John Podhoretz called it the most repulsive blog item of the year. New York Times blogger Judith Warner shocked many last week when she compared “fathers, stepfathers, and fathers-in-law-to-be, at the ninth annual, largely evangelical ‘Father-Daughter Purity Ball’” to Josef Fritzl, the 73-year-old Austrian who held his daughter captive in a cellar for 24 years and fathered her seven children. For Warner, the difference between fathers attempting to preserve the innocence of their daughters and one of the most monstrous child abusers in recent memory is “only a matter of degree.”
What was she thinking? Later in Warner’s post, she does backtrack slightly by making it clear that there’s no “equivalency” between raping your daughter for nearly a quarter century and trying to ensure your daughter’s sexual abstinence until she weds. But as for those Christian fathers, she thinks there’s “a kind of horror to their obsession with their daughters’ sexuality.”
Even if one father’s moonlight walk along the lake with his daughters ranks high on the creepiness scale, is it really horrifying? If Warner was in need of some stories to make an analogy to the Austrian monster, all she had to do was open up any newspaper across the country last week. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of adults who abuse children for kicks.
“Two women arrested in ‘unbearable abuse’ of 5-year-old boy” was the headline in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. Starkeisha Brown, a 24-year-old mother, is being held on charges of torture, while her 21-year-old live-in girlfriend faces charges of willful harm or injury to a child. The details are truly horrifying:
Police said the women routinely beat the boy, forced him to put his hands on a hot stove, burned his body and genitals with cigarettes, and often would not let him eat or drink.
At a news conference Friday, LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said that because of the burns from the stove, the boy no longer can open his hands.
In Macclesfield, NC, a 13-year-old boy died after being tied to a tree for two nights last week. His father and stepmother have been charged with his murder. The details are truly horrifying:
Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said the boy’s wrists and ankles were bound with plastic ties and that he was also tied to the tree with some other material. Although a rope was seen dangling from a tree in the yard outside the house Friday, he wouldn’t confirm whether that was used to tie the boy.
Investigators found bruises on the boy’s wrists and ankles, Knight said, declining to comment on whether other marks were found on his body.
A 27-year-old man was killed by police in Turlock, CA, on Saturday as he kicked, punched, and stomped a toddler to death. The details are truly horrifying:
The suspect had a child’s car seat in the back of his four-door pickup truck. The truck caught the attention of an elderly couple at 10:13 p.m. Saturday because it was stopped in the two-lane road facing the wrong direction, Singh said.
As they got closer, the couple saw the man beating the toddler behind his truck and throwing the child on the ground.
I don’t doubt for a moment that Judith Warner would be horrified by all of the above. Still, it’s disturbing that she’d expect all of her readers to be horrified by the “Father-Daughter Purity Ball.” Perhaps she’s suffering from Pauline Kael syndrome, and no one she knows thinks evangelical Christians are normal people. However, in seeming to minimize the horrors of real child abuse by comparing it to Christian parenting, Warner opens herself up to the attack that she cares more about scoring political points than the true well-being of children.
Moreover, everyone knows — even if they’re not willing to admit it — that when it comes to child abuse in the name of religion, Muslim parents have a leg up on evangelicals. Any daughter would rather have her father demand that she preserve her honor than become the victim of an honor killing. PJM’s Phyllis Chesler has written extensively about how this crime has made its way to America. Earlier this year in Dallas, Yasser Abdul Said shot his two teenage daughters because he disapproved of their Western lifestyles. Chesler writes that “perhaps their flowering sexuality enraged him because it made him desire them — and from this he concluded that other men might desire them too and if he could not have them, no man could.”
Amina and Sarah Said would have found something like the “Father-Daughter Purity Ball” to be a welcome escape from the real horror that they experienced during their short lives.