Hand to hand combat on handedness

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Heretic TOC yesterday promised a return to more challenging material in this post. This follows a reader’s request to provide details of my further exchanges with Dr James Cantor on white matter in the brains of paedophiles. So this post will be somewhat technical, and lengthier than usual.

Just to recap and set the scene, what follows is a short extract from near the start of my email on the subject to the totally brilliant and utterly wonderful blogger Neuroskeptic. No, honestly, it is a very impressive blog, but I feel obliged to lay it on a bit thick as Heretic TOC  been honoured by a visit and comment today from him (could be a “her”, I suppose, but no indication to that effect). So, the extract:

An interesting study in this area was J.M. Cantor et al.’s sMRI paper “Cerebral white matter deficiencies in pedophilic men”. Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 42, Issue 3, Pages 167-183 (2008).

The study looked for brain regions that distinguish pedophilic from nonpedophilic men. Pedophiles were found to have less white matter. The authors suggested that the regions in question operate as a network for recognizing sexually relevant stimuli and that pedophilia results from a partial disconnection within that network.

The work is one of a series of papers purporting to indicate that pedophiles have brain deficiencies resulting from “perturbation” of prenatal development, and other misfortunes such as trauma from childhood head injuries. Papers have shown lower average IQ of pedophiles and far more left-handedness than average.

Those who really want to know about all this stuff need to read Cantor’s paper and some of the theory behind my proposed alternative, which is grounded in current understandings of brain plasticity. The key scientific development is the field of epigenetics, which is all about how environmental effects can feed back into our fundamental biology, including brain structure. The mechanism for this is gene expression i.e. the environment can alter which of our genes are switched on and switched off, with massive effects.

For quick background, if you feel you need it, see two of my Heretic TOC postings Scientific egos as fragile as eggs and The dubious analogy of the ‘extra arm’. These posts describe my initial engagement in debate with Dr Cantor on the Sexnet email list-serve forum. What follows is a further Sexnet post, by me. This Sexnet posting follows a couple of sharp exchanges on Sexnet between Cantor and myself, in which he had accused me of being “an impostor” (sic). It was following this element of personal abuse by Cantor that the moderator, Dr Mike Bailey, stepped in to say “let’s take the insults offline” (see below). My reply follows on from this. In it, as you will see, I refer to a second, more recent, paper by Cantor (co-authored with Blanchard).

SEXNET:

Mon, 31 Dec 2012 at 18:46

>let’s take the insults offline.

Damn! Yesterday, just when I had a real zinger on the way, the ref steps in! 🙂

OK, I’ll back off from anything that might be considered provocative, but I hope I may be allowed to address the “impostor” point, not in order to hurl any insults but to defend myself against one. I fear the humour with which I had intended to respond will be seen as just such a provocation, so I’ll keep it straight: I asked the question at issue as a layman seeking information, and did not present myself as anything else. I have now been challenged to “produce an alternative explanation for the handedness findings” as though I were an expert. This flatters me. I have never pretended to be anything of the sort. [Heretic TOC adds: finding of “far more left-handedness than average”: see above.]

The challenge does however suggest a further question: Does the epigenetic explanation I proposed (again, simply as a curious layman) as an alternative to James’s account of paedophilic white matter structure stand or fall on the basis of handedness findings? If so, why?

The only clue I can find on this in James’s Sexnet posts is in the reference he made to his encounter with Susie Orbach on BBC radio. James wrote:

Had she asked me whether being abused could cause the differences in the brain, I would have let her know that abuse is indeed reflected in brain anatomy, but not in any of the areas I found to be related to pedophilia.  (And I would have reminded her about implications of the handedness findings, which kept slipping her mind.)

The fact that the claimed implications of the handedness findings “kept slipping her mind” suggests either Orbach just wasn’t “getting it” or else she had some positive reason for rejecting the claims. I guess we’ll never know her reasoning; I could ask her but I am more interested in James’s, and the brevity of his remarks above doesn’t give much to go on. I will stick my neck out to interpret him, though, to agree that, yes, it is known that “abuse” which produces high levels of stress, such as children being persistently shouted at, or under frequent threat of violence, or subjected coercively to sexual impositions, can result in anatomical brain changes and that, yes, those changes have not been found in the areas where James has found differences in paedophilic white matter.

But no one is proposing (or not me anyway) childhood stress-induced brain changes as an alternative to James’s explanation of paedophilic white matter differences. I (provisionally) see paedophilia and hebephilia as non-pathological variations of sexual orientation, ranging from exclusive paedophilia (<5% of the adult male population) to a substantial, but non-preferential, attraction (up to 25% of the adult male population) at least if paedophilia and hebephilia are considered together. I wonder if James would predict that up to 25% of men – up to a quarter in various studies have been shown to have some sexual attraction to prepubescent or early pubescent children (i.e. children of pre-adult body morphology), or have admitted it – have some degree of white matter deficiency compared to the remaining 75%? Would it in principle be possible to plot a man’s (or an averaged large cohort of men’s) degree of white matter deficiency alongside the degree (as measured by penile plethysmography, say) of his attraction to children? Would James expect to find a graded matching of those data for a quarter of the male population? It seems somewhat implausible. If, alternatively, he is limiting his theory to a definitely small (<5%, perhaps 2-4%) group of paedophiles with pre-natal and infantile developmental problems, how then does he account for a substantial level of paedophilic attraction in around a fifth (25% – 5% = 20%) of male adults? For this he presumably has to invoke (not very parsimoniously) a second theory.

In Cantor & Blanchard 2012 no distinction is found between white matter structure in hebephiles as compared with paedophiles. This provides another problem for the developmental theory, as it would predict hebephilia as an intermediate type between paedophilia and teleiophilia. The authors respond by saying:

On the other hand, children in Tanner Stages 2 and 3 — the preferred sexual objects of hebephiles — might be perceived as physically more similar to children in the later years of Tanner Stage 1 than to fully mature individuals (Tanner Stage 5) by the average human observer. If that is true, then one might expect hebephiles to be more similar to pedophiles than to teleiophiles on relevant neuroanatomic parameters.

Well, the average Martian observer might be in no doubt, but my guess is that “the average human observer” would be very hard pressed to say that a youngster at Tanner stage 3 was more like a child than an adult, or the other way round. So would Tanner himself, I imagine, which would hardly be surprising as this morphology is bang in the middle of his 1-5 scale. The Cantor/Blanchard argument might work for Tanner stage 2, but this line of reasoning still looks very unconvincing.

One point to bear in mind here is that objective categorization misses the arguably more relevant subjective psychology of the hebephiles themselves. I know of many hebephilic men, often those who are married and have a substantial level of attraction to women, who report pubescent boys as highly attractive, and yet they are not at all drawn to prepubescent or adult males. This cuts right across Ray Blanchard’s alloerotic findings, which is a shame because I love his beautiful graphs and elegant exposition. Also, those who would otherwise lean towards paedophilia and teleiophilia can each be hebephilic in different ways. As Confucius said about homosexual hebephilia (but don’t ask me for the exact reference!), “The boy-lover sees the boy in the youth; the gay guy sees the man”. “Boyish” and “manly” aspects can be perceived in one and the same youth: beauty (and sexual attractiveness), and what characterises them, are indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Epigenetic factors, by contrast to James’s theory (or theories), impact upon everyone in ways capable of giving expression (gene expression, actually, or suppression) to an infinite range of personal experience. And the beauty of Jim Kohl’s pheromone idea, is that it offers a precise biological explanation of how sexual learning, including sexual orientation and even preferences such as a shoe fetish, is fed back into a person’s gene regulation following initial conditioning of a preference to a pheromonal stimulus in the learning environment. In the case of paedophilia, this would mean sexual arousal to child-related sensual stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) once these had been conditioned from an association with the pheromone, this being theoretically the primary (olfactory) stimulus.

Jim sees a role particularly for luteinizing hormone (LH), noting that LH is an important indicator of steroid hormone-mediated mammalian brain development. Significantly, in relation to James’s work, this brain development includes LH-driven changes in the ratio between white and gray matter.

This is admittedly all very speculative and Jim has long been treated somewhat dismissively here, but I see that he is no longer such a lone voice. Epigenetics, and quite possibly a role for human pheromones as an agent of epigenetic change, are beginning to look serious players in human sexuality.

Returning to handedness, I have no problem in seeing that it is not relevant to childhood brain changes beyond infancy (such as those caused by stressful abuse) but is relevant to pre-natal and infantile developmental “perturbations” that might also cause white matter differences.

As it happens, I have never contested any findings on handedness, digit ratios, etc., as markers of pre-natal or infantile developmental “perturbations”, whether in gay men or paedophiles. On the contrary, these effects seem highly plausible even though the research is dogged by contradictory results and low effect sizes, as is often the case in science: the “fog of war” is not untypically dense and slow to clear. However, until I hear otherwise, I do not see why acceptance of such findings commits anyone to the proposed explanation of observed white matter structural differences. Various bits of evidence may look as though they fit together like pieces in a jig saw puzzle, but there is sometimes a temptation to force a fit: the pattern suggests it must be the right piece, but the shape just isn’t quite right. Apologies if this is a misleading metaphor! And apologies for going on a bit.

Tom O’Carroll

Cantor JM & Blanchard R, White Matter Volumes in Pedophiles, Hebephiles, and Teleiophiles, Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:749–752

BACK TO HERETIC TOC LIVE:

My question this time to James Cantor was “Does the epigenetic explanation I proposed…as an alternative to James’s account of paedophilic white matter structure stand or fall on the basis of handedness findings?”

That was a month ago. He has not responded.

Only one thing worse than being talked about…

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I think it was Oscar Wilde who said “There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

On that basis, things could definitely be a lot worse, as heretics and heresy are constantly in the news these days. What’s different this month, though, is that the talk has not just been about the latest savage sentencing or celebrity exposé or busted paedo “ring”. No, the tone has been a fraction more elevated in the wake of Jon Henley’s story in the Guardian, which raised not just eyebrows but also quite a lot of chatter in interesting places.

Mark Williams-Thomas was probably the first high-profile figure out of the blogs. This guy, it may be recalled, is the ex-detective whose dodgy documentary for ITV on Jimmy Savile finally set ablaze the dry tinder of rumour about the late entertainer last October. He was quick enough, mainly on the word of a woman who has been dismissed as a serial fantasist, to trash Savile’s reputation. But he seemed stunned into disbelief that Heretic TOC had surfaced in a Guardian article. He tweeted, “Is it the real Tom O’Carroll from Paedophile Info Exc…?” There are of course many wannabe T.O’C.s, lookalikes, tribute acts and outright imposters, but Heretic TOC can assure him that, yes, this time it was the real McCoy (or O’Carroll).

And then there was Murdoch-bashing (well, he’s got one thing right) MP Tom Watson, who lost no time in blogging about Henley’s article and reviving his campaign against my former PIE committee colleague Peter Righton, one-time Director of Education at the National Institute of Social Work. If Watson is to be believed, Righton was into a VIP underage rent boy scene back in those days, involving a B&B in the upmarket Barnes district of London. Watson is claiming there is intelligence pointing to a “powerful paedophile network” linked to parliament and No 10 Downing Street. Naturally, in these no-stone-unturned times, Scotland Yard has started an inquiry.

If it is true, I can only say I’ve got a bone to pick with Peter: the bugger never told me about this exciting network, so I missed out on all the fun! Mind you, perhaps it’s just as well, or I’d be in the hot seat now. Seriously, though, as I told the Daily Mirror’s Tom Pettifor when he phoned again a couple of days ago, I had not the faintest inkling of any such shenanigans. As for Peter, I haven’t seen or heard from him in many years, but I wish him well: from our committee meetings, I recall a very affable, jolly, cultured man, of tastes and sensibilities as generous as his ample girth. As for him being a sexually dangerous figure, in my judgment he was no more dangerous than a rather rich gourmet meal washed down with a couple of bottles of vintage claret – pleasures I suspect he indulged in rather more often than steamy sessions in Barnes.

More fun than either the dodgy-doc cop or the campaigning MP, though, is a short YouTube video, shot to express outrage over the Guardian “giving a paedophile a platform”. I won’t spoil it by saying exactly what happens. I’ll just add that it is well worth sticking with, despite first impressions, especially for the spectacular demonstration of the presenter’s wrath. More wrath, too, in an unrelated clip that reveals Adolph Hitler’s towering rage over Jimmy Savile’s downfall. Don’t miss it: this is a classic!

What else? Ah, yes, there was Notorious Paedophile Reads Neuroskeptic. Remember Neuroskeptic? That’s the British neuroscientist blogger who backed Heretic TOC’s Doubting Thomas line on alleged paedophilic deficiencies of white matter in the brain. See Scientific egos as fragile as eggs and The dubious analogy of the ‘extra arm’. After citing the Guardian article, Neuroskeptic says “Now oddly enough, I recently had an encounter with O’Carroll, although I didn’t know who he was at the time. Here’s the tale…” Somewhat inconclusively, he concludes: “Now, as I said, I hadn’t heard of Tom O’Carroll at the time, and I assumed he had a purely academic interest in the matter, as a piece of oversold neuroscience. But now, thanks to the Guardian drama, I realize that…Britain’s most notorious paedophile reads Neuroskeptic….Hmm.”

Hmm? What’s that supposed to mean? That paedos should not be allowed to read about science? Or what? As for a “purely academic interest”, it would be naïve of Neuroskeptic to suppose that anyone’s interest in researching the structure of paedophilic brains is particularly “pure”: it is as much a political project as a scientific one: it is a phrenology of deviance, and its effect, if not the researchers’ conscious intention, will be to further entrench “the paedophile” as radically Other.

OK, that about wraps up this slightly self-indulgent round up of the gossip. Next time, all being well, Heretic TOC will be back to more challenging material. In particular, I have been asked to provide details of my further exchanges with Dr James Cantor on the science of the white matter issue. I won’t be offended if anyone skips this post, as it will be pretty technical. But some, I hope, will relish exactly that: less of the froth, more of the nitty gritty.

The spirit of free expression lives on

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Freedom of expression online, the great inspiring vision of so many early internet pioneers, is not entirely bereft of support even now, it seems. The good news is that WordPress, the outfit that hosts Heretic TOC, has a strong track record of opposing censorship and has positively rejected the recent attempt to have this blog closed down.

It will be recalled that a certain “Scarlet Wilde” tweeted, ““Paedophile blogs at WordPress: Heretic TOC… am reporting to close.” (See Heretic TOC threatened with closure, 10 January). It has now emerged that this was not just an idle threat. “Scarlet Wilde” has her own WordPress blog, where she recently posted a piece called The problem with paedophile PR. Towards the end she said:

Finally, I would like to let other WordPress users know that we are sharing our blogging platform with known paedophiles and paedophile activists. I have reported these sites to WordPress, but they will not take action to close them down unless there are pictures of actual abuse etc. This makes me uncomfortable about blogging here, so I am considering a move to another platform which has a stronger policy on sites advocating the promotion of sex with children.

Ever obliging, Heretic TOC is pleased to assist with such a move by recommending an alternative platform: Blogger. As Steve Diamond helpfully commented:

Blogger [owned by google] is hands down, the single worst abusive censor of people like us, I have ever witnessed. There are [or at least were] people on their staff, who think nothing of taking personal interest in hounding people off of the service…

Scarlet Wilde should feel completely at ease in this paradise of persecution and I wish her joy of it!

I confess, though, that Heretic TOC’s choice of WordPress was a matter of pure dumb luck: they have an attractive range of site formats and just happened to be in my face with their promotional material at the right time. So it is only now, in the wake of this censorship scare, that I have checked them out a bit. The WordPress entry in Wikipedia notes attempts to scupper their operations in Turkey and Brazil by parties who dislike their commitment to free expression. Likewise in China they were blocked for a while. Matt Mullenweg, the young entrepreneur who developed WordPress, said:

WordPress.com supports free speech and doesn’t shut people down for ‘uncomfortable thoughts and ideas’, in fact we’re blocked in several countries because of that.

Turns out there are nearly 60 million WordPress.com sites, and clients include CNN, CBS, BBC, Reuters, Sony and Volkswagen. Not bad going for a 2005 start-up, especially when parent company Automattic (the spelling plays on the founder’s first name) appears to be staffed entirely by trendy teenagers (well, from my old timer’s perspective that’s what they look like in their photos on the About Us page) with job titles like “happiness engineer”, “bug exorcist” and “accelerant”.

Well, they have certainly engineered a bit of happiness here at Heretic TOC. Long may their freedom policy prosper!

Glad to hear about Bad Thad

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Now here’s a guy whose work seems worth looking into: historian Thaddeus Russell. I hope American heretics here will excuse Heretic TOC for only now catching up with the daringly iconoclastic Russell, but such is the smothering ubiquity of the dominant narrative he may have passed largely unnoticed even in his own country. A couple of items made it under the radar and into the media though: in 2009 a Daily Beast piece on film director Roman Polanski’s “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a girl of 13, called How young is too young?, and in the following year a Huffington Post article, Why I Got Fired From Teaching American History.

The titles alone suggest fireworks, and when he tells us he was “raised by pot-smoking, nudist, socialist revolutionaries as an egghead white boy in black neighbourhoods” we just know we are in for an exciting ride. Dubbed “Bad Thad” by his students at elite Barnard College, Russell showed them:

… that during the American Revolution drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates pioneered many of the freedoms and pleasures we now cherish – including non-marital sex, interracial socializing, dancing, shopping, divorce, and the weekend – and that the Founding Fathers, in the name of democracy, opposed them. I argued not only that many white Americans envied slaves but also that they did so for good reason, since slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States. I demonstrated that prostitutes, not feminists, won virtually all the freedoms that were denied to women but are now taken for granted. By tracing the path of immigrants from arrival as “primitives” to assimilation as “civilized” citizens, I explained that white people lost their rhythm by becoming good Americans. I presented evidence that without organized crime, we might not have jazz, Hollywood, Las Vegas, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights, since only gangsters were willing to support those projects when respectable America shunned them….I wanted to show that the more that “bad” people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was what I called “the margin of freedom” for all of us.

And how about this for ringing bells of recognition:

My students were most troubled by the evidence that the “good” enemies of “bad” freedoms were not just traditional icons like presidents and business leaders, but that many of the most revered abolitionists, progressives, and leaders of the feminist, labor, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the cultures of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the flamboyant gays who brought homosexuality out of the closet.

The suppressive activities of “good” feminist and gay leaders, especially, have stretched, as we know all too well, somewhat beyond the list of cultures listed here!

Barnard College, as we will gather from the article’s title, would ultimately feel Russell was too hot to handle. He was fired. Barnard’s loss is our gain, though, as he has since written a book, A Renegade History of the United States: How Drunks, Delinquents and Other Outcasts Made America (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Now, this is all very colourful, rollicking stuff, and Heretic TOC is sure he will enjoy reading it. But can it be enjoyed with a good conscience? After all, one man’s freedom may be another’s enslavement – literally so in the days when white Americans were free to own black slaves. In the Introduction to his book, though, which is as far as I have got at the moment, Russell makes it clear that although he might be fascinatingly “bad” he is not plain evil:

This book does not advocate a renegade revolution. Were the heroes of this book to take control of society, it would be a living hell. No one would be safe on the streets, chaos would reign, and garbage would never be collected. The social guardians are enemies of freedom, but there is no claim here that they are morally wrong. They chose to take the role they believed was best for them, a decision I would like to treat as autonomous of moral claims. More importantly, they provide essential functions that nearly all of us value: safety, security, and clean streets. The argument here is not that “bad” people should replace the disciplinarians but that in American history the struggles between the two have determined the breadth of personal liberty. I make no claims for other parts of the world, where at times renegades have overwhelmed the guardians of order, but in this country the more “bad” people existed, resisted, and won, the more freedom was expanded…

So, we have an element of subtlety and sobriety along with the more free-wheeling themes. That’s intelligent, that’s cool. I can’t wait to see in more detail where Russell is going with all this, and I look forward to telling you all about it – but by all means beat me to the draw if you can, all you crazy, gun-toting, freedom-loving, Wild West cowboys out there!

On Sex and Love, Child Attraction, and Contemporary Word Politics

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Welcome to this, the first guest blog to be hosted by Heretic TOC. Others have been submitted and will appear in due course: many thanks to those who have taken the trouble to write. The standard has been excellent, giving me confidence that guest blogs will have a continuing role here as an occasional feature. This first blog is by Gil Hardwick. As a frequent contributor of comments on the regular blog, Gil needs little introduction, except to say that he is an anthropologist and writer whose work is better described on his website than I can manage. See also Sniffer Dog for “Hardwick and Trinder Investigations”.     

I decided for this guest blog to address recent hysteria over so-called ‘paedophilia’ rather from a broadly philological perspective than my customary ethnographic. No apologies for appearing pedantic, that’s entirely my purpose.First, we have the word sex. The word is from L. sexus, referring to the two parts of society, to the state of being male or female; etymologically related to section. Associating sex with genitalia and copulation did not arise until the late eighteenth century, and did not emerge into common use until D. H. Lawrence in 1929.

Next we have the contemporary suffix –philia, which in neither classical nor modern Greek refers to sex or sexual attraction but to special friendship; philology (as above), or love of learning, is a case in point. Eros for comparison refers to sexual and romantic love, and agapē to detached, spiritual love. The closest I can find to classical philia in modern times is the Chinese guanxi, which in Pin-yin means special closeness allowing the parties to prevail upon one another for favours, no matter how asymmetrical the relationship may be.

Another ostensibly suggestive word that I like is catamite, a somewhat more joyfully sensual rendering of acolyte; a cup-bearer or attendant, here torch-bearer, corrupted and sexualised in modern times in order to purify liturgy and expunge suggestion of corruption in the Christian church. Until the mid-seventeenth century all such words merely pertained to serving boys in differentiated Pagan, Christian, Protestant, Nonconformist and Dissenting denominations.

Catamite itself is an early corruption of the classical Ganymede, torch-bearer of Zeus, which means joyful counsel, named after Medea the sorceress, wife of Jason, of Argonaut fame.

The second word love is not classical but Germanic via Old English lufu, where in Greek special love for a male child is rendered as agoriphilia. In modern German by contrast the word is knabenliebe. Knaben, in English knaves, were originally young male attendants. There is no equivalent word here for boy as a male child but as a slave, from L. boia, which is a leg iron or yoke. Traditional and early modern catamites were invariably lower class boys attending scholars and professors, as distinct from priests, and by doing so became well educated, and elevated in society.

Child is also Germanic via Old English cild, an infant, entirely unrelated to the idea of a boy; still present in certain North Country dialects, generally referring to those emergent from the womb with an implied, Christianised ‘innocence’ to them. It is only very recently, following the Victorian invention of the child, and especially since the 1990s and under feminist insistence, that boys are included legally among children, whereas girl is likewise traditionally part of a broad range of very old Germanic diminutives, meaning any young and immature animal as distinct from human children as such. Even today an immature, effeminate boy is called a girl, whereas a forthright and capable female child is rightly considered boyish, and as such called a tomboy.

Adoption of the enslaved L. boy for a male child and the merely diminutive OE. girl for a female, underpins pervasive gender asymmetries and distortions in the contemporary Anglophone West. Plainly boys generally have not for a very long time been uniformly considered children, but as often persons of quite distinct status. A child in the process of becoming an adult within the safe confines of the modern nuclear family is recognised and anticipated by adult society, but not those considered to be ‘at risk’; those deviant, dissociated, detached boys on the road to delinquency or elsewhere. I wrote an Honours thesis in Literature on this theme in 2010, specifically entitled Reimagining the Rascal.

The clear meaning emerging from all this still has nothing to do with perverts attracted to minors in order to exploit them sexually, but patterns of reciprocal personal relationships especially between boys and men, and the effects of absence or failure of such relationships. Ethnographically these can be in the form of catamite, or more commonly fosterage and adoption; with nationalised bureaucracy now superseded somewhat by the idea of the state ward. Apart from only a very few of the more notorious cases there is no material evidence of sexual activity among any of them (being nobody else’s business anyway) beyond that implied by images of mutual erotic fondling found occasionally on ancient Greek vases.

Once we release words from this bureaucratic late modern obsession with abusive sex and its deployment in discrediting those who sceptically review and critique public policy, and place them back into their autochthonous social and cultural context, we find such closely interrelated expressions as agoriphilia, love of male children; androphilia, love of men; aretephilia, love of excellence, of virtue, of being the best you can be; ephebophilia, love of youth; gymnophilia, love of nudity, nakedness; gynephilia, love of women; hebephilia, love of pubescents; kalophilia, love of beauty; koritsiphilia (or korephiliakore being the genitive form), love of girls; paedophilia, love of children; somaphilia, love of the body; taliphilia, love of marriageable girls; teleiophilia, love of adults. You can add into this mix kalos kagathos, beautiful and good; and sophos kagathos, wise and good.

What emerges here is not at all some depraved, orgiastic wad of sodomites but a civilisation paying high regard to beauty, scholarship and erudition, goodness and wisdom. By contrast, contemporary debate throughout the Anglophone common law countries is dominated by bastardised, hybrid neologisms like sociology, criminology, and worse sexology. These words have been cobbled indiscriminately together from Latin and Greek by academics seeking to compile whole new dictionaries of aberrant sex and sexuality in an effort to focus public policy not on beauty and wisdom, but on deviance and abnormality.

As the sci-fi writer James Nicoll wrote in 1990, however; the problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

‘Work of genius’ lost in obscurity

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Heretic TOC yesterday meant to cover a further aspect of “Three reasons to be cheerful” but ran out of time and space. Well, I say ran out of space: I suppose a blog page can stretch to infinity but I doubt the same can be said for readers’ patience.

I had wanted to elaborate on one of the sources used by Jon Henley in his Guardian article. He refers to J Michael Bailey of Northwestern University: “…writing last year in the peer-reviewed Archives of Sexual Behaviour, Bailey said…he was forced to recognise that ‘persuasive evidence for the harmfulness of paedophilic relationships does not yet exist’.”

What Henley did not reveal is that Bailey’s article in the Archives was a review of my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. I hope fellow heretics will read his full review, but here is a brief taster:

…fascinating, challenging and discomfiting. Anyone wanting to understand Michael Jackson will need to read it. The idea that pedophilic relationships can be harmless or even beneficial to children is disturbing to many people, including me. The lack of scientific evidence supporting my largely visceral reactions against pedophilic relationships has been one of the most surprising discoveries of my hopefully ongoing scientific education…O’Carroll argues against my intuitions and he argues well. J Michael Bailey, professor of psychology, Northwestern University, Chicago

I trust I will be forgiven for plugging Bailey’s recommendation, especially once you hear about an extraordinary campaign two years ago to have the book suppressed. I had written Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons under the pen name Carl Toms, but angry Jackson fans discovered my identity and outed me online as a “convicted paedophile” soon after the book had been printed and just weeks ahead of its planned June 2010 publication. Until that disaster it had been tipped by Amazon in pre-launch publicity as a likely best-seller. Publishers Troubador had been aware of my real identity all along but panicked and disowned the title in the face of Jackson loyalists who hated my portrayal of their idol.  This was because Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons defended Jackson as an active boy-lover rather than as a child-like “innocent”.

The upshot was that the only way I could get the book to market was to assume the role of publisher and distributor myself, and I started a company, Dangerous Books Ltd, for this purpose. All this necessitated legal action to secure the publishing rights and a heavy personal financial investment. That is one reason why the book cannot be offered at a low price if I am ever to break even. Another is that it is a 624-page doorstopper, which was expensive to print.

A year after the abortive launch, in May 2011, I was able to announce a re-launch via a press release headed “Sabotaged ‘work of genius’ to be relaunched”. The “work of genius” bit is not my hype, by the way: it is what historian Prof. William Percy, of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, actually said. It’s way over the top, of course. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons is just an analytical biography, not Einstein’s theory of relativity. I was grateful for Percy’s enthusiasm, though, and the re-launch worked well enough to attract interest from The Sunday Times: their features editor said they were thinking of running an extract in the magazine section, although that interest evaporated just as soon as they realized my angle was pro-BL as well as pro-Jackson!

All in all, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons has managed to attract many excellent reviews and notices, but they have all been confined so far to obscure academic journals hidden behind pay walls and other places that are not exactly like an interview with Oprah Winfrey in terms of mass exposure. So I urge all you heretics here to ponder at least a few of the reviews and consider whether this is a book for you. One thing is for sure: love him or loathe him, Jackson was one of the most colourful, fascinating and enigmatic figures ever to perform in public, so making the book an interesting read was the easiest of my tasks. Making it original, insightful and truly illuminating took years of research and hard work, but there is no shortage of critics who say I have succeeded.

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons is available at amazon.com (recommended supplier: MindGlow Media) amazon.co.uk (recommended supplier: SafeSend) and Dangerous Books.

 

Three reasons to be cheerful

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A trio of weighty articles on paedophilia and related “sex offending” have made their appearance in leading journals in the last couple of weeks. What makes them stand out from the perpetual blizzard of bollocks thundering down on us with increasing intensity for the last decade or three is their positivity.

OK, it’s all relative. I’m not saying the revolution is around the corner or even that the worst is past. But at least we have seen a bit of resistance in influential places against prejudice, virulent hatred and inhumane treatment. Leading the way was The Guardian, in the UK: Jon Henley’s Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light was the first I have ever seen in a mainstream media outlet giving significant coverage to research suggesting that paedophilia is not intrinsically harmful. That was superb, confirming my long-held view that Alan Rusbridger is the best ever editor of what may well be the world’s greatest English-language newspaper – greatness to which I feel its many feminist writers have contributed, actually, although I seldom agree with them. Incidentally, there were complaints about Henley’s article but the paper has run a “Reader’s Editor” piece defending it.

Considering where the U.S. is culturally at right now, it was hardly to be expected that America would follow suit quite so strongly. Nevertheless, The New Yorker and The LA Times have done their bit. Be warned, “The Science of Sex Abuse”, by Rachel Aviv in The New Yorker, is a whopper of nearly 8000 words. The length is well justified, though, as it enables the writer to present a detailed case of civil commitment in all its manifold injustice and inhumanity. Civil commitment, as those outside the U.S. may not know, has developed extensively since Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in 2006, enabling supposedly “sexually dangerous” offenders to be detained indefinitely after serving a regular jail term. As the article shows, rather than being applied only to violent rapists, civil commitment has been used against mere possessors of child pornography. Once detained, “treatment” is offered, and release can in theory be granted if it is deemed successful, but this very rarely happens. Instead, detainees under treatment are put under pressure to confess hands-on offences they have never in fact committed, with the effect that harmless people are “confirmed” as dangerous. Aviv does an excellent job of showing of showing up the corrupt and inhumane nature of this system, especially the regime at Butner Federal Correctional Institute, in North Carolina: while this is a safe haven compared to a lot of brutal hellholes, it is also the safety of the tomb, from which there is no escape; all in all, real life Butner makes the fictional prison of Shawshank Redemption fame look benign.

Dr Michael Seto, known to me through the Sexnet specialist forum, contributed to the New Yorker piece, and another Sexnetter, Dr James Cantor, is featured extensively in the LA Times one. Yes, it’s him again, Jimmy “the screamer” Cantori, notorious hit person of the Toronto mob. The screamer’s dodgy science is central to Alan Zarembo’s piece “Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia”, which, like the New Yorker one, focuses on a guy whose only offence has been use of child porn. But never mind the screamer’s dubious claim that paedophiles’ brains are deficient in white matter, and other less than flattering findings of that sort: the real significance of this article is that it foregrounds the growing consensus in the scientific community that paedophilia is a true sexual orientation, not a depraved lifestyle choice. Being “born this way”, as it were, does not excuse bad behaviour, otherwise it would be possible for a sadistic murderer to say “Well, I was born a vicious bastard, it’s not my fault”. Nevertheless, “born this way” rhetoric played well politically in the early days of gay liberation in America and could do the same for paedophilia.

The tone of Zarembo’s article is very much along these lines, pointing to a more humane approach than the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” vindictiveness that currently prevails in America. So, I am not disappointed, even though Zarembo interviewed me for 90 minutes as part of his research for this article but not a single thing I said about radical research findings (no intrinsic harm, and possible benefits, in consensual child-adult sex) was used.

I spoke to him again on the phone yesterday, when it emerged that he is thinking of another piece, too, possibly on scientific support for the idea that minor-attracted people might be less inclined to get into trouble if they were allowed child porn animation as a safety valve: in other words cartoon porn of the sort pioneered in Japan, with their lolicon (Lolita complex) art and its boy-oriented equivalent, shotacon. That should be an interesting article in a country where the First Amendment (freedom of expression) status of animated porn depictions of children is still not necessarily finally settled.

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