I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Boundries of Desire: A Century of Bad Laws, Good Sex, and Changing Identies by Eric Berko

I started in on this book, as I do all books, blindly, because I do not want to be influenced in any way, so I just started reading.  He starts off fine enough by talking about all the progress that has been made recently with the decriminalization of homosexuality and the criminalization of raping your wife and laws on domestic assault.  He starts to get a little slippery when wanders off into sexual slander and how many men are brought down (such as Hoover and Snowden) by the hint of a sexual scandal.  He then goes on to mention his previous book, which I think may sound interesting: Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire. What Plato, the Renaissance writers, and Victorians have to say on the matter could be intriguing. 

Then he starts attacking science.  "With its gloss of objective truth, science is often an unassailable basis for determining not only which types of sexual conduct should be condemned outright an which treated as pathologies, but also the types of punishments and treatments that should be imposed. The problem is that justice is impossible unless it is consistent, and in the sciences, the proven truths of one year can well become the next year's falsehoods."  He then goes on to praise the Bible for, while being a poor judge of sex, at least a consistent one.  And that "doctors and researchers make terrible moralizers." Judges, too, but that is because they listen to the doctors and scientists.

He uses as his examples homosexuals who, until 1973, were listed in the DSM as mentally ill. Today, he says kids are being accused of sex crimes for touching their siblings "inappropriately" and parents who don't use cloths to wash their children face the same fate.  I've never even heard of this, but I am sure there is an instance somewhere in the United States that this has happened, but I imagine it is very rare and no scientist or psychologist backs this up.  He continues in the vein with the belief that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than other criminals.  He gives  no data on this, or says by how much. 

When he starts in on my wheelhouse of the psychiatric profession putting thoughts into the heads of those who have accused the priests and members of the Catholic Church of molestation in order to get a huge payday from the rich papacy, this is the point that the book nearly went flying into the wall.  Its been a long time since I've sent a book airborne.  In college Faulkner got that treatment a lot. Especially As I Lay Dying.  It went against walls, across the lobby floor, into furniture.  It flew so many times it earned enough frequent air miles to fly several times around the world.  This book, however, I did not own, and I did not want to own.  It belongs to the library and if I had thrown it and damaged it I would have been stuck with this horrid thing.  Instead, when I return it, I will merely slam it really hard in the return bin. 

The author, by the way, is a civil rights lawyer.  For some reason I've always thought better of them.  One bad apple will not make me change my mind about them yet.

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