Heretic TOC presents a guest blog today from “Sylvie”, who has the unusual and possibly record-breaking distinction of having been openly an advocate of decriminalising consensual sexual relationships between adults and children since the age of 13, arguing the case passionately with friends, classmates, and even teachers! Her liberal parents, she tells me, were the kind of people who would keep a close eye on their child without interfering. What follows is part of an email I received recently from Sylvie. With her approval, it has been edited for this blog.  

I have wanted to write to you for a long time. I feel the time has now come. Many times l have tried to sit down and write but it seemed I just could not get my head around it as my story begins when l was 13 and me being 38 now, that’s quite a frightening length of time! To make a long story short: like you, l advocate for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relationships between adults and children, and have relentlessly been doing so since l was 13. Does that make me the youngest activist who has ever lived? 🙂

I was an intellectual child, listening to classical composers at 8, reading Oscar Wilde at 10 and EM Forster at 11. I was fortunate enough to have parents who granted me unconditional freedom. Yet not everyone was as sensible so I sometimes ended up surrounded by adults who mistakenly took me for a “poser” claiming that, at my age, l could not really understand what l was reading. How pathetic are adults who belittle children! Truth is: my books were my best friends and literature has taught me more on the human condition than one could ever hope to learn in a lifetime without it; and l can assure you that not only could l understand everything l read as a child, but my understanding was real and deep.

One day – l was 13 by that time – upon returning home from school, l found this magazine and l learned that behind the story of the girl who falls down a rabbit hole was an Oxford don who went by the name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and that this whimsical, magical man happened to be, among other things, a lover of children. For the first time in my life the words “paedophile” and “paedophilia” appeared before my eyes. It struck a powerful chord deep inside, and my path has been clear to me since that day. To me it just seemed OK to love children and l could see nothing wrong with it, provided no coercion was exercised. I vividly recall looking at the image of Lewis Carroll and thinking to myself these very words: “I like you”. That was the start of a lifelong friendship between Mr Dodgson and l.

It was also the start for me of my advocacy for the rights of paedophiles. Throughout the following year l researched the subject, growing more and more aware of the discrepancy between hysteria and reality, more and more indignant at the social stigma that affects paedophilia, forcing too many paedophiles into the darkness, making them unable to open up to anyone, with the dire consequences on many levels that this forced isolation brings about.

As I had always been interested in issues surrounding civil liberties, l had from time to time magazines at home that dealt with either women’s rights or gay rights. One day I noticed an ad in the Contact page of a gay magazine. In the ad it was stated that a pressure group called “Gruppo P” had been formed to promote discussion of intergenerational relationships and that anyone who was interested in joining was welcome to contact them. I immediately did. In my letter I explained that I was a 14-year-old, that I believed that consensual contacts between children and adults existed and could be desired by both parties, that such contacts did not necessarily result in harm, and that therefore this type of non-coercive relationships had to be decriminalised. I said I was willing to actively help and join the group.

Soon afterwards I received a letter from the group’s founder, asking me to contact him at his work phone number, which l did. In retrospect l now think he wanted to make sure that l was who l claimed l was. When l called him we agreed to meet.

I was not scared. All l wanted to do was to go out and march, head up high, banner in hand, for the advancement of our cause (how much l miss the naivety of youth!) Unfortunately l was too young to formally join (minimum age required was 16) so I remained on the sidelines, eagerly waiting for the day when l could become a full member. Sadly, that day never came as the police investigated Gruppo P. The founder phoned to let me know the police might pay me a visit, although he believed that as I was a young girl they would not try to pursue a case against me. He was right: they never came. Not that I was intimidated by the thought of encountering them. On the contrary, I was eager to meet the police so I could “preach” the legitimacy of our cause (such is the folly of youth!).

The founder was in due course arrested, accused of “conspiracy”. I can testify that there were absolutely no illegal activities inside Gruppo P. Its aims were not criminal but political. Nevertheless the founder and others were arrested and held in custody awaiting trial: evidently the coming together of dissidents who challenged the current laws was considered a crime in itself. As we who hold these beliefs well know, Orwell’s concept of “thought crime” becomes a reality where discussion of paedophilia is concerned.

I recall very well the innuendos that were made. It was put about that an enormous quantity of illegal material had been found, but no such material circulated at Gruppo P! It was claimed that members were actively seeking children to groom, but l for one had never been approached in a sexual way. I was always treated as an equal; no one tried to take advantage of me.

What l also recall is the ugly ostracism of Gruppo P by the gay organisations. The police raid made their dearest dream come true: get rid of paedophiles. The gays said they “abhorred” paedophilia, insisting that homosexuals stand for sexual liberation and paedophiles are opposed to it because they force themselves on individuals who cannot consent.

I wanted to appear in court as a defence witness, but the lawyers ignored me, and my friend was eventually found guilty of conspiracy. In the following years I have seen or heard of former activists who have grown disillusioned, gone underground, given up…. For me, it is something l will never get over. I have seen or heard of too many people living a death-in-life: I cannot accept it; I will never accept it, and it brings me anguish.

I have had your book Paedophilia: The Radical Case since 2003. I have always told myself that sooner or later I would contact you, and as soon as the PIE “scandal” came out this year, l googled your name and, voilà, I saw that you have a blog. [For the “scandal” see Paedogate puts the past in the pillory]

I agree with you that this reign of hysteria will eventually come to an end. You and l might not see it, but future generations will. It is for these future generations that we must now stand our ground. Refusing to be silenced is one way, and a dignified one at that. Familiarity is another: reaching out to people who are close enables us to help them see through this fog of lies surrounding paedophilia. l have always taken every opportunity to discuss the issue. I have never been afraid or ashamed to share my beliefs. A propaganda-fed mob might bay to see paedophiles hanging from a rope but individuals will listen. For almost 25 years now I have taken the time to sit down at a table with a friend, a colleague, or a stranger, and say something like, “Look, things are not exactly what they seem. Please, let me explain.”

I spoke from the heart and from the mind; through rationality, compassion, and truth, l had them listen, ponder, and challenge their prejudice. I saw people genuinely persuaded of the unjust treatment reserved for paedophiles. I saw people genuinely sorry. I saw people, including my own mother, grow indignant at injustice. And l always thought that if we can persuade them that they are all being lied to through toxic and hysterical propaganda, and that there are fellow humans in this world who are being persecuted for the simple reason that they exist, then there is hope that they will perceive the terrible injustice suffered by paedophiles, and no man or woman of good will can tolerate a modern witch-hunt without starting to question its legitimacy.

And through questioning comes change. Am l being overly optimistic? Maybe. But l refuse to be cynical. We must work to create a society where paedophiles can lead normal and productive lives, within the boundaries of the law. Paedophiles also need to be educated: it is not only immoral, but dangerous as well, to have people indoctrinated on a daily basis, stuffing the idea down their throats that they are “molesters”, that their affections and inclinations are nothing but a “disorder” to be treated. This is a lie, and we must fight it.

As EM Forster put it, “For we fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count.”

I am willing now as much as l have been for the past 25 years, to speak up for truth, and actively help in any way l can.

My greatest pride is that in my youth I was an independent thinker. My beliefs sprang from within, and these beliefs prompted me to reach out to like-minded people, in whose company l could share what mattered most to me. These are the people I am most grateful to have met, to this day.