteed to get the dry-humping started.
posted by La Cieca at 10:23 PM on November 20, 2012


Depressing story all around. I (eagerly) lost my virginity at 15 to a much older woman (though I didn't know it at the time, she was nearly 30). At the time, I was just grateful I'd lost my virginity, because that was really all that mattered to me (I played in bands and spent most of my time hanging out with college age kids and they were always giving me a hard time about being a virgin). Years later, I started entertaining doubts about certain circumstances surrounding what had happened and began to feel--well, a little uncomfortable about the whole thing. I'm not sure what my point is here, but I guess I can see how these things are more complicated than just boiling down to questions of consent. I was so immature at 15--even though I sincerely believed I wasn't. Did that experience harm me? I honestly don't know. I got what I wanted, in a way. Does it matter I wasn't really old enough to make good choices about what I wanted? I'm only just now experienced enough that I feel like I can even come close to understanding the situation for what it actually was. I later learned that what I had thought was a spontaneous encounter had been preceded by conversations I wasn't privy to between the older woman and some of my other, older friends, which gave the whole thing a creepy aspect. But then I've sort of been on the other side of this, too, as I was once threatened with a statutory rape charge when my girlfriend in senior year of high school confided in her none-too-understanding mom that she had lost her virginity to me (she was a 15-year-old sophomore at the time and I was 18, so in my state, her mom could have pressed charges; I genuinely believed I loved this girl and was devastated when her mom forced us to cut off all contact). Sex can be so complicated. I don't see how Clash survives this, really. This thread is a downer.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:48 PM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


And I can't even begin to imagine how nightmarish and psychologically fucked-up it might be to entertain similar doubts about a consensual but immature sexual experience with an older person, seeing Elmo's image everywhere, and knowing it was with the guy pulling his strings.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:14 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


What saddens me the most is that, in my mind, he's already admitted to some things that are deeply troubling. I mean, if you're 47 and having sex with an 18-year-old, that is legal but pretty skeevy. And if you're rich as hell and co-producing one of the cornerstones of children's entertainment, that . . . doesn't make it less skeevy.

I know *ahem* plenty of people who have participated in consensual and intentional relationships as teenagers with people who were much, much older, and I don't think those relationships are always wrong or harmful, but they do always involve a power imbalance. When the older partner is also the richer partner by several orders of magnitude, that makes the power imbalance that much greater. And while it seems that Clash was very ethical about meeting his partners only in places that had nothing to do with his job, the fact is that his job did bring him in touch with a lot of people who were in the same age range as his partners. I don't think his conduct should be criminalized, but yeah, it's troubling as hell.
posted by KathrynT at 11:14 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ugh. I've been creeped on by older men and I just...hate that power dynamic of "I like the young and dumb ones who don't know any better when I pull shit on them." Ditto the ah, daddy issues at times. I hate that Kevin Clash is apparently one of those dudes--there's no way in hell he's innocent now whatsoever what with all of the dudes coming out of the woodwork to say that he likes them teenaged. And yeah, other than for nookie, what on earth do they talk about or have in common?

I sort of wonder if it's a mental arrested development sort of thing--like mentally he's a kid/teenager and goes for people his own mental age. Not that that really improves the situation either.

Dammit, dude. None of us wanted to know this about you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:14 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


???

Could we not generalize all relationships where one person is considerably older than the other as sick or as involving a power imbalance fetish?

I know several married couples where one person is 15 to 20 years older than the other, and they are all perfectly happy (and have been married for years and years). I also have been in serious relationships with men 14 and 23 years older than me, and I remember both relationships as great times in my life. Both guys were pretty awesome and didn't ruin my life or fuck me up. I am now happily married to a man who's 2 years older than me, but still consider both older men as good influences I had in my youth.

So yes, relationships like this can work, an people can actually love their partners even if they weren't born in the same decade.
posted by Tarumba at 11:50 PM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


KathrynT: My issue here is that people tend always to make the same sort of assumptions about what constitutes "power" in a relationship (e.g., age, wealth), or, to put it another way, to make the tacit assumption that certain other qualities are incapable of conferring comparable power.

Beauty, I think, is a source of power, and so are the more elusive qualities called "charm" or "charisma." The phenomenon of involuntary sexual attraction (caused by imprinting) confers great power upon the object of desire. (That's a major theme of Of Human Bondage, i.e., that Mildred, who essentially has nothing going for her, can control the life of Philip Carey almost to the point of his ruin. By the definition of power you propose, she could hardly be in such a position of control, because he is older, male, more wealthy.)

So what I'm saying here is that there is power on both sides of most relationships, and that applies as well to unorthodox ones like those between a middle-aged man and a very young adult. What bothers me is the intrusion of personal distaste (using words like "skeevy" and "creeped on") into a consideration of the very important question of consent. Or, to but it bluntly, just because we don't like what a relationship looks like, that doesn't mean it's rape.
posted by La Cieca at 11:50 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder what percentage of sex acts in the world occur between people where there isn't a power imbalance? My money would be on something less than 25%.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:57 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


So yes, relationships like this can work, an people can actually love their partners even if they weren't born in the same decade

Why are people so determined to strawman this?

The issue isn't the age difference, it is the age difference with a near-child! A 50 year old with a 35 year old; not actually super creepy. A 30 year old with a 15 year old; super creepy.
posted by Justinian at 12:16 AM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


What power does a 15 year old have, aside from being desired by certain older men?

Is there anything a 15 year old can do without permission from a guardian? Can 15 year old own a home? Can a 15 year old rent an apartment? If a 15 year old were to decline medical treatment wouldn't their guardian's wishes superseded their own? 15 year olds are only allowed to make the most trivial of life choices in our society. They have no power at all.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 AM on November 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


But power is only power if you can control its effects, which isn't the case with beauty. Beauty and charm have power in the abstract, in the sense that they produce powerful reactions in other people, but the person who possesses them doesn't necessarily have power, because they can't control those reactions. (By the logic of "the object of greater desire has inherent power," people who have stalkers are in a very powerful position, because their stalker clearly cares about them so much.) You only have power if you're confident and unscrupulous enough to consciously use your attractiveness to manipulate people. Which most 15-year-olds don't, even if they think they do.

(And even if they did, imagine a 15-year-old's emerging sense of sexual confidence as against an adult's experience, money, fully developed brain, and much greater set of options in almost every area of life. I don't think the word "skeevy" is inappropriate here. Even if, in the context of their private relationship, the adult is more attracted and so more invested, their relationship takes place in a larger world that presumably colors their interactions even given that fact.)
posted by ostro at 12:25 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or, yeah, what Ad hominem said. And to add to the power relations thing: I think this bothers people partly because, Sesame Street being an educational program, his job implies a kind of responsible role. In fact, just about any contact between adults and minors carries a bit of responsibility on the part of the adult, even if the minor is 15, and it's generally taboo to mix sexual considerations into a responsible role. Even though sexual relationships with adolescents certainly don't imply any sexual attraction to the average viewer of Sesame Street, it's not great to know (if these allegations are true) that he was OK with having sexual contact with a person whom he was, as an adult with a 15-year-old, in a kind of socially defined responsible relationship with. Kind of like how a professor having a consensual relationship with one student in his class can be considered harassment of the other students in the class.
posted by ostro at 12:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


So that's why his fish was called Dorothy.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:51 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're going to talk about sex and power in this case, we should talk less about age than about money, which is where all real worldly power comes from. If you have money, you own the place and you can lock the doors and exclude certain people. If you have money, you can leave the place and go somewhere else on your own and never come back. If you have money, you don't suck any dick you don't really want to suck. We should worry more about millionaires and poor people than about middle-agers and teenagers. It isn't that Clash was 50 and they were teenagers; it's that he was a rich guy who want sex and they were poor guys who wanted cash. He could as easily (and as unfairly) have taken advantage of a 53-year-old woman. So... maybe laws concerning consent should take relative wealth into account?
posted by pracowity at 1:30 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since we've been talking about teens and sex:
When I was 16, I seduced a grown, married man of 26 who was the brother of my then boyfriend.
It was intentional on my part. I got my first real orgasm. For what it's worth, we didn't have actual PiV sex. He touched me with his hands in capable ways.
I totally was the instigator, tho.

Do I feel bad about it? Yes.
Was it a bad idea on his end. Yes.

Would I take it back? MAYBE!
It was a lesson, especially once I met his wife at a family gathering later. I'd never met her before. That's when I learned about guilt and lies and UGH! Don't do that again.

Don't think that teenagers don't have agendas or feel remorse, eventually.
I'm just happy to know that she didn't find out and they are hopefully doing ok.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, I'm embarrassed and ashamed to mention this, but thought it was appropriate to the theme here.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:49 AM on November 21, 2012


Some of you lack the sense to not confuse legal fictions with reality. Then you think you can make sensible statements about youths.

15 year olds have no power? Really? So you are dead set against trying 15 year olds as adults in criminal proceedings? You'll stake your sacred honor against that gross miscarriage of justice? Funny, where is all the rage over this abuse of kids?

Oh, that's right. It only matters when it's about sex. I see what you are doing there. The problem is that you do not.
posted by Goofyy at 1:54 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


So you are dead set against trying 15 year olds as adults in criminal proceedings?

Erm...yes? Aren't you?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:26 AM on November 21, 2012 [25 favorites]


So that's why his fish was called Dorothy.

There was this episode of Elmo's World where some other fish visit Dorothy in her tank. I think the episode ended with Elmo going "Bye Dorothy! Bye friends of Dorothy!" I thought it was sly at the time, but the events of the past few days give it a sad added context.
posted by micketymoc at 2:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Erm...yes? Aren't you?

According to at least one poll:
Fifty-five percent of Americans say juveniles convicted of violent crimes should be punished as adults, starting at an average age of 15.
Which makes Goofyy's point interesting in this case. How many of those same Americans are going to be in favor of punishing Clash for having sex with people they think are old enough to do hard time in prison?
posted by pracowity at 3:00 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


If Clash is proven 'legally' innocent, and no one else comes forward with concrete stories of abuse at the hands of Clash, I would hope that the accusers would be liable for Clash's lost income and reputation.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:08 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But power is only power if you can control its effects, which isn't the case with beauty.

In that case, explain the career of Robert Pattinson.

And do you really think you can control the effects of age or authority, reliably so? Or even of money? Don't people walk away from high-paying jobs that make them miserable? Or, rather, don't some people walk away, and others decide to stay? Don't scions of wealthy families sometimes chuck their trust funds, and don't some unhappy wives walk away from marriages with next to nothing? If the effects of money are so precisely under the control, how can that be?

Or, to take an example closer to home base, if a good-looking young man can cadge walking-around money from one sugar daddy, what's to keep him from moving along to another benefactor if he's not happy with his current situation? Or, for that matter, what's to keep him from getting out of the rentboy business altogether and getting an honest job parking cars or selling pot?

Again, I'm talking here about someone over the age of consent. But here's the thing: how come a 16-year-old is utterly incapable of informed consent, whereas a year later (or if he moves to another state), he's considered completely capable? I understand the legal basis for setting this kind of guideline, but it's nonsense psychologically or morally.
posted by La Cieca at 3:33 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


La Cieca asked: But here's the thing: how come a 16-year-old is utterly incapable of informed consent, whereas a year later (or if he moves to another state), he's considered completely capable? I understand the legal basis for setting this kind of guideline, but it's nonsense psychologically or morally.

You're absolutely right, but there are good reasons for doing it this way. The first is that clear laws are generally better than vague ones. We already have enough difficulty trying adults for rape, because we often need to prove that the (alleged) rapist "knew" or "should have known" that the victim wasn't consenting. So, in a situation where we often have nothing much to go on but the parties' own testimony, we're trying to work out the nature of someone's state of mind. You can see how this is often going to be impossible to answer. In contrast, a law which says that someone is "old enough" on a particular date is really, really easy to implement.

Secondly, these laws are often inspired by predatory behaviour. Predators are good at pushing boundaries and the limits of consent. We know that younger people are more vulnerable to this, all things being equal, so one way to defend young people is to say that even a really persuasive seducer may not have sex with anyone below a particular age.

Thirdly, children are very often subject to the authority of adults - teachers, older relatives, clergy, and so forth. This makes them especially vulnerable to those adults. Even when the seduction comes from the child - and this happens, especially with older children - we need those adults to be responsible. An official age of consent helps protect these social boundaries, even in less-formal situations.

Lastly, here's an argument that makes sense to me although I don't think people usually make it: these laws help identify predators. People are often reluctant to take action against predators, even when they can see that people are being hurt. The existence of a clear line ("He's sleeping with a minor!") allows them to substitute a sense of civic virtue for their inchoate feelings about a complex situation. Even though these laws undoubtedly put a lot of harmless relationships on hold for a year or two, I think the fact that they give a basis for reporting predators makes them very worthwhile.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


In contrast, a law which says that someone is "old enough" on a particular date is really, really easy to implement.

So how does that work when that someone lies about their age?
posted by La Cieca at 4:25 AM on November 21, 2012


People are often reluctant to take action against predators

You mean, besides the automatic assumption of guilt and subsequent lynching?
posted by La Cieca at 4:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


The stories of seduction and happy stories of good sex people don't regret aren't relevant to this accusation except as a form of victim-blaming: "I liked it, why didn't he?" Or:"They liked it then, and are lying now." Or: "He probably seduced Clash." This is what always happens when a man, especially a powful man, is accused of a sex crime. It's a bad rhetorical form and we shouldn't replicate it.

Different people are differently mature at 15, so we put the onus on the adult (here, a middled age man) to exhibit self-control. As a legal principle, it doesn't matter what the teens thought about it at the time. But even outside the law, they're saying they don't have positive memories of this, by definition, because they're suing. Let a court figure out if the accusations are true, but grant them the right at least to narrate their own experiences without the presumption of dishonesty.
posted by gerryblog at 4:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


My second bit of outrage is that it ALWAYS seems to be men fucking teenage guys who end up losing their jobs over this kind of thing. I can't think of when I've heard of a heterosexual man losing his job because he slipped it into a 17 year old female

I can think of one entertainer- James Barbour. Hard to know exactly how all that affected his employment, though; Broadway actors go through seasons of employment & unemployment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:16 AM on November 21, 2012


Is there anything a 15 year old can do without permission from a guardian?

Have a child. Have full legal and physical custody and care of that child with all the associated rights. And yet, the 15 year old parent is still in the legal custody of her/his parent.

They don't have it everywhere, but I certainly want all 15 year old girls to have full reproductive choice rights without ANY required involvement from their parents, and I think quite a few people here would agree.

I started babysitting -- caring for hours and hours for infants and small children, when I was 11. Eleven, though that first job was just a few houses down from mine. The summer before I turned 16, I was effectively a nanny for three girls who were 2, 4, and 5 -- I took care of them 8-10 hours a day while their parents were at work and MY mother, who lived several blocks away, was at work most of that time.

The issues around maturity, power, capability, etc. of post-pubescent adolescents are more fraught with difficulty than those of any other age group. Even if we just look ONLY at our own culture and ONLY in the last century, things have changed a lot. My grandmother married at about 16-17? and quickly had a couple of kids. It was absolutely routine in the early 20th century for working class and farm kids to quit school at 12 or 14 (if they went that long) to work full time. In the 60s, all of my farm cousins could drive by the time they were 13 or 14, although obviously they didn't do it in downtown Chicago -- but they certainly had the skills to do so.

When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, it was totally acceptable -- and advocated, often -- at least in the lower-middle class suburbs where I lived that if a 16 year old kid got pregnant, (s)he got married. When I was 16, there were quite a few kids at my school who were considerably more sophisticated and worldly wise, and not necessarily in a bad way, than I was.

None of that says anything about the facts of this case or whether middle-aged people ought to be having sex with much younger people. I'm 51, and I have zero interest in having sex with anyone, let alone a teen and don't find any teens attractive. Hell, watching a James Deen video the other day made me somewhat uncomfortable, and he's like 26.

But as I look at the teen boys around me, I'd have a really hard time distinguishing many 15 year olds from most 17-18 year olds physically or even mentally. At my college, I occasionally have a 15-16 year old kid in class as part of this "fast-track" program where the local high school allows gifted students to attend one college class every semester. And 9 times out of 10, I couldn't pick those kids out of the group of 18 year olds around them. If I was attracted to young folks, maybe they'd be less of an amorphous blob of callowness to me.

Do ephebophilic people typically have the sort of highly narrowed preferences of pedophiles? I mean, someone who likes 9 year olds won't pursue a 6 year old or 12 year old. But I would suspect that someone who likes adolescents might be just as turned on by a 19 year old as a 16 year old. Or maybe the partner would need to be a 19-year-old pretending to be younger. I don't know how to think about any of this shit.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:37 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm really grossed out by a lot of what's being expressed this thread. I'd be the first person to defend a rape victim, but even to me the accuser in this situation sounds opportunistic and vindictive based on what's been revealed so far. There's something missing in all of this.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The stories of seduction and happy stories of good sex people don't regret aren't relevant to this accusation except as a form of victim-blaming: "I liked it, why didn't he?"

I think it's important for us all to bear in mind that this thread includes both conversations about this specific case and broader conversations about the unbelievably complex cultural questions it summons up. I'm trying to bear in mind that the issues I'm talking about aren't necessarily the ones others are addressing.

It's like the perfect storm of hot-button crap that strikes at all our most deeply held principles, fears, biases, values, and social questions we find nearly impossible to sort out on a good day: sexuality, power, gender, orientation, race, childhood vs. adulthood, criminal justice, social justice, civic and personal responsibility, legal vs. moral vs. ethical imperatives, celebrity, Muppets, and about 50 others I'm missing.

The fact that this thread hasn't devolved into a total abbatoir pleasantly amazes me, and I can't even imagine what people are saying elsewhere.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:01 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


If Clash is proven 'legally' innocent, and no one else comes forward with concrete stories of abuse at the hands of Clash, I would hope that the accusers would be liable for Clash's lost income and reputation.

Sexual assault cases are notoriously hard to prove because there's usually not much in the way of evidence that it happened other than the word of the victim (which is almost always thrown into question from attacks on the victim's reliability and character by the defense). Many sexual assault victims already do not press charges because they do not want to go through the ordeal of a court case and know that the deck is stacked against them. You really think it would be a good idea to add even more reasons for sexual assault victims to remain silent about what happened to them?
posted by burnmp3s at 6:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, my comment about the age difference was a reply to the derail that even if this dude didn't legally rape them, there must be something sick about him because he likes younger guys.

So...it really wasn't my straw man. I agree the real subject of this thread is the possibility of statutory rape in this particular case, not the intrinsic nature of relationships with a big age difference...that was exactly my point.
posted by Tarumba at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The older I get, the more I envy the species that reproduce asexually.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:20 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You really think it would be a good idea to add even more reasons for sexual assault victims to remain silent about what happened to them?

No, of course not. But I do think fraudulent charges should be punishable as libel/defamation (at the least) to such a degree as to discourage people from seeking it as a viable avenue for personal gain. I think England has laws to this effect.

I think when there is a Sandusky-like predator (for example) and someone comes out, it brings more and then still more accusers out of the woodwork. Even if only 'two' are considered cases that can be brought to court, it is often pretty clear, inferentially, that the accused is not 'innocent'.

Now, I don't know if Clash is innocent or not or, really, the first thing about him, TBH. But if no one else comes forward, my thinking of him would change from 'Sociopathic-predator' to 'Person-who-made-a-horrible-choice' (or vice-versa). And not that the latter type should be absolved of all responsibility but I don't like to think someone who has made a mistake should then be open to all kinds of pot-shots from opportunists.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:32 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, cool, we get all the people posting angrily about how angry they are that people can't fuck 15-year-olds without worrying about silly laws and things like power and maturity. It's an outrage!

As someone whose high school career was seriously wrecked by the sexual attention of older men...let me just say boo fucking hoo to people who are so mad that an arbitrary line keeps people from fucking 15-year-olds. Because at the time I thought the attention was just grand and special. Guess what, like all 15-year-olds I was naive and in addition to that I was really, really vulnerable for other reasons. I'm pretty happy that there are laws and OMG RIDICULOUS PURITANNICAL MORES out there that at least keep some of that sexual attention at bay for some girls and boys.

I mean, can we at least agree that kids should be able to finish middle school before they have to fend off middle-aged potential sexual partners? Is that too "arbitrary"?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:05 AM on November 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


Well, cool, we get all the people posting angrily about how angry they are that people can't fuck 15-year-olds without worrying about silly laws and things like power and maturity.

That didn't happen.
posted by La Cieca at 7:19 AM on November 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


Nobody of any age should have to fend off sexual partners. That such defense is assumed as a part of the cost of adult courtship is suggestive of some more fundamental problem than age difference and its effect on consensuality.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:21 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Max Kennerly has a good write-up on the statute of limitations issues and why the sexual abuse claims are thus, apparently unusually, being filed in federal court.
posted by nobody at 7:31 AM on November 21, 2012


"Well, that didn't take long."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:32 AM on November 21, 2012


I used to love sleeping with twelve year-old boys. I gave it up right around the time I turned thirteen, and turned my attention to the delightfully worldly twenty-somethings who slouched around the neighbors in the hillbilly house where they spent their time struggling with the modifications on their monstrous American pony cars, talking about fishing, pot, and pussy in no particular order, and listening to Tull on portable 8-track players that looked like detonators.

I'd been delightfully traumatized by my sunday school teacher, who sat us down with a grave face to warn us about the terrible danger of molesters, complete with a treatise on what not to do. I listened to the whole thing, turned slowly to a bright, clammy, fully-flushed red, and thought of the way that the neighbor with the turquoise Barracuda always wore sleeveless half-shirts that revealed a hint of a beer gut marked with a trail of dark hair that connected his navel and some unknown region in his cutoff shorts and—

"Mr. Wall, do you have a question?"

I looked around, hoping I would not have to get up from my seat anytime soon.

"Uh, yeah, uh…what were the signs of a molester, again?"

I made careful mental notes, and added them to my list of his notions of things that would place you at risk. When I got home from church, I took my mom's forbidden sewing shears and the pair of cutoff shorts I got as a hand-me-down from my girl cousin and carefully tailored them to violate one of the rules on the list. They were too big for me, which is a problem with homemade hot pants, had an embroidered ladybug on the back pocket, which is another problem with homemade hot pants, and had the white cotton of the front pockets dangling out from the front, because I'd cut them too short, but nonetheless, thus armed, I returned to the site of the Barracuda.

DO NOT WEAR REVEALING CLOTHING

"Hi, Pat. Whatcha doin'?"

"Workin' on the Beast, listenin' to some Tull. Gonna be drinkin' a beer in a sec'."

"Can I watch?"

"If you want."

He was twenty or so, I was thirteen, complete with homemade hot pants with an embroidered ladybug and white cotton pockets hanging out the front. No one was around. It was just us.

NEVER BE WITH AN ADULT ON YOUR OWN UNLESS YOU KNOW THEM WELL

I knew Pat well. When I was in preschool, I'd wander into his yard and he'd take my hands and spin me around the yard. He was strong and sinewed, tanned from constant outside work, and that moment when centrifugal force would overwhelm gravity, with the white noses of my sneakers finally clearing the red clay in his grassless, junk-filled back yard, I felt something that would take a clearer form as puberty kicked in.

"I'm gonna let go!" he'd laughingly threaten. Being released in mid-spin was one of those awkward combinations of fun and danger. Sometimes, it was a delight, but others, you'd skid on your stomach across small car parts lodged in the red clay and get scuffed all to hell.

"Don't let go!"

"No, I'm gonna let go!"

"You better not let go!" On some level, I kept thinking, let go, Pat, without a clue as to what I was prefiguring. It's funny, how these things emerge before they have names and uses. I felt his hands around my wrists, as big and strong as bear claws, and pictured them loosening, then releasing, then, that brief moment of free flight—

DO NOT FLAUNT YOUR BODY OR PUT YOURSELF INTO SUGGESTIVE POSITIONS

I would offer to help in the endless process of repairs and upgrades. I always wore my homemade hot pants, and always falsified clumsiness in order to bend over and pick things up in Pat's presence. He never noticed, except to point out that I was a real klutz, the way I was always dropping everything. It made me angry, and somehow shamed. My assistant pastor had misled me as to the prevalence of this so-called epidemic of molestation, the fucker. More lies from church, alas.

Several lives down the line, I had a volunteer at the museum, where I was methodically constructing the mosaic project. We called him Little Gay Andy, because he was just eighteen, super-gay in that way that you are when you're young and freshly out and full of stupid exuberance, and his name was Andy, though that's not really his name.

"Whatcha doin', Mr. Joe?" he called up. I was on the diesel high lift, putting hundred pound masonry panels in place.

"I'm hanging panels."

"Can I help?"

"Yes, you can." I brought the lift down and picked up LGA, handing him a hardhat and strapping him into a safety harness. I moved the lift cage back up, pointed out the threaded rods where the mosaic panels fit. "When I position the panel, I need you to place these nuts here." He got one of those annoying little smirks that anticipated the expression of some awful thought.

"I'd like to place those nuts, Mr. Joe." he said, and I rolled my eyes.

"Seriously, kid? Have we not had this conversation enough for you?"

"I just like bears, Mr. Joe!"

"Stop saying 'Mr. Joe,'" I snapped. "You're giving me the fucking willies. I'm old enough to be your dad, you're a kid in high school, and I'm already dating someone who's old enough to be your grandfather. Nothing is ever going to happen."

I never had such a conversation with the various targets of my post-pubescent Lolitoism, but it was a different era. Kids these days are sophisticated in ways we never were.

"You're older than my dad, actually."

Here's that mid-life crisis I was expecting.

Oddly, though, despite LGA's deranged persistence, I never felt a twinge. If you believe the literature, being sexually precocious in your youth is supposed to be a predictor for later-in-life inappropriate interests, but I am still chasing what I was at thirteen—better stories, better wisdom, and the accumulated experience of being fully human. Youth is just awkward and shiny and empty, despite all the marketing attempts to make us shamed for aging and desirous of what was supposedly so great about our youth.

The chase went on for about a year before LGA got bored and lost interest.

"Oh, for chrissakes," I mumbled, from the bitch seat on Old Bean's R100.

"What?" he hollered back.

"My fucking phone keeps buzzing. I bet LGA is sexting me again."

"The kid's stuck on you," he laughed, and we rounded the bend at Pratt Street.

"Lucky me!"

We pulled in, removed helmets, and headed for a quick meal.

"Look." I held up my phone. A pink asshole stared out. "I mean—it's not like he's a kid, like I'm going to go to jail, but jeez, the guy's got the maturity level of an eleven year-old."

I replied to the pink asshole, clumsily tapping out a response.

"indeed. could you please keep your butthole off my phone for the foreseeable future?"

"k," came the one letter response, followed by "you aint gotsta date me lets just f around"

"no. you need to let go right now, kiddo. nothing now, tomorrow, or ever."

Christ, texting is a fucking misery when you've got big thumbs and flip phone.

"aw your mean mr joe"

DO NOT MAINTAIN CONTACT AFTER AN INAPPROPRIATE CONVERSATION

When that contract was winding down, before I was recruited to run the museum's physical plant, I was once again contemplating signing up for Teach For America as a new career direction, but I had to wonder. What happens if LGA throws a fit ten years from now? I never knew him as a minor, but there's an email trail filled with assholes and other inappropriate images and my irritated responses, which I always write out in a sort of elevated, patrician tone while imagining Julie Child reading them aloud.

If I responded to a vivid picture with a withering sarcastic email meant to convey educated distaste, how would it appear on TMZ?

"Yes, Andrew, that's a perfectly reasonable penis, but I'm afraid it's just not going to anything but a bone of contention. How are your classes going at the community college?" [Again, imagine Julie Child reading these lines.]

LGA lost interest, except for the occasional email or text along the way until I changed cell phones, and I'm told he and his daddy bear have moved away from Baltimore to settle elsewhere.

Life went on, I dove into work at the museum. Old Bean and I determined we were better off as riding buddies, and are still good friends at that level of separation. At the museum, I worked around the place—fixing, upgrading, and otherwise taking pride in the results of my experience and attention. The meditation garden, in particular, was a point of pride. I'd undone a decade of damage by wedding photographers and made something lovely there, and I watched over it like a proud parent.

"Joe," called one of my security guards, "There are kids in the garden and I can't get them out."

I stomped over from the main building and found our most hapless guard surrounded by a snickering cloud of kids on BMX bikes, who'd already criss-crossed through my lobelia erinus and were settling into the tufts of ornamental grasses that I'd carefully reshaped.

"Get the hell out of there, you little twits!" I hollered, and all but one fled to the periphery. "Jesus Christ, you've trampled my lobelia erinus!"

The single hold-out sneered, and he had that natural face for a little puffed-up bully, with a sharp, hatchet face, freckles, and a curled lip that made you want to shove him down a garbage disposal in pieces.

"It ain't nothin', fag," he snarled. "Y'all can just buy new ones. We can be here if we want."

Fag? You little fuck. Plus, you don't know the state of my gardening budget.

"Incorrect. You can't be here if you want, as this is private property."

"It ain't private, it's a muzam."

"501C3, kid. Time to go."

He dodged me, heading into my little bed of fresh-faced primroses, and cut a swath straight through.

"Help! This fag is trying to touch me!"

Are you fucking kidding me?

I yanked the bike out from under him and took it to the clearest viewpoint of the security cameras. He chased after, cursing and kicking at me. For a moment, I felt the flush of those feelings I had for all the years I was a bullied child and savored the thought that I could drop him with a single punch. You're not supposed to think such things, but it's the doing, not the thought, no matter what the bi-partisan nanny state says.

I am a grown man, and I have discipline, experience, and wisdom.

"Kid, you're on every camera. We're going to track your parents down and charge them for the damage to our garden." It was an empty threat, but one that had a bit of weight, I hoped. In my childhood, that would have filled me with dread. These days, kids are empowered, little ambulance chasers with threats at the ready, but there's still a bit of residual respect for the potential of punishment.

"Fuck you, fag!" the kid said, and zipped off, turning back for a counter threat. "I'm gonna tell the police you touched me!"

BE SURE TO LET AN ADULT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED

I stood there, still shaking from anger, and pondered the potential of that kind of threat. It's an allegation that's easy to make, impossible to ever fully refute, and a one-sided tool of force and power increasingly in the hands of increasingly sophisticated monster children.

Well, fuck.

I stalked into the security office, wrote up a five page incident report with a separate report from the security guard who also witnessed the events, and spent a couple hours at the camera DVR system, clipping video and saving it to disk, then making a safety copy on DVD, just in case.

What a world we've made.

As a kid, I was frustrated that I could not seem to goad a heterosexual man seven years older than me, nor any of his friends, into a little dalliance, and that's because we really aren't swimming in molesters, ephebophiles, and dirty daddies in anything like the quantities that the moral panic crowd would have you believe. As an grown man, I can see the cultural psychic trauma that thirty years of that drum beat has wrought. It's hard to have any kind of conversation without the trigger-warning crowd and the absolutists and the anything-goes cotillion all jumping into the dogpile while the actual substance gets buried under the details and tangents.

"Hold Uncle Joe's hand while you cross the street," my brother instructs my nephew as we step into a crosswalk. A little hand comes up and I shy away, partly because little kid hands are sticky and give you the flu and partly because...well, I look around, worry that I've just looked furtive in public, and take his hand.

With my nieces, I hesitated only for the former reason, because as a grown gay man, I would hope that people would understand that they could not possibly be safer than they were in my company. With a nephew—well, fuck. We're still fending this shit off thirty years later than we should have to. No wonder we're so beset with neurotic tics and defensive postures.

ANYONE COULD BE A DANGER

And that's not true, and the paranoia damages us as a people, but we just can't let go.
posted by sonascope at 7:35 AM on November 21, 2012 [47 favorites]


No, of course not. But I do think fraudulent charges should be punishable as libel/defamation (at the least) to such a degree as to discourage people from seeking it as a viable avenue for personal gain.

You said "If Clash is proven 'legally' innocent, and no one else comes forward with concrete stories of abuse at the hands of Clash, I would hope that the accusers would be liable for Clash's lost income and reputation." Fraudulent charges would be if the accuser was maliciously lying, which is completely different than the defendant winning the court case. Clash has already admitted to having a sexual relationship with one of the accusers so even though all of the facts aren't out yet (and probably never will be), it seems unlikely that this is all a big scam for money. Also, is there really such a huge problem with young people making up sexual assault stories for personal gain that it requires a big penalty to scare them away from doing it? Is there any reason to suspect that the vast majority of these sorts of accusations are from people who weren't really abused by adults when they were minors?

But if no one else comes forward, my thinking of him would change from 'Sociopathic-predator' to 'Person-who-made-a-horrible-choice' (or vice-versa). And not that the latter type should be absolved of all responsibility but I don't like to think someone who has made a mistake should then be open to all kinds of pot-shots from opportunists.

That seems like pretty bizarre logic to me. The difference between "sociopathic-predator" and "person-who-made-a-horrible-choice" is how many people come forward to accuse you of abuse, even though in your opinion a significant number of those accusations are probably false? Does that mean Roman Polanski was just a guy who made a bad choice because only one 13-year-old girl who he admitted having sex with claimed that he drugged and raped her?
posted by burnmp3s at 7:47 AM on November 21, 2012


it seems unlikely that this is all a big scam for money

Why does it seem so unlikely? I speak specifically of the legal action taken by Singleton. I know you may not want to believe that such a thing would happen, but that's not the same thing as unlikelihood.
posted by La Cieca at 7:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This guy, my "ex," had a crush on Clarissa from "Clarissa Explains It All," who is my age. YouTube the intro from that, which he found very exciting. ... Watch that and try to tell me that there's a substantive difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia.

I watched it. In the interest of sparing others, here is a picture of the 15-year old Melissa Joan Hart as the titular heroine.

By contrast, here is the 7-year old Dakota Fanning at the I Am Sam premiere.

Now you tell me that there isn't a substantive difference.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:57 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Complex and subtle stuff. Nobody wants to get tainted, so the grey tones are set aside, all or nothing, wait and see if the law finds him guilty, then we'll hang him by his nasty bits.

Equating statuatory rape with forcible sex is a mistake. Everything has a context. So, for context, I sit in the gallery whose members believe that you are supposed to love your children, not fuck them.

We all need rules of thumb, if only to help us keep our paragraphs short. Still, think about your stereotypes. For only one example: does anyone remember Jerry Lee Lewis? The Age Of Consent is a legal fiction we use to simplify that which can't be made simple. For perspective, consider that the version which decides who goes to jail resides with each state.

But you get to draw your moral line anywhere you please. Us and them, all over again.
posted by mule98J at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sonascope's lament about "what a world we've made" reminded me of something.

PART I: THE THING I AM MOST GRATEFUL TO MY GRADE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL FOR

Mr. Haddad had a big booming voice. He was slim, silver-haired, and commanded ABSOLUTE authority. Whenever he came into a room, every single kid quieted down, either right away or as soon as he spoke (and you heard him speak). He was always a little intimidating, even after a couple times when you heard him make jokes or saw him do something nice.

In fifth grade, I was in the spelling bee - and I was acing the thing. Except I had a brain-fart on the word "checkers", and somehow slipped up and threw an extra "r" after the "e". I didn't even know I'd done it and was shocked when I was dinged out. The bee wrapped up soon after, and my teacher was shepherding us all back to the classroom so she could get us ready for recess.

And I was sobbing the whole way. Even when she tried to cheer me up by getting me to laugh at the word I'd actually spelled "'Cherckers'! Isn't that a silly word?" But I was frustrated and angry and inconsolable, and in a total meltdown over it.

I don't really clearly remember the walk back to our classroom. I do know that our walk would have taken us past Mr. Haddad's office, but I don't remember him seeing us, seeing me. I don't remember what the rest of the kids thought of my tantrum, or exactly when Mr. Haddad came into the room; I don't remember exactly what he said to my teacher to get her to let me stay in the classroom with him.

What I do remember, though - and always will -- is being alone in the classroom with Mr. Haddad consoling me by saying exactly the perfect right things. That big, booming, articulate precise voice was a lot quieter as he was telling me a story about his daughter in college, and how she had just had a major test but she got nervous and made mistakes. "She knew every single question on that test," he said, distinctly. "She wasn't dumb. She was smart. She knew the answers." He didn't tell me to cheer up, he didn't tell me I was dumb, he was telling me that sometimes people just get nervous or they space out sometimes and that is okay, that it is frustrating but it is okay, and there is nothing wrong with you when that happens, and there is also nothing wrong with being frustrated about it. I remember clearly him telling me those things, and I also remember him still patiently letting me sob away while he talked to me, letting me pull myself together at my own pace.

It was a kindness that still has the power to choke me up with the depth of his compassion, nearly 30 years later.

PART II: THE DETAIL ABOUT THIS STORY THAT MADE ME STOP TELLING IT AS MUCH A FEW YEARS AGO

Mr. Haddad wasn't just talking to me. He was hugging me. He let me sit on his lap, like the little girl in need of a hug that I was.

And that was it.

In recent years I've told the story and just blithely mentioned how he had me on his lap and was consoling me, but I've noticed a shadow pass over people's faces when I mention that. And I realized - they all were suddenly suspicious Mr. Haddad had done something to me while I was sitting on his lap. They cover for it, sometimes, by confessing that they were initially suspicious but relieved, and remarking on what a crazy world we live in that they'd have to worry about that, and a couple times I've gotten angry enough to repeat that no, Mr. Haddad didn't do anything, it was like comforting his daughter when she'd gotten a skinned knee. And I needed that hug in that moment, it absolutely helped console me, just as much as his words did, because I was still just a little girl.

But it's been easier to stop telling this story so much. I can't bear having people suspicious of Mr. Haddad's kindness; it's easier to just keep that to myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on November 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


it seems unlikely that this is all a big scam for money

Why does it seem so unlikely? I speak specifically of the legal action taken by Singleton. I know you may not want to believe that such a thing would happen, but that's not the same thing as unlikelihood.


Your previous comments seem to suggest that you think it's plausible that Clash and Singleton had a sexual relationship when Singleton was 15, with Singleton posing as an adult. I also think such a scenario is plausible. Do you think it's reasonable to suspect that Clash has never had a sexual relationship with any underage kids at all, and all of this is literally people lying to try to make money? That's what I was getting at with my comment that you were quoting. There's a huge difference between Singleton only bringing valid charges against Clash because Clash has money, and Singleton bringing fraudulent charges up against Clash.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had to go compose myself after my Mr. Haddad story, to finally be able to come up with my Part III.

PART III: WHY THIS STORY MATTERS

The reason why it breaks my heart to have people suspicious of Mr. Haddad is because I remember vividly being that child, and how badly I needed that hug. And I know just how badly kids sometimes need a hug, a kind gesture, a lap to sit on when the world is too much with them, and I know what a comfort it can be.

But a handful of people also know that about kids, and use that to their own advantage to do something else to those kids. And their victims aren't the only victims - the other unseen victims are every other adult who's had to check themselves before following through on one of their human instincts to comfort a child - if I were ten today, and Mr. Haddad were consoling me today, I am absolutely sure he wouldn't have dared hug me, in case anyone got the wrong idea. And it would have disturbed him greatly to have to check himself.

And the other victims are the kids who really, really need a hug when one of life's little hurts has dinged them, and because the Mr. Haddads of the world have to watch themselves now, they don't get it.

Both of those things pale in comparison to the kids who have been abused, of course. But there are a far, far greater number of Mr. Haddads and sad little ECs who also have had things ruined for them, and because of this - to all of the adults who have indeed exploited the weakness and trust of a prepubescent child, or of any child of any age, damn you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can't imagine what a 30+ year old and a 15yo might even talk about

I am over thirty and I like teenagers. I think they're interesting and fun to talk to. I have good conversations with many of them. It's never led to any kind of sex, because I'm not actually attracted to them, but I don't see why they all are classified as dull conversationalists.

(For the record, I believe that 15 year olds should have medical privacy for most things and should not be tried as adults.)
posted by jeather at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This discussion is like roofing tar. I believe that it's plausible that 'Singelton' is just doing it for the money. He would not be breaking new ground here. Of course, it is also possible that Clash did, in fact, engage in an inappropriate and/or coersive relationship with Singelton. I don't know. But if Singelton is only bringing his action because he sees an opportunity (how to determine that? Court, I suppose) he should be punished, likewise mr. Clash. I'm not rethinking the wheel here and no doubt I've said some things poorly.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:45 AM on November 21, 2012


It's an allegation that's easy to make, impossible to ever fully refute, and a one-sided tool of force and power increasingly in the hands of increasingly sophisticated monster children.

Yeah, man, those god damned kids totally fuck everything up by being able to talk to people if they get molested. Just fucking ruinous, man.

Fucking unreal, this thread.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:49 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Re: Robert Pattinson: entertainment is a highly, highly specialized and monetized area that doesn't tell you much about the rest of the world -- you wouldn't say that the career of Usain Bolt proves that being able to run fast gives people inherent power. And actually, I think Twilight is a pretty good example of beauty not giving you power in social relationships -- think of Taylor Lautner being harassed in pretty creepy ways by older female fans. The public didn't get too upset about it because, rightly or wrongly, people tend to think that boys are less harmed by that kind of attention than girls, and because Lautner's fame and money protect him somewhat in the form of security guards and, probably, counseling from other actors about how to deal with harassment. But he still experienced it.

But here's the thing: how come a 16-year-old is utterly incapable of informed consent, whereas a year later (or if he moves to another state), he's considered completely capable? I understand the legal basis for setting this kind of guideline, but it's nonsense psychologically or morally.

Well, first, it's already a graded rather than a bright line in a lot of ways, since most states have exceptions for close-in-age relationships, etc. And second, you have to have a guideline that takes zero account of apparent "consent" on the part of a minor somewhere -- you don't want people being able to have sexual contact with, say, four-year-olds and defend themselves by saying that the four-year-old didn't try to fight them off. Maybe you think that that absolute guideline should be drawn at a younger age, with separate standards for adolescents that take at least some account of the adolescent's apparent consent. But as long as there's a consensus that sex requires consent and that children below a certain age can't consent to anything, age of consent laws (maybe not these specific ones, but in general) make plenty of moral sense.


Incidentally, it's totally possible that (a) the accuser's story is true and (b) he never would have made it public if he hadn't thought he could benefit financially. And I don't think that necessarily reflects badly on him. Bringing a case like this is always going to result in a lot of pain and smearing, so your decision might well hinge on what you potentially have to gain, as well as lose. Honestly, it would be nearly impossible to legally prove that this was an intentional false claim (it wouldn't be enough to find no concrete evidence of abuse -- you'd have to find, at least, records of conversations in which the accuser admitted he made it up) and dangling that possibility would only intimidate others into silence.
posted by ostro at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Both of those things pale in comparison to the kids who have been abused, of course. But there are a far, far greater number of Mr. Haddads and sad little ECs who also have had things ruined for them, and because of this - to all of the adults who have indeed exploited the weakness and trust of a prepubescent child, or of any child of any age, damn you.

Empress it is a beautiful story and I was so much with you up until part three. It is our fault that we have chosen to build this fear and safety based society.

When you read about the TSA and their Rapiscanners, or the illegal NSA surveillance state, do you say "damn you 9/11 hijackers for doing this"? We have built this because we let fear win.

It is the same with this super sanitized safe world we are building, for the children.

I say that a terrorist attack every once in a while is worth it to live free of a surveillance state.

And yeah, a slightly easier environment for pedophiles, and the presumption that people are good, is worth it for all those Mr. Haddads to hug kids.

Dark Side of the Moon is worth 100 dead kids. -Bill Maher, kidding on the square
posted by Meatbomb at 9:01 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I could not seem to goad a heterosexual man seven years older than me, nor any of his friends, into a little dalliance, and that's because we really aren't swimming in molesters, ephebophiles, and dirty daddies in anything like the quantities that the moral panic crowd would have you believe.

This kind of story is the equivalent of "well, my brothers and I rode around in the back of the truck without seatbelts all the time, and we were always fine." First, because one person's experience is one person's experience, and second, because there's a reason we don't hear from the people who had the other experience.
posted by ostro at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


In passing, I'm surprised to see all these references to Clash's wealth.

As the voice of a flagship character, I'm sure he is/was making his house payments. But how rich can you get in public television?
posted by Egg Shen at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2012


Yeah, man, those god damned kids totally fuck everything up by being able to talk to people if they get molested. Just fucking ruinous, man.

Fucking unreal, this thread.


Tell that to a spouse in a custody case who's been thrown into the soup by a vindictive spouse who threw out the allegation of molestation because they didn't get their way. Happened in my extended family and it's a sad, ugly situation that ruined the spouse who was zapped with the seemingly irrefutable allegation, both financially and psychologically.

There's a fine line between protecting children and creating a new Salem. The trouble with "think of the children" as a mantra is that it just advances punishment and reduces the importance of evidence. Who could argue against laws that ostensibly protect children? So the bar for proof gets lower and lower and lower.

Is that less "unreal" than a more civil society with some inherent wisdom?

More precisely, if I'd been up against charges for chasing a kid out of my garden as a part of my job, would that have made you happier? They don't need to have any evidence, since we've whipped ourselves into an absolute froth of histrionic fear of every stranger, despite the fact that crime has been dropping for decades. A kid makes an allegation, the boom comes down. Months or years later, if you manage to successfully defend yourself, you're out many thousands in legal fees, you've likely lost your job, and you're permanently tarred, even if you're exonerated.

But hey, it's okay to ruin some innocent adults if we catch a few predators along the way, right? Sort of like execution—but you know, everyone's gotta die sometime.

Why is it "unreal" to hope for some kind of middle ground that affords protection for all?

There's got to be a better way.
posted by sonascope at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think most people here agree that sexual abuse and manipulation of younger people are wrong and should not be defended. Nobody here is defending pedophile priests or attacking children/teenagers for speaking out when they are abused.

What people are talking about here is the myriad of gray areas this situation has, and how many variables can end up ruining many peoples' lives if ignored. We are also bringing up the fact that it is a horribly complicated task to prove allegations or even qualify something like this when feelings and emotions are involved.

Making this black and white doesn't help the children, either.
posted by Tarumba at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I say that a terrorist attack every once in a while is worth it to live free of a surveillance state.

And yeah, a slightly easier environment for pedophiles, and the presumption that people are good, is worth it for all those Mr. Haddads to hug kids.

The difference is that terrorist attacks really do occur every once in a while, whereas the sexual abuse of children happens all the time. (And, it seems (NYT link), may already have been reduced by the last few decades' prevention measures.) If I knew as many people who'd been injured in plane hijackings as I do people who were abused as children, I'd probably feel different about those TSA scanners.

It's true, there's a lot wrong with how we deal with these cases and there's got to be a better way, but things now are better than they were before.
posted by ostro at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tell that to a spouse in a custody case who's been thrown into the soup by a vindictive spouse who threw out the allegation of molestation because they didn't get their way. Happened in my extended family and it's a sad, ugly situation that ruined the spouse who was zapped with the seemingly irrefutable allegation, both financially and psychologically.


Yes, that is very sad. I have an anecdote where molestation was ignored by custody courts and the kid required to have unsupervised visitation with her abuser. What now?

I mean, you look at the case with the Boy Scouts of America or the Sandusky case or any number of situations where it is obvious and plain that there are numerous situations where boys were molested and no one did a damn thing about it for years and still forward this idea that kids are all making these fake accusations everywhere because it's such a powerful tool and everyone believes them...I absolutely do not agree.

Your argument, which is hard to find but seems to be a basic pendulum argument (we've gone too far and now we trust kids too much and they're "more sophisticated" so they're exploiting that trust) is one that is patently ridiculous and yes, harmful to children and teenagers.

We obviously do not deal with molestation or sexual exploitation correctly, but that's not because we take it too seriously and take the victims too seriously.

More precisely, if I'd been up against charges for chasing a kid out of my garden as a part of my job, would that have made you happier?

No, but you weren't, and putting that up as proof that false accusations run rampant and kids wield all this power and are monsters is just nonsensical.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:16 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I could not seem to goad a heterosexual man seven years older than me, nor any of his friends, into a little dalliance, and that's because we really aren't swimming in molesters, ephebophiles, and dirty daddies in anything like the quantities that the moral panic crowd would have you believe.

This kind of story is the equivalent of "well, my brothers and I rode around in the back of the truck without seatbelts all the time, and we were always fine." First, because one person's experience is one person's experience, and second, because there's a reason we don't hear from the people who had the other experience.


It's anecdotal because I'm relating an anecdote based on my assistant pastor telling us that, in all likelihood, there was a molester on my own block, and that we were going to be molested if we didn't act right. I could quote statistics, too, but I'm not writing a report on sexual abuse in our culture—I'm relating a few stories about grey areas and uncertainties that occurred to me as a result of this story.

It's true, there's a lot wrong with how we deal with these cases and there's got to be a better way, but things now are better than they were before.

I disagree. I think the paranoia and the distancing is exactly the opposite of how we should be dealing with issues like this. The suspicion and the panic-based system of response doesn't work. It did nothing with big cases like the church and the Boy Scouts, and it does nothing in the case of relationships between neighbors but drive a wedge of doubt into every contact.

It's real simple what we should do here—we should draw together, know each other, and throw out thirty years of fear politics so that we know each other, and can catch these sorts of things before they become crimes. This won't happen, because it's easier to play fear than fellow feeling, but it could, if we were finally sick and tired of being manipulated for votes and dollars.
posted by sonascope at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's "unreal" is that we have a thread in which a celebrity has suddenly taken a leave of absence, and then permanently resigned, from the position that made him world famous on the strength of two accusations of statutory rape -- a truly remarkable reversal of fortunes for a beloved figure, whose speed and severity suggests there could be at least some weight to the accusation -- and yet the prevailing wisdom in this thread has nonetheless immediately become that the accusers are almost certainly lying (either about the nature of their experiences or about their reality as such) and ruining a good man's life for financial gain.

This wisdom is backed by people's gut intuition, their own rose-colored memories of teenage sexuality, a heartwarming story of a principal's forbidden love, and anecdotes about false accusations that occurred under entirely different circumstances. Which is to say it's backed by absolutely nothing at all.
posted by gerryblog at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure, sonascope, what the connection to the culture of fear is supposed to be. Is it that people think Clash is probably "guilty" just because he was accused? I'd wager most people think he's probably "guilty" because CTW fired the performer on which their entire business was founded -- whom they'd just lionized in a hagiographic documentary a year ago -- on the strength of these accusations.

Is it that we have statutory rape laws? Those predate the culture of fear you're talking about and have an independent justification.

How does what's happening to Kevin Clash relate to your larger point about the culture of fear?
posted by gerryblog at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing I've learned from this thread is that arguing via anecdote is really tedious when the anecdotes are like 30,000 words long.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


No, but you weren't, and putting that up as proof that false accusations run rampant and kids wield all this power and are monsters is just nonsensical.

I "put that up" as nothing of the kind. I don't make any suggestion as to the statistical prevalence of false accusations, and you put those words in my mouth to bolster your own case. I put it up as an example of how an unfounded accusation could be a disaster for someone, and even if it's a small number of people who do suffer as a result, it's still wrong. Don't rewrite my language to suit your own conclusions, please, no matter how self-satisfying that may be.

If I wanted to point out that the kid was a monster, I could (and did) point out that he (a) trampled my lobelia, and (b) called me a "fag," which is supposedly a hate crime.

The fact that the system's protections could be triggered by an accusation without any evidence at all is problematic. It may be rare, but executing innocent people is rare, too. Is it okay, then, as long as there's some overall deterrent effect?
posted by sonascope at 9:28 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Put me in the shocked and disgusted camp. From excuse making to fallacious reasoning to victim blaming, we've got it all. Because we can't believe someone we like would do something wrong, whatever he did must not be wrong.

I wish that people we like were never sexually inappropriate. I really do wish you could be so certain about that in this world. If you could, there'd be a lot more people walking around unmolested.
posted by Miko at 9:35 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, sonascope, I admit that I find it impossible to tell the enormous difference between you implying that we either are creating or have created "a new Salem" and that " the bar for proof gets lower and lower and lower" and what I summarized as your point, which is that "false accusations run rampant". The Salem witch trials were characterized by false accusations, as I'm sure you knew when you wrote that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:35 AM on November 21, 2012


Gerryblog, if you think that the reason I told my story about Mr. Haddad was to accuse the claimants of making up their story, and if you are describing what he did as "Forbidden love," then you must be absolutely fucking high.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on November 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's real simple what we should do here—we should draw together, know each other, and throw out thirty years of fear politics so that we know each other, and can catch these sorts of things before they become crimes.

Catch them before they become crimes? How would that even work? You're talking about how harmful false accusations of sexual abuse are, so how would we as a tight-knit community decide who is going to abuse children and preemptively stop them from being able to do it?
posted by burnmp3s at 9:41 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was being snide. I apologize. I can tell that story meant a lot to you. But in the other universe --the one where the principal followed the current puritanical regime of not taking a young girl into a room alone and pulling her into his lap to hug her -- I bet you also got over your hurt feelings, also turned out fine, and also look upon his kindness quite fondly. I don't see the same great loss as you in a world where Mr. Haddad has to hug you in public while you're both standing up.

I'm honestly sorry I was snide though. I'm sarcastic to a fault even when I'm not totally sleep-deprived.
posted by gerryblog at 9:42 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


How does what's happening to Kevin Clash relate to your larger point about the culture of fear?

Because Kevin Clash's career is permanently over regardless of the result. Doesn't matter if he's vindicated in every court in the land, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be innocent of a crime—he's done, and the panicky ninnies at CTW did what panicky ninnies do when marketing contracts and media access are at risk, which is to can their talent ASAP.

There are shades of Paul Reubens in this, too, though he got railroaded for something not even remotely questionable, and had to go the long way around in getting a career back.

The mere fact that the majority doesn't even know the difference in magnitudes between a pedophile and an ephebophile is a problem, too, though we're big on the zero tolerance policy.

The funny thing is that I'm not in the camp that's leaning towards Clash's side because I think he's great and goshdarnit, but I just can't believe that someone I like is guilty. I find Clash annoying and that little red rag of his single-handedly destroyed Sesame Street as anything but a glitzy toy-selling franchise, but I've also watched Cecil Singleton's insane press conference and I can tell an opportunistic scam artist when I see one.

Of course, the courts will decide this case, but Clash is done regardless of outcome.

That's really the best we can do as a culture?
posted by sonascope at 9:45 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


the majority doesn't even know the difference in magnitudes between a pedophile and an ephebophile

Which is what, exactly? What's the important difference?

That's really the best we can do as a culture?

Is the alternative to privilege the then-adult's account of the nature of the sexual interaction over the then-child's?

Then yes, this is the best we can do.
posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of assumptions there, beginning with the assumption that Clash can never recover if the accusations were disproved beyond a shadow of a doubt -- you don't think CTW would have him back in a heartbeat? I do.

You also assume that the higher ups at CTW must have fired him because they're panicky ninnies and not (just for example) because Clash, or someone else who knew, conceded the accusations were true. There's a lot that could have happened and could yet still happen here. I think leaping all the way to the tragedy of the modern culture of fear is pretty premature.
posted by gerryblog at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


> the majority doesn't even know the difference in magnitudes between a pedophile and an ephebophile

Which is what, exactly? What's the important difference?


Whether or not the target of one's affection has reached puberty or not, pretty much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2012


Whether or not the target of one's affection has reached puberty or not, pretty much.

Which is important why?
posted by Miko at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2012


Yes, the age old wisdom of "if it bleeds, it breeds". Very important.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because we can't believe someone we like would do something wrong, whatever he did must not be wrong.

I don't know what the folks in this thread believe or why they believe it. The only things we know about this individual case are:

1) a man (whom I'd never heard of before yesterday who does a job I don't give one solitary shit about either way) is alleged to have had a 7-year sexual relationship with another man starting when they were, respectively, 45 and 16 years old.

2) he is alleged to have had another sexual relationship another man starting when they were, respectively, 32 and 15 years old.

3) if those facts are true, then Kevin Clash committed a bunch of illegal acts.

I can easily believe all three of those things, but believing doesn't mean jack shit. Mainly what I believe right now is that the next months/years are going to be pure-dee godawful for all three of these men and everyone they know.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2012


Miko, I only know that that is the difference in definition. I make no value judgements on either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2012


if you don't understand why it's worse to be attracted to pre-pubescent children than to be attracted to 15-19 year olds, i don't think we'll find common ground.

i don't think i'm making excuses or victim blaming to point out that the second accuser portrayed himself as 18 to begin their contact. i don't think it's weird to ask if kevin clash ever knew the real age. i don't think it's wrong to look at a 5 million dollar civil law suit and wonder if the facts are being represented correctly. i don't think it's remotely the same thing as the boy scouts or the catholic church or a creepy teacher. i don't think it's on par with savile or sandusky. i don't think any of this makes me an apologist.
posted by nadawi at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am speaking a lot more about the projections and generalizations than about the specifics of this case, and I agree with you that this is all we know about the specifics.

By rushing to say more about why actions like those alleged are or could or should be OK, people are wandering into territory I find to be quite close to justifying child/youth sexual predation..
posted by Miko at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2012


if you don't understand why it's worse to be attracted to pre-pubescent children than to be attracted to 15-19 year olds, i don't think we'll find common ground.

We're not talking about "attraction," are we? We're talking about action. As regards action, I think it's about all equally worse.

i don't think it's remotely the same thing as the boy scouts or the catholic church or a creepy teacher.

That's where I think you're really wrong. Of course it's the same thing, the only exception being that Clash might have plausible deniability about the person being over 18. However, the law is usually pretty clear that it's an adult's responsibility to ensure that they are not comitting a crime, not the minor's.

This story, really, is so common. The words themselves are creepy in that they're exactly the sort of convincing rhetoric offered by people who are trying to overcome the uncertainties of young people. Age, it's just a number.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


i think it's the problem that a lot of tense metafilter threads fall into.

some people are discussing specifics. some people are responding generally. i wish people could keep themselves from making huge sweeping statements about how either it's always ok to have sex with a 16 year old or how it is always wrong and makes you a pedo apologist if you think there is some grey area.
posted by nadawi at 10:02 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the age old wisdom of "if it bleeds, it breeds". Very important.

My impression is that "ephebophile" is something of a semi-made-up word that's used by creepsters to try and separate themselves from "genuine" pedophiles. The term came up a bunch of times during the recent uproar over creepsters on Reddit, and now it's coming up in this context as well.

It's a distinction I don't really buy. Age of consent in the US and Canada ranges from 16 to 18, as far as I understand it, and I'm pretty comfortable labeling an adult who goes after children younger than that a pedophile, full stop.
posted by Forktine at 10:04 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


a truly remarkable reversal of fortunes for a beloved figure, whose speed and severity suggests there could be at least some weight to the accusation

Or could also suggest that while there is little or no weight to the accusation, just the association of Sesame Workshop with the hot-button topic of intergenerational gay sex will be enough to scare away corporate sponsorship, and farewell to federal funding to PBS forever.

Take this scenario: Clash meets Singleton through the phone line when Singleton is 15. Clash discovers Singleton is underage and so nothing happens beyond a meetup and dinner. A couple years later, when Singleton is of legal age, their paths cross again and Clash pays Singleton for sex.

There is no weight to Singleton's accusation there, and if the lawsuit is pursued, he loses in court. But meanwhile, an employee of Sesame Workshop is testifying under oath that, yes, he did hire a 17 year old boy for sex, and, yes, Singleton wasn't the only one.

Sesame Workshop is pretty much destroyed. Maybe even Sesame Street loses its place on PBS.

This all happens on the basis of a false accusation, i.e., that there was sexual contact between Singleton and Clash while Singleton was a miinor. The rest of the stuff revealed is either not a crime or else is not prosecuted (a decade-old prostitution charge?) but the details are horribly unsavory and therefore damaging.

Again, this is only a scenario. But I think it demonstrates a plausible rationale for Clash's resignation even though the lawsuit is bogus.

Or, alternate scenario. As above, except when Clash and Singleton meet for the first time, they do the stuff Singleton says they did. However, Clash sincerely believed Singleton was 18, because that's what Singleton told him. But he has no proof, only his word.

Again, the specifics of the charge against Clash are false, but can Sesame Workshop stake their future on his word being believed?

So, to address your point again: no, I don't think the "speed and severity" can be assigned a meaning here.
posted by La Cieca at 10:05 AM on November 21, 2012


Sesame Workshop is pretty much destroyed. Maybe even Sesame Street loses its place on PBS.

Oh, heavens no. It's nowhere near that bad.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


As regards action, I think it's about all equally worse.

then we absolutely can't come to a common ground in this conversation. for me at least, being taught how to suck dick at 7 was way more damaging than seeking out older men for relationships when i was 15. i can get on board with they're both wrong and should both have legal consequences, but i can not at all agree that forcible molestation is the same as (non-informed) consensual sex.
posted by nadawi at 10:08 AM on November 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


i want to make it clear that i don't at all agree with arguments about how the victims have power or that age of consent laws should be done away with. i just also don't agree that someone who dates 15-19 year olds is the same as someone who rapes 5 year olds.
posted by nadawi at 10:10 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm really not saying it's necessarily EVER ok for underage people to have sex with adult people. I honest to god don't know, and I'm trying to work out why it's so complicated, but it's probably not the best idea to be doing that in this thread.

This whole area is filled with so many mind-blowing incongruities. In some jurisdictions, these boys could have legally married an adult on their 16th birthdays with parental consent.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:10 AM on November 21, 2012


Oh, heavens no. It's nowhere near that bad.

You do understand that those sentences were part of the "what if" scenario, i.e., what if Clash had stayed on with Sesame Workshop and then the case went to trial?
posted by La Cieca at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am over thirty and I like teenagers. I think they're interesting and fun to talk to. I have good conversations with many of them. It's never led to any kind of sex, because I'm not actually attracted to them, but I don't see why they all are classified as dull conversationalists.

Yeah, I find most teenagers of my acquaintance to be hilarious and good company. I'm sure part of that is that my sons have excellent taste in friends, but I've met plenty on my own in various corners of the internet that are great fun to talk to. Younger Monster often accuses me of stealing his bestie, because his bestie comes over to see me and yap about Game of Thrones (I gave him all the books last year) almost as often as he does to go blow shit up on the XBox with Younger Monster. The kid is a delight!

I met one of my dearest friends on USENET, when he was 14 and I was 28. We took our off-topic conversations to email and IM, so as not to invite the wrath of other posters, and thoroughly enjoyed yapping about everything and sundry. Of course, the little shit had lied to me and told me he was 16, and when he decided that yeah, we were actually getting to be real friends and not just people shooting the shit about books, music, and the decline of the American Cinema, he came clean. It was sweet and cute and a little humbling, that he valued our friendship so much. When we finally met face to face for the first time 7 years later, I teased him about it.

He's 28 now, and recently came to visit with his wife and shiny new baby daughter, and it was completely delightful. And we told his wife the story of him finally owning up to his real age, and she gawped at him and laughed and made a crack about him always having had friends way older than he.

It's for reasons like this that the Clash situation is especially infuriating to me. He could have been a great friend and mentor to those kids, and influenced them in very positive ways. Instead, it appears that he put his own desires first and completely disregarded his responsibility to be the adult and stick within appropriate boundaries. I was prepared to roll my eyes at this newest allegation, since the original accuser had recanted, but then I learned that the original accuser had been paid off to do so, and apparently under duress. I really want this to be not true, but it's not looking so good. And more's the pity, because when someone like Clash crosses the line and gets caught, it casts a pall on every adult with teenaged friends and makes us ALL seem suspect.
posted by MissySedai at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


For me at least, being taught how to suck dick at 7 was way more damaging than seeking out older men for relationships when i was 15.

I understand that's your experience. But what you may not understand is that someone who had a different history but encountered their first abusive experience at 15 might not have as sanguine a perspective on that.
posted by Miko at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


i can not at all agree that forcible molestation is the same as (non-informed) consensual sex.

But that's not the case at all, legally (and I'd hope, morally). Forcible molestation/rape can (and hopefully should) mean different charges than a statutory rape case; it certainly has in cases locally that I've followed.

I think people may be eliding a lot of the current complexity and nuance in the law in order to not get on board with the ephebophile ickiness, which tends to read more like "if there's grass on the field, you can play!" and a lot less like the nuance you describe of saying "X is bad, buy Y is worse."
posted by Forktine at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, the only reason I know the distinction between pedophilia and ephebophilia is because they made B. D. Wong talk about it in an episode of Law and Order SVU. Then Ice-T and Chris Meloni both said that they were both still messed up nevertheless.

I'm trying to be a little silly here to diffuse tension; no disrespect is intended.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's also important to note, while we're discussing puberty as it relates to consent, that age of puberty varies significantly between individuals and is not always related to mental or emotional maturity.

Right now, the age of puberty for girls in the US is really young. It's definitely not 15. The average first menstrual period is now around 12, with a significant percentage of girls having onset of puberty (which is different from first menstrual period) at around 7 or 8.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:22 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like a lot of laws, there are knock-on effects and applications that can be negative. But they exist to gain us an overall positive. Despite the existence of benign direct or seconhand anecdotals, it is trivial to show sufficient harm as the basis to enact law. We need to have the ability to prosecute this behavior.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on November 21, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: At least you're upfront about your relative unfamiliarity with the subject matter. What bothers me (in others, not in you) is this attitude of "all I need to know is that this makes me feel squicky."
posted by La Cieca at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mitt Romney brings up that nasty Republican LET'S GET RID OF SESAME STREET

I don't think there are many people who want to "get rid of" Sesame Street - there are, however, people who would rather not have it supported by tax dollars.
posted by davidmsc at 10:26 AM on November 21, 2012


Maybe you missed some comments in that awful contentious Romney thread wherein people right here on metafilter said that Sesame Street teaches our kids bad and unrealistic values, like sharing.
posted by elizardbits at 10:28 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: At least you're upfront about your relative unfamiliarity with the subject matter. What bothers me (in others, not in you) is this attitude of "all I need to know is that this makes me feel squicky."

People are actually saying that it's a distinction without a difference, and/or that it seems to be a way for people who think teenagers are DTF to class up that particular behavior a bit by disassociating it from people who rape 4-year-olds and not an actual meaningful contribution to a discussion of consent.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


i don't think it's just my experience that indicates that being forced into sexual contact under 10 years old is a different ballgame than seeking out adults for relationships when you're under some ages of consent. i still think it's illegal, but i think the magnitude of crime is different. i don't think this makes me a rape apologist.
posted by nadawi at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


while we're discussing puberty as it relates to consent

No one was doing that.
posted by La Cieca at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


the young rope-rider - maybe you can try having the actual conversation that's going on in this thread instead of bringing in conversations from elsewhere - or at least make it clear you aren't addressing this thread.
posted by nadawi at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, no one is discussing puberty as it relates to consent, but it is still super important that we distinguish between pedophilia and ephebophila because...we are pedants? That is probably true, actually.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is no functional or moral difference between "ephebophilia" and "pedophilia." There is a difference rooted in intent and psychological background, but neither of those things matter at all where the act is concerned. Murdering somebody for money isn't better or worse than murdering somebody for love; the point is that somebody's dead, and somebody killed them.
posted by koeselitz at 10:37 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


well, there is a difference between premeditated murder for money and murder in a fit of passion. just like there's a difference between rape and statutory rape. i don't really care about the differences between pedophilia and ephebophilia. for me, the difference is force (which the law seems to agree with).
posted by nadawi at 10:41 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no functional or moral difference between "ephebophilia" and "pedophilia."

Except that the one attraction can be satisfied in both a legally and morally satisfactory manner and the other cannot. That is to say, an ephebophile can have a consensual sexual relationship with a 17-year-old or a 19-year-old or even a very youthful-appearing 25-year-old. A pedophile cannot have such a consensual relationship with the object of his desire.

Note that I say "can have". I am not implying that all ephebophilic relationships are consensual, only that some can be.
posted by La Cieca at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2012


nadawi: “well, there is a difference between premeditated murder for money and murder in a fit of passion. just like there's a difference between rape and statutory rape. i don't really care about the differences between pedophilia and ephebophilia. for me, the difference is force (which the law seems to agree with).”

The difference between rape and statutory rape is difficult to parse, though. I'm not denying that a difference exists; but... Well, the point of the statutory rape charge, the reason it is called "rape," is because consent is a muddy and vague thing with children. That's one of the central reasons why sex with children is wrong; because children are truly not at a point where they can be expected to handle consent and what it means. Also, because of the fact that different people mature at different rates, it's hard to know at what moment a person becomes capable of comprehending consent and confronting what it really means. Because the law is necessarily specific, and must be in order to make demands that people can be expected to follow, we try to set times that seem to be the outer limits of the time it takes to reach maturity. However, I feel like some people can have experiences at 14 that harm them more than experiences other people have at 8.
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 AM on November 21, 2012


There is no functional or moral difference between "ephebophilia" and "pedophilia.

My point exactly.

A pedophile cannot have such a consensual relationship with the object of his desire.

Well, why not? What makes a young child incapable of giving consent? Children younger than two can clearly make preferences known. At what age can we agree that all people can be reasonably expected to act on their own best interests when giving consent?
posted by Miko at 10:58 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


What makes a young child incapable of giving consent?

Because a young child doesn't know what sex is and therefore lacks the knowledge to give informed consent?

Because a young child is legally below the age of consent?

Do you want more reasons besides the moral and legal? Or are you going to ignore what I just said and continue to pretend that a 16-year-old's consent is morally and legally identical to a that of a two-year-old?
posted by La Cieca at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


What makes a young child incapable of giving consent? Children younger than two can clearly make preferences known.

But can the average child younger than two even have preferences about sex, let alone express them? That's the distinction people are asking.

Issuing the disclaimer first that I am not excusing, forgiving, or anything-ing else -- but I believe the reason that such a distinction exists in the minds of many isn't because of the ability of a child to make preferences known, but rather because of the ability of a child to be in any way acquainted with what it is they are being asked to have preferences about. And that is why there is a "before puberty" and "after puberty" distinction with those two states - because there's a difference between persuading a child to do something that they may not want, and persuading a child to do something that they not only may not want but also may not even comprehend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


At what age can we agree that all people can be reasonably expected to act on their own best interests when giving consent?

That's exactly the question, isn't it? Can a 15 year old be reasonably expected to act on their own best interests when:

-- giving consent for a medical procedure or refusing treatment?
-- choosing whether to use birth control and what type to use?
-- choosing whether to become pregnant or terminate a pregnancy?
-- choosing whether to keep a child, give it up for adoption, surrender parental rights? -- and to act in the best interests of the child?
-- making parenting decisions?

These are all life-altering decisions with the potential to ruin lives, and they all take place in contexts where the 15 year old may be manipulated or coerced, but many folks do agree that teens CAN make these choices, either on their own or with parental input.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, the age old wisdom of "if it bleeds, it breeds". Very important.

Hey, stay classy. I think we are all here for an intelligent discussion and sharing of views, right?

Thing is, aside from being really crass that kind of is the difference. A pedophile wants to have sex with a child. The other is attracted to newly sexualising young people. I am not going to call teens children.

The difference is that teens, at least many of them, are also interested in sex. They want to learn about it and want to find out about it. So, as many here are testifying, it is quite possible to have a mutually consensual sexual encounter with a teen / young adult. I sought out my encounters and the intervention of parents or police would have been a terrible outcome for me.

GREY AREA. It can also be wrong and bad. But calling all 15 and 16 year olds "children" who must be protected at all costs... no, I remember being 15, and fuck that.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:15 AM on November 21, 2012


I'm curious what age Kevin Clash has to reach before he's responsible for his own choices. I imagine it can't be that much longer -- he's in his mid-40s, right? He'll be 15 and a grownup before he knows what happened to him.
posted by gerryblog at 11:15 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, gerryblog, does that snarky noise come with any actual signal? Who are you raging against here?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:17 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find this thread very disheartening, Meatbomb. I don't know why I posted this here, when I should have known it would just turn into another debate about whether the sexual appetites of adult men override every other possible value. (Spoiler alert: of course they do.)

We try to parse the meaning of consent every single time the word rape is mentioned on this site.

I was just sad that Being Elmo had this unhappy coda and hoping (and still hoping) that the accusations turn out to be untrue. I'm getting on the plane soon, so thankfully the conversation will be spared any further noise from my end.
posted by gerryblog at 11:24 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should have known it would just turn into another debate about whether the sexual appetites of adult men override every other possible value.

That did not happen.
posted by La Cieca at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Meatbomb: “But calling all 15 and 16 year olds 'children' who must be protected at all costs... no, I remember being 15, and fuck that.”

On the one hand, it is true that 15 and 16 year olds are often more mature than 20 year olds. Hell, I've met 14 year olds that were a hell of a lot more mature than 40 year olds I've met. But judging whether 15 year olds are mature enough to be having sex is not easy. That's why we label them "children who must be protected" and make a legal boundary there. And I think it's right that we do.

It would make absolutely no sense to make a law that allowed adults to have sex with 15 year olds as long as the 15 year olds had passed some kind of maturity test. It would be far too complicated and would invite some really problematic stuff.

So: yes, the law makes sense.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


So is the argument that there's no way that Clash could possibly have broken the law since teenagers have hormones?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why I posted this here, when I should have known it would just turn into another debate about whether the sexual appetites of adult men override every other possible value. (Spoiler alert: of course they do.)

Okay, that's it - you're definitely high. Because that conversation isn't happening, and that "spoiler alert" also isn't happening.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


As soon as he hit puberty and possibly years before, Kevin Clash (and everybody else) became responsible for not coercing ANYONE of any age into sexual activity.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2012


So is the argument that there's no way that Clash could possibly have broken the law since teenagers have hormones?

I guess this is part of the talking past each other. I am talking about my own case and the general situation. And anyways I am not talking about whether the law was broken, but that it is not a great law at least as currently implemented.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:32 AM on November 21, 2012


Meatbomb: “Wow, gerryblog, does that snarky noise come with any actual signal? Who are you raging against here?”

He was probably "raging" against the fact that you appear to have just said "fuck that" to the idea that adults shouldn't have sex with minors. I'm willing to accept that possible you didn't quite mean that, but it sure looked like it, and I can see why that might be frustrating.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


you appear to have just said "fuck that" to the idea that adults shouldn't have sex with minors.

That too did not happen. This is beginning to get frightening.
posted by La Cieca at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


And that is why there is a "before puberty" and "after puberty" distinction with those two states - because there's a difference between persuading a child to do something that they may not want, and persuading a child to do something that they not only may not want but also may not even comprehend.

Why is puberty necessarily the dividing line between comprehending and not comprehending sex acts? Especially given the amount of stuff kids can find online easily now, I would not be at all surprised if the average prepubescent kid these days had a better working knowledge of what sex entailed than I did at puberty. It's not as if sex is some sort of extremely hard to understand concept that only teenagers could possibly comprehend.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please re read that sentence. For ME, the idea that MY older partner could be arrested and get in a lot of trouble because I was a 15 year old "child" who needed protection would have been (and still is) abhorrent to me. So yeah, fuck that. I just went and read it again, I think I explained myself pretty clearly.

But enough of this, it really is far more effort than it is worth when people are not trying to engage one another and just want to paint the other side in the worst possible light and be outraged.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:37 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


La Cieca, that is becoming annoying. Why don't you just tell us what is happening? The others can stop posting or clear their impressions of what's happening with you, maybe?
posted by gilrain at 11:38 AM on November 21, 2012


And anyways I am not talking about whether the law was broken, but that it is not a great law at least as currently implemented.

I think anyone reading Metafilter for more than a short time realizes I'm pretty strongly (small l) libertarian when it comes to social and sexual issues and even I don't think 50 year olds being unable to legally fuck 15 year olds is some kind of great injustice.

Seriously; you gotta draw the line somewhere. And then it is the responsibility of the adult party not to put his or her private parts on/in/around the adolescent party. It's not that hard! I have managed the last 20 years without actually putting any private parts near 15 year olds!
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or is this whole discussion turning into a welter of "I think," "I feel," "I wouldn't be surprised if..." Does it occur to anyone that if you don't have knowledge about a detail of the topic, you maybe shouldn't just blurt out whatever your emotions are telling you and then behave as if you've just looked it up in the DSM-5?
posted by La Cieca at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


yes, the law makes sense

I'm on this side of the fence and no amount of "but teenagers are mature!" is going to convince me differently.

I'm glad so many of you had wonderful sexual experiences as minors with adults. I didn't. A lot of others don't. We need to be able to prosecute people for this.

Why is puberty necessarily the dividing line between comprehending and not comprehending sex acts?

It's not a good dividing line. It's a terrible one. Despite the unfounded assertions above about how children don't know "what sex is," as both a former kid and a former preschool and kindergarten teacher with a degree in education and coursework in child development, I can vouch that very young kids do know what sex is, do have sexual responses, do have sexual curiosity, and do perform sexual acts, on themselves and with others. That's why I regard most discussions of a difference between pre- and post-puberty as pretty weak. Child and youth sexuality is a real thing; but it never justifies adult interference in it.

There has to be a bright line somewhere. Between 16 and 18 is a reasonable place to put it. It's not about having sexual feelings and sexual curiosity; it's about having abstract reasoning ability enough to understand the law and consequences, and enough life experience to understand power differentials and self-determination. Though my aunt eloped and had her first child at 15, I don't think she had it. Many people don't have it yet at 18, but since that age has legal weight for many other decisions, it's a good place to put it. And, according to research I found for another recent thread on this, having a signpost up ahead that says "Watch yourself; after X age, you will be at the age of consent" allows people to learn, know, and prepare ahead of time, and to make appropriate adult decisions afterward.
posted by Miko at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Please re read that sentence. For ME, the idea that MY older partner could be arrested and get in a lot of trouble because I was a 15 year old "child" who needed protection would have been (and still is) abhorrent to me.

Which is exactly why, as I've said in other threads, criminal cases are The State Of (XXXXX) -vs- Defendant and not Meatbomb -vs- Defendant. Because it isn't about whether or not you find it personally abhorrent, it is about the rule of law in society as a whole.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fucking give up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2012


me: “... you appear to have just said "fuck that" to the idea that adults shouldn't have sex with minors.”

La Cieca: “That too did not happen. This is beginning to get frightening.”

Read the sentence. I said plainly that I don't think Meatbomb meant that at all. I said that's how it read, and it's understandable that people read it that way. Meatbomb has clarified, and moreover he's right that we're talking past each other here; some of us are talking about the perspective of the law, whereas he is speaking from the perspective of a 15 or 16 year old.

“Is it just me, or is this whole discussion turning into a welter of 'I think,' 'I feel,' 'I wouldn't be surprised if...' Does it occur to anyone that if you don't have knowledge about a detail of the topic, you maybe shouldn't just blurt out whatever your emotions are telling you and then behave as if you've just looked it up in the DSM-5?”

The conversation is hampered by vagueness. You are being vague here.
posted by koeselitz at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2012


We need to be able to prosecute people for this.

i don't disagree with this. i do think it matters if the teenagers present themselves as 18 year olds. i do think it's a different crime than forcible sex with someone of any age. still think it's a crime, but the details matter.
posted by nadawi at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


La Cieca: if you don't have knowledge about a detail of the topic, you maybe shouldn't just blurt out whatever your emotions are telling you
And what were your credentials, again? We'll just clear our credentials with you, along with our flawed impressions of what's happening, before we engage in the debate, shall we?

And by the way, I and at least a few others here have some pretty fucking intimate knowledge of this area. It seems you'd prefer if only those with positive experiences of underage sexuality voiced their thoughts, though.
posted by gilrain at 11:44 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


. i do think it matters if the teenagers present themselves as 18 year olds

Like I said, a matter for the law, but here the burden of proof is not on the minor.

i do think it's a different crime than forcible sex with someone of any age.

Yes, and the law treats forced sex differently.
posted by Miko at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2012


Is it just me, or is this whole discussion turning into a welter of "I think," "I feel," "I wouldn't be surprised if..." Does it occur to anyone that if you don't have knowledge about a detail of the topic, you maybe shouldn't just blurt out whatever your emotions are telling you and then behave as if you've just looked it up in the DSM-5?

If you're referring to my comment and want to actually refute what I'm saying with facts, feel free to.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:46 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miko - but you seemed to argue up thread that was no difference and that they're exactly the same, that boy scout troop leaders raping the children in their charge is the same as what kevin clash is accused of. is that not what you think?
posted by nadawi at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2012


Justinian: well, if there are 15 year olds who would really like to fuck 50 year olds and vice versa, then I would say there is some element of injustice there. Or at least imposition on people's free will and their own agency and ownership of their bodies.

(And I have also managed to not fuck any 15 year olds, but then that isn't what floats my particular boat.)

It is a bit of a tangent at this point, but the whole rentboy / bear partnership is a real cultural thing that others here have experienced and written about on Metafilter, and I am sympathetic to these people who are not harming anyone else in these kinds of relationships. If you are interested at all in learning more I would recommend Samuel R. Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

From hearing the accuser, it is pretty obvious that this was the kind of dynamic between these two.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or at least imposition on people's free will and their own agency and ownership of their bodies.

It is a long established fact that 15 year olds (and younger children) do not have complete agency over their own actions and own bodies. They cannot do many things that adults can do, and we are generally okay with that.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm clear that this is your position and the current law, Justinian, yes.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:54 AM on November 21, 2012


that boy scout troop leaders raping the children in their charge is the same

I dont' know enough about those hundreds of cases to generalize, but I don't think they were all charged with forcible rape. And many of those boys would have been teens.

In any case, at the time my point was not that rape is exactly the same as sexual abuse or child molestation. My point then was that the set of adults who knowingly have sex with minors is largely \ the same as the set of adults who are convicted, deplored abusers and rapists in that sometimes it is the "great guy," the likable, wonderful person, who commits illegal sexual acts with kids.
posted by Miko at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2012


It is a bit of a tangent at this point, but the whole rentboy / bear partnership is a real cultural thing that others here have experienced and written about on Metafilter, and I am sympathetic to these people who are not harming anyone else in these kinds of relationships. If you are interested at all in learning more I would recommend Samuel R. Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

Agreed, and I think it's part of the difficulty here. We have people saying that sugardaddy relationships are always squick but I know quite a few consenting adults happily engaged in them, some with much older men (some with more of an age gap than exists between Clash and either of these accusers). It could be true that the gay community is, in a way, a haven for ephebophiles--like I said, the experiences of these kids weren't at all different from the experiences of some of my peers in suburban New Jersey, and it was seen as a pretty normal part of a gay coming of age (what are you going to do when you're surrounded by meathead teenagers who want to beat you up? meeting other queer people who can expose you to queer society can feel like a boon to some, I'm sure, regardless of age). But I'm wary to hold that attitude, too, because it can be a way of invalidating people's life experiences, rendering them a victim when they feel they aren't. Also when we're talking about these situations within the gay community I'm wary of straight people deciding that they're bad because, hey, homophobia.

And yet I've known people, too, who were engaged in these relationships, who at the time felt they were consensual, and later came to view them as deeply fucked up situations that were harmful to them. Should all teenagers be protected because of that? I don't know.

I honestly don't.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Egg Shen: "In passing, I'm surprised to see all these references to Clash's wealth.

As the voice of a flagship character, I'm sure he is/was making his house payments. But how rich can you get in public television?
"

Here's a tip - Think about all those talking Elmo toys and toys with Elmo's voice. Then think of licensing fees, residuals, and such.
posted by Samizdata at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2012


I'm clear that this is your position and the current law, Justinian, yes.

But if I keep repeating it often enough maybe you will change your mind?
posted by Justinian at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


burnmp3s: Especially given the amount of stuff kids can find online easily now, I would not be at all surprised if the average prepubescent kid these days had a better working knowledge of what sex entailed than I did at puberty.

Okay, this will serve as an example. Have you spoken to any kids about their knowledge of sex? No, obviously. Have you perhaps read a study about this subject? Apparently not. So what do you have? "I would not be at all surprised."

Intuition informed by strong emotion has its place; for example, if you suddenly feel like you're in danger while walking down a dark street, then it's a bet worth taking that you are in some kind of danger and you need to get yourself to safety.

But you're trying to argue from facts here, and the problem is that you just made up a fact that happens to fit your preconceived notion. Well, I bet kids today know all about sex really early. I mean, the internet!

Even worse, the confusion between pedophilia and ephebophilia. Well, they're both yucky, so they're probably the same thing, or as close as makes no difference, so let's just take that as a given and call a man who has sex with a 17 year old boy a pedophile, and if anyone doesn't agree, well, they're just trying to argue that it's okay to have sex with four-year-olds, because it's all the same thing, right?

No: two different things, psychologically, legally, (arguably) morally. But nobody bothers to fucking Wiki anything, just "I feel that."

There's no point in discussing something if you don't know even know what you're discussing, and all you want to do is vent about how yucky it is for a 40 year old man to have sex with a teenager. I honestly don't care how yucky you think it is, and thank god, neither does the law.

I'm following EmpressCallipygos' example and dropping the subject. Eventually it becomes impossible to talk about rape on MetaFilter; all one can do is scream about feelings.
posted by La Cieca at 12:00 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


La Cieca - as someone who is arguing from a similar side of the argument, i really don't think you're helping this conversation and that you're making it more grar-y than it needs to be. it's obvious you're frustrated, but i think you are unintentionally ratcheting things up.
posted by nadawi at 12:03 PM on November 21, 2012


nadawi: You're right.
posted by La Cieca at 12:05 PM on November 21, 2012


My impression is that "ephebophile" is something of a semi-made-up word that's used by creepsters to try and separate themselves from "genuine" pedophiles.

Your impression is wrong.

It has been used by Dutch psychologist Frits Bernard as far back as 1950.
posted by Egg Shen at 12:07 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


the experiences of these kids weren't at all different from the experiences of some of my peers in suburban New Jersey, and it was seen as a pretty normal part of a gay coming of age

That'sa true, and something I've been thinking about as well. At the same time, gay life has changed a lot since my age cohort was young, much less since Clash's was young; I wonder how common this kind of sub rosa "mentoring" experience is in the climate that exists today (much more accepting of gay teens, much less tolerant of statutory rape). It's not something I have any first-hand knowledge about.
posted by gerryblog at 12:07 PM on November 21, 2012


The age of consent in Canada is now 16, but a few years ago it was 14. So, when the law changed, teenagers who were formerly considered able to give consent no longer could. Nothing about the teens changed -- legislators just changed the guidelines. One day they had agency under the law, the next they didn't.

I'm not saying the change was a bad thing, but my point is that people who are trying to draw some sort of bright line in the sand around this should dial it back from equating statutory rape with child molestation. Where we draw the line on consent is arbitrary. That doesn't mean that adults shouldn't respect that line, but there's certainly a grey area around it in the moral, if not the legal sense.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:08 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


But nobody bothers to fucking Wiki anything, just "I feel that."

Yeah, and like I said, my position on that is pretty informed by professional training.

Should all teenagers be protected because of that?

Personally, I do think so. That because many of these relationships are in fact harmful, even when the harm is not immediate, we should afford the minor and/or their guardians the possibility of prosecuting the adults pursuing them.

The adult-minor "mentoring" thing, while real, is, I think, more a product of a homophobic culture ("what are you going to do...? ") than an antidote to it.
posted by Miko at 12:10 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


gerryblog - yeah, that's kind of what i was talking about way up at the top of the thread, about being a queer teen in '93. teenagers lying about being older to get an in to gay life and the generation one or two older than us having had mentor type relationships when they were young is all important to consider, i think. the entire landscape is much different now and the line is a lot brighter than it was in the mid-90s or 80s or 70s.
posted by nadawi at 12:12 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where we draw the line on consent is arbitrary.

Well, of course it is. My point isn't that it's not arbitrary, as all such age-based laws are (though it's important that it's some time after a person of average intelligence can have developed abstract reasoning ability) but that it needs to exist. There is no point at which it isn't arbitrary. We could set it at 25 and that would still be arbitrary. People vary. But some clear statement in law needs to exist, or we have a situation in which serious abuses are encouraged to proliferate.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forktine: “My impression is that 'ephebophile' is something of a semi-made-up word that's used by creepsters to try and separate themselves from 'genuine' pedophiles.”

Egg Shen: “Your impression is wrong. 'It has been used by Dutch psychologist Frits Bernard as far back as 1950'.”

Forktine may be wrong about the "semi-made-up" part, but he's absolutely right that the word "ephebophile" is used by creepsters to try to justify themselves. The term has exactly that currency on Reddit. It may be useful to make distinctions, but I don't think it helps anything to ignore that fact.
posted by koeselitz at 12:15 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


it also doesn't help to call everyone who discusses the term and how it differs from pedophilia rape apologists who are looking for ways to fuck children. there's a lot of not helpful on all sides in here.
posted by nadawi at 12:16 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, I do think so. That because many of these relationships are in fact harmful, even when the harm is not immediate, we should afford the minor and/or their guardians the possibility of prosecuting them.

Sometimes adults get involved in relationships that, in retrospect, reveal themselves to be unsavory, abusive, and damaging, too, though. Can we really say that "many" of these age-gap relationships are harmful with assurance? I don't feel like I can.

I was a teenager around the same time Clash's victims were, so it was still commonplace then. Again, that's not to say that it was right--or that these young men might not have genuinely been victimized, coerced, or harmed. Just that it was so common for the teenage boys I knew to have older "boyfriends." And that's the way these relationships were discussed--as consensual dating relationships. The second accuser's account sounds like it could just as easily have been thought of (by both parties, at the time) as "dating" as it was "grooming."

I also know some guys in their 20s who are essentially rent boys, kept men, babies to daddies, etc. who are happy and fulfilled individuals, and the attempt to label that as icky just really bothers me. And many in this thread have. These are consenting adults, so it's clearly not all about adulthood and consent.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:17 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Where we draw the line on consent is arbitrary.

Well, of course it is. My point isn't that it's not arbitrary, as all such age-based laws are (though it's important that it's some time after a person of average intelligence can have developed abstract reasoning ability) but that it needs to exist.


Sure, but a lot of people want to make anyone who strays on the wrong side of that arbitrary line into monsters. And I think that's a pretty big problem.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:18 PM on November 21, 2012


My strongest "gut level" response to the Clash situation and the stories people have told about their own non-wonderful sexual experiences as teens is that, god yes, I want to protect young people from being preyed upon. I want to protect them from being manipulated or coerced into sex and/or having traumatic, creepy, painful sexual experiences that scar them for life.

I would also guess that the vast, vast majority of such experiences involve participants between the ages of 12 and 22. Does anybody have access to figures on the age distribution of teenagers' sexual partners?
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2012


Forktine may be wrong about the "semi-made-up" part, but he's absolutely right that the word "ephebophile" is used by creepsters to try to justify themselves.

We accept that Clash's attraction to men is a genetic inheritance having no moral dimension. Yet his attraction to teenagers is supposed to be something voluntary and damnable.

This makes no sense - regardless of one's stance on statutory rape laws.
posted by Egg Shen at 12:26 PM on November 21, 2012


Okay, this will serve as an example. Have you spoken to any kids about their knowledge of sex? No, obviously. Have you perhaps read a study about this subject? Apparently not. So what do you have? "I would not be at all surprised."

Have you? If so, again, feel free to actually contradict what I'm saying with what you think is true. I'm not trying to be snarky here, I am 100% okay with you disagreeing with what I actually said and posting what you believe to be incorrect about it.

But you're trying to argue from facts here, and the problem is that you just made up a fact that happens to fit your preconceived notion. Well, I bet kids today know all about sex really early. I mean, the internet!

I based that comment on the fact that I knew very little about sex at puberty and did not have the kinds of resources that are available to children today to actually find out more. I would have loved to have something like Yahoo Answers where I could ask or look up completely basic questions about things like that, for instance. Also the whole point of that comment was questioning an assumption that was made in another comment, I was mainly making the point that comprehension of sex acts is not necessarily connected to physical development of adult sexual characteristics through the use of an example.

There's no point in discussing something if you don't know even know what you're discussing, and all you want to do is vent about how yucky it is for a 40 year old man to have sex with a teenager.

If you read my comments you'll see I've done nothing of the sort. I think you are possibly reading emotion into my comments that isn't there or are conflating my comments with those of others.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:28 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


We accept that Clash's attraction to men is a genetic inheritance having no moral dimension. Yet his attraction to teenagers is supposed to be something voluntary and damnable.

Wh... what?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure, but a lot of people want to make anyone who strays on the wrong side of that arbitrary line into monsters.

I think it works both ways -- there's also an impulse to say that anyone who affirms the importance of the line must believe anyone who strays on the wrong side is a monster. I don't think Kevin Clash or anyone else who finds themselves in that situation is a monster -- but I think they've knowingly made a very bad decision for which there are significant legal and personal consequences that are very commonly if not almost always destructive. Just because a teenager says they want to have sex with a middle-aged adult, or seems to want to in that moment, doesn't mean it's a good idea or that the middle-aged adult should just go ahead and do it. The bright line is the bright line, if only because it's the bright, no-excuses legal line -- we demand that adults exert self-control over themselves in this region, even if it's arbitrary, even if it cuts out some positive experiences that wouldn't have hurt anyone or would have been genuinely fond memories for the people involved. We're stuck with having to make some delineation somewhere, and the more desirable choice really is to value protecting the safety of vulnerable kids over the sexual satisfaction of adults. What alternative is there?

Or at least that's how I see it.
posted by gerryblog at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


I find Clash annoying and that little red rag of his single-handedly destroyed Sesame Street as anything but a glitzy toy-selling franchise

I used to think along these lines, too. But having an 11-month-old who loves Elmo, I've watched quite a bit of Sesame Street lately, and I just can't agree with your assessment.

It has changed, yes. Elmo is a big part of the program now, yes. But Sesame Street still is very much an educational program that teaches not only basics like numbers and letters, but also a lot of diversity in people, culture, and music.

Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Snuffy, Oscar, Grover (and Super Grover), Telly, the Count and many other old favorites are still present and active on the show.

Live action sequences with music feature people of all colors and nationalities. You see all sorts of people from clean-cut to pierced urbanites with tats.

Yeah, maybe they've sold out a bit with merchandising, but Sesame Street still has its soul.

Here's a tip - Think about all those talking Elmo toys and toys with Elmo's voice. Then think of licensing fees, residuals, and such.

I'm sure Clash was very well paid by Sesame Workshop, but I feel fairly confident in saying that ownership of all rights to Elmo and other Sesame Street characters, as well as fees, residuals, and such all belong to Sesame Workshop.

However, he probably has been very well compensated for his work as not only actor, but director, co-producer, and executive producer of many Muppet productions over the years.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:36 PM on November 21, 2012


Egg Shen: “We accept that Clash's attraction to men is a genetic inheritance having no moral dimension. Yet his attraction to teenagers is supposed to be something voluntary and damnable. This makes no sense - regardless of one's stance on statutory rape laws.”

I agree completely that attraction to teenagers is not something damnable or illegal, nor should it be. We really shouldn't be having a conversation about attraction, as it is in no way an issue here.
posted by koeselitz at 12:42 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure, but a lot of people want to make anyone who strays on the wrong side of that arbitrary line into monsters. And I think that's a pretty big problem.

But once the line's established, it has to be observed. People willing to cross it have the burden of knowing the law exists, and the burden of understanding why, and if they chose to cross it, of being legally responsible for that choice. Once we've drawn the line we've established a protected class. To violate that protection is to willingly transgress the law and begin involving yourself in the life of a person we've agreed is legally entitled to protection. So crossing the line is an act with legal and moral implications. It's not very cool, no matter what. Some "monsters" are in the class of people who cross the line; that's why the line exists. That doesn't mean everyone in the class can be called a "monster," but I'm not sure how useful that word is for anyone who pursues sex with minors. I'm really not. It's an action; it's something some people do, it has moral dimensions, and it has legal protections. It's not as though you can separate out the "monsters" from the rest of the abusers on any inherent characteristic of person.

Sometimes adults get involved in relationships that, in retrospect, reveal themselves to be unsavory, abusive, and damaging, too, though. Can we really say that "many" of these age-gap relationships are harmful with assurance? I don't feel like I can.

Once they're adults, while this is regrettable, as long as no other laws are broken them's the shakes. That's part of the deal of having a bright line; once you're on the other side, you're on your own as far as emotional and psychological and to some extent (short of abuse) physical self-protection goes.
posted by Miko at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain why the US shouldn't make 21 the age of consent, like we do with alcohol?

People get involved in sexual relationships under the current age of consent, and they would under the new age of consent too.

"Brain development," if you think legal capacity must totally reflect neuroanatomy, continues well into one's late teens and early twenties. (Bonus! Natural brain atrophy means that we can remove the power to consent from people in their 40s and 50s!)

College students would be able to lead lives free from sexual distraction, as they now lead lives free from the the distraction of alcohol.
posted by Nomyte at 12:55 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I watched it. In the interest of sparing others, here is a picture of the 15-year old Melissa Joan Hart as the titular heroine.

By contrast, here is the 7-year old Dakota Fanning at the I Am Sam premiere.

Now you tell me that there isn't a substantive difference.


I don't see much of one. At all.
posted by gentian at 1:04 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Once they're adults, while this is regrettable, as long as no other laws are broken them's the shakes.

Is that the case? Can't the victim sue the perpetrator for sex abuse in state or federal civil court as the second accuser is doing here? I absolutely 100% support the right of anyone who feels they've been sexually abused to file suit against the abuser even if no criminal laws were broken.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:04 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is, in addition to or in place of criminal prosecution, as relevant to the particular case.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:05 PM on November 21, 2012


Some random research from Googling around:

ChildTrends: Long-Term Consequences for Teens with Older Sexual Partners

ChildTrends:Trends and Recent Estimates: Sexual Activity Among US Teens
Among females, those who were younger when they first had sex were the most likely to report that they really didn’t want that sexual experience to occur. Morethan one-quarter of those who were aged 14 or younger at first sexual intercourse (27 percent) didn’t want their first sexual experience to happen, compared with 12 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 17 at their first sexual experience and 5 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 19 (see Figure 7).

Among males, however, those who were younger teenagers when they first had sex were no more likely than were those who had sex in their later teenage years to report that the experience was unwanted (5 percent for males aged 14 or younger, compared with 7 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 17 and 5 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 19).
CDC: Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use,and Childbearing,2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth

Guttmacher: Young Teenagers and Older Sexual Partners: Correlates and Consequences for Males and Females

Kinsey Institute: Teen Sexual Activity

Guttmacher: Sexual Intercourse and the Age Difference Between Adolescent Females and Their Romantic Partners

ChildTrends: The First Time: Characteristics of Teens' First Sexual Relationships:
Teen girls were, on average, 1.7 years younger than their partners, compared with teen boys who were approximately one and one-half months older than their partners. More than half of teen girls (51 percent) had a first sexual partner who was two or more years older, and 23 percent had a partner who was one year older (see Figure2). Almost one in five teenage girls (19 percent)had a partner who was considerably older – by four or more years. In contrast, 13 percent of teen boys had a partner who was at least two years older, and 21 percent had a partner who was one year older. Younger partners were more common for teen boys, with 35 percent having a sexual partner at least one year younger (while 25 percent had a partner at least two years younger) and 32 percent having a partner of the same age.

Age difference between partners is related to age of sexual initiation. Teens who were younger when they became involved in a sexual relationship were more likely to have an older sexual partner than teens who delayed having sex for the first time until a later age. Fifty percent of teens aged 14 or younger when they first had sex had a sexual partner who was two or more years older, compared with 23 percent of teens who delayed having sex for the first time until they were at least 17. The patterns are different for teen boys and girls, with young girls being more likely to become involved with substantially older first sexual partners. Among teen girls who first had sex before age 14, 65 percent had a partner at least two years older (25 percent had a partner at least four years older), but among teen boys who were sexually experienced by age 14, only 17 percent had a partner two or more years their senior.
Paper: Older Sexual Partners and Teens' Mental Health
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


in addition to or in place of criminal prosecution

That I don't know. I'm really talking about criminal law here, I don't know much about torts. I guess you're still "on your own" in that you need to bring a case between legal equals.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on November 21, 2012


Thank you so much, Miko!

Btw, why in god's name don't we have a nationwide age of consent?
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2012


Btw, why in god's name don't we have a nationwide age of consent?

Beats me. I also think that a lot of the state statutory rape laws are really shittily written. Laws where a 17-year-old can be prosecuted for having sex with their 16-year-old partner, for example, are really bad.

That said, I feel like there is a a lot of attempted normalization of relationships with large age gaps and a pubertal partner in this thread, and a lot of it is hiding in general "age of consent laws are shitty" rhetoric. Some of them are. The idea of age of consent laws is not shitty by any means, even when the implementation is bad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:23 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


wow this thread almost makes me WANT to spend thanksgiving with the ranty douchebag side of my family, well done metafilter.
posted by elizardbits at 1:32 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know, commenting is absolutely optional, and MeTa is only a few doors away if you actually have a substantial criticism about how the thread's going.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:36 PM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


The idea of age of consent laws is not shitty by any means, even when the implementation is bad.

If anything, the arguments in this thread are making me wonder if it might be beneficial to up the age of consent -- especially as adolescence is gradually ending later and later in the US -- and to fold more high-consequence decisions and judgment-requiring activities into those laws.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:44 PM on November 21, 2012


It did nothing with big cases like the church and the Boy Scouts

Big, well-publicized cases like that do everything to tell kids that what's happening to them is not normal or OK. Within about 30 years, we've gone from a culture that hushed up sexual abuse and blamed children for it to a culture that takes it seriously and is willing to tell children it isn't their fault. You suggest that the best way is to "catch these sorts of things before they become crimes," which is certainly true, but you do that by letting children know that they have the right to say no without being ashamed if their priest or troop leader starts harassing them. Having the adults all know each other really well isn't going to do anything. Sexual abuse is apparently quite prevalent among the Amish.

Just to link again to that NYT article, rates of child sexual abuse have apparently dropped dramatically in the last twenty years. That suggests we're doing something right.
posted by ostro at 2:07 PM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


elizardbits: “wow this thread almost makes me WANT to spend thanksgiving with the ranty douchebag side of my family, well done metafilter.”

You've been around long enough to know how this works. At midnight on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Metafilter always switches into HOLIDAY MODE and becomes a valve that allows us to release the increasing pressure of bottled-up childhood bitternesses and lifelong resentments by going online and telling strangers what we really think of them.
posted by koeselitz at 2:22 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fox called it: Elmo & Big Bird Are Too Liberal & Make Gay Boys Want To Be Prom Queens.. Warning: FOX.
posted by Mezentian at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2012


"Btw, why in god's name don't we have a nationwide age of consent?"

Criminal law is a state issue, as is family law (which governs the age when people can consent to marry).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:42 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, Clash's accusers are seeking a civil settlement. Now, there's something about the law which I think is absolutely horrible but which everybody needs to understand: the law acts as if bad things can be made better with money. If you break someone's leg? Money. If you run over their dog? Money. If you, hypothetically, hang out on gay hookup lines to find teenagers and as a consequence of your relationship they're messed up? Money.

So anyone saying that the case is about money needs to appreciate that it's really about damage; if there is no damage there is no payout; and if there is damage then the law has no better solution than to order financial compensation. Suggesting that we should think badly about the accusers because they're seeking the only solution the law provides for is fundamentally unfair.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:48 PM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but I mean, couldn't Congress pass something analogous to the National Drinking Age Act, that simply withholds X type of revenue from states that have age of consent under #? Or is it only possible to do the NDAA because it relates tangentially to interstate highways?
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:51 PM on November 21, 2012


Criminal law is a state issue, as is family law (which governs the age when people can consent to marry).

That's true but the feds could, if they chose, strong arm the states into falling in line the same way they have for other laws like the drinking age. I'm not saying they should do that necessarily, but they do have ways of making the states pass certain types of laws if they want it badly enough.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on November 21, 2012


Waiting for Elmo
posted by homunculus at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2012


[Folks, maybe less performance art commenting and more having a discussion with other commenters?]
posted by jessamyn at 4:12 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Yeah, but I mean, couldn't Congress pass something analogous to the National Drinking Age Act, that simply withholds X type of revenue from states that have age of consent under #? Or is it only possible to do the NDAA because it relates tangentially to interstate highways?"

Yes, and yes. The NMDAA was tied to interstate highway funding; you were free to refuse the drinking age (and many states held out for quite a while), but you forfeited at some funding.

Age of consent is pretty clearly straight-up criminal law, which has always been a state issue, but if we suppose Congress was interested in this issue, their best bet might be to tie it to a federal funding provision for, say, processing DNA evidence and rape kits -- few states have adequate funding to process those two things quickly enough. But certainly several states would refuse that money (at least at first) for political reasons, and (not being an expert on federal/state issues) I'm not sure what sort of challenges such funding would be subject to or how it would stand up.

I'm also not sure that the way our national politics currently are, that Congress wouldn't pass a very restrictive (i.e., high) minimum age with no "Romeo & Juliet" provisions (my state has none, it leads to some seriously dumb-ass prosecutions). Maybe someone else is aware of some sort of comparative national study of age of consent provisions and related laws. I'm not sure it's clear what age of consent "works" best or what related laws (like Romeo & Juliet laws, or criminalization of all teacher sexual contact with high school students even who are over 18) work best to maximize prosecution of damaging relationships but minimize prosecution of normal, healthy teenaged behavior.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:07 PM on November 21, 2012


I'm also not sure that the way our national politics currently are. . . .

That was largely why I asked; not advocating for or against a national law, just sort of amazed that in a climate where Megan's laws and Halloween laws are so popular, there's no furor about the possibility of having different ages of consent in, say, Manhattan/Hoboken or Chicago/Gary.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:09 PM on November 21, 2012


That was largely why I asked; not advocating for or against a national law, just sort of amazed that in a climate where Megan's laws and Halloween laws are so popular, there's no furor about the possibility of having different ages of consent in, say, Manhattan/Hoboken or Chicago/Gary.

Unlike a lot of other things (say, gay marriage or marijuana laws come to mind), age of consent laws in the US don't really seem to have any weird outliers right now. There's not one state with it at 12, and another at 23, for example. I think it's pretty much all between 16 and 18; the biggest variance is in how states deal with two young people.

Without one of those outlier cases to drive lawsuits and outrage, I don't see how this would really make it onto the national outrage agenda. Also, as with anything prosecutorial, there is enormous local discretion about which cases to bother charging, and with what charges, regardless of what the law might specify.
posted by Forktine at 6:45 PM on November 21, 2012


FelliniBlank wrote: there's no furor about the possibility of having different ages of consent in, say, Manhattan/Hoboken or Chicago/Gary.

I just realised something - this might be the origin of that infamous law about "taking a female across State lines for immoral purposes", or however it's worded. There were different consent laws in different States, and with a bit of forethought (plus a car) you could take advantage of them. The laws, that is.

Am I right, or was it just an attempt to make a Federal law in an area where they didn't really have jurisdiction?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on November 21, 2012


Unlike a lot of other things (say, gay marriage or marijuana laws come to mind), age of consent laws in the US don't really seem to have any weird outliers right now.

In Delaware, the age of consent is 18, but 16-year-olds can have sexual contact legally with people under 30.
posted by Nomyte at 6:58 PM on November 21, 2012


"Am I right, or was it just an attempt to make a Federal law in an area where they didn't really have jurisdiction?"

You cross state lines, the feds have jurisdiction. You cross state lines with a minor without permission, the feds get real upset, regardless of whether you sex them up or not.

This is my favorite federal case about interstate transport for the purposes of sex:
"The record shows that Tammy Goshern was a high school dropout. The record also shows that Chancey had previously been convicted of auto theft, escape from a county jail, burglary of an automobile, and arson. He had served five years in prison and had been released the immediately preceding July 14, about sixty days before the alleged kidnapping. With this kind of record, the jury must have sized him up as a highly unsavory character who stood badly in need of attending to, for it was undisputed that he had transported a seventeen year old girl on a transcontinental copulation spree." 715 F.2d 543
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:11 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


transported a seventeen year old girl on a transcontinental copulation spree

Baby, we were born to run.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:54 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about having sexual feelings and sexual curiosity; it's about having abstract reasoning ability enough to understand the law and consequences, and enough life experience to understand power differentials and self-determination.

Emphasis mine. No-one in favour of statutory rape laws believes that teenagers don't want to have sex; of course they do! But they shouldn't have to rely on their still-developing ability to spot creepsters to protect themselves from emotional or financial blackmail, or from being persuaded against their better judgement by someone more powerful than they are who assures them that it's all ok.

No-one is advocating for there to be an age-of-consent division in our police forces, running around checking the back seats of cars in case there's an age gap of greater than 5 years happening as the kids get it on. If you or someone you know had a sexual experience with someone much older and looks back on it fondly, that's great. But if you or your friend look back and think that actually the situation was coercive, in ways you didn't understand or realise at the time, you deserve to have a legal redress for that.

I hope Clash didn't do anything wrong. But he wouldn't be the first guy to put his sexual needs above the rights of another person, which is all too bitterly common.
posted by harriet vane at 10:06 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forktine: “My impression is that 'ephebophile' is something of a semi-made-up word that's used by creepsters to try and separate themselves from 'genuine' pedophiles.”

Egg Shen: “Your impression is wrong. 'It has been used by Dutch psychologist Frits Bernard as far back as 1950'.”


No, I'd stay with what I wrote. It's pretty clear that the jailbait/creeper set were scrambling for a way to say "no, no, we aren't nasty pedophiles!" and glommed onto "ephebophile" as a solution. But even in that wikipedia entry it is clear that the term is a subset of pedophilia, not a separate identity. In the Venn diagram, ephebophilia is almost entirely, if not entirely, contained within "pedophilia."

So yeah, I'm going with "semi-made-up" because of the way the creepsters are trying to redefine it as a more neutral designation separate from pedophilia.
posted by Forktine at 6:50 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Miko, I only know that that is the difference in definition. I make no value judgements on either."

If you really have no value judgements to make for adults having sex with children before or after puberty, then that says a hell of a lot about, well, your judgement.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:15 AM on November 23, 2012


gerryblog: "That'sa true, and something I've been thinking about as well. At the same time, gay life has changed a lot since my age cohort was young, much less since Clash's was young; I wonder how common this kind of sub rosa "mentoring" experience is in the climate that exists today (much more accepting of gay teens, much less tolerant of statutory rape). It's not something I have any first-hand knowledge about."

In my experience as a queer teenager growing up in an established gay neighborhood, there was very much a culture difference between the creepy fucks in their 50s who felt entitled to my attention and both my peers and I. The mindset is changing and, the rosy memories of some not withstanding, it is about damn time.

Teenagers, and especially those teenagers today who for a variety of reasons lack the socialization to avoid adult attention like the plague, are pretty much exclusively terrible at knowing good boundaries to set, setting those boundaries, or enforcing them. Teenagers are inherently vulnerable as a result of their incomplete cognitive development and lack of experience. The dynamics resulting from this absolutely underly pretty much all teenage/adult relationships and makes teenagers magnets for creeps who are too creepy to date adults. Once upon a time, while our current culture of consent was still forming, I'm sure there were plenty of adults who navigated these dynamics in reasonably healthy and maybe even beneficial ways. However, those rare kinds of adults who could actually pull that kind of thing off would today be rightly scared away from dating a teenager and certainly would not be trolling for teenagers on sex hotlines.

I am incredibly grateful to have been successfully socialized to see horny older dudes as creepy, even if at the time I didn't fully understand that they were creepy because I was being targeted for my vulnerability yet.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you really have no value judgements to make for adults having sex with children before or after puberty, then that says a hell of a lot about, well, your judgement.

I don't think that's what EC meant. Only that EC was posting the definitions of the two words and not (in that comment) editorializing.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on November 24, 2012


Blasdelb wrote: If you really have no value judgements to make for adults having sex with children before or after puberty, then that says a hell of a lot about, well, your judgement.

Your distinction is hard to make because puberty is a series of events taking place over years and its start and end are extraordinarily variable. Children can enter puberty much younger than you might think; we're occasionally shocked by news of girls giving birth at 10. On the other hand, there are some individuals who (for whatever reason) will never enter puberty without medical intervention.

Given all this variability, as well as the very, very young age at which it can puberty can begin, I have no hesitation in saying that using "puberty" to distinguish between "weird" and "not weird" sexual assault is a bad idea. There may be a meaningful therapeutic difference between someone who assaulted a pubertal girl and one who assaulted a non-pubertal girl, but the victim's age and level of comprehension are the things which should affect our moral judgement, not her sexual characteristics.

I feel that someone who insists on a rhetorical distinction between "paedophilia" and "ephebophilia" is asking us to acknowledge that ephebophilia isn't weird, that an attraction to children-with-breasts is the same sort of thing as adult attraction and we should at least partially excuse the stereotyped dirty old men who try to seduce schoolgirls. No. Seducers of children assault them physically or psychologically; they corrupt and destroy the bonds of love and trust which are fundamental to our society. This is why we condemn them, not (I hope!) because we want to persecute people with an unfortunate fetish.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]




Joe, for clarity, it was not my distinction and I find its typical use to normalize assaults on both male and female children and pre-teens as abhorrent as you do.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:23 AM on November 25, 2012


I never would have thought anything else of you, and I apologise for creating that impression.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it would be more logical to arrange that greater age gaps between sexual partners require correspondingly stronger evidence if you ever need to demonstrate that consent occurred. So Clash here would need to prove that the younger partner knew what was up and consented and got his parents' approval, for instance.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:04 AM on November 25, 2012


Good point, LogicalDash. It's so weird that our culture focuses almost entirely on pinpointing the dividing line between childhood and adulthood, thus giving predators the "(s)he told me (s)he was 16/18" defense, rather than emphasizing the problematic intergenerational thing more. This is why that Delaware law seems sensible: 16 year olds can consent to sex with anyone up to 30, which covers about 99.99% of a 16 year old's potential dating pool. If the sexytime site one of Clash's accusers visited had a "click to enter if you're 16-30" or "this site is just for 13-18 year olds" button, then the case against Clash would be a complete no-brainer lock, and the onus would be much more on the older party to demonstrate that they somehow weren't competent and cognizant of the potential repercussions. It would pretty much show malign intent.

It's so unfortunate that the young men in the Clash case (and so many like them) apparently had no trustworthy, reality-based adults to talk to or get help from back when the alleged abuse occurred, and that's complicated x100 for non-hetero kids, of course. What, were these boys supposed to do their sexual exploration in their high schools? Sure, since those are such safe spaces for self-expression and non-conformity. That doesn't make what Clash allegedly did OK, but I can see why a teen boy would think he was a pretty safe bet: "like me, he's got something to hide and a lot to lose, he doesn't know anyone at my school, he has the wherewithall to take me places where no one I know will catch us," etc. So who the hell are they going to tell when they realize they're in a bad situation?

I think when we stigmatize teen sexuality across the board, we just shroud it even more with silence, fear, and shame, which drives it underground and makes it harder for young people to develop healthy attitudes and have constructive experiences. It's terrible that young teens get targeted by predators; it's especially terrible that the vast majority of the predation, incompetence, humiliation, ostracism, and casual cruelty teenagers encounter in their romantic and sexual experiences are at the hands of same(ish)-age "peers," which, as a lot of us can attest, can be crushing to the psyche for, like, decades afterward. And adults/parents are (or at least were, in the Jurassic Age when I was young) the last people willing to help you deal with any of it because their #1 priority is studiously pretending you're a child and/or acting like they hold the deed to your genitals.

TL;DR: "protecting" teenagers from sex is perhaps not the most effective way to protect them from sexual abuse.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:55 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


A big part of the reason the intergenerational problem gets de-emphasized is that the real-world definition of ephebophilia is "default culturally-approved state of being for heterosexual American male adults."
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:59 AM on November 25, 2012


I think it would be more logical to arrange that greater age gaps between sexual partners require correspondingly stronger evidence if you ever need to demonstrate that consent occurred. So Clash here would need to prove that the younger partner knew what was up and consented and got his parents' approval, for instance.

His parents' approval? That is really gross to me. What if his parents pressured him into it? Or gave their "permission" in exchange for gifts?

Why not just let kids be kids for a few more years?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I think when we stigmatize teen sexuality across the board, we just shroud it even more with silence, fear, and shame, which drives it underground and makes it harder for young people to develop healthy attitudes and have constructive experiences."

I'm not sure that anyone in this thread is trying to stigmatize teen sexuality, just the adults who prey on its inherent vulnerability. The kind of 15 year old who is interested in another 15 year old is indeed pretty likely to be pretty stupid, being 15, and I imagine if anything more likely to be an abuser than the average adult. However, we are not comparing the suitability of the average interested 15 year old to the average adult as a partner, we are comparing them to the average adult who would be interested in dating a 15 year old.

Think about it, why the fuck would any adult want to date a fifteen year old? As partners they are pretty much defined by their poor boundary setting skills, incomplete cognitive development, and lack of judgment or context for things; this would at best make them incredibly complicated for an ethically minded adult to date. Indeed, those who are attracted to teenage bodies could always instead find young looking adults, and the same goes for attractions to people with teenage enthusiasm or teenage amounts of time on their hands. What else, other than a pathological attraction to that inherent vulnerability or problems that teenagers wouldn't know how to recognize, could motivate an adult to bypass our social mores and laws against this kind of thing?

There are good reasons why 32 year olds who troll sex chat lines for 15 year olds should be considered criminals and have no business getting access to children that have nothing to do with stigmatizing teen sexuality.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:30 AM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


i know it's his job to check - but there's no evidence he was trolling the chat line (which would have required you say that you're 18 to participate) for 15 year olds or that he even knew the guy was 15. to that point, there's also no proof, besides his statement in a 5 million dollar lawsuit, that he was 15. one more birthday and kevin clash is no longer running afoul of age of consent laws in a lot of places (of course, in '93, any homosexual activities were criminalized in a lot of places too).

i don't think clash should be working for sesame street anymore - at the very least he's guilty of bad judgement - but there are holes in the story you can drive a truck through. regardless of the truth, i imagine this will end up in a settlement.
posted by nadawi at 11:17 AM on November 25, 2012


The leaked court documents that are the source of the FPP allege that "[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys." before engaging in an extended grooming relationship with the plaintiff, which is what I’m suggesting should never be normalized as anything remotely like OK. If you’re going to argue that the guy might not have been fifteen then I suppose there is a possibility that the he is perjuring himself to make trivially falsifiable allegations that have significant monetary implications despite the benefit of professional legal advice. However, that smells an awful like the kind spine crushingly absurd back bending that men accused sex crimes always seem to get.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:36 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There seem to be two prongs of keeping kids (whether little kids or older ones) from being preyed upon. One is reducing the access predators have to them through various means. The other is NOT treating children and young adults like they're stupid. I mean, nowadays, we routinely teach little teeny tiny kids about privacy, boundaries, "good touch vs. bad touch," listening to themselves if they feel uncomfortable, telling a trusted adult if someone is trying to "bad touch" them, etc., and that is all helping.

But then they hit puberty, and the world seems to stop respecting kids. How many high school students have access to a class or teacher like this one -- or a similarly supportive parent, aunt/uncle, counselor, religious guide, older friend?

I mean, there are some decent, informative, non-patronizing websites now, but it seems as if kids in 2012 are largely as pig-ignorant and malleable about sex as they were in my 1970s youth while being assailed by unhealthy sexual stuff 200 times more relentlessly from every direction. My nieces, 18 and 23, seem to have navigated through it more or less successfully, but I'll never know because they were raised in a culture where I'm the last person they'd ever have come to if there were a problem.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:23 PM on November 25, 2012


A third accuser has come forward. Not looking good.
posted by gerryblog at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2012


« Older Our 4°C future   |   social impact bonds Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments