Archive for April 27th, 2011

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.  –  Thomas Jefferson.

One of the first ways a child knows his mother recognizes that he’s growing up is that she stops reminding him of commonsense things.  Obviously, there are some mothers who never stop, but this gets pretty irritating because it tends to mean the mother doesn’t really trust her child to remember it himself; in other words, it’s a sign she views him as immature and therefore irresponsible.  A mother who regularly called to remind her adult son or daughter to take typical adult precautions such as locking doors, brushing teeth or dressing warmly in wintertime would certainly be perceived as annoying and interfering; such reminders are at best patronizing and at worst examples of a pathological need to infantilize the one to whom they are delivered.  Any normal woman would resent such behavior if her mother did it…so why do we accept it from busybody strangers?

In my column of April 4th, I offered a few safety tips for my amateur sisters who date strangers (including men they meet online).  But I’m not in authority over any of my readers; my suggestions are intended in the spirit of sharing my considerable experience in dealing with strange men in sexually-charged situations with women who may not have been in that position.  You don’t have to take them, don’t even have to read them and in fact can say “up yours, Maggie” if it pleases you to do so.  I’m certainly not going to put the suggestions on my front page so you’re forced to look at them every time you sign on, and I couldn’t take measures to “protect” you from your own decisions even if I wanted to.

Others, however, have a lower opinion of the adult competency of those who use the internet.  After an entitlement junkie recently sued Match.com for failing to warn her that meeting strange men for potentially sexual purposes might be, like, dangerous, the popular dating site announced that it will now screen users via the national sex offender registry.  Because obviously, anyone who isn’t on the registry must be perfectly safe, and anyone who is on it deserves never to have sexual contact ever again with anyone for the rest of his life, even if he’s there for screwing his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was 19, or she’s there for prostitution or taking nude pictures of herself as a teenager.  Match.com is a business and if it decides to nag its users with commonsense warnings or discriminate against certain groups as a ward against future lawsuits, that’s certainly its right.  But as this AP release, from last Thursday (April 21st) explains, Big Nanny wants to force websites to do those things:

… Amid accounts of sex offenders using matchmaking sites to find victims, lawmakers in several states are trying to pass legislation to help make online daters more aware of the potential pitfalls of the process.  Bills are pending this year in Connecticut and Texas to provide users with more information to protect themselves.  Connecticut’s bill, mirroring a law in New York, requires Internet dating services to provide a safety awareness notice during registration that offers advice such as never including your last name, email address, place of work, phone numbers or identifying information in an Internet profile.  Similar laws are already on the books in Florida and New Jersey…”I’ve heard a lot of stories, not only people who had their physical safety endangered, but also financial safety,” said Connecticut…[bill sponsor] Mae Flexer…”I’ve heard from a number of people who unfortunately met someone online, they gave them too much information and were damaged financially as well.”

The Texas legislation requires online dating services to clearly disclose to customers whether they conduct criminal background checks on each member before allowing them to contact other members on the site.  The same bill requires the sites to remind customers that background checks are not a perfect safety solution and they can be circumvented by criminals.  New York lawmakers are considering a similar bill that would supplement last year’s law.  It would also require the companies to clearly notify users whether they conduct criminal background screenings…

Donna Rice Hughes, CEO and president of Enough is Enough, a Virginia-based nonprofit that focuses on improving Internet safety for children and families, said it makes sense for corporate matchmaking websites to proactively take steps to make their services safer…”The last thing they need for business is for somebody to get harmed by something through their site… They should be running their database against the sex offender registries.  That’s a no-brainer.”  [But] Alex Vasquez, founder of the L.A.-based blog theurbandater.com, said not everyone in the online dating community likes the idea of background checks.  “It’s definitely going to be a hot-button item because there’s definitely that privacy issue,” he said.  Vasquez recommends both women and men use common sense when meeting their online dates face-to-face…

One would think that since Mrs. Hughes made her own highly questionable choices involving men without the assistance of the internet, she would understand that it’s dating strangers which carries the risk, not the method by which people find each other.  Meeting strangers via online personals ads is no different from meeting them via print personals, except that the online personal is likely to contain a great deal more information (not to mention a picture and the ability to “chat” electronically without exchanging phone numbers).  If anything, using computer ads vs. print ones actually decreases the danger; it certainly has for escorts.  The real change isn’t the medium, it’s the percentage of people using such ads for dating.  But even then, does anyone really believe meeting a man online is remotely as dangerous as meeting him in a singles bar?

Mr. Vasquez has it right; if people would simply use common sense, they wouldn’t need corporate and political nannies telling them whom they’re allowed to meet and talk to and insulting their intelligence with “advice” which should be obvious to any rational adult.  Alas, common sense has gone out of style; taking personal responsibility for one’s choices and the consequences thereof make it much more difficult to sue somebody if one screws up or unforeseen circumstances occur, and people who accept personal responsibility tend to reject the efforts of “authorities” to control their lives, beliefs and finances…and we certainly can’t have that.

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