Why Prince George always wears shorts

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This is your captain speaking! This is an important message. Listen carefully. There is absolutely NO TRUTH in the rumour that this blog has been hi-jacked by mutineers masquerading as “guest bloggers”. My command remains unchallenged. For morale-boosting reassurance, uplifting martial music will now be played.

As for scurrilous suggestions that I have been sleeping at the wheel, or the joy stick or whatever gizmo it is that keeps this show on the road… Or on the runway. Or in the air. Or… Where was I? Ah, yes, in command, that’s it! And I have decided it’s time to cheer you lot up back there with some absolutely spiffing, top-notch in-flight entertainment, starting on a patriotic note – patriotic, that is, if you happen to be a traditionalist Brit who loves the monarchy.

Personally, I don’t, much. But I am as much a sucker for charming royal children as any reader of the flag-waving tabloids or Hello! magazine.

Prince George in shorts… with strange man!

Have you noticed, by the way, that where royal kids are concerned, everyone is allowed to be a paedophile? Britannia  magically waives the rules against fancying kids when it happens to be royal ones. They are public property, so we can all drool over their loveliness without fear of arrest. Celebrity ones too, I suppose, like the Beckham kids, albeit father David took flak recently for kissing his daughter on the lips. Usually the photos speak for themselves, so nothing about the illicit nature of the enthusiasm need be too verbally obvious.

Occasionally, though, one may spot a rare indiscretion, as in the recent commentary by Yahoo Style on the outfits worn by four-year-old Prince George. Whereas the Daily Mail concocted some dubious  blarney for the fact that the little Royal Highness is always dressed in shorts (“it’s a royal tradition”), the unnamed Yahoo fashion writer just blurts out the truth, in car-crash English but we get the point: “…he looks hella cute in them.” The article ends, “Tradition or not, we need no excuse to adore Prince George’s shorts.”

Here! Here!

That “hella” thing is a helluva mess from the word-mangling key-clacker (or I am just showing my age?), but they probably won’t be sacked for it. Unlike Wendy Henry, editor of the Sunday tabloid The People, whose treatment a generation ago of Prince George’s father in his short trousers days was more than indiscreet: these days anything similar might well precipitate investigation over indecent images of a child.

In the issue of 19 November 1989, Henry published a front-page photograph headlined “The Royal Wee”, showing Prince William, then aged seven, dressed in his school uniform –  including shorts – taking a leak. The photo was captioned “Willie’s Sly Pee in the Park”.

The photo was doubtless slyly taken, and it was surely not the only shot stolen by the impertinent paparazzo. The published image did not reveal the princely prong in all its majesty but others on the roll (as it would have been in those pre-digital days) could well have done. Who knows what incriminating evidence a police raid on the picture editor’s office might have yielded?

As far as I am aware, Henry was not investigated by the police, but her act of lèse–majesté was too much for the paper’s owner, Robert Maxwell, a man not noted for an excess of scruples. So, she had to go.

Prince William was in the news again last week, of course, along with brother Harry, in connection with their new documentary for ITV in commemoration of their mother Princess Dianna, marking the 20th anniversary of her death in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36.

The boys and their mum: title photo for the ITV documentary

 

Diana: Our Mother, I found, is a moving tribute to the late princess for a number of reasons. The story of any tragically early death could hardly fail to be affecting, especially when it comes, as this one does, from two sons who so obviously loved their mother deeply. That Diana famously had a rare gift for winning hearts makes it especially touching, in the most literal sense: she would hold hands with AIDS patients, chatting in a physically close, friendly, way at a time when they were being shunned like lepers by others. Likewise her contact with those whose bodies had been shattered by land mines, and others reduced to living rough on the streets, was characterised not just by empathy, but by kindness whose sincerity was made manifest in her body-language, in her closeness and tactility.

The biggest impression the programme made on me, though, came through what it revealed about Diana as a mother. What William and Harry said about her was striking in itself, but the real impact came through family photos of her and the boys together: fabulous, beautiful pictures of them all having a whale of a time. Royal families have an advantage over us peasants in this regard: they can have an official photographer on hand, ready to capture those special moments of rapturous glee, whereas ordinary families – even the happier ones – tend to end up with terrible photos on the mantelpiece, all forced smiles for the camera and static poses. Or used to. I suppose it is better now, in the age of the video camera and the smart phone, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it. Am I wrong? Has a revolution in superb family photography passed me by? Do let me know.

Diana’s philosophy as a parent, it seems, was quite simple: kids should have fun. And be naughty. Just like herself. William said she used to send him rude cards:

“Usually she found something, you know, very embarrassing… a very funny card, and then sort of wrote very nice stuff inside.  But I dared not open it in case the teachers or anyone else in the class had seen it.”

Prince Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, spoke of her willingness to break the rules:

“One of her mottos to me was, you know, ‘you can be as naughty as you want,  just don’t get caught’. She was one of the naughtiest parents.  She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks.  Our mother was a total kid through and through.”

Know who that reminds me of? Michael Jackson. He was brilliant with kids whose parents had been too tough on them, too ambitious for their success and too demanding, as his own father had been. That’s a big part of why kids like child star Macaulay Culkin loved to hang out with him.

Prince William and Prince Harry on Harry’s first day at Wetherby School in London, September 1989

Just giving kids what they want all the time is in general a terrible idea; but that is exactly what some of them need, some of the time – including, I would think, boys like William and Harry, who might otherwise have been suffocated in the tight, disciplined, joyless embrace of a “proper” upbringing as potential heirs to the throne.

Jackson, incidentally, met Diana backstage after one of his London concerts, with her husband, Prince Charles. He did not see her sons – the evening event was past their bedtime – but it soon became clear he was very keen to meet William, especially, who was then aged six while Harry was three. He subsequently bombarded Diana with phone calls, inviting William to stay at Neverland. That was destined never to happen, so he had to make do with keeping a framed blowup photo of William at his home instead, showing the little prince on his first day at Wetherby School in 1987, wearing, yes, his regulation shorts.

I said above that I would be starting with royal children, but sadly I have to finish with them, too. I had hoped to bring you up to date with some other items but they will have to wait, as I must turn to other things. My intervention today, incidentally, after saying a few months ago that I would be handing over to guest bloggers for the foreseeable future, or simply leaving the site unpiloted, has been done on a whim and should not be taken as indicating a sustained return. Guest bloggers have been doing a great job and another guest piece is among my files, awaiting publication. I hope more will come, so please feel free to send submissions.

Because it’s a free country, asshole!

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The comments here at Heretic TOC have long been enriched by the hugely informative wisdom of “A”, whose only fault is to have chosen a pseudonym that is absolutely useless as a search term; locating her back-catalogue of contributions is thus a bit of a nightmare. Today, though, she steps into the spotlight with a guest blog you will definitely want to bookmark in your own records if you are interested – as I think we should be – in the difficult decisions faced by children and adolescents who find themselves struggling with gender dysphoria. Following my own explorations of the theme in Trans kids 1: Insistent, consistent, persistent, “A” made an insightful comment from her own perspective as a former “tomboy”. This now appears below in an extended version. “A” describes herself as “a law-abiding but pro-AOC-abolition BL and GL woman who had a tomboyish, but never gender-dysphoric, childhood”. With an academic background in linguistics, including research-level training, she has undertaken varied work around the world. She tries, she says, “to reconcile MAP politics and feminism”.

PERSISTENCE AND DESISTANCE: A TOMBOY’S VIEW

I highly recommend the blog Trans Research. Much of the most up-to-date research is Dutch, as much of the most ‘advanced’ treatment of gender-dysphoric kids is Dutch. Here, for instance, is a Dutch long-term follow-up study of puberty suppression and here‘s another.

According to this Dutch study children should probably not be allowed to transition socially before they are ten. This recommendation is based in part on the experiences of five natal girls who had effectively lived as boys for some years, then during puberty wanted to ‘switch back’ to being girls. All had “significant feelings of shame for their earlier boyish appearance” and some worried about being teased or excluded by classmates over the switch back. Two are quoted about their difficulties with this. While it seems that the girls did in the main manage to switch over to more feminine appearance and behaviour relatively smoothly, one struggled for years, first fearing that she’d be teased if she wore earrings and bracelets like the other girls, and then actually being teased after the move to high school, which she’d hoped would help her “make a fresh start”. The gender-dysphoric boys, however, had not dressed as girls full-time during elementary school and had been perceived by the other children as boys, just different boys. Perhaps if they’d been effectively living as girls, rather than feminine boys, some of them too would have struggled with switching back.

The tomboy makeover is a major trope in our culture. “My little tomboy now wears satin and lace” go the lyrics to Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen. Tomboys who grow out of it are all over classic girls’ literature: I remember being, at age twelve, quite irked by the ending of Carol Ryrie Brink’s 1936 novel Caddie Woodlawn, in which an eleven-year-old frontier girl who does everything her brothers do finally decides to settle down a bit and learn sewing. In the film Now and Then, a less-than-entirely-successful but quite popular 1995 attempt to make a Stand By Me for girls, a sporty twelve-year-old binds her growing breasts — till she gets attention, and her first kiss, from a cute neighbour boy who likes her basketball skills.

It’s a trope for a reason, and part of that reason is that it has a lot of truth to it. When I was fourteen or fifteen and we were all changing after PE, one of the other girls remarked, apropos of what I can’t remember, that when she was younger she’d wanted to be a boy, and almost every girl in that room said she had, too. An acquaintance working on a neuroscience PhD recommended to me Lise Eliot’s book Pink Brain, Blue Brain and Rebecca Jordan-Young’s book Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, both of which I recommend in turn. Jordan-Young’s book deals extensively with girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, “a genetic disorder which causes overproduction of androgens from the adrenal glands…[and] is the most common cause of genital ambiguity”. Girls with CAH on average have more masculine interests as children than unaffected girls. In chapter eight of her book, Sex-Typed Interests, Jordan-Young examines this Swedish study of CAH and non-CAH girls ages two through ten.

The CAH girls in the study spent less time playing with ‘girls’ toys’ and more time playing with ‘boys’ toys’ than the control girls. But the other side of the story is that the most popular toys among the control girls, as measured by number of seconds spent playing with a particular toy, were Lincoln Logs and a garage with four cars. Jordan-Young points out that “the normal control girls spent three times as long playing with the garage and toy cars as they did playing with the baby doll. The only ‘girls’ toy’ that was in the ballpark…with these boys’ toys was a pair of Barbie and Ken dolls. (I suspect that Barbie and Ken were riding around in some of these cars.)” At the end of the study, each child was offered one of a car, a doll and a ball to take home, and while no girl from the control group picked the car, control girls were roughly 36% more likely to choose the ball than the doll. Granted, this was in Sweden. But maybe ‘boys’ toys’ are just more fun for many kids, regardless of sex!

However, of course, almost all women are happy to be women. My experience suggests that if you stand in a crowded urban train station at rush hour, say, you’ll be in the presence of at least a couple of women who as girls were hardcore tomboys — to the point of insisting on short haircuts and gender-neutral nicknames, being delighted to be mistaken for boys, frequently wishing to be boys, becoming distressed at puberty and covering up their developing bodies with baggy clothes, etc. — but who are now happy to be women. Some are feminine women; others remain quite androgynous or ‘gender non-conforming’; most are heterosexual, though a disproportionately high number are lesbian or bisexual; and most, it seems, end up in long-term relationships with men and have kids of their own. And many will tell you quite forcefully that as children they would have jumped at the chance to transition, but that they now feel this would have been the wrong choice for them, and are glad they didn’t get to make it.

Social transition is sometimes set in motion alarmingly early these days, with very young kids ‘going stealth’, like this little trans boy (natal female), who transitioned socially at five:

“The week before he starts school, he changes his name to one that sounds more male. The principal and his teachers know his gender status, but to everyone else he’s just one of two hundred little boys showing off to each other on the playground. He worries about his body betraying him, turning him into a woman against his will, and we tell him that doctors can help him with that, if it’s still what he wants when the time comes.”

But if it’s not still what he wants when the time comes, won’t he find it awfully difficult to change back if none of his friends from kindergarten even know he was born a girl? So what does not letting kids transition socially before ten look like? Maybe something like this. The seven-year-old natal girl in question is allowed, as she should be, to present and act as she wishes, but she’s still known by a female name and female pronouns, and “at school, everyone knows she is a girl” though “no one has ever known her to look or act like one, so she gets treated more like a boy”. Her parents are willing and ready to support whichever path she eventually takes, including social and medical transition, but are well aware that that’s far from an inevitable outcome.

The son of blogger Bedford Hope, aka Accepting Dad, walked a similar middle road in middle childhood. He wore long hair and pink skirts and was fine with either set of pronouns as long as you weren’t making fun of him, but he was clear that he was a boy. At thirteen, the age when kids tend to be at their most ruthlessly conformist, he was already deep-voiced and nearly six feet tall, and he went underground with his femininity for a while, to the point of forbidding his parents to mention it. At fifteen, he was out again as a male-bodied person who likes to wear skirts and loves fashion. His parents, too, were willing and ready to support social and medical transition if it came to that, but in the meantime it was watchful waiting. It worked: partly because the parents handled it well, partly because the family lives in a socially-liberal East Coast area of the US, and partly because of the kid himself: he has great social skills and always had a lot of friends both male and female, and he responded robustly to teasing — asked on the playground why a boy would want to wear a dress, he replied “BECAUSE IT’S A FREE COUNTRY, ASSHOLE!”

A shy, awkward, sensitive kid would have required more support in walking the middle road. But then, shy, awkward, sensitive kids require more support with a lot of things. With the best will in the world, though, there are going to be at least a few kids who need to transition socially before ten, who can’t be happy any other way, and I think they should be allowed to. Yes, there’s a risk to that, but there’s also a risk to letting kids play out by themselves or have sex or even try out for the school play.

Another observation from the first study I linked is that, at least in the Netherlands, the age range ten through thirteen is often when kids end up moving towards their eventual path: ‘persisting’ in their wish to transition medically or ‘desisting’ from it. Before this four-year span, outcomes are difficult to predict. After it, kids are much less likely to change their minds, whichever path they’ve picked. But I do wonder if sometimes ‘desistance’ isn’t seized upon too eagerly, if the books aren’t closed prematurely — after all, fourteen is awfully young to know you’re cis ;)! There does seem, according to the Dutch study discussed here, to be a group of ‘persisters-after-interruption ‘: young people who try in adolescence to make it work as cis homosexuals, but who then come back to the clinics in early adulthood requesting transition. I wonder if there isn’t also a group of ‘underground persisters’ whose desires to change sex continue, but are hidden. The blog post from Transparenthood above contains an example of what many people say to the parents of tomboys:

“I had a cousin that was a tomboy. She dressed like a boy and played with the boys until she was fifteen. Then she suddenly blossomed and now she is the most beautiful, fashionable woman you’d ever meet. Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it.” And if you scroll down, there’s a rather sad comment:

“I became one of those 15 year olds who allegedly ‘blossomed’ into femininity, boyfriends, makeup, and eventually heterosexual marriage (white gown and all) and motherhood…Guess what? That strong cross-gender identification is still there, half a lifetime later…I still think about it every day. I still wonder whether I should have pushed harder to be my true self, even though in the 1960’s there was no support for such thinking and certainly no medical options.”

Someone who in my view talks a lot of sense about this stuff is one Catherine Tuerk, a nurse, married with grown kids, who started a support group for gender-variant children and their parents after realising that the advice she’d been given to stamp out her son’s childhood femininity — he’s now a gay man — was wrong. Here she describes her 1950s tomboy childhood as her “glory days” and wonders, as I have myself, why some tomboys today don’t have more fun “liking to be boys”.

Here she says what many wouldn’t dare to: “Parents have told me it’s almost easier to tell others ‘My kid was born in the wrong body’ rather than explaining that he might be gay, which is in the back of everyone’s mind. When people think about being gay, they think about sex — and thinking about sex and kids is taboo.”

Indeed: it’s almost an article of faith among many socially-liberal cis people that the little natal boy who loves to dress up as a princess or mermaid isn’t expressing anything to do with a sexual orientation, because prepubescent kids aren’t sexual: (s)he’s expressing his (or her) gender identity, which is entirely separate from sexual orientation and which flows simply and purely from the innocence of children’s unsullied, unsexual hearts. “Why are you thinking about what’s in my six-year-old’s underwear?” is the devastating, unanswerable rejoinder to those who object to trans children using the ‘wrong’ toilets.

Some true believers in gender identity as entirely separate from gender expression and sexual orientation (the ‘Genderbread person‘ is popular now) wonder in all sincerity where the trans girl tomboys and feminine trans boys are. Well, there are probably never going to be many of them, but there may be a few. The Transparenthood blog post above describes a child who may, or may not, be a trans boy but isn’t hyper-masculine, and this post describes a “tomboy trans girl”. I do wonder, though, where we have ended up when a five-year-old who wears dresses every single day and prefers tea-sets to trucks but has lots of physical energy and likes to swordfight with sticks can be described as a tomboy, or a child who likes romantic comedies, small dogs and elaborate hairstyles, who prefers hip-hop dancing to sports and who wrestles with male friends and plays Barbies with female friends is deemed, at the tender age of seven, unmasculine.

Gender roles for kids are in some ways more restrictive than they were when I was coming up. Remember teenage girls in the mid-90s, all baggy jeans and flannel? And Lego, as many have remarked, isn’t for everyone anymore: there’s boy Lego and girl Lego (Lego Friends).

I’ve watched some video footage of child trans activist Avery Jackson, who appeared on the cover of National Geographic. I am not in the least qualified to diagnose Asperger’s, and even people who are cannot of course do so on the basis of a few minutes of video, but the way she talks does remind me a bit of some of the ‘Aspies’ I know. The documentary Kids on the Edge: The Gender Clinic, about trans kids being treated at the Tavistock Clinic in London mentions that about half of the kids seen at the clinic show “autistic traits”. That can, of course, mean many things. It can mean “this child is somewhat socially awkward and quite obsessive but is within the normal range of personality and behaviour and doing fine”. It can mean “this child is really struggling and becoming increasingly unhappy and it’s obvious to everyone that they are on the autism spectrum and desperately in need of the help a diagnosis would bring, but the money-starved public services are dragging their feet on diagnosis, so we have to say ‘traits’ for now”. Then again, it can mean “this child has a lot of symptoms of different conditions that tend, as these neurodevelopmental things do, to co-occur and overlap, and they might get an ASD diagnosis or they might not, but right now we’re focusing on the dyslexia and dyscalculia/the Tourette’s/[etc.], because that’s what’s causing the worst problems”. Trans Research has an Asperger’s/Autism subsection.

The 1997 book FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society by Canadian researcher Holly, now Aaron, Devor contains some interesting information on child sexuality. Several of the men interviewed recalled the sexual things they’d done as girls: one started masturbating as a girl of three or four; another’s first partnered sexual experience occurred when he, then she*, was twelve, and involved ‘heavy petting’ with another twelve-year-old girl; a third was having penis-in-vagina sex with adult men beginning when he, then she, was a girl of fourteen. Heartwarmingly, one met his soul mate at school when they were girls of twelve. They were inseparable at once, and at the time of the interview they’d been together ever since — over two decades.

Finally, two more articles I like, and recommend: S/He and What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?

*Sorry about all this he-then-she stuff, trans readers. I know it isn’t the most up-to-date or respectful terminology but it’s what Devor uses in the book.

 

It’s not the sex, it’s the violence

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Today’s guest blog started its life as a letter to me from an old friend I’ll call just Mike. With his permission it is now turned into a book review and a memoir of Mike’s own experience of school life in the not-so-distant, but very different, era of the British Stiff Upper Lip. On a personal note, I might add that the author of the book under review emailed me about 18 months ago as part of his research. Why me? He made some reference to wanting “another voice on the culture” of boarding schools, even though he knew I had not attended one as a boy. Unbeknown to him, however, I did teach and live, briefly, at Ardingly College, a residential school attended by Private Eye editor and Have I Got News for You star Ian Hislop. He was a nine-year-old there in the prep school section at the time – not that I knew him carnally, unfortunately, or at all, as I was with the senior section. I think the author’s real interest, though, was my connection to a former prep-school teacher who is now in prison. He wrote: “I know that you are or were close to Charles Napier, and may think he has been unfairly treated.” Yes, I did think he had been monstrously treated, and still do, as I wrote in Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

 

So, over to Mike’s review:

Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, crimes and the schooling of a ruling class, by Alex Renton; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017

The book starts out well enough.  It is a crushing indictment of the worst aspects of private education in the UK.  Not only the schools themselves, but the parents who so willingly sent their kids away to board, in cold, cruel environments for twelve or thirteen weeks at a time, at the age of seven, or eight.

Even allowing for hyperbole in some of the complainants, I can clearly remember shivering with cold as I cried myself to sleep in my little iron bed; and at other times chewing my teddy’s ears because I was so hungry.

My second autumn, I cried because I told myself that the pigeons’ cooing in the eaves sounded so beautiful…  So beautiful that the sound made me weep?  Phew, where was my little head?

It was war time, so the food was doubly ghastly and I remember being made to sit for hours until I forced down a plate of macaroni-cheese — which looked like mouldy cats’ guts chopped up to me — because the rule was that we had to eat whatever was put down in front of us.  I did swallow it down, eventually, but then I sicked it up — so the victory was theirs.  And, of course, I had to clean up the mess…

Beatings were a commonplace, but enough of my own recollections, wretched though they were.  Suffice it to say that I have had a very bad couple of days and nights with the memories that the bloody book dredged up.

Yet these are mainly pertaining to the first part of the book, where Renton concentrates mainly on the coldness and the cruelties of that dreadful system.  The attitudes of some of the teachers and these being abetted by the parents involved, and ultimately, by the law of the land, are laid bare.  Renton’s views on child cruelty and the wholesale heartlessness of that system chime with mine.  He might be speaking for me…

Significantly, he speaks of what I would simply term ‘separation anxiety’ in young children.  Kids desperate because there simply was no-one to go to for help or warmth.  Except other kids — who also blubbed themselves to sleep…

It is the second part of the book that really depressed me, though.  Given that there clearly were some bad and ruthless ‘takers’ among the many teachers, who are now involved with the law — though Renton takes a broad, condemnatory brush to them all.  Even senior boys at prep schools (we’re speaking of 12-13-year-olds, now) are condemned for ‘raping’ younger boys.  Admittedly he does not condemn coeval activity and in fact, he quotes John le Carré in his meditation on the ghastliness of his own prep school — his first-hand experience of ‘sticky frogs’ clinging together for warmth in a freezing world of cruelty and despair — with the ring of absolute truth…

Dystopic?  Yes, and I feel, justifiably so, because one of the things Renton does address is the number of actual suicides among boys in British boarding schools.  But returning to Renton’s Poisoned-Gothic style in the second half of his work.  He brings on the big guns (sigh) of ‘attack’, ‘assault’, ‘abuse’, ‘molest’ and ‘victim’ as the standard terms, whether or not violence was present.

I know that I am the only one complaining about this linguistic dishonesty: but the whole argument of these passive-resultants — of these ‘victims’ — jars horribly with his descriptions of his own sexual contacts in which his own volition was very much present.  So, there is childhood volition, but when an adult is involved, this volition flies out of the window, apparently…

Then, of course, he tries to claim that ‘paedophile rings’ (sigh again) were formed among teachers in prep schools.  Operating as wicked cabals, no doubt?

I suppose we should be glad that he didn’t go on to claim baby-sacrifice on the nearby moors at midnight, but really the second part of the book is ghastly reading.

I never had an adult sexual contact at my prep, or my later boarding-grammar school; but there was plenty of sexual activity between the boys, including with younger ones.  But the whole edifice rested on consensuality. Only one senior boy, during my time at B—–, actually forced a junior boy and he was beaten up so badly that he had to leave.

I think there is probably a case for suggesting that Renton’s idea of forced sex is at least partially deflated by my own experience, and from conversations with other people who had gone through the same, or similar boarding experiences.  That is to say, if you made a proposition to a boy and he said no, you simply smiled and moved on…  This was because there were so many other boys who would ‘go for a walk in the water-meadows’.  And no, I’m not joking, and I suggest that where there were so many boys willing to play, then rape was redundant!

I sat in the back of the coach on my way home for the last time and I cried my eyes out.  I was sixteen and I was off to join the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice, and sexually speaking, I knew that my life was over!  A kind old duck sidled up to me and asked me what the matter was. What could I say? And yes, I did have a bitter sort of laugh about that, later on. And then, of course, I grew up!

Of course, my love-life wasn’t over, but the opportunities for adventure were very few and very far between as I scrabbled my way up through the service to become a pilot. For a start, how could I hazard my longed-for career as a pilot for the sake of short-term happiness?  The answer was no, and I only had to read the News of the World each week to know what was happening to fellow paedosexuals…  And then there were the Lord Montagu of Beaulieu scandals.

Back to Renton’s book. I admit that it hit me really hard. Not the Gothic descriptions of rapine, but the highly accurate descriptions of, particularly, those abandoned kids at that school’s front door. Renton asks the mothers. particularly: ‘How could you do it?’

The silence is deafening, of course. They would say because it was a cultural imperative and ‘everyone else was doing it’. Damn them!

Another memory. A boy called Harry. He was taller and stronger than me by a long way, but we were made to get into a ring and box. I was terrified, but more terrified of showing fear, so I went at him like a windmill. He simply dotted my nose bloody and then easily knocked me down with a second blow. Then the silly kid got into trouble for blubbing because he’d hurt me!

What absolute bastards those people were. We were seven and eight and we were supposed to act like vicious little men. Harry and I were good friends after that and he pretended to be a useless boxer thereafter. He used to just wave his gloves about and let other kids hit him.

How can I remember what happened as long ago as 1944? Christ, I can remember coming down the stairs to the smell of lumpy porridge in the mornings; the incredible stench of an outside urinal; the swish of the cane and delayed bite of the hideous pain. Oh yes and developing boils on my knees during my second year…  Many of us had boils. I wonder why?

Oddly, one of the few things I still like is lumpy porridge. I couldn’t face the day without it! Another positive is that when I went to No. 1 School of Technical Training — where the discipline was fierce — they set their ex-guardsmen drill instructors on us, I just smiled inwardly and thought: ‘This is easy!’

And when the big brutal senior entry came in to wreck our barrack room just before a kit-inspection, I thought nothing of it and had my kit ready in no time.  Truthfully, after boarding school, the training centre was a boat-ride.

I urge you to read the book if you have a strong enough stomach.

[Heretic TOC: This marks the end of Mike’s letter, but another one followed, after I told him I wasn’t that keen on subjecting myself to Renton’s antagonistically “Gothic” view of consensual sex between teachers and boys: we are more than sufficiently familiar with the ubiquitous “abuse” narrative. I don’t understand why Renton would be so hostile in the book, given that his attitude to children’s sexuality is by no means as negative as the “innocence” narrative requires. This relative reasonableness comes out in his conversation – we had a lengthy and perfectly amicable Skype chat –  and also in an article he did for the Observer in 2014, when he wrote: “Besides, the sexual abuses were, in my version of the story, just detail: the real narrative was of five years of deliberate crushing of our individuality, the suppression of emotional freedom. Sexual bullying seemed just a part of the violence and cruelty that was the basic currency of the school and hundreds like it; the tools with which it squashed our little forms into the mould.” What was wrong, then, he seems to be saying was the bullying, not sex per se. Who could disagree? But let’s continue with Mike’s second letter: ]

From my personal point of view, it is not the detail that matters. It is the desperation that I felt as a small boy, having no-one to turn to for help. When you were very new, trying desperately to remember complex school rules and weird traditions; being beaten for such ‘crimes’ as forgetting to change into house-shoes (sandals) when one came in from outside. Even as a small child, I was forgetful, so I got a lot of ‘stripes’ for that.

As for your attempts to get Renton to see that Charles Napier wasn’t the monster that he claims, well, that’s like the pissing-into-wind, one-sided-argument that we are all faced with in this world to today. The one-eyed paedophobe will go on using his maximum pejoratives, come what may?  Regardless of the truth and the realities of childhood volition? And yes, his professional pragmatism as a journalist would have come into the mix of hatred, rage and fear.

And yes, on second thoughts: don’t read the book! It is very depressing! Not least, because of the level of Renton’s obvious obsessive-compulsive ‘pursuit of justice’. Yes, he was flogged to within an inch of his young life by a ‘drunken monster’ — probably a sado-masochist; yet it is the sexual events of prep and public school life that he pours most of his Gothic passions into. So — as you say — he gives the punters what they really want to read? He sells the book with salacious references?

[Heretic TOC again: Precisely! There is a big market for misery memoirs in general but a much bigger one for “sexed-up” misery.]

 

 

 

 

 

A stage, not an age, underpins BL desire

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Heretic TOC is delighted to present a guest blog today by Edmund, author of the BL novel Alexander’s Choice, set at Eton College and somewhat improbably hailed in the Daily Mail as “the Etonian version of Fifty Shades Of Grey”. The book was being “feverishly read by as many Etonians, past and present, as can get their hands on it”, enthused columnist Richard Kay. And who better to write about hot lust and love between man and boy at Britain’s fabled hothouse for future leaders than an Old Etonian such as Edmund himself? More relevant today, though, as will be seen below, is another observation I once made about the author: “I think he must … be some sort of time traveller, a former citizen of ancient Athens, judging by his amazing evocation of pederasty’s golden age and the ideals of pedogogic eros and mentorship.” Edmund now has his own fledgling website, hatched only a few days ago and in a very preliminary stage of development, called Greek Love Through the Ages.

 

On the lowering of the usual age at which boys have attracted men

A few years ago, when I wrote a novel about a love affair between a fourteen-year-old boy and a young schoolmaster, I was already aware from long study of ancient Greece, the best-known pederastic culture ever, that my protagonist was a little below the average age of boys to which Greek men were attracted.  However, it was only through extensive correspondence resulting from my novel that it was first impressed on me that most men today identifying themselves as boy-lovers are more attracted to younger boys.  Put together, this suggested a serious discrepancy between Greek and modern preferences. This both surprised me and struck me as having important implications, so I have done some investigation which I am now reporting.

I firmly believe that attraction to boys is a natural impulse which has survived millions of years of evolution because of its benefits to the species. The evidence for this was best summed up by Bruce Rind in his Hebephilia as a Mental Disorder? (2011), showing that pederasty has been so widely practised not only throughout recorded human history, but also by other primates, as to indicate that it is an “evolutionary heritage” for which “most mature males have a capacity” (pp. 20-1). Moreover, one indication of its evolutionary function is “that mature male erotic interest in boys, when expressed, is generally coordinated with the ages at which mentorship and enculturation are most useful and efficiently effected, from peripubescence through mid-adolescence” (p. 24).  But how can it be thus co-ordinated if boy-lovers today are drawn to significantly younger boys than were the Greeks?

Much the strongest evidence for the age of boys with whom men chose to become sexually involved in any era comes from Renaissance Florence, thanks to Michael Rocke’s exhaustive study of the copious records of the Office of the Night Watch set up to police pederasty there.  In Statistical Table B.2 of his book Forbidden Friendships (1996), he gives the “ages of partners in the passive role, 1478-1502” in 475 cases recorded by the Office of the Night.  They range from six to twenty-six, but 90% (428) were aged twelve to nineteen, while only 16 were under twelve, and only 31 were aged twenty or more.  At 82 cases, sixteen was the peak as well as the mean.  A smaller sample of 58 passive partners whose ages were found in a tax record of 1480 yielded a mean age of fifteen.

The best evidence for the youngest age at which Greek boys receive amorous attention is poem 205 of Straton of Sardis’s Musa Puerilis:

My neighbour’s quite tender young boy provokes me not a little, and laughs in no novice manner to show me that he is willing. But he is not more than twelve years old. Now the unripe grapes are unguarded; when he ripens there will be watchmen and stakes.

This implies that at twelve or a little less, a boy had not quite reached the expected age.   In his poem 4, Straton says he delights in the prime of a boy in his twelfth year (ie. aged eleven).  I believe this is the sole reference in Greek literature to boys under twelve being sexually attractive.  Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, says that Spartan boys “were introduced to the society of lovers” at twelve.

Straton considered seventeen beyond bounds and there are copious references in Greek literature to boys losing their desirability with the appearance of body and facial hair.  However, an eighteen year-old could still be referred to as a pais (boy) in an amorous context and fully-grown but still unbearded youths are commonly depicted as men’s beloveds on vases.  Aristotle says beard growth occurs some time before twenty-one (History of Animals 582a).

According to P. G. Schalow, translator into English of Ihara Saikaku’s The Great Mirror of Male Love, the most important source of our knowledge of the pederasty ubiquitous in Japan for a thousand years, the age of the passive partners usually corresponded to the age of the wakashu (adolescent boy), defined by hair-shaving ceremonies performed at the ages of eleven or twelve and eighteen or nineteen.

Khaled El-Rouayheb in his Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500-1800, also describing a society where men’s attraction to boys was taken for granted, quotes the opinions of numerous primary sources on the age of boys’ attractiveness. He concludes that the range was wide, at seven or eight to twenty, but “that the boy’s attractiveness was usually supposed to peak around halfway through, at fourteen or fifteen.”

To determine the ages to which today’s self-identified boy-lovers are attracted, I consulted two of their forums. In a poll held this year on one called boymoment, seventy-six voters replied to the question “What ages do you like?” 8% opted for under eight, 81% for eight to fifteen and 10% for 16+.  The ages brackets of 10-11 and 12-13 were most popular and virtually equal choices, confirming what an old hand there told me that the many polls of this sort conducted in the past had consistently shown 11-12 as the most preferred age, in other words towards the end of Tanner stage two of pubescence.  A poll of 88 voters on a forum called boylandonline ongoing since 2011 showed 10, 11 and 12 as the roughly equal most popular choices.

Based on the foregoing, I think it is fair to postulate twelve to nineteen as the typical age range of boys to whom men were attracted historically, with fifteen the likely average and peak, and eight to fifteen as the age most online boy-lovers are now attracted to, with eleven to twelve the average and most liked.  How can one explain the discrepancy of three or four years?  Here follow three hypotheses in order of importance.

ONE:

Watch a film with boys from the 1930s and look up the actors’ ages. Those who look like today’s 13-year-olds with voices that have not begun to break are more likely to have been 16. The handsome Jürgen Ohlsen in the Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex (1933) is a good example of one presumably chosen partly for his pederastic appeal, since the Nazis were not averse to exploiting such imagery.  It has happened again and again that the 14-year-old I thought I was looking at in a Victorian photo turned out to be 18.  Necessarily subjective judgements of this sort are useful as expressions of visual response to a substantial drop in the age of puberty that has been going on for well over a century.  Abundant but complicated evidence and supporting anecdotes have already been discussed in Tom’s blog of 25 September 2014, so I shall only point out the one I think best for accurate comparison over a very long period.  The voices of Bach’s choirboys in the years 1727-48 began breaking on average at 17.25, whereas those of London schoolboys in 1959 did so at 13.25 (studies cited in Politics and Life Sciences 20 (1) p.48).

This has far-reaching implications.  For example, the debate on whether historical individuals like Oscar Wilde were pederasts or gay should end.  Seen in the light of the age at which Victorians started looking like men, Wilde, with his lovers’ age range of 14-21, was unambiguously a pederast in the Greek tradition he claimed.

TWO:

Sexuality is heavily influenced by culture.  I cannot see how else it is possible to explain the wild variations in degree of sexual interest in boys implied by cultures like Renaissance Florence where Rocke found (p. 115) “at least two of every three men were incriminated” over it despite religious denunciation, state persecution and the provision of women in brothels to lure them away.  The antagonism of the Florentine state failed mostly because the culture of pederasty was too strong.  By contrast, fierce opposition to sex between children and anyone significantly older pervades the entire culture of the Anglophone countries and, to some extent,  most countries. It follows then that in a culture such as today’s that is deeply antagonistic to pederasty only those innately least capable of attraction to adults will become boy-lovers, the others either shunning boys in favour of adults or never awakening to their latent capacity for attraction to boys. Tom has said in one of his blogs that hebephiles are far more likely than paedophiles to be capable of attraction to adults. This is bound to cause under-representation of potential hebephiles in boy-love forums.

Also, in several populous countries the age of consent is fourteen, and in most it is no more than sixteen, which must have the effect of disincentivising some men attracted most to boys of fourteen or more from participating in forums defined by longings for the forbidden.

THREE

Much of what is considered sex today was ignored as insignificant by pre-modern societies. Greek men sought intercrural or anal intercourse with boys, and not, as far we know, to be masturbated. Japanese men sought anal intercourse.  Masturbation only interested Florence’s Office of the Night if done with a view to seducing a boy into being sodomized.  If, as has been frequently asserted on this blog, paedophiles are much less inclined to penetrative acts than hebephiles, then more of them will have passed under the radar in pre-modern societies, while being represented in the boy-forum statistics.  However, this is only a minor point.  Excluding masturbation may have raised the mean age of the boys in the Florentine records, but cannot explain why Florentine men preferred to sodomise 15-16 year-olds rather than 14-year-olds.

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I suggest it has been shown that if one were to allow that the age of attraction expressed by online boy-lovers has been skewed a little downwards by my second and third hypotheses, men today can be said to be responsive to roughly the same state of physical development in boys that they always have been, in harmony with their evolutionary heritage.  That the age at which this development is attained has gone down is at the heart of the modern boy-lover’s unhappy predicament.

 

Applaud their courage, and take heart

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Heretic TOC presents a guest blog by Explorer, who has contributed many excellent comments here including a recent one that briefly introduced us to an interesting new organisation called Heart Progress. Today he delves deeper, exploring (well, he is Explorer!) the strengths and weaknesses of Heart Progress, and how heretics here could help it develop its potential as a force for good. Explorer is a young Russian from an intellectual home background, who enjoyed the benefits of growing up in the briefly libertarian atmosphere of the 1990s that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Qualified as a lawyer, he has a non-legal professional role which has brought him into lively discussion and debate with scientists and technicians, from whom he has learned much. He contributes to a range of online forums, sometimes taking people out of their intellectual comfort zone by presenting challenging ideas on a range of topics, such as parapsychology and anarchist politics, as well as intergenerational sexuality.

 

HEART PROGRESS COMMUNITY: A CASE FOR SELECTIVE SUPPORT

We live in interesting times, full of surprises; most of them, however, are unpleasant ones, like the regular news of the next stage of escalation of some military conflict, or yet another governmental decision to impose even more censorship, surveillance and persecution than we already have. Yet, thanks to the new Heretic TOC commenter Hypersonic, I learned something which has surprised me in a positive way. A very positive way, I would say!

Heart Progress Community: A Bright Side

Now we have a new activist community which holds not just a pro-paedosexual, but a pro-contact position: Heart Progress. This group of people openly aims to bring about the legalisation and normalisation of consensual child-adult sex. This is not another sad VirPed bunch begging society to accept them as human beings because of their promise to condemn and suppress their sexuality. Neither it is a therapeutic circle providing some help yet still insisting that its members should forever give up any hope of their sexual needs being actually satisfied. These are people who publicly claim that children are sexual beings who can consent to sexual relations with adults, and not get harmed in the process; and, therefore, there is no objective reason to forbid intergenerational sexual contact.

So, we are witnessing the birth of the first activist community to defend consensual child-adult sex in many, many years. We definitely haven’t seen such initiatives since the 1970s, the times of PIE and NAMBLA; and the organisations founded in this remote epoch either were destroyed by the authorities (as PIE was) or forced to remain largely silent and inactive, formally existing yet not being able to do anything noticed by the general public (the current state of NAMBLA). The only remaining activity has been the internet “paedosphere” – a network of websites where unrepentant paedophiles and their supporters have gathered. And this activity has generally been confined to its original circle of participants, unable to reach a wider audience.

And now, Heart Progress is concentrating its efforts on doing exactly this, taking the message beyond the confines to which it has until now been restricted by public opinion. This requires real nonconformity and courage, especially in view of the fact that the community’s list of participants is open and visible, with members who are active on social networks such as Twitter and Google+ (where it has a community page). Apparently many of these people are not paedophiles themselves, but activists in open solidarity with them, without hiding their identities. Such public support is a remarkable achievement.

Nor does Heart Progress limit its activity to online advocacy: it has already organised a public, real-life demonstration called “Breed Out the Hate”. This event was not dedicated to paedosexuality but to interracial marriage, intercourse and childbirth. The demo was apparently quite small; yet, a primarily pro-paedosexual organisation visibly engaged in real-life activism is something unseen since the 1970s (or, at best, the early 1980s).

This is laudable… but, for a balanced view, some unpleasant aspects of Heart Progress must also be taken into account.

Heart Progress Community: A Not-So-Bright Side

With all my sympathy for their paedo-activism cause, here I’ll have to criticise: Heart Progress people are, essentially, “social justice warriors” (SJWs), with all the notable negative traits these mainly left-wingers possess.

Like all SJWs, they have a tendency to dogmatic thinking, operating by slogans and clichés rather than reflective thought, and parroting currently fashionable Left positions without analyzing them critically. They often are overemotional and angry; they expect people to agree with them, and become furious when they don’t. They tend to overvalue their supporters and undervalue their opponents. They are unresponsive to constructive, non-hostile critique and persist in mistakes.

They easily fall for the temptation of reverse discrimination, and of accepting inverted versions of discriminative ideologies of the past. Let’s return to the Breed Out The Hate demonstration I mentioned above: according to some of the movement’s leading figures, the purpose of interracial couples is dissolution of white people’s genetic inheritance – inheritance, which, in their opinion, makes white people innately prone to violence, oppression, genocide and racism. They think that white people, because of their “evil” genes, have been the primary villains since the dawn of history; only by mixing their genetic lines with intrinsically peaceful and tolerant non-white genes, will they allow their progeny to become better. Such “biological pacification” would be manifested not only in genes, but in looks: with all people being of interracial heritage, everyone will look the same and so there would be no place for racist sentiments, which, according to their ideas, requires “whiteness” to begin with.

I think it is pretty obvious that such assertions have no basis in historical scholarship, biological science or simple life experience. It is an inverted version of the classic racist ideology of white American slave-owners of the past. This ideology was born out of the conflict between culture and society: exalted principles of personal freedom and ethical rejection of slavery clashed with the harsh political and economic needs of colonial imperialism and unrestrained capitalism. The result was an ugly, pseudo-scientific ideology that claimed non-white people are lower beings compared to white ones; they are “bestial”, “dangerous”, unable to control their aggressive impulses and thus in need of “benevolent” rule by their masters. Nowadays, we can see their faulty justifications of oppression turned on their heads and thrown in whites’ own faces.

As any person with some decent historical knowledge may attest, non-white civilizations committed atrocities as eagerly as white ones, and proclaimed their own superiority above everyone else just as easily. The Chinese Empire, founded on bloody warfare, bound together by merciless repression, and describing itself as the only civilized nation in the world (with everyone else, including white Europeans, demeaned as savages), is a good example. 20th century genocides and tyrannies were not exclusively white activity either: Mao Zedong was as willing to slaughter millions as Stalin and Hitler were; Japanese militarists were as prone to committing atrocities as German Nazis; the modern North Korean regime is hardly less totalitarian than any of its Western predecessors. So, there is no reason to claim that white people have done more cruel deeds, historically, than non-whites – and that their genetic inheritance is somehow tainted.

Here I need to emphasise that I have nothing against interracial marriage: if two people of different races are in love with each other, they should marry – or just live together without formally being spouses, if they want – and have as many interracial kids as they like, without fear of societal condemnation. But if a white man and a white woman love each other and want to have children, they should do it without being blamed for perpetuating their “evil” genes, or for being innately prone to violence themselves. Racism, like any other oppressive ideology, does not require “whiteness”; what it requires is a lust for power and wealth on the part of the elite ideologues and the willingness of the masses to believe them, feeling satisfied by their illusory superiority; and these elites and masses can be of any skin colour and genetic inheritance.

Selective Support and Why We Need to Give It

So, what should we do? Should we support Heart Progress? Yes, we should. It is vitally important to understand that we have to start our public activism in our actual situation, in the current circumstances that we cannot simply wish away. If we want to re-enter the Libertarian Left movement, we’ll have to deal with the SJWs who, whether we like it or not, are still apparently the leading faction.

Yet, our support shouldn’t be uncritical – while participating, we can and should raise our voice against the ideas and practices of Heart Progress in particular, and the modern Libertarian Left in general, which we find to be baseless, fallacious or counter-productive.

By doing it, we would be able to add a necessary diversity of ideas and approaches to the rebirthing of paedosexual activism and ensure that its supporters are not limited to SJWs. This is important for our public message: the general populace must see that intergenerational sex is defended by people with a range of ideological backgrounds. It must see that not all defenders of consensual intergenerational sex subscribe to nonsensical SJW notions.

This will also help to ensure the preservation of the pro-paedosexuality message when SJW ideology hits a crisis, which may happen sooner than we think. With all the emerging critical voices from within the Libertarian Left milieu, voices that justly point to the current absurd excesses of identity politics and “political correctness”, we would be able to continue our activism inside the future Libertarian Left scene, which will overcome SJW faults.

And it will help to restore the culture of critical thought and open dialogue which is sadly weak in our authoritarian times, when Left seems to compete with the Right in its censoriousness and rejection of complex rational analysis in the favour of simplistic emotional dogmas.

Some final remarks

The Libertarian Left movement is in a sad, I may even say “fallen”, state nowadays – especially if compared with its thriving mid-20th century version. But, with all its current faults, it is still better than its main rival, Alt-Right. With all its mistakes, the fundamental basis of the Libertarian Left ideal – an intent to create an egalitarian society, capable of progress wilfully driven by the people themselves, diverse and yet united in solidarity as regards respecting fundamental humanistic values, cooperative and yet supportive of individuality – is both viable and desirable. The Alt-Right, by contrast, based on a decisive rejection of equality, progress and everyone deviating from an arbitrary “traditional norm”, is unviable and undesirable from the start.

It is worth remembering that sometimes, somewhere, in some specific cases, Alt-Rightists do have valid points – in their critiques of SJW excesses, for example – but the basic principles on which they base their politics are still, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong ones. On the other hand, the Libertarian Left have made, and keep making, many mistakes, ones which have to be identified and criticised as such; but their basic principles are fundamentally correct. That’s why I’ll prefer to remain with the Libertarian Left, trying to repair, reform and renovate it, rather than bitterly abandon it because of its multiple current faults, such as pervasive SJW-ism.

And in the changeable and flexible society led by the Libertarian Left-led, paedosexuals and children alike may have a chance of liberation. In the rigid and normalcy-enforcing Alt-Right society, children can never be free and paedosexuals will be forever persecuted.

So, as I said before, and will repeat here, Heart Progress people are remarkably courageous, and are doing important work. They are the first ones in many years to do it. And as for the absurd ideas which some of their leading figures support, unfortunately, they are not the only ones supporting absurd ideas now. If we support them, we will be able to point them to their mistakes, and maybe even persuade some of them to give them up. Or, at least, we will make their community more diverse – with the benefits I described above.

LSM interviews Yours Truly

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Leonard Sisyphus Mann, distinguished guest blogger here at Heretic TOC, has interviewed me for his own blog, Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans, focusing on my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons – how it came to be written, for instance, and the high drama over its publication, including a ferocious and sustained attack against the book from thousands of Jackson fans around the globe, even before its appearance.

The first part of the two-part interview is scheduled for publication tomorrow evening, so you might want to watch out for it. Also included is a Special Offer – a bargain price for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, exclusive to readers of Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans. The second part is due to follow a week later, on Wednesday 19 April.

So, that’s it for now, just the above brief news item: short, but sufficient, I trust, to pique some interest.

No easy way to say this…

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There’s no easy way to say this, so I guess I’d better just dive in. Heretic TOC is going to be taking a sabbatical, probably for at least six months.

I need the time. A whole heap of stuff I should be doing has been long neglected and I feel I really must give myself a chance to catch up. In “Heretic TOC gets its mojo back” late last year, I was honestly able to report that the blog seemed to be going very well after a difficult patch. However, I also said time was a problem: “I would love to be spending time on writing books, and articles for academic publications, in addition to time spent on the blog. Right now, though, it just ain’t happening.”

It still ain’t. I don’t propose to take up space regaling you with details of all the projects I have languishing on the back burner – not just writing, but much more. I went into all that with an old friend of this blog, the estimable Leonard Sisyphus Mann, in an email exchange yesterday, and I can tell you my summarised sins of omissions pushed up towards 600 words.

And now, having mentioned LSM, it would be reprehensible not to add that he has a fabulous new blog post fresh out this very day, called “Dr Cantor & the Case of the Extrapolated Equivalence”, a title sure to whet the appetite of the many heretics who have followed the career of Jimmy the Screamer.

I nearly said I would be letting Heretic TOC lie fallow for a while, until it dawned on me that fields are left fallow when the crops are not growing too well and the land needs time to recover. But the “land” is still very fertile at the moment, judging by strong visitor numbers and encouraging feedback in terms of published comments and private emails. I also like to think some of my best work has been recent. Perhaps that is the root of the problem. Back in 2012 I started off with short top-of-the-head opinion blogs, doing one every day with what now seems ridiculous ease. But as you go on you tend to become more ambitious, probing the chosen topics ever more deeply. And that eats up more and more time…

So, after over 200 blogs in a little over four years (this is the 202nd) I need to change course, with almost immediate effect. A while ago, though, I said I would be tackling Ancient Greece as a theme, and I hope to do that soon as a final project before the sabbatical starts. It should be something very special as it will take the form of an interview with a leading scholar who has kindly agreed to grace Heretic TOC with his presence.

All I would add at this stage is my heartfelt thanks for your interest and often wonderful comments (of which 8,644 had been published as of yesterday), plus the suggestion that this would be a good time to think about becoming a regular subscriber to H-TOC, if you are not already signed up, so that future blogs will go straight to your email inbox. This will save the hassle of checking in from time to time to see whether anything new has appeared. That’s fine when there is always something new but could be irritating when there is a long gap between one blog and the next.

As for whether I will eventually return to blogging as regularly as I have until now, I rather doubt it. It’s not that I am running out of things to write about, quite the contrary: there are more and more, not least on account of the turbulent times we live in. On the plus side, my love of writing probably guarantees I will not be able to resist holding forth here again at least occasionally; guest blogs will still be welcome, too, and likewise lots of comments, of course. I will still be here to moderate and chip into the discussion. Also, I hope I will now be able to find time to bring out a Best of Heretic TOC book, with an e-book edition. This is one of those many projects I should be able to switch from the back burner to the front.

 

NEWS ROUNDUP

My blog last time about Milo Yiannopoulos, “Milo gives good (talking) head – usually”, coincided with one of those crazy spells when on-topic news is suddenly fizzing and exploding all over the place like a spectacular fireworks display. Lots of items would be worth a blog on their own, but – consistent with my intention to bow out for a while – I will settle for just acknowledging some of the main British ones briefly here.

  • Towards the end of last month the much heralded hearings of the massively overblown, unwieldy “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse” (IICSA) finally got under way under its fourth chairwoman, having already frittered away well over £20 million of taxpayers’ money in the two and a half years of its existence. Totally in accordance with this disastrously dysfunctional background, the first hearings focused on events thousands of miles away, decades ago, with the allegedly guilty parties all dead and so unable to defend themselves, and the institutions they represented no longer engaged in the complained of activities, so there are no continuing wrongs that must urgently be put right. The events in question have in any case already been the subject of a massive investigation on the far side of the globe. Could there possibly be any more utterly pointless exercise than expensively going through the entire process again? Some of the survivors (of what admittedly do seem to have been some horrible cases, primarily of callous child exploitation and neglect) said they wanted to see the guilty parties “named and shamed”, even though they were dead. Shamed? Someone should tell them the dead cannot so much as blush. They are quite literally shameless. The barrister Barbara Hewson wrote a good piece for Spiked on how an inquiry should be run.
  • Meanwhile, the police chief in charge of Operation Hydrant, which is supposed to be coordinating a whole string of other named police operations investigating allegations of “non-recent” child sexual abuse, has been showing signs of being just as overwhelmed as IICSA. So overwhelmed, indeed, that instead of redoubling his efforts in the face of hopeless odds, he has done a remarkably sensible thing by admitting defeat. But not on the “non-recent” aka ancient history front. No, apparently we can expect the police to keep on performing more “operations” than the NHS for the foreseeable future. Much more interestingly, the police chief in question has reiterated his remarkably liberal view that mere downloaders of child porn should not be jailed. Simon Bailey, who is the chief constable of Norfolk and lead on child protection for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said forces were operating beyond capacity because of the sheer volume of reports. This follows an NSPCC report claiming as many as 500,000 people in the UK could be involved with sharing illegal images of children online. Bailey said “we cannot arrest our way out of the situation…we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority”. But this change of tack is surely far too humane and rational for the government to accept.
  • Not strictly news any longer, having been reported last August and somehow been neglected here, the extensive new statistics on sexual, physical or psychological abuse experienced before age 16 in England and Wales, published by the Office for National Statistics, are nonetheless important. This is because, unlike other surveys, these figures have been touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”, conducted by a reputable survey body and based on a properly representative sample of adults aged 16 to 59, rather than a self-selected group, who were recalling their childhood experience. However, it has to be said that, in line with the spirit of the times, the questions asked seem designed to obscure rather than reveal the quality of the experiences in question. It appears to be assumed, for instance, that any sexual touching or penetration by an adult must have been unwanted. Table 9 is quite interesting in this regard, showing reasons why the “survivor” did not tell anyone about the sexual event. Although a number of reasons are set out their meaning is opaque, including quite a lot of responses categorised as “Some other reason”. What you will not find, but which is a definite possibility, is that many respondents did not regard the activity as “abuse” at the time. Another sign of the times is that genuine abuse – physical and psychological – is passed over very briefly in the report.

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