Not Saussure

October 4, 2006

Double standards?

Filed under: Blogroll, Politics, usa — notsaussure @ 3:13 pm

Via Prodicus, I came across an article by Dr Sanity, who hales from Ann Arbour, Michigan. The Doctor starts by discussing the case of Rep Foley, an American congressman who’s had to resign recently after sending a series of somewhat odd emails and texts to a 16-year-old boy; the doctor quotes, approvingly, various people who’re attacking ‘the Left’ for calling Rep Foley ‘a pervert’, a term which he thinks it’s odd of them to use of a gay man.

That seems to me to miss the point; the main objection, surely, to Rep Foley’s behaviour isn’t that the object of his affections is a young man. In part, it’s that he was 16 at the time Rep Foley started sending him these explicit texts, which means it would have been it would have been illegal in many US states for Rep Foley to have had sex with him, as it would be for Rep Foley to have had sex with a 16-year-old girl and, under a law that Rep Foley apparently helped write, it’s a federal offence to send so explicit electronic communications.

Furthermore, I’d think anyone was more than a bit odd if he started sending such explicit communications to any of his employees, whatever their age or gender, or, indeed, to anyone with whom they weren’t already in a relationship. I’m not sure if I’d use the word ‘pervert’, but that’s because it’s a word I associate with the tabloids.

Since, however, Rep Foley encountered the boy when he was working as a pageboy in Congress as part of an internship programme, it’s certainly arguable that his conduct, were it to take place here, would amount to inciting a child under 18 to engage in sexual activity contrary to Section 17 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 , and even if it didn’t most people would think it’s a pretty disgraceful breach of trust.

I’d also think that a gay man who made it his political business to oppose legislation on matters like same-sex marriages can hardly complain if people then accuse him of hypocrisy.

But I’m just old-fashioned that way, I suppose.

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  1. i see your point. and initially it puzzles me – the hypocrisy of mark foley. but, then, i’m inclined to think what many view as hypocrisy may well be a manifestation of self-loathing.

    he acted unwisely. illegally, even. but what a place of conflict he must have lived in, within himself?

    it may seem like semanitcs. but using the word child seems inflammatory. child refers to a pre-pubescent human. a 16 year old falls into the adolescent age group. perhaps a small detail, but not really.

    Comment by velvetacidquill — October 4, 2006 @ 8:02 pm

  2. I agree; ‘child’ is probably the wrong word. I used it because I was talking about British legislation on abuse of trust, and the particular clause that would potentially put him at risk here uses the phrase ‘child under 18’, though some other sections of the act refer to a ‘young person under 18′.

    I, too, feel sorry for the guy; as you say, he must be pretty conflicted and I’m not at all surprised he’s apparently checked in to an alcohol abuse clinic.

    Having said that, I do think the abuse of trust and the potential abuse of the power relationship is very serious, and his hypocrisy is pretty breath-taking. Over here we tend to take a reasonably laid-back attitude to politicians’ sex lives (they’re usually fair game for ridicule rather than censoriousness most of the time) but all the reporters I know — whatever their politics or those of their papers — say they’d have no hesitation in outing a gay MP who made speeches supporting anti-gay legislation because his constituents have a right to know about his double standards. Same for an MP who bashed on about family life and kept a string of mistresses. There are careers other than politics, after all.

    Comment by notsaussure — October 4, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

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