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.”