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Friday, October 06, 2006

Is Foley a Sexual Predator?

The term "sexual predator" has been widely used to characterize Florida Congressman, Mark Foley. This puts him in the same class as a serial pedophile who targets quite young children. While I am for anything that makes the Republicans look as hypocritical as they actually are and that wrecks their election chances, the term "sexual predator" seems more than a bit over the top as a characterization of Foley.

I have heard Foley described as a "sexual predator" primarily by Republicans who are desperately pushing themselves as far away from him as they can. I have also heard Republicans say that they need to get this issue off the front pages of newspapers by election day. In short, their concern is not for the pages, but for their own political asses. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, who richly deserves to be dumped by voters in my Congressional district, once listed him as one of her top five buddies. She is now retreating from this association faster than a speeding bullet.

In fact, insofar as the evidence shows, Foley went after high school graduates who had passed the age of sexual consent, which, in most states, seems to be 16 years old. Thus, Foley cannot fairly be said to be a pedophile because he seems not to have broken any laws and if he isn't a pedophile, I don't see how he can fairly be described as a "sexual predator." The FBI has said that the evidence they have seen does not rise to the level of a crime. He does prefer his male sexual partners to be young, perhaps because he is twisted in the way that many members of NAMBLA (The National Association of Man Boy Love Association) doubtless are. But being twisted in this way doesn't make him a lawbreaker per se and so calling him a "sexual predator" would be a bit over the top linguistically. His sexual actions are no more or less appropriate than those of a male or female college professor of similar years who goes after a male or female college freshman. What that kind of relationship is is inappropriate, rather than being illegal.

Nevertheless, I think everyone should pile on the Republicans as hard as they can for Republicans and their fellow travelers to their right are the ones that are hell-bent on legislating their personal moralities. Actually, they aren't legislating their personal moral values -- Foley co-chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus so he wasn't interested in legislating his -- so much as trying to represent themselves as having these values and getting whatever political mileage they can out of the effort. In short, the Republicans are being hoisted on their own hypocritical moralistic petard and that is a welcome sight.

I don't mean to make light of ex-Congressman Foley's actions. If I were the parent of a kid who had just graduated from high school and was serving as a page in Washington, I would be pretty pissed to learn that some Congressman was either sleeping with him or her or trying to. But I wouldn't see him or her as a criminal, much less a sexual predator.


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12 Comments:

Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:41 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Would it be too cynical to think of this as just the latest media circus for distracting public attention from consideration of any real issues?

I mean, sure, what Foley did was inappropriate and hypocritical and he should step down, but if no laws were actually broken, who cares? Is this the worst thing a Republican has done these last six years? Hardly. Will they eventually find a way to use this to their advantage? Probably.

I guess I've never really thought about the use of "sexual predator" before this. I haven't paid enough attention to the details of what Foley is accused of to know if the numbers justify his being labelled one. In a society where some still brag of their sexual conquests, though, this is just another hypocrisy.

Do you think the American people will ever grow up when it comes to matters of sex?

2:17 PM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I don't really know much about the situation, but I take issue with the apparent belief that sexual conduct can't be wrong unless it's illegal. If this is so, then does that make all illegal sexual conduct wrong (as sodomy still is, theoretically, in many states)? I know that's not a logical conclusion to be drawn from the statements made by themselves, but I wonder what premise lies behind judging some sexual conduct as "wrong" and other sexual conduct as "not wrong".

To me, someone could still be a sexual predator even if their conduct is legal. Mr. K (a sometimes commenter on this site) thinks, for example, that having sex with a drunk person when one is sober is wrong and should be illegal.

12:29 AM

 
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

"...I take issue with the apparent belief that sexual conduct can't be wrong unless it's illegal...

To me, someone could still be a sexual predator even if their conduct is legal. Mr. K (a sometimes commenter on this site) thinks, for example, that having sex with a drunk person when one is sober is wrong and should be illegal..."


@Kelly, do your comments and example not suggest that legality is, in fact, the primary standard for measuring the morality of (sexual) behavior, but that it just happens to suffer from the problem of being a rather imprecise (or wildly inaccurate) measure?

Poor as it is, what other measure is there of morality and immorality in a pluralistic society?

8:43 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Acts needn't be illegal to be wrong. There are ethical (business ethics, for instance) and morals (usually personal values) to be considered and these may or may not be codified in restrictions in the law on actions. The Christian Right is constantly trying to restrict how people behave. These actions on their part attempt to use the law to restrict actions that they believe to be immoral.

The word "predator" may be appropriate for Foley for he seems to have fairly relentlessly pursued these young men. And, his interest in them was sexual. However, the term "sexual predator" has a meaning more restrictive than one would expect from the meanings of "sexual" and "predator" due to its application to pedophiles, rapists, and the like -- in short to clearly illegal as well as immoral actions.

8:49 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

So, LG, it would seem that it's perhaps unfortunate that we don't have two words to mean the two things. But these things are not different in kind. Only in degree.

LG said: "These actions on their part attempt to use the law to restrict actions that they believe to be immoral."

Many laws are based on morals, and I'm not sure why people shouldn't lobby for laws that implement their view of morality. If enough people in the country believe it to be immoral, then is there really a problem with it being made illegal? The fact that these people's views are influenced by religion should be irrelevant.

Mister Pregunto, it seems like a good question, but this is a you are putting the horse before the cart (I'm not sure if this is an appropriate use of the phrase, but I think it gets the point across). Certain things are illegal because they were adjudged immoral at one time. It's a logical error to reverse it and then decide that it's only immoral if it's illegal.

11:46 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I forgot to say that in regard to implementing morality through legislation that this is the very essence of a democratic system.

11:47 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Many laws are based on morals, and I'm not sure why people shouldn't lobby for laws that implement their view of morality. If enough people in the country believe it to be immoral, then is there really a problem with it being made illegal? The fact that these people's views are influenced by religion should be irrelevant.

True, many current laws are based on morals. But morals, like opinions (which they are just another form of), can change with time. Should personal opinion really be a basis for legislation that, once in force, will be difficult to repeal?

The problem is, how many is "enough"? Not everyone shares the same moral standards or religious views. When does democratic majority rule become a tyranny and oppressive?

6:54 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

"The problem is, how many is 'enough'?"

In our system, we have opted for a simple majority in most circumstances. A simple swing in the other way should in theory (although perhaps not in practice) allow for repeal . . . I'm trying to think of the noun for repealing. Is it just the gerund?

"When does democratic majority rule become a tyranny and oppressive?"

A good question. As I was making the case in the fundamentalist thread, the Constitution sets up those areas where it can be considered oppressive or tyrannical. That's why it's painted in broad strokes--we can't, by law, prohibit or restrict the free exercise of religion, period, not just of Christianity. Of course, the Smith case (religious peyote smoking), one of Scalia's off days, in my opinion, has completely eviscerated that particular guarantee.

11:45 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I guess the noun is just "repeal". Weird. It doesn't sound quite right.

1:47 PM

 
Blogger Deborah said...

I don't see this as a distraction from real issues; a widespread cover-up of scandalous behavior is real, and the hypocricy of the "moral values" party shown in stark light is real. I'd say the media is more interested in this real story than in other real stories because this one is salacious, but I think it's real as hell.

In terms of linguistics, I'd say this is definitely predation. Going after 16 year-olds who are pre-selected to admire and defer to Congressmen, when you're a Congressman, is not the equivalent of going after 18 year-olds who may or may not excessively admire their professors. BUT both are wrong and both may be predation.

The be a predator is to seek after pray aggressively and without regard to the autonomy of the prey; using social, personal, and political power, and age difference to create intimidation and silence, thus avoiding getting caught, is predation.

11:00 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Deborah, to your point about predation, I would add that an exclusive focus on a certain class of vulnerable persons would be a clear sign and maybe a necessary condition on saying that predation is going on.

1:11 PM

 

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