Sunday, November 12, 2017

Southern social mores

Hopefully this will be my last post on the Roy Moore controversy. 

Critics are conflating two morally different kinds of allegations. One concerns his dating high-school students, with their mother's permission. The other concerns an allegation of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old. The latter allegation, if true, would be clearly immoral, abusive, and exploitative. 

He's denied the more serious allegation, and it seems unlikely that there's any independent evidence to prove or disprove that allegation. On the other hand, he's admitted that he dated high-school girls–with their mothers' knowledge and consent. 

Regarding the former allegation, I think it's inappropriate for a man in his early thirties to date high school students. However, my social conditioning is different from Moore's. I'm twelve years his junior, I'm a product of the middle class, and I was born and raised in the North (although my mother's side of the family is Southern). By contrast, Moore is a Southerner with a working-class background.  

Despite the fact that I'm not a native Southerner, I've lived in the Deep South on two different occasions. And I like to go for walks in cemeteries. One thing I've noticed, in observing epitaphs, is that for couples born about a century ago, there's sometimes a noticeable gap between the age of the husband and the age of the wife.

In our own time, couples usually marry a high school or college classmate, so they're usually close in age. But in may be that in Alabama, for men and women of Moore's generation and social class, it was more common to find a mate outside of high school or college. Fewer men attended college, far fewer women, especially in working-class circles. Fewer men graduated from high school, and even fewer women, compared to today. So they wouldn't automatically congregate in social settings by age-group–unlike high school and college.

It may be that there was a custom for Southerner men of Moore's generation and social class to date high-school girls. Not that it would be the norm, but it was considered acceptable by the social mores of that time and place. I don't know that for a fact. I'm just inferring that from some historical observations I've made. 


  1. We need to keep in mind that there are a lot of issues involved here. For example:

    - Whether Moore's dating of teenagers was appropriate in his context, not just whether it's appropriate as a general principle.

    - Whether Moore's behavior is consistent with his own professed standards.

    - Moore's honesty.

    - Whether he gave alcohol to underage girls.

    - Whether he was sexually involved with Leigh Corfman.

    - Whether he met Leigh Corfman.

    And so on. I've addressed issues like these in some detail in the comments section of another thread.

    Steve, you wrote that "he's admitted that he dated high-school girls–with their mothers' knowledge and consent", but that should be further qualified. There's a sense in which he has admitted it, in his interview with Sean Hannity, but he also denied having any memory of dating teenage girls in that same interview. And he said, more than once, that he considered it inappropriate for a man in his thirties to date a teenage girl. His comments in that interview are problematic. He comes across as suspiciously hesitant, evasive, and dishonest. Some of his answers seem inconsistent. He refers to not usually dating teenage girls, and he refers to getting the permission of the mothers of those he dated, which suggests that the women he dated were younger rather than older. From those comments, you'd get the impression that he was acknowledging that he dated teenagers. But elsewhere in the interview, he says that he has no memory of dating any teenagers, and he says that he thinks it would be inappropriate for a man in his thirties to date a teenage girl.

    Regarding his sexual involvement with Corfman, there are a few lines of evidence that support Corfman's allegation. I discuss that evidence in the other thread linked above.

  2. Another piece of evidence worth considering is Moore's marriage. He eventually married in 1985 at the age of 38, far older, I would guess, than was common at the time (average marriage age was younger back then, younger still in Moore's cultural context.) Also, his wife was 24 at the time she married him, a gap of 14 years.

    Subtract 6 years from both their ages and Moore was 32 when his wife to be was 18. That suggests an abiding interest in younger women of high school age. It fits the pattern.

  3. If these allegations had come out prior to the primary I think there is little doubt that he would have lost.

    1. Yes, but then Strange would have easily won the election, which is why the Democrats waited until it was too late to replace Moore to release this because it's the only possible way a Democrat can win there.