Friday, January 20, 2006

Child Sexual Abuse and Harm:

Clayton Cramer is pickin' on me in two posts for my earlier post calling him "hysterical" about the possibility that the underaged may have sex with legal adults (and that such hysteria is dangerous because it could lead to witch hunts).

In one of the posts, he notes a study that demonstrates victims of childhood sexual abuse are significantly likelier to suffer severe mental disorders. I agree entirely. Pedophilia is wrong because it harms children, period.

My initial post noted that such hysteria was problematic partly because it seems to cloud our ability to draw rational lines in statutory rape cases. I agree that because age, by its very nature, is in a constant state of flux, we have to draw the line somewhere and wherever we do will seem arbitrary to *some* extent. But, regarding the case I noted, which involved a 17-year-old young man and a 33-year-old woman in an entirely consensual relationship, there is simply no way that this case, as a factual matter, qualifies as "child-sexual abuse."

Still, Cramer writes:

But reverse the sexes--and make this case involving a 33 year old male youth counselor who ends up having sex with a 17 year old female who had been referred to him. I think most people would recognize that there's something disturbingly exploitive about taking advantage of what is probably a troubled kid for sex.

I agree that this case involved a "counselor" makes it more disturbing; but I don't think that fact had anything to do with the criminal issue. I don't agree that most people would find a 17-year-old female/33 year-old-male too disturbing. Not meaning to invoke a "reductio-ad-Seinfeldium," but remember Jerry Seinfeld "dated" Shoshana Lonstein when she was 17. It's frightening to think that if they traveled to Oregon, Seinfeld would have been a "child rapist."

And isn't there something mildly Orwellian about the notion of statutory rape transforming someone who has consensual sex with a post-pubescent but underaged young adult into a "child rapist"? (We cannot enact 2+2 = 5 into law.) The word "child rape" connotes unspeakable evil. Yet, what occurred in the above mentioned case simply was not.

Update: Clayton Cramer responds with a post "amazed and amused" by my reductio-ad-Seinfeldium argument, and, correct me if I am wrong, seems to think that the Jerry Seinfeld dating a 17-year-old tid bit took place, not in real life, but in an episode of the show. No, in real life, Jerry Seinfeld, in his late 30s, dated Lonstein when she was 17. And unless they were "waiting" until she turned 18 (I presumed they weren't), the "real" Jerry Seinfeld would have been "Jerry Seinfeld: child rapist," had they traveled to Oregon.

Yes, it was a bit creepy. But no, I wouldn't call it "child rape" in a factual sense. One of the funnier moments of that whole controversy, see this parody (scroll all the way down) that Howard Stern did on Janis Ian's classic song At Seventeen. Ian actually came onto his show and (reluctantly) performed the song in a duet with Stern with them trading verses. Seinfeld used to be a regular guest on Stern's show...until that song.

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