The long ARMS of the law

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“Show me six lines written by an honest man, and I will find enough in them to hang him.”

These chilling words, or some remembered approximation of them, are said to have been uttered to his clerical staff by Cardinal Richelieu, the notoriously ruthless, Machiavellian chief minister of King Louis XIII of France. He had the good sense not to write them down.

So the cardinal had much better sense than me, a man who will considered honest, I trust, at least by his peers, and who has written a great many more lines than six. Goodness, how many times might I have been hanged in Richelieu’s day, when they had a quicker way with heretics! But I’ve been jailed enough, God knows, so you might think I’d be very wary of writing to officers of the law.

But I have! This very month! A monumentally self-incriminating missive, as it may be, not of six lines but of more than six pages!

Why? What madness could have come upon me? Had I seen set upon the rack and tortured into a confession?

No, in truth, nothing was forced out of me. Perhaps it was more a case of giving a man enough rope, that he might hang himself. You can judge for yourselves. Here is what happened.

The police paid a visit to my home, as they do every three months, in mid-January. This was the latest of their routine monitoring visits, undertaken as a consequence of my conviction for distribution of indecent images of children in 2006 and of my resulting requirement to register as a sex offender.

Usually, the two monitoring officers stay for only about fifteen minutes, making very limited enquiries as to any significant changes in my life in the intervening period, such as whether I have started a relationship, which might help lower the perceived risk presented by an offender if he seems to be turning towards adults instead on children, but which could set alarm bells ringing if this new “romantic” interest was someone with young children. As my answer to the relationship question, and most of the others, is always “no, nothing new”, there is no usually no need for the officers to be detained overlong.

But this latest visit was far from routine in nature. It turned out to be a long and difficult session. This is because the local police force in question have been introducing a new risk assessment tool, comprising a far more detailed set of questions than before, and I now found myself its latest “victim”. Devised under the auspices of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), the new tool is called ARMS (Active Risk Management System). It starts with the word “Active” partly because the initial “A” helps make a neat acronym; but “active” also hints at a distinction long used in risk assessment between “dynamic” (active) and “static” risk.

Static risk, as the name implies, is stuff that doesn’t change, or not much. It includes previous convictions. I cannot delete mine from the record, alas, and they will always indicate (to the statistically minded) a degree of risk of further offending. The more offences there are on the record – three in my case – the higher the risk of future offending. I have been assessed as High Risk on the standard static risk assessment tool, Matrix 2000, since my release from prison in 2007.

Matrix 2000 is actually quite a good predictor of future behaviour in most cases (the statistical boffins do actually know their stuff), so it is not being dropped. But it was felt a formal assessment was needed for the changing aspects, the dynamic side. What they came up with in a limited trial was a set of questions that systematically, and I would say too intrusively, probe the registered offender’s current life under a number of themed headings. These tools are invariably tested for their validity and reliability. No doubt the relevant data will eventually be published, but the national roll-out of ARMS in a revised version following the trial now appears to be going ahead before anything has appeared in the professional journals so far as I can tell.

The monitoring officers put me in the picture about ARMS, including the fact that questions would be asked relating to 11 factors found to have a bearing on dynamic risk. These were:

1. Opportunity for re-offending.
2. Sexual preoccupations.
3. Offence-related sexual interests.
4. Emotional congruence with children.
5. Hostile orientation.
6. Self-management.
7. Social influences.
8. Commitment to desist from offending.
9. Intimate relations.
10. Employment and positive routine.
11. Social investment.

Perhaps the correct response would have been to say, “Hang on a minute, this is being sprung on me very suddenly. Can we deal with this after I have spoken to my lawyer?” On the other hand, this was clearly a new regime to which everyone on the register across the land is going to be subjected. How could I hope to hold out against it? Why would I bother to resist when to do so would merely raise suspicions that I had something to hide?

Anyway, finding myself ambushed by these two guys, who are always very polite and I have known them for years, I meekly submitted. Once started, it soon became clear the exercise was going to be complicated and I found myself becoming anxious over how my answers were going to be scored. The guys, let’s call them Chris and Mike, told me they had both been on a training course, so they could interpret my verbal answers and assess each one as representing low, medium or high risk.

But the assessment exercise was to be carried out later, based on memorising what I told them and thinking about it. Typically, the interviews are expected to take an hour to an hour and a half. No notes were taken in my case. As I said to them at the time, it seemed to be asking a lot of anyone’s memory, especially in view of the fact that some of my answers, due to the complexity of the issues, were very finely nuanced, leaving the distinct possibly of them getting the wrong end of the stick.

In the middle of the exercise, when things were getting really complicated, Chris smiled and said “We knew this was going to be interesting!”

Well, yes, interesting as in the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!”

Among the “interesting” questions were a number encountered early on, under headings two and three. I found them to be very invasively intimate – the sort of thing one might expect on a sex offender treatment programme (SOTP). I politely declined to answer the most intrusive ones. Being too uncooperative, though, could result in a raised risk profile, potentially leading to more monitoring visits: maybe every month instead of quarterly.

There is much that I could say about all the questions, as may be imagined, and my answers to them at the time; but to cut a long story short I decided after the interview that a written follow-up would be necessary on my part. It came to over 5,000 words. On the matter of note-taking, I wrote:

“If the very clever leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition can forget the national deficit when speaking without notes for an hour or so, I don’t think it is too insulting to suggest that officers not making notes could forget important points in a long ‘speech’ of mine!”

Readers outside the UK cannot be expected to remember this reference to Labour party leader Mr Ed Miliband’s party conference speech last year, but I am sure everyone will get the gist.

In my written answer, things begin to get really dangerous for me not on the questions relating to sexual feelings and behaviour but – and this may come as a surprise to those who know me as a rather mild sort of chap – in the section on “Hostile orientation”. Chris and Mike, bless them, are perfectly well aware that I bear no grudge against them personally, or against the police force. I would much prefer to live in a country with effective law enforcement than in some hellhole of a failed state where your only “protection” comes from terrifying militias toting Kalashnikovs. It’s just that I would like our sex laws (and a good few others, actually) to be a bit more sensible!

I’d like to see more sensible training for the police, too. As the courses they are required to attend become steadily more focused on ideologically based diagnostic tools (albeit with real statistical analysis mixed in, so that everyone is blinded by science), the less scope officers have for the exercise of their common sense and experienced judgement. They find themselves obliged to ask set questions and then rate the answers in ways that accord with the prevailing dogma. Yes, this way of doing things reliably predicts behaviour on average, across large groups, but not in individual cases, especially when the individual concerned has been investigated and prosecuted for purely political reasons, as in my case.

The “hostility” questions furnish striking examples. I was asked, for instance, who I blame for my offences. The politically correct answer, of course, was myself: I take full responsibility. This is in fact what I said to Chris and Mike, albeit with complex caveats and qualifications that I feared might not be accurately represented in their later write-up and formal evaluation. So I wrote as follows, in order to clarify the position, and hence also, no doubt, as an unavoidable by-product, giving excellent reasons why I should be hanged! I wrote:

“… in the case of my first two convictions I was targeted essentially for reasons of profit and politics that owed nothing whatever to child protection. Misled by those convictions into supposing I was engaged in further conspiracies, which upon investigation proved to be utterly chimerical, I was then under close undercover surveillance for three years with no criminal behaviour disclosed. Desperate to ensure this resource-heavy operation would not end in total failure, the unit in question decided to set me up for what was a wholly police-generated offence [leading to a third conviction]. It would never have happened without their action as agents provocateurs

“Particular individuals I would blame are Rupert Murdoch, Sir Michael Havers and ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood. I would never have been targeted for investigation and prosecution for the first offence, ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’, were it not for the legitimate activism (especially lobbying parliament for law reform) conducted by the Paedophile Information Exchange, which I chaired. This was classically a trumped-up charge. Central to this was a campaign by the News of the World, owned at that time, and until its recent closure following exposure of its own criminal activities, by Mr Murdoch. Also important was political intervention by Sir Michael Havers, the Attorney General of the day – a politician who overruled the DPP, who had not wanted to bring a ‘public morals’ prosecution.”

As for the perfidious role played by tabloid sleazeball Mazher Mahmood, I also put the police in the picture about this: no need to reprise the story here as I blogged about it last year in When Heretic TOC met the Fake Sheikh.

Further reasons to hang me could surely be found in the way in which my letter addressed the more personally intrusive aspects of the questioning. As indicated above, I declined to answer at one point. I wrote:

“What might be an appropriate question in the context of voluntary attendance on a SOTP while serving a prison sentence, or on probation, is not necessarily acceptable in the case of someone who has served their time. Being on the register is in theory not meant to be a punishment, but every incremental step taken in the direction of intrusive monitoring takes it in that direction. I would draw your attention in this regard to a Home Office Review of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 which discusses the registration requirement in the light of human rights issues and concludes that ‘were the registration requirement to become more onerous, there could come a point at which the Act could no longer be seen as an administrative requirement.’ ”

I now find myself wondering whether that point has been reached and whether I should consider making a legal issue of it under the Human Rights Act. Not that I would necessarily succeed. And he who rises in rebellion but fails to carry the day will surely end up on the gallows!

FOOTNOTE:

According to the pilot project report, “The ARMS manual contains a fourth ‘priority category’ (in addition to high, medium and low priority for action) – ‘unable to rate’ or ‘not applicable’…” I would just add that this manual does not currently appear to be publicly available; nor am I able to say how much it has been modified following response to the report.

The pencil is mightier than the sword?

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Heretic TOC welcomes Peter Herman’s return as a guest blogger today, exactly a year after his first piece, Skateboarding as metaphor for social shifts. Peter, a veteran activist, remains an occasional contributor to the NAMBLA website.

JE SUIS STEVEN ADRIAN FREEMAN

Worldwide, anger was expressed over the despicable murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, fast followed by equally predictable outrage over the magazine’s latest depiction of the prophet Muhammad in the wake of those deaths.

One of the preferred symbols of solidarity with those who created the cartoons is the pencil. Such was the case recently in London’s Trafalgar Square. It is very likely that none there knew of the imprisonment of former PIE leader Steven Adrian Freeman for his “offensive” erotic pencil drawings of children. Even if someone there had known of Steve’s incarceration, it is unlikely they would have grasped the irony.

When it comes to children’s sexuality no amount of rationalization concerning prohibitions on the child’s expression of it or the adult finding joy in it ever seems over the top. It has come to a point where, in many parts of the English speaking world, any image of youthful sexuality and even written descriptions of it will at the very least ostracize the individual, land him in jail or possibly get him killed.

Just as many Muslims are truly offended by any ridicule of the tenets of their religion, many individuals are horrified by the idea that children can be sexual and that some might even find pleasure in depicting such behaviour. The question is whether real harm is ever done by either forms of expression and whether they should ever be prohibited anywhere.

The sincerely religious would perceive that an almighty deity does not need murderous thugs to defend him or his prophet. As many Muslims accept, especially perhaps those who have been brought up in countries with a tradition of free speech and free artistic expression, God is not harmed by cartoons. The only “harm” is the loudly proclaimed offence taken by extremists who seek to bludgeon into silence anyone with views at odds with their own. This is understood by all who proclaim “Je suis Charlie”.

Artistic depictions of childhood sexuality are likewise not intrinsically harmful, and they too provoke irrational outrage. As the panic over “child sexual abuse” has become ever more manic, even non-religious “liberals” have found their commitment to freedom of expression foundering on this issue. Concern was focused initially on the potential abuse of children featured in photographic images. That was at least a debatable issue. The irrationality of the public mood is exposed more clearly, though, when drawings of children are considered beyond the pale, or when sexy cartoon kids are likewise not to be tolerated, such as are to be found in the Japanese manga tradition.

What is all this anger about? Cartoon abuse?

This bizarre madness flies in the face of scientific evidence, which is seldom allowed to surface in public discourse. Consequently, few are aware of it and hence never realise the stark gulf that exists between their beliefs and reality.

Following surveys in a number of countries, including, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the Czech Republic, a strong association has been demonstrated between the ready availability of pornography and reduced levels of sexual offending, including against children. Research also shows that non‐coercive sexual acts with minors, in themselves, do not result in psychological trauma.

So what to make of all the marching and expressions of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo? Only that humans will continue being blind to the inconsistencies between reality and their cherished beliefs. Charlie Hebdo appears also to have been equally blind. Though they made fun of the Catholic Church for ignoring abuse by priests, to my knowledge, they never dealt with society’s current hysteria on child sexuality that is equally if not more deserving of ridicule.

TOC ADDS:

STEVE FREEMAN

I had occasion to write about Steven Adrian Freeman, my successor as chair of PIE, in Heretic TOC last July. See PIE spy, with my tabloid eye… That was a piece about the 1980s when he was still using his original surname, Smith. He later changed to Steven Adrian before opting in more recent years for the full current moniker. In the earlier piece, I said he was doing time for “porn”. More precisely, he was convicted in May 2011 of distributing indecent photographs, and was subsequently given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of 30 months. Three co-defendants were found guilty of possession and another of failing to disclose a computer password to police; they were sentenced to lesser prison terms. When police first raided Steve’s house in 2008, the law banning “obscene” art depicting children had not been enacted. Soon after the new measure was passed the following year, the police returned and secured the case against him.

So, although Steve’s case made legal history as the first under the new law (the Coroners and Justice Act 2009) against art, he was already in deep trouble. Extremely deep. A minimum term of 30 months may sound bearable, but that time has long since passed and I have picked up no indications of his imminent release. It is even difficult to find out, because any attempt by him to communicate with his former co-defendants, or any other friends who might be thought to share his views, could jeopardise his release, which will depend on him taking and “passing” a sex offender treatment programme. In other words, he will have to convince the Parole Board he has changed his ways, and that will include distancing himself from “anti-social influences”. Steve is in any case a stubborn guy who sticks to his guns. My guess is he will find it hard to do the necessary grovelling: it would mean, at the very least, saying he is sorry for what he did and also sounding sincere about it.

It’s a nightmare. Indeterminate sentences have now been discontinued, but Steve’s still stands and he finds himself trapped in a penal backwater. God only knows how long he is going to be stuck there.

There was one bit of good news last year, though, which shows his creative side is still finding expression, and I do not mean erotic art.

He won English PEN’s Prison Writing competition for a piece called The Gates of Ytan, in which he put himself into the mind of a fox. One of the judges was Mark Haddon no less, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, in which the author famously imagined the thinking of an autistic boy. There were over 400 entries for the competition. The Gates of Ytan and other stories is now an e-book anthology featuring winners in the prize’s various categories.

LOLICON AND SHOTACON

The prophet has not quite monopolised media coverage of cartoons in Britain lately. The BBC aired Should Comics Be Crimes? a programme in the Radio 4 Crossing Continents strand earlier this month. It can still be heard, and there is a full written report by the programme’s presenter, James Fletcher.

The broadcast includes some remarkably relaxed and frank interviews with fans and producers of erotic manga featuring young girls (lolicon) and boys (shotacon) in Japan, where such material is a long-established part of mainstream culture.

But will it last? Pressure from the west resulted in a law against photographic child porn in 1999; last year this was extended to possession. But DVDs featuring even very young kids in sexy poses are still going strong, even though, according to one anti-porn campaigner, they are illegal. And cartoon erotica featuring hard core child sex is openly on sale in manga supermarkets.

Apparently the next big push to obliterate this distinctively Japanese cultural phenomenon can be expected as part of the country’s preparations to host the 2020 Olympic Games: there will be further outside pressure, we are told, to present the country as “cool” not “weird”.

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

MORE VICIOUS LIES

Exaro news has upped its public profile with tabloid scoops recently based on unearthing archived public documents touching upon the supposed paedophilic scandals in high places decades ago. While the scandals themselves may be chimerical, the documents themselves are real enough, and this enterprising agency is to be congratulated on its assiduous digging.

Lately, though, Exaro has fallen for the temptation to give credence and publicity to some tall-sounding stories pedalled by so-called “victims” who could well be ex-rent boys on the make. Yarns about the violent abuse and even murder of teenage boys by VIPs in Westminster doubtless make a nice little earner.

I was appalled and disgusted to find that one such story involves my former PIE associates the late Peter Righton and Charles Napier, about whom I wrote recently in Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

Here’s a taster:

“Darren’s first encounter aged 15 with urbane Peter Righton in a country estate in Suffolk left him truly terrified. Righton is with his old friend, an erudite teacher by the name of Charles Napier. Righton, former government advisor on child care and one of Britain’s leading specialists on the subject at the time, tells Darren to give Napier oral sex. Darren refuses. So Righton beats him mercilessly, punching and kicking the bewildered 15-year-old until he does precisely as he was told…”

I left my response to this crap at the Exaro website. Fortunately, it is the first item in the comments section. Not that I seem to have made much impression on the subsequent commentators. They and others, unfortunately, will believe what they want.

WHEEN’S WHINES

Francis Wheen, deputy editor of Private Eye is the prizewinning author of a much translated biography of Karl Marx; he also won the Orwell Prize (prize irony there, I feel) for his collected journalism, and is a regular panellist on high-profile British satirical shows The News Quiz and Have I Got News for You? Interestingly, he even penned a biography of one-time adultophile Tom Driberg, a politician who, when he was just 13 years old, paid a tramp for sex.

With all that distinguished work in his CV, you’d think Wheen would have better things to do than obsess over his former teacher Charles Napier, against whom he has carried on a gratuitously spiteful vendetta for decades. And you’d think he’d have better things to do than complain about my blog on Charles.

But you’d be wrong! He tweeted recently to tell his nearly 6,000 followers of his “outrage” at my coverage. The WordPress stats show the hits at Heretic TOC shooting up around that time from the usual 250 per day or so to over 1000. Interestingly, not one of the extra visitors flamed. Maybe they liked my story!

Speaking of the Orwell Prize, the late Richard Webster was nominated for his wonderful book The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt (2005), which exposed as baseless many of the complaints alleging sexual abuse in Welsh children’s homes in the 1990s. But the theme was unfashionable and the book was largely ignored by the British press. Catherine Bennett, no softie on child abuse, credited Webster with exposing “the hysteria and false accusations”, writing that uncritical press reports on the issue demonstrate “the insatiable human appetite for narratives of evil”. Quite so.

AMAZON BACK PEDALS

Amazon.ca, the Canadian Amazon website, is perfectly happy, it seems, to publicise and sell Chelsea Rooney’s novel Pedal, which gives paedophilia a human face, as we saw in Dissident’s review for Heretic TOC in At last, the paedophile as hero! recently.

They were less thrilled, though, to receive a customer review of the book from me. The moderators turned it down! Why? Well, it can’t be because I slagged the book off. I made some criticisms but overall my review was positive and I gave it four stars, if I remember rightly.

Could it be because my review was too brazenly pro-paedophile in a way the discreet blurb for the novel itself is not? Or because I freaked them out by posting in my own name, taking issue with the author’s references to my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case? Or because the company banned this very book’s Amazon page a couple of years ago as part of a panic response when they were accused of promoting paedophilia? Or all of these things?

Whatever, I couldn’t be bothered to alter my review in an attempt to make it compliant with their poxy guidelines. I’d have to change too much, including my opinions. I might give it a try at a rival website. In the meantime, any Heretic TOC readers interested can now see this review exclusively, as banned by Amazon, at Dropbox.

POP’S LOLITA MOMENT

Japan may be under pressure to turn western, but the Anglophone obsession with the supposed “sexualisation” of kids continues apace, with an outcry over Australian singer Sia’s Elastic Heart pop video. Tom Slater, of Spiked, did an article about it, which saves me the trouble, including a link to the video itself. Actor Shia LaBeouf is seen, as Slater puts it, “in a balletic set-to with 12-year-old dance prodigy Maddie Ziegler. Both dressed in skin-tight, flesh-coloured underwear, they chase, swipe, embrace, entwine, bite and scratch one another in giant cage”. Hot stuff!

At last, the paedophile as hero!

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The paedophile as hero (well, a basically decent guy at least) isn’t exactly an overworked figure in contemporary commercial fiction, so when one turns up who is kind, wise, witty and moral, and even so handsome and athletic that women fall hopelessly (in every sense) in love with him, it is time to pay attention. Heretic TOC’s guest blogger today, “Dissident”, has done just that, by reviewing Pedal, last year’s debut novel by Canadian writer Chelsea Rooney (Caitlin Press, 2014). Dissident is a freelance editor and professional website administrator who also earns part of his living writing fiction, with a substantial body of published work to his name in several genres, including sci-fi. He is a long-time hebephile activist who has been prominent in GL circles for some 15 years. He has contributed essays on MAP-relevant topics to Newgon wiki and he posts to GirlChat, where he is a moderator. He has also participated regularly at Visions of Alice, Lifeline and here at Heretic TOC.

PEDO TO THE METAL

I’m pleased to say that Chelsea Rooney can well be considered one of an emerging band of writers who have an interest in actually getting to the truth of pedophilia (and its cousin sexual preferences, hebephilia and nepiophilia, both of which get token mention in this novel).

She is concerned neither with popular propaganda nor with looking politically “acceptable” to her fellow progressives and feminists; and she sure as hell isn’t looking to garner approval from the likes of Oprah Winfrey or her trashy imitators. She is simply interested in the truth, which she commendably values above popularity, especially of the kind that springs from ignorance, hatred, and willful lack of understanding.

That being made clear, Pedal can be difficult reading at times, depending on the reader’s stylistic preferences and where their extra-pedophilic interests may lie. Like many brilliant and well-read authors, Rooney is heavy on the vocab and may be thought pedantic. I’m a writer myself, and I found my own lexicon and general knowledge enhanced. The reader will learn more about bike maintenance, Canada’s roads and often spectacular scenery, stellar cartography, botany, and even haute couture than they may have been prepared for. You will also learn what radon daughters are, and the cool metaphorical use Rooney makes of them.

Rooney’s characters are complex, and their lives outside of protagonist Julia Hoop’s therapeutic and sociological interest in adult attraction to minors are probed in great detail. Thus these people feel real, including Smirks, the pedophile. The narrative also wanders “off topic” a fair bit, making it a mixed bag for those focused narrowly on pedophilia over general human drama and interplay, but Rooney clearly put a lot into this tale. Her characters are fully realized human beings – except for a trio of sketchily presented Nordic youths (or are they just children?) whose menacing presence briefly threatens Julia and Smirks for reasons that remain deeply enigmatic.

Julia is a so-called “survivor.” However, she has spotted something that a number of researchers have begun to notice among “victims” of sexual contact with adults as minors: she had not felt traumatized by the contact she had with her father, a drunkard and wannabe poet who fled his family many years prior to the main body of the story. Julia cycles across Canada to track down the fugitive referred to universally among family and friends as “Dirtbag” and confront him with what went on between them in her childhood. She wants closure, to make sense of her confused feelings. The journey is also intended as one of self-understanding and growth as a person.

Julia doesn’t feel traumatized by Dirtbag, despite the contemptuous label he is tagged with, but is made to feel shameful and guilty thanks to a now pervasive but erroneous belief. This “conventional wisdom” insists that every child who has such contact with an adult must be traumatized, because that’s just what happens when such contact occurs, be it consensual or not.

This leads Julia into conducting interviews for her thesis with women who had sexual contact with adults as children who believe they are “survivors” of molestation despite not reporting any trauma. As a feminist of the empowerment variety – the genuine feminists, as far as I’m concerned – Julia perceives the trauma matter to be dubious in many ways. She doesn’t find the idea of being emotionally damaged for life and relentlessly venting about it by lashing out at others as in any way empowering.

Her research and strong convictions about her inherent strength as a woman make her skeptical of therapists who encourage women to remain perpetual victims. She sees this as a condescending form of complicity with an agenda that has nothing to do with helping people heal from genuine abuse, or with making sense out of sexual encounters in which the child was a willing participant. She has strong reservations about being told by therapists, or society at large, how she should feel about certain experiences, rather than how she actually feels about it.

Julia perhaps served as a literary avatar for Rooney herself, as is common in fiction. She acknowledged the help of “My early correspondent, Krissy Darch, whose letters I have saved in my inbox in a folder called Fuck Trauma, and whose questions inspired the research that led to Pedal” (p. 239).

However, the informed reader will see Dirtbag as more likely a situational molester than a pedophile. What we hear of him suggests he made advances on his daughter for reasons other than preferential attraction to minors. The failure of his ambition to become a significant writer is implicated, along with associated alcoholic binges. He was very physically and emotionally abusive to Julia’s mom, and this seems again more indicative of a drunkard than a typical pedophile. This misstep of Rooney’s can largely be forgiven, though, because elsewhere in the book she struggles harder than most other progressives of the past two decades to understand pedophiles as human beings, and to make sense of pedophilia with an objective and compassionate eye.

This leads us to featured pedophile character Smirks. He is no activist, but does attend an MAA meeting in Vancouver in the hope of gaining a better understanding of himself. And, yes, Rooney does use the value-neutral, untainted term MAA (Minor Attracted Adult) to cover all forms of adult attraction to minors. This expression and its accompanying acronym are often used interchangeably with MAP (Minor Attracted Person) in the contemporary lexicon. The latter is more inclusive, taking in minor-attracted adolescents, but I’ll stick with Rooney’s language here.

Like the infamous Humbert Humbert, Smirks is no role model for MAAs. Unlike his literary hebephile predecessor as penned by Nabokov, he is far more restrained, and his life and interests are shown to encompass much more than his preferential attraction to children – girls, in his case, which is a refreshing change from the usual disproportionate attention given to boy-attracted MAAs over the past few decades, in both literature and research.

Smirks is a quirky but basically caring soul seeking his way through life while secretly dealing with his pedophilia. He is never revealed to have crossed the legal line, making him more sympathetic to a broad modern audience as a result. We learn that a ten-year-old girl named Maria was once part of his life, but never does Rooney treat Smirks as a mindless creature of lust. His ability to feel love for other human beings is made clear, and this includes his once-upon-a-time little sweetheart. His flaws are also laid bare, in a fully three-dimensional depiction. Never does Rooney make the common liberal mistake of attempting to canonize an oppressed minority in seeking its emancipation.

Significantly, women fall for Smirks, who is a ruggedly handsome 30-something, articulate, soft-spoken and a writer. But he isn’t sexually attracted to women. So what to do? Actual romantic involvement with an adult at least offers something beyond illicit fantasies, however unsatisfactorily. Rooney confronts this dilemma: Smirk’s sexual services are commandeered, shall we say, by Julia’s best friend, Lark, a fast-moving fashionista.

It is through Lark, indeed, that Julia meets Smirks. Julia, the 25-year-old psychology graduate student is instantly smitten, but she has no idea he is a MAA. When she poses as a female hebephile to gain entrance to the MAA lecture in Vancouver, she runs into Smirks there, and the truth of his actual preferences is laid bare to her in this rather awkward fashion.

In this meeting, we get a look into the famed European MAA organization IPCE, and its policies and mission statement are laid out. Rooney clearly did her research, and she represents the org fairly, with no concession whatever to popular hostility.

Wanting to keep Smirks close, Julia invites him to join her trek across Canada to locate Dirtbag. Quickly growing to love Julia in platonic fashion, and wanting her company and support, he agrees to the trip to provide her with the same. Along the way, she grows to know him better, and gains a first-hand view into the mind and feelings of an artistic pedophile who is struggling to make sense of his place in a society which hates the very idea of his natural feelings. He too has read much of the available literature, but being a newcomer to the organized MAA community – who meet mainly online – he has yet to fully scrutinize and critique the “scientific” research, much of which is not as scientific as one would wish. Among the books Julia mentions, I should add, is Tom O’Carroll’s Paedophilia: The Radical Case.

Some of the more distressing literature that Smirks reads includes the contention that pedophilia is a brain disorder, described by him in this manner:

“It’s a dysfunction. The white matter in my brain is screwy. I don’t have enough of it. Grey matter does the thinking, the information processing. White matter controls the signals between the information, their connections. When you look at a child, your white matter connects the child to a nonsexual being, and sends a signal of nurture. Love. Care. My white matter signals sex. Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. It’s a birth defect.” (pp. 155-156).

Smirks makes it quite clear what pedophiles who have not fully self-actualized often have to deal with when reading pseudo-science of this nature. The fact that Smirks is left-handed makes him buy into this all the more, considering what researcher James Cantor and his ilk have concluded about left-handedness being particularly prevalent in MAAs.

Not addressed by Smirks is what all of this means for non-MAA adults who do not feel that strong nurturing complex towards children. Do they, too, suffer from a lack of sufficient white matter in their neural make-up? And what about the very clear nurturing feelings towards children that many typical pedophiles have alongside the sexual component of the attraction? Does that signify some sort of brain abnormality? Artistic works throughout human history seem to contradict the notion that “normal” human adult brains are somehow biologically hard-wired to view children as asexual beings. This reeks of culture and a very recent brand of moralism imposed upon scientific research.

But the emotional turmoil that MAAs like Smirks have to deal with due to all of this specious literature posing as objective science causes them to buy into this on many levels. Sadly, some MAAs view degrees of self-hatred or at least condemnation of their natural feelings as a form of catharsis or absolution for their transgression against contemporary cultural propriety.

Rooney attempts to convey the belief that despite her strong sympathy for pedophiles (and MAAs in general) as human beings who are not inherently defective, and even her questioning of common perceptions of childhood “innocence,” there are no easy answers for this conundrum. It’s obvious that Rooney was struggling with these issues as she wrote the book, though I must commend her for doing so in a manner that more or less chose neutral ambiguity over that of “regretful” condemnation.

So do I recommend this book to all who are interested in the subject, including the MAA community itself? Yes, I certainly do. Chelsea Rooney is a courageous woman with a genuine interest in understanding pedophilia that does not rest on a simplistic abuse prevention agenda. She may very well have come close to doing for pedophilia and child sexuality in the realm of fiction what Judith Levine did a decade previous as a non-fiction writer. Even those who cannot fully agree with this conclusion may however concede that she has taken a step in the right direction.

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