Friday, April 7, 2017

On Some Suggestions for How to Talk About Ed Murray

Ed Murray, the mayor of my city, has been accussed of sexually abusing a teenage boy. The boy was 15, one year below the age of consent in the jurisdiction, but this was more than a case of statutory rape. Murray gave the boy petty cash to help him feed his drug habit and then demanded specific sexual favors that the boy just did not want to perform. Read the details.

Modest suggestions:

1. I understand the claim that we must always believe the accuser, and so far there seems to be damning evidence against Murray, particularly in regards to other accusers in this case. Still, there have been enough high-profile cases of rape and lesser forms of sexual assault that have turned out to be bogus. I would suggest that we hold back and let the investigators do their thing. If we all scream that the story is absolutely true and then it turns out to be absolutely false, we will have unintentionally aided a narrative that all sexual abuse victims are lying when they come forward.

2. Don't call Murray a "pedophile." A pedophile is someone who has sex with a pre-pubescent child. A 15-year-old is not a pre-pubescent child. Our commentators tend to be slippery in their use of language, often conflating sexual assault, rape, coercion, and sexual harrassment, as well as pedophilia and ephebophilia. Precision matters.

3. There are intelligent, non-hysterical discussions to be had in regards to teenage sexuality, and particularly gay teenage sexuality. Consider this case the next time you want to have that discussion. Would this have been less horrible if the person in question was 16 instead of 15? What if, outside the age of consent laws, it truly were consensual, that it involved no financial transaction, if the 15-year-old did not do drugs, and did not come from a broken home? If you still think the answer is no, explain why, come up with evidence, and give at least something of an ear to the people who had sex with older men when they were teenagers, and who remember their experiences fondly.

4. If you ever hear a voice inside your head along the lines of "I hope Murray goes to prison and gets raped," you are a sick puppy. You are part of a terrible sickness that ails our society.

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