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Archive for November 8th, 2010

Disguise our bondage as we will,
‘Tis woman, woman rules us still.
–  Isaac Bickerstaff: The Sultan (II,i)

The discussion about the psychological motivation of the Whores of Babylon blog’s writer which followed Saturday’s column started me thinking about reaction formation and how common it seems to be among vocal moralists in general and politicians in particular.  For those who are unfamiliar with this psychological defense mechanism and don’t have the time to read the Wikipedia article I linked, reaction formation means that the human mind often shields itself from uncomfortable desires or feelings by forming an obsession with the opposite of that thing; in men, the feelings reacted against are very often sexual.  Here is an example from the linked article:

A man who is overly aroused by pornographic material who utilizes reaction formation may take on an attitude of criticism toward the topic. He may end up sacrificing many of the positive things in his life, including family relationships, by traveling around the country to anti-pornography rallies. This view may become an obsession, whereby the man eventually does nothing but travel from rally to rally speaking out against pornography. He continues to do this, but only feels temporary relief, because the deeply rooted arousal to an unacceptable behavior such as watching pornography is still present, and underlying the implementation of the defense. At that point he can be said to have developed an obsessional personality above and beyond the defense mechanism.

A man who is uncomfortable with homosexual urges may become violently anti-gay; a religious fundamentalist who is obsessed with fantasies of prostitutes might spend hours every day working on an anti-whore hate site, a politician who feels guilty about seeing call girls may sponsor prohibitionist legislation and cops who lust after us plan elaborate “sting” operations.  Nastiest of all are the pedophiles who devote endless hours to attempting to lure others into online pedophilic fantasies for the police, or who are actually paid to examine thousands of child porn images in order to prosecute others for their own perversion.  The following is a recent high-profile example, paraphrased from an AP press release.

Neil Cohen, a former New Jersey legislator who championed legislation against child pornography, was sentenced Thursday (November 4th) to five years in prison or a mental hospital for possession of child pornography; the state Corrections Department will decide which within the next 10 days.  He could become eligible for parole under intense supervision within a few months, but will be forced to register as a sex offender and will be barred from public office and using social networking websites; he will also almost certainly be disbarred.

The pale and unsteady Cohen, 59, did not speak during sentencing, but his lawyer told the judge he has been hospitalized for months for severe depression and suicidal ideation and was taking antidepressant medications.  Cohen concurred when addressed directly by the judge.

Judge Gerald Council imposed sentence in Mercer County Superior Court.  “This is a sad day,” the judge said. “But for this incident, he had an unblemished record.”  Cohen pled guilty to distribution of child pornography in exchange for the light sentence, which his lawyer asked the judge to allow his client to serve in a mental institution.

Cohen worked in the state Legislature as a Democrat representing Union County for 17 years, but resigned following his arrest in July 2008; he admitted to viewing images of underage girls on computers in his legislative office and law office.  Anthony Picione, the deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case, said 34 images of girls in various stages of undress were found on the computers, and that authorities have been able to match some of them to photos on the list of Missing and Exploited Children.  The investigation was triggered when Cohen, in an apparent “cry for help”, printed copies of a number of the images and placed them in his receptionist’s desk.

This story doesn’t surprise me in the least, neither in the behavior of the politician nor in the leniency of the sentence; does anyone reading this believe for one second that a non-politician would’ve been given anything less than ten years?  And the behavior of the judge is nothing short of disgusting: “But for this incident, he had an unblemished record.”  Boo hoo hoo, I feel so sorry for him.  If he hadn’t been a politician, the judge would have made a speech about how horrible a monster he was and how he deserved to be locked up for life.  Want to bet he’ll be quietly released from sex-offender registration requirements in a few years?  And in the meantime I sincerely doubt he’ll be forced to live under a bridge or in the woods as so many sex offenders are.

While we’re on that subject, here’s an excellent article from the Skeptical Inquirer about child sex abuse hysteria;  though the article is four years old things haven’t improved much, and if anything have worsened via conflation with trafficking hysteria.  Banning adult prostitution is touted as somehow preventing child sex abuse, and at least one California politician apparently thinks us Jezebels are also somehow responsible for clandestine teenage abortions.  Two years ago this week there was a proposal in California to require doctors to notify parents 48 hours before performing an abortion on girls under age 18, and in a debate broadcast on the San Francisco NPR affiliate, proposition supporter Dolores Meehan made this argument to urge voters to support this new restriction:

Proposition 4 is not prohibiting abortion in any way.  It doesn’t restrict access.  It requires notification so that a physician, before he performs an abortion on a minor, would actually have to get the consent of a parent [or other adult family member].  Why are we putting this out there for the third time?  Getting women the right to vote, abolishing slavery didn’t happen in one electoral cycle.  At the time those items were seen as an aberration, but certainly when we look back we say that this was good and benefited the common good of our society.  In California as a port state our kids are much more susceptible to the sex trafficking industry.  In fact, the Department of Justice Organized Crime Task Force doesn’t spend time catching gangsters.  They go after human trafficking for the sex trade.  Kink.com is a pornography film company that’s located in San Francisco.  The opportunities for young girls to be exploited sexually has increased.  When the abortion remains secret, the abuse remains secret.  Sexual predators will not be able to hide the evidence of their crime by having secret abortions.  To date, not one sexual predator has been brought to prosecution by an abortion provider.

Yes on 4 AdWhatever one thinks about the merit of the proposal in and of itself, one has to marvel at the rat’s warren which passes for a brain in some people.  In any sane society a conspiracy theory which attempted to present adult films, prostitution and the slave trade as causes of teen pregnancy (and then somehow related the resulting tangle to woman suffrage) would be laughed out of a debate, but when the subject is sex everyone’s brains shift into “neutral” and the most outlandish claims are accepted as reasonable.  Obsessive control freaks are allowed to present themselves as champions of freedom, and attempts to restrict women’s sexuality are sold as a crusade to free us from perverted bogeymen.

Since a large percentage of trafficking fanatics are female I doubt reaction formation is the reason for their hysteria, and most male anti-traffickers are probably just anti-whore fanatics in disguise so we know what they’re reacting to.  But given the apparent frequency with which moral crusaders are shown to be obsessed with whatever sexual “sin” they crusade against, maybe they should automatically be considered suspects when “investigations” are in the offing.  Perhaps if the shoe was on the other foot often enough, fanatics wouldn’t be quite so hasty to inflict their psychodrama on everyone else.

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