I’m going to do a Miss Manners thing here and propose a rule of etiquette.
If you’re in a couple, don’t start fucking one of your partner’s children. No, even if that child is adopted. Really. That’s a rule. It’s a good rule. Follow it.
No, even if that child is no longer a minor. No, don’t stay with your partner waiting patiently until that child turns 18 and then pounce.
No, even if the child says you were never a parental figure. Even if you were always buried in a newspaper or playing a video game whenever that child was in the room – even then, don’t start fucking that child.
Are there exceptions to this rule? All rules have exceptions; there must be exceptions to this rule. Are there?
No, this is an exceptionless rule.
But what if you go on to marry your ex-partner’s child? Is it ok then?
But what if you marry your ex-partner’s child and the two of you adopt children. Then it’s ok, right?
No, it’s not ok if you marry your ex-partner’s child and the two of you adopt children. What’s more, somebody should keep a close watch on those adopted children. As many people as possible should keep an eye on those children. That’s doubly or triply true if those children are the same sex as the parent who is the child of the ex-partner. Everyone involved should be alert to patterns. But that is only damage mitigation; the rule is don’t start fucking one of your partner’s children; if that rule is obeyed then the damage mitigation will not be needed. Just don’t start fucking one of your partner’s children. It’s a simple rule.
Al Dente says
That this rule has to be explained is…is…is…disgusting!
But, what if you’re an ARTIST!!
You get poetic license or something, right?
Nick Gotts says
But surely there’s an exception if you’re a brilliant and famous film director?
Eamon Knight says
The only Woody Allen movie I ever saw was Play It Again Sam, and that some 40 years ago and all I remember is that I was bored to death. Then for a while in the 80’s there was a Woody Allen comic strip in the weekly paper, the sole joke of which was that the title character was a dysfunctional neurotic. The which, as a comic theme, gets old pretty quickly.
I guess I can now count myself lucky that I never developed the slightest interest in his oeuvre.
I was also thinking about Allen’s 2 adopted daughters. I hope people are looking out for them.
Planning on taking over for Dan Savage?
Especially don’t start fucking one of your partner’s children if you’re the parent of your partner’s other children.
PZ Myers says
I noticed that Salon called this situation an uneasy ambiguity. Really? An old man fools around with a very young woman who is the daughter of his partner?
If this were a couple of people living in a trailer park, moral outrage would follow, the police would be bringing in child protection services, and the old lech would be an object of contempt. But apparently being rich and famous means you don’t have to follow the rules set for the little people.
Based on a case I know of through a friend: even if your partner’s teenage/adolescent child climbs naked into bed with you when your partner is out, you shouldn’t fuck your partner’s child. You definitely shouldn’t keep on fucking your partner’s child in secret until she gets pregnant and then put all the blame on her and let your partner kick her out as a result, either.
I can potentially see forming a sexual relationship with an EX-partner’s child being remotely maybe just possibly OK if it happened years and years after that partnership had ended and only if there had been no frequent contact aka grooming of that child in the intervening years. But that would have to be navigated extremely carefully to be any sort of OK even then.
When there’s no familial relation involved, I’ve always found it creepy to see 40-70 year old men dating 18-25 year old girls and women, people young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters. When the familial component is added and the girls are under the age of majority, I have to ask how long is the prison sentence and why haven’t they been tried yet?
People wanted Roman Polanski brought to the US for trial, yet Allen walks around free? Please explain how only one deserves prosecution. (That’s rhetorical, of course).
I propose an alternative rule of etiquette.
Let consenting adults decide for themselves whether they will, or won’t, have sexual relations.
Even in you find the relationship “disgusting” (@1). Even if such people are normally subject to “moral outrage” by their community, hostility from the police, and are labelled as “object[s] of contempt” (@8). Even if you think it’s “creepy” (@10).
Forget about etiquette and rules and public opinion and your own personal feelings, all that matters is whether any actual harm is being done.
I wouldn’t have thought that would be a controversial rule on FtB, but apparently, sometimes it is.
Consenting adults? Stay with your partner until her daughter – your kids’ sister – turns 18…then magically it’s two fully consenting adults. No grooming involved, no.
You don’t get to factor-out family relationships and power-differential issues.
Allen took nude pornographic photos of his kids’ sister and partner’s daughter when she was under 18.
And don’t say “agency” or I’ll throw up.
I was completely clueless about sex until I was about 25. I’m still pretty clueless, but fully an adult. I was a vulnerable teenager, that didn’t magically change at Midnight on the day of my 18th Birthday.
Juliana Ewing says
Even if Mia and Soon-Yi had been the same age and adoptive sisters to each other, it would still have been a disgusting betrayal of the family for Woody Allen to have an affair with Soon-Yi (barring prior agreement with Mia). Moreover, look at the effect on Mia’s other children. This is a basic shitting-where-you-eat situation, even totally leaving out the age/power differential and the quasi-parental role.
StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says
@8.PZ Myers :
I for one can’t see any ambiguity here. Your kids incl.step-kids are off limits as sex partners, full stop, no ifs or buts, or maybes.
I second the OP and the question asked by #10. left0ver1under : Why isn’t Woody Allen in jail for this already?
@11. SilentBob : Your alternative rule is good that usually applies but for two exceptions – parents don’t get to have sex with their own kids and there are also cases where alcohol or drug impaired consenting adults aren’t really in a position to eb actuallyjudged as consenting. I suggest a modifier that take snot e of these so it becomes :
Let consenting adults of sound mind and who are not parentally related decide for themselves whether they will, or won’t, have sexual relations.
Isn’t that better?
StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says
Argghh! The typos, sorry.
Fix : there are also cases where alcohol or drug impaired consenting adults aren’t really in a position to be actually judged as consenting. I suggest a modifier that takes note of these
I suck at typing. Sure wish we could edit. Sigh.
@ Juliana Ewing :
Yes – and those last two things shouldn’t be left out and ignored either in my view. Also step-parents – quasi-parental only? I’d say they were still “parental” full stop.
One last link viz. Woody Allen (via Mark Evanier’s “News from Me”).
“Angst-Ridden Humorist” by Jim Jerome, People magazine, 4 October 1976, last paragraph:
I’m good friends with a couple who are like 45 yo/22 yo who are pretty freakin’ good together so I tend to disagree with #10.
However, I think you’re playing around with the meaning of the word “harm” here. Are you restricting “harm” to physical harm? Or can you acknowledge the serious risk — one might even say the near inevitability — of psychological and emotional harm in a relationship between an adult and that adult’s partner’s child?
The problem with, say, a high school teacher dating an 18 year old student is not so much the age differential as the social power differential. Even in a case where the student “makes the first move” one may wonder what motivations underlie the putative attraction and whether the teacher might have some obligation to refuse the student’s advances. The power differential between the head of a household and a child in that household (just to avoid picking nits about whether the relationship is a parental one) is more extreme than between a student and a teacher. Every argument for why a teacher should not be engaged in a sexual relationship with a student also applies to the parent/child situation — and then some.
Even if the younger/less socially empowered party claims to want the relationship, well…I want to eat ice cream for every meal and spend every day playing video games but I’ve figured things out enough to realize that I’m probably better off eating real food, working, and socializing. Teenagers on the cusp of adulthood don’t always very good distinctions between what they want and what they should actually do.
It’s a touchy, tricky issue. That’s why a few hard and fast rules like “don’t diddle your stepkids” are actually a pretty good idea in this context.
Ophelia Benson says
Silentbob @ 11 – No, not really. Some – indeed many – couples are monogamous. In a monogamous couple it’s not really perfectly fine for one consenting adult to have sex with another consenting adult who is not the other half of the couple. It happens, and it’s not as bad as murder or child rape, but it’s not a case of “it’s fine and there’s no more to be said.”
That’s just one objection. Others have made others.
Just another note for Silentbob @11 – Ophelia’s post title said “Etiquette”, not “Law”.
Breaches of etiquette result in “I don’t want that person in my house after doing this” not “I want that person in jail after doing this”.
Seducing his partner’s consenting adult daughter while he was parenting that adult daughter’s siblings under his partner’s roof was enough for me to decide that I would never want a person so lacking in loyalty, responsibility and integrity as Woody Allen in my house. I’ve not watched a movie he’s made since.
Other accusations are long enough ago that the statute of limitations has come into play making the legal aspects moot, but I find them sufficiently persuasive that were I to see Allen in a park where young girls for whom I was responsible were playing, I would take them away as fast as I could, because he’s famous and he’s also reportedly very very good at being charming to young girls, and I’d rather they didn’t have to feel conflicted about having to deal with perhaps meeting him in any way.