Paeans to Perversity

An outdoor advertisement gave new meaning to risqué: A young model lay face down on a couch, wearing Calvin Klein's newest fragrance--and nothing else. The ad was selling more than just the latest perfume: It was promoting an image of children as sex objects. The Calvin Klein ad provoked a widespread public outcry. But the popular protests have subsided--and now the cultural elites are striking back. Despite his notorious advertising campaign, Time magazine recently honored Calvin Klein as one of America's 25 most influential people, praising them for their "ability . . . to educate and entertain us, to change the way we think about ourselves and others." Well, let's fervently hope Klein's kiddie porn ads are not changing the way we think about ourselves. And the fact that elites are highlighting Klein may signal a dangerous new trend. In the Weekly Standard, journalist Mary Eberstadt writes that articles sympathetic to pedophilia have begun popping up in respectable journals like the New York Times and Vanity Fair. In the New Republic, editor Hanna Rosin recently recommended a movie about the notorious North American Man-Boy Love Association. The film is worth seeing, Rosin says, because it "succeeds . . . in making monsters [appear] human." But why would anyone want to see pedophiles portrayed in a sympathetic light? It's done to change the unthinkable into the thinkable as a prelude to changing the law. Our main legal protection against pedophilia is laws mandating relatively high ages of consent. Traditional morality teaches that sex between children and adults is wrong. But today, traditional morality is under assault. For example, Rosin suggests that the concept of the legal autonomy of children plausibly includes their right to make their own decisions--even decisions about having sex with adults. This theory has already been taken seriously by the courts. In 1992, a Florida district judge threw out the state's statutory rape law. The judge noted that minors already enjoy the right to have abortions. Since the state can't interfere with a minor's abortion decision, the judge said, then the state has no business interfering with the minor's sexual decision making. He then ruled that Florida's statutory rape law was unconstitutional--and threw out charges against a man charged with having sex with a 14-year-old girl. This decision was later overturned on appeal. But the handwriting is on the wall: Traditional legal protections against sex with minors are beginning to crumble. This ought to bring out the holy rage in all of us. Even Hanna Rosin admits the hypocrisy of promoting pedophilia: "With young teens, and certainly children," Rosin writes, "the question of consent itself is shady--children are always eager to please, and all sorts of creeps are ready to exploit." Precisely. You and I ought to use every means in our power to stop the drive to legitimize this perversion. We should find out which companies exploit children and then refuse to buy their products. We have to send people like Calvin Klein a strong message, Time magazine notwithstanding: that we won't buy from a company that sells the innocence of children along with its perfume.


Chuck Colson


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