The Spectacle Blog

But They Were Consenting Adults!

By on 12.10.10 | 8:37PM

For decades, Americans have been lectured that there is exactly one standard by which sexual activity can be judged: Were the participants "consenting adults"?

Now comes the news that Columbia University political science professor David Epstein, 46, has been arrested and charged with having a three-year-long sexual affair -- with his own daughter.

The daughter, now 24, was an adult when this incestuous relationship (allegedly) began in 2006 and, while incest remains illegal in New York State, some commenters at the Columbia University student newspaper Web site are mystified as to why it's illegal: "Wait, why is consensual incest a crime? It might not be appealing to everyone, but if they're adults and they consent, who cares what they do?"

Readers might suppose that arguments involving phrases like "thou shalt not" and words like "abomination" are sternly frowned on at Columbia University, so that the faculty would have a hard time answering such a question from their students. Likewise, readers will scarcely be surprised to learn that Professor Epstein is an ardent admirer of President Obama and a vocal critic of Sarah Palin.

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