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:
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.