On the Cultural Relativism of Statutory Rape: Score One for Reality

From the Department of Degenerate Disgrace: An article showed up in the Boston Globe a while back about a former U.S. Vice Consul to Brazil (no pun intended) who was asking a Virginia U.S. District Court judge for leniency after having been found guilty of taping himself having sex with various 14-17 year-old girls. Gons G. Nachman argued that it should be considered OK for him to have done this, because he did it in countries (the Congo and Brazil) where, he claimed, girls mature more quickly, and the cultural emphasis is on finding financially stable men for them to marry. A psychologist was being lined up to assert that the cultural differences between America and these other countries somehow made Nachman think what he was doing was acceptable.

I find this a fascinating twist on the usual relativist dissembling, which appeals to subjectivism: just because it’s not right for you doesn’t mean that it’s not right for me; whatever I feel is “natural” to me, and I am good, so whatever is natural to me is good, so whatever I feel like is good for me, and the only “wrong” is depriving me of doing whatever I feel like, or making me feel bad about it.

But here we have Nachman taking a completely different tack. Instead of arguing that his subjective sensibilities should define the morality of the situation, he is claiming that an objective circumstance (his geographical, and by extension cultural, location) was impinging upon the morality of the act, to the point of trumping his own subjective knowledge of the moral character of the acts – for he seems to be admitting that the acts would be not only illegal in America, but also immoral.

Nice try, Mr. Nachman. Even if the argument could hold its own water (it can’t), it would reduce morality to mores – which might fit snugly into your worldview, but would have nothing to say in the face of cannibalsim, genocide, or human sacrifice.

It seems Judge Gerald Bruce Lee also saw through the smoke (I’m glad this was tried in Virginia, not Massachusetts!). According to The Post Chronicle, Judge Lee last month sentenced Nachman to the maximum sentence (20 years) for the charges he was convicted on.