It matters because labeling men like Moore pedophiles is a cop-out; an easy out for a culture steeped in predatory masculinity and misogyny yet totally unwillingly to examine it.
Roy Moore is the worst. From admittedly “dating” teenage girls to pining for the good ole days when black people were slaves, last night’s victory by Democratic opponent Doug Jones triggered a nationwide sigh of relief (and tears of joy from this author). Seriously … We can’t say it enough, but thank you black Alabama voters.
Ding Dong, the witch is dead. Or is he? While I’m as thrilled as the next adequately decent person over creepo’s defeat, the characterization of Moore as a pedophile is a seriously problematic one. Being a pedophile is just about the worst thing one can be in our society. Historically, Americans have attached all kinds of feared groups – from gay men to Muslim migrants – to the damning label. It’s just about the worst thing we can think of and the ultimate way to other a person.
But is Roy Moore a pedophile? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines pedophilia as “paraphilia involving intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children that have either been acted upon or which cause the person with the attraction distress or interpersonal difficulty.” And the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) defines it as a “sexual preference for children of prepubertal or early pubertal age.”
Moore has a documented history pursuing and (allegedly) molesting teenage girls; the youngest of whom was 14. Teenage girls are not prepubescent children. Therefore, Roy Moore is not a pedophile.
But so what? Pedophiles are gross and so is Roy Moore. What does it really matter if we, in our righteous outrage, conflate the two?
It matters because labeling men like Moore pedophiles is a cop-out; an easy out for a culture steeped in predatory masculinity and misogyny yet totally unwillingly to examine it: “Surely this whole #MeToo movement is the result of a few, er, dozen, bad apples?”
Predatory masculinity isn’t grown men having sex with children – it’s grown men being obsessed with the appeal of the young girl – PYT’s (pretty young things) as they’re called. It’s Jay-Z zeroing in on an underage Beyonce and pouncing the moment she turned “legal.” It’s 34-year-old Courtney Kardashian-ex Scott Disick dating a 19-year-old Sofia Richie and being high-fived by bros everywhere for it. It’s a 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart being cast alongside a 19-year-old Lauren Bacall in To Have Or Have Not and going on to have a publicly celebrated relationship with her. It’s 49-year-old President Bill Clinton being dismissed as a red-blooded American male at best and a sex-addict at worst for having a 22-year-old intern perform oral sex on him. It’s “teen porn” being among the most poplar searches on mainstream male-centric porn sites like Porn Hub. It’s me as a 15-year-old girl working in the restaurant business being pressured into giving a massage to my much older boss.
To summarize: It’s men being socialized to see women as things to pursue and win. Prizes. Objects. Conquests.
Roy Moore isn’t a pedophile. He sure as hell isn’t an anomaly. In a way, he is the every-man: our pastors, teaches, bosses – even our President. He isn’t the other – he is us. So rather than lazily calling the man a pedophile on Facebook or painting him as some kind of racist monster unique to the state of Alabama, let’s examine the ways in which our culture created him and so many others like him. Let’s examine the ways (men, I’m talking to you) that we revel and participate in that culture.
Jessica Schreindl is a community organizer and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. She is a contributing writer for Mic.com and has been published on Feministing.com. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.