Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Does Sexual Assault Matter?

Recently an alarming study was published that concluded that twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated. Ten percent of boys reported a similar experience.

This is oddly similar to the college statistic cited - that "1 in 5" women are "sexually assaulted" before completing their program. Even more concerning, we know that "young women who don't attend college are more likely to be raped."

Within this mix of factoids, we've gone from variations on partner violence, to statistics about sexual assault exclusively, to a definitive judgment of the likelihood of rape. All of these concerns are related, but not necessarily equivalent - something to remember as "feminists" are often great at escalating all concerns to the level of rape. For a specific example of this, note the recent mix up by Valenti and Al-Jazeera that gave the label of "rapist" to all those accused of "sexual assault".

Using the Wikipedia definition of "Sexual assault":
Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration or drug facilitated sexual assault), groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner.

The label seems to apply in many circumstances. Perhaps one circumstance that may qualify is a situation in Florida where a man has demanded his four year old son be circumcised:

A South Florida woman fighting the circumcision of her son has fled with the boy and will face imprisonment for contempt if she doesn't allow the surgery to proceed. 
Palm Beach County Judge Jeffrey Gillen said Friday that Heather Hironimus could avoid jail if she appears before him by Tuesday with the child and signs paperwork needed to schedule the procedure.
[...]
The 4-year-old boy's father, Dennis Nebus, testified he last saw his son Feb. 19.
Court documents show that Hironimus and Nebus had a son together on Halloween 2010. Although never married, the couple is considered to be the legal and biological parents of the boy.
Hironimus and Nebus agreed to a circumcision in a 2012 legal document, but Hironimus later changed her mind and fought to prevent the boy's circumcision. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father.

In this circumstance, the boy is at the age or very near to the age to vocally opt-out of a foreskin removal. Despite that, the law says that what must happen to this boy's body is described in a legal document between his parents signed years ago. There does not seem to be any time limit to this agreement, so the boy may need to evade his father's hatred of foreskin another fourteen years before legally free from complying with this order.

The question is, what could this father do that would qualify as sexual assault?

To many, taking a knife to his son's genitals is not sexual assault. What would be sexual assault is if the man managed to kiss his ex-girlfriend against her will.

In this strange world we live in, the son of this man is to be circumcised without his consent, at an age where he would presumably remember a great deal of the impact of the procedure. A number of years later, he will borrow money to attend a school and learn what "sexual assault" in the first year of life in academic regret - as if his puny male brain did not know what violation truly was.

If circumcised, in the eyes of the majority this boy has not been "sexually assaulted". While we're on the subject, perhaps it it's helpful to point out that Janay Rice was not "sexually assaulted" either.

"Sexual assault" that gets the magnifying glass of concern occurs in some union of intent (sexual desire) and intrusion of consent and personal boundaries. If someone grabs a breast by mistake, it's not sexual assault. If someone receives a punch to the genitals out of pure rage, it's likely not sexual assault. If someone is forcibly kissed in a car commercial and does not hate it, then it's up for interpretation.

Revisiting the story of the boy in Florida, it would be simple to dismiss the case as a crazy southern state doing crazy southern things. But on this issue the most bizarre region may be New York. It turns out that in New York there are several people that choose to practice what is known as Metzitzah B'Peh. The practice is known to have given several infants herpes and may have been a factor in the death of a child.

To borrow lingo from the climate change drama, it turns out the "science is not settled" as to whether or not euphemistic oral suction of an infant's penis is the cause of herpes transmission. As an outrageous consequence of this, New York has failed to ban the practice outright. Further, it has even failed to establish a most basic structure of informed consent :

Under the agreement, the city will no longer require that a mohel obtain signed consent before the ritual.
Keep in mind this is of course not written consent from the impacted party - that is, the child - but informed consent from the child's parents.

It gets worse:
If a mohel is found, by a DNA match, to have infected an infant with herpes, he will be banned for life from performing MBP by the health department, officials said.
It does not say a proven infection will end the practice forever - as it probably should - it simply states that infection will end a single career in an industry of sexually transmitted disease.

Consider the baseline of violence that is constructed in youth. Routine genital cutting, bizarre and neglectful parenting practices, the impact of a boundary-free inquisitive sibling, the chaos that is high school.

Despite all this, the tradition that creates the scary statistics right now are the choices made during the ritualized prayer before the gods of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the local temple built on non-dischargeable student debts. After the pilgrimage is over, one can look forward to a web-based survey that asks about "unwanted sexual contact" (Appendix A, link via WP) that is then qualified as "sexual assault" possibly only by the authors of the publication and its concerned readers. There are some good reasons things are not as straightforward as asking a respondent to check yes or no to the question of "Have you been sexually assaulted at college?", but choosing to not be this direct sure makes a lot of tiresome false panic.

Reusing this rule that we need not the assessment of the victim to label an experience a sexual assault and the old social justice slogan that "intent is not magic", one can simply also brand circumcision as sexual assault. And one arrives at the answer to a mischievous title at the bottom of a cumbersome journey through disconnected experiences - of course sexual assault matters.

To their credit, our progressive journalists are concerned about both issues - campus sexual assault is an "epidemic", while having a foreskin removed is getting much too expensive. Even the CDC would tell the state of Florida that it's a tragic to have to circumcise a four year old, as it's much cheaper to circumcise an infant.

Does one tip a mohel that really makes an effort at oral suction?

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