Making virtues of ‘necessity’ and ignorance

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Many thanks, first of all, to all those who have contributed such excellent posts to a lively debate here at Heretic TOC in response to last week’s blog by the Virtuous Pedophiles. So, what are we left with after the blog itself plus some 7,000 words of comment? I think it will be a useful exercise for me not so much to sum up all this diverse input as to single out a few key themes. In doing so, I am also taking into account a further 3,000 words of email debate, to which I was privy, initiated by psychologist Prof. J. Michael Bailey earlier this month. This too was mainly an encounter between the same VPs and a couple of the heretical contributors here.

Because I aim to encourage thought, I do not propose to dwell overlong on the weaker aspects of the VP contribution, which heretics ably dissected. The strengths – and there were good points – are where we need to focus.

Briefly, then, let us get the downside out of the way first. Heretics pointed out a contradiction in the VP position. The VPs’ message to the non-MAP public is that adult-minor sexual contacts are always wrong; they tell us here, too, that in their minds and hearts they foreswear any other view. But they also say “under certain circumstances, we could reconsider”. Sugarboy’s response was “it seems that you have no ideals to fight for other than those that meet the majority’s approval. In other words, you make a virtue of necessity.”

Virtue or not, necessity will prevail by definition; accommodating to it is thus wise, not a weakness in itself. Ethan reminded us of a famous prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Wise words indeed; but they are all too readily seized upon as a pat excuse for complacent passivity. It is significant that Ethan did not mention these words from the same prayer:

Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right

The VPs’ hidden agenda, I suggest, is the same: we should leave the heavy lifting to God, whose conspicuous absence from the affairs of man has always seemed, to a non-believer like me, a huge embarrassment for the faithful. Be that as it may. My quarrel here is not with God, or believers, but with those who lack the stomach to fight for change and the vision to see possibilities for it – and indeed its necessity. I will come to those possibilities in due course.

I will just add here that the most necessary and urgent aspect of change is to halt the rapid criminalisation of children as sex offenders, an issue to which the VPs seem callously indifferent. They casually say VPs “have no problem with children experimenting sexually with similarly aged peers”. But if they had an ounce of compassion and social concern beyond the narrow horizon of saving their own skins they would have a problem with it, the problem being that such “experimental” encounters are becoming ever more subject to oppressive surveillance and eradication measures. Even at kindergarten, sexual encounters between kids these days are said to be “perpetrated” by a child who is an “abuser”, as noted in an earlier blog, Being a predator is child’s play. There is no sex play for kids any more. The VPs react to this burgeoning new victim narrative with a shrug of indifference: not our problem! Leave it to the experts!

Likewise, they very dangerously leave therapy for distressed MAPs in the hands of presumed experts without apparently asking any of the right questions or insisting on proper standards. This would make a blog on its own. At this point I would just like to thank Gary Gibson from the therapy outfit www.iLoveChildren.us for turning up here. Gary, I may at some point want to ask you some of the questions the VPs are failing to deal with.

For the moment, I will just note the irony embedded in Niebuhr’s modern (20th century) Christian conservatism: if the early Christians had “wisely” weighed up the odds of their success in the days when they were being fed to the lions, they would certainly have given up!

The real weakness in VP’s position is making a virtue not of true necessity, which makes sense, but of a false “necessity”, in which the status quo is pusillanimously presented as inevitable. They manage to justify this lack of animation by keeping their eyes squeezed shut in order to block out the evidence that would support fighting for radical change. Thus, in order to make a virtue of “necessity” they must first make a virtue of ignorance! Ethan is quite explicit about it, saying “we bring no special knowledge to the table” about what is best for children. He shamelessly abdicates responsibility for informing himself on the subject, preferring to leave it all to the experts. While there is such a thing as genuine expertise in developmental psychology and so forth, should we be wholly reliant upon it? Based on the track record of scientists, who not so long ago were telling us that masturbation makes you go mad and that criminality can be detected from the shape of our heads (and who now insist paedophiles are on average a bit dim) this is clearly foolish.

This proudly proclaimed ignorance does not, however, inhibit the VPs from making unsupported assertions, such as “Children do not benefit from sex with adults, even if no harm is done.” On the contrary, it enables the VPs to do so with confidence, safe in the knowledge (their vestigial, minuscule bit of knowledge!) that their ignorance is invincible: they know that if they are confronted with evidence they can just stick their fingers in their ears and sing “La, la, la, can’t hear you. The experts know best. La, la la.”

This is not the time to go into detailed evidence showing that even in contemporary circumstances some children do benefit a great deal from sexual relationships with adults, or to expand on the positive possibilities that would attend a more liberated social vision. I will confine myself to mentioning that some such evidence was presented by T. Rivas, as discussed on Heretic TOC in A positive sighting of 118 black swans. I should also take this opportunity to plug a 90-page chapter in a new book in which a vast amount of evidence is presented on the positive side of man-boy sexual relationships. This is a long-censored paper with multiple perspectives on pederasty, by Bruce Rind: hence its appearance in a book called Censoring Sex Research. I hope to be blogging about this book and a related conference shortly.

Rind, significantly, is quoted out of context by Nick, as Ovid noted, in a fallacious bid to distance the fabled psychologist from claims that adult-child sex might be beneficial. This too is a product of ignorance – or, at least, I will charitably assume it arose from ignorance on Nick’s part rather than mendacity.

If making virtues of non-virtuous things (“necessity” and ignorance) are salient VP weaknesses, what about the strengths of their analysis? I believe they are correct in their claim that a measure of acceptance, in some circles at least, could be gained by those who loudly proclaim their adherence to mainstream moral opinions. As Sean noted, though:

Unfortunately, this amounts to a significant contraction of what Noam Chomsky has called ‘the bounds of thinkable thought’. Such thought policing has seldom brought positive changes to society and there’s no reason to think it will bring any to the predicament of paedophiles in the 21st C. It’s apparent that the worthy goal of ‘child protection’ readily devolves into a punitive, repressive, sex negative ideology that criminalizes and pathologizes not just sexual assault but normal childhood sexuality and sexual rehearsal. In fact, there is reason to believe that many ‘child protection’ initiatives are stalking horses for even more sinister authoritarian agendas, such as state assaults on free speech and increased domestic surveillance.

But the VPs have a significant counter-narrative. In an email, Ethan paints a rosy, even panglossian, picture of modern life compared to the past, the strength of his account lying in its element of truth. He celebrates the empowerment of women, the decoupling of sex and reproduction thanks to effective contraception, and intolerance of sex crimes such as date rape. As for children in earlier societies, they were “routinely abused physically and psychologically. In this context, unwanted sexual activity with adults might have seemed minor.” He is right to present a challenge to the idea of lost golden ages in which everyone could frolic freely together in some bucolic paradise of carefree intimacy. In most times and places life has been much harsher than it is for most of us today, both in the struggle for sheer survival and in the often brutal customs bred by such struggle. Ethan’s account, indeed, came dangerously near to being persuasive, as though – heaven forfend! – it might be based on something other than pure ignorance! Were it not for the fact that he appears never to read anything (despite having a PhD in psychology from one of the world’s leading universities), I might suspect he had been glancing at the odd page by Lloyd deMause, the “psychohistorian” who has presented history as a series of eras, each slightly less bleak for children than the last, culminating in our present relatively caring times. This simplistically progressive Mausian view has been criticised as grounded in a highly selective history of child abuse rather than a history of childhood. But I would not expect Ethan to have read enough to discover that much!

Peter Loudon, in reply, also astutely observed a fallacy in Ethan’s view:

One fallacy we all fall for is to regard the place we are now (in history) as being the place everything in the past was aiming for. The fact that we keep moving on means that this is not correct, and could apply to your assessment of where we currently stand…The price we have paid for security, immunity from dying in war, etc. is a succession of generations of people who have neither imagination nor initiative, and have traded life for obesity and a PlayStation. Everyone is held hostage to the threat of the paedophile and so no longer does anything outside or physical. Huge numbers of children suffer from ADHD.

The VPs have two even stronger points though. Firstly, they say radical activism by self-declared MAPs is doomed: MAP action on behalf of children, especially, will inevitably be discredited as self-interested. Discreet work for youth under some other designation than MAP would be more helpful, they say. I agree! Personally, having long been upfront as a MAP, such an option would not be open to me. Does that mean I would do well just to shut up? In terms of outreach to the wider public, maybe so. I do see a continuing public education role, however, for Heretic TOC and any other forums with a MAP presence which present the issues in a rational, informative and morally defensible way.

Ponder this: several times in Heretic TOC’s one-year history, the daily hit-rate has shot up massively for a while, by many hundreds, thanks to being mentioned in a hostile way on sites such as David Icke’s. Many of these people can be expected to have rummaged around the website in the expectation of being outraged. One might suppose these potentially very angry visitors would do their damnedest to set the comments pages alight with their flaming. Well, guess what? They don’t! I have not been flamed or trolled even once in 2013 so far as I can recall. Yes, they know that on a moderated site the flame would be trashed, but even so… My theory is that thousands of people go away less angry than they expected to be, and perhaps even a bit impressed. Am I wrong? If so, tell me why.

The VPs second strong point is that radical MAP activists have been reduced to talking among ourselves. This, too, is largely true. But, as my last point suggests, this does not necessarily make the exercise useless. Our actions are very, very constrained by the law and by public opinion. That being the case, we need to think, and websites such as this enable us to do so. Speaking for myself, I am too old and clapped out to lead any sort of revolution, for which in any case I lack the necessary attributes: I am more interested in “calling it as I see it” than doing all the tough alliance-building and strategy stuff that more political types do. But that need not stop younger people here from finding an opportunity to think things through and perhaps be inspired to great works.

Finally, I would point out that society is changing so quickly that none of us can really grasp how things will pan out. The western developed world has within a few decades undergone not one but several cultural revolutions, including non-marital partnerships, gay liberation and the empowerment of women. The new electronic technologies are now shifting things massively again: every kind of pornography except child porn has become ubiquitous, and is making a big impact – some of it good, some perhaps not – on the sexual sophistication of kids from late pre-puberty onwards. In this feverish climate it is by no means certain that the present panicky reaction of the conservatives, with their ever greater emphasis on surveillance and suppression, can hold the line. Children exploring and copying what they see, especially as they get into their second decade, may have a profound influence: we already have sexting and sexy selfies, and that’s only the start of it. In years to come it may prove technically impossible to hide child porn from most kids, too, including its more pleasantly erotic manifestations, in which the participants are seen to be enthusiastically engaged. Where would that take us? In those circumstances the currently dominant abuse narrative would suffer sudden catastrophic collapse, even though it now seems so solid.

It would be helpful, to put it mildly, for radical MAPs rather than VPs to be visible in the midst of such an eventuality, and for them to seize the day, in order to build a newly positive narrative. For such possibilities we need to be prepared.

Virtuous turkeys vote for Christmas

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Heretic TOC offers no detailed comment for the moment on the following guest blog, submitted without invitation by self-styled “virtuous” paedophiles Ethan Edwards and Nick Devin, although the headline speaks for itself. Some will wonder why I agreed to carry this piece at all, perhaps feeling all it will do is take us into sterile sparring and deeper entrenchment in mutual antagonism. However, I think there is enough to justify publication, both in terms of clarifying the VP position and obliging us to think about aspects of reality on which we might prefer to bury our heads in the sand. Or, rather, switching abruptly from the terrestrial to the celestial, might our more revolutionary ambitions be said to belong to Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Virtuous Pedophiles Explain Their Views

We are aware, of course, that many activist pedophiles have been critical of our organization, and we appreciate the opportunity that Tom has provided to share our thoughts. We thought it would be helpful to tell you a little bit about our history, our goals, and how we go about trying to accomplish our goals before we react to the criticism. You can find more information about us on our web site (www.virped.org).

Combatting Stigma

Our first contact with other pedophiles was a few years ago when we joined B4U-ACT. Nick was put in contact with B4U-ACT by a therapist who helped him when he was first coming to grips with his sexuality. Ethan found it from web searching.

Our time with B4U-ACT was disappointing. We believed that stigma was a major source of the problems faced by pedophiles — many pedophiles internalize societal attitudes resulting in severe depression, many even become suicidal. We felt that the main cause of this stigma was society’s conflating of pedophilic feelings with pedophilic actions. We believed that stigma would be reduced if society was made aware that many pedophiles are able to successfully resist their sexual feelings. Hence, our mantra: “We don’t choose to be sexually attracted to children and we can’t stop being sexually attracted to children, but many of us are able to successfully resist our sexual feelings. You should sympathize with us, and help us resist our sexual feelings, not hate us.” We tried to get B4U-ACT to adopt this approach. They had no interest because they felt that it would antagonize pro-contact pedophiles. They also believed that the approach wouldn’t have any impact – that people hate us because of our sexual feelings without regard to whether we act on them.

We continue to believe that we are right on this, and the early evidence is encouraging. Several sympathetic articles calling attention to the plight of pedophiles who successfully resist their sexual feelings have appeared in the year or so that we’ve been around, including in Salon, the Atlantic, the LA Times, CNN, Daily Beast and Crime Library. A recent book, Perv, by Jesse Bering, is similarly supportive, and we know that several college professors use our web site when teaching about pedophilia in their human sexuality classes.

There are a lot of people who share credit for this changing attitude, and we are among them. Will this recent spate of favorable articles make its way into the public consciousness and reduce stigma? We don’t know, but the early signs are hopeful.

Our Forum

In addition to trying to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia, we also try to help pedophiles lead happy, productive, law-abiding lives. We try to accomplish this with our forum, which is a support group for pedophiles who share our core values.

Most of the people who reach out to us are in serious distress. They feel shame because of their sexual feelings, fear that they will not be able to lead happy lives. They feel that things are hopeless, that they are all alone. Many are depressed; some are suicidal. You can get a feel for the pain that people are feeling by clicking on the “First Words” tab under the “Who We Are” section on our web site. Pedophiles who hate their attraction may be able to reach out to us but would never on principle join a pro-contact forum. But thinking we make pedophiles miserable would be reversing cause and effect.

What do we do to help? Sometimes just letting people know that they are not alone, expressing sympathy and support, can be enormously helpful. Those of us who have successfully managed our pedophilia describe how we have done so. Often this involves encouraging people to focus on other interests — job or school or recreational or social activity, or encouraging pedophiles who are also attracted to adults to focus on adult relationships. Sometimes we encourage people to see professionals, often through ATSA, Project Dunkelfeld or ilovechildren.us.

Will we be successful? Will we help pedophiles lead happier, more productive, law-abiding lives? Who knows? We’ve had about 250 people cycle through our forum in the 16 months that we’ve been around. Some join and stay, some are on for a while and leave, some leave and come back. Many of them think that we have helped. Of course, we are not so naive to believe that this means that we have really provided long-term benefit. We suppose the jury is out. We do the best we can to help.

Our Views On Legalization, Harm…

We know this is important to many more activist pedophiles. We consider it to be interesting from an academic perspective but of little practical import to our goal of helping pedophiles lead happier, more productive, law-abiding lives.

None of us lives in ancient Greece and none of us is likely to move there in the near future. Laws and societal attitudes on adult-child sex are not going to change in the foreseeable future. Activist pedophiles have been fighting this battle for more than fifty years. Many are eloquent. Many are clever. They have had no success. Laws have become more harsh; societal attitudes more severe. Activist pedophiles who promote changes in age of consent laws are pretty much reduced to talking among themselves and have no ability to influence discussion on important issues where change is possible. Their arguments have no traction with society at all. Even if we shared their views, which we do not, we would remain silent and choose a different battle.

In terms of our view of whether consensual sexual relations between children and adults are harmful, our understanding from leading sexologists is that it is not as harmful as is generally believed and is not harmful in all cases. It is, however, harmful in many cases, sometimes severely so. The problem from the pedophile’s perspective is that he can’t know ahead of time which cases will result in harm. A child who seems to be enjoying sexual activity at the time may later internalize societal attitudes and severe harm could result. Taking the bigger picture, whatever the level of harm, there is very little benefit. Very few people look back on their childhood sexual experiences with other adults as profoundly positive – the relationship may have been, but not the sexual aspects. A great many look back with great anguish.

We do not take seriously claims of activists that they are really advocating for the right of children to engage in sexual activity with adults. The claim seems implausible on its face – why is it that only procontact activist pedophiles argue that children should have the right to have sex with adults? Surely others are also concerned about children yet they don’t seem to think the right is important. Children will eventually become adults and can then have the entire panopoly of sexual experiences, so it is hard to see how denying them this right for a few years results in harm. Moreover, we have no problem with children experimenting sexually with similarly aged peers.

Relations With Pedophile Activists

We think we probably agree with other pedophile activists on about 90% of the issues – reducing stigma, helping pedophiles deal with mental health issues brought on by their pedophilia such as depression, making mental health care more accessible, eliminating mandatory reporter rules, eliminating sex offender registries, eliminating civil commitment, eliminating laws prohibiting things like virtual porn and erotic fiction… We don’t think pedophiles should feel shame as a result of their sexual attractions. We think children should not be made to feel guilty about sexual feelings and explorations. When adults do engage in sexual activity with children, we think the children should be treated in ways designed to reduce iatrogenic harm.

It is disappointing to us that pedophiles who disagree with us on a small number of issues focus on those few areas of disagreement instead of the many issues where we agree. It is particularly perplexing since it should be apparent to everyone that there is no prospect for changing laws relating to adult-child sex in the foreseeable future but our organization has helped make progress on some of the other issues.

We think the negative reaction may be a reaction to our perceived holier-than-thou attitude as reflected in our name and in our public statements that adults should not have sex with children.

In terms of the name, it was not subjected to focus group analysis among different constituencies. Ethan’s top choice was “Celibate Pedophiles”, and while Nick’s preference for the name won out, he viewed it as basically synonymous with “Celibate Pedophiles” – which he disliked as suggesting erroneously that none of us had sex with legal adults. The original internal working name was “Gold-Star Pedophiles”, after the Dan Savage column – and while we liked the column, we felt that as the name of an organization it was demeaning, gold stars being worthless fluff bestowed by adults on gullible children.

“Virtuous Pedophiles” was chosen not with regard to how pedophiles who debate such things on the internet would feel about it. It was directed to the 90% or more of society who know very little about the issue. Among them, a common view is that all pedophiles rape crying and struggling children and get sadistic pleasure out of it. “Virtuous Pedophiles” contradicts that stereotype. It is also meant to exclude those who engage in sexual activity with children by apparent mutual consent (leaving under debate how fully informed such consent could be). Yes, by our name we intentionally set ourselves apart from such pedophiles. We think it’s really important that people know we exist, and the evidence that we were right is that it can get some people of liberal inclinations to think more carefully and sympathetically about pedophiles. We do not view ourselves as virtuous in contrast to pedophiles who are opposed to adult-child sex under today’s circumstances but want to transform society so it would be truly OK – though we believe that they are mistaken. Being “not virtuous” is a moral judgment. People who do engage in sexual activity with children know better or should know better, and we do think of ourselves as more virtuous than they are. (We have a few members who have engaged in sexual contact with children, but are remorseful and are dedicated to never doing so again.)

With respect to our persistent statements that adult-child sex is wrong: The general public hates pedophiles. Pedophiles who waffle about whether adult-child sex might be OK do not get a hearing. The only way to get society to listen is for those of us who are truly opposed to adult-child sex to emphasize that fact. This requires us to say it loudly and often. To borrow from Tom’s always eloquent rhetoric, we have to burnish our halos.

We would never suggest that those of you who disagree with us should pretend you agree. But you might wish us well instead of despising us. To the extent we are successful, you might benefit in terms of all those issues we agree on.

Daylight robbery follows thief in the night

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Today’s guest blog is a follow-up to Heretic TOC’s Freedom stolen by a thief in the night, earlier this month, which reported on a sneaky bid by British politician Sir Paul Beresford MP to squeeze a new law under the radar. The Bill would make possession of written material about children illegal if deemed pornographic. This guest piece was submitted by “Mr Phil” as a comment on the original blog, but I feel it needs greater prominence: it presents a lot of new information on this and other dangerous shenanigans currently in play in the UK Parliament. “Mr Phil” prefers to stay incognito at the moment, so I will confine any personal introduction to saying I know he has long been a reliable observer of the British political and legal landscape.

Note especially that the “monster” Bill to which he draws attention seeks to restrict the freedom of UNCONVICTED persons who it is thought MIGHT commit a sex offence IN FUTURE. Scary! Sounds like a job for those “precog” psychics in the movie Minority Report! Gallows humour apart, this measure is even more sinister than the prospect of a lone zealot like Beresford sneakily snatching away an aspect of free expression. This time it is the government: it isn’t just a thief in the night anymore; it’s daylight robbery by a nasty gang of muggers.

Note also the other salient effect of the Bill, which is to curtail even further the freedom of children and youth. There was a time, not so far distant, when kids could roam free, exploring their natural and social environment to their hearts’ content: a good thing in itself and with long-term benefits to their development. Now most of them have become prisoners in their own bedrooms thanks to overblown “protection”. This latest measure would leave them unable to move a muscle lest they “annoy” anyone.

Like a Thief In the Night, Part II

There is a real monster of a Bill currently going through, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

Its main purpose is to reform the system of civil and criminal injunctions that courts can impose on people deemed to have behaved anti-socially. The best known of these is the ASBO (anti-social behaviour order), often imposed on children and youths. Another is the SOPO (sexual offences prevention order), which can only be imposed on people who have committed offences deemed “sexual” (not necessarily sex offences). Since breach is usually a criminal offence, these orders are perhaps best considered criminal laws that are created arbitrarily by a court and apply to one person only, one of the nicer innovations by former prime minister Tony Blair’s Labour government.

After the new Conservative-led coalition government came to power in 2010 it was announced that ASBOs were to be abolished.

Well, I suppose this Bill in some trivial technical sense does abolish both ASBOs and SOPOs, but only to replace them with something (a) in most ways very similar and (b) to the extent they differ, very much worse.

The circumstances in which the replacements for the ASBO can be imposed have been dramatically widened, from situations that are deemed actually to cause “harassment, alarm or distress” to those that might potentially cause “nuisance and annoyance”, and the threshold for imposition lowered from “necessary” to (I kid you not) “convenient”. Liberty (the former National Council for Civil Liberties) describes it as “breathtakingly broad”.

There are two replacements for the SOPO, both in most ways very similar to the SOPO itself, but one of them, the SRO (sexual risk order) can be imposed not merely on people who have past convictions for offences deemed sexual, but on anyone deemed to have (at any time in the past) “done an act [sic] of a [deemed] sexual nature” that indicates they might commit a sex offence in future. That this is also breathtakingly broad somehow escaped Liberty’s notice, and everyone else’s.

The Bill is now well on its way through Parliament. It has passed most of its House of Commons stages and is currently in its House of Lords committee stage. This has been going through Parliament for many months, and we in Britain should really have been following. Well, we all, including me, took our eye off the ball until now, as it is about to hit us in the face.

Anyway that is all the by the bye, as background to the fact that, in addition to his Ten-Minute Rule Bill, which was the subject of the Thief in the Night blog, Beresford made the same book-burning proposal as an amendment to this Bill. As usual, he tried to sneak it in at the last minute, in this case at the report stage after the Commons committee stage, on October 14. The debate is here, and was interesting on both sides. Paul Goggins seconded, he being the former junior minister who helped Beresford sneak so many measures through under the last Labour regime, thief-in-the-night-style, just as Tom described.

Beresford said that he is proposing this on behalf of CEOP (the police’s “child exploitation and online protection” unit) and the Metropolitan Police paedophile unit. He said that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has told him she will ask for a report from them on the necessity for this change, and that some months ago he and the Met unit made a presentation to Home Office minister Damian Green, to which they brought examples. (Is it proper for the police to use public money lobbying in this way? Apparently they can get away with it.)

Beresford claimed that his amendment would only ban possession of material that is already illegal to show or distribute, under the Obscene Publications Acts. He did not explain how it is in his power to know that, especially given that his definition is quite different to that in the OPA. He also failed to mention that the OPA is very rarely used, practically a dead letter.

Damian Green replied, saying the government are rejecting Beresford’s idea – for now: “criminalising the written word is a significant step that requires a pause.” But the government will consider it for the future. To support it, they would require evidence that such material is actually harming children. This is some relief, albeit perhaps temporary. Notably, the previous Labour government criminalised possession of “obscene” drawings without any evidence, even though they had taken evidence before banning possession of “extreme” (adult) porn.

Beresford then withdrew his amendment, and it looks as though the clause will not be in this Bill (although I am reluctant to say “never”). Whether it will return and how soon are still opaque. Presumably if he and the Met were very quick about getting together something the government accepted as evidence, time could yet be made next year for his Ten-Minute Rule Bill, though that seems unlikely.

We do however now know how active and well-supported the campaign for it is, and therefore how well-organised any campaign against needs to be, at what level it needs to pitch itself, and to some extent what it needs to argue. Individual letters to MPs do no harm but will not be enough. Some proper lobbying of government is necessary. I think that is beyond the resources of this blog and its little community, so we should be looking for allies and trying to make them aware of the implications of what is on the way.

There has been a trickle of comment pieces elsewhere about the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, all of them, like this, rather late in the day:

The Guardian — police chief says Bill will restrict normal childhood activities:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/11/antisocial-behaviour-police-chief-young-people
(This is the story that first alerted me to the Bill.)

The Independent — threat to freedom of assembly:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/councils-to-be-given-powers-to-ban-peaceful-protests-that-might-disturb-local-residents-8940535.html

Chilling effects on liberty generally:
http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/11/11/the-birth-of-a-police-state-uk-police-to-be-granted-sweeping-new-powers-2/

There are petitions calling for rejection of the entire Bill, as too bad to rescue with mere amendments. Probably futile, but very little effort, so why not try?
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/53083
http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/uk-government-reject-the-anti-social-behaviour-crime-and-policing-bill

TOC again: Amazingly, in view of all the above, the latest big news in this morning’s Sunday Times is that a leading public health expert has called for the age of consent to be lowered to 15. But the ink was hardly dry before Prime Minster David Cameron announced there were no plans to change the present age of 16.

A plague on both your APA houses

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Young pedophile commits suicide

Heretic TOC’s first anniversary blog promised something important was on the way. The life-threatening mental anguish of minor-attracted teenagers to which today’s shocking photos draw attention surely measures up to that criterion. This blog has had a strict no photos policy until now, explicitly to avoid any possible association with images of child abuse.

Ironically, it is precisely such abuse that Heretic TOC now feels an urgent need to expose: abuse not by adult molesters or rapists but by two organisations that ought to be helping young people instead of making their lives unbearable. These are the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, two of the most important organisations in the world in the field of mental health. A plague on both their houses for failing to measure up!

The photos tell their own story very powerfully, so I will try to keep this reasonably brief. Showing them is part of a wider effort to draw attention to the present scandalous situation and to put pressure on these organisations to mend their ways. That is why Fight Back recently launched their message into the public arena.

As Fightback says, “both APAs have recently released press releases in response to right wing fundamentalist complaints that the new DSM 5 classifies pedophilia as a sexual orientation. The press releases ignore the mental health of people with the diagnosis and instead advocate their prosecution.”

Peter Hooper, occasionally a commentator here, was quick off the mark with his own excellent blog on this theme a couple of days ago, Mistakes can have a very high price. Rather than me reinventing the wheel, you can read his analysis. His website is called Take A Risk NZ.

I will just add that recognising paedophilia as a sexual orientation is a really big deal. The scientists have been moving towards a consensus in recent years that paedophilia is indeed a sexual orientation; the problem lies with the organisations’ politically minded “leadership”, who really amount to a craven followership of whichever lobby they are most scared of offending. The issue is important because there are already laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Paedophiles of any age who stay within the law would benefit hugely if discrimination against them in employment, housing, access to sports and leisure facilities, engagement in community activities, etc., were to be made illegal via logical application of current law to a newly recognised orientation.

Such a development could have a massive impact in lifting the psychological pressure now bearing down on MAPs, and especially on young ones. Those of us who have survived a decade or more of adult life may find the going tough, but at least we have gained some experience of how to get by and even thrive, despite the worst society can throw at us. Without such experience the young are more vulnerable: it can easily appear to them that the future will be utterly, permanently, relentlessly bleak. Being brought under the protection of anti-discrimination laws would reduce depression, suicidality and other manifestations of poor mental health among MAPs so that the young and the rest of us would have less need for therapy. Having said that, the APAs should be working much harder towards delivering better mental health provision than the “treatment” currently meted out, which is often hostile, oppressive and punitive.

Young teen pedophile commits suicide

As for whether Heretic TOC’s contribution will do any good, yes it can, especially as it is part of a wider effort. Richard Kramer, of B4U-ACT, has been vigorous in his critique of the two APAs in a recent debate at the influential Sexnet scientific and clinical forum, and I have put in my own two penn’orth there as well, and so has one of this blog’s contributors, Peter Loudon – well, at least 10 penn’orth in his case! Additionally, you other heretics here can all do your own bit by tweeting links to the photos and blog info, plus networking in any other way you can think of: Facebook, links on other relevant sites, etc. It will be great if this goes viral.

What’s the point of it all, really?

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It is exactly a year since the launch of Heretic TOC. Time to celebrate, then?

I can’t honestly say I am in party mood. There will be no birthday cake with a solitary candle to blow out. We heretics are too close to being snuffed out ourselves for that to be good symbolism. The very first blog, titled The real silenced voices, began with the words “Are we in the midst of paedogeddon?” This was a reference to the Jimmy Savile upheaval, and the short answer to the question still looks horribly like “Yes”. Only this week there was further fallout in the UK from this endlessly radioactive saga, when the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions called for non-reporting of “child sexual abuse” to be made a criminal offence.

Celebration, then, is out of place, but a glance backwards is definitely in order. Starting at the beginning, which seems as good a place as any, I am amazed to discover there are no fewer than 15 blogs in the November 2012 archive, all published in the last three weeks of that month. I struggle now with one a week, but that was nearly one a day! How on earth did I find time for that? Well, for one thing, brevity: the first blog was under 300 words, whereas these days it always seems the job needs at least 1500. It’s not that I’m waffling more, is it? I honestly don’t think so. The concise, punchy, opinion piece is always a readable and popular item but Heretic TOC aspires to be a bit more than that now, with a rather more thoroughly researched and in-depth approach. Not everyone will like it but at least I can report that a small but clearly intelligent and knowledgeable following does appear to appreciate what is on offer here.

Or perhaps not so small, as I am not sure what the standard of comparison should be. There are millions of blogs out there now, about half of which are read by no one but the blogger who writes them! Further comparative figures of this sort were contemplated in A thousand hits in ten days, a title which says it all about Heretic TOC’s encouraging initial following. So how do the stats stack up now? Writing a few days ahead of the anniversary, it looks as though there will be over 65,000 hits in the year, which makes 1,250 hits per week, or nearly 180 per day. This looks like a strong improvement over the start-up period of 100 per day, but the figures are flattered by a boost up to over 300 per day in January when Heretic TOC was initially featured as a new entry on Boylinks. The average per day in the last quarter has settled to a steady but less heady 145 or so, including a core of 40 “followers” who have asked for email notification when each Heretic TOC piece appears.

I am told these figures could probably be increased considerably by judicious use of Twitter. I can well imagine. Stephen Fry, for instance, has over six million followers: tweeting him cleverly enough, so that he notices and responds, would really put a blog on the map. But that’s small fry, if you’ll excuse the pun: Justin Beiber has not six million but forty six million followers! Presumably, though, many of those would be minors (dangerous!), and I’m guessing few of the true “beliebers”, minor or major, would be up for Heretic TOC’s rather cerebral style. I keep telling myself it is high time I started getting into this Twitter thing but somehow it never seems to happen – showing my age, I suppose.

One feature of Heretic TOC that has definitely not been small is the sheer amount of blogging and readers’ comments. The 88 blogs published within the year, including guest blogs, probably (no exact stats on this) amount to around 150,000 words. Nearly 1,300 readers comments have been published, i.e. around 15 per blog on average, and despite my occasional pleas for brevity I reckon around half a million words of comment have appeared, not all of them rude! That represents a lot of work by you, dear readers, which I have been delighted to see. At a guess, about two thirds of that has been really good stuff, in my view, and has needed very little moderation. The remaining material, though, including posts which had to be rejected on grounds of personal abuse, repetition of previous positions, incoherence, etc., involved me in some very difficult – indeed at times utterly draining and exasperating – bouts of moderating. This, indeed, has been by far my toughest task, which has at times thoroughly tested my capacity to be as calm, fair and objective as a moderator ought to be.

This brings me to what I think may be the most useful aspect of this “backward glance”. I could spend an agreeable time trawling through the archive, hunting out those blogs I most enjoyed writing, or those on the most significant themes, or the ones that elicited the greatest response. Instead, I feel I should focus on my judgement – which was just a vague feeling at first, but growing stronger with every passing month – that not every heresy here is of equal value, whether my own or those of other contributors. But presenting Heretic TOC as “Not the dominant discourse”, it seemed wrong for this blog, of all blogs, to discriminate against, and suppress, any views just because I disagree with them.

That is a position I am pleased and proud to maintain, but as time has gone on I have become surer than ever that I am keen to encourage intelligent discussion rather than just mindless ranting and raving. Many of the early contributions were excellent. That remains the case; and latterly, I am pleased to say, the proportion of really thoughtful and well informed posts has been rising significantly too. Not that this should deter anyone from dashing off relatively trivial contributions, especially if there is an element of humour. The last thing Heretic TOC wants is to give the impression everything has to be polished to perfection before hitting the send button: spontaneity is fine, speling misteaks are welcum!

To say, at this natural time for assessment, what I like to see at Heretic TOC is relatively easy: it is my personal blog, after all, so I need only introspect. A much tougher question is what, if anything, the blog might objectively be thought to achieve. Is it an end in itself? Does it aspire, immodestly, to change the world? Others will have their own views on the potential and the limitations of such a forum and may choose to comment accordingly. I would guess that a blog needs a readership base about a thousand times as big as Heretic TOC’s before it stands any chance of being politically influential to a discernible level. And unlike the Virtuous Pedophiles, whose message, even if we hate it, clearly has some appeal in “liberal” media outlets, the heresies voiced here at Heretic TOC are likely to be shunned by the wider world in the foreseeable future.

What, then, is the point? To be entirely honest, I am not sure. I know there are umpteen blogs I want to write, and that I am in absolutely no danger whatever of running out of things to say. On the contrary, my problem with every blog is trying to focus on one small theme rather than going off on all sorts of interesting tangents. But I do sometimes wonder whether – since writing seems to be in my blood – I might do better to concentrate my limited time on authoring books, or submitting articles to academic journals. What do you think?

 

STOP PRESS: Having struck a note of existential angst here, suddenly comes news of what may be a really important function this blog could perform immediately: like, today. Well, almost today. Tomorrow, I hope. First, I just want to let today’s blog sink in, although what happens in the next 24 hours, or 48 at most, could blow away the doubts. We’ll see. I may be getting overexcited. You can be the judge of that in due course. Just watch this space over the weekend.

Freedom stolen by a thief in the night

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It’s been a bad week here in Britain for freedom of expression. For starters, Heretic TOC’s voice has been choked off by a “broadband” connection getting narrower and narrower for weeks now, finally strangling the life out of any internet availability in recent days. This follows a service “upgrade” by my ISP, which, in the Orwellian language of our times, is actually a downgrade.

No doubt it’s all a government plot, which is exactly what the press have been claiming about the new royal charter on press regulation, sealed this week (under the Great Seal of the Realm, stamped onto scarlet wax on a vellum document), although to our American friends it might sound as though King George is back on the throne, personally intervening to stop the press saying he is mad, and perhaps plotting under cover of press silence to take back the rebellious trans-Atlantic colonies.

Actually, it is not a royal plot, nor a government one, nor even a parliamentary one, even though all the major political parties support the new charter. It is a measure which in the long term has the potential to bring about not censorship but, on the contrary, a fuller range of information and opinion in the mainstream media. This is because the system of voluntary self-regulation by the press which is envisaged would provide for, amongst other important features, a right of reply for those who are traduced in the routine character assassinations carried out by press barons such as Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun, Fox News and much else, and Paul Dacre, editor of the hideous Daily Mail. These big guns look like rejecting such a voluntary code for the time being, but this could leave them seriously vulnerable to high court costs when defending any future cases brought against them for libel and other civil claims.

No, the real reason it is a bad week for freedom of expression here has come much more stealthily, like a thief in the night. The threat in question is a brief measure which has passed entirely under the radar so far. I am referring to the Coroners and Justice (Amendment) Bill, which you have probably not heard about even if you live in the UK. It is a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Sir Paul Beresford, a Conservative Party MP, who has a track record of quietly sneaking nasty, freedom-slashing measures into law while his fellow legislators are shagging their secretaries or propping up the numerous bars in the Houses of Parliament. Or so it seems, judging by the lack of any hue and cry over his dark deeds. Or perhaps it is just Beresford’s tactical cunning that fools them, because he presents himself not as a thief of freedom but as – this will be no surprise – a protector of children, and of decency.

So what, then, is his latest wheeze, his new coup of legislative legerdemain? In the official summary on parliament’s website, it is “A Bill to amend section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 so as to apply additionally to the possession of pornographic written material about children.” Yes, your suspicion is correct, this guy wants to ban possession not just of images, as per the existing section 62, but also of the written word where material about children is deemed to be pornographic – an extremely alarming development if it succeeds, and one which would be unconstitutional in the US. It could be used to censor and punish private fantasies in a personal unpublished journal, for instance, and could inhibit legitimate discussion of children’s sexuality in correspondence or on a blog like this.

Some heretics will remember the Sharpe case in Canada, where the law already restricts the written word. The case against Robin Sharpe’s writings was eventually dismissed when he argued in their defence that they had artistic merit. A professor of literature compared Sharpe’s written works to “transgressive expression” parallel to the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. Under Beresford’s Bill, though, artistic merit would not be available as a defence.

The original section 62 was itself slipped into a Bill that, as the name implies, was supposed to be mostly about coroners and the courts over which they preside, and thus concerned with death, not childhood. On that occasion, in 2009, the Bill was used to outlaw possession of pornographic images of children other than photographs, which were already covered under the law against indecent images. This measure was aimed against pornographic Japanese manga and suchlike. The offence carries a three-year maximum prison sentence. There do not appear to have been any high-profile prosecutions under the Act but that does not mean it has not been used – I personally know two people who have been convicted following police raids in which their own drawings have been among the items taken along with (inevitably) any computers.

The proposed law says in order for material to be illegal it would need to be “grossly offensive, disgusting or pornographic or otherwise of an obscene character.” The same four descriptors are used in the 2009 Act with regard to images. In a BBC news item over a year ago Beresford outlined his plans, claiming the law would be tightly written to cover obscene writing of a nature “that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal”. Only “absolutely vile” material would be targeted, he said, adding by way of example that well-known novels such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita – which famously explores a middle-aged man’s sexual involvement with a 12-year old girl – would not be covered.

Plenty of people, though, have professed themselves grossly offended and disgusted by Lolita. Possession of that particular work might be hard to prosecute as it has become so well established, but the works of newer writers of equal merit would be much less secure. The Crown Prosecution Service advises that “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character” are not intended to be read as three separate concepts. “Grossly offensive” and “disgusting” are examples of “an obscene character” and not alternatives to it. But is that how a jury would see it? The wording will surely suggest to them that their visceral dislike of the material is a good enough reason to say it is illegal, and that is a very dangerous notion.

Bad law or not, though, Beresford tends to get his way. His successes include a five-year possible jail penalty for those who refuse to provide a decrypting key to allow police to inspect computers suspected of holding child pornography. He was also involved in efforts to introduce a fast-track procedure for issuing warrants in cases where people on the sex offenders’ register refuse police access to their home.

Yesterday, the Bill was due to be given its Second Reading in parliament – a crucial stage which usually determines whether a Bill will become law or not. It appears to have been postponed, though. Parliament’s website is now saying it will be next week, on 8 November. British heretics should consider alerting their own MP to the need to oppose the Bill – some parliamentarians, after all, even Conservatives such as David Davis, do actually take a serious interest in preserving civil liberties and opposing excessive surveillance and censorship. Only vigilance, including ours, can stop people like Beresford from going too far.

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