I am no First Amendment expert, but the Supreme Court seems to have got this child porn ruling right. The law it overturned was classic congressional overreaching—simple one-upmanship on the latest social hot-button issue as each politician tried to outdo the next in demonstrating his outrage for pedophilia. Somewhere along the way, we ended up making a federal crime out of anything that even appears to show an underaged person participating in sex, and suddenly putting on a high-school play began to seem dangerous. On the larger question, though, of whether we're all getting a bit too worked up over adult-child sex in this year of the priest scandal, I'm going to disagree.
Of course you're right on some key points. There's a huge psychological and moral span from underage sex to an inappropriate fondle by an adult to child rape. And we do seem ridiculously squeamish about parsing out the differences. (In Boston, Father John Geoghan was convicted of indecent assault for putting his hand on a boy's buttock at a public pool, but in the media coverage he may as well have sodomized the child.) Yet doesn't the very fact of the Supreme Court ruling suggest that we are in fact beginning to parse out the differences? Moreover, the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation—and the magnitude of children found to have been abused by priests—makes concerted action justifiable. And however much worse problems, like bullying, are for kids, it hardly seems like the war against bullies (or guns in schools or drugs or whatever) has been stymied by the efforts to rein in pedophilia.
The science news today is mostly quirky. There's a study quoted in the Boston Globe showing that, of all things, cheese can prevent cavities. There's the report from the journal Science about the discovery of the first new insect order to be recognized in 88 years—the inch-long, wingless, walking-sticklike Mantophasmatodea. But of all people, it's William Safire who brings us back to Botox today with a weirdly political lament for the vanishing of wrinkles and furrowed eyebrows. I think I had basically dismissed the notion that Botox injections were really all that widespread until two recent happenings.
First, I saw Halle Berry try to cry at the Oscars. For the longest time, I could not put my finger on why she looked so weird emoting up there on the podium. But then I realized that her forehead and eyebrows did not seem to be folding or crinkling one bit despite her tears. And that's when it hit me: Botox.
Second, trying to get an ampule of Botox for that patient who needed an injection of it to relax his constricted anal sphincter, I learned that my hospital has needed to put the same level of restrictions on it as they do for Oxycontin and medical-use cocaine because people were stealing supplies for their own home use. (Another drug they have to do this for: Viagra.)
Since when did wrinkles become such a big deal?
Atul Gawande, a surgical resident in Boston, is a staff writer on medicine for The New Yorker and author of the new book Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science.