It isn’t often that a major newspaper prints a call to legitimize sexual predation and pedophilia but that is exactly what happened in the Washington Post this week.
Taking as her starting point the widespread outrage over the 30-day, that’s right I said 30-day, sentence handed down to a Montana high school teacher for raping a 14 year old student, the student later committed suicide, former lawyer and erstwhile artist aspiring to be the Thomas Kincaide of cats, Betsy Karasik (for fun check out her Twitter feed @PaintsNature as she turns herself into a pretzel defending her op ed) took to the pages of the Washington Post to snivel about the injustice of it all:
As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized. While I am not defending Judge G. Todd Baugh’s comments about Morales being “as much in control of the situation” — for which he has appropriately apologized — tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue.
I do think that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation. But the utter hysteria with which society responds to these situations does less to protect children than to assuage society’s need to feel that we are protecting them. I don’t know what triggered Morales’s suicide, but I find it tragic and deeply troubling that this occurred as the case against Rambold wound its way through the criminal justice system. One has to wonder whether the extreme pressure she must have felt from those circumstances played a role.
This is just breath taking it its arrogance. Being appalled at middle aged teachers boffing girls barely out their Disney Princess stage is “utter hysteria.” Leaving aside the well established point that sexual offenders are virtually incapable of rehabilitation, her decision to attribute the suicide of the girl in question to the prosecution of the teacher, Rambold, rather than the more obvious cause, the pain of being betrayed by someone she trusted and had every right to expect better of.
As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. Some twenty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynahan wrote an essay prophetically titled “Defining Deviancy Down.” His thesis was that society is beset by such a tide of deviant behavior that rather than resist we have chosen to normalize it rather than deal with it:
It appears to me that this is in fact what we in the United States have been doing of late. I proffer the thesis that, over the past generation, since the time Erikson wrote, the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can “afford to recognize” and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the “normal” level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.
This is where we are today. Take for instance the trajectory of homosexual behavior.
The Supreme Court case of Bowers v. Hardwick (that’s right HardWICK, not what you’re snickering about) will, in retrospect, be seen as the last gasp of a society on the verge of normalizing all manner of deviancy. This case which upheld Georgia’ sodomy law was decided by only a 5-4 majority. Chief Justice Warren Burger observed in a blinding flash of the obvious:
“To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”
By 2003, buggery was enshrined as a Constitutional right and this year the Supreme Court decided it was not only a right but it was something to be honored and to merit the punishment of anyone who disagreed. This weekend a Supreme Court justice presided at a homosexual “wedding” which not only calls into question the degree to which her vote was not in the bag before hearing United States v. Windsor but indicates where her vote will lie in future cases involving homosexual marriage and the awarding of protected/official victim status to practitioners of sexual deviancy.
The victory of homosexual marriage in the recent term of the Supreme Court has destroyed any logical legal defense of the traditional family. Tomorrow Heather may not only have two mommies, she might have a gerbil and a toasterover. “Armageddon” might be what is said at homosexual marriages instead of “I do.”
But homosexuality is only one part of what Judge Robert Bork so aptly described as our society “slouching towards Gomorrah”.
Not long ago adultery was a criminal offense. The way society has treated it has advanced in phases where shooting a guy you caught in bed with your wife was not only justified but applauded to “swinging” to “open marriages” to the situation today where unrepentant adultery is lauded and the fodder of a best selling novel and award winning movie. I provide this link as only one example. A quick tour of prime time television and movie theaters will find any number of other instances where adultery is not portrayed as a gross betrayal of a sacramental vow but a tender act of love by two people who make each other truly happy.
At one time being a sexual predator was something that merited a severe ass-whipping if not, or in addition to, a long prison term. By 1992 we had elected one to the presidency and when he acted true to form in the Oval Office he was lionized by his partisans and re-elected. Another social stricture had been dissolved in the elixir of modernism.
But the next obvious step is to normalize, as Betsy Karasik advocates, sexual relations between people who are not only of vastly differing ages but of huge dissimilarities of power. At one time a sexual relationship between a powerful man (such as a teacher) and a woman without power (like a 9th grader) would have, rightfully, been classified as forcible rape. What possible consent can be given in a circumstance where one person has the ability retaliate daily in their role as teacher, supervisor, employer… or president? In this the feminists actually got it right. The answer is no real consent is possible.
Not long ago the age of consent was a very serious legal principle and having sex with a girl under the age of consent was not the subject of a Hollywood rom-com but the beginning of a very unpleasant stay as a guest of the state. But these laws have fallen away, victim of the fallacious “everyone does it” rationale and obscenely named “Romeo and Juliet” laws. Never mind that at the time Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet women were routinely betrothed at 12 or 13 and boys were serving as midshipmen on men of war at 11 and as officers in infantry and cavalry regiments at 14. In short, the social norms of an earlier age were hijacked to add a patina of innocence to an unconscionable act of sexual abuse involving high school boys… or older men… and prepubescent, or only barely so, girls.
These patterns of change move in tandem. A normalization of deviance in one area inevitably lowers the bar of behavior in others until, as noted by historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, and here I’m quoting from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput:
“What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.” But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.
According to Karasik:
I’ve been a 14-year-old girl, and so have all of my female friends. When it comes to having sex on the brain, teenage boys got nothin’ on us. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier. Throughout high school, college and law school, I knew students who had sexual relations with teachers. To the best of my knowledge, these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word, even if society would like to embrace the fantasy that a high school student can’t consent to sex. Although some feelings probably got bruised, no one I knew was horribly damaged and certainly no one died.
The final arbiter, it seems, of what is right does not rest upon several millenia of human experience but rather in our libido. In a culture where the idea of definitive Right and Wrong have been successfully vanquished, we are left without any tool to objectively evaluate ideas that we know intuitively to be harebrained. Indeed, being totally bereft on any sense of propriety is what enables Karasik to conclude:
If religious leaders and heads of state can’t keep their pants on, with all they have to lose, why does society expect that members of other professions can be coerced into meeting this standard? A more realistic approach would be to treat violations in a way that removes and rehabilitates the offender without traumatizing the victim. The intensity of criminal proceedings, with all the pressure they put on participants, the stigma, the community and media scrutiny, and the concurrent shame and guilt they generate, do the opposite of healing and protecting the victim. Laws related to statutory rape are in place to protect children, but the issue of underage sex, and certainly of sex between students and teachers, may be one in which the law of unintended consequences is causing so much damage that society needs to reassess.
Everyone does it, and it might even make your crotch feel pleasant for a while so why bother with making it illegal? And deviancy is again defined down until there are no barriers to deviancy remaining.