Does Barbara Amiel actually believe no one is harmed by the viewing of child pornography (“Land mines in the sexual landscape,” Opinion, April 1)? Or that if a person is inappropriately touched by a co-worker, that she should keep quiet and laugh it off, despite how violated she might feel? Or that as a young man, if you find a girl incapacitated or unconscious, you have free rein to take off her clothes, insert things into her body and take pictures—all in good fun? Amiel is really telling us that sexual touching is a fact of life, whether you enjoy it in one situation or fear it in the next. She is telling victims to keep their mouths shut, for they risk (gasp!) embarrassing their attackers or abusers in public. She is putting the message to young children who have been sexually abused, exploited and recorded that they do not matter; that their pain is less of a concern than the privacy of those who degraded them. If you have the courage and conviction to stand up against those who have humiliated and hurt you, people like Amiel will simply roll their eyes at you.
Kimberley Ketsa, Calgary
To say that the “Steubenville boys behaved like many drunk 16-year-old males” minimizes and normalizes the disgusting and illegal nature of their acts. Stripping an unconscious girl of her clothes, taking photos and “inserting a finger in her vagina” are not normal actions for the average intoxicated teenage male. To further say the girl could “do with an alcohol-abuse program” shifts responsibility from the perpetrators to the victim. No girl deserves to be sexually assaulted, no matter what she is wearing, nor her level of intoxication. A girl who is so drunk she is described as “dead” is clearly incapable of consenting, yet this article insinuates that this poor girl is somehow responsible for the horror that befell her.
Lindsay Burgess, Edmonton
Good to see Barbara Amiel regain the form that kept your magazine readable for so many years, skewering those who would enslave us with clear-eyed logic and erudite prose. Pierre Trudeau was applauded when he said “the state has no place in the nation’s bedrooms,” but Tom Flanagan was pilloried and destroyed by our political press for saying the same thing.
Mel Fisher, Dryden, Ont.
I am shocked that a reputable magazine would publish something that helps to perpetuate rape culture, as Barbara Amiel’s column does. How could anyone involved possibly think a column that includes victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and then defends child pornography and condemns abortion as murder, is publishable? As a survivor of sexual assault, I am appalled.
Athena Csuti, Calgary
As Pierre Trudeau said, “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” His statement assumes, however, that whatever is going on in the nation’s bedrooms is happening between consenting adults. When one party does not, or cannot, consent—for instance, the subjects of child pornography—legal and social norms should protect them. Absolutely, let’s accept premarital, same-sex and transgendered relationships and all other manner of consensual activity Amiel lists. But sexual advances or relations without consent must continue to be landmines.
Eleanor Vaughan, Toronto
Barbara Amiel has been accused by readers of blaming the victim. She does not. She criticizes the mother of the victim for not being a mother—and, for that matter, all mothers in that town, for their ignorance and bad parenting. The result is a lack of moral principles and a glorification of puerile social and entertaining achievements. This includes the deification of footballers, which has brought society to the most uncivilized state of living dangerously. In a way, they are all victims of their own folly and imprudence.
Lela Gary, Toronto
The bullying thugs—these big, strong football players in Steubenville—chose a weak victim and laughed while they enjoyed her victimization, as did witnesses who texted about their behaviour. Amiel refers to the victim’s attire as though the ease with which she could be stripped somehow mitigates the action—if she were dressed in traditional Mennonite garb, would the act somehow be worse? If the crime had been different—say, an unconscious drunken man lying in the street is robbed by equally drunk juveniles—would Amiel still label it as the appalling way drunken teenage boys behave?
Laurice Robinet, Windsor, Ont.
I hear the howls of outrage at Barbara Amiel’s sensible, insightful, non-ideological analysis of three current “land mines in our sexual landscape.” Feminists and pro-abortionists will be baying like so many hounds. Pay no attention. Reward her, as Scrooge did Bob Cratchit, by doubling her salary.
W.F. Smyth, Hamilton
Comparing an adult viewing child pornography to a “vice”? Biting your nails is a vice. Watching a toddler being sexually victimized is an abhorrent act and should be treated as one.
Katherine Bacik, Alliston, Ont.
No child has ever consented to be used for child porn, nor will there ever be. Child porn hurts every child. It hurts children who are violated when adults abuse their power and force them to appear in porn. It hurts children who are molested by the pedophiles making this filth. It hurts children who don’t feel safe walking to school or playing in their own yards. It hurts the tens of millions of children who are slaves of human trafficking in the world today, abducted and abused so some adults can enjoy “personal liberty.” Liberty at whose expense? Did Barbara Amiel somehow go through life without knowing a single person who is the victim of sexual abuse? Would she condone the sexual exploitation of her own kids?
Sandra Topelko, Langley, B.C.
Thank you, Barbara Amiel, for acknowledging the corrupted and superfluous phrase, “sexual harassment.” As a man, I can barely get through the day without grabbing a woman’s ass or slipping an appendage into her. Especially when I was 16! It astounded me, the negativity associated with groping unconscious females when I was a teenager. Barbara, you are a paragon of virtue, a wise and progressive woman and, thus far, the only person I’ve met who condones tendencies toward rape, child pornography and sexual harassment.
Cam Smith, London, Ont.
When you give space in your publication to arguments like Amiel’s, we waste our energy freaking out about fringe elements instead of having useful conversations about real issues, such as: how do we as parents talk about the role of alcohol and sexual assault without victim-blaming?
Julie Anne St. Cyr, Ottawa
I read with incredulity how Mark Lynas (Interview, March 25) explains his conversion from an anti-GMO activist to one of its biggest promoters. Apparently, it was science that led Lynas to take up his new-found cause. Yet genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant crops have caused an overreliance on a single herbicide, glyphosate, leading to the emergence of resistant superweeds and causing farmers to use more herbicides, including older, toxic ones. Lynas appears to have missed the scientific report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), in which 400 leading agricultural scientists from 60 countries concluded that genetically modified crops will not remediate the problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger or poverty. Instead, it called on the world’s governments to redirect funding and efforts away from the destructive chemical-dependent, one-size-fits-all model of agriculture and toward a system that embraces small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods.
Alex Atamanenko, MP for B.C. Southern Interior, Castlegar, B.C.
I was delighted to read the interview in which Mark Lynas declares the GMO debate over. I am a prairie farmer who has grown GM canola since it was first available in 1996, and every year since. As the price I’m getting has more than doubled in recent years, it is clear that the world is comfortable with this technology and demands more production. The mudslinging against GM technology will not end any time soon. Europe has a great deal invested in a heavily subsidized agricultural sector, with few economies of scale. They can’t afford to have a level playing field in which farmers like me could sell product in the European market. The best non-tariff barrier to trade is a phony health concern. There are very real benefits to the air, soil and water from the use of GM technology. We are employing direct-seeding methods on about three-quarters of all acres now, and the benefits are clear: there is less erosion, and levels of organic matter in soil are increasing.
Malcolm Henderson, Mannville, Alta.
Not keeping the peace Reading about Rand Paul’s courageous criticism of President Obama’s targeted killings of terrorist suspects abroad (“Big gulp,” International, April 1), it is most disturbing and absurdly ironic that the Nobel Peace Prize-winner feels he has the right to kill anyone he presumes to be a terrorist, totally dismissing any concerns of international law and the rights of habeas corpus. Obama has reduced his presidency of high-minded civilized expectations to a primitive, lawless, brutal dictatorship where he orders hits.
Brian MacKinnon, Winnipeg
Mailing it in
The current woes of Canada Post come without surprise (“Lost in the mail,” Business, April 1). Why do we still need daily mail delivery? Why not gradually reduce delivery to one day a week? I walk down to the corner mailbox weekly, gather all my mail, half of which is junk, and I am no worse off.
Paul Moore, Brantford, Ont.
There was no “labour disruption” at Canada Post in 2011; there was a lockout, after which the company reported a $327-million loss after 16 years of profitability. It has since been reported that 7,402 management employees were paid millions of dollars in bonuses that year. Once again, the “little people” who actually do all the work are told to do more for less, while the folks in the ivory tower line their pockets.
Shawn Dickson, Calgary