I have a bunch of friends who blog over at Scientific American, real top rate folks. It came as a real shock to read something as horrid at SciAm as I found this week. Rarely have I read something in a mainstream publication that is so clearly irresponsible.
Jesse Bering, who writes “Bering in Mind” is some sort of psychologist, but thankfully not the clinical kind since he knows so little about human beings. The title of the piece is offensive enough that I’m hesitant to quote it here. Here’s the basic gist.
Bering allow folks to write in with questions, and chose to print one yesterday from a pedophile looking for comfort. Jesse, rather than privately writing to the guy to tell him to get help, launches into an irrelevant dissertation on various sorts of pedophiles and how some are better than others. He sub-fetishizes the fetish, giving pedophiles different monikers based on the age they prefer to prey on.
In his discussion of various sorts of pedophiles, he forgets to mention a few important facts: consent, power, and patriarchy.
Children are in no position to consent to sexual activity with an adult. They do not understand the physical and emotional ramifications in any sort of useful way. The age and maturity may affect how unprepared they are and in what way, but that’s about it. The adult in such a “relationship” is abusing their knowledge and power to use a young person to fulfill their own needs without regards to the safety of the child. These relationships are inherently non-consentual and abusive.
In our society, children are seen as chattel. Very young children effectively are, not being able to feed themselves or perform any other independent activities. But long after they have gained these abilities, many still view them as property. Parents beat their children when they don’t do what property is supposed to do. And other adults will use them as objects for sexual gratification. This is never beneficial for the child. There is no conceivable reason to allow adults to find sexual gratification in children, or to write an apologia for such behavior.
And this is what SciAm has done. They have allowed one of their bloggers to write a piece that essentially excuses pedophilia by calling it normative behavior. Whether or not it is “normative”, it is still wrong. It is still rape.
But Jesse can’t just approve of pedophilia and leave it at that. He has to up the ante of offensiveness:
Rind points out that it’s foolish and manipulative to demand that all teens frame their consensual trysts with all adults as inherently negative. He tells of a 14-year-old Jewish boy who lost his virginity to a prostitute in her 20s on the eve of the Holocaust only to soon perish at a concentration camp. On learning after the war from his son’s friend that the boy died a “man,” the boy’s father smiled and wept with pride. The irony, of course, is that today’s moral panic dictates that this teenager should be called a “survivor” of sex abuse had he actually escaped Auschwitz.
Really, Jesse? This is somehow relevant? A sex worker is hired to have sex with a minor and you see this as a positive? For whom? The woman forced to have sex with a stranger, or the child being forced to have sex by a relative or by societal demands? Do you really think any Holocaust survivor who lost a child is comforted by the fact that the child didn’t die a virgin? Would this putative survivor have had the same reaction had his child been a girl? Did you consider the inanity and offensiveness of this Jesse?
I considered not writing about this because it seems so obviously wrong to me, but science isn’t amoral. Scientific facts are amoral, but the way we apply them in society, the way we speak of them and present them, is a moral act, in this case a negative moral act. Hopefully, someone will learn something useful from this debacle. But I doubt it will be Jesse or his correspondent.
A correspondent has asked me if it is fair to “attack” SciAm for the work of an editorially-independent blogger. I’m not sure I know the answer, but I’d love to hear some ideas.