Ten Ethics Musings On The “Unethical Photograph Of The Year” And The Daughters of Villi and Mary Kay

Here's my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in "The Artist." It's a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

Here’s my Jack Russell Rugby doing his imitation of the dog in “The Artist.” It’s a good antidote, at least for me, when I look at the Villi and Mary Kay family photo. Keeps the gorge down.

I should have included these with original post, but the photo so nauseated me that I was barely capable of critical thought. I’m still nauseated, but better. So now I offer these ten question and thoughts:

1. Will this photo and its implication be used by cultural to excuse student-teacher sexual liaisons? They are grotesquely unethical when minors are involved, but professionally reprehensible even when the loving couple are college professor and student.

2. I presume it will. As I noted in the original post, this photo is a breeding ground for rationalizations, “No harm, no foul” among them, and of course, “It all worked out for the best.” This is like showing the modern China that arose out of Mao’s slaughter of millions with the face of the Great Leader superimposed over it all. It worked out so well! How can anyone argue with that?

3. Every time a grossly wrongful act creates some unanticipated good, consequentialism runs amuck. If Mary Kay  and Rape Victim Vili had produced children who had arms growing out of their mouths or who were drug-addicts and cat-burners, the same people who look at the photo now and say  “Awww!” would be pointing and crowing, “See?”

4. The proper comparison is a family created through incest. That taboo is so powerful still that a similar photo of Mom, Dad/Grandad and lovely Daughter–No, Sister! No, Daughter! No, Sister! (Sorry, I was having a “Chinatown” flashback) would not garner the kind of positive reaction too many are having to the Happy Fualaau.

5. What is a responsible media response to the 10 year anniversary of a marriage created by betrayal and rape? I would argue that it isn’t newsworthy, and a story that it is irresponsible to glamorize with special media focus, but I won’t advocate censorship. However, a responsible news media would not present the story in a generous or benign light. That is not a rejection of objectivity. Stipulated: the news media is not objective enough, but child rape by teachers is objectively wrong. If the news coverage doesn’t bolster that cultural standard, or worse, undermines it, that is unethical.

6. Is it fair for the children of the marriage to suffer because of it? In one respect, I would argue that it is. If either of the young women decide to pursue their mother’s previous occupation, that of an elementary school teacher, any school employing them would have to operate from a presumption that they are a risk to sexually molest their students. The school would be obligated to fully inform any parent whose child would be attending the school. The school would have to monitor their conduct carefully. Any school would be justified in refusing to hire them based solely on their family, which is a living, breathing endorsement of teacher-student seduction and rape. If it were my decision, I would refuse, no matter how glowing their record and recommendations. If I were a parent with a child at the school, I would pull him out. I would also make certain every parent in the community knew. For these teachers would be likely to have a strong belief that student-teacher sexual relations can be desirable, as long as they “really love each other.”

7. The daughters of Mary Kay and Villi would also be ethically obligated to disclose their background. If they did not, that would be cause for dismissal. Their employers and their potential students’ parents have a right to know. Legally? I have no idea. But they have that right.

8. I can see how this position might be seen as contradictory to my posts about the persecution of registered sex offenders. In one, I wrote,

“This is a challenge for our society, culture, political system and values. Do we have the will and integrity to oppose and stop in its tracks an organized, rapidly-spreading effort to demonize fellow citizens because of their membership in a group, rather than based on their character and conduct?” 

In another, I wrote,

This is obviously an emotional topic for many, and I am somewhat surprised that there have not been any comments in defense of the increasingly restrictive limits placed on the Constitutional rights of sex offenders to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….perhaps because there is no defense. 

9. I haven’t changed or reconsidered either position. Registered sex offenders, however, know that their previous conduct is wrong. They have paid society’s price, in many cases over-paid. I also hold that guilt by association is often unfair, and always a slippery slope. Should one’s family origins be a lifetime impediment to success, or does everyone have the right to be judged as an individual rather than as a member of a suspect group?  The ethical answer is the latter, and like all ethical principles, it has outliers and exceptions. This is one of them.

10. No: the daughters of Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau who posed in that happy photo should not cannot be considered trustworthy to teach children.

51 thoughts on “Ten Ethics Musings On The “Unethical Photograph Of The Year” And The Daughters of Villi and Mary Kay

  1. You are absolutely INSANE. Can a police department refuse to hire a police officer because he/she had a parent who committed a crime? Can a law firm refuse to hire an attorney if he/she had a relative that was successfully sued in civil litigation? Can the IRS refuse to hire an employee if a parent didn’t pay taxes? What about victims of child abuse? Do they have to disclose the crimes against them before accepting a job working with children? Can the child of an alcoholic drive a city bus? Where’s the bright line in Jack World?

    What about kids who learn from their parents’ mistakes? Or are just plain different from their parents?

    • Did you read what I wrote? This is an exception, that’s all. None of your examples present an individual who owes his or her existence to the identical conduct the employer has an obligation to prevent. I’ll give you another one: should the Border Patrol hire an agent who is a citizen because his parents illegally came across the border?

      No. Not trustworthy.

      How could children regard their existence and happy upbringing as “a mistake”?

      • Do you think that the daughter of a convicted terrorist would be accepted into the Secret Service, the CIA or the FBI no matter what her other credentials would be? Because she wouldn’t, and I think you know that. And that’s as it should be. Low risk vs. no risk.

        And I wouldn’t discard the likelihood that the school that hired one of the Villi-Mary Kay offspring without telling parents would be facing a lawsuit if her heart wanted a boytoy.

        • For what it’s worth, my mother became a bilingual secretary in MI6 during the Second World War despite coming from an Irish Republican family. In fact, if she hadn’t had that background, she wouldn’t have been bilingual as she would never have been brought up in France in the first place.

                • On the contrary, what the Germans were up to supports my point: having an actual or potential Irish Republican in MI6, just when the Germans were trying to woo the Irish to get their help in attacking Britain, could have posed a real risk, if nothing else by giving them access to negotiating positions. It’s sheer moral luck that “the Irish were neutral on our side”.

                • Yes – and it does help to know the issues before deciding whether they were material. You really shouldn’t dismiss my mother’s presence in MI6 as immaterial on the grounds that the Germans were more of an issue than the Irish, when it was the Germans themselves who were making Irish neutrality into a far more pressing issue than it had been – by negotiating about it.

                  Before you are tempted to assert that a secretary in MI6 has nothing to do with a diplomat in Madrid, this is the part where I am giving you plenty of rope. You are under no obligation to hang yourself with it.

        • I’ve worked in positions involving national security and Jack is 100% correct. I knew a guy who got dropped from a US clearance program for having a distant cousin in the IRA. Another guy got dropped because his parents were christian missionaries in the middle east (too much capture-leverage risk).

    • Is it unfair to them? Sure. Well, they can blame their mother. It is fair that no parent should have to send their son to be taught by a teacher who has been raised to believe that sexual relations with students in OK “if the child consents.” Mary Kay has never acknowledged that she was wrong. Do you think she has taught her daughters otherwise? Really? Really? Really?

      It’s unfair that foreign born patriotic Americans can’t be President. There are other things to do. I’d advise the two girls to set their goals on a profession other than teaching.

    • “What about victims of child abuse? Do they have to disclose the crimes against them before accepting a job working with children? ”

      At present, they do not, but given that they are CONSIDERABLY more likely to commit the same crime, it is likely that they should.

        • I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, most of the abusers (not necessarily sexual) come from abusive parents, guardians, etc. Thus, full disclosure might be helpful. On the other hand, past history is just that, past, and the abused child, now adult, may well have gotten better through a variety of means so the disclosure might not be in his legitimate best interest. Knotty problem.

      • Actually, the most recent research is showing that prior victimization of sexual abuse is not strongly correlated with becoming an abuser. Such individuals are not considerably more likely to commit the same crime. What is a much greater predictor is those who were victims of childhood physical abuse and neglect.

        And Jack, your numbers 6 and 7 are ludicrous and just wrong.

        • “Just wrong” isn’t an argument, Shelly. The issue is clear and I laid it out clearly. Make your case. Culture is the most powerful force in determining behavior, values and attitudes. These children have been raised in a culture that says a teacher seducing a student can be the right thing to do. How could it be otherwise? Moreover, that belief isn’t ideological or political, it’s existential for these kids. What would make them accept the stigma of being the children of a betrayal, a crime, a rape and a perversion instead of accepting the family creed that mom and dad loved each other, and their children are proof that they were right, and the larger culture is wrong.

          You and Beth are just protesting because you don’t like the implications of that. I am sympathetic. But I haven’t hear a substantive or convincing counter argument yet. Sure, maybe they somehow don’t believe that, but what is the greater likelihood, by a large, large margin? You can’t turn your brain off because you don’t like where logic takes you. If you tell me you wouldn’t have serious concerns to have your child under the power and influence of a woman whose every breath was a confirmation to her that her mother and father were right and the world just doesn’t understand, then you place faith over reality.

          • No, I won’t argue with you; didn’t intend to when I wrote what I wrote. It’s just wrong. Some things are, and pre-judging anyone on the basis of who their parents are or what their parents did is one of those things. I concede that your argument is logical and that mine is visceral and emotional. I am okay with that. I’m not trying to change your opinion–a futile task at best. And faith, to me, is equally important to logic. Some situations call more for logic and others for faith. It isn’t even that I have faith that your envisioned outcome is incorrect. It may or may not be; only time will tell. I am simply unable to judge or condemn people on any basis other than their own behaviors, and I believe that to do so is–just wrong.

    • [Reply to Beth’s April 10 at 6:24 pm]
      “Can the IRS refuse to hire an employee if a parent didn’t pay taxes?”
      I could see reasonableness, on an exceptional basis (as Jack has worked hard to describe and delimit), for accepting (even applauding) a “yes” to that.

      Beth’s question reminded me a little of the church that would not return the money to the victims of a thief who gave to the church the money he stole. And then, I started thinking about Clintons, and…I had to stop, to keep my head from exploding anew.

      Questions like that get stickier (or maybe should I call them “ickier?”) when we start relating them to employability of children of residents who have immigrated illegally, or of child abuse victims.

    • “Can the IRS refuse to hire an employee if a parent didn’t pay taxes?”

      To be fair, you can be hired as the Secretary of the Treasury even if YOU didn’t pay taxes, so . . . there you go.


  2. Children disagree with their parents all the time — on religion, politics, major social issues. Even if they were raised being told that there is nothing wrong with their parents rape/love/abuse story, they could (and probably will) disagree once they come of age.

    Talk to children who were raised by bigots or religious zealots. Talk to children who were victims of incest. Sure, some of them will follow their parents’ paths — others will not.

    Your world is not that far removed from Minority Report. And I’m the liberal here?

    • I agree that this is like pre-crime, except that there is no one saying that they need to be locked up. They need to have their occupational choices slightly reduced in the safety of society. It’s an exception. That means that it fails Kant’s test, but not Bentham’s and Mills. That’s why it’s important to have access to all ethics systems, not just one. None of them work all the time.

      Your examples fail because they aren’t persistent, all-encompassing and existential to the kids. Rebellious children do not have to regard their own conception and existence as the fruit of a moral, legal and ethical abomination. Cognitive dissonance is the key here. If liberal children reject conservative parents, they are asserting their own individuality. If the daughters of this couple reject their parents values, they reject themselves. Unless you have a comparison the included that factor, you’re just spinning.

      • These kids are a product of rape — as are many children across the world. It must be awful to come to terms with that, but most do. The ONLY difference here is that the parents chose to remain together.

        • Beth…the comparison would have to be children who are the product of rape and their mother believes that’s a good thing, and is married—oh so happily!- to the rapist. Know any couples like that?

                • These are just the first three I ran across. While admitting that only the third, which is a summary of 25 studies, shows any relationship between child sexual abuse and adult sexual abusers, all three point out that there are NO good outcomes for adults who have been sexually abused as children. At best, the adults are troubled, at worst, they become abusers themselves. In either case, I would be somewhat hesitant to trust the safety of my grandchildren into their hands.




                  You’ll have to cut and paste these. For some reason, wordpress is reluctant to grant hyperlink status to them.

                  • By the standards of what constitutes rape today–which, Dragin, is what I was responding to in Beth’s statement about throughout history, not to the damaging effects of child molestation, which I know about and agree with you about–my grandmother at 14 marrying my grandfather, 15 years older. My mom was one of five children, none of them rapists, and we all turned out reasonably well, my cousins and I–almost all college graduates and with professional careers, and not a rapist among us either. Times that over and over and over, which was Beth’s point. And many of the marriages were arranged, often with unwilling brides, I imagine. I know, times were different; the culture was different. However, I strongly contest your statement, Jack, that in those situations, a significant proportion of the time, the children grew up to be rapists.

                    I’ll stop now lest you get fed up with me totally.

                    • Sadly, you can contest it all you want to, various studies have shown that anywhere from 29 to 76 % of sexually abused children grow up to be sexual abusers, themselves. IMO, any number greater than zero, in these cases, is significant.

        • I must have missed where Jack asserted the girls should be arrested and incarcerated for something they are assumed to be likely of doing…

          Can you point me to it?

          • Oh, you said “incarcerated,” where I was speaking more generally about restricting rights. My bad. I forgot that you can only process information in the most literal sense.

            • In that case you should be able to point where it’s been asserted that the government should restrict the rights of those kids… You know Minority Report territory…

              • READ THIS THREAD. Denying victims the right to teach is coming very close to Minority Report territory. Even Jack agreed with me, he just feels that the protection outweighs the right. I disagree. See other commenters suggesting legislation — legislation usually is done by governments, at least last time I checked.

                • Are you really suggesting that any time an employer takes into consideration an identifiable risk regarding a potential hire, that’s “pre-crime”? Do you disagree with the caution used by the FBI? Is a former embezzler still to be regarded as having a clean slate when she applies to work at a bank? Should recovering alcoholics not face tougher scrutiny when seeking employment as a commercial pilot? Should we go ahead and hire an accused but acquitted—on a bad warrant, say—sexual predator work as a janitor at a girl’s school? Or do we just pretend that all such reasonable reasons to have caution don’t exist?

                  • If the person applying for the job has engaged or has engaged in behavior that would disqualify them, sure I have no problem with that. But I do not believe in blaming children for the sins of the parents. I would exempt covert agencies and other jobs requiring a high security clearance from my analysis.

                    But, in any event, my observation is quite simple. Once people start talking about legislation (as they were on this thread) that does bring us closer to a world more closely resembling Minority Report or Gattaca. You may be right to the extent that may make the world a safer place, but you are infringing on individual rights.

                • Just re-read it. I got Michael Ejercito endorsing laws requiring full disclosure of one’s past…

                  That doesn’t quite meet the benchmark for your comment: “Yet here it is being championed by the Center of Right crowd. Interesting ….”

                  Unless one person is a crowd to you.

                  Even less so, given Ejercito’s Modus Operandi for saying off the wall comments to elicit responses, whether he means them or not.

                  Care to roll back your hyperventilation some?

  3. This is an interesting discussion. Does the likelihood of an outcome based on a factor not in control of the subject preclude that subject from certain freedoms? Of course it does. Really people. If someone is prone to seizures we don’t let them fly planes, If someone is three feet tall and born without arms, they can’t be a construction worker, and if someone was raised in an environment where statutory rape was normalized, they shouldn’t be allowed into roles that deal primarily with children.

  4. Am I the only one actually appalled that they want to be teachers? I can almost hear their mother telling them stories about how much she loved teaching, how she was a phenomenal teacher, and how she was the luckiest pedophile in the world to find her husband while engaged in the profession she adored so much.
    I could be missing something because I didn’t watch the interview. Were the girls asked about their thoughts on how their parents met and what their mother did to their father when he was 12-years-old? Did young women say they thought it was a horrible betrayal by their mother to rape a child, repeatedly, and to continue to abuse his trust throughout his years as a teenager and young adult, making him a father when he was in middle school? If not, it’s something that should be asked before they take a step toward teaching.

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