Just askin’

When’s the last time a boy got expelled from Scouting for having premarital sex?

I see Rick Perry and the rest of the theocrats are upset that some gay teenagers will get to participate in the Boy Scouts.  (The LDS seems to be going with the flow.)

Being out-gay (but not, apparently, closeted) is inconsistent with the principles that Scout is “clean” and “morally straight.” Though the official Scouting website makes no mention of sexual behavior under the heading of being “clean.” (No mention of “trustworthy” [defined as including being “honest”], “brave,” or “loyal.” And of course the gay-baiters themselves seem to fall short on “kind” and “courteous.”)

Here’s my favorite passage from the anti-gay Scouting website:

Parents should have the exclusive right to raise issues about sex and sexuality with their children in their own time and in their own way, in the privacy of their homes; not brought up by other older boys around a campfire.

Because of course boys at Scout camp never discuss girls.

So, to the question: When is the last time a Scout was expelled for having premarital sex?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Just askin’”

  1. I suspect that what these folks are worried most about isn’t just the talking. If it’s a group of all boys, they can talk about girls all they want and nothing’s going to happen.

    But if there’s a troop of boys, and some of them are gay, and they share tents, well, you know . . . .

    Just in case there is any misunderstanding, I am one who welcomes the new policy. But there’s a big difference between talking and doing.

      1. Just in case I’m not making myself clear, I think that the old policy of excluding gays was silly and fears like that are overblown.

        But the idea of everybody lugging his own tent is even sillier.

        1. If you have more than two people per tent, then that obviously interferes with any extracirrcular activities anyone might want to get up to. And if you have two people per tent then unless more than half your troop is gay, you’ll be able to arrange things so that no one shares a tent with someone they’re attracted to.

          1. I’ll also just point out that even if you didn’t “arrange” things and just assigned people randomly, then the probability of your two person tent having two people who are at least bisexual is going to be something like 0.36%. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of any sexual activity would still be from heterosexual scouts deciding to experiment.

          2. If you have more than two people per tent, then that obviously interferes with any extracirrcular activities anyone might want to get up to.

            It usually interferes with it. But it also opens the door a crack for three-ways or orgies, depending on how big the tent. So I’d say the expected value of hot gay sex per tent remains more or less the same regardless of tent size.

          3. I’ll also just point out that even if you didn’t “arrange” things and just assigned people randomly, then the probability of your two person tent having two people who are at least bisexual is going to be something like 0.36%

            This has the beginnings of a great comedy sketch for Saturday Night Live.

    1. Then how do coed scouting organizations function? Mind you, their sleeping arrangements do keep girls and boys separate, but that by itself wouldn’t stop any enterprising teenagers.

      (For what it’s worth, I was a member of a coed scouting organization myself for a few years as a teenager.)

      1. Then how do coed scouting organizations function?

        Quite well, if you’re a horny teenager looking to get it on in the woods.

        As a former coed camp counselor, I can tell you the most frustrating thing about being deep in the woods is that there’s never a garden hose when you need one.

  2. As an atheist Eagle Scout with a young son, I would be overjoyed if the bigots voluntarily leave Scouting as they are threatening to so my son and I can enjoy the organization in peace.

    Yes, I understand they still want you to believe in a god, but that was always a pretty slippery requirement in my experience, and this was in the bible belt. It was fine to be a spiritual non-practicing Buddhist, and they don’t really check for these things except in a very obtuse way when you are interviewed before getting the Eagle Award…I imagine if one were a “vocal atheist” it would be a problem but who has the time for that…hopefully that is the next arbitrary barrier to entry that falls.

    1. = = = Yes, I understand they still want you to believe in a god, but that was always a pretty slippery requirement in my experience, and this was in the bible belt. It was fine to be a spiritual non-practicing Buddhist, and they don’t really check for these things except in a very obtuse way when you are interviewed before getting the Eagle Award…I imagine if one were a “vocal atheist” it would be a problem but who has the time for that…hopefully that is the next arbitrary barrier to entry that falls. = = =

      Depends what area of the country you are in. My experience in Chicago matches yours – religion was there if desired but not overly emphasized – but where we are now (not even Bible Belt) it is the Spanish Inquisition. Caused my son and quite a few others to drop out at Life – they weren’t particularly religious, and they weren’t going to lie to the Eagle board just to get that badge. My understanding is that outside the northeast most BSA councils are dominated by one or another religious entity.

      Cranky

  3. Scouting has an interesting history. As started by Baden-Powell, it had a flavour of imperialist proto-Fascism, and was akin to the German youth movements of the 1920s which helped the rise of Nazism. Unusually the evolution of the Scouts was in a good direction. A bit like the Church of England, which grew spiritually to fill its cynical statist frame.

    1. Actually, the history is even more complicated and interesting than that. On the British side of the pond, Baden-Powell certainly brought a militarist and proto-fascist flavor to the scouting movement. But on this side of the water, it began rather differently, with Ernest Thompson Seton’s “Woodcraft Indians/Woodcraft League of America”. Seton had a much more progressive approach than Baden-Powell, and if his vision of scouting had prevailed (Seton split with the BSA a few years after its founding) the pre-WWII US scouting movement probably would have developed in a much more democratic, cooperative, progressive, and “outdoorsy” direction, rather than following Baden-Powell’s emphasis on patriotism, militarism, Christianity, etc.

      1. There is a very good section about this history in David Shi’s excellent book The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture (pp. 206-212). Seton, the first “Chief Scout” of the BSA and author of the Boy Scout Handbook, left the group in 1915 in dismay at its increasingly materialist, corporate, and patriotic direction. Shi describes Seton’s response to the increasing militarization of the Boy Scouts:

        “[Teddy Roosevelt’s] message carried much weight with the Republican patriots who dominated the [BSA’s] executive board. Where earlier Scout spokesmen had explicitly disavowed any military objectives or inclinations, they now reversed such a policy, clumsily announcing in 1915 that the organization was not ‘unmilitary.’ Soon thereafter, Roosevelt stressed in the Boy Scout Yearbook that Scouting had ‘no use for timid boys.’ Seton found such bullying discrimination a travesty. In a New York Times interview explaining his resignation, he revealed that he had been ‘out of sympathy with the Boy Scout organization for a number of years,’ and had ‘endeavored to combat its growing materialism. The movement as originally launched … was an organized attempt to give all our young people the advantages of an out-of-door life and training.’ Seton heatedly objected to the attempts by Roosevelt and others to indoctrinate the boys in a lock-step nationalism. [….]

        “After leaving the BSA, Seton busily set about reviving his Woodcraft Indians, emphasizing that his rejuvenated youth group was for all children. It ‘fits both sexes and all ages, the weak and the strong; for none is too young or too old to enjoy it. It avoids the dangerous military and autocratic form of domination from the top and shows equally the dangerous pitfall of unguided self-government by the young; it combines the best elements of both.’ In its attempt to combine democratic idealism and romantic naturalism, Seton’s Woodcraft program was intended to counter the forces of modernity — urbanism, commercialism, imperialism, militarism — by instilling in children an appreciation for the communal ecology of an idealized Indian life. That it eventually lost out to the bureaucratic Boy Scout model was a pathetically ironic re-enactment of the earlier conquest of Indian culture by white civilization”

  4. I was a scout many years ago in Maryland. Campfire talk was never wholesome — a lot of talk about sex and who had reached which base with what girl. Talk that also involved a lot of lying, of course. So two strikes there. First time I ever smoked pot was on a scouting trip. I don’t remember how far I got toward eagle scout, not very. We learned some skills, which was quite worthwhile, but mostly it was fairly healthy adolescent socializing and, overall, a pretty good experience. The strongest moral command I remember was to cut out the swearing at the weekly troop meeting — we were in a church basement and should be respectful. From what previous comments suggest about the current religiosity of the scouts, I doubt I would feel the same today.

    1. “First time I ever smoked pot was on a scouting trip.”

      I’m reminded of Tom Lehrer’s “Be Prepared”.

  5. It was the conversations in the cabins at 4-H camp that covered girls and sex for me. So there is an alternative. Did you hear the one about George Washington and Valley Forge?

  6. Mark asks “When is the last time a Scout was expelled for having premarital sex?”

    Having been a Scout, I have no idea about that. I presume they’re OK with married sex — most Scouts are a little too young for that — so I presume it’ll be OK if you marry your boyfriend in states that permit that. No word on conjugal camping for legally married couples, yet.

    There have long been several flavors of more theologically rigid youth groups in the mold of Scouting, except for the bizarre religious fixations. The problem is none can agree to tolerate each other. Probably good company for folks who can’t come to terms with Scouting in a more diverse society. One hopes that adult volunteers are included in the near future as the unbendingly ignorant self-decamp and leave the Scouting movement looking more like America.

    1. I would interpret MK’s question as: does the scout code teach its members that having sex outside of marriage is consistent with being a scout?

  7. Mark is being deliberate here. The first part of the Scout oath is duty to God. The problem is if your religion has a problem with gay people, not with the last part of the oath that MK cites, although he links to Scout Law rather than the Scout Oath. (“Morally straight” is from the oath, “clean” is from the law.) But on the same page he links: “A Scout is reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”

    Personally, I think it’s fine. My Scouting days are long past, and I am an atheist. I think it’s good for gay kids to go camping without having to lie about who they are to be accepted. But it is obviously not difficult to find a Scout-based reason to oppose this, if one were so inclined.

  8. My Scouting days ended over 4 decades ago, but I remember fellow Scouts and leaders widely thought to be gay. (Some of them actually were, as we later learned.) Except as a topic of sniggering gossip, it was no big deal. They may have suffered a bit more adolescent cruelty than their straight but odd peers, but not much. I doubt they got up to much in the woods, since most, and probably all, of us were utterly incompetent at getting any kind of sex from anyone, which didn’t stop us from lying about it.
    Scouts are supposed to be resourceful. They’ll deal with this if the adults don’t muck it up.

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