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January 27, 2007

Two (feminist?) perspectives on the Wilson case

I am pleased the Genarlow Wilson case (background here and here) continues to generate buzz.  Some buzz appears in my e-mail in-box, where I received this note from a thoughtful female reader:

I want to address your wondering why more people of influence are not rushing to get Genarlow Wilson out of jail, since his sentence is so long that he is the victim of a clear and disturbing injustice.

I think that it is possible that the behavior of Genarlow and his friends on the night they got in trouble is deeply offensive to many who hear about it, and people simply do not like Genarlow well enough to fight for him.  It is very troubling to know that high school football heroes invited hero-worshipping fifteen-year-olds to a party and got them drunk in order to have practically guaranteed sexual service. What a cowardly act!

Beyond ethical considerations, I'll bet that many women hearing about this, knowing what hero worshippers they were at fifteen, shudder at the thought that a lot of us could have been those vulnerable little girls at the party, taken advantage of in the most cynical way, and think that, while ten years is excessive, the guy basically got what he deserved.  I can't say what men think along those lines, but they, too, are keeping their distance from Genarlow.

Providing a notably different female perspective is Becky C. at her blog, which purports to provide "observations and commentary by a post-modern neo-feminist libertarian cyberpunk on society, culture, politics and whatever."  Here is a snippet from this long post entitled "A Blowjob in Georgia":

At lot of people are saying this law was a result of a hick Georgia legislature.  That is not really fair.... The Georgia legislature did not sit down one day and decide that kids doing bjs was much more serious than doing the full deal.  Laws are passed piece meal.  Amendments are almost always not read by the lawmaker. And they never have a full understanding of the effect of the legislation....

But there is someone in the system that is suppose to prevent these problems, not exploit them. That is the prosecutor.  I became a prosecutor, for a few years, because I wished to crush the balls of sexual perverts and woman beaters.  While I like to think my motives were noble, many lawyers find this kind of power intoxicating.  Prosecutor offices are mostly staffed with young lawyers directly out of law school. The pay is not good, but the experience is unparalleled....

But most people do not do this type of work for long.  Some, like me, just get sick of the whole thing. Most, after a few years, can make tons more money by moving to the private side. However, there are some who pretty much make a career out of it. Now some of these have the best of intentions. But all too many stay because, even though the dough is a lot better in a private firm, you do not have the opportunity to lop off heads on a regular basis. And that is what this is all about. In legal parlance it is called "prosecutorial discretion."

January 27, 2007 at 05:41 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Right, this is the problem. Each segment of society wants its pound of flesh from someone else--feminists might rank Wilson's case as less of an injustice than the rest of us might. (Although Wilson's case itself is so extreme that most people agree it is greatly unjust.) Woman's rights groups want high penalties for rapists, sex offenders, and those who victimize 15-year-old girls. Perhaps certain classes or minority groups want the border patrol agents punished most harshly.

And conservatives look at all this and say, if a 17-year-old could get 10 years for a consensual sex act, and a border patrol agent could be punished so severely for an in-the-line-of-duty offense, then who could possibly object to a little pain inflicted on brutal murderers and other death row inmates?

That's the problem with your Friday ranking of injustices. Everyone ranks injustices just a little bit differently, and in a democracy with bargaining that means everyone ups the ante by increasing punishments against their favorite target, causing an increasing cycle of harshness.

If activists really want to lower sentences, I really think the best way is to be consistent and even oppose liberal causes such as extremely strict sex-violence laws and hate crime legislation.

Posted by: R | Jan 27, 2007 8:04:43 PM

R: Amen!

Posted by: | Jan 27, 2007 11:17:25 PM

Wake up people ! Teens are sexually active. Girls are interested in sex. Oral sex is very popular in this generation. 40% of the 560,000 sex offenders in this country are our children, male and female. American children are prosecuted,imprisoned,tracked,and registered, exposed on the internet. Family's are devastated, Lives are forever ruined. Why should anyone care? Genarlow Wilson's story is very disturbing to me. Many children are living the American way. Read for yourself. http://www.ethicaltreatment.org/stories.htm

Posted by: Nancy | Jan 28, 2007 12:30:10 AM

Nancy, if even some of those stories are true, it is far, far too many, I had no idea that was common and thought the weird case or two in the news would iron out. Wrong. That is a well done website, and good luck.

Posted by: George | Jan 28, 2007 12:49:52 AM

The central issue of the feminist critique is rape--and that is meant in more than a physical sense--it is spirtual,cultural, social, economic and legal.

In this case the only rape was of Wilson.

~Becky

Posted by: Becky | Jan 28, 2007 1:10:03 AM

I don't know why the proper link did not show next to the above message--but reposting to clarify.

~Becky

Posted by: Becky | Jan 28, 2007 1:13:39 AM

If the facts and circumstances supported what the first quote assert, I might agree with what was said. However, given what has been said about that night and the facts as we know them, it's hard for me to believe that the females were really "vulnerable little girls" who were "taken advantage" of.

It was new years eve, and a group of high school students were having a party at a hotel room. I doubt those girls didn't know exactly what was to take place that night. As long as force did not occur, which everyone agrees it did not, then I think these females were as willful participants in the events of that night as the males were. If anything, the first quote implies merely because the females were younger females, they were automatically vulnerable; I'm not sure true femenists would want to embrace that implication.

I also serious doubt these girls were reluctant to drink that night, and thus I don't think the characterization that the males "got [the females] drunk" is an accurate one. Even if the males supplied the alcohol, the females likely were looking to drink no matter what party they went to that night.

Posted by: | Jan 28, 2007 5:23:31 PM

I do believe the law that put Mr. Wilson in prison is unfair. I would still have a hard time coming to his defense. He had sex with a girl too drunk to consent and then he had sex with a girl to young to consent. His sentence is too long and prison is probably too extreme given the circumstances but he isn't just a guy in the "wrong place at the wrong time." Force is not an element of every sexual assault.

Posted by: Victim Advocate at a prosecutor's office | Jan 29, 2007 6:55:31 PM

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