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September 29, 2006

Republican Mark Foley resigns from Congress over emails to underage staffer

News_bannerRepublican congressman Mark Foley, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, will not seek re-election after being caught sending creepy emails to a 16-year-old staffer.

Will a failed pick-up for a Republican mean a successful pick-up for the Democrats?

Update: ABC has the instant messages. Julia reports that the concern trolls are keepin' it real on ABC's blog.



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» Foley's follies from Weblog - Gay Global - Times Online
One of the weekend's stranger news stories concerned the Floridan politician Mark Foley. Foley, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, just resigned following allegations that he had sent sexually explicit emails to under-age (which in th... [Read More]


That said, I don't remember where I saw this, but I definitely read a comment somewhere saying that it's a really bad sign for the Democrats if the best they can do is bring down Republicans on scandal charges. Scandals are supposed to be the icing on the cake that is a successful agenda, not the entire reason to vote for the party.

Well, sure, but that's as a general rule, not in a specific case. That is, it was scandal and pretty much nothing else brought down Mark Foley, Bob Ney, Tom Delay and others. The way to win the Congress back is to combine three basic factors (a) a generally successful agenda, (b) scandals picking off specific bad actors and (c) the integration of a message about scandals into the generally successful agenda.

Part (b) gives us a chance at a pick-up in FL-16 that basically didn't exist before these scandals came to light.

I don't see much evidence that the Democrats think this brouhaha, or even the Abramoff scandal, count as more than one piece of an overall, nationwide message and strategy. Scandal is very effective locally, though.

Parse, if you want to hang out in the high school parking lot and troll for barely legal meat, that’s not illegal, and you might even hook up with some cute kid who’s emotionally mature and stable enough that they won’t be particularly harmed by you banging him/her. Lots of kids are sixteen going on thirty. If you’re looking for support though, you need to consider that Wilde, Socrates, Alexander, et al., wise and great though they may have been, are now, inconveniently, dead.

A dump truck load of adjectives could be used to describe a sexual relationship between a 52-year-old man and a 16-year-old kid, starting with unseemly, but that’s only part of the issue here. The problem is power and how it is used. A congressman and a page are not on equal footing with respect to power. The disparity here is in fact so great that any (and by any, I mean any) violation of the page’s (and the public’s) trust is serious. A congressman does not ask a page to do anything outside of the job description, period. During, or after working hours, period. What applies to the president and an intern applies to a congressman and a page, or a teacher and a student, a boss and an employee, a cop and an arrestee, an officer and an enlisted soldier, an adult and a child. Always.

I actually saw this guy speak two years ago, at an industry conference in Florida ( not a political event ).

I'll cut him no quarter. If there is any validity to the charges against him, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, he should be destroyed. Period.

Will not be surprised if there are a significant number of other national politicians guilty of similar things.

Some politicians are decent, some are leaders, but I think that politics in general attracts a high percentage of the very worst among human society.

According to Glenn Greenwald, if Foley and the 16 year old were to have had a physical relationship in DC, that would have been perfectly legal.

But that's not the crux of the issue here. Foley appears to have committed a crime by discussing sexual acts over the Internet with someone under the age of 18. The irony of course, is that Foley himself co-sponsored the legislation, the "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006," that made his IMs with the page a criminal!

Then of course, there's the issue of what kind of church, or employment situation, or internship allows predatory 52 year olds to chase teenagers of either sex.

My understanding re:statuatory rape and the age of consent has always been that the age of consent constitutes the minimum age for consensual sexual relations. That is, if the age of consent in 16, it is legally statutory rape any time a 15 year old has sex.

This is different from adult/minor statutory rape. That is, adults are still legally prohibited from having sex with minors--it is also statutory rape if a, say, 52 year old has sex with a 16 year old.

Perhaps this is true of California, where I'm from, and not other places?

Alon, male on male rape does not indicate the rapist is gay, but it is a homosexual act.

Definitions are not value judgements.

I thought that the pages were younger then 16? Every once in while they show up on C-Span and they look like Jr. High School students.

I'm pretty sure in my state legislature, where I worked as an college intern, the pages were around 13 or 14 years old.

We regarded the pages as children in our state legislature.

DivGuy, if my insistence that pederasty, by definition, was a type of homosexuality suggested I thought attraction to adolescents was more common among gays than straights (and I can see how it might suggest that, given the history of anti-gay rhetoric you point out), I was not clear and apologize for the lack of clarity.

But my original point was that the content of the emails wasn't "creepy" unless you find the notion of sexual communication between adult men and teenage boys creepy. I'd say most of the comments demonsrate that to be the case--it's not the fairly mild sexual innuendo in the messages that disturbs, it's the identity of who is sending and who is receiving them. (A couple of people have claimed the source of the creepiness is a type of sexual harassment in the workplace--but my understanding is that the exchange began after the boy had finished his term as page.)

People whose tolerance of homosexuality precludes acceptance of those who might act out their attraction to older teens will likely be intolerant of a pretty fair percentage of homosexuals. Many people are quite comfortable with heterosexuality without insisting that a relationship between an adult male and a sixteen year old girl is "not heterosexuality." The fact that they would have to exclude similar relationships between two males to bring "homosexuality" within their comfort zone indicates to me a lack of real tolerance for gays.

If this weirdly limited definition of homosexuality is a response to the bigotry DivGuy and others have referred to, it's easier to understand. But I'm not convinced that in all cases that's really the source for making the distinction.

Parse, have you read the full Foley Instant Messenger exchange? It's not mild sexual innuendo, it's cyber-sex.

It is creepy for a self-appointed moral crusader against online sex predators to be seeking cyber-sex with a 16-year-old page. Foley's behavior wouldn't have been criminal, but for the fact that he pushed to make it a crime for adults to solicit sex from minors on the internet.

Foley is a perfect storm of creepiness: Older guy hitting on barely legal teen, the cyber-sex, the employer/employee dynamic, the closeted crusader angle, the secrecy...

Jeez, the fact that Foley was so obvious, at every second of every moment, of the days, the weeks, the years, tells me that Foley HAS something on these guys (the GOP Leadership) otherwise he would have been tossed out as the liability that he's been for all these years that all of us have known that Mark Foley gives the expression "gay as Christmas" a bad name.

Yeah, I read the instant messages. Really graphic. Actually talks about jerking off. The perversion of it all.

Yes, Foley is a hypocrite. He is creepy. But the messages themselves are not. And that's what I've been saying all along. It's people like Foley who want us to believe they are creepy.

And he seems pretty successful. In the instant messages, the boy doesn't show any signs that he believes either he or Foley is doing anything wrong. For him to complain about the IMs later suggests he came to feel guilty about his own behavior, uncomfortable about what both he and Foley had done. People like Foley are instrumental in instilling this sexual shame. Is the message that talking dirty on the internet is something you need to feel ashamed about one that we need to communicate to adolescents?

Plenty of people thought this was creepy too -- remember?

In the March 15, 1999 issue of TNR, he published a diarist detailing one of his life's great regrets: His refusal to fuck Uma Thurman when she was sixteen, and he was her 26-year-old tutor. As Siegel tells the tale, "Uma was a model at the time I met her, not yet famous. She had an open face and slightly swelled features and pale blue eyes that seemed wide with surprise and also moist with deep recognition of the nature of their surprise. Just hanging out, she looked like she was on the brink of physical ecstasy. She seemed to be willing her inwardness out through her pores, all for the pleasure of others...She began to flirt with me. Putting her cat provocatively in her lap, she stroked it and described a suggestive fantasy to me."

He is creepy. But the messages themselves are not.

The messages become creepy when something happens that reminds you of the context this is occurring in, such as when the boy mentions that his mom is yelling at him, or when Foley mentions campaigning. I had the sense that this was innocent a lot of the time too. If two different people had been exchanging these messages, it would be cute. But context is everything.

I read the IM exchange differently. I've been sexually harassed by bosses before, so maybe that colors my interpretation of the kid's responses.

The kid seems like a pretty diffident participant in this exchange. Foley keeps pressing him for details and he supplies them. There's no sense of mutuality. When a powerful person starts making advances, it's very difficult to call them out on it, or even to intimate that you think their behavior is inappropriate.

It's impossible to know what the kid is thinking as he's typing, but if he was uncomfortable, it's likely that he would have hidden that from the congressman. That's the polite thing to do. It's socially awkward to call your boss a pervert and tell him to get lost. Sometimes it's easier just to play along.

Was Foley the kid's boss when they were exchanging messages? I thought his term as a page had ended. He may have been uncomfortable while the exchange was going on, but he might have ended the exchange if he were uncomfortable. It's appears equally as likely to me that he found the opportunity to discuss his sexuality useful in some sense, at least at the time.

Your description: "The kid seems like a pretty diffident participant in this exchange. Foley keeps pressing him for details and he supplies them." But look at some exchanges:

Foley compliments the boy's "great legs" and the boy responds with five consecutive remarks about his legs, how he got them in shape, etc.

Foley asks if he jerks off daily. The boy reponds with 3 consecutive messages. As this discussion continues, the boy typically posts two or three responses for each of Foley's comments.

Foley asks what turns the boy on--the boy responds with a pretty long series of comments about his "cast fetish" and ends by remarking that describing it to Foley has given him a hard on.

Yes, maybe he was uncomfortable all the way through, but maybe not. Maybe he enjoyed talking dirty online, and got messages from somewhere in the culture that he should feel guilty about that. Clearly, when we wasn't engaging in his hypocritical IM chats, Foley was a major force in communicating those messages of sexual shame. I don't care to join him in sending that sort of message.

Hmmm. Just read the transcripts. I must say that is some rather frank talk. Help me out folks, I don't have a lot of conservative friends, is this how family-friendly Christian people talk all the time?

The sexuality of the Congressman is irrelevant to the creepy aspect of this.

I agree with Lindsay -- there is no aspect of mutuality in these exchanges.

For example -- at one point the student responded that he gets up quite early in the morning and doesn't have time to masterbate. The student sounds rather exasperated. ("I get up at 5:25...ect.")

(And, as an aside, for many 16 year olds -- a 50 year old person can seem quite, quite elderly. In some cases, a 50 year old adult is older then their parents.)

Is the message that talking dirty on the internet is something you need to feel ashamed about one that we need to communicate to adolescents?

No. The message should be that adults should feel shame if they talk dirty via the internet to adolescents.

This is entirely different then adolescents talking dirty to each other; or, similarly, adults talking dirty to each other via the internet (or otherwise.).

I think why it is different should be obvious.

Due to this kid's age this case would not meet what most mental health professionals would call "pedophilia." "Pederasty" is a strong synonym for "pedophilia". Therefore I'm not saying Mr. Foley is a pederast or a pedophile. However, he still is creepy for preying on high school kids. None of that, however, was my point. Parse, you wrote:

Pederasty and homosexuality are not synonymous, but they are certainly tied together.

As I explained and cited in my previous comment, that statement is not true. At best you're playing loose with a loaded term, and that's what I strongly object to. Christopaths LOVE it whenever someone says what you wrote. It helps advance their hompophobic agenda. That disgusts me. That I why I responded so forcefully, and have no regret about doing so.

I see the House clerk’s got a web page for children. I assume they’ll soon be adding a safe sex link for any kids that might want to visit.

Btw, parse, Socrates and Plato were not probably not pederasts. Socrates' relationship with Alcibiades is the origin of the phrase platonic love. Read the Symposium, or Phaedrus. Small point, but don't claim them as historical examples of pederasty being ok. It isn't, it wasn't, and they weren't fine with it, at least not the character Socrates in Plato's works.

And while others have already made this point, I'd like to help drive it home. Pederasty, while technically a term for any male on male sex, as a historical practice, especially in ancient times, is an adult male with a prepubescent male child. An adult with a 16 year old, while creepy, isn't pederasty, it's liking them young. That the term pederasty is archaic enough to contain all forms of male on male sexual contact doesn't mean all forms of male on male sexual contact deserve to be lumped together or can be called homosexual. The sexual abuse of a child is not a homosexual act, and that is what pederasty is. 16 is about the age pederasts were supposed to end their relationship with the youth in ancient times, because the relationship was not supposed to progress into adult homosexuality. In other words, the ancients recognized the difference you can't, parse.

That the term pederasty is archaic enough to contain all forms of male on male sexual contact doesn't mean all forms of male on male sexual contact deserve to be lumped together or can be called homosexual.

This suggests that the moral nature of a sexual act is relevant to determining whether it is "homosexuality" or not. I don't understand the value in defining homosexuality this way. The impulse seems to be to defend gay people from a bigoted presumption of pedophilia or sexually immoral behavior. I understand that impulse, but I don't think the insistence that some kinds of male-on-male sexual behavior are not "homosexuality" really promotes understanding.

I agree all forms of male on male sexuality don't deserve to be lumped together. But I think accepting the definition of homosexuality to include all instances of male on male sexuality encourages the more nuanced view you favor. "Homosexuality" tells you nothing about the moral nature of the act. It simply refers to a fact about the sexual identity of the participants. It's wrong to assume, on the one hand, that all homosexual acts are immoral, and it's wrong to insist on the other that all homosexual acts are moral.

The morality of any homosexual acts and relationships is best determined by specific reference to the facts of that relationship rather than by categorical assumptions about the age, race, gender or other demographic characteristics of the participants.

The impulse seems to be to defend gay people from a bigoted presumption of pedophilia or sexually immoral behavior.

No, the impulse is defining terms based on sexual attraction. You don't call pedophilia "a heterosexual act"; you call it pedophilia.

Alon, you can have pedophiles who are specifically attractred to girls and pedophiles who are specifically attracted to boys. Are you saying it woould be wrong, and wouldn't give you any additional information, about those individuals to say that one was a heterosexual pedophile and tht one was a homosexual pedophile? You think it's not accurate to say that if a man sucks the cock of a sixteen year old boy that's a homosexual act? Or that if a woman has sex with the same sixteen year old boy it's a heterosexual act?

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