From the “duality” of Strauss’ Zarathustra to the “perfection” of his teenage lover, hop aboard as the author takes you on a wild ride to and through the “ineffable.”
Mr. Cornelio spent over 20 years of his life as a corporate attorney in Manhattan. On December 12th, 2003, he was arrested and charged with crimes alleging child sexual abuse. This is his story of how he struggled to cope with those devastating charges. It begins when he receives a phone call from a woman claiming to be the mother of a teenage male prostitute. It ends when he hears the recording of a phone call used by the police to obtain his criminal indictment. In between, Mr. Cornelio seeks to uncover the truth about his crime, about his life, about himself. Only you can decide if he does so with the searing honesty such a quest demands.
Book Title: Two To Six Genre: Memoir Author: James Cornelio Type: Trade Paperback 370 pages Publisher: Booksurge Publishing Publication Date: December 2008
The thoughts that ran through my head before beginning this book were all over the place. Here I am a mother to two teenage boys, and I am about to read the memoir of a man whose been convicted of crimes against male children. I thought perhaps I may be angry, or disapproving or even disgusted, but I never expected to feel proud of this author for having the strength and courage to tell his story. But I did. Does that make me a bad person? No, I don’t think so. And I also don’t think that James Cornelio is a bad person either. Regardless of what he was accused, convicted or guilty of. Reading this memoir gave me the view from the other side, having read a few stories of survivors of abuse, Two To Six: A Sex Offender’s Story was the first I’d read from the perspective of the accused. And it changed how I think of convicted sexual offenders, it made me realize that behind that title there is indeed a person, and a story.
James Cornelio’s story seems a simple one, but becomes complex as more details become apparent. A respected, successful lawyer with a loving family and a close circle of friends and acquaintances. But he seemed to be leading a dual existence, bringing home young male prostitutes was his secret pleasure. Prostitution is something that goes back to the beginning of time, and happens in every culture. Whether trading sexual services for money, goods or social stature, it is something that has been going on for ages and is likely to continue, regardless of laws. My views on prostitution are probably more lax than the average person, I don’t support it, but I also don’t rally against it. Women, men and children being forced into prostitution is wrong. But there are those out there who decide to do it, whether for the quick cash or enjoyment of it. And not all of these people are able to live in places that allow it, or to find a safe house to work out of. So they end up on the streets hustling for money. And so James was a regular customer in certain areas where young men were offering their services. The young men were willing to sell something that Mr. Cornelio wanted. A business exchange, although not the type most people think is appropriate. But what can you do?
Making the situation a little more complex is that, just like everyone, James Cornelio had a certain type of person he was attracted to. He preferred younger men. However he stresses throughout his book that this does not include children or pre-pubescent boys. He likes young men. Which to me isn’t all that strange, considering that everywhere one looks we are bombarded by the sexual embodiment of the young, the beautiful, the strong. Billboards, commercials, movies, music, television, even video games – they all seem to be saying that youth equals sexy. But regardless of what society and the media tell us we want, we all have a responsibility to behave in a morally and socially acceptable way. We need to take charge of our desires and control them with responsibility and thought. We cannot allow our passions to take over and cloud out judgments.
A loss of control is what I believe led Mr. Cornelio to find himself facing charges that would change his life forever. I think he got so caught up in the pleasures of his life that he was unable to clearly see what was happening to him. Or perhaps his subconscious mind didn’t allow him to fully comprehend the dangerous terrain he was entering. The sexual desire for young people just coming into man (or woman) hood is a trait known as Hebephilia. It seems to be a tricky thing to define however, since all people mature differently. So a young man of twenty could very well be mistaken for fourteen and vice versa. But this is still no excuse for having sexual contact with a minor. This is where responsible behavior comes in. If Mr. Cornelio was going to consort with male prostitutes who appealed to his taste, he should have been more careful. Granted he was already breaking the law, but why not be that much safer and comfort yourself with the knowledge that the person consenting to the transaction was legally able to consent? Perhaps this could have saved James from falling into the legal, personal and spiritual disaster he found himself in.
Such is life though, what happens in the past cannot be changed. All we can hope for is to learn from our mistakes, to grow stronger with the pain of regrets and to try to live a better life, become a better person. After reading Two To Six and seeing what James went through, I do believe that he has done all that. At the beginning of the story he vehemently denies being a sexual offender, but bit by bit he comes to see that what he did was wrong, his control was gone and he needed to find a new way to live. I talk a lot about enjoying fiction that displays character development and personal growth, and this work of non-fiction has some of the most powerful insights into these things that I’ve ever seen. I truly believe that this author has laid himself open mind and soul, in order to help people understand that just because someone has done wrong in the past, it does not mean they are evil, inhuman and bound to continue doing wrong. Yes, there are those who will never learn from their mistakes, who are damaged beyond repair, who will continue to re-offend at every instance. But there are also those who can change, who realize only too late that they may be going too far. James Cornelio will forever be known as a sex offender, but that doesn’t mean he will always be one. I believe that with his supportive, loving family, his faith and his spiritual and personal rebirth, Mr. Cornelio is a new person.
Two To Six is a wonderfully presented memoir, the author has written this in a way that feels he is personally relating his story to you. It does not come across as a defense of his actions nor as an apology for his crimes. It is straight-forward, honest and informative. It’s also a tale of one man’s spiritual journey, complete with stumbles, wrong-turns and despair. While I don’t condone Mr. Cornelios’ past behaviors I do recommend this book for it’s ability to give a different perspective on a situation. With the National databases of sexual offenders available to the public in the USA (often with incorrect information) many people have become targets of violence. But just as you cannot say all Republicans, all country singers, all giraffes are the same – you also cannot say all sexual offenders are the same. Each has varying details to consider. Before, if you had asked me if I would allow a convicted sexual offender into my home, to sit at my table, to eat dinner with my family – I would have said Hell No! But now I’ve come to see that we cannot allow all-encompassing titles and past actions to overpower our judgments. Everything is not black and white – and to ignore the gray will only show the desire for ignorance.
To read more of James Cornelio’s writing you can also check out the articles he has written at Salon.com Of particular interest and relevance to his memoir is the article entitled I Am A Sex Offender.
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