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April 28th, 2007

Hawking Fired ...

... into space.  He looks so happy!  :)  I 'luv this guy.  Zeddy found a first edition of his A Brief History of Time and gifted it on the same day I got her a SpongeBob thingy.  :)  Happy times.

Hawking Floats

In Defense of Perverts

I have hesitated to post a defence of perverts such as child molesters, especially because of my intended career, but Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator keeps chasing me down via television, and Chris Hansen's vendetta is irritating -- not revealing.  I have known for some time that anyone can do anything, which is one of Hansen's messages.  When I was 15, a normal looking teacher and soccer coach wasn't making me comfortable to protect my virginity.  It was a shocking part of my past that I seldom talk about and the TV show would not have mattered in my case because the pervert prolonged our Internet chats until just after my 16th birthday -- so everything was "legit".  Nevertheless I was one of the victims that Dateline's show pressumes to advocate, so I suppose everyone expects me to add fuel to Hansen's fire.  I'd rather stomp it out and arrest Hansen for aiding and assisting entrapment.

The fundamental problem with Hansen's approach is ignorance.  His show sets up the intent to commit statutory rape by logging chats, followed by a confession of guilt on tape, and then the police arrest the guy.  Repeat ad nauseum.  But even Hansen admits that America's response, namely incarceration, is not the solution (so he does has some semblence of brain activity).  His solution is "treatment".  Here is where intelligent viewers -- where are they?? -- should uncover the insidious problem: 1) what is treatment? 2) who is perverted?  I invite folks to ask a psychiatrist or psychologist these questions, especially the retires.  When they are old enough, a shrink might recall what the APA and other institutions have labelled perversions.  Homosexuality was a perversion.  And electro-shock treatment was once standard "reversion therapy".  So Hansen's solution begs us to question the very reasons we arrested these perverts: a) what is humane? b) who is normal?  In other words, the fundamental problem is an ethical one, and it has (might or ought to have) a normative solution.

By normative ethics, I do not mean that we whimsically allow anyone to do anything.  Nor is the solution as simplistic as libertarians would have us believe (i.e. non-infringement of rights).  Rather it means that what a society or culture labels perverted changes depending upon the needs and desires of its individuals ... as a collective.  Some Americans believe homosexuality is a perversion; some do not.  In the end, I expect the socio-cultural "market demands" will prevail.  Weisskopf made similar comparisons between economics and these socio-cultural demands but, instead of trying to define what we mean, for brevity's sake I compare our sexual norms against other societies and cultures.  America has never found a societal or cultural need for eunuchs -- an extreme example in asexuality that would, in my opinion, be the ultimate state for Christians who choose celibacy.  The Chinese empires, however, built a society that included castrated men, and maintained a culture where eunuchs were "normal" and fit well into the 20th century society.  Comparing our sexual norms to others does not mean that all Chinese eunuchs were celibant nor that ideal Christians should be; rather my comparison is meant to force Americans to view another culture from our norms and adjudge something to be abnormal, or at least unnecessary according to our society.  America simply has (had) no need or desire for castrated men, so our society and culture can devalue a eunuch until such people are abnormal (aka. not normal, which is merely to say in a literal sense, "not the norm").  Yet in a sexual context, the abnormal have been stigmatized as "perverted".

This comparison applies to child molesters by assuming an unnecessary sexual intercourse between American adults and children.  Other societies and cultures, however, have found sexual intercourse between different age groups necessary -- for non-trivial reasons.  Pick up an ethnography; Turnbull's The Forest People comes to my mind.  It describes how the elders of an African tribe teach their children how to have sex ... and the elders don't just talk about it like in American SexEd classes; they demonstrate.  Yet the tribe places limits on such sexual experiences for reasons of, for example, procreation.  It reminds me of similar ethnographies about societies and cultures that discourage older men from wanting a wife who is 'too young' -- who is still a girl and not a woman as defined by their culture --, and those that frown on men who are 'too interested' in young boys and neglecting their wives and children.  (Here I am thinking of ancient Athens.)  The stories vary but a common theme is how an individual's desires harmonize with (or become dissonant from) the needs of the group.  I dig up these cultures and societies along with their pasts because they offer a moment for Americans and Westerners to reflect on what is normal and ethical.

But some people dogmatically refuse to consider the past and other people.  At coffee table debates, the standard objection to normalizing ethics with socio-cultural demands is an appeal to some universally humane morality.  The only source of ubiquitous humanity that I have heard has popped out of the nihilistic movie Quills: "The whole world over, we eat, we shit, we fuck, we kill and we die."  Once someone starts to argue for an absolute and immutable ethic based on anything more than what is human in the physical sense -- what is malleable and relative --, then that person opens the way for anyone else to counter with another ethic based on similar criteria -- albeit with different and usually antagonistic morals.  It all ends in a lot of hot air.  So I think we should simply ask the practical questions: A) why are these adults attracted to children? and B) should we (and can we) change those attractions?  It is superfluous to answer, "I'm not attracted to kids; it's not normal."  I personally find it far too easy to answer this question because I'm attracted to people older than myself!  And someone molesting a child repulses me.  I also expect that the vast majority of Americans are not attracted to children.  However, branding minorities as abnormal or perverts meant for Hell will not make such people disappear, and might even cause more problems associated from sustaining them in our prisons. 

Regardless, a genuine reflection on other cultures and societies will give us more clues, and hopefully some practical solutions.  Chris Hansen claims that his show peers into the 'Mind of the Predator' but, while it hypes up paranoia that anyone might be a pervert, it does more to unveil the mind of an adult American man bent on punishing behavior that he condemns.  As another adult American male who was also a victim, I need something far less predatory.