Dating Virgins, to an Extreme
What a difference thirty-eight years can make. I’ll keep this short. I have my own theory about the behavior of Judge Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for senate in Alabama, in 1979 and 1980. In short, the theory is that Moore wanted to be sure that the young women he dated were virgins. Consequently, he would tend to focus on very young women, particularly in the (from his point of view) go-go seventies and eighties.
Allegations against Moore have now been aired in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. Of the three, by far the most damaging and detailed reporting appeared in the original WaPo piece, with its graphic narrative from a woman who was fourteen at the time Moore allegedly took her out on dates involving inappropriate touching. WaPo also incorporated three accounts from teenage girls sixteen to eighteen whom Moore dated when in his thirties, a different kind of narrative, since all three women said there was no force, seduction, or inappropriate physical contact.The NYTimes beefed up its account from a fifth accuser–unnecessarily–with a link to the New Yorker piece.
The New Yorker article is by far the worst. With its reliance on unnamed sources, and on rumors from unnamed sources at that, it probably would not have run if Moore had been anyone else. The core narrative in the New Yorker article, the account that Moore as a 32-year-old attorney cruised for dates at the local mall–one of the few social destinations in town–is less than shocking. The New Yorker did not come up with more accusers or more accounts of physical contact. This is not another Harvey Weinstein blockbuster. So, somewhat pushing aside Moore’s apparent preference for teenage girls, the magazine opted to focus on a rumor that Moore was “banned” from the local mall, and ran with the story with no documentation or firsthand corroboration of the ‘banning’.
This is the kind of piling-on bandwagon effect that threatens to undermine the credibility of reporting on a matter of intense importance–broadly, the treatment of young women in the United States; and more narrowly, the sexual invasiveness of some of that treatment, even in the workplace, as at the New Republic. A preference for young and inexperienced women–when women are allowed into the picture at all–seems to be fairly widespread among people who consider themselves powerful.
Given Moore’s prominent religious views, it would be natural to connect an orientation toward virginity with his religion. There may indeed have been a religious connection, at least in his own mind; that is, Moore may have sought out teenagers partly for religious reasons. However, it is essential to clarify that the same behavior–a hyper-intense focus on the virginity of a partner or potential future spouse–is not confined to any one sect or to any one denomination or to any one religion. Neither is marrying a very young partner for the same reason. Moore is now 70, and the news reports do not conceal that the allegations against him date from almost forty years ago, but not since. (Moore has now been married for decades.) At the time, ‘hillbilly’ relationships involving young partners were still a cliche in popular culture. (They probably are a cliche now, behind the scenes, and not just in Appalachia.) And aside from some perception of regionalism, May-December relationships in general were more a cliche–a stereotype, but more acceptable, from either a Hugh Hefner perspective or a religious perspective–than they are now, maybe. In any case, if early marriage was at all in fashion in 1979 or 1980, it is not now.
Although a fourteen-year-old is under age by any definition, Moore is undoubtedly genuinely shocked at being termed a pedophile. He is also genuinely unable to defend himself–as the Mitch McConnells of the world seem to have noticed. After all, there is no bully pulpit for saying ‘I wanted to be sure I was dating a virgin’, even if he did. The ghastly opportunism and hypocrisy of McConnell’s piling on, by the way, beggar description. When was the last time Republicans in Congress addressed the nationwide problem of rape kits backlogged? Come to think of it, when was the last time anyone did?