Why do we care about the Ramsey murder?
John Kinkaid's article, "Little Miss Sunshine," has stirred up a heated debate in the Culturebox Fray. Does the media storm surrounding the murder of JonBenet Ramsey reveal something sinister about American culture, and about us as media consumers?
Many readers reject the central premise of Kincaid's argument—that "we" have any interest in the Ramsey murder at all. Valiantly overcoming their disinterest in the case long enough to read the article, formulate a response, and post it on the Fray, such readers profess helplessness in the face of saturation Ramsey coverage. SeanD has a more empathetic take:
What a strange position Kincaid took, accusing us all of vicarious pedophilia! It seems he's fallen into a trap very familiar to those of us who work with criminal offenders: If you spend all day around people who have done terrible things, you start to think that the world is a terrible place full of terrible people.
It sounds like Mr. Kincaid needs to get out of the office more and chat with a few of us NON-pedophiles. You know, the overwhelming majority of the population, who feel absolutely nothing sexual for Jonbenet or any other inappropriately-dressed child, and can't comprehend why anyone would. [... Otherwise], he'll simply end up writing more articles like this one, which undermine themselves by taking on the very sensational and breathless tone that he claims to be condemning.
CaLawyer doesn't deny an interest in the case but resents the charge that it's an "obsession."
Like many people, I have an interest in this unsolved crime, and like most people, I am no more "obsessed" with this story than I am "obsessed" with other news stories. Methinks writers like Kincaid doth protest too much when he paints a picture of us who are interested in this case as weirdoes who are "obsessed" with the murder of a six-year-old beauty queen. These finger-pointers tip their hand when they use words like "titillating" to describe this horrific case. Like most people, I find nothing titillating about the death of a six year old girl. Maybe Kincaid and his ilk do, and they are projecting their own prurient reasons for their fascination with this case onto us.
As a law student himself, Freditor_G appreciates the lawyerly touch of CaLawyer's factor test explaining the story's appeal.
Not all readers are so quick to refuse responsibility for the eroticization of children. adept42 surmises that a secret longing for children is far more widespread than we may wish to believe:
Think back to your own adolescence. I'll bet that most of you will be able to remember developing an erotic interest in the opposite sex years before you were ready or able to act on that impulse. I don't think anyone would consider it strange or unhealthy for a child to be attracted to someone their own age.
Of course you've moved on but youthful desires never completely die. [...] Pedophilia isn't some kind of ultimate evil -its ultimate childishness. Its adults trying to make themselves happy with the same dreams they've had since they were kids. Its sad and pathetic more than anything else. Now of course a pedophile's crimes are awful and they deserve to be punished. But demonizing them and claiming we have absolutely never felt anything anywhere close to what they feel is a dangerous lie.
theotherme goes even further, arguing that sexual gratification is a unitary urge:
Imagine a spectrum titled "satisfying sexual urges via objects external to us." At both ends of the scale there are socially unacceptable objects. Let's say as you move to the left on the scale you start seeing inanimate objects, such as the crease on that old couch in the basement of a fraternity house. [...] Farther to the right, you start seeing animals, the mentally ill or undeveloped, dead people all the time, and children. In the broad middle of the range we find socially acceptable sexual activity -- sex with consenting adult partners pretty much captures it. [...]
Your very denial of any intention to have sex with children is proof positive that the power of your repressive reflex, far from being the guarantee of your celibacy with regard to children, is rather the precondition of their eroticization: the strength and energy of the "never with children" is a suspect defense mechanism. Of course, we would all love to have sex with kids. They're cute. They have nice skin. They smile winningly. In general, all those creatures who are cute, with nice skin, and who smile winningly (such as pumpkins, pigs named Babe -- we all know the list) act as excellent objects for discharging sexual energy. [...]
The mere fact that there's a *basis* for such-and-such behavior in humans does not lead to the conclusion that it's okay to do it, nor that the true origin of the behavior is in us. Rather, since the overwhelming majority do not use either pumpkins or children for the release of sexual energy -- despite the presence of unexplored tendencies in these directions -- we need to look *elsewhere* for the causal agent producing this behavior in a small subset of the population.
A former student of Kincaid's, hamlineprof struggles to bring the discussion back on topic:
Kincaid deplores the mistreatment of children in this culture, hell the mistreatment of every- and anyone. But, he argues, in a culture which claims to idealize the innocence of children, and raises a ruckus over every perceived threat to such innocents (from the media to strange abductors to you-name-it), why is there such *fascination* with the most extreme forms of mistreatment? Or, if we're so concerned with the mistreated, why aren't there blitzes of media coverage around the everyday abuses of children in poverty--why do we focus on the rarest of rare, and ignore the actual problems facing those we seek to protect? [...] On the one hand we ostensibly want to separate children from pain and abuse and sexuality and various other horrors. On the other hand, we ignore the most widespread and dangerous of such horrors.
Adam Christian is co-editor of the Fray.