walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Sex Abuse Scandals Rock the BBC

A massive sex scandal has just hit the BBC with the publication of a new book accusing two former Doctor Who producers of using their power to take advantage of underage fans throughout the 1980s. The Daily Mail reports:

The next year, on the promise of Doctor Who photographs, [the book’s author] Marson visited the studio again. He says he was then assaulted by Mr Downie, who died in 2006.

The encounter took place in a BBC lift, he says, and ended with him fleeing and trying to hide beneath a desk.

In another incident, Mr Marson says a wealthy fan supplied Mr Nathan-Turner with male escorts in exchange for visits to the studio and souvenirs.

He adds both men were on the look-out for teenage fans who would have sex with them because of Doctor Who – dubbing the fans ‘doable barkers’.

This is bad enough on its own, but the scandals aren’t limited to Doctor Who. As the Daily Mail notes, this story is emerging shortly after accusations that longtime BBC television host Jimmy Savile molested as many as 450 people in his lifetime, making him one of the UK’s “most prolific sex offenders,” according to the NSPCC charity group.

The more we hear about what was going on in the era of sexual liberation, the more the Catholic  scandals look like a symptom of the times rather than a special pathology of the Church. The BBC was apparently a hotbed of abuse for underage female and male fans, and revelations about abuse in schools, the Boy Scouts, Jewish organizations and other institutions in which adults regularly interact with youth keep coming to light.

It’s almost enough to make a person think that when a society casts sexual restraint and self control to the winds, the young and the weak become victims of a culture of exploitation and gratification. It’s almost enough to make someone wonder if unbridled and socially glorified libertinism rather than celibacy is the leading cause of the sexual exploitation of minors.

But no… Thoughts like that are much too depressing. That train of thought leads to the dismal conclusion that some sort of, well, original sin has twisted human nature so that terrible things happen in all our institutions, however modern and freethinking they are. Let’s stop that kind of thinking as quickly as possible; it’s much more comfortable to think that good resolutions, lots of police, and a healthy attitude toward recreational sex will make everything right. Eventually.

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  • http://twitter.com/contrararian Contra Rarian

    If you really think that institutions (churches, schools, etc) weren’t rife with physical and sexual abuse before the “modern age”, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

    • WRM

      That would reinforce my point about the original sin thing. But while evil and sin exist in every age and land, the proportions sometimes change. As a society, we are better at fighting race prejudice than we used to be, but we’ve lost ground in other ways.

      • http://twitter.com/contrararian Contra Rarian

        Do you have any evidence for this “original sin” thing? Did it even exist as a concept before the 2nd Century AD?

        Child abuse at the BBC and within Churches etc. was due to an abuse of power. At no other time in human history have those without power had as much voice as they do now to speak out about abuses.

        Blaming a “healthy attitude toward recreational sex” for sexual abuse is rather disingenuous. IMO.

        • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

          “Did it even exist as a concept before the 2nd Century AD?”
          Are you sitting on some piece of evidence, or merely idly speculating?

          • http://twitter.com/contrararian Contra Rarian

            You could try looking it up.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin#History_of_the_doctrine

            Do you have any evidence of the doctrine before the 2nd Century AD?

          • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

            Nope. I was asking for information. Thanks for the link.

        • AD_Rtr_OS

          “…abuse at the BBC and within Churches …”
          Which could never happen in the corridors of Whitehall or Capitol Hill, for our political leaders are above reproach, and would never take advantage of their staffs and hangers-on.

          • http://twitter.com/contrararian Contra Rarian

            Yes, this is an abuse of power issue. blaming “original sin” is as absurd as, well, the notion of original sin itself.

  • Scott Morgan

    The scandals you reference have less to do with recent sexual liberation and more to do with the weird side of human nature. People have been abusing other people since original sin knocked on our collective door and we answered.

    If anything, the sexual liberation you referenced has allowed more victims to come forward so that we now find out about the abuse more than we did in the past. Our ignorance of it was no indicator of its absence.

    Perhaps such revelations will help to reduce future abuse. Ignorance has never been a very good tool for limiting evil.

    • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

      “If anything, the sexual liberation you referenced has allowed more victims to come forward so that we now find out about the abuse more than we did in the past.”
      Wow! I’d say that’s assuming facts not in evidence. If sexual liberation were responsible for victims coming forward, there’d be a lot more rapes reported than are and we wouldn’t be learning about sexual abuse 20 years after the facts. It takes that long for victims to distance themselves from the events. Even so, there’s a lot more Victim X’s than there are self-identified victims.
      If anything, the revelations owe more to expanding communications and increasing lack of media fear in taking on social power structures.

      • Scott Morgan

        I did not, nor would I, make a claim that most nor even many crimes related to sexual violence are reported. Statistics consistently show that rape is by far the most under-reported crime for a whole host of reasons.

        As you correctly quoted, I only wrote that a change in society “has allowed more victims to come forward” than in the past. Nothing in your post contradicts that claim. You simply added additional reasons why you think we are hearing more about such abuse as opposed to your agreeing with the original post that an increase in such abuse may be because of sexual liberation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

    “It’s almost enough to make a person think that when a society casts sexual restraint and self control to the winds, the young and the weak become victims of a culture of exploitation and gratification. It’s almost enough to make someone wonder if unbridled and socially glorified libertinism rather than celibacy is the leading cause of the sexual exploitation of minors.”
    I’d say this sort of behavior and its tacit acceptance lies at the doorstep of aggressive statism that reviled and minimalized the role of religion in moral education. The state really doesn’t care about the vulnerable like the institutions cultivated by religious practices do. The state sets up barriers, like “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and financial need, to its prosecution of justice and its monetary outlays to persons. The churches don’t.

    • Clayton Holbrook

      Statism; churches, when will morality outgrow its contextual training wheels? Maybe it’s the occasional anarchist tinge within me. But morals come implicitly from within us. Why do those things have to be so defined by the state or a church? Especially considering what the modern day church has become; less personal and more political.

      Perhaps it’s just a pipe dream, but I long for the day when we can shed those moral training wheels and social capital and reciprocity exist in and of themselves.

      • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.kennelly Daniel Kennelly

        I think William Golding wrote a book about this…

      • Grace O’Malley

        So a cultures morality has nothing to do with the culture? If that were true the cultures would be much more in tune with one another than is currently the case.

        At one time it was perfectly acceptable in American society for a man in his 40s or more to marry a girl at 15, that is not the case today. In fact James Madison at 33 was engaged to a 15 year old girl who later broke off the engagement. Does that make him a pedophile? Or has the morality of the culture changed?

        Perhaps you’d like to look up Queen Lutibelle, whose real name is Louie Crew, as well as his role in the Episcopal church, for a real eye opening look at the change of how homosexuality came to be normal in the Episcopal church. Bishop Spong is another source.

        What is acceptable morality in Muslim countries is markedly different than in Western countries. Refusing to recognize that does not make it less true.

        The idea that today’s church is less personal and more political than say the Medieval Church is quite laughable to anyone familiar with the history, not to mention the reformation.

        It may be implicit in people to feel bad about killing someone but it certainly is not enough to keep people from killing is it? I once saw a t-shirt that said “The only reason some people are alive is because murder is against the law” and I thought, well-yes.

        Of course sex abuse has always been with us, the difference is that in today’s world it is legal to have a group like NAMBA who lobbies for man/boy relationships to be legal.

        of course culture changes and what is considered moral is changing. To believe this does not affect churches as well as secular organizations is to simply deny what is obvious. I find liberals very good at this, there is no need then to take responsibility for what their policies have wrought.

        • Clayton Holbrook

          A lot to chew on Grace, Thx for the reply.

          Of course morality is defined by culture. And of course what is moral changes over time with culture. But it’s the institutional context that’s relied upon so much in every culture and every time that’s a little frustrating to me sometimes. What’s moral in Eastern or Middle Easter culture is different than that of Western culture, but most cultures look to State and religious institutions to define or validate what’s moral at the time and place.

          But many times these institutions are frustratingly behind the times in terms of what has been culturally established as moral. That’s the nature of large institutions that try to homogenize a particular culture and morality, sometimes only for the sake of its own selfish relevance; they’re slow and sometimes lack reverance due to insularity. And sometimes institutions with moral authority become oppressors of liberty.

          I’m not at all saying morality and culture is always homogeneous throughout the world; therefore, it should be deinstitutionalized worldwide as the entire population always understands what’s moral. But more locally it would be interesting if we could be more self-reliant moral creatures w/o some of the negative side effects of moral institutionalization.

          I think that individual moral independence is more plausible than you may think, b/c according to your t-shirt example it seems you think it’s the institutionalization (moral authority via gov’t laws) that’s the great enforcer and purveyor or moral action. I believe we don’t kill people b/c we know intrinsically, regardless of any law, that killing people is wrong. There are plenty of laws on the books, yet people in a society still kill people knowing about the law and knowing it’s just wrong.

          Finally, with that said I’m a realist. As societies grow I understand the need for well-functioning societal institutions to be a large component of ordered liberty. But if we can harness our intrinsic moral nature more, maybe that’s an even more powerful force to deliver ordered liberty than insitutions.

      • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

        “But morals come implicitly from within us.”
        Um, you can assert that only because you were raised by largely moral parents in a reasonably moral society. You’re really in no position to claim that as empirical fact. When society ceases to observer moral tenets, its members cease to act morally. You can study that phenomenon in histories of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

  • PDQuig

    The Catholic Church has never had a pedophile priest problem (the way it was invariably referred to in the press). It had a gay priest problem. How many young girls were molested? Zero. It is estimated that as many as 30% of the Jesuit Order priests are part of the Catholic “gay mafia.” The Catholic Church cannot purge its gay priests for fear of the wave of self-outing that would destroy the last of its credibility.

    It will not be long before the Catholic Church embraces same sex marriage in the same manner as they have abortion. The vast majority of the Catholic laity are just fine with it–as long as their kids aren’t the ones buggered.

  • RichardBlaine

    As the Clintonestias said during the ’90s… “Hey, it’s just about sex!!!”

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