Seven sex offenders, one house.
January 5, 2008 5:00 AM   Subscribe

 
/rings producers with Reality TV show pitch
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:19 AM on January 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


And one turns to the others and says...
posted by TheDonF at 5:37 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


“I can’t blame society for wanting to register sex offenders. C’mon,” he says. “But I think they should also register drug dealers, guys who do drive-by shootings, arsonists. Let’s be honest. There are a lot of things that are dangerous to children.

This quotes sums up my unease with how we deal with sex offenders. Whenever I see that "To Catch a Predator" show, I feel like I'm looking at the Police State Preview. Starting with destroying the rights of an indefensible portion of the population is a classic liberty-stripping technique. "First, they came for the pederasts." Isn't it a little bit creepy to be 'registering' citizens, squeezing them into the fringes of society and allowing them to be grouped in these ghettos? Does that really make for a safer society?

But at the same time, I can't bring myself to fully decry the practice. There's few crimes as odious and disgusting as rape. It's an ugly, horrible act that often goes unreported and unpunished. Sentences seldom crack ten years, and the victim - no matter their age - is wounded for life. But what do you do with the perpetrators? Stewing them in prison only leaves them less likely to rejoin society. Welcoming them back into the fold without some controls after they've served their time seems to court danger. There's simply no way to guarantee they won't re-offend.

But those very controls create impossible situations as those detailed in this article. Of course no one wants a rapist for a neighbor. Or an employee. Or a customer. But our choices are reintegration, perpetual incarceration or summary execution. And we can employ only one of these options while still claiming to be the land of the free. I've got no idea what's to be done about this social cancer. How on earth can we eradicate rape without becoming monsters ourselves?

Blatcher - thank you for posting this thought-provoking, crazy-depressing article.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:38 AM on January 5, 2008 [32 favorites]


Damn. I thought you were talking about the new series of Big Brother.
posted by rhymer at 5:45 AM on January 5, 2008


What a study in unintended consequences - register sex offenders with the goal of making neighborhoods safer.... and end up creating whole neighborhoods of sex offenders.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:06 AM on January 5, 2008


alternative methods of dealing with rape have not been fully explored. the criminal justice system is dealing with them the only way they know how, and it's not working well. the first thing that came to my mind is the warning on some commonly used prescription drugs that one of the side effects is loss of libido. why not research this and design a drug that has loss of libido as it's primary effect, and supervise the taking of it? police could then go door to door warning people that someone has moved into their neighborhood who has no interest in sex.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:12 AM on January 5, 2008


kitchenrat: Rape isn't about sex or libido. It's about asserting your power and dominance over someone, abusing their vulnerability.
posted by divabat at 6:16 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


How on earth can we eradicate rape without becoming monsters ourselves?

That's a broad question, especially in context of this story. Are we talking about raping children, or adults or heterosexual or homosexual rape of the children or adults? There seems to be different forces at work for those different crimes, requiring different solutions.

I suspect that there are several alternative methods of dealing with rape, probably already tried in small measure somewhere, or written up in some journal. But getting the money to put those methods into wider pratice will be an exercise in frustration. As a society, we want to punish, punish, punish, but no rational person wants to be punished or can't learn from punishment, right? Right, but there aren't just rational forces at work and our insistence on seeming in our screwed up rational light is itself irrational.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 AM on January 5, 2008


I think it's been tried, kitchenrat. It's a thought, though.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:20 AM on January 5, 2008


Blatcher -- True, sadly. Punishment is the most natural reaction, but it just doesn't seem to be working.

There's a lot of different forms of rape, but don't they all boil down to someone using their penis as a weapon? At the core of the crime, isn't it the use of the victim as a thing to satisfy some sick urge? Seems like there'd be a window during boyhood for some kind of education on how it's Not Okay to violate another human being. But then, that kind of seems like an obvious point, and one that perpetrators may already be aware of.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:28 AM on January 5, 2008


A lot of people suggest cutting off their penises. Objections are raised along similar lines to divabat's above reasoning.

Thus I suggest cutting off their hands.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, sure, because a sex offender with hooks at the end of his arms could never be a problem.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:59 AM on January 5, 2008 [22 favorites]


The whole idea was that a certain class of sex offenders seemed to be beyond rehabilitation and thus represent a danger to the community, child molesters. However, it has expanded to include all offenses, including those that probably don't mean that your children are in danger, i.e. drunken frat date rape - asshole behavior deserving of punishment but that guy is not coming after your kids (unless they are college coeds). Same for the idiot who moons the old lady next door who complains about the loud music. He isn't coming for your kids, etc. etc. Once something like this gets started though it picks up momentum beyond logic, especially when the people affected are so undeserving of sympathy. Drugs and sex scare people so those crimes often get punished more severely than murder and armed robbery. What a system.
posted by caddis at 7:04 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


But at the same time...

And then you go into the standard mode: rape is the most horrible crime imaginable + they might do it again = treat sex offenders worse than you treat other criminals.

I'd rather live next to sex offenders than next to murderers and dealers and gun collectors. (One of the guys in this article was 'convicted of sodomy'! Oh, dear! Run!) Lots of crimes leave their victims 'wounded for life' and are really more about something than about something else and so on. Lots of crimes leave people without life at all, or leave them disfigured, paralyzed, widowed, orphaned, etc. Though neither has happened to me (so far), I'm sure I'd rather be raped than be killed. Drunk drivers are more dangerous to you and your family; insist that their records be made public, refuse to hire or house them, and hound them out of town if you just have to loose the hounds on someone.
posted by pracowity at 7:05 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. How about replacing their arms with octopus tentacles?
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:06 AM on January 5, 2008


No, I've seen enough hentai to know that won't work...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:09 AM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Big Bugger
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:24 AM on January 5, 2008


It's interesting how people feel the need to establish how much they hate sex offenders, and how much tougher they would be than the next guy when dealing with them.

Personally I would feel safer if there were more places for sex offenders and pediphiles to go when they were released where they could be watched in exchange for being left alone.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:27 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


/goes back to drawing board
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:29 AM on January 5, 2008


"Personally I would feel safer if there were more places for sex offenders and pediphiles to go when they were released where they could be watched in exchange for being left alone."

Monster Island.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:30 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pediphiles, yeah I hate those foot fuckers.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:31 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's a lot of different forms of rape, but don't they all boil down to someone using their penis as a weapon?

It's not just penises being used, it's not just men (though it mostly is) and this is a gross over simplification. But you're correct that rape is about power.


At the core of the crime, isn't it the use of the victim as a thing to satisfy some sick urge?

I understand your desire to use the word sick, but if you're going to look at this seriously, you need to leave the judgemental elements of word sick out the equation.

Seems like there'd be a window during boyhood for some kind of education on how it's Not Okay to violate another human being.

This is more complex than being able to say to little boys that "No, that's not right."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:31 AM on January 5, 2008


>> a drug that has loss of libido as it's primary effect, and supervise the taking of it

So, if you commit a sexual offense, you should have no sexual rights at all, not even in areas which the state normally considers legitimate?
posted by honest knave at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2008


Pediphiles love these.

(NSFW)
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2008


How come none of these ostracized individuals moves to some expatriate-friendly third world country or emerging economy? An English-speaking individual would be able to eke out a decent living and live in far more dignity than what's pictured here. Yeah, I have no sympathy for Adam Assraper but I'm sure some of these people are innocent or are no longer a danger.
posted by chips ahoy at 7:50 AM on January 5, 2008


I guess that makes this relevant to the discussion here?
Patrick Kennedy was accused of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1998, badly injuring her during the crime. She testified against him five years later at the trial. When Kennedy was sentenced, he received the death penalty — a punishment typically reserved for those who commit murder.

Kennedy's legal team wants the court to declare Louisiana's law allowing the death penalty for child rape unconstitutional. Only two people in the United States are on death row for nonhomicide offenses, and both are in that state.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:54 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


How come none of these ostracized individuals moves to some expatriate-friendly third world country or emerging economy?

Most of men mentioned in the article couldn't afford a car to get to their mandated weekly shrink meeting (so the shrink comes to the house to meet them all), let alone their mandated parole officer meetings.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on January 5, 2008


Thanks for the provocative article Brandon. It was well written. So a woman who was offering housing to felons found a sex offender felon with perfectionistic, control issues to clean up the slovenliness of one of her real estate investments, organize tenants' housing for other sex offenders. Such an interesting world.

There are 3 different categories of sex offenders: level I being the least likely to re- offend and the level 3 the most likely to re-offend.

The court also determines whether an offender should be given the designation of a sexual predator, sexually violent offender or predicate sex offender: sexual predator, sexually violent offender or predicate sex offender.

What is a sex offender as defined by the law?

Sex offender n. generic term for all persons convicted of crimes involving sex, including rape, molestation, sexual harassment and pornography production or distribution. In most states convicted sex offenders are supposed to report to local police authorities, but many do not.

Pedophilia is associated with pathological narcissism, an unhealable, lifelong disorder. Those offenders are of the level 3 type.

Locating sex offenders in your neighborhood.

Persons who commit sex offenses are not a homogeneous group, but instead fall into several different categories. As a result, research has identified significant differences in reoffense patterns from one category to another. Looking at reconviction rates alone, one large-scale analysis (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998) reported the following differences:

# child molesters had a 13% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 37% reconviction rate for new, non-sex offenses over a five year period; and
# rapists had a 19% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 46% reconviction rate for new, non-sexual offenses over a five year period.

Another study found reconviction rates for child molesters to be 20% and for rapists to be approximately 23% (Quinsey, Rice, and Harris, 1995).

Individual characteristics of the crimes further distinguish recidivism rates.

posted by nickyskye at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


To treat sex crimes as different than other crimes in terms of the kinds of post-incarceration restrictions that can last their entire lives needs to be justified in terms of some difference about the crimes or criminal. In some cases, this may be justified: certain types of sex crimes are probably rooted in fundamental dysfunctions that aren't going anywhere. I agree with this in principle, but lumping all sex crimes together isn't really fair. And while they're at it, there are probably some non-sexual crimes (or rather, criminals) that share the same characteristics that make it useful to track certain sexual criminals after release. This presents an interesting question: should we be classifying certain criminals as having a high risk of recidivism, and subject them to drastic post-incarceration restrictions like those currently applied to sex offenders?

In terms of the severity of the crime, there is a lot of variation, and it's hard to say that sex crimes are worse than murder. So, as far as I'm concerned, any question of this kind of treatment comes down to recidivism.

This article was great, seemingly able to view its subjects in a clear-eyed manner while humanizing them. Incidentally, I lived in Coram for a couple months about two and a half years ago. I was in a better section than this house is apparently in, but Coram has a bit of a seedy reputation outside Coram (OK, inside Coram as well). In my case, I left because my landlord was a creepy jerk for reasons that had nothing to do with sex crimes (as far as I know).

When I visited Long Island last week, I heard something vague about how these guys had been in the news, presumably in something a bit more sensational. Obviously, people aren't going to react well to news of seven sex offenders (blurred into "pedarests") living in one house together a couple towns over. But if they stop and think, they'll realize first that this is an inevitable result of the kinds of restrictions they face, and second, that they would even less like seven "pedarests" to be living separately all over the neighborhood.
posted by Edgewise at 8:05 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I sorta like the 'Escape From New York' idea -- find some island, throw them all on that island together, let them work it out, rape each other to death until there's only one left, whatever. Gilligan's Island for rapists and pedophiles and the like. Hell, put some cameras on the place too, and let people watch for free, so they can *see* what island life is like for those folks.
posted by jamstigator at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2008


MTV has sure run out of ideas for The Real World.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:10 AM on January 5, 2008


throw them all on that island together, let them work it out, rape each other to death until there's only one left, whatever.

Man, you are so much less a sexual offender than the rest of us. Congratulations! Who here can top that?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:11 AM on January 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


Heh, and when the title in the bar popped up, I thought it said "Inside the Sex-Offender Clusterfuck..."

Appropriate.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:11 AM on January 5, 2008


Seven sex offenders are living together in this house. And one comes out of the bathroom and says "Where's the soap?" and one of the other guys says "I know, but it's a nice feeling."


Alternative punchline: "I know, but it gets rid of the DNA evidence."
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:19 AM on January 5, 2008


No state requires convicted murderers (you will likely be released at some point if you are convicted of second degree murder) to register. None.

Twenty year old has drunken sex with a 14 year old girl he meets at a bar who tells him she is 18 and even shows him fake ID? Required to register for the rest of his life.

Twenty year old who murders a man he has a disagreement with? No registration required. Move along.
posted by flarbuse at 8:20 AM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


/rings producers with Reality TV show pitch

This is what happens what sex offenders stop being polite...

I am so going to Hell for that one.
posted by jonp72 at 8:21 AM on January 5, 2008


ind some island, throw them all on that island together, let them work it out, rape each other to death until there's only one left, whatever

Wow you're a fucking GENIUS I wish I thought of that


/troll
posted by disclaimer at 8:23 AM on January 5, 2008


There's few crimes as odious and disgusting as rape.

There are few crimes that arouse such passion as rape. I'd put to you that there are many crimes worse than rape. Consider that the man who runs our country is responsible for the deaths of over a million people. Surely that's worse than rape? There are people who assault others for money or for kicks and leave them permanently crippled: surely that's worse than rape? The men who ran the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal knowingly allowed their neighbors to be exposed to deadly toxic gas, killing thousands, blinding over ten thousand, leaving over a hundred thousand people severely damaged for the rest of their lives; the US military guards who torture Arab prisoners for years, many of whom are undeniably innocent, some of whom die.

You could even argue that Enron was worse than rape -- tens of thousands of families who'd worked hard for years lost every penny they had -- perhaps any individual case isn't as bad, but the quantity of misery created is much greater.

I'm fully sympathetic to the viewpoint -- there was a moment when I would have committed homicide as a response to a specific rape that had happened some years before if I'd known the name of the individual. (Actually, based on later information it might actually been suicide on my part but that's also a felony.) And crimes involving children are particularly despicable.

But people have to take control of their visceral emotions and realize that while someone who rapes a child is a monster, they're also a pathetic monster who have destroyed their own lives, whereas someone who causes the deaths of thousands for their own profit is a successful monster who has gotten away with the crime and will continue to commit such great crimes with impunity.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


As a person who works with people, my definition of person or people does not include rapists. To me a rapist is a "bad" animal, bad meaning one that is a threat to people.

As a person who has put animals that are suffering out of their misery, killing an animal that causes causes violent and dangerous misery is distasteful but practical.

Rapists being put to death is acceptable to me.
posted by humannaire at 8:42 AM on January 5, 2008


Everyone: Rape is not about sex, it's about power, etc.

I cannot disagree with this cliché strongly enough. Rape is about sexual desire and a person's libido. If rape were about power, then chemical castration would not work to decrease the number of rapes occurring in prison populations. However, it does.

Furthermore, this idea - "rape is not about sex, it's about power" - is an attempt to formulate rape in such a term so as to make it completely alien to the "normal" or "well adjusted" human psyche. However, the idea that a rapist is acting to fulfill a natural sexual desire implies that we, ourselves, could some day be guilty of rape. "My normal sexual desires could never lead me to rape someone" is akin to saying "my normal experiences of rage could never lead me to kill someone." It's a societal defense mechanism.

It's like how I see my parishioners describing the homeless. "It's so sad, they're homeless because they have mental problems and no one is there to care for them." This may be true in a minority of cases, but people are homeless for a myriad of issues. Job loss, catastrophic medical accident, house fires, a whole realm of problems. It's not that good hearted people don't know this - by claiming that the homeless all have "mental problems" what they are really saying is - "I have no mental problems, therefore I could never become homeless."

People who say that rape is about power are voicing a defensive fantasy regarding rapists that simply is not true. Rape is about sex and a person's need to fulfill their sexual urges. And, frankly, I believe that oftentimes they're the same exact sexual urges that all "normal" humans experience.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:46 AM on January 5, 2008 [43 favorites]


(I do hope I haven't offended anyone. I'm not trying to minimize the gravity of sex crimes -- I'm merely trying to say that there are still worse things that people can do...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2008


"People who say that rape is about power are voicing a defensive fantasy regarding rapists that simply is not true. Rape is about sex and a person's need to fulfill their sexual urges."

It's both.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Also, this is a fantastic article because it addresses a very real and very frightening issue that we are currently dealing with in Grand Rapids.

A law was passed - I believe in February of 2007 - that upped the distance a registered CSC could "reside" in relation to any school structure from 500 feet to 1000 feet. No big deal, until it was discovered that every single mission and emergency shelter in Grand Rapids and Kent County is within 1000 feet of a school. So, starting in November, they started rooting out the CSCs and kicking them into the streets.
This created a terrible situation - we have enough beds for all the homeless in our city so we don't have a secondary means of dealing with folks who have absolutely no play to stay by law.

People started working together to put these guys up in cheap hotels until a solution could be worked out. I had six of them come to my office in the first week - I called a nearby lakeshore city that had one shelter that wasn't within 1000 feet of kids and the response I got was that they had been so completely inundated that they were no longer accepting anyone at the shelter until this got worked out.

I ended up driving a bunch of these guys across the state to get them put into a state-funded emergency shelter in the middle of no where. They can stay there a week or two but I know I'll see them again.

We are creating two separate groups of homeless people in this city. A group that can live at the shelters and missions, and a group that can't. And the group that can't is composed entirely of criminal sexual convicts and that is completely insane.

We're not dealing with this issue in the U.S. We're sectioning this population off and hoping that they don't rescind. This will never work. We're furthering marginalizing them and that is clearly not the answer.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This house seems like the perfect place to start learning the "why" of pedophilia. Let's get beyond the judgmental, as Brandon Blatcher says, and figure out just what it is that triggers the desire to have sex not with other consenting adults, but with children. Are there common denominators in these men's lives? Can a cycle of abuse, which so many point to as a factor, be ended? And, if so, are there genetic components to be dealt with as well?

Obviously, there won't be one easy answer. Many who are abused, for example, go on to live healthy, productive lives without ever resorting to abuse themselves. But it seems like, rather than focusing purely on punishment, we should try to figure out how we can keep these crimes from happening in the first place.
posted by misha at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


How come none of these ostracized individuals moves to some expatriate-friendly third world country or emerging economy? An English-speaking individual would be able to eke out a decent living and live in far more dignity than what's pictured here.

Gary Glitter and Christopher Paul Neil (the "Swirly Face Guy") tried that.
posted by iviken at 8:59 AM on January 5, 2008


Baby_Balrog, your link goes a page with this title:
Is chemical castration an acceptable punishment for male sex offenders?

Resources used to support "yes"
Maybe you should also link to the page of Resources used to support "no", which includes this bit at the very beginning:
While depo-provera may be effective in lowering sex drive, administering this drug does not address the real motivation behind this behavior. Furthermore, there is no proven effective "cure" for pedophiles, which means that chemical castration has no value for these crimials. Another criticism is the lack of uniform guidelines for use of chemical castration across the states. And what incentives are avilable to insure that criminals will continue treatment once they are released from custody?

Crimes like rape are committed by sex offenders out of the desire for power over others, and the more violent sex crimes are committed to release rage on victims. Chemical castration may lower the sex drive, but it is not clear that it will erase these motivations for sex crimes. Furthermore, a sex offender may deepen his rage when he contemplates his loss from chemical castration, possibly increasing the probability of further volatile situations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:00 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a person who works with people, my definition of person or people does not include rapists. To me a rapist is a "bad" animal, bad meaning one that is a threat to people. [...] Rapists being put to death is acceptable to me.

Being able to define people you don't like as "non-people" is one of the classic symptoms of psychopathy. Consider the history of groups like the Godwi, er, Nazis and Khmer Rouge who have dehumanized others.

Would you react so strongly to a mugger who beat a victim so severely that they were paralyzed or brain-damaged -- just for a few dollars? If not, why not? I've (I hope) helped quite a few survivors of sexual assault who were my friends; I don't believe a single one of them would have preferred to spend their lives in a wheelchair or institution.

Do you consider the institutionalized mass murderers I talked about in my previous posting "animals" as well? If not, why not? Is it just that you can't see past your (perfectly valid) gut reaction to see the larger criminals?

Again, I'm *not* an apologist for rape -- it's a terrible crime -- but there are worse crimes. You need a sense of perspective.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:01 AM on January 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Rape isn't about sex or libido. It's about asserting your power and dominance over someone, abusing their vulnerability.

I've never liked this assertion. More than anything else it attempts to define "rape" as a cookie-cutter act that can be summarised by one bon mot. I'm sure there's plenty of truth to it, but I can't see how trotting it out in such an absolute, sweeping way (which it always is), as if you know everything there is to know about rape, does anything else but trivialise it.
posted by cillit bang at 9:12 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I suspect that like most crimes, the most essential root causes lie with the sadness and misery of their lives as children. Lack of nutrition, lack of education, lack of medicine, lack of parenting skills by the parents, too much violence in their lives, all of these things create horrible environments for children to grow up in, and ultimately produce a larger number of socially unfit adults.

Still, in the end, committing a rape or abusing a child is a choice a person makes. If you make that choice, there should be repercussions and they should be harsh. I see nothing inherently wrong with locking them all up in the same place, rather than scattered all over the prisons of the country. Not sure why disclaimer took offense at the suggestion; maybe he has a reason to defend pedophiles/rapists. Or perhaps he identifies with them. Or...well, who knows.

In any case, bad childhood environments probably contribute more to crime, of these types or any type, than anything else; make life better for the average person and crimes of all types will drop.
posted by jamstigator at 9:15 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


rings producers with Reality TV show pitch
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:19 AM on January 5

Damn. I thought you were talking about the new series of Big Brother.
posted by rhymer at 5:45 AM on January 5

Big Bugger
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:24 AM on January 5

MTV has sure run out of ideas for The Real World.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:10 AM on January 5


The same one-liner four times in only three hours. A new Metafilter record?

On topic, this article is a fantastic example of how this country makes pariahs out of undeserving people. I'm not defending rape or pedophilia, these are heinous crimes; It's just that some of these men have served their prison sentences and genuinely seem to want to mend their ways but are being actively prevented from doing so. Which is problematic, since the basic operating theory of our justice system (last time I checked) was one of rehabilitation. Plus, you have wildly disparate crimes being lumped together, people who've done things that are no longer illegal like sodomy being placed in the same category as repeat-offender pedophiles.
posted by Ndwright at 9:23 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rape is about sexual desire, expressed through power. Sometimes the point is power, such as the mass rapes that happen during genocides, where a large part of the point of the rape is to express contempt and disgust for the person you are raping. But sometimes the point is desire, as in date rape. We can't strip rape down to being one thing or the other. People rape for many reasons, just as they kill, or steal, for many reason. We use a generalized term for it, but "rape" describes a huge variety of behaviors for a huge variety of reasons, linked by the fact that all contained a sexual act in which force and lack of consent are present.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:25 AM on January 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Fascinating read, thanks for posting this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


people who've done things that are no longer illegal like sodomy being placed in the same category as repeat-offender pedophiles.

The legal and social definitions of sodomy differ.
In many states, the term 'rape' can only be applied to penile-vaginal penetration. Any other non-consensual act (forced anal sex, penetration with an object/appendage, and sometimes oral sex) falls under the umbrella term 'sodomy'. So I'm assuming that the sodomy charges mentioned in this article were not the result of two consensual lovers who got busted by the morality police (although that did occur in Texas a few years back, if I remember correctly...).
posted by chara at 9:35 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Several years ago, I lived in a studio apartment in a trendy neighborhood north of downtown Milwaukee. After I'd moved, I stumbled on one of those sex offender mapping sites. I entered my old address, and there were several (four, IIRC) sex offenders living in my old apartment building! I recognized three of them, and I'd had small-talk conversations in the elevator with two. Somehow, I escaped unharmed.

This is not to say that no sex offenders present a danger, but I think the hysteria is unwarranted. We had several robberies with sawed-off shotguns in our neighborhood, and I still feel I faced much more danger walking down the street than I did in my own apartment.
posted by desjardins at 9:37 AM on January 5, 2008


There's been discussion about a similar issue in Seattle lately. A woman has been renting to 13 sex offenders in houses near the University of Washington campus, and the UW wants them out of their neighborhood.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:38 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


larry was convicted of raping a 4-year old girl in 1983...

my initial reaction would be to take him out to the desert, cut his throat and dump his dead ass down a ravine. any measures short of that should be regarded as merciful benevolence.
posted by bruce at 9:40 AM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]




my initial reaction would be to take him out to the desert, cut his throat and dump his dead ass down a ravine.

Wow. It's a monstrous crime, but I'm always dismayed by how many people respond to monstrous by expressing a desire to commit an act of criminal savagery in response.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:53 AM on January 5, 2008


I'm going to say a variation of response one more time: Respondent.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


McMartin
posted by hortense at 10:11 AM on January 5, 2008


So...fighting fire with fire, still not working eh? What if we try blue fire?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:12 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


A law was passed - I believe in February of 2007 - that upped the distance a registered CSC could "reside" in relation to any school structure from 500 feet to 1000 feet. No big deal, until it was discovered that every single mission and emergency shelter in Grand Rapids and Kent County is within 1000 feet of a school. So, starting in November, they started rooting out the CSCs and kicking them into the streets.

This is true about cities in Iowa (where the distance is 2000 feet and parks, churches, and daycares are included in the prohibition). Offenders live en masse on the edge of industrial areas in extended-stay motels and trailer parks. Many of them go off radar to border states rather than deal with these regulations.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:12 AM on January 5, 2008


As a person who works with people, my definition of person or people does not include rapists.

Jesus. You really shouldn't be working with people.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:27 AM on January 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'd argue that sex offenders in particular are forced to register largely because most rapists high tendency to reoffend.

With murder it's different: if you're a repeat or first degree murderer, chances are you aren't getting out of prison any time soon; second degree murder and manslaughter is by definition accidental, not premeditated, or acting as an accessory, so once released there isn't a huge risk that they'll kill again. Drug addicts often reoffend, but their crimes are arguably self-inflicted.

Rapists have a statistically high chance of committing the crime again once released, hence the need for registration. While it's definitely unfair for those who sincerely want to reintegrate into society, I can understand why sex offenders in particular are singled out.
posted by billypilgrim at 10:28 AM on January 5, 2008


having been raped while in college, i'm not entirely sure i'd rate murder as a less desirable experience. sure, i'm alive...but for many, many years it was a living death. i was so ashamed about what happened to me and didn't tell anyone. i didn't know how and i thought it was my fault. the fact that he treated me like a depository for his sexual needs/desires despite my telling him no made me feel like i didn't deserve any better. the destructive behavior in the years that followed were desperate attempts to make it better.

the person who assaulted me, one of my university's basketball stars, is out there somewhere, never having had to answer for his crime. i wish that his neighbors knew what he did to me. i wish that he did have to deal with the consequences him of forcing himself on me. i certainly do.
posted by heathergirl at 10:40 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


well astro zombie, i guess you're just more tolerant and culturally sensitive than i am. child-rapists are, after all, their own culture, living together in houses, trading porn on the internet, and certain elements of society are constantly challenging us to show more acceptance, inclusion, deference toward other cultures who come in contact with us.

i'm aware of and acknowledge some of the issues in the sex offender registration scheme, it covers a lot of people. the guy who opens his car door in the parking lot to show a woman his willy, not a real big deal. the 17 year-old who gets a blowjob from a 15 year-old, not a real big deal either. my first question upon clicking on the article was, what kind of sex offenders are we talking about, and on the first page was

larry was convicted of raping a 4-year old girl in 1983... astro zombie, that's a lethal taboo in my culture. are you prepared to show my culture anything approaching the deference you exhibit to larry?

somebody somewhere decided to turn larry loose. now he's driving the same roads, shopping the same stores, walking past the same parks and playgrounds you and i do. it is a known fact that somebody inclined to an act of this nature will be inclined to do it again, but the relevant authority weighed larry's interest in "pursuit of happiness" against the safety of other small children in the future and came down for larry. i greet this with the sound of one hand clapping.

and now, painfully earnest, well-meaning folks are blogging in sympathy with larry, bemoaning his reduced circumstances, the prejudice he faces, and exhorting us to take him into our hearts. mister astro zombie, larry is lucky to be alive and extralucky to be free, and i would like to hear more gratitude for this circumstance and less whining about everything else.
posted by bruce at 11:03 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


heathergirl: having been raped while in college, i'm not entirely sure i'd rate murder as a less desirable experience.

I have not been raped or assaulted, but I can definitely understand this. I'd rather be killed.
posted by desjardins at 11:08 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


are you prepared to show my culture anything approaching the deference you exhibit to larry?

Can't speak for Astro Zombie, of course, but you explicitly said such people deserved to die. It is not showing "deference" to someone to suggest that they do not deserve to be killed.

It's entirely understandable that victims of these crimes, or those close to the victims, should sometimes feel that they want the perpetrators to die, but that doesn't make it morally acceptable as a criminal justice policy.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:18 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Last summer at an outdoor concert, the Port-A-Let got full and and was closed. I had to pee. It was dark, and there was a row of trees and bushes over yonder to hide behind and take care of business.

No sooner had I zipped down my fly than *click* -- a cop has a flashlight on me. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked, then told me that urinating in public, if convicted, can lead to having to register as a sex offendor. This is in Massachusetts, YMMV. So watch yourselves camping, hiking, etc.

I didn't ask the cop whether or not he had anything better to do than skulk around in the woods, and I'm glad I decided to pee first and spark up the roach second. But I was grateful for that bit of intelligence.

I'm still not quite clear why very discreetly peeing in the pitch-dark woods is an act of such potential trauma, especially when there are kids at my health club who use the same locker room as the grown-ups and nobody seems to think much of that.
posted by Camofrog at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


game warden/events rhino, whether or not larry deserves to die is a complex question beyond the scope of my comments. what i said was that society needs to protect itself against larry and his cohorts, and society has the right to do this. the fact that larry has been turned loose to do this again if he wants to only buttresses my position that the only good child-rapist is a dead child-rapist.
posted by bruce at 11:43 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


well astro zombie, i guess you're just more tolerant and culturally sensitive than i am.

Or I guess I just don't feel the need to pollute the thread with fantasies of psychotic revenge against strangers.

There's an issue in this that I want to bring up. I think there is a political use to the rhetoric that somehow rape or molestation is worse than murder. It encourages the sense that people who have commit these crimes have earned a death sentence, moreso, because their crimes are worst than those of common murderers, they don't even deserve the process of justice that we give to murderers. Just take them out in the dessert and cut their throats.

Well, consider that accusations of rape and child abuse have historically been used against despised minorities. Blacks were murdered and mutilated in this country in response to accusations of rape. Jews were murdered, en masse, in Europe as the result of accusations of ritual child abuse.

You may simply be expressing a fantasy of revenge, but, in history, this has not been a fantasy, and the revenge, in many cases, has been against the undeserving, politically it was politically or socially useful to use charges of sexual crime against them to scapegoat them. So maybe it's not that I'm more tolerant than you, but instead because I come from a culture that has historically been victimized by the impulses you seem to think are perfectly normal and socially acceptable to express in public.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2008 [19 favorites]


I'd rather live next to sex offenders than next to murderers and dealers and gun collectors.

gun collectors?

posted by small_ruminant at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


whether or not larry deserves to die is a complex question beyond the scope of my comments. what i said was that society needs to protect itself against larry and his cohorts, and society has the right to do this.

That is not what you said. Did you forget what you said?

my initial reaction would be to take him out to the desert, cut his throat and dump his dead ass down a ravine. any measures short of that should be regarded as merciful benevolence.

That's what you said, bruce. Was this Wild West executioning your clever way of saying society needs to protect itself?
posted by Avenger50 at 12:19 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"This may be true in a minority of cases, but people are homeless for a myriad of issues. Job loss, catastrophic medical accident, house fires, a whole realm of problems. It's not that good hearted people don't know this - by claiming that the homeless all have "mental problems" what they are really saying is - "I have no mental problems, therefore I could never become homeless.""

It's my understanding that a majority of the homeless population has substance abuse issues, though this may be from having more contact with folks running rehabs than with folks doing homeless advocacy. I would guess that at least a significant plurality do.
I do also know that homelessness is a fairly intractable problem, in that it's another sort of conditional definition rather than a diagnostic, similar to how "sex offender" covers more than it explains. The combination of folks who had permanent and severe anti-social behaviors with those who have temporary and generally economic problems means that broad approaches (which is what top-down legislation tends to be) won't be effective.

And "sex offender" is over-broad, just as "rape" is. I had a couple friends who got arrested for pissing on the side of the highway while they were up north, and threatened with indecent exposure charges. As one of 'em's a teacher, it could have ruined his life, no matter how much of a rural shakedown it was. There's a gradation between that and Dahmer, just as there is between the crimes detailed in the article.

I understand the revulsion, it's a very social and human revulsion to have. But resorting to killing people seems like the laziest and stupidest solution to a difficult problem. And on this, as with pretty much all other death penalty instances, I'm just not comfortable giving the state the power to kill based on the impulses of folks like Bruce.
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Quite a few commenters seem to approve of this clustering of sex offenders, on the grounds that they dislike paedophilia.

But that assumes that this is an effective way of reducing the incidence of attacks. It could be ineffective. It could even be that this system is counter-productive: that by isolating them from society, by moving them into like-minded groups, and by incentivizing them to flee surveillance altogether; it increases the number of attacks.

From the article:

A 2007 report by Human Rights Watch found no evidence that residency restrictions reduce crimes against children, and further noted that the sex offenders who are most likely to stay out of jail and not reoffend are those who are not segregated but have "positive, informed support systems--including stable housing and social networks." This is one of John’s concerns about relegating sex offenders to one particular area. "Isolation is not a good thing," he says. "One of the things that creates a lot of sex-offender behavior is isolation."

Now just a wild guess here, but I suspect that the areas the SO's are being concentrated in are not exactly well-off, middle-class areas.

So, it seems to me that this policy isn't really about reducing the number of child rapes overall. It's about making sure it's only poor people's kiddies who get raped.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:45 PM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


How come none of these ostracized individuals moves to some expatriate-friendly third world country or emerging economy?

Karla Homolka recently moved to the West Indies.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2008


the sex offenders who are most likely to stay out of jail and not reoffend are those who are not segregated but have "positive, informed support systems--including stable housing and social networks.

But the sex offenders in the article have a positive, informed support system. They also have stable housing. And a social network. They are not isolated. In fact, I thought the whole point of the article was that there is a greater chance of them staying clean precisely because they are now in an environment where they check on each other and have support/housing/social contacts.
posted by sour cream at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2008


gun collectors?

Yes. I was talking about who's more dangerous to live next to. The guy with a room full of guns is much more of a day-to-day danger to his neighbors--directly (intentionally or accidentally), as a source of street weapons when he is robbed, and as a supporter of the gun industry--than is the guy who was convicted of peeing on a rhododendron.
posted by pracowity at 1:13 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The men in this house (like almost every rapist/molester in history, ever) raped/molested people that they knew. Ex-girlfriend, stepchild, wife of coworker, etc. They are statistically not a danger to neighborhood children and women who happen to be passing by. Sex offender registration is an expensive, politically expedient way to continue to punish people who have served their time. It provides people with a bogeyman to point at and persecute. That's all. It doesn't 'protect' anyone.

I think that perpetuating the idea of rape and molestation as the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to anyone, and the idea of perpetrators as the worst people ever, worse than murderers even, does a great disservice to the victims of these crimes. I was nearly molested by the son of a family friend as a child - I wiggled out of his grasp when I realized what he was trying to do and told my mom immediately. I was so proud of telling just like I'd learned in school, and I felt great until everything blew up and I had to go a counselor and everyone was all mournful and concerned and the kid, I think he was 16 or 17, was severely beaten by his own father. I actually liked the kid and even at seven years old I knew he didn't deserve that and I knew it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't told. I went from feeling proud and strong to feeling vulnerable and scared and guilty. It shouldn't have been made into such a big deal at all.

I also think that the idea that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a grown woman is equally destructive. A vagina is not a special flower that must be protected at all costs, and in a perfect world, someone who violates a woman's vagina should not be punished more than someone who breaks a woman's arm. It's not a perfect world, though, and it's the incredibly sexist shame and blame-the-victim politics that surrounds rape that make it a different crime than plain old assault. Until the perfect world is achieved, rape should be punished more strongly than other kinds of assault, but I would be happy to see the day when it wouldn't have to be. I am sure that this is an incredibly unpopular opinion, but it makes sense to me. And for the record, I'd rather be raped than killed. I'd rather be raped than stabbed or severely beaten (though I realize these things often happen at the same time).
posted by cilantro at 1:51 PM on January 5, 2008 [15 favorites]


It's not all that uncommon an opinion, cilantro. I've read well thought out positions of a feminist or two who feels that some of the trauma of a rape comes from society telling and treating women like they're somehow despoiled by it. We see this taken to an extreme in other societies where women who are raped can be cast out or whatever. Taking away the social stigma would be a great first step to helping victims.
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


Since no one else is staying on topic of the thread:

rape is actually one of the easier social ills to deal with. It has a unique characteristic among crimes in that in most cases the very same acts could be considered love were there mutual attraction and desire. As a result it has as much to do with how we as a society deal with sexaulity as it does with how the rapist does.

If the soon to be rapist were able to go out somewhere and find a willing partner, would they still commit rape? Do people regularly engaging in healthy sexual relations commit rape? If the rapist were offered a safer alternative by the victim to getting their fix, would they accept that choice to the more violent one? I realize in the case of the true psychopath, the answers to each of these is probably yes. But most rapists, as it turns out, aren't psychopaths.

Anyway, the way to deal with it?

1. Occasionally find someone who you'd normally find beneath you socially and is unnatractive, and romance them. It's easy to dismiss them with the notion, well there's someone else out there for them, but if you think that, others probably do as well. Perhaps there is 'someone' out there, but why should they have to pick off the bottom. This is the most important change that needs to happen and will resolve a lot of other gender conflicts dealing with power as well.

2. Do not pretend, and chastise your friends for holding the notion that sex is some magical experience. People fuck because of biological tendencies. The human race still exists because the drive has been stronger than that of self-survival. Accept this, realize we know ways to effectively mitigate the desire, and actively seek to help others satisfy their sexual urges in safer, responsible ways. This has the side effect of reducing unplanned pregnancies and STDs.

For the paedophile end: stop demonizing these people. Certainly few would choose this desire given the social stigma. I'm inclined to say that addressing the first 2 points would pretty much nip it in the bud, but possibly it's a desire that can't be overcome by grown-up sex. When I hear these stories where someone rapes and kills a young child, I have to wonder, would they have killed if they didn't feel they needed to cover up? Would they have committed a less physically damaging act if they could have gotten their kiddie-rocks off with a lesser act? What I'm suggesting is, deal realistically with the act. If someone, for instance, likes to rub one out to pictures of naked children for instance, they ARE in fact dealing with their paedophilia in a healthy way. And it would probably be best if this wasn't a crime. If someone sees a child, gets aroused and likes to grope/molest them, this is not dealing in a healthy way, but it's a hell of a lot better than them fucking them. Not physically hurting the child can make the difference between sexually scarring them for life. This should be punishable, but to much a lesser extent. And there's no reason to view them as any more monstrous than anyone who takes advantage of someone. And so on...
posted by kigpig at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2008


I never cease to be amazed at the conflation of pedophilia (exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children) with ephebophilia (which would be teenagers under whatever the age of consent happens to be according to a set of invisible lines drawn around you), or just having a lapse in judgment. The umbrella has widened to make "Sex Offender" cover a lot of stuff, everything from the skimask-hidden, knife-waving rapist to a guy who has failed to find a friendly shopkeeper to let him use the restroom when nature has called a little too loudly. I pulled up one of those amusing sex offender map mashups and found that there were a lot of people who have been convicted of sodomy here. That can range, in Missouri, to anything from gay sex to just a quick bout of fellatio from your wife during a passionate moment in the car. And if the law were suddenly changed to make these act legal, do you really think that these folks will be retroactively scooped off of these lists? Nah, probably not.

As to the why of rape or anything else, all I see are arguments with nothing to back it up by the desire to create a worldview. We don't have a Why-O-Meter you can hold up to a rapist's head and a little LCD lights up and spells out 85% POWER 15% CLERGY SCANDAL. I imagine the reasons rape occurs are as varied as the reasons behind most other crimes, and trying to say that it's "all about power" is rhetoric with nothing behind it but repetition. I'm not exactly saying we should scrap it all and start over, but given the nature of sexual taboos in our society, we certainly aren't enacting and enforcing laws based on rationality at this point.
posted by adipocere at 2:25 PM on January 5, 2008


Fantastic comments from both cilantro and Justinian.

Rape has always been sort of a mystery to me. I am not a woman, so I don't pretend to be able to even relate to what the experience for them must be like.

But, men are sometimes raped too, and I can try to imagine what being raped would be like. It would be profoundly unpleasant, likely quite painful, and excruciatingly humiliating. But, in the magical world of "let me choose my assault", it seems a less heinous crime than killing me, or blinding me, or knocking my teeth out with brass knuckles.

Again, I know there are people who are raped and never get over it. But there are people who are mugged and never get over it. There are people who are financially ruined by con men or extortionists and never get over it.

So as someone above said, I'm not an apologist for rapists, and in fact believe in strong punishments for any sort of assault. I think, across the board, punishment for ALL forms of violent crime should be increased, and punishment for victimless crimes such as drugs be reduced. Just changing the marijuana laws would likely free up enough prison space to be able to double the sentence of all violent offenders.

And the child molestation thing in America has gotten out of control. A 16 year old is not a child anywhere in the world except America.

Most rapes, and almost all molestations, are done by family members or friends/acquaintances.

Rounding up all the molesters into shanty towns doesn't seem to do much good unless you surround the shanty town with razor wire and not let them leave... but that's just prison again, right?

If we register sex offenders and put their home address online, then I sure as hell want to know the name, address, and picture of all felony convictions.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:02 PM on January 5, 2008


Definition of rape in Wikipedia. Really worth reading.

Pathological narcissism (as the default condition of the four destructive personality types, Axis II, Cluster B disorders: NPD, ASPD, BPD and HPD) is the routine diagnosis for pedophiles.

The Roots of Pedophilia.
posted by nickyskye at 3:09 PM on January 5, 2008


my initial reaction would be to take him out to the desert, cut his throat and dump his dead ass down a ravine. any measures short of that should be regarded as merciful benevolence.

Pft. You rapist-lover.

If it were me, I'd tie him up with chicken wire, attach him to the back of my pick-up truck, and drag his ass down to this little shack I've got in a remote, wooded area. Then I'd haul his ass into the shack, and spend the next five years of my life removing various organs with a butter knife. I'd then treat their wounds with sea salt, let 'em heal for a couple of weeks, then start on 'em again. I'd save all the organs in various jars of formaldehyde, then at around year 4, I'd go and kidnap their children or their parents if they didn't have children, or their dog if they didn't have parents. And I'd tie those fuckers up, drag them behind me in my pick-up, throw them in the shack, and keep them alive by feeding them the various organs I've been collecting over the years. Naturally, I'd cut off the eyelids of the rapist so he had no choice but to watch. Then I'd kill the children/parents/dog and feed them to the rapist via IV drip.

Any measures short of that should be regarded as merciful benevolence.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


A 16 year old is not a child anywhere in the world except America.

Really?

From Wikipedia:

In many countries, includng Croatia, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, a minor is presently defined as a person under the age of 18. In the United States, where the age of majority is set by the individual states, 'minor' usually refers to someone under the age of 18, but can be used in certain areas to define someone under the age of 21.
posted by pancreas at 4:09 PM on January 5, 2008


Yeah, but what would William Burroughs do?
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:11 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


From Wikipedia:

In this context the article you want is age of consent, which in a lot of the world is 16 or below.
posted by cillit bang at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2008


Yeah, but what would William Burroughs do?

If his response to Ginsburg's rejection of him sexually is anything to go by, he'd cry a lot, write long letters attempting emotional blackmail, and bury himself in Eukodol.

Also: I heart Jennifer Gonnerman.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2008


Wow. It's a monstrous crime, but I'm always dismayed by how many people respond to monstrous by expressing a desire to commit an act of criminal savagery in response.

Well...it's rage, which is a normal reaction to monstrous deed. It's not the emotion or even expressing it out loud that's the problem, it's allowing our rage to dictate our actions. We let only our emotions rule the day, we do become like them.
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2008


I just thank god every day that I have the local news to tell me who the bad people are. Because without them, why, I just don't think I'd be able to tell a rapist from an auto worker. Or a cop. Or a fireman. Or a dentist. Or a doctor. Or an aunt. Or an uncle, a cousin, a sister, a brother.
They're not all creepy looking middle aged white guys that drive vans around schoolyards, are they? Yet, that's the first image I get in my brain when someone says "sex offender".

It couldn't be that the local news has something to do with my perceptions, could it? Maybe in sensationalizing the creepy old guy in the van, there might be a ratings boost! Maybe by keeping everybody askeered of the big bad boy-diddler they'll be able to run stories about how to keep your kids SAFE! But there is no news cycle in Uncle Tony taking little Brian to the pool every day. There is no news cycle if the offense happens in a low-income area, either.
Yep, it's got to be a pretty slow news day when a college girl (unless she's white in an upper crust area or a lacrosse team is involved!) gets some airtime because her fratboy date didn't want to hear the word no.

I bet it won't be long before you're going to be asked to just phone in your tips, tell those news stations when you think old Frank across the street is watching those kids play basketball with just a little too much focus on the skins team. And I bet that most people will do just that. Future crime, here we come!

Meanwhile, Uncle Neal just wants to make sure little Tina gets a good, thorough shower! But that won't make the news...because no one wants to talk about that.

To me, these family/known person crimes are more heinous somehow - and I can't quantify it logically - than some molester in a schoolyard/raped in a strange town scenario. The damage done by being abused/attacked by someone you're supposed to be able to trust...well, that's the situation that would make killing me preferable to raping me, I guess. After something like that, the concept of trust just...goes away.

I'm curious:
my initial reaction would be to take him out to the desert, cut his throat and dump his dead ass down a ravine. any measures short of that should be regarded as merciful benevolence.
Why isn't this your first reaction? What's needed to get you to actually DO these things? Would you have to know the victim? Would that be enough?
Oh, that's right, you're just venting on a message board. You don't really mean it. Except... as the article said about some sex offenders (and I'm paraphrasing) - you don't know that you're capable of it, until you actually do it.

I think there is something to the idea that offenders should be taken off the streets, at the very least for a jail sentence. I think that there should be some kind of registry of repeat offenders and perps of grievous, violent rape and abuse. But I also think that first time offenders - and those guys pissing in the weeds - ought to get a shot at rehabilitation and a little redemption too.

I think there's a case to be made for treating each offender as an individual and determining their status (on a registry or not, violent or likely reoffender, etc) and dealing with their post-prison existence accordingly, always focusing on preventing a reoffense and integrating that person back into a normal life.
It's really easy to forget that when someone is released from prison or has completed a jail sentence that they have done their time. They have been found guilty, sentenced, and that sentence has been served.

More needs to be done to stop the behavior and/or rehabilitate the offender and therefore reduce the number of victims, I don't think a blanket sex offender registry or establishing Sex Offender Island is the way to do it.
posted by disclaimer at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2008


I think, across the board, punishment for ALL forms of violent crime should be increased, and punishment for victimless crimes such as drugs be reduced.

Fuckin' A!
posted by jonmc at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2008


EatTheWeak writes "There's a lot of different forms of rape, but don't they all boil down to someone using their penis as a weapon?"

No.
posted by Mitheral at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2008


Let me complicate the discussion a little:

1. The people who want rape treated as a capital offense are practically guaranteeing that most women alleging rape will be ignored, vilified, ostracized, or even killed themselves. That's what used to happen and it can happen again. It happens in other countries as well. If you make it punishable by death, any woman who complains about it is trying to kill a man. Think about it. I can remember when "You can't thread a moving needle" was taken as gospel truth.

2. A relative was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with his two-year-younger girlfriend. Lifetime sexual offender? I'm not saying he isn't a jerk, mind you.

3. Another relative was molested by pedophiles as a kid; although my relative considers the guy a sick bastard he reserves most of his anger for his father and his mother, who neglected him. Many kids who are molested are neglected.

4. I had an incident with a guy I knew in college, who when I turned him down grabbed me and rubbed himself off. My chief reaction was not to be shattered, but to be disgusted with him, the stupid twit. It rarely crosses my mind--just occurred to me because of the discussion. So I was apparently molested . . . so what?

5. Some pedophiles have a high rate of recidivism. Some never do it again.

6. Woody Allen married his girlfriend's adopted daughter, and it doesn't get brought up a whole lot.

7. Rape is often an instrument of power and control. In countries where order has collapsed or in times of war, rape is frequent and often accompanied by murder. Children, women, even pregnant women. It doesn't sound much like sexual desire to me.
posted by Peach at 7:12 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


i can't believe nobody has called out chips ahoy's racists comments.

isn't it enough that we have to contend in the 3rd world with the violence of your foreign policies that we also have to deal with the outcasts of your democracy?

and why would you wish upon the children 3rd world people your rapists and pedophiles?
posted by liza at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2008


I also think that the idea that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a grown woman is equally destructive. A vagina is not a special flower that must be protected at all costs, and in a perfect world, someone who violates a woman's vagina should not be punished more than someone who breaks a woman's arm. It's not a perfect world, though, and it's the incredibly sexist shame and blame-the-victim politics that surrounds rape that make it a different crime than plain old assault. Until the perfect world is achieved, rape should be punished more strongly than other kinds of assault, but I would be happy to see the day when it wouldn't have to be.

Rape is not equivalent to other kinds of assault. Yes, there are really bad instances of assault that are really damaging, and plenty of non-sexual kinds of victimization can have strong emotional fallout for the victim. But the difference between rape and other kinds of physical assault is that you are not physiologically wired to normally enjoy having your arm broken. It is not something you normally do that is emotionally loaded. It is not a function of your body that can be violated by another person. Rape combines the physical and emotional trauma of other kinds of assault with the emotional trauma of sex by coercion.

Implying that rape is no worse than other kinds of assault is really disingenuous and to me, just as grave of an injustice as the older legal view that you allude to, where rape was viewed (as it still is in many places) as a crime of property-- damage to the special flower of the vagina, as you put it. And yes that's still a part of it too, because victims still report things like feeling like they're "damaged goods." There is a lot of social value placed on that still. But there is much more to the emotional trauma than that. And whether or not it's the worst thing that can happen to a person is a game in speculation-- there are many terrible things that could happen. I could die a horribly painful death in any number of ways. Comparing and ranking the colorful possibilities was a morbidly fun high school game, but rape is no less painful just because there's potential for other forms of pain. Any real assault that someone describes, there will always a way to make it worse, no matter how bad it actually was. It doesn't make the real assault any better for the victim. Comparing a person's experience to the worst-case scenario isn't the same thing as perspective.

If you are a woman in the U.S., the odds of being raped are estimated to be 1 in 6. In terms of bad things that can happen to a person, it is no wonder that some women, especially young women, think about it as the worst thing that could probably happen to them. No one can know what is the most terrible thing that could ever.

I do think the paranoia about pedophiles has really gotten out of hand, for the record. Especially with all these local laws that limit where a people who were actually convicted of a wide array of crimes can be in relation to an impossible number and density of public places like schools. But there are a lot of overgeneralizations about rape in this thread. I agree with Astro Zombie's points here-- comments that fantasize about violent responses to people, including in response to violence, are my very least favorite thing about about humanity. And that includes Metafilter. A lot of our worst crimes against each other started out that way, and a lot of genocide has been justified by the same logic.
posted by Tehanu at 8:04 PM on January 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


"As a person who works with people, my definition of person or people does not include rapists. To me a rapist is a "bad" animal, bad meaning one that is a threat to people. [...] Rapists being put to death is acceptable to me."

Being able to define people you don't like as "non-people" is one of the classic symptoms of psychopathy. Consider the history of groups like the Godwi, er, Nazis and Khmer Rouge who have dehumanized others.


You are equating responding to individual acts of inhumanity with sympathy for genocide.

Rather than define the non-person as someone I "don't like" [sic], in the case of rape, I would identify a non-person as that which violently preys upon others for its own indulgence and gratification. When I endorse rapists being put to death, it isn't personal. I am not mad at them for their choosing to cease being human/forfeiting their humanity, I am saddened. How sad that someone would choose — consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or intentionally — to give up what separates humans from bad animals!

Groups such as the ones you listed, lupus_yonderboy ie Nazis and Khmer Rouge, are rapists.

Furthermore...

Would you react so strongly to a mugger who beat a victim so severely that they were paralyzed or brain-damaged -- just for a few dollars?

Yes, of course, but why do you ask?

BTW, following your argument, and your presumed concern for creatures who may or may not be less than human, and not to put too fine a point on it, you are of course a vegetarian, yes?
posted by humannaire at 8:05 PM on January 5, 2008


Also...

Do you consider the institutionalized mass murderers I talked about in my previous posting "animals" as well? If not, why not? Is it just that you can't see past your (perfectly valid) gut reaction to see the larger criminals?

Again, I'm *not* an apologist for rape -- it's a terrible crime -- but there are worse crimes. You need a sense of perspective.


Perspective is personal. And that's what an attack such as a rape is; it's personal. Yet at the same time you suggest that rape is less than the worst possible crime because sociopaths exist and act out seemingly without consequence (or at least without being accountable) due to the condition of all things being relative! But relativity requires personal perspective!

That's a slippery slope. I acknowledge it, but I refute it: Larger scale or not, the one does not equate or nullify the wrongness of the other

Evil and amorality is not scalable. It is what it is. One does not lessen or alter the other.

Tell you what, you and your friends take care of the institutionalized mass-murdering sociopaths, and I'll take handle the perpetrators of individual atrocities. My guess is if we take care to do it right and justly and without prejudice, the two of us will meet in the middle and share a toast to the future with clean hands and a healthy conscience.

Threatening to kill someone if they ever "did anything to my wife/kid/sister/brother/mother/father etc." is pride, vengeance, and wrath talking. But putting down obviously sick creatures — without giving over to anger or hatred — is simply living a compassionate life.

The discussion about it has more to do with a well-voiced and popularized preservation instinct on the part of perpetrators, savvy enough to turn common sense on its head, than it does any genuine lack of consideration on your or my part.

What I said, I say again. If: Honestly guilty rapist. Then: Put to death.

Equating the common sense that supports this statement with the hatred of groups such as nazis or kilmer rouge killing innocents is, misguidedly or intentionally, perplexing.

As a matter of fact, you prefaced calling in Godwin's Law by calling in Godwin's Law. I'm just calling you on it.
posted by humannaire at 8:50 PM on January 5, 2008


But putting down obviously sick creatures — without giving over to anger or hatred — is simply living a compassionate life.

By that logic, we should be going into hospitals and shooting terminal patients. We don't even euthanize the sick in this country with their consent, and you're making the case that, in this instance, we do it without?

But I may not be following your argument because of all the italics. And because it's a bad argument.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:30 PM on January 5, 2008


If it were me, I'd tie him up with chicken wire, attach him to the back of my pick-up truck, and drag his ass down to this little shack I've got in a remote, wooded area. Then I'd haul his ass into the shack, and spend the next five years of my life removing various organs with a butter knife. I'd then treat their wounds with sea salt, let 'em heal for a couple of weeks, then start on 'em again. I'd save all the organs in various jars of formaldehyde, then at around year 4, I'd go and kidnap their children or their parents if they didn't have children, or their dog if they didn't have parents. And I'd tie those fuckers up, drag them behind me in my pick-up, throw them in the shack, and keep them alive by feeding them the various organs I've been collecting over the years. Naturally, I'd cut off the eyelids of the rapist so he had no choice but to watch. Then I'd kill the children/parents/dog and feed them to the rapist via IV drip.

Whereas the above is poopoocaca. This is hate-vengeance-wrath talk, and usually comes from a position of powerlessness. Additionally, I think the above nonsense is what most who are being criticized for stating rape = death are being likened to.

Well, I say wrong. Hurting or killing anything, even something in pain, is a difficult and distasteful chore. It would make me happy to never have to face such responsibility again. But I live outside the city, and beyond the wide-scope of civilization. Where I live individuals are routinely killed by other individuals, and rapists and such are made to suffer terribly (and I live in the US — albeit at the very edge).

Unequivocally, I state: Honestly guilty rapists can acceptably be put to death. But adamently I state with equal certainty that they may not be tortured, or that an individual who rapes will be cured or we bettered by additional suffering.

My position is one of compassion and healthy self-preservation; to approach it otherwise is to endorse vengeance by mistaking it with justice.

Justice is not eye for an eye; justice is a virtue. If it is to be retributive, we are doomed. Rather, for justice to be successful, it must be a condition by which the of definition is derived from the very society we work to create.

For me, that society is one where a life worth living is one that is without the experience of having been raped, or, failing that, of rapists.
posted by humannaire at 9:31 PM on January 5, 2008


But, men are sometimes raped too, and I can try to imagine what being raped would be like. It would be profoundly unpleasant, likely quite painful, and excruciatingly humiliating. But, in the magical world of "let me choose my assault", it seems a less heinous crime than killing me, or blinding me, or knocking my teeth out with brass knuckles.

Oh, and BTW? This person has no idea what they are talking about.

Being raped, versus having one's teeth knocked out with brass knuckles, and the latter is demonstrably worse than the former.

I think this is for what WTF? was created.
posted by humannaire at 9:36 PM on January 5, 2008


Well, I say wrong. Hurting or killing anything, even something in pain, is a difficult and distasteful chore. It would make me happy to never have to face such responsibility again. But I live outside the city, and beyond the wide-scope of civilization. Where I live individuals are routinely killed by other individuals, and rapists and such are made to suffer terribly (and I live in the US — albeit at the very edge).

Can I recommend moving? I'm worried that where you live is driving you insane.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:41 PM on January 5, 2008


Stop misusing Godwin. His law is simply that, as discussion size approaches infinity, chances of an opponent being compared to the nazis approaches one. Stop trying to make it into "invoking nazis is bad or inappropriate".

----

What may or may not have been equated (and I don't think it was) is besides the point, the problem is in stripping someone of their personhood. This is what the basis for the comparison was. The Nazis stripped the Jews of their personhood. You are proposing we strip rapists of their personhood. Is the connection here really that perplexing to you? To me, and I'm assuming others here, whether they are innocent or not is besides the point. I wouldn't strip Nazis of their personhood either, regardless of their crimes.

Aside leading back to the main point: I dislike 'human' in this context, because humanness is genetic. A person is an entity with rights, not a human. I don't define all humans as people though. A fertilized human egg is human, but not a person yet. I don't think permanently vegetative humans (i.e. Terri Schaivo) maintain their person status either, although that one is more debatable. I'm in favor the various projects to accord some of the nonhuman great apes some limited personhood status, so I'm not limiting it humans either.

But here's the thing: nowhere in what I see as our already established conventions for what biological entities are granted personhood do I see stripping personhood based on behavior, but rather that the enterprise is contingent on mind. What you are proposing is a more strongly conditional personhood. That to me, seems like a dangerous idea. You've offered no arguments for this, only that they've done bad things. That is indisputable. And you're right that when a nonperson does bad things of a significant magnitude, we as a society opt for euthanization. The missing link, in the middle, is that personhood is contingent on not doing bad things of a significant magnitude.

To me, that's taking personhood from what it properly is and should be, something innate to entities and something from which rights, responsibilities and moral considerations flow; and making it into a privilege, a status granted which grants those things, but says little else about you.

What I'm getting from thinking about this now, is the sense that it seems like you think moral consideration is part of the social contract: someone who breaks the latter strongly enough, loses the former. I really, really can't get behind that, because if moral consideration for a specific person is dependent on the social contract, then morality in general is dependent on the social contract. While I do think morality is a human creation in that it isn't external to us, I also think it's something best approached logically and based on established principles. I don't think you intend to imply that morality is socially constructed, this is where I end up if I follow what you suggest down the rabbit hole.

This has gotten long, and it's late, so I'm being lax on proofreading. I reserve the right to, at a later time, completely disagree with anything I've written here, in implication or statement. I do this because I have a tendency to, while writing something like this, talk myself into positions which even I find absurd on re-examination.

And if you really want to know, although it wasn't addressed to me, I'm not a vegetarian. I recognize this as a personal failing of mine, for a variety of reason including by mostly beyond moral consideration of the animals I eat, and I'm flirting with cutting certain kinds of meat out of my diet. I am, however, not currently eating anything I might provisionally grant personhood rights to.

posted by Arturus at 9:59 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't strip Nazis of their personhood either, regardless of their crimes.

Well, there you go. That is is specifically the difference between what you are saying and I am saying.

As as I said, their being delegated as such is not "personal." Personal is the emotions I reserve for the people who were unwilling recipients of the brunt of said acts of inhumanity.

Hitler, Himmler, Bormann, Goebbels, Frick?

As firmly established for their concretely-documented acts of inhumanity, no personhood. Sentence by the accord of my approach, were they yet alive, would be death.

Likewise, I include in that statement any other amoral murderer of body or spirit. Just so it is clear, my idea of rational compassion extends beyond the rapists of men, women, and children, and of Nazis. Just so you understand I am not hung up on titles.

Incidentally, I approach this supposed conundrum as if we were all living as explorers together within a contained vessel or environment. Which, fact of the matter, is pretty much the definition of our planet. When day comes that the doors open up, and people can come and go to and from planet earth as we choose, then I suppose all the people who think that truly guilty rapists and murderers are due status as people can leave the planet behind to all of us who think the opposite. But in all honesty? I believe it will be the other way around.
posted by humannaire at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2008


This thread is getting a bit big to read, but regardless, there are seem to be a lot of "OMG, rape is the worst crime ever" comments. You know, rape is a pretty bad crime, sometimes it is earth shattering, sometimes it is just asshole behavior, but there are so many worse crimes in general. Guy raped you daughter, she is a basket case - real bad; guy murdered your daughter, she is never going to talk to you again - much more than real bad. As I have said before, people are so afraid of sex that they elevate sex crimes to the top of the list. There are worse offenses.

A far too large number of women I know well have been raped. It was awful. I know the score. I would like to hurt these guys, I know how it hurts these women, it is not subtle. Still, they are living their lives, they are not permanently physically injured. The hurt runs the gamut from mild to severe. We are talking about a crime that is often severe, but sometimes mild. It is difficult to judge these transgressions in a vacuum.
posted by caddis at 10:37 PM on January 5, 2008


We don't even euthanize the sick in this country with their consent, and you're making the case that, in this instance, we do it without?

Obviously, Astro Zombie, you and I are using different contexts for the same word sick. You are using the word to mean "infirm", while the context I am using it is to mean "without healthy sanity or morality."

Can I recommend moving? I'm worried that where you live is driving you insane.

Not to worry, AZ, I'm way ahead of you there.
posted by humannaire at 10:48 PM on January 5, 2008


Glad to hear it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:51 PM on January 5, 2008


"Or I guess I just don't feel the need to pollute the thread with fantasies of psychotic revenge against strangers."

*eyes comment suspiciously*
You're not from 'round here are you, boy?

(Funly enough, also the name of a town I drove through a while back)

I always have to question those folks. I mean, ever DO anything like that? I think that's the disconnect that leads to genocide and such. If someone raped my child I would likely be overcome with rage and do a great deal of damage to that person and probably anyone and anything who got in my way.

The two key things there are:
#1. I've actually done things like that before and #2. I'd be out of my mind, but I'd be doing it personally.
That is to say, if f'rinstance a gang of men threw acid on my child for not submitting to sexual assault (as in a prev. thread) I actually would go and burn down the neighborhood they came from and kill as many people as fit the general description of the people who did it. Oh, your son was on vacation that day? Tough. He's a dead man. Come to think of it, so are you. That's not a fantasy or internet tough guyism, that's a prediction based on knowing my own psychology.
In some ways however, some real ways, this actually makes me less dangerous that folks who advocate whatever torture, killing, etc. all kinds of retribution without really considering getting their own hands bloody.
They sit in a room and calmly advocate for it and perhaps they gain adherents and once they reach a sort of critical mass, that becomes the new order of things.
Whereas my rage and insanity would eventually succumb to reason and shame and regret and justice,that mechanism methodically rolls on, in part because it's done by proxy and in part because it's exploitable. It becomes "justice."
I may have psychotic rage, but no politician is going to be able to exploit me insanely taking matters into my own hands (especially because it takes matters out of theirs).
And indeed, very very few of the folks who do engage in those fantasies advocate they themselves doing it as a matter of course when they're open to repercussion by the law especially if they (like me) would be wantonly killing innocents.

But one form of vengeful madness is open and obvious, personal and, importantly, singular.
The other is cloaked in formality and legalism and responsibility is intentionally diffuse and,
critically, can be discarded in any singular instance as "only talk."

People often quote that "the pen is mightier than the sword" but rarely do they consider how and, ultimately, why.

Rape is a horrible crime, it's dehumanizing act. But, one dehumanizing act does not legitimize another, or thousands of others.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:11 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


These discussions always end up frightening me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 PM on January 5, 2008


(AZ, actually I'm very nice in person. And I have a very nice support group of folks who would likely keep me stable in a worst case scenario. I think the key point there, I don't break stuff for a living anymore and really don't want to. And I'm in fact working to build a very peaceful, non-violent outlook. Can't help the past training and the adrenals)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:53 PM on January 5, 2008


Glad to hear it.

As long as your happy.

Incidentally, Astro Zombie, I have had this discussion before.

It has been months since then. And last night I saw the woman who had been raped and who I pulled from the water. She was walking home with a big bright smile on Duval Street, and stopped to give me a hug. She is a beautiful soul, and the harm that happened to me as as a result of seeing what had been done to her is constantly lessened by witnessing her returning glow and rejuvenation.

As for the rapist? It turns out he was preying on homeless or disenfranchised women, women who were incapable of standing up for themselves, or (in one case) go to the law. But the third one — which he privately admitted to within his social circle — was the final straw for the members of his specific community: He had been beat mercilessly for two weeks running, and he finally fled the island soon after upon being held down on shore and battered in the head with a stone. But since that individual managed to leave here, the question is begged: Where is that rapist now?

Answer: As of a month ago: Not here and not dead.
posted by humannaire at 11:54 PM on January 5, 2008


humannaire: I get that you're not talking about revenge, and I get the difference between our positions, what I was trying to get at is the underpinnings of your position, which are opaque to me. I tried to work them out based on what it seems to imply to me, but I still really don't know: what is your definition of/criteria for personhood? How do you think morals are constructed/justified?

You've really said nothing about these things, and I genuinely am curious. I get your stance, but not how it works. You are, of course, free to continue not addressing them, and we'll agree to disagree and I'll go away. Going away until tomorrow, anyway.
posted by Arturus at 12:31 AM on January 6, 2008


This is the point where I yell "DEATH TO EXTREMISTS"

In Latin, my love.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:46 AM on January 6, 2008


But one form of vengeful madness is open and obvious, personal and, importantly, singular.
The other is cloaked in formality and legalism and responsibility is intentionally diffuse and,
critically, can be discarded in any singular instance as "only talk."


Isn't this just a form of special pleading? Why is your emotional reaction more "...open and obvious, [and] personal..." and their expression of rage or whatever not? More to the point, how do you know they haven't had those feelings that you claim you have? You often make similar comments as theirs, such as in the Mumbai sexual assault thread.

I think nothing is wrong with people feeling rage at horrible things, and having thoughts about horrible punishment, and even expressing such thoughts. It can help the discussion, is often no more an attempt at showing off their rage or tough attitude than people who express their disgust and their repudiation of such violent thoughts are showing off their enlightenment or superior rationality. I am in fact often suspicious of people who claim they don't have such thoughts, because their either lying or have an unrelatable or damaged moral sense. jonmc is exactly right, the important part is not to let these emotions hijack our reason and dictate our actions.

Honestly, I think "I formed a political party for the sole purpose of making all sex offenses receive the death penalty," and "I burned down a neighborhood and murdered innocent people," pretty much equally reprehensible.

As to the relative severity/worse-ness of rape, I think it's kind of missing the point. There is no hierarchy of suffering, especially one that can be demonstrated without disagreement. Getting into a kind of "rape is the worst!" "no it's not, murder/mugging/assault/robbery is worse!" is missing the point, what's worse can only be determined subjectively. The exceptionalism of rape comes not from it's badness, but it's oddity. I think most people can imagine being put into a situation where they might kill someone, or being desperate or greedy enough to steal something. Rape is a very different beast, and I doubt many people have ever felt the urge to rape someone, out of anger, fear, hate, arousal, or whatever motivates it. I think it angers many people because it is so outside anything we can imagine ourselves doing.
posted by Snyder at 2:14 AM on January 6, 2008


If someone raped my child I would likely be overcome with rage and do a great deal of damage to that person and probably anyone and anything who got in my way.

and then you'd be put in jail, even if only temporary, but judging from your description probably a while.

and then your child would be without a parent, when they need you most. Sure, you'd feel better, but your child would probably feel doubly guilty, blaming themselves for what happened and for you being in jail.

A child is not your property or a reflection of you, so that when it gets hurt, you must take revenge. When your child is hurt, you don't leave their side.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on January 6, 2008


There are seven sex offenders living together

'if they were all alone...'
posted by jonmc at 7:12 AM on January 6, 2008


A child is not your property or a reflection of you, so that when it gets hurt, you must take revenge. When your child is hurt, you don't leave their side.

This is exactly my criticism of the Bush Administration's response to the attack of September 11, 2001. It was vengeance-motivated lashing out when the day called for immediate, deep, and dedicated compassion.
posted by humannaire at 8:57 AM on January 6, 2008


Don't drink and post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2008


Whereas the above is poopoocaca. This is hate-vengeance-wrath talk, and usually comes from a position of powerlessness.

This is the goddamned reason why this country is going to shit. Our fellow Americans are complete and utter morons.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2008


humannaire: I get that you're not talking about revenge, and I get the difference between our positions, what I was trying to get at is the underpinnings of your position, which are opaque to me. I tried to work them out based on what it seems to imply to me, but I still really don't know: what is your definition of/criteria for personhood? How do you think morals are constructed/justified?

Excellent question. I reviewed what you wrote earlier, Arturus, and this bit below, I believe, holds the key:

I dislike 'human' in this context, because humanness is genetic. A person is an entity with rights, not a human. I don't define all humans as people though. A fertilized human egg is human, but not a person yet.

Naturally, I see as you that a fertilized egg (regardless of what species but in particular one of "ours"/homo sapien's) is in no way a person. Where we part company and may yet unite is in the equating — or limiting — of the definition of human to us/homo sapiens.

It is my assertion that is approach is specieist. Furthermore, I assert that any other species able to communicate with us/homo sapiens at at least present levels of discourse is human.

To elaborate: Were dolphins or dogs (or cats, trees etc) suddenly discovered to be able to discourse with us; were visitors from another world/dimension/etc to appear and enter into our ongoing homosapien-centrific human dialog, they too would by all right be considered human. What more, humans who are based elsewhere/elsewhen/etc but who somehow are able to enter into conversation with us as equals are human.

Dogs, cats, pets, monkeys, etc are not human though often they are human-like. The jury is still out on dolphins and whales, but if they/cetaceans are human (then) some as yet undiscovered breakthrough must take place in order for dialog to be entered into and engaged upon.

And this is the key to my definition of person. A person is an individual. Another creature can be a person, one that is not a "homosapien". (For instance, I know of many pets who are aware enough of their personhood to take it for granted.) So, in the context of the preceding discourse on rapists, a homosapien who willing forces itself upon another, and in the process subjects that other to the humiliation of rape is in fact by my definition no longer human in the way I think of the word. Furthermore, it is also my position that persons who would willingly commit such an act (as rape) are either not homosapien, or else we who would not ever commits such an act are not homosapien. If the latter is the case then we can hypothesize thatthere are two kinds of humans on this planet, and one is now something further along than homosapien.

In summary, my position is that humankind and personhood are separate and distinct states of being, and that by my definition that-which-rapes is not a human person/a human person is one who does not rape. I think the obstacle preventing our further development and understanding of this is that presently we are confined to planet earth. But when we are able to leave, I feel the the natural evolution of humankind will be clearly observable. As it is, the quarters are so close now, that it seems as if homosapiens who rape and we who do not are the same type of creature!

I understand people kill other creatures for food. That's a shame, but the universe is fractal. If we harvest other creatures, no doubt something harvests us. But killing for pleasure is a cycle I would highly recommend staying clear of. Whether it be bugs or any other living thing, if someone enjoys participating in killing, for certain there is another that is luridly attracted to the types of individuals who feels that way.
posted by humannaire at 9:53 AM on January 6, 2008


Don't drink and post.

Dont drink and post fpp.

There. Fixed that for you.
posted by humannaire at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2008


Your point being?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:20 AM on January 6, 2008


humannaire writes "As it is, the quarters are so close now, that it seems as if homosapiens who rape and we who do not are the same type of creature!"

Indeed, they are. It's unfortunate that you can't see it. People are capable of horrible things. I don't think it does us any good to pretend it's not a part of who we are. I think that leads to the place where we are in the US, with bigger incarceration numbers and rates than anywhere else on earth, yet with chronic and endemic violent criminal problems. We like to pretend it's not part of us, so we don't deal with why the problem exists in the first place.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:47 PM on January 6, 2008


Indeed, they are. It's unfortunate that you can't see it. People are capable of horrible things. I don't think it does us any good to pretend it's not a part of who we are. I think that leads to the place where we are in the US, with bigger incarceration numbers and rates than anywhere else on earth, yet with chronic and endemic violent criminal problems. We like to pretend it's not part of us, so we don't deal with why the problem exists in the first place.

Semantics aside ("indeed they are"), yes, some people are capable of some horrible things. And there others of us who have made other choices, choices that are conscious and prevent us from "doing things" that may be considered horrible.

It is not that we are incapable of making choices in the other direction, choices to be evil, it is that we have chose to be and do good or else die.

That's the first step to the Next Step. A number of us have already taken it. Now we are working on ways of leaving so as not to disturb others who choose to choose otherwise.

Subsequently, what you mistook for pretending is really something entirely different.

So I say, welcome to another future. In this future (which includes this present) you may take responsibility for your actions, even one's leading up to your own demise, because death is only what it is. But a life without the courage to live up to one's convictions — or the courage to choose convictions — is to experience redundancy.

It's like this. Once upon a time, there were two people who lived in a tree. At some point the one turns to the other and says, "I'm going to go live down on the ground." The other says, "Oh no! We are all meant to live in the tree! You are the same as us. I'm staying, and you'll be back."

Jump forward several epochs, and the world as it is today is where the one who moved down out of the tree wound up. Meanwhile, the one who chose to remain in the tree now lives in the comfort of its own tree at the zoo.

But the story is not over! Now, another conversation is taking place. See, there are two people who live on a planet. One now turns to the other and says, "I'm going to go live of planet." The other says, "No way! I'm staying put. And trust me, you are no different than the rest of us. I'm staying, and you'll be back."

Well, we all know how this story turns out.

We may have all been the same at one time, but like the bumper sticker on the back of my space vehicle is going to read when the opportunity comes, Evolution happens!

Misanthropic behavior by remaining evolutionary springboards aside, the future is here. And in this future, which in a very short passing of time will have many of us living off-planet and out in space, actual rapists and murderers get no quarter given.
posted by humannaire at 2:07 PM on January 6, 2008


humannaire, do you hang out at Mt. Shasta by any chance?
posted by Justinian at 3:04 PM on January 6, 2008


Nope. Las Cruces.
posted by humannaire at 3:54 PM on January 6, 2008


Oh dear god, you're sober.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on January 6, 2008


Not only that, I'm consistent.
posted by humannaire at 6:34 PM on January 6, 2008


you guys, go get a room where you can go offend each other, the rest of us are tired of watching your abuse
posted by caddis at 6:35 PM on January 6, 2008


OK, I take that back. It is just the usual babble, nothing more.
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2008


I hate to add to what is already a convoluted and twisted thread, but just wanted to say to humannaire: in this comment, you still haven't explained why rapists aren't persons.

Here's your argument, summarized:
1) human-ness is genetic
2) a person is a human who happens to have the rights to be a person
3) rapists are not persons, should be killed.

In essence, it seems that your ideas are Hobbesian in that you believe in the idea of the social contract, with which a human becomes a person. Except here are the corollaries: your person => member of a social contract, your human-but-non-person => being of the State of Nature.

I don't mean to be hostile, but it seems that most of us in the thread are appalled by your comments because of your systematic refusal to acknowledge the possibility that murder and rape is any part of the human condition, and because of your response to perpetrators of such actions is to cull them from the human race. Fine, good. But even Hobbes says that those who overstep the boundaries of the contract should exit society and return to the state of nature, unlike your suggestion to put them to death.

Power dynamics exist everywhere on a finer gradient that are less overt than examples of 'A kills B'. I'm genuinely curious; how does your definition of 'personhood' fall in the face of repeated physical abuse done by a parent upon a child? Repeated verbal abuse? Life-wrecking fraud done upon another? Individuals fantasizing about murder?

My point is really that rape and murder exists on all levels within the human condition (your 'personhood'); those acts as we know it are extreme extensions of pre-existing human impulses, desires. To point at those acts and say "bad!" is certainly correct, but to draw some magic line of Evil Threshold and to to say "not part of being a human person" is not, and simplistic at best, harmful at its worst.
posted by suedehead at 10:29 AM on January 7, 2008


Stephen, however, is more forthcoming about his past. His victim, he says, was an ex-girlfriend—he was angry with her because four years earlier she’d dumped him. “I was intoxicated,” he says. “I pushed myself on her, did what I wanted, and that was that. That was the only way, in my mind, y’know, to get even.”

A shocking example of how rape isn't usually just about sex.
posted by agregoli at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2008


Neither of these are my argument.

1) human-ness is genetic
2) a person is a human who happens to have the rights to be a person


My arguments summarized are:
1) Human is not genetic; creatures other homosapes may well be human.
2) A person is a human who has specific rights, some of which are consensual.
3) Consensual rights can be forfeited, and in the case of actual rape, they are.

As to your point that rape and murder exists on all levels within the human condition, if you are meaning to say good and bad are opportunities available to all of us, I would say that for my kind, whatever that may be but of which I am one, this is not so. Be that the case as a matter of choice or inaction, so be it.

This magic line you speak of, suedehead, by way of simile. In your thinking can the simile be borrowed and applied to two peoples? Say, the one people who refuse to make a choice that is the choice between extinction and evolution, and subsequently become extinct; While another people embrace the choice, and subsequently advance? Because while you say there is no line, that it is meant as a rhetorical device to make a point. But I say there actually is such a line, and at this juncture we all are winding up on one side of the other.

So you say it is an imaginary "magic" line, stating that there is no line, and what more you have no other line to offer.

But to me that's wrong. I say the line is real (even if it's in our own mind), and that line is the one that has to be crossed to gain admission to the future.

You know what that line is? It's the event horizon, and the reason it's so difficult to make out is simply because at long last we are all together standing on it right now, and individually we are each of us by way of actions or inactions deciding on which side of it we belong. Good luck!
posted by humannaire at 12:31 PM on January 7, 2008


“Why is your emotional reaction more "...open and obvious, [and] personal..." and their expression of rage or whatever not?”
Our emotional reactions are similar. Our actions are not.

“More to the point, how do you know they haven't had those feelings that you claim you have? You often make similar comments as theirs, such as in the Mumbai sexual assault thread.”

The point being, while I might feel (along with others) I want to go out and kill someone - I don’t advocate for it.
That last bit is the key difference. *I* might do any number of things out of grief and rage if something happened to someone in my family. That makes it personal.
But it is also just as wrong. And that’s the equivalency.
But when people say ‘rapists should be killed’ they are not speaking about a specific set of circumstances that involve them (very few folks would themselves volunteer to kill).
Nor are they stating such a thing would be wrong from first principles with the understanding that they would not be in their right minds when they act.
Therefore - and this is the point - their speech and the actions which result from them (and I’m not speaking about folks here on the board, I mean broadly known/heard speech, speech with a social impact) have the veneer of respectablity. It is action and passion that can be co-opted.
This has been proven time and again, folks “give the people what they want” whether the actual voices of the people are manufactured, manipulated, what have you.
Some nut playing “The Punisher” no, no one’s gonna buy into that.

In terms of what aids in discussion, I’m all for whatever honest position folks have being expressed.
I chose to explore a different nuance - albeit related aspect - of certain kinds of speech which results in social movement and action vs. self-initiated action.
Which again, in both cases, is wrong, but, like execution - one form of killing has respectability, one does not.
I’m arguing the reason for that is sublimation of responsibility. Not that I myself am better or worse than anyone else. I do think I have a better first hand perspective on the end results of poor or revenge based policy than most folks however.

“A child is not your property or a reflection of you, so that when it gets hurt, you must take revenge.” -posted by Brandon Blatcher

And indeed, my argument is that society can (and has) very much make the same mistake.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:29 PM on January 7, 2008


To add - I’ve often heard folks say “kill them all” or “nuke ‘em” or advocate for whatever kinds of harsh punishment or cruelty with no real understanding of the end results - which are either hidden from them or they are insulated from them.
Anyone here been in prison? Been TO a prison? Have any experiance with the end result of certain kinds of policy decisions?
There are people on t.v. and radio going on and on and on about how even waterboarding is ‘ok’ with no real conception of the kind of infrastructure that gets put into place as a result because they are divorced from the acts carried out in their names.I assert that while I may be labeled a murderous beast or madman for losing my mind and killing someone who harms someone in my family - such an act at least results in first hand knowlege of and responsibility for the harm that results from that impulse.
This here (on mefi) is just talk and speculation. That’s one thing. Advocacy is something else. And there are advocates working hard for their position (e.g. killing rapists, et.al), giving money to the cause, etc. etc. etc. - who are completely divorced from not only the responsibility for their de facto actions but from connection to the humanity and real situations that result.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:46 PM on January 7, 2008


“A child is not your property or a reflection of you, so that when it gets hurt, you must take revenge.” -posted by Brandon Blatcher

And indeed, my argument is that society can (and has) very much make the same mistake.


Again, smedleyman, I completely agree. For were it my child (or when it has been my friend) with whom's pain or hurt I am connected, than I rely on my community to fulfill the duties of justice. This is not about volunteering for ugly chores; it is about work. That work is the work necessary for a health and continuation of a bona fide community.

A genuine community is built upon tacit understandings and frank agreements. I depend on other's to hold their end of the agreement just others depend on me to uphold mine.

The people in my community are people upon whom I rely (without necessarily being close), and with whom I have ongoing relationships so that I may better enjoy my own life.

Over the years, crimes against members of the community of which I am a member have been done. And over the years, I have seen the repercussion of any number of course of action in response to similar sets of circumstance. I abhor cruelty. I find it unacceptable, and I will go out of my way to prevent it, avoid it, and/or stop it. To return to the original source of inspiration for this dialog, an individual who commits rape is more than likely to commit rape again than is a person who does not commit rape. This is also true of malicious sexual exploitation of undeveloped children by grown adults.

Imprisoning a creature that does such a thing (as rape or sexual exploitation) is to own it. It is like having a pet, in that regard. But a pet which hurts or injures (or kills) livings things for its own cruel pleasure is one that can be kept, but one which I would definitely stop its own life.

Is it likely that things that enjoy other's suffering are another kind? Yes. But when that kind uses all the tools at hand to go out of its way to 1) hurt others and 2) prevent its own suffering, than it is a kind which is likened to the mosquito which I kill without joy or enthusiasm (though occasionally with relief) but which I kill nonetheless.

Personally, my feeling is that those who would do hurt often use popular ethos' to justify or rationalize their actions through the eliciting sympathy by way of confusion.

If everything is the same thing, and all things are equal, than neither someone who agrees with my position or who disagrees can be right. So philosophy and ethics becomes what I would call a gordian knot. As such, I say a solution, while less complicated, must in this context be Alexanderian.
posted by humannaire at 3:48 PM on January 7, 2008


I have to disagree with your conclusion humannaire (unless I’m missing your point). I have dispassionately killed people. I suspect I perhaps suffered more psychologically in that I did not dehumanize them, but that’s academic (at least to me, a personhood/humanity discussion comes well after what can be done). I killed because it was necessary and immediately so and I (acting on behalf of the state) had no other means to neutralize harm.
In several instances I did take relief from the event (not the killing, but the resolution that no further imminent harm would be done). Still working that out.

I have no philosophical problem with the state imprisoning anyone (in its execution, there are some issues I have, but that’s not really relevent here).
If someone is a repeat rapist, perhaps life imprisonment, I couldn’t say. Depends on many factors. Indeed, rehabilitation being one of them.

But I fundimentally disagree that anyone should be killed once the threat from them is neutralized. The state can capture and imprison rapists. Once they are captured, they should not be killed. An individual might not have that option, but that’s self-defense.

As an individual who has in a very real sense recovered his humanity, the status of an individual being a ‘thing’ or a ‘human’ isn’t as relevent (to me) as whether redemption is possible. I know first hand (and by observation of others) that it is.

Therefore we should not destroy the potential of future humanity there. Indeed, we should be doing whatever we can do to aid it and rebuild it.
Forgiveness is merely an abstract once life is taken. And indeed, I and the people who were victims of men I’ve killed may have forgiven them, perhaps they would forgive me, but no one can restore the life that was taken. So there isn’t even the possibility to recover anything.
What keeps me sane is the dire need that existed and the impossibility of doing anything else. I’m not sure what would keeps executioners from eroding their own humanity.
It is that, in part, that also must be preserved. I know what killing does to people. Only psychopaths can do it and remain untouched. What effect then does it have on society?

Especially when we utterly abandon the humanity (potential or otherwise) of those who don’t meet certain conditions. Too much like eugenics to me.
I can’t see any a priori static conditional for living, no matter how it is imposed or who imposes it with the exception of individual self-defense (of life or liberty). Particularly given the dynamics, such as the potential for rehabilitation, redemption, helping others, etc. etc. etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:55 PM on January 7, 2008


(I’ll add for me to argue otherwise - particularly in the light of any discussion of what constitutes a human - is to self-negate my own life. I was very much a killing machine. I excelled at it. Seems to me a lot of people coming home from wars now are doing some self-negating, in that they’re committing suicide. I consider them similarly abandoned by the same people holding the ethos I’ve denounced. And, to reiterate, nothing personal, mefi is specificially designed for an exchange of ideas, not so much for advocacy on a broad scale.)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:02 PM on January 7, 2008


I killed because it was necessary and immediately so and I (acting on behalf of the state) had no other means to neutralize harm.

But Smedleyman, while killing for an organization — as an extension of it — is indeed "doing killing," and while we are discussing killing here (though I feel subsequent to the issue of defining human and person), what you are talking about is war.

What I am talking about is community.
posted by humannaire at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2008


Fair enough. But it breaks down the same way in terms of the exercise of power. Motive for the punishment isn’t relevent to me (here) whatever it’s based on. My opposition to anyone, whether in a group or individually, killing in circumstances other than when they have no other option and must defend themselves is an absolute.
So I do cede your point, but not the final conclusion.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:54 AM on January 8, 2008


Likewise, Smedleyman, after stepping back and it giving it the day to ponder over, I feel I can I honor your conclusion without any reducing of my own.

Keep fighting the good fight, man, even when it's not a fight and you are not actually fighting.
posted by humannaire at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2008


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