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Prof says pedophilia ain't so bad.
April 30, 2002 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Prof says pedophilia ain't so bad. "I don't think it's something where we should just clamp our heads in horror," he said of pedophilia. "In 1900, everybody assumed that masturbation had grave physical consequences; that didn't make it true." Apologies for yet another NYTimes link.
posted by Samsonov14 (102 comments total)

 
"In 1900, everybody assumed that masturbation had grave physical consequences; that didn't make it true."
yes, but there's really only one person that can be harmed by masturbation, and that is the onanist. not that harming oneself should be fine, but the old warhorse states "my right to swing my fist ends with your nose."
"These things that you're sure of," he added, "you really ought to check out and test."
would the good doctor like to tell us a way that we can test the debatable harm of pedophilia in such a way that the test subjects are not harmed at an early age?
posted by pxe2000 at 8:07 AM on April 30, 2002


Surprisingly this guy is not as much of a crackpot as first glance would lead one to believe.
posted by revbrian at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2002


He doesn't sound crazy, but how in the hell can you test it out. (as pxe2000 said too.)
posted by bittennails at 8:15 AM on April 30, 2002


I think his implication was to test it out by studying history. His examples were at least were of past social ideas towards other taboos.
posted by cowboy at 8:35 AM on April 30, 2002


Also at issue here is what the legislature is doing to stifle unpopular thought in the academic system. By pulling $100,000 in funding because of their displeasure about his essay, they are in effect censoring free thought and speech. And no matter the subject, THAT should never happen.
posted by eas98 at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2002


If we're going to pass judgment on the guy's ideas, we might as well do it directly from the source material: Mirkin's 1999 article. Also, here's a site with more Mirkin information than anyone would ever want to know.
posted by rcade at 8:52 AM on April 30, 2002


Can we all please just wait until they turn 18? PLEASE?? Or, for those of you who fingers are flashing toward your keyboards, under 18 for those couples who are, say, a year apart in age.

Goodly shit. No one in the whole goddamned country can seem to keep it in their pants for two seconds. Sublimate, people! Leave our kids alone!
posted by UncleFes at 9:00 AM on April 30, 2002


"I thought there was a difference if a kid was patted on the butt ...or if somebody raped a kid."

"It doesn't mean you have to approve of any of them, but there are differences," he said. "I also thought there was a difference if the kid was a young kid, say 7 years old, and a 17-year-old. There are different degrees of non-consent, different degrees of a kid going along."

...Yet he said it is absolutely unacceptable for people in positions of power over children -- such as teachers and ministers -- to engage in sexual relationships with young people.

The abuse of children by priests, he said, is a "gross violation of trust," and "impermissible."

"It's frustrating because the position I have is distorted," he said. "It makes me sound like I'm head of a pro-sex-with-children organization. There is no organization, I am not the head of it and I don't endorse sex with children."


From Professor defends writing on pedophiliaBy The Kansas City Star

Whoa, what a monster
posted by y2karl at 9:00 AM on April 30, 2002


...said State Senator John Loudon, a Republican from the St. Louis suburbs. "We all respect academic freedom. Legitimizing molestation doesn't fall under academic freedom."

How screwed is that? He's bascially saying that academic freedom is fine as long as it doesn't challenge his morals.

!@#$%
posted by scarabic at 9:02 AM on April 30, 2002


Gee, UncleFes, I thought we were talking about the rarest of crimes and the moral panic ensuing... oh, sorry
posted by y2karl at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2002


absolutely unacceptable for people in positions of power over children

Physicality aside, I think we can safely say that all adults have power over children. I can't think of a situation where I'd be a child's equal, unlike in a standard, adult relationship.

The professor seems to be trying to encourage discussion about it rather than people sticking their heads in the sand and hoping molestation goes away. But if he's so smart, surely he could have seen this vilification coming.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:08 AM on April 30, 2002


Levine paints with broader strokes in her epilogue to Harmful to Minors. She writes that the US is not a child-friendly place, despite rhetoric to the contrary. The US lags far behind other industrialized nations in many indicators of child well-being: over 11 million children under the age of 18 have no health insurance, a fifth of American mothers get no prenatal care, the US ranks 18th in infant mortality among industrialized nations, and the percentage of children who die before the age of five is the same as it is in Cuba. Poverty is the single greatest risk factor for most every destructive condition a child might be at risk for: unwanted pregnancy, AIDS, sexual abuse, too-early motherhood.

From a review of Harmful To Minors by Judith Levine
posted by y2karl at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2002


After reading Mirkin's article, it seems like a particularly inspired example of trolling. He writes a piece arguing that the idea of pedophilia is so repugnant to Americans that it can't be discussed unless you are passing judgment on how evil it is. The response to his article proves his point.

Personally, I'm thankful for the strain of puritanism in the U.S. that makes us stigmatize pedophiles and refuse to tolerate suggestions that it might be OK in some circumstances. I don't think Mirkin should be fired for publishing his views, but if his school has to eat $100,000 grand because they're employing someone who wants to expand the boundaries under which child sex is OK, that seems like a fair trade.
posted by rcade at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2002


Hey, y2karl, these crimes take place. Until they are eliminated, I will rail against them and demand the harshest of punishments for the perpetrators, and I will continually seek to marginalize the defenders of these crimes and support those who do. You can talk all you want about moral panic, but it's a horrible crime with far-reaching consequence on supremely defenseless victims. Until it's stopped, I think all of us should continue to fight against it. I refuse to support anyone who condones such behavior, and I applaud those who feel and act the same.
posted by UncleFes at 9:17 AM on April 30, 2002


Child mortality would seem to be of more importance. Save the children from that crime first?
posted by y2karl at 9:24 AM on April 30, 2002


Children need to be protected, and abusers need to be squished into a gooey mess. I'm clear on that.

But IMHO things aren't terribly cut and dried, just based on the age. A 20 year old can date a 39 year old with no problem, but how about 17 and 36? 15 and 34? 15 and 17? 15 and 18? Where's the line?
posted by Foosnark at 9:32 AM on April 30, 2002


Very simple test: Ask Prof Mirkin if he had a daughter (or son) ten years old if having sex with a 45 year old would be ok in his family.Put your child's groin where your ideas are.
posted by Postroad at 9:33 AM on April 30, 2002


[By pulling $100,000 in funding because of their displeasure about his essay, they are in effect censoring free thought and speech. ]

Argued another way, now it is free speech. Since, we aren't paying for it anymore...
posted by revbrian at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2002


Like nineteenth century women, children are viewed as innocent and non-sexual, and in the process of protecting this innocence we have expanded the concept of sex so that many types of touching and behavior that were previously thought of as non-sexual are now considered sexual.[8] Ironically, in trying to protect children from sexual exploitation we have so eroticized them that almost any picture of a naked child is likely to be considered sexual and pornographic.

I think this is a good point - nudity shouldn't automatically mean sexual, and touching or holding people shouldn't automatically be sexual. It's totally distinct: when it's sexual, it feels sexual before you even touch each other. I've gone to some judo classes recently and I realized it was really one of the few outlets where you can feel the weight of someone's body, where you can touch someone anywhere, without it being sexual at all. It's just fun.

it seems that well over 90% of ``child'' molestation involves children between 11 and 16, and less than 5% involves intercourse or penetration.

This is important too. The way these stories are presented in TV shows etc, you'd think they all rape 5-year old girls.

Though of course, the power play thing is very difficult to overcome: adults do have positions of authority over children, so coercion seems to be inherent. But the way we treat it now is almost like fetishizing it, and the way we see it as a tragedy of corrupting our innocents probably makes victims more likely to focus on it. What society defines as normal has a lot to do with what causes psychological pain.

Kids who got thrashed with a belt when it was normal were just in pain for a few days; children who undergo similar treatment now feel psychological pain along with it. I mean, things change - infant deaths used to be pretty normal occasional disappointment while now they seem utterly tragic - and I'm not saying we should change those things back. But it's worth noting that in a way, we cause our own pain (as a society) by defining what is normal or expected.
posted by mdn at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2002


Salmonberry: Maybe he did see it coming. How do you know he didn't from reading any of the articles? That still doesn't make the legislature's pulling of $100,000 in funding at all ethical. What, people aren't supposed to talk about controversial topics now, or get upset about being accused of an enemy of humankind for discussing controversial topics? To do so would make one somehow moronic? OK.
posted by raysmj at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2002


Say, UncleFes, you may want to turn it down a notch: the dear professor isn't condoning it, he's exploring how society reacts to it over the ages. It's analysis, that's all.
posted by solistrato at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2002


Francis Schaeffer:

There is a “thinkable” and an “unthinkable” in every era. One era is quite certain intellectually and emotionally about what is acceptable. Yet another era decides that these “certainties” are unacceptable and puts another set of values into practice. On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on...

The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet—since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking—when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.

"...though we are speaking of morality and not the changing tides of fashion, our modern society can seldom tell the difference." Quoted from Antithesis.
posted by aaronshaf at 10:04 AM on April 30, 2002


By pulling $100,000 in funding because of their displeasure about his essay, they are in effect censoring free thought and speech.

No. If they put him in jail or issued an injunction that would be censorship. This is recognition that certain ideologies ought not be legitimized by receiving gov't support. It is the same as gov't not funding the next KKK parade. The KKK is allowed to publicly voice their ideas, the gov't is not required to fund it.

But IMHO things aren't terribly cut and dried, just based on the age. A 20 year old can date a 39 year old with no problem, but how about 17 and 36? 15 and 34? 15 and 17? 15 and 18? Where's the line?

There is no line. There is a 'grey area' in which interpretation of context is necessary if one is to decide right and wrong in a particular case. For the purpose of creating an enforceable law a line does have to be created but, inevitably, there will be cases that seem to be unjust because they fall close to the "line." This will always be the case no matter where the line is drawn. IMO the line should be as restrictive as possible: legally prohibiting some non-destructive relationships with kids is much more preferable to legally permitting some destructive ones.
posted by plaino at 10:13 AM on April 30, 2002


Simple minds always seek simplistic understandings of complex issues. And fear anyone who dares point out the shallow hypocrisy of their views. I see nothing horrifying (or untrue) in this guy's remarks. It is possible to investigate reality thoroughly and still be opposed to immoral, criminal or otherwise harmful behaviors.

If only his name weren't "Mirkin"...giggle.
posted by rushmc at 10:25 AM on April 30, 2002


aaronshaf, thanks for the link to that pic of that cute gay couple.

The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest.

examples?

you know, whether you like it or not, morals are dependent on what the society decides is moral. Men in the old testament had multiple wives and king solomon had hundreds of concubines as well, moral by "god"'s standard of that day. Will you claim that has not changed? Slavery is acceptable throughout the bible as well, but I doubt you would defend it now. The thing is, even if you believe in God and the bible, you have to depend on interpretations of it. People disagree on what the interpretations say, even in one era. Over time, as social mores shift, these disagreements are even greater.

Hey, yeah, what about marriage and sexual love? Talking about sexuality within the church would have been absolutely unthinkable a thousand years ago. Now the "bond of sexual love between a man and his wife" is one of the hottest topics for christian media. Even the possibility that a minister could ever have sex would have been completely unthinkable. To suggest that he could advise his congregation on it would have been blasphemous.
posted by mdn at 10:25 AM on April 30, 2002


What is being discussed here has been called "The Social Sanction." It is the ultimate cultural law, which though varying from culture to culture, *always* exists, and is *always* brutally enforced, even in the most liberal of regimes. Politicians always try to figure out the shifting sands of The Social Sanction, so they can write laws that conform to the prejudices of the times.
If you think you, or your culture are any different, imagine your response to this: an older man is walking towards you, he wears a tee-shirt that says "I have sex with young children," and he is munching on a roast dog leg for lunch.
Now you have two reasons for beating the heck out of him.
posted by kablam at 10:27 AM on April 30, 2002


In matters of teenage sex, the U.S.'s black-and-white view of pedophilia certainly has gone over the top in its inability to distinguish between full-blown sexual abuse or Lolita-like manipulation and a genuine, evolving relationship. It fails to take into account the individual maturity of a teenager, parental consent and that, whether a 17 year old mature-minded teenager sleeps with a 25 year old or another teenager, s/he'll probably be having sex anyway.

Case in point: my younger sister is now married to the guy who dated her while she was a teenager. Now, as her older protective brother, he was aware that I would pursue any injustice towards my sister with all the vigor of Ahab. But I was cool with the relationship, as were our respective families, because there was a solid base of two mutually mature people (with my sister being ahead of her years in wisdom) working to maintain a relationship, who kept up with us, even though it was patently illegal in scope and could very well have been dismissed as pedophilia within the rigid boundaries of our intensely litigous nation. And guess what? The two have had an absolutely solid marriage for six years.
posted by ed at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2002


It wasn't more than a hundred years ago that the norm in America was for girls to be married and having children by age 16. If you were unmarried at age 18, you were heading for spinsterhood. And plenty of just-turned-teenaged girls were being wooed by men in their twenties and married at age fourteen.

Were these "children" emotionally harmed by this? No. Why? Because the social expectations didn't make it harmful.

Sex is, in and of itself, not an emotionally harmful act. What is harmful are the social constructs built artificially around sex.

In societies where sex is a part of childhood (there are several tribal societies in which children have sex), the children aren't emotionally harmed. It's a part of life. It's normal.

Sex is emotionally harmful only when coercion is involved. If the participants are willing, what harm can come of it?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2002


Postroad: Very simple test: Ask Prof Mirkin if he had a daughter (or son) ten years old if having sex with a 45 year old would be ok in his family.

No, that's a very stupid test. The very thing Mirkin is trying to do is remove irrational emotion from an emotional topic, and discuss it in a purely rational manner. Not saying he succeeds, but even difficult topics should be possible to discuss without those doing the discussing growing immediately emotional and irrational.

UncleFes: Can we all please just wait until they turn 18?

I live in a country where the age of consent is 14, but the average age at which virginity is lost is 2 years higher than in the United States, and where teenage pregnancy is much less common.

plaino: IMO the line should be as restrictive as possible: legally prohibiting some non-destructive relationships with kids is much more preferable to legally permitting some destructive ones.

Excellent rational argument. Much better than the mouth foamers who immediately threaten to burn anyone who tries to discuss the issue.
posted by syzygy at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2002


When I was 15-16 and starting university, I dated men who were easily 6-10 years older than I was. Regularly. Primarily because there weren't very many boys my own age on campus and secondly because I wasn't interested in boys my own age that were still in high school.

Now, just because we didn't "go all the way", doesn't mean there wasn't a level of sexual contact there...but it wouldn't have occurred to anyone that the men I dated should have been prosecuted. Some young ladies and some young men are fully capable of dealing with adult situations before the imaginary adulthood line currently defined as chronological age 18.

There are grey areas gang, it's not a black and white topic. And without discussion, without analysis of the factors that define pedophelia, we doom ourselves into a non-thinking reactive state...and that's not good.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that babies or young children have the moral or mental capacity to make adult decisions, but by the same token, it's paternalistic and absurd to suggest that some teens are not capable of making those choices. Adult is a state of mind, not a biological age. I know plenty of 40 year olds that I consider to be far more immature than a few 17 year olds that I've known.
posted by dejah420 at 10:49 AM on April 30, 2002


18 year old male sentenced to 17 years in prison for having sex with a 14 year old.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:58 AM on April 30, 2002


Sex is, in and of itself, not an emotionally harmful act. What is harmful are the social constructs built artificially around sex.

Worth repeating as a notion that endlessly falls on deaf ears in our schizophrenic society faltering between omnipresent, rapacious lust and a repressive Puritanical history.
posted by rushmc at 11:00 AM on April 30, 2002


FFF: While I sympathize with the points in your post, one thing to keep in mind that back then, premarital sex simply wasn't as much of a regularity as it is today. In fact, it was downright discouraged. This is not to suggest that premarital sex didn't happen. But in the minds of those Victorian idealists, a marriage legitimized the right for a teenager to have sexual or connubial relations with someone over the 18 year mark. Once a teenager had crossed that threshold, she (very rarely, a he) was fair game and thus no longer under the 12 gauge shotgun of morality.

The current debate on teenage sex and pedophilia has everything to do with the belief that, without the legitimate imprimatur of marriage, in the minds of most God-fearing American adults, it is somehow abusive or wrong for a teenager to have a relationship with someone who is only a few years older than them. We have abided by the hard law, but we have failed to apply a certain common sense factor when it comes to gauging the wrongness of any relationship. Ironically, this comes at a time when the divorce rate has risen and a good deal of people are holding off until their late twenties or early thirties for marriage or entirely rejecting the notion of marriage altogether.

What we are contending with here is a set of laws that have failed dramatically to consider this particular gray area. But when you're dealing with a government (and, for that matter, a majority of the people) that rejects a surgeon general because she suggested that we should be honest about such an obvious fact (strangely enough, treated as if it were some shocking verboeten revelation) that, hey, guess what, teenagers have sex, there appears to be little hope to take this aspect of everyday life into account within any facet of the legislative world.
posted by ed at 11:04 AM on April 30, 2002


Say, UncleFes, you may want to turn it down a notch: the dear professor isn't condoning it, he's exploring how society reacts to it over the ages. It's analysis, that's all.

My apologies. I have a particularly strong animosity to this sort of thing. I will stifle my anger from here on out. Just don't expect me to suddenly roll over and think pedophilia is something we ought try to understand and put into cultural context. It'll take a lot more than some analysis and a loose chastisement on the low incidence of offense to move me from that position.
posted by UncleFes at 11:13 AM on April 30, 2002


mdn, love will always be the right thing to do, externally and independently of what anyone "thinks" or what society decides by consensus.

"If nothing is self evident, nothing can be proved," Lewis claimed. "If nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all" (27). He means that if we do not accept Natural Law as self-evident and obligatory for its own sake, then all a person's conceptions of value fall away.
posted by aaronshaf at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2002


Unfortunately, as social historians like to remind us, the official moral "line" often fails to line up with what can be empirically demonstrated. It's difficult to find anyone before the twentieth century arguing in favor of premarital sex before the twentieth century, yet the demographics of a place like, say, Britain suggest that such sex was taking place at sometimes astonishingly high rates. What has changed, by and large, is the presumption that premarital sex + pregnancy = marriage. As one study in the Chicago Tribune pointed out about seven years ago, the teen pregnancy rate appears to have dropped since the 50s; what has risen is teen pregnancy out of wedlock. Shotgun marriages, in other words, went out of fashion. (This would conform with my parents' recollections, incidentally; neither of them has ever shown the remotest nostalgia about pre-60s "moral values," especially my father, who remembers that the primary hobby of the boys at his high school was bedding as many girls as possible.)
posted by thomas j wise at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2002


Children who molest children: a case.
Daycare sex abuse: Another case.

The panic surrounding youthful sexuality

Excerpt:

For example, studies commissioned by Congress show that between 50 and 150 children are kidnapped and murdered by strangers each year, yet in a Mayo Clinic survey three-quarters of parents said they are afraid their children will be abducted. And a 1994 U.S. government report analyzing over 12,000 accusations of Satanic ritual abuse found "not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence."

It's hard for people to get worked up about offenses against children if there isn't some Evil Monster involved.
The bonus is that the defender of children gets to feel good about being in the moral absolute.
But then perhaps scaring young children over the least of what threatens them while ignoring the less sexy problems they face ought to be considered a moral crime, too.
posted by y2karl at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2002


UncleFes: all good.
posted by solistrato at 12:02 PM on April 30, 2002


Whose scaring kids? I'm scared. And I'm a badly socialized man, so when I get scared, I get mad. My kid lives in blissful ignorance of this cesspool, and I will do everything in my power than he continues to do so until the time when he's mature enough to be instructed onhow to help in making sure it never happens to him.

And there's still the issue of the 50-150 kidnapped+murdered children each year; that's 1-3 in each state. So maybe there are a few Evil Monsters out there, y2karl, hmm? Maybe defending children IS a moral absolute.

Maybe not everything on this green earth is - or should be - subject to debate. Maybe some shit - like abusing and murdering children, perhaps - is just simply wrong, and should be dealt with in the harshest, most permanent means available.

But then perhaps scaring young children over the least of what threatens them while ignoring the less sexy problems they face ought to be considered a moral crime, too.

Plenty of moral crimes to go around, even without people defending the sexiest of them.
posted by UncleFes at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2002


It wasn't more than a hundred years ago that the norm in America was for girls to be married and having children by age 16.

um, i think this had more to do with women being viewed as property than a view that 16 year olds were emotionally mature enough to have sex.
posted by boltman at 12:10 PM on April 30, 2002


What we are contending with here is a set of laws that have failed dramatically to consider this particular gray area

How can laws - a rigid set of universal principles - ever address a gray area? Laws must choose demarcation points along a continuous spectrum. This allows for universality but will also be a point of contention. When is a car going too fast on a highway? At 56 mph but not at 55?

Everyone can agree on the extremes. Yes, a 5-year old and a 45 year old should not have sex. But, what about an 18-yr old and a 17-yr old?

This thread seems to be full of arguments about shifting moral values and about the fuzzy line of demarcation. Ok, so we can all agree that it's fuzzy - can we move on from that? How can we encode social mores in universal laws? I dont see any proposed solutions here so here's mine:

1. The age of consent is 14 although an age difference of less than two years is considered an exception (i.e. 15 & 13 is ok)

2. A person can still be prosecuted for 'rape' even if they meet the age of consent laws if it can be shown that the relationship is not consensual. For people under the age of 18 (but above the age of consent) who have sex with someone over the age of 18, the evidence requirements are weaker. (i.e. be *very* careful if you are a 30-yr old having sex with a 16-yr old, make sure her parents approve etc.)

3. (for unclefes) Abuse and murder are wrong in *all* cases regardless of the age of the participants. (sheesh)
posted by vacapinta at 12:16 PM on April 30, 2002


Just for the record, I got no problem with a couple of 15-16 year olds having a bit of free-form intercourse; it's not a great idea unless they take the proper precautions, but any fool who ever was 15 can remember the (ahem) desire. I'm talking about predators who abuse kids. I don't think there is ANY justification, and I don't think there is any effective treatment; imo, it should be a capital crime. All rape should be.

Alright, I'm done.
posted by UncleFes at 12:19 PM on April 30, 2002


4. Laws will note a strict difference between intercourse/abuse and sexual provocation. (did you all know that if an older man yells "s**k my d**k" to an under-age man it can be prosecuted as a sexual misdemeanor - that this can lead to the older man being put on a list of sex offenders?)
posted by vacapinta at 12:24 PM on April 30, 2002


y2karl: Even scarier than your second link is a story from Canada's East Coast. There, a primary-school aged girl was being sexually abused by her hated father. She accused her favourite teacher of the abuse.

Why did she do this?

Because she found it easier to cope with the abuse if it came from someone who she loved and respected.

There's a certain naive, childish logic to that.

The innocent teacher, of course, had his life destroyed.

UncleFes would just kill him outright.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:31 PM on April 30, 2002


A large part of what this guy is trying to do seems to be pointing out that there is a distinction between "pedophilia" and other forms of intimate adult / child touching (hugging, butt patting, etc.) It's too bad, then, that all the news stories (and this MeFi thread) headline the whole brouhaha as "Professor Defends Pedophilia!"
posted by Shadowkeeper at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2002


5. If "sexual provocation" is unclear, let the judges decide. That's why we have humans on the bench.

Ok, I'm done too.
posted by vacapinta at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2002


how about we just eliminate all age categories and give the jury complete discretion. maybe something like this:

sexual activity involving a child is punishable by a prison term of 1-99 years. the age of the defendent may excuse them from liability or mitigate the punishment imposed.

something tells me that the results would be just about the same as they are now with our "dramatically failed" laws.
posted by boltman at 12:50 PM on April 30, 2002


A few things to consider:

First off, as this Sac Bee story indicates, a drop in the teenage pregnancy rate doesn't necessarily preclude teenagers from engaging in sexual activity. Here's a study that goes into further.

Second, here are some interesting stories concerning the abstinence movement.

Bush Promoting Abstinence to Curb Teen Sex
Abstinence Counseling Doesn't Prevent Teen Sex
Sex Talk May Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rate
posted by ed at 12:53 PM on April 30, 2002


It's hard for people to get worked up about offenses against children if there isn't some Evil Monster involved. The bonus is that the defender of children gets to feel good about being in the moral absolute.

You're piling it pretty deep, y2karl. Parental concern for children isn't numerically based, and 150 stranger abduction murders a year is still an enormous amount.

When I was a new parent living in North Dallas, a child was snatched from a youth soccer field and killed a mile from my home while her parents watched a game at the same field. Was I subsequently concerned about abduction because it's great self-righteous fun to make someone a bogeyman, or was it simply recognition of the present reality?
posted by rcade at 12:55 PM on April 30, 2002


mdn, love will always be the right thing to do, externally and independently of what anyone "thinks" or what society decides by consensus.

I don't even know what you think you're saying. Of course no one's going to argue that love is wrong. But people will disagree on what constitutes love, and when it is misguided - like whether allowing loved ones to die with dignity is an example of love, e.g.. 'Answers' like "just do the right thing" are totally meaningless. The problem is we disagree over what the right thing is, in different contexts.

In fact, to get back on topic, the sentence of yours I quoted above could even be used to defend pedophilia. So there you go.
posted by mdn at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2002


Somebody bring me up to date. As usual, I hadn't been informed (did I miss an issue of The Drudge Report?) of the new and alarming shortage of nubile women over the age of 18, a shortage apparently necessitating statutory rape, outright pedophilia, and the rationalization of same.

What? Oh, there's not a shortage? You mean it's just insecure and pathetic men preying on the weak?

Who'd a-thunk it?

Ok, as always I'm not here to condemn, but to offer support and understanding and compromises and goddammed solutions to those who have lost their way and who are playing around in these touchy-feely "gray areas". So in that spirit, here's another proposed solution for this oh so vexing little problem:

Don't have sex with people under the age of 18. Period. Otherwise we throw your molesting ass in the slam.

I can hear the shocked gasps. Foldy, that's too harsh...there's that balancing of needs that we have to be sensitive to in this "gray area", don't you know. We do want to be fair. On the one hand we must balance a man's need for sex with the 16-year old he's finally been able to sweet-talk into making the beast with two backs, against the pesky needs of children to be left alone until they can make their own informed choices.

All right...so here we go...follow me closely here...we put the man's needs (nanograms) in the left bucket...kinda hard to even see 'em rollin' around on the scale there, heh heh...now we put the child's needs (metric tons) on the right....Yes! We've made the necessary attempt to balance their needs!

So with that important balance in mind, here's our revised, balanced solution:

Find Someone Over 18, Nanogram-Dick.

It ain't that much of an inconvenience. You may have noticed in your day to day activities that plenty of the women you see on a daily basis are (believe it or not) actually over the age of 18. Fuck them (with their informed consent, of course), mmmmkay? Kids are not old enough to make choices about drinking or voting, so we don't expect them to necessarily make good choices about potentially having children, protecting themselves against a variety of diseases, etc etc.

So much for that "gray area"...
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:24 PM on April 30, 2002


Holy SHIT.

I would never have believed it on a million years, but... Foldy and I agree on something. Someone take a quick peek outside and see if there are some horsemen gallivanting across the landscape, I'm afraid to look.
posted by UncleFes at 1:40 PM on April 30, 2002


rcade "You're piling it pretty deep, y2karl."

Actually, I don't think that he is. I think, that once again, people react emotionally rather than rationally.

My wife and I were having this same conversation the other day, because I was pissed off that my son's daycare had done a "Stranger Danger" course without informing me in advance. The argument got pretty hot over the actual risk involved of children being abused / assaulted / kidnapped /killed, so I did a little research.

I don't have the links and facts here (I can post them later) but I do remember the results. It boils down to this: all things being equal (and yes I know they never are) there is a 1 in 77 chance that a given child will be kidnapped by someone (s)he's related to, and a 1 in 13, 000+ chance that the same event will occur with a stranger.

I dont know the details of the crime you described, but I bet it doesn't reflect a present reality much different than the numbers I described.

NOW - Before anyone climbs on me for this, read the following sentence: ANY rape, murder or abuse of a child is an UTTER TRAGEDY to those affected. However, the whole point of this is that we should not as a result over-react.

And, while I know that parental concern is for their children is not numerically based, you can carry concern for children into deeply irrational territory - the gist of his original article being that we find ourselves there - and we have to decide if that's where we want to be.

Despite a strong inclination in that direction, it is unlikely I will ever be involved in any children's activities as an adult sponsor / coach / mentor / whatever. The utter destruction of my life based on a false accusation is a risk I will not take.

< after preview >

fold_and_mutilate - did you even fucking read the conversation above? No-one here is lobbying for repeal of age of consent, nor of abandoning children to the mercy of demonic men. We're talking about people like you, making bright line generalizations that are not supported by reality.

I have no idea what sex you are, but I was 16 year old guy once. I wanted to fuck like mad, like many other 16 year olds I knew. I was a walking hormonal time bomb. I was a lot of things, but what I wasn't was a innocent child. I assume it can't be much different now. However, your post states that I was a child. A sexless, emotionless, pristine idiot child (I make no defense on the idiot portion). And, that suddenly, upon turning 18, I was a "insecure and pathetic man preying on the weak" because I was still ready to fuck like mad with my 17 year old girlfriend.

The question becomes, how can you countenance such a imbecilic position? Do you really believe there is some magical transformation between 17 yrs. 364 days and 17 yrs 365 days? That there is some magical Tree of Knowledge of Coitus that we all eat from upon reaching the age of (semi)majority?

There is a gray area there, foldy my ********* ***** friend. It's people like you that send other people to jail for being people.

< after another preview >

Ditto for you UncleFes.

We now return you to your previously scheduled discussion.
posted by Irontom at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2002


the whole point of this is that we should not as a result over-react.

I can't imagine what "over-reacting" to the rape, murder and/or abuse of a child might entail. Tactical nuclear strike?

still can't believe I'm saying this Foldy's right.

Now I'm leaving for real this time. We now return to the previously scheduled tortuous justifications for pedophilia "what if" scenarios involving 16 year olds that we all know are just excuses for avoiding the ugly subject.
posted by UncleFes at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2002


As usual on Metafilter, the Ox-Bow Incident approach wins, spawning national legislation to ensure that a Logan's Run orb is placed mandatorily on the right hand of anyone under 18 (transforming the feverish rush of adolescent masturbation into a strange collision of bedroom light that requires alacrity to cover up), with Michael York making a regular run of every high school graduation shouting the words, "You can love!" shortly before the graduates toss their caps in the air. Heaven help anyone who considers the graces of a human being without considering their age. No, let's hang the poor bastard who talked to a young lady at a coffeehouse who seemed around 22 in her physical apperance and conversational style, but who actually turned out to be 17. Someone call in the Statutory Death Squad and make Foldy the Executioner-In-Chief.
posted by ed at 2:00 PM on April 30, 2002


Irontom: well said.

I'm a bit curious as to why age is a more important factor than anything else (like, say, love). Whether people want to admit it or not, there is an obvious difference between consensual sex with sexually mature mid-to-late teenagers and sex with prepubescent children (who aren't capable of giving informed consent). Lumping all people who have sex with teenagers who happen to be under the magical, mystical age of 18 in with those who prey on young children is just ignorant. And I think it's a huge waste of time to prosecute a 20 year old who has mutually consenting sex with a 16 year old, when that time could be spent prosecuting a 20 year old who has forced sex with a 5 year old. The former is not rape committed by someone with pedophilic tendencies, the latter clearly is.
posted by biscotti at 2:12 PM on April 30, 2002


150 stranger abduction murders a year is still an enormous amount.

No, statistically it isn't. Sane parents take reasonable precations; the other type terrify their children with irrational boogeymen, giving them a fear complex about the world and the other people who inhabit it which they often never fully overcome. Magnifying a threat beyond what is rational in order to solidify one's power over others...hmm, sounds analagous to the U.S. government's current use of terrorism.

Deal in facts, people. Not fear, emotions, knee-jerk reactionism. Real things occur in external reality, not one's idiosyncratic worlds of limited perception and skewed interpretation. The further we stray from the facts, the more we trip into fantasy.
posted by rushmc at 3:19 PM on April 30, 2002


(which, while popular with many people, doesn't make for good policymaking.)
posted by rushmc at 3:40 PM on April 30, 2002


I have a cousin who greets me at family reunions by remarking, year after year, on how flat my stomach is -- it isn't -- and hitting me there, hard. That's irritating. It's also irritating to question the question, but I think we're in trouble if we begin by asking whether or not children are inherently sexual beings.
The question embodies a proposition that is both self-evident and false. On the one hand, are little people the focus of the way we energize ourselves about sex in this culture? Sure. They mobilize erotically our talk, our fears, our activities, our dreamy idealism, our darkest violence -- our movie-makers, our police, and our talk-shows. Duh! On the other hand, putting the question this way is like asking whether pretty people are attractive. The "inherently" in our question gives a slam-bang, blaring and fake solidity to two very dubious terms -- "child" and "sexual," both of which are artificial, relatively recent inventions.
So far, so tedious. But what if, in our culture, "the child" and "the sexual" are not independent terms to begin with? What if we can hardly think of one without the other, if they grew up together and are, in our discourse and in our minds, inseparable? I think the modern child and modern ideas of what constitute sexual allure and even sexual activity were developed only yesterday -- in the last two centuries. I think, further, that these two new manufactures are overlapping: ponder, for instance, what our culture does with ideas of "innocence," how "innocence" gives us something to sanitize and pant after, something we can pretend to protect while exploiting it to the hilt.
"The child" helps define what we think of as "sexual," and vice versa. That's our inheritance, lousy as it may be; and we won't get rid of it by passing more three-strikes laws, stinging a few pedophiles and constructing monsters who actually see a connection between kids and sex, a connection we say (loudly-loudly) does not and cannot exist. But it is a connection forged by our culture and basic to it.
Our obsession with sexual and sexualized children is so intense we need to displace, disguise and deny it. To help us out, we have instituted a form of story-telling, a sanctimonious porn-babble designed to eroticize kids, blame it on somebody else and keep the talk going.
There's nothing "inherent" about any of this: it's not nature doing it but us. It's us keeping the cultural machinery oiled and humming. We have -- bad news for the kids -- come to depend on it.


James Kincaid
posted by y2karl at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2002


Sad fucks may intellectualise and justify all they like but the fact remains .........if you want to mangle an adult life, sexually abuse a child's.........
posted by Arqa at 4:36 PM on April 30, 2002


All you Americans rant on about 18 being some magic number. The age of consent in the UK is 16, and I don't see people saying that's sick and depraved. What's so magical about 18? A lot of people aren't emotionally ready for sex at the age of 20, so even having an age of consent is pretty stupid IMHO.
posted by wackybrit at 4:43 PM on April 30, 2002


Wackybrit: The age of consent is 16 in a lot of the U.S., according to the unnervingly detailed AgeOfConsent.Com.

And, while I know that parental concern is for their children is not numerically based, you can carry concern for children into deeply irrational territory - the gist of his original article being that we find ourselves there - and we have to decide if that's where we want to be.

I don't see anything irrational in the belief that there's an age below which children cannot consent to sexual relations, or the judgment that a desire to have sex with children below that age is sick.

We can argue about what that age should be, and whether the law should come down as hard on a 19-year-old with a 15-year-old partner as it does on a 35-year-old molesting pre-teens, but I think society is right to completely reject Mirkin's suggestion that there are some circumstances in which "intergenerational sex" should be more accepted.

If Mirkin is suggesting that society will be more accepting of pedophilia in the coming years, just as it has become more accepting of homosexuality and masturbation, count me out.
posted by rcade at 4:58 PM on April 30, 2002


top action thread!
multifarious alliances in the twilight-filter (requires quicktime). i find find myself agreeing with everybody! anyhoo, some numbers:
'In 2000, there were 70.4 million children under age 18 in the United States, or 26 percent of the population'
if 'between 50 and 150 children are kidnapped and murdered by strangers each year'
then there's 150/70400000 chance, that's 0.00000213 in 1, or 0.000213%. or something.
i doubt that the nasty 150 figure is shared out evenly between the states, why not ask childstats.gov?
another bland statistic: abuse 9/10 is by somebody the child knows and/or is related to.
unfinished thought: perhaps the name 'teen-ager' could be a psychological factor...if we counted in base eight..?
posted by asok at 5:07 PM on April 30, 2002


"Don't have sex with people under the age of 18. Period. Otherwise we throw your molesting ass in the slam."

Bizarre. Legal age of consent throughout most of the USA is 16, and as young as 13 in some cases.

"I wanted to fuck like mad, like many other 16 year olds I knew."

Unborn babies play with themselves in the womb. Toddlers masturbate like freaking mad until someone gets uncomfortable and tells them it's not appropriate. Primary-aged kids inevitably play doctor, and prepubscents frequently engage in sex play. Teenagers masturbate so frequently it's a wonder they don't develop callouses, and a lot of them fuck a lot.

Sex is arguably the deepest core drive of all animals.

The act itself is harmless. It has to be: if it were undesirable, there'd be a quick end to the species.

What needs to be illegal is coercion.

"I don't see anything irrational in the belief that there's an age below which children cannot consent to sexual relations"

I have clear and happy memories of playing "doctor" as a child. We were all willing participants, and engaged in childish sex play repeatedly. Are you going to tell me that I didn't consent to it?! I'll tell you straight out that you're full of shit.

And yet despite my probably unusually-active childhood sex play, I was not sexually active (er, with others) during my teenage years. As an adult, I've a fifteen-year old monogamous relationship, and it looks like it'll last another sixty years.

From my viewpoint, childhood sexual play was great fun, and did no damage to me whatsoever.

This is not to say, however, that as a child I would have been willing to have sex with an adult. It was kid-play, and adults would have been most unwelcome. For an adult to participate would have required coercion.

And coercion is the damaging thing. Not the sex.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:25 PM on April 30, 2002


'between 50 and 150 children are kidnapped and murdered by strangers each year'

There are at least 100 deaths by bee-sting, and probably twice that number due to mis-diagnosis.

Yet you don't see parents panicked about bees.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2002


'between 50 and 150 children are kidnapped and murdered by strangers each year'

There are at least 100 deaths by bee-sting, and probably twice that number due to mis-diagnosis.

Yet you don't see parents panicked about bees.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2002


Damn. Thought I'd cancelled that action in time. Couldn't MeFi software do a comparison when there are two submissions within seconds of each other, and identify double-posts? (Or, heck, even put in a three-second delay. That'd be enough.)
posted by five fresh fish at 5:28 PM on April 30, 2002


I really wish Samsonov14 hadn't worded his post the way he did (good post as it is), and I wish the NYT hasn't used such sensational (and misleading, it seems) language. It seems likely that many here didn't read the article very carefully, just as it seems clear from the article that the state legislators involved haven't actually read or thought about what Mirkin is saying. Now I haven't read his paper, and the linked article uses sensational language, but it seems to me that he isn't condoning or advocating pedophilia at all, he thinks intergenerational sex shouldn't have the stigma it has (and by "intergenerational", he's likely not talking about adults and babies, a 20 year old and a 45 year old are "intergenerational"), that adolescents have sexual desires which we shouldn't pretend don't exist, and he's advocating people stop having knee-jerk reactions to things without actually thinking about them (like by lumping all sex involving anyone under 18 into the "pedophilia/statutory rape" pile). He clearly states that incest and rape are wrong, that adults should not abuse their authority by coercing children into sex. But he's right when he says that it's a bad thing that teacher's can't hug their students for fear of being accused of molestation. He certainly doesn't seem to be advocating child abuse or sex with babies, but it's pretty amazing how quick some people are to jump to that conclusion when someone dares to suggest that a 14 year old just might be capable of giving free, informed consent to sex, and that the legal age of consent just might not be relevant to each and every person below it.

On preview: what Mr. Fish said.
posted by biscotti at 5:32 PM on April 30, 2002


UncleFes - The whole point of all of this is that there are grey areas. The question is, what to do about them? Your answer (and Foldy's) is clearly to lump all of the grey in with the black.

I REPEAT - rape, incest and child abuse are wrong. We AGREE on that subject. The question is whether or not you can address the OTHER points brought up.

As far as overreacting, rushmc said it beautifully above (I paraphrase): "terrify the children with irrational boogeymen, giving them a fear complex about the world and the other people who inhabit it which they often never fully overcome. Magnifying the threat beyond what is rational". This is why I was so angry at my son's daycare - their answer to the solution is - wait for it - STRANGER DANGER©!! That's right, they're teaching 4 year olds to never trust anyone but police officers and people their parents introduce them to. So, that same afternoon my kid starts telling me about the guy who walks his dogs past our house twice a day and how he's a bad man because he's - you guessed it - A STRANGER!!

Is this how you were raised? Is this how you want the next generation raised? If so, good on you, I guess. I just don't want that for my kid, so now I have to make special accomodations for all the hysteria that people like you and Foldy generate.

By the way, here is a rough draft of the numbers I put together for my wife Child Abduction Stats.
posted by Irontom at 5:43 PM on April 30, 2002


Sad fucks may intellectualise and justify all they like

Gee, and an anonymous user page, too--the courage! the courage!
posted by y2karl at 5:46 PM on April 30, 2002


What Irontom said. A friend went to Holland three years ago and spoke with wonder of seeing kids in strollers lined up outside a grocery store in the shade while their moms shopped inside. I go for walks a lot and I speak to strangers about the usual things--the weather, their dogs, their gardens. Ten years ago I told a kid what cute puppy he had--and it was: a month old pug--when I walked by his yard. His answer, "Do you know my kid code!?" What a wonderful world we've made for kids today.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy climbs into the wagon of the old mountebank who becomes Oz in her dream, looks into his crystal ball where she sees Auntie Em calling her worriedly and decides to go back to the home from which she ran away--which was what he meant for her to see and do. According to the rules of Stranger Danger, this scene should be cut from any subsequent showings of this film, or maybe the film be banned outright.

I mean, it's not as if we could teach our children to make the fine distinction between kind and harmless strangers--surely the preponderance--and the cosmically few with ill intent, is it? Even Barney has a little Don't Trust Strangers song he sings for the kids.

Bee stings, being struck by lightning or abducted by strangers are all within the same span of likelihood. You don't see Barney singing about standing under trees in a thunderstorm or the necessity of wearing shoes with rubber soles. I submit that hysterics over rare attacks on children are attacks on children, albeit not quite so rare by several orders of magnitude.
posted by y2karl at 6:07 PM on April 30, 2002


Are you going to tell me that I didn't consent to it?! I'll tell you straight out that you're full of shit.

I'm saying as far as the law is concerned, a child below the age of consent is incapable of consenting to sexual relations, just as people below a certain age are incapable of entering into contracts.

IronTom: Teaching a kid to recognize the concept of strangers vs. family and friends is important. I think it's natural for a child to come away from those "stranger danger" things with an exaggerated sense of the risk, but over time they reach a better understanding.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with teaching a four-year-old to be wary of strangers -- though admittedly I was naturally paranoid as a kid. I grew up avidly reading newspapers from around age 8 and obsessed over missing children cases like the Etan Patz abduction in New York.
posted by rcade at 6:11 PM on April 30, 2002


A friend went to Holland three years ago and spoke with wonder of seeing kids in strollers lined up outside a grocery store in the shade while their moms shopped inside.

That's what you wish our society was more like -- a place where people can't even be bothered to watch their infant children while they shop?
posted by rcade at 6:14 PM on April 30, 2002


An angry father calls the cops on his fourteen year old daughter's lover for knocking her up. "Aw Daiddy, but I loves him! He says he's gon' marry me! 'Sides, we've been seein each other since I's eleven!"

I see room for a witchhunt, but there wont be, so long as we narrow our focus on the "roaming maniacal predators". Ruin a child's life, you choose to forfeit your own. That's the way it should be, no room for second chances. Mandatory life sentencing for convicted child molesters should be pending in all states, not just a few.. Statuatory rape cases of those close in age not included.
posted by Quixoticlife at 7:03 PM on April 30, 2002


rcade - "I think it's natural for a child to come away from those "stranger danger" things with an exaggerated sense of the risk, but over time they reach a better understanding."

A better understanding of what? That there are some bad people in the world? I think that comes with life. The message being sent is that ALL strangers are assumed to be bad. And that is not what I want my kid to grow up with.

From the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children homepage:

Q: Isn’t the best advice I should give to my kids “never talk to strangers”?

A: Telling children to stay away from strangers is neither effective nor the best advice for many reasons. “Stranger” isn’t a concept children easily understand. Instead your child should be taught to look out for threatening behaviors and situations.

And as far as can't be bothered - what a shitty cheap shot. It's like asking when you stopped beating your wife - there is no safe answer. It's a setup. And it all depends on persepctive. If you believe the world and people are evil, then the statement you made makes perfect sense. However, some of us don't want to live in that world.
posted by Irontom at 7:07 PM on April 30, 2002


Ok, I've understand the probabilities discussed, but I can't seem to get too upset over the fact that some parents go a bit overboard with their fixation on stranges.

If my son was stung by a bee and died - well, it would be completely devastating. But I would at least know what happened.

Let's say one of the statistically improbable events occurred. He's - just - gone. You don't know what's happened to him, where he is , where to look, if he's alive. With each passing minute, the probability of ever seeing him again gets smaller.

This happened to a little boy about 10 miles from where I live. Read the story and imagine being one of his parents.

I don't want to turn my child into a paranoid, but I'll be damned if he isn't going to be aware that bad things sometimes, rarely, do happen to kids. Sorry if I lack detachment on this particular issue.
posted by groundhog at 7:47 PM on April 30, 2002


"I'm saying as far as the law is concerned, a child below the age of consent is incapable of consenting to sexual relations"

Uh-huh. So my friends and I were commiting a sex crime by playing doctor, eh?

Once again, I repeat: it isn't sex that's bad. It is coercion that is bad.

Deal with the coercion aspect, and the sex part of it becomes a non-issue.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:26 PM on April 30, 2002


Y2Karl, perhaps before you start infering cowardice in others, you should educate yourself about the nature of the damage caused by paedophilia. I am not speaking of lustful 14 year olds experimenting, nor younger children playing 'doctors and nurses'. I am speaking of the permanent harm caused to the developing minds of children by the child sex abuser. Basically, this type of abuse damages the boundary setting mechanisms of the young mind and the ability to form a positive self image in adult life. The implications for this early harm are obvious. This type of childhood abuse frequently leads to adults having severe difficulty in making or maintaining healthy social, personal or sexual relationships, recognising and avoiding dangerous situations, carrying a burden of societal or abuser generated shame, resulting in the abused having an utterly miserable life - amongst survivors, suicide is not an uncommon outcome.
Of course the issues should be discussed without hysteria, but surely the overall issue is about protecting children from this kind or any kind of damage?. Yes, child mortality is a terrible thing, but not exactly pertinent to this issue. It's worrying to see that so many adults still see fit to only warn their children of the danger from strangers. In the UK, it is believed by some agencies that about 80% of acts of child sex abuse are perpetrated by trusted 'friends' of the family or indeed family members. Thanks Irontom for pointing out that teaching children to recognise 'dangerous behaviours' is a far more effective method of empowering children to protect themselves.
Paedophiles use particularly dangerous forms of coercion - the secret, fear and emotional blackmail - they rarely use physical force.
Now y2Karl, I note from your profile that you don't include a contact email. If you wish to pursue your inference regarding my courage - contact me at arqax@hotmail.com :-)
posted by Arqa at 3:49 AM on May 1, 2002


And as far as can't be bothered - what a shitty cheap shot. It's like asking when you stopped beating your wife - there is no safe answer. It's a setup. And it all depends on perspective. If you believe the world and people are evil, then the statement you made makes perfect sense. However, some of us don't want to live in that world.

If you want to live in a world where people are so routinely neglectful of their infant children that they leave them unattended on public streets, go ahead. Move to Holland.

Personally, though, I think that's foolish and dangerous behavior in any society. Even if Holland is really a magical place where children are immune from kidnapping, which I doubt, what happens if somebody bumps Junior's stroller and it roll into traffic?

So my friends and I were commiting a sex crime by playing doctor, eh?

I didn't say anything about how the law should treat behavior by two people below the age of consent.

The problem with focusing on coercion is that it plays right into the rhetoric of the NAMBLA types who think there are kids out there who want and need to fuck adults. This fiction is one of the things that makes them act on their pedophilic desires.
posted by rcade at 5:25 AM on May 1, 2002


Telling children to stay away from strangers is neither effective nor the best advice for many reasons. “Stranger” isn’t a concept children easily understand. Instead your child should be taught to look out for threatening behaviors and situations.

I don't think that young children recognize threatening situations very well. Remember the infamous Oprah story from the '90s when her producers got parental permission to try luring their kids away at playgrounds? Even the children who are products of paranoid parenting, like mine, were easily talked into leaving playgrounds with an adult they didn't know.

Does a four-year-old recognize that it's a threatening situation when a man says he needs to come with him to be taken to his mommy? Or to come to his car to see his new puppies? Without a little stranger danger-cultivated distrust, I don't think so.
posted by rcade at 5:41 AM on May 1, 2002


"what happens if somebody bumps Junior's stroller and it roll into traffic"

The assumption is that every normal human being on Earth would grab the stroller and put it back where it came from. The assumption is that evil people are so rare as to be not worth worrying about.

And, you said it yourself: "Even the children who are products of paranoid parenting, like mine, were easily talked into leaving playgrounds with an adult they didn't know." If paranoid parenting didnt do any good, then what's the point? Apparently, all the stranger danger-cultivated distrust didn't help in the least.
posted by Irontom at 6:29 AM on May 1, 2002


Oprah got that parent terrorizing little idea from KOMO TV news in Seattle, one of her affiliates. Great training video for people into that sort of thing, but had it ever happened? Has it happened yet? Oh, except it scares the parents into watching more TV, where the information's always gold. According to KOMO, child snatchers usually drive late model blue GM cars...

Arqua--it was the sick fucks line that was courageous. I always find that the anonymous are readier to cast the first slur. My email's always a click or two away on my page--duh...
posted by y2karl at 6:30 AM on May 1, 2002


groundhog: Jimmy Ryce's story is heartbreaking, but going by the way it's described on that site, there's no way that any kind of childproofing or 'Stranger Danger' program could have helped. To quote: "...he cut Jimmy's path off with his truck, jumped out, grabbed Jimmy by the shirt, pointed a gun at him and said, "Do you want to die?"", he then ordered the kid to get into the truck and lie down. Do you really think that even if Jimmy had resisted him, he wouldn't have been snatched anyway? I'm all for teaching kids never to get into strangers' cars, never to go anywhere with strangers (and that mommy and daddy will never send a stranger to get them, so anyone who says mommy sent them is lying) and that sort of thing, but teaching them to fear all strangers likely won't do much, if anything, to avoid situations like Jimmy's.
posted by biscotti at 6:30 AM on May 1, 2002


KOMO, by the way--The For Kid's Sake Station lead the local tv news ratings in th 90s by running more Are Strangers Lurking Near Your Children's Playgrounds? teasers than the rest of the state put together--typically by conflating child abuser--as in child hitting by a parent or family member----reports involving parents living near schools into lurking stranger stories. Parents tend to live near schools. Oh, and by covering every out-of-state kidnapping case and your Jon Benet Ramsey type stories ad infinitum, garnering it the More-Sex-With-Kids-For-Ratings-Sake Station label locally. But they weren't throwing meat to cows
posted by y2karl at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2002


Y2Karl - if you don't have anything to say about a subject, why bother posting?
posted by Arqa at 7:04 AM on May 1, 2002


> according to the unnervingly detailed AgeOfConsent.Com.

That's a weird site. But weirder, how can there be different rules, state by state in the same country, on something like the age of consent? Isn't it fairly crazy to make it completely OK to have sex with a 15-year-old in one state and make it a serious crime (go to jail and be beaten or killed by psychotic prisoners) in the next?

And what's with New Mexico? The male-female age of consent is 17, but the male-male and female-female age is 13. That's the opposite of the other states, which tend to think hetero stuff is OK but homo stuff ought to be delayed as long as possible if not outlawed completely.

> That's what you wish our society was more like -- a place
> where people can't even be bothered to watch their
> infant children while they shop?

A country in which it is _possible_ to drop into a bakery for a minute, keeping one eye on the pram through the window while you stand in line to buy bread, is a good place in which to live. And if that's not possible where you are, you should be against that "stranger danger" crap because it only frightens impressionable children while encouraging parents to let their kids go out unaccompanied and in just as much danger as any other unaccompanied kid.

Carnac says: Hysteria combined with laziness and a blind belief in technology will soon lead to all American kids having chips implanted as casually as they are vaccinated. Monitor stations set up at doorways, cash registers, and other chokepoints will allow parents to be able to passively electronically monitor the health and location of the kid all day and to receive an alarm (and automatically call the cops) if the kid leaves a parent-designated electronic corral. And, because the infrastructure will be in place and kids will grow up used to being tracked, eventually adults will be tracked in the same manner, starting with the old parents of people already tracking children.

By the way, when are people too old to consent? Or too stupid? Or too desperate?
posted by pracowity at 7:08 AM on May 1, 2002


The reason we focus so much on some "magical" age is that we assume, based on the average pattern of childhood development, that a children of a particular age will have a basic level of understanding and ability. For example, most babies learn to pull themselves up and try walking somewhere between 8 and 12 months. As a result, we know that most 16 - 18 year olds are fully aware of and luxuriating in their sexuality. Most 5 year olds are not. It's the ability to understand and consent that's the problematic key.

Let me twist the issue a bit. Say you have a 30 yr old, mentally retarded woman who functions at the level of a 5 yr old. Her body and horomones are her chronological age. Her mind is not. Is it wrong for someone ingage in sexual activity with her? I think it is. By law, she's an adult. By mental ability she's a child who is incapable of understanding the consequences of such activity (ie: disease, pregnancy, etc.) and is incapable of making a fully informed and reasoned decision. (ie: Boy, this feels good but I don't want to get pregnant so I must use a contraceptive. She'd stop with "Boy this feels good...")

As far as the Stranger Danger issue that IronTom brought up, I think it's gone too far. Recently, my husband, son and I were at the mall. A boy (about 9 or 10 yrs old) was obviously lost and trying not to panic. I went over to him, keeping about 5 feet between us, and asked if he needed help to find his mother or a security officer. He looked even more afraid and walked away. We waited a few minutes and tried again when he's panic level was visibly increasing. He walked away again after saying "No" to our offer for help. Fortunately, his mother appeared shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, she chastised him for not knowing which store she had ducked into and started in about how he could have been kidnapped. We walked away in disgust realizing that this child found being lost less frightening than a stranger offering to help him find a security guard or his mother.
posted by onhazier at 7:48 AM on May 1, 2002


I love how easily people apply pejoratives to parents: hysterical, lazy, blind, scared, etc. I'm getting the impression that most of you aren't parents, or you would recognize how much time we spend thinking, planning, learning, and worrying in our continuing effort not to screw up our kids. There's nothing lazy at all about most parents. My wife and I have spent enough time on the vaccination issue alone that we could go on a speaking tour.

I don't think the non-parents recognize yet what a life-altering and priority-changing experience it is. Before I had kids -- "sure, leave 'em on the street while I grab a latte. I'll keep my eye on 'em! When I have kids, they'll be free to drink fully from the cup of life!" After I had kids, "Turn the channel -- I can't bear to watch the trailer for that child-in-peril film or I will burst into tears! Come here, junior -- it's time to be fitted for your GPS!" The urge to protect your kids is incredibly strong.

But weirder, how can there be different rules, state by state in the same country, on something like the age of consent? Isn't it fairly crazy to make it completely OK to have sex with a 15-year-old in one state and make it a serious crime (go to jail and be beaten or killed by psychotic prisoners) in the next?

Personally, I prefer for states to have their own laws as much as possible, even if it seems a little strange. It gives us the option to move to states where the laws are more to our liking.
posted by rcade at 7:59 AM on May 1, 2002


And what's with New Mexico? The male-female age of consent is 17, but the male-male and female-female age is 13. That's the opposite of the other states, which tend to think hetero stuff is OK but homo stuff ought to be delayed as long as possible if not outlawed completely.

The ages in red are confirmed but the black ages are not. The 13 was not in red, so that might not be correct. While I think that any state that lets you drive before you have sex with whoever you want is pretty fucked up, I think having it legal for some horny fifty-year-old to go out and hump someone who is THIRTEEN is even more insane, so I hope that is wrong.
posted by bargle at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2002


Here is definition of Statutory Rape from the Model Penal Code in case anyone is interested (i'm studying for an exam in criminal law right now, so it was handy):

Section 213.3 Corruption of Minors and Seduction:

(1) Offense Defined: a male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife, or any person who engages in deviate sexual intercourse or causes another to engage in deviate sexual intercourse, is guilty of an offense if:
(a) the other person is less than 16 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the other person.
(b) the other person is less than 21 years old and the actor is his guardian or otherwise responsible for general supervision of his welfare; or
(c) the other person is in custody of law or detained in a hospital or other instituttion and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary authority over him; or
(d) the otehr person is a female who is induced to participate by promise of marriage which the actor does not mean to perform.

there's also a separate crime for having sex with a someone less than 10 that is punished more severely. also note that it's legally impossible to rape your wife under the code. unfortunately, that's still the law in many states.
posted by boltman at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2002


rcade - read my post. I am a father. And yes, the urge to protect your kids is strong. But, for me, the urge to remain rational about them, in order not to fuck them up, is more important.

Look at Onhazier's post - this is what STRANGER DANGER© leads to. A kid so paranoid of everyone he does not know that he will refuse all offered help. Because his mom is insane over a 1 in 13,223 chance that he might be harmed. Do you think this is good? Do you think this leads to a society that is healthy?
posted by Irontom at 9:53 AM on May 1, 2002


I know you're a father, Irontom. Evidently you think that I'm an imbecile, which is consistent with the language you're directing at the other participants in this discussion -- "people like you," "people react emotionally rather than rationally," and so on. Are you here to communicate or to celebrate your own wonderfulness at our expense? I'm sensing the latter, and unless you back the fuck off I'm not going to waste any more time on you.
posted by rcade at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2002


epithets, digs and accusations have gone around on all sides, rcade, myself included. I don't question that you care about your kids but this is an emotionally heated topic with strong feelings on all sides. I think you're reading things into Irontom's remarks and you have been a bit preachy yourself. But then I'm probably biased.
posted by y2karl at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2002


If I've made a comment in this thread comparable to "it's people like you that send other people to jail for being people," point it out. I'm as capable of going overboard as anyone else, but frankly I feel like the personal animus in this thread is traveling in one direction.

Perhaps I should be kinder to the parents of Holland who believe the public streets are free babysitters, but there's a difference between making a negative comment about a large group of people and making one about a specific person in this discussion.
posted by rcade at 12:18 PM on May 1, 2002


I have a consistent problem with people that allow their fears / emotions to overrule their reason. Especially when those people start changing (I say warping) the society I live in based on their fears / emotions.

However - My main shots were aimed at fold_and_mutilate and UncleFes for their refusal to acknowledge anything at all beyond a bright black and white world. Rcade, you and I disagree, but at least you seem thoughtful. I certainly didn't mean to insinuate that you were an imbecile - that was reserved for fold_and_mutilate.

For me, there is also a deeper issue - now that our society has gotten to this point, there are many ways in which I am restricted from raising my child due to others who feel my actions would be "neglectful". I can go to jail based on other's righteous indignation that I don't want to be like them.

So, no, I am not trying to celebrate my wonderfulness at your expense. I just wish that I could raise my kids in the fashion I see fit without fear of the neighbors calling Child Protective Services on me if they dont like how I am doing it.
posted by Irontom at 12:24 PM on May 1, 2002


That's reasonable. I can tolerate large amounts of abuse towards fold. I just wasn't as much of a fan when some of it seemed to be coming my way. At least I said you were wonderful.
posted by rcade at 12:33 PM on May 1, 2002


The parents in Holland aren't as overwrought as in America, rcade--they've had pedophile scandals involving young teenagers so maybe things have tilted since--so maybe they doubted that people would prey on children in strollers.

I find it hard to believe people snatch toddler age children from playgrounds as in the infamous KOMO/Oprah scare video because the kids don't go to playgrounds alone. Someone's--parent, aunt, uncle. older brother or sister or babysitter--there to watch and in the current climate, what adult would go near a child he or she didn't know in such a context? Which is why I found the example bogue. Maybe Oprah was sincere in her own mind, or her producer's--KOMO, I would not put anything past--but ratings figured in there, too. Pardon me for considering it a cynical and button pushing piece of tripe. Strangers lurking near your kids' playground's is a thing of the news at eleven. Your fears are real, yes, but these hyped manipulations of your fears aren't based upon any reality I've heard about.

From what I've read, the incidence of crimes committed upon children by strangers has not gone up since the 60s, but the reporting rose to a fever pitch in the 90s. It's not the first but the third time we've had such a classic moral panic on the topic in this country. There was one in the Depression and one around the turn of the century., at least according to what I read in Random Violence: How We Talk about New Crimes and New Victims--or maybe it was Threatened Children : Rhetoric and Concern About Child-Victims
posted by y2karl at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2002


so maybe so maybe: obviously I'm too overwrought to proofread thoughtfully.
posted by y2karl at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2002


Someone's--parent, aunt, uncle. older brother or sister or babysitter--there to watch and in the current climate, what adult would go near a child he or she didn't know in such a context?

What adult would walk into a neighbor's home, go upstairs and take a daughter out of the house? What adult would lure a kid off a playground while his parents have their backs turned at an adjacent soccer field? What adult would walk a kid out of a South Texas Wal-Mart? What adult would go into a house during a girl's birthday party and drag a girl off while her mother's sleeping in the next room?

In those 50-150 cases a year of stranger abduction and murder, many of the perpetrators are incredibly brazen and quickly captured. I don't see much reason to apply logic to their actions.
posted by rcade at 1:51 PM on May 1, 2002


You can always name the cases--because they are so rare.
50-150 cases out of a a country with a population of what? 200+ million? Who keeps track of kids struck by lightning or stung by bees? TV news? Oprah? 20/20? I don't think so.
posted by y2karl at 4:03 PM on May 1, 2002


Don't Panic.
posted by rushmc at 4:32 PM on May 1, 2002


Unless you handcuff your kid between you and his mother, if someone is determined to get your kid, he's going to get your kid. But it's almost certain that no one is determined to get your kid.

And that hundred American kids disappearing with strangers every year only sounds significant on its own, but it's quite low considering the size of the country. It's almost zero kids being abducted by strangers. You might almost as well teach children, especially black children, to fear buckets. "Since 1984, more than 327 children have drowned in buckets containing water or other liquids."[1] "African-American children are two times more likely to drown than Caucasian children, and six times more likely to drown in a bucket." [2]

If a hundred American kids disappear with strangers every year, maybe a million more are fucked up to one degree or another by overbearing parents. Lowering the first number by a handful probably raises the second number considerably.
posted by pracowity at 11:02 PM on May 1, 2002


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