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#WaPoPitch: G. Todd Baugh Was Right!

[ 163 ] August 31, 2013 |

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.”

Comments (163)

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  1. joe from Lowell says:

    Billionaires have the strangest bets.

    “Bet you can’t make the Washington Post into a worse paper!”

    “You’re on!”

  2. Shakezula says:

    There really is no limit to what some people will do for their five minutes of fame.

    But even if this vile fucktoad could prove she suffered a severe blow to the head while masturbating to “Don’t stand so close to me,” and she wrote this garbage while in some sort of fugue state, I would still say she should be required to make her argument to a room filled with parents of underage girls.

  3. cpinva says:

    apparently, anyone, no matter how amoral, can become a lawyer in this wonderful land of opportunity we have. fortunately for all of us, this woman is non-practicing, so there’s some scant hope for the profession yet. why the post deemed her spewing as worth taking up valuable op/ed space, I have no idea.

  4. dave brockington says:

    Wow. Just . . . wow.

  5. DrS says:

    That’s quite an argument.

    Does she propose any age limits, or are those flirty 3rd graders fair game for predators in the classroom?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      At least in this piece, she quite remarkably proposes no age limits. She’s not arguing that the age of consent should be lowered; she actually seems to be saying that there shouldn’t be a category of statutory rape.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        I’ve been a 14-year-old girl, and so have all of my female friends. When it comes to having sex on the brain, teenage boys got nothin’ on us. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier. Throughout high school, college and law school, I knew students who had sexual relations with teachers. To the best of my knowledge, these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word, even if society would like to embrace the fantasy that a high school student can’t consent to sex.

        Uh huh. This is all becoming a lot clearer.

        Friends, huh? And these “friends” weren’t stupid, or victims, and they weren’t damaged Goddammit!

        • Shakezula says:

          So the argument is sexual maturity begins once a child becomes curious about sex.

          And she knows girls were more interested in sex than boys because back in the 60′s and 70′s boys and girls all sat down and discussed their feelings.

          And her friends would never ever lie about having sex with a teacher!

          Who does this dumbass think she’s fooling?

        • DrDick says:

          Having come of age in the late 60s/early 70s, let me just say that “the sexual boundaries between teachers and students” were not at all fuzzier anywhere that I am aware of and you would have gotten yourself fired and thrown in jail if it were discovered.

          • sparks says:

            Not exactly the case when I was witness to it in the late ’70s, but the teacher concerned was certainly considered skeevy. I got to talk to his successor about six years later (at a yard sale!) and he dished some serious dirt. There was plenty I was unaware happened.

          • LeeEsq says:

            My parents were teacher at the time and they concur. Granted they were also teaching elementary school.

        • Snuff curry says:

          I know I’m beating a dumb horse who thinks he’s king shit in any and all interweb conversations, but for the love of fuck, joe of whatever, don’t fucking go there.

        • Origami Isopod says:

          And these “friends” weren’t stupid

          Could we not.

        • cpinva says:

          bullshit! I grew up in the 60′s and 70′s also, and I have no recollection of any “fuzzy” boundaries at all: IT.JUST.WASN’T.DONE! if it was done, the teacher was toast.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            My point exactly: the writer is clearly bullshitting somebody about the appropriateness and societal position on teachers having sex with students, to a rather remarkable degree.

            So who is she bullshitting?

            • Snuff curry says:

              Yes, obviously your expert psychoanalysis of Karasik’s false consciousness (bad lady wot professes beliefs I don’t agree with musta been raped!) is the occamest of razors. QED, hic haec hoc, or whatever.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                Wouldn’t it have saved time to just write ‘blah blah blah?’

                You wouldn’t have lost any meaning.

                • Snuff curry says:

                  u mad bro?

                  In future let’s just just stick to the things you know, joe: shopping, nail polish, your father’s BMW, and your unpaid sycophantic shilling for the democrats, yeah?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  “Wot,” did my use of grammatical language seem particularly passionate to you?

                  Q.E. Umwut?

                • Snuff curry says:

                  Passionate is not the way I’d characterize your comments, no. Myopic, self-centered, ego-driven, and macho, yes. Any more questions, bro?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  This whole thing is clearly upsetting you.

                  It’s starting to look like this isn’t just someone trolling, so I’m going to just cut off.

                • Snuff curry says:

                  I bet you say that to all the ladies, joe.

        • chris says:

          I see what you’re saying, but there really is something patronizing and even dehumanizing about saying “Don’t worry about whether or not you *think* you consented to this relationship, we’ll tell you what you consented to”.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            We’re talking about minors here.

            Society says that minors cannot consent to sexual activity with adults all the time, and for very good reason.

            • chris says:

              I don’t mean to be a semantic hairsplitter here, but in this context it seems particularly important to not say “cannot” when you mean “must not”. Because otherwise you might wind up literally telling someone that you know the contents of their own mind better than they do.

              • Katya says:

                I think “cannot” is the right word. Minors cannot enter into legally binding contracts, regardless of how intelligent and mature they are, and no matter how well they understand the terms of the contract.

                “Consent” has a legal meaning, and one part of that meaning is the capacity to consent. A minor can want to have sex with a teacher, certainly, and can agree to do so, but he or she cannot “consent.”

    • sparks says:

      Yikes, even with high schoolers it’s bad enough. When I attended HS, we had at least one character who had relations with students repeatedly. Back then they did pretty much what the Catholic church did e.g. moved the offender to a quiet, out of the way place.

      • Pat says:

        With a large enough school, say 100-200 teachers, it’s statistically quite likely that at least one of them will be a pedophile.

        My high school, early eighties, 3500 students, one teacher (I had heard of) was said to be doing girls in his office. Few of us were aware that it was a felony, because it wasn’t talked about.

        I remember asking a girl in the locker room (tenth grade) why her belly was getting bigger, and having no clue at all when she opened up on me screaming that she was pregnant.

        Never saw her again.

  6. joe from Lowell says:

    This will no doubt be reported in the conservative media as liberal opinion.

  7. LoriK says:

    I am tempted to ask some very pointed questions about Betsy Karasik’s life.

  8. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    jeez, just reading the excerpts is making me more stupid and I can’t afford that

    a fifty-ish guy fooling with 14-ish girls – what is the freaking point of trying to *excuse* it? Is it just part of the general war on women?

  9. Anonymous says:

    The only reason this upsets liberals is because it involves heterosexuals.

    A fifty year old male teacher with a 14 year old boy would be celebrated as “liberation” by LGBT.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      Somewhat less evil, perhaps? But yes, the editors should at least be ensuring that context like what Coates provides is right there with that original.

  10. R. Porrofatto says:

    This is truly bizarre and offensive on so many levels.

    I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.

    To this English speaking non-lawyer, this sentence creates a whole new definition for extenuating. Is there some topsy-turvy legal meaning of “extenuating circumstances” I’m missing here?

    I don’t know what triggered Morales’s suicide, but I find it tragic and deeply troubling that this occurred as the case against Rambold wound its way through the criminal justice system. One has to wonder whether the extreme pressure she must have felt from those circumstances played a role.

    She could have read all about it on the Internet. According to the girl’s mother, her suicide was directly the result of being raped, and being ostracized by her friends for reporting the rape, and worse. The case against Rambold wound its way through the criminal justice system — like every similar rape case– because it was reported to the police. Is Karasik saying that teacher-rapists shouldn’t be arrested or prosecuted in order to spare their victims from “pressure”?

    Damn.

  11. herr doktor bimler says:

    this much-needed dialogue.

    Ah, she’s just starting a conversation so it’s OK.

  12. Tiny Tim says:

    This is a horrible horrible column which I won’t in any way defend, but the I think it is fair to have a conversation about just what ages of consent and punishments for statutory rape should be. These things vary quite a lot by state and both ages of consent and punishments have gone up in recent decades. There isn’t exactly a consensus on them and while I definitely support the existence of statutory rape laws, making them too punitive or setting the ages too high (without reasonable age difference provisions) is a problem.

    But this particular situation is hardly the thing that should spark that conversation.

    • Snuff curry says:

      …making them too punitive or setting the ages too high (without reasonable age difference provisions) is a problem.

      Why is making them “too punitive” a problem, specifically?

      • Malaclypse says:

        Presumably, because having some 19-year-olds sentenced as sex offenders for having sex with 17-year-olds, all at the discretion of prosecutors who find some of the 19-year-olds – the ones that are gay, or maybe the black boys who sullie virtuous white womanhood – icky, is a bad thing.

        • Snuff curry says:

          Tiny Tim’s objections to statutory rape laws, as I understand his complaint above, are that they are, firstly, “too punitive,” and, secondly, that slight differences in age aren’t considered in favor of the accused, or whatever.

          Again, I’m asking how are they “too punitive.”

          • Pat says:

            Well, there is the idea of having one’s name put on a sexual offender list, which forever restricts what jobs you can hold, what apartments you can rent, and pretty much makes you ostracized for the rest of your life, by anyone who looks you up.

            Teenagers who sext each other can end up in this boat. I think it’s punitive, and my lovely daughter is fifteen.

            • Snuff curry says:

              Yes, that would explain the second objection (regarding teenagers who have sex with one another). I’m interested in how statutory rape convictions result in overly punitive repercussions for the rapist.

              • Pat says:

                The use of sexual offender lists was originally conceived as a way of protecting society from repeat offenders, right? The idea was that if someone had raped a child, served their time, and got out, it was a detail that their neighbors might want to know.

                The idea comes from the right place. BUT…

                Tagging someone for life is a big deal, for the person tagged. Like getting your hand cut off for stealing, it is plain for everyone to see what you’ve done. And it alters your life irrevocably.

                You might say, so what? The child’s life was alter irrevocably too. And that’s what my husband says – he’d just as soon implement the death penalty for child rape. That’s one point of view. But I think that it’s reasonable to ask what an appropriate sentence is. I do believe that the teacher received far too lenient a sentence. But I since I am less inclined to impose the death penalty, I think it’s reasonable to discuss what it should be.

                • Snuff curry says:

                  The use of sexual offender lists was originally conceived as a way of protecting society from repeat offenders, right? The idea was that if someone had raped a child, served their time, and got out, it was a detail that their neighbors might want to know.

                  Nope. The sex offender registry lists all sex offenders, not just those who raped / molested / groped children. I don’t understand your point, and the death penalty non-sequitur isn’t making things clearer.

                  You do understand that repeat offenders are responsible for the bulk of all reported rapes, right?

    • Origami Isopod says:

      IIRC most states already have “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions for, say, 18-year-olds dating 17-year-olds.

      IMHFO the law isn’t anywhere near punitive enough for grown-ass men who troll high schools and junior high schools for “dates.” Aw, you (the general “you”) wound up on a sex offender registry for fucking a 14-year-old when you were 35? Cry me a river.

    • John Lott says:

      These things vary quite a lot by state and both ages of consent and punishments have gone up in recent decades.

      Which would indicate that there’s already a conversation going on.

  13. OmerosPeanut says:

    I was hoping someone would tear into this after I read it first thing this morning.

    Is there anything in her argument that – if you somehow found it persuasive – applied strictly to teachers? She seems to be trying to make a case against criminalizing statutory rape in all contexts. Hell, if I didn’t know better I’d think she could make a killing promoting this line of reasoning to NAMBLA.

  14. herr doktor bimler says:

    tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue

    1. Rather than assume the urgent necessity for a dialog about the right to fuck children, the author should explain it at length.
    2. Perhaps tarring and feathering the judge won’t advance it, perhaps it will, let’s we try it and find out.

  15. Tiny Tim says:

    I don’t think statutory rape should be seen as identical to rape, especially when (as in some states) a 20-year-old can be nicked for having sex with a 17-year-old. It’s one thing for the state to think it necessary to intervene in this relationships, another thing for them to be high level felonies. That situation is nothing like a 50 year old teacher raping a 14 year old student, but that’s the point.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      As I just commented upthread, there are already legal exceptions for, say, 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds in relationships.

      When there is a greater age difference and/or other power differentials, I am perfectly fine with viewing statutory rape as identical to rape. Because children cannot consent. It is predatory behavior. End of story.

      • sparks says:

        Greater than one year?

      • teraz kurwa my says:

        One can think that some of our statutory rape laws are far too restrictive and that certain cases prosecuted are a travesty while believing that a) sex between forty year olds and fourteen year olds is rape and b) sex between teachers and high school students is completely unacceptable. I’d want expansive and expanding Romeo and Juliet provisions such that sex between two high school students is not ever criminalized and sex between seventeen year olds and people in their early or mid twenties also isn’t. Saying that consensual sex between a seventeen year old and a fourteen year old should be a crime is IMO just as fucked up as saying that sex between a fourteen year old and her forty year old teacher is ok.

        • sparks says:

          I think this is where things get muddy. Each of us has a “squick factor” where we find a relationship unseemly or even disgusting, and hence disagreement – for example I’d leave it at early 20s for a 17-year-old, as that would very infrequently be exploitative. Power relationships would need to be considered in any case e.g. being true to your school shouldn’t mean being coerced into banging (or being banged by) a youngish TA. Unfortunately, sometimes there are power issues the law can’t take into account without being overly restrictive. So we get patchwork laws which are sometimes convenient for some who enforce the law to enforce instead racial or sexual conformity to their own prejudices.

          • chris says:

            Power relationships would need to be considered in any case e.g. being true to your school shouldn’t mean being coerced into banging (or being banged by) a youngish TA.

            I think there are some cases where, even if criminalizing the relationship may not be a good idea, it should still probably be grounds for firing. There’s a big difference between firing someone from a specific job and putting them in prison for years (not to mention the sex offender registry stuff, which seems designed to prevent any possibility of rehabilitation, or maybe just predicated on the assumption that it is impossible).

            But it’s difficult to have the conversation when emotions are so heated that anyone who so much as raises the subject is reflexively accused of personally being a pedophile.

        • chris y says:

          This, as they say on the internets. But… I live in a country where the age of consent is 16. Romeo and Juliet exceptions are generally invoked in cases of 16 year olds having sex with 14 or 15 year olds, but if a 50 year old seduces a 16 year old, then unless the teenager claims coercion or is subject to a care order, the law cannot touch him, for all the social disapprobation that would undoubtedly ensue. (A teacher has particular responsibility and would be fired so fast his feet wouldn’t touch the ground; he’d never work in a school again but he wouldn’t go to jail.)

          But mostly nobody finds this situation objectionable, because it’s what we’re used to. In fact you hear the argument that setting the age of consent at 18 contributes to the infantilisation of American teens. Yet probably most people would be squicked by the idea of lowering it to, say, 14, as in Germany and Italy, or 13, as in Spain.

          I draw two conclusions: Firstly, a single age of consent is a blunt instrument and we should look at alternatives, secondly, it’s important to have additional measures in place to prevent older people exploiting very young people, as also is the case in Germany, and that is independent of any formal age of consent that exists.

          • Belle Waring says:

            I draw one conclusion: some European countries have dumbass fucked-up advanced state of FAIL ages of legal consent for sex, and citizens in those nations should try to come correct on that.

            • chris says:

              ISTM that this opens a really big can of worms though — once you acknowledge that different people/societies have different definitions of the “correct” age, you need a method of deciding what is correct that isn’t just “what I’m used to”. If there is some sense in which Spanish law is objectively wrong, how do you prove it?

              The idea that teenagers, in general, can’t distinguish between things they are doing because they want to and things they are being made to do by someone else is obviously absurd. So what exactly does “incapable of consent” mean in this context, and how can you distinguish when it applies?

              ISTM that it often is just a way of disguising “they may exercise their judgment in ways I disapprove of, or that might be unwise”. Which may be a reason for restricting their activities, but ISTM that calling it “not really consent” is only confusing the issue and not improving the quality of discussion about under what circumstances their consent should be legally respected, when present.

              It may be a good policy to criminalize certain relationships whether they are consensual or not, but consensuality is a fact that already exists (or doesn’t) in the minds of the participants; declaring a relationship legally nonconsensual makes only slightly more sense than declaring pi legally equal to 3.

  16. I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.

    Why just teachers and students? What makes that particular relationship more acceptable than, say, with a youth minister or the guy who changes your oil your shift manager or your dad’s hot younger co-worker or just the average person down the street? Wouldn’t the hierarchical nature of a teacher-student relationship suggest exactly the opposite, that such relationships be seriously and strenuously discouraged? That’s just goddamn goofy.

    • sparks says:

      Yeah, it’s the “hotness is all” theory of relationships, a mindset that still has some traction. As an aside, it’d be interesting to see if attractiveness of the accused has any bearing on charges being filed or on jury convictions.

    • chris says:

      Wouldn’t the hierarchical nature of a teacher-student relationship suggest exactly the opposite, that such relationships be seriously and strenuously discouraged?

      I hear there are things other than criminalization that can discourage people from doing things. Whether the teacher should be *fired* is a very different question from whether they should be sent to prison for years.

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  18. [...] “chaste woman” got raped. Those are the nuances rape victims have to deal with. And here we have another example of nuance, a WaPo column using the case of a 49-year-old Montana teacher [...]

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