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!