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Friday, August 31, 2012

Others May Consent to Something You Wouldn't

I'm bumping up this good entry from a while back...

“Anonymous” left a comment on the post "Bigotry Expressed.” My response is below.

Thank you, Anonymous, for your thoughtful consideration and for comment.

I do not think she makes a good argument, because she expresses blanket certainty about diverse things about which she could not possibly be certain. There are adult children who are emphatic that they freely consent to have sex with a parent, some of whom claim to be the initiator, and others who would like to, but haven’t. It is their experienced word against her inexperienced word. Has she interviewed everyone involved and performed careful psychological analysis of each case?

If she had said that some apparently consensual cases could be the result of selfish grooming on the part of a parent, and explained that dynamic, then she would have a good argument.

“It seems pretty reasonable to presume that if a parent is having sex with their child, even an adult child, that the parent groomed the child into the sexual relationship.”

That may be reasonable to presume in some cases, but is a presumption that may or may not turn out to be true. Let’s assume the parent was a primary custodial parent. Is it impossible that a child could grow up having a healthy relationship with that parent, and after getting out of the home for college, the military, or any other form of establishing themselves, that adult child realizes that they have a sexual attraction to their parent? I do not think that is impossible. In addition, consider when the parent did not have primary custody or any custody, as is the case in so many Genetic Sexual Attraction cases.

It used to be widely agreed that it was reasonable to presume that someone who was attracted to someone of the same sex, which was classified as a disorder, must have those feelings as a result of flawed parenting, or a molestation or grooming. The truth is, people have a wide variety of attractions. You probably have some friends who have been attracted to someone and you can’t for the life of you figure out why. Likewise, some people are not attracted to their own parent and do not understand why someone else would be attracted to her own parent.

“It follows then that the law should prohibit incest to make sure that parents aren't grooming their children into a sexual relationship.”

It does not follow. There are mechanisms in place that could be used, especially if enhanced, to protect minor children from deficient parenting. I do believe that the job of a parent is to raise their minor child to be independent adults who only depend on others as a result of consent, usually for mutual benefit, support, or emotional fulfillment. But it is possible for a parent to do that and have the child become an adult and freely consent to sex with that parent. I strongly condemn child abuse. I would consider grooming a minor child to be your sexual partner to be child abuse. The crime should be in the grooming, not in any consensual sex adults have. If you want to write a new law for that one because you don't think existing child abuse laws suffice, go ahead.

There are many reasons a person, including that adult child, will have sex. Some are better than others. The question is legality. I would not advise someone else to have sex for each of the following reasons, but I would not want most of them to be illegal…

1. To bring physical or emotional pleasure to someone else
2. To express love/affection for/bond with another person
3. As a form of recreation or celebration
4. Religious ritual/command (do not withhold yourself from your spouse, etc.)
5. As a form of exercise or therapy
6. To reproduce
7. To satisfy curiosity, a desire, an urge
8. To gain or keep someone else’s attention
9. For ego/conquest
10. To emotionally hurt or anger someone else
11. To gain advantage/information
12. For compensation/trade
13. To infect someone else with a sexually transmitted disease without their consent

That’s not an exhaustive list and and there is some overlap, but out of all of those, the only ones that should be criminal are 13 and perhaps 12. #12 is illegal in many places, especially if the compensation is in the form of cash, but it is not currently the focus of this blog to argue about prostitution laws. An adult daughter (or son) may consent to or pursue sex with a parent primarily for the second reason, and that isn’t wrong if it doesn’t break existing vows to others and shouldn’t be illegal. I would say doing it for #10 would be wrong, but shouldn’t be illegal.

“But, I would ask you if at least some incestuous relationships are wrong?”

Any incestuous relationship involving nonconsent (which includes “consenting” minor children being used by adults) is wrong and should be illegal. Other relationships, including adult incestuous ones, may or may not be wrong. Some people consider a 20-something man and a 40-something woman wrong, or a woman and two men, or someone of Asian ancestry with someone of European ancestry, or a Buddhist and a Christian, or two people who bicker constantly as relationships that are wrong. Should any of them be criminal? No. As long as they are consenting adults, it should not be criminal. Do some people make better decisions than others? Yes. People consent to do all sorts of things they later regret. Doesn’t mean it should be illegal. If you can make a case that a specific 20-something woman is mentally ill or deficient to the point of not being able to consent and that the other person should have been aware of this, then that should be criminal (and the 20-something should have a legal guardian). But that would apply to anyone having sex with her, not just a close relative.

Something else that comes to mind is S&M. If you handcuff a nonconsenting stranger or a child for any reason other than law enforcement or self-defense, you are doing something that should be criminally wrong. But is it wrong to handcuff your consenting lover? Of course not. “Handcuffing” and “incest” are descriptions of behaviors, but those behaviors can be right or wrong. They should only be illegal when there is a lack of consent.
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4 comments:

  1. Thank you for your response. I would only raise one new point.

    I see the proscription against incest as analogous to the proscription against a doctor or psychotherapist having sex with a patient.

    Now, there is no proof that a patient couldn't have a proper consensual relationship with a doctor. But I think that many people would see impropriety. Inequality inheres in the relationship itself. The potential for abuse is so strong that it seems fair to simply prohibit all such relationships.

    And the medical community rightly perceives that to allow such relationships would discredit the medical profession. It would undermine their role in society, which is to heal people, not date them. The doctor has an obligation to society in general, just as a parent does.

    I think that there is, as you address, a problem of proof. But I see that it creates a different implication. In a situation where there was abuse, it would be very difficult to prove. A person who is groomed is unlikely to see a problem with the relationship. I think that consent isn't simply a matter of what a person thinks, it's a matter of the choices that they had in all the circumstances. Simply asking a person if they believe that they are a victim of a crime is not enough. In fact, an individual's subjective assessment of their situation is evidence, but is not determinative.

    I believe that proscriptions against sexual relationships are proper where a person has a societal role.

    And parents assume important societal roles when they become parents that limit their choices. They have a legal duty to provide necessaries for their child. The societal duty of a parent to take care of the child, through child support for instance, can continue into adulthood.

    What I'm getting at is that a person's freedom in relation to their child is limited in society's interests.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Let me try this again. I had to edit a word because I used an antonym...

    Thanks again, Anon.

    A doctor or psychotherapist has a licensed position to deal with physical or mental health issues. While parents may always offer advice, support, and comfort, their “professional” duty to an adult child is not the same as it was when that child was a minor. I think of teachers I had who married former students. That raises eyebrows, but it could be a good, healthy relationship.

    I do see that consanguineous sex can be more like a workplace romance. A business may have rules against such things, and sometimes such romances end up being problematic, but they aren’t illegal in private workplaces. Some people do find lasting love at the workplace, or some mutual fun that doesn’t go any further than that. The same happens with some relatives.

    In Genetic Sexual Attraction cases, someone usually already has a family and so the biological relative isn’t serving or didn’t serve in that role.

    All of this portrays these relationships as somehow negative for the adult child, though. Some are mutually beneficial as the individuals truly care for one another and are making conscious decisions to express that care physically. In such relationships, the other aspects of the relationship have aided in that.

    Finding a relationship without some form or amount of “inequality” is nearly impossible. One person is usually older, even if slightly, one has seen more of the world and has more life experience, one earns more than the other, one is physically stronger than the other, one is emotionally stronger then the other, one has more friends than the other, on and on it goes. Ironically, if it is “power equality” that is important, you’re more likely to find that in siblings raised together. After all, they have the same background.

    “The potential for abuse is so strong that it seems fair to simply prohibit all such relationships.”

    A single parent having a sleep-over date, live-in lover, or new spouse unrelated to the child greatly INCREASES the chances that the child will be abused in comparison to being married to that child’s other biological parent or not exposing the child to any of the parent’s lovers. The minor child can’t control what his or her custodial parent does in that regard. Yet, it isn’t illegal for the parent to have those relationships. It is illegal for those others to assault or rape the parent or rape, beat, or molest the child. Restraining orders can be issued. But absent harm, we do not make such relationships between adults illegal. The same should be true about incest laws. There are some great stepparents out there. There are some positive parent-adult child relationships. You’d hear more about them if it wasn’t illegal and if they’d be protected from retaliation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. " I do believe that the job of a parent is to raise their minor child to be independent adults who only depend on others as a result of consent, usually for mutual benefit, support, or emotional fulfillment. But it is possible for a parent to do that and have the child become an adult and freely consent to sex with that parent. I strongly condemn child abuse. I would consider grooming a minor child to be your sexual partner to be child abuse. The crime should be in the grooming, not in any consensual sex adults have. If you want to write a new law for that one because you don't think existing child abuse laws suffice, go ahead."

    THIS! THIS! SO MUCH THIS! I am both against anti-incest laws, and in favor of anti-grooming laws. I would also raise the age of consent to 20 with a moving consent window of 3 or 4 years, but I don't see that one happening.

    ReplyDelete

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