By James Bowman on 1.9.04 @ 12:00AM
Michael Jackson seems never to have made any secret of the fact that he shares his bed with the young boys he invites to his Neverland ranch. He admitted as much to Martin Bashir in Julie Shaw’s documentary, Living With Michael Jackson, and again in interview with Ed Bradley on “60 Minutes” when Bradley asked him if he still thought it was OK to sleep — as in sleep — with kids. “Of course. Why not?” said Jackson. “If you’re going to be a pedophile, if you’re going to be Jack the Ripper, if you’re going to be a murderer, it’s not a good idea. That I am not.”
There is a marvelous passage in Othello when Iago is tormenting the Moor almost beyond endurance. We come upon the two of them in the midst of a conversation, and Iago, keeping up his pose of being friendly to Cassio even as he is persuading Othello that Cassio is sleeping with Desdemona, is apparently trying to suggest that a kiss between friends is no big deal — much, of course, to Othello’s consternation. “Or,” says Iago, seeing that he’s got the hook in him, “to be naked with her friend a-bed/An hour or more, not meaning any harm?”
As he must have foreseen it would, this sends Othello straight through the roof: “Naked a-bed, Iago, and not mean harm?” he says, rigid with astonishment.
It is hypocrisy against the devil.
They that mean virtuously, and yet do so,
The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt heaven.
We all know that the law is a ass, as Dickens’s Mr. Bumble says, but there seems no reason for the law to be so big an ass as Iago pretends to be here. If the crime of child molestation itself cannot be proved against the racially and sexually indeterminate man-boy, he ought to be prosecuted for taking so little care to avoid the crime.
But a moment’s reflection will reveal the reason why the law must be an ass after all. For the article of faith on which Jackson bases his appeal is the feminist one that only what actually happens should be relevant to questions of sexual crime and punishment. Thus a woman can lead a man up to the point of penetration, only then say “no” and subsequently prosecute him for rape if he is a moment late in heeding her instruction. Most importantly, because no one but the two people involved know if he was late, or just how enthusiastic or prolonged were her yeses before her noes commenced, such a prosecution will always come down, as it has in the case of Kobe Bryant, to asking a jury to take the word of one or another of them on faith.
Pre-feminist common sense suggested that a woman who comes alone to a man’s hotel room late at night has already consented to sex with him, but on the all-or-nothing principle so dear to ideologues everywhere, feminist orthodoxy insists that the adoption of this rough-and-ready but extremely useful guide would be tantamount to saying that a woman who has slept with other men not her husband, or even who dresses provocatively, has already consented to sex. And the feminist interpretation of the law is now almost uncontested in the courts. No means no — even though no one else hears it, even though everyone knows that it may mean yes — because feminists want to reserve to women the right and freedom to be indiscreet.
Those who have read much in Restoration comedy or Victorian novels will be familiar with the scene where the heroine is terrified at being found in a “compromising” situation — in a man’s room alone with him, for example. She was not afraid of sex, she was afraid of damage to her reputation. It was the wisdom of the old honor culture to see that that which could be managed with discretion need not concern either the law or wagging tongues. But discretion was always so high among the virtues of both ladies and gentlemen because it was all that prevented their business from becoming everyone’s business and thus a public scandal, suitable for terrorizing little children and vulgarizing the life of the community. Maybe Michael Jackson’s utter lack of discretion is owing to the fact that he is neither lady nor gentleman.
James Bowman, our movie and culture critic, is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is the author of Honor: A History and Media Madness: The Corruption of Our Political Culture, both published by Encounter Books.
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