Another Kid? Sigh…Elmo why?

Elmo and Deputy Secretary of Defence

It is clear that Kevin Clash is far from vindicated. He has lost his wonderful career as Elmo’s puppeteer, and his reputation has been forever marred. No matter what happened, this is a horrible and very sad situation.

“Another kid? Another kid?!? I thought it was Groundhog’s Day when I heard that shit….yo, that’s how much we love Michael. We love Michael so much, we let the first kid slide.” – Chris Rock, on Michael Jackson.

A few days ago, I wrote about the Elmo/Kevin Clash scandal like he was Jean Val Jean. Or, better, Tom Robinson. Judged guilty before proven innocent. His accuser had recanted, and it looked like this was just an ugly incident, but not an ongoing concern.

Recently, it has come out that there is a new allegation of underage sexual misconduct, and while I am highly skeptical about this allegation (you forgot about this for how many years?), it is clear that Kevin Clash is far from vindicated. He has lost his wonderful career as Elmo’s puppeteer, and his reputation has been forever marred. No matter what happened, this is a horrible and very sad situation.

We want to believe that our idols are innocent. We want to justify their actions, and support them. Kevin Clash is an idol of mine, for a lot of reasons. He was poor, Black, and gay, and beat the odds to become a successful, respected, and loved entertainer. He created the persona and voice of one of the most popular children’s characters of all time. His work will stand the test of time.

Of course there is a chance, however small, that he solicited teenagers for sex. That is illegal, and not appropriate behaviour for a children’s entertainer.

That being said, we have to view this in a proper context. There are situations all the time where older men marry or date very young women (R. Kelly and Aaliyah, Courtney Stodden and that old guy, Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin). They are scandalous, but generally don’t have too much of an effect on their careers.

From the reports I have read, it sounds like Mr. Clash was looking for love, however misguided and inappropriate it may seem now. And remember, the allegations suggest that these men were 15 or 16 when they dated Mr. Clash, and they don’t allege that they actually had sex. And this is if the allegations are true (and we really can’t know at this point one way or the other). 15 and 16 year olds are not children. They know what sex is, and they have the capacity to consent or not consent. Yes, some people feel gross about older men dating teenagers, but let’s take a moment and remember what life was like when we were 15 or 16. We were almost in college. Maybe we started drinking (illegally). We were experimenting. Some people experimented with sex, some with drugs. We may not always have made the best choices, but we knew what we were doing.

I will never fully know if Mr. Clash is innocent or guilty. I want to believe he is innocent, but maybe it’s just because of how much I admire the man’s work. For many years, he has been my definition of a “good man.”

This is truly a tragic end to a wonderful legacy.

Edit: please note that this is not meant to excuse sexual conduct with minors (under 18) by adults. It’s just my thoughts on some of the moral and social ambiguities involved.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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About Josh Bowman

Josh Bowman is a professional fundraiser, story-teller, comedian, and blogger. He has worked and consulted in Vancouver, New York, and now Toronto for almost a decade. Josh improvises around Toronto, including regular shows with Opening Night Theatre, and also blogs for the Huffington Post. You can email Josh or follow him on Twitter. If you want to submit a guestpost or know more about Josh, check this post and this post out first.

Comments

  1. So, I think that this is a great post and I agree with 90% of it, but I think that you’re wrong about being mature at 15. I agree that 15 year olds often think they know what it means to consent to a sexual relationship with someone much older than them, but I would argue that they are not old enough to know what they are ready for. I thought I was ready for all kinds of stuff when I was 15, and even when I was as young as 12, and I am very glad there was no one there to take advantage of my naivety because I think that would have been extremely damaging. Young people want to impress someone older, they want to feel as though they are grown up, and they want to have that status that makes them above their peers, that’s normal… but actual adults are supposed to know better. That’s why Courtney Stodden’s old guy is so disgusting to so many people, and I don’t feel less sorry for male, gay 15 year olds than I do for her. So I’ll follow this up your Chris Rock quote with some Dave Chapelle “How old is 15 really?”

    • Josh Bowman says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Mika. I’ve made an edit at the bottom. I agree with your thoughts on this.

    • This “kid” did not even enter puberty until 15 years-old.

      Oh…and not all 5-yos are created equal. Some are tarded, some are needy in things like food, money, heat, shelter, affection. Some were cast into a mode of “easy-target.”

      Just reminding some experts here as to why a 15-16 yo cannot “consent.” He can only “comply.”

  2. Hi Josh!
    Nice article — definitely a lot of ambiguity here. I’ve been doing some Jerry Lee Lewis research recently, and I gotta say that the young cousin incident fully and without doubt ended that guy’s career. Abruptly.
    After a while he had a slight resurgence in the country music scene, where maybe young cousin morals are looser? Who knows.
    Anyways, just something I noticed =)

  3. wellokaythen says:

    You don’t have “to believe that our idols are innocent.” You don’t have to come to a conclusion about his guilt or innocence. Clash is, in fact, already innocent until proven guilty through due process.

    Let’s be clear about why he was fired. He was fired for allegations, not because he was convicted. He has not even been charged with a crime. What this article is saying is that you can bring down almost anyone with an accusation of sexual misconduct, and it doesn’t have to be true whatsoever. How does this really help matters?

    And, for eff’s sake, he is NOT Elmo. Elmo is a character he plays.

  4. I agree with Mika and I don’t think it’s enough to just say that “15 and 16 year olds aren’t children, but still don’t have sex with them” – 15 and 16 year olds ARE children in some very important ways that adults need to recognize in ANY kind of relationship. Yeah, they’re not the same as young children, but their brains are not fully developed yet. 15 and 16 year olds need guidance and consistency from adults, and if you are a little bit older than that it is not possible to have an equal relationship with them in ANY sense of the word – no matter how cool or understanding you think you are, the power dynamic of developmental differences will get in the way, they are still figuring out too many things about themselves, etc. If you try to be “friends” with a kid in an equal sense you aren’t doing them any favors at best – at worst you will expose them to the parts of yourself that they are unprepared to deal with as an adult would, who is no longer figuring out how to be. In our well-meaning attempts to respect a child’s independence or personhood, we so quickly forget what it means to be truly impressionable. To say that a 15 or 16 year old in this sense is no longer a child is to abandon your responsibility as an adult. It sounds awkward to say it out loud – you can’t really credibly say it to their faces in those words because they don’t FEEL like children – but I think it’s crucial to being what kids need.

    *And I know the author specifically is not defending anyone who would, but for someone to be so self-centered as to think that even the most mature-seeming child is capable of sexually consenting to an adult – who invariably seems so much more powerful and secure – represents such a monumental lack of empathy that I sometimes don’t think it says anything different about the offender whether the kid is 6 or 16.

    • “represents such a monumental lack of empathy that I sometimes don’t think it says anything different about the offender whether the kid is 6 or 16.”
      What a crock of shit. If you can’t see the difference between 6 and 16 then wtf are you missing? 6 and 16 are HUGELY different. A 16 year old can drive a car, legally have sex with others here in Australia, can move out n live alone I believe too. A 6 year old is barely past toddler stage with a very immature mind, put them behind the wheel n they’d wipe themselves/others out within seconds on the open road.

      The age of consent here is 16, they can legally drive an automobile, a 2tonne vehicle which has far more dangerous concerns than 16 year old + 25 year old sex considering you can plough through a group of people with ease in a car yet funnily enough most seem to handle it fine. I’m no fan of major differences in age n maturity for sexual relationships (16-25 is probably the limit and depends on the individuals + legal age of consent) but 16 year olds are not children in any sense of the word, they’re far more mature than many people give them credit for and are capable of understanding the ins n outs of sex.

      Why the hell do we trust them to drive on roads with adults if we don’t trust them with sex? Humans don’t mature fully until ~ 25, should we ban sex up to there? Maybe I was different at 16 but I sure as shit knew plenty of 16 year olds who knew 100% what they were doing when they had sex with others. I think the key difference is hot the older party treats the young, but legal party (in Australia at least). An older person who’s mental maturity is younger than their age (25 year old with the mind of a 19 year old) dating someone 16-18 is probably going to be ok as long as they are respectful and do not pressure the younger person. I have a friend who dated someone 11 years older when she was 17 and they’re now happily married. Should I hate him for dating her when they are in love and he treated her great?

      Someone purposely going for MUCH younger people because they KNOW they’re more malleable is the big problem. But the problem is the sheer magnitude of the age difference as Kevin is 52, being old enough to be a grandfather n dating teens or under 25’s even is a problem + he was breaking the law + 15 is way too young anyway, 15 year olds can’t even legally drive alone. If he was 25 and lived here for instance, where it’s legal to be with a 16 year old I’d raise n eyebrow but when you reach the “old enough to be their father” limit I think the maturity difference becomes too great.

      But this all begs the question, why the fuck are these so called kids trusted with cars on our roads when we can’t trust their ability in a sexual relationship? 16-17 is far from being a child, 15 n younger is what we classify as a minor here and I can understand that restriction but the maturity increases in teen years is phenomenal. You’re at uni when you’re 17 here, we have schoolies which are 16-17 celebrating the end of their schooling traveling without their parents in places with alcohol.

      I’m sorry but I don’t think of 16 and 17 year olds as children, they’re young adults and depending on the individual I’ve known 16 year olds with more maturity, intelligence than some of my friends at 25 (the one who married someone 11 years older is one of those people who’s maturity matched mine and I was 6 years older!). I don’t hate those who are of legal age having consensual sex as long as there is no coercion, predation taking place, I hate those specifically targeting young n immature people regardless of age and taking advantage of them. Maybe we should make the age of consent 25 since that is when the brain finally develops if we’re so concerned about maturity.

      Personally, if you can’t handle a sexual relationship and are too young to understand sexual relationships then you seriously should not be driving a vehicle on public roads.

  5. Psychopaths can be well-spoken, charismatic, and kind in public…then they can turn on a hair into something else when alone with their intended victim…

    It is so easy to be fooled, Josh….

    If they always wore the mask of some drooling devil then it would be easy to stay away, wouldn’t it? But they are clever and confusing….

    Try to listen to the victims…

  6. ***and while I am highly skeptical about this allegation (you forgot about this for how many years?), ***

    Yeah….uh….that’s actually a really well documented condition of post-trauma and post traumatic sexual abuse.

    I thought that “observation” was dead or dying. Modern life-support can be a beotch!

  7. ***15 and 16 year olds are not children. They know what sex is, and they have the capacity to consent or not consent.***

    Can someone please explain this to me? Consent. Capacity. Capacity to consent…at 15. So another ‘one’ totally disregarding the entire basis of our child sex laws.

    Help me understand, cuz the disclaimer at the end says “everything is cool here.”

    • 16 year olds can consent here, 15’s can’t though exceptions are made for 15 year old + 17 year old gf/bf for instance.

      • Yeah, the vast majority of jurisdictions allow for a 3-year bracket +&- tween the two. Some from very early ages too…to avoid (properly) application of rape laws when you’ve got parents freaking over normal childhood experimentation events. Legal avenues still exist if there was coercion or force involved.

        • Does kissing and non-sexual contact trigger that law? Eg, a girl who is 20 dating a 15 year old but they don’t have sex but hold hands, kiss, etc. Is that made illegal?

          • The only way any jurisdictional prosecutor would have to be 1) complained to in a vigorous manner by the 15yos legal guardian, 2) a true arse hole, 3) ridiculous in persona and willing to appear as such before the court, and 4) in the right jurisdiction. Many of the laws these days spell-out what “sexual assault” physically consists of.

            1-4 above get dramatically overridden if the 20-yo female has proximate-duty where behavioral and or certain responsibilities carry inherent taboos. Then you have an inappropriate situation by proximate nature or “abuse of position.” There is typically no overriding this scenario. The DAs today will override the pleas of all involved to “just ignore it,” as he now has a crime against society that can’t be ignored.

            And…as you probably already know…it matters greatly WHO the involved parties are within their society/jurisdiction. Who they know.

            Now…there are creepies out there who love to “kiss and hold hands” with a 10-yo whilst said creepy is 50-yo. There’s alway a law on the menu that any prosecutor can use. Don’t ever believe the “my hands are tied” line.

            • Ah ok. I was under the impression prosecuting kissing was harder. I know that touching genitals can be prosecuted but wasn’t sure if kissing was covered there too. I suppose they could sting them with grooming laws n put em away?

            • None of it really matters. The public is caring less and less every day. The judges don’t even look at criminal code any longer.

              The free-for-all on kids is just around the corner when people just don’t “get it.”

  8. We give a lot of thought to the potential problems associated with having teen sex, but less attention is given to the problems of restricting teens sex. A life-long sex-negative attitude and guilt about sex can be supremely damaging. Why are we so quick to ruin sex for teens by telling them they’re doing a bad ugly disgusting thing? Sex is beautiful.

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