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LETTERS

Sex and its lexicon

February 09, 2003

In Bob Baker's thought-provoking commentary on whether director Roman Polanski can be forgiven his misdeeds ("The Past Plays On," Feb. 2), it was remarkable that "statutory rape," "underage sex" and "having sex" were the terms of choice, rather than the more ominous "child molestation." In contrast, the "outing" of a Jesuit priest ("L.A. Priest Blamed for Legacy of Pain," Dec. 14) described what many would call sex play between children -- the priest's alleged behavior at age 10 toward his sister -- as molestation.

Sociolinguistic decisions prod readers toward favorable judgments (Polanski: creative, French) or condemnation (priests: perverted, disgusting). This is not to argue that Polanski should be skewered but to point out that hysteria and hypocrisy color the debate over sex crimes.

Elaine Halleck

Vista

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