Foley A Jerk, Not A Pedophile
However, the recent scandal involving Rep. Foley and his illicit messages to congressional pages has disturbed me in a couple of ways. First of all is the constantly reiterated suggestion by the media and the pundits that Rep. Foley is gay. Not that it isn't true, but it seems beside the point. Being a homosexual isn't the reason why Foley asked a 16 year old if he makes him horny. However, the other side of that coin, the suggestion by some, including many democrats, that Foley is a pedophile isn't right either.
Apparently many people aren't aware that pedophilia, which is a serious mental disease and a heinous crime, isn't the same thing as wanting to have sex with an underage adolescent. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines pedophilia as "over a period of six months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 or younger)." The pages that Mark Foley is accused of having sexually charged IM conversations with are at least 16 (owing to the fact that you must be 16 to become a congressional page), and according to some reports, some were as old as 18 when the contact occurred.
By blurring the line between people like Foley and actual pedophiles, we run the risk of making pedophilia a joke, which it should never be. Just listen to the late night talk show hosts to see what I mean.
The fact is that if we were talking about a congressman hitting on a 16 or 17 year old girl, we probably wouldn't be calling him a pedophile, we would call him a jerk. But because Rep. Foley appears to be gay, people on both sides of the aisle are betraying the centuries old misconception that gay=pedophile. A couple of years ago, men all over the U.S. were counting down the days until Lindsey Lohan's 18th birthday. There was even a clock counting down until the date. No one suggested that these men were pedophiles. That's because they weren't, and neither is Rep. Foley.
In fact, most people don't realize this but the age of legal consent for sexual activity in most states is not 18. In most states, it's 17, and in some states, including Washington D.C., it's 16. So in all likelihood what Rep. Foley did is not even a crime under our own laws.
Rep. Foley's actions were grossly inappropriate, and ethically questionable because of his position of authority over the pages. He should be punished, although the fact that he has already resigned from his seat doesn't leave much left in that area, since as I said, he might not have actually committed a crime. But he's no different than any other middle aged guy who hits on a 17 year old girl, or drools over an underage starlet.
So in our attempt to gain some political leverage against the Republicans, lets not fall back on the ignorant and harmful stereotype that all gay men are child molesters. There's plenty wrong with what Foley did without resorting to that.
Categories: Politics, Opinion