"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
This week, a lawyer with herpes spreads the love, and a young book store clerk ascends to the moral high-ground atop the horse he rode in on.
I am a lawyer. During a first date with another lawyer, we had sex, and I wore a condom. Days later, when I came down with a bad fever and couldn't determine the cause, she revealed that she had genital herpes. A judgeship will soon open up in her county, and she's a near lock for it. But if I report her lapse of sexual ethics, I doubt that the selection committee will pick her. Should I? — NAME WITHHELD
I'll allow it, but watch yourself, McCoy.
You should bury this woman, because the only thing worse than carrying an incurable STD is letting someone who has an incurable STD live their lives free of public humiliation and sabotaged opportunities. And of course you should teach her a lesson for having sex on the first date. You can be a lawyer, or you can be a whore, but you cannot be both. Am I right? I rest my case.
Incidentally, who tries to determine the cause of a fever to the point of forcing someone to admit they have genital herpes? That's kind of why people hate lawyers. When normal people get a fever they think, "this sucks, I have a fever," when you get a fever you think, "to whom should I direct the incurred litigation of this unexpected breach of bodily contract?" And then you're all, "I have a fever, how do you plead?" and they are all like "Guilty of herpes." Allegedly.
I will also say that I'm a little confused by the fact that you would like to make this harlot's sexual misfortune public, but you withheld your own name from this letter. It's like a whistle-blower who turns out to own the company. If the company was Herpes, Inc. Because you have herpes. Sustained.
I work for a large bookstore and often process mail orders from prison inmates. Most are in for assault or burglary — I sometimes research them online — and reading might in some way better them.
But I fight the feeling that sex offenders, particularly those who harm children, should rot in a cell with nothing but the walls to occupy them. May I decline to handle their orders, or must I treat all my prisoners the same? — L.T., Ohio
Aw, aren't you a sweetheart.
If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the power of an insufferable bookstore clerk apparently corrupts insufferably. I'm sure you would like to go back to the days when book store clerks ruled the world and you could legislate from the cashier, but unfortunately those days ended right around the time when who the fuck do you think you are?
Seriously, though, how creepy are you? You research them online? How One Hour Photo of you. I imagine you sitting at home watching To Catch a Predator with the lights off whispering "get him, Chris Hanson, fuck him, get him, fuck him in the butt, fuck him in jail" to nothing but the walls of your dilapidated studio apartment.
I think, though, that you probably should refuse to handle the orders of imprisoned sex offenders (put that copy of Bridge to Terabithia back on the shelf). I feel like this small act of moral opposition to a world you find distasteful is the only thing between you and