Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Prudery gone amuck
Despite whatever notions I may have conjured in my readers' minds, I consider myself a prude. Not by Christo-Republican standards of course. If invited to an orgy I'm the sort who responds "I'd love to but that's the night I do my hair." There are many activities—sexual and otherwise—that really are not for Yours Truly, but which don't distress me in the least when enjoyed by others.
Also, though we're talking now in historical terms, I remember what I was like as a teenager. And I note with dismay that the behaviors that I and my peers took for granted at that age have now become one more excuse to imprison people. So I'm going to be more personal than usual and dredge up some memories.
In that sheltered time before the Sixties destroyed our "innocence," we teenagers lived simply. In the rural South teenagers didn't do drugs. Adults did drugs and nobody worried about it. Most of the matrons I knew kept a bottle of Miltown in their purse and passed them around at church socials like aspirin.1 And everybody knew that the pharmacist's wife was addicted to morphine. But for us kids it was strictly beer, whiskey and cigarettes.
We had all the sex we could get, but there never seemed to be enough to go around. I don't know anyone who would have turned down an opportunity with someone ten years or twenty years older, and in many cases the twenty-somethings were our best prospects. In fact, I'm quite certain that a number of them were taken advantage of by predatory teenagers.
In my senior year one of the class beauties was dating a teacher. I don't know if the school principal knew, but certainly all the students did. The couple got married right after graduation—some said for cause. So far as I know they're still married.
Which brings me to Matthew Glasser, 29, who is charged with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with a 16-year-old student.
Only because he was a teacher and she was a student
The interesting thing about this case is that in Connecticut, where the alleged offense was committed, the age of consent is 16. Mr. Glasser is not being charged with statutory rape but is charged under a law making sex with one's students a crime. In other words, Mr. Glasser could have cavorted with a highschool dropout all he liked.
He is fighting the case on constitutional grounds. According to WFSB-TV in Hartford,
"We believe that the statute infringes on a fundamental right to sexual privacy and therefore does not hold up under constitutional scrutiny," Jeremy Donnelly, one of Glasser's lawyers, said Friday.
In their legal brief seeking a dismissal of the charges, Glasser's lawyers contend that privacy rights cannot be infringed upon unless there's a "compelling state interest" in doing so. The state has fallen short of defining that interest, they argue.
A similar motion in the case of a New Haven teacher is pending before the state Supreme Court.
School officials at Northwest Catholic learned of the affair in early May 2005 after the girl feared she might be pregnant, according to the arrest warrant.
The girl told police she had sex with Glasser at least eight times.
Michael Griffin, the school's president, said at the time that school officials had not received other complaints about Glasser and, before the investigation, were pleased with his work with the band and choir groups.
Now let's hear it from the prudes—
Advocates for sexual assault victims said the law is needed because teachers hold such sway over a student's life, that consent to a sexual relationship is not possible.
"I think it's appalling. It's sick," said Terri Miller, president of Sesame, a national organization that works to prevent sex abuse by educators. "To make a claim like this shows you how sick this person is, that they think they have some kind of constitutional right to take advantage of children."
The approach is typical. All you really need is a false generalization as your premise: "Teachers hold such sway over a student's life that consent to a sexual relationship is not possible." Then start an organization with a catchy name and begin fundraising. Toss around words such as "sex abuse" and "sick." I don't know either Mr. Glasser or Ms. Terri Miller personally, but if I had to select one of them as an example of a sick sex-abuser, I know which one I'd pick.
And on to Bizarro World
Living in the sophisticated United States, I'm always delighted when I have the rare opportunity to gawk at primitives, which is what the Travel Channel has let me do lately.
Yes, they've been showing some program about a tribe in New Guinea. The women go topless and the men wear a little woven braid around their penis, which leaves their testicles free in the heat.
Somehow all this is being shown in prime time, with one exception—we must not see the children's peepees. Though they're apparently running around naked, as they have from time immemorial, the Travel Channel carefully pixelates those little sex organs out of the picture.
I'm sure Ms. Terri Miller would agree that "there are some sick people in this world." It's just so damned hard to find some well ones.
Meet Miltown, The "Happy Pill"[back]
The first "real" minor tranquilizer marketed in the United States was meprobamate, patented in 1952.
Meprobamate proved successful, in fact, too successful, almost from the moment it hit pharmacists' shelves. The drug, which was marketed under the trade name Miltown (and later Equanil), was the immediate darling of the then up-and-coming psychiatric profession and became a popular recreational drug almost as quickly.
In fact, Miltown was one of the biggest drug abuse phenomena of the 1950's, probably the first really middle-class drug abuse phenomenon, and the drug quickly established itself as the "happy pill" alternative for harried housewives and stressed-out commuters. It was called a "dehydrated martini" by some, and "Miltown parties" became respectable in more than one suburb, at least until word began to leak out that there were problems -- lots of them, in fact -- associated with use of the drug.