Yesterday I argued that the jury system is becoming inoperable in the West because it’s increasingly hard to find 12 people who understand what justice is.
To be fair, it’s not just the potential jurors’ fault. More and more of our laws are being devised to project state power rather than protect public safety.
Now which of these crimes should be punished most severely: beating a stranger to death, armed burglary, supplying weapons to terrorists or a woman in her thirties having sex with a 15-year-old boy?
However any sane person arranges these crimes in a descending order of enormity, I bet the last one will be at the bottom of the list. Not so, say our courts, and by ‘our’ I mean not just British but also American since both countries’ jurisprudence is based on common law and the jury system.
In recent years, the first three crimes I mentioned have drawn sentences of around five years. Yet a good-looking Michigan woman, 38, has just been slapped with up to 15 years in prison for having sex with two teenage boys, 14 and 15. The boys, said the judge, were traumatised for life.
It’s only one man’s experience, but a zillion years ago I too was 15 and even 14. Most of my energy in those days was spent on trying, desperately and unsuccessfully, to fulfil assorted sexual fantasies.
Older women figured prominently in those – as they do, I’d suggest at the risk of generalising, for most straight boys. Once or twice I even tried to make a tentative pass at a woman twice my age, only to be rebuked with richly deserved contempt.
Now, indulging in a bit of retrospective fantasy, had one of my advances succeeded, I would have been ecstatic, grateful, proud, elated – choose your own adjective. One thing I absolutely guarantee I wouldn’t have been is traumatised.
It’s hard to believe that today’s teenagers, who are infinitely more savvy and precocious in such matters than I was at their age, will forever bear emotional scars after doing a pretty and, to them, sophisticated 38-year-old woman in the back of her car. More likely they’ll remember her with warmth and gratitude for the rest of their lives.
I’m not suggesting that a grown-up shouldn’t be rebuked for doing something unethical or illegal. Dura lex, sed lex, as the Romans used to say. But the severity of punishment ought to be commensurate with the crime, and surely any just jurisprudence must distinguish between malum prohibitum and malum in se.
The latter, such as murder or theft, is a transgression against higher and therefore universally just law; the former, such as speeding, contravenes only made-up, what Aristotle called positive, laws, not all of which are universally just.
So why are testosterone-drunk youngsters encouraged to report on older women whose favours they’ve enjoyed? Why are such crimes punished more severely than burglary or sometimes even manslaughter?
Why do our broadsheets, to say nothing of tabloids, cover such cases at inordinate length and with obvious approval of any draconian punishment? Do the hacks, many of them young men themselves, seriously think that those teenagers suffered serious trauma?
There’s a one-word answer to all these questions: modernity. Specifically the post-Enlightenment modernity that has to proceed from Rousseau’s assumption that we’re all born perfect.
If most of us demonstrably don’t grow up perfect, it’s somebody else’s fault: our parents’, our schools’, capitalism’s, socialism’s, society’s, the climate’s – choose your own culprit. This puny mind-set naturally encourages seeing everyone as a potential victim, which in turn intensifies a search for perpetrators.
Youngsters are reared in that poisonous atmosphere and, being impressionable, inhale it with their lungs wide open. Victimhood is top of the mind, which naturally makes it top of the news coverage.
This is illogically and hypocritically combined with the blanket sexualisation of education, mass communications and society at large. Children are implicitly invited to plunge headlong into a life of sexual activity, and yet they’re somehow told to see themselves as victims when their paramours are older than they are.
Kindergarten pupils are taught how to use condoms; a few years later they’ll take courses in variously acrobatic sexual techniques. Now can anyone seriously expect that a boy taught at age 5 how to contain ejaculation within a latex sheath will at age 15 be traumatised by having sex with an older woman?
We must also remember that today’s woman in her thirties has received the same education. She too was taught in her infancy about the birds and the bees, or indeed the birds and the birds. She too was taught, implicitly or explicitly, that sexual urges are perfectly natural and should therefore be indulged, provided things like pregnancy and VD can be avoided.
Expecting her in her thirties to remain prim under such circumstances is presuming too much on human goodness, à la Rousseau. By all means, she should be reprimanded, perhaps also punished, for laws are there to be obeyed. But treating her transgression as a worse crime than some I’ve mentioned is hypocrisy at its most soaring.
The culture of victimhood thus gets a steady influx of fresh blood, while similarly educated newspaper readers get their prurient instincts properly satisfied. The circle becomes truly vicious and it’s society that falls victim, not those randy teenagers.