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.