Will the Virtuous Pedophiles become a force? And, if so, will they do any good? One commentator here took a positive view: “imyarainbowstar”, suggested that heretics should “get behind groups like virped and B4Uact for getting the pedo message out”, as a small step on the way to more radical change.
But doesn’t the value of any such support depend on what the particular “pedo message” is? Such a strategy perhaps makes sense in relation to B4U-ACT, as this organization does not go out of its way to ape society’s contemptuous hostility towards those of us who wish to see cultural and legal change. As we saw in my most recent post, though, Virtuous Pedophiles does exactly that, notwithstanding the very welcome conciliatory comment in response from VP member Max. In considering what impact VP will have, it may help to separate the group’s public profile from the influence it will have on those minor attracted persons it seeks to help.
In terms of public profile, I would not discount the positive potential. With paedophiles universally demonized in the media are predators and rapists, it can hardly be a bad thing if VP can get across the message that many paedophiles are restrained, responsible people who do not “molest” or “abuse” children, and that it is unjust for them to be stigmatized. When I heard many years ago about a Cambridge University research project on “non-contact” paedophiles, I was very much in favour, and actively assisted the PhD student in question, helping her to build a database of paedophiles who had never been in trouble with the law and who claimed – honestly, I am sure, in many cases known to me – never to have “transgressed”. This postgrad worked on the project for several years and built up what her supervisor told me was an “immense” body of information. Sadly, for reasons which remain mysterious, she never completed her thesis. Instead, she transferred to another university without ever gaining her doctorate. Her data remain unpublished. Information of that sort is sorely needed, and if VP can attract publicity for any future research in this area, that will be helpful.
As for the likely impact of VP on paedophiles who turn to them for help, unfortunately I see a rather bleaker picture. They will not be battle-hardened old warriors like some of us here, especially those whose comments clearly indicate they know their own minds and are not shy in proclaiming their robustly held positions. No, they will mostly be young men, some perhaps not even out of their teens. They will probably have no idea about the considerably less dreadful times we knew back in the 1970s and before; nor will they have much notion that society could be different, as copiously evidenced from historical and anthropological precedents. They will be depressed, desperate, at their wit’s end in search of a livable life; and in this sorry state they will be vulnerable to the snake-oil salesmanship of those who confidently point the way towards “happy, productive lives”.
Note that Nick and Ethan, VP’s founders, both have a good story to tell in this regard. They are well educated, professionally successful people; they have each found a life partner and enjoyed a conventional married life; best of all, they have been blessed with children of their own, and have doubtless loved and raised them as well as most parents, or better. What’s not to like about that? The hopeful message is, it would seem, “If we can do it so can you!”
That will be fine, actually, for those pedophiles whose orientation is not exclusive. There are clearly many who have a significant, or strong, level of attraction to children who are also able to relate well to adult partners. If they can go down that road then they surely should, and good luck to them. But what many fail to understand, including perhaps Nick and Ethan, is that this option is not open to all. I know. As someone with effectively zero attraction to either men or women, fixity of sexual orientation has for me been an unwelcome but relentlessly abiding fact of life, and I know plenty of others to whom this applies. The “currently orthodox dogma of fixed sexual orientation” that Edmund spoke of in his comment is not a doctrine for such as me; we do not insist, dogmatically, that fixity applies to everyone; rather, it is simply a reality of our lives.
Without, I hope, being too dogmatic, I would add that quite a lot of people are gifted with a range of sexual response, and in a few cases this extends widely, towards pansexuality. But this is not at all the same as fluidity, i.e. a changing pattern of gender and age attraction over time; still less is it like a voluntary change of desires, as opposed to tastes developing and shifting without being consciously willed. It is also clear that women’s sexual orientation tends to be quite fluid, but among men the evidence for this is slim to vanishing, notwithstanding cultural variations such as ancient Greek pederasty, and significant variations in individual males’ sexual behaviour over time as demonstrated by, for instance, Kinsey’s great survey work. If a man could really choose to find women attractive, would he choose to be exclusively gay, as many men clearly are? Still less, would he choose to be paedophile, especially exclusively so, given the terrible hostility it entails?
It is important to mention the gay experience at this point. Over the years, especially in the U.S. where anti-gay “therapists” (often religious) have been busiest, there has been a thriving but completely bogus “gay reparative therapy” movement. Numerous gay men have claimed to be “cured” of their homosexuality but these so-called conversions to “ex-gay” status have a track record of turning out to be a phenomenon of hope temporarily triumphing over reality as guys manage to delude themselves for a while that their feelings have changed. When finally the truth that nothing has really changed becomes unavoidable, bitter disillusion sets in. My fear is that for many young paedophiles, if they are led up the garden path in this way, by VP or anyone else, their disillusion could break them entirely. It is not that VP necessarily believe they can change a paedophile’s fundamental orientation. It would be unfair to suggest they are saying that. But there are signs they may have unrealistic expectations for getting paedophiles coupled off with adult partners. How else might they propose to enable guys exclusively attracted to kids to live “happy, productive lives”? By becoming monks, perhaps? Might work for a few I guess, but not for most.
Just put yourself in the shoes, for a moment, of an exclusive paedophile who goes along to VP hoping for help and support. He is encouraged to try making it in a relationship with a woman (or a man). He will hear happy stories from those, like Nick and Ethan, who have done so. For one thing, what is he supposed to tell this prospective partner? Should he lie to them about his orientation? Nick and Ethan have both admitted (on Sexnet) to having deceived their own partners in this way and justify it by the outcome: everything turned out just fine. For them, the end justified the means. One might question how “virtuous” such an ethical decision is, given that the result could easily have been different. I am pretty certain that if I had gone through with that policy (I was engaged to be married, as a young man) it would all have ended in tears: my own and my wife’s: she would have been devastated when the truth eventually came out, as it certainly would have done.
And what of those exclusive paedophiles who are left with a truly realistic assessment that an adult partnership is simply not going to work? What can VP offer a young man of this type except a bleakly celibate life with not even the prospect of befriending children, or working with them, still less of having any of his own? Many would consider it irresponsible, unethical and not at all “virtuous” to recommend for the exclusive paedophile any sort of contact with children; and if I shared society’s view that any sort of falling into temptation was necessarily harmful, I would have to agree: the danger would be too great. For these exclusive paedophiles, all that VP can offer, it seems to me, is a permanent requirement of saintly restraint such as is imposed on no one else in society. They are likely to be left feeling even more devastated and lonely in the company of successfully paired off paedophiles than if they had never contacted VP in the first place.
The good news is that I see no present reason to believe the baleful influence of Virtuous Pedophiles will be particularly great. Despite getting excellent publicity in significant places such as Salon and the LA Times, a trend which I expect to continue, membership has not exactly taken off like a rocket. VP recently reported having 72 member accounts, about six months after its foundation. I would expect some of those (many? most?) to be people joining with a view to offering help, rather than receiving it. However, it may be that the members are all helpers, and that thousands of paedophiles have been asking for help. So my estimate of VP’s progress could be completely wrong. If so, no doubt Heretic TOC will be told. At all events, Ethan Edwards has offered to comment here, and I look forward to hearing from him. I hope to comment further in any ensuing debate, but I have an especially busy time coming up, so I might have to leave others to take up the baton.