Unforgiven
August 27, 2010 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Tony Washington, an NFL prospect, has a black mark on his record. At the age of 16, he was convicted of incest for sleeping with his then 15 year old sister, and forced to register as a sex offender. Washington feels this is the reason he is being ostracized by the NFL.
posted by reenum (122 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Washington feels this is the reason he is being ostracized by the NFL.

Um. Yeah?
posted by dersins at 4:03 PM on August 27, 2010


If we ever stopped sneering at black kids, we'd have to admit our own ugliness.
posted by felix betachat at 4:07 PM on August 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


dersins, did you RTFA? Jesus.

Heartbreaking.
posted by tristeza at 4:10 PM on August 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


He does? Has he noticed the widespread tolerance for rapists, domestic violence perpetrators, steroid users, and similar folks? It's all about performance on the field, because that's worth lots of money, not about how squeaky clean the personal background is.
posted by bearwife at 4:13 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


dersins, did you RTFA? Jesus.

Yeah, I did , in fact.

Heartbreaking to be sure. A terrible situation. Fucked up. Way fucked up.

On the other hand, dude had sex with his younger sister, and that's pretty fucked up, too. The consequences of some bad decisions people make as teenagers are-- and should be-- more long-lasting than others.
posted by dersins at 4:17 PM on August 27, 2010


Dersins is his whole life long enough? He wants to be a pro football player. This is not a profession that can be postponed indefinitely. If he doesn't get on a team and stay in football shape the odds of him making it in the league shrink drastically. Is it just that he will be denied the chance to ply his chosen trade?
posted by oddman at 4:20 PM on August 27, 2010


If we ever stopped sneering at black kids, we'd have to admit our own ugliness.

You could say something similar about "registered sex offenders". Our culture needs its scapegoats.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:21 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, you speak as if teenagers are fully competent. They aren't.
posted by oddman at 4:21 PM on August 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I mean, he's obviously right about "the reason he is being ostracized". But this is a great example of the misuse of sex offender laws. What possible purpose is being served by registering him as a sex offender? What are they protecting the public from? People always talk about restrictions on sex offenders, etc with respect to child rapists and the like, but never mention these kinds of cases. I mean, consensual sex between teenagers? The incest angle is icky, sure, but shouldn't be criminal.

On the other hand, dude had sex with his younger sister

16 and 15. I don't think thats a significant enough age difference for "younger" to really matter. I'm just not seeing a criminal matter here.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:23 PM on August 27, 2010 [20 favorites]


I don't think the "younger" part was the key in that sentence.
posted by smackfu at 4:24 PM on August 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is it just that he will be denied the chance to ply his chosen trade?

There are, what, around 1500 players in the NFL out of around 300,000,000 people in the US? That means that 99.9995% (if I'm doing my math correctly) of people are denied the chance to ply the trade of "NFL Star."

The overwhelming majority of them are denied it through things that aren't of their own doing: they're too small, too slow, too weak, too clumsy, too female, whatever. I see no reason why this guy shouldn't be denied it for something that is of his own doing.
posted by dersins at 4:26 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]



On the other hand, dude had sex with his younger sister


Do you think it's fair that he did jail time and she didn't? Because I don't. That's the part that enrages me the most. If it was consensual sex, why isn't she a sex offender too?

Also, it's probably because I'm an only child and have no idea what it's like to have a sibling, but similar-age-brother-sister consensual incest, as far as incest goes, doesn't seem nearly as bad to me as the types of situations where there is more of a power discrepancy.
posted by millipede at 4:31 PM on August 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


I had one idea in my head about this guy until I read the article... but this situation isn't what I picture when I think of the type of sex offender who SHOULD be ostracized for a long, long, long time. So sad. Based on the story he and his sister have both told about this, and the life he's tried to lead ever since, the guy should be allowed to move on with his life.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:32 PM on August 27, 2010


I don't think the "younger" part was the key in that sentence.

Why would having sex with your sister be criminal? Usually incest is criminal for power imbalance reasons, like father/daughter. I'm not saying I don't get why it's icky, but _criminal_? I can't think of a single reason.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:33 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


would => should
posted by wildcrdj at 4:33 PM on August 27, 2010


In my mind, this particular situation should fall cleanly under the Benign Violation Theory. But it is clearly not funny.

Hey football league(s): give the man a chance.
posted by m@f at 4:37 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


He clearly remains a danger to anyone under 18 who is his sister, and even if all his sisters are no longer minors, we shouldn't forgive him and we should make sure to annually humiliate him at his own expense, to ensure he's eternally tormented for a mistake he made before he himself was capable of giving consent. Because that's just the right thing to do.

I mean, his sister the victim might forgive him, but Jesus certainly wouldn't forgive him, and so neither will I.
posted by orthogonality at 4:40 PM on August 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


this really brings up an issue on which libertarians and liberals can agree, the significant paternal nature of many laws in this country, laws in which specific acts are criminalized without room for case by case judgement.
posted by arveale at 4:43 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


;
posted by arveale at 4:44 PM on August 27, 2010


:
posted by arveale at 4:44 PM on August 27, 2010


dersins, the reason Mr. Washington shouldn't be denied the opportunity to play is that what he did wrong has *nothing to do* with his ability to play football. It doesn't even really have to do with him having consensual sex with his sister. He's a sex offender, so teams' media/PR people don't want anything to do with him. The sort of black/white thinking that created "three strikes" laws is also behind the "sex offender" laws/restrictions and, predictably, there are unintended victims. Mr. Washington is one of them.
posted by epj at 4:44 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, Dersins, talk about missing the point. He doesn't just want to be a football player (and what makes you think all 300,000,000 Americans do?) He's one of the very few people in the world that are qualified to be a football player. Denying him this chance now is in effect denying his only chance. It's the equivalent of telling a talented writer that he can't ever write because of the crime that he committed as a 16 year old.

You are advocating a permanent punishment that can't ever be ameliorated for something that he did when he was 16 (and which apparently has not resulted in permanent damage to anyone). As I understand it ethical societies don't apply cruel and unusual punishments.
posted by oddman at 4:51 PM on August 27, 2010 [26 favorites]


If they let someone who tortures and kills dogs for sport back into the game, this fellow's chances can't be too bad.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:54 PM on August 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


There are, what, around 1500 players in the NFL out of around 300,000,000 people in the US? That means that 99.9995% (if I'm doing my math correctly) of people are denied the chance to ply the trade of "NFL Star."

No they're not. 50% of them have the chance, they just don't make it. But this door is closed to Washington.

Also. Consensual with no age difference and no apparent coercion. Also the sister admitted lying in evidence - not lying but you know. I dunno. I don't like society's attitude to sex. But I tend to argue irrationally and emotionally about it so I'm out.
posted by doublehappy at 4:55 PM on August 27, 2010


;
posted by doublehappy at 4:56 PM on August 27, 2010


I don't want to quote the Holocaust poem, because it's been done.

But this kind of "you're sub-human for life, even after you've done your jail time" treatment started with "sex offenders*," because what politician is going to go on tv and stand up for "sex offenders?"

I think it softened the ground for the Bush and Obama administrations' treatment of "terrorists." It really did. Once you have this idea that certain classes of people are just so horrible that they don't deserve the same rights as everyone else, where does it stop?


*A wonderful category which includes 18 year-old men who had consensual sex with their 17 year-old girlfriend, people who "exposed themselves" in public (ie, took a piss), and dozens of other things like that.

posted by drjimmy11 at 4:59 PM on August 27, 2010 [5 favorites]



If they let someone who tortures and kills dogs for sport back into the game, this fellow's chances can't be too bad.


But you see, Vick was caught doing that shit after he was already hired by someone else and had shown he could play.
posted by dilettante at 5:06 PM on August 27, 2010


This is a league that employs Michael Vick. Welcome back Michael. You've served your debt to society. Sure you electrocuted dogs, and made deals with interstate organized crime, and enjoyed watching innocent animals who looked up to you and depended on you for everything in life, die in horrible, squealing agony. C'mon back, Michael, the NFL forgives you. The NFL has a big heart, Michael, we love you the way a great big dog loves its owner. We come running to you Michael, with our tongues hanging out of our mouths, our hearts beating faster, to frisk around your legs so you'll pet us. We are the NFL. We are America.
posted by Faze at 5:11 PM on August 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


I have sympathy for the idea that the chance to succeed in the NFL is kind of like winning the lottery (but I also don't know anything about American football, so go figure), but the thing is that he clearly should not have been treated as a child rapist; and if he hadn't been treated that way he wouldn't have lost the chance at the NFL. So the loss of something that many people dream of isn't the core of the tragedy but it's very much the icing on the cake. (Uh, on the cake of tragedy... so maybe that's a malapropism but you know what I mean.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2010


Also MetaFilter: the icing on the cake of tragedy
posted by XMLicious at 5:25 PM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, dude had sex with his younger sister, and that's pretty fucked up, too.
One year younger. It's not like he was 18 while she was 12. I'm not exactly sure why he should be on the sex offender list at all. If these two weren't related, would this be a crime? Do you think the sister is also a sex offender? What if she had been 16 and he 15?

I'm not saying incest should be legal, but if sex between two people wouldn't break any other laws, I don't see why it should be treated the same way as rape or child molestation.
In my mind, this particular situation should fall cleanly under the Benign Violation Theory. But it is clearly not funny.
Except when you point out that it falls under benign violation theory, that's kind of funny.
posted by delmoi at 5:29 PM on August 27, 2010


Wait he had to put up posters of himself around his neighborhood, after he did the time? Does no one read The Scarlet Letter anymore? Or at least visit the Wikipedia page?
posted by geoff. at 5:46 PM on August 27, 2010


Wow. Just...that story is incredibly sad. Exposed to pornography at 9 years old and sexually touched against his will? When is THAT adult going to take the blame for some of this mess and carry some of his burden? And then his dad disappears? Family takes a socioeconomic hit and has to move, he grows up in a neighborhood where he gets the cr*p beat out of him all of the time? Both are minors when this happened, but he gets tried as an adult? I am so impressed with this guy and his ability to stay positive after all of that, after all of the shame that has been heaped upon him, after all of the suffering that he and his sister have had to put up with.
posted by jeanmari at 6:10 PM on August 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


geoff, where ya been... they've had to notify their neighbors for years now. Although, if you move into a neighborhood, the sex offenders currently living there do not have to notify you. I found out that I'd shared an apartment building with three sex offenders (one of whom was convicted of child molestation) - but only after I'd moved out.

The reason the sister isn't considered a sex offender is because at the time she alleged that he pressured her. She retracted that, but his record remains.
posted by desjardins at 6:11 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is such a manipulative, sympathetically written story. A writer with a different angle could have had you angry as hell at the guy.
posted by amro at 6:15 PM on August 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's rather amusing that it is a crime, much less a sex-offender designation, for a 16 year old to have sex with a 15 year old. There's nothing truly criminal in the relayed story, other than that which makes the open-minded blush.

The overwhelming majority of them are denied it through things that aren't of their own doing: they're too small, too slow, too weak, too clumsy, too female, whatever. I see no reason why this guy shouldn't be denied it for something that is of his own doing.
posted by dersins

That other people don't make it to the NFL because they ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH is a pathetic reason to think it makes sense for him to not make it over this, as if that is some sort of egalitarian vision of the world. People can't help not being good at football, but he could help having sex with his sister! Absurd reasoning.

Nevermind that almost no behavioral laundry list actually keeps players out of the NFL. If this indeed is keeping him out, it is on the same footing of homosexuality keeping players out of the NFL. You can, after all, decide not to fuck other men. Short people can't help being short!!!!
posted by rob paxon at 6:18 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see a reason why he shouldn't play. The Michael Vick comparison is interesting, but there are other sports where a player's criminality comes up. For example Marlon King. His case is really problematic, he's done the time for a bad crime, but claims innocence and there's a big debate in the UK about whether fans of a potential hiring club would want him to play.
posted by ob at 6:20 PM on August 27, 2010


That other people don't make it to the NFL because they ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH is a pathetic reason to think it makes sense for him to not make it over this, as if that is some sort of egalitarian vision of the world. People can't help not being good at football, but he could help having sex with his sister! Absurd reasoning.

Nevermind that almost no behavioral laundry list actually keeps players out of the NFL. If this indeed is keeping him out, it is on the same footing of homosexuality keeping players out of the NFL. You can, after all, decide not to fuck other men. Short people can't help being short!!!!


As someone mentioned before, this is like a famous author getting blackballed from his community for something like this. You could respond with, "Well, not everyone can write, and it's not their fault! Why are we cutting him slack for something he did? Professional writing is a privilege!" You could make that argument, but it's not particularly helpful.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2010


The worst thing is, if he had done jail time for any number of other crimes (burglary, drug dealing, truancy, etc.), he'd be hailed as a stellar example of someone who has turned his life around, the troubled kid from a broken home who's made it big through hard work and dedication. Some real Horatio Alger shit, an inspiration for millions. But instead...
posted by clorox at 6:24 PM on August 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't imagine what kind of hazing would be waiting for this person in summer training camp rookie season.

And they broke taboo more than law. And I am not sure what US Americans do to wash off that kind of taboo.
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 6:24 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with sex-offender registries and I don't have a clue what actually happened, but I have to admit I do wonder about the other side of the story, the reasons he was prosecuted and convicted.

We get a hint that his younger sister is physically disabled due to an accident in childhood that damaged her eye. Based on all of the talk of Washington's size, he must be significantly larger than her, since he is apparently larger than pretty much everybody.

Could it simply be that the cops and prosecutors actually saw a vulnerable girl and her physically imposing brother and questioned the likelihood of her consent? Isn't it at least possible that the system is not simply corrupt and, regardless of the facts or outcomes or football or anything else, that they may have genuinely thought they were protecting his sister from abuse?
posted by hydropsyche at 6:26 PM on August 27, 2010


When I was in school, a school friend mentioned to our lunch table that her mom had her brother and herself sleep in the same bed. He was just a tad younger. They were curious....and nature took its course.

Was that f'ed up in all kinds of ways? Of course. Should either of them have gone to jail? Nope.

Should either one of them have been kept out of a professional sport, much less one that would take back Michael Vick and all kinds of other miscreants? Ell to the no hay.

If this dude had RAPED his sister, that would have been one thing. But if this was consensual, as messed up as it all was, ruining the rest of his life is even more messed up.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:26 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lord Chancellor: For the record, I'm ok in some sense with a team saying "it's not worth picking up this players, if it turns off our fans and ultimately hurts us." That would be unfortunate but it is really society's fault, not the team's. I just strongly object to desrin's reasoning of why it's somehow fair because people who would never have the chance to play in the NFL, and thus do not matter here, never slept with their sister. And I really have a major problem with how sex laws work in this country and are used to uniformly shame and ostracize perpetrators of all manner of dissimilar offenses.

But I sincerely doubt his presence would really cause much of a problem amongst a fanbase, making it a bad business decision for a team to reject him if he can in fact produce on the field.

And your analogy is spot-on.
posted by rob paxon at 6:29 PM on August 27, 2010


If this indeed is keeping him out, it is on the same footing of homosexuality keeping players out of the NFL.

Wait, really? You're really comparing a guy having sex with his (mostly) blind younger sister to homosexuality? That's so very... Santorum of you.
posted by dersins at 6:30 PM on August 27, 2010


t think the "younger" part was the key in that sentence.

Why would having sex with your sister be criminal? Usually incest is criminal for power imbalance reasons, like father/daughter. I'm not saying I don't get why it's icky, but _criminal_? I can't think of a single reason.


Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects.

I'm amazed how often people forget that sex produces children.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:32 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could it simply be that the cops and prosecutors actually saw a vulnerable girl and her physically imposing brother and questioned the likelihood of her consent? Isn't it at least possible that the system is not simply corrupt and, regardless of the facts or outcomes or football or anything else, that they may have genuinely thought they were protecting his sister from abuse?
posted by hydropsyche


I don't know about others but this is absolutely no more comforting than if the system were "corrupt" which, in this case, I don't see anyone claiming anyways. This isn't an issue of corruption but rather uncontrolled populist appeasement. It's the great lulling of the soccer mom mind, re: sex laws.

The fact someone is big is not evidence. Seems to me he was prosecuted for incest, not for rape.

I think the angle that is more important to look at here, and to look at how the system not only fails to produce just laws but to justly operate under them, is to look at how the detectives grilled her (for being a prostitute) until they could find a second crime to chase. The leveraged her, ostensibly the victim in your 'large man pressuring her' scenario by threatening her with conviction of the same crime. It hardly seems to me, admittedly from the little exposure I have to this case, that they were either concerned for her or ever truly treated her like a victim. Not until after they bullied her into testifying against her own brother for something she does not believe he should have been punished for.
posted by rob paxon at 6:36 PM on August 27, 2010


Wait, really? You're really comparing a guy having sex with his (mostly) blind younger sister to homosexuality? That's so very... Santorum of you.
posted by dersins


No, I am describing the reality of what is going on here. The taboo against gays is arguably FAR MORE of a detriment to making it in the NFL.

But you see, you are coming from a place where what this 16 year old did is morally wrong, just as many view homosexuality. I am coming from a place where it is not particularly appealing perhaps but not morally wrong, certainly not as a generalization.

Interesting how you try to leverage this into something even more nasty, not content to rest on the "ewww gross" taboo laurels. I didn't realize that having sex with a "mostly" or even fully blind person was so taboo that it could serve to make incest seem more offensive. Oh right, you aren't doing that. You're merely implying that being partially blind intrinsically hampers one's ability to consent to sex with a sibling. Just like it hampers one's ability to consent to sex with anyone else. Did you mention that the Offender was also large and black? You should, because that is some scary stuff. I know if my large, black brother appeared lurking out of my groggy eye that I would not be able to decide whether or not I wanted to consent to sex with him.
posted by rob paxon at 6:42 PM on August 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


I know he feels this is his only shot at sucess, but I'm thinking this could be the best thing ever. The NFL is a machine for making brain-cases. He has a much better chance at living to old age with all his faculties intact if he skips this and makes the next thing work for him.

Cruel, maybe, but true.

I hope he makes it. Everyone deserves to fuck up, even badly. And we need to make sure we place these actions in context.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:42 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects.

I'm amazed how often people forget that sex produces children.
posted by Ironmouth


If that is truly the objection, then the act of having the child would be the sole crime.

Since you seem intent on clearing this up nice and tidy for everyone: sex acts do not produce children, fertilization does.
posted by rob paxon at 6:43 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I brought up her disability because disabled people are more likely to be victims of violent crime than the currently able-bodied.

And the reason I said I wondered about the other side of the story, is that I wonder about the other side of the story. The ESPN article makes no mention of trying to obtain police reports or court records or trying to talk to anyone else involved in the case. The accounts we get are present-day accounts by Washington and his sister.

I certainly am aware of the statistics for black male incarceration in the US, racial profiling, and the long history of poverty and discrimination that has gotten us to where we are today. And all of that is obviously baggage that this story carries.

But it also carries the baggage of the bad things that happen to women in their own homes and the work that many families do to cover that up. And the baggage of the bad things that many NFL players have done to women and not served any jail time or paid any price for. This is a baggage-laden story, and all I'm asking is can we at least take a moment to consider the possibility that we on MetaFilter do not actually have all the details, or even half of them, from this single ESPN article.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:56 PM on August 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Here's his record on the Texas sex offender registry. He was charged with the following "offense against the family":
Sec. 25.02. PROHIBITED SEXUAL CONDUCT.
(a) An individual commits an offense if he engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a person he knows to be, without regard to legitimacy:
(1) his ancestor or descendant by blood or adoption;
(2) his stepchild or stepparent, while the marriage creating that relationship exists;
(3) his parent's brother or sister of the whole or half blood;
(4) his brother or sister of the whole or half blood or by adoption; or
(5) the children of his brother or sister of the whole or half blood or by adoption.
(b) For purposes of this section:
(1) "Deviate sexual intercourse" means any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
(2) "Sexual intercourse" means any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.
(c) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.
posted by desjardins at 6:58 PM on August 27, 2010


And for the record, personally I'm way more scared of Ben Roethlisberger than this guy.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:58 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects.

I am no lawyer, but this is clearly not the reasoning of the statute cited above, since it mentions adoption and relation by marriage.
posted by desjardins at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it is worth mentioning that no one involved in getting him in jail or on the sex offender registry, nor anyone he accuses of spreading rumors of further sexual misconduct were interviewed. We don't know if there is another side to this story.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2010


as has been pointed out, he went to jail because she said something at the time of the report and something very different later. i'm not her, i'm not him, i'm not anyone who saw any of the evidence. that article was very flowerly written and told you just enough to garner sympathy, but seemed to be missing a lot on the details.

from the article, it seems like an awful, terrible injustice. i'd be interested to hear the prosectution's side.



If that is truly the objection, then the act of having the child would be the sole crime.

but the reason for the incest law is the producing children angle. it's the same sort of thing that anti-gay marriage people try to bring up - that the state has an interest in promoting and protecting families. you can disagree with the reasoning, but it is the reasoning all the same. the crime is the sexual relationship.
posted by nadawi at 7:00 PM on August 27, 2010


It was an exile to another world. Washington soon found himself in mandatory therapy groups with men who had collected violent child pornography, men who had raped preschoolers. "I never thought I belonged in that club -- not by a long shot," he says. "My offense was over with when I did it. It wasn't a struggle I had or have still."

I guess even in an article about the negative effects of demonizing sex offenders you need to demonize a few sex offenders, just so folks don't get the wrong idea.
posted by layceepee at 7:03 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure which outrages me more: incest, racial discrimination, or the enduring popularity of NFL football.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:04 PM on August 27, 2010


> The ESPN article makes no mention of trying to obtain police reports or court records or trying to talk to anyone else involved in the case.

Two quotes from the article:
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office recounts it differently in an arrest report that says, in part, "victim tried to push and resist the subject, but was unable as he used his body weight to hold her down."
and
The Magazine left multiple messages seeking comment from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and district attorney but received no answer.
posted by Georgina at 7:13 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


but the reason for the incest law is the producing children angle. it's the same sort of thing that anti-gay marriage people try to bring up - that the state has an interest in promoting and protecting families. you can disagree with the reasoning, but it is the reasoning all the same. the crime is the sexual relationship.
posted by nadawi


I strongly disagree that the reason for the law is the "producing children angle" and a cursory look at the laws on the books clearly indicate otherwise, even including non-biological relationships. I don't discount the influence of more historical motivations, which may have leaned more strongly towards procreation concerns. However, those are not legitimate concerns for outlawing a sex act when that act needn't produce a child, with the result fully controllable even in the event it is in the process of producing a child.

But as I said, if this were the reasoning it actually makes the law more unjust and overbearing, since what is criminalized needn't actually produce the feared outcome. It would be a classic example of overly preventative, heavy-handed law that could be far more specific and still as 'effectively' prevent the undesired outcome.
posted by rob paxon at 7:18 PM on August 27, 2010


I think this was previously on the blue, but I was reminded of the story of this woman who, a few days after her 17th birthday was caught in school giving a BJ to her then, a few weeks shy of 16, boyfriend. By Georgia law, she is a pedophile, he is a victim. Oh, and to throw extra scandal, oral sex apparently falls under sodomy laws in Georgia. The fact that she's white and he black probably made everything extra inflamed as well. She's a sex offender for life.

They're now married, and finding it hard to find any place to live.
posted by fontophilic at 7:18 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


but the reason for the incest law is the producing children angle. it's the same sort of thing that anti-gay marriage people try to bring up - that the state has an interest in promoting and protecting families. you can disagree with the reasoning, but it is the reasoning all the same. the crime is the sexual relationship.

Don't you see that the crime being producing children and the crime being the sexual relationship are different things? Unless I misunderstood you.

If it was specifically to do with producing children then this kind of relationship between two people when one of them is sterile by nature or by surgery would be legal. It might be reasoning but it's fallacious reasoning.
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2010


Some real Horatio Alger shit, an inspiration for millions. But instead...

Instead it is a Theodore Dreiser story.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:24 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


from information i heard by a close friend, he said linemen in the nfl, are
almost always critized for their play, not encouraged. my friends cousin was an offensive lineman for 5 seasons with the pittsburg steelers, sure he had size and strength, but the coaches every season threathened to cut him if he did'nt come to camp a lot faster. the coaches stated he was too slow reacting to blocking assignments and they might cut him. He lasted on the starting line for 5 seasons till a young high draft pick was selected by the coaches to take his spot and the club released him. Staying in the NFL is just as hard as getting into the NFL in the first place. Just size and strength is not enough to succeed in the tough world of linemen in the NFL. i'm sure Tony needs to show a better football background to break into the NFL.
Most teams select their linemen based a lot on their football background.
Sorry Tony, have you tried Wrestling? No background needed for that
sport, just become a good actor.
posted by tustinrick at 7:28 PM on August 27, 2010


i'm not defending the incest laws. i'm saying that the reasoning behind them is usually procreation based (with an addendum that religion plays a huge role). it seems like some people are arguing what logically should be the crime while others are arguing what actually is the crime. the crime of incest is engaging in sexual activity with a relative (different relatives for different jurisdictions).

i think the adopted/half/step family is in there for familial unity reasons (again, state interest to promote families) and to make it easier to apply the law. if you cast a wide net, you don't have to worry about the particulars of the exact relationship.
posted by nadawi at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2010


Don't you see that the crime being producing children and the crime being the sexual relationship are different things? Unless I misunderstood you.

I believe you have confused my position. It happens often because I will state what I believe and then further accept someone's position and debate on that assumption. I stated that "producing children" is, in fact, NOT the reason for the law. But I then addressed that if it were, then the law would be even worse than otherwise, because the scope of the law does not match its intent.

However, I do not believe that is the reason for the law, certainly not the sole or main reason. It's a moralist matter, not a "preventing defective babies" matter.
posted by rob paxon at 7:32 PM on August 27, 2010


nadawi, I understand that but I simply believe you are incorrect. I see very little supporting evidence that the reasoning for incest laws is to prevent defective children. Some iffy supporting evidence against your case could include the fact that it is not criminal to have intercourse in other situations with a high chance of producing defective children. Or more obviously, the fact that this matter is about as culturally and religiously taboo as things get.

Preventing defective children seems more of a humanist concern and that is certainly not the lineage of these kinds of laws (quite the opposite in fact). I don't see how they are any different than sodomy laws in respect to them truly being about what is seen as an immoral sex act, and not potential negative results of the act.
posted by rob paxon at 7:37 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's an interesting angle, Ironmouth. Would brother-brother or sister-sister incest be alright, then? No babies, so no babies with serious birth defects.

In the highly unlikely event I could father a child, that child would likely have some serious birth defects. Should sex with me be illegal? (No polling my exes)

Hey, there's that elevated risk of birth defects which rises with a woman's age (and to a lesser extent, men's age). Over forty? Should heterosexual sex be illegal for people over forty who could still conceive?

That particular angle does not hold up for me.

Without a power imbalance, I'm seeing a "squick" reaction reaching for the nearest available reasons to outlaw the squick, in this case, think of the babies with nine heads. And the gut reaction has dropped him into our inescapable, reactionary, and overly broad sex offender system, wherein you can do the crime, you can do your time, and then that's just never enough.
posted by adipocere at 7:41 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pretend it was Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh. Still no big deal?
posted by codswallop at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2010


Isn't it at least possible that the system is not simply corrupt and, regardless of the facts or outcomes or football or anything else, that they may have genuinely thought they were protecting his sister from abuse?

Sure, they may have thought that. They may also have just been dicks, or a million other scenarios. The issue is, having been convicted and gone to jail, he did his time. Yet he's still being punished in ways other people who have done time for more heinous crimes are not.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:57 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the Friday night litmus test. Glad to have you, please see yourself in.
posted by vapidave at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best thing for his sister might be to let him play, because then he would have lots of money and he probably would give her some-- and I'm fairly sure she could really use it.

But that doesn't mean letting him play would be the best thing for society, or for him. In ten or twelve years, the NFL would spit him back out onto the streets, still huge and tremendously powerful, with enough money to live for the rest of his life if he had an adequate business manager he listened to, but with potentially much less ability to control his impulses than he has right now because of the chronic brain damage that is turning out to be absolutely endemic among veterans who played positions where there were a lot of violent collisions.

He would have a good chance of becoming a disaster just waiting to happen and walking around on two feet. And this is a guy who has already shown he has trouble knowing right from wrong and restraining himself. I don't think it's asking too much of a 16 year old raised even with his disadvantages to know it's absolutely wrong to have sex with his younger sister.

Just as clvrmonkey says, he probably has a better chance at a decent life if he doesn't play in the NFL.
posted by jamjam at 8:03 PM on August 27, 2010


I once went out with a girl who confided in me that her brother had raped her. He was a lot bigger than her and had a pretty strong sense of entitlement. As someone said upthread, welcome to the Friday night litmus test. Forgive me if, personally, I'm not totally buying this guy's story.
posted by unSane at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing I've learned in my years of working as an advocate for sexually abused kids: when one kid sexually abuses another, you should start looking for an adult that sexually abused the child perpetrator. As demonstrated in this article, 9 times out of 10, there's one there.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:14 PM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems to me like missing out on being in the NFL is the least of this guy's troubles. The average NFL career is what, three, four years? He's on that sex offender registry for life. That's arguably wrong (I think there's definitely a need for reform) and obviously we wouldn't be hearing this story at all if he weren't a really good football player, but seriously, football is so not the real problem here.
posted by mskyle at 8:16 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The issue is, having been convicted and gone to jail, he did his time. Yet he's still being punished in ways other
> people who have done time for more heinous crimes are not.
> posted by oneirodynia at 10:57 PM on August 27 [+] [!]

Seriously? Don't most ex-cons have a hard time finding even shit work, let alone getting one of the most lucrative, ego-stroking, highly desired jobs in the country? How is this different from others who complete their sentences and then have a hard time getting hired to push a broom?
posted by jfuller at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2010


We struggle to express ourselves humanely, without an expedient an inexpensive capital punishment.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:24 PM on August 27, 2010


Spelunking through old legal texts on Google Books I keep seeing statements like this:
Incest was not a crime by the ancient common laws and is dependent entirely upon statute.
I think this a historical statement that must mean that under English Common Law that derived from Germanic sources incest wasn't a crime, but was under Roman legal codes and local statutes?
posted by XMLicious at 8:35 PM on August 27, 2010


i think the adopted/half/step family is in there for familial unity reasons (again, state interest to promote families) and to make it easier to apply the law. if you cast a wide net, you don't have to worry about the particulars of the exact relationship.

I have zero problems with this. I don't think people who commit consensual incest should be branded for life, but I have no problem with criminalizing it. There are ~300 million other people in the US that you are not related to, surely one of them will have sex with you.

That said, it sucks that this guy was molested. It sucks that he grew up in a shitty neighborhood. It sucks that he's branded for life when he's not likely to repeat the offense. But there are thousands in his position (minus the particulars of incest), and the only reason he's getting sympathy is because he's a big dude who knows how to play football. If he was scrawny or if he dreamed of being a computer programmer, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
posted by desjardins at 8:45 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't care what he did to who. Was justice served? Did he pay his debt to society? Is he a changed human being, who benefitted from his punishment and realizes his error, and won't do it again? If the answer to all three is yes, my answer is, welcome back. That includes Michael Vick.

Especially with black men, a felony is an excuse to shunt someone into a permanent underclass. Considering criminology stats (white guys are way more likely to be criminals), it's being done deliberately, and is every inch as evil and vile as Jim Crow.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:51 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's an interesting angle, Ironmouth. Would brother-brother or sister-sister incest be alright, then? No babies, so no babies with serious birth defects.

In the highly unlikely event I could father a child, that child would likely have some serious birth defects. Should sex with me be illegal? (No polling my exes)

Hey, there's that elevated risk of birth defects which rises with a woman's age (and to a lesser extent, men's age). Over forty? Should heterosexual sex be illegal for people over forty who could still conceive?

That particular angle does not hold up for me.

Without a power imbalance, I'm seeing a "squick" reaction reaching for the nearest available reasons to outlaw the squick, in this case, think of the babies with nine heads. And the gut reaction has dropped him into our inescapable, reactionary, and overly broad sex offender system, wherein you can do the crime, you can do your time, and then that's just never enough.


That's why its illegal. Like it or not.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:09 PM on August 27, 2010


That's an interesting angle, Ironmouth. Would brother-brother or sister-sister incest be alright, then? No babies, so no babies with serious birth defects.

In the highly unlikely event I could father a child, that child would likely have some serious birth defects. Should sex with me be illegal? (No polling my exes)

Hey, there's that elevated risk of birth defects which rises with a woman's age (and to a lesser extent, men's age). Over forty? Should heterosexual sex be illegal for people over forty who could still conceive?

That particular angle does not hold up for me.

Without a power imbalance, I'm seeing a "squick" reaction reaching for the nearest available reasons to outlaw the squick, in this case, think of the babies with nine heads. And the gut reaction has dropped him into our inescapable, reactionary, and overly broad sex offender system, wherein you can do the crime, you can do your time, and then that's just never enough.


But let us look closer, shall we? Dozens of articles on sibling incest have found that it is more traumatic than father daughter incest. They show that it is more likely to occur, and more likely to result in penetrative sex.

These articles deal with the professional evaluation of the emotional impact of sibling incest. As you can see merely by the titles, the people who study this stuff for a living think it is a real risk.

Canavan, M. C., Meyer, W. J., & Higgs, D. C. (1992). The female experience of sibling incest. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 18(2)

Smith, H., & Israel, E. (1987). Sibling incest: A study of the dynamics of 25 cases. Child Abuse and Neglect, 11

Cole, E. (1982). Sibling incest: The myth of benign sibling incest. Women and Therapy, 1(3)

O'Brien, M. J. (1991). Taking sibling incest seriously. In M. Patton (ed.), Family sexual abuse: Frontline research and evaluation (75-92). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Laviola, M. (1992). Effects of older brother-younger sister incest: A study of the dynamics of 17 cases. Child Abuse and Neglect, 16

Cyr, M., Wright, J., McDuff, P., & Perron, A. (2002). Intrafamilial sexual abuse: Brother-sister incest does not differ from father-daughter and stepfather-stepdaughter incest. Child Abuse and Neglect, 26

Perhaps you know more about this stuff than these people who study it.

But I spoke of the genetic reasons behind the law. Shall we look at the science?

The detrimental health effects associated with consanguinity are caused by the
expression of rare, recessive genes inherited from a common ancestor(s). In populations
where inbred unions are common, increased levels of morbidity and mortality caused by the
action of detrimental recessive genes can be predicted. Generally, inbreeding is associated
with loss of biological fitness. It is however appropriate to note that, even in the absence of
preferential consanguinity, alleles which are rare in large populations can rapidly increase to
high frequency in a breeding pool of restricted size, because of factors such as founder effect and random genetic drift.
Empirical studies on the progeny of first cousins indicate morbidity levels to be some
1% to 4% higher than in the offspring of unrelated couples (reviewed in Bittles and Makov
1988). The less common a disorder, the greater the influence of consanguinity on its
prevalence, a generalization that applies to recessive multigene disorders as well as to single gene conditions.


This research is only on cousin-cousin offspring. It gets worse with brother-sister offspring.

Let's not actually ignore the actual risks.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:25 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he was scrawny or if he dreamed of being a computer programmer, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

You're right. We'd be having an entirely different conversation with a different set of counterfactuals - "It sucks this guy can't get a job as a programmer, but if he weren't good at coding, we wouldn't be having this conversation". Since we're in the real world, we can't talk about the Platonic ideal of the person being screwed by being a second-class citizen for the rest of their life, we have to talk about individual people with faults and mistakes and a set of skills we don't personally hold in high regard.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2010


Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects.

Does this mean if they're using contraceptives, it shouldn't be illegal?

And that protecting the health of not-even-yet conceived children, much less gestated and given birth to, more important than the lives and rights of people who are actually living, breathing and walking around?

There's lots of good arguments for criminalizing incest- the health of non-conceived children is not one of them. Otherwise, we might as well take the road of Minority Report and start pre-jailing people to prevent crimes from happening. You know, we could put pregnant women in special cell-pods to make sure they're fed appropriate nutrients and not doing things which might endanger their future child's life, like crossing the street. I'm exaggerating, but seriously, if the logic is protecting Schroedinger's children, that's where we end up.

It's not impossible to hold these beliefs at the same time:

1. Incest is almost always psychologically damaging and bad.
2. People do not need to be punished forever for actions taken as minors.
posted by yeloson at 9:56 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize that having sex with a "mostly" or even fully blind person was so taboo that it could serve to make incest seem more offensive. Oh right, you aren't doing that. You're merely implying that being partially blind intrinsically hampers one's ability to consent to sex with a sibling....Did you mention that the Offender was also large and black

Thanks for personalizing this, and attempting to imply that I am a racist despite the fact that I mentioned nothing about race (that was you, rob paxon, so who's the racist here?), but what I was implying was that her disability, coupled with his size, indicates a significant power imbalance in their relationship, which adds an extra frisson of ickiness to what he did. Race has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, so go beat your straw man elsewhere.
posted by dersins at 10:31 PM on August 27, 2010


I wonder how informing thousands of people that you were convicted of a crime x years ago isn't cruel and unusual punishment. Jean Valjean came good in the end but it took about forty years longer than it should have.
posted by doublehappy at 10:39 PM on August 27, 2010


He's been up his mum and his legless sister and he thinks he's killed his old man!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:43 PM on August 27, 2010


I haven't made up my mind about the continuing sex offender punishment thing. However, incest is a moral wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:44 PM on August 27, 2010


He's been up his mum and his legless sister and he thinks he's killed his old man!

Interestingly, he was talking about John Howard.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:56 PM on August 27, 2010


Thanks for personalizing this, and attempting to imply that I am a racist despite the fact that I mentioned nothing about race (that was you, rob paxon, so who's the racist here?), but what I was implying was that her disability, coupled with his size, indicates a significant power imbalance in their relationship, which adds an extra frisson of ickiness to what he did. Race has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, so go beat your straw man elsewhere.
posted by dersins


No one is the racist... I guess you don't pick up well on what was going on. The fact she is partially blind means about as much as the fact he is large and black. A large, black man can have sex without raping and a partially-blind or blind person can consent to sex. It's laughable conjecture to even bring it up unless you're actually making the case there was rape, as if the fact she was partially blind holds some sort of meaning, making the incest REALLY BAD INCEST (which is actually what you say, sad a thing to say as it is).

"Power imbalance in the relationship" is again, utterly useless conjecture when you're basing it on the fact she is partially blind and he is large. Almost every relationship where there is a teen or adult male and a teen or adult female has the male considerably larger than the female. What point does it serve. And you accuse me of using a strawman, as you passively insinuate rape. I too find someone who would have sex with a partially blind woman "icky", especially when the person is large.



I once went out with a girl who confided in me that her brother had raped her. He was a lot bigger than her and had a pretty strong sense of entitlement. As someone said upthread, welcome to the Friday night litmus test. Forgive me if, personally, I'm not totally buying this guy's story.
posted by unSane


So... you aren't buying this guy's story because you know someone who was raped by her brother? It's all well and good to not buy his story, but it seems a bit odd to bring up this personal anecdote in such a way as to imply it holds some water over what actually happened between this guy and his sister.
posted by rob paxon at 10:58 PM on August 27, 2010


dersins, I don't think he was trying to imply that you are a racist...I thought he was implying that you were being an obtuse prick. You came into the thread, shat in it, then railed on everyone that dared disagree with you...

Firstly, this person should have never been tried as an adult, secondly, the sex offender laws have tipped way too far into territory that should never fall into that realm. Peeing outside now requires that you have to introduce yourself to neighbors as a sex offender? Ridiculous.

I'd rather this guy play in the NFL than Michael Vick, and I was a (reluctant) supporter of Vick's return.
posted by schyler523 at 11:01 PM on August 27, 2010


I haven't made up my mind about the continuing sex offender punishment thing. However, incest is a moral wrong.
posted by Ironmouth


Funny you should say that while acting like the reason it is illegal is because the state is trying to prevent the birth of defective babies. You say it all right there. People think it is a moral wrong and thus they feel entitled to criminalize it.
posted by rob paxon at 11:01 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't made up my mind about the continuing sex offender punishment thing.

If you believe this is right, then I cannot see how execution would not be a less cruel punishment and therefore morally superior.

If people can never pay their debt to society, we should complete remove them from it...to do anything else is cruel and inhumane. If we think they can pay their debt, they should be welcomed back when they've paid. If we think they can, but we also think the system is so broken the debt-payers accrue more debt while inside (ie, they're more dangerous on release than they were when they went in), we should fix the goddamn fucking system.
posted by maxwelton at 11:12 PM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


dersins, I don't think he was trying to imply that you are a racist...I thought he was implying that you were being an obtuse prick. You came into the thread, shat in it, then railed on everyone that dared disagree with you...

Right. Shat and railed. [citation needed], please I expressed an opinion. Backed it up. Pretty respectfully, in fact. And, um, I'm not the one calling people an "obtuse prick" in this thread. Go back to #mefi.
posted by dersins at 11:28 PM on August 27, 2010


I haven't made up my mind about the continuing sex offender punishment thing. However, incest is a moral wrong.

Depending who you ask, so is homosexuality. We've got a pretty recent Supreme Court case saying that deeming the act morally wrong wasn't enough of a basis to criminalize that.
posted by kafziel at 11:32 PM on August 27, 2010


Incest is not a moral wrong.

Rape is.

Many incidences of incest are rape.

That does not appear to be the case here.
posted by kyrademon at 12:02 AM on August 28, 2010


Is it just that he will be denied the chance to ply his chosen trade?

Happens to a lot of people. I'm not seeing why not being able to 'ply your chosen trade' is a matter to discuss.

Having talent and skill does not mean you get employment.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:14 AM on August 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects.

Then I look forward to your support for laws banning older men/women from breeding, people who work with heavy metals/mutingenic chemicals/radiation and those with known defects like the, how did they put it years ago, Deaf, dumb and blind. It might be simpler to have mandatory genetic testing and force abortions on the ones with knowable birth defects however.

(oh and as there seems to be complaints of increased birth defects associated with deployments in the military, perhaps vets should be added to that list - again, in the interest of preventing serious birth defects.)
posted by rough ashlar at 1:28 AM on August 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


dersins: “The consequences of some bad decisions people make as teenagers are-- and should be-- more long-lasting than others.”

Well then, we're all going to have to leave it to you to lock every single person in society up and make sure we stay in prison just as long as we ought to. I trust you were a spotless and perfect teenager, but nobody else was.
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 AM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: “However, incest is a moral wrong.”

Explain this. How is consensual incest between peers of the same age a moral wrong?

The thing is, I feel like you're right – I feel like consensual incest between peers of the same age is a moral wrong. But I can't give any rational argument for that feeling; there's no obvious and necessary lasting harm involved, for starters. And in morality, feelings without rational arguments don't really count for much at all. You of all people probably know that pretty well.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It should be illegal, because family dynamics are fraught, and smaller/younger/weaker/marginalized parties can be forced or pressured, and they will often not turn outside the family (or even within) for help because of threats, coercion or bribery, or because they feel ashamed or guilty, or because the devil they know is better than the one they don't, or because they don't want to be responsible for bringing trouble or discord to the family, or nobody will believe them, or they are ignored. Or because they love their sibling (mother/father/uncle/etc.) despite being victimized by them. Or some combination of the above.

I'm not addressing Tony Washington's situation with this, because I don't know enough to have an opinion, but I can definitely understand the need for some form of anti-incest laws for the above reasons.
posted by taz at 3:01 AM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


there's no obvious and necessary lasting harm involved, for starters

Well there is certainly the potential for lasting emotional or psychological harm, even with siblings of the same age. And it's impossible to say that all consensual sibling incest involves zero coercion, even if it's subtle. Males of 15 or 16 are almost always more physically imposing than females of the same age.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:03 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also I am not prepared to unilaterally declare it a moral wrong but the accepted practices of the society one exists in have to be taken into consideration as well. If you want to buck those accepted practices that's fine, but be prepared to accept the consequences (that said, no one deserves to be punished forever and I am completely opposed to sex offender registries for this reason). taz makes some good points above as well.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:09 AM on August 28, 2010


So... you aren't buying this guy's story because you know someone who was raped by her brother? It's all well and good to not buy his story, but it seems a bit odd to bring up this personal anecdote in such a way as to imply it holds some water over what actually happened between this guy and his sister.

I'm saying that the personal anecdote has enough parallels to this situation that it makes me question the narrative that's being presented in this article. But my point wasn't that so much as I think it IS a litmus test where many of us come predisposed to take some view on the situation.
posted by unSane at 4:05 AM on August 28, 2010


And that's fine, Ironmouth, if you're concerned about trauma, but your original assertion was that it was illegal "Because sex produces children and those who are inbred have a greater chance of serious birth defects." If you meant "because it freaks people out," say that.

The birth defect reason is not a reason that holds up. We do not consistently apply that reasoning elsewhere. Cousin-cousin marriage does definitely raise the birth defect probability, but to about the same level as women over thirty-five having children, the last time I went looking for the numbers. Either we go ahead and apply the reason consistently or we ought to abandon that reason in the interest of not making the justice system look like a thinly veiled set of excuses for our prejudices, the squick.

So let's examine trauma. If force and power imbalances were removed from the equation, would it be as traumatic? If the criminal punishment was removed from the equation, would it be as traumatic? Trauma include some circular reasoning. "It is traumatic for people who engage in this practice because we punish them."

A legal system that looks just like people's weird prejudices (inconsistent and based on gut reactions) is not one that inspires a great deal of respect, at least for me. We will never get true agreement between people and the law, but the more the body of law is riddled with bits of random stupidity, unfairness, archaic rules, naked power grabs, outdated fears, and laws that do not line up, the less faith people will have in it as a whole.

The article, sympathetic as it is, presents a case of someone who has been flung from one strange legal bumper (incest) to another (sex offender) in an ancient pinball machine. It isn't a pretty picture of how the law works in practice. We can say "edge cases make bad law" until the cows come home, but the more complex our society becomes, the more each one of us is on some edge or another.
posted by adipocere at 4:41 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The NFL is an entertainment business. The fact that the public is squicked out by incest, is enough alone a good reason to keep him from joining it. The PR implications are not good, and there is likely a just-as-talented person ready to take his place that is not fraught with such issues.
posted by marble at 4:49 AM on August 28, 2010


If we ever stopped sneering at black kids, we'd have to admit our own ugliness.

Yes, it's a shame that the NFL is so racist.
posted by mattholomew at 6:21 AM on August 28, 2010


How is consensual incest between peers of the same age a moral wrong?

I don't know about 'moral', but it's definitely indicative of prior abuse by a parent or other psychologically damaging circumstances.
posted by mattholomew at 6:28 AM on August 28, 2010


"The NFL is an entertainment business. The fact that the public is squicked out by incest, is enough alone a good reason to keep him from joining it. The PR implications are not good, and there is likely a just-as-talented person ready to take his place that is not fraught with such issues.
posted by marble at 12:49 PM on August 28 [+] [!]"

This appears to be a wider line of reasoning than merely one related to sex offences - what the public is squicked out by is wide and varied. Out of interest, would you also be willing to apply this reasoning to a hypothetical team with a fanbase who disliked the following groups refusing to hire:
a) a black player;
b) a homosexual player;
c) an Islamic player?
posted by jaduncan at 6:36 AM on August 28, 2010


Also, wasn't McKenzie Philips 'consenting' to her fucked-up relationship with her father?
posted by mattholomew at 6:44 AM on August 28, 2010


Ironmouth: “However, incest is a moral wrong.”

Yes Ironmouth, if you believe something should be illegal because it's a Moral Wrong then don't clutter the argument hiding behind the birth defects rationale (a moot point, as others noted, in many examples of incest as well as in many, many societally approved sexual unions.)

As for the the illegality of incest in the absence of other crimes, I have almost the opposite reaction as Ironmouth's: I see little point in making illegal a consensual act the vast majority of people want desperately not to do.

[Incest] should be illegal, because family dynamics are fraught...

Indeed they are, but if close relatives within a family structure desire to have sex with one another, isn't that family already fraught in a fundamental way that is beyond control by the criminal justice system?
posted by applemeat at 7:16 AM on August 28, 2010


Sure, but discerning between those who just desire to have sex with each other, and those who are forced/coerced, etc., is often beyond the capability of law enforcement to determine, for the reasons I described above. But since there's a massive amount of sexual abuse that happens within families, there are laws. Some are more draconian and moralistic or theology-based, and some try to be more reasonable, by, for example, using age of consent as part of the criteria, or degree of relationship. No matter what, laws, by their nature, are never one-size-fits-all, and enforcement is never equally applied, so there will always be injustice in how even the most well-meaning statutes are interpreted/enforced. I still believe that victims of incest deserve protection under the law, though I'd like that law to be as fair, nuanced, and humanistic as possible.
posted by taz at 8:10 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he was scrawny or if he dreamed of being a computer programmer, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 PM on August 27 [1 favorite +] [!]


Right, because somewhere out there is a renegade private business owner who'd take a flyer and give the guy a job. By definition, there are no renegade private business owners who have a football league they'd like to take chances with.

If we ever stopped sneering at black kids, we'd have to admit our own ugliness.

Yes, it's a shame that the NFL is so racist.
posted by mattholomew at 9:21 AM on August 28 [+] [!]


Yep. How many black owners do you see?

The real issue is that the NFL, at the intersection of professional sports and mainstream entertainment, is one of the most conservative business operations on the face of the planet. It would be easier to place Washington on a team if his crime had been non-consensual sex with a non-family member (ie traditional rape), because the football-media establishment already has a way to think, talk and explain about that.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:37 AM on August 28, 2010


Interestingly, this movie (spoiler alert) was nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award and was both critically and commercially successful (relative to budget, anyway), despite having one thread that resolves in (half)sibling incest.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:44 AM on August 28, 2010


taz, I agree with almost everything you wrote, except, still, the apparent conclusion that incest participants are, necessarily, "victims." In challenging Ironmouth's (in my view problematic) assertion that incest in itself "should be illegal because it's morally wrong," I stated I was isolating incest in absence of other crimes like forcible and/or statutory rape. Of course it's difficult for law enforcement to discern whether a subject has been forced or coerced, but that's also true of other sex crimes and I'm not sure that presuming force and coercion is the most fair and nuanced policy.
posted by applemeat at 8:46 AM on August 28, 2010


I said that I believed that incest victims deserve protection under the law, and that was very, very precise language. I personally oppose prosecution in defense of people who haven't been victimized and need no protection.

And I do agree that it's difficult for law enforcement to discern whether a subject is forced or coerced (or not) in the case other sex crimes, but I still believe that laws against non-consensual sex are necessary.
posted by taz at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to chip in that laws and prohibitions are a negative index to desire (I think this is Foucault). More colloquially: incest is taboo not because no one wants to do it but because most people have partially (if not fully) conscious sexual yearnings for their blood relations.

The expression of these sexual yearnings as sex often damages social ties (exogamous availability, lines of inheritance), so there are many ritualized and sanctioned expressions of this desire which create and strengthen social ties: baby talk, affectionate acts, commemorative gifting, chivalric custom, marriage ceremonies, etc.

The whole idea that incest is somehow wrong in and of itself is, in my opinion, just plain wrong.

If posterity is to be trusted, incest has the potential both to fulfill and to harm those who partake. Anais Nin swears how great is was to come home to daddy. James and Nora Joyce may have severely damaged Lucia. Cleopatra and her brother had the support of an entire nation.

I have no idea regarding Tony Washington’s actual guilt, but if the act was consensual then this is just so much scapegoating* for something people most loathe in themselves.

* I was offended by the earlier mention of young black males as necessary scapegoats. First, society reflexively and, perhaps inevitably, does identify scapegoats, yes. The necessity of such production, however, is dubious. The glib assertion of just such necessity is privilege cynically analyzing the mechanisms of its entitlement.
posted by mistersquid at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]



Funny you should say that while acting like the reason it is illegal is because the state is trying to prevent the birth of defective babies. You say it all right there. People think it is a moral wrong and thus they feel entitled to criminalize it.


Its a moral wrong for precisely that reason.

Also because it causes great psychological damage.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 PM on August 28, 2010


As I've not seen this - while the NFL has wife/girlfriend beaters, dog tortures et la.....and this guy has 'checkered past' - have any of you considered that perhaps he's just not good enough to make the cut?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:26 AM on August 29, 2010


Here's an older, but maybe more even-handed, article.
posted by box at 7:39 AM on August 29, 2010


> Is he a changed human being, who benefitted from his punishment and realizes his error,
> and won't do it again? If the answer to all three is yes, my answer is, welcome back.

Unhappily there isn't any way to be sure of any of that, short of having access to the mind of God or some magical scrying spell out of Harry Potter. So the "welcome back' answer isn't going to get much of a workout.
posted by jfuller at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2010


LIRIA [on viewscreen]: Your crewmen have already been tried and convicted.
JANEWAY: Are you saying those convictions can't be reversed? No matter what new evidence is brought to light?
LIRIA [on viewscreen]: You are correct.
JANEWAY: That is an outrageous policy.
LIRIA [on viewscreen]: I assure you, it has proved to be a most effective deterrent. Good day, Captain.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:34 AM on September 1, 2010


Wait, so Texas prohibits sex with an adopted sibling? What's the justification behind that?
posted by Han Tzu at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2010


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