Alex Knepper wrote:

Unfortunately, you’re very wrong in saying that even a conservative Congressman or PTA member would admit to admiring the beauty of youth.

Naw - I was differentiating between Mark Foley's behavior and "Doesn't Johnny look handsome dressed up for the prom?!" Or: "Looks like you've got some outstanding athletes on the water polo team this year." Or: "You're going to be a real heart-breaker someday." That kind of thing. You're right though on the other part: Asking a neighbor or an uncle to look after the kids for a while isn't quite what it used to be - in part because the uncle also has his head filled with the general paranoid background noise. But some of that all also goes to smaller families, greater risk aversion. It can be dangerous to generalize though. A single block in middle class America can hold several simultaneous mutually near-incomprehensible universes.

@ fuster:
Like I said, or like the man said, all things are in sex.

In AK's mind CHILF may mean 16-21 y.o., but it plays on that same ambiguity or imprecision in the term "pedophilia." The latter came into usage as a clinical term for a compulsive interest in children - early or pre-pubescent - but it is popularly applied to the inclinations described and defended by AK. There's a separate term, "ephebophilia," that might apply more specifically, but I think it still tends to imply a disorder, a compulsive need that a congressman might destroy his career over, rather than a "perfectly normal" tendency, an appreciation for the "beauty of youth" that even a conservative congressman or upstanding PTA member might happily admit to in the right context.

In a much longer version of the post, I spent some time discussing classical views on sexuality and trying to relate them to modern ideals. In one way (possibly the only way!) I'd go further than AK: It's maybe more "natural" for a 40-, or 50-year-old to be attracted to the young, in a powerful way that relate to the consciousness of mortality or the desperate desire to tap the "sacred fount" - Gandhi sleeping (just sleeping) with virgins to renew his vitality... the DEATH IN VENICE mid- or late-life crisis... The young both are and have the one thing, in abundance, that the old, gray, sickly, and sagging neither are nor have. And the old, gray, sickly, and sagging have and represent the one thing - experience, sexual experience but also typically a lifetime's worth of connections and wealth - that the young lack.

So the relationship of the adult and the ephebe in that way has the potential to be a "fair" exchange, not a relationship of domination: Few wealthy elders would hesitate for a moment if they could trade their stock portfolio or a lot else for restoration of their lost vigor and vitality. The pattern is fully on view in the Woody-Soon Yi syndrome, which repeats and exaggerates common but borderline disreputable Older Man-Younger Woman marriages. If Woody Allen came out in favor of, say, Mitch Daniels, I betcha David Frum would love to publish his explanation. Yet AK's "Biebrophilia" is supposed to make him unpublishable at FrumForum.

In ancient Athens most famously, as in other times and places as well, and in subtle ways even in our own society, this existential reality or virtually biochemical compulsion was integrated into the concept of the "ephebe"'s education. But this was true in militaristic Sparta as well. A sexual relationship between the student and his military mentor was presumed: Historians (or at least one historian I heard tell the tale) claim that the sexual conditioning of the young Spartan was such that, in order to enable the bridegroom to perform his marital duty with his new bride, it was considered helpful to dress her as a warrior.

The movie 300 somehow forgot this aspect of Spartan culture, though may have sublimated it in the adoring representation of the Spartan warrior's physique, while off-loading all threats to sexual (and racial) identity to the monstrous Persian enemy. It thus fully qualified for the Conservative Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Also left out was the status of Sparta as a slave economy, and one of the more vicious ones.

I thought the above photo made for a nice parallel with the Private Lessons poster. It's supposed to represent the completely virtuous home that King Leonidas is out protecting, and sacrificing himself for. No helots to be seen, of course: The fields just cultivate themselves, or maybe we're supposed to imagine that Leonidas would, in victory, exchange his sword for a scythe. Fat chance: This is Sparta!

So the recurrent problem is that the birth of the West was midwifed - militarily as well as philosophically - by a bunch of slave-driving Biebrophiles. Now, some will say - 300 tries to say - that the Spartans were defending an idea that contained within itself the overcoming of slavery and other aspects of the ancient (im)morality that we've spent millennia culturally evolving beyond. The question is how much of that evolution is authentic progress, and how much of it is convenient, purpose-built repression. How much of it merely supplants one arbitrary and contingent set of mores with another - what Engels defined as "hetaerism," with all of its notorious and ever-multiplying hypocrisies and inequities.

Conservatism situates itself within the preservation of hetaerism - monogamy and its system - as the settled, not yet and perhaps never replaceable institution for the re-production of the middle-class family and therefore of the modern individual, under the presumption that the attempt to move to a new "conception" produces monsters everywhere it's been tried, typically promising a new freedom that turns out be a regression to the old slavery, or worse. Yet aspects of life in the contemporary world - population and economic pressures from one direction, technological enhancements from the other - seem to push toward that re-conception anyway, thus producing a sense of permanent crisis among those same defenders of the old order.

And so we end up with a cartoon sexual monster - the "Mama Grizzly," a naturalized and not incidentally anti-intellectual nightmare - as the symbol for the reactionary conservatism of this cultural-political moment, under the slogan "man up." A movement that advances Mama Grizzly seems to have little room for or interest in AK (or CKM, for that matter), but the (her) compulsive aggression toward him reflects her dependence on him, or on the possibility he represents.

(I'd have made this a new post, but I would have felt compelled to spend the rest of the day editing and expanding it.)

@ Alex Knepper:
Rescued - the comment that is - and, not to waste your time with gratuitous blue ribbons, but it strikes me as very deserving of rescue. I agree with much of what you write in it. An earlier, much longer version of the top post attempted a summary of historical, especially ancient, views on "love of boys," in connection with modern ideals regarding love and freedom. (That's one reason I ended up resorting to Sophocles in the end.)

Your experience also presents an interesting variation on the "epistemic closure" discussion from earlier this year. You could have substituted Islam, Obamacare, climate change, defense spending, military strategy, the Tea Party, and many other topics for sexual liberation, and told a somewhat similar, if less emotionally charged story about ideological conformism on the right. Though it's worth asking whether sexual conservatism isn't more fundamental to conservatism ideologically than almost any other stance. Unfortunately, since "all things are in sex," the discussion constantly threatens to get out of control again... which is also in the nature of sexual desire...

More later, but must handle some errands.

@ Scott Miller:
I'll put it in the third person,since he seemed to be saying he won't be commenting here further: I'm glad Mr. Knepper stopped by, said his piece, and confirmed the impression he's given in some other public comments that he's not yet begun to fight.

For reasons that long-time readers of this blog should understand, I have my own reasons for sympathizing with him, reasons that have nothing to do with sexuality. Still, I like the fact that he's focusing on the "insane views about sex" rather than on the smears against him, though I also wonder if "sane views about sex" might be hard to locate, or, if found, turn out to be just as problematic.

As I acknowledged implicitly, the imaginary adventures in CHILF-land obviously weren't ever meant to be made public, but Mr. Knepper still managed to "stain his honor" through them, just like the girl who hopes her boyfriend will keep the naughty photos to himself... The idea wasn't to scandalize the world with CHILF-talk: The participants were just having fun - talking dirty with each other... yet it was semi-public. You never know who might show up - as I guess they learned, but as was always implicit. That's what put the risk in risque, even if it wasn't consciously considered.

The material, from the acronym on down, does make light of "real" pedophilia - really does put the sicko baby-raper next to the guy who thinks Justin Bieber looks tasty, and self-consciously looks for boundaries to test.

So what I'm saying is that the "wrongness" or "insanity" clearly isn't only on the outside... I'll reserve further thoughts for a new day.

@ fuster:
If you're talking about Bernie Ward, it's a bit stronger than "rumored":

Ward is now serving his sentence at the Lompoc facility as inmate # 90569-111.

@ fuster:
I agree with you - but there's something odd about grouping Knepper with his crush on Bieber along with the people in that article.

Much of it has to do, again I agree, with notions of consent, and of the ability to give consent, and a whole universe of additional complications that juries and judges may often interpret more carefully and humanely than legislators and talkshow hosts.

@ fuster:

From the synopsis, the "tadpole" nurses a crush on his stepmother Sigourney Weaver, and even goes as far as to share a "passionate kiss" with her, but it seems that he may make the correct choice in the end.