Pedophilia has been more popular than icecream since about 1979. Paedophilia, however, has always been less popular than icecream except in just one year, 2007, when it enjoyed a brief moment of glory, pulling ahead of icecream only to fall back again the following year.

Heretic TOC was inspired to make these discoveries following comments on Boy Chat about Ice-Cream Hands, the short film introduced here in the previous blog, ‘Harmless’ paedos venture out of the shadows. In the BC thread, “cabinet maker” found the film “creepy as shit”, adding “the ice cream man is a pedophile? how much more stereotypical can we get?” On the other hand “Kit” said “Love the ice cream-man cliche.”

While opinions of the film itself ranged from rave to rubbish, nobody disputed that it was indeed a cliché to make the paedophilic Mr Sprinkles an ice-cream seller.

I wasn’t so sure. Yes, any ice-cream van is a kid magnet, so it would make sense for the connection to be a cliché, but I couldn’t immediately think of another film, TV programme, book, painting or any other medium in which this connection was expressed. Then I recalled Chester the Molester, the comic strip character from Hustler magazine. The strip ran for years, with Chester depicted comically (feminists of the po-faced variety will disagree) setting up all manner of ruses to get into kids’ pants, so surely he must have been depicted selling ice-cream? I was never a Hustler reader myself so I can only guess, but googling soon revealed that others have made their own connection, and in the following case linked it to evidence (albeit unsourced and with no details) from news stories involving errant ice-cream vendors:

Chester Molester The Ice Cream Truck Driver
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It has been brought to my attention that this summer has been a time for creepy, mullet wearing, goatee sporting, shit eating grin men to come out of the woodwork and mess with our young ones.
On the news today I heard of three…Count em three cases where Ice cream truck drivers have bribed children into taking there clothes off for free icecream. Not only that These molesting mother fuckers are taking photos of it too!
Apparently the story goes as followed:
Chester the Molester finds unsuspecting children on the streets while riding around in the molester mobile…Otherwise known as the ice cream truck. Once the kids stop the man, if they’re right for the picking Chester offers them a ride in his pimp ass ice cream truck. Now, if I were a child and was offered a ride in an ice cream truck I probably would have gone too…So don’t blame the kids, they’re just kids.
Once inside the truck, Chester starts his molestation trap. Next thing you know the kids walk out of the truck slightly confused but with a bombsicle tightly gripped in there hands.
Chester gets off easy with his photographs with his naked children…And then he’s off to the next neighborhood.

It turns out that comedian Tim Minchin, has very effectively milked the ice-cream theme too. His Häagen-Dazs-level performance is probably the cream of the cream but, not to be licked (sorry!), the amateur jokesters are hanging in there.

Putting up some admirable resistance to this damning image is Lenore Skenazy at her admirable Free-Range Kids website (“How to raise safe, self-reliant children”). Skenazy, as some heretics here will surely know, hit the headlines a while back after allowing her nine-year-old son to ride home alone on the New York City Subway, and has written a book on less paranoid parenting. In an article titled “Does Ice Cream Man = Pervert?” she notes the fusion of the two in popular culture, “like the twin sticks of a Popsicle”. She objects vigorously in this piece to a proposal for state and federal fingerprint-based criminal history checks on people applying for ice cream van vending licences.

Some of her readers backed her up, pointing out that ice-cream vending is a very public business, and anyone selling from a van is firmly separated from his customers. The traditional department store Santa Claus has a much greater chance of a grope in his grotto. As for teachers, scout leaders and sports coaches, they all enjoy a long-term lust licence, while the opportunities for illicit intimacy open to close relatives, including siblings and parents, are absolutely endless and not infrequently taken.

I was an ice-cream man myself, as it happens, so I can speak from some experience! It was just a brief student job before I went into teaching. It was nice to make the kiddies happy (only with the ice-cream!) but also a much tougher job than might be thought: you have to work hard at building up a profitable round and it isn’t always easy: there are turf wars; a good pitch will be fiercely contested. Yes, you can bribe kids with free ice-cream and invite them into your vehicle, but only at tremendous risk to yourself. Not that bribery would be necessary. Kids ask if they can come aboard and plead to be taken for a ride.

You wouldn’t think that, though, from the supposed victims’ tales of woe in a tabloid yarn earlier this year headlined “Jimmy Savile’s mayor pal ‘preyed on young lads.’ ” This was a Daily Star story about an alleged “paedophile ice-cream tycoon known as the King of the Cornets” who was mayor of the English seaside town of Scarborough. He was said to have employed boys part-time and molested them going home in his van at night after work – while actually driving, it seems. Clearly, a very dangerous man! Nothing was ever proved against him and conveniently for the paper he died in 1999 so is in no position to sue for libel. In fact, it’s a great tab story for three reasons: there’s a villain who is a major local employer and politician, hence too big to prosecute; the guy is a pal of super villain Savile and appeared on his TV show; and last but not least, he panders to the ice-cream man stereotype. Tasty!

Whatever the realities, it seems the Boy Chat thread was quite accurate: people do think ice-cream guys are paedophiles, or might well be. So it is indeed a cliché. At least, it has become so in recent times, as expressed in jokes and comedy sketches if not necessarily in cinema (though I may be wrong, in which case please tell me). There was a 1995 horror film called Ice Cream Man which sounds great fun judging by the IMDB synopsis:

Poor Gregory. After being released from the Wishing Well Sanatorium, all he wants to do is make the children happy. So Gregory reopens the old ice cream factory, and all the unappreciative brats are reprocessed into the flavor of the day.

More Winy Wonka than paedophilia, methinks.

As for novels, there is the very recent The Ice Cream Man by Katri Lipson (the original Finnish title is a wonderfully exotic single word: Jäätelökauppias), which won the 2013 European Union Prize for Literature as a “playful and charming story”. I’m guessing there’s not much paedophilia then.

So what about my claim that paedophilia was more popular than icecream in 2007? What’s that all about?

Books, actually. For the first part of my cliché quest, I thought I’d try the quantification route via references to ice-cream in books. If I could search millions of volumes and see a tight correlation between increasing appearances of the word paedophilia (and pedophilia for American books) and increasing appearances of the word ice-cream, then Heretic TOC could reasonably hypothesise the rise of an ice-cream man cliché as the cause. OK, so a third variable could be the cause of both phenomena, which might require some investigation, but I thought I might be onto something all the same. I probably have junior genius James to thank for this thought. New readers: search recent comments for Bayes (of Bayes’ theorem fame) and consequentialism, which are just two of the knotty notions James is into.

It was a fun exercise, but in terms of useful information I think I came a bit unstuck. So here’s a warning: Never take ideas from a Strange Boy (or Girl or Non-Binary Person) unless you are prepared to be amused 🙂 by your own inadequacy :-(.

And also perhaps by the data. So let’s come to that (or those, for any pedantic grammarians here: Heretic TOC wants to keep everyone happy, even if they are virtuous). So, where was I? Ah, yes, the data.

Google n-grams, that’s the tool. The demonstration graph when you go to the link shows the percentage of books published from 1800-2000 in which particular words occurred, the demo ones being Frankenstein, Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes.

What I did was create my own n-gram for paedophilia, pedophilia and icecream. This was a bit limiting because the system does not accept ice-cream with a hyphen although it will take ice – cream when a hyphen or dash is separated from the words by spaces. Weird! But n-grams are also wonderful, as I hope will be agreed.

I have put one of my creations on the blog (see below).

Paedophilia and its American variant derive, as is well known, from Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s first use of the term “paedophilia erotica” in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. The book’s first edition appeared in 1886 but it was not until the 12th and final one in 1903 that his new term is to be found. Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing, to give his glorious full appellation, included it in the “Psychopathological Cases” section of Chapter Five, on sexual crimes.

It will be seen that the n-gram dutifully records this first appearance of “paedophilia” in 1903, with the American variant hot on its heels. Both terms remained in medical obscurity, though, until the 1970s, since when the graph has shot upwards for both spellings. Unsurprisingly, pedophilia has raced ahead, reflecting the greater number of American publications in general and medical, legal and scientific ones in particular. Fiction probably lags well behind, thanks to imaginative alternatives such as “monster, “scumbag”, and “lowlife”, as deployed by the likes of popular novelist Andrew Vachss.

Pedophilia, but not paedophilia, leapt ahead of icecream just before 1980.

If you go to this n-gram for the period 2000-2008, the latter date being as recent as the tool goes at the moment, you will see my headline point about paedophilia just above a very steady-looking (with zero “smoothing”) icecream.

What, then, may we conclude about icecream as a literary cliché in connection with paedophilia? Bugger all, perhaps. But if the paedophilic ice-cream man ever became a cliché, wouldn’t we expect to see icecream rising in the graph along with the P words? There are similar n-gram results also for “molester” with “icecream”.

Perhaps this is what has happened: in popular culture the ice-cream man as paedophile is such a strongly entrenched figure that seriously creative people, such as film-script writers and novelists, try to avoid what they fear may be seen as a cliché. As a result, it never actually becomes one.

Anyway, I hope everyone is relaxing and enjoying this little ice-cream break after some rather intensive discussions here. 🙂

 

Icecream n-gram 1800-2000