No doubt all in my audience will remember the passage in Slouching Towards Gomorrah where Robert Bork tells about walking down the hall during the Anita Hill hearings and saying to Irving Kristol, "They're showing the end of Western civilization on television."
Well, here's another moment rather like that: Dawn Eden links to a Planned Parenthood worker, a blogger, who openly admits that she provided birth control pills for a 12-year-old girl whom the blogger suspects is being coerced into sexual intercourse by a man much older than herself. And not reporting it, of course, to any authorities, despite the fact that such a "health worker" is legally a mandatory reporter of child abuse.
I call this post "Choice Devours Itself" with reference to this old post of mine at Right Reason from two years ago about the liberal thought process that makes this sort of thing possible. It goes more or less like this:
1) Make "freedom of choice" one of your most important political and moral ideals.
2) Define some particular type of act as an exercise of free choice. (Having sex, having an abortion, and dying are three good candidates.)
3) Become very committed to people's getting the opportunity to exercise that important freedom, free even from the constraints of social disapproval, much less of legal penalty.
4) Ignore or reject evidence that someone is being coerced into that action, and resist attempts to protect people who are thus being coerced, seeing such attempts as mere cover for trying to limit freedom of choice. A variant on this one is to justify such connivance at the eradication of choice for the victim of coercion on consequentialist grounds: At least she won't get pregnant, get a disease, die unpleasantly, etc.
"HPW," the PP worker, is a classic case of a person who is cooperating in a choice devours itself scenario. Supposedly, she is committed to the great importance of personal choice in sexual decisions. That's supposed to be a lodestar for such a person. Yet here she is squelching her own instinctive worries that a child (a child) is being coerced into sex by an adult, and even feeling guilty for having such worries. They are, she says, "patronizing."
To my mind, she was far too young to be having sex, and it was difficult for me to tell exactly what the situation was with her partner. I do not ever ask the age of sexual partners, and she did not reveal the age of hers, but I could not shake the feeling that hers was older, possibly very much so. I could not get it out of my head that she didn't exactly give consent, though I had no reason to believe she didn't. Maybe I was projecting. I try to fight it, but there is some part of me that does not believe that such young girls are able to give consent, particularly if their partners are much older and there is a great imbalance in experience between the two. This part of me undoubtedly borders on patronizing. I don't really know what this girl's situation was, nor do I know what her role in it was. It is presumptive in the highest to assume that she was somehow victimized. But I still feel like she was too young. Clearly, that's my issue, not hers.
HPW talks herself into believing that the young girl was "lucky" because an adult (a woman) came with her to the PP clinic. HPW tells a story to herself according to which this adult is a loving helper to the girl, someone the girl can turn to if she needs counsel, etc., instead of an accomplice of an older man engaging in statutory (or not only statutory) rape. The following line is priceless:
What's lucky is that she has someone to talk to if the gray area of consent becomes less gray.
So we have an admission that "consent" in this case--because of the child's age, if nothing else--is a "grey area," but somehow that's not so bad, because the little girl has an adult woman to talk to if the statutory rapist starts forcing her violently? Have I missed something here? And let's not forget: It's presumptuous and patronizing to worry that she is being victimized.
Meanwhile, the girl goes her way, back into the situation. HPW doesn't say what her evidence was that "she didn't exactly give consent." Dawn Eden has encouraged her readers to make contact with the Oregon DOJ to report a possible case of child rape and a mandatory reporter who ain't reportin' nuthin'.
Whatever else is clear in this story, one thing stands out: It isn't really about choice, is it? It's about sex, the god Eros, before whom all else must fall. And as C.S. Lewis used to say (echoing Denis de Rougemont), when Eros is made a god, he becomes a demon.