Wednesday, Apr 4, 2007 8:41 PM UTC

Judge: Most males attracted to 1-year-olds

Ruling in a child porn case, a judge calls sex with kids a "normal impulse."

Thanks to Feministing for pointing us in the direction of this creepy sound bite: When sentencing a man for possessing child pornography, Nevada Judge Bill Maddox said, “These kinds of offenses are problems with impulse control. When I say that, it’s my understanding that most men are sexually attracted to young women. When I say young women I don’t just mean women that … you should be attracted to. I mean women from the time they’re 1 all the way up until they’re 100.”

Speaking of impulse control, I’ll try my best to set aside my visceral response to hearing a grown man confidently state that most men are sexually attracted to infants. Not because discussion of base impulses should be off limits — many adult men and women may find underage boys and girls attractive, and knee-jerk political correctness shouldn’t mean turning a blind eye to that reality. But there’s a line — or deep, crocodile-infested moat — that should be drawn between sexual attraction to babies and the unpleasant-but-natural reality of sexual attraction to post-pubescent teenagers. Perhaps more important, there’s a big difference between a physical sexual response to minors and the desire and intent to act on those feelings.

The Maddox ruling doesn’t recognize these distinctions. Maddox defined child pornography as “malum prohibitum” (an act that isn’t inherently wrong) as opposed to “malum in se” (an act that is inherently wrong). His reasoning is that other cultures don’t demonize sex with children; therefore sex with children is only wrong because our culture has decided to codify it as such. It’s a potentially interesting topic for debate, but this kind of moral philosophizing seems inappropriate coming from the bench. And setting legal and moral standards according to other cultures’ values seems like a reach when we have our own cultural value system handy — a value system that holds that sex with children is inherently wrong because children are not able to offer consent in any kind of meaningful way. I’m willing to acknowledge that sexual attraction isn’t always logical or pleasant when held up to scrutiny. But I’m seriously troubled by a judge who wants to define sex with children as a normal act that we must nevertheless try to prohibit.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, Judge Maddox’s comments are likely to inspire a whole lot of vitriol, confirming that most people in our society do think sex with children is morally wrong, but also underscoring the notion that anyone who mentions our base human instincts will be burned at the stake. There’s one more distinction that needs to be made: Discussion of our darkest human impulses isn’t the problem. Legislating according to our darkest impulses is.

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