Bench Memos

More on “Scouting’s Suicide”

Perhaps it’s too much to expect television news folks to be able to read and think.

My op-ed in last Friday’s New York Post on the Boy Scouts’ proposed revision to their policy against gay scout leaders opens this way:

Imagine that a group of girls is going on a long camping trip, supervised by adult volunteers who are young men you barely know. Would you let your 15-year-old daughter go?

Nearly every parent, I think, would recognize the folly, even though the men might well be models of good behavior. Why should our common-sense response be any different if the 15-year-old is a boy and the possible, even if not-likely-to-be-acted-on, sexual attraction of the adult supervisors is homosexual rather than heterosexual?

As any competent reader would recognize, the passage is making the point that, in the circumstances that commonly arise in scouting, responsible parents would be concerned about putting their daughters and sons in the custody of adult men who might be sexually attracted to them—and that those concerns apply whether the adult men are straight or gay. In other words, the passage refutes the notion that the concerns underlying the Boy Scouts’ policy against gay scout leaders reflect any behavioral assumptions distinctive to gays. The only behavioral assumption is that some significant percentage of adult men, whether straight or gay, will be unable to resist the temptation to indulge their sexual attraction. (And if it’s your own child at risk, the threshold for what percentage is significant may be quite low.) In the sexual free-for-all of modern America, is there anyone who contests that very modest assumption?

I’ll also highlight that my hypothetical involved 15-year-olds. I don’t think it’s startling to assume that many adult male heterosexuals find the postpubescent female attractive or that many adult male homosexuals find the postpubescent male attractive.

To my surprise, in two television interviews that I have done, both questioners have misread the passage I quote above as charging or implying that all homosexuals are pedophiles. Let’s pass over the misuse of the term “pedophile” to refer to sexual attraction to postpubescent teens. As I’ve explained above, the passage says or implies nothing of that nature—and, given the comparison in the passage, anyone who contends otherwise must imagine that I’m also asserting that all heterosexual men are pedophiles.

Somewhat relatedly: I continue to be struck by how many people think that flinging the vacuous epithet “homophobe” is some sort of substitute for engaging in reasoned argument.

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