10 April 2007

our normal impulses

In the sentencing of a Nevada man charged with child porn possession the judge offered a strange insight into the condition of pedophilia:

"As an example, having sex with a girl between 12 and 16 is prohibited because we say it's prohibited. It's because we decided as a civilized society you do not want adults engaging in sexual conduct with children below 16 years of age, which flies in the face of our, I guess for lack of a better description, our normal impulses," he said.
"I guess we could just ignore them, say it's just like a traffic ticket, it's malum prohibitum, it's only against the law because it's prohibited."

some people just shouldn't speak, ever.


sylvia said...

Ummm, yeah. A wee bit of hanky-panky in this jurist's past, perhaps?

Now, obviously I'm reading this all out of context and stuff, but if the charge was possession of child pornography, why in giving reasons is the judge talking about statutory rape?

Dr J said...

Actually, he's right, if his basis is historical rather than personal. After all, in many countries, marriage during those ages isn't particularly uncommon, much less sex; and it wasn't too long ago "many countries" would have been "all" countries, including Canada, the US, and the UK. There's also the difference between ages of consent from state to state. So, yeah, he's right. Historically.

It's that "normal impulses" clause that sets off alarm bells, though. It sounds like a Freudian slip. Then again, there's much been written about the association between sex and youth, from (at least) Plato on, and most famously cited by Oscar Wilde during his trial (and rejected in the decision).

No, that's not a defense of the Nevada guy, just a contextualisation of what the judge is saying. I think he's technically right about the issue being malum prohibitum. It's not something people want to hear, and it's something likely to get him in popular trouble; but in the historical broad-strokes, he's not saying anything beyond history or law. I suspect, though, he may be making a pre-emptive strike against possible appeals from groups like NAMBLA.

sylvia said...

Yes, okay. And historically, it wasn't uncommon for fairly young girls to be married off to much, much older men. Although I'm pretty sure it was considered not quite the thing to refrain from consummating such marriages until the bride was officially fertile, which tended to be later than is typical these days.

I don't know about anyone else, but, historical precedents or not, I'm still fairly squicked out by the whole 50-year-old-man/12-year-old-[girl/boy] thing, which strikes me as very different from either sexual experimentation between two 12-year-olds or the (probably more widespread) 25-year-old-guy/16-year-old-girl dynamic.

Of course, what the hell do I know :P

nic said...

The defendant was in possession of photos of children clearly under the age of 10 engaged in sexual acts with adults, why the judge is talking at all about how normal it is to be attracted to 12-16 year old girls is bizarre. "Judge, the dude collected pictures of kids being forced into sex, a little focus please!"

Dr J said...

You're both right, but I suspect the judge's apparent digression may have been written in response some aspect of the defense presented. (And defense attorneys can be awfully digressive and obscurantist.) Reads to me like the judge was addressing something directly out of the court proceedings, and of which we're not privy.

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