Saturday, September 30, 2006

Congressman Pedophile

U.S. Representative Mark A. Foley, a six-term Republican from the 16th district of Florida, abruptly resigned from Congress on Friday afternoon, just hours after receiving word from ABC News that they were going to go public with e-mails and instant messages that Foley allegedly sent to a 16-year-old Congressional page. First of all, I want to dispense with the spin that has already floated around on the Internet that Foley was just being a "mentor" or a "friend" to the unnamed page. Foley reportedly asked the page for details about his anatomy, asked him for details about how and how often he masturbates, asked him to take off his clothes, and asked him repeatedly if he had an erection or was feeling horny from their e-mail exchanges. The messages unequivocally crossed the line into sexual contact that would be inappropriate for any 52-year-old to initiate with a 16-year-old, but most especially for a Congressman with a Congressional page. Relationships such as teacher–student, boss–employee, priest–parishioner, and other intrinsically hierarchical power dynamics, require the utmost care in having any sort of sexual relationship, even between two consenting adults. News reports have emphasized that the page was male, but his age and his subordinate status are the much more important issues.

Read more...Congressman Foley built much of his career on a foundation of combating child predators, arguing for stronger penalties for people who use the Internet to sexually exploit children. He's a heinous hypocrite in that respect, and he inappropriately used his position of power to ingratiate himself with underage teens. But there are other issues that come into play here.

America has a truly warped view of children's sexuality. On the one hand, you have groups like NAMBLA who argue that a child is a sexual being, exactly like an adult, and should have the right to have a sexual relationship with someone five or ten times his or her own age. (Male-male pedophilia gets a disproportionate share of the attention, but, as people like John Mark Karr remind us, the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are male adults chasing after female children. If you doubt it, just do a search on the word LΟLΙΤΑS and you'll find plenty of sites catering to that market.) On the opposite side, you have groups, usually religiously based, who insist that anyone under the age of 18 is completely innocent of any sexual feelings whatsoever — unless they've been twisted by some dirty pervert. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. Even before birth, children demonstrate their sexual nature. Masturbation is a common form of self-soothing in infants, and it is quite common for young children to "play doctor" and to explore their fascination with their own private parts and those of other children. With the onset of puberty, masturbation becomes an almost universal pastime, and it is difficult to get teens to focus on anything other than sex. The key facts to remember are that children are always sexual beings, but that their sexuality is qualitatively different from adult sexuality. An eight-year-old is no more able to have a functional sexual relationship with a 50-year-old than to fly to the moon. As the child gets older, the line becomes much fuzzier; serious scientific research shows that many sexual relationships between a child only perhaps a year or two from the age of consent and an adult can be harmless to the child, or at the very least far less harmful than being dragged through the judicial system as a witness against their paramour. Simply put, some 16- and 17-year-olds are more ready to deal with sexual relationships than others, and it is a mistake to make the blanket assumption that any sexual contact between such a youth and an adult is harmful. Absolutely any sexual activity in private between or among freely consenting adults should be legal, without exception or reservation. In cases involving minors, there should be an honest accounting of whether the activity was truly harmful from the minor's perspective, or whether the prosecution is motivated more by its own unwillingness to accept the reality that sexual feelings don't just magically begin the moment you turn 18. This notion that we're going to subject the child to such an ordeal "for his or her own good" just cannot stand the light of day.

What Congressman Foley allegedly did was wrong because the youths with whom he traded these sexually explicit messages were in a subordinate relationship (giving the situation an inescapable taint of coercion), because Foley initiated the contact and pressed it forward, and because he ignored obvious signals of discomfort from the boys. He should be punished for those transgressions, and indeed I believe that he should go to prison for them. However, the longer America postpones having an open and honest discussion about the realities of children's and adolescents' sexuality, the more children will fall victim to creeps like this, the more teens will get pregnant, the more teens and pre-teens will get venereal diseases including HIV, and the more generations we will produce with the same warped views of sex. Of course, part of that warped view is that there is something wrong with an adult man having sex with another adult man, or a woman with a woman.

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