This post might get me into trouble, but it’s been on my mind this morning. Please don’t read this if descriptions of sexual acts freak you out. I don’t want to put you off your lunch, or horrify you unnecessarily.
Now I don’t doubt that touching a child sexually is criminal and a serious boundary violation, but what exactly was Michael Jackson accused of? In the words of Larry Feldman, the man who represented the boy who was bought off for $20m back in 1993 (and the man who refused to represent today’s accuser in a civil suit), Michael Jackson “is a guy that’s like a 10-year-old child. And, you know, he’s doing what a 10-year-old would do with his little buddies. You know, they’re gonna jack off, watch movies, drink wine, you know. And, you know, he doesn’t even really qualify as a pedophile. He’s really just this regressed 10-year-old.”
Many people think Michael Jackson was guilty in the $20m settlement case, not least because the boy could give an exact and detailed description of Michael Jackson’s erection, down to the “splotches” he has on it (maybe a result of him trying to whiten his privates). So what MJ did, if he was guilty, was jerk off with his little buddies, and sometimes put his hand on their penises and masturbate them. What the Catholic priests were accused of — what they were guilty as sin of — was buggery. Male rape. Of a boy by a man.
Now I don’t know about you, but for me there is a massive difference between these two crimes. Thinking back to myself as a 10-year-old or a 12-year-old, I can’t say that the MJ crime would have struck me as all that criminal if he’d masturbated me. I would’ve thought it really weird that a grown man wanted to do that, and would’ve told my little buddies in hushed tones about it, to gross them out, but it would not have scarred me for life. Whereas the buggery or rape by a grownup would’ve been an ENTIRELY different story. It’s not a matter of degree, or some kind of change on a continuum. It’s a matter of total, radical and absolutely substantial difference.
Which is why, when I read that MJ could’ve gotten 18 years for his crime, I thought it excessive. There are some kinds of murder for which murderers get less time, and this crime is not in the same category. Eighteen years for male rape of a minor, sure. But for masturbating?
It also explains the mind-frame of the mother, if she were a grifter, which the jury thought she was. “What kind of a mother would put her child in such a position?” Well, a penniless Mom who thinks she can get $20m from a guy for masturbating her kid, a Mom who’d been abused by her husband, as this Mom was, whose kid had been abused by his Dad, as this kid was, i.e. they’d both been through worse, such a Mom might’ve thought it worth a shot. Criminal, horrible, unforgivable – but understandable.