"Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think."
"Mild paedophilia is bad. Violent paedophilia is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of mild paedophilia, go away and learn how to think."
It seems that by grading rape and paedophilia in degrees of moral badness some people took Dawkins to be undermining the case that all instances of rape and paedophilia are morally bad. Or perhaps that while it is all bad, some is not worth getting all that worked up about.
Dawkins did not help himself here by speaking of "mild paedophilia".
These two issues are both highly inflammatory and Dawkins was less than sensitive to the feelings of those who have been victims of date rape and "mild paedophilia." To him, this was a simple matter of logic.
What he failed to adequately appreciate was the social context in which his comments were thrown out. Take rape. Western societies have not taken rape with the seriousness that it demands, and in particular, rape by one's partner or someone with whom one is on a date have been treated as relatively trivial. So campaigners have been working hard to drive home the message that such rape IS wrong and ought to be treated seriously. To this end, Dawkins' comments could be taken as trivializing the issue.
However, I want to say that I think that the basic point that Dawkins was making is surely correct. We do not want to say that all crimes that fall into a particular category must be ranked as equally bad. That is clearly nonsense, and we do not apply such thinking to other instances of sinful behaviour. It may be that in certain contexts, in order to drive home that all crimes in the category are bad, we will speak with equal ferocity about them all. That is appropriate in some contexts. However, to suggest that the only way to get people to take the horror of rape or paedophilia seriously is to treat all cases as maximally and equivalently evil is simply mistaken. And Dawkins is correct to say that pointing out that some evil acts are even worse than other evil acts is NOT a recommendation or excuse for any evil acts. Society is right to express its disgust at rapists and paedophiles, but society is wrong if in so doing it fails to distinguish degrees of evil in those categories. What we need is to find ways to do so that do not trivialize any particular instances.