Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm stewed, she's screwed...and the logic is skewed?

My wife has a saying: "There's should be and there's is." Her meaning is simple: There are numerous aspects of life and/or human nature that don't make sense, that seem unfair or unfortunate, that put all the burdens on all the wrong people. And that's just how it goes; no sense arguing the point. Or so she says.

The classic example that comes up all the time with us involves adults and kids, specifically, the mingling of the former with the latter when there's no preexisting relationship between the two. I'm one of those super-grandparenty types who loves playing with kids, or just engaging them in conversation wherever I may encounter them. (By the way, that's your unshaven, unkempt-looking host being mauled by granddaughter Ava this past Thanksgiving.) I always hope to put a smile on their facesis there ever such thing as a child smiling too much?and to hear the sorts of wacky things they'll say to total strangers. If I'm in a supermarket and I see a couple of adorable kids a few aisles away, I'll mosey on over and begin interacting with them. If Kathy's around and she sees me doing this, she'll drop what she's doing and trail right behind me so that the parents don't see a man alone cozying up to their kids. But sometimes even that doesn't help: The parents get paranoid anyway and quickly pull their children off in another direction, giving me suspicious looks all the while.

This drives me nuts, pisses me off mightily, and it's not just that I hate being treated as if I'm a pedophile. It's that I worry about the world-view that such parents are inculcating in their young. "They're making the outside world seem like such a scary place," I lament to Kathy.

To which she'll reply, "You watch the news every night. How can you even say that with a straight face?"

"But that has nothing to do with me. I'm innocent till proven guilty. It shouldn't have to be this way. I should be able to play with those kids if I want to. It would do them good, too."

Which is when I get the inevitable
lecture about the difference between should be and is.

I think of this apropos of the growing controversy over that recent piece by noted advice columnist "Ask Amy" Dickinson, in which she blamed a rape victim for putting herself in the kind of precarious situation that's likely to end in, well, rape. My wife agrees with the columnist. (For the record, my wife is also pretty hard on Beth Holloway, mother of Natalee, as well as the teachers and supposed chaperones who were along on that ill-fated trip to Aruba. "They should've known better. Who lets a young girl go off on
an unsupervised trip like that in a foreign country? For God's sake, that girl spent the whole day drinking the day she disappeared!" Kathy is very consistent in this approach to life: PRUDENCE FIRST. Don't put yourself in harm's way and then cry victim later. My wife also thinks that rescue parties should not be sent out after climbers who get themselves in a pickle while scaling some remote peak. "If they're dumb enough to do that," she says, "then they shouldn't expect other people to clean up their mess.")

But the funny thing is, I agree with the columnist, too, and logically I shouldn't, given what I said above about me and kids. I agree with Dickinson (and my wife) that while in theory a girl should be able to go anywhere she wants to go at any time of day or night, in practice it's foolish to approach life that way, so she probably shouldn't start blaming others when something goes awry. And while I also agree with feminists that a woman should have the right to say "no" at any point during sex, it's pretty dumb (anddare I even say it?—damn inconsiderate) to use that as a rule of thumb, as it were, in your sex life. And so once again, you must at least share the blame when such an MO ends badly. I've written before that in light of the risks to young women, the he said/she said nature of date rape, and the consequences for all concerned when such accusations are made dishonestly, there should be policies in place that outline the circumstances under which a woman can make such a charge. For example, I have questioned whether a college woman who voluntarily accompanies a male student back to his dorm room should be legally allowed to allege later that she was raped. (Or, we can turn it around, if you prefer: A male student who takes a woman back to his room is relinquishing his right to a defense if he's later charged with rape. It sure would introduce a much-needed extra half-second of forethought into hook-up culture, wouldn't it?) If you don't want to have sex, don't go back to his room, or don't invite him back to yours. What's the problem? Who's being singled out? Hell, there are diners and coffee shops open 24 hours a day if all you want to do is talk.*

It's funny because there are some positions I take on this blog mostly for reasons of devil's advocacy. That's not the case today. I really believe in all the arguments that I've presented here, yet they're logically incongruous.... Hey, I never promised you a prose garden.

(Let the collective groaning begin!)

* I'm being a bit glib and simplistic here, but if that were indeed the law, certainly there could be accommodations made throughout society for young men and women who want to have some level of privacy without a woman feeling totally isolated and at the man's mercy.


Anonymous said...

Stev, so you want kids left unsupervised so that they can play with you(!), but complain then that adults do not supervise young people enough and they get in trouble (Natalee H.)? Your logic is skewed.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon: Did I miss something here? Did I not admit to that as early as the headline of the post itself?

I welcome comments here; you all know that. But what's the point of accusing me of something I already admit to, especially when that admission is pretty much the whole point of the post?

I guess comments can be skewed, too. ;)

Elizabeth said...

Ouch. I dunno, Steve... When I see a strange man approaching my kids -- or any kids -- my instinct is to reach for my gun.

The parents who pull their kids away from you are not "paranoid," just taking normal and reasonable precautions to protect their children.

IMO, rather than worry "about the world-view that such parents are inculcating in their young," you should stop approaching strange kids in various places, and certainly stop expecting that this behavior should be tolerated.

Steve Salerno said...


Steve Salerno said...

I should mention that I've already received one email off-blog that refers to the photo in the post, and speculates that there's "something to worry about when a man likes to play with little girls." There's something to worry about when a grandfather likes to play with his granddaughters?

This is exactly the attitude I'm talking about. We have gone completely over the edge with this latter-day concern about "child abuse."

Elizabeth said...

No, Steve, we have not gotten "over the edge." We have barely started to acknowledge that there is an edge (or the edge).

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I'm not quite getting this. You seem like you're talking "around" an issue rather than addressing it head-on. So what are you saying, point-blank? That we need to outlaw interactions between adults and children? Incidentally, we already do a lot of that. Here in PA, it is now a crime to stop your car and engage in a conversation with a passing minor; it's called "luring."

I understand the mentality behind some of this. I understand the fear. But the fact is, child abduction has been way overdramatized (as I noted with some specificity in my piece for Skeptic on the sins of latter-day journalism). Besides which, what's next? Make it a crime to do what I do in supermarkets? Ask kids who are browsing the toy aisle to explain what they like about that toy? I'm sorry. It's absurd.

NormDPlume said...

I think along the same lines as your wife: don't put yourself in a bad position and whine about the outcome.

My epiphany came at 2:20AM in a bar in Florida 22 years ago, as I was crouched on the floor praying I would not get picked off in the gun battle that was raging a few feet above my head. "What the hell am I doing in a bar at 2:30AM??? I wondered? Has anything good ever happened at 2:30AM in a redneck bar??"

Oh, I still go to bars now and then, but I don't stay out past 11:00PM and I'm home when all the amateur drinkers are out of control (St. Patrick's day; New Years Eve included.)

I really try not to put myself in a position for bad things to happen. But I still skydive (with a reserve chute.)

Matt Dick said...

Elizabeth I don't agree with you when you say "The parents [are] just taking normal and reasonable precautions to protect their children."

If I'm at a grocery store and a man in his 50s starts talking in a pleasant way to my children (who are 10 and 8 now), the last thing in the world I assume is that he's going to snatch them away and run out of the store. What are the actual chances of this happening. I'm going to guess that the chances are 1 in a zillion-billion.

First of all, what are the odds your children are going to be abducted? The answer is, "vanishingly small".

Second, of all of the children who are abducted, what are the chances that the abductor is a stranger? The answer is "a pretty small percentage."

Third, of all of the stranger-abducted children in America, what is the likelihood that they are taken by man in his 50s from a grocery store? This is known as an "implausible" scenario.

So this is an implausible scenario playing out for a pretty small percentage of a vanishingly small chance event.

Your children are much more likely to die in the car on the way to the store than they are to be assaulted by a guy in the grocery store while you're essentially watching them the whole time. In fact, let's look at numbers.

In 2002 the Department of Justice published a study showing that over a two-year span (1997-1999) there were: 115
stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated
by a stranger or slight acquaintance...

The US Census bureau statistics on motor vehicle accidents show that, in 2000, almost 9,200 children under the age of 15 were killed in car accidents in the United States.

It's somewhat simplistic to remove risk factors from these numbers... or maybe it's not given that these studies are so broad-based. But it's obvious from these numbers that your kid is something like 160 times more likely to die in a car accident than to be abducted by a stranger... even a stranger like Steve.

Add to this that you're talking about a public place like a grocery store as the venue for abduction and I think we're getting into absurd territory.

Elizabeth said...

Steve (and Matt), I'm not talking specifically about child abductions and a grocery store chat in the parents' presence (though I would be reaching for my gun, just in case -- if I had one, that is).

But Steve says the following,

If I'm in a supermarket and I see a couple of adorable kids a few aisles away, I'll mosey on over and begin interacting with them.

Now, if, by any chance, I left my kids a few aisles away (never happened, BTW) and saw a strange man "moseying on over" toward them to "interact," you can bet your... whatever that I would be alarmed. And so would (and should) be all parents.

Yes, children do get abducted from public places, even though it is relatively rare. But "relatively rare" is a small consolation if that's YOUR kid that's been snatched.

However, more so than focusing specifically on store/public places abductions, when I talked about just barely acknowledging "the edge," I was thinking about pedophiles, who come from all walks of life, all professions, and all degrees of separation from children (including none: teachers, coaches, counselors, priests, uncles, and yes, grandfathers).

If you think that pedophiles have horns and hooves, or signs on their foreheads announcing their predilections, think again. They are usually the nicest, friendliest men, who just love children. So much so that they can't help not loving them and act very surprised when others look with suspicion at their "love." In fact, when you check out NAMBLA, you'll learn that sex with children is the healthiest and most beautiful thing in the world, and should not be banned by this cruel society of ours. Plus persecuting pedophiles... sorry, men who love children so very much, tramples on their civil rights. Or something.

To which I say: give me a break. And pass me my gun.

Sorry, Steve, Kathy is right. You should listen to her.

Elizabeth said...

Here in PA, it is now a crime to stop your car and engage in a conversation with a passing minor; it's called "luring."

Excellent. No adult has any business "to stop his car and engage in a conversation with a passing minor."

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: So you are totally comfortable with the proliferation of laws that penalize mere intent (or perceived intent) rather than waiting for some concrete indications of actual wrong-doing.

I'm not just talking about child abuse now, but rather today's "thought police" movement as a whole.

Steve Salerno said...

I'm sort of reminded here of that old line: A conservative is a liberal who got mugged.

Elizabeth said...

OK, Steve, where do you make the leap from my opposition to pedophilia, and my knowledge of the pedophiles' MO, to being "comfortable with the proliferation of laws that penalize mere intent (or perceived intent) rather than waiting for some concrete indications of actual wrong-doing"?

It's quite a jump, no?

I'm talking about pedophiles specifically. When it comes to our kids, IMO it is better to be safe than sorry. If I saw a man, no matter the place, being unusually friendly toward and interested in my kids, I would be alarmed and pull my kids away. You can call it what you will; I call it experience.

Steve Salerno said...

I don't think it's a jump at all, let alone "quite a jump." You appear to want to criminalize (or at least make socially unacceptable) the mere idea of "a man walking over and talking to children." How do you know what's in that man's heart? Clearly you can't be saying that the mere idea of talking to children is dangerous in and of itself; you're worried that it "leads to something sinister." But the observed act--talking to children--has nothing whatsoever to do with pedophilia, per se. Ergo you have descended into the realm of the thought police.

Elizabeth said...

It's not a crime to talk to children, Steve, and nobody has thrown you in jail so far, have they?

But child abusers are known to approach and befriend kids they plan to abuse, so it behooves those of us who care for and about kids to take appropriate precautions and teach kids to protect themselves, is all.

Criminalizing? No. I'd say it's just common sense.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I'd say you are doing a rather selective re-reading of your own comments here. Consider, for starters, this:

Excellent. No adult has any business "to stop his car and engage in a conversation with a passing minor."

So the act of stopping a car and talking to a child (which, btw, could even be a teenager) is inherently criminal? Or are we worried that the adult may have something sinister in mind? That's the thought-police element at work.

Also, you write this:

If you think that pedophiles have horns and hooves, or signs on their foreheads announcing their predilections, think again. They are usually the nicest, friendliest men, who just love children.

We all realize that. However, you almost appear to be saying that "if all pedophiles are men who like to talk to children, that means that all men who like to talk to children must be considered as possible pedophiles." That's where I really go nuts.

It's also true that most serial killers are charming, seductive men who have a special way with women. Does that mean that all charming, seductive men must be regarded as possible serial killers?

You've also made reference several times in this thread to "reaching for your gun" when you see a strange man approach your kids. Clearly at that point he isn't even talking yet...he's just approaching. And yet you're ready to do him in (which is a lot worse than "merely" labeling him a criminal). Even if you're being glib about the gun part, your point is unmistakable.

This gets out of hand all too easily.

Elizabeth said...

However, you almost appear to be saying that "if all pedophiles are men who like to talk to children, that means that all men who like to talk to children must be considered as possible pedophiles." That's where I really go nuts.

Steve, first, I did not say that all men who like to talk to children are pedophiles.

But the possibility cannot be excluded, can it, based on a brief encounter with the man. And for this, I think, you should take your blame and grievances to pedophiles, not to me.

BTW, better safe than sorry is the approach you appear to take with respect to female rape victims (as in, they should not have put themselves in possibly dangerous situations, they should have known better). Why aren't you willing to accord the same "privilege" or lesson, if you will, to kids? Just because you like to talk to strange kids in various places?

Fine. Do it, but don't be surprised when people are suspicious.

Better safe than sorry works. Most of the time.

OK, I've said my piece, have nothing else to add, as of now. Maybe others will chime in.

LizaJane said...

Why would a parent feel the need to pull their child away from a friendly stranger when the parent is standing there with them at the time? It's one thing to teach your children not to approach stopped vehicles, not to help strangers find lost puppies, not to venture into dangerous waters. But it's quite another -- and all too common -- to teach your children to be rude, stand-offish, and afraid of everyone. It only does them a disservice. And Steve, if you want to come entertain my kids, please, be my guest. Yesterday I had to stop my youngest from hugging the furnace repairman. Trust me, by the time she spends any time alone or without me, she WILL know not to do that. For now, who cares? I was standing there with her, in our kitchen.

As far as your wife's "haven't you seen the news" outlook, well, she's been SHAM'd, or at least, SCAM'd. Most of us have, and it's created a frightened, paranoid, and unfriendly society -- for NO good reason.

As anyone with knowledge of the media in general, and news in particular knows, the crime rate (meaning violent crimes such as rape, murder, abductions, etc.) has not gone up since the 1970s (when we all ran happily around our neighborhoods unsupervised, in fact it's gone down. But something DID change... network news.

Prior to sometime around the early 80s (exact date escapes me, but I can find it if you're interested),
TV news was considered a public service by the networks. They were OK losing (or at least not making) money for that half-hour.

But that changed. Network news became another "show." A money-making venture for which you could buy and sell advertising. And when THAT happened, "if it bleeds, it leads" took over, to become the ridiculous, skewed, completely unrealistic and fear-mongering thing it is today.

Actual cases of abduction, molestation, and all those things people fear are so rare, every single one of them, across the country can be reported on the news and listed on an "Amber Alert." More than 90% of THOSE are committed by a family member, not a stranger. Can you imagine if they reported every single deadly car crash?

We are really afraid of the wrong things, and it's because someone has scared the crap out of you as a means of making money.

LizaJane said...

Elizabeth, for the first time ever, I disagree with you.

If you are lost or need to find a hospital, or whatever, and the person you see walking down the street is a kid, should you not be allowed to roll down the window, and from a reasonable distance say, "Excuse me, which way to the nearest hospital?" It's crazy. What you should do is teach your children to not APPROACH a car, but to keep a safe distance.

Those same children who are taught not to interact with or help others grow up to be adults who ignore screams for help because they "don't want to get involved."

LizaJane said...

Oops, Steve, I forgot to say, you're "blaming the victim" when saying that going to someone's room negates the claim of rape. And yes, you CAN say "no" at any point. But given your notion that "men can't help it," I can see how this would lead to blaming a woman for putting herself "in a position" to be raped. That position, of course, would be leaving the house in anything but a burka any time after dark. It's a slippery slope. Either people are responsible for their actions, or they're not. Even prostitutes can be raped. And a man CAN help it. You just stop. Were you never a teenager, making out in the back seat of a car? How on earth did you STOP? You just did. If you didn't, if you FORCED it on her because you "couldn't help it" because SHE was "so sexy," or "got in the car so she must have wanted it" or "wore a short skirt," well, you're a rapist. It's that simple.

I agree that you can put yourself in a dangerous situation. That does not mean that those who perpetrate violence are "off the hook" for their actions because "you had it coming." No way. That's a backward view and is, in fact, illegal.

If a truck full of money crashed and spilled that money all over the highway, would it not be stealing if you took it? Just because it's there, and just because it's "easy," doesn't mean you "can't help it" and are thus entitled to it.

If you leave home and forget to lock the door, and return to find your possessions gone... is the person who stole the items not a thief, or any less guilty of a crime??? Same thing.

Steve Salerno said...

LZJ: I see major outrage coming here, but let me turn that last hypothetical around and ask it this way: If you invite a thief into your home, say "Go ahead, take anything you want, it's OK"--then change your mind as he's walking out the door and threaten to call the it still that simple? ;)

Elizabeth said...

LizaJane (et al):

I would not shriek in horror and yank my kids away from any person who approaches them in a store/public place in my presence. In fact, I never did -- and my kids are 22 and almost 17 now.

But I would be (and have been) vigilant and distrustful. (Not that this would always protect our kids, either.)

I could tell you stories about pedophiles that would, I suspect, make your hair stand on its ends -- about who they are, how they operate, and how prevalent they are in our society. But I won't. You can find many accounts of this nature anywhere, if you wish (and if you do, then, for example, Andrew Vachss' site could be a good start; see here and here).

Let me just say that the state of affairs in this respect is as bad as the "scary" newscasts make it to be, if not worse, and that's because, among other things, most cases of child sex abuse go unreported.

Bottom line: I'm glad you feel comfortable and safe enough to allow your kids whatever degree of freedom they have, that's great -- just be observant and teach them safety precautions.

Stever Robbins said...

Visitors from the Netherlands leave their child in a baby carriage on the sidewalk when they step into a cafe for coffee (they sit in the window and can see the carriage). American hosts are shocked.

Americans: "How can you possibly leave your baby in a carriage on the street like that?"

Dutch: "How can you stand to live in a culture where you can not?"

America, it seems, is a relatively violent, dangerous, repressed place. That doesn't mean all places are like that, but we certainly are.

Martha said...

I'm totally with Elizabeth on this one. And Kathy. Prudence first. And I'm sure that mothers have always had clear and present dangers to protect their children from. Right now the main hazard comes in the form of some man moseying.

I think the world-view teaching comes in the way mothers handle said moseying man when he approaches. To freak out and snatch up sends the signal to kiddees that the world is a scary place. First time, every time. To calmly move along sends another message of "we're in control of our world."

To not do anything sends the message that all moseying men are innocent until proven guilty. But once they're proven guilty, it's waay too late for the kiddees. Anyone read The Lovely Bones?

And another thing: When it comes to a parent's duty to protect their children, they're under no obligation to be logical or even consistent. Too many people have died while others mull the question, "gee, should I or shouldn't I?" Recent example: Ft. Hood.

Slightly askew of topic, I've always felt that rape and other violence against women should be officially classified as hate crimes.

Elizabeth said...

Stever, I'm sorry, but this seems to be a somewhat romanticized (or denialist) view of the European life.

I grew up in Europe, during the idyllic time when child abuse did not exist (i.e., was never brought up). In my country, there was at least one pedophile on every street corner and around each school. (No, I am NOT exaggerating.) That's in addition to those found among "the pillars of community" and other authority figures.

Oh yes, parents left their kiddies in strollers in front of stores, let them walk free everywhere, etc. That's because parents had no clue what was happening to their kids. Grown-ups were blissfully oblivious, by and large, and some just didn't want to know what really went on around them.

The abuse cases that we hear about in the media, then and now, are only the tip of the iceberg -- most cases of child sex abuse go unreported; it's a secret that many kids learn to keep to themselves. And this, btw, is something that pedophiles count on.

Thankfully, our awareness of the problem has grown quite a bit, especially in the US, but we are nowhere near getting a handle on its real prevalence and/or catching the predators and/or preventing their crimes.

Do a web search on "international pedophile rings" and "child sex trafficking," and prepare for an eye-opening experience. Kids are fair game -- here, in the Netherlands, in Afghanistan, and everywhere else. Especially these days, with the Internet enabling pedophiles to share their "resources," and organized crime involved in sex slaves trafficking (many of the victims are kids).

Steve Salerno said...

This discussion is starting to remind me of last night's news about that massive recall of window blinds. The mind boggles.

(And now--according to at least one contributor--we've got pedophiles "on every street corner.")

Since we're taking steps to protect everyone from everything no matter how negligible the statistical risk, why don't we recall pillows? (smothering) many species of houseplant? (toxins) ashtrays? (risk of being thrown during heated argument) baseballs? (facial injuries or cardiac arrest when they strike the wrong spot on the body). Not to mention the obvious need for a total ban on pools, cars, fireplaces, roller skates, paper (all those cuts!) and men as a class.

But getting back to the matter at hand, I have an idea, people: WATCH YOUR KIDS. BE CLOSE ENOUGH BY THAT YOU CAN STEP IN IF NEEDED. How's that grab you?

Elizabeth said...

This grabs me as a farcical approach to a serious problem, Steve. You may want to deny and minimize it as much as you wish, it will not make it disappear. And comparing child sex abuse to paper cuts is, well, a bit frivolous, IMO, if not offensive.

BTW, just to be clear, I didn't say "we" have a pedophile on every street corner, as there are no longer street corners as such to speak of in the suburban America. I was referring to the quaint European cities where parents leave their kids in front of the stores, etc.

Elizabeth said...

One last thing: when I talk about "a pedophile on every street corner," I speak from personal experience -- not as a pedophile, obviously, but as someone who had the misfortune to directly encounter several of those miserable excuses for human beings in my own life.

RevRon's Rants said...

IMO, it all boils down to "do what feels right to you." If someone approached my kids, I'll admit having a tendency to watch them pretty darn closely until I know there's no threat. If someone gets offended at that, I figure it's their problem; I raised my kids the way it felt right to me, and didn't ask anyone for their approval.

By the same token, I've always loved kids - ran the kids' Sunday School at my church for years, took kids on campouts, to out-of-state rallies, etc. But I would never presume that a parent had an obligation to feel comfortable with my having a friendly relationship with their kids. I respected their boundaries, just as I would expect them to abide by mine. All in all, I think that's the best way to play it. It is what it is, and I don't think anyone has the right to condemn another parent for being protective according to their own definition.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron et al: No one is arguing that parents shouldn't keep a watchful eye. Certainly I'm not arguing that. Lord knows I hover over my grandkids when we're out at the park or wherever!

I'm merely reacting to the more extreme arguments which seem to object to the very idea that I (or any other man) would want to approach kids and engage them. Half the time when I come upon kids in a public setting, the parents are fine with it; they enjoy the idea that I enjoy their kids; they smile and laugh right along with the whole thing. But even if they weren't so effusive, if they just stood by and looked on with proper vigilance, that would be fine and expected. It's the extreme mindset, the mindset that assumes nefarious intent (and, yes, bespeaks paranoia), I object to.

SustainableFamilies said...

Steve, you have contradicted yourself completely when you have said these four things:

1. Men cannot control their sexual behavior or who it hurts even to the point of rape.

2. Women should assume men will force them into sexual acts if they go into a room with them.

3. If women want to not get raped, they should assume that ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS in order to protect themselves.

4. Parents should NOT assume that all men are rapists when thinking about protecting their children.

My son and I are good friends with the guy at the gas station. He's a really nice guy and the step son he raised from toddlerhood was recently disconnected from him when his wife left him.

He is so happy to see a little toddler walking around and gives him high fives.

I'm not trying to say that strangers are all bad or that you should freak out if someone says hi to your child or makes a joke and stops to chat.

But um, yeah I would assume that ALL people could be dangerous and I would be ready to make sure my child was safe.

If you don't know someone, you SHOULD NOT assume they are safe.

That doesn't mean you can't have a polite amiable conversation in a public place... it just means you do NOT owe trust to ANYONE who hasn't earned it.

I don't go into a room alone with any man, ever.

Because I know they are all rapists. I will not allow a man to stand in my personal space in a work environment, I will not offer my trust to anyone, ever.

Because men are all rapists, and like you have said, they can't help it.

I'm not sure why I would protect my children, LESS than myself. That seems silly.

Bob Collier said...

When my son was six, I was walking home with him from his school one day and for a reason I don't recall, we'd stopped in the middle of a car park that we passed through on our route and were having a discussion. A complete stranger, who presumably had been observing us standing there having our conversation, walked up to us and said to my son, "Do you know this man?" My son said, "Yes, he's my dad." So the guy apologised for being suspicious, and I was okay with that, not a problem, and off he went.

Then my son tells me he needs to go to the toilet. There's a public toilet adjacent to the car park. I notice the stranger has walked off but he hasn't gone; he's now standing about fifty yards away and still watching us. Keeping an eye on us. So I'm thinking, hmm... this isn't going to look good. Can my son wait until we get home? No. He needs to go now. So I walked him over to the toilet block and I told him I wanted him to go in on his own and I would wait outside. Which I did. And I could see the guy still watching me as if he wasn't quite sure he could let me go yet. When my son came out, I asked him if there had been anybody else in there and he said no. And we went home.

I still chuckle about that incident to this day. The irony didn't escape me.

Incidentally, I personally don't approach and engage children I haven't been introduced to. They might get a nod and a half smile as I walk past.

Elizabeth said...

No one is arguing that parents shouldn't keep a watchful eye. Certainly I'm not arguing that.

Yet you protest when Kathy admonishes you about approaching strange children and you imply, nah, say it directly, that my insistence on vigilance and prudence is a "paranoia." And you are upset when parents react with suspicion to your approaches toward their adorable children "a few aisles away."

I'm merely reacting to the more extreme arguments which seem to object to the very idea that I (or any other man) would want to approach kids and engage them.

I don't object to the "idea that you or any other man would want to approach kids and engage them." Obviously, you do approach kids and engage them, so it's not a mere idea but a fact. And so is the existence of child predators who, guess what, are mostly male and approach kids and engage them in various settings, some less obvious than others. You can't tell a predator from a good guy at the first glance (or second and third).

Half the time when I come upon kids in a public setting, the parents are fine with it; they enjoy the idea that I enjoy their kids; they smile and laugh right along with the whole thing. But even if they weren't so effusive, if they just stood by and looked on with proper vigilance, that would be fine and expected.

What would be the proper vigilance in your opinion, Steve, and how would you tell it from the improper one? I'm with Ron (and Martha) on that it's not up to you to decide what's proper or not in this situation, just because, as you said, you think that "you should be able to play with those kids if you want to" and "it would do them good, too." (Btw, seriously, Steve, that's a weird thing to say.)

It's the parents' judgment that matters, not yours, whether you like it or not.

It's the extreme mindset, the mindset that assumes nefarious intent (and, yes, bespeaks paranoia), I object to.

Proper vigilance is borne from the assumption of an untoward intent, or its possibility, in the first place. I'm sorry to say, but parents are not mind-readers and cannot scan the brains of people in their kids' vicinity to see whether their intent is nefarious or not. One mistake here is too many, as Martha observed. It makes sense to be cautious, especially with new people and in new circumstances (but certainly not only). It does not mean you should shriek, grab your children and run when a stranger comes toward them, but you should be observant and not naive about people's motivations.

My kids are 22 and 17, and no, I never scared them away from interacting with anyone (so far), but made sure they knew safety precautions, and, knowing what I know, did not let them out of my sight when they were little.

Elizabeth said...


BTW, it's only a "paranoia" until it happens to you.

Do you know what the first and most common reaction is when people are faced with child sex abuse (and by "people" I mean adults directly involved in the child-victim's life as well as the greater circle of community and society-at-large)?

It's denial.

As in,

No, that's not possible, that did/does not happen. Not to my child. Not from this person. It does not happen in our community. Such things never happen in church/school/sports practice/Uncle Bob's house/etc. Not to me. Not to us.

(The second step is blaming the victim: S/he must have done something to provoke it! S/he must have been where s/he shouldn't have!)

The wall of denial when it comes to child sex abuse is as thick as our need to believe in our own collective benevolence. It's taken long years, for example, for the victims of the clergy abuse to be heard, believed and taken seriously.

And that very same story, with the almost exact same dynamics of denial, etc., is replayed on every forum in our society when the case(s) of child sex abuse or its possibility come to light. Even on blogs and in bloggers' minds.

Steve Salerno said...

You know what, though? Inasmuch as statistics (quoted, again, right up in the lede for my Skeptic piece on journalism) demonstrate that the most likely abusers are parents themselves, or the significant-others of parents, maybe I'm the one who, during my moseying, should be constantly observing the way parents interact with their kids, rather than vice versa. Historically they are the far greater threat than I am. And maybe that's why they're so quick to snatch their kids away: They don't want outsiders picking up on the abusive rhythms of their own relationships with their kids.

Yes, I know I'm overstating. But it's food for thought, isn't it?

Matt Dick said...


From my perspective, the biggest problem in your arguments, expressed as:

BTW, it's only a "paranoia" until it happens to you.


This grabs me as a farcical approach to a serious problem...

is that it wildly mischaracterizes the threats to your children.

Why do you have to worry yourself so much that you can't let your kids be a few aisles away at a grocery store, but at the same time you let them in your car? Or you let them play baseball (or soccer, or football, or any sport), or do any other of the myriad things that are *way* more dangerous than talking to strangers when you're around the corner?

It's not that you can't dream up a scenario where they can be hurt talking to adults, it's that you allow them to do much, much, much more dangerous things every single say and don't bother worrying about it much. Carbon monoxide kills 500 people every year in the United States. If only a quarter are children, then your furnace and water heater are more dangerous than abductions.

It's not that there is no danger, it's that the danger is just so low compared to everything else you do.

Steve Salerno said...

(I think Matt says what I was trying to say, though he says it in a much more succinct and less inflammatory way)

Anonymous said...

Steve, this is totally off topic and probably silly in light of the gravity of this subject, but have you noticed the resemblance between your grandduaghter "Ava" in the photo and the singer whose work you've highlighted a few times now in jazz corner? To me the singer looks exactly like a grown up version of Ava!

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 10:31: Yes, that comparison has not escaped our attention.

Elizabeth said...

Matt, glad you asked. My response is in two parts:

There are many threats to our children, and yes, they have a greater chance to get hurt in car accidents than by pedophiles, I agree. As a matter of fact, this is was happened to my kid (car accident, not a pedophile).

I'm not minimizing those dangers, nor exaggerating the other, the way I see it. I also do not lose sleep at night obsessing about what may happen to my kids in the world. There are many variables in life that are beyond our control and assorted dangers you mention fall within those. I'm just trying to explain to Steve, apparently without success, why his need and desire to approach strange kids in strange places is not something that's going to be wholeheartedly embraced by people -- and for good reasons.

We have the image of child abusers and pedophiles as "bad men," you know, the ratty, unshaven types from Law and Order, or such. The social misfit who lives in his mother's basement and spends his days surfing the web for kiddie porn. Those are the strangers were warn our kids against -- wild-eyed, looking different, supposedly instantly recognizable as posing a "stranger danger."

But therein lies our naivete and lack of experience. Pedophiles are delightful people, to other grown-ups -- many highly educated, eloquent, charming, and, well, great with kids. Yes, they love kids and convince themselves that their abuse just an extension and expression of that love and that there is nothing wrong with it. Being the charming people they are, they easily ingratiate themselves with and gain the trust of the parents, who do not think twice about letting their kids interact with the perps.

Have you seen NBC's To Catch a Predator? The program is revealing in that it shows a relatively decent cross-section of the perps demographics -- you have doctors, ministers, counselors there, along with the garden-variety losers.

But it is still misleading because it presents (understandably so) only those perps who are stupid and/or desperate enough to get caught.

Most pedophiles, especially "the pillar of community" types, are too smart and savvy for that -- and if ever a hint of an inkling about their predilections should get out, they are well-connected enough to come up with a plausibly sounding explanation/cover-up. (Note: we still give greater value to words of the abuser than those of his victims, especially when the abuser is the "pillar of community.")


Elizabeth said...


Going back to "our" perp(s): pedophiles do not just snatch any kid from any place at any time (though these cases do happen and when they do, they receive tons of media attention).

First of all, they are drawn to kids like bees to honey and will be found in places where kids congregate, in real life and on-line. And being perfectly nice and charming people, often in professions working with children, they won't necessarily arouse anyone's suspicions. Once in their beehive (so to speak), they don't just strike out cold. They groom their victims carefully and it's a methodical process that requires cunning and time.

So, say (humor me), there is this really nice man in the grocery store who approaches your kids to chat about Christmas, Fourth of July, what-have-you. He is so nice and funny, compliments the parent(s), and good times are had by all in the checkout line (let's say).

In a couple of days, this nice man shows up at the kids' playground, but this time, what do you know, he is not a stranger. After all, mom and dad warned the kids against strangers, but the nice man is not a stranger -- even their parents liked him! And so it goes from there. The next steps will vary, but the end result (or the intended result in the perp's mind, should his plans succeed) is always the same.

Alright. It's not my intent to scare the beejesus out of anyone, just to explain, if possible, why Steve's (or any adult male's) enthusiasm toward children will not be welcomed with open arms by people outside of his family -- and that this is what it is, and it is so for good reasons (as Kathy has been trying to tell Steve for some time, apparently).

And if that fails, then perhaps I can use Steve's own words to drive the point across:

parents just can't help it.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. I said the following in my earlier comment:

and yes, they have a greater chance to get hurt in car accidents than by pedophiles, I agree.

Let me take it back -- I agreed too hastily. Let me go through some stats first. Thank you.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Even as persuasive as your argumentation is at the gut level, I keep coming back to the same thing: The ineluctable logic of your position is that, since pervs may come disguised as nice people, the only sensible thing to do is treat all people (maybe even especially the nice ones) like pervs. And I just can't buy that.

Elizabeth said...

I hear you, Steve, but it is what it is.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: All right, then I must ask: Since statistically blacks commit the overwhelming majority of crimes (per capita), do you then concur in racial profiling? (i.e., "Look, you can't tell who the 'nice ones' are, so we better treat all of them like felons"?) And should we ban "Muslim-looking"-types from flying, since all of the 9/11 hijackers were Muslim-looking?

Those aren't necessarily rhetorical questions; I think it possible that a fair number of Americans, in their hearts, would answer "yes" to both hypotheticals above. (When I worked in Harlem for almost a decade, back in the turbulent '70s, I was often shocked at the venom that Harlem residents, who by and large were very nice people, had for "the youths on the street." More nasty remarks about young black men came out of the mouths of older black women than I've heard from my white acquaintances in all the years of my life.) I'm just wondering how you feel about profiling in general, Eliz, because it strikes me that that's clearly what you're arguing for here.

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I didn't wade in here yet b/c I wasn't sure how I felt, until your questions to Eliz settled it for me. And I came down on the side you probably wouldn't expect. Profiling people who present a clear danger is just common sense. We talk about fairness but the first people we need to be fair to are the innocents who might become victims. My being a man makes me sensitive to this since like you, I hate having mothers look at me as a threat without even knowing me. But having a child killed or even threatened is a horrific experience and we owe it to ourselves to make uncomfortable choices in acknowledging that risk. No matter how it affects us personally, that overrules all else.

Elizabeth said...

What Roger said.

RevRon's Rants said...

In re profiling: This is another area where I think we've allowed our political correctness to overrule our common sense. I don't suggest we should treat all members of a given group as if they were the lowest common denominator of that group.

By the same token, if you're walking down a city street at night and someone who has obviously made an effort to look like a gangsta seems to be following, you would be foolish to assume that the person poses no threat to you (or any loved ones who may be accompanying you). Of course, you wouldn't go running away screaming for the police, or making sure your .357 is close at hand (well, *I* might!), but if you're smart, you'd at least make yourself aware of what the person was doing.

Unfair? Not at all. Racist? I'd call it prudent behavior. It is in our instinctive nature to protect ourselves - and especially our children - from predators of any kind. If we're unsure as to whether someone is a predator, we have to follow our instincts. And you're unlikely to convince most folks to abandon that instinct.

BTW - Eliz, you're cute when you've got your dander up! And if anyone ever accuses me of agreeing with Roger... well, just this one time! :-)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely with Eliz on this one, and surprisingly with Roger--I might not agree with your politics but on this far more important subject of how we protect our children Roger, you're spot on.

Statistically its reckoned that one in four children suffer some degree of sexual molestation from adults.
These are reckoned to be conservative figures given the shame, secrecy and fear instilled in the child.

IMO the most devastating, life-long effects come from the secrecy, shame, mistrust and fear that is implanted at an early and impressionable age and the often continuing culture of denial of the childs reality.

Elizabeth and Kathy are right on this Steve, your insistence that you should be free to interact with any child sounds suspiciously like the justifications of paedophiles the world over. Its all about your rights, while denying the child any right to protection at all.

Profiling is what we all constantly do for ourselves as adults anyway, its about assessing risk and taking precautionary steps to minimise that risk. It involves a fair bit of stereotyping, generalising and guesswork. As adults we often guess wrong and accept that as part of the price we pay for never having, or ever being able to have, the full picture. None of us are that clairvoyant.
Abandoning that risk assessment when our childrens future well- being is at stake is what paedophiles want and argue for.

One in four children, hardly an isolated occurrence or an unlikely danger.

SustainableFamilies said...

I still think you're arguing that all men should be pressumed date rapists, wheras all strangers should be pressumed benign.

which is it?

Should people be on guard to protect themselves or should a college girl who meets a nice guy that says, "I know you want to take it slow, how about we play a game of chess and watch a movie at my house" believe him?

If men can't control their sexual behavior than they shouldn't be granted time with kids. So can men control their sexual urges or not?

Steve Salerno said...

SF: I think your argument confuses a healthy adult sexual voracity (as expressed in promiscuity) with sexual perversion (as expressed in pedophilia). I could be wrong, but I don't think you'll find Tiger Woods hanging out outside grammar schools with candy bars. Even in the animal kingdom, where the males of most species are highly promiscuous, you do not generally see them attempt to mate with sexually immature females.

They are simply two different arguments.

Elizabeth said...

They are simply two different arguments.

Ehh... no. SF is right and I'm glad she's brought up her argument again.

Pedophilia is one thing, but the garden-variety sexual abuse of kids by adults who are equal opportunity fornicators, going after women and kids (and then some), also exists.

I think it is a fair question to ask you, Steve. You can't have it both ways -- say that men can't control their sexual urges and yet insist that children should be allowed to play(!) with any strange man who fancies them for whatever reason.

If men indeed are helpless when it comes to controlling their sex impulses (a belief I don't share, BTW), then this would be yet another argument for keeping them away from kids (and/or anything that breathes and moves -- sorry).

Anon, thanks for bringing up the stats on child sex abuse. The number of twenty five percent (at least) of kids who experience sex abuse would certainly exceed that of juvenile victims of car accidents and/or other life misfortunes (goes to Matt's argument above).

Rev, thanks -- I'll have to do it more often then (dander 'n things). :)

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz et al: Come on, people. I really think some of us are going way off-keel here in our efforts to fortify our positions. So suddenly adult promiscuity is a marker for child abuse? I could be wrong, but I want to see a study that documents that point (a serious study, not some hit piece put out by the same demagogues who once claimed that a woman was being raped in America every 4 seconds or whatever it was). Do you really think JFK, Clinton, Colin Farrell, Clooney, Italian p.m. Berlusconi and some of the other notorious womanizers are dangers to the children in the area? Please. I mean, having reached this juncture in the discussion, why stop at womanizing? Why not also argue that a man who can't keep his hands off his wife would also be more inclined to want sex with his daughter, when mama's not around?

The way things are evolving on this thread, pretty soon I see the "Scott Peterson argument" emerging: "If a man will cheat on his wife, why wouldn't he kill his wife?"

RevRon's Rants said...

"I really think some of us are going way off-keel here in our efforts to fortify our positions."

I, on the other hand, think the argument itself is pretty off-keel, Steve. Sorry, but you're the one who has posited that "men can't help it" when it comes to promiscuity. If a healthy male cannot refrain from infidelity, it would seem to follow that a man who is driven by a pathology such as pedophilia would be even less capable of controlling his desires. Given the fact that pedophiles lack any kind of distinguishing physical characteristics, there is no way of accurately assessing whether a man who is approaching one's child is a pedophile or merely a benevolent stranger.

You are in essence asking parents to give the benefit of the doubt where the well-being of their children is at stake, while at the same time acknowledging that if a pedophile is allowed the opportunity, he *will* molest a child. I don't really care if only 1 in 1,000 males are so afflicted, or if the statistical chances of my child being abused are lower than their chances of getting in an automobile accident (which I do not buy). I will follow my instinct as a parent in lieu of some statistically established pattern of probability every time.

If some guy were to approach my kids, I'd make my presence obvious to him, and let him know that it is my nature to be protective - in a friendly way, if that is appropriate. And if he found that protectiveness to be offensive, well, I guess he'd just have to walk away thinking I was an overprotective, paranoid asshole. But I'd choose such a judgment any day if that's what it takes to protect my kids.

You're demanding fairness and objectivity from an aspect of human nature that runs much deeper and stronger than both. You won't change it; it's up to you whether you let it bother you so much.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: Seriously?

First of all, where in here did you (or anyone) see an argument from me that pedophiles can control themselves? All evidence suggests that pedophiles cannot really be controlled or rehabilitated. So we have no disagreement there. Children must be protected from them.

But what does that have to do with healthy men--which, let us hope, is the overwhelming majority of men? I resist (and a little bit resent) the idea that a man who "chases skirts" is, by definition, likely to molest children as well. I don't see how anyone can make that case, either based on anything I've said or on available research.

Understand, if you want to take the position that because kids are so helpless and innocent, parents need to shelter them away from everyone who may even possibly do them harm, fine. Reasonable people can disagree on that point, as I've suggested earlier in this thread. I must say, that notion on your part seems to run counter to what you've argued earlier here ("I don't suggest we should treat all members of a given group as if they were the lowest common denominator of that group"), but fine. Just, how can you tell me that my own logic suggests that men who are womanizers are also child abusers? That is the particular evolving currency that I find so objectionable here.

Anonymous said...

'So suddenly adult promiscuity is a marker for child abuse?'

pro·mis·cu·ous (pr-msky-s)
1. Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.
2. Lacking standards of selection; indiscriminate.
3. Casual; random.
4. indiscriminate in selection
5. casual or heedless

promiscuous - not selective of a single class or person;

indiscriminate - not marked by fine distinctions;

promiscuous - casual and unrestrained in sexual behavior;

Indiscriminate, unable to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not, between a mature woman and a child? between his own sexual urge that simply must be followed and its impact on his victim?

Male animals show no sexual interest in immature young because they use smell to discriminate and find a mature female.

Some deluded humans kid themselves that the sexual urge overrides every other consideration, including the damage done to the victim and cannot be denied. Self-serving BS to excuse their selfish demands for whatever they want when they want it.

Steve Salerno said...

So now we're using semantic derring-do to defend a position that, perhaps, cannot be defended by other means.

My dictionary defines heterosexual as "sexually oriented to persons of the opposite sex." It makes no distinctions based on age. Does that mean that all heterosexuals are also pedophiles?

(See how easy this is?)

You can call it self-serving BS if you want, but I would argue that the self-righteously moral person is as much a captive of his self-righteous morality as the Tiger Woodses of the world are captives of whatever profligacy drives them to do what they do. If you think about it, it's not that supremely moral people don't want to's that they cannot cheat. It violates everything that they are, every code by which they define themselves, to do so. Therefore, in their own way, their austere judgments of some of the rest of us are every bit as self-serving.

Elizabeth said...

Just, how can you tell me that my own logic suggests that men who are womanizers are also child abusers?

Steve, you are either missing your own point, or not seeing it on purpose (which comes down to the same thing).

True, you did not say or suggested that men who are womanizers are also child abusers (and most womanizers are probably not child abusers).

But you have said, repeatedly, that men "can't help it" when it comes to sex and will nail whatever strikes their fancy, whether it's grown females, as you posit in case of normal(?) males, or kids, in case of pedophiles.

However, as SF, Ron, Martha, Anon and I have tried to point out, in somewhat different ways, we have no way to tell the womanizer from a pedophile from just a regular Joe. Plus, there are also equal opportunity shtuppers who'd nail anything that moves (if I may be so colorful) -- of course, according to your views, they also can't help it.

And because we have no way to tell a typical womanizer from a pedophile from an equal opportunity shtupper from a regular Joe, it makes sense, following your reasoning, to treat all men as predators (or potential predators) and keep them away from living things, or the other way around.

I don't buy your arguments about male helplessness with regard to their sex urges, but you insist on it -- thus you have painted yourself into this particular corner, and yet resent the implications of your own reasoning, which are obvious to others, but not to you.

Steve, you can't have it both ways. Though, I know, you can't help it. ;)

One more thing. You posited a provocative question to LizaJane:

If you invite a thief into your home, say "Go ahead, take anything you want, it's OK"--then change your mind as he's walking out the door and threaten to call the it still that simple?

I'm not LizaJane, but I'll take a stab at it. First, though, I'd note that you again paint men as criminals (or potential criminals/predators) in this comparison. Thus the prudent approach would be to keep them all under surveillance -- at least internally, and certainly with regard to kids.

But yes, if you let a thief in and tell him to take whatever he wants (BTW, that's really a lousy comparison to rape) and change your mind at any time, you do have a right to kick him out at any time. It's your house and your possessions after all, and your right to change your mind, unless you have a written and signed contract with the other party that would seal the deal.

RevRon's Rants said...

"how can you tell me that my own logic suggests that men who are womanizers are also child abusers?"

If that's what you got from my comments, either I've presented my thoughts poorly or you misinterpreted them. If the former, I sincerely apologize; if the latter, please reconsider how you took my remarks and save the umbrage, Steve. :-)

My point was that if even some *healthy* men cannot help being promiscuous (as you posit, and which I do not accept), it would be foolish to expect *sick* individuals to be able to refrain from molesting. I do believe that we all have the ability to choose whether to act upon our impulses (the sole exception being psychotics); whether we choose to do so is another matter.

But that is not even the core issue, as I see it. I merely think it is ludicrous to expect parents to "give the benefit of the doubt" where their children's safety and well-being is concerned. I wouldn't wade in and attack any guy who approached my kids, but I *would* tend to look at him as if he did mean to do them harm, at least until I was satisfied that he didn't (perhaps especially if he were following her around in a store). :-)

My mom used to tell me that I was too trusting, and in many ways, she was right. If nothing else, parenthood has taught me that where my children's well-being is concerned, my trust has to be earned, rather than summarily given. I think you'll find this to be pretty common among parents, and no amount of protest is likely to change it. Instinct gives a rat's behind about fairness, after all.

Elizabeth said...

OK, Steve, really -- what is this about? Your passionate insistence on male helplessness with regard to sex and your demands of its recognition, in spite of a wide disagreement with such a position, both on your blog and in the society-at-large is, well, perplexing.

Yes, sometimes you like to play a devil's advocate, but this does not appear to be one of those cases. Moreover, this is a recurring theme on your blog, if I may be as impertinent as to point out the obvious.

Yes, we get it that you think this way (and can't help it). But you seem not to get that most people, as evidenced in the recurring discussions on SHAMblog at least, do not share your views.

If no compromise is possible, then perhaps we should leave at it is what it is and agree to disagree.

Elizabeth said...

One more thing, perhaps the last one (I hope): there is a subtext to your reasoning that is especially troubling (or interesting perhaps) and it's the implication that men are victims. It is so interesting, because you tend to rail against feminist and other identity politickers who have, allegedly, given their respective groups a victim status.

Yet your own approach toward men and masculinity is one that suggests that very same victim-like position for men in our society.

Men are victims of their own sex impulses -- why, they can't help them. Then, when they do what they are supposed to do (follow their sex impulses), they are further victimized first by women, who do not understand their (men's) physiology and behavior, and then by the society-at-large, which persecutes them for doing what men do and can't help doing.


Steve Salerno said...

OK. I'm going to shut my component of this discussion down, as we seem to be at loggerheads/too deeply entrenched. I would add only at this point that we also have "no way of telling a serial killer from an ordinary Joe," so we should probably regard all men as serial killers, too. But having said that, I give up.

Insofar as the inelegance of the hypothetical I posed to Liza, I was simply trying to address her seeming contention that "all rape is rape, period," as if there are no gradations and extenuating circumstances. Though I DO agree that a woman has the ultimate right to say "no" at any point in the festivities, I do NOT think that a scenario where mutually agreeable sex has already begun, and the woman for whatever reason changes her mind, and then a heated discussion ensues, is rape in quite the same sense as, say, Ted Bundy pulling a total stranger off into the bushes or his VW. (Are we all too young here to remember the one-time cultural ethic wherein a woman was "supposed to say no" two or three times before finally submitting to something she wanted to do all along? That was a little charade that we had to allow to play out in order to help a woman preserve her honor.) I do NOT think that sex that occurs when both participants are drunk is rape, even though statutes in a number of states allow women to file "next-day" charges under those circumstances (and a number of major colleges have behavior codes that apply an absolute presumption of guilt in a case where a boy has sex with a drunken girl). I do NOT think that a female teacher sleeping with an underage male student is anything like a male teacher sleeping with an underage female student. As Bill Maher puts it, "Sometimes there's a double standard...because it's two different thing." Finally, I am NOT sure how I feel about a consensual relationship that occurs between an adult man and a 15-year-old that continues on a regular basis until the woman is 20. (This is a case we just had here in PA.) Although I'm a bit queasy about the first part of it--sex between an adult man and a 15-year-old--I am also given pause by the fact that the relationship persists, with both parties ostensibly enjoying each other's company, till the woman is well past majority. In such a case, maybe we should give a waiver that "grandfathers" the earlier sex into legality? Depending on how the woman feels about it? I don't know.

BUT, bear in mind that all this comes from someone--me--who actually felt that that whole Mary Kay Letourneau deal was a sweet story, as it turned out (meaning, I thought it was pretty bizarre at first, but it had what I'd now consider a happy, redemptive ending). So maybe I'm not the best person to ask? ;)

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. "Sex has already begun," in my comment just above, means "penetration has occurred." And--to further clarify--I'm not saying that he shouldn't withdraw. Of course he should. But if he puts up a little bit of fuss first, and tries to persuade her to continue, I don't think that's rape in the same sense as if he hit her over the head, forced her into the room and tore her clothes off.

Steve Salerno said...

To restate something important that bears restating at this juncture: If there is a general theme to the more socially oriented post on this blog, it's this: Question the givens. Don't assume that just because something is "traditional," or that it's been a part of Judeo-Christian life for several millennia, or that it's considered a mortal sin in every religion on earth, that means it's unassailable. That's why I often take unpopular positions. I'm questioning the givens. The mere fact that I put up what appears to be a "passionate" argument in favor of something does not mean that I'm fully invested. Not at all. Further, I often find myself settling on intellectual positions that are at odds with my emotional leanings. On any given day, you may get an intellectual stance, an emotional rant, or some strange hypocritical combination of the two. This blog is more about discussion than about certitude. Even if I sometimes appear certain. If that makes any sense.

I'm trying to sort all this stuff out, just as many of you are.

Anonymous said...

I suppose if you added up 100% of all the worst abuse in all forms directed at children, men would own the vast majority. Kids' safety is always going to be the prime agenda for anyone who really cares about them.
That being said, we have to question what social values bring us to where we are. Kids know men as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, older brothers...yet the vast world of men are relegated to "other" strange, potentially dangerous, alien, unknown.
Which is a condition we live with.
However, socially, politically, economically, the world of men collectively own the vast majority of power. Power over men, women, and children.
Would it not be a good thing for those owners of such power (to press a button and obliterate, for instance) to be more intimately familiar with the world of children?
I think we have snowballed and skewed this issue so far down into its most common denominator, that we have lost sight of the fact that socially, we no longer even know how to think in terms of future generations. Children are not special because we "own" them (and thus their immediate well-being because of familial responsibility) but because they are the carriers of our humanity forward, to preserve and prolong it long after we're dead. Period.
What's "good" for children goes a gazzilion miles beyond just their personal physical and psychological safety.
Hell - kids can tell us much of what we need to know about what's "good" for them.........if only we'd listen!

Anonymous said...

2nd comment. wow this is a doozy.
Traditionally, a decent man 50-ish or so would have been considered an elder. Let me spin it out.
Possession of certain wisdoms, reflections, understandings, common senses, experiences, humors, short, a smorgasbord of stuff to offer.
Give that man at this stage of life also a deep abiding RESPECT for young and small humanity, and what he has is a wealth of offerings that can be delivered spot-on in a heart-beat.
That man knows how to compliment a woman young enough to be his daughter so easily and effortlessly that it just might make her day (because it was not the carnal desirous type at all - just recognition of her style and her self) Emphasis on SELF.
How does he know? ha.
How the hell does he know anything? or anyone else know anything else not scientifically proven? He knows because he spent a lifetime learning.
To kids. I've done it a million times....interactions timed like an Abbot and Costello radio routine -leave 'em all laughing and move on before someone gets queasy.
It takes balls, and a bit of thick skin to weather the perfect storm of media-fed paranoid inhumane mistrust.
I could kill a child-abuser. I'm not entirely rational on that score.
Yet I proudly as a male of the human not beg permission at all, but assume my right to interact with humanity.
Um, kids are humans, folks.
Not dogs, diamonds, dividends or any other preciously nebulous idea of wealth.
Suspect me of any damned thing you want to. Until you can prove it in a court of law, you will be wrong.

These days, a man needs confidence to engage with the world of all people who men have (or may have in future) abused. Well. That's entirely the story.

Anonymous said...

3rd whack:
We have become, I think, a society completed addicted to an idea, and the ideal, of security. We long for it, hunger for it, in divers sundry ways.
It is as elusive as a miracle at Sunday school.
We never had it, never will.
The best we can do is hedge our bets, as rational adults.
Spend just five minutes seriously pondering such a world as that which offered 100% guaranteed security, and I'd bet the ranch that such a world would have de-humanized itself in the process.

A pedophile is of course, a pathetic warped collection of damage, impossible to be completely understood by one who isn't. I've spent many years pondering the attempt at trying to understand, and always come up short.

Any parent, custodian, caregiver of children has their nightmares...
My mother and others had them, but as a kid, the world was my oyster, as was the case for all the world of kids I grew up in.
I'm tired of hearing - that was then and this is now.
For all our wonderful progress, we have done the children of humanity a grave disservice; our society et al has failed them miserably.
We allow skeltons to escape from closets, iron witches' brews out of our social fabric, and titilate the masses with statistical reports....but kids themselves are stuck with the world we expect them to inhabit - with all its blemishes and gumboils.

I agree wholeheartedly with where Steve is coming from. As an "elder" I glory and revel in the fact that my life's knocks have taught me how to appreciate and respect children for exactly what they are.

Quite simply, I have something to offer. Not salvation, or any other "candy" for favors. No.
Kids hunger to be noticed. They hunger for respect. When they get all they need from those closest to them, then they're lucky.
When they don't - they do what any human does at any age. They put messages in bottles... (metaphorically.)
When a wise elder notices and cares...he does something in the wink of an eye that presents them with a gift they can take away with them and keep for all their own. Keep it safe.
What is it?


I know. I haven't forgotten.
I was a kid once, too.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 10:53 through 12:15: I don't normally thank those who join us anonymously, but one must at least acknowledge the wealth of material you present, and its thought-provoking nature. I appreciate your taking the time to weigh in.

RevRon's Rants said...

"As an "elder" I glory and revel in the fact that my life's knocks have taught me how to appreciate and respect children for exactly what they are."

I think it no less essential that we appreciate and respect parents and their decisions as to how they raise and protect their children, even if we don't agree that their way is - in our OPINION - the best way.

One is, of course, within anyone's rights to demand that his or her own priorities are superior to and take precedence over others - even where decisions as to other people's children are concerned. By the same token, one is within their rights to demand that the opposing political party be disbanded, all religions other than their own be eliminated, and even the vegetables that they don't like be eliminated from store shelves. Actually expecting for those demands be met is another matter entirely.. :-)

It really isn't that difficult to be supportive and respectful of children without disrespecting their parents. I'd even submit that by so doing, we teach the kids an even greater lesson in respect (not to mention diplomacy), which will go a long way toward helping them achieve their potential - more so than we would teach them by thumbing our noses at their parents as we show the kids we think they're wonderful. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

97% shorter than my previous response was going to be:
the software ate my post for trying to get cute and create a profile.........which is 101% less important than throwing my voice into the fray - anonymously or otherwise.

You're entirely welcome / at your service.

in point form -
some parents aren't worth the respect I'd give a mosquito.
(in spite of that, they're still blessed with the custody of children. Where is the moral imperative, here?)

a lot of adults are curiously ambivalent about kids (with the exception of perhaps their own)

I really do believe that kids need more forces on their side, these days.

Kids didn't make or alter our world - it's laws, geographical configuration, public settings, toys, pitfalls, dangers.
We did. Collectively as adults.

But life's a bitch and offers hard choices.
What Charles Dodgson was suspected of, and whatever the actual truth is....does one burn Alice in Wonderland because they're convinced their worst fears are true? They have that right.
But is it right?

RevRon's Rants said...

"some parents aren't worth the respect I'd give a mosquito."

So withhold your respect if it makes you feel better. However, soap boxes, harrumphs, and moral imperatives notwithstanding, most parents raise their children in their own way, within parameters established by our legal system. What one person might condemn as "bad parenting" may well be a healthy and highly workable situation to those who are directly involved.

Then there's that whole "cast the first stone" thing...

Karl said...

I suspect the imminent release of Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones will re-ignite the child danger from strangers debate