Wednesday, December 21, 2005

No harm, no foul?

Canada's Supreme farce is carrying on it's merry way, ruling today that swinger's clubs must be allowed to operate legally:
In its 7-2 decision, the court redefined indecency to use harm, rather than community standards, as the key yardstick. The ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, said acts must be shown to be harmful to the point where they "interfere with the proper functioning of society" before they can be labelled indecent. "Grounding criminal indecency in harm represents an important advance in this difficult area of law."
McLachlin is attempting to argue that public standards for behavior are and can only be arbitrary, whereas "harm" is supposedly scientifically objective, supposedly a higher threshold to meet, and thereby a guarantor of greater liberty. McLachlin is a Liberal party appointee, btw - remember this during the election if this ruling bothers you (and she looks rather like a dom in that Wikki picture, don't you think?). I don't buy this argument; I don't believe that community standards are arbitrary. Instead they simply point to cause and effect relationships that are hard to quantify. A judge asked to rule based on community standards is not being asked what his personal opinion of the matter is; he's being asked to assess, and represent, his community. Consider what "harm" is. How do we define it? Any choice is going to arbitrary. Words are a currency floated on public opinion. They point to supposedly real things but they are not themselves those things. They are words. Placeholders, if you will, for public consensus. I don't want to get into a discussion of hermenutics here but want to point out that all of this jiggery pokery about "objectivity" and "greater freedom" is simply a power grab. We are being asked to surrender our humanity here, as we are so often when we deal with "Liberal" justice. This is a party that thinks mom and dad can't be trusted to raise their kids, that thinks mom and dad "lack public accountability" and will spend daycare money on cigarettes and popcorn. What they are saying, and this gets clearer all the time, is that only the Liberal Party is fit to decide. That is Liberals mean by objectivity; the elites will decide, not the community. This is a terrible ruling, but like most sexual issues it will take time to make its effects felt. Even then, they may not be easy to see on a sociological or economic sense. Take at this story from the Washington Times about a study linking teen hedonism and depression:
Most medical and mental health professionals would agree that there is a link between depression and sexual and drug using behavior in adolescents. However, it is commonly assumed that depressed teens use sex and drugs to "medicate" their depression. Thus, when faced with a depressed, sexually active teen, adults may overlook sexual or drug using behavior with the hope that the risky behavior will cease once the depression is gone. Although the depression followed by sex and drugs link seems to make sense, a new study, which followed over 13,000 middle and high school students for two years in a row, found that depression did not predict risky sexual or drug using behavior. Instead, the study found that depression often follows risky behavior. Lead author of the study, Dr. Denise Hallfors told me in an interview that her research team found evidence that heavy drug and alcohol use significantly increased the likelihood of depression among boys. For girls, the findings are stunning: Even low levels of alcohol, drug or sexual experimentation increased the probability of depression for girls. ... Girls even experimenting with drugs were slightly more than two times as likely to be depressed (8-10 percent). Those experimenting with sex were three times more likely to be depressed than abstainers (12 percent versus 4 percent). For sexually promiscuous teen girls, the results are staggering: 44 percent of girls with multiple sexual partners during the study period experienced depression.
Causation is admittedly a difficult subject. My sense is that the difficulty in mapping out the relationship means that there is not enough evidence to overturn the community. Since the age of consent in Canada is woefully low - 14, a Tory bill to raise it to 16 was defeated in the last session - this means that girls as young as 14 can be lured into swingers clubs and there is nary anything anyone (even a parent) can do about it. The drinking age here is 18, which might be a reason to keep young teens out, but a savvy club owner could simply opt not to serve alcohol. For the girls it will mean depression, a horribly skewed opinion of the male gender, and possibly STD's that will follow her for the rest of her life, and even make her sterile. She can consent to all of this, but she can't consent to a beer. The mind reels and the heart breaks. And I have not even said anything much about how many unborn kids will face the butchers block because of this ruling. It seems the word "child" is in danger of speaking to nothing but diminutive size.

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