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2006-03-15 - 11:56 a.m.
Childhood, Age of Consent, and Sociopaths
OK, basic intelligence and common sense are the least of these people's shortcomings, but, in the parlance of the Internet Age: WTF???!!!
Regardless of the larger issue of child molestation, I guess I'm just amazed that anyone would still even think of trading or trafficking in pornographic images like this via the internet. Do they not read the newspaper or even watch the briefest of snippets of the six-o'clock news? Do they think they won't get caught? Do they not know of all the entrapment schemes and risks they're taking? Are they thinking at all?
Or maybe, as is often said of certain types of "criminal/disturbed minds", they "want to get caught?" I just don't know.
Now, this is not a middle-America, sexphobic, childhood-up-to-the-age-of-18-is-sacrosanct, idealistic, Pollyanna screed against so-called "perverts." Personally, I think there's "a line," but I guess I will go on record as saying that I don't know where that line is. The fact that age-of-consent laws vary wildly from state to state (and of course, from country to country) has underscored for me the idea that there is definitely a degree of "relativity" in this debate. To me, that seems clear cut. However, these are scary times, and even skirting the fringes of this topic is enough to make anyone worry that the NSA or FBI might be listening in.
The fact that something might be legal in Spain or New Jersey, but illegal in California implies a certain degree of "moral ambiguity" around the issue. However, I'm astounded by the number of people who have always assumed the universality of the adage that "under 18 is jail-bait" or some such thing. Maybe it's because California and Hollywood are the cultural center of the universe, and of course all of our information comes from television. (yes, folks, that's sarcasm...)
I am currently reading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, and her book is a wonderful memoir, as a professor and scholar, on the wonders of literature, the horrors of political oppression, and the strange interplay between reality and fiction.
As the title implies, Nafisi is somewhat of an authority on the much maligned and misunderstood Nabokov and his masterwork, Lolita (which I'm now quite determined to read). I was particularly struck by her musings on the fact that, while Lolita is quite reviled as filth, especially in the Islamic Republic (but also, likely, in many other places, including much of America), that same Republic allows girls as young as age 9 (three years younger than the eponymous "nymphet" of the novel) to be legally married to men of any age.
From our western vantage, I'm sure "we" could easily finger-wag and say that that is a typical example of the dysfunctional hypocrisy of a twisted, amoral totalitarian regime. However, for me, in brings moral relativism into sharper focus. If a whole nation can find the idea of Lolita -- the novel and the character -- morally repugnant, yet embrace (or at least tolerate, de jure) the idea of a man possessing a 9-year-old child as his chador-and-veil-enshrouded wife, what does that say about "moral absolutism"?
To me, it says: There is no such damn thing. Or if there is, it proscribes a much smaller area than many think it does.
[I feel there's more to say about this, but right now, I'm ready for lunch...]
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