I’m thinking about what is the worst possible thing one can do. I think there’s a disconnect between acting morally and acting legally.
Legally speaking, the worst that one can do is murder. Depending on the circumstances, one can get 20 years to the death penalty. That’s because from a legal perspective, you have taken a life away and that is the worst that can possibly happen.
Another bad action in legal terms is rape. Rape is not only coercion, but it’s coercion of the worst kind. It’s a crime that really transforms the victim and it really traumatizes the victim as well. The consequences could also be disasterous (a pregnancy could come about).
Another bad action in legal terms is any violation of children under sexual means. This would be child rape, children pornography, and child sexual abuse. It’s similar to what I said above but it deals with children. Since children are so maliable, they can hardly recover from these crimes and they live the rest of their lives without their full potential as a human being. They live out their lives out of tune with the world and it seems almost impossible to lead a normal life again.
So in terms of the law, murder is the worst crime, which follows by rape being really bad, but not as bad as murder. And then any child crimes are bad. In the court of law, the people who commit murder usually end up in prison and usually get life in prison. With sexual crimes against children, it can range to being in prison but hardly does it come down to life in prison. Usually it’s probation and if there is a prison sentence, they usually can be let out for parole. In short, the order goes:
Child sex crimes–>bad
Are there exceptions? Of course, but I think that in general, this is how the law generally looks at these laws.
I claim that there’s a disconnect between these cases as they are treated legally as opposed to being treated morally.
In terms of murder, I think we would all agree that murder is wrong. However, I think there are cases where one says to oneself, “man, I really hate that person. If I could get away with it, I would get rid of that person.” Certain shows are popular that seems to present murder as no big deal: The Sopranos is one example. We as the audience see this and know that we could never do this in the real world, but I bet if The Sopranos was about sexually abusing a child, that show would never get off the ground. We often hear people say they would love to kill their worst enemy. In the obvious case, there are many people that would love to get Osama bin Laden. On the wanted posters, we often see them portrayed as “Dead or Alive.” So murder is one of those things that I would consider “understandable but disagreeable.” It’s something that we don’t want to do, but if provoked, I think many would consider it.
With rape, it gets a bit tricky. I think in general, people don’t like the thought of raping someone, nor desiring it. But I bet there are cases where people look at someone who’s attractive and they think to themselves, “if I could have sex with that person through any means necessary without any of the consequences, I would do it.” Granted, rape usually has to do with displaying power rather than fulfilling sexual desires. At the same time, I think there would be people who do think like that, but I think people would have the murderous thoughts much more frequently. As mentioned before, force and coercion is the principle moment. I think people do coerce people sexually most of the time and think nothing of it. I’m not talking about violent coercion, but enough subtle coercion and some sort of pressure to “force” the person to have sex with the other person. It comes to a moment where the victim wakes up the next morning questioning, saying to herself, “was I just raped last night?” To ask oneself that question means that the lines have been blurred about whether the encounter was consensual or coerced. But I think people do this sort of coercive sexuality and don’t think anything of it. But again, I think this is an issue that some people can relate to, others cannot. When it comes to murder, I think a huge majority can relate to it morally speaking. Thus, rape is also one of those “understandable but hugely disagreeable” as well.
With regards to sexual crimes with children, this is something that I don’t comprehend. If I try to imagine having sex with a child, my mind immediately flees away to something else. I have no desire to think about having sex with a child, I don’t even want to have the desire to have sex with a child. These are the worst of all crimes morally speaking. I can’t even think of a way to justify this: it’s too coercive, manipulative, and just plain wrong. It’s too much for me to comprehend. I can’t even try to think about it. In terms of child pornography, I don’t have a desire to look at a child in sexual terms. It doesn’t fill me with desire; on the contrary, it fills me with disgust and then remorse for thinking why or how a child can be convinced into doing such things. With these types of crimes, I find them the worst morally and anyone who commits these crimes is someone whom we can never comprehend. I can understand the person who murders, it’s one of those “understandable but disagreeable” actions. Rape is harder, but it would still be one of those “understandable but hugely disagreeable” actions. So in terms of murder and rape, we share some commonality, namely the understandableness behind those actions. We get it, we comprehend it, but we disagree with it. Sexual crimes against children, on the other hand, is something that I consider totally “unagreeable.” Because the person who commits these crimes are “unagreeable,” we will never understand this person. It’s too “out there” and too much for anyone to try and understand this type of action. Because we will never understand these types of criminals, maybe they should be locked up and punished even more so than the murderers or the rapists of adults. (By the way, when I say sexual crimes against children, I’m talking about obvious examples of children, say 9-14 year olds. I’m not talking about a seventeen year old who’s two weeks away from an eighteenth birthday.) Since sexual crimes against children are the worst morally, there’s the disconnect.
In short, when it comes to moral actions, the order is:
Murder –> bad
Rape –> worse
Child sex crimes –> worst.
Now if this is true, then actions from a legal point of view is backwards from a moral point of view. Why the disconnect?