Forbid Them Not: The Sexy Chat and the Robotic Spanking

Forbid Them Not: The Sexy Chat and the Robotic Spanking September 14, 2018

Forbid Them Not, pp. 213-223

Cooper and Laura just finished with the Today Show, remember.

Laura took the lead heading back to the makeup area so that Cooper could have the goo removed.

But before Cooper could get there, Jody apprehended him by the door.

“Sh-sh…” she whispers. “Listen. Sorry about today. I am sorry about a lot of things.” She started to say something else, but after a quick glance off to her left suddenly miled and started talking in a normal voice. “Mr. Stone, I guess we will see you soon in the Virginia Supreme Court. Good day,” she said, extending her hand.

Cooper shook hands with her and felt a small scrap of paper pressed into his palm. …

… As soon as the door closed, he retrieved the paper from his pocket. A small yellow note read: “Don’t use e-mail to send your clients case plans. Be careful Cooper. I wish….” That was all.

What game is Jody playing, exactly? She was told to compromise him, and tried to in New York City—while Cooper refused to have sex with her, a photographer was able to get a picture of the pair kissing. But what’s going on here? Jody has never quite been comfortable with Erzabet Kadar’s hard line on this case, and she clearly wasn’t comfortable when asked to compromise Cooper. What is her game now, though? To tip him off os that he can stay ahead of Kadar?

This is one of my biggest complaints about this book: We never really know who Jody is. She’s a cipher. Her actions make little sense.

Part of the reason for Jody’s existence in this story is to make Laura feel threatened.

 “What’s with this ambassador woman? You two seem particularly friendly with each other!”

“I can’t tell you because I can’t figure it out myself,” he answered honestly.

“If I didn’t know better, I would say she has a crush on you.”

Cooper couldn’t think of what to say, so he said nothing and just shrugged and rolled his eyes.

“Cooper? What is going on? Does she have a crush on you?”

“Oh … I am sorry. I didn’t realize you were serious. How would I know that? But come on, you heard what she said. How could I ever be attracted to a woman who is so … so, I don’t know. Liberal … I guess that word is the only way to describe her.”

“I hadn’t considered the possibility of you being attracted to her for that very reason, plus it seems pretty evident that she is not a believer. I was only thinking about her liking you.”

This whole exchange reads weirdly.

But here’s the thing—Cooper isn’t being fully honest with Laura. He hasn’t told her that he ran into Jody in New York City, that she tried to entice him into his room, that he went for a late-night carriage ride with her, or that he kissed her. Granted, he doesn’t know that there is photographic evidence—but that seems like something rather big to leave out of the conversation.

Scene change!

It is now late evening the same day, and Cooper has agreed to log into the chat room Sally keeps talking about.

Cooper read the screen and watched information start to scroll past his eyes at a speed he could barely follow. He watched a variety of names appear on the screen: Cryllic, content momma, notarially, Katie_host, sancty-fried, Angelic, MissSally, nana, fire momma, FiddlersPapa, and others. The screen told him that thirty-two people were in the chat room, the vast majority with strange names like the first handful on the list.

Oh boy. Here we go!

FiddlersPapa: Thanks Cooper, Sally has told us about you, and we wanted you to come anyway.
Cryllic: LOL fid, be nice he just got here.

The whole thing is like this.

Katie_host asks if anyone watched the Today Show. 

SandeeBeach: I watched … but I hit the mute button … just wanted to see if Sal’s friend was as cute as she keeps bragging.

DamonDude: Are we going to do this cute lawyer business all night or are we going to ask real questions about the UN?

Um. Yeah.

Sally asks Cooper to talk about the case, and he explains that the other side appealed and that he’s getting ready to cross-appeal.

FiddlersPapa: Why are both sides appealing?
Sancty-fried: Because your side has a cute lawyer and their side has a drop-dead gorgeous ambassador … not that I pay attention to stuff like that.

This book really needed an editor.

Notreally: Good for you, fire, that Sancty can never be serious. I mean how can a liberal be drop-dead gorgeous? Beautiful, maybe, but not gorgeous, only conservatives can be gorgeous.

Farris’ use of the word “liberal” reminds me of how I saw it used growing up in a conservative community. This fixation on liberals not being able to be actually physically attractive—not like conservatives—is getting repetitive.

Cooper does get a few words explaining how the case will proceed in among all of the joking. Cooper also asks for prayers.

Angelic: I will pray even though I am Canadian.
MissSally: Cooper, you mentioned distractions. Any thing specific you want to mention about that?
CooperStone: not really
Notreally: You rang?

But of course, Sally isn’t going to leave it at that. After Sancty-fried and Notreally are moved to jail, Sally pushes further, probing for the case of Cooper’s distraction, in a public chat forum.

MissSally: At the risk of being nosy, are the distractions you are concerned about female?
CooperStone: I’d rather not go into it.
SandeeBeach: I’m willing to be a distraction if you are taking volunteers.
Angelic: Me too, even though I am Canadian.
CooperStone: How do you blush in chat?
MissSally: You catch on fast, Coop. We will pray for you. Anything else we can do?
CooperStone: not really.
CooperStone: Not, you sir.
Firemomma: It’s OK, Notreally is in jail.

Oh, early 2000s chatrooms…

I actually didn’t spend any time in chat rooms in the early 2000s. Instead, I spent my time on forums—mostly Home School Debate, but also some others. For those of you who did spend time in chat rooms in the early 2000s—even if you are Canadian (seriously, what was that about?)—how does the dialogue Farris has written measure up?

I’m going to keep going, because the next chapter is very short. It is also very, very disturbing.

“Layton, come down here right now!” Deanna called out loudly. It was her third attempt.

No answer.

Yes, that’s right. We’re going to address the judge’s order prohibiting Deanna from spanking Layton. And this is Farris land, so it won’t be pretty.

Layton is nine. I have a kid who is nine. When you call them and they don’t answer, the next step is to go upstairs and see what’s going on. Sometimes my daughter does answer and I just didn’t hear her—we’re talking about yelling up a flight of stairs, after all. Other times, she is so absorbed in what she is doing that she honestly does not hear me.

When Layton does not appear in response to her repeated yelling, Deanna storms up the stairs and flings open his door. No, really.

“LAYTON WILLIAM THOMAS, you get down here this minute!

Deanna stormed up the stairs and flung open her oldest son’s bedroom door.

This is sub-optimal parenting at its best.

“Layton,” she said, her voice back under control. “What are you doing? I was calling you real nice for the last ten minutes, and then I tried yelling, and you still didn’t come down. I want to know what is going on!”


“Nothing? What do you mean nothing, young man?”

“I dunno. I was just in my room.”

“What exactly were you doing in your room?”

Layton hung his head. “I was playing a video game.”

“With the ear phones on?”

“Yes ma’am.”

So I was right—he never even heard her. This is why screaming up the stairs is not a good idea.

But here we reach another problem—Layton is not supposed to play video games on school days. When Deanna asked why he did it, Layton said he just didn’t feel like doing his school work.

Layton is homeschooled. I know what it is like to be homeschooled. Layton was in his bedroom, but that’s not why he got in trouble. Was he expected to do his school work alone in his bedroom? At eight? Look, I’ve been there. And I’m not going to say that’s never appropriate—it depends on various factors. But I will say this—being expected to do your school work yourself, alone, without help, when you’re eight—being expected to keep yourself on task by yourself and not get distracted—it’s hard.

I don’t homeschool, but my daughter does come home with homework, and she sometimes does get distracted, or do other things before finishing it. If I were in Deanna’s place, I’d take Layton downstairs, sit him at the table, get him some orange juice or milk and a cookie, and sit down by him while he completes his work, or work on something else nearby, while keeping him company and on task—and not in a punitive way. I might offer to do something fun afterwards—maybe making cookies or playing a game—to give him some motivation.

Distraction happen. Our job as parents is to teach children how to manage distractions, not to punish or shame them for being human. Offering a fun project when work is finished isn’t bribery—it’s simply modeling what we do as adults to motivate ourselves! I’ll watch that fun show—after I finish the dishes. I’ll take hot tea and a book out to the deck—after I finish writing this paper, or reading this essay.

Deanna, of course, does not do any of this.

“You don’t feel like doing school work? I’m afraid you don’t have a choice. You will do school work, like it or not.”

Here, again, Deanna is engaging in sub-optimal parenting. She proposes to force Layton to do school work. How, exactly? With threats? How much better to remind kids need to do school work, and that we all have to sometimes do things we don’t want to do. How much better to model skills—to talk about what we do as adults when we have to do something we don’t want to do. How much better to look at the assignment and find ways to make it fun.

And here, right here, is where Deanna’s approach fails:

“Well, next year I won’t have to do school work.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know the case. You can’t spank me, and you can’t make me do school work. I will get to do what I want.”

Deanna felt like she had been punched in the stomach.

If the only reason your child does what you tell them to do is because you will hit them otherwise, you have already failed as a parent.

“I don’t care what the newspapers say. I am still your mother.”

“Yeah, but moms can’t make us obey anymore. Talk to me if you want. But right now I want to play Nintendo.”

Has Deanna never heard of being grounded? Is she unfamiliar with the idea of removing privileges? Does she not know that the Nintendo can be unplugged from the wall and moved to the attic?

Don’t get me wrong—grounding and other punitive measures can go badly wrong, and are often sub-optimal as well. My point is simply that there are a variety of punitive measures, outside of spanking, that parents have used for generations. Sending a child to bed without supper, for instance. A parent could be thoroughly punitive without ever spanking a child. Yet Deanna, it seems, has only one tool in her parenting toolbox—spanking.

What does this say about Farris, and how he views parenting, and has he ever actually sat down and talked with a nine-year-old?

What would I do in Deanna’s place? Well, for starters, I wouldn’t have ended up here. Unlike Deanna, I do not rely on spanking (and spanking alone, it would seem) to control my children. In fact, I’ve never spanked. According to Farris, I should be in Deanna’s place every second of the day—unable to control my children or entice them to do what I want. And yet, I am not. It’s almost like his view of parenting, and of children, is built on lies.

I have a relationship with my children. They respect me, because I respect them, and listen to them, and treat them well. They know that I take their needs into account, so when the answer is no, we can’t get ice cream right now, they accept that. I’ve taught them how to be empathetic human beings and how to live in community with other people.

None of that involves spanking.

And yes, there have been times when I’ve had to say “that’s enough time on your tablet for today, I’ll take that now, go play outside or read a book or play a game or make something.” They may grumble, but they know I care about them and have their best interests in mind, and that at the end of the day, I’m fair.

So much of parenting is about relationship, and listening, and caring, and showing that. And teaching, yes—teaching, not training.

But I’m running away with myself! How does Deanna respond to Layton telling her that she can talk to him if she wants, but he’s going to go back to playing Nintendo, because he wants to?

“Layton,” she said with a veil of calmness, “that is just not acceptable behavior. I am afraid I am going to have to spank you.”

That veil is a very serious problem. I know that veil. It’s a fake niceness that covers anger and rage. And look, just like that, without even trying any other parenting tool, Leanna is going to violate the court order and put herself at risk of losing custody of her child. And for what? Because the only way she has to control him is hitting him?

And we’re supposed to look at Deanna and think she’s a good parent?

Deanna held her son firmly by the arm and marched him down to the kitchen where she kept a yard stick for just such occasions, although it had been three months since the last time she had to use it. Layton was required to touch his knees, like always. She gave him three quick swats, like always. And then she gave him a hug, like always.

“Layton, you know we can’t tolerate such behavior,” she said calmly.

Layton looked at the floor for a long time. Slowly he raised his head. Even more slowly he lifted his eyes to meet his mother’s gaze. Deanna could tell he was fighting back tears. “Mom, I’m sorry,” he said softly.

And just like that, Layton is fixed! He’s sorry, he’s remorseful, and he’s affectionate. He’s cured. No, really!

This is how individuals like Farris view spanking: It’s a magic cure-all. It makes parenting easy! All you have to do is hit them when they disobey, and then hug them, and viola! Except that I’ve been a spanked child, and it doesn’t quite work like that. I don’t remember ever feeling the way Farris describes Layton feeling in this passage.

I typically responded to spankings in one of two ways.

When I believed I really had messed up I felt genuinely remorseful. I would apologize and beg my mom not to spank me. Being spanked was painful and humiliating. I would insist that I had already learned my lesson—and I had—but it would make no difference. Being spanked felt unfair, because I knew I had messed up, and being hit with a paddle wasn’t going to make me somehow know that better. So what was the point?

Other times I felt that I was being punished unjustly. I believed I hadn’t done wrong and that my mom had just not understood. I would try to explain, try to help her understand, but she would call that “back talk” and refuse to listen. Being spanked made me feel rage, and I would smart under the harsh pain of suffering injustice.

In all my memory, I never responded to being spanked with placid abashed humility. I’d like to investigate whether Layton has been kidnapped and replaced by a robot created to demonstrate the effectiveness of spanking.

Layton, though, does have one concern—he asks his mother what he’s supposed to tell Miss Hennessey, the Guardian Ad Litem assigned to him. He tells his mom that Miss Hennessey told him outside the courthouse at the last hearing that she would be calling from time to time, and that he was to tell her if he was spanked.

Leanna really should have seen this coming. I mean for gracious sakes, she violated a court order, willfully and on purpose. Deanna says she’ll have to talk to Rick and Cooper, and then she sits down and sobs.

The chapter ends with Cooper, who is being tortured by the contents of Jody’s note. Jody’s note suggested that Cooper’s email was being intercepted, remember. The problem is that Cooper doesn’t think he can tell anyone about it because it would mean telling them all about Jody, and seeing her in New York City, and their kiss.

First of all, he could just tell them that Jody slipped him a note saying that their email is being intercepted. That’s weird, yes—very weird— but he isn’t automatically required to say what else he knows of Jody. But second of all, he should have already told his clients about what happened with Jody. Surely hiding important information like kissing the opposition is some sort of ethical lapse.

And see the result—there is important information that Cooper should be sharing with his clients—that tip about email — that he is hiding from them because Jody has compromised him. 

Cooper should not be on this case.I actually didn’t spend any time in chat rooms in the early 2000s. Instead, I spent my time on forums—mostly Home School Debate, but also some others. For those of you who did spend time in chat rooms in the early 2000s—even if you are Canadian (seriously, what was that about?)—how does the dialogue Farris’ has written measure up?

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