Daily Archives: September 26, 2005

Scholarship and pederasty: an update

The other day, I wrote about a controversy surrounding Haworth Press’s decision to drop a book, Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West, after the far-right website WorldNetDaily raised a ruckus about an essay in the book which argued that sexual relationships between adult men and adolescent boys should not be viewed as harmful or wrong.

An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education examines the brouhaha. (Thanks to author David Glenn for the tip; unfortunately I’m not sure the link will work for non-subscribers.)

Some excerpts:

Last Wednesday, two days after WorldNetDaily’s condemnation, the press announced that it had canceled the book. Kathryn Rutz, Haworth’s vice president for editorial development, said in an e-mail message to The Chronicle that five of the press’s top officials had made the decision.

The press received approximately 20 messages of complaint in the two days after the WorldNetDaily attack, Ms. Rutz said. She added, however, that “it is likely that this would have come up later in the production process, even without the input of outside correspondents.”

The decision to cancel was not easy, Ms. Rutz said. “There was vigorous discussion, to be sure,” she said. “Issues on the table included freedom of speech, consequences of negative publicity, personal objections to the subject matter, and resistance to what might appear to be caving in to a particular group with its own right-wing agenda.”


In 1998 Mr. Rind and two colleagues published an article in the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association, in which they reviewed 59 previously published studies of college students who had been victims of child sexual abuse. In their analysis, Mr. Rind and his colleagues found that not all of the students had suffered lasting psychological harm, and that 42 percent of the male students retrospectively viewed their sexual experiences with adults as “positive.”

The paper came under immediate and heavy criticism from other scholars of sexual abuse. Among other things, scholars objected that studies of college students were not the best way to capture the full range of experiences of abused children. The following summer, after a campaign by talk-radio hosts, the paper was denounced in unanimous resolutions by both houses of the U.S. Congress.


Other critics of Mr. Rind’s work have pointed to a 1995 essay of his published in Paidika, an obscure, explicitly pro-pedophilic journal. In that article, Mr. Rind called for the abolition of age-of-consent laws. One condemnation of that essay appeared in Haworth’s own Journal of Child Sexual Abuse in 2002.

I remember the outcry over Rind’s 1998 article. Some of the hysteria was over the top, particularly the congressional resolution (there are plenty of other articles in academic journals that express fairly outrageous viewpoints without incurring the same kind of condemnation). However, as some scholars quoted by Glenn point out, the issue is not just the conclusion (shared by many other researchers) that many victims of child sexual abuse make it to adulthood with no enduring trauma; it’s that Rind and his co-authors seemed to cross the line from research into advocacy. The Paidika essay, of which I was previously unaware, makes it clear that Rind (an adjunct psychology instructor at Temple University) crossed that line a long time ago.

One contributor to the canceled volume, Amy Richlin, a professor of classics at the University of California at Los Angeles, was quoted in the Chronicle as saying of Haworth Press, “If they’re going to allow themselves to be held hostage to the radical right, then they should get out of the publishing business.” So now, being against the normalization of man/boy sex marks you as a member of the radical right? I would estimate that on this issue, some 99% of the public would agree with WND. And why give ammunition to enemies of gay rights who are always using the specter of pedophile acceptance as a scare tactic?

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What kind of libertarian are you, anyway?

In a comment on my thread on the O’Reilly-Donahue deathmatch, rishi gajria says:

What surprises me the most however is Andrew Sullivan’s (I came via his website) assertion that you are a liberatarian. I have yet to get a sense of that in your posts.

Andrew, who very kindly mentioned my blog at andrewsullivan.com, does call me a libertarian. And I do have libertarian affiliations, with Reason magazine and with the Cato Institute. It’s a label that fits me better than “conservative” or “liberal.” But what do labels mean, anyway? Here’s what I say in the intro to my website:

One of my goals in my writing is to cut through left/right stereotypes and focus
on the issues from an independent perspective. My politics can be described as libertarian/conservative — leaning more libertarian on some issues and more conservative on others.

I am a strong believer in individual rights and limited government. I believe in judging people as individuals, not on the basis of membership in a group. I believe that reality trumps ideology, left or right. I believe Western democracy, flawed through it is, is worth defending. Perhaps most important, I believe that it should
be possible for honest and intelligent people to disagree on political issues and respect each other.

What does this mean with regard to specific political issues? I believe that generally, more markets and less government interference is good, though I’m willing to be persuaded by evidence that this is not so in specific cases. (I still believe that the failure to reform Social Security and to move toward partial privatization is going to bite us in the butt someday, perhaps sooner rather than later.) I believe in a safety net, but I also think that government programs have a way of degenerating all too easily into morale- and responsibility-sapping entitlements. I dislike corporate welfare as much as any other kind. I believe the government should stay out of adult men and women’s consensual sexual relationships, reading and viewing choices, and end-of-life care decisions. I oppose race and sex discrimination even when it comes in the guise of “affirmative action,” and attempts to regulate speech in the academy in the name of protecting “the oppressed.” I dislike right-moralism about sex and left-wing moralism about greed (though I don’t think that either unbridled sexuality or unbridled greed is a good thing). I don’t believe that the government should impose religious values on citizens, or offiically favor religion over irreligion. I think this principle should also extend to secular left-wing religions such as “Earth first” environmentalism or radical feminism.

As for foreign policy: unlike many libertarians, I was a strong proponent of U.S. military strength during the Cold War, and today I strongly believe in the importance of the War on Terror. I think the Islamofascists are not a movement with legitimate grievances but the enemy of modern democracy and civilization. As for the war in Iraq: I have very mixed feelings about it. I believe we were drawn into the war through misinformation; I think it has been badly conducted, and has been a true disaster in some respects (the credible reports of torture condoned by superiors are particularly distressing). But I cannot, in good faith, say at this point that it was wrong to topple one of the most brutal entrenched dictatorships in the Middle East, and create at least the possibility of a democracy (however imperfect by our standards). I think we must hold the administration accountable for the conduct of this war, and I would like to see an exit strategy that would allow us to withdraw without letting Iraq fall into the terrorists’ hands. But I reject many of the arguments of the antiwar movement — for instance, that freedom cannot be exported by means of war. (Tell that to the Germans and the Japanese. Or to African-Americans.)

So, what does all this make me? A libertarian? A classical liberal? A libertarian-conservative? A maverick? I’m not sure. To tell the truth, I haven’t yet found a label I’d be fully comfortable wearing. And maybe that’s just as well, because to me, ideas matter far more than labels.


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10 years of Xena: from an unabashed fan

It’s the 10th anniversary of Xena: Warrior Princess. My article, What We Owe Xena, appeared last week in Salon.com. (If you have trouble accessing the content as a non-subscriber — Salon requires you to watch an ad — you can also read it here.)

I suppose I could have prefaced this with a disclaimer like “A little frivolity to cap the weekend,” or “we all have our guilty pleasures.” (In linking the article, ms. musings calls yours truly “an unabashed fan,” and Tim Cavanaugh at Hit & Run an “out-of-the closet Xenaholic.”) But I have no apologies. It was a great show — campy, yes, but also smart, funny, well-written, well-acted, feminist in the best sense of the word (women on Xena were simply human, no better or worse than men, and the show never beat the viewer over the head with a female-empowerment message), and at times capable of greater depth and complexity than critical favorites like, say, The West Wing.

In related news, Xena is No. 12 on Boston.com’s list of Top 50 sci-fi shows (a definition that obviously includes fantasy as well as sci-fi). A few of my other favorites rank high as well: The Outer Limits, No. 13; Sliders, No. 10; The Twilight Zone, No. 7; Stargate SG-1, No. 6 (though I lost interest after the first three seasons); and the original Star Trek, for which I have a quaint affection, No. 1. No Prisoner or Farscape, though, which is a shame. But nice to see Xena get her due.


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