Words Mean Things: Media, Kinsey, and the Sandusky Case

I use a phrase a lot around my house:  Words means things.  Obvious I know, but I think we easily forget that words really do carry meaning.  So say what you mean.

That’s why I found the following statement in a Fox News account rather disturbing : 

“In 2002, Paterno failed to alert the authorities to the claims of then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky in the Penn State showers having sex with a young boy.” (italics mine, http://t.co/BJvooZ5J)

I’m sorry, but when a grown man takes a 10-year-old boy into a deserted shower and rapes him, the two are not “having sex.”  It’s sexual assault, so let’s say it that way.  It is that simple. 

I decided to check other sources to see the phrases being used in the Sandusky child sex-abuse case.  A Detroit Free Press article uses the phrase “having sex with a boy in the school shower” but correctly describes it as assault a paragraph later.  Fox and the Detroit Free Press were not alone.   The phrase “having sex” appeared in several articles from different sources, usually connected to comments from the Penn State graduate assistant.   Maybe the journalists were simply paraphrasing, so I decided to check his words himself. 

The grand jury presentation,  found online, states that the assistant witnessed an approximately ten-year-old boy “being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”  Those words are  objective but accurate.  Ugly, yes, but so is child abuse.

The term “having sex” implies a consensual act.  Two consenting people “have sex.”  In sexual assault, only one person is raped, or as the grand jury report states, one is “subjected” to a sexual act.  And let’s be clear.  Children do not consent.  They are intimidated,  tricked, or forced. 

So what is happening here?  Why are reporters using casual language such as “having sex” to describe the rape of a child?  Why aren’t editors catching this and changing the language to meet the crime?   Have the Kinsey reports influenced society to this degree?  Besides error and misrepresentations in his research, I still can’t believe credence is lent to a man who gathered “research” on infant and child orgasms, often from accounts from child molesters. (Who else?)  Consider the following quote from Kinsey:

“It is difficult to understand why a child, except for cultural conditioning, should be disturbed at having its genitalia touched, or disturbed at seeing the genitalia of other persons, or disturbed at even more specific sexual contacts.” (page 121, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.)

Controversial ideas, even false ones, work best at a slow march.  And if a bad idea has even an element of truth (yes, all humans, even infants and children, are sexual beings) it has an even greater chance of lingering.  All bad ideas had a start, a moment where a few people could have made a stand, cried the alarm, before the idea became too big to defeat. And as slavery has proven,  once a bad idea becomes “accepted” for a time, it takes years and scores of victims before the idea can be corrected.  “Cultural conditioning” never convinced the victims of slavery that their bonds were just.

Could this be our moment?  Is the use of language in the media regarding Sandusky’s child molestation waving a flag of warning for us?  Let us not slide down the slope of believing a very bad idea.  Sandusky and the 10-year-old boy were not “having sex.”  The boy was being violated and raped, and still bears the wounds in his soul to this day. 

No amount of “cultural conditioning” could convince Sandusky’s victims that his actions were anything other than pure tragedy.


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