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).
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.
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.