Pregnancy, rape and bestiality. What can we report?

I wasn’t even going to bother to gloat about the goody-two-shoes Republican Vice-Presidential candidate’s swelling family. Plenty of others have done it for me. But the kerfuffle did get me thinking about what’s fair game in science and reporting. And that led me on an unlikely path to rape and bestiality.

Yes, Sarah Palin gutted funding for pregnant teens at just about the same time her own daughter was romping around with boyfriend but without condom. Yes, she’s a staunch supporter of the abstinence-only education which is delivering a rise in births to US teenagers. And yes, when a personal story occasions sensible reflection on a potential president’s ability to make data-free policy decisions, then I think it’s fair game for press coverage, even if it involves a family member’s sex life.

Others question that; there’s been heated discussion about what it is and isn’t fair to report.

As I was considering these issues I was reminded of a story about a bestiality and rape that was reported with great glee a couple of months back. The victim was almost certainly a minor, the rapist was 16 times her body weight. Was there a discussion about protecting the victim’s privacy? Not a bit of it. Scientists photographed the encounter, and the pictures were widely published. As here:

Lust in a cold climate

Lust in a cold climate

The assault involved a seal and a penguin. Different species from us, much like politicians. That’s what made it fair game for reporting.

Over at Bound Not Gagged, Jill — a seasoned reporter on penguin prostitution — assumes that the victim will soon start turning tricks (because as we know, all sex workers were set on the path to harlotry by a dark past of child abuse and incest). So say the very people who also believe that telling teens to cross their legs is an effective way to prevent pregnancy. Heigh ho.

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