Why children may want to keep a secret

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Heretic TOC invited the GL website Visions of Alice (VoA), some time ago to comment on the lively discussion going on here at that time about T. Rivas’s book Positive Memories. A contribution was duly forthcoming but unfortunately did not arrive until after I had closed the debate, after it descended into something of a “war of attrition”. As I invited the contribution, though, it would be churlish not to run it (albeit quite heavily edited), especially as it makes an interesting point about secrecy from the child’s point of view. It also provides a suitable opportunity to run a further comment, directly related to the issue of secrecy and disclosure, which I have received from the author quite independently of VoA. As for why I invited VoA in particular to contribute, this was simply because I had been corresponding with them in connection with an article of mine (“A modest proposal”) that appears in the new issue of their magazine Alicelovers, and because they were first in the firing line of the recent denial-of-service attack by cyber-vandals Anonymous. Here, then, are the two contributions, starting with the one from VoA:

If a sexual interaction between an adult and a minor were to take place, assuring a positive experience for the younger partner would be a core value for a true Child Lover.

In the Rivas study (A positive sighting of 118 black swans, Author Rivas defends ‘black swan’ sightings and Rivas takes his analysis deeper) the children chose to keep their intimacy a secret because most people’s opinions in present-day society would tend to be negative. This negativity, and the secrecy to which it gives rise, are likely to reduce significantly our awareness of positively experienced age-disparate relationships, and this inevitably means that available and credible data about them are in short supply.

This secrecy may protect such relationships from ending abruptly, but it has an incalculable negative psychological impact on the child’s well-being, since the child cannot gain valuable insights or knowledge from his or her peers, teachers, parents, or mentors, nor lessons that may enlighten the minor regarding their rights in any sexual relationship — either underage, or as an adult.

An adult authority-figure’s past experiences can potentially be useful to a child, because sharing such knowledge in a safe and non-threatening environment provides the unschooled partner the needed awareness of their own level of control in an intimate situation. It also affords them the skills necessary to make sound decisions regarding any other intimate sexual experience they may contemplate with another person – younger or more mature, the opposite gender or their own – and how to correctly and safely respond to undesired advances.

Currently children do not have the freedom or support structure to discuss topics of sexual intimacy with adults without potential condemnation or suspicion of the older party. If a child were to ask an adult about sexual relationships at best the adult would be inclined to tell the child to “worry about that when you’re older,” and at worst the adult would become paranoid, concerned for their own safety, and possibly believe the child had been molested.

The Rivas study isn’t a comprehensive evaluation nor a complete understanding of positive child/adult sexual intimacy and/or relationships, but it does illustrate that positive experiences are possible and actually happen, thereby exposing as false the belief that all sexual relationships with an adult are harmful to a child. Drawing any further conclusions from such a small dataset would be statistically invalid, and more needs to be done to encourage an open dialog between children and adults so the younger person’s perceptions and awareness can be clearly understood.

Given the current hysteria related to age-disparate sexual relationships, positive or not, it is highly unlikely that additional information will be added by younger partners in any significant quantities or at an accelerated pace. It is probable that many other positive relationships exist today in secret, but public hostility towards these contacts, and the fiercely punitive attitude that prevails towards the adult partner, mean children may wish to maintain their silence and preserve what they feel is to their benefit.

 

The parents should almost always be informed

By T. Rivas

What I meant by informing the parents if they have a relatively good relationship with their children is that the parents should almost always be informed. In other words, this should not be limited to parents with whom the child has an excellent relationship, but any parents who have a relationship with the child which is basically okay should be informed. The phrase “relatively good relationship” is not meant to limit the number of parents, but rather to include most parents. The only legitimate exception would concern really abusive parents who don’t have the child’s interest in mind – meaning that everyday problems between parents and child won’t do as an excuse for not informing the parents.

Also, informing the parents should be not a one-sided process because ideally the parents should take on an active non-directive monitoring or supervising role.

Concerning disappointments about the nature or duration of the relationship, I say several things in the Discussion. See Ethical Criteria 4 and 10. I believe most disappointments could be prevented this way. [TOC adds: Rivas is here referring to the Discussion section in his book Positive Memories, pages 227-242 of the printed version. Ethical Criterion No. 4 begins “The adult must be honest about the nature and extent of his or her feelings…” No. 10 begins “Relationships should never be ended abruptly…”]

Part of my data consist of online self-reports whose reliability can’t be checked (although a circumstantial assessment of their reliability is possible in most of them) but it is not true that all of these stories are like that. Some of them are derived from live interviews conducted by others or indeed myself. Other cases are derived from books and articles by reliable researchers or biographers. If it had been possible to go even deeper, I would certainly have done so. I’ve simply gathered all the cases I could find. I actually write something about this in the Discussion: “I recognize the fact that some of these accounts are better documented than other stories, ranging from an anonymous remark on an Internet forum to stories based on extensive personal correspondence or conversations. However, in my view, the main things that all of these cases taken together clearly seem to demonstrate are simply… etc.”

Riding the donkey of their desires

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As some here may remember, back in January Heretic TOC ran the first two parts of a promised imperial trilogy. The first was a humorous reflection on this blog’s global reach from its UK base, titled British Empire re-conquers America; the second was much more serious, looking at the mistreatment of women in a highly patriarchal part of Britain’s old empire, India: No wonder women turn against ‘teasing’. Now, better late, I hope, than never, this third part goes back in time with a question about the sexual adventurers of the imperial adventure – the men who ran the administration and enterprises of far-flung colonies, many of whom, freed from the stifling moral code of Victorian England, found they could have a whale of a time with the “natives”, including boys and girls.

The question is this: was it just scandalous exploitation, like so much else in the history of empires everywhere? Was it just an expression of rampant, unchecked patriarchal power, or is there another side to the story? In 1990 the historian Ronald Hyam focused on the lives and loves of these men in Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience, a book packed with colourful revelations.

Before the 1880s, when “social purity” campaigners scored their first successes, prostitution had been rife in Victorian England. But the numerous brothels, some of which in London accepted clients as young as ten, were not such an organized and literally regimented affair as they became in the empire. At one time there were 2,600 registered brothels in Hong Kong alone, while all over India the British Army ran a huge network of official regimental brothels – one in Lucknow had 55 rooms.  Only senior officers were allowed to marry, so such establishments were accepted as a practical necessity, at least for men of relatively regular tastes: they provided girls down to age 12.

Enthusiasts for boys, on the other hand, were catered for by indigenous boy brothels, although here too the purity movement eventually began to make inroads. The first attempt to close these places was undertaken by General Sir Charles Napier, worried about the corrupting effect on his troops of the boy brothels in Karachi. There is an irony here, as one of his direct descendants turned out to be a boy-lover. How do I know? Because he became treasurer of the Paedophile Information Exchange when I was also on the committee in the 1970s!

Hyam doesn’t dwell on what the locals thought of all these soldiers and civilian officials (also mainly single men) relieving the frustrations of the bachelor life in this way, but William Dalrymple gives us that side of the story in a new book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, which examines the dismal British record in that country at the time of the First Afghan War and its aftermath in the mid-nineteenth century. Beaten by the Afghans, the British fucked their way to revenge. The natives thought the Brits wanted to “turn the whole country into a brothel”, going out of their way to abuse and dishonour the women. Ahead of a rebellion against the occupation, jihadist warrior Mirza ‘Ata Mohammad vividly proclaimed, “…we have to put a stop right here and now, otherwise these English will ride the donkey of their desires into the field of stupidity.”

Mirza ‘Ata’s language was colourful and so was the behaviour of many imperial figures, including the eminent and famous, although not necessarily with the vengeful viciousness that prevailed in Afghanistan. General Sir Hector Macdonald, for instance, who had become a national hero following his role in the victorious Battle of Omdurman in 1898, was finally defeated not by thousands of enemy warriors but by a scandal involving, if not thousands, then possibly scores of small boys in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka of course). It had already been known that while in South Africa he had been “given to quaint practices…love making to quite young girls”, according to a letter from the colonial Governor of Ceylon, “but this must be something much worse”. He was caught in flagrante with four boys, no less, in a railway carriage in Kandy. The many boys he and his pals were involved with turned out to include “sons of the best known men in the colony, English and native”. This was in 1903, by which time loose practices that came to light were no longer tolerated as before. With a trial in the offing McDonald shot himself.

McDonald had certainly ridden the donkey of his desires to a disastrous field, but not necessarily one of stupidity or evil. As Hyam generously notes, the community of boys he had been involved with were “interesting and very active” – the sons of senior leading Englishmen in Ceylon were clearly not vulnerable to exploitation based on poverty, and the natives too were McDonald’s friends. The local Sinhalese culture, with its tradition of dancing boys, was relaxed on boy-love, and even the Burghers (mixed race descendents of former colonists, mainly Portuguese and Dutch and mostly still Christian) had gone native in that respect.

Likewise in Africa and elsewhere, the British often found themselves in cultures with a tradition of an early start to sexual life, where they may have been regarded as glamorous outsiders rather than oppressive ones, just as American soldiers were often admired and sought after by British women during the Second World War. And their early start could be very early. According to Sir Harry Johnston, who was no sexual libertarian himself, “almost every girl in east-central Africa ceased to be a virgin well before puberty” (my emphasis).

Even Dalrymple, whose Return of a King draws parallels between Britain’s ill-fated 19th century invasion of Afghanistan and the present venture there, which he predicts will end badly, does not see Britain’s global seed-squirting as necessarily negative. In an earlier book, White Mughals, he drew attention to the fact that the British abroad had not always seen themselves as superior, with a mission to dominate. Many were cultured people, interested in poetry and painting, who were happy to take native mistresses whom they respected and from whom they learned the local languages and customs. Those who were allowed to, the senior officers and administrators, often married a local wife abroad.

And Hyam reminds us that it is not just imperial invaders who can behave badly. It was colonial administrators who fought against practices such as widow-burning (sati) in India, Chinese foot binding, and African female genital mutilation. As for the present epidemic of baby rape (yes, baby rape) in South Africa, it has burgeoned as a supposed “cure” for HIV/AIDS, and owes nothing either to paedophilia or the legacy of colonialism. Sati (or suttee) in particular was suppressed by the British administration but has re-emerged in recent years in independent India as bride-burning when dowry deals fall through, as may be remembered from part two of this trilogy. It is worth noting that Job Charnock, the founder of Calcutta in the 17th century, had three children by a Hindu mistress he had rescued from a sati funeral pyre.

Nor were the ranks of these noble humanitarians confined to those of “respectable” sexual tastes. Sir Roger Casement, unjustly hanged as a traitor in 1916 after turning against the overall record of British imperialism and supporting Irish independence, had frequent resort to rent boys, and recorded his exploits in what have become known to history as his Black Diaries. Yet much of his career was taken up with successful campaigns against slavery, notably in the Congo and Brazil. The cruel abuses he exposed and prevented make any exploitation he may have committed seem trivial by comparison. Indeed, having “relaxation” in his own way was probably a condition of his humanitarian success: without it, he could not have functioned in his work. Freud’s notion of sublimation is doubtless correct in its assertion that civilization and culture depend on suppressing the sexual instinct in its most selfish and abusive potential manifestations, but it goes too far when interpreted against the gentler deviations.

What seems to have happened, actually, in broad historical terms, is that the early British presence abroad, notably that of the British East India Company from the 17th century onwards, was marked by relaxed sexual interactions and a respectful appreciation of local culture. The British only became high-handed and disdainful of the natives much later, on account of several key developments, one of which was the Industrial Revolution. Britain’s resulting wealth and technical superiority became so overwhelming by the middle of the 19th century that it became increasingly difficult not to feel this success must have owed something to racial superiority, especially at a time when Darwinism was entering the public consciousness with its key “survival of the fittest” theme.

The arrogance of such views was then compounded by the aloofness to which new social arrangements gave rise. I alluded above to the “social purity” movement. Its first successes were on the home front, when the age of consent was raised to 16 in England in 1885, the highest in the world at the time (in many states of the U.S.A. it was 10; in Delaware it was seven and some states had no age of consent at all). Boosted by this and other “achievements”, including Josephine Butler’s successful campaign against hygienically controlled prostitution, the moralists took their work overseas. Instead of sending young men abroad to serve the empire with only prostitutes or native concubines to keep them happy in their often lonely and uncomfortable postings, they were now encouraged to marry English girls, who would join them to set up a household abroad, with a proper family life. That was fine except that the “memsahib” would change everything. Typically, she would know nothing of the local culture and would often take a pride in her ignorance: the “inferior” races were to be kept at a distance – especially the female ones, and especially from her husband. As a result, the husbands too would gradually become more withdrawn, and more inflexibly British in their dress and habits. It was not a good recipe for mutual respect and understanding.

An Australian poet and academic, James McAuley, put it well when he rejected the later imperial venture as sterile. Telling us why, he said:

 Why? Perhaps the simple answer is: the white woman. While European men went out to Asia and Africa and the Pacific without wife and family, they entered into a different sort of relationship, social and sexually, with the people. When the white wife came out all was inevitably different… the white woman is perhaps the real ruin of empires. If New Guinea had become a mulatto society it would be a slatternly, but more colourful and easy-going society, with the minor vices of concubinage and sloth, rather than the major respectable vices of cold-heartedness and hypocrisy.

Now, here’s the really interesting bit. What sort of chap was best placed to resist this trend, even into the early 20th century? Who among the imperial legions might continue to maintain an intimate and sympathetic relationship with the locals? Why, those of unconventional sexuality of course – precisely the ones least likely to marry a conventional Englishwoman. They include chaps like the colonial-era British boy-lover sympathetically portrayed by Arundhati Roy in her Booker Prize winning novel The God of Small Things. Roy is an Indian woman and, like Dalrymple, a vehement opponent of the neo-imperialist ventures played out in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also has a strong track-record of opposition to the Indian government’s own oppressive record towards its poorest citizens, the despised “tribal” peoples who are being steadily pushed off their land by commercial interests. This sensitivity towards the oppressed has enabled her, remarkably, to embrace the cause of the boy-lover too. Good for her.

One such colonial boy-lover was David Grove, a cultured individual, an Oxford-educated man who served as an assistant district commissioner in Nigeria from the 1920s. I knew him – lovely chap, very gentle, kind and courteous. Well, as you may know, I am quite old, but I wasn’t actually there at the time. No, like my acquaintance with that descendant of Sir Charles Napier I mentioned earlier, my encounter with David was in London, where I worked with him in the 1970s when he too served on PIE’s executive committee, producing a magazine on children’s rights. Like me, he was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and would have been tried alongside me and others at the Old Bailey but for the fact that he was gravely ill by then and died before the trial began.

Old David used to talk with great affection about the boys in Africa – hordes of little kids who were not banned from his verandah, nor from his heart or his life. He loved them dearly and they, I am sure, would have loved him. He was that sort of guy. If he could be said to have ridden the donkey of his desires he – unlike Sir Hector McDonald – was never unsaddled by scandal, nor did he deserve to be. It’s the stubborn donkeys we should worry about: the ones who refuse to move, the ones who deny the positivity that lies latent in erotic diversity.

Rivas takes his analysis deeper

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The book Positive Memories, first featured in A positive sighting of 118 black swans at the beginning of this month, was rightly welcomed by many heretics here. As a substantial and well organized collection of accounts by adults looking back upon positively remembered sexual relationships with adults in their childhood it could hardly fail to amount to a valuable database. Not everyone agreed, one notable dissenter being “virtuous” paedophile Ethan Edwards, who raised a number of objections. Those which criticized the book itself were rebutted by the author in a guest blog Author Rivas defends ‘black swan’ sightings. In a companion piece, he now goes into a deeper general analysis – deeper, indeed, than I have seen before, as it systematically and logically explores distinct categories of possibility that I have not previously seen engaged. This is the mark, I suggest, of a trained investigator. It is not often we see original thought in this area, so I suggest readers put their thinking caps on and consider it carefully. Let’s put it another way: Rivas is not just a collector of stories. He writes: 

A few more general comments:

– We cannot use meta-analyses to demonstrate (that it is very likely) that there are harmless voluntary relationships. This can only be demonstrated at the level of the individual case history. If there are no cases in which harmful consequences are absent, this cannot be disproved on the level of the comparison of individual cases, let alone on the level of a meta-analysis of such comparisons.

– As I write in the Discussion of my book, it is essential that a sharp distinction is made between intrinsic (or inherent) harm caused by the eroticism as such and non-intrinsic harm caused by social psychological factors such as taboo, social rejection, stigmatization, and negative dogmas about pedophilia.

– If we establish that in all likelihood there are harmless voluntary erotic relationships, we establish that eroticism as a physical fact is not an automatic cause of harm in voluntary erotic relationships. This is because if harm were automatically caused by the physical erotic actions as such, how could there even be a single case in which the physical erotic actions were not harmful? Thus, we have the following options:

(a) Voluntary erotic activity with adults is not intrinsically harmful, but it can only lead to harm in interaction with psychological factors, i.e. social psychological factors (such as internalised taboos) and cognitive factors (such as expectations about the relationship). This is my position. I’ve tried to identify such psychological factors and I’ve formulated recommendations for their prevention.

Any purported differences between boys or girls or younger and older children are in my view to be explained and handled psychologically, as otherwise there should not be any harmless voluntary relationships with girls or younger children (younger than 12). There is no reason to believe that all girls involved in harmless voluntary relationships are tomboys or that all younger children involved in such relationships are more mature (before the relationship started) than their peers. As for now, I believe that most harmful so-called voluntary relationships simply are not voluntary in the sense of ‘remaining voluntary during the entire relationship and regarding any important erotic activity’. But if I’m wrong, I hold that differences should be explained psychologically, rather than on the basis of sex or age.

(b) Voluntary erotic activity with adults can be intrinsically harmful –  independently of social factors – but only in certain children, with specific genetic predispositions. It is certainly not intrinsically related to the child’s sex as such, because if it were there would be no harmless girl love relationships. It is not related to the adult’s sex either, because otherwise we would encounter no harmless relationships in which the adult was a woman. Similarly, it is not intrinsically related to the child’s age.

There is no evidence for it, but taking this genetic hypothesis seriously, one would have to search for the genetic disposition(s) that would (in interaction with eroticism with adults) cause harm. Before voluntary relationships would be allowed by parents or care-takers, children would first have to undergo genetic testing as to whether they carry the (combinations of) genes that would make their positive erotic experiences intrinsically detrimental in the long run.

(c) Voluntary erotic activity is intrinsically harmful in children with certain personality types. The negative effect of voluntary eroticism would not be direct or biogenic as in (b), but indirect, via the child’s personality. However, the harm would be intrinsic all the same, as there would be a non-social link between harm after strictly voluntary eroticism with an adult and the personality type of the child. Although the eroticism would be (really) voluntary and therefore also (automatically) based on their personality, when children have some types of personality, it would still intrinsically cause harm later on. There is no evidence for this, but if proponents want to take this really seriously, they should start searching for the personality types in question, based on a thorough investigation of harmful voluntary relationships.

– In the Discussion I’ve explicitly said some things about risks, such as:

Information

To increase the general awareness of the criteria a good intergenerational relationship with a minor must adhere to, it is highly desirable that the public media provide plenty of information about this issue, and clearly differentiate between morally sound relationships and manipulation or abuse.

Responsible adults who feel attracted to minors should feel encouraged to increase their empathy towards them and understanding of them. They can benefit from the experiences of others like themselves, either on an individual basis or via bona fide organizations.

Minors ought to be made fully aware of their rights and interests in the context of a possible platonic or erotic relationship with an adult, by easily available sources of written information or documentaries that specifically aim at children or adolescents.

The prevention of harm 

Even if we completely tracked children’s actions and physical encounters by audiovisual means, they could still be attacked by a sexual ‘predator’ before we’d be able to intervene. It is not feasible to remove all risk from a minor’s life. For instance, deception by strangers always remains a possibility unless we wish to transform people into fully remote-controlled cyborgs (except for the persons controlling them, of course). Furthermore, excessive fear and restrictions in the name of safety might hinder the child’s development and cause developmental harm by trying to preclude it.

In the context of voluntary ‘pedophile’ relationships, a general prohibition may bring about frustration and sadness in the child. The destruction of an already existing relationship with a specific adult may even lead to real psychological trauma. Therefore, completely forbidding a relationship is an extreme measure that may only be morally justified in case of real danger, i.e. when there is serious evidence of the adult’s lack of responsibility or integrity.

As Huib Kort and G.  G. stated in their article Demons: The Utopian Dream of Safety:

There is no solution in repression, subversion or elimination.

For these reasons, we should rather strive for minimal risk within a general context of liberty. The ethical criteria mentioned above, in combination with the principle of over-all (non-directive) monitoring (by parents or care-givers) of the relationship and adult partner, aim at doing just that.

Children’s voluntary relationships with peers are already widely accepted and monitored by their parents or caretakers. Why should this not also become a possibility for their voluntary relationships with adults? Why should an adult in such a voluntary relationship be inherently more dangerous or less reliable than a friend who is of the minor’s own age?

Note that we are speaking about individuals who have proven willing to submit themselves to such monitoring, not about adults who intend to abuse their relatively greater physical strength, power or experience at the expense of the child.

Furthermore, any adult involved in a ‘pedophile’ relationship should fully realize that non-compliance with the ethical criteria mentioned above, will inevitably lead to unpleasant consequences, for the child but also for themselves. Minor (but structural) transgressions may simply lead to restrictions or even the end of a relationship. In more serious cases, legal sanctions should be a real possibility, even if a relationship has always remained wholly voluntary from the child’s point of view. This should serve as a deterrent to the morally feeble.

Heretic TOC adds: T. Rivas also has some further comments in response to Ethan Edwards, who posted more than half a dozen contributions. Rather than trying to attribute this new response to any specific post or posts by Edwards, I have entered it in the comments section of the present blog.   

 

 

Hail, an improbable age of consent heroine!

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Heroes, or heroines, do not come much more improbable than lawyer Barbara Hewson. Who would have thought that this champion of women’s rights, with a reputation to protect as a successful, high-profile advocate in leading cases, would suddenly throw caution to the winds and call very publicly for the age of consent to be lowered to 13, as she has done this week?

It’s a British story, and it has been all over the media here, replete with predictable reactions, including “shock” at the large London law firm where she is one of many barristers, who are all self-employed members of the “chambers”, or law practice team. It all kicked off with an article by Hewson in the lively libertarian online journal Spiked, to which sociologist Frank Furedi is a regular contributor: see After Savile: Policing as entertainment, mentioned here recently.

Hewson’s article, like Furedi’s, arose from the Savile “scandal” last year and Operation Yewtree, the massive police attention to “historic” so-called child sexual abuse that has been going on ever since, with seemingly almost daily arrests, especially of aging celebrities such as the entertainer Rolf Harris, the former pop star Gary Glitter, the DJ Dave Lee Travis, the comedian Jim Davidson and the PR guru Max Clifford, all of whom deny any offence. TV legend Stuart Hall, by contrast, recently pleaded guilty to offences which Hewson, with an admirable sense of perspective, dismissed as “low-level misdemeanors” involving teenagers.

She began her article in a starkly combative fashion:

I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.

She goes on to compare the present moral panic with the one in Victorian England which led to the age of consent being raised from 13 to 16 in 1885. Turning to the present scene, she says the so-called abuse relates to relatively trivial matters routinely exaggerated by pressure groups such as the NSPCC.  The NSPCC and the Metropolitan Police Force, as reported here at Heretic TOC, produced a joint report into Savile’s alleged offending in January, called Giving Victims a Voice. It was noted here that this report outrageously treated the allegations as proven facts. Now Hewson lends the considerable authority of her legal standing to this point:

Note how the police and NSPCC assume the roles of judge and jury. What neither acknowledges is that this national trawl for historical victims was an open invitation to all manner of folk to reinterpret their experience of the past as one of victimization.

Quite. She says that the acute problem of proof which stale allegations entail also generates a demand that criminal courts should afford accusers therapy, by giving them “a voice”’, an infantilizing function that undermines judicial impartiality and fair hearings.

Hewson concludes with a trio of proposed law reforms: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.

Typifying the mainstream media response, the Daily Telegraph ran a column by another lawyer, Malcolm Underhill. Regarding the proposed age of consent reform, he wrote:

This suggestion must rate as one of the most foolish proposals on the issue of child welfare that has been laid before the public. If the proposal is adopted by Government, such a change would be a green light for paedophiles, sending the completely wrong message.

I love the “If the proposal is adopted by Government” bit, don’t you? Ha! We should be so lucky! Alas, one maverick lawyer’s speech does not a government policy make. But it’s a start. Meanwhile, the reality is that the craziness in the UK goes on, and is getting worse by the day. Remember, this from If cardinal sinners and lordly lotharios float your boat… , a Heretic TOC blog in March?

… can it really be…yes, it’s one of the nation’s favourite TV soap opera stars, charged with “child rape”. Plus one, two – no it’s three – God it’s gone up to four; bloody hell it’s FIVE musical maestros from one of the most famous music academies in the land: all of them facing the music for vilely fiddling with their violin students!

Guess what the figure is now for those music teachers? I was shocked by five of them being in trouble. Well now (or at the latest count), there are thirty nine, yes, THIRTY NINE, music teachers under investigation at that academy, Chetham’s school of music, plus one other, the Royal Northern College of Music, both in Manchester.

Enough already! Enough of this lunacy for one day!

Enough, too, in a way, for Heretic TOC, who now finds himself obliged to make an unwelcome but very necessary announcement. I love writing this blog and if I had the time I would gladly post a thousand words or more every day rather than roughly twice a week, which has been the usual rate since this “not the dominant narrative” started just over six months ago. Sadly, though, my time is coming under more and more pressure. I have a variety of other projects in hand which are too frequently being left on the back burner. This cannot go on. Accordingly, I have decided to post only once per week, or possibly only twice per month, from now on. This might even be a relief for readers struggling to keep abreast of all this heresy! With posts becoming somewhat less regular, though, it will become harder to know when a new post has arrived. Accordingly, for the benefit of those who have not already done so, I would suggest becoming a “follower” of the blog, so that you get an email each time a new piece is posted. All you need to do is press the “Follow” button in the brown bar across the very top of the page, just to the right of where it says Heretic TOC.

Author Rivas defends ‘black swan’ sightings

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The author of Positive Memories, T. Rivas, has responded to the critique offered by Ethan Edwards following my most recent blog, A positive sighting of 118 black swans, in which I introduced the book. Announcing this response as a guest blog, as I now do, gives me the opportunity to correct an unfortunate false impression I left last time when I said “Rivas is not a trained scientist so far as I am aware.” I would have done better, clearly, to be more aware, because I have since learned that he has masters degrees in both psychology and philosophy. He writes:

Here’s my answer [to Ethan Edwards]:

–       As should be clear to any reader, erotic relationships do not just involve ‘adult’ sex in the sense of penetration. In fact, I explicitly state in the Discussion: “Consensual ‘pedophile’ erotic contact is by definition based upon the consensual erotic activities that minors typically practice with themselves or other minors. Especially in relationships with young children, normally there will be no penetration, but only kissing, caressing, petting, mutual manual stimulation, shared masturbation, or oral stimulation, with only rare exceptions. ” That’s the problem with the approach taken by readers such as Edwards who have made their minds up to such an extent that they don’t bother to read the whole book from cover to cover.

In my book, we’re not dealing with the caricature of pedophile erotic contacts as consisting of adult coital sex forced onto children, but with the eroticism characteristic of an individual minor that is voluntarily shared with an individual adult.

–       What does Edwards mean by iatrogenic contamination? These cases are all self-reported! So what kind of contamination by medical doctors (as I understand his terminology) could be involved? Is he simply accusing me of making up the accounts?

–       I’ve included Judith Levine in the category of erotic relationships, because as I explicitly state: “In exceptional ‘erotic’ relationships here presented there was hardly any physical contact, but I have not listed such cases under platonic relationships if the former child felt really in love with the adult and longed for such [physical] contact.”

–       In the case of Koekie, I explicitly write: “After the caravan, Ben visited her at the farm where they lived and they had some mild non-genital erotic contact.” So, Edwards simply hasn’t read this story carefully enough.

–       Edwards states: “I looked to see what hints I could get about an answer to my question: Would the relationship have been worse or better if the sex hadn’t been present? I thought 4 gave a clear indication that they actively wanted the sex, 2 hinted that the sex was more something they put up with, and for 13 it isn’t clear.”

My response: What’s important is that all these women are talking about the relationship as a whole and not just about the sexual part. None of the women states that they objected to the sex, felt ambiguous about it, or were harmed by it, while all of them indicate that they recall the relationship as something positive. If the erotic parts were really problematic, why on earth would they stand up for their positive memories of the relationship as a whole? Especially in these days with widespread anti-pedophile hysteria?

Edwards’ question whether the relationship would have been worse or better if the sex hadn’t been present, first of all is simply not a question that is asked in this book. This book centers around the question whether there are ANY erotic pedophile relationships that are remembered as positive and that have not caused any harm or painful ambiguity, based on the former minor’s own perception.

In none of the cases presented is there any reason to believe that the erotic aspects ‘ruined’ anything. And that’s what is important. It simply must mean there is nothing intrinsically detrimental about the erotic aspects as such, as long as they are voluntary and match the child’s personality. We’re not discussing the “ideal” type of relationship here, but simply whether an erotic relationship can be positive and harmless or whether it cannot. I wonder whether Edwards believes children should abstain from any type of erotic contact (and maybe even masturbation) because that would make their relationships (in the case of masturbation that would of course concern one’s relationship with oneself) more ideal? If so, what are his reasons for believing this? If not, why should the effect of voluntary pedophile eroticism be any different from that of all other types of eroticism? What should be so magical about pedophile eroticism, especially if we are talking about the exact same types of activities? Is it simply the adult’s age, the age difference or the older adult body? If so, how to explain any type of positive recollection of the pedophile eroticism (as such) by the former minor? We should have expected there would be none. Now that positive memories do seem to be reported, we should try to explain all of them away because we already know what reality is like before we’ve studied it. After all, what are data if we have the gift of infallibly knowing how things work a priori?

–     Edwards: “What astonished me was the leap from the data to the conclusions in this study: The existence of positive memories of relationships between adults and children can hardly be doubted anymore, and this enduringly raises the issue of sound criteria for morally acceptable relationships.’ ”

My comment: All of these cases concern positive memories of such relationships. So, eh, where exactly would the leap have to be? I utterly fail to see this. Unless Edwards demonstrates that most of these positive memories are not really positive memories, my conclusion seems very justified to me!

–      Edwards once more: “There is no way to compare positive to negative outcomes. If we want to say science has anything to do with this, we need data showing that when those criteria are met, harm does not happen or is very rare. What does the present data tell us about the occurrence of harm when strict moral criteria are met? Nothing, except that harm is not universal. Now, the chances of avoiding harm when strict moral criteria are met are surely much better than winning the lottery jackpot. They could easily be 50% or higher. How to estimate that value and its implications is an entirely different topic. (To keep this in context, there is no change to my personal view that adult-child sex is wrong and always will be.”

My response: well, this really is a matter of skipping the relevant parts of my book! I explicitly state the following things that are very relevant in this respect:

(1) Some readers may wonder why I do not use statistics to analyze how often the psychological effects of these experiences are negative, neutral or positive. The reason is easy to understand: I’ve limited myself exclusively to cases in which the respondents themselves report that any noteworthy form of (inherent, non-external) harm was entirely absent.

This collection does not intend to explore if some cases of alleged abuse are, as such, harmless, and if so, what percentage falls in this category, but if there are any cases of voluntary relationships without (inherent) negative repercussions.   In other words, it does not start from the overly undifferentiated, conventional concepts of ‘sexual abuse’ or ‘pedophile encounters’, but specifically from relationships and contacts that were consensual from the minor’s perspective.

Therefore, questions such as: “Are boys and older children less likely to be psychologically harmed by ‘abuse’ than girls or preteens?” really do not apply here.

(2) This collection seems to establish clearly that neither the minor’s sex and age nor sexual contact as such are the direct source of any potential problems in the future. Taking the existence of harmful consensual relationships seriously, this implies the possible harm must be caused by other factors.
We already mentioned the phenomenon of what is sometimes called secondary victimization, i.e. a negative social re-interpretation of the relationship in terms of abuse. Also, some seemingly consensual relationships may not be consensual in certain important respects, such as the onset, frequency, or specific types of sexual contact. This may be caused by miscommunication and insufficient knowledge of the minor’s development and personality.

Herein lies a task for parents or other caretakers in that they should check in an open, unprejudiced manner if the minor really wants the relationship and its possible erotic aspects.

Special care should in this respect be given to children with psychiatric or developmental problems, to prevent confusion.  However, in the context of direct consequences of real consensual relationships, the two main problems I can think of are:

(a) misunderstandings about the intentions of the adult partner (e.g. about the duration of the physical aspects of the relationship – the minor would want the sexual bond to last, while the adult would not), and

(b) confusion in the former minor about his or her sexual identity.

The first problem is covered by the fourth ethical criterion.   [TOC adds: This appears to refer to a list of ten “Important ethical criteria” set out on pages 231-233 of the book. Criterion 4 begins, “The adult must be honest about the nature and extent of his or her feelings and affection for the child or teenager.” ]

The second problem is mainly related to specific same-sex ‘pedophile’ relationships in which the younger partner would not possess a gay orientation as an adult and would feel insecure about his or her adult sexuality. The solution to this problem obviously consists of a greater societal acceptance of homosexual feelings, phases, and experiments and is in this respect related to gay emancipation.

Some authors seem to think that a third problem might especially arise when a relationship was exceptionally positive. The former minor might become dissatisfied when it turns out to be difficult to find a new relationship of comparable quality.  Something like this (besides possible other imperfections of his relationship or adult partner) seems to have been claimed by Ted van Lieshout, the Dutch author of Zeer kleine liefde, and Mijn meneer. (Please note that this claim concerns the consequences of well-balanced ‘pedophile’ relationships, and not just of one-sided, overly sexual relationships that might indeed lead to insatiable sexual desires; see the seventh ethical criterion.) [TOC: Again, this is one of the ten ethical criteria set out in the book.]

However, in my view, this cannot at all serve as an argument against the ‘pedophile’ relationship, but only against the normal way many adults apparently relate to each other. To blame this on the ‘pedophile’ relationship is a bit like blaming an outstanding musician for the fact that many or most musicians are (in comparison) mediocre.

At most, the emancipation of positive, consensual relationships ought to go hand in hand with the promotion of good relationships between adults, as part of a more general relational or love ‘revolution’.

Furthermore, any possible dissatisfaction is directly related to the taboo on ‘pedophile’ relationships in that the former minor may find it difficult to be open about what he or she is missing in relationships with other adults.

Nowadays, if this issue is at all discussed, it is mostly regarded as a negative consequence of the ‘pedophile’ relationship itself. Even to the extent that any positive relationship should really be considered abuse, because a ‘pedophile’ would in this view invariably take the risk of making a ‘normal’ love life for the child impossible.

Some also claim that a positive ‘pedophile’ relationship may lead to a general preference for older partners, as if such an alleged preference would be inherently problematic. Similarly, some claim that peers may seem less attractive due to a lack of erotic experience, as if such a ‘defect’ could not be overcome by the initiative of the former minor.

Others even believe that the relationally experienced minor will end up being less attractive than average to potential partners of the same generation. This is odd, because quite a lot of candidates will find an experienced lover more rather than less appealing.

Although the quality of a positive, consensual ‘pedophile’ relationship could be successfully approached as a general standard for affection or sexuality, even such a relationship is still usually regarded as an undesirable, abnormal interference by an adult in the life of a vulnerable child. I have the impression that some scholars welcome any possible complications after the relationship, as long as they can use them as an argument against consensual ‘pedophilia’.

Supporters of a popular myth of the inherent unpredictability of harm typically refuse to differentiate between the consequences of morally sound relationships and the impact of irresponsible contacts, and between secondary victimisation related to social condemnation of a relationship and real, intrinsic abuse.

Many things in society ought to change, but something positive deserves to be protected.

(3) Only from a conservative, closed-minded outlook on life and human values may it seem obvious that some phenomena which are consensual and psychologically harmless should still continue to be regarded as immoral. Starting from any other approach, personal experiences are obviously more important than prejudices and caricatures.

I will only respond to any further comments by Ethan Edwards after he’s read the whole book page by page and really shows he’s digested its contents 🙂

A positive sighting of 118 black swans

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The appearance of a new book that credibly documents 118 cases of child-adult sexual relationships remembered in adulthood by the child as having been a positive experience ought to be the occasion of great rejoicing. Personally, I will do my best to celebrate following the publication last month of Positive Memories, by T. Rivas, and I hope all heretics here will do likewise.

So, if you have a bottle of champagne handy, now is as good a time as any to crack it open and be of good cheer. Or it would be, but for the lamentably unavoidable fact that the overwhelmingly “dominant discourse” is so loud right now, especially here in the UK, that our celebration will be like two or three cultured friends trying to have a sensible conversation in a restaurant while a stag party full of noisy, rowdy drunks at the next table is drowning out everything you are trying to say. On a day when  yet another British TV celebrity bit the dust over child sex offences, any sort of celebration feels unreal – both insensitive to others’ pain and an exaggeration of what a single new book can be expected to achieve, no matter how good it is. Incidentally, the current atmosphere in Britain is nailed superbly by sociologist Frank Furedi in a recent article, “After Savile: policing as entertainment”.

But, hell, let’s give that book some space. Let’s shout over the background noise. The author’s name will be familiar to a good many here, thanks to his association with Ipce, under whose auspices the paperback now appears, and which made his collection available online a while ago as a free PDF download. Those who possess portable document readers will thus already have been able to read the book’s contents from the comfort of their armchairs, but old troopers like me will prefer to have the print edition in their hands.

Rivas has trawled the published academic literature for relevant case descriptions, plus other material from relatively reliable sources such as published biographies. In addition there are accounts represented as factual on websites and internet discussion forums. All information is fully sourced except for some websites that are no longer accessible. Accounts from all four gender combinations are represented: Boy-Man, Boy-Woman, Girl-Man, Girl-Woman. I know of no other work that brings together such a range of cases into a single handy reference book such as this. In addition to the 118 “relationships”, there are also additional cases: these include positively experienced “loose” contacts, which were sexual but without the commitment of a love relationship, plus some examples of platonic relationships, which were loving but without any sex.

The author, who is available to answer questions by email (ipcetrivas@gmail.com) discusses ethics, the role of parents/carers, and more.

Now, for the scholarly types here (a goodly proportion, I would guess), there is a bonus. In addition to announcing Positive Memories here, I can tell you about what may have been the first debate about it on a research-oriented online forum, i.e. Sexnet, after I had introduced it there. A representative from Virtuous Pedophiles (boo, hiss!) responded with a couple of highly sceptical questions clearly designed to expose the book’s supposed shortcomings. That’s fine, all research should be put to the test of close scrutiny. In order to answer these questions I consulted the author, who came up with excellent answers: his book passed the test. Needless to say, this ruffled the feathers of our sanctimonious (sorry, virtuous) colleague, who lashed out against me personally as a convenient alternative target.

I won’t dwell on that. Such squabbles are boring. I hope heretics will be interested, though, in a question the VP asked just before his desperate final resort to mud-slinging. This was after Rivas has answered the initial questions. The VP (Nick Devin) then wrote: “The anecdotal evidence that you have produced of long-term benefit to children is presumably intended to serve as a response to the anecdotal evidence of harm.”

Devin’s presumption was wrong. Unlike the academic researchers who make up a high proportion of Sexnet’s membership, he has no understanding of science and is only a member by virtue (if you’ll forgive the pun) of being a specimen paedophile – same as me, really, but at least I’ve done my homework. What follows is the answer I gave him. I have given it a title just to set it apart. Enjoy!

Anecdotal evidence: its use and abuse

No, this is a complete misunderstanding; but it is a very useful one because the differences between the two ends of the spectrum of anecdotal evidence on harm/benefit, or rather the different uses to which they are being put, is of fundamental importance, and you have given me an opportunity to clarify the position. If I get anything wrong I am sure there are scientists here who will be pleased to correct me.

It is important to understand that evidence in scientific issues will vary in its significance according to the present state of knowledge or belief, as illustrated by the classic example of the black swan. White swans are common and at one time it was believed there were no black swans. In these circumstances it requires the discovery of only one black swan in the world to disprove the theory that there are no black swans. In other words, you do not require a huge set of observations of many swans. One example will suffice, provided it is well described and credibly attested, otherwise there will rightly be scepticism over its status as a real black swan. Even in the absence of a reliable observation, though, the dubious traveller’s tale, or mere anecdote, will have some scientific interest, because it could very usefully prompt more formal scientific investigation.

This is roughly the position we are in with regard to adult-child sexual contacts sometimes being beneficial. Theo Sandfort, back in the 1980s, set out to examine formally whether there were any black swans in this field, in terms of positively experienced man-boy sexual contacts. He only needed a very small data set (even a single rock solid example would have sufficed) to prove the existence of his black swan. In fact, his data comprised 25 positively experienced man-boy relationships, which were very credibly attested, in a high-quality study. So, voilà, we had some black swans!

Or did we? Could it be that the swans were actually white but had just got caught in an oil slick? That’s what some suggested, on the basis that there had been no follow-up. The boys had been asked what benefits they felt from the relationships at the time, but would they feel differently 10 or 20 years later? It was a reasonable question, especially in light of the tremendous propaganda against such relationships to which teenagers and young adults are subjected these days.

This brings us to Rivas’s new book. It is less scientific than Sandfort’s work in some ways e.g. Rivas is not a trained scientist so far as I am aware. But it is more so in others e.g. his data set is much bigger (n=118, compared to Sandfort’s n=25) and, crucially, his data have been gleaned from retrospective accounts which are not open to the objection levelled against Sandfort’s work: Rivas takes account of the younger participant’s long-term assessment, whereas Sandfort does not. Note also the answer Rivas gave to Nick’s sceptical question as to how many of his sample later became paedophiles: answer, none, because Rivas had anticipated the objection and excluded such cases.

Bearing these points in mind it would be grossly unscientific, I suggest, to brush aside Rivas’s work as mere anecdote. This is a systematic and careful study which amounts to far more than just a “traveller’s tale”. Neither mere anecdote nor the Rivas study (which is much better than that but not fully scientific) can prove the existence of the black swan. However, taking Sandfort and Rivas together, they provide powerful evidence as to its likely existence, and therefore they provide a very sound – unanswerable, I would say – rationale for conducting research of a more compelling kind.

Now, let’s turn to the other end of the spectrum: anecdotal evidence of harm, rather than benefit. Why do we need it? Here we are talking about white swans. Nobody doubts their existence. Numerous formal scientific studies, including meta-analyses, have been undertaken which copiously demonstrate long-term harm in some cases, especially coerced encounters.

In these circumstances anecdotal evidence is not used legitimately, as it is in black swan cases, to direct the attention of science towards interesting possibilities. Quite the opposite: it is used by lobby groups to whip up emotion that actually obscures and denies existing scientific findings. Notoriously, horror story anecdotes are routinely preferred in public discourse to the solid evidence presented by Rind et al. showing that “CSA” (even when coerced cases are included) does not typically lead to severe harm. Indeed, Nick, you have been criticised on this very forum yourself for privileging anecdotes that accord with your beliefs over science that does not. Judging by the following, you do not appear to have paid any attention:

In terms of my view of whether sexual relations between children and adults are harmful, I understand from my time on sexnet that the data is thin.  There is, however, a great deal of anecdotal evidence of harm, even where no force is involved.  Some of these cases are detailed in The Trauma Myth by Susan Clancy, as well as in other places. 

Your one saving grace here is that you have referenced Clancy, whose work is not properly characterised as merely anecdotal. She carried out interviews with more than 200 adults over 10 years in a methodical and careful study. However, like Rivas’s accounts, her selection cannot be taken as representative. In Clancy’s case recruitment was from among people who pre-defined themselves as having been “abused”, many of whom were already in therapy. That does not mean her work is useless (it is very persuasive on iatrogenic sources of harm), but it does mean it cannot be used to refute Rind et al.

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