December-May romances aren’t fodder for gossip anymore and neither are interracial relationships, even though, in many places around the country, they still raise a few eyebrows. The case of former Virginia legislator, Joe Morrissey, the man in the picture gallery below, doesn’t cleanly fit these stereotypes.
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To be sure, Morrissey’s is indeed both a December-May and an interracial relationship, but to those who know something about gender studies and the legal history of interracial relationships in Virginia, the pictures above evoke more than the whimsical, innocent photo-shoot of an eccentric couple in costume.
The cliche of office romances doesn’t quite fit here, either. Neither does the old cliche of the older boss and young receptionist falling in lust, then settling into a long-term love relationship, though one of my old bosses a couple of decades ago married a congressional page when he was sixty three and she was barely out of her teens. I recently looked them up. They’re still married and their kids are grown.
Mr. Morrissey spent time in jail after copping an Alford plea, for having sexual relations with his bride to be before she became an adult. Morrissey has stated that he will marry the mother of his new child. The term used to describe people desiring and pursuing sexual relationships with pubescent females, as part of a lifelong pattern, is called ephebophilia.
While it would be impossible, with what is publicly known about Joe Morrissey, to point to a pattern of seeking young Black women for sexual relationships, we do know that Morrissey is the father of three other children by three different women, none of whom he has ever married, and all of whom, with the exception of his current love interest, were just barely out of the ephebophiliac age range. In an interview, Morrissey sought to dispel the accusations of racial fetishism by disclosing that two of the children he has fathered are biracial and two are white.
We know, historically, that during slavery, married white men had children with their wives and as well as their Black concubines even though miscegenation laws were in place early in colonial times until reconstruction and during Jim Crow, not only in Southern states, but also in the Midwest and Western states.
Humans are highly complex beings. Human likes, dislikes, sensibilities, and experiences are highly individual and contextual. Human relationships can be as complicated or as varied as the societies in which they play out. Joe Morrissey is no uneducated simpleton. He holds three degrees, including one from Georgetown University Law. He’s a man of means and, until now, a lifelong bachelor. By the few accounts available, Morrissey has maintained relationships with his other children. In this 1999 account, one daughter, who had anorexia, went to live with him and he cared for her through some very difficult times.
Morrissey’s district is predominantly African-American. His voters have faithfully reelected him throughout his political tenure as a representative of Henrico County, Virginia. His private law practice is based out of Henrico. He has deep, long-standing ties to a community that, right or wrong, has seen some benefit in continuing to elect him to public office.
Piecing together the life of Morrissey, the picture that emerges is that of the brilliant scoundrel, always a half step ahead of trouble. A man who, for the most part, was smart and self-disciplined enough to sate his urges away from the homestead. Whatever his proclivities, until this incident, his record with his Henrico community seems to mostly have been kept clean. Marrying Myrna Price might just keep that record unblemished, in spite of the very strange Antebellum-style pictorial that is so reminiscent of another time in the plantations of Southern Virginia.
Is there something wrong with interracial love? Of course not! Is there something wrong when someone is only attracted to members of a different ethnic group? Not per se. One of the most famous such cases is Robert De Niro. Can an older white man genuinely fall in love with a younger white woman without that relationship taking on a seedy appearance? Absolutely! Separate and apart from the crime photographing a nude minor, after learning that Morrissey showed nude photos of the purported subject of his affection to friends, it is difficult to deem the relationship one that is free of objectification and, perhaps, fetishization of the Black female body. After seeing the parlor pictorial, it is impossible.
It appears that, for now, it is unlikely Morrissey will be prosecuted for sex crimes related to Myrna Price because of the risk double-jeopardy. As I wrote earlier, Morrissey is no simpleton. Taking the Alford Plea probably assured him the time he served would be the end of the story.
Let this reprieve be Morrissey’s opportunity to seek help and keep his life and new marriage on the straight and narrow. Sexual predators almost invariably succumb to the devil that is their urge no matter how smart and wily they are.
Should there be a next time, and Morrissey is discovered in-flagrante, one can only hope the full extent of the law will befall him and release the sword of Damocles that so precariously hovers above his head.