Of all of the ideas out there that are potentially worth discussing, the Washington Post thinks that this is one of them:
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.
Karasik goes on to argue that the statutory rape of students by teachers should be treated the same way as sexual relations between teachers and students who are both adults — i.e. as a firable offense but not a criminal one. The argument gets more and more bizarre from there:
The point is that there is a vast and extremely nuanced continuum of sexual interactions involving teachers and students, ranging from flirtation to mutual lust to harassment to predatory behavior. Painting all of these behaviors with the same brush sends a damaging message to students and sets the stage for hypocrisy and distortion of the truth.
There is indeed a continuum of objectionable sexual behavior between adults and adolescents. And as far as I can tell there’s no state where “flirtation” or inappropriate fantasies are treated as a criminal offense comparable to sexual assault so I have no idea what “broad brush” she’s talking about.
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?
This is so incoherent I don’t even know what exactly she’s trying to argue. Is she saying that child molestation by religious leaders should also not be criminalized because in some cases the law was flouted? What does the fact that some heads of state have consensual affairs with other adults have to do with 50-year-olds having sex with children who are too young to meaningfully consent? To the extent that it means anything this would seem to be the pedophilia-apologia equivalent of the old “torture is no different than fraternity hi-jinx” routine.
I can’t really say much more about this argument — which is essentially an even more deeply weird version of Baugh’s argument — than Lithwick and McCombs already have. So please read them. The only thing I’ll add is that it’s particularly senseless to give a particular exemption to teachers who have sex with underage students. Since they’re exploiting another power relationship in addition to age, if anything teachers (like religious leaders) who are statutory rapists are guilty of worse offenses.
I guess in the divorce with Slate the Post got custody of the terrible contrarian arguments? Only “repeal statutory rape laws” is a substantial degeneration from “Creed is an awesome band.”