Is Well-Meaning Good Enough?




.Over the years, in the face of increasingly demented measures to suppress essentially benign aspects of human sexuality, scattered proponents of reason have nevertheless spoken out. Unfortunately, ever more hysterical and insatiable demands for suppression keep muffling these appeals to sanity. The latest voice pleading for common sense is an organization calling itself Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL). Their Web site is www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org.

    In reading their statement, one is impressed by the group’s perceptiveness. The organizers clearly see that repressive measures are poisoning our society. They recognize, among other things, that children, instead of being protected, are increasingly criminalized by the very laws purporting to safeguard them. The group also warns against the social paranoia that increasingly causes caring people to withhold from children the help, signs of affection and other caring interactions that may render the givers suspect. The corrosive effect extends to essential professions that deal directly with children such as teaching, social work and medicine. Also highlighted, albeit much too timidly, is the much larger harm done to children outside of the sexual sphere. The wearing away of the civil liberties at the very foundation of our country is not the least of the worries cited by this group.

    Much of what RSOL is doing has merit, but not without some serious reservations.  We believe, either out of fear of rejection or just a misunderstanding of human nature, they have taken a number of misguided steps.  For one, perhaps for their strategic reasons, nowhere does the RSOL site challenge the term “sex offender.” It never argues for the wiping out of a whole class of victimless crimes subsumed under that hideous rubric. It merely argues for more reasonable laws that differentiate between what are perceived as lesser evils and truly heinous acts.

    Except for teens, the idea that most people designated as “sex offenders” should never have been so labeled is never presented. In its list of demands, RSOL grants the possibility of consensuality only to relationships between adolescents.

    Two features of the RSOL site also of concern to us are a handful of links to “Web resources” and a blog. An examination of the linked resources shows most to be quite patronizing. They present therapy as panacea. Like penitent children, “sex offenders” are offered guidance so as not to “reoffend.” One of the linked sites purports to correct misconceptions but actually contributes to them. Apparently, all well articulated views are welcomed on the blog. One of the recent postings is by a woman selling her therapeutic solution. Another, albeit short and anonymous one, is an uncompromising wake-up call.

    The organizers of RSOL are apologetic in not accepting “sex offenders” as public signers. Though they do not announce it on their Web site, they will also not accept signers who in their views are not “disinterested.”  They have politely rejected NAMBLA activists who have never been charged with any “sex offense.”

    To be fair, RSOL solicits for its blog the opinions of those it will not accept as public signers. It also welcomes other forms of participation from those they refuse and who could be perceived as having “an ax to grind.” When it comes to injustice, RSOL should realize that all caring people have “an ax to grind.” Moreover, NAMBLA has always been steadfast and unapologetic in its defense of man-boy love. As such, we have never accepted half-measures when it comes to self-respect. Compromise in validating the full worth of boy-lovers has never been an option.

    We see RSOL’s moderate approach as effectively accommodating to a current evil of immense proportion.  The injustice that uses “sex offenders” as a smokescreen  hiding untold misery in this country and around the world calls for more vigorous and affirmative tactics -- not the milk toast strategy apparently used by RSOL. We need Emil Zola’s “J’Accuse!” not Oliver Twist’s “Please sir…” RSOL certainly means well, but in our opinion, that is not good enough.

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