MAP-ing the terrain of better therapy

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What follows is a special announcement on behalf of a group being set up by people known and trusted by Heretic TOC. The subject is “therapy”. The track record of the mental health professions in relation to minor-attracted people has been so deeply unimpressive we might feel the best thing is to steer clear of them altogether. Thinkers such as Ben Capel (Notes From Another Country, Ch. 7) and Ipce’s Frans Gieles (Treatment, self-help and real therapy) have helped me keep an open mind. So I welcome this initiative and wish it every success.

I would like to draw the attention of the readers of Heretic TOC to a new group which is in the process of being formed: B4U-ACT UK. Many of you will know of the American organisation B4U-ACT. This a group of minor attracted people (MAPs) and mental health professionals (MHPs), whose main aim is to encourage the development of humane and professional mental health services for the minor attracted.  Our British organisation has similar aims but will be run separately with its own projects. We already have one project in progress, in which one of us, Adam Powell, is involved in discussions with a leading provider of ‘therapy’ for MAPs, discussing with him what we see as the shortcomings of his methods.

One thing I would like to make clear is that just by virtue of holding discussions with MHPs, we do not endorse the idea that minor attraction is an ‘illness’. What we do think is that MAPs generally face problems in their lives owing to societal rejection of their sexual orientation and that a professional therapist with the right sort of understanding of these problems should be able to help. But what we tend to see in practice is not helpful humane therapy but rather a form of dogmatic and ignorant treatment aimed at convincing the client or patient that he is perverted, sick, cognitively distorted and so on. We want this to change, not only for the sake of the MHPs who turn to therapy, but also for the sake of the young people to whom they are considered to be such a threat (since we do not think that the marginalization of MAPs helps to protect young people—quite the opposite.)

Tom has kindly given me this opportunity to use this forum to ask if any of his readers would like to join us. We would be particularly interested in hearing from people who have had some experience of seeking therapy for their minor attraction—we would like to hear how it turned out. We are also interested in recruiting ‘activists’ – people who would feel able to do the kind of liaising work that Adam is already doing, though we realise that this is not for everyone. If you are interested in any way, do get in touch by E-mailing me at StephenJames465@yahoo.co.uk

Stephen James

‘Protecting’ your property, then and now

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A first today for Heretic TOC: a guest blog by a woman. Known to us simply as “A”, she was introduced here recently in New quests sparked by fading old charts as the contributor of several excellent comments on earlier blogs. I gather she is a linguistics specialist. This piece was offered as a comment in response to The only problem is problematisation itself but is the right length for a blog and eminently suitable for one.  

Cases in which young children are punished for their sexuality always put me in mind of the Kissing Case of 1958 in North Carolina.

It is clear that the old Victorian ‘high ideal of womanhood’ has been transferred more or less wholesale onto children. Women were then seen as morally better than men, but weak and in need of protection by men, who bravely shoulder the burdens of the world for their sake; children are now seen as morally better than adults, but weak and in need of protection by adults, who bravely shoulder the burdens of the world for their sake. Women were then and children are now seen as pure, innocent, sexless beings in danger from the supposed sexual rapaciousness of men – these days, only a certain subset of men: paedophiles. Women were then seen as essentially the property of men, and children are still seen as the property of their parents.

A good example of this close parallel between the two sets of attitudes is the Sherlock Holmes story The Illustrious Client. The “fiend” Baron Gruner is in sexual pursuit of a “lovely, innocent” young woman, who has fallen for his deceitful charms, though “How a beastman could have laid his vile paws upon such a being of the beyond I cannot imagine.” Gruner is a serial seducer who has arranged murders to prevent his activities from being exposed. He turns out to keep a scrapbook of the young women he has seduced: “I tell you, Mr. Holmes, this man collects women, and takes a pride in his collection, as some men collect moths or butterflies. He had it all in that book. Snapshot photographs, names, details, everything about them. It was a beastly book – a book no man, even if he had come from the gutter, could have put together. But it was Adelbert Gruner’s book all the same. ‘Souls I have ruined.’ He could have put that on the outside if he had been so minded.” Then up turns Kitty Winter, whom he seduced and “ruined”, a young woman “worn with sin and sorrow”. She bitterly hates Gruner, and throws vitriol into his face to ruin his looks. Dr Watson reflects: “I could have wept over the ruin had I not remembered very clearly the vile life which had led up to so hideous a change.” Holmes says, “The wages of sin, Watson – the wages of sin! Sooner or later it will always come. God knows, there was sin enough.”

Change the young woman to a child of either sex and it could be an episode of CSI or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s all there: the paedophile who is bestial, subhuman, beyond redemption or sympathy, but “devilishly cunning”, who is willing to murder to conceal his crimes, and who keeps a scrapbook of his conquests, of the children whose lives he has ruined. Except on TV the paedophile would likely end up not disfigured but dead, murdered by some vengeful victim or victim’s parent, while the cops, like Holmes and Watson, reflected soberly that he had had it coming. Even the talk about sin and souls is familiar: talk of sin has fallen out of fashion in many circles, but talk of children’s souls being murdered by sexual abuse is still common enough, as is talk of ‘purity’– infringing sex as “a fate worse than death”.

The major difference as far as I can tell is that most men are attracted to women, so even in Victorian England there had to be some women available for them to get their premarital and extramarital jollies with: women who didn’t count, such as prostitutes, music-hall singers, and just plain working-class women in sore need of money who could consequently be persuaded to’ go with’ gentlemen (though, to be fair, I am sure that some genuine love affairs and some mutually happy casual sex did occur even in this generally exploitative context). If you were a middle- or upper-class man, it was OK to pinch your overworked servant girl’s backside, so long as your wife remained the angel in the home. But most men, and an even larger majority of women, are not attracted to children, so there are no children whom it is OK to touch sexually: they are all off-limits.

Major difference two is that, whatever the official ideology may have said, it was women who bore the stigma of sex outside marriage: a woman who fell pregnant this way was often vilified while the man equally responsible for the pregnancy went about his life just as before. Bearing this in mind, it is fascinating to watch the short film Boys Beware, a Strange Man scare piece dating from 1961, which can be seen on Youtube. Pubertal Jimmy has sex with a man – and Jimmy gets into legal trouble too, ending up released on probation! Feminism has changed that. Women and children are the sexual victims of men, so the party line goes, and as victims they are guiltless, unimpeachable, strong in overcoming their abuse; they have no share in the abuser’s sin.

In the American South until, after all, quite recently, the ideology of female purity combined with that of racism to cause many, many murders, including that of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, who was guilty not of rape nor of anything near it but, at worst – accounts differ – of a bit of mildly obnoxious adolescent sexual braggadocio. Women were sexually pure and they were also the property of men; the races lived separately; black people were inferior to white people. Hence, a black woman was the property of her male relatives, who were also black, which meant that stealing their property by having sex, consensual or otherwise, with her was OK. For a white man to have sex with another white man’s property or a black man to have sex with another black man’s might have produced anger and a punch-up, but it was not likely to end in a lynching. But for a black man to have sex with a white man’s property was completely intolerable. (The women-as-property ideology was and is also a major cause of the bad reaction to women taking up with men socially ‘beneath them’.) Loathing of the idea of black man-white woman sex was mixed up with a morbid fascination which produced tales of black men’s sexual prowess and insatiability and of their large genitals. This too is familiar: in the Sherlock Holmes story we find a mixture of horror and titillation at the idea of “a woman who has to submit to be caressed by bloody hands and lecherous lips”, and these days there is much nonsense about how a paedophile can do incalculable damage if left alone with a child even for a few minutes (wow, superpowers).

Of course, racism was and is not unique to the American South. Paul Scott’s novel The Jewel in the Crown deals with the taboo on sex between Indian men and white women under the British Raj, and the destruction it wreaks on the lives of a white woman and Indian man who love one another.

These days, it is very common for men to announce that they would murder anybody who touched their child or younger sibling sexually, and occasionally the threat is carried out. But our society’s current sexual demon is not easily recognisable. Skin colour is immediately noticeable, and often, so is social class – from accent, clothes, occupation, etc. But paedophiles cannot be spotted on the street, and the consequence is that suspicion is liable to fall on any man spending time around any child. Furthermore, what makes a paedophile a paedophile is something internal, his (or occasionally her) sexual desires, rather than something external. This may account for some of the thought-crime/mind-control aspects of the current witchhunt.

Angus Stewart, inspiration of a generation

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Get to Edinburgh this week if at all possible, where Angus Stewart’s Sandel, “a notorious novel about underage gay sex”, as Gay Times puts it, “has been dramatised in a production playing at the city’s Festival Fringe until 24 August.

The particular interest for heretics here is that the notoriety is about paedophilia rather than a relationship between two minors: both of the lovers depicted are teenagers, to be sure, but one is 19 and the other 13. The older partner, being over 18, is defined as an adult in English law, and his boyfriend is more than five years younger, an age gap large enough to warrant a psychiatric diagnosis of paedophilia in an older partner who is over 16.

We can call things what we want, of course: we can speak of minor attraction, intergenerational sexual relations, Greek love and so forth: there is nothing sacrosanct about legal and medical constructions, far from it: indeed there is much in them to take issue with. If I draw attention to the rhetoric, it is to note that this is a play that presents an unusually positive view of the relationship in question, so the producer and everyone concerned with its promotion in the present climate are presumably rather keen not to frighten the horses: the dread P word must not be mentioned. This is sensible, no doubt, and politically astute, although personally I find myself wishing people would call a spade a spade. Otherwise, the P word will only ever be associated with “abuse”, and that needs to change.

But back to Sandel, a play written and directed by Glenn Chandler, a gay TV drama producer who created the detective series Taggart, which became the longest-running TV detective series in the world. In other words Chandler is a major player in his business, and his involvement in this production will surely create a buzz. For the 13-year-old, Chandler has cast 17-year-old Tom Cawte, who is only five feet tall and said to look “much younger than his real age”. Presumably, putting an actual 13-year-old into this role was considered too controversial. Choosing an older teenager who would truly look the part was thus a challenge. In an interview with Scotsgay, Chandler said there was another one too:

“How could I cast someone able to play the eponymous hero, Antony Sandel, a choirboy outwardly innocent and pure but with a cunning, Macchievellian streak who manipulates the older youth into a relationship neither of them can get out of?”

With Cawte, he thinks he has succeeded. It will be interesting to see whether the reviewers agree, along with any heretics here who are able to see for themselves. For those who cannot, though, there is another treat: Sandel the novel, which has been out of print for decades, has been republished this month by Pilot Productions Ltd (£18.99; Amazon: paperback £9.99, Kindle edition £5.99). According to the blurb at Amazon, “Sandel became formative reading for a generation of boys growing up in the 1970s who knew their feelings fell outside the heterosexual male stereotype. Stephen Fry, a teenager at the time, lists Angus Stewart among those who opened his eyes to his homosexual identity, alongside Oscar Wilde, Gide, Genet, Auden, Orton, Norman Douglas, Ronald Firbank, H. Montgomery Hyde, and Roger Peyrefitte.”

See, here we have it again: a clearly paedophilic book (to my mind at least) presented as a gay one, positioned within a tradition of other literature also labelled gay, even though Douglas and Gide were well known for their active sexual interest in small boys, while Peyrefitte took up with Alain-Philippe Malagnac when the latter was a 12-year-old. The boy had a non-starring role in the film of the writer’ first novel, Les Amitiés particulières (Special Friendships), which depicted a romance between two schoolboys, one considerably older than the other: the younger boy, played in the film by the gorgeous Didier Haudepin, would also have been about 12 at the time of filming and who looked decidedly pre-pubescent on screen.

Admittedly these writers were all “cross-over figures” though. Peyrefitte and Malagnac were an item into the latter’s adulthood, while Douglas and Gide both hung out in gay social circles, in an age when little distinction was made between homosexuality and paedophilia: if they used words for it at all the hostile one would have been sodomy, while pederasty could be used in a neutral way. Both of these terms, significantly, referred to a sexual act rather than an orientation. And the age of the younger “boy” seems to have been very flexible for many:  Douglas and Gide probably thought of a “boy” as aged no more than 10-14 but had older partners too; Wilde is rumoured to have had flings with rent boys as young as 14 but his youngest lover with age documentation (Alphonso Conway) was 16 and Wilde’s preference seems to have been for young men rather than for boy boys, as we might say. But that did not stop him hanging out with André Gide. Bluntly, the pair were sex tourists together in Algeria, where Wilde (though accounts differ) helped break the ice for a hesitant Gide with a boy waiter in a restaurant. Good old Oscar! What a shame that Wilde, so honoured now as a gay martyr, would be martyred all over again if he were alive today – this time not by the British criminal courts but by politically correct gays rushing to denounce his complicity with “child abuse”.

Anyway, if corners of the gay community are now interested in reviving Angus Stewart’s paedophilic writing, good for them, even if they are being rather coy and euphemistic about what they call it: it’s a start. And I must admit it had never occurred to me that the original version of Sandel might have had a genuinely gay readership of those who personally identify with the boy in the relationship rather than the older partner. I had assumed, wrongly, that by the time gay boys are old enough to be interested in sophisticated adult literature they would want to read about relationships between grown men, not stories of first love.

That is a striking failure of imagination on my part, which I suppose derives from the very different way in which I came to the book, not as a gay youth back in 1968 when the novel first appeared but as a young paedophile: at that time I felt this wonderful novel had been written entirely with a reader like me in mind! I was such a fan that I wrote to the publisher, and was delighted to get a friendly letter back from the author himself. After a short correspondence, he kindly invited me over to his abode in the Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, where he told me he used to divide his year between quiet rural England and an altogether livelier scene in Morocco, where he would always have at least one young boy living with him. Just like Wilde with Gide, he took me under his wing, encouraged me to forget my hang-ups and inhibitions with boys, and let my hair down. He was not so crude as to say or imply or even think that all the boys in Morocco are “up for it”, but he did persuade me, based not least on visual, photographic, evidence of his own experience, that many boys, certainly in that culture, were indeed open to intimate friendship with a man.  This was a revelation to me: a liberating experience that changed my life.

Angus is no longer with us, alas, having died a good many years ago, which at least means I can speak freely – although it appears he all but outed himself (albeit under the pen name John Davis) when he wrote what was stated to be a factual account of his real relationship with the boy “Tony” which appeared as part of a book published in 1961, seven years before Sandel. This was Underdogs: Eighteen victims of society, edited and introduced by Philip Toynbee, himself a substantial public intellectual of his day. Incidentally, another measure of the quiet support that Angus, son of an Oxford University professor, managed to garner in the literary world, is that when he published a book of his very lightweight “satirical” verse – mere doggerel, really, in my view – it came with a foreword by W.H. Auden, no less, widely considered amongst the greatest poets of the 20th century as well as one of the most famous gay figures of his era.

There is a Wikipedia entry on Angus Stewart, and quite a lot more information about him is to be found at the magnificently eclectic and eccentric website of gay American historian Prof. William Armstrong Percy III – who gave a very glowing review of my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, so he has to be a great guy, right? See the excellent notes compiled by Walt Kauffmann on Stewart at Bill Percy’s site.

 

References:

Toynbee, Philip, ed., (Angus Stewart writing as John Davis, et al.) Underdogs, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1961

Stewart, Angus, Sandel, Hutchinson, London, 1968

 

New quests sparked by fading old charts

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Heretic TOC is delighted to report that readers here are increasingly leaving comments on old blogs – even from last year – as well as the latest one, and these comments include some excellent contributions. This reflects the fact that Heretic TOC aims to do more than just respond to the latest headlines: a goodly proportion of the blogs so far have engaged with topics that will remain live issues long after many “major” news stories have been forgotten.

Admittedly, the mainstream media is where the “dominant narrative” is at its most comprehensively, well, dominant, and this blog is pledged to challenge that dominance. But the narrative doesn’t just spring out of nowhere: its sources and headwaters need tracking down, with careful exploration and mapping of some remote and obscure places. The commentators I am talking about are actively engaging themselves in that process: where Heretic TOC’s fading charts may say little more than “Here be dragons”, a new and determined quest may yield more accurate knowledge .

This is great, but it presents a bit of a problem because it is easy to miss some of these wonderful responses to the older blogs. One solution is to offer a guest blog slot to the best contributors. This has already worked very well, in my view. But what do you do when a new contributor simultaneously sends in four superb comments, amounting to over two thousand words in response to old blogs, raising  all manner of interesting discussion points? A useful way forward, I think, is simply to trumpet their presence, which I will now do.

These four posts all come from “A”, who I gather is female, but about whom I presently know nothing else. Two of her comments are in response to Tromovitch sets a poser on prevalence; another is about How to take a vacation from yourself; finally, there is one on Adultophilia or teleiophilia? This last item is on a long page with 35 comments, and quite hard to find: the search term “curly hair” will get you there. I absolutely urge everyone to read all of these posts, and to read especially carefully those in response to the Tromovitch piece, as they require some concentration.

I am tempted to wade in with some response of my own to A’s detailed points, but further words from me will only distract from what she is has written. So I say no more, except go to the links and see for yourself!

Cameron’s crusade and the ‘sexting’ generation

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When a president or prime minister personally announces a new moral crackdown, rather than leaving it to the justice or home affairs secretary to announce a law proposal or action plan, you know something is afoot: either there is an election not far away, or a need to divert public attention from intractable economic problems, or perhaps a runaway media-stoked moral panic is making it imperative for whoever is in charge to look like a leader not a follower.

While British Prime Minister David Cameron need not face the electorate until early 2015, it has been speculated that his recent declaration of a triple-pronged attack on internet pornography was an attempt to bolster his flagging appeal to women voters; if so, he will need to worry about antagonising male ones, as this is an issue deeply split on gender lines. And, as the likely impact of Cameron’s policies on children and heretics alike will be significant, we too will need to pay attention to gender.

Cameron’s proposals, announced in a speech to the NSPCC, one of the most aggressive lobby organisations against “child sexual abuse” in the UK, were as follows:

  • Opting-in: By 2014, all UK Internet users would be required to register, or “opt-in”, for access to porn sites. Failure to comply would mean being automatically blocked from such sites by filters which would have to be installed.
  • Search terms aimed at finding child pornography online would be blacklisted by the police with a view to Google and other search engines blocking them.
  • Possessing depictions of simulated rape would be made illegal. This would include online access to them.

The easiest of these three prongs to sell politically was of course the one avowedly aimed at curbing paedophilia by blocking access to child porn. Technically, as many were quick to point out, it is not so easy. In addition to requiring the reluctant cooperation of the big internet corporations, the search terms themselves would be a challenge: while an expression like “hardcore Lolita” or “xxx Lolita” might be thought unambiguously to indicate a search for one thing only, what about plain “Lolita”? Would even Cameron want to ban access to literary critiques of Nabokov’s classic novel? It was also noted that most child porn is accessed through peer-to-peer networking rather than through ordinary searches. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that search-term blocking of this kind would have a tremendously oppressive impact on younger minor-attracted people in particular. An easy prediction is that it would have the effect of making any juvenile eye-candy, no matter how mild and legal, appear be out of bounds, a message that would be reinforced, we were told, by “splash screens” sternly warning searchers they were trying to find illegal material and, by implication, letting it be known Big Brother was watching them. This would only succeed in promoting anxiety, fear and depression in those targeted, while doing absolutely nothing to stop any real child abuse.

As for the simulated rape measure, this would extend recent legislation against “extreme pornography” (sections 63 to 67 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) and appears to be in response to concern over an alleged explosion of rape porn recently. I have no idea whether this really is a rapidly expanding phenomenon, but the possibility is not to be dismissed lightly. In recent weeks, and possibly as a “backlash” against steadily growing female power in society, there have been some disturbing signs of truly vicious misogyny in Britain. One woman was subjected to a torrent of graphic rape and death threats for the heinous crime of campaigning to have a female face – that of novelist Jane Austen – featured on the £10 bank note. A female member of parliament who supported her came in for similarly vicious trolling. This is horrible, totally inexcusable, behaviour perpetrated by a minority of extremists, but I suspect it reflects a much more widespread feeling among men that feminism in general has gone far enough and that the specifically anti-sexual agenda of a powerful strand within feminism has gone much too far.

Against this background, let us now consider the remaining prong of Cameron’s proposals, the opt-in measure. This was far and away the most controversial idea, prompting a storm of debate, with a great many men, especially, in fierce opposition. In one newspaper’s online poll voting against the measure was running at treble the strength of support for it when I looked. While freedom of expression was always going to be the salient rhetorical trope in this, the fact that men rather than women are keenest on such freedom where porn is concerned suggests that the underlying battle is over male sexuality per se, not just over who is allowed to see what.

The rationale for the opting-in measure was child protection, of course. Forced to declare themselves as porn users if they wanted to access porn online, many might be deterred from opting in; and if fewer people allow access to porn on their computers, fewer children will be exposed to it. A key part of the theory is the belief that children are “innocent” and have no interest of their own in online sex – or, if they do, it is a sign of their “corruption” and must be stopped. As might be expected, such views were implicit in a recent report by the NSPCC on juvenile “sexting”, but some of the findings from focus group studies commissioned for the report were interesting nevertheless.

Up to a point, the researchers did the right thing for a change: they actually spoke to kids, rather than their parents or teachers. They went into schools and asked youngsters aged 13-14 directly about their experience of sexting. There was also some focus group work with younger kids aged 10-11 but this was less revealing as the researchers lost their bottle: they did not dare, or thought it “inappropriate”, to ask them directly about sexual issues, preferring to stick to “aspects of digital life”. As for what sexting means, the researchers said it “describes the use of technology to share personal sexual content”, which might mean text, or still photos showing partial nudity, or explicit video of full-on sex. The most common means of sharing were said to be mobile phones, Skype and social network sites.

A key finding, in the words of the report, was that “sexting is part of young people’s lives and it is not something that is shocking or surprising to them. All of the attendees in the groups were aware [of] instances of sexting among their peers…” When prompted by a guess that 50% of 14-year-olds had seen pornography most boys felt this was a massive underestimation, with one boy declaring “there is no boy in this year that doesn’t look at porn”. And the boys did not think they had been harmed by it. The only thing that really worried them was being caught using it by disapproving adults. As for how they used sexting, boys described it as a tactic in the dating game: they would ask a girl for a sexy photo of herself as part of establishing their interest and getting a relationship going. The researchers judged that boys seemed not to view practices around sexting as predatory and malicious: they were just “trying their luck”.

None of this need surprise us. The picture is a far cry from innocence in need of protection. As regards the younger kids, the researchers failed to uncover any scandal needing to be addressed by censorious measures: their “digital life” apparently did not include being exposed accidentally to porn or to unwanted sexual propositions.

As I said, though, we need to pay attention to gender. In the words of the report, “Girls, in general, had a negative impression of pornography and felt it influenced boys in terms of both expectations of how females looked and also what they viewed as ‘normal’ sexual activity.” However, that does not mean they are uninterested in sex and the erotic. The report also said, “an interesting discussion with girls that showed a gender difference was to explore whether they had read ‘erotica’ such as 50 Shades of Grey. While those admitting reading such books were in a minority, it was certainly something that had touched these girls’ lives and it was something they were happy to talk about.”

So, what should we make of this? Feminists tend to scream blue murder over men who ask their partners to shave their genitals (making them look more like little girls!), try a bit of ass-fucking and generally do it like porn stars. And they resent the fact that men are less keen on women who are fat, ugly and frigid. But is it so unreasonable for men (or boys!) to “try their luck”? In modern society, thanks not least to feminism, refusal is always an option, as proven by the fact that few boys, or even men, get anything like as lucky as they might wish!

We have to distinguish, do we not, between the feminazis who want to impose their own man-hatred on all girls and women, on the one hand, and more reasonable concerns on the other. Misogyny and cyber-bullying are unpleasant realities, as noted above. Sexting by teenagers can and has resulted in tragic cases of suicide after sexual images have been re-posted on social media sites along with abusive comments. The question then becomes, what do we do about it? Cyber-bullying seems at first sight the perfect argument for repressive policies such as those proposed by Cameron, which would have us sweep all public expression of sexual interest under the carpet, and repress all sexuality outside of “loving and committed relationships” in adulthood, giving no scope whatever for youngsters to have any kind of sex life, even with their peers. Indeed, any form of sexual activity between two 15-year-olds or younger peers was explicitly made illegal in 2003 in the UK.

There is a better way than Cameron’s, though, starting (so far as public policy is concerned) not with teenagers but with kindergarten kids, and not with sexual repression but with learning the socially acceptable expression of sexuality. That, however, must be for another day.

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