MaleSurvivor Executive Director Christopher Anderson addresses Betsy Karasik’s Washington Post OpEd suggesting sex with underage teens should be legal.
Last Friday, the Washington Post ran a controversial opinion piece written by a former attorney named Betsy Karasik. In the piece, Ms. Karasik argued that some incidents of sexual activity should not be considered a criminal act.
Predictably, the blowback has been significant, as the overwhelming majority of people shared their disagreement throughout the web (often verging on disgust) with the opinion. And even though she has attempted to clarify her position, and says that she feels bad the she offended some survivors, it remains clear to me that Karasik is unable, or unwilling to appreciate why criminal sanctions are appropriate for these cases.
As a reaction to this column I was motivated to act, and I felt something far more impactful than just making a comment on the article that would get buried under the 3,000+ comments that this op-ed received. I collaborated with many partners to draft a response that was sent to the Washington Post in hopes that our response would be given equal space. While Karasik’s original column was over 800 words, our response was only 500, and we hoped that our reply would receive equal placement, given the controversy that was stirred up. Today, the Post agreed to run a part of this letter under my name:
“Sexual activity between teachers and students is a profound ethical violation. The authority placed in teachers, coaches, counselors, or other instructors creates an inescapable responsibility to maintain appropriate behavioral boundaries. When that line is crossed, the power differential between teacher and student creates an abusive betrayal of the trust placed in the teacher by the student and the community. A student’s willingness to engage in a sexual liaison with a teacher cannot eradicate this truth. As Dr. Richard Gartner, a pioneer in the treatment of men sexually abused as boys, has written, “Even seemingly consensual situations may turn out to have long term negative effects…. There’s no way for an adult to know whether a particular child–even if he seems happy to participate–will be affected negatively by taking part in sex acts. And the very last person we can expect to be objective about the needs and best interests of a child is the adult who sexually desires that child.”
The full 500-word letter can be viewed here, along with the 60+ signatures from partners in the worlds of advocacy and prevention, including Joanna Schroeder, GMP Senior Editor.