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Washington Post Op-Ed Appallingly Defends Teacher/Student Sexual Relationships and Rape

chalkboardIt takes a lot to shock me.  Sure, I get frustrated and appalled by some of the things I read, but to truly shock me takes quite a lot.  Well, an op-ed written by Betsy Karasik and published by the Washington Post simply blew my mind.

Not because it brought up great points, because it surely did not.  It blew my mind because of the sheer absurdity of her arguments.  This woman actually wrote a lengthy article defending teacher/student relationships and older individuals who are caught having sex with much younger people.

Now usually I enjoy the Washington Post, and one decision to publish somebody’s ridiculous op-ed doesn’t make or break a news organization.  But I won’t lie, the fact that the Washington Post allowed something this disgusting to get published really took me by surprise.

The woman essentially downplays the significance of much older people targeting the naive nature of youth.  She claims that not all sexual relationships between students and teachers (or minors and adults) should be considered rape.

In fact, she built her argument around the recent case of a 49-year-old Montana high school teacher who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old student.  From the op-ed:

“As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.”

Now, before I go on, I do agree that some of the cases I’ve heard about where an 18 or 19-year-old has been convicted of statutory rape because they were dating a 16-year-old are kind of ridiculous.  But that’s not what this woman is talking about.

She essentially says that those older adults who might target minors for sexual relationships shouldn’t always be viewed as criminals, but rather good people just needing a little “rehab.”  Even when we’re talking about a 49-year-old man who took advantage of a 14-year-old girl — this shouldn’t be criminalized. 

Honestly, the article is pure trash.  Dangerous trash, at that.  There’s no nice way to put it and absolutely no way to sugarcoat this fact.

And throughout the article she really offers no real defense for why we shouldn’t be appalled when we hear about some 49-year-old teacher having sexual relations with a 14-year-old student.

Well, she offers an “argument”—it’s just completely idiotic.

She tries to make the point that even at age 14 (or younger) students have sexual desires equal to those of adults, and to paint any and all sexual interaction (intercourse, foreplay or simple flirting) the same way doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

And she would know about not making sense, because she sure as hell doesn’t.  My first impression when reading this horrific piece was, “Man, this sounds like a pedophile trying to justify their desires.”

It seems her biggest “weapon” she uses in the op-ed is the trauma that criminal prosecution causes on the minors who are involved in these encounters.  And of course there is trauma throughout.  During these proceedings intimate, private and often embarrassing details emerge which can easily cause personal distress for the minor who’s involved and their family.

But does that suddenly mean we shouldn’t continue prosecuting these monsters who take advantage of children?  

Seriously, I’d really like to know the Washington Post’s reasoning for publishing such an atrocious op-ed; one that sympathizes with teachers who willfully abuse their positions of authority to commit statutory rape.

It reeks more of a pamphlet written by an adult trying to excuse their desire to have sexual relationships with minors, rather than any kind of “insightful” article posted on such a large — and often respected — media entity like the Washington Post.

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Allen Clifton is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has a degree in Political Science. He is a co-founder of Forward Progressives, and author of the popular Right Off A Cliff column. He is also the founder of the Right Off A Cliff facebook page, on which he routinely voices his opinions and stirs the pot for the Progressive movement. Follow Allen on Twitter as well, @Allen_Clifton.

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  • Carol

    I would like to post an alternative to the theory this person could be a pedophile. Maybe this person is a survivor trying to deal with what happened to them as a child. Sometimes the victim will justify what happened to them, as it is a lot easier to say it is ok then to say something bad happened to them. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning what was said just trying to figure out WHY it was said.

    • Sammy

      Maybe she is trying to forgive herself for having a sexual relationship with a minor in her own past. I have no idea if that is the case, but it did cross my mind. I don’t think a child of 14 years of age is emotionally mature enough to handle a sexual relationship with anyone, even a peer. This generation of kids is constantly bombarded with sexual images, and stories, on TV, news, video games, movies, etc. and I think it is very unhealthy and I wish that it would not be that way.

  • AlfredLehmberg

    Children cannot give informed consent and adults cannot expect such _from_ them. That’s why we don’t fuck our kids.

  • maxiemom

    There was a time in history when young girls did marry old(er) men. Those days are LONG past, and for good reason. Girls that young are just that: girls. In a bygone era, when children weren’t allowed to be children, that wasn’t the case. They grew up fast. Youngsters did the work of adults when they were small. Again, that is no longer true.

    Children are allowed to be children because they are just that: children. They are not adults. They can’t make decisions as adults. That’s why this op-ed is so heinous, just as the actions of that rapist are.

    Dangerous? Yes. Some people want to sent us back to the Dark Ages. I don’t expect that from the Post.

  • geminijeanna

    SHAME on the Washington post for publishing the article.

  • Mainah

    My oldest boy is 14 and I don’t give a flying fuck if he has “sexual thoughts” but that has nothing to do with a grown up with more experience and ability to manipulate a CHILD into a situation that will scar them for life. And the fact that I would probably be in jail for beating that person sensless with a large stick with nails protruding from it would create more issues but would definitely be done.

  • Lee Merrick

    The only reason I can see for the Post to publish this is to show just how absurd, just how twisted the logic, that those pedophiles and pedophile-wanna-bes will go to in order to justify their exploitation of young people.

    As a teacher, I am both horrified and angered every time I hear about a case where a teacher abuses his or her position. There is no excuse or justification for it, and I can think of no reason why there should be leniency when such abuse has been proven or admitted.

  • Laura Macias

    I read her article. I don’t think she used the best example to illustrate her point, but I do believe she has some valid arguments.
    We base our laws on accepted ideas of age appropriate behavior, forgetting that humans are a complex and nuanced animal and that “age-appropriate” can be subjective within a culture or period of time. It does a great disservice to treat consensual sex between a (for example) 16 year old male and 22 year old female the same as sex between any person over the age of 25 with any person under the age of 14. If you factor in variables such as emotional maturity, intelligence, mental health and family tradition, age is really just a number of years that a person has existed on this Earth, and not necessarily the best indicator of sexual/developmental maturity.

    • William Eberline

      Laura, I agree with you to the extent that we might need to reexamine our cultural prejudices. What I’d like to know is, how much did the prosecution and publicity involved in this case contribute to this girl’s suicide? And was this just a statutory rape, or was it forcible, and entirely against her will? On the other hand, for anyone in a position of authority to take sexual advantage of someone under their supervision is intolerable. This teacher should rightly have been sent to prison, if not for murder, then at the very least for statutory rape!

    • AuroraMoon

      I hit puberty at a really YOUNG age… around 9 years old. it was also when I first got my period. not too long after I started having sexual feelings. yet at the same time I was still playing with my barbies. I also knew girls who had the emotional and mental maturity of a young adult but still had the body of a 12 year old. they also had zero sexual drive at all. So yeah I do see your point that every kid develops differently… but I still believe that there is a very good reason for lawful age limits to exist.
      You mentioned traditions as one of the many variables in determining whenever a kid was ready to have sex. Ummm….According to some cultural traditions, the age when I first got my period means that I was now old enough to have sex and get married. Yet, I got it at 9 years old… meaning that some people now considered me ripe for deflowering by men of marriageable age. So I don’t think family or cultural traditions are a good way to gauge whenever somebody is ready for it. If anything, the existence of child brides proves that some traditions can be highly scarring to young girls in certain countries.
      I think there’s a very good reason why most states have 16 to 17 years old being the age of consent don’t you think? Any kids younger than that is simply not ready at all.

  • Wondering

    I can’t help wondering Mr. Clifton, did you read the entire piece? Or at least to the paragraph past the one you cited? I don’t know, it just didn’t seem as shocking to me as it did to you. What you wrote sounds more like an emotional rant than an honest evaluation of the actual content of the OpEd piece. More and more of your pieces sound like that of late.

    “Dangerous Trash”? Seemed to me it was more like she was asking an honest question based on reactions to a comment the judge made defending his sentencing decision. I didn’t see where she defended the relationship at all! She didn’t even defend the judge’s defense of his sentencing decision, which many thought too lenient. Apparently the judge was wrong in your book too? She said teachers having sex with their students should be removed from their jobs. That certainly doesn’t sound like defending or condoning the behavior and she surely didn’t seem to be defending rape as the title to your piece claims. Aren’t exaggerated titles one of your pet peeves?

    From the words I read, she seemed to be questioning the criminality of the act and it’s immediate definition as rape. At issue here is legal “age of consent”, which varies by jurisdiction and, while generally 16 to 18 in the US, varies more wildly around the world. The world range is 12 to 21, with 14 and 15 being not all that uncommon. Note that again, in some places as low as 12. I’m not saying that’s right, just saying it is. Are young people in other parts of the world more psychologically capable and mature at a younger age than here in the US, or do those countries just look more favorably upon raping young women? There are some absurdities to both those options. People keep using the word “child” here. We may not know exactly what they are all the time, but people between the ages of 14 and 18 certainly aren’t children, and to think one day they can’t consent and the day after a birthday they can is just a little absurd. I’m certain some get there faster than others and some maybe never do. In some parts of the world, some teens have no choice because they have to help their families survive, it’s just life. One thing we all know is that the day after their 18th birthday, in this country, we expect them to have their heads together enough so that they can be trained to go off and kill people. To me, the whole age of consent thing really does seem a fairly arbitrary measure of psychological maturity. Maybe these cases have to be looked at more closely, on a case by case evaluation, as opposed to using a rather dull axe.

    She also seemed to ask the question, did the prosecution of this older man that this young woman may have loved, however immaturely, lead to her suicide? Or maybe just the complete embarrassment of all the public exposure? Did it? That would be sad. Punishing the teacher certainly didn’t help her. That’s the question that rolls around in my mind. What could have been done to help this poor girl? What ever it was, it wasn’t done, so in it’s earnest effort to protect this girl … society simply failed.

    My plain hatred of Mitt Romney led me to this page and reading your commentary for the last year or so. In the beginning, I enjoyed most of it. Now? To me it seems you need to think more before you write. It’s almost entertaining because lately it seems like you are ideologically ranting about people ideologically ranting.

    And now I’ll open the floor to those who will likely fry me. I certainly know I didn’t take the popular side in this particular debate.

    • William Eberline

      This is good, thoughtful analysis, and I agree with it- see my reply, above, to Laura Macias. Anyone who takes the time to actually read it shouldn’t fry you. I certainly won’t!

  • louis

    this shit makes me sick. yea lets be lenient on rapists and prosecute pot smokers and drug addicts to the fullest extent and beyond. Only republicans would think like this. I am ashamed to be an American anymore. because what i thought was “American” and “patriotic” seems to be completely wrong. To me nothing is more disgusting than a pedophile. i mean hell, some forms of murder i can atleast understand if not condone. but rape, fuck this country anymore. i am ashamed we have elected officials like these judges and others that have raped our constitution and exploited our kids.

    • Guest

      What the heck!?! This isn’t even remotely political, you hack. Even if it were, The Washington Post is a notably leftist publication. As such, its opeds would be more likely written by Democrats or Occupy Wall Street trash. You show your ignorance. Please keep it to yourself.

  • AuroraMoon

    I’m honestly baffled by her logic. Sure, there are a lot of girls who explores their sexuality and sometimes will talk a big game about “going after a hot teacher”… but the thing is, most of the time they usually don’t do anything of the sort like they claimed they would do… they just usually talk a big game in order to feel “grown up”.
    I hit puberty at a really young age, and I knew other girls who did too. So some of us developed big breasts at the age of 12, and often looked like we could be 14 to 15 years old. Because of our early puberty, we started feeling curious about sex earlier than other kids did… but at the same time we were still playing with barbie dolls. Sometimes we would act out what we often assumed were sexual acts with our dolls, and talk about sex… simply because it made us feel grown up. But the thing was… what we knew about sex back then were so utterly laughable…. we didn’t really have a clue what most sex acts really were about! Sometimes we would talk about fantasies we had regarding teachers that we thought were attractive.. but in the end most of those fantasies didn’t have much sex, just a lot of making out or sounded like a bad teenage romance novel. you know, a lot of flowery prose… talk about loving each other, but no sex.
    None of us was really ready for sex at all…and in fact did not have sex at all until much later in life, when we were 17 to 18. but according to this woman… because we did all that, that meant that we had to be ready for sex even if we were only 12 years old back then. *rolls eyes*
    She didn’t even outline an age in where a girl might be ready… she just assumes that we are all the same… that we all develop the same exact way mentally, emotionally and physically. That’s the worse kind of logic ever.

  • BJK

    Like a PP, I’m a teacher, and it makes me both sad and angry whenever I hear of a fellow teacher crossing that boundary. In my 20 years of teaching, I’ve had high school boys that I would have ADORED when I was their age. I’ve had boys that had sweet little crushes on me. But I would NEVER act on those feelings, as I realize that it would be completely inappropriate. How anyone can say that a mature adult can have relations with a young teen and it be OK is far beyond my imagination. How very sad for the writer to believe this, and how very, very awful.

  • Mike Williams

    Mr. Clifton,

    Well said.

  • Mike Williams

    Some comments on subject of this article and the reason this article exists seem to gloss over the point. The article this article is about is grotesque and can only be interpreted as an argument for pedophilia.

    What this article and other articles I have read on this particular case fail to completely examine is the result of the teacher’s actions. The girl later, killed herself. It could be argued that she did so two years later and has no bearing but I would call it bullshit and I would support a murder charge brought on the teacher.
    His actions put into play the situation that resulted in the death of the child.
    That lends a lot weight to the mental stability reasons of age based consent laws.
    A child can not give consent for anything.

    That is the law and for sex there should be no exceptions.

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  • Betsy Karasik

    This piece grossly and irresponsibly misrepresents my views, completely ignoring my context and depicting me as a victim-blaming rape apologist. Labeling me as “pro-rape” is a facile and intellectually dishonest way to shut down dialogue, much like claiming that anyone who questions mandatory sentencing is promoting crime or that advocates of comprehensive sex education in schools are promoting promiscuity. I wasn’t surprised when Glenn Beck slammed me, but I was appalled to see the same reductive tactics and reactionary mindset embraced by journalists who call themselves progressives and feminists.

    I was arguing that criminalization is a blunt instrument with unintended consequences and is not always the best way to deter behaviors we deem undesirable. Society learned this during prohibition and is currently grappling with these problems in the context of drug laws and mandatory sentencing. I was simply stating the obvious: sexual activity between students and teachers will continue to occur no matter how hard we try to suppress it with legislation. And some of these situations will include behavior that does not include force, coercion, manipulation, or other conduct that plainly should be subject to criminal laws.

    I was suggesting that we could be responding to consensual situations in a more realistic and intelligent manner, and that forcing the student to participate in a criminal prosecution in these cases is likely to unnecessarily amplify the trauma to the student.

    Of course, we aren’t just talking about the general population, but rather a situation where teachers are in a position of trust and authority over students. That is why I clearly stated that any teacher who has sex with a student, even if the sex is consensual and the student is above the age of consent, should be fired and lose their license. And I have also suggested a higher standard of proof for establishing that student-teacher sex is consensual, perhaps in the form of a rebuttable presumption of non-consent.

    Some argue that because of the power differential there can never be meaningful consent in in this context. I disagree and I believe it is tortuous and hypocritical to label all of these situations rape. I do agree that any student-teacher sexual relationship should be subject to very careful scrutiny because of these concerns. I would rather see society devote resources to providing a thorough mental health and/or law enforcement evaluation on a highly individualized basis at this point to determine if there was manipulative or coercive conduct, rather than on indiscriminate prosecutions and repairing psychological harm after the fact.

    In her book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex, (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2002) Judith Levine states that “[m]any psychologists believe that adults’ reactions even to certifiable sexual abuse can exacerbate the situation for the child…” and quotes a report by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect stating: “There is often as much harm done to the child by the system’s handling of the case as the trauma associated with the abuse.” Even my most vocal critics in the victim community concede that the criminal justice system is still rife with ignorance and incompetence, can be a brutal experience for victims, has a long way to go before it adequately supports survivors of abuse, and is not likely to change any time soon.

    I strongly believe that forcing a teenager who has engaged in a consensual sexual experience to self-identify as a rape victim sends a hypocritical and damaging message to that individual and to society. I was also arguing that the age of consent is unrealistically high. In the United States it is 18 in many states, and 16 or 17 in others. In most European countries it is between 14 and 16. When I said “not all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape” I was referring to consensual sexual activity by teenagers who are underage within the current legal framework, but who would not be underage if legislators lowered the age of consent.

    Again, this is not about blaming the victim or promoting sexual activity, but rather realistically tailoring social policies, including how wide a net we wish to cast for criminal prosecutions.