Friday, May 24, 2013

News Commentary: Kaitlyn Hunt

I don't do a lot of news commentary here on this blog, because I feel that the issues I'm talking about are fundamentally timeless. That said, I'm pissed enough about the case of Kaitlyn Hunt to break from that just this once.

For those unaware, Kaitlyn is a young woman who turned 18 recently, and is being prosecuted for her sexual relationship with an underage girl from her high school. The media is painting this as anti-gay discrimination, and the conversations that have started because of it need to be addressed.

Let's start with the idea that this prosecution is because the girls are in a homosexual relationship. Yes, the parents of the younger girl are alleged to be prosecuting because the older girl "turned their daughter gay". That doesn't make the prosecution a case of anti-gay discrimination. Every high school boy who has ever been prosecuted and had his life destroyed because of the overprotective parents of his lover can attest to the fact that this is a shining example of equality, at least in the fact that the law is prosecuting.

There is some discrimination here, though. And it's the media who's doing it. No one gives a shit about the excesses of age of consent laws until it's a photogenic young woman who's suffering because of it. And once the media uproar inevitably subverts the legal system and ensures that this woman will escape punishment, everyone will go back to not giving a shit about the awful age of consent laws that will still be in place.

As I've said elsewhere on this blog, I do not support the age of consent. Kaitlyn should not be prosecuted or punished for a consensual relationship. I take Kaitlyn's lover at her word that the relationship was consensual, since she is the one who ought to get to decide that.

The conversation has also spawned much hand wringing about why this isn't covered under the "obvious" Romeo and Juliet clauses many states have in place for just this set of circumstances. First off, not every state's age of consent has an exception for minors who are close in age to one another. Secondly, no state should have such an exemption.

By setting an age of consent, the state is declaring that everyone under the line is incapable of consent, and it is under that justification that individuals who have sex with them are prosecuted. As such, whether Kaitlyn is an 18 year old from her same school or a 70 year old, what matters is that her lover is legally declared incapable of making her own choices about sex.

The very idea that you can be competent to consent to sex with teenagers but not to consent to sex with adults would be laughable if it were not the explicit law of the land, punishable by sentences harsher than some murderers get.

What these laws do is say "this group is particularly vulnerable, so let's create an entire class of people who are only legally allowed to fuck people in that particularly vulnerable class."

Either Kaitlyn's lover is competent to make her own decisions about her own body and who she shares it with, or she isn't. I think she very much is competent to make that decision, whether the person she decides to have sex with is a photogenic young woman or not.


Kaitlyn has accepted a plea bargain that nets her less than a year in jail and no need to register as a sex offender. We can all stop panicking now. The photogenic white woman won't suffer the insane consequences we always intended only for those evil, creepy men. Words cannot adequately express my disgust at the national dialogue. Though one emotion I can put into words is "unsurprised".

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fantasy Versus Reality

So much of what I write shouldn't need to be said. One of the hardest parts of writing these posts without being a direct response to someone who's said something stupid is that I have to work out what people actually can't be relied upon to understand already. This is one that I run across constantly.

Very young children are able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. They can play make believe and recognize full well that their games aren't the same thing as whatever game they're playing really happening. You pretend to cut your little brother down with an invisible sword, and he falls over, but both of you know that he isn't really dead, and there was never any sword.

One of the core abilities that makes us the dominant species on this planet is our ability to imagine the unreal in great detail. That ability is at the root of our ability to plan for the future, work out the best course of action by imagining all the alternatives before actually committing to one. Imagination is a wonderful tool that doesn't get nearly enough credit. Our ability to deliberately adapt this powerful tool to use creating worlds and scenarios for our own amusement is one of the best parts of being a human being.

And yet there are a surprisingly large number of people who don't understand how fantasy works. They see the ability to plan out a move and think fantasy stops there. You hear about it every day, when people call shooter video games murder simulators, and wring their hands at the sex and violence in the media. The people who are most afraid of imagination are the ones who don't understand how to separate a fantasy from a plan.

I will unashamedly admit to numerous horrible, antisocial fantasies I deliberately indulge in on a regular basis. When someone slights me, I employ my imagination to hear the sound of their skull cracking open and feel the skin scraped off my knuckles from delivering the beating that did it. When I'm feeling horny I'll use it to touch and taste and feel the motions of a dozen scenarios with imaginary partners, consenting or otherwise, both based on real people and made up whole cloth.

I'm unashamed to admit this, because I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I can indulge in fantasy all I like, and there will be no consequences aside from a possible lack of physical activity if you overdo it. The real world has consequences that can't be dismissed with a thought, that aren't under the control of my will, and that often impact other people's lives in addition to my own.

Now, there are fantasies of mine that blur the line between a mere imagination for my own amusement, and an actual plan. I sometimes indulge myself by imagining that I'm living in a world where children are treated as people, where no means no and yes means yes, and where I can announce my sexual orientation and have it result in people helping me find a date instead of contacting the police. Every person I reach brings me one step closer to living that one, even if I don't expect I'll get there in my lifetime.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Closet

The closet sucks.

I was raised to value honesty quite highly. To this day, few insults will get under my skin quite like being called a liar.

And yet I've spent every day since working out my sexual orientation keeping things from the people around me. It was years before I said anything to my father, and longer after that I spoke to my mother about it. And every new person who comes into my life, I need to make a decision about when or if they'll ever be allowed to know about this part of my personality.

I've chosen to speak openly about the fact that I am a pedophile in all my online dealings, in part, as a way to balance out the number of lies of omission I perpetrate on a daily basis.

No one likes being in the closet. No one likes keeping everyone around them at arms length, nor does anyone enjoy constantly questioning whether the people in your life would accept or reject you if they knew the secrets you're keeping from them.

I've been very cautious and very lucky. Everyone I've chosen to speak to in meatspace about my sexuality has accepted me and recognized that I'm not a psychopath just because of what I find attractive. Likewise they've all recognized it as my right to tell people or not as I choose. That adds up to three people including my parents.

I don't like thinking the worst of my friends and family, but the closet is, by its very nature, a defense mechanism. The stakes are quite high, since once this particular secret is out, my life changes forever, for the worse. There is at least one mandatory reporter in my family, and if he sticks with his schooling, another will be added among my friends in a few years time. I haven't broken the law, but not everyone understands what the law is, including friends, family, and mandatory reporters.

Anyone I tell both my real name and my orientation to is someone that I've chosen to trust with my life. Someone who's intentions and competence at keeping my secrets I consider beyond reproach. Because when I give those pieces of information to someone together, I'm willingly handing them the power to destroy my life by accident.

I really wish I didn't need that much trust in a person to share completely. I have nothing but respect for individuals who've publicly outed themselves, whether as pedophiles or as any despised invisible minority, since they're hastening the day when that level of trust won't be necessary. I hold nothing but contempt for those who out others against their will, since they've betrayed someone who put so much trust in them.

I find myself frequently evaluating my friends and family. What signs can I give that I could plausibly deny afterward? If this person responds badly, can I cut them out of my life effectively enough to avoid the worst consequences of that bad reaction? What do they already know about the subject, and is there a way to educate them on tolerance without inadvertently outing myself before I feel safe?

For everyone who's never had to spend time in the closet, you have no idea how lucky you are.