David Brooks: The 16-Year Old Boy and The 13-Year Old Girl
David Brooks' New York Times column of this morning on the Foley matter, "A Tear in Our Fabric," is so important that I'd normally be inclined to simply reproduce it in its entirety and let it speak for itself. But as a subscription-required item, I cannot. I do offer an extended-but-redacted excerpt for our readers' consideration:
This is a tale of two predators. The first is a congressman who befriended teenage pages. He sent them cajoling instant messages asking them to describe their sexual habits, so he could get his jollies.
The second is a secretary, who invited a 13-year-old girl from her neighborhood into her car and kissed her. Then she invited the girl up to her apartment, gave her some vodka, took off her underwear and gave her a satin teddy to wear.
Then she had sex with the girl, which was interrupted when the girl’s mother called. Then she made the girl masturbate in front of her and taught her some new techniques.
The first predator, of course, is Mark Foley, the Florida congressman. The second predator is a character in Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues.” [Ensler has since changed the girl’s age to 16 — the age of Foley’s pages.]
But why is one sexual predator despised and the other celebrated?
Ensler’s audiences . . . are embracing . . . a moral code that’s been called expressive individualism. Under this code, the core mission of life is to throw off the shackles of social convention and to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Behavior is not wrong if it feels good and doesn’t hurt anybody else. Sex is not wrong so long as it is done by mutual consent.
In a country filled with parents looking for a way to raise their children in a morally disordered environment, Foley’s act is just one more symptom of a contagious disease.
In the long run, the party that benefits from events like the Foley scandal will be the party that defines the core threats to the social fabric, and emerges as the most ardent champion of moral authority.