Friday, October 20, 2006

Yes, it's Sex

The Yahoo news headline said "priest denies having sex with Foley."

It's important for me to say up front that it is irrelevant to Mark Foley's actions that he was abused by a priest as a child. That presumably happened when he was 13; the actions we know he committed were in his forties and fifties. That's a lot of time for therapy. Yes, there is a higher proportion of histories of abuse among those who abuse others, but most people who are abused as children or teenagers never hurt anyone else. It seems callous and disingenuous that Mark Foley is accusing his priest NOW, when there have been many moments to have come forward before.

But, what was done to him was also wrong, and yes, it sounds like sexual abuse to me. The priest in a taped radio interview admits that he was naked with young Foley, skinny dipped with Foley, massaged a nude Foley, slept nude in a room with Foley, and that perhaps there was one incident when he was on tranquilizers that he's not sure what happened. In an interview you can read on CNN, he said "we were just fondling" and we "were friends." I would be in a police station pressing charges if I found out my 13 year old son had this type of adult friend...you?

That the news media is debating whether this was "sex" shows just how confused we are about sexuality as a country. You may remember our national teachable moment, where 20% of the country agreed with President Clinton that oral sex wasn't really sex. It is.

We need to move from an act-based sexual ethic to one based on relationships. It doesn't matter whether Part A goes into Part B for sexual abuse to occur or for sex to have occurred between consenting partners. Two people sharing erotic acts are "having sex", and when one of them is an adult and the other a teen or a child -- that's wrong.

3 comments:

Bob Selverstone, Ph.D. said...

It is impossible to become an adult without having some kind of struggle or stress or trauma in one's life. All of us have -- and those events impact us each in different ways.

But we all recognized the preposterousness of excusing one's behavior when the comedian Flip Wilson used the outrageous and hilarious claim: "The Devil made me do it." As adults, we are each responsible for our own behavior. When we believe that our behavior is improper or irrational, we have the opportunity (or perhaps the obligation) to seek professional assistance to regain personal control and responsibility.

I agree that it is not behavior per se that is either proper or improper; the meaning lies in the intent and the relationship. Most ethical systems even acknowledge the appropriateness of killing another in self-defense or when attacked.

Behavior between consenting adults is appropriate; when one is not in a position to give adult consent then the behavior is not appropriate.

eric said...

I'm an ex-catholic. What that has to do with what I'm about to say, I"m not sure, but thought, hey, I'll share that!

As I was reading the various articles on CNN and Yahoo about what this priest had to say, my jaw just about broke it hit the floor so hard. LIke you, I thought "Not sex????!!!"

I can't believe that someone as well educated as a priest could POSSIBLY believe that.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has worked professionally with survivors of sexual abuse, I was disturbed by the implications of your comments about the irrelevance of Mark Foley's own history of sex abuse.

Granted, this is a politically charged situation, and it might very well be in this politician's best strategic interest to blame it on a priest's molestation --- or on the booze.

But to dismiss his history of abuse as irrelevent, or to say that he should have had therapy by now fulfills every nightmare of victims or survivors who delay treatment because of repressed memories, or the otherwise intense, long term impacts of their own sex abuse.