Does ‘moe’ mean less as Japan moves on?


Many heretics here will be familiar with ロリコン, though probably only when transcribed from Japanese into our alphabet as “lolicon”. Today we are privileged to have a guest blog on the subject by “Peace”, who doesn’t need translations. Peace knows Japanese and has been reading Japanese message boards, news sites, and blogs for some few years now, as well as sites written by English-speaking people living in Japan. He has also translated Japanese fan-made comics and zines. In his early twenties, Peace is a post-grad student, who spends most of his free time either writing fiction or translating comics and short stories. In this blog he describes a shift in Japanese culture, in which an earlier lolicon boom has given way to a related phenomenon, a “moe” boom.



Two of Japan’s most well-known and infamous exports are lolicon and shotacon – erotic art of young girls and boys respectively – and lolicon often takes centre stage in debates concerning cartoon child pornography.  Pressure on Japan to meet global standards for regulating child pornography as well as turmoil from within their own country has transformed lolicon from being perceived as a harmless if strange hobby to what is often now seen as a deviant and perverse interest. Before this decisive cultural shift, Japan had a veritable mainstream “lolicon boom” starting in the late 70s that ended tragically come the 90s.  Though lolicon was toppled from its throne, it rose from the ashes and gained new life in the form of the “moe boom.”


“Lolicon” is short for “Lolita complex,” obviously drawn from Nabokov’s famous novel.  Though it tends to refer to erotic art of young girls or a sexual attraction to young girls, it can also be used as a noun that’s used to refer to one who is sexually attracted to young girls. It first entered the Japanese lexicon with the publication of Russell Trainer’s 1966 book The Lolita Complex; interestingly enough, the term originally applied to the reverse situation, wherein a young girl is attracted to adult males.  The publication of Tatsuhiko Shibusawa’s An Introduction to Girls Collection in 1972 changed the term to its current usage of adults interested in young girls.

The lolicon boom didn’t actually start with manga, as tends to be assumed, but with photo collections of nude girls that became popular throughout the 70s, starting with Kenmochi Katsu’s Nymphet: The Myth of the 12-Year-Old.  Both naturalist and gravure books were sold over the counter in general bookstores and some books sold up to 20 million copies.  As the 80s hit, demand for the books increased, and more than 100 photobooks were released.  However, as time went on, the books became the subject of societal scrutiny, leading to the banning and discontinuation of several series as well as regulatory practices that censored the photos.

At the same time, a new trend began to emerge in the manga and anime community.  Starting with manga by loli-legends Aki Uchiyama and Hideo Azuma, cute, wide-eyed, and childish girls took to the spotlight in sexual stories.  Subjects and situations usually reserved for older women – such as pantyshots, sexual humour, skimpy outfits, nudity, and even sexual activity – were now also in the realm of young girls.  Lolicon-dedicated magazines like Lemon People, Manga Burikko, and Petite Apple Pie began to pop up, and there was a mass outpouring of both amateur and professionally published lolicon art.  It wasn’t just relegated to the underground, either – magazines popular even now such as Weekly Shonen Champion and Animage had lolita works grace their pages.  Even people and corporations now world-renowned for their non-pornographic work were involved; for example, the video game company Enix began life by publishing games made by programming hobbyists, which included the pornographic loli-centered games Lolita Syndrome and Guest Mariko Hashimoto.  Lolicon was a force to be reckoned with, being not only popular but at times profitable.  Shotacon did not have the same kind of media presence; the closest thing was the proliferation of manga that focused on romantic and/or sensual relationships between young boys (and sometimes young boys and grown men) that was mainly consumed by girls and created by women such as Hagio Moto and Takemiya Keiko.

What’s popular is not always accepted and lolicon is no exception, with dissenting voices coming from both within and outside of the community.  Hayao Miyazaki, whose character Clarisse from the movie Castle of Cagliostro was especially popular among the loli community, had the following to say in 1988:

“[My female protagonists] immediately become the lolicon’s playtoys. In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict [such protagonists] as if they just want [such girls] as pets, and things are escalating more and more.”

At the height of the boom, women’s magazines ran critical and unflattering articles about lolicon, with titles such as “Girls are the victims of lolicon’s desires.”  There was a growing anxiety among the older generation about the newer generation and what the young adults’ preference for fantasy, fiction, and children meant for the future.

Within the manga and anime community, the term “lolicon” became popular among fans, and many wore the title with pride instead of hiding it.  The love of little girls, usually considered to be taboo, almost had its shame lifted by the lolicon boom.  Along with otaku (a word meaning a great or obsessive fan, usually of anime, manga, games, or other pop-culture interests), lolicon were not dangerous, deviant, or abusive to children, but rather just enjoying fantasy – and such fantasy was definitely important to most lolicon.  The magazine Manga Burikko originally featured more realistic sexual art as well as photographs of young and often nude women; however, complaints over the photos and the art resulted in the magazine removing the photos and focusing on manga and pictures that had softer, rounder, and more childlike characters.  One fan complained, “I feel nothing for manga that is simply about penetration or girls being raped;  I psychologically can’t accept it,” while another stated that they “preferred lighter eroticism over erotic-grotesque depictions.”

The fun ended in 1988 when Tsutomu Miyazaki was arrested for kidnapping, murdering, and then molesting the dead bodies of four girls aged four to seven.  After police searched his house and found huge amounts of anime as well as child pornography, he became branded as “The Otaku Murderer.”  The light-hearted and playful words “lolicon” and “otaku” instantly became pejoratives to describe sick-headed individuals who were dangerous or detached from reality, a stigma which still persists to this day.  Soon after his arrest, the non-profit organization CASPAR (Campaign to Stop the Abuse of Asian
Children and to Safeguard Their Rights) started up and attempted to regulate pornographic depictions of minors, whether or not they were fictional.  The early 1990s saw a successful movement to ban so-called “harmful manga” and arrest those who sold such obscene material, and the production, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute child pornography containing real children was outlawed in 1999.  Lolicon was driven underground and became relegated to niche fanzines and manga hidden behind doors, and those who called themselves or were branded as “lolicon” were seen as simple perverts.

Legislation of lolicon and child pornography in Japan continues to this day, with the most recent being the criminalization of simple possession of child pornography containing real children in 2014.  The most recent attack on lolicon and other work featuring older but still underage characters was the revision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, also known as the “non-existent youth bill.”  In 2010, the metropolitan government submitted an ordinance that would restrict “sexually provocative depictions of fictional characters who appear to be under 18 years of age” as well as work that “features either sexual or pseudo sexual acts that would be illegal in real life.”  The vaguely-worded proposal as well as its implications for free speech earned it the ire of the manga and anime industry and praise from the Tokyo Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and other child-safety organizations.  Many manga artists, both male and female, held press conferences to voice their opposition to the bill and how it threatened the industry. The bill was finally defeated in June of the same year.  Though not everyone who was against the bill is for lolicon, and though “lolicon” is still a word loaded with stigma, such resistance to the bill shows that the manga and anime industry still clings tightly to the concept of freedom of speech for all, and such freedom toward sex and fiction may have been one of the major contributing factors to the lolicon boom.  Despite this, lolicon will never be culturally accepted as it once was due to Japan’s increasing presence in the global public eye as well as pushback from within the country.



Not all was lost for those lolicon, though.  In the 90s, a new word began to emerge in the mainstream that described an affection towards young girls: “moe.”  Though there’s no universal theory of how the word came to be or what it fully encompasses, it certainly has the same connotation of feelings toward young girls that were popular among lolicon.  Moe tends to be described as a character that inspires feelings of tenderness, affection, devotion, and excitement within the consumer. It’s a versatile word, able to be applied to girls, boys, and even adults, but the most common application is towards young girls.  So-called “moe” manga and anime tend to be centred around the usually humorous everyday exploits of girls and have often been described simply as “cute girls doing cute things.” What’s missing from moe, and what separates it from lolicon, is the sexuality.  Very light eroticism can be moe, but more heavy sexuality is outside its scope; the commentator Tohru Honda says that the ideal form of moe love is “romantic love.”  Another core component of moe characters is that the consumer wants to protect or nurture their beloved character: for many moe fans, adding sex to the mix tarnishes such love as well as the alluring “innocence” of the character.

Despite its sexual misgivings, moe is a more socially acceptable form of love towards young girls and is more popular than lolicon was in its heyday.  Even with its cutesy designs and mostly kid-friendly stories, moe is still primarily consumed by adults.  Moe manga are usually serialized in magazines targeted towards adult males, and the amount of expensive merchandise produced and sold means that it’s being consumed by those with disposable incomes.  In 2005, the Hamagin Research Institute calculated that the moe industry made over 88 billion yen – about 887 million dollars – and that doesn’t even take into account the massive amount of fanwork that’s produced.

Though lolicon may find solace in moe, there is somewhat of a disconnect between older lolicon and newer moe fans and the way in which they envision their objects of attraction.  Moe fans may see outright sexualization as destroying the “innocence” of girls that they’re obsessed with, while lolicon call the moe fan’s attraction shallow, infantile, or obsessed only with the image of purity or girlishness rather than the image of young girls themselves.  Father of lolicon Hideo Azuma had the following to say about one of the more popular moe anime:

“I watched K-ON! It was empty. It was nothing. The jokes made no sense. It didn’t even have any eroticism, any grotesquerie. Just the mildest, faintest hint of fetishism. Are the people who made it and the people who watch it that unable to cope with reality? It just feels gross…”

It’s in this way that 80s mainstream lolicon could be seen as embracing all sides of an attraction towards young girls, while the moe boom can essentially be seen as a neutered form of its glory days: it strips away the “dangerous” sexuality and leaves us with the “safer” form of purely platonic and aesthetic admiration.  It’s not perfect, and for some such a bastardization of their sexuality is unthinkable; they will instead stay underground with lolicon where they can attempt to be free from society’s standards.  For others, though, it is the perfect situation: they can be a little weird, just a little strange, but will not be labeled as criminals or perverts.  For them, the men and women of moe, this is the only way society has allowed them to live.



Back to your resident blogger, and, once again, you heard it here first. Heretic TOC was a front-runner in exposing the absurdity of the Met’s Operation Midland, and has now been vindicated in supporting footballer Ched Evans’ continued claim to innocence after being convicted of rape. See When the law is out of order on rape for the coverage two years ago. Last week the jury at a re-trial brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Not that you’d guess it from the coverage in the mainstream media, where the focus was on the “outrage” felt by anti-rape campaigners, in coverage that strongly (but wrongly) implied the legal system had regressed to “slut-shaming” by allowing evidence to be heard about the alleged victim’s sex life.

While it is a good principle that a complainant’s previous sexual behaviour should not be used to undermine their credibility, which would often be in a one-person’s-word-against-another situation, the howls of protest failed to take into account that this case was different. That is because the woman’s word did not come into it. She never at any point claimed she had been raped.  Yes, she was a prosecution witness because the police decided she must have been raped, but the case was purely circumstantial and unwisely cobbled into a prosecution for misplaced ideological reasons.

Instead of admitting this, the victim-feminism zealots blamed the footballer’s “clever lawyers” for getting their man off on a supposedly dodgy basis.

One of those lawyers was Judy Khan QC, who represented me some 15 years ago at Southwark Crown Court when I was up for importing indecent images. She had less luck in that case, unfortunately. Like Ched Evans I was innocent but found guilty. Unlike Evans, who appealed successfully and went to retrial, I lost my appeal against conviction. By that stage I had run out of entitlement to further Legal Aid and so had no money to keep paying for lawyers, clever or otherwise. Thus I was obliged to present my own case, standing alone before three appeal court judges in the Royal Courts of Justice: a rather daunting experience, I can tell you!

They did at least graciously describe me as “a dedicated enthusiastic and well-researched apologist for what he sees as innocent and non-exploitative pleasure in viewing photographs of juvenile nakedness” before dismissing my legal arguments in a way that struck me as grotesquely rigged: the appeal court does have a reputation for upholding the decisions of the court of first instance if it can fudge a way to do so. But I was so infuriated by their blatant chicanery that I found myself blasting them for it there and then. “This is a travesty of justice!” I hollered, as they filed out of the court. No doubt conscious of their dignity, they remained resolutely deaf and simply kept walking.



One of those three judges who ignored my outburst that day (see above item) was Sir Richard Henriques, whose report into the disastrous Metropolitan Police investigation of alleged VIP paedophilia through Operation Midland is expected in a few weeks’ time. But expected by whom? By the Met themselves, certainly. They have already received a draft of the report, but a row has broken out over who else will get to see it, if anyone. The Met have said that “that key findings and recommendations from his independent review would be published” but not the full report. This would “remain private as it would contain confidential and sensitive information”, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Met’s decision not to publish the full report, which will surely be heavily critical of the police (unless it is as biased as the appeal court ruling in my case), has been the subject of widespread disquiet. It looks as though the head of the Met, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, is trying to cover up his force’s embarrassment over wasting a vast amount of money investigating allegations made by an obvious fantasist – allegations that grievously damaged the reputations of innocent people, including former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, and Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff.

Why did the Met do it? Because, as in the Ched Evans case, the authorities were too much under the influence of victimological dogma – in this case the dogma that complainants should always be believed, regardless of how crazy their stories are. This mindless mantra was most egregiously manifested when a senior officer with Operation Midland publicly described the fantasists’ allegations not only as believable, which was ridiculous in itself, but “credible and true“.



You couldn’t make it up as satire: the top brass of the massive and monstrously dysfunctional child sexual abuse inquiry (IICSA) have been so much at each other’s throats that a relationship counsellor was engaged in a desperate, doomed bid to get them to work together more cooperatively. It looks as though they were driven out of their minds thanks to all the abuse they were getting from the perpetually skrieky, tantrum-throwing, never-endingly demanding so-called abuse survivors’ representatives.

The upshot is that the future of the inquiry looks ever more wobbly. Three heads have rolled already, as successive chairs have failed to satisfy the blood-lust of the undead survivors, and even the fourth occupant of the obviously cursed job, Professor Alexis Jay, now finds herself under vicious attack.

This has all been coming out through evidence given this week to the Commons Home Affairs Committee of the UK parliament. It was on opportunity, duly taken, for Jay to bad-mouth her predecessor as chair, Dame Lowell Goddard. No need for details here. The dirty linen has been washed all over the media like a Hollywood divorce, but with one big difference: the most eye-popping stuff is not the parental squabbling between Jay and Goddard but the ugly sight of the kids kicking lumps out of both of them. Earlier it was Goddard taking flak for packing her bags and abruptly abandoning the family home with just a note left on the fridge. Now Jay is under fire for sensibly trying to tidy up the house a bit by getting the inquiry scaled down to a manageable level. Andrew Lavery, of survivors’ group White Flowers Alba, reportedly said: “Alexis Jay’s position is untenable, her statement is dishonest and disingenuous. She must stand down immediately.” That was fairly typical.



… localism instead of convergence, identitarianism instead of universalism, short-sighted egotism instead of collaboration, and the calamitous idea of focusing on those considered to be similar while shunning “the other”. I fear the way that so many people hope to defend themselves from the malaise of life, from existential confusion, by choosing a group identity and sticking to it.  – Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist, former radical student activist, historian of the philosophy of science

The politics of identity is narcissistic and needy…. It’s all inherently censorious. Because if your political activism is indistinguishable from your natural characteristics or cultural identity, then any criticism of your political activism will inevitably feel like an assault on *you*. This is why student politicos in particular are so insanely cagey about open debate, forever hiding themselves in “safe spaces” and trying to ward off campus anyone who criticises them in the same way monks might once have wielded crucifixes to chase away witches. – Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked! in The Spectator

Are identity politics intrinsically as disastrous as Rovelli and O’Neill claim? After all, there could be no politics at all without groups of like-minded people rallying together against others who think differently. These opposing groups have always thought in “Us and Them” terms, if not along lines of gender and sexuality then of social class and wealth. In Britain and elsewhere these differences have been the lifeblood of democracy. Marx urged the working class to unite. This could be considered identity politics because the workers first had to identify themselves as part of the “working class”, a separate entity set against the exploitative “bourgeoisie”. But at least Marx envisioned a society beyond class warfare, based on equality and justice for all. His thinking was grounded in a universal concept of justice, with fairness for everyone, not winner-takes-all. This ideal was betrayed in those countries that took the revolutionary road; but democratic socialism has been more honourably successful.

Like democratic socialism, our vision for the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the 1970s was grounded in a universalist ethic. We believed in sexual liberation for all, not just for paedophiles. That is why we supported women’s liberation and children’s rights – the right to sexual expression, of course, but much more as well. It is why we supported GLs not just the BLs who were always by far the largest part of our membership. Even sociologist Frank Furedi has conceded that “PIE and its sympathisers did not simply express a form of liberationist identity politics”. Yes, we initially rallied together around our shared sexuality, as the “working class” once rallied around their labouring status, and as women and gays rallied around their gender and sexual desire; but shared identity was just an organising tactic in the service of a vision – as we saw it – for everyone, not just our own narrow group.

There were those in the gay movement who thought in a similarly constructive, inclusive way. It is thanks to them, and to those who began to identify and organise as other sexual minorities, that the male homosexual identity (gay) made common cause with the female one (lesbian) and those of bisexuals and transgender people, giving us the combined LGBT movement. This is now sometimes expanded to include Q for Queer, the last of which is potentially a capacious vessel for those who don’t fit in anywhere else and don’t quite feel able to come out as anything definite. Wonder who that could let in?🙂

It hasn’t stopped there, either. We now have a rich alphabet soup, even extending in one formulation to LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, flexural (WTF?), asexual, gender-fuck, polyamorous, bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism”. At first blush it all looks like a wonderfully comprehensive celebration of sexual diversity, a huge range of sexual identities assembled in a great conclave, bringing people together in an identity politics of the best sort, based on solidarity, not division.

But we know different, don’t we? For instance, one elephant most definitely not in the (bed)room is sexual attraction to animals, which could be designated by Z, for zoophilia. Not that I know anyone who fancies sex with elephants, but then I’ve never heard a mahout talking candidly. Anyway, you won’t find Z on the list and P is conspicuously absent from the party too. So are N. and H; and E. Indeed, none of the controversial chronophilias named by Michael Seto and discussed recently here in The seven ages of sexual attractiveness make it to the recognised lists of initials: paedophilia, nepiophilia, hebephilia and ephebophilia all go unmentioned, as does the umbrella term MAP and even the unthreatening Kind. Maybe that’s our fault. Maybe Kind activists should be pushing harder. But to blame ourselves is a bit like blaming Jews for failing to stop the Holocaust: swimming against a flood tide of hatred is sometimes just too hard.

Interestingly, though, a couple of lonely voices – openly gay ones, and not closet Kinds as far as I can tell – have been pressing for greater inclusivity. Putting to shame the “respectable” gays who have climbed the ladder of social acceptability and kicked it down to stop others following, are two brave guys: psychologist Jesse Bering and gay history expert Gert Hekma. Bering, author of Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, pointed out in an article last month that “LGB people arguably share more in common with the Zs and Ps than they do the Ts, since being transgender isn’t about who (or what) you’re sexually attracted to, but the gender you identify with. Unlike those representing the other letters in this character soup, trans people say their sexuality plays no role at all. Why then are Ts included while other, more unspeakable, sexual minorities aren’t?”

Hekma, for his part, noted in a conference presentation this summer that the proliferation of initials moves our understanding of sexuality away from sexual behaviour towards a terminology of identity and orientation. As such, it echoes a change noted by Foucault from “doing” to “being”: a century or so ago, the sodomite became the homosexual, moving from a legally defined act to a medical concept of an identity. A main idea of sexologists at that time was that the identity of the homosexual should be accepted but the behaviour should be prevented. It was a variant on the Christian theme: accept the sinner but not the sin.

Homosexuality has long since moved on from that limitation, but a proliferation of marginalised variations are candidates for moving into the space thus vacated. Hekma mentions a whole range of fetishes. “The list is endless,” he says, “Have a look on grindr and tumblr for the dozens of sexual fetishisms.” He points out that in its most accepted variation the continuously expanding list of initials as yet excludes “the major classical perversions” (BDSM, fetishism, paedo-, necro-, copro-, zoophilia). He argues in favour of taking them into the fold, including paedophilia. Such an inclusion could hardly occur without legitimising paedophilic fantasy at least. As Hekma says:

The point many people miss on questions of sexual variation is that fantasies are central and most desires need not be enacted in immediate reality but they often happen in indirect and imaginary ways. Sexual preferences can be staged.

This politics, emphasising identity over behaviour, and especially over behaviour in the real, non-fantasy, world, arguably offers an advance worth having. It may be that the Virtuous Pedophiles could succeed in having “virtuous”, or not-acted-upon, paedophilia accepted as VP on the initials list if they chose to go down that road. It could be a staging post to greater acceptability, as it was for homosexuals. But, in order to succeed, this form of identity politics would seem to depend for its success on denouncing us Kinds – we who do not agree with “virtue” but have it thrust upon us anyway, through draconian laws and policing. As we know, the VPs appear all too keen on this divisive style, and it pays off for them. It is no accident that Jesse Bering has expressed his support for the VPs but not for the Kind views espoused by more radical activists.

Divisive identity politics has featured strongly here at Heretic TOC recently too, at least in the comments. One contributor, under a bewildering variety of names (Why? It just looks schizophrenic), has been not only virulently anti-feminist but also militantly pro-hebephilic and just as aggressively against every other kind of sexual minority and even those in the “normal” mainstream. For him, even heterosexual teleiophiles – adult men attracted to adult women and vice versa – are just perverts because adults’ “natural” preference (for males at least) is for the freshly nubile girl, at the very start of her reproductive potential.

I prefer not to dismiss ideas merely because they seem strange. That would be very much at odds with Heretic TOC’s heretical mission. So, I will concede there is a case to be made that throughout most of human pre-history it might well have made sense for girls to start having babies as soon as they physically could, and that a man’s preferred choice of sexual partner would reflect this. Infant mortality was likely to have been very high, and a whole range of perils including disease, attacks by predatory animals and occasional famine would have made it impossible to sustain or grow the population without full use of every year in the female reproductive cycle. Evolution must have favoured early reproduction or we would not be here to ponder the ways of our ancestors. So, it seems inevitable that for hundreds of thousands of years what we now call hebephilia would have been, along with ephebophilia, the most natural of sexual orientations for males. Having said that, our culture and social needs are very different today. Civilised society has moved on from pre-history in many ways that are a great improvement. None of us, of whatever orientation, can justify our sexuality solely by reference to a long gone past.

A bigger problem with this contributor’s ideas than the mere logical weakness of his argument, however, is the divisiveness of his hebephilic identity politics. According to this way of looking at things,  hebephilia is the only good and virtuous way of loving. Paedophiles and ephebophiles, even bog standard teleiophiles, are perverted in this account, driven solely by selfish lust.  It is a peculiarly nihilistic “politics” because it systematically trashes every possibility of political alliance, which is the way real politics gets done. It gratuitously makes enemies of everyone. In any case, there is no clear  taxonomic split between hebephilia and paedophilia, nor between hebephilia and ephebophilia: the overlap between these categories is considerable, as discussed here recently. Just as there is no “pure” race, such as the Aryans, on which the Nazis based their delusions of racial superiority, there are no pure unalloyed sexual orientations either. We may identify as solely hebephile, or whatever, but the majority in any orientation category are mongrels with a range of tastes.

Again, though, the weak logic behind the contributor’s truculence is less significant than the attitude itself. It is divisive, as already noted, and it is also self-centred, expressing not so much a group identity as an individual one: it is a politics of one person against the world, which is not a practical politics at all, but more a cry for help or a scream of rage against everything being so complicated and confusing these days. As such, it echoes O’Neill’s view, above, of those censorious modern students who are so “narcissistic and needy”.

As for why things have taken such a turn, and what might be done about it, those are perhaps stories for another day.



Yo! Great news! The bastard has got his come-uppance at last! Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, former star undercover reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers, especially the Sun and the now defunct News of the World, is facing jail for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos two years ago. Following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, a jury today found the 53-year-old “King of the Sting” and his driver guilty of plotting to pervert the course of justice.

It’s all over the news, including this Daily Telegraph report, and nobody could be more delighted than me, not least because I was a victim of his lies myself, a story told in When Heretic TOC met the Fake Sheikh, written in July 2014 soon after Judge Alistair McCreath publicly concluded that Mahmood had attempted to persuade a witness to change his evidence and then lied about it under oath.

In my case, Mahmood tracked me down to a naturist resort in France, where he pretended to be not a sheikh but a sheikh’s aide, tasked with the role of checking out the resort to see whether it would be possible for his boss to take a discreet naturist holiday there. His real mission, though, using a very “underage” looking female reporter as an accomplice, was to tempt me into some sort of indiscretion. Maybe they hoped I would proposition her. When that failed they simply made up lies and another accomplice took a photo with a long lens that made it look (falsely) as though I was standing naked with a young boy and chatting him up. Mahmood even had the gall to write up the story in his autobiography, claiming it as one of his successes. See also my follow-up story, The strange case of the brilliant ‘bimbo’.



I guess most heretics here will be aware by now that yet another fiasco has struck the bloated, unmanageable “independent inquiry into historical child sexual abuse”. After losing no fewer than three chairpersons, the inquiry now has to deal with the departure of a key figure who had been holding the wreckage together – counsel to the inquiry Ben Emmerson QC, who resigned at the end of last month.

Fewer readers, though, may be aware that the excellent barrister and commentator Barbara Hewson penned a stinging piece on the subject for the Daily Mail under the headline “This fiasco of a sex abuse inquiry is totally out of control…and has to end NOW”.

The most stunning aspect of her analysis is that unlike the politicians, or most of the media, she has dared to criticise the so-called “survivors”. The inquiry, she says, “has always been dogged by rancorous in-fighting between different camps of ‘survivors’ of historic sexual abuse.” She says prime minister Theresa May did not anticipate when she decided to set up the inquiry two years ago in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, “just how extreme many of the campaigners demanding an inquiry were.” Not pulling any punches, she writes:

I call them ‘abuse fundamentalists’. Some of them are avid conspiracy theorists, recycling tall tales from the Eighties era, when panic about alleged Satanic ritual abuse was at its height….They have all been traumatised, they claim, and everything that is wrong with their lives today is somebody else’s fault. [There is] a vocal lobby who seem as impervious to reason as religious fundamentalists. Unless you submit to their world view — a fixation on the idea that society is riddled with shadowy VIP paedophile ‘rings’ shielded by an evil Establishment omerta — they will viciously condemn you as an apologist for paedophiles.

And there is more! Well worth reading in full.

People who live in glass houses…


Today Heretic TOC welcomes a debut guest blogger, “David”,  who is a 50-year-old security officer from Southern England and a  spare-time student of current affairs, politics, history, and religion. He deplores the use of paedophilia by the Far Right as a stick to beat Muslims with, attacking the hypocrisy of some key figures. The Far Left does not escape his critical attention either. 


Islam is one of the world’s major religions with more than one billion faithful followers and growing rapidly across the globe with every year. We are all familiar with the media demonisation of ordinary law-abiding Muslims as a result of the actions of the “Islamist” extremist minority. In recent years Muslims have also come under attack from UK Far-Right groups such as the British National Party, National Front, Britain First, English Defence League, Infidel groups and so on, who criticise Islam as a “paedophile religion” due to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was married to a child bride, Aisha when she was six years old and he consummated the marriage with her when she was nine years old:

The Far-Right organisations in Britain also point to the much-publicised Rotherham case of alleged ‘child abuse’ involving men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage.

However, the UK Far-Right so-called “Christian” anti-Islamic groups choose not to publicise the following facts:

  • It was legal in medieval Christian England and Europe to marry…child brides! “…in 1396, Richard II of England was joined in marriage to young Isabel of France, who had been 7 years old when their engagement was announced the previous year in Paris. Not only was there no uproar; there was considerable happiness expressed over the assumed probability that this marriage would end the Hundred Year’s War then in one of its periodic states of truce between the two kingdoms. Peace was to be ensured by joining together this man and this little girl in marriage.” – John McLaughlin, “Medieval Child Marriage: Abuse of Wardship?” (Paper delivered at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH Conference on Medieval Studies, April, 1997)
  • The British National Front (NF) organised violent demonstrations against the London meetings of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) during the 1970s and yet…the NF had paedophile members of their own party at the same time! Was this a case of NF hypocrisy, “do as we say not as we do”, or more a case of the extreme right-wing NF being opposed to the progressive left-of-centre causes championed by PIE such as Gay Liberation, and due to PIE’s links with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty) and the Labour Party, perceived as enemies by the Front? Or would the NF claim they had been “infiltrated by paedophiles”? Judge for yourself:
  • Quote: “Hughie Porter (NF Leicester Branch activist) was a particularly unsavoury character with several convictions for child molesting, another fact known but tolerated by the local NF leadership.” – Ray Hill and Andrew Bell, The Other Face of Terror: Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network (Grafton Books 1988)
  •  “… Contrary to popular belief, there are boy-lovers of almost every political persuasion. Two former members of the National Front (British equivalent of the Nazi Party) were recently convicted here of having had sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. One man, Colin London, a former fish shop manager, received a two-year sentence, and the other, Harold Nash, a former company director, one year. SOURCE: Gay News, September, 1979.” – PAN (bi-monthly magazine published by Spartacus, Amsterdam), Vol.1, No. 3 November, 1979. This issue also includes an interesting letter from a correspondent regarding NF radical extremist, Robert Relf’s imprisonment and solitary confinement in the “leper wing” with paedophile prisoners where he relates the shocking ill-treatment meted out to them and he claimed “food sent to the wing was contaminated by other prisoners (real criminals) with urine and spit” and “Hot cocoa is also poured over them.”
  • The late Colin Jordan, the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi British Movement (BM) was found to be listed on documents as a “VIP guest” seized by police investigating alleged “paedophile sex parties” at Elm Guest House in London, along with named Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, Sinn Fein activists and leading members of the Right-wing Conservative Monday Club. Jordan was fined £50 in June 1975 for shoplifting women’s underwear from the Leamington Spa branch of Tesco (despite his virulently anti-Semitic movement being opposed to “Jewish-founded supermarkets and department stores”), and he resigned soon afterwards as BM “fuhrer” to be replaced by his deputy Michael McLaughlin who launched a purge of alleged “perverts”. Roger Gleaves, a paedophile Bishop of the Old Catholic Church, who was recently released from imprisonment for alleged “child rape” offences had founded the Keep Britain Great/Keep Britain White Campaign in 1962, the same year that Jordan formed the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). (Note that Ernst Rohm, the homosexual chief of the Nazi Brownshirts was caught in bed with a 15-year-old boy during the Night of the Long Knives clampdown on Hitler’s revolutionary rivals in 1934).
  • In 1950, Alf Flockart, Organising Secretary of Sir Oswald Mosley’s neo-fascist British Union Movement (UM) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for having sex with a youth in a public lavatory in London.
  • Martin Webster, who was the homosexual NF National Activities Organiser during the 1970s (when PIE members were attacked by the NF) was rumoured to have written a love letter to a young boy and homophobic NF members left the party in droves – Webster himself was expelled from the Front during the 1980s.

In more recent times, Left-wing anti-fascist websites such as Hope Not Hate have publicised the following cases of alleged Far-Right paedophiles (just as, Right-wing websites such as Labour25 have publicised cases of alleged Far-Left paedophiles – members of the Labour Party, and Marxist figures such as “Comrade Bala” of the Brixton Maoist “sex cult”, “Comrade Delta” aka Martin Smith of the Socialist Workers Party and the late Gerry Healy of the Workers Revolutionary Party, who were put under the media spotlight for alleged sexual abuse of young women and girls):

  • Martyn Gilleard was a paid up member of the NF, White Nationalist Party and the British People’s Party who was found to have more than 39,000 images of children on his computer, and during 2011, Michael Cowen, a NF member was caught by police with 17,058 images of children, 215 videos, and he made contact with other paedophiles on social networking sites.
  • English Defence League member, Co-Founder and Organiser, Richard Price, was convicted of possessing images of children. The EDL released a statement that he was a “political prisoner”.
  • Liam Pinkham, an active member of the North West Infidels (NWI) Islamophobic group admitted to having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
  • Britain First (BF) and EDL activist, John Broomfield was convicted of possessing images of children.
  • During 2012, Ryan Fleming, an activist of the neo-Nazi National Action group was alleged to have been involved in the sexual assault of a teenage boy.
  • British National Party (BNP) members and supporters who have convictions for possessing images of children and engaging in sexual activity with children include: Nigel Hesmondhalgh, Ian Hindle, Andrew Wells, Roderick Rowley, Ian Si’Ree, Darren Francis and Gavin Leist.
  • The former leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) wrote on Twitter to a young girl called “Asianish”: “your pretty fit for a muslim” to which she replied: “I’m 15 and you got the cheek to call muslims paedo’s”.
  • Right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party paedophile members have included UKIP party aide, Aaron Knight, who was jailed in 2016 for alleged sexual activity with a seven-year-old boy, and former Bury UKIP chairman, Peter Entwistle, who was gaoled in 2014 for alleged grooming of children and having 200,000 images of children.
  • The late controversial Right-wing Tory MP, Enoch Powell was recently accused by the Church of England (itself having paedophile members of its own clergy) of being involved in lurid allegations of “Satanic child sex abuse” without any real proof.

All this is disturbingly reminiscent of the allegations and trial by media surrounding the late politicians Cyril Smith (Liberal MP), Leon Brittan (Tory MP and Home Secretary), Lord Greville Janner (Labour MP and Peer), Edward Heath (Conservative Prime Minister) and Clement Freud (Liberal MP), who are also no longer alive and so unable to defend themselves in a court of law. One Tory Right-winger and supporter of Powell who was able to successfully challenge the far-fetched and ludicrous accusations of child abuse and murder which were made against him by a suspected serial fantasist called “Nick” is former MP, Harvey Proctor, and Operation Midland was closed down by police as a result.

So dear reader, you may well ask what is the point of this article? As issue No.3 of PAN (an acronym of Paedophile Alert News/Paedophile Action Network) previously quoted made clear, paedophiles and child-lovers can hold a wide range of political views, including those of the anti-fascist Left, Far-Right, UKIP, Liberal, Labour or Conservative, and are also represented in all religions and none. However, the leaderships of the Far-Right movements need to stop hypocritically attacking “Muslim paedophiles” (as the British hard-right groups used to mainly attack “Jewish paedophiles” and still do, with less frequency) when they have paedophile members of their own extreme Right organisations, just as the Far-Left groups need to think twice and consider their own paedophile supporters before demonising all paedophiles and tarring them with the neo-Nazi brush.



The seven ages of sexual attractiveness


Neologophilia is a terrible disease that can wreak havoc on its victims, especially those who become trapped inside neologisms emanating from the warped minds of mad scientists.

It all started over a century ago with Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing, a man apparently destined by an odd quirk of nominative determinism to become obsessed with strange names. For it was Krafft-Ebing, as he is usually known, who gave us the term “paedophilia erotica” and a whole lot of other new words for sexual “perversions”, now known as “paraphilias”. In more recent times the palm for linguistic inventiveness in the sexual field passed first to John Money and then to Ray Blanchard, who is still with us.

Money, for instance, dreamed up “formicophilia”, which translates roughly as “insect-love”. The insanity of thinking the world needs such a word might seem self-evident. On the other hand, a glance at the symptoms suggests otherwise, as does the case of a 10-year-old boy who was diagnosed as a formicophile. Beaten by his father for a sexual relationship with another boy, he focused instead on getting sexual satisfaction from having ants crawl over him. By adulthood he had graduated to getting his jollies from cockroaches crawling on his thighs and testicles, and snails on his nipples and penis.

So maybe we should not be too hard on the neologophiles, including Blanchard, who came up with the terms hebephilia and teleiophilia for sexual age-orientations. It’s not the terms themselves that count, necessarily, so much as what is done with them. Blanchard, for instance, is a highly-rated researcher whose experimental work distinguishing hebephilia from paedophilia is of considerable theoretical importance. Unfortunately, he massively blotted his copy book by trying to have hebephilia classified as a mental illness, which would make it easier for sex offenders to be kept locked up indefinitely under civil commitment laws until they are “cured”.

There is no such black mark against the name of the newest big-time word coiner on the block, Michael Seto. I know Dr Seto from the Sexnet forum. He absolutely does not agree with my radical views but he once very nobly expressed his appreciation of my “informative and thoughtful posts” after some of his professional colleagues had been grumbling about the presence on the invitation-only forum of a few non-academic activists like me.

Seto’s textbook Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory, Assessment, and Intervention, published by the American Psychological Association, was by far the most authoritative guide to the research literature when it appeared in 2008. Now he has come up with an exciting new paper, “The Puzzle of Male Chronophilias”, thereby introducing us to another term of Money’s, chronophilia, an umbrella expression covering the various forms of sexual attraction to those within a particular age range, or stage of physical development.

What is exciting about it? Well, Seto unveiled the brand new term “mesophilia”. It hasn’t set the world ablaze but it did float journalist Jesse Singal’s boat. He wrote an article, “Being Into Middle-Aged People Is Probably a Sexual Orientation”, which neatly sums up both the meaning and the (as yet) rather shaky level of support for the idea. Seto merely wrote that “The existence and relative prevalence of mesophilia is hinted at by the relative popularity of the MILF (for ‘‘Moms I’d Like to Fuck’’) genre in pornography”, adding that DILF (with the expected meaning) is out there too.

Even BoyChat, straying from their usual focus, featured a lengthy thread on the topic after poster “Filip” (who must surely be the same Filip who has posted very informatively here) introduced it. As someone who makes the effort to do his own research, Filip commented acidly “It is interesting to see that sexual age preferences are born by writing an article and not by doing research…” But that didn’t stop him from seizing on an interesting thought: How many boys and girls are “mesophilic”?

But mesophilia is just an attention grabber. The really interesting aspect of Seto’s paper is its review of age attraction across the board, including how it is conceived, and the relative prevalence of attraction to the different ages/stages of life.

Shakespeare gave us the Seven Ages of Man. Seto nominates seven ages to which anyone might be sexually attracted, and names the desire: nepiophilia (infants/toddlers), paedophilia (prepubescent children), hebephilia (pubescent children), ephebophilia (postpubescent, sexually maturing adolescents), teleiophilia (young sexually mature adults, typically 20s and 30s), mesophilia (middle-aged adults, typically 40s and50s), and gerontophilia (elderly adults, typically 60s and older). See Table 1, which I have adapted from Seto’s own Table 1.


He is at pains to emphasise, though, that these labels are not meant to pigeon-hole us into neatly separate categories. Rather, we each have our own individual, idiosyncratic, pattern of sexual attraction: we might be hot for women and boys but indifferent to men and girls; or crazy for the smooth, hairless genitals of little boys and girls alike but distinctly turned off by the hirsute turn that comes to both sexes with puberty. A friend jokingly tells me he is bisexual, the two “sexes” being boys and men! He is in effect saying females of any age are so sexually uninteresting to him they might as well be a different species.

Seto speaks of us each occupying “blobs” in a multi-dimensional sexual space, a territorial concept which to my mind has much in common with Money’s “lovemaps”. Seto’s dimensions include not just the most obvious ones, the gender and age to which we are attracted, but also some far more exotic axes, such as human/animal, alive/not alive and forced/consensual. But age is both interesting and puzzling, so I’ll stick with it.

Starting with nepiophilia, Seto admits that not much is known about sexual attraction to infants or toddlers, but data held by the FBI indicate that few cases of active sexual involvement with such young children come to the attention of the authorities. Also, this sexual interest is rare as judged by child pornography content. Quayle and Jones (2011), we are told, found that only 1–2% of the more than 24,000 child pornography images in their analysis of a large police database depicted babies or toddlers. As for Seto’s own research, “Only 1% of our sample of 286 child pornography offenders had images of such young children compared to a third with images of prepubescent children and 20% with images of pubescent children (Seto &Eke, 2015).” We frequently encounter lurid claims in the media of “baby rape” images being discovered when a child porn ring is busted. Based on Seto’s figures, though, the strong suspicion must be that such claims often amount to no more than black propaganda.

The prevalences of paedophilia (with nepiophilia usually included by default) and hebephilia have been studied much more but the figures are hotly contested. I will return to these major categories of minor attraction, but a word first about ephebophilia, which, like nepiophilia, has been remarkably little researched. The first question to ask about this is why not? After all, while many women are known to find older men attractive (especially wealthy, high-status guys), men are notorious for trading in their wives and long-time lady friends for much younger females: the images that work best for advertisers when trying to grab men’s attention tend to be of young models, no older than early twenties and down to mid-teens. And as Filip pointed out in a comment here recently, studies have shown that the highest risk of sexual assault for females is when they are in their mid-to-late teens, which looks a reasonable indicator of maximum sexual attraction. Seto cites research putting the highest risk at 14-15, though these figures must include consensual “statutory” encounters, thereby artificially inflating the “assault” rate against minors. Either way, it is entirely possible that ephebophilia is even more common than teleiophilia, at least among males.

Or is it? Somewhat belatedly, I realise that I have been carrying at the back of my mind the traditional idea of the ephebe, which is of course the inspiration for the modern term ephebophilia. The Oxford Dictionary tells us an ephebe was “(In ancient Greece) a young man of 18-20 years undergoing military training”. Forget the male-only bit, and the military training. Just look at the age: 18-20. As we have seen, though, Seto defines ephebephilia as attraction to those aged approximately 15-17.

His rationale for this, reasonably enough, is that what distinguishes different age-attraction categories is not so much age itself as the size, shape and other physical characteristics that are typical of any particular age group, including visible primary and secondary sexual characteristics such as the appearance of  the genitals, size of breasts or testes, and development of pubic hair. Using the Tanner stages of physical development, Seto defines ephebophilia on the basis that it corresponds to Tanner Stage 4, whereas teleiophilia is Tanner Stage 5. You can check these stages for yourself, from the link. Personally, I would say there is not a great deal of difference between stages 4 and 5. The young people in both of these stages are clearly well past puberty, with extensive genital development, and female “ephebes” are quite full breasted. So it seems artificial to limit ephebophilia in the way proposed. It would make more sense to designate Tanner Stages 4 and 5 as the target of ephebophilia.

What we need, perhaps, is a different scale. Let’s call it the TOC Scale. Babies and toddlers are clearly a very different shape to older children, being typically much chubbier, with shorter limbs and relatively larger heads. So there should be TOC Stage 1 (nepiophilia). Then we would have prepubescent children as TOC 2 (paedophilia); pubescent as TOC 3 (hebephilia); sexually mature (nubile, typically ages 15-25) as TOC 4 (ephebophilia); then straight to dad bod and mum bod as TOC 5 (mesophilia); finally, elderly as TOC 6 (gerontophilia).

Filip might want to start TOC 4 a year earlier, after spotting a very important problem with Seto’s age scheme. He wrote that “Girls in Tanner stage 4 are 14.0 to 15.2 years according to one German study. According to that study 99% of the girls have reached the Tanner stage 4 with 16.8 years. So nearly no 17-year-olds are in Tanner stage 4. Most of the ‘typical men’ would probably prefer a 16- or a 17-year-old over a 30-year-old.”

In addition to being more realistic, the TOC Scale would stop obscuring the obvious truth that men, especially, are mainly attracted to youth. Not to prepubescent children though: we minor-attracted types should not exaggerate the prevalence of Kindness out of desperation to make ourselves feel normal or to claim that our tastes are not that different to the mainstream. I say this in the full knowledge that a lot of research (reviewed extensively in comments here and in papers by Filip Schuster and Philip Tromovitch: see below) show that around a quarter of all men, or even more, have a significant level of sexual attraction towards children. But this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that many among this 25% or so feel a more powerful degree of attraction to their preferred age/stage of attraction, which tends to be young but physically mature. [TOC adds, 11 Sept: Actually, I stand corrected. Filip has pointed out in a comment below that research has shown a quarter of men taking part as control group participants in lab studies show at least as much sexual arousal to depictions of children as to adults. TOC further adds 12 Sept: However, Filip now gives further information. If he is right, my original intuition may have been reasonably accurate after all. See below.]

Neither should researchers downplay the rarity of such desires in order to pathologise and Other us. With this in mind, I asked the researchers on Sexnet last year what would have happened if Blanchard had included a set of ephebophilic stimuli in a major paper of his on sexual attraction. Ray Blanchard replied in person.

“Just for the record, he said, “the phallometric stimuli were assembled by Kurt Freund long before I met him – long, in fact, before I ever thought of studying sexual behavior. My guess is that Freund did not include mid- or late-adolescent photographic models because his immediate agenda was clinical diagnosis. If my assumption is correct, he deliberately built this discontinuity into the stimulus set, in order to make the differentiation between teleiophiles vs. pedo- or hebephiles simpler… I suppose I could, in principle, have made the effort to add later adolescent models and middle-aged or elderly models to the stimulus set, and that might have strengthened my theoretical studies of erotic gender-age preferences. To a large extent, however, I used the modus operandi that Freund had taught me: Piggyback your research onto your clinical operation.”

This strikes me as an honest answer, and one that gives a real insight into how research projects, even those by such a careful and highly regarded scientist as Blanchard, tend to be cobbled together in ways that potentially allow convenience to trump accuracy. In this case, allowing their work to be influenced by clinical considerations has meant that both Freund and his protégé Blanchard have focused on issues predefined by society as problematic rather than on truly objective research. Their work has been led by the perceived need to fix the presumptively sick minds of their clinical patients, or at least to stop paedophiles and hebephiles from “offending”. The effect has been to emphasise the pre-declared abnormality of these often involuntary patients and simultaneously to misrepresent what constitutes normal male attraction: the very common male preference for youth, including freshly nubile teenagers, has been wiped out of consciousness by the simple act of not researching it.


Figure 1 shows Seto’s view of the relative frequency of his “chronophilias”. The TOC Scale would define ephebophilia in a way that would put it at the top of the curve, reflecting men’s overwhelmingly common attraction to youth. Allen Frances, best known for producing DSM-IV, wrote that “Evolution has programmed humans to lust for pubescent youngsters – our ancestors did not get to live long enough to have the luxury of delaying reproduction.”And as Filip noted here, the age of puberty is steadily getting lower, so the age to which adult males are attracted may also be falling.

On the other hand preferential paedophilia is probably rare. Some years ago Seto’s estimate was that up to 5% of the adult male population could be exclusive or preferential paedophiles. Now he tells us his best guess is that it is probably only 1%. He says his new, lower, figure is based on recent large Finnish and German surveys (Santtila et al., 2015).

I read the Santtila et al. study when it appeared last year. It is a complicated paper that I found difficult to interpret, so I asked about it on Sexnet. Mike Bailey, one of the top guys in the world on statistics in this field (he stoutly supported the controversial meta-analysis by Rind et al. 1998, showing that “CSA” causes little if any long-term harm even based on figures including coerced contacts) did not dispute Seto’s estimate but conceded that despite a large database, the Santtila et al. data “aren’t very good. … The truth is, it’s very hard to get good data on this.”

As for hebephilia, Seto reckons the figure is only “slightly higher” than the 1% for paedophilia. My guess – in the end we are all guessing – is that 1-3% seems about right for paedophilia but it looks crazy to claim hebephilia is not considerably higher bearing in mind Blanchard’s work, which shows that typically there is a smoothly curving gradient in the strength of sexual interest people feel between adjacent age categories. Thus those whose strongest sexual preference is ephebophilia have a lower, but still quite strong, attraction to those in the next age two groups, one a bit older, the other a bit younger. In this case the immediately younger category would be pubescent i.e. the hebephilia group. If there are thus a large number of people whose second preference is pubescents, it would seem odd to claim only a vanishingly small number whose strongest preference is for this physical stage of development. Phallometric testing of control samples of men also support the claim that preferential hebephilia is quite prevalent. See “Tromovitch sets a poser on prevalence” here at Heretic TOC and also “Every fifth boy and man is pedophilic or hebephilic” (Schuster, 2014). Schuster comes up with prevalence rates of 3% for paedophilia and 16% for hebephilia. These figures, carefully derived and explained, look more realistic to me than Seto’s, for which he does not set out a clear rationale.

Sorry to get bogged down in figures and technicalities and for the taxing length of this blog. I had hoped to go further as well, to a discussion of sexual orientation in its relation to identity politics. But that must wait until another time.

Willy power and ‘the will to power’


Women are apt to chastise us guys for being ruled by our dicks, and there is no shortage of high-profile cases that would seem to prove them right. Time and again, prominent figures such as Bill Clinton have fallen from grace thanks to sexual indiscretions of a crazily risky kind, temptations to which they could only have succumbed if their brains were being bypassed at the time.

When a Kind man finds himself in trouble over an illicit relationship, no matter how consensual, the outcome is of course much more serious than for a politician, whose job and reputation may be at stake but not his liberty. Likewise the politician’s femme fatale may well find herself rocketed to fame, fortune and a great social life by the “scandal” in question, as did Monica Lewinsky, whereas the child partners in paedophilic relationships are all too often traumatised by their “rescue”.

Occasionally we encounter an interesting hybrid category where comedy and tragedy meet in equal measure. Did you hear the latest about Simon Danczuk? He is the MP, it will be recalled, who made his name by damning a deceased fellow MP as a paedophile and then setting off a false alarm about an allegedly widespread Westminster VIP paedophilia scandal. He was recently suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old girl. He reportedly admitted “inappropriate” behaviour, saying that younger women were his “Achilles heel” and that he needed therapy for sex addiction. And a week or so ago he ended up being arrested and put in a Spanish jail cell after an altercation with his ex-wife that saw her reportedly suffering cuts and bruises leading to hospital treatment.

Just the sort of person to lead a moral crusade against sexual transgression, eh? In rueful mood, the 49-year-old politician apparently said of himself “No fool like an old fool”. To which Heretic TOC would add, no hypocrite like a morally fulminating, anti-Kind hypocrite! Methinks it be not too un-Kindly to savour a modicum of schadenfreude over his downfall!

Most of us Kinds, fortunately, have our sexuality under control, unlike Danczuk and his ilk. I like to think we keep our ethical standards and our public stance on sexual morality under scrutiny as well, especially here at Heretic TOC, so that our private and public attitudes are kept in harmony. It is called integrity: as the dictionary puts it, “The quality of being honest (my emphasis) and having strong moral principles” and also “The state of being whole and undivided”. The private and public standards of the hypocrite, by contrast, are sharply divided. They are neither honest nor moral; and they lack integrity.

But we must beware of complacent self-satisfaction. Yes, our private beliefs and our public stance may fit well together as an honest and coherent whole. But how have we arrived at them? Are our beliefs just rationalisations of our desires, making our stance just as false as that of the hypocrites?

Ernest Jones introduced the term “rationalisation” to psychoanalysis in 1908, defining it as “the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action the motive of which is not recognised”. It was an explanation which (though false) could seem plausible. The term has generally been used ever since by psychologists and psychiatrists to refer to false beliefs. However, when someone’s beliefs appear to be self-serving it is all too easy to accuse them of rationalising even when their beliefs are true.

It is one of the many sticks our opponents use to beat us. In their hands it is a rhetorical device to discredit any arguments and evidence we might bring to bear in support of our position, without having to go to the trouble of refuting the arguments or probing the evidence. As such, it is an ad hominem argument: it plays the man not the ball.

As the admirable Leonard Sisyphus Mann pointed out in his Consenting Humans blog:

Even proving conclusively that an opponent has a personal stake in the arguments he’s making does not invalidate, or even weaken, the position they are arguing for: it is perfectly possible to argue something out of self-interest and be correct: many English slave owners actually supported the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act because domestic manufacturing was becoming more lucrative than their plantations, and the huge compensation that parliament was proposing to pay slave owners for loss of their property would allow them to cash in a failing resource and invest in that increasingly lucrative domestic industry – indeed the mills of the North of England were built on the proceeds of this compensation.

Mann cites Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless, who wrote that we must not make “the foolish mistake of supposing that we can settle controversies by… labelling their arguments ‘rationalisation’… A true opinion as well as a false one may owe much of its strength to irrational motives.” The main value of an alertness to rationalisation, says Mann, is a reflexive one: “An alertness to rationalisation is primarily a tool for sorting out our own thinking rather than that of others.”

Having said that, being Kind in our society may afford us a degree of immunity against self-serving rationalisation that is not afforded to those with mainstream sexual tastes. Clinton was apparently able to convince himself (and for a while fool others) by rationalising that he did not have sex with Lewinsky, based on sex being defined as coitus not oral sex: she gave him head but they did not screw. Can you imagine Kind people making that argument, even in the privacy of our own heads, to deceive only ourselves? I don’t think so, not when oral sex with a minor counts as rape and we have constantly dinned into us that even looking at pictures of naked kids is somehow horrific. We can and do reject such characterisations, but society is on our case so much that we cannot get away with superficial excuses: we are forced to think much more deeply than Clinton ever needed to.

Even so, we are not totally immune. There are those among us, for instance, who take a cynical view of morality in general, like Red, the BL hero of Rod Downey’s novel The Moralist. Our reasoned choices, Red insists, are just “a second-generation copy of desire”: everyone, not just Kinds, makes up their morality to suit themselves. Everyone rationalises.

In essence Red is a Nietzschean. Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morality, made his famous distinction between master morality and slave morality. Stripped to its basics, it amounts to an assertion that being “good” is a mug’s game. That’s just for losers, notably those without power, such as slaves, including the early Christians when they were being persecuted and martyred by the pagan Romans. Instead of doing whatever they wanted, which was the philosophy of the winners, or the ruling masters of society, the Christians had to settle for “good” behaviour and hoping their reward would come not in this life but the next, in heaven.

The master morality, by contrast, is seen as noble. Instead of abasing himself before God, and repenting his sins in the Christian manner, the moral aristocrat has a keen sense of his own self-worth, such that “good” is whatever seems good to him, not to some censorious authority, whether divine or secular. “The noble type of man,” Nietzsche wrote, “experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, ‘what is harmful to me is harmful in itself’; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.”  The strong-willed man values such things as good, because they aid him in a lifelong process of self-actualisation through what Nietzsche called “the will to power”.

It is a philosophy that seems very plausible as developed in Downey’s novel, on account of Red being a very appealing character. He is a romantic figure, a revolutionary. He is glamorous. He has style. He cuts a dash. And, most important of all, the boy he loves admires and loves him too.

But what if the hero were a little more flawed? It’s a point I took up in my review of the book some years ago:

Let’s imagine Hannibal Lekter saying to himself “What I want is good.” What he famously wants is to eat people. So why can’t we accept this as morally acceptable? Is it just because we happen to have different wants? Is it because most of us (presumably) do not wish to eat people? No, it is because we do not wish to be eaten. Hannibal’s wants are inconsistent with ours, so we need some system – some reasoned, principled system we can agree on – to arbitrate between competing wants. This engages law as well as morality, but both systems of restrictions on behaviour ultimately derive their authority from beliefs as to what is harmful.

Downey goes some way to tackle the Lekter factor. His hero’s morality is thus based not just on any old whimsical desires a body might have, but on love. It is right and good to follow our hearts, to be guided by our desires. But the major and highly disputable premise is that we will all wish to act with love. Well, that’s still no problem for Hannibal Lekter. He just loves eating people!

According to Red, “The moral struggle is not between good and evil, right and wrong, but self and society.” But “society” is not just government, it is not just authority telling us what to do. It is us, as well as them. It speaks volumes about our alienation in modern society that we lose sight of this. Other people – friends, family, lovers, colleagues – all want subjective “good” things that differ both subtly and drastically from one person to another. The way out of the problems this creates is the mutually advantageous resort to reason and, yes, moral principle. This need not result in the tightly defined codes and rules that are the authoritarian’s paradise. It does not imply God-given fundamental truths as to what is good, but rather a consensus of shared feelings between all the interested parties – a consensus that is easier to achieve in small communities, albeit less universal and more questionable on that account as well.

So the Nietschzean “will to power” is not enough. And we all know how disastrous the philosophy of “will” was to become in the hands of the Nazis, when it was extended from individual self- actualisation to the collective will of the “Aryan race” and the glorification of the German Reich. Compared to Hitler, Hannibal Lekter is just a lovable eccentric!

Rather than stepping onto the slippery slope that begins with the “will to power” and ends with Triumph of the Will, world war and genocide, we should admit that moral discipline is necessary. That doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to a triumph of the willy (and fanny!) It just means we must be vigilant in challenging our own rationalisations.



The Los Angeles Times reports that a former student who impregnated a California high-school teacher at the age of 17 has received a $6 million compensation settlement from the school district.

But compensation for what? For being a teenager over the age of consent (over the British AOC at least) who was lucky enough to have a consensual relationship with a young woman who is now 29?

They have to be joking don’t they? If this is victimhood, there must be millions of teenage boys (and younger!) who would bust their asses for a part of it.

Yet this is what Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the unnamed “victim”, reportedly said about the astronomical damages award:

“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student.”

No evidence as to the “damage” done to the now 21-year-old “victim” is presented in the LA Times story, which is otherwise quite lengthy. Arguably, the baby could be considered collateral “damage” of the relationship. Nothing was said about who will be bearing the cost of the child’s upbringing but the “victim” has joint custody with the mother. This financial burden could account for part of the settlement, but $6 million? The infant could have gold-plated diapers for that sort of money, and more than enough for a decent upbringing through to college graduation.

The chair is dead, long live the chair!


The shock resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week, offered in a perfunctory two-line letter without explanation, followed by a statement that likewise gave little away, initially brought howls of outrage against the New Zealand-based lawyer, claiming victims would see it as a betrayal; but this was soon followed by hints that she had actually been sacked.

My guess is that she was indeed pushed, because her incompetence after 18 months in the job was becoming an unsustainable public embarrassment. She had shown herself to be confused by “local law” i.e. English law, and even fell down on the basic role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way. But there is also reason to believe she was set up to fail. So, was this an Establishment plot, as was immediately alleged by the “survivor” lobby in line with their long-standing devotion to conspiracy theory?

Not exactly. What I have in mind is a conspiracy of just one person, and if you think that is a contradiction in terms you are technically correct, although I was once the sole convicted conspirator in a case of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, so do not underestimate life’s capacity for turning up impossible things!

As for the prime and only suspect in this “plot”, or Machiavellian manoeuvring, we do not need to look far: Theresa May, now Prime Minister, was the Home Secretary responsible for installing Goddard, after the first two incumbents in the job, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Dame Fionna Woolf had both fallen victim to the victim lobby. Both had been seen as Establishment stooges who would guarantee a cover-up of “Westminster VIP paedophilia”, then the obsession of the moment, as celebrity paedos had been immediately post-Savile.

So why would Theresa May want to set up Goddard to fail? Same reason she has given the Three Brexiteers jobs in her government. The referendum vote meant that May, a Remain supporter, has had Brexit foisted on her government. Very well then, let those who got the country into this mess be the ones given the impossible task – as she quite likely sees it – of making it work. When they fail, they will be the ones seen to have failed rather than the Prime Minister. Smart!

The Home Secretary, as she then was, also had a pretty shrewd idea the IICSA was in deep trouble too. As with the referendum result, which she could not defy because it had majority support, she could not simply drop the IICSA either: the powerful victim lobby would have been baying for her blood and would have swept her from office before you could say “lying compo seekers” or “attention-seeking fantasists”. Instead, in a move of stunning cunning, she gave the “survivors” exactly what they wanted, in the full knowledge that far from surviving, they would soon be shipwrecked again.

There is a wealth of evidence for this. Lauded for her careful attention to detail, Theresa May would most assuredly have done due diligence on Goddard. She would have known the New Zealander was not all she was cracked up to be. Superficially she seemed well qualified. You don’t get to be a QC for nothing, she had a long record of supposedly distinguished service on top public bodies, and as a judge her nickname in her home country was God, which suggests a certain level of esteem.

What May would also have known, though, is that Goddard’s high-flying reputation was “earned” not for genuine public service but the exact opposite. As Heretic TOC pointed out when she was given the IICSA gig, a survey of New Zealand judges gave her the lowest possible rating. She was ranked 63rd out of 63! Legal commentator Vince Siemer noted that many lawyers were “extremely critical” of Goddard’s “opportunistic public stances, liberties with the truth and contrarian judgments”. On his website Kiwis First, he said she was widely seen by lawyers as a political puppet – the sort of person who would do the Establishment’s bidding in order to advance her career.

But as Siemer hints, that is precisely what May might have found attractive. She would have understood that Goddard, rather than doing the right thing – which might mean opposing the survivor lobby’s injudicious “always believe the victim” dogma and their demands for an unfeasibly huge, unfocused inquiry – could be relied upon to just go with the flow, even if that inevitably meant eventual disaster. But that wouldn’t matter because by then May would probably have moved on to some other job, such as, oh, I don’t know, Prime Minister or whatever!

Goddard even had “form” with her excuses. In her departure statement, she referred to how hard it had been for her to leave her family behind, as if she had failed to realise, when offered the job, that Britain and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the planet. This was reminiscent of the over-privileged whinging she used in order to advance her earlier career, for Siemer tells us “She was appointed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority after she complained sitting on long cases in the High Court was too stressful on her back.” He continues, “Her days on the IPCA were mired in secrecy, political manoeuvring and tardy rulings.  She routinely sided with Crown immunity, suppression of information and against human rights.”

And, most pertinently, he asked:

So what did the Home Secretary mean when she assured MPs … that Goddard’s Inquiry will not be thwarted by the Official Secrets Act in an investigation which will delve into governmental department files in circumstances where there appears to be complicity by officials in the scandal?  A hint might lie in comments of the ‘fixer’ Home Secretary May has appointed.  “The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex,” forewarned Goddard J.

Experience tells us you can take Goddard J’s assessment to the bank.  Hopefully the British prefer an exhaustive and complex inquiry to an accurate and transparent outcome.

Exhaustive and complex it is certainly set up to be. The sheer immensity of the scale has necessitated the employment of 155 inquiry staff in dedicated offices around the country, dozens of lawyers have been expensively engaged, the projected cost has ballooned to £100 million, and – get this – hundreds of new allegations are arriving each month. The most recent report I have seen puts the figure even higher: the current rate of new allegations being forwarded to the inquiry team, according to the Mail on Sunday, is running at more than 100 a day.

It now looks entirely possible that the volume of allegations could outpace even this huge inquiry’s capacity to deal with them, so the endpoint, originally targeted at 2020, could keep getting further and further into the future. So instead of just one more successor, Goddard could be followed by a whole chain of them, linking from century to century like the kings and queens of England – an absurdity one might think would be terminated by the inevitable death of the victims, and hence their inability to give testimony or be cross-examined. But you never know these days: Jimmy Savile, Lord Janner and others have been pursued beyond the grave, so don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the victims’ descendents. It could all end up like Jarndyce and Jarndyce!

Actually, forget the cross-examination. In addition to the public hearings, the inquiry has set up a “Truth Project”, enabling anyone claiming to be “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the Inquiry. Their accounts will not be tested, challenged, or contradicted.” In true Orwellian style, the inquiry will thus facilitate fantasy but call it truth!

The inquiry is supposed to be investigating a range of institutions, including local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Immigration Service, the BBC, the armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, churches, mosques and other religious organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, regulators and other public and private institutions. The inquiry’s website tells us “It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.” It will consider historic allegations going back to 1945. Whew! Even just reading the list is exhausting, never mind investigating it.

The opening session of the IISCA, which has yet to hear any actual evidence after 18 months, involved preliminaries concerning alleged abuse within the Anglican Church. Those present heard that the Archbishops’ Council alone had handed over 7,000 “items of disclosure”. According to one press report, this would be “a mere drop in the ocean of paperwork”. Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry, warned that “There are 100,000 items in the archive, which mostly comprises individual children’s files, and some 26,000 boxes of material held in locations around the country.”

This is utter madness. What on earth is supposed to be the point? It has nothing to do with justice. The inquiry is passing new allegations to the police, but that course is always open to complainants anyway. As for institutions, rather than enabling them to learn lessons from past mistakes, probing ever deeper into their history will only reveal what is abundantly known already: the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. As Luke Gittos wrote in Spiked, the IICSA seems to be just an extremely expensive form of therapy for disturbed people – disturbed for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily past sexual abuse – who want someone to talk to and make them feel important.

That might be a valuable exercise were it not for its huge cost, not only in terms of its massive commandeering of resources but also because it is even more grievously expensive in another way. The inquiry’s work, like the black farce recently seen in the disastrous police investigations of alleged VIP paedophilia, is likely to come at the expense of innocent people. It is bad enough when the reputations of deceased individuals such as former Prime Minister Edward Heath and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, are baselessly trashed; this dangerously undermines confidence in public life as well as causing needless distress to families and friends. And it is far worse when it wrecks the lives and careers of the living, such as the unfortunate former MP Harvey Proctor, who has called for the IICSA to be dismantled, saying the inquiry was “in thrall to every fantasist alive”.

Even the mainstream media are now beginning to take the point. As David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday, put it:

It is a truth that if publicity is given to allegations that a famous person once committed acts of sexual abuse, many others will pile in with similar claims. Some may be genuine, but the multi-million-pound industry run by lawyers seeking damages for abuse ‘survivors’ has established a strong financial motive for those prepared to lie. And where police, politicians, and, yes, public inquiries have made clear that their bias is towards ‘believing the victims’, there is little risk of such perjury being exposed.

Your Honour, I rest my case.



The plethora of investigations into “child sexual abuse” (CSA) is matched by a torrent of surveys on the subject. Here in the UK most of them seem to be published by the NSPCC in its annual report, which I swear comes out monthly.

But the latest survey, by the respected Office for National Statistics (ONS), is far more authoritative and will be worth studying carefully. So for that reason I will make no comment on the figures at present but simply say that they are being touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”. They are based on asking adults to recall sexual encounters experienced during their childhood.

The ONS survey asked about all kinds of abuse, not just sexual. That is good, and there is no problem, in theory at least, with the definition of “abuse” that is used in relation to sexual encounters. The report quite properly defines abuse in terms of harm. It quotes approvingly a definition taken from a document called Working Together to Safeguard Children, which  defines abuse as: “A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.” Turning specifically to sexual abuse, the survey includes “sexual assault by an adult”, which is further specified as “sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)” and also “other sexual assault – this includes indecent exposure and unwanted touching/kissing of a sexual nature” [My emphasis].

Here is the problem: it seems no questions were asked about wanted or acceptable sexual contacts. Unless that possibility is spelled out, what is the respondent supposed to report? My guess is that most would feel they were meant to report any sexual contact with an adult, even if it was desired, based on the fact that below the age of consent their willing participation does not amount to legally valid consent. Thus I suspect that the figures would only be truly meaningful if accompanied by the respondent’s own personal rating of the contact, perhaps on a scale ranging from “Very negative” to “Very positive”.

Acceptable danger: the sky is the limit?


Scariest school run

Paranoid parenting and the “protective” coddling of cotton wool kids are rightly being challenged these days even from such a professionally risk-averse source as Britain’s Health and Safety Executive. Over-protection has made children prisoners in their own homes and led to an epidemic of obesity. It renders them timid and fragile as well: even mild criticism is enough for the snowflake generation to fall to pieces, and the intolerance of robust debate among students of this mindset has become so debilitating as to present a grave threat to free speech.

In the face of these alarming trends there is increasingly a consensus that a bit of adventure in childhood is healthy, and is needed in order to grow towards real maturity. But where are the limits to be set? And on what basis?

A glance at the above photo of what has been dubbed the world’s scariest school run, in China, is enough to remind us that too much is sometimes demanded of children, rather than too little. In this case children as young as six from Atuler village in Sichuan province have to scale a sheer rockface over 2000-feet high to get home from school, using rickety ladders. But this isn’t even  the most dangerous part, which is an exposed path on the cliff without a vine ladder. A number of kids have slipped. And, yes, fallen to their deaths. But this is a poor part of the country; without an education and job prospects the future of every pupil would be bleak: just as the cliff punishes error without mercy, there is even now in this modern “Communist” country no universal welfare safety net to break their fall into hunger and malnutrition, which afflicts up to 15% of the population. Life may have been more secure for many in the days of “cradle to grave” workplace support in state enterprises, before the reforms of the late 1970s.

So, horrific as this climbing ordeal is, the risk-taking is rational in the circumstances. It is simply a harsh necessity for the villagers, not unlike the fierce training and initiation rites of young warriors in tribal societies constantly at war with each other. In those societies, where the warriors depend for their lives on the strength, skill, endurance and courage of their comrades, the apprenticeship often seems more gruelling than the warfare itself, featuring rituals than can involve being beaten, slashed and scarred, circumcised, sub-incised (don’t ask: it’s hideous), brutally raped, and made to leap over pits full of sharpened stakes. So, not only must children face danger bravely but these ordeals also have the effect of weeding out the weak. It is an education system in which failing your exams means death – and in many places, such as ancient Sparta, the weeding out started at birth, when puny-looking babies were simply left on a mountainside to die.

But if exposing children to danger is inevitable in societies with fewer viable options than our own, what are we to make of embracing serious risk when it is not necessary? Spain, for instance, is a wealthy modern country. There is high unemployment right now but people are materially quite secure and well-fed. Their last war was generations ago, in the 1930s; they do not need to train children for physical courage. Yet they have some very lively traditions that do make such demands, including the “castells” of Catalonia, these being human towers up to more than 30ft high, typically topped by a child, who may be only five years old, or even four. This crowning glory of the castell, or castle, is called the enxaneta. The origin of the name is lost in obscurity but one suggestion is that it comes from a regional word meaning  “little arrow”, or the tip of an arrow.


What is far more certain is that the child enxaneta who daringly climbs so high and so precariously invariably shoots an arrow of pride into the heart of his – or her – community.  It is pride that belongs to them all, for it takes a takes a whole village or town to provide the manpower, organisation, cooperation, skill, community spirit, determination and sheer courage out of which these towers are built. Both the pride and the courage are supremely symbolised in the enxaneta’s triumphant final act at the summit, which is to raise one hand aloft with all fingers spread, a gesture evoking the stripes of the Catalan flag.

Make no mistake, these towers are dangerous. The Catalonia Department of Culture has sponsored a FAQ claiming serious injuries are rare, based on an estimated collapse rate of the towers of only 3%; but you don’t need to know much about gravity to understand that bodies tumbling down on top of each other from a great height will do so with fearsome force. The words promoting a documentary film on the towers gives a more realistic impression:

Human towers are medicine for the soul. You risk your life for a moment of sublime camaraderie and community. Trust is paramount. All it takes is one shaky foot and the entire tower falls, sending you and hundreds of others tumbling into the air, onto each other and then onto the pavement.

You risk your life. The life of a child enxaneta is at risk. This is no exaggeration. A child died in 1983. More recently, Mariona Galindo, aged twelve, died of head injuries after falling from a nine-storey human tower at her home town of Mataró, north-east Spain in 2006. As for broken bones, they must surely be a more common occurrence.

But this level of risk is apparently fine by the Spanish authorities. And the United Nations, committed to upholding children’s rights (Article 6, right to “survive and develop healthily”;  Article 19, right to be protected “from being hurt and mistreated”; Article 36, right to be protected from any activity that “could harm their welfare”) has explicitly said the human towers are A-OK: the UN cultural agency UNESCO has declared the castells to be part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”, no less.

Quite right too, in my view, although I am sure I would be struggling with the idea as a parent. I would die of anxiety if a kid of mine were taking part, in fact I am pretty sure I would be too scared to let it happen. The first  word that came into my mind when I saw that word enxaneta was anxiety: surely it had to mean “the anxious one”, or else the one whose parents were worried sick, praying on the sidelines, unable to watch.

Tough one, isn’t it? But a quick calculation based on the festival schedules shows that if you make allowance for practice runs there must be thousands of castells built each year, and my estimate from this is that in terms of the death rate, at least, they are only slightly more dangerous, if at all, than children’s exposure to road traffic accidents. Every death on the roads is tragic, of course, but going back to a society with no motor traffic would inevitably entail leaving behind many benefits of the modern world as well as its perils.

We could do without castells more easily, but just look at their positive side. Just think what it must be like for the successful enxaneta, basking in the glow of parental and communal pride! Just imagine the excitement, the sense of having really lived that day, and the confidence they would take from such a magnificent achievement. They will take away a belief that “I can do it”, a mindset of huge benefit when brought to all sorts of new challenges, be it learning how to cook, or swim, or even playing a musical instrument and mastering tough maths. Such self-belief is priceless, and it may last a lifetime. That is surely a prize worth having.

Is there a message for (or about) Kind people in this?  I think there is, because children’s abilities and confidence on their journey towards maturity will be enhanced or held back depending on the degree to which they are allowed to explore and discover things for themselves, both in their geographical environment – breaking out of the domestic prison into their town and country surroundings – and their social environment, meeting and engaging with new people, including Kind ones.

As Lenore Skenaze, founder of Free-Range Kids, has pointed out, parents who allow this are not irresponsibly taking risks. The risks in reality are vanishingly low, while the attempt by helicopter parents to eliminate all hazards from their kids’ lives can actually leave them more vulnerable to harm because such parenting leaves children helpless as babies. Even the most vigilant  “helicopter” cannot be airborne constantly, so where’s the protection in the downtime?

Skenaze was dubbed The World’s Worst Parent after allowing her nine-year-old  son to ride the New York subway on his own in 2009. But then she wrote a book Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) explaining why allowing kids some independence makes sense. And now there is a burgeoning Free-Range Parenting movement.

“A lot of parents today,” Skenazy says on her website, “see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficulty in your child’s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.”

She has a lot of sensible things to say about how Stranger Danger has been over-hyped, and she has even had the courage to point out that very few strangers, even when they are registered as sex offenders, are dangerous types of the kind who might kidnap and rape a child. Also, as she says in her website FAQ, the confident, independent youngster who is used to talking to strangers, will be much better equipped to smell a rat if some guy is trying to lure them into the back of a van. For one thing, they won’t be afraid to yell out and appeal for help to another stranger, knowing full well that most people are OK and would be keen to stop an abduction – and that goes for Kind people too.


Enxaneta: This documentary produced by Televisió de Catalunya is not in English but the spectacular tower-building action speaks for itself, and the emphasis is on the highest climbers: the kids who reach the top.

Forces of Nature Taster This brief trailer related to the BBC’s Forces of Nature programmes features seven-year-old enxaneta Carla. The cinematography is superb, as might be expected from a prestigious BBC science documentary series.

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox – 1. The Universe in a Snowflake This is the full one-hour programme in which renowned physicist Dr Brian Cox uncovers how the diversity of shapes in the natural world reflect the rules that govern the universe. In Spain he shows how an attempt by hundreds of people to build the highest human tower reveals the force of gravity and how human bodies can be organised to counteract it, briefly but in fine style. The entire programme is well worth watching but the human towers sequence starts around five minutes in and lasts about seven minutes.



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