Friday, 2/28/14

    1. Complicity in human trafficking
    2. Who has the fuller life?
    3. “Queering the Marriage Debate?”
    4. Purdue’s gonna take a lickin’ – in court, not on court
    5. Argumentum ad ickyum


More than any other reporter or commentator I can think of, Nicholas Kristof has crusaded against genuine evils (not “feminazi” trumped-up grievances) against women and girls. But this seems pretty clueless:

There’s a growing awareness that sex trafficking is one of the most serious human rights abuses around, with some 100,000 juveniles estimated to be trafficked into the sex trade in the United States each year.

Some women sell sex on their own, but coercion, beatings and recruitment of underage girls are central to the business as well. Just a few weeks ago, New York City police officers rescued a 14-year-old girl in Queens who had run away from home and ended up locked up by pimps and sold for sex. According to court documents, she was told she would be killed if she tried to run away, but after three months she managed to call 911.

Police increasingly recognize that the simplest way to reduce the scale of human trafficking is to arrest men who buy sex. That isn’t prudishness or sanctimony but a strategy to dampen demand.

This is not breaking news, folks. I heard it debated as long as 42 years ago in the Peoria City Council. The question has always been the political will to do it. Somehow, the “graying 64-year-old man, Michael” – who coincidentally is someone’s father, uncle, maybe even husband – is perceived as a victim, not a criminal.

Donna M. Hughes, an expert on human trafficking at the University of Rhode Island, notes that police often are tougher on men who download child pornography than on johns who have sex with girls or women.

“I think there is still the old idea around that ‘bad woman’ lure men into bad behavior,” Professor Hughes said. “And the police don’t want to bring shame on the whole family by arresting the man.”

Where’s the outcry about this? Is this not the obverse of blaming the rape victim for how she was dressed or how much she had to drink?

The courts have painted us into a box on pornography. Men who watch adult victims of sex trafficking on videos or ogle them in magazines are exempt from prosecution, although their appetite for degradation is the sina qua non of the pornography business. They are deeply complicit. The least we can do is hammer the ones who venture from screen or printed page to hotel room.

And by “hammer” I’m not referring to the $1200 extortionate slap on the wrist Kristof describes as the Chicago vice approach.


I was busy, and the piece seemed like a long and contrived mash-up, so I skimmed and moved on. But then Rod Dreher took it seriously and wrote something even longer, so I went back to Ross Douthat’s blog when my eyes glimpsed it again.

He contrasts the experience of a Japanese man “who visited the devastated coastline almost on a lark” and ended up needing exorcism (Buddhist, no less) and Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, who denied the external reality of an early religious experience and made a conscious lifetime effort to wall himself off.

The Japanese man got frenzied, then exorcised. Verhoeven got inspired, then explained it away and took pains not to let it happen again. I think the Japanese man had a more wholistic and sane experience of life, frenzy notwithstanding.

I commend Douthat’s column. Dreher’s, too, if you have the time.


Carlos Flores argued that the “marriage equality” slogan is a form of “question-begging” because it assumes that heterosexual and homosexual relationships are relevantly similar with respect to the public purposes of marriage—the very question that forms the subject of controversy.

For some reason, I found that synopsis orders of magnitude more readable than the essay. It’s probably all you need to know about Flores essay. Then, the writer of the synopsis gets really interesting, as the title Queering the Marriage Debate? suggests, and writes well outside the normal parameters of the anti-SSM echo chamber:

[W]e live in a contraceptive culture in which the sex lives of many married couples are not much more “procreative” than homosexual relationships. Gay marriage may be a false solution, but it’s a false solution to a real problem …

It’s no coincidence that the movement for same-sex marriage in the West began after the AIDS crisis. One suggested way of reining in the sexually libertine gay subculture borne of the Stonewall riots was to expand the notion of “family” in order to foster stability and fidelity within same-sex relationships by including them within existing social structures designed for that purpose … Expanding our notion of family is argued to be a way to provide a social support system for the humanization and socialization of same-sex love which was previously lacking.

The reality—as every social historian acknowledges—is that the “nuclear family” is an anomaly that arose after the industrial revolution, a revolution which eviscerated centuries-old community networks and forced mass migration to cities where people knew no-one except immediate family members. For most of Western, Christian history the “family” was a more sprawling and extended group consisting of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, uncles, and friends. The male-female reproductive unit was itsnucleus, but the point at which the “family” ended and the “village” or wider community began was virtually non-existent. The fact that the institution of the family in the West collapsed very shortly after “nuclear families” replaced the traditional model makes it difficult to take seriously the assertion that the 1950s nuclear model is essential to a healthy Christian polity.

It may be a queer proposal (pun intended), but it is perhaps worth considering whether those genuinely interested in defending the historic teaching of the churches on Christian marriage and on the family do not currently have the wrong bedfellows. Instead of focusing on the defense of the “nuclear family”—a 1950s cultural meme that has very little support from Scripture or Christian tradition—perhaps Christians should be concerning themselves with exactly the sorts of themes that radical queer opponents of gay marriage like Julie Bindel emphasize—with “nurturing each other and living cooperatively,” and with “friendship groups and communities.” Real problems need real solutions.

This is not a conventional argument against SSM.


Purdue legal counsel, if I understand it correctly from TV-18 (always a risky bet, but it is a prepared statement), thinks that first amendment jurisprudence is really muddled and hints that if the donor really cared about Purdue, he’d shut up and say something less sincere:

The plaque was originally supposed to say,”To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.”

According to McCracken’s attorneys, Purdue rejected that wording because of its concern that the plaque “more likely than not” would be deemed a government endorsement of religion.

Purdue legal counsel SteveSchultz (sic) released this statement released News 18 (sic).

“We have a great deal of understanding and sympathy for the disappointment of the McCracken family. If we had confidence that the courts would find this private speech as the donor’s counsel argues, then we would agree immediately – and strongly. But given the facts here, our status as a public institution, and the hopelessly muddled state of jurisprudence in this particular area, we could fully expect lengthy and expensive litigation that would wipe out the value of this donation many times over, and we just don’t think that’s advisable for either the donor or the university. Still, we remain open to continued discussions, as we’d much prefer to be in the mode of expressing gratitude, not disagreement, to our donors.”

(WLFI coverage)

Purdue rejected Dr. McCracken’s choice of language after he and his wife made a $12,500 pledge to the university’s School of Mechanical Engineering. When asked by the university to supply the language for a plaque to dedicate a small conference room, Dr. McCracken chose an inscription that would honor the legacy of his parents: “To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.” Purdue rejected that language because of its concern that the plaque “more likely than not” would be deemed a government endorsement of religion, opting instead to permit a plaque mentioning Dr. McCracken’s parents without any use of the word “God.”

“Purdue’s ban on any reference to God by a private speaker violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” said Jeremiah Dys, Senior Counsel to Liberty Institute. “Dr. McCracken’s plaque language is private speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Purdue allows dozens of other private speakers to express their values and views on plaques around campus; it cannot legally single out Dr. McCracken for discrimination.”

(Emphasis added) If the bolded language is true, then I don’t think the applicable law is much of a muddle at all (“limited public forum” seems the magic words), and predict that the courts, if this comes to court, will hand Purdue its head.


I was about to call it a wrap when I found Rod Dreher channeling the thoughts of a 24-year-old who left Evangelicalism over the Same-Sex Marriage issue, but who has insights that caught me by surprise:

SSM advocates as (sic) employing emotive arguments in order to win, but you have to realize that a lot of the Christians that are being argued against have traded in nothing but emotion for the last 30 years.  Salvation is a weeping, sinners-prayer mumbling, emotional roller coaster, and the emoting never stops.  In all the years I was a member, my evangelical church made exactly one argument about SSM. It’s the argument I like to call the Argument from Ickiness:  Being gay is icky, and the people who are gay are the worst kind of sinner you can be.  Period, done, amen, pass the casserole.

When you have membership with no theological or doctrinal depth that you have neglected to equip with the tools to wrestle with hard issues, the moment ickiness no longer rings true with young believers, their faith is destroyed.

(Emphasis added) (A) That rings true (though I left unqualifiedly Evangelical Churches behind 36 years ago) and (B) no wonder Evangelical Millennials are squishy on the issue.

I’ve always been left cold by the “being gay is icky” attitude. Although I’m not keen to watch them (see item 1), I don’t even find the thought of what gay men do in bed to be especially icky. I always thought maybe this was a character defect in me. So sue me.

(And two women? Heck, straight men pay good money to watch nubile women do that kind of thing.)

Now, in light of this article, I think my insensibility to the argumentum ad ickyum may have had prophylactic value, as nothing I ever deeply believed was based on it.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.