This might seem an incongruous thing for me to say, having written a book in which a predatory high school teacher plays a prominent role, but I feel quite bad for the guys who get trapped on To Catch a Predator (which I’ve been watching online for the last fifteen minutes, prompting this post)As Judith Levine wrote in Harmful to Minors, the notion that all sex between someone above the age of 16 (or 17, or 18, depending on state law) and someone below that age is criminal, abusive, exploitative, or traumatic is totally irrational.  Some of the guys on the MSNBC show clearly are predators, but others are probably just sad, lonely people.  They are lonely and online and someone pretending to be interested in them sends a message (it is legal for the decoys to approach the “predators” rather than wait for an approach, I believe; if I am wrong about this, someone correct me).  Also, the notion that they are all pedophiles seems wrong to me.  A pedophile is someone who is aroused by preadolescents.  At 13, 14, 15, and up, most people are biologically mature.  It is certainly socially and cultural innapropriate to feel sexual desire for them, but not biologically “unnatural.”  Was Edgar Allan Poe a pedophile?  I feel like there are many other examples–extraordinary people in history whose carnal lives I could have used in that sentence rather than Edgar Allan Poe.  I think the show ruins lives unnecessarily, although I don’t deny that it may have prevented some future crimes as well.


  1. I’m glad thoughtful dissent like this is becoming more common. An unsettling show for more reasons than are immediately obvious.

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