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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.

About Allen Clifton

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.

  • 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.

  • Pingback: Forward Progressives — Rape Culture has Run Amok, but is Mocking It an Effective Tool to Stop It?

  • 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.

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