2 November 2013

No Fault Car Insurance - how it works in a real-life incident

Revised Nov 14, 2013; Updated Dec 6, 2013 (minor changes in wording Dec 7).

Just over a month ago I was involved in a collision, here in London. I say I was “involved,” but what I really mean is that I was sitting in my parked car minding my own business when another vehicle rammed into mine. The driver of the jeep was very gracious, admitting fault, taking pictures, exchanging information with me, and advising me to go to the Police Reporting Centre to report the collision. He wasn’t interested in taking down my name at first, until I suggested that he did. After all, wouldn’t his insurance company ask for it? I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but looking back, it was an indication of something, wasn’t it?

Reporting the accident

Within an hour, after having my xray taken (nothing to do with the accident), at the medical building outside which the collision took place, I was on my way to report the accident. Pictures of the car were taken, and I had a couple of forms to fill out as well as write out a statement telling what happened. I returned home, reported the accident to my insurance company and dealt with that over the next week or so. The car was fixed, the insurance paid for it, and that was that. I was a bit concerned that my insurance rates would go up, especially because I still had nothing in writing that said the accident was not my fault. I was assured that with no-fault insurance, it was my insurance company that would pay for the damages, although I could not get anything specific from them in writing at that early stage, within a few days of the accident. The adjuster assured me I was not considered to be at fault, and that the deductible would be waived, but when I requested something in writing, I received a cryptic letter in response, confirming nothing and in fact, implying that I might be at fault. See the letter on my website: Notwithstanding, I decided to let the matter go, as it seemed pointless to pursue the matter further with him.

Insurance company – 'fault'

A few days later I received another letter – a form – from my insurance company, informing me that a claim had been made “on my policy” and asking me to fill out the form and return the letter to them if no such loss had occurred.  This was intended to reduce fraud, and so naturally I returned the completed form, informing them that, as far as I knew, the accident had not been my fault and so there should not have been a claim “on my policy”. At the same time, I was now seriously contemplating the idea that the claim actually had been put through my collision coverage, resulting in a deductible that I ordinarily would have had to pay, but for some reason, according to my claims adjuster, had been waived.

A few weeks later, on Oct 30, my claims adjuster called, to make sure everything was fine with the service – getting the car fixed, etc. By that time I had thought that the incident was long over and everything was back to normal so I responded briefly, and that was that. 

Police investigation

Then, out of the blue, the following day, on Oct 31, I received a phone call, from an officer in the Traffic Unit of the London Police Service. To my surprise, the police officer informed me that he was conducting an investigation into the collision. It wasn’t only a surprise, it was a shock. Suddenly, everything made sense.  The insurance adjuster had been withholding something from me. I suspected that he must have known the situation was not resolved when he wrote the letter to me in that cryptic manner.

Apparently, the driver of the other vehicle, that had hit mine, had not reported his involvement in the accident to the Police Report Station. I recall there being some inconsistencies in the interaction with the driver, but that was 6 weeks ago now. It hadn’t seemed important at the time but now I wondered. 

So now, 5 weeks later, a Traffic Unit officer was investigating the incident.  I had not stopped to find witnesses to the event, although several people came in and out of the medical centre while we were standing there, the jeep’s bumper jammed into the wheel well of my front passenger side. There was a CCTV camera on the Pharmacy wall, and windows all across the various stores and offices. And he had no doubt been in one of those place himself. No other stores were easily accessible from the parking lot.

Police Reporting Centre

I want to mention the experience I had within the Reporting Centre, as I felt my case was not dealt with as expertly as one might expect. Mainly, I realized that the writing of my statement was being taken over by the gal whose job it was to gather all my information. To begin with, I was going to write that I had just come from the swimming pool, parked the car, and was brushing my damp hair before going into the building. She suggested I not write in such detail (added Nov 12). She had more experience than me, about what was required, so I was agreeable in having her direct me in the writing of it, until she made a slip, and  continued to describe what happened in a way I wouldn’t have myself. 

One was just an error, I’m sure, when she was saying what to write and she referred to the jeep as a pickup, obviously because, in showing her how the accident occurred, she used tiny toy cars to demonstrate, one being a pickup. A second glitch was her attempt to describe the scene when the two vehicles became tangled together. She used the word ‘attached’ as in “the two vehicles were attached”. I decided to write down that his vehicle’s bumper became jammed into the wheel well of my car as he backed out, which seemed to be more descriptive and more accurate than using the ‘no-fault’ description she had suggested. 

Not in my report, but relevant, is that the other driver's wrap-around bumper and possibly the wheel are what caused the damage. The jeep’s bumper was quite large, protruding farther than ordinary ones. It, or the bumper cover, ended up with a football-sized dent in the front of it, and what other damage there was I don't know. See http://www.carid.com/2013-jeep-wrangler-bumpers/  (added Dec 7).

Diagram from PRC self-report. The triangles
on each vehicle indicate the front end.

The space on the page was too small to contain everything I would have liked to say, and no additional page seemed to be available. When it came to the end of the space, that was it. I do want to emphasize this because I am sure I am not the first person who could have written a more explanatory statement had I been given more space, and the officer from the Traffic Unit seemed to think more information would have been advisable. Before leaving, I was given a copy of part of the form the two of us had completed, but not of the statement I had made, so when the police constable commented on it I was unable to respond properly, except to say that the girl behind the desk had encouraged me to write it a particular way.

I was na├»ve, for sure, in believing that the man whose jeep hit my car was genuine in his concern for my predicament, leaving me in a situation which could just mean my rates would be increased as well as my reputation damaged. I have no proof that the incident happened the way I said, and 6 weeks after the fact, who in that medical centre would remember anything that could help?  Would the bodyshop I took the car to have saved any paint chips from the parts of my car they replaced? And then, why did the Police Department wait so long to investigate?

Was the officer serious when he said, Could I identify the driver of the jeep from a lineup? Does he realize I know his name and he knows mine? His vehicle is worth 20 or 30 times as much as mine.  Yes, I could identify him if I saw him in a lineup. And could probably identify his voice too. Just have him repeat a few words – like Oh darn! Darn it! What a darn thing to have happen!

I agree. At first I had felt sorry for the man. To do such a thing would make a person angry at what they’d done. And his was such a nice new vehicle. And why was it that the girls in the x-ray department, where I went afterwards, whispered and acted as though this was a situation that might lead to something, providing the results to my test to me within a day instead of two weeks later, as is usually the case?

No fault insurance

Of course, when I started talking to the adjuster, I began to feel more concern for myself.  Having done all that I could to keep my old car in shape and running, I was now in a situation where my car might be considered a write-off, due to the black book prices. That resolved, the next surprise came when I discovered the investigation wasn’t complete, which to me explained the carefully worded letter from the adjuster when I requested confirmation that I was not at fault.  I was annoyed at the insurance adjuster for withholding from me the fact that the driver didn’t bother to have a Police Report filled out, or pics of the big round dent in his front driver’s side bumper taken, or to explain how he had damaged my car. I had assumed everything was finished with, but I had been wrong. Later, I was told that there might be little exchange of knowledge and facts between the police and the insurance company, each having their own situation to work out.

I am sure I still don’t know all the ins and outs of no-fault insurance, but I have learned quite a bit from going through this. I have been reassured by the insurance company that the problem of wording in communications between us has been resolved, and I am considered by them to be not at fault, and that something will be put in the mail to that effect.

The entire situation was handled by the insurance – my insurance – as though it didn't made a difference who was at fault. But the other half of this is the police investigation. So when I say the entire situation was handled by the insurance, that may not be entirely correct. If there’s a glitch, as, for example, the other driver does not report it, then it’s not altogether over.

Implications of not reporting the accident

It looks as though the driver of the other vehicle might only be charged with not reporting the accident, if that. I’m sure it wouldn’t take someone like him to realize within a minute or so that the damage done to my vehicle could be less than $1000 worth – considering the car itself is worth less than that. He could always claim that, and  no doubt the police officer would agree that he could hardly have thought otherwise.

So after a month of thinking the situation was resolved, now I discover no real investigation was done – no one questioned, no attempt to find a witness, and no responsibility taken by the driver of the jeep that rammed my car in the parking lot.

I'm just wondering . . . if I had been the one that hit the other car, would it have left the kind of damage that my car received? And wouldn't my car have had to move sideways to inflict that kind of damage onto its bumper? I hope this doesn't become a situation where I have to show I couldn't have been responsible for the damage.

What happens, under our legal system, if the driver of the jeep pleads not guilty to leaving the scene, for whatever reason. If he goes to court over this, and there is not enough evidence to convict him, who will take responsibility for the accident?

Additional notes – added Dec 6

Court case – failing to report

The police constable, calling me 6 weeks less a day after the day the collision occurred, had commented on the lack of detail in my official hand-written statement that I had provided at the Police Reporting Centre.  When he called I did not have a copy of it to refer to as I had not been given one at the PRC so a few days later I did go to the Police Station to pick up one, as well as try to find out more about the possibility of getting this matter sorted out properly. As it stands, it’s likely to be me left holding the bag. I have learned that the case is going before the judge, that the driver has been charged with failing to report an accident to the Police Reporting Centre.  I wouldn’t like to see the man charged with the offence being the only one allowed to speak. And I would appreciate the opportunity of explaining more about the incident.

I have, since then, in fact today, been back to both the Police Reporting Centre and the Police Station, to draw their attention to errors. The first error, if that’s what it was, was made by me when I filled out the accident report form at the PRC. I was still under the impression, at that moment, that the other driver had been cooperating with me and would be along shortly, and admit to being at fault. So when he had informed me, while I was checking out his driver’s licence at the scene, that the address on it was not his current address, I took his word for it, crossing it out and referring to his ownership details for his address. And it was this address that I gave as “his address” when asked at the PRC. There was no space for two addresses, as drivers are supposed to have only one official address, so it was a non issue, as far as filling out the form was concerned. The clerk helping me also took for granted that if the driver had said that first address was an old one, then it must have been.

Also, a minor adjustment was needed of the diagram of the vehicles on the constable’s report, as it didn’t depict accurately the position of the two vehicles when one hit the other. The drawing he made of the incident was not the same as the drawing on my report of the accident, made at the PRC.  So, that I did, using a marker for emphasis, changing on the sketch the direction the jeep was headed as it backed out - not this way but that way. So this would be new information for the court when he appears.

I decided to set the matter straight at the PRC, and report the other driver’s original address as it appeared on his driver’s licence. From there I went to the Police Station, to leave for the constable in charge of the incident a copy of his report, with the correction/addition of the additional address, in case he was having difficulty locating the man, and the change in the sketch of the cars on the official police report.


Does it make any difference whether he is named as the one responsible? Yes, I think so, otherwise it is simply me left with no explanation of how the damage to my car occurred. There are two parts to this. One is the  initial settlement of the claim by the insurance company, which in this case, resulted in my being declared fault-free. But if the other driver gets off, then, under our adversarial legal system, it leaves the situation as having no one at fault. If he declares he wasn’t there at all that day, at the parking lot in the medical centre, is anyone going to investigate the truth of that?  Would the various health departments in the medical centre be checked to see if he had filled a prescription that day, or had an xray or blood test, or visited a doctor there?  It wouldn’t be that hard to check, though it has to be someone with the proper authority to do so, to ask questions about the person by that name.

Handwritten statement

One further issue is the lack of space for writing details about the accident. By now, my handwritten statement would have been typed up, ready for the judge, who  might not realize there had not been enough room on the form to write down all that I would have liked to.

On measuring the space allowed for my statement (after correcting for the resized version I received a copy of) I found it came out to just over 9 square inches, which for ease of understanding I will reshape into a space 4.5 “ wide x 2 “ high, the size of a business card plus an extra inch in width. To visualize it more clearly, take a business card, put it on a piece of paper and use it to draw a rectangle. Then add one inch to the width, to 4.5 “. If I type out my statement, it takes up just under 4 lines, Times New Roman font, size 12, on a standard letter-size page.  If you have never seen this Self Reporting Collision Report form before, that is the amount of space you would have to write the details of an accident.

This form is called a Self Reporting Collision Report. It is intended that the person reporting the accident provide some of the information to the clerk, who fills in some of the blanks, while other parts of the form are to be completed by the person him or herself. The handwritten statement is also to be completed by that same person. That might be difficult for someone doing it for the first time, not knowing what was required and what not to bother stating, if it seemed obvious.

I would advise anyone faced with writing the statement out to make sure it reads as it happened, and that the facts are included, regardless of whether there is a proper space to put them. If you assume that the person who hit your vehicle will do the right thing and take responsibility, you may find out otherwise. In these days of identity theft, one never knows, but if the driver locates the required documentation with no problem, even though the address may not be current on one of them, plus the fact he was coming out of a medical centre which places a focus on his reason to legitimately be there, one could expect that he was who he said he was. 

Why I am writing about this incident 

There are websites devoted to enabling violators of traffic laws to avoid being penalized for their misdeeds.  But what is there to help the persons involved who become ‘collateral damage’?  My hope is that readers of my story can learn from it and thus take precautions if they are involved in a collision, to achieve the proper outcome.

I am not writing this to intentionally cause problems for the other driver, but to draw attention to my side of the story, including the implications of having damage done to my car while no person is seen to be legally “at fault,”despite my naming the person responsible for the incident outside the public medical building and collecting his details, as required. If I have done everything I needed to, as required, I should be able to feel satisfied that justice will be done. 

On another level . . . . 

The legal system is based on the idea of opposites, as are most ways of thinking in society. There is a winner and a loser, unless one can get mediation and find a middle ground.  However, in my life, justice has usually been one-sided. One person is left being made responsible for the incident, while the other walks away. Usually, this depends on which one has the most power – the wider social network, the most potential in life, the ability to get others on his/her side. So sometimes truth is not the issue at all. As with other legal cases that I have written about on my blog, outcomes may not always seem fair, even if it seems obvious to most people what the result should be, and despite legitimate exceptions.

In some ways, the legal system works against people, making them oppose one another in court, instead of considering alternative solutions that suit both parties. I don’t want to be left thinking to myself, We are left with no one taking responsibility for this incident, despite the fact I saw him do it and he knows he did it. If he gets off would it be because someone didn’t do their job properly, and they don’t care about that? 

14 April 2013

Anne Kneale and Bill Mates: age, gender, and sexual exploitation

Summary: added June 7, 2013, revised June 10 and 12, and Aug 7, 2013:

Anne Kneale was traumatized, and felt used by someone she thought was a friend. She wanted to protect her sister, whom Bill Mates had approached 3 years or so after the sexual encounter in Africa. The trouble was, in this era of 'hook-up culture,' that Mates might not have known she hadn't liked it, because she never said otherwise. She never told him, not even when he approached her sister to have lunch. Even then, she didn't tell him to lay off her sister, nor did she warn her sister. Under the guidance of her therapist she went to the police. By this time, if not before, she would have realized that Mates had broken some rule of conduct if not the law itself by having sex with her before age 18, as someone who, officially, was in a position of authority over her while on the trip to Africa. But the meaning and significance of their sexual encounter would have been something apart from that, something beyond the law - not above it, but outside it. Sex has a tendency to do that to some women, even when it's by mutual consent, leaving them with feelings they may not understand. Society has led women to feel guilt, or emotional attachment, or sometimes powerless to the point of being submissive.

In this case, the idea of it being considered mutually consensual sex was not possible under the law, since he was the one who had been granted authority to make decisions, and who had the material power to make things happen. If Anne was reluctant to question his authority when it came to having sex, we don’t know. If she feared him - or whether she trusted his judgement - we don’t know. If she felt powerless to resist, we don’t know. Was she afraid of the very real power he held over her, to write good references, to recommend her for the kind of educational opportunities she wanted?  Would she have received them from him if she had rejected him sexually?

If it was his power over her that was the reason she stayed silent when he pressured her into having sex, then the cut-off line of age 18 is simply an arbitrary point imposed by the legal system. It can happen at any age, and does, between anyone who has power over the other, or access to hard-to-get resources. Bosses, doctors, film producers and husbands have all been known to use their power to get what they want. Would it have helped Anne if she had taken an assertiveness training course before going to Africa as a ‘high-achieving’ teen? Did it help me at midlife to learn how to say ‘no’ to those powerful men and the women who supported them? See the story of my life.

The fact Mates was many years older than Anne is something that probably leaves some people saying to themselves “Wow.”  He was 52, she was almost 18, but not quite. Such relationships do happen in our society, but usually, people might say, they happen when the young woman chooses to have one. But if they are doing so in order to gain something they need – money, a career, or a hike in social status, is it a real choice? On the other hand, aren’t there also situations in which a younger woman can truly fall in love with a much older man, especially in society today where there are so many more diverse kinds of relationships? Anne and Bill were close. But the sex they had may not have reflected that closeness for her – a bad experience that got worse the longer she thought about it and the more she listened to others.
[Added June 12]

At university, under the influence of feminism, Anne would have learned that she shouldn't have had to feel the way she had, and that if she did feel emotionally unsettled it was because someone did something to her to make her feel that way, because she had been 'sexually exploited.' When she told her therapist about Mates approaching her sister, the therapist suggested she contact the police to lay the charge of 'sexual exploitation' against him. It would be unlikely that anyone would ask her what she could have done differently. For feminists, that would be the same as 'blaming' her. Instead, recognition of Anne's 'rights' would be the focus, but not any responsibility on her part for what happened. Anne would have heard the feminist viewpoint on all this, which is that she can wear anything, or say anything, and it was still her right not just 'not to be raped' but also 'not to be seen as wanting sex,' even if in his eyes that's how she came across, as agreeable to sex. How he felt or what he thought wouldn't have been her responsibility, according to feminism. She was innocent, her sexual power completely ignored in all of this; her reputation would remain intact. Under the law, he was guilty, and that's what matters in our society.

The case was adjourned to June 20, 2013 on May 10, 2013, in London, Ontario. Case adjourned to Aug 7, 2013.

On Aug 7, 2013, Bill Mates received a one-year sentence (William Mates sentenced to one year for sexual exploitation, by Brent Boles, Aug 7, 2013).


Added May 22, 2013 – paragraphs in sections ‘Feminism,’ ‘Beyond
                                       the Law,’ and ‘Conclusion.’
Added May 19, 2013 – 2 adjustments in ‘Justice and Trust’ and ‘Betrayal’.
See also, response to comment:
Added Apr 25, 2013 – additional article. See end of Conclusions.

This story of questionable consent comes out of Ingersoll, Ontario. The situation started several years ago, the accused, Bill Mates, now being 59 years of age, the complainant, 23. In July, 2007, when the sexual incident took place, she was 17, a month short of her 18th birthday, while he would have been about 52 years of age. The result of this error in judgement was a charge against an older, more experienced man, Bill Mates, of sexual exploitation of the young woman. Not rape, not sexual assault. He was charged with sexual exploitation, and convicted of the crime.

The age difference was one factor that resulted in this being called ‘exploitation.’ In this case, the girl was in the care of Bill Mates, one of sixteen young people that he and two other adults took to Africa as part of a Duke of Edinburgh awards program for high-achieving youth (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013).  An older man having sexual intercourse with a teenage girl simply isn’t appropriate, there being a difference in sexual experience and knowing how to respond to them, and sometimes, at least in the past, girls may have been raised to see an older man as a figure of authority – a father figure – a ‘patriarch,’ and more inclined to submit to his judgement (for more, see ‘Child sexual exploitation and the age of consent by Katherine Covell, Sept 6, 2007. See alternate link in list of references).

If a man is older, and practiced in his ways of seduction, of catching a girl off-guard, can she be expected to be able to counteract that, to fight back verbally or physically, or say no to his advances? And if the man is in charge of her well-being while she is on a trip like that, would she want to risk saying no, or even to run away, taking even further risk? But as for the betrayal aspect of this, it’s part of what all girls learn while growing up.

Becoming a woman

Many women grow up having sexualized encounters (not necessarily sexual intercourse) with the opposite sex. Growing into the teen years, even the babyboomers – rumoured to be repressed or prudish – could not have been without sexual curiosity, for both genders. Isn’t this part of how girls learn how to become women? So says Simone de Beauvoir (see Felicity Joseph’s ‘Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment,’ 2008). Contary to what people might think, girls do have to learn how to be women. They aren’t born knowing how. In today’s world, there are increasingly more laws, and social norms, about how and when that can start to happen.

Women can recover their lives, following such an incident that came about unexpectedly, even though the experience may influence their choices in the future, and their ability to trust. I am thinking of Anne Kneale, age 23 and now in med school after having experienced a betrayal of trust. In the case of the teenage foster daughter of Howard Smith, however, it seems the journey has been especially difficult. Now 50, she has been though ordeals related to the abuse all her life. Thirty years later, however, even though her tormenter received only house arrest and probation, she has finally received validation of her experience (Sometimes judges just don’t get how to handle child sexual assaults, by Christie Blatchford, Apr 5, 2013).

In the Second Sex, writes Felicity Joseph, “Here de Beauvoir raises the core question of female embodiment: Are the supposed disadvantages of the female body actual disadvantages which exist objectively in all societies, or are they merely judged to be disadvantages by our society? (Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment, by Felicity Joseph, 2008).

Bill Mates wanted Anne Kneale’s body, even though he was in a position of trust over her and should have known better. But was the incident so terrible that she saw him as a “poisonous influence?” (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013). Was the emotional pain that Ms Kneale felt caused by him doing what he did, or more by the way she thought about it afterwards, and later on, at university, when she heard about her ‘rights’ as a woman?

In the piece about de Beauvoir, sexual exploitation or assault are not mentioned specifically, though Felicity Joseph does say this, about sexual intercourse:

"Ultimately, is it the biological penetration itself which causes the distress, or is it the culturally-engineered ignorance of young women? Joseph writes that de Beauvoir thinks the biological facts need not be traumatic: the distress is due to a lack of generosity in the man ’s sexual behaviour, combined with the woman’s fear of being objectified before an aggressive sexual gaze" (Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment, by Felicity Joseph, 2008).

This may not apply to the situation of the young Anne Kneale, whose distress was mainly through the betrayal rather than the sex itself, as I understand it. But betrayal is something most women have to learn to deal with, one way or another. One doesn’t have to be far away in Africa to be afraid to speak up in such a situation.


Justice can be served, even if years after the fact. But in another way, after time has moved on, it seems that passing judgement on a person and the crime they committed is one thing and punishing that person is another. Christie Blatchford would like to see a harsher sentence than house arrest for sexual incidents committed many years earlier by Howard Smith against his 15 year old foster daughter, another situation involving a man in a position of trust (Sometimes judges just don’t get how to handle child sexual assaults, by Christie Blatchford, Apr 5, 2013). That case was about sexual assault not sexual exploitation, but I question the need to punish someone, using a law-based schedule of sentencing, who might not even be the same person that far down the road. Then it really does become a matter of an eye for an eye, revenge rather than justice, this much farther on. What would justice look like, in such cases, or is it that people just don’t change?

What I see here is a young woman who has gained some credibility in her life through being a medical student at Western University, and who is being heard when she tells about what happened to her. Meanwhile, other young women who run into the same kind of behaviour may not ever have the opportunity to speak out, and if they do, may not be listened to. I realize we are supposed to look at this as well-deserved justice for Anne Kneale, and a step forward for women, but it seems to me it will end up in men being ever more careful in the future who they attempt to have sex with.

A girl with no strong family network, such as the foster daughter of Howard Smith, will still be vulnerable, as will girls who don’t end up in med school but for unknown reasons aren’t seen as credible or worth bothering about. Kneale appears to be doing all woman a favour but I wonder about that. As stated in a recent newspaper,

“Kneale decided to reveal her identity ‘out of concern that there may be other victims and out of concern with the predatory way that Bill acted.’ … ‘I wanted to it all to come out – for him to be seen for who he was,’ she said” (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, By Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013).

Once in a while a man is caught and punished, in part as a warning to others, but the question is, Is Bill Mates is still the same kind of person that he was. Sometimes, after a man has thought about it, he might see that he made a mistake even though he was never caught and punished. Or did he hold the belief, and still does, that men have the right to pursue sex wherever they can get it and they won’t get punished. Did he think he could get away with it or did he not even think? Especially after several years have passed, in the case of Bill Mates, one has to wonder what kind of punishment, or justice, would be appropriate.

This case only came to the attention of the police in 2010, three years after it happened (Sexual exploitation charge: Accused led youth trip, by Heather Rivers, July 4, 2011). Mr Mates had already lost his job over the incident by the time the police got into the picture, after his girlfriend reported it to his employer when he told her at the time (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013).

Added May 19, 2013 – the job Mates lost at the time was the one with the Duke of Edinburgh awards program (Ingersoll Didn't Fire Mates over Charge, 104.7 Heart FM, Mar 2013).

  The event that brought this to mind again for Anne Kneale was that her sister was about to meet up with Mr Mates, at his request. The age of this sister wasn’t mentioned, or if it was her older sister, the one already in the program with Mates, before she joined up (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013). Incidents such as this are likely to bring up past memories, and if the sister planning to meet Bill Mates was legally still a child, then there was every reason to report the 2007 incident that occurred with Anne Kneale. But the age of the sister was not given in the articles I read.

Age and age difference

The age difference, between Mates and Anne Kneale, and also between Howard Smith and his foster daughter, is one of the main issues, and not just the age of the young women at the time of the incidents. Otherwise, it would be the kind of situation that any young woman could find herself in, while growing up. There is an age at which such relationships are seen as legal, if not altogether socially acceptable, and neither of these cases seem to fall within the category of ‘legal.’ That age is 18, according to this brief extract about Canada’s laws – 153. Sexual exploitation, YourLaws.ca. Thus Anne Kneale was still under that age limit and not to be approached sexually by men outside her age range. The unnamed foster daughter in the other case was only 15 (see ‘Sometimes judges just don’t get how to handle child sexual assaults,’ by Christie Blatchford, Apr 5, 2013).

Since I am unfamiliar with changes in the laws and other organizations’ take on them, I have to assume the information at ‘153. Sexual exploitation, YourLaws.ca’is fairly recent, but is not covered within the same laws under ‘Child’s Rights Approach’ on the CCRC website, which mentions the legal age for sex and the allowed age difference (see Child sexual exploitation and the age of consent, by Katherine Covell, Sept 6, 2007. See alternate link in list of resources).

Trust and betrayal

Although age and the age difference are important factors in the case of Anne Kneale and Bill Mates, the third factor in the case of sexual exploitation laid against him is the fiduciary nature of the relationship, one of trust between a young charge and her mentor, especially considering that she was in a foreign country, in his charge, when the incident happened.

The fact that Ms Kneale felt betrayed is not so out of the ordinary, even considering that the man accused of the act was in a position of trust. In everyday life, women encounter men – or women – in whom they put their trust, such as academic supervisors or professors, and colleagues or bosses, not to mention medical professionals and husbands. But it must have been because of her age, the age difference, and the mentoring relationship, that it was determined that she had been ‘sexually exploited,’ under the law.

As I understand it, some of the laws that take into consideration age, age difference and relationships of trust formed with vulnerable people have been introduced because of changing attitudes towards disabled people, girls drawn into internet relationships, and increased awareness of trafficking of girls and women.

Added May 19, 2013: the law against sexual exploitation in relationships of trust came into existence in 1998 (Parliament of Canada Bill C-22, by Robin MacKay, Feb 21, 2007).

Even though Ms Kneale was considered to have been ‘sexually exploited’ under the law, I can’t help think that she doesn’t appear to have been, in the way we usually think of it. If she hadn’t liked Bill Mates, hadn’t enjoyed his company and sharing secrets, and his attention, she might have been able to let him know sooner that she wasn’t interested sexually, and might have been able to ward off any serious attempts by him to have sex. This kind of predatory behaviour isn’t out of character for a man, even for one who is in a position of trust – or older. She was under his care in a foreign country; however, she was with someone with whom she had developed a friendly relationship. He had no right to do what he did, but if such a friendly casualness between a charge and her mentor had not been permitted to continue, would it have been as likely to become sexualized?

Ms Kneale spoke of Mr Mates decision to plead guilty, once it all came to light and he was charged with sexual exploitation. The article states that he “owned up to the pain he caused” as though he knew he had caused her pain and cared. Kneale herself thought that he probably didn’t mean it but said that as it was the best course of action rather than plead not guilty. Had he done that, he would have appeared as being unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. In my experience, people who have done me harm sometimes do express regret for their actions, usually not publically, and usually not saying specifically what went wrong, but for the most part I haven’t seen that translate to making things right, in ways that would make a positive difference.

The article states, “ ‘Up until now,’ she said, ‘he had shown no regard for my state of mind’.” (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013). But on the other hand, she hasn’t shown any regard for his state of mind.

I am wondering what qualities a ‘high achiever’ for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program is expected to have. On the website, it states that “The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was founded by His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, to encourage personal development and community involvement for young people” (Philosophy and Operational Principles, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award website, 2013).

It’s not difficult to see that one of the mentors in charge of the month-long trip abroad was lacking in personal integrity, but should all the responsibility be placed on this one man, or were there decisions made prior to the trip that could have avoided this kind of trouble. Are the young people provided with the information they needed, and did they have the character traits that would enable them to handle difficult situations. We’re not talking about a disabled person here, or a vulnerable girl being sold into slavery. We’re talking about a teenage girl travelling to a foreign country on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program, having a good time with her supervisor. It went too far, and it looks as if someone had to be blamed, even though mistakes were made throughout the process.

Miscommunication and exploitation – sending the wrong signals

Women can often feel close to a man, as a friend or mentor, only to have him see the friendship as something else – guided by his hormones, his psyche, and by social conditioning. A criminal justice website from Scotland explains under the heading Sexual Offences how they understand the concept of consent:

"This approach to consent presumes that there is a generally agreed understanding of when someone is consenting to sex and when they are not. However, the Commission points out that men and women tend to adopt different perspectives of sexual interaction. For example, what for a woman is simply friendly behaviour can be interpreted by men as sexual flirtation. Additionally, failing to provide a definition of consent can allow an accused to exploit the vagueness and uncertainty this creates by persuading a jury that, although the complainer at trial says she did not consent, her behaviour at the time, for example being drunk or wearing revealing clothing, suggested otherwise. This can appeal to inappropriate social perspectives of the victim and the victim's role in the offence (4), drawing attention away from the conduct of the accused" (Making Sense of Rape and Other Sexual Offences, by Fiona Southward, Apr 26, 2006).

The problem in this case of Bill Mates and Anne Kneale was that she was underage, and with a much older man who was supposed to have her best interests at heart, while in a foreign country. Due to her youthfulness and inexperience, I think, she was viewed as having been exploited by the older man. But isn’t this only part of the story?

Men can be exploited too, as sex can sometimes be a bargaining chip for women. Sometimes, when a girl has sex with a man, she may be unaware that she benefits from that, for being the kind of woman that men approve of. While young, women participate in sex as a normal human activity, one could say – and in so doing, perpetuate the values and customs of society, and the promise of a next generation. Only in saying ‘no’ might they come to see the value of sex in society. If all women who had unwanted or coerced sex saw themselves as exploited the world would seem a dangerous place indeed.

I know what it’s like to be involved in sexualized incidents, and sometimes with boys/men I would then encounter in my daily life. On occasion, I tried to tell about the incidents but was silenced, and then usually blamed. But we learn to live with it. It isn’t always retribution that women want, perhaps just to have some understanding, or to have the person out of our life, depending on the circumstances. After a while, even getting understanding might not be an aim. I don’t see that retribution is always the answer, either. Men are hardwired, depending on personal characteristics, to seek sex. To me, trying to understand why they did what they did has been something that I can do, and I can write about. I write about such situations from both perspectives. But that’s what people do – find meaning in the bad things that happen.

I don’t know how good young women are at putting to use the word ‘no’ when interpersonal social relationships become sexualized. I was able to extricate myself from unwanted sexual encounters. But sometimes it seemed as though I was punished for doing so. I wonder whether having sex first and then laying a complaint only much later, if at all, is how some students are able to move forward in their lives and careers. Not having sex, a tactic feminist activists promote for those who don’t want to, seems to me to be a self-defeating practice and attitude to have. It doesn’t lead to one being ‘liked’, which I am told is how a university might do their hiring. For more on this, see my life story, revised this year, 2013, from being a summary of my life to an in-depth narrative including some sociohistorical analysis (Story of my life, by Sue McPherson, 2013).

Saying ‘no’ to sex is an area of interpersonal relationships or intimacy that is fraught with misunderstandings and hurt feelings on both sides. It seems to me it is fairly normal for some men with power (the prof, the boss), to seek sexual relations with like-minded women. In those situations, sending the wrong signals can have disastrous results. The fact that women are not like men, certainly not like-minded or the same hormonally when it comes to sex, sometimes seems to escape them – both men and women. It seems there were clues that problems might be looming, as mentioned in this article about the case, as follows:

“Once, Mates told her she “looked like a Bond girl” when he saw her walking out of the ocean wearing a bikini. He said he was “horny” and that it was difficult to be away from home” (Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom, by Jane Sims, Mar 19, 2013).

Looking back, I’m sure she could see the signs now, but at the time, it must not have occurred to her what was coming. I’m not placing blame on the young woman. But this is how men act, even men with girls young enough to be their daughters. It doesn’t make it right what he did, but it is an explanation for how it might have come about (Maybe He’s a Narcissistic Jerk, by Richard Friedman, Jan 15, 2008).

Testosterone and midlife change

The naturalness of male hormones is not an acceptable legal defence, though I don’t see why hormonally driven behavior (upheld by social conditioning) can’t be seen as an explanation for men’s behaviour, even if not a legal one. The previous popularity of women using PMS as a legal defense has waned, as it was thought that attributing women’s mood swings to their menstrual cycle was not supported by the evidence, according to Dr Sarah Romans (PMS and the Wandering Womb, by James Hamblin, Oct 16, 2012). Besides that, it is a political issue for feminists, however, as the connection between women’s reproductive system and their ability to function well is seen as harmful for women’s advancement in the workplace. So although in the 80s it was seen as possibly a useful defence for the future, that may not be a possiblity for the future (Legal implications of premenstrual syndrome: a Canadian perspective, by E. Meehan, K. MacRae, Sept 15, 1986).

The difference between men’s hormones and women’s is that women are sometimes said to have negative moods or “low moods” that are associated with pre-menstrual syndrome, not the kind of feelings most men have, surely, on a day-to-day basis, and not considered to be ‘negative’. Perhaps the same kind of “low moods” – angry or upset - that some girls are said to experience pre-menstrually are similar to those some men have when they go beyond the usual persuasive attempts to get someone to have sex with them. Thus, women’s disfunctional hormones, when used as a defence (see Oddly legal defences, by Amber Hildebrandt, June 22, 2009) weren’t on the same level as men’s which are considered normal unless the man is overly aggressive or there were other circumstances. By nature, men seek out sexual partners, not to rape, or to abuse, but to have sex with.

In this way, I would conclude that men’s hormonal swings are not the same as women’s and cannot be compared and seen to be the same as women’s. But can they be seen as a defence? I think that depends on the incident, and any history of similar incidents in the man’s life, as well as the circumstances in which it happens.

I would think that, rather than ignore the normal hormonal effects on sexual behaviour or the unusual effects on the behaviour or moods of women, in the effort to maintain the illusion of sameness, that examining how hormones affect each gender would make using both malfunctioning and normal hormones as a legal defence a possibility. And yet, if something is ‘normal’ and not seen as pathological, it isn’t seen as a possible reason for committing an act that goes against society’s laws. It’s as though we are supposed to pretend our society is a natural phenomenon and not that it has been socially constructed and requires people to obey rules and laws that go against human nature.

If a man were going through a midlife crisis, questioning his purpose here in this world as he grows older, at the same time possibly noticing physical changes affecting his sense of his own masculinity, might that be seen as motive for unreasonable behaviour or seeking a change in life? (The Male Midlife Crisis, by Harold Cohen, 2007). The same could be said of women going through menopause, though some of their concerns would no doubt be very different (Menopause and Aging Femininity, by Sue McPherson, 2003). Men seek out sex – for fun, as a means for stress relief, or as a response to a crisis of masculinity or midlife aging, or perhaps a questioning of the very meaning of their own life up to this point. Add to that male hormones.


Feminists have been known to ask for nothing less than zero tolerance when it comes to men’s bad behaviour. But considering the circumstances of some cases, one has to question whether this is reasonable.

A recent feminist concern has been whether women should be able to wear whatever they like, whenever they like. They claim that it doesn’t matter what a girl or woman wears, that a man should not take that as an invitation. If a woman is wearing sexy clothing, it doesn’t mean that she is trying to look sexy for him, or for anybody. Women are to be looked at and appreciated, not stared at or coerced into having sex.

Regardless of what feminists write about sexual assault or exploitation, about the need for women to learn how to say ‘no,’ the fact is that saying ‘no,’ or walking away doesn’t have the same impact on a judge or a reading public as actually having unwanted sex and then complaining about it.

It is usually those who submit unwillingly, or who have obviously suffered violence, who are seen as having undergone trauma or been victimized, while the woman who manages to escape an unwanted sexual situation isn’t as likely to be seen as being victimized, even though it may result in loss of career or wreak emotional havoc. This phenomenon is due to situations that are physically violent or sexual or larger than life being easier to visualize and having a greater impact on the reader than the impact left by hearing about a psychological or emotional threat.

Attributing some aspects of male behaviour to hormones, namely, testosterone, wouldn’t be considered a possibility by feminists, probably, due to their efforts to separate women’s emotional mood swings from anything to do with their reproductive system. Menopause was once seen as a cause for the incarceration of women in mental hospitals, and more recently pms (pre-menstrual syndrome) has been used as a legal defence, though it has fallen out of favour (On Mirror and Gavels: A Chronicle of How Menopause Was Used as a Legal Defense Against Women, by Phyllis T. Bookspan, Maxine Kline, 1999).

Feminists like to talk of ‘rape culture.’ ‘Leading him on’ and getting blamed for it is one 2-dimensional thought that feminists and now women in general are defensive about. Women might say they have been blamed because they ‘led him on,’ though what counts for ‘leading a man on’ might be as little as a smile or being one’s usual self, or to be more impactful, dressing provocatively, or expressing oneself sexually using body language or verbal flirtatiousness. It doesn’t mean that women are to blame for negative consequences such as unwanted sex.  But it could happen that they did lead the man on, not realizing that that’s what they were doing – leading him on to expect sex. And if that happens, if the young woman doesn’t say ‘no,’ then the man might not realize that she didn’t want sex.  

On the other hand, sexuality is more complicated than that. Half a century ago, in a more traditional society, women weren’t encouraged to be as overtly sexual (in clothing, manner) as they are today, another reason being the lack of the Pill, both realistic reasons why casual sex wasn’t as popular then. The Woodstock generation of the sixties had an influence on society, but it surely took a long time to reach people in every small town, instilled with the values of a patriarchal society and its obedient wives and children.

Finding sexual partners might have been more difficult for men, as young women wouldn’t have been as willing as they are in this era of sexual ‘liberation,’ of ‘hookup culture’. Even if we describe this era as one in which women now have the financial independence and freedom to make choices about their sexual partners, the result is the same. This freedom, under the guise of being a woman’s right, without need for responsibility, can be what leads to misunderstandings. 

Added  May 22, 2013

Beyond the law (added May 22, 2013)

In the case of Anne Kneale and Bill Mates, it was several years later that he made arrangements to meet her sister for lunch – a purely innocent activivity taken alone, but one that caused Anne Kneale concern. How do we know that he even realized, at that point of setting up a lunch date, that Anne had not enjoyed their sexual encounter as much as he had. Perhaps he was expecting something similar from another member of her family, but if no one pointed out to him that he was mistaken the first time around, how would he know that his approach was not wanted?

Bill Mates would have realized he had broken a law (no sex with someone age 16 to 18 with whom he was in a relationship of trust & authority), but is that law a good law? In hookup culture, and in a society in which young women often interact with their elders in a mutual fashion, as though they were equals, and not in a way in which one was the ‘authority,’ how unusual was it for two people of two different generations to have a forbidden sexual encounter, and to think only later (separately) about the significance of it.  


When it comes to sex, men and women don’t think alike. If there’s one main aspect of our society that’s going to cause misunderstandings and hurt feelings, it’s sex. All this happens within a setting understood through our traditional ideals from the past, while passing into postmodernity, in which masculinity and femininity are in a state of flux. Many men no longer have the power they once had. But many women do. Sorting out who has the real power and who is getting harmed - who is exploiting who - can be difficult.

The case of Anne Kneale vs Bill Mates informs men, perhaps unintentionally, that they can be caught out at any time – and they’d better watch their step. If they have to pick on anyone, pick on girls without the families and social network – the backing – to fight back. Thus, severe punishment may not be the answer if what one wants is a more compassionate and understanding society.

More thought on the place of hormones in these situations might be helpful, not as a legal defence but so that normal male behaviour isn’t seen as vile as it is often made out to be. Differences matter when it comes to sex between men and women.

It makes it easier, once the young woman Anne Kneale becomes a med student, to allow this case to come to court. She has the credibility, and can be seen to be what her future promised, those few years back, when she travelled abroad with other young people and their mentors. And she has the power to be heard. But I question the ethics of making one person take responsibility for all that happened.

What Bill Mates did was wrong, legally. I happen to think he’s not the only one who made errors of judgment or took a lax attitude towards what should have been a memorable trip abroad for ‘high achievers’.

Laws are continually being made (and sometimes cast out in favour of new ones) because the old ones don’t work any more. As attitudes towards authority change in our society, with social class being the great equalizer, people from different age cohorts, races or nationalities, genders, or occupations, interact as equals.  I don’t imagine that Bill Mates had the kind of authority over Anne Kneale that most father figures would have had 50 years ago, or that a stranger would have had acting as chaperone on that trip. He held the train tickets, and paid for the hotels, but in other ways, he interacted as one of them, not as superior to and aloof from them, and not intentionally as a threat to their well-being. [Added May 22, 2013]

Added Apr 25, 2013 (updated Apr 26)

In a recent discussion following the article about the recent SlutWalk in London, questions concerning consent, rights, and responsibilities were raised (London SlutWalk sees record turnout, by Dave De Vries, Apr 21, 2013). In my last comment there, I submitted URLS for two relevant pieces from my blog that deal with the issues of consent and the exchange of sex for better grades at university.  I would like to draw readers' attention these blog pieces, as they could provide beneficial reading material for young people planning trips abroad where they might find themselves facing possible harm, due to misunderstandings and miscommunication.

The London Slut Walk - The 'S' word should be SEX, not slut April 8, 2011
Sex for grades in universities Jan 22, 2010

Reference List

153. Sexual exploitation
retrieved Apr 11, 2013

Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment
By Felicity Joseph
Philosophy Now

Child sexual exploitation and the age of consent
By Katherine Covell
Sept 7, 2006 [note correction of date of earlier listing of this article here]
Canadian Children's Rights Centre
Retrieved Apr 10, 2013

Former Ingersoll Economic officer Bill Mates pleads guilty to sexual exploitation in London courtroom
By Jane Sims
London Free Press
Mar 19, 2013

Ingersoll Didn't Fire Mates over Charge
104.7 Heart FM
Breaking Local News Archives for March 2013
Posted About Two Months Ago
Retr. May 13 2013

Legal implications of premenstrual syndrome: a Canadian perspective
By E. Meehan, K. MacRae
CMAJ, vol. 135 no. 6
Sept 15, 1986
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1491301/ or
retrieved Apr 10, 2013

London SlutWalk sees record turnout
By Dave De Vries
Metro News – London area
Apr 21, 2013, updated 22nd
http://metronews.ca/news/london/642307/london-slutwalk-sees-record-turnout /

Making Sense of Rape and Other Sexual Offences
By Fiona Southward
Criminal Justice Scotland
Apr 26, 2006
Retrieved Apr 12, 2013

Maybe He’s a Narcissistic Jerk
By Richard A Friedman, M.D.
NY Times
Jan 15, 2008

The Male Midlife Crisis
By Harold Cohen
Psych Central

Menopause and Aging Femininity
By Sue McPherson
S A McPherson website
If using Google or Firefox, save the download, and access to file will appear in lower left-hand corner. Internet Explorer still allows automatic access.

Oddly legal defences
By Amber Hildebrandt
CBC News
June 22, 2009

On Mirror and Gavels: A Chronicle of How Menopause Was Used as a Legal Defense Against Women
By Phyllis T. Bookspan, Maxine Kline
Indiana Law Review Vol 32, No 4, pp 1267 – 1318

Parliament of Canada Bill C-22
Prepared by: Robin MacKay, Law and Government Division
Feb 21, 2007, Revised Aug 2, 2007
Retr May 16, 2013

Philosophy and Operational Principles
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award website
retrieved Apr 13, 2013

PMS and the Wandering Womb
By James Hamblin
Atlantic Monthly
Oct 16, 2012

Sexual exploitation charge: Accused led youth trip
By Heather Rivers
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
July 4, 2011

Sometimes judges just don’t get how to handle child sexual assaults
By Christie Blatchford
National Post Full Comment
Apr 5, 2013

Story of my life (revised)
By Sue McPherson
S A McPherson website

William Mates sentenced to one year for sexual exploitation
By Brent Boles
The London Free Press
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:38:08 EDT PM


29 January 2013

Lance Armstrong: making the level playing field fair, and not just level

Additional source added to reference list June 2013 (see Law professor guilty of boosting grades in exchange for sex, May 28, 2013.

Cheating through doping, denying, lying, and reacting harshly to allegations with accusations of his own are what have led cyclist Lance Armstrong to fall from grace. Underlying all these is the idea of the ‘level playing field’ and what that means to cyclists, their team associates and supporters, the media, and the general public.

Lance claimed that he started doping in the mid 90s because other Tour cyclists were doing it. As he saw it, it was a question of either dope or quit. Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker that, during his interviews with Oprah Winfrey in January, 2013, Lance had said he didn’t feel like a cheat and “hadn’t felt any sense of wrongdoing when he doped” (Lance Armstrong’s Flawed Confession, Jan 18, 2013). Rather than view doping as gaining an advantage over others, he viewed it as a level playing field.

In her blog, Davidson questions why Lance would use the dictionary definition of ‘cheat’ at all, “rather than looking inward.” The main problem seemed to be with Lance’s limited use of dictionary definitions, that he didn’t see that there were other meanings of ‘cheat,’ besides ‘gaining advantage over others,’ such as “to violate rules dishonestly” or even “to influence or lead by deceit, trick, or artifice” (see ‘cheat,’ Miriam Webster online Dictionary),” both of which imply intent, as it happens, and not an occurrence that happened by chance. But using inward signs of guilt, as Davidson suggests, might have led to an internalization of accusations by people acting from only their own understanding of the situation, one that denies the complexity of aiming for something higher than oneself, or anything else I might not have thought of. Her implied suggestion, by this comment, that Lance lacked a conscience, was unnecessary, in my view. In this case, it might have been better if Lance had used more than one dictionary, read them more carefully, and referred to them more often during his rise to the top.

A decidedly sympathetic view – and one knowledgeable of what Lance might have gone through in making the decision whether or not to dope – comes from Amby Burfoot. Writing for the magazine Runner’s World, for which he is also Editor-at-Large, Ambrose explains the process of deciding whether to dope. Following are selected excerpts from his article comparing running and cycling in terms of doping:

“The point is you have two options: quit, or join. If you’re really stubborn and masochistic, I suppose you could also keep running 120 miles/week, and keep getting crushed at the races. But you can’t think you’re going to win. Not realistically. . . This is the situation Lance Armstrong faced in the late 1990s. He felt he was as good as the rest, he knew Americans could win the Tour (as Greg LeMond had done a decade earlier), yet he also knew he couldn’t win without doping, because that’s what the Tour leaders were doing. I’m no cycling expert, but it seems clear everyone in the sport knew that the top athletes and teams were doping . . . So Armstrong, in my view, had few options: quit, settle for clean mediocrity, or dope. I understand why he doped, and don’t blame him for that . . . doping is easy to rationalize. It simply amounts to “leveling the playing field” (Of Lance Armstrong and “Leveling The Playing Field,” Jan 22, 2013).

Another view on Lance and his behaviour comes from Andrew Coyne, writing for the National Post:

“let us drop the pretense that we’re all so scandalized by Armstrong because he lied. Granted, he lied about cycling, rather than mere financial dealings or affairs of state. But the reason he is in such obloquy, and Clinton and Mulroney are not, is not because his lies were worse, but because he’s not as good at it: because he is not as charming — shall we say manipulative? — as they. Frankly, when it comes to conning the public, he is not in their league” (Lance Armstrong disgraced only because he’s not as charming as other liars, Jan 18, 2013). This makes sense. Charisma – charm – whatever you call it – makes all the difference in the world.

Coyne goes on to say that Lance has been described as a sociopath and as a psychopath (see ‘The real Lance Armstrong emerged in Oprah Winfrey interview,’ Jan 18, 2013), and more – without morals, arrogant, smug, and evasive. The list goes on, although I would mention here that psychologizing in this manner – using such terms – is probably not the best way to approach this.

Taking an ethical stance on Lance Armstrong’s numerous misdeeds and recent demonstration of repentance, Western University Philosophy professor Samantha Brennan asks, if doping had been Lance’s only fault, would we see the moral implications as not so serious? She acknowledges that doping was rampant at that time and in his field, but finds the lies, rule-breaking, and other wrongdoings serious in themselves, regardless of the doping problem. She describes his wrongdoings, including “leading a team where doping appears to have been the norm, covering up the doping, intimidating and threatening those who would expose him, all the while lying about his drug taking to the public, and appearing in commercials and TV interviews claiming to be clean” (Spin cycle - Armstrong, doping and the lies he told, Jan 24, 2013). At the same time she offers an explanation for these – a phenomenon one might also refer to as the snowball effect. It just kept getting bigger and more out of his control.

Brennan compares the problem of doping to plagiarism, a comparison I see as inadequate and not as complex as the wider situation of Lance’s doping and its consequences. I would suggest that comparing doping with "sex for grades," another university problem, offers a more suitable complexity.

Plagiarism is an individual activity and choice, while doping in some ways is more like engaging in the giving and taking of sex for grades. More people would be needed to be involved in "sex for grades" activities than in plagiarizing, as keeping it hidden from the authorities and outside the realm of perceived illicit activity would require cooperation from others, just as doping would require the cooperation of others involved in the scheme.

‘Sex for grades’ is similar to doping in competition for these reasons – it concerns both the body and mind; it is about competing; it is one of those things that some people might see as a leveling the playing field though at the least it is about gaining advantage; it’s a choice – it’s your body; there can be legal consequences but only if you get caught; it takes friends and colleagues to ensure that you get away with it; damaged reputations and careers of those who speak out against the practice are considered collateral damage; even people who don’t agree that it’s an ethical issue but simply a legal one won’t speak out against you because you’re a nice guy or you fought cancer and beat it or have a family or have done much for the community or the country; it’s a cultural matter - people can live with it while being in denial of it.

Brennan provides the readers with three “quick” conclusions: “It’s a just punishment that Lance Armstrong be stripped of all of his Tour de France titles and never be allowed to take part in bike racing again. The questions are more complicated, if he’d only been guilty of using performance enhancing drugs in a context in which it certainly appears rule breaking was rampant. And it’s time to level the playing field at all levels of cycling.”

Starting with the second conclusion, in which Brennan appears to be taking Lance’s side, the aim is to look at only the doping aspect of all that Lance did. Brennan suggests that if the only problem was Lance’s doping, and not all the other things that went along with it – lying, bullying, leading others to doping, and ruining lives and careers of others in order to protect himself - then there would have to be more thought taken as to how to treat him. See also, ‘He is what he is: a complete fraud,’ Jan 16, 2013, by Morris Dalla Costa, for more on Lance’s behaviour.

It’s not quite the same as saying doping is acceptable under some circumstances, but if everyone else is doing it and it’s a matter of either dope or quit, then what is a person supposed to do if faced with that choice? Likewise, regarding the issue of sex for grades or other academic advantage. Is there only a problem when someone gets hurt (not counting the competitors who lost out because they didn’t dope or in the other situation, didn’t provide sexual favours)? If sex is by mutual consent, and not for advantage, does that make any problems of its legitimacy disappear (meaning, based on something real rather than pretense)? Is it only sex explicitly for grades or career advancement that is problematic? And if doping had been all that Lance did, for the purpose of performing his best at his chosen sport, should that be punished as severely as some suggest, by loss of cycling career, endorsements, and side interests.

In her last conclusion, Brennan says, “And it’s time to level the playing field at all levels of cycling.” In this way, she is bringing the phrase “leveling the playing field’ up to date and applying it to the way competititve sports should be – free of cheating, bullying, lying, and ruined careers for those who don’t participate or who speak up about it. This isn’t the kind of level playing field that Lance Armstrong claims he got involved with – one based on doping, but it is what the aim should be in competetitive cycling. As long as there are ways for individuals to enhance the capacity of their bodies in order to gain advantage, enforcing regulations will be difficult. Changing attitudes is another way through this.

That brings us back to Brennan’s first conclusion, that it’s a just decision to strip Lance of his titles and never allow him to race again. It sounds like a punishment for all his threats and lies and not only for doping. But would that punishment be fair for other kinds of cheating combined with lying, bullying, leading others to the same behaviour, and ruining lives and careers of others in order to protect themselves? If we consider the circumstances of men and women who cheat by exchanging sex for grades, or sex for other academic advantage, and do harm to others in so doing, what should their penalty be? I wonder, would Brennan think that men and women who gain advantage from participating in “sex for grades” while doing harm to others should be stripped of their titles and never be allowed to work in academia again? And is it right that former colleagues and acquaintances simply walk away from Lance, leaving him to make his own way in the world again?

Is what is most important the fact that there are explicit rules against doping? And if there are no such regulations against exchanging sex for academic advantage, does that mean the practice is acceptable, or would it then make it strictly an ethical issue and not a legal or administrative one? Two individuals who have made a point of discussing professor-student relationships publically are Sociologist Barry Dank and author/speaker Hugo Schwyzer, who hold opposing perspectives, for the most part (see Overselling agency: a reply to Barry Dank on teacher-student sex, Sept 30, 2010).

It’s easy to say to go ahead and punish someone to the full extent, especially if they are a stranger to you and your community, but I don’t believe that people’s anger and disappointment in a situation such as Lance’s should take priority. It’s normal to feel that way when you have been betrayed. Nor do I necessarily think that all the trophies or prizes the person has won should be the deciding factor on his future. I find Brennan’s first conclusion harsh, even though making it the first one of three leaves room for disputing it.

Comparing Lance’s situation with similar situations involving cheating and betrayal that have resulted in harassment and traumatic life change for the victims, and disillusionment in general, as well as seeing how those situations were resolved, might change the way people view them. Remember what Andrew Coyne said (Lance Armstrong disgraced only because he’s not as charming as other liars, Jan 18, 2013). I agree that’s part of it, but the story isn’t over yet. Lance was stripped of his titles and banned from cycling (Lance Armstrong stripped of all seven Tour de France titles, banned from cycling for life after doping report, Oct 22, 2012), has lost his endorsements and stepped down from his position as chairman of Livestrong, his charity for cancer.

A recent case involving sex for grades at university is now in the courts in Singapore (‘Sex-for-grades trial: Prof says he gave Darinne Ko $2,500 cheque for gifts, dinner’, Jan 15, 2013). If an exchange involving sex occurred at all in this case, it may be the case that in other situations where sex is used for advantage or accessed through offering advantage (eg at universities or places of work), it may not be being done overtly or in ways that can be tracked or seen to be happening. And if it part of a genuine relationship then seeing the exchange as trickery might not be accurate. Sometimes it is the outcome that tells the real story – not whether they have a career or not, but that if they do, how well they are able to do it.

Other articles can be accessed through links in blog entries I have written on this subject. I shall mention here two on student-prof relationships, one from the Globe and Mail, the other a UK publication: On-campus sex ban: Hands off the student body, Prof, Apr 08, 2010; Sex for grades in Africa's academy, Jan 21, 2010. For more links to articles on this practice within the university and about student-professor relationships in general, from places worldwide including Africa, USA, Canada, and the UK, see Sex for grades in universities, on Sue’s Views on the News.

Like doping, the culture of "sex for grades" has probably changed a great deal over the years, though both attempt to maintain the illusion that agreement to them, or similar activities, involves no coercion. Lance may have been a leader in his field, but there are likely many others whose opportunity to excel ended at the entrance to the doping room. Did others’ opportunities for an academic career end at the door of the prof’s office?

Cyclist Bradley Wiggins explains how Lance’s alleged indiscretions on tour in 2009 affected him and his relationship with his son on hearing about his confession about previous years of doping to Oprah (Bradley Wiggins accuses Lance Armstrong of cheating: ‘You lying bastard,’ Jan 25, 2013). Having missed out on a place on the podium in the 2009 Tour de France, while Lance Armstrong placed third, current Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins now feels prouder than ever of what he has accomplished. He established himself as one of the finest riders, also finally receiving credit for coming third in the 2009 race. This is just one story of many that we will probably not hear about.

Lance Armstrong’s concept of “the level playing field” is a somewhat different understanding of it than how people might think of it today when the hope is that cycling can be turned around to become a dope-free sport – a fair playing field. Perhaps stronger enforcement and testing measures are changing the culture of doping, making it less likely to be kept secret and increasingly a less acceptable practice. But heaping blame mainly on one person, causing him to lose so much that he has worked for, can hardly be helpful, except to provide an outlet for frustration, a real life situation for people to direct their hostility, as though it could never happen to them or someone they love.

Bradley Wiggins accuses Lance Armstrong of cheating: ‘You lying bastard’
Associated Press
National Post – Sports
Jan 25, 2013

Miriam Webster online Dictionary
retrieved Jan 27, 2013.

He is what he is: a complete fraud
By Morris Dalla Costa
The London Free Press
Jan 16, 2013

Lance Armstrong disgraced only because he’s not as charming as other liars
By Andrew Coyne
National Post – Full comment
Jan 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong’s Flawed Confession
By Amy Davidson
New Yorker - blogs
Jan 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong stripped of all seven Tour de France titles, banned from cycling for life after doping report
By Grahan Dunbar, Associated Press
National Post - Sports
Oct 22, 2012

Law professor guilty of boosting grades in exchange for sex
By: Bloomberg
The Star
May 28, 2013
[added June, 2013]

Of Lance Armstrong And “Leveling The Playing Field”
By Amby (Ambrose) Burfoot
Runner's World - Peak Performance
Jan 22, 2013

On-campus sex ban: Hands off the student body, Prof
By Dakshana Bascaramurty
Globe and Mail
Apr 08, 2010, updated Aug 23, 2012

Overselling agency: a reply to Barry Dank on teacher-student sex
By Hugo Schwyzer
Sept 30, 2010

The real Lance Armstrong emerged in Oprah Winfrey interview
By Bruce Arthur
National Post
Jan 18, 2013

Sex for grades in Africa's academy
By John Morgan
Times Higher Education (THE)
Jan 21, 2010

Sex for grades in universities
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Jan 22, 2012

Sex-for-grades trial: Prof says he gave Darinne Ko $2,500 cheque for gifts, dinner
By Bryna Singh
The Straits Times
Jan 15, 2013

Spin cycle - Armstrong, doping and the lies he told
By Samantha Brennan
Western News
Jan 24, 2013