A less WEIRD approach to children and sex

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African explorer Sir Harry Johnston noted that “almost every girl” in east-central Africa ceased to be a virgin “well before puberty”.

Not that he personally knew “almost every girl”, one supposes, and certainly not carnally. Unlike many fellow adventurers back then, in the heyday of empire a hundred years ago, he does not appear to have been a sexual libertarian. He was a careful and talented observer, though, as evidenced by his studies of the flora and fauna of the region, and his knowledge of native culture was regarded as authoritative.

He was among the better colonial governors, too, keen to train and promote African staff. What he shared with his less enlightened colleagues, who felt the black Africans were inherently inferior and needed to be ruled by force, was a firm belief in the superiority of western culture – a superiority that must have seemed obvious from the fact that the British, and others westerners, were the conquerors not the conquered, the rulers, not the ruled. So of course the exotic sexual practices of the “heathens” and “savages” were regarded, like so much else about their “uncivilized” lives, as appalling, and most definitely not to be emulated.

We have done a bit of re-thinking since those days, but not enough. Imperialism is now thoroughly discredited and we are beginning to question the wisdom of global market capitalism – Lensman’s recent articles here on the aetiology of paedophobia, and our Deep Green future have added to what is becoming a vast debate.

Another aspect of this re-thinking, which re-evaluates “primitive” lifestyles more positively, is as yet only in its very early stages, and for the most part remains of fringe interest. One exception (sort of) is Jared Diamond’s book The World until Yesterday, which significantly bears the subtitle What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Diamond came to prominence through his hugely successful and rightly acclaimed Guns, Germs and Steel, which provided a profound explanation, rooted in contingencies of geography and climate, as to why westerners became the conquerors and rulers of the world.

Part of its success, I suspect, lies in the fact that its western readers could bask in the satisfaction of being “winners”, even as the book’s contents obliged them to admit that their success had nothing to do with innate superiority. Diamond’s later books, including Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, have faced more resistance: the environmentalist message they promote proved uncomfortable for those who do not wish to face the need for change.

At least Diamond had a substantial readership based on his having already made a name for himself. Others who urge a re-evaluation of non-WEIRD lifestyles remain at the margins. In line with this blog’s mission to promote such non-dominant narratives, Heretic TOC today fanfares the arrival of an important (or so it should be regarded) new article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior: “How Children Learn About Sex: A Cross-Species and Cross-Cultural Analysis”, by clinical psychologist Lawrence Josephs.

In this paper, Josephs draws together, from primatology, anthropology, and the history of childhood sexuality, evidence which supports the hypothesis that throughout most of our evolutionary past children have learned about sex basically by taking part in it, initially through direct observation of parental sex and also, still in early childhood, by engaging in sexual activity themselves, usually with peers but often also with a degree of adult involvement and encouragement. Evolutionary psychology may be all the rage in some quarters, but, says Josephs, contemporary theories of psychosexual development have failed to consider the possibility that young children have an innate disposition to learn in this way. It is a primate-wide trait that is conserved in humans, he says, but has been suppressed in modern societies. In other words, the dogma of childhood sexual “innocence” is a recent imposition that goes against the grain of human nature.

There are echoes here of Bruce Rind’s censored monograph on pederasty, which eventually appeared as a 90-page chapter a couple of years ago in Censoring Sex Research. I critiqued it in The pre-WEIRD world, according to Rind. While there was much to be welcomed in Rind’s work, its gender-specific theme of the man-boy erotic dyad was focused on adult and adolescent sexuality, whereas contemporary society’s investment in “innocence” is expressed primarily through its insistence on the supposed need to protect prepubescent children from sex, whether boys or girls. Yes, there are many who are hell-bent on discouraging even adolescent sex, but only a few deluded souls would argue that adolescents are naturally pre-sexual. This is very much the current mainstream attitude towards younger children, though, even a century after Freud.

In a way, then, Josephs’ contribution is even more fundamental and radical than Rind’s, and it is very good news that his article, far from being censored, has appeared in the most prestigious journal in its field. So how did he go about it?

The idea that concealing sex from children is a species-wide norm is a WEIRD fallacy, he begins. Actually, it is plain weird, as well as WEIRD, because anyone with an ounce of imagination would realise that in the long millennia before the invention of doors and locks, even tiny children would inevitably have seen lots of bonking by their parents and others: it would have been a wild, constantly played spectacular, the internet porn of its day. That did not stop Freud  believing exposure to the “primal scene” (i.e., a scene of parental sexuality) was harmful. In his view, it was a vital precondition of “civilized” behaviour that we need to repress and control our libido – including the incestuous “Oedipal” impulse he discerned, which he claimed we feel in early childhood towards our own opposite-sex parents.

It was in 1918 that Freud warned about the primal scene. By 1990, as Josephs points out, the sexologist John Money was proposing that “human beings who are heirs to Western civilization have a long cultural heritage of negative strategies for dealing with juvenile sexual rehearsal play. These are strategies of vandalism that thwart, warp, and distort the normally developing lovemap and make it pathological”. By this time he had some research (Hoyt, 1979) to support him. Soon there was more (Okami et al., 1998), when it was confirmed that witnessing the primal scene does not increase psychopathology. A range of historical research, moreover, is cited to show that concealing parental sexuality from children and prohibiting sexual rehearsal play have only become normative in the West in the last 300 years – research which includes studies appearing in a book recently mentioned on Heretic TOC, George Rousseau’s Children and Sexuality: From the Greeks to the Great War. I have now got hold of it: there is plenty of good stuff.

Much of the evidence that Josephs presents will already be familiar to many heretics here. The value of his paper comes from drawing on a range of disciplines and concisely presenting a case for re-evaluating the current negativity towards children’s early sexual learning and expression. The classic anthropological review remains Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (Ford & Beach, 1951), which I drew on extensively for my own Paedophilia: The Radical Case. Josephs also brings in more recent work, including a review of hunter-gatherer childhoods (Konner 2010), in which it is reported that hunter-gatherer children imitate parental sexual relations in simulated sexual intercourse in relatively small mixed-sex, multi-age play groups.

One point that particularly struck me from Josephs’ sources was this:

“Curiously, hunter-gatherer cultures, like the Hazda or !Kung, that are permissive towards childhood sexuality tend to be fiercely egalitarian and highly respectful of individual autonomy (Boehm, 1999) and do not pressure children to obey authority (Shostak, “A !Kung woman’s memories of childhood” in Lee & DeVore, 1976).”

This ought to be music to the ears of feminists who keep banging on about the need for equality in sexual relationships and fretting over adult power abuse in intergenerational sex. It shows that if we really do start learning from traditional societies, as Diamond urges, they can relax – the kids could be socially empowered as well as enjoying an agreeable childhood.

There is a price to be paid, though. Hunter-gatherer economies favour social equality; relatively acquisitive and competitive agricultural and industrial economies have different social priorities. Ancient Athens at the height of its glory had a democratic, and hence relatively egalitarian, political system, but even in that era the social ethos was one of ferocious competition: pederasty thrived not least because boys who wanted to get on in life needed a lover who was a good mentor, someone who was not equal to himself but far more knowledgeable and authoritative – and, quite possibly, authoritarian. Modern life, too, is intensely competitive. The way forward, however, as outlined by Lensman, could well involve more cooperative, and less competitive, lifestyles.

Getting back to Josephs, his paper addresses not just children’s sexual knowledge and experience with peers but also adult-child sexual touching. He notes a range of cultures in which it appears entirely normal for adults, especially mothers, to masturbate their infant children, especially as a substitute for satisfaction at the breast.

Looking beyond infancy, he reminds us of Malinowski’s conclusion in 1927, based on anthropological evidence, that when it is not socially suppressed we see “a steady and gradual increase of sexuality in the child, the curve rising in a continuous manner without any kink”. There is no Freudian “latency period”, in other words. More recently, Gilbert Herdt and a colleague (Herdt & McClintock, 2000) proposed a stage of psychosexual development between six and ten which they refer to as adrenal puberty as opposed to gonadal puberty. Beginning around six years old, the adrenal gland in both sexes begin to secrete increasing levels of androgens that are associated with the increasing intensity of childhood sexual attractions and desires. Heretic TOC reported this in The magical age of 10? Actually, with the age of puberty currently dropping at the speed of a whore’s drawers, the magical age in question may now be even lower: Josephs points to recent evidence (Palmert et al., 2001; Remer, Boye, Hartmann, & Wudy, 2005), that adrenarche begins as early as three years old, “around the time children begin to engage in sexual rehearsal play” – not to mention, I would add, that boys (or future boys!) have been observed with erections in the womb, and masturbating, as recorded via ultra-sound imagery.

All this leads Josephs to pose a brave and urgent question:

…   Exactly what constitutes interpersonally sensitive sexual touching at various ages prior to puberty has yet to be researched. Such research is necessary to understand what kind of childhood sexual touching is traumatogenic and when deprivation of interpersonally sensitive and age appropriate sexual touching becomes pathogenic…

Less bravely, but, hey, he had to get published, the author ducks away from extensive  anthropological evidence for normative adult-child sexual conduct in many cultures (Nieto, 2004). He writes:

“… traumatic experiences are most likely when adolescents or adults use pre-pubertal children as sex objects to facilitate orgasm. Such sexual practices do not appear to be normalized in cultures that allow limited playful or soothing fondling of infantile genitalia, observation of parental sexuality, and pre-pubertal playgroup sexual experimentation.”

So is he saying that fondling of infantile genitalia, etc., are not allowed among the Lepcha, for example, where “old men of eighty copulate with girls of eight, and nobody minds”? Or among the Sambia, where all small boys from age six or so are expected to fellate young bachelors? Actually, for men to fellate boys, as opposed to the boys being fellators, is definitely forbidden by the Sambia, so the answer to my query is not entirely obvious. I’d have thought, though, that even with this stricture in mind there would not necessarily be a bar on Sambia mothers fondling their children’s genitalia. Perhaps I should read Herdt’s famous studies of the Sambia more closely…

What I can say with confidence is that Josephs has made an unusual and useful contribution to the literature. Perhaps the best of it is that he has drawn the attention of psychologists, in particular (who read the Archives) to work from other disciplines: a range of inter-disciplinary perspectives is vital if progress is to be made in this complex field.

The importance of re-discovering the normality of children’s sexuality hardly needs to be impressed upon heretics here but it is worth noting the growing evidence of our failure to do so. I see that Freedom of information requests by The Sunday Times last month revealed that on average two “sex crimes” a day were reported last year from schools, two thirds of them “committed” by children, with a number of four- and five-year-olds among the “criminals”: Schools report four-year-olds for sex offences.

 

MORE MILESTONES PASSED BY HERETIC TOC

I was so busy moderating the comments to Lensman’s wonderful guest blogs recently that I omitted to mention a significant milestone: over 5,000 published comments since Heretic TOC was launched late in 2012. In the two and a half years since then there have been over 150 blogs and well over 180,000 “hits”, with the average running at above 200 per day this year.

The most remarkable feature by far, though, is surely the high proportion of comments that have been substantial and well argued contributions, rather than one-liners, some of them amounting to a blog in their own right. These comments now run to 256 online pages in the administration dashboard, totalling over three quarters of a million words! The blogs themselves, both my own and guest contributions, are usually around the 2,000-word mark, so these have notched up around 300,000 words. The total takes us well past a million words! Heretic TOC may be “not the dominant narrative” but its scale is becoming positively biblical!

 

 

How does this psycho get away with it?

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Child-tormenting psychopath Stinson Hunter keeps getting away with it.

Months have passed since the estimable Bernie Najarian posted evidence on BoyChat, extensively referenced, of Hunter’s sadistic online “griefing” of kids. But instead of being exposed in the media for the nauseating bully he is, Hunter continues to be feted as a star vigilante who takes down “paedophiles” through online stings leading to successful prosecutions for dubious “crimes”.

In the most recent case, a man with no previous convictions currently awaits sentence for the heinous offence of trying to date “a 14-year-old boy” (actually Hunter) who had been using Grindr. As described in a Daily Mail report of the case, Grindr is a “mobile dating application”. The emphasis is mine, and it is surely worth emphasising that no teenager using this popular app would be unaware of its purpose, which is described upfront on its website as being to find “local gay, bi and curious guys for dating or friends for free”. In other words it would be used by gay boys actively looking for gay people to meet. They would hardly be surprised to encounter adult guys online: this would very likely be an exciting prospect, exactly what they were hoping for.

Hunter’s method is for his vigilante gang to pose online as an underage boy or girl. Once anyone takes the bait, sending explicit messages or images to the minor, the gang lure their mark to a meeting. Their victim is then filmed with handheld cameras and mobile phones and told to explain himself. The messages and footage are handed to police, resulting in some ten convictions so far, following filmed confrontations with dozens of men.

These activities have not gone entirely without criticism, notably after 45-year-old Michael Parkes, filmed by Hunter, hanged himself last year after being questioned by police on suspicion of arranging to meet someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl for sex. This came after Parkes was confronted by Hunter, and footage of the encounter was uploaded to the internet.

Hunter was taxed on ITV’s The James O’Brien Show with causing this suicide. Said host O’Brien:

“A man is dead because of what you did.”

“No,” Hunter shot back, “a man is dead because of what he did.”

It won him a big round of applause from the studio audience.

His quick-fire self-assurance, buoyed by the knowledge that empathy is not exactly a fashionable buzz word when applied to sex offenders (it is urged upon them but not for them), is just one aspect of his striking talents.

These extend to a flair for self-promotion, revealed in two astute decisions. Firstly, he rebranded himself from mild-sounding Keiren Parsons to predatory Stinson Hunter; and then he self-financed what became a roaringly successful vigilante documentary, The Paedophile Hunter, screened on Channel 4 in 2014. It won the 33-year-old Hunter, and director Dan Reed, the Best Single Documentary category at the Royal Television Programme Awards. Hunter now has well over half a million Facebook followers and earlier this year scooped two BAFTAs.

Not bad for a heavily-tattooed former heroin addict with face furniture (a lip ring) who, if his Wikipedia entry is correct, was expelled from three different schools as a kid and ended up burning one of them down; and who, after being jailed for this arson offence, managed to make a mess of a fellow inmate’s face with a plastic knife he had sharpened.

Arguably there is much to admire in the fact that Hunter has managed to “turn his life around”, as the cliché has it, from such an unpromising start. His fans surely think so, at least: where heretics here might see a vicious destroyer of other people, they presumably see an unlikely sort of modern knight, courageously riding to the rescue of kids in danger.

If so, they are right about one thing. It takes balls to confront those who are bound to be angered by the accusations he makes. A couple of years ago Hunter suffered broken bones and was in hospital for a week when one of those he was confronting ran into him with his car. I say this not to sympathise (though I am so shit-soft I find it hard to wish harm on anyone at all) but, rather, to note that the old adage linking bullying to cowardice is just not true. True psychopaths, as I believe Hunter to be, are often as reckless over their own welfare as they are callous towards others.

It is one of several aspects of his behaviour which, when taken together, indicate that far from being admirably brave in the selfless defence of others he is instead a dangerous psycho: far from keeping kids from danger he has shown a taste and a talent – yet another talent of this perversely gifted man – for wilfully and skilfully (using demonically manipulative verbal tactics) causing them emotional distress for his own pleasure.

As noted above, Bernie Najarian has set out the evidence. He tells us that Hunter, last year, “actively pursued a hobby called ‘griefing,’ a kind of publicized internet pranking, where his favorite activity was to invade the digital fantasy worlds of young boys in the online game Minecraft, and set fire to their digital buildings.” After reading Najarian’s account I watched one of the videos to which he linked, which was just as he described, and just as appalling, and I saw plenty of other online evidence to indicate Hunter’s active involvement. It could all be faked but I doubt it. You can do what I did and make your own judgement.

This all began with a video by an acknowledged associate of Hunter, Michael Donald of Dunfermline, Scotland.  Donald is a dedicated internet trickster who styles himself KillerKarrit, with a YouTube channel sporting a carrot logo,  and Michael the Dug. Why does he do it? In the words of his own candid admission “because I’m a cunt”.

Friendly users of games such as Minecraft invite other members of the player community into their worlds to game with them.  They are hosts. It’s like inviting someone into your home: you don’t expect your guests to trash the place after you have painstakingly built it, a task that may have taken a lot of time and thought.  Thus the arrival of a gang of virtual thugs bent on destruction is bound to come as a grievous shock, packing an emotional wallop not that different to a street mugging where you get smacked around and robbed of your smart-phone.

But it seems there are no specific laws against the aptly-named “griefing”, so lots of “cunts” have taken to this appalling new hobby like ducks to water. Like other forms of trolling it is just out there, quite openly, an ugly but inevitable aspect of free online expression. The openness, indeed, is part of the “fun”: griefing involves recording the gleeful destruction and the victim’s shocked reactions, then posting the resulting videos online so lots of other “cunts” can have a good laugh and admire the thugs’ style.

So Stinson Hunter, the real life arsonist, has recently been getting his kicks by burning down kids’ virtual buildings online. There’s a striking behavioural echo there, for sure. It’s not the flames that matter though but the pain. As Najarian put it:

“A supposed protector of online children spends his spare time causing pain and suffering to online children by trashing their video game constructions. It’s sickening.”

There has been a development, though. Whereas last year Cunt Carrot and Stinson Cunter were posting evidence of their dastardly deeds with much the same misplaced pride as the Islamist terrorists flaunt their beheading videos, it now seems belatedly to have dawned on Hunter that trashing kids’ games would also trash his image as a child protector if it were to become more widely known. His child-tormenting videos on the KillerKarrit and Stinson Hunter Youtube channels have been withdrawn; and it seems Hunter was behind complaints that resulted in at least one copy being taken down after it was posted elsewhere.

But maybe he need not worry too much. As Bernie Najarian concluded in March, and he hasn’t been proved wrong since:

“In this rolling atmosphere of witch-hunt, it is very unlikely that the news that Stinson Hunter is part of a gang that regularly torments 12-year-old boys for fun will make any impact.   The matter has already been ignored for months.  The whole tenor of the nation now is to omit such inconveniences from consciousness and to crown the pedophile stalker with laurel wreaths.”

Quite so, Bernie! That’s the way of the world, sadly, and certainly the way of our cowardly, lying national media in the UK!

 

A DECENT NEW FILM BY DAVID KENNERLY

There’s a fantastic new film out today but I have a bit of a problem if I try to big it up too much. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever see but I can’t say so on account of an embarrassing personal detail, namely that I have an – ahem, excuse me – starring role! So that’s why I am mentioning it only down-page rather than giving it top billing. On this occasion I am quite happy to play second fiddle even to Stinson Hunter!

The real star of A Decent Life: The Dissenting Narrative of Tom O’Carroll, is the director, David Kennerly, who has miraculously managed to turn the pig’s ear of my discarded interview last year for Testimony Films into the silk purse of a 11-part, all-singing, all-dancing (well, not by me!) epic, which is launched today and can be seen on YouTube. The segments are each just a few minutes long, hence easily viewed at separate sittings, while the complete work is a little over 68 minutes.

David, as those who have been around at Heretic TOC since the inception will know, has been a guest blogger here a couple of times, debuting in 2013 with a piece about his childhood in the American Midwest and returning last year to warn about the menacing advance of securocratic government.

He studied at film school and has been involved professionally in film production. I didn’t know this background, but when he was liaising with me to make A Decent Life (his title not mine, in case you’re wondering, and I like it) it became obvious to me he has the relevant skills.

David first went to work on the audio of the Testimony Films interview last year, producing Stitching Up Steve Humphries, Humphries being the guy who conducted an interview on behalf of Testimony, which, in the light of what happened later, appears to have been designed to stitch me up as the interviewee. In making his pitch to me, Humphries had come across as a very sympathetic figure, emphasising his background as a social historian, and his interest in hearing a diverse range of views on sexuality, including mine.

The interview was to be part of a documentary on paedophilia he was making for Channel 4 called The Paedophile New Door. When this was aired, however – without any footage from his interview with me – it became overwhelmingly clear his position had all along been fundamentally hostile to mine. It looks as though he ditched my contribution because he had failed to trick me into saying anything that would discredit me: his would-be stitch-up had unravelled.

What David did was to turn the tables on Humphries, stringing together the audio of all his questions but without giving a word of my responses. This cleverly exposed his stitch-up tactics for what they were.

In A Decent Life, by contrast, he has done the exact opposite. This time we hear not a peep from Humphries. Instead, he has given full rein to my responses without them being butchered to quote me out of context or otherwise discredit my contribution.

I like the result and I hope you will. If you agree A Decent Life is a good film, please Tweet about it or give it a plug wherever you can, online via the social media or elsewhere. Thanks!

 

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