An Alternative Scenario for the Tarot Cards Story

I was clearly being insensitive with this posting from yesterday. I didn’t mean to come off that way and I apologize for it.

The situation in that posting was that young teenage girls were duped into having sex with an older man. He worked his way into their lives and used tarot cards to influence them into letting him do what he wanted with them.

The thread among the comments is that all the blame should be on the old man. The young girls were taken advantage of, and even through they willingly did stuff with the man (as opposed to being forced to do it), they shouldn’t be blamed for not having the experience or judgment to know any better. Fair enough.

Let me suggest a slightly different scenario.

Same story. Man dupes women into having sex with him using Tarot cards. But this time, the victims are all 24-years-old.

The old man is still a monster, no doubt. Again, I’m not letting him off the hook by any means. He deserves to be locked away for a long time.

But in this case, how much culpability can be placed on the women?

  • http://www.sixtyftsixin.com Nate

    It’s a different scenario entirely. Simply put, a 15 year old does not and is not expected to have as strong of a bullshit detector as a 24 year old would. 15 year olds are smart enough to know when they’re being taken advantage of most of the time, but not all of the time.

    Also, FIRST!!1!1!11!

  • http://terahertzatheist.ca Ian

    What if it was a woman who used tarot cards to seduce a man or young teenage males? Would it get the same attention then?

  • jemand

    I have great difficulty imagining this scheme actually WORKING on 24 year old women, unless they are mentally incompetent.

    It just… wouldn’t likely happen, and if a mentally competent woman DID give consent at age 24, it doesn’t really matter if he gave some bullshit reason, she said yes. A mentally competent 24 year old would never be able to obtain a rape conviction under that scenario and I’m not even sure she should be able to– 24 year olds are allowed to be idiots with their lives if they want. The only lie you could conceivably be held morally or legally responsible for when given to a sexual partner who is a consenting adult would be falsely stating your negative disease status.

    I still take great exception with your phrase “even through they willingly did stuff with the man (as opposed to being forced to do it)”

    I don’t think those terms (willingly/forced) even APPLY to children in relation to sex, it just is too hard to separate out brainwashed, groomed, mentally prepared to be pliable and willing, and that prep work is something that was “forced” on her, what choice did she have? Run from home? The end result is something “willingly” done? The terms just don’t fit. You can’t talk about “willing” or “forced” sex on a child– it is a child, their mind isn’t capable of the responses that you would categorize as “willing” or “forced.”

    A MUCH more likely scenario was seen at the FLDS ranch raided last year or so… with 18-20 year old girls multiply “married” to older men because their salvation depended on it. Now, while they again could NEVER obtain any conviction in any court of law (They are 18 and up, and biologically capable of normal mental capacity) their case is far different than a random Tarot reader finding a pliable 24 year old in the general population. You just DON’T get to be 24 in the general population while being mentally competent without obtaining the capacity for critical thinking. That is WHY cults like FLDS must promote high birth rates and keep careful control of the girls from the moment of birth, so that while they are genetically capable of being mentally sane, the stress and imposed beliefs end up pretty much mimicking the inability to give informed consent that characterizes infantalized thinking.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Hemant, I’m sorry but I think you’ve missed the point a bit. The girls were not willing participants in a forbidden sex game. They were coerced into providing sex to someone with a sick mind. They are dupes but very much still victims.

    Man dupes women into having sex with him using Tarot cards. But this time, the victims are all 24-years-old.

    Assuming that the women are of sound mind then they can be assumed to have sufficient life experience to know better and to give informed consent. The same would apply if the man had claimed to be a movie producer or a rock star. He’d be a cad but not a rapist. The same would of course apply if a woman had tricked two men into a sexual liaison with her magic cards of fortune telling.

    There is an argument that such trickery constitutes rape if it could be proven that the “threat” were considered real enough to warrant a sincere fear response. If a person devoutly believed in the power of Tarot and considered the reader to have powers that could influence them and these were used to coerce sex then it would be rape. I imagine that this would be harder to prove even than the 90% of rapes that already don’t secure a conviction and such a person would need to demonstrate how their beliefs influenced their day to day actions. It would be possible for a religion to be treated like this but I don’t believe Tarot would have a large enough impact on a person’s life.

  • jemand

    Ian, well it should. And honestly I think it’s very damaging for the boy victims societies popular conception that “every young teen’s dream is sex with his hot female teacher.” I think that particular social meme causes GRAVE psychological trauma to boys who have been groomed by the (admittedly rare) female pedophiles.

    And a woman seducing an adult male with Tarot cards? Pfft. I really just can’t get myself worked up at ALL when both parties are of age, unless there has been long term cult-type brainwashing.

    I suppose if it developed into a sort of psychological or emotional abuse, it would be a big problem, but I could see many more couples legitimately using Tarot cards as a sort of game in their relationship and as such it would cause absolutely no harm.

  • http://anti-mattr.blogspot.com/ mathyoo

    I don’t think any victims of sexual assault or manipulation should be considered “culpable”. However, even 15 year olds should have been taught enough critical thinking skills to detect the bullshit the man was throwing at them and protect themselves. If anyone is culpable from the victims’ site, it’s their parents for not ensuring that their daughters were capable of protecting themselves that way.

  • enneract

    I don’t think any victims of sexual assault or manipulation should be considered “culpable”. However, even 15 year olds should have been taught enough critical thinking skills to detect the bullshit the man was throwing at them and protect themselves. If anyone is culpable from the victims’ site, it’s their parents for not ensuring that their daughters were capable of protecting themselves that way.

    This.

    This, in my opinion, is the key component of the ‘religion-as-child-abuse’ argument, though, it has less to do with religion, and more to do with credulity (which, teaching credulity is integral to brainwashing a child with religion).

  • jemand

    Hoverfrog: “He’d be a cad but not a rapist.”

    Exactly, honestly Hemant I’m a bit confused why you even are equating the two scenarios in any real way. I think it belittles the girl’s pain. I don’t think you really understand the dynamics of child sexual abuse.

    I think perhaps that’s party because of the silence surrounding it (my emotional appeal in that last thread was the first time I ever really talked about that incident, family and most friends don’t have a clue)… so I suppose since it’s so invisible people are left befuddled when they hear a story about it… but still… part of the reason WHY it stays invisible is that victims are not believed, that they are expected to shoulder some of the “responsibility” and our culture doesn’t want to hear about such “hard” things creeping into “innocent childhood.”

  • AxeGrrl

    jemand wrote:

    Exactly, honestly Hemant I’m a bit confused why you even are equating the two scenarios in any real way. I think it belittles the girl’s pain. I don’t think you really understand the dynamics of child sexual abuse.

    I’ll ditto this.

  • Sebeka

    It would even be hard to prosecute him for fraud since the popular view of tarot cards is that they’re a form of entertainment. Perhaps you could charge him with prostitution since he’s trading sex for improved readings, but that interpretation doesn’t remove blame from the 24-year-olds “johns’.

    In the end, I think to call it rape you would need to show that the tarot card reader was an authority figure (like a teacher, employer, or priest), that he encouraged the 24-year-olds to believe that he (or his readings) were a real threat to them and that sex with him specifically would keep that from happening. This would be very hard to do given the victims’ age and popular views of tarot cards as entertainment, etc.

    I think that if you call something “rape”, then you are removing all responsibility from the victim. The victims (of any age) are not “partially to blame”, dressing or acting a certain way is not “rape prevention”: the only thing that would have prevented it is if the rapist had not chosen to rape them. Education, self-defence classes, thinking rationally, etc can sometimes turn rape into attempted rape, but it won’t prevent the attack and attempted rape is also a crime.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I’m not trying to belittle their pain. What happened to them was horrible beyond anything I can imagine.

    But people get scammed all the time in the same way. Usually, they lose money. We say they should know better and they are almost as much at fault for falling for the trick, though the bulk of the blame should (rightfully) be placed on the conman.

    In this case, the result was abuse. And all of a sudden, these women (the older women, in this alternative scenario) are off limits to talk about?

  • jemand

    OK, Hemant, I’m not sure what you mean by “All of a sudden, these women are off limits to talk about.”

    But let me explain some of my thoughts here. This is the language you used when he set up and then used tarot beliefs to manipulate a 13 year old girl:

    Obviously, Ayala is a monster. He deserves whatever punishment he has coming to him. Whatever I say below is not intended to let him off the hook in any way.

    And then this is what you say about the man with hypothetical 24 year olds, presumably of sound mind:

    The old man is still a monster, no doubt. Again, I’m not letting him off the hook by any means. He deserves to be locked away for a long time.

    But it’s not at all the same situation, and putting the same outrage at the second situation kinda lessens the meaning of the words in the first situation. When someone starts using the same language for taking advantage of the natural propensity of children to believe trusted adults, and picking up adult women by wowing them with your tarot skilz… well, it just starts making the language used in the first case sound hollow.

    The 24 year olds got scammed, pretty much like people loose their money to scam artists. But that phrase came right after “belittle their pain” referring to 13 year old girls, and that is NOT at all equatable with that sort of money scam. To take part of the natural trust a child displays is FAR worse than conning adults out of their money.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I don’t think you really understand the dynamics of child sexual abuse.

    I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily. I wish that nobody knew the dynamics of child sexual abuse. Sadly the real world isn’t as soft and fluffy as I want it to be so that isn’t likely to happen.

  • jemand

    @Hoverfrog,

    I concur completely! Which is why I’m really not all that annoyed with Hemant, even when I’m convinced that these posts display a lack of understanding how child sexual abuse works… especially when he’s trying to undo the insensitive way his first post came across…

    @Hemant, don’t let me get under your skin too much lol, I have a habit of becoming a rabid feminist at some times… but sometimes that’s a good educational tactic! I do love your blog.

  • Sebeka

    But people get scammed all the time in the same way. Usually, they lose money. We say they should know better and they are almost as much at fault for falling for the trick, though the bulk of the blame should (rightfully) be placed on the conman.

    No, we don’t. “Should have known better” is not a defense. To identify scam you have to have seen it before, been scammed before, or been introduced to the concept of that kind of scam enough times to recognize it again. We don’t blame people because it takes them X times of exposure instead of X minus N times to recognize a scam and this is especially true if the scammer is a trusted friend or in a position of authority over the victim. That they were scammed (or coerced or manipulated, etc) means that they did NOT know better and could NOT recognize the threat (or in the case of abuse of power, they saw the threat all too clearly but didn’t see a way out).

    Consider: if two people hold equal responsibility for an action one does to the other, then it is consensual. Both saw it, recognized it, recognized similar consequences, and did it anyway. Scamming involves someone SUCCESSFULLY hiding or lying about the transaction, thus preventing the other from making an informed decision. The two situations are not equal and the scammed do not hold the responsibility they would have had if they’d gone in with full knowledge — unlike the scammer.

  • Chris

    @Hemant
    Again I think that Tarot cards are a red herring. The question you beg, Hemant, with your follow up example is “What should the age of consent be?” I think this is the tough question that we should be debating.

    Why must a person be a certain age to open a credit card account?
    Why must a person be a certain age to be permitted to drive?
    Why must a person be a certain age to consume alcohol?
    Why must a person be a certain age to consent to sex?

    People get taken all the time by all sorts of ruses at any given age. Should we give special legal protections to citizens who are below a certain age? Based on your OP, I felt that you were leaning towards a “no.” But then you post a follow up example and the following comment:

    The old man is still a monster, no doubt. Again, I’m not letting him off the hook by any means. He deserves to be locked away for a long time.

    Really? Do you believe this man should be jailed? Then it seems you would like to see “sex by way of deceipt” outlawed regardless of age. Which also means that you would think it not illegal for an “adult” to propose sex with a “child” without pretext and then have sex with that “child.”

    I’m jumping to all sorts of conclusions here. Please clarify if you feel it necessary.

  • Indigo

    On a moral, ethical level: if you can persuade someone that they are in danger, when you know they’re not, and thereby extort something from them, whether money or sex, then yes, I’d say you’re definitely guilty of something. I might not say it’s rape in the case of sex – I’d have to think about that a little further – but it’s definitely within the grey area of consent. The issue of a just-teenaged girl only pushes it into “definitely wrong” category for me.
    Legally, though, it would be very hard to prosecute, and contrary to popular perception there’s more to obtaining a rape conviction than getting an alleged victim to testify.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    “Exactly, honestly Hemant I’m a bit confused why you even are equating the two scenarios in any real way. I think it belittles the girl’s pain. I don’t think you really understand the dynamics of child sexual abuse.”

    I’ll third this.

  • Freak

    Hemant: Do you think James Bond was a monster in Live and Let Die? (Jane Seymour was under 24 when the movie was filmed; I assume Solitaire was the same age.)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant: Do you think James Bond was a monster in Live and Let Die?

    Never saw the movie. What’s the scenario?

  • Aj

    While I agree that children under 16 are not on average capable of giving consent to sexual activity, there’s another issue to this that is unrelated to the crime. I don’t think teenagers ability to give consent is related to their susceptibility to woo or being tricked. She is culpable for being tricked, she is not culpable in any way for the crime that was committed against her.

  • Erp

    Does this apply to all three of the girls including the 9 year old?

  • Twewi
    Hemant: Do you think James Bond was a monster in Live and Let Die?

    Never saw the movie. What’s the scenario?

    Essentially, Bond (Roger Moore, 46 at the time) tricks Solitaire (Jane Seymour, 21) into sleeping with him using Tarot cards.

    Bond is kind of a dick.

    Regarding the actual story: sure, the girl shouldn’t have fallen for such an obvious ruse, but she doesn’t deserve any blame or guilt from that. If she were older… I’m not sure. I still have trouble assigning words like “blame” or “culpable” to the scenario; mistakes don’t always equate to fault.

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    Again, Hemant, you seem to be hung up on the aspect of the Tarot cards. And again, I will point out that the use of the cards was incidental. The issue here was the trust placed in the man by the girls and their mothers.

    This kind of thing does happen to mature women all the time. Twenty four, fourty four, sixty four, it doesn’t matter. The only limiting factor is the amount of trust the victim is willing to place in the abuser. In the case of more mature women, the abuser is usually a doctor or therapist… or pastor.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Backtracking in this way is beneath you. Either stand by what you said or retract it. This half-hearted apology fails on so many levels, 15 is either too young to know better or it isn’t – I happen to think it is, but I live in a country where a girl of 16 is old enough to make up her own mind. If you live in a state where the AOC is 21, or 18, then 15 may seem criminally young.

  • Bleatmop

    Hemant,

    I think you agree that these children were unequivocally raped. That is good. What is troubling me is that you are seeming to imply that these girls are somehow to be blamed, or share the blame for their rape. They are completely without blame.

    I could make this a very long post, citing development stages and cognitive ability (indeed, I did, but have since revised it) but it doesn’t need to be. Consider this:

    A leader of a fundamentalist sect teaches to his flock that this thirteen year old girl is chosen to be his wife (where he can rape her under the guise of consensual marital relations) and that this is her only path to salvation, lest she be eternally punished in hell. The girl, during the rape thinks:

    “I kept thinking, ‘Is this rape? Is this rape?’ ” she testified. “I thought, ‘No, it wouldn’t be, because he cares about me.’ “

    My question to you is why is this any different (in regard to the rape) if the woman is 24? The answer there isn’t. It also has to do with power structures and coercion. My not so hypothetical preacher stating that they’ll go to hell if they don’t do it or this 59 year old sceeze bag telling them that they need to have sex with him to remove a curse on their family is no different that some masked lunatic holding a knife to their throats. The overlying message in all three situations is that horrible things are going to happen to you and/or your family unless you do this. All three cases are rape, no matter the age.

    So I’ll end it there, but I’d encourage you to look up some info on what blaming survivors of rape is and how it affects not just them but societal views on rape.

  • laterose

    I still have trouble assigning words like “blame” or “culpable” to the scenario; mistakes don’t always equate to fault.

    Yeah, that’s kind of what’s troubling me about this whole conversation. It seems to be about whether or not we can blame people for their own lack of intelligence or gullibility. When did you decide to be whatever IQ you are? I’m guessing none of us has. It’s just part of who we are. The most we can expect of anyone is to do the best they can with what they’re given.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I think you agree that these children were unequivocally raped. That is good. What is troubling me is that you are seeming to imply that these girls are somehow to be blamed, or share the blame for their rape. They are completely without blame.

    I’ve said it before, but here’s another go at it.

    The girls in the original story (all minors) were unequivocally raped. It’s horrible. It’s awful. I’ve (thank FSM) never been in that position nor have my immediate family members.

    What bothered me about the story is that the girls believed what this man was saying. I have a hard time getting over that. I know the Tarot cards are just an accessory to his crime, and it’s a bigger issue that the man abused their trust in him.

    These girls did two things: they believed in something (Tarot) without any rational basis and also trusted the man despite him telling them to do awful things. Why?! I want to know why. How does that happen? No answer excuses what the man did.

    Surely someone had warned them about both situations in their lives, right? Maybe I should be focusing my frustration with this story on the girls’ parents.

    Anyway, to reiterate: I’m not “blaming” the girls for what happened.

    A leader of a fundamentalist sect teaches to his flock that this thirteen year old girl is chosen to be his wife (where he can rape her under the guise of consensual marital relations) and that this is her only path to salvation, lest she be eternally punished in hell.

    To extend the metaphor to our situation, there are plenty of people outside the cult who *should* have been telling this girl that the Leader is wrong, immoral, inappropriate. With good reason. Where are they?

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    Hemant, they believed him because they trusted him. Kids their age trust adults, especially when their parents trust those same adults. Furthermore, they may feel like they’re doing something for the “greater good,” even if it doesn’t benefit them. The article stated that Ayala told the girls that they had a curse on them or their family and it could be lifted through sex (which he mystified beforehand, to lend him more credibility). He had trust and authority on his side, not to mention a well-constructed story placing him as a savior to the girls (from the curse), rather than a predator.

    I can completely understand why they’d give Ayala the benefit of the doubt and trust that what he was saying was true. I was molested by my mom’s boyfriend when I was 12. I knew it was wrong, yet I didn’t tell anyone until several years later, in part because I trusted him when he said that if I didn’t tell, he wouldn’t do it again (which he didn’t, although from my current position, I can tell how foolish it was to trust that he wouldn’t), and in part because I thought that if he made my mom happy, what right do I have to screw that up for her by telling her.

    That tarot cards are bullshit is irrelevant. Plenty of 13-year-olds (and people much older) believe stupid things. The relevant thing is Ayala’s abuse of the trust and authority that he cultivated in these girls’ lives and families.

  • AxeGrrl

    Hemant wrote:

    What bothered me about the story is that the girls believed what this man was saying

    And children who get abducted believe their abductor really is ‘looking for his dog’ when they get in his van to help him look.

    The point?

    that a predator is ‘successful’ because he/she knows how to spin a yarn that’s ‘believable’ specifically to their intended prey.

    They’re skilled at what they do.

    Manipulators/predators make their ‘trade’ in gauging what will work in fooling their victims.

    Hemant, consider this scenario: someone gets to know you, the things you believe and don’t believe; the things you’re intensely interested in, and perhaps why you’re interested in them…..imagine this person gets to really ‘know’ you. They get to know what your ‘buttons’ are…..and you eventually think of them as a good friend….

    Do you really believe that that entire ‘grooming’ process wouldn’t make you more likely to fall for something this person might propose to you? (your gender, age and belief-system being different than the girl(s) in the original story, the ‘goal’ of your predator would probably be different as well) Do you really believe that you’d ‘know better’ when someone has weaseled their way into your psyche to the point that they know how you’re going to react to everything they propose?

    if you don’t think you could be ‘fooled’ by such a predator, fooled into doing something you wouldn’t normally do but would do in this case, because you see them as a ‘friend’ and trust them, then you’re more vulnerable than you may think you are.

    I don’t think this whole thing is about believing ‘woo’ specifically, it’s about a predator knowing what will work given the psyche of their prey.

  • Chris

    Hemant wrote:

    These girls did two things: they believed in something (Tarot) without any rational basis and also trusted the man despite him telling them to do awful things. Why?! I want to know why. How does that happen?

    What rational basis does a child believe that if they don’t wear a seat belt the police might pull them over and issue a ticket?

    What rational basis does a child believe that brushing their teeth at night before bed helps keep cavities away?

    You seem stuck on the assumption of the infinitely low probability that Tarot cards can divine the future. You take for granted that you make that assumption. Why should these kids have made that assumption? Because someone should have told them? Because they should have come to that conclusion themselves?

    If you’re looking for a scientific explanation, then let me attempt a psuedo-scientific one. Within the framework of evolution, the young offspring who accept the teachings of the elders have a better chance at survival because the elder teachers are interested in keeping them alive to replicate and elders have more life experience so their teachings have value. (Pure speculation, but it kinda makes sense don’t it?)

    The most common way we get our children to do or believe what we say is to appeal to our own authority, is it not? What parent has the patience to rationalize why it is a good idea for their kid to behave themselves in a department store, grocery store, or movie theater?

    Let’s also not forget that critical thinking is not a natural skill. It takes much time, practice and maturity to do properly. You know very well that adults don’t even acquire such skills properly, yet you are shocked that these children did not employ these skills to protect themselves from “obvious” Tarot card coersion.

  • Don

    I think the people claiming that Hemant is equating the two situations are wrong. I know it is a common rhetorical device to present scenario A that is considered wrong, then change it a little bit to become scenario B that is less objectionable. But to be equating the two you have to go on to then argue that the differences between the scenarios are meaningless in the context. I don’t think that is what Hemant did. Instead Hemant just changed the scenario to a situation where the victims are normally considered fully adult and fully responsible for themselves. He could go on to equate still but at least so far he hasn’t.

    From my point of view all adults hold some responsibility for their actions. If an adult has sex with or gives money to a scammer then yes they are at least partly to blame. This doesn’t mean that the scammer is any less responsible just that we are all responsible for protecting ourselves.

  • Becky

    Made a comment on the wrong post; oops.

  • CatBallou

    Yes, 24-year-old people have reached the age of consent, so no matter what ruse was used to obtain the consent, there is no rape.
    But when the goal of the con man is money, not sex, there is still the possibility of liability. Why is lying to obtain sex OK, when lying to obtain money is fraud?
    Unfortunately, our culture still thinks of sex as a rare commodity that women control and that men should try to obtain by any means necessary, rather than an activity between two consenting people.

  • Bleatmop
  • jemand

    I’m still surprised you don’t see it would be way easier to be tricked by someone who is TRYING to trick you into having sex (these girls) than by someone who is NOT actually trying to kill you (cancer/Houser) but that’s an accidental by product of the belief….

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Mike Caton

    With the risk of also seeming insensitive, if the women in question were 24, and they had sex with someone over tarot cards – or for any reason not involving coercion – it was their choice to do so, and not anyone else’s job to tell them they couldn’t. Their bodies, their choice.

    “But tarot equals coercion!” Think about it this way: at what point are you free to assume that another person is capable of acting in their own best interest? In the case of sex, if s/he is under 18, you’re not. If the person is mentally ill to the point that they can’t keep the lights on or hold a job, you’re not (ethically, if not legally). But if the person is capable of paying the rent/mortgage but has some irrationalities – just like you and I do – then they’re on their own, just like you and I are.

    That’s why, if you go down to a burger joint where they’re practically giving their burgers away, you have no moral obligation to figure out that these people actually had a cogent business plan and weren’t just being irrationally optimistic (and hence financially self-destructive). It’s not up to you to decide whether everyone you meet during the day is capable of taking care of themselves, beyond the obvious categories of too young, or mentally ill. Otherwise you’re stuck being your brother’s keeper, a lesson in a certain book with which I happen to strongly disagree.