When is a poor tactic a crime?

I’m curious about the facts behind this arrest, because I can assume several different scenarios:

On 8/26/08 at 6:50 p.m., Victoria Marmontello, 37, of 4224 Aurora Path, Liverpool, NY, was arrested for Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a class A misdemeanor. Released on an appearance ticket, Ms. Marmontello is scheduled to answer the charge before Town of Parish Court on 9/09/08. She is accused of talking about sex and circumcision to minors on 8/07/08 and demonstrating what a circumcision looked like by showing the circumcised penis of another minor to the children while at a campsite located in the Town of Parish.

Hmmmm, what to make of this? There are necessary details missing from this report to get an accurate understanding, so I’ll fill those with assumptions. I’ll try to make those clear while speculating with my experience-influenced guess.

Probably the problem with talking about sex and circumcision to minors is more problematic to prosecutors because of the sex, not the circumcision. When I speak to minors, I keep the emphasis on circumcision because the kids don’t need discussion of sex to grok the angle I take. Sure there are sexual consequences, objective and subjective. Those aren’t necessary. Children have rights, and their healthy bodies don’t need surgery. Minors of a reasonable age – teen-ish? – will make the connection based on their own knowledge, so I leave it out until they ask questions. And, while I find it hard to pass judgment on discussing sex with minors without the specifics of this case, I err to more knowledge is better than less knowledge. If the allegation is factually correct, I doubt Ms. Marmontello used tawdry terms intending to titillate.

More likely the problem on this point was teaching children about circumcision. I’ve witnessed parents and chaperons pull children away after realizing that the protest they’ve stumbled upon is not “innocent”. I’ve heard the comments, usually some variation on “it’s your parents’ right to decide and they do it when you’re a baby”. The objection is always about the adults trying to continue their own willful ignorance and forcing the same on their children. Educate children properly and they tend to question. Parents who circumcise don’t like that. If our protests weren’t at the steps of the Capitol, with police support, I suspect some parents would challenge our rights with a bit more vigor.

None of that is to suggest it’s impossible to cross a line when discussing circumcision with minors. It is. But there needs to be more than being factual and anatomically correct.

The thornier question is the latter charge. Again, there are relevant facts left out here. “Showing the circumcised penis of another minor” is not enough to know what happened. I suspect she showed a picture rather than had a boy drop his pants. That’s what I’ll assume. Such pictures are certainly widely available on the Internet, many of them in the context of the numerous possible complications from circumcision. I don’t use them for the same reason I think anti-abortion advocates are stupid to throw around pictures of aborted fetuses. It’s counter-productive. And with children other than your own, it’s especially stupid. Probably more stupid than showing them pictures of a circumcised adult penis because of the obvious child porn implications.

In agitating against forced circumcision, it’s painfully clear that our society is insane about anything related to sex. Medicalized unnecessary genital cutting – male and female – began in America as a solution for masturbation. As much as it’s undeniable that I am not the one with flawed thinking on this topic, dancing around society’s insanity is just smart strategy. We can and must address it, but trampling on it is dumb. It’s possible to teach about circumcision with nearly the same efficacy with a long sleeve shirt.

To be clear, I’m not endorsing Ms. Marmontello’s alleged actions. I’ve assumed the most innocent explanation for the latter charge. There could be more. If there isn’t, I don’t think that scenario should be a crime. Thoughts?

Post Script: I made it all the way to here without making a remark about circumcision endangering the welfare of a child. So there it is. Cutting your male child’s healthy genitals: not a crime. Someone explaining to your children about cutting your male child’s healthy genitals: a crime. Yeah, that makes sense.

One thought on “When is a poor tactic a crime?”

  1. “our society is insane about anything related to sex”
    I was watching a YouTube video yesterday on the subject of heterosexual men who are terrified to admit that they enjoy anal stimulation (by a woman) because it “must mean they’re gay.”
    So, um, yeah: insane.

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