A queer way to be ourselves

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Bearded bloke walks into a bar. Says to the barman, “I’ll have a bottle of that new beer, please, the Pink IPA.”

“Sorry, sir,” says the barman, “this beer is for women only.”

“Well, actually,” says the customer, “I am a woman. It’s how I self-identify.”

“Very well, madam,” says the barman, “a wise choice of gender, if I may say so, and of ale. The lady’s IPA is on special offer at £1 less than the gentlemen’s IPA.”

“To be honest,” says the customer, “that’s why I became a woman. Cheers!”

No, this isn’t a joke. Apart from a bit of editing to bring out the comical side, it is a conversation that actually took place in a bar in Cardiff, where customer Thomas Bower was told by the bar staff that a pink-labelled bottled beer called Pink IPA was only for women drinkers as it had been launched to highlight the gender pay gap. Punk IPA, a comparable bottled beer from the same brewery and available to men, was priced at £1 more.

Bower, who has a beard, felt forced to self-identify as a woman so that he would be allowed to buy a bottle of the less costly brew. He subsequently sued Brewdog brewery for sex discrimination and won £1,000 damages, which he donated to charities helping both sexes.

So what’s the moral of the story? Clearly, we learn that Mr/Ms Bower is a resourceful gentleman/lady, but it occurred to me that we kind folk might be able to harness Bower Power for our own ends (new readers might want to check out my September 2015 blog After the Ball and After the Fall for the origins of “kindness”).

We should self-identify as children! Children’s fares for travel and half-price entry for any number of shows and events would only be the beginning. We could join the Scouts or the Guides, the Cubs or the Brownies; we could sue any parents for discrimination if they refused to let us join their kids’ summer camps and slumber parties. Children’s playgrounds, schools, bathroom facilities, no problem!

This very idea was actually put forward a couple of years ago, supposedly by a group of activists going by the name Clovergender. It turned out to be fake news, exposed as such by the excellent Bernie Najarian. However, the hoaxers may have been inspired by another case, one which looks convincingly real to me.

Perhaps you remember seeing it in the news. Paul Wolscht, a father of seven in his fifties, left his family to live as a six-year-old girl named Stefonknee – pronounced Stephanie and packing a pun with the “on knee” bit. She went to live with an adoptive “mommy and daddy”, spending her time playing with dolls and the couple’s young grandchildren.

This all came after his wife, Maria, decided she was not going to put up with his age and gender cross-dressing (think artist Grayson Perry’s little girl alter ego Claire). But get this: the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto proved far more accepting. According to a report in the Daily Mail, “much of the congregation is made up of LGBT members who have formed a special support group just for her”.

It could of course be argued that “Stefonknee” is perfectly genuine and not just gaming the system. But what about the great Canadian trans-waxing controversy? Brendan O’Neill, in Spiked, described a series of cases brought by one supposedly trans man:

A born male who identifies as female, and whose male genitalia are still intact, is suing female-only waxers on the basis that their refusal to wax his bollocks – sorry, her bollocks – is an act of discrimination. Yes, this person believes that because he identifies as female he should therefore have access to every female service, including the most intimate female services. Any female beautician who refuses to tend to his testicles is being ‘transphobic’, apparently, because they are denying his womanhood. Even though he has a penis. And testicles. And is a man. That’s hate speech, I know.

This is the case of Jessica Yaniv, born Jonathan Yaniv, who has filed complaints against more than a dozen female waxers with the Human Rights Council (HRC) in British Columbia. Yaniv claims that the women’s refusal to give him a Brazilian – that is, to handle his penis and testicles and to remove his pubic hair, activities these women did not want to carry out – is discrimination.

As if all this were not pushy enough, an article in Quillette said evidence had been put to the tribunal that “Jessica” had posted online asking for advice on how to approach a naked 10-year-old girl to ask for a tampon, and whether it might be appropriate to enter a bathroom stall with a 10-year-old to show her how to put a tampon in. “She” claimed “her” account had been hacked, and withdrew the case (but her many other cases are still going forward). Hacked or not, at a time when radical trans persons, especially trans women (i.e. natal men) are aggressively pushing the envelope ever further and faster, often getting away with it thanks to the backing of a huge feminist movement and a framework of human rights law, it seems entirely possible that crafty kinds could self-identify as children on an entirely spurious basis in order to gain intimate access to kids.

Devious dodges of that sort are not, in all seriousness, to be recommended. Nor should the pushiness of a few selfish extremists be used to discredit trans people in general – as the TERFs and alt-right try to.

Exactly how those of us with a sexual orientation towards children and adolescents should identify is more legitimately open to debate. To identify as paedophile is to invite being shunned as worse than a murderer, so we are never going to get P added to the acceptable diversity brought together in the alphabet soup beginning LGBT. I wrote about this in LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM – WTF?, when my emphasis was on the malignantly divisive side of identity politics. Nor are we going to be accepted under the kind label any time soon, because many of us who feel we are kind in the best sense do not accept that sexual intimacy with willing children is unkind. And society is not ready for that.

The news on this front is that research has now been published showing a tendency, at least among “virtuous” folk, to identify as queer. The paper, in the Journal of Homosexuality, is  titled “I’m Not like That, So Am I Gay?” The Use of Queer-Spectrum Identity Labels Among Minor-Attracted People. Author Allyn Walker wrote in the Abstract, “There are now those who object to the use of labels such as “gay” and “queer” by minor-attracted people (MAPs), raising the question, “to whom do queer-spectrum identity labels belong?” I engage with this question using data from my research with 42 MAPs”.

It is a good question, answered broadly in the article by the idea that it is fine for MAPs to use “queer-spectrum” identities, including “queer” itself. It is important to realise,” Walker writes, “that invalid and reductive historical assumptions that gay men were predatory are a mirror image of current assumptions about MAPs” (see cartoon below). The author adds, “Accepting MAPs’ preferences in their uses of queer-spectrum labels would go a long way toward reducing the shame felt by this population, and historically shared by other queer communities.”

Walker, who has just taken up a post as an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, identifies as queer himself (or rather “themself”). They recruited participants for the study largely from b4uact and Virtuous Pedophiles. In order to participate in this study, respondents were required to identify as “being preferentially attracted to minors, and have refrained from any sexual activity with minors since adulthood”.

The article includes a section called “History of association between MAPs and other queer communities”, which gives a useful reminder that gay activists have not always disowned MAPs, and have even sided with law reform. They write that “…multiple gay activist groups, including New York’s Gay Activists Alliance… and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition publicly favored abolishing the age of consent”.

These activist organisations take us back to the 1960s, to the era of Stonewall and its aftermath. Another excellent recent paper digs into the somewhat deeper past to explore connections between homosexual identity and the age to which people are attracted. This is The Age of Attraction: Age, Gender and the History of Modern Male Homosexuality, by Kate Fisher and Jana Funke. The full text of this paper, which is in the journal Gender and History, is free to read online and to download.

Fisher and Funke throw some very useful light onto the role of the scientific study of sex as it developed from the mid-19th century onwards. We find that right from the early days “constructions of male homosexuality were driven by anxieties about interactions between children or adolescents and older men”. Also, “To assuage fears about the violation of youth, homophile sexual scientists keen to present a socially acceptable model of male same-sex relationships rejected affirmative framings of age-differentiated relationships.” So much, one might think, for the “objective” aspect of sexual science! However, we learn that:

…authors who were close to or part of sexual scientific circles, continued to champion age-differentiated attachments, while simultaneously engaging with and participating in sexual scientific debate. Drawing on the claim that childhood sexuality was naturally undifferentiated, writers argued that same-sex attachments in youth were not always opposed to the child’s own desires or interests. They also rejected the idea that age-structured relationships between males were necessarily corruptive. Indeed, they maintained that such relationships could be beneficial to both young people and society as a whole. These arguments resonated with early twentieth-century sexual scientific debates.

This brilliant cartoon (adapted by David Kennerly, with his own text, from another original ) offers offers an admirably concise and hard-hitting (!) take on history.

 

VICTIM CULTURE’S NEVER ENDING STORY

Three and a half long years have passed since February 2016 when Heretic TOC published a blog called V.I.P. fiasco: you heard it here first, which began thus:

So, the sensational allegations of brutal, even murderous “V.I.P. paedophilia” that were hailed as “credible and true” by a top cop in Operation Midland, which was set up to investigate them, have now tacitly been admitted as the ravings of a fantasist by the toppest cop of the lot, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, head of the London Metropolitan Police, writing in the Guardian.

My headline, “you heard it here first”, takes us back even further, to when Heretic TOC ran a number of blogs drawing attention to the folly of giving any credence to the allegations in question. It was always obvious they were never going to stand up to serious investigation. As I said in It’s all been happening out there, in February 2015, the police appeared to be relying on dubious witnesses who would go back time and again to be “raped” by politicians and other VIPs. They had “even attested to the murder of several boys… but we are not told about any bodies being found, nor any names of missing persons who might have been the victims.” Another factor that made me doubt the credibility of these witnesses is that one of them “made similarly lurid allegations against my old friends Charles Napier and Peter Righton, accusing them of callous and sadistic abuse. I am absolutely certain these were outright lies.”

Now, at long last, a lot of the truth about these mad allegations and the even madder credulity shown by the police, has emerged with the trial of fantasist-in-chief Carl Beech, which recently ended with his conviction for perverting the course of justice, resulting in an 18-year prison sentence. Most sensationally, Beech, under cover of the anonymity accorded to “victims”, and known to the public only as “Nick”, had made grievous allegations against a number of public figures, including former prime minister Edward Heath.

The most damaging revelations about the police came just a few days ago, in a story splashed by the Daily Mail, which ran very detailed online coverage amounting to over 6,000 words, plus several videos and well over a dozen photos. For once, unlike the mainstream press coverage of the original allegations, which for the most part had been just as “believe the victim” in tone as the police approach, this latest Mail reporting is well justified.

The story centres on a sensational claim made by senior retired judge Sir Richard Henriques. Giving in-depth reasons for his view, he asserts that leading police officers in the Carl Beech case were themselves engaged in perverting the course of justice. The clear implication is that they were complicit in Beech’s numerous lies and incredibly damaging false allegations. On that basis, logically, they too should be put in the dock and, if convicted, join Beech in prison for a long stretch behind bars.

How often do you hear a judge say such things, not just about one “bent copper” but about several named members of a team, going up to the highest ranks of the force?

The judge’s allegations were made principally on the basis that officers used false evidence to obtain search warrants in the case, wrongly claiming – and knowing the information to be untrue – that “Nick” had been consistent in his story when in fact he had patently and drastically changed it a number of times.

But there is no need for me to go into the details. Heretics, at least here in Britain, will already have seen the headlines on whatever news platforms they use. If they have not already read it, though, I would commend the Mail’s coverage, not least for its inclusion of what Henriques says at length in his own words (Search for a cross-heading with the phrase “Shattering verdict of Sir Richard Henriques”).

I would just point out that the police are by no means the only ones left with egg on their face following Beech’s conviction. Another worth noting is the deputy leader of the Labour Party. James Heartfield, writing in Spiked, under the headline Tom Watson: time’s up for the paedo-finder general, noted that “In 2012, based on his conversations with Beech, Watson said there was ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No. 10’.” Heartfield’s verdict: “This was a complete and utter lie.” What Watson had done was to use his position as an MP, speaking in parliament, to generate a baseless witch-hunt and thereby raise his profile, making a name for himself as a fearless exposer of dark deeds in high places.

There will always be chancers and charlatans like Watson. There will always be dodgy cops. Sometimes, they will come unstuck, as in this case. What should concern us even more, though, is a terrible malaise – victim culture – that allows the excesses of such people to flourish. It is now so deeply entrenched as to seem impervious to criticism. Made institutionally manifest in the UK in the lumbering behemoth that is the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), it is even now, and will be deep into the future, churning out ever more legions of officially authenticated victims to be paraded in the media, where they will be lauded for their “courage” ­– at least until such time as they too are discredited. The latest batch are from Nottinghamshire, where the city and county councils are said to have tolerated child “rape” in care homes and foster care for decades. Frankly, we would be foolish to take a word of it at face value.

Are we making ‘useful idiots’ of ourselves?

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When the religious reactionary press in the US launched a tsunami of hateful bile against an academic article of mine last year, they relied almost entirely on distortion and defamation, lies and libels. But one writer made an uncomfortably strong point when he described me as “a useful idiot for conservatives intent on establishing a link between homosexuality and paedophilia”.

It’s true. American conservatives never tire of using boy-love as a stick with which to beat the gay community, and whenever we radical heretics speak out in favour of consensual child-adult sexual relations, we give the reactionaries more ammunition.

Now they have done it again, in spectacular style, weaponising my recent blog Desmond is truly amazing – and hot! They have used it to attack boy drag queen Desmond Napoles and his family, all child drag acts, and gay culture more widely. It all started with a Twitter-storm in the UK and tut-tutting on the influential British social media site Mumsnet. Then it went viral on Facebook in the US, which may have been when the alt-right media there began to notice, with fabled conspiracy theorist Alex Jones  an early entrant to the field on his NewsWars platform in an article headlined Pedophile Author Says 11-Year-Old Drag Queen Desmond is “Hot”. There have been about a dozen such stories on similar media in the last couple of weeks, which raised the profile of Heretic TOC even if nothing else was achieved: in the last three weeks there have been over 60,000 extra hits on the blog over and above the usual level, including nearly 10,000 on the peak day. The previous highest daily total was about 1,600, and that was after I had been on TV in Australia.

A much more important achievement, though, can be chalked up to the alt-right platforms, especially The Daily Caller, a powerful player on the media scene these days, co-founded by Tucker Carlson, the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News. The Caller’s article quoted an Instagram message in which Desmond’s mother, Wendy, took a pop at me for “sexualising” kids’ drag acts. The problem for her, and for all of us who want to see these kids allowed to be themselves and perform as they wish, is that she is so obviously in denial over the sexual element in her own son’s act.

Devastatingly, The Caller was able to nail the point with a very telling photo. Triumphantly, the story ends:

In a photo posted on the same Instagram page back in June, Desmond appears next to an adult individual wearing a shirt that says, “Angels Have No Gender But Lots Of Sex.”

Lots of sex! Precisely. OK, so it wasn’t Desmond wearing the shirt but that is the gay cultural milieu in which he has been circulating for years and years with the approval and support of his parents. Accordingly, it’s a bit rich for Wendy to accuse me of sexualising her son.  The truth is, as I said in my blog, that boys his age are sexual, as Wendy is well aware. They do not need to be “sexualised”.

Drag kid Desmond Napoles, left, in company that looks relaxed with gender fluidity’s sexual side.

I do not blame Wendy for recanting her beliefs under what must be a lot of  pressure from the social media and alt-right platforms. In fact, that is my point. It was my blog that triggered and justified this latest round of pressure, which is now at such a pitch that Desmond’s parents might well decide enough is enough and that he will no longer be allowed to perform in public. That would be terrible and I would bear a heavy burden of responsibility through being too honest and open in my views. Once again, I have been a “useful idiot” doing the conservatives’ work for them.

What then, is to be done? Should we abandon Heretic TOC entirely? Would the world (including kids like Desmond) be better off if we sexual heretics were to do something more obviously useful, like put our energies into environmental activism? It is an issue that comes into even sharper focus with my second item today, which takes us from the wild American alt-right West to the sometimes even wilder European East.

 

TRANSLATOR ARRESTED FOR PRO-PAEDOPHILIA DEMO

Cyril Eugenovich Galaburda, the 32-year-old Ukrainian physics graduate who translated my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case into Russian, and who has been a guest blogger here, was arrested last month soon after he began an extraordinary one-man demonstration outside council buildings in his home city – a demo for which he had been given written permission a week earlier.

At the start of the demo he soon found himself faced with hostility from passersby, one of whom threatened to break his legs.

Officials came out of their workplace to meet Cyril, who handed them a letter to the head of the regional state administration. This was in Dnipro, one of Ukraine’s biggest cities. The letter called for consensual child-adult sexual contacts to be made legal. Cyril said he believed “children have the same right to personal (sexual) life as adults”. He claimed the criminal code of Ukraine is unconstitutional and contradicts the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He also objected to the mooted introduction of a register of paedophiles as unconstitutional.

The police then turned up in considerable numbers after having been alerted by the council, according to press reports. Open TV Media ran the photo you see here. Cyril, holding a poster he designed for the occasion, is seen being confronted by a burly policeman.

Cyril Galaburda, holding a poster he designed for his one-man demo, is confronted by a burly policeman.

The poster was taken from him and he was whisked away to a police station “to draw up a protocol” as the newspapers put it in Google’s translation from Ukrainian. Cyril did not see a lawyer and is unsure what this means, but it sounds as though the police have started a dossier on his “case”, such as it is. He was released without charge, but before being allowed to leave he had to sign to say he would return to the police station if asked to do so. This appears to be a grant of police bail pending further investigation.

In the course of his detention he faced questions about his sexuality and his mental state, including whether he had suffered any trauma “because of seeing my parents in bed”. There were indications he might be referred for psychiatric reports.

Until recently, at least, the police in Ukraine have had a reputation for brutality. Perhaps that is changing since the introduction of reforms by President (until recently) Petro Poroshenko, because Cyril says he was treated in a “rather friendly” way.

He gives a different reason though.

In general, people did not take me seriously,” he says. “I was like Gwynplaine for them, that’s why people were almost forgiving towards me. Maybe it was because I had no family, and they thought I did not know what I was talking about.

It’s a fascinating thought. Gwynplaine, a character in Victor Hugo’s novel The Man Who Laughs, is a classic outsider, grotesquely disfigured in the tradition of the Gothic horror novel. His mouth is locked in a perpetual grin, so nobody can take him seriously, even when what he says is of the utmost importance.

With this response in mind, Cyril now gloomily seems to regret his protest. It was undoubtedly brave, in my view, but what did it achieve? He now fears that the establishment of “paedophile” (or sex offender) registration in Ukraine is more likely following his action, not less.

What should we make of this? Is there something in common between his potentially counterproductive activism and mine? His “achievement” might be the creation of a sex offender register, mine might be the suppression of children’s sexual expression in drag acts. Brilliant! How proud we can be! He is seen as a crazy fool, while I am an idiot. It is possible we could both be seen as useful people, but only to those who want to crush everything we stand for. What an irony!

So, I ask all heretics here: What is to be done? Should we all just shut up?

 

A TALE OF TWO OTHER ACTIVISTS

One activist who could never be shut up in his lifetime was Dave Riegel, whose death in his late eighties earlier this year can now be reported, after a period of some months in which his family and close friends asked for the information not to be released.

I found out Dave was no longer with us a couple of months ago when I emailed to congratulate him on the publication of a new peer-reviewed article in the academic journal Sexuality & Culture. A reply came, not from Dave but from someone who said he was a friend. This friend wrote:

From my understanding, Dave acquired some people who hated him vehemently… and he specified in his will that the news be kept quiet for 3-4 months, so that there’s distance between him, his death, his real life friends and loved ones. He wanted to protect the people who he loved and cared about, and hopefully lessen the chances of them being associated with him.

I responded by saying “Please be assured that I will respect Dave’s wish. I will not say anything on my blog about his passing until at least July.”

No heretic is ever short of enemies who hate them, of course. Being loathed is pretty much part of the definition, or it ought to be if it isn’t. But Dave was beyond question a difficult, abrasive character, quick both to take offence and to dish it out. Anyone who doubts this can check out the gory details here at Newgon, under the extensive “Controversy” section. Biographical notes of a more positive nature are also to be found in this entry, and it is the more constructive side of Dave’s record I wish to focus on today.

David was born in 1931 and came late to boy-love activism after a varied career in which being an airline pilot was perhaps the high point, if you’ll forgive the pun. He was drawn into research and writing in the behavioural sciences when he was approached in 1999 by an editor of the McGraw Hill textbook Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Human Sexuality for an essay on the controversy that was then swirling around the famous 1998 Rind et al. analysis, which gave survey data  showing that children do not typically suffer psychological trauma from sexual contact with adults, contrary to popular opinion.

After that, he became involved in internet-based studies into the psychosexual development of boys and also conducted survey research on boy-lovers’ views and sexuality. In 2005 he gained a degree in psychology. Remarkably, for a newcomer to academic research, and without the benefit of ever having undertaken a supervised Ph.D., he managed to secure the publication of at least 10 of his papers in academic journals. Through his own online SafeHaven Foundation, he published numerous other articles and books. His website was still up and running only a couple of days ago but now appears to have been suspended.

The Dave Riegel I will remember was energetic and determined, driven by a fiercely-held belief in ethical boy-love as a power for good. While he was always more of a partisan activist than an objective scholar, he was entirely sincere, in my view, in seeking truth through scientific enquiry. He was as honest as he was cantankerous, and I will remain in his debt for the support he has given me.

***

It has turned out to be quite a year so far for losing people who have been important to me personally. Last time, I was obliged to report the death of psychiatrist Richard Green. This time, I have to tell you about not one departure for Valhalla, but two. You have just been hearing about Dave. Please now give ear to what I must say about Peter, a very close and dear friend of mine for 40 years.

I refer to David Peter Bremner, sometimes referred to in the press as David Bremner, or identified by his old activist pseudonym Roger Nash, but known to all his friends as Peter.

Peter died last month at the age of 79 after being ill for some years with cancer of the liver.

Born in Argentina in 1939 to Scottish parents, he was educated in the UK, taking a PhD in biochemistry at London University before embarking on his career as a research biochemist, working mainly on attachment to hospitals in the capital.

You will not be surprised to learn that I first met Peter through the Paedophile Information Exchange in the late 1970s. Peter founded PIE’s East London local group; later, as a member of the national executive committee, he succeeded me as PIE’s representative on the gay rights committee of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty. He appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight TV programme to make the case for consensual child-adult sexual relations. He was also deeply involved in the 1980s with producing the youth rights journal Minor Problems.

The state’s persecution of PIE saw him tried at the Old Bailey in 1984 and jailed for six months, for an infraction of the now defunct Post Office Act. He was acquitted of more serious charges.

By this time, as may be imagined, he had already lost his hospital job, and his career never recovered. Increasingly, he relied on heavy drinking to get him through the day, and he succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver long before he had cancer. Remarkably, though, he eventually gave up alcohol entirely and then survived and even thrived for many years, finding a new lease of life through his enthusiasm for studying Ancient Egypt.

I used to stay at his flat whenever I was in London and we spent many happy hours in agreeable conversation. He will be sorely missed, especially by me and other PIE veterans.

 

A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE AND SOLIDARITY

A couple of months ago you might have seen a post on Heretic TOC’s About page, in the comments, from a heretic by the name of Sasha Kopot. He introduced himself as a MAP from Russia, saying that “On our forum we made a decision to introduce the Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the victims of paedophobia.” He invited thoughts as to particular individuals who might be commemorated on such a day. There was some discussion about this in subsequent comments.

A couple of days ago, Sasha emailed me to say a web page has now been set up, in English, where people are being invited to vote on the date of their choice as an annual remembrance day, based on each date’s association with someone whose life and death ought to be commemorated.

Everyone here is invited to go to that page, read the information given, and cast a vote for one of the proposed dates. The place to go is here. In English, the name of this Russsian website, if Google Translate is to be believed, is Right to love: Love for all ages.

 

 

 

FGM: wedded forever to religion?

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A powerful and provocative guest piece today from our old friend Leonard Sisyphus Mann, whose Consenting Humans blog is highly recommended and who has guested here several times before, as Lensman, perhaps most notably in this profound, forward-looking, contribution: “The future is green, and liberating for children”, which prompted over 30,000 words of comment.

Today’s piece bravely identifies female genital mutilation (FGM) as primarily an Islamic problem, and a growing one, in the modern world. While acknowledging the pre-Islamic roots of the phenomenon, LSM sees specifically religious factors as responsible for its perpetuation.

There is evidence to support this claim but Heretic TOC does not endorse any anti-Islamic polemics that might be inferred from LSM’s essay. My belief is that Islam is capable of evolving in response to the needs and values of modern life, just as Christianity has adapted enormously: far fewer believers now hold fast to simplistic, literal, interpretations of the Bible, for example, than prevailed before Darwin and modern scriptural exegesis.

Accordingly, it would be mistaken to insist that Islam, especially in the West, will remain wedded to the practice of FGM, and certainly not to its more harmful forms. We should be supporting Muslims who themselves seek to end such practices (there are plenty of them), rather than be taking an accusatorial stance: finger-pointing smacks of dangerously confrontational “Islamophobia” that will only sustain and deepen entrenched customs.

Nevertheless, I know that LSM has put a huge amount of research into this piece and on the basis of its reliable information alone it is well worth reading and pondering deeply. I will not be surprised if it prompts a lively response.

 

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: ITS ORIGINS, PERSISTENCE AND SPREAD

Despite modernisation, feminism, improving education and rising living-standards female genital mutilation (FGM) is flourishing where already established, re-emerging where once eradicated, and spreading to hitherto unaffected places – notably the West. By conservative estimate some 200,000,000 – one in twenty – women and girls alive today have undergone the procedure.

FGM involves one or more of 3 interventions that can be performed with varying degrees of severity:

  • clitoridectomy (amputation of the clitoris),
  • excision of the labia,
  • infibulation (sealing the vagina by grafting together opposing labia majora, leaving a small hole for urination and eventual menstruation).

Infibulation and excision usually also involve clitoridectomy. ‘Sunnah Circumcision’ is a rare procedure, analogous to male circumcision in that only the clitoral prepuce is removed. FGM is generally reserved for prepubescents, seven being the average age. Anaesthetics are seldom used, pain being an important part of the procedure.

Short-term consequences include severe pain, bleeding, shock, urinary retention, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue, and sometimes death. Contusions, dislocations and fractures can result from the girl’s struggles against those restraining her (typically aunts or her mother).

Long-term consequences include chronic pain, pelvic infections, fistula, cysts, abscesses and ulcers, infections of the reproductive system, infertility, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, frigidity and death. Infibulation can cause hematocolpos and chronic dysmenorrhea.

FGM increases complications during childbirth. Scar tissue resulting from excision and infibulation lacks the elasticity of healthy vulval and vaginal tissue, resulting in obstructed labour. One study found that a fifth of babies born to infibulated mothers died in child-birth, two-thirds experienced oxygen deprivation.

*

In his 1996 paper entitled “Ending Footbinding And Infibulation” American political scientist Gerry Mackie offers a coherent account of the origins and persistence of FGM, and proposes a means of eradicating it. According to Mackie both FGM and the Chinese practice of footbinding arose from the extreme polygyny that becomes possible where extreme wealth inequality prevails. Because the number of concubines (wives and sex slaves) one can keep is proportionate to one’s wealth, extreme polygyny became a status symbol. Under these conditions, women can better attain the security and resources necessary for child-rearing as an elite man’s nth wife than as a pauper’s only wife. These conditions make hypergyny (females aspiring to marry into higher-ranking families) normative.

Mothers know that their children are indeed theirs; no man can be certain that a child he’s raising is his own. Polygynous men’s fidelity assurance problems are proportional to how many concubines they must keep faithful. Fidelity assurance measures include footbinding (which renders concubines housebound); domestic seclusion; gender segregation; veiling; arranged marriage (eliminating the risks to chastity attendant on socialising, choosing a partner and courtship); child marriage (before a girl can spoil her reputation); ‘honour’ codes (making ‘unchastity’ a life-and-death affair), and FGM.

Infibulation and excision promote fidelity by making penetration painful and dangerous. With infibulation, the resulting laceration and haemorrhaging also make penetration hard to conceal. FGM also promotes fidelity by instilling trauma-induced sex-negativity (hence the non-use of anaesthetics, even when available). FGM also acts similarly to slave-branding: teaching the child that submission and suffering (especially in sexual matters) are a woman’s lot, and rendering her servile to the perpetrators (god, religion, community, family, husband). FGM is practised on girls when they are at their most receptive to such lessons: mid-childhood.

Polygynous males require fidelity not only in their concubines, but prospective concubines must also guarantee their fidelity and chastity to become their brides. Adopting  these practices is a way for non-elite families to make their daughters eligible for an elite marriage, and therefore improve their situation (and the lower-ranking the family, the more they have to gain by successful hypergyny). FGM tends to increase in severity over time, because polygyny creates competitive marriage-markets which push families to advertise their commitment to chastity and fidelity by engaging in more extreme interventions (vide sexual selection). FGM becomes normative, only the poorest families suffering the stigma of having uncut daughters.

*

Mackie postulates two ‘traps’ which explain the persistence of FGM beyond the above originating conditions.

Firstly: as FGM becomes normative it generates self-justifying narratives: female sexuality must be excessive to require such extreme restraints; uncut girls are unchaste, impure, unfaithful; FGM promotes hygiene, fertility and beauty; the clitoris, if it touches the baby during childbirth, or the husband during intercourse, will kill them; left uncut the clitoris will grow to the length of a goose neck. Such beliefs makes ‘uncut’ girls unmarriageable.

Because FGM tends to be universal in practising communities these beliefs remain untested: practitioners generally assume all women worldwide undergo FGM – and encountering uncut women (in person, or magazines, TV, films) does not test this belief since their genitals are hidden (and are rarely discussed).

Secondly: even parents free of such beliefs, who disapprove of FGM, conform because abstaining would result in their daughter remaining unmarried and stigmatised. They are caught in a trap similar to that of paedophiles, whose condition would be improved by mass ‘coming out’, but for whom ‘going it alone’ would be disastrous. In typical FGM-practising communities marriage is a girl’s only route to security or status. Spinsters remain dependent on their family, or are condemned to begging or prostitution. In such circumstances not cutting one’s daughter is as much an act of bad parenting as depriving a child of education is for Westerners.

The Chinese abandonment of footbinding shows how these ‘traps’ can be escaped: families formed local associations whose members publicly pledged to not bind their daughters’ feet and (crucially) to only marry their sons to girls with natural feet. Soon, enough families had taken this pledge so that parents no longer feared that their daughters would remain unmarried if their feet weren’t bound. This tipping point reached, abandonment became contagious. For example Tinghsien province went from a 94% binding-rate in 1899 to zero in 1919.

*

Geography (as in ‘FGM is an African practice’), under-development, religion, and sexually-regressive attitudes and institutions have all been proposed as causes or aggravators of FGM. We can make a coarse-grained evaluation of these factors by comparing their distribution with that of FGM (follow hyperlinks for multivariate comparisons).

The following map reveals that FGM is not an ‘African practice’: most of Africa has very low FGM rates. Moreover, between a third and a half of FGM occurs outside Africa.

Prevalence of Female Genital Cutting

Prevalence of Female Genital Cutting

Development variables (such as poverty, education, health care, life expectancy) also correlate weakly with FGM.

FGM + Population Living Below Poverty Line

FGM + Population Living Below Poverty Line

Variables indicative of sexually-regressive institutions and attitudes (polygyny, dowries, child marriage, consanguineous marriage, forced marriage, sexual slavery, rape) correlate with, but also subsume, FGM.

FGM and Prevalence + Legal Status of Polygyny

FGM and Prevalence + Legal Status of Polygyny

The strongest correlate with FGM, and one which (I will argue) underlies the afore-listed regressive attitudes and practices, is that of Islam (compare Animism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism).

FGM + World Muslim Population

FGM + World Muslim Population

Mackie himself notes that FGM is found only in or adjacent to Islamic groups.

*

Islam is the only religion which mentions FGM in its sacred texts. Moslems consider the Koran to be infallible and divinely-revealed. Equal in authority to the Koran is Mohammed’s example and teachings as recorded in eyewitness accounts (Hadith). Collections of Hadith compiled by the Moslem scholars al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj are judged entirely reliable and authentic (sahih), and are indeed of high evidentiary quality. Many core Islamic practices and tenets – male genital mutilation (MGM), the Hajj, how to pray, the Five Pillars of Islam – are derived from the sahih Hadith.

While the Koran mentions neither FGM nor MGM explicitly, verse 30:30 prescribes them implicitly by commanding Moslems to:

“Adhere to the fitrah”

The Koran doesn’t explain what ‘fitrah’ means; for that we turn to the Hadith (I note in bold the Arabic words used for ‘circumcision’):

[…] I heard [Mohammed] say: “The fitrah is five things […] circumcision [khitan], shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.”” Bukhari 77:106

Mohammed touches on FGM in three more Hadith (‘sits amidst four parts’ is a euphemism for sexual intercourse):

[…Mohammed] said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and circumcised part [khitan] meets circumcised part [khitan] a ritual bath becomes obligatory.” Muslim 3:684

[…] A woman used to perform circumcision [khitan] in Medina. [Mohammed] said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” Sunan Abu Dawud 41:5251

[…Mohammed] said: “Circumcision [khitan] is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women.”” Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75

Note that the above Hadith prescribes both MGM and FGM.

(There exists a fifth Hadith – the Hadith of Abdalla ibnu Umar – in which Mohammed enjoins the Medinan women to practice FGM. I have yet to see the actual text of this Hadith.)

Some Hadith report the practices not of Mohammed, but of his followers: they are therefore not ‘Revelation’, but are useful insofar as they inform us of what was normative amongst Mohammed’s companions:

[…] Umm al-Muhajir said, “I was captured with some girls from Byzantium. Uthman [a close companion of Mohammed] offered us Islam, but only myself and one other girl accepted Islam. Uthman said, ‘Go trim them down [khifaad hma] and purify them.’”” Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 53:1245

“Umm Alqama related that when the daughters of Aisha’s brother were circumcised [khitan], Aisha was asked, ‘Shall we call someone to amuse them?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied. Adi was sent for […]’ Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 53:1247

Note that several of these Hadith report purely female genital mutilation and that the word ‘Khitan’ is used for both FGM and MGM. Today, ‘Khitan’ is used only for MGM, leading some to mistakenly claim that the ‘fitrah’ and the ‘four parts’ Hadiths advocate only MGM.

*

Increasing globalisation and advancing women’s rights have made the world more aware of, and concerned about FGM. These developments, and secularism, have penetrated the Islamic world, so that many Moslems are also uneasy about FGM. The most frequently-cited fatwa critical of FGM is Dr Ahmed Talib’s (a former Dean of the Faculty of Shariah of Al Azhar university, Islam’s most prestigious seat of scholarship).

“All practices of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam. Whether it involves the removal of the skin or the cutting of the flesh of the female genital organs…it is not an obligation in Islam.” (2005)

The statement [FGM] is not an obligation in Islam’ actually boils down to 1/ FGM is allowed in Islam, and 2/ it can’t be forbidden (for if it were he would have said so). Yet primed by his opening condemnations, his conclusion is easily misread as being prohibitory.

(The obfuscatory nature of his statement becomes clearer if one replaces ‘FGM’ with some equivalent act: [rape] is not an obligation in Islam’. Moreover, most core precepts and practices of all religions/ideologies are not ‘obligatory’: Holy Communion is no less ‘Christian’ for not being obligatory; many forms of prayer are voluntary in Islam, but that makes them no less ‘Islamic’.)

Dr Talib’s prevarication results from his conscience being in conflict with Islamic jurisprudence, an axiom of which is that only that which god or Mohammed unambiguously forbade can be forbidden. As we saw earlier, Mohammed, far from forbidding, FGM, advocated it. This means that no school of Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia) can forbid FGM.

Not that Mohammed was shy about forbidding things. Compare Dr Talib’s prevarication over FGM with a fatwa concerning alcohol:

“[Mohammed] cursed alcohol and the one who drinks it, the one who sells it, the one who buys it, the one who carries it, the one to whom it is carried, the one who consumes its price, the one who squeezes the grapes and the one for whom they are squeezed.” Selling alcohol to kaafirs Islam Q&A 2000

One can only wonder how things would be different if Mohammed had similarly cursed and forbidden FGM.

Nor is Dr Talib correct in stating that FGM ‘is not an obligation in Islam’: Shafi’ism – one of the four schools of Sunni Islam (which constitutes 90% of Moslems) decrees FGM as obligatory (the other three schools recommend FGM as ‘optional’ or ‘honourable’). Unsurprisingly FGM rates are highest under Shafi’ism (e.g. Somalia 98%).

Schools of Fiqh + FGM

Schools of Fiqh + FGM

*

“FGM/C [is] stubbornly resistant to change” Gerry Mackie (2009)

In 1996 Mackie predicted that pledge associations would accomplish FGM’s eradication. Where tried, results have been disappointing, especially when compared to China’s spectacular abandonment of footbinding. FGM is instead increasing in incidence, spreading to previously unaffected countries and reappearing where eradicated.

Why?

Firstly, Mackie assumes that the extreme polygyny that engenders FGM is no longer practiced. He overlooks that:

– Moslems can have up to four wives (which is arguably enough to require fidelity-assurance measures),

– neither the Koran nor the Hadith set a limit to how many sex-slaves a Moslem male may own (whose chastity must also be guaranteed). Sexual slavery is still common in the Islamic world – whether overt (Islamic State, Boko Haram etc.) or covert (Islamic grooming gangs in the West).

Trafficking of women

Trafficking of women

But the oversight that most limits the explanatory scope of Mackie’s theory is that, unlike footbinding, FGM is not just a social convention but is also a religious practice.

There are two ways in which this religious dimension determines FGM’s perpetuation, spread, and resistance to eradication: directly via doctrines favouring or allowing FGM, and indirectly via doctrines which create conditions where chastity protection measures may be necessary or useful.

Islamic doctrine engenders an obsession with preserving female pre-marital virginity, upon which depends the ‘honour’ of the girl, her family and clan. Women/girls are held responsible for not only their own sexual behaviour, but also that of men, including any sexual crimes committed against them. Shifting responsibility for male sexual violence from the perpetrators to the victims creates sexually violent societies in which chastity-control measures may be necessary.

Polygyny creates ‘bride vacuums’ amongst non-elite men that can be alleviated either through sexual violence, which increases the need for fidelity assurance measures such as FGM (see maps below) or by taking women from non-Moslem communities as sex slaves – engendering an expansionist dynamic which spreads Islam and FGM. As Islam expanded and subjugated new peoples it also sanctified any indigenous FGM it encountered, FGM that would have died out but for Islam’s patronage.

Prevalence and Legal status of Polygyny + Weighted Relative International Rape Scale

Prevalence and Legal status of Polygyny + Weighted Relative International Rape Scale

Likewise bride-to-groom dowries place a financial value on a girl’s chastity and reputation; and Sharia law makes it almost impossible for a woman or child to bring a prosecution for rape.

FGM was practised by Mohammed’s tribe (the Banu Hashim) in pre-Islamic Arabia. Other tribes (notably Jews and Christians) didn’t practise FGM. By integrating FGM into his new religion, rather than following the Jewish example and forbidding it, and by pronouncing his own example and teachings as divine revelation, Mohammed sanctified and eternised a practice that would otherwise have died out. Enshrined in its sacred texts, Islam became the ever-fecund wellspring of FGM.

The world history of FGM is essentially one of its eradication. In Mankind’s early history FGM probably occurred world-wide, but sporadically where the precursors outlined by Mackie prevailed. However, it died out on exposure to monogamous kinship structures and the relatively advanced human rights of Graeco-Roman civilisation and Christianity. By resisting these, and by sanctifying FGM and the factors that engender it (polygyny and slavery – females captured for sex-slavery were infibulated), Islam has prevented this process from reaching completion, and consequently today defines the zones where FGM continues to flourish.

FGM + World Muslim Population

FGM + World Muslim Population

*

About 80% of FGM is attributable to Moslems. However it would be wrong to conclude from this that the remaining 20% is ‘non-Islamic’. Virtually all non-Moslem FGM occurs under the aegis of Islam – either at the historical centres of the Islamic slave trade (Nigeria, Eritrea & Ethiopia, Kenya), or amongst religious minorities living in Islamic countries where FGM is normative and institutionalised.

These minorities, for centuries isolated from their religions’ mainstream, have adopted the dominant community’s practices, including FGM, in order to blend in and minimise discrimination and persecution. Though Moslem women can’t marry outside their religion, Moslem men can (Mohammed married a Jewess). As marginalised and persecuted groups in Moslem-dominated societies, non-Moslems have much to gain by successful hypergyny and this incentivises non-Moslem families to adopt FGM.

The notable mass abandonments of FGM have occurred amongst minority non-Moslem practitioners, such as the Beta Israel Jews of Ethiopia; and the successes of the Pledge Association method reported by Mackie in his 2009 paper were Egyptian Copts and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Such groups, because not doctrinally shackled to the practice, readily abandon it when Pledge Associations make abandonment possible.

Compare this to Moslem practitioners who, on moving to non-Islamic countries where FGM is not normative, go to great lengths, to the point of breaking their adopted country’s laws, in order to maintain the practice (see here, here & here).

*

Imagine a society that doesn’t forbid, punish or even stigmatise murder, that instead tolerates, recommends, even commands it. Would it be surprising if that society were rife with murder?

Imagine societies defined by an ideology that, far from forbidding or stigmatising FGM, tolerates, praises, and commands it even. Should we surprised that such societies are rife with FGM?

Religions are keen to take credit for any good they can lay claim to, but should they not be held equally responsible for any ills they (knowingly or inadvertently) engender, aggravate or perpetuate?

If FGM is indeed un-Islamic then why, over its 1400 year existence, has Islam not even attempted to eliminate it, as it does all things ‘un-Islamic’, but instead tolerated, spread and promoted it?

Had Mohammed forbidden FGM (as he did alcohol and pork), or criticised it, or even just not mentioned it, FGM would have died out under Islam, as it has done under every other ideology, religion and social system. And the world would have been spared 1400 years-worth of the practice.

No problem is resolvable whose causes remain unaddressed. Pointing out the causal links between Islam and FGM has become taboo, dismissed as a symptom of a ‘phobia’. This taboo will ensure FGM’s continued flourishing and spread. Establishing a discourse around FGM that is free of taboos, insults and imputed motives is the crucial first step in resisting the growing ascendancy of FGM. It is a first step each one of us can take.

Desmond is truly amazing – and hot!

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Child drag artist Desmond is Amazing is indeed amazing.

And hot! Just check out this introductory video on YouTube. No wonder 11-year-old Desmond Napoles and other kids daringly diving into drag culture right now have provoked right-wing reactionaries into paroxysms of moral outrage.

Let’s face it, when a pretty young boy tells the world he is gay and dances sensuously in front of grown men, wearing vampish dresses and makeup; when “she” strips off items of clothing or goes on stage scantily clad right from the off; when dollar bills are accepted as “tips” from an audience apparently wild with excitement; when all this is going on we are getting far more than just a celebration of gender diversity or an innocent display of precocious performance talent.

And that’s great. It is wonderful that a rare niche has been found in the modern, developed world within which at least a few kids can truly be themselves, in ways that deny neither their gender feelings nor their sexuality. Being a drag queen, or a drag princess if you will, puts it right out there, in the open for all to see. It says, loud and proud, “I am a sexy kid, with sexy feelings. It’s totally cool for grown-ups to get turned on by me. I love it. That’s why I do this stuff. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s me!”

Red hot! Amazing Desmond Napoles

Panicky conservatives, needless to say, spin it differently, desperate as they are to pretend that kids have no erotic dimension, or at least none that is self-generated. In their telling, performances such as Desmond’s and those of fellow artists such as “Queen Lactacia” (Nemis Quinn Mélançon-Golden) are a travesty in the worst sense: these are kids, they claim, who are being “sexualised” by exploitative adults hell bent on corrupting their supposed natural innocence.

In Desmond’s case the criticism began long ago, following his drag performance at age eight during the 2015 New York City Pride Parade. At that time, Desmond and his parents were defended by Rutgers University professor Michael LaSala, author of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child. He rejected the notion that such performances were due to parental influence.

Within the last year, though, the attacks have become much more fierce, persistent and vicious. Stirred up by the right-wing media, angry complainants have made over a hundred allegations of child abuse against Desmond’s parents with the child protection services and police.

American LGBT fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle magazine Out explored this phenomenon in an article earlier this year. Out reported that these attacks against the Napoles family escalated after a drag performance at a bar in New York last December. This show was at 3 Dollar Bill, a queer, multifunctional performance space in Brooklyn. Desmond’s mother, Wendy, is quoted as saying Desmond “was not allowed anywhere but on stage and in the dressing room. I accompanied him in these areas. His father was in the audience.”

Out adds that that “like any other queen, Desmond was tipped by audience members”. Tipping drag performers is customary, we are told, “but adults outside of the community are attempting to label something so innocent as imitating one’s favourite celebrities as stripping”.

While nobody seems to be suggesting that Desmond stripped naked, it has been claimed that shows are being permitted in which kids have stripped off at least some of their clothes. And in at least one of Desmond’s shows he isn’t wearing a lot to start with: quite a bit of his slight, slender, little body is on provocative display.

In a less sexy form of provocation, The American Conservative brought out an article accusingly titled “Desmond: The Bacha Of Brooklyn”. Its author, Rod Dreher, begins with a heavily loaded, prejudicial comparison with Asian boy dancers. He says “Bacha bazi is a traditional practice in Afghanistan and some other central Asian cultures, in which boys and adolescent males are compelled to dance for older men, usually as a prelude to pederastic sex.”

Note that “compelled” bit. Whatever may be the practice in Afghanistan and elsewhere, I see  absolutely zero evidence that either Desmond or any other drag kids in the western world are being forced to perform. This is just a smear – a tactic regrettably par for the course on the “fake news” Right, as I know to my cost: Dreher was among the traditionalist, mainly religious, scribes who loudly and libellously denounced my article “Childhood ‘innocence’ is not ideal” last year. See Lording it from the wild margins.

But there is fake news on the so-called “liberal” Left, too, a prime example of which we are treated to in the Out article. The author, identified only as “Devin-Norelle” (no forename), cited Dreher’s article and wrote:

These arguments are dangerous; conservative media has associated Desmond’s performance of drag with sexuality simply because he transgresses the binary and opts to express his femininity. Newsflash: gender identity and sexuality are not one and the same. Desmond’s exploration and toying of gender is not a discovery of his sexual attractions, nor is it a tactic to invite the sexual desires of others. Drag, whether performed by an adult or a child, is simply a means of gender play and expression. It is not a sexual event. Their arguments also recklessly imply that the mere presence of gay men watching a child sing creates an atmosphere with sexual undertones. Yet men frequently watch male adults and children play sports. Is it only sexual when gay men take part? No – it’s all blatant homophobia and transphobia.

Spot the fake news? How about this: “Drag, whether performed by an adult or a child, is simply a means of gender play and expression. It is not a sexual event.”

Big, fat lie! Drag is not “simply a means of gender play and expression”, though that is obviously a significant aspect of it. Sure, drag can be performed with wholly non-erotic intent and often is: Dame Edna Everage, for instance, the classic creation of Australian comedian Barry Humphries, is played entirely for laughs: “she” is all about wit and satire. Likewise, my namesake Brendan O’Carroll’s “Mrs Brown” does something similar in considerably cruder terms: there’s plenty of smutty innuendo but no one would accuse O’Carroll of being sexually hot – actually, that goes for both of us! 😦

But when a kid declares himself to be gay, as Desmond has, he is talking about sexual feelings: “gay”, after all, refers to a sexual orientation not a gender identity. If his interest in wearing girls’ clothes was an expression only of his gender identity he would see himself as “trans”, not “gay” – a girl in a boy’s body and perhaps with ambitions to transition physically into a woman later on.

Trump that! Nemis opts for the Lolita look

So why all the denial? Why the coy insistence that kids’ drag performance has nothing to do with their sexuality? Hypocrisy, basically. For decades now, gay politics has revolved around respectability, and that has meant aping hetero-normativity: gay couples with committed relationships, marriage, and parenthood, have become the promoted model; the old, carefree “promiscuity” of the gay life is frowned upon (if still a reality for many) and any cross-generational sexual contact with youth is now far more taboo than it ever was in the “bad old days” when homosexuality was a discretely practised underground phenomenon.

Hypocrisy is detestable for its dishonesty; but on the other hand it works. Politically, it makes sense. Denial of the sexual element in kids’ drag performances has recently resulted in them being perceived as on the “respectable” side of the gender revolution, despite all the excitable right-wing huffing and puffing. While It cannot have been much fun for the Napoles family to be subjected to official investigation for child abuse, it is now becoming clear that they have gained a measure of support from the authorities.

A report in Gay Star News cites information posted on Instagram by Desmond’s mother. She is quoted as saying the Administration for Child Services (ACS) “has investigated us thoroughly… Our family was probed more intensely than any other case before. All allegations were ‘unfounded’.” Even better: “On the plus side, ACS has been offering us many support services.” Other official agencies including the police have also given the family a clean bill of health.

Thanks to the strength of gay community support, and sympathy from feminists (always keen to promote challenges to gender stereotypes), it may be that even quite risqué expressions of kids’ drag are now able to pass under the radar. Notably, an outfit called “Trump Army” demanded to know “Why no arrests?” after “10-year-old drag queen photographed with naked adult male”, as their headline put it. This was a reference to “Queen Lactacia”, who has already been mentioned above. Huck magazine ran a photo shoot featuring young Nemis. In a shot that didn’t make the magazine, Nemis is seen posing in drag with adult drag queen Violet Chachki. In “the shocking photo”, as Trump Army calls it, Violet is naked but for the flimsiest of genital coverings. While nakedness is no big deal to anyone with a body-positive attitude, it is interesting that the boy’s mother, Jessica Melancon, is said to have “conceded that drag has a sexual component and is unapologetic about her young son wearing sexually suggestive clothing if it ‘makes him feel beautiful’.”

Good for her!

 

RICHARD, A LIONHEART FOR MINORITY RIGHTS

Gay activist Peter Tatchell wrote an obituary in the Guardian last month which began as follows:

Across five decades the American psychiatrist and lawyer Richard Green, who has died aged 82, contributed to landmark achievements for gay and trans rights, risking his reputation and career to advance the understanding and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities.

I can personally vouch for the man’s courage in this regard. You won’t find anything about it in Tatchell’s otherwise excellent account, but Richard was also strikingly bold and brave in attempting to bring paedophilia in from the cold. While this aspect of his work was far less successful than the rest of his glittering career, the fact that an internationally renowned expert with much to lose would even think of such a project tells us what a fearless fighter he was.

My introduction to Richard was through the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR), of which he had been the founder and first president in 1975. Twenty years ago, in 1999, when he was about to take the annual presidency for a second time, he boldly went out on a limb, inviting me to speak at the academy’s Paris conference in 2000, to give a paedophile’s perspective. This was in keeping with his pioneering other work for sexual minorities as outlined in his memoir Gay Rights, Trans Rights – which I commend as admirably concise and characteristically witty.

Back in the 1970s Richard published a groundbreaking paper calling for the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, “despite being advised that it would ruin his career”, as Tatchell says. The following year he reiterated his call at the APA annual meeting and the organisation removed homosexuality from the list.

It was a fantastic success, paving the way for gayness to be considered normal and acceptable. In what may now seem a madly ambitious bid to replicate this success with paedophilia, in 2002 he published an article in the journal of the IASR, the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Titled “Is pedophilia a mental disorder?”, the paper presented strong empirical data and cogent arguments so show that paedophilia, like homosexuality, should not be considered pathological. This time, though, he was up against the full weight of the most powerful taboo of all and his ideas did not find favour.

But he had a go, that’s the point, and he was very supportive towards me personally. After we met in Paris we continued to see each other whenever I was in London, where he was a professor of psychiatry until his retirement, after which he stayed on in the capital, moving only from Fulham to Hampstead in his final years. He successfully proposed me for membership of psychologist J. Michael Bailey’s cross-disciplinary Sexnet forum, wrote to the court on my behalf when I was in trouble with the law, and gave a glowing pre-publication endorsement of my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons.

Most of all though, I will remember with pleasure the many times we shared a convivial drink and a meal together, usually at his expense. He behaved like a friend, in other words, not like a shrink with a dangerous “convicted paedophile” as part of his caseload. I was never his patient and never felt like one in his company.

All those years ago in Paris, Richard and his wife Melissa Hines, a neuroscientist, put me at ease immediately, joining me on a conference-organised canal-boat excursion, where they introduced me to their ten-year-old son, Adam. More than anything else they could have done, this friendly gesture (fully visible to other conference participants on the trip) convinced me that neither of them shared the popular prejudice that paedophiles must be shunned as pariahs.

A summary of Richard’s paper “Is pedophilia a mental disorder?” is to be seen here, at Ipce, along with details of the wider debate in the Archives of which this article was a part. There is another obituary of Richard here, in the New York Times.

No porkies, but one PIE too many!

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After finding myself cast as the pantomime villain for the Whitehall farce known as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), last year, the show finally took to the stage for a three-week run of public hearings last month.

These March hearings focused on the so-called Westminster strand, probing alleged V.I.P. child sex rings and cover-ups in politics and government. The inquiry had asked me to address a number of questions about the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), going back to the 1970s when I had been secretary and then chair. What they wanted from me, chiefly, was information that would confirm or refute an extraordinary claim coming from a senior civil servant, no less – not the most obvious source of wild fantasies – that PIE had been funded through government grants made at the behest of the secret services.

It struck me as a great opportunity to ridicule this absurd claim, backed by irrefutable documentary evidence in my possession. This would contribute to the long overdue and much needed discrediting of a whole gamut of conspiracy theories and allegations that exploded into the media in the wake of the Jimmy Savile “scandal” a few years ago. Among them, it will be recalled, were outrageous lies that falsely portrayed two PIE committee members as brutal murderers, along with the hilarious claim that former prime minister Edward Heath had attended PIE committee meetings.

Five years ago, when I first heard the claim about PIE getting government money, I wrote here at Heretic TOC:

… a former civil servant called Tim Hulbert has been peddling the fantasy that PIE was given as much as £70,000 of government funding. I wish! Unless our treasurer quietly trousered all that lovely lucre for himself, we received not a penny of public money. We always operated on a shoestring. I had assumed this Hulbert character was some low grade tea maker cum errand boy but it turns out he is now retired after ending up as head of social services at Bedfordshire County Council.

Turns out that Hulbert had been a senior consultant in a department overseeing grants to the voluntary sector. In statements made over the last few years he has been adamant that he confronted the head of the department, one Clifford Hindley, saying he had seen a proposal floating around in the office for a grant to PIE, and that he demanded to know what the hell was going on, because he thought it could not possibly be the right thing to do.

He said Hindley, who died some years ago, admitted there had been such a grant and had been of the opinion that PIE was a legitimate campaigning organisation, which made it eligible to be considered for public funding. Hulbert said he had been told to “back off” because the money had been given on the authority of Special Branch to allow it to keep an eye on PIE members. An earlier independent review, published as the Wanless-Whittam Report,  declined to rule this out, saying it would be “odd but not impossible”. Hulbert said he had even seen a copy of PIE’s magazine, Magpie, in the department, possibly in Hindley’s office.

And now, in person at the inquiry, the long-retired Tim Hulbert would insist once more that this conversation with Hindley really had taken place, and that he had seen the grant proposal. I saw the live feed of his evidence from the London hearing; the videos are still online for all to see, here for the morning session (from about 11 minutes in) and here (from the start) for the afternoon.

So, what did I make of it? Hulbert came across to me as slightly confused (not senile, but losing sharpness), of a rather excitable disposition and with an unreliable memory.

But I do not think he is a liar. There were no outright pork pies I could detect. Nor do I think his story is entirely false. His boss Clifford Hindley could very well have been a PIE sympathiser. I had never heard of him until his name emerged in the media following the allegations – but then we learned plenty. High up in the civil service, Hindley had clearly been a scholarly man, a classics, philosophy and theology graduate who studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and with many published articles to his name that showed “an obsessive academic interest in gay relationships between men and boys” as one report put it. These included a number of papers on pederasty in ancient Greece and others on composer Benjamin Britten’s known interest in young boys. Hindley’s focus on man-boy relationships has been monitored and logged just as obsessively by pianist Ian Pace at his Desiring Progress website. Pace discerns a tone sympathetic to man-boy eroticism in Hindley’s writing and I think he is correct.

What’s more,  soon after Hindley’s name came to media attention I had an email from an Italian postgraduate student who just happened to have bought a second-hand copy of my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case on Amazon. It bore the hand-written name Clifford Hindley on the fly-leaf, having apparently been his own personal copy. On several pages there were notes in the margins revealing the owner’s thoughts about aspects of the text – thoughts which definitely suggest a scholarly brain at work, such as Hindley obviously possessed. In my view, this definitely has to be our man. But before Mr Pace sees this and starts wetting himself with excitement, I should report there is nothing remotely salacious in these marginalia; the notes are more legalistic than erotic.

From the fly-leaf of Hindley’s copy of Paedophilia: The Radical Case

But none of this means Hindley ever succeeded in smuggling a grant through the system or even that he tried to do so. If there was an attempt, I know perfectly well he did not succeed, because I was familiar with PIE’s accounts at the relevant time. I was even able to submit a 1970s treasurer’s report as an exhibit for the inquiry, showing where all our very limited money was coming from, which was mainly from membership subscriptions. The Wanless-Whittam inquiry mentioned above had been unable to trace any money trail leading to PIE, which is not surprising as no money reached us.

Hulbert characterised that inquiry as shallow and “like something out of Yes Minister” – not so much Wanless as clueless. But Hulbert had no documentary or witness evidence to support either his suspicions against his boss or the cloak-and-dagger theory of secret service involvement. By contrast, Brian Altman QC, counsel to IICSA, had referred in an earlier session to my written statement and told the public hearing that my version was “consistent with the other evidence” on the matter.

In the end it was Hulbert who ended up looking like a buffoon from a satirical TV show. He started squealing like a stuck pig when Altman began politely asking a few gently sceptical questions about his evidence. It was “outrageous” that his word should be questioned in this way; he felt “insulted” to be subjected to such a “cross-examination”.

Best of all, though, was a moment of absurdity that that went way beyond Yes Minister. This would be the full Monty Python!

It came when Hulbert’s dodgy memory dug up a dim recollection that he had seen a grant renewal spreadsheet in the office with an entry on it relating to a grant for the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS). This was a biggy because the WRVS were getting over £1 million a year. One line of the paperwork indicated a grant listed as WRVS (P.I.E.), according to Hulbert. He thought this was an attempt to hide money (some tens of thousands of pounds ) going to the Paedophile Information Exchange by hiding it within the much bigger grant going to WRVS.

What he actually saw, though, in all probability, was not WRVS (P.I.E.) but WVS (PIE). This emerged in the hearing through reference to something Hulbert could well have stumbled across in the archives, dating back to the wartime work of the WRVS going back to 1941, before the organisation was “royal” and was just the plain WVS.

This would have been referring not to P.I.E. (or PIE) the paedophile organisation but to actual pies, the ones we eat! The inquiry heard that the WVS ran something called the Rural Pie Scheme thorough which millions of pies and snacks were distributed to agricultural workers during the war.

Who would ever have guessed that one of the unfortunate consequences of the Second World War (though hardly among the most unfortunate, except, perhaps, from Hulbert’s point of view!) would be that an aging civil servant would make a fool of himself at a public airing of events far removed from the war effort nearly three quarters of a century after it had ended! Priceless!

Hand-written notes in Hindley’s own copy of Paedophilia: The Radical Case.

Another remarkable feature of the inquiry for me was the surprisingly sad spectacle of some bitter testimony given by retired detective sergeant Bryan Collins, who had been with the Obscene Publications Squad (OPS) in the 1970s. I knew him all too well: he was the officer who arrested me in 1978 the course of the police investigation of PIE and who handled the case until its conclusion with my conviction for conspiracy to corrupt public morals in 1981.

I have nothing against him personally. He told the inquiry he had been hand-picked by the OPS chief as an “honest cop” following a notorious period in the history of the Metropolitan Police Service when corruption had been rife, with officers taking substantial cash bribes from those operating “sex shops” and the like in the capital, to dissuade them from seizing pornographic magazines, etc., that were on sale, and from launching prosecutions.

Offering a big bribe was well out of my financial league so I never had a chance to put Collins’ honesty to the test. But I have no reason to doubt it either. In fact, if he is to be believed, he and a now deceased colleague turned down an extremely tasty offer of £25,000 each – huge money in those days – from former PIE member Sir Peter Hayman to drop an investigation against him.

Collins is clearly still angry and bitter some forty years later over the fact that the case against Hayman was dropped, despite strong evidence against him in relation to child pornography. To him, it was very clearly an establishment cover-up. To have prosecuted Hayman would have been too embarrassing to the powers that be, given that he had been deputy commandant of the British military government in West Berlin from 1964 to 1966, and had served as High Commissioner to Canada. He was also the only real, as opposed to fantasy, secret services person we now know about in PIE’s history, as he had also been deputy director of MI6 – oops, sorry, there may have been Geoffrey Prime as well, but he spied for Russia!

Hayman did not escape embarrassment in the end, of course. As those who know their PIE history will be aware, the story of the dropped prosecution came out in Private Eye, and then Geoffrey Dickens MP called out Hayman in parliament as a paedophile.

What really sticks in Collins’ craw is that instead of being given credit for mounting what could have been a successful prosecution of Hayman, he and another officer on the investigation were blamed for leaking the story to the press. As he put it:

All they were interested in was getting somebody’s head to roll for what was published in Private Eye. That was their only intent … I was good at my job. And they couldn’t have cared less. They ruined me – it is not good to stand there and somebody turns around to you and says, “You’ve done this. You’ve committed an offence. We want your warrant card… To me, that was – I’d rather be stabbed than have that happen.”

As for the cover up, it had been achieved via a cosy (and very unusual, if not irregular) private chat between Hayman’s solicitor, Sir David Napley, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Thomas Hetherington. Here’s how the inquiry heard it:

Altman:  The way you see it, Mr Collins, it was Sir Thomas Hetherington doing a deal with Sir David Napley in relation to Sir Peter Hayman?

Collins:  Best club in the world, isn’t it: three knights of the realm? You know, not bad, is it?

Altman: Well, that will be for others to answer.

Bryan Collins and I seemed to have a totally different view of everything. I remember him saying to me we probably couldn’t even agree on what the weather was like. I have to say, though, he is dead right on this one.  And despite our differences I couldn’t help feeling considerable sympathy for him after hearing this testimony.

Why ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’ will fail

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Today’s guest blogger, Stephen James, is well known here as regular commentator Stephen6000, whose succinct contributions often provide a sensible counterpoint (or antidote!) to some of the always welcome but often wild “thinking outside the box” we tend to see in the heretical comments here. He has also written for the NAMBLA Bulletin and for the Newgon web magazine Uncommon Sense. His logical approach is consistent with his work as a published author of formal philosophy. With Adam Powell, he was a joint founder of the unfortunately ill-fated Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which fought a brave but losing battle to engage positively with mental health professionals. 

***

First, the caveats. I am not setting out to condemn “Virtuous Pedophiles” (VP). In fact, when I read the introduction on their home page, I can scarcely find anything to disagree with. Many paedophiles do need the sort of help this group have to offer and it is very welcome they are there to offer it. Also, many questionable claims are made about VP that need rebutting. It is sometimes suggested, for example, that VP thinks paedophiles should regard themselves as mentally ill or “defective” in some way; but, as far as I can gather, this is not their view. (The introduction just referred to certainly carries no hint of it.) If we are going to criticise VP, it should be for what they actually maintain, not for what we merely imagine their views to be. But there is one thing in this introduction I do disagree with and that is the reference to “sexual abuse” –  for example, in the statement “But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually”. For reasons to emerge later, I think this term should be avoided, at least for non-coercive sexual contacts between adults and children.  (In this, I am in agreement with  Child Abuse as a Construct Reconsidered”, which is part of the famous academic study commonly known as the Rind Report.

Also, whenever we discuss if a project will be successful or not, we need to carefully consider what constitutes the bar for success. VP can almost certainly be successful – indeed, probably has already been – in terms of helping some MAPs feel better about themselves, leading possibly to fewer suicides. It can also persuade some open-minded people, those less susceptible to media propaganda, to see the plight of MAPs in a more sympathetic light. Some of these people are therapists, who may be persuaded to improve the way they deal with their minor-attracted clients. There will be a little less misery for MAPs as a result of all this.

But I get the impression that VP is hoping for more. I think they want to reach a point where most MAPs can live a “normal” life, which, in this context, we can perhaps interpret as meaning a life that is minimally impacted by the fact that they are MAPs, largely free of hatred and with broadly the same opportunities as non-MAPs enjoy. Now, I don’t deny the possibility of such a state of affairs coming about. What I do claim is that it won’t be achieved by VP’s tactics and I want to explain why.

VP will not discuss the moral standing of adult-child sex. They agree with mainstream society that it is simply wrong, period. So they do not challenge the view that if an adult has sex with a child, it is always a bad thing. This has some important consequences, which we can bring out by asking what kind of relationship between mainstream society and MAPs would be broadly acceptable to both.

Apart from a few “aromantic” MAPs, most want to form relationships with young people that are “loving” in the broadest sense. They would of course like (some of) these relationships to be sexual if this were possible; but, besides that, they would like to enjoy the company of youngsters in other everyday activities. In fact, I think we can go so far as to say this would be essential to their happiness. The question is: can mainstream society bring itself to accept this?

And the answer is surely no, as long as mainstream society continues to regard adult-child sex as intensely dangerous. Of course, some MAPs are quite capable of spending time with youngsters without either feeling tempted to initiate a sexual relationship with them or succumbing to that temptation if they are. But from the perspective of mainstream society, that is not good enough. They cannot tell who is and who is not “dangerous”. Therefore, though we may reach the point where it mostly does not wish to actively persecute MAPs (perhaps partly as a result of VP’s efforts), society will never accept MAPs freely associating with young people as long as it persists  in its belief that adult-child sex is intensely dangerous. At best, continuously supervised access will be allowed in some cases, and while that might be acceptable to some MAPs, I do not think many would be happy in such a restrictive situation, even if they have no sexual intentions regarding their young friends.

But once it is accepted that consensual adult-child sex is not intensely dangerous, that, indeed, it is not intrinsically harmful at all, then there is no general reason to try to prevent it from happening and it will then be possible for MAPs to have happy and fulfilling lives within mainstream society.

I can well imagine how a typical member of VP will react to this argument. There are likely to be two main responses. One is to say that mainstream  society is right: consensual adult-child sex is intrinsically harmful. (Or, relatedly, they may claim that consensual adult-child sex isn’t even possible, as children are incapable of consenting to sex with adults.) But, on these matters, the evidence seems to be on my side, not theirs. The second type of response they are likely to make is that the suggestion is politically naïve: even if it were the case (which they deny) that adult-child sex can be morally acceptable, mainstream society will never accept it; so the VP approach is the only one that is politically feasible.

And yet it is possible to change people’s minds about the moral standing of adult-child sex. This happened to a great extent in the Netherlands in the 1970s, with resulting legislative changes that modified age-of-consent restrictions in a liberal direction (though these were later repealed). This could happen again, if MAPs would unite in favour of the radical approach.

Of course, depending on one’s personal situation (and one’s level of bravery!), this has to be done very circumspectly in the current climate. I am certainly not advocating breaking any laws. I am suggesting that people do what they can to communicate the truth to others. I believe that if this were done, the needed reforms might eventually come about.

If they did, this would probably be a net benefit, not only to MAPs, but also to young people. When consensual adult-child sex does lead to harm, this seems to happen mainly because of the taboo against it. This is supported to some extent even by the literature of our opponents. I’m thinking especially of Susan Clancy’s The Trauma Myth, in which the author shows that in most cases the experience of sex with an adult is not unpleasant for the child at the time – psychological harm comes later in the form of guilt feelings, which are, of course, entirely dependent on there being a taboo. (This is why I argued above that the term “sexual abuse” should be abandoned for non-coercive cases, though this does not mean I think people should pursue such relationships under current legal and social circumstances.) Get rid of the taboo and the well-being of those children who enjoy sex with adults (and the adults they themselves will become) will be greatly improved.

I was very tentative in my statement above about the likelihood of success in bringing about the needed reforms. It is affected by many factors beyond our control. But of one thing I am certain, for the reasons explained earlier: the VP approach will definitely not yield more than very limited societal improvements either for MAPs or for children. Perhaps we need moderates as well as radicals to introduce new ideas to the public in a relatively non-threatening way. But, rather than VP, our moderates had better be of the kind represented by B4U-ACT, who are neutral on the moral standing of adult-child sex, otherwise they will undermine the radicals. If the only agenda is VP’s, I guarantee there will be no large-scale society-wide improvements in the plight of MAPs or the children whom they wish to be close to.

 

YOUTH SPEAK OUT ABOUT YOUTHLOVE

An earlier guest blogger here, the Japonist (hope that’s a reasonably accurate label of convenience!) who writes as “Peace”, reports the start of a new venture called “Kids Club anthologies”, the first such anthology being titled (no capital letters) out of the mouths of babes – youth speak out about youthlove.

The introduction begins:

Despite all of the noise from the anti, pro, and neutral side of youthlove, there is one group whose voice is often forgotten – youth themselves. Whether this is from an ageist assumption that youth don’t know what’s good for them or the unfortunate reality that youth don’t often get a chance to express their view in print media, it represents a glaring omission in most discussions of topics such as youthlove, the age of consent, and adult/youth relationships. A true discussion of these subjects can’t be had if only adults are granted a chance to speak.

As Peace explained to me in an email, the series will be anthologies of “rarer, hard-to-find, or more obscure pieces” written by paedophiles or about adult/youth relations, the age of consent, sexual attraction to youth, etc., “with each anthology following a theme of some sort”. This first one collects material from the late 70s to the mid 90s “written by gay boys and lesbians, self-proclaimed dykes and fags, feminists, youth liberationists, and groups for queer youth”.

It’s a great idea, not least because youngsters are no longer able to speak out so freely on sexual matters: censorship prevails. It’s a very different story when the topics are adult-approved, as will be seen from my next item below.

 

CHILDREN’S CLIMATE STRIKES GO GLOBAL

It’s fantastic, of course. Great to see and hugely inspiring. The mass movement of school kids out of the classroom and into political activism against climate change is now a global phenomenon. Marching on Friday with placards and banners bearing slogans such as “There is no Planet B” and “The sea is rising, so are we”, tens of thousands of children all around the world in over 100 countries took part in “strike” action to demand that the political elite urgently address the climate change emergency. Fantastic, too, that this action has attracted massive media attention, which will add significantly to the steadily mounting  pressure pushing climate change up the political agenda.

And not just fantastic but utterly amazing that this huge movement was started as recently as last August by schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, then just 15, when she started to skip school on Fridays to protest about climate change outside Sweden’s parliament. By December she was giving an impassioned speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland and a month later – after a long overland journey because she refused to go by environmentally unfriendly air travel – she berated the complacency of all the billionaires and other high rollers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, urging them to “behave like our house is on fire, because it is.”

Quite rightly, Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I would be very happy for her to win except that she could have serious competition from other school kids, including Emma González and David Hogg, who responded swiftly to a massacre by a rampaging gunman last year at their Florida school. In the wake of the attack, instead of settling for the usual pious prayers and condolences offered by politicians running scared of the powerful gun lobby in the U.S., they vented their anger by demanding action on gun control. And they got it: a state bill was passed bringing in a range of important reforms to limit gun possession and its dangers, and Donald Trump was even forced to take some action (on “bump stops”) at the national level.

Such achievements are eminently worthy of acclaim and Heretic TOC should arguably have made this theme a lead item, not a relatively brief down-page affair. What I am concerned to avoid, though, is a phoney pretence that children – real children, if you will, as opposed to high school seniors such as González and Hogg, verging on adulthood, are in any position to be politically effective on their own. Even the somewhat younger Thunberg had a massive amount of support from adults – a younger child could hardly “run away” to Davos without parental and other help, much less get an invitation to speak there.

And they only know that climate change is so important because adults have taught them about it, probably in school. That’s great. It shows our schools are getting at least something right. But let’s not pretend it is about children’s innate wisdom or any such sentimental bullshit. Kids know more than anyone about their own lives and feelings, though. That is the area of their expertise and that is where there is real scope for thinking about how they might be accorded greater respect, and their agency acknowledged.

 

KINDLING FRESH INTEREST IN MY JACKSON BOOK

Bizarrely, I have been so busy that I find myself a couple of weeks late plugging the new Kindle edition (priced in U.S. dollars here) of my own book about the late King of Pop on my own blog!

I guess regular heretics here all know about Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, which came out in 2010 shortly after the megastar’s death. Some will even have read it. They will be aware it is an enormous 624-page door-stopper of a tome, weighing in at over a kilo, making it an expensive affair to produce, to deliver, and to buy. In some far-flung parts of the world purchasers have had to part with sums a good deal north of £30 to secure a copy. Bless them, some have actually done just that: there has been a modest number of such customers from Austria to Australia and from Belgium to Brazil.

Now, though, the new Kindle e-book edition can be yours for barely more than a tenth of such an expensive outlay, at a very affordable £3.78 from Amazon in the UK and around $5 in the US. And it comes with a substantial new Preface written in the wake of the sensational Leaving Neverland documentary.

Readers will discover that it was not necessary to be a music industry insider, or otherwise close to Jackson, to discover a huge amount about his relationships with boys, long before the latest revelations and even before his trial: plenty of legal filings and other useful sources were in the public domain for those who cared to look, from the early 1990s onwards. In fact, as many other unofficial biographers have found, it is the insiders – especially family, and those with jobs and contracts to protect – who are most likely to circle the wagons and deny everything. Many of the relevant documents, including lengthy transcripts of interviews and phone calls featuring Jordan Chandler and his father Evan – who was the driving force behind the first allegations against Michael, against the wishes of his reluctant son – were scrutinised by me. These are featured in the book. Even Jordie’s Uncle Ray, and specialist Jackson bloggers such as Desiree Hill at mjfacts, have admitted that I was an assiduous and astute researcher. As for understanding Michael as a boy lover, there’s a lot to be said for the adage: “It takes one to know one”.

In terms of the depth of the book’s coverage, not to be found elsewhere, over 65 pages are devoted to the relationship between Michael and Jordie. Oddly, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons also includes a vastly more systematic and in-depth account of the 2005 trial than is to be found elsewhere, with well over 130 pages on this.

As for breadth, just count the boys!  Well over a dozen were clearly in “special friendships” with him over the years, including the Leaving Neverland boys: you will find plenty about Wade and Jimmy in the book, including strong early indications of their intimacy with the star. A staggering seventy boys are named in all – including three princes, no less! – along with reasons to place most of them among Michael’s more diffuse erotic entourage.

And just for good measure, I might throw in the fact that Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons got rave reviews from more professors (of psychiatry, psychology, cultural studies, you name it) than you could shake a Jacko crotch-grab at – not that you would want to!

 

LOUSE OF LORDS OR LOUSY JOURNALISM?

Those who read the comments here religiously will be aware of this item already: my headline echoes a much cleverer one in The Sun – credit where it’s due, the redtops do tend to be good at snappy puns.

Their most formidable skill, though, lies in knowing how to be deeply obnoxious even when the “story” is vanishingly thin, a gossamer concoction of loosely woven threads of non-story.

Let’s just consider the first couple of sentences:

Britain’s most notorious paedophile campaigner was treated to a plush champagne bash at the House of Lords. Twice-jailed Tom O’Carroll, 73, was among up to 60 guests who were thanked last December for donating money to a children’s book charity.

What’s the story? Essentially, that an old bloke did something that would normally be considered public spirited and praiseworthy: giving money to a worthy cause. A not very well-off bloke, actually, with no income beyond the humble state pension, so if The Sun had been disposed to tell the gospel truth there would have been a “widow’s mite” angle in it for them: see Luke 21:1-4. But it should come as no surprise that the generous spirit of Jesus, who praised the poor widow for giving her all, should be far from the thoughts of the tabloid take-down artists.

I did not give my all – just a bit more than I could sensibly afford, actually – so I can by no means claim anything like equal merit with the  biblical widow; but you might feel, as I do, that it’s a bit rich for The Sun to use this particular event, a reception to thank donors, as a stick with which to beat me.

Michael: no saint, but no Tiberius either

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Michael Jackson has long since joined the immortals, albeit some would spell that without the “t” following the revelations last month in the epic four-hour, two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The film revives claims that the superstar had sexual friendships with young boys, scandal that first burst into the public arena way back in 1993-4 and surfaced again in 2003-5, culminating in Jackson’s acquittal at the end of a four-month trial.

The film has interviews with two of those boys, now long into their adult lives. One of them, Wade Robson, testified in Jackson’s defence at his trial, but now tells a very different story. In the course of researching my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (2010), I came to the view that Robson almost certainly had sexual contact with Jackson but decided to shield the star from a criminal conviction. I thought he had been willingly involved in the sexual contact at the time. What we are told we are going to see in this new film, though – when it goes to TV, which is scheduled for early March through Channel 4 and HBO – is harrowing testimony of manipulation and emotional exploitation that has left both men traumatised.

Jimmy Safechuck, with Michael

The parents of the other boy, James Safechuck, were said to have received “hush money” to keep the family sweet and head off their cooperation with any prosecution. James, known as Jimmy back in the day, was called to give evidence to a grand jury investigation into complaints against Jackson in 1994 but he gave nothing away at that time nor in 2005.

At the time of filming, Robson was 36 and Safechuck 40.  Robson is a dancer and choreographer, Safechuck a computer programmer. Both men are married with children.

These new stories of lasting hurt and trauma leave me deeply sceptical. The current climate all but guarantees that encounters which were welcome at the time, and even part of a loving relationship, are later re-imagined in memory to fit in with the prevailing abuse narrative of our times.

And what a narrative in this case! The horror hype was at work as soon as bums were on seats for the first showing. A Huffington Post report tells us the festival director gave a trigger warning, telling viewers that mental health counsellors were on hand to cope with all the anticipated fainting and freaking out, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Nor did the audience fail to deliver. They were reportedly left “shellshocked” by the “harrowing” accounts of the two accusers, such that this “searing” documentary “cast a sombre shadow” at the festival.

This is the sort of coverage you will have seen all over the news. What you have probably missed, though, is “the small print” deliberately obscured or left out entirely by most the mainstream media, including important papers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, as well as the big broadcasting networks. By far the most significant snippet of this down-page material that I have managed to uncover was to be found in a paper whose circulation area includes Hollywood: the Los Angeles Times. Understandably, they talked to Dan Reed, the British director of Leaving Neverland, who also made the Bafta-winning The Paedophile Hunter (2014), about vigilante Stinson Hunter. My guess is that interviewer Amy Kaufman got more than she bargained for when she asked a rather bland question: Why make this a four-hour docuseries?

Reed replied along the lines that it was an extremely complex story. It took time to unravel the psychology behind the kids saying they had not been abused and then changing their minds much later. Then he dropped a bombshell:

The central thing you have to understand is that these children fell in love with Michael Jackson. Jackson wasn’t a kind of grab-and-grope pedophile — he was a romance, relationship pedophile. Wade started telling me how he had fallen in love with Jackson and how that love lasted for years — decades — and how that love motivated his loyalty to Jackson. And how that loyalty ended up requiring him to lie about what happened.

[[[   ADDED FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY: There is something else Dan Reed said that is arguably even more stunning, and which I meant to include but somehow omitted to do so. He made it plain he thought these very young boys had not just loved Jackson emotionally. They had been enthusiastic over every aspect of the relationship including the sexual side. Reed said:

“When Wade told me that he loved Michael, then everything suddenly crystallized and made sense. This is difficult to say, but he had a fulfilling sexual and emotional relationship at the age of 7 with a 30-year-old man who happened to be the King of Pop. And because he enjoyed it, he loved Michael, and the sex was pleasant. I’m sorry, that’s just the reality.”   ]]]

By Reed’s admission, it took a very long film to persuasively turn a love story into the standard abuse narrative. As a powerful antidote to this exercise in laboured revisionism, I recommend a 30-minute video, Michael Jackson And Wade Robson: The Real Story, which I understand is supported by the extended Jackson family. The family’s denial of Jackson’s emotional and sexual interest in young boys has never been credible to me, but many strong factual points are made against the accusers.

The information given about Wade Robson is particularly important because he had been a key defence witness at Jackson’s trial in 2005.

The picture that emerges very clearly in this YouTube video is that in 2011-12 Robson’s career in entertainment was not going as well as he had hoped. He was talented and successful, but also had extremely high and perhaps unrealistic expectations. He took on ambitious projects that were too much for him.

After failing in one such project in 2011 he went into therapy. Same thing in 2012: different project, different therapist. Significantly, neither this new therapist nor the first were consulted in relation to sexual abuse. His new therapist, a Dr Larry Shaw, is a specialist in dealing with high pressure jobs.

High-level success and perfectionism had been demanded of Robson ever since his early childhood by his mother. The pressure and expectations had become all too much for him after a couple of career stumbles.

It was in 2012, three weeks into therapy, that Robson first came up with his allegations of abuse. He was not claiming recovered memory. He said he knew all along known what had happened with Jackson but did not realise it was abusive.

I maintain, as does The Real Story, that this must be nonsense. As a sophisticated adult Robson cannot have failed to be aware that the conduct in question was illegal and would be widely regarded as abuse. The unavoidable conclusion, in my view, is that regardless of the law and public opinion, he did not feel Jackson had abused him. Yes, there was sexual activity; but, no, he was not abused.

However, now that Jackson was no longer alive, and Robson was struggling in his career, he decided he had been abused after all. Either the experience was genuinely re-imagined as abusive or it was a conscious ploy to re-invent and re-finance himself. The facts suggest the latter possibilities, as will be seen below.

Robson sued the Jackson Estate.

The Jackson estate managed to get hold of a note Robson had written to himself about a book proposal he was working on. The book was to be a memoir in which would talk about his “abuse”. This note was presented as part of the 2016 depositions for the civil case. He had written:

“My story of abuse and its effects will make me relatable/relevant” he wrote.

He would suddenly be transformed from a failure to a victim.

He began to claim he could not work because dancing and other entertainment were too strongly associated with sexual abuse. This was what he claimed in court documents. In fact, though, he continued dancing, etc.

But in Sept 2017, with his lawsuit heading for failure, he proclaimed himself “healed” from the bad association regarding entertainment activities and announced his return to show business.

So, he was traumatised when it looked as though there was money in it that would bail him out when his career nosedived. Then, straight after that prospect vanished with the failure of his lawsuit, hey presto, he was no longer traumatised.

Go figure!

We may suppose that as a relatively humble computer programmer, Safechuck, too, would not have been averse to the lure of potentially huge financial gain from a successful lawsuit. As noted above, the family had accepted what were apparently outright bribes in the past: a Rolls Royce was just one of the lavish presents Jackson gave them; and Jimmy’s father, a dustman, mysteriously became a millionaire following his association with Jackson.

So we need not be surprised that, like Robson, Safechuck also filed suit. Neither man’s case has been successful.

But sorting out the motives Michael’s old flames had for suing Jackson’s Estate, and companies, and making Leaving Neverland, does not explain the film’s emotional impact. A big part of it was what we might call the yuk factor. Plenty of gay guys experience revulsion to the point of nausea at the thought of having sex with a woman; and of course it is not so long ago that straight people’s utter disgust at the idea of men having sex with each other was used as an argument against normalising such behaviour.

That’s how it is now with child-adult sex. One reason for Leaving Neverland’s great length is that it dwells long and loathingly on the graphic intimate details of the love life disclosed by these two guys.

Robson met Jackson through a dance competition at age five, and said the sexual abuse began when he was seven. Safechuck was cast in a Pepsi commercial starring Jackson at age ten, and the alleged abuse began after months of close friendship.

Safechuck’s description of his experiences at Jackson’s fabled Neverland mansion is particularly atmospheric. Little Jimmy began to stay the night in Michael’s bed. The star told him he’d performed oral sex on him while he was asleep. Michael introduced him to masturbation. Things quickly escalated. They had sex all over the Neverland Ranch – including inside the castle, pool, attic and train station. “Neverland was a giant bed”, as one report put it. Virtually every structure on the grounds had hideaways with beds or privacy nooks for sex. Oral sex games were played in the pool and jacuzzi.

We learn from one report that as the photos of each location ticked by, “disgusted groans in the Sundance theatre grew louder”.

But what did little Jimmy, now big James, have to say about this? He said:

“It happened every day. It sounds sick, but when you’re first dating somebody, you do a lot of it,” he said.

Quite so. Lovers get carried away in a passionate relationship. There is no shying away here from Jimmy’s own active participation: there was mutual engagement. No amount of disgusted groaning in the cinema can negate that.

There is no evidence that Jackson ever coerced or forced boys into sex. He clearly wanted their willing participation. Does this mean he was entirely an ethical boy lover? No, it does not. As I was at pains to emphasise in Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, he was never the saintly figure his adoring fans believe him to be. His carefully wrought image as a figure of child-like innocence was always a mask, a persona. There is no doubt in my mind that some of his behaviour was quite manipulative, especially as regards his Machiavellian manoeuvrings to keep parents onside or neutralise their suspicions and hostility.

Wade Robson, with Michael

Perhaps the strongest charge against him, though, is that of giving some kids the impression they alone were the special one. For any boy destined to grow up gay, especially, any bad-faith declaration of undying love would always run the risk of ending in heartbreak and lasting trauma. Not that he is necessarily guilty of this charge: Robson and Safechuck have both had heterosexual adult lives, after all.

But there is also the question of personal loyalty at the friendship level. In my book I said there was little evidence that any of Jackson’s boys were cynically dumped once they grew beyond Jackson’s age-of-attraction, as has been alleged. However, it now looks as though I may have been too keen to give him the benefit of the doubt. While we do not yet know what Robson and Safechuck say about this in the film, their stories have been in the public domain from documentation filed in their lawsuits, and a number of writers have pored over the entrails.

One of them is long-time Jackson watcher Desiree Hill. In 2010 she blogged with high praise of my book, saying “it’s fantastic…a tome of astute analysis”. I can now return the praise. Her detailed chronicle The Jimmy Safechuck Story is a must-read for anyone who wants a well documented “case for the prosecution” regarding the alleged “dumping” of the particular boy in question. I am not saying her view is necessarily correct but it needs to be taken into account.

A boy lover well versed in the classics wrote to me recently comparing Jackson with the Roman emperor Tiberius, and it is undeniable that Neverland’s numerous custom-designed love-making locations clearly echo the emperor’s arrangements for his retirement fastness on the isle of Capri. As the historian Suetonius wrote in The Twelve Caesars:

On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions. Its bedrooms were furnished with the most salacious paintings and sculptures, as well as with an erotic library, in case a performer should need an illustration of what was required. Then in Capri’s woods and groves he arranged a number of nooks of venery where boys and girls got up as Pans and nymphs solicited outside bowers and grottoes: people openly called this “the old goat’s garden,” punning on the island’s name.

He acquired a reputation for still grosser depravities that one can hardly bear to tell or be told, let alone believe. For example, he trained little boys (whom he termed tiddlers) to crawl between his thighs when he went swimming and tease him with their licks and nibbles; and unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction.

It is already beginning to look not too good for Tiberius at this point, wouldn’t you say? But there is more. And it is much worse. Suetonius continues:

The story is also told that once at a sacrifice, attracted by the acolyte’s beauty, he lost control of himself and, hardly waiting for the ceremony to end, rushed him off and debauched him and his brother, the flute-player, too; and subsequently, when they complained of the assault, he had their legs broken.

Now that was an unethical boy-lover. But it was not Michael Jackson!

 

 

 

 

 

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