Ethics Quiz: The “Expose Your Kids To LGBTQ Kinkiness” Op-Ed


The Washington Post, where “democracy dies in darkness” most days, published a fascinating op-ed a week ago called “Yes, kink belongs at Pride. And I want my kids to see it.” The author, Lauren Rowello, is a former prostitute and self-identifies as “gendervague.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She brought her pre-teen children, including a toddler, to a Philadelphia Pride parade and had them march in it along with her and her trans wife. [Ethics Foul! Her children were too young to meaningfully consent to being used as props this way, which is what Rowello was doing.] She tells us,

When our children grew tired of marching, we plopped onto a nearby curb. Just as we got settled, our elementary-schooler pointed in the direction of oncoming floats, raising an eyebrow at a bare-chested man in dark sunglasses whose black suspenders clipped into a leather thong. The man paused to be spanked playfully by a partner with a flog. “What are they doing?” my curious kid asked as our toddler cheered them on. The pair was the first of a few dozen kinksters who danced down the street, laughing together as they twirled their whips and batons, some leading companions by leashes. At the time, my children were too young to understand the nuance of the situation, but I told them the truth: That these folks were members of our community celebrating who they are and what they like to do.”

“Kink embodies the freedom that Pride stands for,” Rowello proselytizes, “reminding attendees to unapologetically take up space as an act of resistance and celebration — refusing to bend to social pressure that asks us to be presentable.”

But society, and community ethics, ask us all to be “presentable.” Public displays of kinkiness show disrespect for everyone watching and basic manners. What ‘resistance” is there in a gay pride parade today, unless it’s the demonstration of the unethical principle, “Since you don’t respect us, we won’t respect you”? Rowello is teaching her children that complete social chaos and deliberate defiance of social norms is not just tolerable but desirable. Hippies in the lamentable Sixties called this ” letting it all hang” out, which sometimes they did literally. I thought most cognizant Americans figured out the flaw in that approach. Guess not.

Here’s Rowello’s justification for exposing her children to adult sexual fetishes:

“Anti-kink advocates tend to manipulate language about safety and privacy by asserting that attendees are nonconsensually exposed to overt displays of sexuality. The most outrageous claim is that innocent bystanders are forced to participate in kink simply by sharing space with the kink community, as if the presence of kink at Pride is a perverse exhibition that kinksters pursue for their own gratification. But kinksters at Pride are not engaged in sex acts — and we cannot confuse their self-expression with obscenity. Co-opting the language of sexual autonomy only serves to bury that truth and muddies the seriousness of other conversations about consent. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because anti-kink rhetoric echoes the same socialized disgust people have projected onto other queer people when they claim that our love is not appropriate for public spaces. It’s a sentiment that tolerates queerness only if it stays within parameters — offering the kind of acceptance that comes with a catch. The middle-aged, White men who I grew up with said they were “fine” with gay people as long as they wouldn’t be subjected to PDA — as long as all signs of queer love could be outwardly erased. Queer people’s freedom to be themselves is, according to this logic, contingent on non-queer people’s freedom from exposure to it.”

This is actually the best part of her essay. Anyone who goes to a Pride parade is consenting to the narcissistic and deliberately shocking behavior that is likely to occur there, because that’s what gay pride parades have always featured. It is also a false argument that watching any legal activity is “participating in it” or even enabling and approving it. I might argue the point about whether sado-masochism and dominance stunts are “sex acts,” but she is also right that public mores that forbid gay couples from holding hands in public are prejudicial. Yet it is still inappropriate for a gay couple to engage in open and obvious open mouth kissing and groping in public, because the same is true of heterosexual couples.

Get a room.

But then she writes,

Respectability politics demand that queer people assimilate as much as possible into cis- and heteronormativity, hewing to mainstream cultural standards. Members of the queer community have internalized those norms to the point that we judge ourselves by them, and then criticize and ostracize others if they don’t uphold them, too.”

The attacks on the U.S. having a mainstream culture, which began in earnest during the Carter years and have accelerated to fatal speed of late, is a suicidal assualt. (This is what is going on in the recent Ethics Alarms post about recent scholarship holding that society opposing cruelty to animals is “racist.”) Nations, indeed all groups and institutions, need strong cultures. They evolve and adjust, but insisting that everyone is free to devise one’s personal standards for interacting with society is proven folly. Furthermore, criticizing those who violate reasonable social norms is how cultures continue to exist.

The Post received some criticism of its decision to publish this weird piece. One wrote,

A lot of fetishes are rooted in childhood exposure to a stimulus that gets accidentally conditioned to be associated with pleasure and then reinforced over time by continual exposure. Kids exposed to kinks in their formative years are certainly more likely to develop them themselves- and yes, you can be a healthy person and have kinks, but those tend to be folks who have discovered them later in life. With children there is a risk of paraphilic disorder, where the kink becomes so intense that the person can’t connect intimately with others because they only get pleasure from their kink, or become pathologically addicted to their fetish to the point of distress, self harm, financial or legal troubles. When someone goes down this path at a very young age, it could become deeply ingrained in their psyche like this. I had little boundaries and supervision growing up, and I am speaking from personal experience here. I still can’t connect intimately with other human beings and it’s driven me to be suicidal at times and put me in multiple dangerously abusive relationships. I’m 28 and still don’t even know what my orientation is because all I have is my disorder. I’ve been in therapy for it for many years and am still in recovery. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Another saw the op-ed and the conduct it endorsed as harmful to the gay community:

We in the gay community fought for years to dissuade people of the notion that we were somehow dangerous to children. Articles like this put us back decades; we will have to deal with the fallout, while straight couples like this one can just identify their way out of it and go on their way.

Why on earth did the Post publish this trash?

And that’s the question. What’s going on here? Is the Post simply exposing its readers to points of view outside of the mainstream for their enlightenment and perspective? That’s what newspapers ought to do, but then the Post’s rival, The New York Times, apologized for publishing an op-ed by a Republican Senator that its staff found insufficiently in tune with progressive narratives. Is the Post more open-minded than the Times? (I doubt it.) Maybe the Post, steeped as it is in radical Left doctrine, published the op-ed because it seems self-evidently reasonable as the Post’s journalists’ favorite party champions a brave new world where children decide what gender they want to be and undergo surgery to achieve their goals. Or could it possibly be that the reason this over-the-moon advocacy for public “kink” being inflicted on the young was to let defenders of the current culture know just how extreme the enemies of that culture can be?

Your Ethics Quiz of the Day will probably force you to decide what motivation drove the Post, unless you believe that it was irresponsible to give a megaphone to this woman under any rationale. Here’s the question:

Was it ethical for the Washington Post to “publish this trash”?

14 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The “Expose Your Kids To LGBTQ Kinkiness” Op-Ed

  1. If the WAPO publishes all perspectives I see no ethics foul no matter how offensive I find the commentary. My job is to rebut the piece with my own perspective. Complaining that the piece is trash is OK but it is not persuasive. Demanding that it not be publishes is no different than what the Left is doing to the Right. Words themselves cannot harm me but it is up to me to make sure ideas that are antithetical to my way of thinking are met with better arguments so those antithetical ideas die on the vine.

    • But we know the Post won’t publish all perspectives. You won’t see a fundamentalist rejection of Darwin or a Holocaust denial op-ed. I assume a man-boy love advocacy piece would never make it to publication. So obviously this op-ed’s position warrants at least some favor.

      • Since we already know that, there’s really no point in complaining about what they do publish. We know who they are and what they stand for. It’s not those of us who already have their number they need to worry about. It’s the people n the center they need to worry about, the ones who are ok with them as they are, but movement too far one way will sour them. They are supposed to primarily be a newspaper, not an advocacy publication. If an article like this appeared in a magazine entitled Out, no one would blink an eye, because that’s what you expect. You don’t necessarily expect it here, and it would be easy to be put off and say “if I want to read Out, I’ll read Out. I came here for news, and if it’s not going to give me news, I’ll have to go with the competition.”

        BTW, I wouldn’t be too sure that you might not one day see Holocaust denial in the Post, especially if it comes not from a neo-Nazi, but from America’s version of Anjem Choudary, the UK’s apostle of Islamic supremacy. Not all Holocaust deniers are equal. Not all conspiracy theorists are equal either, as we’ve already seen. Not all faulty intel is equal either, as we saw when the media wouldn’t let the WMD in Iraq issue go, but was always sure something was right around the corner that would break the Mueller investigation wide open and send Trump on a perp walk in an orange jumpsuit.

      • Agreed. I suppose my qualification that they publish all perspectives should have been more clear. If they only publish these well outside the norm perspectives with no rebuttals then we should see them for what they are an activist organization whose objectivity is in doubt. Thus they are not an arbiter of truth. As Steve points out we already know that and he is correct that the danger lies among those in the center who believe that it is.

        • I am posting this here (to Chris’ comment in this string), because Chris and Steve, in large part, have made concise arguments in line with my thoughts. Their common themes are correct. I haven’t concluded that this Op-Ed is completely unethical but I do object to kids being used as political props. Kids should be off limits because they can’t defend themselves and have no power/authority to speak on any issues, except whether Dora the Explorer is any good at anything.


  2. I don’t think it is inherently unethical to publish the piece, per se, but it is certainly unethical to be deceptive about one’s reasons for publishing it. Being unable to see into the human heart, I have no certainty about the internal motivations of the editors and publisher of the Post. My personal belief is that it is all part and parcel of the continuing sustained efforts to destroy this culture and this nation in the selfish interests of political power and control. Normalizing public decadence and encouraging unfettered public expression of sexuality are tools of those efforts.
    In 1790, Irish orator John Philpot Curran said “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” Our nation and our culture have not been very vigilant in maintaining the balance of rights and responsibilities that defines liberty. I fear the consequences are closer at hand than most people realize. Do I detect a whiff of brimstone in the air? Maybe it’s only weed.
    As H. L. Mencken famously wrote, “Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.” Today, that obviously extends to those who own and control traditional electronic broadcast media as well as internet social media platforms. As the Left and their fellow travelers on this road to perdition increase their dominance of communication media, efforts to speak out against ideas with which we disagree are increasingly shouted down to insignificance. Add to this the pervasive fear of being “cancelled” or even criticized by the woke, and we see the voices of dissent against cultural rot often reduced to the volume of the Whos in Whoville desperately crying, “We are here!”
    It is well known that there are “four boxes” to be used in the defense of liberty: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box, preferably utilized in that order. As conservative ideas are increasingly denied the soap box, I can see even more states legislating to reject federal overreach (it has already started with “Second Amendment Sanctuary” laws and “No CRT” legislation) and conservative rural areas seeking some sort of “electoral college” at the state level to balance their interests against the influence of the populous socialist “city-states” in their midst. If efforts to rig elections (by whatever means) become rife and take away meaningful utilization of the ballot box, I predict we will begin to see actions like jury nullification in cases of citizens charged with violating unconstitutional laws. Some areas may even achieve a degree of political autonomy in a de facto if not de jure fashion. I hope we never have to resort to the cartridge box, but people in extremis often take extreme action.
    I guess there are a few advantages to being old and largely retired from public life. I don’t give a whit about what people I don’t know personally think about me, and I am virtually “cancel-proof” at this stage of my life. I speak out in my own small way, but hold no illusions about the influence that I have outside my circle of family, friends and neighbors. In my youth I discovered the writings of the Southern Agrarians and was greatly influenced by their ideas. My worn original copy of “I’ll Take My Stand” remains on my bedside table. Today I am grateful for the “mainstream culture” of my rural Christian community and the good people of my conservative county and region. I will happily “take my stand” here with them. The barbarians are not yet at the gates, but they’re getting within range. We remain vigilant.

  3. I really hate watching some of the changes in our culture, but I think I am at the beginning of understanding what my grandma probably felt like about all the changes she saw in her lifetime.

    I personally don’t think mainstream newspapers should be publishing stuff like this, but I lean a little more conservative on sexual ethics, so that probably informs my opinion.

    If the post is going to publish this, they also need to publish voices in the LGBT community that don’t agree with the author, and they also need to allow social conservatives to craft a response as well. If you want to discuss the topic, have the actual debate and not just this one-sided, uber liberal way of publishing opinion pieces that mainstream newspapers now seem to follow almost exclusively.

    I’ve gone back in time and looked at articles and op-eds from years past, and the media wasn’t as bad as they are now. Yeah, they were always biased against anyone on the right, but they’ve gotten way worse. Remember how CNN used to have panels of opposing viewpoints where everyone was allowed to talk, people who now would never be welcomed on national tv? And that was CNN!

    My generation (millennials) doesn’t believe in free speech. We are kind of like a secular version of the inquisition. Everyone has to have the exact right opinion on every single tiny issue or you’re considered a problem, and there’s no room for intellectual disagreement. For example, you could have someone against the death penalty, in favor of fighting global warming, in favor of gay marriage, and against police brutality, but if that person has an issue with transgender participation in sports, suddenly, that person is a pure bigot, despite how many woke boxes they check on every other issue. It’s madness to me. You can’t be woke enough, and the conversation seems to be steered by people who are the most extreme of any position.

    I don’t consider myself some sort of genius, but my generation sometimes feels very stupid to me. It’s almost like they want to turn the world into a giant kindergarten.

    • “It’s almost like they want to turn the world into a giant kindergarten.”

      Bullseye. Criticism, disagreement, and debate are not easy to handle when you grew up getting trophies just for participating.

      • This is true. The long-term effects of overly permissive parenting and coddling children are coming home to roost. People have this weird tendency to go to the opposite extreme when they have experienced something, when the opposite extreme leads to new problems. People who were raised by parents who were too hard on them then go too light on their own kids. There’s a lack of balance and proportion, in my opinion.

    • That’s a comment of the day you got there, boomer sooner. Thank you.

      My generation (millennials) doesn’t believe in free speech. We are kind of like a secular version of the inquisition. Everyone has to have the exact right opinion on every single tiny issue or you’re considered a problem, and there’s no room for intellectual disagreement.

      Amen. I call it the “call out” culture.

    • Well, yeah, his nose and the ring in his nose.

      I’ve been to Provincetown, Mass. Once. I remember being struck by the paraphernalia and outfits broadly on display in the window of the bondage equipment store sitting directly across the street from the main public parking lot downtown. It struck me as a rather unequivocal “Fuck You!” to any number of visitors to the town.

      Query: What does one’s wearing large grommets in their ears signify? I’ve never been sure.

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