Join 3,380 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators
September 13, 2007 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators These days, if Rian Romoli accidentally bumps into a child, he quickly raises his hands above his shoulders. "I don't want to give even the slightest indication that any inadvertent touching occurred," says Mr. Romoli, an economist in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. Previous article by same author.
posted by agregoli (247 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
So is he creepy looking or something?
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


How often does this guy accidentally bump into children?
posted by item at 10:45 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kids are usually the ones bumping into adults, in my experience.
posted by agregoli at 10:47 AM on September 13, 2007


Interesting. Sometimes when I'm out, a little kid may look at me and wave or something, and I always wave back. More than a few times has the child's mom given me a look like, "Stay away from my baby, you perv." And I don't think I'm particularly Brian Peppers-ish.

item: Anytime you go anywhere in public where there are kids about, you're likely to bump into one. They are always running about in the mall or in stores or such, and they rarely pay attention to where they are going.
posted by papakwanz at 10:47 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Virginia health department ad shown in the second article is pretty messed up.
posted by brain_drain at 10:48 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another good way: Bring your own child with you. As bait.
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, this closes an interesting trilogy of posts: Marry Our Daughter -- Fight Your Baby -- Don't Touch Their Kids
posted by brain_drain at 10:51 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I can certainly sympathize. Back when my own daughter was little...say, 7 or 8 years old...I would occasionally have to take her with me to the supermarket in the middle of the day. I quickly became aware of the quite suspicious stares I was getting from the moms in the store.
This older man with a small girl...obviously up to no good.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:52 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Virginia health department ad shown in the second article is pretty messed up.

So it is wrong to hold hands with your child now? WTF?
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:52 AM on September 13, 2007


Are you sure they weren't just staring at her mighty hammer Mjolnir, Thorzdad?
posted by fleetmouse at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2007 [8 favorites]


next up, the war on Christmas
posted by caddis at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2007


I read this article last week, and mentioned it off-handedly to a (female) friend who works with 2- and 3-year-olds. Apparently, where she works, men are not allowed to change diapers. Why even hire men, then, if you're going to (ridiculously) forbid them from performing an essential part of their jobs? WTF, people?!
posted by uncleozzy at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


A while back when I was at the grocery store this little girl was like staring at me. It was kind of weird, like hiding behind her grand-ma and looking at me, like she was shy or something. I smiled and waved back. This went on a while and then the grandma said high to me and pushed her granddaughter to talk to me. It was very cute.

The grandmother was Indian, and at the time I was just thinking that that sort of thing would never happen with Americans, there really does seem to be this incredible paranoia going around about child molestation, even though the risk from strangers is so minimal. It's like because there are so few real risks people fixate on the most minor ones.

I can't think it's a good thing for society at all to raise children to fear everyone they don't know. I mean, these kids grow up and I don't think the instilled fear would just go away.
The Boy Scouts of America now has elaborate rules to prevent both abuse and false accusations...

These policies can be intricate. For instance, four adult leaders are needed for each outing. If a sick child must go home, two adults drive him and two stay with the others, so no adult is ever alone with a Scout. "It's protection for the adults, as well as the children," says a Scouts spokesman.
Wow.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've noticed this problem for years. I think it has more to do with the problem of most people being overly misinformed, or overinformed with misinformation or something like that. It's almost like an hysteria, and I'm caught up in it too because I really don't want to be accused of anything so disgusting. So I avoid children and their parents wherever possible. Too bad, but that's life.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:59 AM on September 13, 2007


"Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all"
Insha'Allah
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:59 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


That was two years ago caddis, didn't you get the memoe?
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:00 AM on September 13, 2007


People on both sides of this argument need to get a grip.

There are sane people and there are crazy people. Some of the crazy people are going to be men, and some are going to be women. I had to take abuse from both, though mostly from a woman. But that was just one crazywoman, it wasn't "women."

Yeah, that ad is insane. But so is the guy who refuses to be in an elevator with a kid lest he be accused of abuse. Drama queen.

Everyone just needs to chill.
posted by jiiota at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2007


If sexual abuse is as prevalent and widespread as all these people believe it is, I must have been a very ugly, smelly child.
posted by tehloki at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2007 [33 favorites]


Oh, and I avoid children for a different reason altogether. It's because they give me a headache with those shrill little voices. I guess I have to admit that I have come close to smacking someone else's kid in public. Does that count as abuse? It does, right?
posted by jiiota at 11:07 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


This sexual predator myth is very silly: "The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics found that family members, including relatives, constituted the vast majority (93%) of alleged perpetrators" (of child abuse). I've seen this kind of statistic all over the world. The US is probably not that different. Which makes matter much more complicated...
posted by lucia__is__dada at 11:08 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Be careful -- when it comes to being seen as a sexual predator, it's all too easy to give people the wrong impression. Don't let this happen to you! (Because truly there IS a Dinosaur Comics for every occasion...)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:09 AM on September 13, 2007 [7 favorites]


Also, wow: At Houston Intercontinental Airport, businessman Mitch Reifel was having a meal with his 5-year-old daughter when a policeman showed up to question him. A passerby had reported his interactions with the child seemed "suspicious."

It looks like the government doesn't need to make things any more Orwellian... we've taken up the charge ourselves.
posted by tehloki at 11:09 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Once, when my daughter was a toddler, she and I were at the mall together without my wife. My child started misbehaving, so I decided it was time to take her home. As I picked her up and started carrying her out of the mall, she started screaming "Help! Help!"

At that moment I realized that at any second I could find myself in trouble just for being a man alone with his own child.

Even though she is now school-aged and could tell a security guard or cop who she is, when we are out together in public, I make sure that I make as much eye contact as possible at anyone who gives us a second glance and say the word "Daddy" out loud.

Though it probably isn't anywhere near comparable to the scrutiny Muslims and black people must constantly endure, it is VERY unsettling to think that people might assume I am a predator just because I am a man with a child.
posted by briank at 11:11 AM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is it really this bad? Parents won't let their kids trick-or-treat at a divorced man's home? I do understand that pedo-paranoia is a real problem, but is it actually this bad?
posted by arcticwoman at 11:12 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was active in Scouting as a teen, my dad was a Scout leader for years, I work with several active Scout leaders. I have a lot of fun working with kids that age (10-14), and a fair bit of experience with the outdoors.

I am single and childless however, and have been told by people in Scouts Canada that there is no way, no how that I would ever be accepted as a Scout leader because of that. It's not like it's a great tragedy in my life or anything, but it saddens me to not be able to help kids the same way as some of the great people then helped me as a Scout.
posted by bonehead at 11:13 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


In Boy Scouts, when I was like 11, the Scoutmaster made all the kids stand around the campfire at night, pull their pants down, and piss the fire out.

I can still remember his smile as the flames' shadows flickered across his face.
posted by four panels at 11:14 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


creepy, four panels. I think I remember doing the same thing.

Wait! That means I wasn't ugly and smelly after all!
posted by tehloki at 11:18 AM on September 13, 2007


The Boy Scouts of America now has elaborate rules to prevent both abuse and false accusations...

These policies can be intricate. For instance, four adult leaders are needed for each outing. If a sick child must go home, two adults drive him and two stay with the others, so no adult is ever alone with a Scout. "It's protection for the adults, as well as the children," says a Scouts spokesman.
Wow.
An at-least-two-leaders policy has been in place since I was a Cub Scout 20 years ago. At the time, part of the explanation was that it prevented boys from being left without adult supervision if something happened to any one adult. "Four deep leadership" was, at that point, unofficial, but part of the training curriculum.

I'm a big guy myself, and I notice that some women are simply nervous to be around me. It makes me want to turn on my best gay sybillance and go "Honey, I am so not into girls."
posted by djlynch at 11:21 AM on September 13, 2007


So it is wrong to hold hands with your child now? WTF?

No, it's still okay if you're "just friends".
posted by psmealey at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Flip this around: By creating a fear of men, isn't this enforcing the parenting role on women?
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2007 [13 favorites]


Is it really this bad? Parents won't let their kids trick-or-treat at a divorced man's home? I do understand that pedo-paranoia is a real problem, but is it actually this bad?

Yes.
posted by blucevalo at 11:26 AM on September 13, 2007


Once, when my daughter was a toddler, she and I were at the mall together without my wife. My child started misbehaving, so I decided it was time to take her home. As I picked her up and started carrying her out of the mall, she started screaming "Help! Help!"

I've had the same thing happen in the mall.

I can't tell what was worse, the fact she was making me look like a pedophile child abductor, or the fact no one even cared enough to look up.
posted by dw at 11:28 AM on September 13, 2007


I can't tell what was worse, the fact she was making me look like a pedophile child abductor, or the fact no one even cared enough to look up.

I think that's finally a case where two wrongs made a right.
posted by psmealey at 11:29 AM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


elwoodwiles: you'd better cut that out. You're going to make someone's head explode.

Since my wife and I are planning to make me the primary child care provider, I just want to add: right in the ear, this one.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:30 AM on September 13, 2007


Parents won't let their kids trick-or-treat at a divorced man's home?

To be fair, I think this is a vestige of the year I was answering the door dressed as Mark Spitz. Ever since, Halloween traffic at my house has been sparse.
posted by found missing at 11:31 AM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


isn't this enforcing the parenting role on women?

This reminds me of the story about how an Australian airline won't seat a lone child next to a man. I wanted to voice my objection to this trend but in that particular case my pragmatic side won out.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:31 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well... at least I don't feel so bad about my pyronecropedophilia now...

Wait.... Or is it that I feel worse?

I really can't tell... the flames coming off of this dead baby are really charring my wanker. Got concentration problems here.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:32 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not only are men who like being around small children viewed with great suspicion (there are virtually no male preschool teachers, and damn few male elementary school teachers), but with the increasing prevalence of single mothers, there are a lot of small children with not much in the way of simple, playful, fun interaction with men.

At the same time, on TV, fathers have long been portrayed as dense and bumbling, while Mother Knows Best. The pendulum has certainly swung. Revealing the existence of sexual predators has of course been good, but can we not throw the baby out with the bathwater (or, in this case, the grown-up guy out with the baby)?
posted by kozad at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I refuse to look at children directly in public. Way too many dirty looks, because if you see a kid in public, chances are they're doing something either cute or funny, and then you'll smile. And then when you smile the mom gives you a dirty look. Yes, pedo fears are rampant nowadays, and it's precisely because too many people are being inundated with a culture of fear thanks to shows like "To catch a predator." Yes, those men were predators. No, you don't have to keep your child off the internet unless, just as in the show, you have reason to believe that your child is actually soliciting sex from adults. Every time I see or hear about some mom over reacting to something innocent, I just want to lose it. "Go look up how many times a stranger has kidnapped a child from its parents, versus how many times parents kidnap children from one another. Go look up how many times a child suffers abuse from a stranger versus its own parent. And then remember that you'll often hear an abusive parent sincerely swear up and down that they love the child more than life itself and would never do anything to harm it." I don't believe that there was this fear and outright misinformed paranoia in western society before a couple decades ago. We are, in fact, being raised and trained to fear not just men, but every god damn thing we can, and usually it's done by acting like our kids are perpetual targets and that we are woefully underprepared to protect them.
posted by shmegegge at 11:36 AM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


Fear is not only the mind-killer, but it is also usually packaged to manipulate.

What is it these fear mongers are pushing? I can only guess it's more consume/war jaundice, designed to make you rush home from the mall in your Escalade, turn on To Catch a Predator, and peep out the blinds for the lurking evil.

Meanwhile, Daddy's playing with baby upstairs, and damnit if she isn't always crying.
posted by four panels at 11:41 AM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Air New Zealand and Qantas have banned men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2007


Fear sells.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:43 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was travelling around China recently, there was an especially memorable incident that I witnessed at a fairly quiet tourist site in Beijing.

A little European girl, maybe about four or so, was idling around alone (her mother had apparently forged ahead with the tour group). A lone Chinese man walked up to her, squatted down, and started saying cutsey stuff to her in Chinese and his broken English, e.g. "You're such a pretty girl! What's your name?" etc. He then picked her up and started dandling her on his knee and tickling her. The little girl was fairly startled and cried out a little but didn't do anything else. Several other Chinese tourists walking by laughed and smiled, and would make a comment to the man ("She's so white!") or try some baby-talk on the girl.

The girl's mother came running back looking wild-eyed and panicky, grabbed her from the man and immediately ran off. The Chinese standing around were somewhat surprised, and one of them said to the man (in Chinese) "Why didn't she thank you? Foreigners are usually so polite!".

All I could think was, if it had been the US, the man would've been tackled, cuffed, and in the back of a cop car as soon as he grabbed the girl. Certainly any of the passerby would have immediately ran for the police.
posted by xthlc at 11:43 AM on September 13, 2007 [11 favorites]


This question was in Slate's Dear Prudence today:

"Dear Prudence,
My younger, 13-year-old sister is having a slumber party for her birthday, and invited three or so of her 13- to 14-year-old girlfriends to our house. Shortly after, "Sara's" mother suggested that my sister's party should be held at "Tammy's" house. Why? Because Tammy has a single mother. Sara's mother is concerned that my father will be in his house during the festivities. There is no reason to be concerned about my father doing anything inappropriate to any of the girls (all the parents have met each other), but she is just uncomfortable about the idea of her daughter sleeping in the same house with another nonfamily man..."
posted by kimdog at 11:45 AM on September 13, 2007


It's a bit odd when I actually agree with an Wall Street Journal opinion piece, but this guy is basically right. One thing he neglects to mention is that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by a family member and certainly doesn't begin in public. We're much better off creating situations where kids feel comfortable talking to other adults in their life about what happens at home. Fucked up as that is.
posted by Football Bat at 11:45 AM on September 13, 2007


Also, my daughter will be Brownie age in few more years, but with the way things are going I don't know if I'll even be allowed to do anything with her.

At some point, are they going to ask for a background check in before you can do a group activity with your own child?
posted by dw at 11:49 AM on September 13, 2007


I usually avoid looking at kids in public too, even though I love kids and I'm popular with the 2-4 demographic. I'd never do anything inappropriate to a child.

From the op-ed:
Children who die of physical abuse are more often victims of female perpetrators, usually mothers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
...
"Likewise, while we don't want sexual predators to harm our kids, we do want our kids to develop healthy relationships with adults, both men and women. Instilling a fear of men is a profound disservice to everyone."
I think this is a vestige of the year I was answering the door dressed as Mark Spitz.
In the classic pose, I hope.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:50 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


...if you see a kid in public, chances are they're doing something either cute or funny, and then you'll smile. And then when you smile the mom gives you a dirty look.

That seems a terrible shame. Why should a mother's paranoia make you feel like you can't enjoy one of the most lovely things in society? Kids are really cool, and they're even cooler when you can just watch and don't have to take responsibility when they start pegging it round the toy store whacking other kids with a huge inflatable hammer. Maybe that's why I get dirty looks - they don't think I'm a perv, they just sense my gleeful complicity.
posted by RokkitNite at 11:53 AM on September 13, 2007


Dear America -- you created this fucked up society, now deal with it.
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:54 AM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


At some point, are they going to ask for a background check in before you can do a group activity with your own child?

Where have you been? That's standard procedure at schools and pretty much everywhere else these days.
posted by IronLizard at 11:55 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


This question was in Slate's Dear Prudence today...

I saw that this morning (guilty pleasure, Prudie is) and was so appalled at the question that I couldn't manage to read the answer. I'd have just told "Sara's" mom to keep "Sara" at home where her own daddy could diddle her instead. Because who, except those who have such irresistable urges to touch kids, seriously considers such a thing?
posted by uncleozzy at 11:56 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


elwoodwiles writes "Flip this around: By creating a fear of men, isn't this enforcing the parenting role on women?"

Shhhhh!
posted by mullingitover at 11:56 AM on September 13, 2007


After further thought: this is actually even more fucked up. Most adults are out to protect their kids, and since they figure that they (or their spouse and family) would never abuse their kids, they don't even worry about themselves or their loved ones as possible culprits. So they obsess and scream at the law-makers about the tiny sliver of molestation cases where complete strangers are the culprit. But most kids who are molested have no-one to speak for them, as their family's either culpable or in denial. Fuck. Now I'm gonna worry about this all day.
posted by Football Bat at 11:57 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


My feelings about this issue are somewhat muddled as I'm a little bit upset with my daughter today. This morning I was filling out one of the five hundred forms that kids take home at the beginning of the school year. This one was for the parent to designate guardians who would be allowed to pick up the child if there was an emergency and the parent wasn't available.

Then there was a line "Please specify any individuals who should NOT be allowed to pick up the child."

I wanted to write "Anybody in a clown suit."

Really, really wanted to. But my little angel gave me one of her new looks of pitying dismissal, snatched the paper away and that was that. There's no fun in my life any more.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2007 [18 favorites]


I've made a point of fostering an image that includes an intense dislike of children, specifically for this reason. I am never going to give anybody an opportunity to make a false accusation seem plausible. There's just no polite way to tell the world to keep your children away from me, so I pretend to hate them.
posted by yesster at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2007


Is this just an "America is fucked up" sort of thing? I don't notice or read about these sorts of stories here in Canada.
posted by chunking express at 12:00 PM on September 13, 2007


I'm a big guy myself, and I notice that some women are simply nervous to be around me. It makes me want to turn on my best gay sybillance and go "Honey, I am so not into girls."

Yeah. Me too.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:02 PM on September 13, 2007


It's so bad that I'm not going to share my supportive personal anecdotes on the web for someone to google and misinterpret. Yes, it's that bad.
posted by sidereal at 12:03 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


chunking express: As the father of a young daughter here in the GWN I find I'm more often anticipating encountering this reaction when I go out on the street with my daughter. But it's never happened that I could tell. So you may be onto something.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2007


This morning I was filling out one of the five hundred forms that kids take home at the beginning of the school year.

This morning the school staff didn't want to let me pick up my son because I'd left my ID at home in my rush to go get him (the school had called his mom to pick him up because he had an accident). They didn't bother to have the teacher come see me, since we'd met and the VP was out. It was fucking horrible. They finally called his mom and asked for a description of me. But not until after I had to go get insurance papers from the car in an attempt to prove I was me. Idiots.
posted by IronLizard at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, up through High School, I was constantly afraid that someone would molast me. When ever I would be alone with an adult male (be it a debate coach, a friend's parent, or a scout leader), I was convinced it was going to end in me getting molested.
posted by drezdn at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2007


When kids bump into me, I shove them real hard so they fall down, and I yell, "Watch where you're going kid."

But seriously, I have a 3 year old son who I take with me alone everywhere I go (he's my bodyguard), and nobody thinks I'm a stranger, since every other word out of his mouth is daddy this, daddy that, look what I can do daddy! I don't understand the stares that some of the above posters get.
posted by MrMulan at 12:07 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


So did they molast you?
posted by IronLizard at 12:07 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure its so unreasonable for parents to worry mostly about stranger molestation, even if its a tiny portion of all molestation cases. If I'm a parent, I know whether or not I'm molesting my child. If I've selected my partner well and am involved in the home life of the family I should have a reasonable belief that my child is not being molested at home. The thing I can't control is strangers. For the vast majority of parents who are concerned about the danger of their children being molested, strangers are the biggest danger.

Does this justify hysteria or looking askance at every man with a child in public? Of course, not. But, it's not wrong for a parent to be more concerned about their child being molested by strangers than by themselves, since afterall, they know whether or not they're molesters.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is all so sad. The actual rates of abuse in the west haven't risen at all... but every human is 100x more aware and paranoid of the possibility. Talk about loss of innocence. We're raising generations of little prisoners.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, when i'm out in public and a baby smiles at me or waves, I check to see if the parent is watching before I smile back. I'm pretty creeped out by the idea that people could see me and think, "Kiddie-diddler", but I guess I might be the same way if I have kids.
posted by 235w103 at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2007


Is this just an "America is fucked up" sort of thing?

Hardly. See the link above about Air New Zealand and Qantas banning men from sitting next to children on flights. And I think Britain is way more paranoid/misinformed than the US when it comes to this subject. After all it was in Britain that a mob attacked a doctor's house... because they confused "pedophile" with "pediatrician".
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2007


So did they molast you?

I think it's clear from drezdn's tone that this is a cry for help and that at some point in his tender childhood he was well and truly molasticized. ;-)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2007


i usually pinch 'em on the butt, leer and say "hubba hubba" out loud. after all, they're just asking for it.
posted by quonsar at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


I check to see if the parent is watching before I smile back

Unfortunately, this would probably convince the parent that you were up to no good if they were to catch you. Treat someone as if they're guilty and sooner or later they'll do something that proves it to you.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:14 PM on September 13, 2007


Between my triumphant victory in a staring contest with a baby and subsequent vocal celebration (mom: "oh, real nice work there, jackass") and teaching a toddler to chew up french fries and then open her mouth and stare at her family, it's a wonder I haven't done something more drastic already...
posted by hototogisu at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2007


I have a very affectionate 8-year-old son. He likes to hold my hand, and frequently ups and hugs me out of the blue. I reciprocate, as I love him more than life itself. I refuse to let any of this crap get to me -- I'm a damn good dad to him, and he and I know that, and that is ALL that is important.

I smile at and talk to other folks' kids, too, if they seem friendly. I don't want those kids going through life without a kind word from a nice man.

Not. Party. To. Fear.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2007 [15 favorites]


In the area of SF where we used to live, there was a large Chinese-American community living and working in the area. It was common to see kids running around unsupervised being talked to, played with, or disciplined by whatever adult happened to be nearby. Small kids with their parents were subject to being picked up or fed candy on the sly by grandparent aged types. With an entire neighborhood keeping a half eye on the kids, it's hard to see how any child could come to harm, or be abused without someone noticing something.

It's a very unfortunate tendency (not sure whether to blame this on American individualism or the big "stranger danger" push for the past two decades or what) for parents to view their (nuclear) family as a self-contained, us against the world unit when it comes to child raising and care. I think it's far more natural, and far less stressful for parents (possibly leading to fewer in-family abuse cases, who knows) to rely upon extended family and community for support and assistance when it comes to watching and raising kids. Training ourselves and our children to react to all non-parent male adults with fear and suspicion is a symptom of a larger problem --- it's not just that we don't trust men, it's that we don't trust anyone, and put on ourselves alone the job of keeping our children safe from nebulous outside dangers of every description.
posted by Wavelet at 12:21 PM on September 13, 2007 [11 favorites]


Bulgar: I think that you still have a lot of uncles, cousins, friends of family, etc. to worry about before strangers. Basically, trusted people with access. There was a months-ago-askme where someone who works at a criminal defense firm pointed out that in his experience the acquaintance-molesting pedos don't seem otherwise out of the normal.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2007


Re: Then there was a line "Please specify any individuals who should NOT be allowed to pick up the child."

There's a very good reason for that. How do you think most parents who were denied custody kidnap their children from their ex?
posted by mike3k at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2007


Weird. I've never seen anything like this, either the dirty looks or the suspicious man-with-young-girl thing when I'm out with my 2.5 year old daughter. Either I'm utterly oblivious (entirely possible, mind you) or no, it isn't actually that bad.

Also, my daughter's pre-school teacher is male. And he's awesome.
posted by rusty at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2007


I make funny faces at babies I see out in public, but the idea of touching a kid, or worse, being touched by a kid, really frightens me. I don't want to be sued and I'm quite conscious of the possibility every time a kid comes near me.

It's too bad because some of these kids are super cute and I'd like to bounce them on my knee, push them on a swing, or something.

I'm occasionally asked to see babies and kids in my clinical practice and honestly, I dislike it for the same reason. I'm not going to hurt a kid - I know that, the kid usually knows that too - but the parents may not trust me, and the parents can hire lawyers. The parents must remain in the room at all times and I often have a nurse come in and chaperone the physical exam as well.

It is too bad that this is what it has come to. I like kids and I would like more opportunity to interact with them in healthy ways.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:23 PM on September 13, 2007


I have to wonder if any of this is at all related to the "awareness" raising exercises -- and the fact that the latest generation of parents was probably raised on them. A community that can't talk about issues like rape and abuse is gonna have some issues, but maybe we've injected a few cc's of awareness too many into the bloodstream of shared narrative.
posted by namespan at 12:23 PM on September 13, 2007


I just realized that I don't hate kids. It's parents I hate.
posted by psmealey at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2007 [9 favorites]


I go further than the guy in the elevator. I don't want there to be any misunderstandings, so when I am in public and there is a child nearby, I premptively go up to his/her guardian and say "I don't fancy him. I just don't."
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


Self-styled vigilantes attacked the home of a hospital paediatrician after apparently confusing her professional title with the word "paedophile", it emerged yesterday.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Little kids and babies are often fascinated by me. Often because of my beard and sophisticated, acerbic wit, but also because I automatically smile when I notice them, which is often when they aren't getting attention from anyone else. I can't honestly recall anyone ever eyeing me with suspicion for this, but I can say that I am constantly aware that that is a danger.

On a more personal note, one of the few regrets in my life is that I never felt that it would be safe for me to show physical affection to my step kids when they were growing up. Being a man (and for several years a "stay-at-home" dad) was bad enough, but a step dad? Everyone knows that step dads are evil. I've hugged my kids many more times as adults than I ever allowed myself when they were children. It's a mistake I have not repeated with my grandchildren. I refuse to be shamed into feigning disinterest.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


If you missed it, go read this Fark Thread from last week about this subject. It's about the saddest thing I've ever read.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2007


It was here
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:34 PM on September 13, 2007


This isn't new. I part-timed as a gymnastics coach during high school in the late 80s, kids aged from 5-13. The looks I endured from parents when I had to spot their children were scary; some even pulled their kids from my classes, even though it always ended with their kid quitting in protest.

Gender never seemed to be a factor. Apparently all teenage boys want to molest anything and everything. Who knew?
posted by Pufferish at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2007


IRFH is a grandfather? Holy shit, you are so much cooler than I thought previously.
posted by shmegegge at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2007


I'm sorry, men. You deserve better. Women shouldn't be blamed for every thing wrong with their child, and men shouldn't be assumed to be perverts.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2007


I go further than the guy in the elevator. I don't want there to be any misunderstandings, so when I am in public and there is a child nearby, I premptively go up to his/her guardian and say "I don't fancy him. I just don't."

I would go even further, Mayor Curley: I would follow up with "maybe if you did something with his hair, or put him in a pair of overalls that were a little less 'I've just come off the farm'..."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is depressing. Making faces at strange kids, getting a smile or a laugh or (best of all) a funny-face war going, is one of my favorite ways to kill time.

Three weeks ago, in the middle of nowhere in western Tanzania, a man on a typical ridiculously overcrowded local minibus handed me his young boy without a word to hold in my lap until they got off. Didn't blink an eye.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was reading an interview with one of The Wiggles, or possibly the guy who plays Captain Feathersword (if those names mean nothing to you, you're not the parent of a child under 10). Anyway, he mentioned that The Wiggles have a hard-and-fast rule against giving kids hugs (even though most kids would love a hug). They don't want to risk even the appearance of impropriety, or give someone an opportunity to claim inappropriate conduct.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2007


I read Prudie this morning, and now this - how sad. On the one hand we hear about how fathers are often not part of their children's lives, either because they left the mom, were never with the mom, work obscene hours or are just lazy gits who don't want any part in the work of raising children. Then on the other hand we see that people are suspicious of any man seen alone with a child, and a police officer questioned a man having lunch with his daughter because a passer-by became suspicious of their interactions?

For the love of god, people. You can't have it both ways.

I was thinking about this myself not too long ago; my husband took a day off work to take his three boys (who live with us) to a local kiddie place - ball room, batting cages, go-carts, etc. And I thought for a brief moment that he might run into this problem, until it occurred to me that (1) all three boys look pretty much like mini-me, and (2) no pedo in his right mind would take on a 6 year old, an ornery 8 year old and a 12 year old all at once, out in public. And anyone who looked at them funny would have to be a sick motherfucker to think that way.

As for me - I don't think like this. I don't look around at men with or near children and think they must be sick bastards diddling the kids. I see a guy pushing a stroller or caring for his child and I think, AWESOME. Hope their mom is off getting a pedicure somewhere.

I guess there must be a lot of people who do think like this for it to be making news, but I hope to god there are a lot more of us who don't. Although it could just mean that I'm a hopeless optimist, completely blind to the evil of humanity.
posted by jennaratrix at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I refuse to look at children directly in public. Way too many dirty looks, because if you see a kid in public, chances are they're doing something either cute or funny, and then you'll smile. And then when you smile the mom gives you a dirty look.
posted by shmegegge at 2:36 PM on September 13


When this happens to me, I just tell the mom, "Relax, I'm not planning to kidnap your kid. I'm planning to kidnap you." Then I bare my teeth.

She's worried about me taking her kid? You wish, mom. Trust me, that kid would be better off with me than with your neurotic, merlot-drinking, Xanax-popping ass.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:45 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was a kid in the 70's. I never recall hearing a single word from my parents about "stranger danger" and I was never shown anyone's sausage collection or buggered. I guess I was kinda an ugly kid, thinking about it now...
posted by maxwelton at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2007


a hard-and-fast rule

Is that the best way to characterize it?
posted by sidereal at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher, that was beautifully stated. I could not agree more, in every respect.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2007


The other day I took my 17 month old son to the shopping mall. For whatever reason, he became spooked just after we entered and began screaming and trying to get down. When I put him down, he turned tail and ran for the door. As I turned to go after him, I felt the hot glare of the people standing nearby. I picked him up, took him home and ran my errands another day. Its a good thing my son looks exactly like me. If it had been my stepson, or a policeman would have seen my son's freakout, it would have made a bad day infinitely worse.
posted by Crotalus at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2007


Yeah, I've experienced this while working as a pizza delivery guy. A lot of kids get really excited about the pizza guy and run up to interact with me before.

Some mothers seemed really uncomfortable with this by default, and if I chatted back to them they would give the unmistakable 'I think you may be a pedo' look. Sometimes they would sometimes literally hide their kids from me before finishing the transaction.

It actually could get really bad during summer when there would be little kids in bathing suits running around and trying to interact with me. If a little was in a bathing suit sometimes just glancing down at them as they came running up towards me could set the parents into emergency lock down mode. So I'd get little nervous delivering anywhere during the summer with a kiddie pool out in the yard, and had to make sure to keep my eyes fixed straight ahead staring off into space/the door/whatever out of fear, no matter how much the kids are trying to get my attention, because anything else was simply a risk I wasn't willing to take after seeing some of the parent reactions to even the most minor interactions.
posted by Jezztek at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2007



Even women who smile at or engage with babies sometimes get dirty looks-- and because I'm "broody" as they say in England, I always think they think I'm going to kidnap their kid.

Maybe mothers of young children are just cranky?
posted by Maias at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2007


Mark my words: a pizza delivery guy is going to get shot by overeager parents one of these days. "He was looking at my kid! I had to shoot him to protect my children!"
posted by aramaic at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2007


Let's play a game. Without clicking, try to guess which policy relates to children in the presence of adult males and which one relates to, oh, say, nuclear weapons. No clicking now!

These policies can be intricate. For instance, four [adult leaders|soldiers] are needed for each [outing|transfer]. If a [sick child|missile] must [go home|be moved], two [adults|soldiers] drive [him|it] and two stay with the others, so no [adult|soldier] is ever alone with a [Scout|Minuteman]. "It's protection for the [adults|soldiers], as well as the [children|missiles]," says [a|an] [Scouts|Air Force] spokesman.

OR

Rules require that at least two people jointly control every step of the process. If one person loses sight of the other, both are forced to the ground face-down and temporarily "placed under arrest" by observant [security forces|scoutmasters]. All progress stops until inspections are made to assure the [weapons|children] weren't tampered with.
posted by The Bellman at 1:05 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's more than just fear, I think. It's also about hypersexualization and compartmentalization. It's not possible to be friends with a child, you're either a care-giver or must be a perv. Who would want to be friends with a kid?
posted by bonehead at 1:07 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Being 6'4 and having that "I've been single for way too long" unkempt-look, I get a lot of the "oh no it's the boogeyman" look from moms (and women by themselves) in public. Which I suppose is kinda funny, people who know me find that description laughable. I try not to let it get to me, but that's hard sometimes.

I suppose I'm the sort that would get along great with kids, but honestly I'm not about to find out for the very reasons discussed in this thread.

Hooray for paranoia!
posted by mattly at 1:09 PM on September 13, 2007


The Wiggles have a hard-and-fast rule against giving kids hugs (even though most kids would love a hug). They don't want to risk even the appearance of impropriety, or give someone an opportunity to claim inappropriate conduct.

I'm in a weekly Kids Show here in Atlanta, and I give out countless hugs after every show. The parents never seem to mind, and I'm a friggin' 33 year old man wearing lederhosen!

I'm guessing context is what matters, here. If I was in a mall or a WalMart parking lot, there'd be problems.
posted by BobFrapples at 1:11 PM on September 13, 2007


As a young man considering a future career in teaching, I've become acutely aware of this issue -- and it hurts.

The thing is, I don't see myself ever getting married -- to a man or woman. So when future 28 year old Mr. Avenger shows up to Parent-Teacher night without a wedding ring on -- it will turn heads.

It's bad enough being bi in Texas (Wot? U have sex wit man & womanz?!?! at same timez?!?!) but being an unmarried male teacher is practically the same as wearing a huge neon sign that says "HELLO I AM A MOLESTER". Either that, or "HELLO I AM A HOMO, AND THEREFORE A MOLESTER".

And it's not just Texas. Unmarried men are viewed with almost universal suspicion all over the place.

I think I may end up going to a local pawn shop and buying a fake wedding band. Either that or just hurry up and get my doctorate program started so I can teach college.
posted by Avenger at 1:14 PM on September 13, 2007


I wave at kids and smile at babies, and I find the idea that someone would be upset by that so utterly baffling. WTF, people?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2007


I read that Fark thread the other day and was impressed with how relatively serious it was. And seriously depressing.

I agree with Devils Rancher too. You just have to refuse this 'new normal'; every person that doesn't, and submits to that idea of what things are like, just makes matters worse. I often feel like a creep when I'm looking after my kids alone, but that feeling is coming from outside myself - from the glares of mothers at a new park mostly.

It can get you down, but what would be even worse than my feeling weird or awkward is if my kids were to realise that I was feeling this way, and in turn felt weird or awkward themselves.

So I try to just shrug it off, and not internalize it. It's one reason I'm glad I live in a small town where people do still know each other and aren't quick to assume the worst of (shudder) strangers.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


IronLizard writes "Where have you been? That's standard procedure at schools and pretty much everywhere else these days."

Seriously? Wow. I'm glad I don't have kids. I would find it hard to subject myself to such bullshit without loudly complaining or rejecting it altogether.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:17 PM on September 13, 2007


Whenever I look at a mother of a young child, I remember that the woman has, in most cases, only been "a mother" for as long as that kid has been alive. In other words, she's new on the job.

We have male preschool teachers at my school, and quite a number of male elementary teachers; it was only this year that we first had a (slight) majority of women faculty members in any of the grades. Nobody objects. It's a boys' school. But we don't (any of us, male or female) give kids of any age rides home or meet them off campus unaccompanied anyway.
posted by Peach at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2007


I went searching for that Wiggles interview I mentioned, and it actually was Paul Paddick (aka "Captain Feathersword"). This is what the article said:

As part of the Wiggles circus, Paddick has had to curb his natural exuberance. For example, none of the Wiggles ever touch children. And when they are photographed with children, they always adopt their now-famous "pointy fingers" pose - "so there is no doubting where their hands are", Paddick explains.

"I didn't know any of that stuff when I first became Captain Feathersword," he admits. "I've got lots of nieces and nephews and I'm very hands-on." The Wiggles team insisted that touching children, however innocently, was inappropriate - and open to the risk of litigation, particularly as the monetary value of the Wiggles brand name rose.

posted by pardonyou? at 1:21 PM on September 13, 2007


(link).
posted by pardonyou? at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2007


Oh, and all teachers have to have an FBI check too, and we were just informed we have to be fingerprinted.

We sometimes don't let parents pick up kids if they're unfamiliar to us, but that's not because of child abuse. It's because of divorce child custody disputes. Some of the parents are under court order to stay the heck away from their kids, and if we let the non-custodial parent take a kid there's hell to pay. Most of those milk-carton pictures are parental kidnappings.
posted by Peach at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2007


I'm in a weekly Kids Show here in Atlanta, and I give out countless hugs after every show...

Note to self: get that form back from the school and add "entertaining man wearing lederhosen." ;-P
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well it's no longer appropriate to obsess about female sexuality so children are all that's left. These sorts of sexual mass neuroses, whether the target be women or children or same-sex identifications, are always useful if only to justify an atmosphere of more general oppression. Somebody's got to play the bad guy. But the interesting thing about the obsession with pedophilia is just how terribly effective it is. This particular goblin seems to be just tailor made for TV. Unlike race or a wealth which are easily observable social qualities that serve to reinforce social structures, pedophilia has a wonderful kind of invisibility to it, it's almost the perfect enemy, an invisible enemy that harms children.
posted by nixerman at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2007


Re: the Dear Prudence question...

My daughter has a friend who is not allowed to come over for play dates or to sleep over because I am a single father with custody, and there is no woman in the house to keep my bestial urges in check.

Okay, I'm guessing about the bestial urges part, but seriously, she cannot come over because there is a man but no woman in the house. This is her father's rule, btw.
posted by hurkle at 1:24 PM on September 13, 2007


I was in a supermarket several years ago, near the end of an aisle, looking for something on the shelf. Suddenly, I felt a small person wrapped around my leg. I looked down and saw a little girl, about three. Looked up, and saw Mom at the other end of the aisle, gathering steam and headed towards me with death in her eye. I looked back down, raised my arm, and pointed at the woman. "Isn't that your mommy?" She let go and raced to Mom, who gathered her up and left with a parting death-glance. It was surreal.

I am sure I get a lot of suspicious looks when I'm out with my 4-year old, because she's Chinese and I'm not. I take no notice. If someone were to challenge my right to be with her, or try to interfere with it, they would live to regret it.

Is it possible that this Men Are Bad attitude is a front in the War On Boys?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2007


four panels writes "What is it these fear mongers are pushing? I can only guess it's more consume/war jaundice, designed to make you rush home from the mall in your Escalade, turn on To Catch a Predator, and peep out the blinds for the lurking evil."

I don't think it's "designed" to do anything besides get ratings. This is not some sort of deep covert conspiracy - "Yes, of course, Jeeves! We can portray men as predators. This will cause a drop in male teachers, and an increase in female teachers. That means more small children saying "misses" instead of "mister". And with every utterance of the extra 's', there will be a little bit more saliva sprayed out, making the children just a little bit more dehydrated. Multiply that across the nation, and we're talking a massive increase in demand for bottled water. Bottle water which is manufactured by the Umbrella Corporation. And I, the president of the Umbrella Corporation, will control this water! I can charge as much as I want! The world will be brought to my feet!!" -- I think it's just simple ratings mongering to get more viewers to get more advertising dollars. Nothing deeper.

Pufferish writes "This isn't new. I part-timed as a gymnastics coach during high school in the late 80s, kids aged from 5-13. The looks I endured from parents when I had to spot their children were scary; some even pulled their kids from my classes, even though it always ended with their kid quitting in protest."

I think what's new is the spread. I was a kid through the 80's, and there were a few fields considered "dangerous" (as in, us kids would think "that guy may be a pedo"). Gym teacher was probably number 1. School counselor would be number 2. Number 3 would probably be anybody who worked as a mall Santa Claus. There may have been a number 4, I dunno. The difference is, now that list numbers into the hundreds.
posted by Bugbread at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is it okay yet to start busting out the paedophile jokes?
posted by psmealey at 1:38 PM on September 13, 2007


Not until they grow more hair.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:39 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


My sister has forbidden me from letting pictures of my niece and nephew go anywhere near the interenet.

"But I could put them as 'family only' on flickr, so no one but you and mom could see them."

"No. A molester could hack your flickr account and find them."

"Um, ok, email then?"

"No. I don't want pictures of my kids on the internet. Anywhere."

"Sigh."

I tried to explain that the chances of a stranger molesting her kids is astronomically low, especially in comparison to the chances of a family member or friend doing it. It didn't register.
posted by mullingitover at 1:41 PM on September 13, 2007


I'm a single dad with a seven year old daughter. She sees her mom a couple of times a month. I've never noticed any strange looks from other parents or adults when I'm out with my daughter. We live live within walking distance from a park. We basically spent the summer there. On more than one occasion, I've helped other children at the park with monkey bars or a push on the swing. For everyone saying they won't even look at a child when out in public I've just got to say how sad.
posted by Sailormom at 1:46 PM on September 13, 2007


mullingitover: "Hey, sis. The odds of a family member molesting your kids are relatively high."

Sis: "Um... Please, you and your camera stay away from my kids."
posted by found missing at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


In situations where I find myself smiling or waving at a friendly child in public, I generally make sure to give the parents a big i'm going to molest you as well smile.

Cue CSI:Miami intro.
posted by ogre at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2007


When I was little (late 60's - 70's), my parents had two rules for me regarding strangers: don't go anywhere with someone you don't know and if they grab you and try to make you go with them scream and try to get away. That was it. Strangers were allowed to talk to me, make faces at me, push me on a swing, whatever. They weren't going to molest me in public, so the only thing to avoid was going away with them or letting them take me without a big ruckus. Twice in my younger years someone did try to get me to go with them, and I applied the rules. They worked.

I thank them for not putting the fear of strangers in me, because now I can talk to anyone, anywhere, and am a very open person ... which has led to making a whole lot of great friends, every one of whom was obviously a stranger when I met them.

The other big rule was that if anyone, stranger, friend, teacher, family member, every did anything that seemed odd, freaky, or made me feel nervous, I should tell them about it. I did. Sometimes it was just a small kid not understanding what an adult had said or done and it being nothing at all, but once it was something to be concerned about and so appropriate measures were taken to make sure I was never alone with that person again.

If kids don't learn to interact with other people outside their family unit while they are still kids, how can they be expected to know how to interact with a wide variety of people as adults? I'd say that's a problem of a grand scale. You cannot go through life not knowing how to deal with all kinds of people you don't know, some of whom might actually be weirdos or perverts. If you grow up thinking everyone is out to rape/kidnap/molest you, you will miss out on a lot of learning experiences and your ability to tell the actual sickos from non-sickos is going to out of whack ... not to mention living with all that stress and fear. Can't be healthy.

And the father having lunch with his kid and being hassled by a cop? That is just sickening.
posted by Orb at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Surprised no one's mentioned male nannies yet. I gather they are the coming thing, esp. for working couples with only male children.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2007


found missing writes "Sis: 'Um... Please, you and your camera stay away from my kids.'"

Seems plausible until you take into account how much I hate kids.
posted by mullingitover at 1:59 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I read that Fark thread the other day and was impressed with how relatively serious it was.

I was too, until I got to the 13-year-old contingent insisting that breasts have a sexual function, and then I remembered both that it was Fark and why I don't go there.
Of course, I halfway expect someone to make a stupid comment about that here too, cause you can't get away from 13-year-olds on the internet.
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on September 13, 2007


What timing! That infamous bicycle shop episode of Diff'rent Strokes was on TBS just this very afternoon.
posted by Reggie Digest at 2:04 PM on September 13, 2007


how can they be expected to know how to interact with a wide variety of people as adults?

That's exactly what you don't want -- some of those other people might be, as they say, other. You know, one of those people.

If you teach kids how to interact with a variety of people, they might then start accepting that variety! They might even form, and I almost vomit saying it, friendships with people of different social standing!

My god. Think of it. It sickens me, as it should sicken every godfearing redblooded American.
posted by aramaic at 2:05 PM on September 13, 2007


agregoli writes "I was too, until I got to the 13-year-old contingent insisting that breasts have a sexual function"

If you haven't experienced the sexual function of breasts, it's safe to say you haven't really lived.
posted by mullingitover at 2:08 PM on September 13, 2007 [7 favorites]


If kids don't learn to interact with other people outside their family unit while they are still kids, how can they be expected to know how to interact with a wide variety of people as adults?

My son's kind of shy, and when someone talks to him, he takes a little cajoling. I usually say something like. "That man's talking to you. Are you going to answer him?"

The idea of someone trying to swipe my kid while I'm standing there in the grocery store next to him is freaking absurd. (I don't tend to let him out of my sight in places like that, but that's because I'm a responsible parent. The park, or the yard, he's free to cruise, so long as he checks in)
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2007


I've made a point of fostering an image that includes an intense dislike of children, specifically for this reason.

I do the same thing. The truth is, I don't particularly like or dislike kids (never really been around them since I was one). It's just a lot easier to vaguely dislike kids by default than to be around them and worry about what people might think.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2007


If you haven't experienced the sexual function of breasts, it's safe to say you haven't really lived.

And of course, someone had to be pathetic and mention it here. I knew you boys couldn't resist saying something stupid! The discourse here can be so great and then so sad.
posted by agregoli at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2007


I smile at and talk to other folks' kids, too, if they seem friendly. I don't want those kids going through life without a kind word from a nice man.

Not. Party. To. Fear.


I'd like a Greasemonkey script that automatically favorites any comment Devils Rancher makes, plz. I also smile and talk to kids, and honestly, I can't recall getting a dirty look for it. I even look a little molesty, if I do say so myself. This year, I will be reading to preschoolers at my daughter's school, and I drive her and two other girls in a carpool. I am really saddened by the people that change their lives and forsake the innocent pleasures of life because of fear.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2007


Of course, I halfway expect someone to make a stupid comment about that here too, cause you can't get away from 13-year-olds on the internet.
That's the genius of the $5 entrance fee. Children don't have credit cards, and so can't post on Metafilter.
posted by JDHarper at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I started out as a shy kid too, and my parents did the exact same thing Devils Rancher does with his kid. Had they not (even without instilling OMG STRANGER DANGER fear), I don't think I would have ever gotten out of being terribly shy, and I would have been worse off for that as well.

aramaic: Ha, ha ... exactly. Wouldn't want your kids associating with "those" people, whoever they may be. ;)
posted by Orb at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2007


That's the genius of the $5 entrance fee. Children don't have credit cards, and so can't post on Metafilter.

That only makes it sadder that grown adult males make such idiotic comments here sometimes. But I'm not going to further dignify that kind of jokey comment with an argument about why it's stupid and completely inaccurate - I saw how THAT went on FARK.

Back on topic, I do believe it has to do with fear and I agree with a few people here that say the solution is likely in part to not give into that fear - to keep smiling at kids, to keep interacting with them. I can't imagine that kind of scrutiny on a dad or a guy out and about with a kid and it definitely makes me sad. It has to be hard to think that someone who doesn't know you automatically thinks the worst through no fault of your own.
posted by agregoli at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2007


Also, the more men that refuse to submit to the fear-mongering like Devils Rancher and me (and some of the other commenters her) the better. If all nice, friendly men stop smiling at and talking to kids, that would be the real tragedy.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2007


agregoli: I don't read fark, but now you've piqued my interest. Is it your contention that breasts do not have a sexual function? How are you defining 'sexual function'? How does this relate to generalized suspicion about men and children?
posted by found missing at 2:29 PM on September 13, 2007


You'll have to read FARK for that argument, sorry.
posted by agregoli at 2:31 PM on September 13, 2007


Well, jeepers, why did you bring it up then?
posted by found missing at 2:32 PM on September 13, 2007


Jeepers, because many people bring up many things in casual conversation here. I shouldn't have, you're right - didn't expect to get a hard time about it.
posted by agregoli at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2007


Is it okay yet to start busting out the paedophile jokes?

My daughter and I were walking to my parents house a couple of weeks ago and we took a shortcut that went down some disused railway tracks. The trail eventually became quite narrowed by encroaching blackberry bushes. My daughter said "Wow, this is kind of scary." I said "You think you're scared, I've got to walk back alone!"

Rather than ask me what the hell I was talking about she gave me patented look #2: pathetic daddy is amusing himself again; just be patient and he'll stop eventually.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


b00b33z!!!!!
posted by quonsar at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2007


Christ, you're cranky. Back off.
posted by found missing at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2007


When I was working retail, I once noticed a small child (three or four years old, maybe) dismantling one of our displays and throwing stuff on the floor. I looked around; there didn't seem to be a parent-type person anywhere nearby. I went up to the kid and said "Hey, do you know where your mommy or daddy is?" Kid kept throwing stuff. We had a customer who was deaf, so I thought, maybe the kid is hard-of-hearing, and I tapped his shoulder to get his attention. His mom came zooming around the corner - from the next aisle over - and grabbed the kid by the hand and said "Don't touch my child!" They left.

It took me a while to understand that she thought I was going to do something Bad to her kid (I'm a woman, btw, but often mistaken for male, especially in the oversized chef jackets that were my department's uniform). But if she was so worried, why the hell was she in a completely different aisle, out of sight of her son?

People are weird. And not in a good way.
posted by rtha at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2007


Yup, as an aside to a casual comment about how respectful the FARK thread was. Both were a derail and I'm very sorry I mentioned it at all since it's completely ruining a thread where I was enjoying the ensuing discussion very much. Can we get back on track, please?
posted by agregoli at 2:51 PM on September 13, 2007


Although you can get arrested for "watching children play" in NY if one of your kids isn't among them.

Cite please.
posted by brain_drain at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2007


[agregoli derail pruned, let's get back on track with the original article.]
posted by mathowie at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2007


A few years ago, I was working retail, and this shy little 3 year-old girl with a despondent look in her eye politely asked me, "Can you help me find my mommy?" Instinctively, I got down on a knee, smiled, and said, "Yeah! I'm sure your mommy's around here, let's go find her!" I grabbed her by the hand, and after circling a couple clothes-racks, the girl let go and went racing up to this woman. The mom looked up at me and politely smiled and nodded thanks.

Later, when the woman was in line to purchase items, her daughter was wrapped around her leg, swinging in semi-circles. She stopped to stare at me, and when I smiled and waved, she shyly gripped her mom's leg tighter but managed a smile and that clam-like hand-clamping motion that kids always do. The mom looked at her daughter, then me, and smiled again.

That little interaction made my day. I can only imagine what a "stranger danger" attitude could have done to completely ruin my day.

(couple notes: I was 23 at the time, not sure at what age most kids/parents are primed to be alerted for; also, mom/daughter were of Asian American descent, no idea if cultural background had any factors)
posted by Mach3avelli at 3:19 PM on September 13, 2007


Strange. Maybe it's because I work with older students, but I never really have people look at me strange when dealing with students. I mean, I am very stand offish and anti-hug (when possible), but not out of fear, but simply because I consider my personal space to extend out for about seven feet.

Also, I am glad that I am not the only one who plays Face War. I haven't gotten any strange looks for it yet. But, then again, I wouldn't have noticed. I fuck a baby UP in some face war, and that takes focus. Wait, maybe crack a baby up would be a better turn of phrase.
posted by absalom at 3:38 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Living in a smallish town in Oregon, I think too many people watch Dateline NBC around here. Walking around alone with my 2.5 year old daughter, I often notice odd looks at the park or pool when I'm with her. It's not like "zomg, look everyone a pedophile!" but it's more along the lines of "I'm watching you buddy..." and I get the vibe that people are on notice. Since I don't have a traditional work schedule, this means I'm often the only male adult at a park in the middle of the day playing with her, which probably makes me more of a target.
posted by mathowie at 3:42 PM on September 13, 2007


From now on, whenever I disagree with absalom, I am going to quote him saying "I fuck a baby" out of context.
posted by tehloki at 3:47 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


I fucking hate To Catch a Predator. god damn fear mongering chris hansen.
posted by shmegegge at 3:47 PM on September 13, 2007


Although you can get arrested for "watching children play" in NY if one of your kids isn't among them.
Cite please.

Ugh, I read an article a few months ago about a woman being arrested or ticketed in NYC for watching kids play in a park, after the police asked if any of the kids were hers.

Ah finally managed to find a refrence to it.
A New York City rule states if an adult is in one of the city's 950 playgrounds they must be accompanied by a minor. If a person violates the rule, they can face a $1000 fine and 90 days in jail.
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this just an "America is fucked up" sort of thing? I don't notice or read about these sorts of stories here in Canada.

That's what I thought, too, chungking express.
At-home dad of three here (Toronto), never ever experienced any kind of weird looks. I hold their hands, pick them up, piggyback them, throw them over my shoulder, tickle them, wrestle, whatever. In public. Never thought twice about it and even if someone did look at me, who the fuck cares? It's my kid!

They said they avert their eyes when kids are around, or think twice before holding even their own children's hands in public.

That's insane. Those men are sad wimps playing the victim. What's going to happen to you if you're holding your own kid's hand? Clearly they care about what people think more than they care about their kids. Unbelievable.
posted by chococat at 4:01 PM on September 13, 2007


The New York law sucks, but it doesn't suck as badly as it's often presented to suck. It's usually presented as "it's illegal to look at kids in parks". In reality, it basically says "unlike parks, playgrounds are for kids and their accompanying guardians. It's illegal to enter a playground if you're not with a minor". That just doesn't sound as dramatic, so people usually remember the inaccurate and extreme version.

Which, y'know, is basically the whole problem that causes laws like that to come into place in the first place. Drama triumphs over truth on both sides of the issues.
posted by Bugbread at 4:05 PM on September 13, 2007


Is this just an "America is fucked up" sort of thing?

Those men are sad wimps playing the victim. What's going to happen to you if you're holding your own kid's hand? Clearly they care about what people think more than they care about their kids.

Maybe this is an "America is fucked up" kind of thing. In that case, the answer to "What's going to happen to [an American man] if [he's] holding [his] own kid's hand" is "potentially of a lot of bad things."
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:07 PM on September 13, 2007


OverlappingElvis writes "Maybe this is an 'America is fucked up' kind of thing. In that case, the answer to 'What's going to happen to [an American man] if [he's] holding [his] own kid's hand' is 'potentially of a lot of bad things.'"

If you're just holding hands, and it's just your kid, the "lot of bad things" basically consists of someone calling the cops, the cops asking you what you're doing, your saying that it's your kid, the kid verifying that, and that's the end of it. Annoying, but not "a lot of bad things". Now, other peoples' kids, yeah, that can vary from "nothing at all" to "potentially a lot of bad things". But your own kid? Just some hassle.
posted by Bugbread at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2007


Took my baby in the stroller to a park near a school to watch the kids play, meet other parents, etc.
It helps babies to be around new people, other kids, etc. good for ‘em. Teacher came out and grilled me. Who I was, why was I near (not on - near) school property (oddly, there’s a bench there, so...).
Got it sorted out but while I can respect the need for caution, why is a woman with a baby assumed to be the mother, but a man with a baby (and a very nice shiny wedding ring) not the father?
And of course, why can’t I sit in a public park with my kid merely because I’m adjacent to a school?

Thinking about it, I often look sternly at other people’s children. Not disapproving, just sort of stereotypically “fatherly” in the Victorian sense. Then when I manage a slight look of approval by relaxing my face a bit it looks like I’m a nice but strict man.
Which, yeah, is somewhat to ally suspicions that I’m a pervert, but also because when I smile I look like a goofball who thinks it’s funny and approves of kids racing through stores raising havoc and being loud and laughing crazily.
Which, actually, I do, but I just can’t let people know that. And it offsets the superhero themed t-shirts I often wear.

And if mom’s give me dirty looks I just say “Nice kid ...want another? Or are you just into anal?”
Ssssmooothe
posted by Smedleyman at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


More sensationalism. "OMG! There's a crazy lady in every grocery aisle who will freak out if you look at her kid" is the flipside of "OMG! There's a pedophile lurking around every playground". Instances of each do exist in nature, but frequency of both is greatly exaggerated. Despite my being a socially, sexually and emotionally awkward man who lives alone, I've never once noticed any suspicion when out alone with my young nieces or when laughing or smiling at the liveliness of an unknown child. There are organizations that I fully expect to be careful of a man like me working with groups of children - the Boy Scouts and Big Brothers and educational bodies should be selective. A tightening of their policies doesn't mean society is suddenly gripped by paranoia towards all men.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:16 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


This issue came home to roost for me a little bit yesterday. I was at the park with my kids (four and two) and my four-year-old was playing with a little girl of about the same age. It was nice. I was walking around trying to keep an eye on both of mine, and this little girl's parents were doing the same with their kids. At one point, I followed my kids and this girl to a climbing rock, which I was helping my kids climb. The other girl asked me if I'd help her. My immediate reaction was "Well sure, little lady!" but I'd seen this article somewhere else, and I restrained myself- I told her she should get her Mommy or Daddy to help her. Now, that was probably a good idea anyway, because this particular climbing rock was a little too challenging for four-year-olds- but my wife says I'm a reckless parent. And I think it's okay to be reckless with your own kids (sometimes). But if that other kid had fallen off and hurt herself, I would have felt really really bad. But the reason I didn't help her climb was because of this whole hysteria about mysterious male molesters.

Now, reading some of the comments here, I feel a little bit ashamed- like I caved.

But for the record, this is crazy.
posted by Shohn at 4:21 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you're just holding hands, and it's just your kid, the "lot of bad things" basically consists of someone calling the cops, the cops asking you what you're doing, your saying that it's your kid, the kid verifying that, and that's the end of it. Annoying, but not "a lot of bad things". Now, other peoples' kids, yeah, that can vary from "nothing at all" to "potentially a lot of bad things". But your own kid? Just some hassle.

Okay. Not trying to start a fight - "lots of bad things" was probably too strong. I've never experienced this sort of profiling firsthand (don't have kids, don't know anybody with kids, full-time college student who spends his time almost exclusively with other college-aged folk), but don't you think that automatically calling the cops is still kinda fucked up? Even if it doesn't amount to "lots of bad things."
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:25 PM on September 13, 2007


Or even automatically assuming one should call the cops, even if one doesn't. That that attitude exists is what's fucked up, not the (apparently largely imaginary) consequences.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:26 PM on September 13, 2007


OverlappingElvis writes "don't you think that automatically calling the cops is still kinda fucked up?"

Yeah, sorry, my response may have been kinda unclear. I do think that's fucked up. I just meant that it's not like you're going to get jail time or probation for holding your own kid's hand, so go ahead and do it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2007


I think this all highly relates to this, not in that one causes the other, but that they're both caused by some other disturbing trend. I remember having a phenomenally effective parent's network in my neighborhood as a kid, which we all just called the Huntwick Mothers' Club, though the fathers were trusted (and trustworthy) as well.

Are we seeing the slow demise of those kind of neighborhood communities? Do people simply not take advantage of living in neighborhoods anymore? Once you trust and rely on your neighbors, well, in actuality there's some possibly slightly higher chance of a child being molested, because of proximity, but more likely you've got everyone around feeling a stake in the safety of everyone else, and so there are a lot more eyes out there, but also a lot more freedom for the kids to explore, and for people, men and women, the grand majority of which are NOT predators, to enjoy living in a community with other people, some of whom are kids, who can be an absolute joy.

I have five nephews and one niece (I'm not married yet) and I can tell you that the word "uncle" itself has taken on a connotation that makes me feel immediately defensive whenever I speak it. I think it's because nobody really thinks of themselves as an aunt or uncle outside of rare circumstances of interacting with their siblings' kids, so when they hear the word, they immediately get an image in their minds (nowadays) of a shifty, single guy who's around these kids but doesn't have any responsibility for them, and might not have they're best interests at heart, and forget that the term could likely be applied to them as well. I've been out to dinner with my brother and niece before, though, and had the waitress eye me suspiciously after hearing that I was the uncle.

That's a tangent, but to get back to the point, the cause of all of this seems to be loss of community, in the sense that we don't know who are neighbors are anymore. I'm speaking of, as we've been doing this whole thread, upper and middle-class families, of course. In lower-income, and particularly minority neighborhoods, everyone knows each other, knows who to trust and who not to, and hangs around outside with one another, kids and adults alike. The more successful, however, are constantly moving either because of new jobs or in the quest for an ever-bigger home, and it just isn't worth the time or energy to find out who you've got on your block, to talk outside, or to learn the basic lay of the land so that you can set boundaries for where your kids can safely roam. This is, first off, robbing children of the mystical quality of "the house where I grew up," and secondly making parents and children so afraid of each other that they can't enjoy parenthood or childhood for the joys it can offer.

I wish I had an idea of how to solve this.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:43 PM on September 13, 2007


“It's illegal to enter a playground if you're not with a minor". That just doesn't sound as dramatic, so people usually remember the inaccurate and extreme version.”

Yeah. But that’s still a completely screwed up law. Kids tend to cheer people up. Some people need that visible kind of attachment to what is essentially the heart of any community, if not the heart of humanity (seen “Children of Men”?)
What’s wrong with playing with someone else’s child, tickling them, etc (given of course, you have consent)?
There is nothing wrong with feeling close to children and just taking simple joy in them. And it is a joy to hold a baby. And a joy to watch kids play. It’s an even greater joy to mentor them, help them grow as people and just interact with them.
And that should be an integral part of our society and should be reflected in our laws.
Until schools around me started bringing seniors in to help mentor kids I don’t think they even knew any kids in their neighborhood.
Laws like this - and people wonder why people don’t want to support the school system.
(Gee, kids are our future and give us money, but if you look at them or want to have anything to do with their lives you’re a filthy pervert. Die alone fucker...but uh...send us the check)

Everyone in my neighborhood knew my dad. He’d play ball with us all the time. My grandfather was revered as a sort of saint by kids. He always had candy in his pocket (we know what that means today though). He told jokes, told great stories in a thick accent, all based on his own fantasy or something he picked up from pop culture.
Me, most kids know me enough to say Hi Mr.Smedleyman, but that’s only because I’m everywhere. I know men who haven’t held babies in years or played with a kid. The streets when I was a kid on Halloween were filled with kids.
Today we isolate people because they might stick poison or razorblades in our kids candy (never happened).
But we choose that.
That irrational fear of strangers to be our society.

And more and more we outcast and marginalize people who could otherwise enrich our children’s lives and bring some joy into their own.
It’s truly appalling to be an outcast. I’ve felt this as a veteran (on rare occasion here, but in some social settings). And I’ve felt this among parents who fetishize their children as though they have some special badge to be rude or sever their ties to humanity because of the empowerment that “protecting” your child brings.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect our kids, but that law is bullshit.
No one should be excluded from taking part in the foundation of the community and outcast from even merely witnessing a part of the lives of children just because of the vague threat and long odds.
Think someone looks suspicious? Confront them or call a cop. Someone starts getting out of line around kids they’d bust whoever it is for disorderly conduct and whatever else they could think of pretty damned fast.
If it was really out of line I wouldn’t be surprised if the suspect “fell” a few times on the way into the station (I don’t condone it, but it wouldn’t surprise me).

But we don’t need a freaking law against people otherwise minding their own business just watching kids playing.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:44 PM on September 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


I've never been so glad that my little girl is really, really ugly. That automatically removes a lot of suspicion.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:46 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to troll or anything, but as a dad, if you're too cowed by this kind of thing to hold your own kid's hand, doesn't that make you, I dunno... A TOTAL FUCKING DIPSHIT?

A lot of the uneasiness expressed in this thread seems to be coming from people who assume or feel that others are looking at them oddly for doing such and such a thing with their own or someone's else's kid that's completely benign or innocent. I still maintain that people's conspicuousness in such situations is greatly exaggerated, and people are probably not looking at you oddly. They are probably not looking at you at all. The probably don't care. About you.

And people calling the cops automatically for anything other than an armed robbery or assault in progress should be remanded for psychiatric evaluation. I can think of few situations where involving the cops would be an improvement to the proceedings.
posted by psmealey at 4:46 PM on September 13, 2007


(+ what Navelgazer sed)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:50 PM on September 13, 2007


I said: I think this all highly relates to this.

I meant: I think this all highly relate to this.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:54 PM on September 13, 2007


This is surprising to me. I ride the subway everyday and there's always kids, and sometimes they'll make a face at me, or giggle or wave and I'll do the same back. Sometimes at work they'll come up to my pricing station and watch me price books with the pricing gun. I've never had any parental response other than a smile or a hello (and even the occasional 'thank you' if a face or cheek-popping noise I've made has made the kid stop crying. And I'm a guy in his mid thirties dressed sloppily with a thick beard and screws in his ears. So either NYC is a monumental exception to this rule, or more likely these paranoids are.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on September 13, 2007


Navelgazer: I wish I had an idea of how to solve this.

I don't know that it's a solution persay, and I can already hear the whining before I even finish, but if people were to just shut off their TVs and cancel their cable subscription, it would undoubtedly go a long way towards solving many of the problems inherent in our society.

It's pretty simple: TV sells fear. The US is basically a fear-based society (economy?) at this point. If you're really, really, really, really sick of it, a good place to start is by not watching TV anymore.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:57 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


Navelgazer writes "Are we seeing the slow demise of those kind of neighborhood communities?"

Yes, I think that is a major cause of it. Our communities are becoming or have become fragmented, and people in the same neighborhood don't trust each other because they really don't know each other.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:00 PM on September 13, 2007


jonmc: I'm going to guess that NYC is probably one of the few places in the US that seems safer than it did twenty years ago.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:01 PM on September 13, 2007


Fuck kids.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:01 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman writes "Yeah. But that’s still a completely screwed up law."

Yeah, but misrepresenting reality is what gets us into this situation in the first place. You can't really argue "the law sucks, so it's fine to misrepresent it. Child abuse sucks too, but it's wrong to misrepresent that!"

Smedleyman writes "But we don’t need a freaking law against people otherwise minding their own business just watching kids playing."

This is what I'm talking about. We don't need that freaking law like that, which is why it's a good thing we don't have that freaking law. Sure, we have another, slightly less bad, but still bad law. But just because it's bad doesn't mean we should misrepresent it as even worse. Otherwise you're just being a soccer mom from the other side.
posted by Bugbread at 5:02 PM on September 13, 2007


Navelgazer writes "the word 'uncle' itself has taken on a connotation that makes me feel immediately defensive whenever I speak it."

That's too bad. I do think there is an unhealthy paranoia about predators in the US, but I'm an uncle to 13 nieces and nephews, and I'm more than proud to tell just about anyone about them, like those annoying grandparents you meet who want to show you pictures. I've never encountered weirdness because of that, but I am aware that being a single guy pushing 40 is not doing anything to improve a "child-safe" image, so strangers can be standoffish with their own kids. But I'm hardly worried about it, and neither is my family (though they do have a bit too much of the stranger-fearing thing going on).
posted by krinklyfig at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2007


A lot of people say, "Screw those people staring at you, do the right thing and give the kid a hug/pick him up and dust him off/help find her mommy."

On the balance, screw that. Maybe it'll be a nice interaction, maybe you'll get a glare, that part kind of washes out. Then you factor in stuff like the McMartin Preschool and Kern County, and you realize that, with nothing more than a pointing finger and an overly helpful interrogator saying, "Show me on the doll where he touched you," your life can be pretty much over, even if you are eventually cleared. The intangible of a five-second warm and fuzzy from an interaction with a child weighs nothing against it. One of the reasons I gave up tutoring children, despite the benefits to kids, was the increasing amount of this nonsense. No more babysitting, either, even if the kids ask.

It's just part and parcel of me walking to my car at night, only to notice that a woman fifteen feet ahead of me and a little to the right has quickly fumbled out her pepper mace. And not just once, either.

Males: avoid kids if at all possible. Should one approach you, leave. The appropriate interactions are to shut up, buy the Scout cookies, give presents with no sharp edges, and pay your child support. Avoid women, unless you're in a singles bar. If you do take her to bed, have her blow into a Breathalyzer (you have bought one, haven't you?) on videotape and sign the sexual consent form.
posted by adipocere at 5:26 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Other cities (San Francisco among them) have "no adults without a minor" playground ordinances. At least around here, their purpose is to give police a tool to roust the homeless winos who often make liberal use of the benches. It's got nothing to do with Creepy Pedophile Paranoia.
posted by majick at 5:40 PM on September 13, 2007


Is there really that much fear of men out there? I don't see it and stick by my war on Christmas comment. This seems like a manufactured outrage to me. Bill Falafel would love this one.
posted by caddis at 6:03 PM on September 13, 2007


This is an excerpt from the WSJ article:

Ted Wallis, a doctor in Austin, Texas, recently came upon a lost child in tears in a mall. His first instinct was to help, but he feared people might consider him a predator. He walked away. "Being male," he explains, "I am guilty until proven innocent."

That is so fucking stupid. Ted Wallis is an idiot.

Speaking of weird Boy Scount stories: When I was in Boy Scouts, the scoutmaster encouraged us --- I swear this is true --- to examine each other's spread-open buttcracks at summer camp, because ticks tended to gravitate toward those warm, enclosed crevices. My tent-mate had me look for ticks in his asscrack, but I could never bring myself to "spread 'em" for one of my fellow Scouts. As weird as that was, I still think it was an innocent, health-related suggestion by our Scoutmaster.
posted by jayder at 6:04 PM on September 13, 2007


Speaking to the loss of community, how can it be otherwise? "You're not going to live in that house but for a couple of years before you move again," is a common mindset among a lot of homeowners nowdays. I mean, plus all the other alienating factors of late modernity.
posted by absalom at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2007


Those men are sad wimps playing the victim. What's going to happen to you if you're holding your own kid's hand?

Exactly. Nothing will happen. In fact, nothing should happen if you're watching children play. There's nothing sexual about children playing, and there's nothing sexual about watching them. If paedophiles are really that turned on by the very existence of children, then there's plenty of movies and TV shows, and shit, department store catalogs in the mail that feature pictures of...shock...children for them to look at!

And how many cases of child abuse started with someone smiling at a kid in a cashier-line at the supermarket in front of their parents? Any statistics on this?

When I was in Boy Scouts, the scoutmaster encouraged us --- I swear this is true --- to examine each other's spread-open buttcracks at summer camp

Yeah I've got Scouts stories too. We had a daily "skid-marks" check where we had to present our underwear to the scout master, to prove that we were wearing new jocks every day. Sounds fair to me.

Now imagine if that was framed as The adult forced the pre-teen boys to remove their underwear and show them to him each morning. Sounds pretty suspicious!

And, like other posters, we did the piss-on-the-campfire thing too. We asked to do it. The scout masters said yes, and got on with what they were doing, only to return to make sure we'd put the fire out properly.

Now imagine if that was framed as The adult males instructed the children to expose their genitalia and urinate infront of them as a group. Some fine guys would be going to jail for a long time.

This whole issue needs a touch of reality, I feel.
posted by Jimbob at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2007


So, this has all upset me so much that I just had a long conversation (2 hours over the phone) to discuss it with her.

On the one hand, she knows that there's no more risk than when we ourselves were children, but she still joked that, "It might not be until college that I'll let [my nephew] go into a men's room on his own." On the other hand, we discussed that there is a burgeoning "mothers' club" in her neighborhood which will allow for the children to wander on their own and still have eyes out for trouble.

Here's the thing that bothers me.

She said, "it could be something that only happens for five minutes, but that's enough to ruin the child's life." I understand that impulse, but is it really? Many, many of my friends are rape survivors, and several people I know had been molested as kids (including my brother, forced into simulating sex with a friend as toddlers by the girl's older brother) but, as awful as the situation was, and as much as it should be prevented, it didn't ruin any of their lives by a long shot. This is extremely delicate territory, but is it possible that at least a good portion of the lasting damage from these types of incidents comes from the parents - and the rest of society - being so pranoid about them so as to ostracize the victims and make them, no matter how subtly, relive them over and over until the kids are clear on how badly they've been victimized?

I mean, obviously it's tricky - the kids need to know that such interactions are not right - but might it be better for the kids to just know that if someone tries to go for their bathing-suit area that it's icky and weird, and they need to tell an adult they trust, rather than being dragged into a psychologist's office to deal with it, making them feel like there's something wrong with them for it having happened?

In any situation, the crime is no less heinous, but the paranoia surrounding it seems to me to not only cause the problems we're talking about, but also to make the effects of the crime much worse than they need to be.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


her = my sister. didn't catch that on preview.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:06 PM on September 13, 2007


Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile… Some people are just nice.

(I can't believe I'm the first person in this thread to cite the wisdom of Dan Le Sac.)

I wonder how much of the "stranger danger" hysteria is a perverse outgrowth of guilt - specifically, the parents' guilt about having less time to spend with their kids (making it that much more ironic that strangers are now off-limits as well). For that matter, I'd also surmise that this type of paranoia is one of the few "socially acceptable" ways (in quote marks because I personally don't find it acceptable) in which a parent can (subtextually) express a feeling of powerlessness and bewilderment in the world.

/armchair shrink
posted by GrammarMoses at 7:22 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]



Being in Japan we are relatively sheltered from this. It is very common for people to walk up to your kid, pat him on the head and say "so cute!" etc. Including 40 year old business men. It is just normal. Was a little bit freaky the first time, but it really is harmless, and ok to do so here. Now it is more annoying when they do it and the kid is a sleep. Whatever you do, don't wake the beast up!

But you occasionally see tourists in town with kids freaking out when it happens to them. Asia do not seem to have that paranoia yet. But it is coming, which is sad.

It does mean we have two sets of rules. If the kids is foreign, you check with the parents before touching it (even if it is lying on the floor bleeding, seriously!) but if it is native, it is ok to help the kid. They will just thank you.

And yet, we all know what the stereo-type for Japan is! And yet, it is a much smaller problem here! Stop repressing! :)
posted by lundman at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2007


A New York City rule states if an adult is in one of the city's 950 playgrounds they must be accompanied by a minor.

Damn. When I lived in Manhattan in my 20s, one of my favorite things, weather permitting, was to go down the street to the playground in Riverside Park and use the swingset. Which was never in use by anyone, supervised or not.

Suppose the ordinance would apply if you were the only one there?

Anyway, I've also experienced a bit of the Scouting ruleset as an unofficial leader. For one thing, they have a "leader tent" and no minors that aren't related to the Scoutmaster may be in the tent. (Funny, though, the day a Scout turns 18 he has to be in the tent regardless.) Also, as a non-trained leader I couldn't be in the leader tent either, so I had to be in a different one, but I could be in one with my nephew. Yet statistically, a related individual is far more likely to molest a child than an unrelated one. So the rules actually put victims in with the most likely abusers! I never quite understood that, other than it removed some liability from the BSA itself.

Another thorny issue is that the church in which I grew up now has a "Safe Sanctuary Policy". Even though I was a member, and my parents are members, and my nieces and nephew are members, I could not accompany them on an overnight outing because I am not eligible to pass the policy. Now, in this case, it actually does prevent what the BSA policy does not, so my principled objection above falls apart, but in practice it was difficult when my nieces or nephew wanted me to come along because I'm more fun than grandma or grandpa.

I won't name the church involved, or offer any more specifics, but I will only note that despite implementation of this policy, it was unable to prevent a youth-to-youth abuse situation on one overnight. (It was only gossip among the younger kids the next morning that brought it to light.)
posted by dhartung at 7:47 PM on September 13, 2007


I was just noticing something related the other day that I pointed out to my girlfriend. What I was noticing is that almost everytime I'm walking past a mother and child, the mother will call the child over to her. Doesn't matter if the kid is only five feet away, she'll still call them over.

Now, it might be that I just noticed a coincidence, and now that I'm looking for it, I see it more often. But I swear that it happens like 80% of the time. And it's horrible, because I feel this guilt now for what? Walking around outside? It's absurd. Damnit, when I was a kid our parents would let us ride bikes and play throughout the neighborhood, after dusk even. Sure, there were the "creepy" men, but you just stayed away from them.

The four horsemen of the infocalypse was a truly prescient observation.
posted by formless at 8:14 PM on September 13, 2007


What I was noticing is that almost everytime I'm walking past a mother and child, the mother will call the child over to her.

Well there may be another way to interpret this, formless.

As a father of an insane, boisterous, curious and completely uninhibited 14-month old, I often call him over to me and try to get him to stay close to me when we're around other people...say, in a park, or in a waiting room.

The reason is, he's likely to hit you with something heavy or try to climb on your lap or steal something shiny from your handbag.

I call him close to me not because I fear the people he's interacting with, but because I'm afraid he's going to misbehave and annoy them!
posted by Jimbob at 8:24 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much of the "stranger danger" hysteria is a perverse outgrowth of guilt - specifically, the parents' guilt about having less time to spend with their kids (making it that much more ironic that strangers are now off-limits as well). For that matter, I'd also surmise that this type of paranoia is one of the few "socially acceptable" ways (in quote marks because I personally don't find it acceptable) in which a parent can (subtextually) express a feeling of powerlessness and bewilderment in the world.

Agreed.
posted by jokeefe at 8:52 PM on September 13, 2007


Sorry, that "agreed" was a bit useless, but I think the comment stands on its own merits... the idea of rephrasing it in my response just seemed silly.
posted by jokeefe at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2007


This is sick--why is pedophilia at the front of these guy's minds anyway?

I wonder if these are the same fathers who think nothing of participating in these creepy creepy Purity Balls?
posted by amberglow at 10:12 PM on September 13, 2007


After further thought: this is actually even more fucked up. Most adults are out to protect their kids, and since they figure that they (or their spouse and family) would never abuse their kids, they don't even worry about themselves or their loved ones as possible culprits. So they obsess and scream at the law-makers about the tiny sliver of molestation cases where complete strangers are the culprit. But most kids who are molested have no-one to speak for them, as their family's either culpable or in denial. Fuck. Now I'm gonna worry about this all day.

This is exactly right. It's not going to be some male stranger while you or another parent are actually physically with your child in a public place. It's nonsensical. I can see being afraid of them being taken or whatever when you're not with them, but when you're with them?
posted by amberglow at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2007


Someone (was it bugbread?) mentioned that the idea of crazy ladies flipping out at every man that looks at their kid is the same over generalization as the idea that there are predatory men wandering everywhere.

This is true. But compare the actual way things work. Men, of any stripe, will catch mean-ass "don't you think pedo thoughts about my kid" glares everywhere they go. Mothers will not catch creepy pedo glares at their kid everywhere they go. Could my belief that this is the case be an instance of confirmation bias? quite possibly. It's unfortunately an entirely anecdotal situation. But the percentage of (to put it nicely) "protective mothers" who see pedos where they don't exist greatly outweighs the percentage of men who have any inclination toward children. I don't have statistics to back this up, cause I've had a few drinks and (to be perfectly honest) I feel like this conversation is more about how we feel in public and less about a provable social situation. The same way you can't blame women for wanting to feel unthreatened when they walk down the street at night, I believe it's a man's right not to feel demonized everywhere he goes. There IS, no matter what anyone thinks, a social tendency right now to instill fear in people of pedophiliac men, and this tendency has focused less on actual data than on plain old misinforming fear mongering.
posted by shmegegge at 10:35 PM on September 13, 2007


Chunky Turtles: I think it must be an American thing; I kicked around Vancouver for a full day with a sixteen year old kid in "my family". She and I even did the grubby bit between Gastown and Granville. No one batted an eye, including cops.

Did get an offering of rock or powder at Narc Park, though. Ugh. The grubby bit was quite enlightening for the child. A bit of reality as to what a life that really sucks is like.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:01 PM on September 13, 2007


This is sick--why is pedophilia at the front of these guy's minds anyway?

Amen. That's what strikes me too. It's akin to my bigoted 73 year old mother who claims to be "disgusted" by teh gays and "what they do". I constantly tell her that if she's the one obsessing about it, then it's pretty clear who the pervert is in that scenario. It has failed to make an impression on her, but still I try.

Maybe it's not exactly the same, but it seems to me that there is something of an eye of the beholderness thing going on, people sexualizing their own children and thinking everyone wants them for that purpose that goes well past media-driven and overhyped fears of abduction.

By the way, you know what's really awesome about 5 year old children?

Their little hands make your cock look FUCKING HUGE!!
posted by Gervais Brooke-Hamster at 3:02 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


shmegegge writes "Someone (was it bugbread?) mentioned that the idea of crazy ladies flipping out at every man that looks at their kid is the same over generalization as the idea that there are predatory men wandering everywhere. "

In a time travelling way, it was me. In a linear sense, it wasn't me (I was talking about mischaracterizing the playground law being the same overgeneralization. Someone else was the one mentioning the crazy ladies aspect. But the crazy lady comparison was a comment I was planning on making but hadn't yet, so here it is after the fact.)

I see what you're saying re: glares and stares, and I entirely agree. It happens, and it sucks. However, I do think there's a qualitative difference between avoiding interacting with kids because you don't want to deal with their moms glaring you down, and not helping a kid who's been hurt or is lost because of fear of jail. One is avoiding something because it is highly likely, and the other is avoiding something which is extremely unlikely because the possible harm is so great.

That is, I see some people here making the following argument:

Even though having your child abducted or molested by a stranger is incredibly unlikely, it's such a scary prospect that some moms fear all lone men. They say it's a case of "better safe than sorry", but in reality it's totally paranoid and unreasonable.
Even though being framed for abduction or molestation by helping an injured kid at a playground is unreasonable, it's such a scary prospect that some men fear interaction with all children. That's not totally paranoid and unreasonable, but a case of "better safe than sorry".

Again, to be clear, if the reason the avoidance of children is happening is not because of fear of wrongful arrest, but just because the person has gotten a lot of staredowns in the past, we're talking something totally different (difference bolded below):

Because where the particular poster lives it is rather common to be stared down for interacting with a kid, it's annoying enough that said poster avoids (not fears) interaction with all children. That's not totally paranoid and unreasonable, but a case of "better safe than sorry".
posted by Bugbread at 5:04 AM on September 14, 2007


lundman writes "Being in Japan we are relatively sheltered from this...Asia do not seem to have that paranoia yet. But it is coming, which is sad."

Had that exact conversation with my wife this morning. Japanese TV news is rapidly becoming like US TV news in the late 80's, early 90's, when the "fear of the week" stuff started becoming prominent. We have gone through a rash of "drunk driving is on the rise, people are dying everywhere!1!11!!" prompted by one or two particularly sad incidents. It totally fooled my wife and my mother-in-law. I pointed out how the statistics actually worked, and the motivation for the news picking up the meme, and my wife kinda understood what I was talking about, but she didn't really believe me (she is stunningly un-media-savvy). I've heard the same type of thing with child abduction fears from my mother-in-law, due to some child murders last year. It hasn't reached anywhere close to what I'm reading in this thread, but I can see the exact same process starting, as TV news stations realize that fear increases viewership. I told her what this thread was saying about how things are in the US, and she was pretty surprised and dismayed, and unlike the drunk driving and Japanese child abduction discussions, this time I got the impression that she really grokked what I was saying and no longer thinks I'm just full of shit.
posted by Bugbread at 5:13 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


i'm so baffled by this. kids are raised to be afraid of all strangers and men. i don't get it. i also don't get articles that point out problems and propose no solutions. how do we raise our kids to be smart about who they interact with? sheltering them from everyone certainly isn't the way.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is the text of the New York City rule, as found here:

Exclusive areas. Areas within the parks designated by the Commissioner for exclusive use shall include:
(1) Exclusive children playgrounds: Adults allowed in playground areas only when accompanied by a child under the age of twelve (12).

So it doesn't even say, "all playgrounds," just that the Commissioner can designate some playgrounds that way if he/she wants. There can also be areas of parks set aside for use only by people 65 and over.
posted by JanetLand at 8:12 AM on September 14, 2007


My impression of the NYC law was that it was to keep adults from monopolizing the slides, not to prevent ZOMG PEDOS!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


why is pedophilia at the front of these guy's minds anyway?

Uh, because of the media? Because of things like "To Catch A Predator" and that Virginia ad linked upthread? Because, like Communists in the 1950s, pedophiles are the new scary Bogeyman who could be anyone anywhere at anytime?

And, at the risk of seeming to contradict myself, my own anecdote would suggest that in fact legitimate pedophiles (and here I'm admittedly making an assumption) do approach children in public in the light of day.

I was a little kid having dinner with my parents in a restaurant back in the late 70s. An elderly man at the next table engaged us in conversation, and wound up asking me right in front of them if I'd be interested in joining him for a trip to the local air show. I was so excited I said "yes, yes", and then my mother kicked me under the table (I then said, "hey Mom, why did you kick me?").

So yes, these things do happen. That doesn't change the fact that they are being blown out of all proportion nowadays, and that things have gone way overboard to the point where men legitimately don't want to interact whatsoever in a situation where they are the defacto bad guy, and could have their lives ruined for a simple misunderstanding.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:24 AM on September 14, 2007


I hate to break it to you, stinkcheese, but "would like to go to the air show with me?" is just code for "do you want to buy some weed?"
posted by shmegegge at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2007


stinky, back in the late 40s, a pervert flashed my then 9 or 10-year-old aunt on the subway in public and in front of her and my (then teenaged) mother and friends--she was just a kid. That doesn't mean that all men are pervs or that she didn't ride the subway anymore. That didn't mean that from then on, my grandma saw all men as perverts or all men on the subway as perverts. Or that she forbid my aunt or mother from ever riding the subways, or that she herself shot all men in eyesight with dirty looks because she saw them all as flashers, etc.

I cannot believe someone would try to take you and molest you--or make a date to do so--in front of your own parents in a public place--he only wanted you to go with him and not all of you? Thinking like that, and thinking everyone is out to do you or your kids harm ensures nothing ever gets better. We have no social contract at all if every man thinks he's seen as a pedophile, when it's not every man, but men who the kid already knows who are the ones who do it--90+% of the time. And if all moms see all men as pedophiles and treat them with suspicion, they're warping their kids.

There are smart and sensible ways to teach your kids to protect themselves and to get help if and when they need it--it's not hard, and parents have been doing it for eons now. This pervasive fear and loathing shit must stop. And it's even more shitty when moms are walking around with their kids and broadcasting this kind of message--i really question their parenting skills, and think they'd be better off without kids if that's how they see the world, and are teaching their kids to see it--or all men-- that way too.
posted by amberglow at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2007


So yes, these things do happen. That doesn't change the fact that they are being blown out of all proportion nowadays, and that things have gone way overboard to the point where men legitimately don't want to interact whatsoever in a situation where they are the defacto bad guy, and could have their lives ruined for a simple misunderstanding.
But how was that "air show" guy's life ruined? Your parents didn't do anything about him, did they?, and if they really thought he was a pedophile they should have actually done something about it, instead of kicking you to shut you up. Everyone just let this guy turn to the kids at the table on the other side of him and get on with it? Or was it that he was simply not a perv?

It's just tragic that so many men and moms see themselves and others as pedophiles automatically and immediately--and it's idiotic.
posted by amberglow at 9:58 AM on September 14, 2007


Don't turn me into one of these hysterical people, I'm arguing against that amberglow.

I cannot believe someone would try to take you and molest you--or make a date to do so--in front of your own parents in a public place--he only wanted you to go with him and not all of you?

That's exactly right. He made it very clear - he wanted to take me, just the two of us. After having just met me. Right in front of my parents.

And if all moms see all men as pedophiles and treat them with suspicion, they're warping their kids.

I agree. I'm not bringing up my kids that way.

This pervasive fear and loathing shit must stop.

Again, I agree. I just dropped that anecdote by way of saying, yes, these things do take place. I can attest to that for a fact.

Crazy things happen everyday. The government of North Korea kidnapped people off the streets of Japan; should all Japanese fear kidnapping by the NK government? No, of course not.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2007


I also blame that asinine Dateline NBC show. And while it was a true film, I think that that movie "Adam" really freaked people out and started a lot of this. I remember when it came out and for the longest time afterwards, my mother was irrationally paranoid about kidnappers.

"Yeah, I've experienced this while working as a pizza delivery guy. A lot of kids get really excited about the pizza guy and run up to interact with me before."

I always found that people sent the kids to the door so they wouldn't have to face you as they stiff you for a tip. Not giving kids back the exact change = basically theft. Can't just take your own tip. It was always the yuppie houses in the new subdivisions that would pull that crap too.

"No. I don't want pictures of my kids on the internet. Anywhere."

sadly, I've met people like that. :|

"Today we isolate people because they might stick poison or razorblades in our kids candy (never happened)."

Actually, yes, it has happened but the circumstances were rare.
posted by drstein at 10:10 AM on September 14, 2007


stinky, why didn't your parents report him (if you're so sure he was a perv)? they just let him go off to do it to more kids on other days forever and ever?
posted by amberglow at 10:11 AM on September 14, 2007


"No. I don't want pictures of my kids on the internet. Anywhere."
That is actually smart, i'd say (and email should be fine for relatives to get pics or they should use passworded sites/groups/etc)--but tons of kids tell all and reveal way too much online--and parents who may be giving dirty looks to all men outside in real life in fear of pervs don't even monitor their kids online at all. There's a commercial on now that has a kid out on the street yelling about how much his house costs and his address and all sorts of private info and stuff.
posted by amberglow at 10:16 AM on September 14, 2007


That really seems like a derail to me, amberglow. This happened in the 1970s; things are quite different now. Do you want their phone number so you can call them up and ask them yourself?

I assume they just thought, whoa, what a weird guy, let's get back to our dinner. I really have no idea.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:17 AM on September 14, 2007


stinkycheese writes "And, at the risk of seeming to contradict myself, my own anecdote would suggest that in fact legitimate pedophiles (and here I'm admittedly making an assumption) do approach children in public in the light of day.

"I was a little kid having dinner with my parents in a restaurant back in the late 70s. An elderly man at the next table engaged us in conversation, and wound up asking me
right in front of them if I'd be interested in joining him for a trip to the local air show."

Don't worry, your own anecdote doesn't contradict you, because it doesn't suggest that pedophiles approach people in public in the light of day. Unless you have a second anecdote that explains why the first anecdote is evidence of a pedophile come-on, and not just an invitation to an air show.
posted by Bugbread at 10:18 AM on September 14, 2007


This happened in the 1970s; things are quite different now.
No, things are not quite different now--thinking that they are is one of the reasons there is so much widespread suspicion of others.
posted by amberglow at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2007


amberglow writes:
"No. I don't want pictures of my kids on the internet. Anywhere."
That is actually smart, i'd say (and email should be fine for relatives to get pics or they should use passworded sites/groups/etc)"


Check out the context that statement came up in:

mullingitover writes:
"My sister has forbidden me from letting pictures of my niece and nephew go anywhere near the interenet.

"But I could put them as 'family only' on flickr, so no one but you and mom could see them."

"No. A molester could hack your flickr account and find them."

"Um, ok, email then?"

"No. I don't want pictures of my kids on the internet. Anywhere."
That's what he means by paranoia: not even allowing passworded sites/groups/email.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK, whatever. I very obviously cannot prove beyond all doubt that this man intended to molest me back thirty years ago. He's probably food for worms at this point.

Is the situation hysterical nowadays? Yes. Are men changing their behaviour because of this? Yes.

Do pedophiles approach children people in public in the light of day? Of course they do. If you want irrefutable proof, take a walk to your local police station and ask them.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:29 AM on September 14, 2007


So if your mom thinks all men are pedophiles, and if there's no dad in your life, maybe you'd grow up thinking it's normal for a man to be a pedophile.

You wouldn't want to make your mom wrong, would you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:29 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kirth Gerson writes "So if your mom thinks all men are pedophiles, and if there's no dad in your life, maybe you'd grow up thinking it's normal for a man to be a pedophile.

"You wouldn't want to make your mom
wrong, would you?"

Good little boys get sex change operations.
posted by Bugbread at 10:34 AM on September 14, 2007


No, things are not quite different now--thinking that they are is one of the reasons there is so much widespread suspicion of others.

This is really getting tiresome.

It's blindingly obvious that things are different. Specifically, people are better educated that, if they do not report a crime of this nature (pedophilia, rape, etc.), it is likely to continue and find other victims. There is more media coverage of pedophilia, there is now a popular TV show on the topic, and so on and on on. I am not going to walk you through the many societal changes in the last 30 years step-by-step. You're being really rediculous.

For all I know, my parents did report the guy to the police, or the restaurant. Jesus. You are basically saying you don't believe me b/c my parents may not have acted the way you're suggesting they shouldn't have acted anyways.

Did your aunt report the flasher amberglow? Does that change the discussion either way?
posted by stinkycheese at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2007


Are we seeing the slow demise of those kind of neighborhood communities?

No, they're pretty much already gone. Have been for a while. Time to figure out a new way to deal with what they dealt with.
posted by lodurr at 10:48 AM on September 14, 2007


there was more crime in the 70s than today--of all kinds--even abduction and pedophilia. there was a worse economy in the 70s and much much more social unrest than today. more kids were latchkey and wholly unsupervised much much much more than today. kids were encouraged to go places and do things independently far more then than they are today---all of that made it MORE LIKELY that it would have happened then and not now, when the whole world is aware of it and thinks everyone is a potential pedophile. And back then most places kids were were absolutely not supervised--from schoolyards to playgrounds to most if not all other spaces--there were no security cams or locked gates to stop anything from happening.

And: My mother took my aunt and they went right to the token booth when they got to their stop, actually, and reported it immediately--and as soon as she found out a second after it happened, my mother screamed at the guy in front of the whole subway car so everyone within hearing range (and beyond!) knew what he was doing. Duh--it's not like it's hard to do or anything.

It's nonsensical to attribute media fearmongering and vast exaggeration with actual occurences of a crime. It's stupid. Back then it was like today---it was overwhelmingly someone who was already in contact with a kid---just like today. Back then it was not likely to be random men in crowded public places--just like today. Back then it was not likely that someone would try something in front of a mother or father--just like today.
posted by amberglow at 12:01 PM on September 14, 2007


And we actually have far more proof of actual abuse back then than stuff today--all the many many many adults now who were abused by Priests and Scout leaders decades ago, who have come forward and gone public. The media today actually avoids all mentions of sexual abuse when missing kids have come back or been returned or found, like Elizabeth Smart and those 2 boys recently.
posted by amberglow at 12:05 PM on September 14, 2007


Nothing substantive to add, the most important piece of information that I take away from this thread is that IRFH is a grandparent! That blows me away. Rock on, grandpaw!
posted by msali at 12:33 PM on September 14, 2007


It's nonsensical to attribute media fearmongering and vast exaggeration with actual occurences of a crime.

Show me where I did that.

Back then it was not likely that someone would try something in front of a mother or father--just like today.

Show me where I suggested otherwise.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2007


And we actually have far more proof of actual abuse back then than stuff today--all the many many many adults now who were abused by Priests and Scout leaders decades ago, who have come forward and gone public.

I don't know whether your assertion is right or wrong, but this is weak reasoning to support it. You can't use recent revelations of abuse 20-30 years ago to prove there was more abuse back then. How do you know 20-30 years from now there won't be just as many revelations about abuse that is happening today?
posted by brain_drain at 12:52 PM on September 14, 2007


I don't understand what your position is, amberglow. At first, it sounded like you were disagreeing with stinkycheese, except that all the stuff you were saying was in agreement with him/her. Then you start disagreeing with yourself: you say that things are not different than they were in the 1970's, and then you provide a list of how things are different now than they were then.

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm saying that I have no idea what you're trying to say. Judging from stinkycheese's last comment, I don't think he/she understands what you're trying to say either.
posted by Bugbread at 2:20 PM on September 14, 2007


I'm saying there's actually less opportunity for kids to be abused today, and that all this fear is insane and ungrounded in reality, and that for multiple reasons and with tons of documented evidence of abuse occuring, the 70s spoken of as "a different time" was different for different reasons than people think, and that it really also wasn't different because actual occurences aren't suddenly greater or anything--it's people's reactions to the mere possibility of it that's different.
posted by amberglow at 2:29 PM on September 14, 2007


I'm gonna regret bringing this up, stinkycheese, but it seems you are claiming the creep at the restaurant was a pedophile, on the basis of absolutely no proof whatsoever, not on even the remotest glimmer of a faint light of rapidly dimming proof.

I'm not entirely certain what it is you think you're arguing for or against, but I get the distinct feeling that "all creepy men are necessarily pedophiles" isn't it, though that's what your anecdote says.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2007


I'm really sorry I brought it up at this point, but let's look at my original statement:

"...my own anecdote would suggest that in fact legitimate pedophiles (and here I'm admittedly making an assumption) do approach children in public in the light of day".

Please note I qualified this by saying my anecdote suggest(ed) this person...blah blah blah. I then also said "I'm admittedly making an assumption" (about this man being a pedophile).

This derail is so weird to me I finally called up my Mom myself, and asked her about it. She said she kicked me because she didn't want me to go, in turn because we didn't know this man at all. She says it did not enter her mind that he was a pedophile, but that he was certainly acting strangely asking a young boy out like that, and that the suggestion was certainly inappropriate.

So, like I said, whatever. Whether he had sex with children or not, he asked a young boy he'd just met to go out with him. So how about I alter my statement to say, "my own anecdote proves that at least once in the history of the human race, a man asked a young boy out on a date in public in the light of day".

And really, it is such a derail. We all agree pedophiles exist, right? We're not talking about griffins of unicorns. So, whether this guy in the restaurant was or not doesn't really change anything.

Pedophiles exist, just like black widow spiders, freak tornadoes, or people who drop cinderblocks off overpasses. These are not things to fear every time you go outside, or to alter one's behaviour for.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2007


griffins or unicorns
posted by stinkycheese at 6:53 PM on September 14, 2007


gryffindor unicorns, of course!

(speaking of derailing)
posted by mattly at 9:54 PM on September 14, 2007


I'm sorry if you think it's a derail, but i think it goes to the very heart of both men thinking they're being seen as pedophiles, and moms seeing all men as potential pedophiles--it's very very relevant. And it also speaks to the very common and very damaging myth that the world is full of people looking to harm children.
posted by amberglow at 11:58 AM on September 15, 2007


It's not really about whether they exist or not--no one disputes that at all.
posted by amberglow at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2007


Well, I guess we're not really hearing each other then because I don't think I've said anything in this thread to suggest that the world is, "full of people looking to harm children". In fact, it seems to me we're agreeing far more here than we're disagreeing.

I cited that anecdote because the suggestion was being made here that in fact men don't really approach children when their parents are around. This man did, and he wanted to get me alone. Now we can argue til the cows come home as to what he wanted to do thereafter - only one person really knows, and he's almost certainly not around anymore. The rest is conjecture really.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:20 PM on September 15, 2007


I'm sorry if you think it's a derail, but i think it goes to the very heart of both men thinking they're being seen as pedophiles, and moms seeing all men as potential pedophiles--it's very very relevant.

Still gotta disagree.

Did the man expect my parents to agree to letting him take me out? Why or why not? And whether he did or not, why would you suggest he thinks he's being seen as a pedophile? No one said that at the time, and I haven't said anything here to indicate otherwise.

Likewise -- my mom didn't and doesn't see all men as potential pedophiles, even if they ask her son out at the age of seven or so apparently. I wasn't raised that way, and, again, I'm not raising my own kids that way.

As bugbread said: I don't understand what your position is, amberglow. At first, it sounded like you were disagreeing with stinkycheese, except that all the stuff you were saying was in agreement with him/her.

I feel like you maybe have a legitimate grievance on this issue, and I just happened to be the person you took it out on. I don't see how your points really pertain to my situation at all.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2007


We don't need that freaking law like that, which is why it's a good thing we don't have that freaking law

point taken on misrepresentation. But seems like the practical upshot of the social impact. Don't have a kid, you can't go to some parks whether you're watching kids or minding your own business or whatever.

And of course, greater marginalization of the homeless whether by intention of the law or not.

/Meh. I'm going to train my daughter Krav Maga anyway (better for women).
posted by Smedleyman at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2007


Children are evil.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 AM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stupidity is as stupidity does.

Still, Children are evil.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2007


Children People are evil.

If your standard for calling all members of a class 'evil' is that a tiny, tiny percentage of those members falsely accuse someone of a crime, then you must think that all humans are evil. That same false accusation crops up with some regularity in divorce cases, leveled by one or the other of the adult parties.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:39 PM on September 16, 2007


They cry in the dark, so you cant see their tears
They hide in the light, so you cant see their fears
Forgive and forget, all the while
Love and pain become one and the same
In the eyes of a wounded child
Because hell
Hell is for children
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess
Hell
Hell is for children
And you shouldnt have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh

Its all so confusing, this brutal abusing
They blacken your eyes, and then apologize
Youre daddys good girl, and dont tell mommy a thing
Be a good little boy, and youll get a new toy
Tell grandma you fell off the swing

Because hell
Hell is for children
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess
Hell
Hell is for children
And you shouldnt have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh

No, hell is for children

Hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for children

Hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for children

Hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for hell
Hell is for children

Hell is for children
Hell is for children

posted by psmealey at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2007


Kirth Gerson is evil.

And unamused, to boot.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:58 PM on September 16, 2007


I wonder what that was supposed to do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on September 17, 2007


Quite confusing, I agree.
posted by agregoli at 6:21 AM on September 17, 2007


I don't think it was intended to be quite as inscrutable as it's coming off. I think there may have been a problem with link parsing on comment-submit when FFF posted that.
posted by lodurr at 7:09 AM on September 17, 2007


I fubared the first post by using a Bold tag instead of A HREF tag; I did the second post correctly, linking to a nasty story about a child lying about abuse; Keith went off the deep end; and then I mocked Keith by linking to his post.

Simple, really.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:44 PM on September 17, 2007


Ah, nope, looks like I bulloxed the link to Keith's post. Go figure.

I am a dipshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:45 PM on September 17, 2007


Seriously, I think something was wrong with link parsing right then. People were posting links on the blink thread, and I noticed that some of them were coming through as links to "my comments". Just like yours. I seem to recall it was happening in the same general time period.
posted by lodurr at 3:13 AM on September 18, 2007


Don't spoil the moment, lodurr.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:49 AM on September 18, 2007


« Older Babies are far more dangerous than previously beli...  |  Google wants to send you to th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments