Hail, brave warrior, Nigel the Noble!

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The proudly defiant motto of former chemistry teacher Nigel Oldfield’s OSC website is “Always winning”. The mission statement is “Enabling the rights, legal entitlements and safety of all, regardless of history”. A glance at the topics covered reveals that minor attraction is clearly a major concern.

It is ironic, then, that the most recent report at OSC is about someone losing, not winning; someone whose rights have not been enabled and who has plainly been unsafe. It is a post telling us about a registered sex offender, injured when he was attacked at work with a hammer, being denied entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.

Even more ironic is the latest news, which is about Nigel himself. You’ll find it in the Daily Mail but not at OSC. The Mail reported last week that around 100 people gathered outside his home near Rotherham after learning that this “convicted paedophile” had been living in the neighbourhood for 18 months. The mob “smashed down doors and ransacked the rented property before police were alerted and drove the 54-year-old away”, eye-witnesses reportedly said.

In the Mail’s version, unsurprisingly, this violent mob were merely local parents worried about their children. The legitimacy of their action was implicitly endorsed by quoting a local witness:  “The disgrace is not the public disorder but the fact that we were never told this man was living in the area.” The Mail admitted that Nigel had been attacked in the course of a five-hour siege, but played down the violence, saying he had not needed hospital treatment.

According to a detailed report, though, by Bernie Najarian on Boychat, a local freelance photographer tweeted a photo of him with a bloody nose; others reported on social media that Nigel had been seen in the A&E department of a local hospital soon after the fracas. There are hints he may have been hounded while he was there, too, and perhaps attacked a second time.

As for Oldfield the man, Najarian reported that he

“…had never touched a child sexually. He also claimed steadfastly online that he was not a pedophile, based on the clinical definition. Nonetheless, he had earned himself a multi-year membership on the sex offenders’ registry in Britain in 2002, after he’d gone on a spree of depression-fuelled image downloading, 11,000 images in all, of which a handful were considered legally actionable. After doing 15 months of prison time and realizing he was now all but unemployable in the mean streets of de-industrialized Britain, he emerged with the idea that the punishment didn’t fit the crime. He became an online activist and gadfly, sparring with the political leaders of the abuse victim movement and insisting that an image was information, not a person.”

The Boychat report also linked to a 2012 edition of Jon Gaunt’s shock-jock phone-in radio show, on which Nigel was interviewed at some length. I listened to it. His handling of Gaunt’s baiting was nothing if not feisty. By no means would I endorse all that Nigel said. Nevertheless, I found myself warming to his you’re-not-gonna-bully-me combativeness. This pugnacious style, this “always winning” attitude, in the teeth of our many defeats as heretics in these terrible times, strikes me as admirable and inspiring.

And never was it more ballsy than in his reported reaction to the mob gathered at his home. Did he make himself scarce? Did he get the hell out of it or lock himself in the bathroom, as most of us would surely have tried to do?

No way! He came out fighting! Wielding “a length of wood”, presumably to defend himself, he sallied forth, taunting the crowd! Inevitably, he was then attacked; but even that failed to shut him up.  A witness was reported as saying “He must be used to getting a beating because I could hear him shouting ‘is that all you’ve got?’ ”

Is that all you’ve got! Incredible!!

While it may not be the most original retort, and definitely not a wise one, it is an undeniably plucky thing to say when you stand alone against a bunch of thugs who could pile in and kick your head off at any second.  So hail, brave warrior, Nigel the Noble!

According to Telegraph blogger Mic Wright, OSC  stands for Online Sex Offenders Community. He and others have dismissed it as a one-man band rather than any sort of community, with Wright himself saying “even some paedophiles consider him an embarrassment”. Likewise, the UK & Ireland database, an Anti site “profiling crimes against children”, badmouths him, saying “On GirlChat, he tries to portray himself as an expert on a wide variety of topics, but even his fellow paedophiles view him with disdain and contempt. His website, instead of being the scholarly repository of intellectual material he seems to think it is, is a tabloid style, narcissistic representation of what a crazed individual this man really is.”

I have no idea whether regulars on GirlChat would agree with this. As for the OSC website, it seems to comprise mainly links rather than blogs. Can mere links be “narcissistic”? Am I missing something?  Heretic TOC would not usually feature such a hostile opinion from a dubious source. As I have praised Nigel as brave, though – and it will take a lot of persuasion to shift me from that view – I feel I should make it clear my judgment is made in the full knowledge that other heretics may be less impressed.

I’d be interested to hear what you think. And Nigel, if you are reading this, by all means speak up for yourself here.

Actually, I have emailed him a couple of times in the last week without receiving any reply so far, just to ask how he is feeling after all this turmoil and to see if he needs any help. Getting a safe new place to live will doubtless be his top priority. It would be understandable if he has neither the time nor the taste for further public engagement just now. I do hope he is getting some sort of official help, if he needs it, for re-housing.

Of all people, I would be particularly remiss if I did not to show concern and offer assistance. Why me? Because only a month ago Nigel generously offered me a safe house – or what seemed a safe one at that time – after I had been subjected to a storm of online abuse and threats following my appearance on the Australian version of 60 Minutes.

Chief shit stirrer on that occasion was the odious arsonist, child-tormentor and self-righteous anti-paedophile sting artist Stinson Hunter. He and Chris Wittwer, who runs the UK & Ireland database linked above, both helped orchestrate the heat put on Nigel. In Wittwer’s case, according to Bernie Najarian’s report, this extended to “working closely with mob members stalking Oldfield” and posting a photograph of him in hospital. This was on the Saturday morning, following the fracas on Friday afternoon, which suggests he may have been kept in A&E overnight. If so, the Mail’s claim that he had not needed hospital treatment would seem wide of the mark. Najarian describes Wittwer as “the UK’s best known old-school anti-pedo vigilante”.

I should perhaps conclude by adding that after my solicitor returned from holiday a couple of days ago, I emailed him as to the practicability and wisdom of asking the police to investigate the online threats made against me. I referred to Nigel’s case as well, pointing out how online hostility, seemingly remote and ineffectual, can quickly lead to something much more serious once an address is in play. I expect to discuss the matter with him shortly.

Oh, yes, one more thing. I mentioned 60 Minutes. When I blogged about it in Pummelling the human face of paedophilia, I described the interview as a PR disaster, saying “I swear to shun the intoxicating liquor of publicity for ever – or at least until the next tempting but illusory opportunity comes along to promote an alternative narrative in the mainstream media.”

However, I am not so sure now that it was a disaster. Yes, it was a terrible interview. Yes, there was massive blowback, with intense hostility on the social media. Yes, many of those who watched the show would have been massively confirmed in their belief that we heretics are monsters.

On the other hand, most viewers of a sensationalist show like that would have already been entrenched in such a view. There was never going to be a chance of converting them, so no harm was done. As for the small open-minded minority who may have seen it, plus others who may have heard about the fuss without even viewing the programme, it seems there may be another story to tell.

The evidence is that since 60 Minutes aired, Heretic TOC has consistently become a much more visited site. Hits on the site have jumped up from an average of 200 per day last year to over 300 so far this year. On four consecutive days immediately after the broadcast, there were over 1000 hits per day, peaking at 1685 on 20 July. Most of these hits, I presume, were antis coming along to be disgusted. After getting their fix of nausea – or boredom when they couldn’t find anything very scandalous! – they didn’t return. For the last three weeks, though, hits have been running at nearly 500 per day. So this is beginning to look like a permanent rise of interest in Heretic TOC for which the only explanation (apart from an excellent recent guest blog by Lensman!) appears to be the exposure on Australian TV. OK, some of it will be antis, some could be cops, although the latter have presumably long been a presence.

My guess is that the attention has attracted the curiously open-minded along with the antis, plus sympathisers previously unaware of Heretic TOC’s existence. The old adage that no publicity is bad publicity may not be so far from the mark after all.

The staircase has not one step but many

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Among the 130 comments received in response to Negotiating a little girl’s knickers down were a number of excellent ones on “consent”, including the “informed” and “affirmative” varieties. One commentator, Lensman, kindly agreed to my suggestion that his contribution should appear as a guest blog – by no means his first, as regular readers will know. I thought it was fine in its draft form but it now appears below in a more polished and extended version that must have cost its perfectionist author a lot more time to prepare. He has apologized to me (quite unnecessarily!) for its being “heavy going”. I say it is a serious subject that deserves, and indeed demands, the sort of careful analysis he has given; I trust others here will agree.

  1. What do the words “consent” and “informed”, mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary:

Informed: (adjective) 1. having much knowledge or education 2. based on information

Consent: (verb) to give assent or permission (to do something); (noun) acquiescence to or acceptance of something done or planned by another

From these we can venture that “informed consent” could be “the information-based or knowledge-based acquiescence to, or acceptance of, something done or planned by another”.

This creates a model of sexuality where one party is necessarily active and the other passive which, in my experience, is not realistic. Additionally it should not be assumed that the child must be the passive partner in an interaction (see section 8: “Informed consent” and “intent” – the child).

  1. In what circumstances is “informed consent” required over and above (what I will call) “simple consent” ?

Generally “simple consent”’ is sufficient provided that whatever being consented to

i/ doesn’t remove the capacity to give, maintain, or withdraw consent,

ii/ doesn’t require specialised knowledge to be able to make a consent decision.

“Informed consent” is commonly solicited in connection with medical procedures and from participants in research. Both require “informed consent” because of

i/ risks to the participants,

ii/ to protect the surgeon, researcher, etc., from having to bear the entire responsibility for any adverse effects on the subject of the surgery/research,

iii/ because the subject will also no longer have the capacity to give or withdraw consent during the actual treatment or research (the subject will either be anaesthetized or will be taking part in some sort of double-blind test where they must not know the exact nature of the tests they are submitting to).

  1. Is “informed consent” required for sexual relationships between adults?

No. Generally the consent that happens between adults is implied consent which “is not expressly granted by a person, but rather inferred from a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation.”

Consent is essentially expressed by the willingness or eagerness of the actors to engage in the activity in question and assumes prior adequate knowledge. Plus, in such interactions there is the assumption that the participants maintain their capacity to give or withdraw consent as the interaction develops and changes.

  1. How meaningful is the popular idea of sexual “consent”?

The legal (and popular) conception of “consent” implies prior agreement to the entirety of a sexual episode.

However, in practice, sexual consent works very differently. It is more of an on-going negotiation in which the contract is being constantly re-written.

What does not happen is that a couple, each time prior to initiating sexual activity, discuss in detail what they will do, and draw up a “sex-plan” that will be strictly adhered to and which outlines how they will proceed from hugging to kissing, kissing to groping, groping to undressing, undressing to foreplay…

The only situation in which something like this may happen is with prostitution.

The legal model of consent could be visualised as a house where there is only one single, unnegotiable, step for getting from downstairs to the bedroom upstairs.

In reality, sexual interactions will proceed from the “downstairs to the bedroom” by multiple small steps. Each step consists of one of the partners making a foray into a new activity, which the partner can either accept or reject.

At each stage both partners are implicitly thinking “Do I want what is happening to continue?”, “Do I want to do what s/he is proposing next?” Either actor can give or withdraw their consent to these actions.

This means that there are actually many moments in an intimate encounter where the progression of the interaction can be either halted, or diverted. The law sees “consent” as a unitary kilogram of “macro-consent” – whereas the actual practice of intimacy is more an accumulation of a thousand separate grams of “micro-consent”.

  1. Children and “simple consent”

A baby is perfectly capable of expressing pleasure or displeasure at something being done to him, and children are very good at knowing what they want and don’t want, like and don’t like. If you’ve ever tried to persuade a reluctant child to eat its broccoli, or suggested a trip to the pool on a hot day, you will see how capable children are of consenting.

But “consent” implies some intellectual evaluation of, and detachment from, the action being performed or proposed.

I suggest four things are required for this intellectual consideration to occur:

a) that the situation is comprehensible for the person,

b) an awareness that acts can have consequences beyond the act itself,

c) a realisation that pleasure (or lack of pain) is not a sufficient justification of itself for consenting to an act (e.g. would the child eat something it knows is poisonous because it tastes good?),

d) knowledge of their own capacity to consent, or withhold or withdraw consent, to acts, or indeed a whole relationship.

According to these criteria a baby can’t give meaningful consent to being suckled. However the fact that this doesn’t place mothers at moral fault for doing so shows that consent is not the be-all-and-end-all of how we should act towards others.

Provided that the criteria listed in section 2 above are met there is no reason to deny children the form of consent which applies to adult sexuality. Just as adults use “negotiated on-going micro-consent” (initiating activities, accepting/encouraging activities that please, rejecting activities and suggestions that don’t…) so can children. (any subsequent references to “simple consent” can be taken as shorthand for “negotiated on-going micro-consent”).

  1. What information do people need in order to qualify as “informed” with respect to sexual interactions?

Many decisions a child has to make will require additional information: jumping into a lake, learning to ride a bike, having their ears pierced, joining the brownies or going on a school trip. Children can, and are expected, to give, or withhold, “informed consent” to many things in everyday life.

Those inimical to child sexuality often evoke “informed consent” as a magical formula which renders all child-adult sensual interactions wrong. However the exact nature of the required information implied by the word “informed” remains (deliberately?) nebulous and protean.

In compiling the following list I’ve excluded factors which, given a good relationship, are covered by the protection of “simple consent” – most notably “knowledge of sexual acts”: a child does not need comprehensive knowledge of every possible sexual act any more than she needs to know about the “off-side” rule in order to kick a ball round the garden.

Intrinsic:

i. the risk of pregnancy

ii. the risk of STD

Extrinsic:

iii. knowledge of the nature and extent of social stigma associated with child/adult sexual/sensual relationships

iv. the possibility that s/he may change his/her mind about what happened at some time after the act is over

Note that all of the items on this list have one thing in common: they are about things that have an effect beyond the time-span of the sexual acts themselves; they are about possible results of the sexual activity.

Also, note that if the children in question are prepubescent the first two factors are much less significant than for adolescents. Non-penetrative sexual acts have in and of themselves no consequences outside of the time-span of the sexual activity itself.

  1. Can a child qualify as being sufficiently “informed” that their consent becomes acceptable?

At what ages children have the awareness of their own capacity to consent or not to sexual activity is hard to evaluate since it is not something that is touched upon either in education, child rearing, research or an average child’s experience.

WEIRD societies (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) have a poor record when it comes to providing children with a sexual education. Children are repeatedly taught about “bad touch” and exhorted to “just say NO”. This is done in such a way as to avoid the child getting any notion that she herself can decide what she does with her body. No clear idea is given as to what a child must say “no” to and therefore such “education” doesn’t contribute to a child’s capacity to give or withhold consent.

The extrinsic “knowledge of the nature and extent of social stigma associated with child/adult sexual/sensual relationships” is something children may be aware of (“paedo” has become a play-ground insult) but is it likely that a prepubescent can have a proper knowledge of the stigma associated with adult-child sex?

  1. “Informed consent” and “intent” – the child

An important issue is also whether “informed consent” can be given progressively as a relationship develops. “Informed consent” is often thought of as requiring the child to have a comprehensive knowledge about sex etc. before she can engage in it at even the most basic level. As if a child needed to know about mitosis and meiosis before she can enjoy someone stroking her bottom.

I suspect that “progressively informed micro-consent” is the mechanism by which all activities proceed where the child develops new skills and knowledge in partnership with another person. Think how a child learning gymnastics will concentrate on acquiring the information and skills necessary for the next step. A good teacher will pass on his knowledge in small quantities and help the child assimilate it through practice and experience.

The intent of a child who willingly and proactively engages in a sexual relationship is clearly one of someone who is showing an eagerness to become “informed”, as are all children who are engaged in play and exploration. Such a child is at the same time giving “simple consent”, but is also seeking to become progressively “informed”.

Society normally encourages this progression and calls it “learning” and “education”. However when it comes to “sex and sensuality” society does all it can to maintain children in a condition of being uninformed.

Indeed society prevents children from seeking the knowledge and experience necessary for them to be sexually “informed” by:

  1. withholding information from the child i.e. lack of sex education and openness on the subject in society at large,
  2. prosecution and stigmatisation of adults who educate, or wish to educate, a child,
  3. stigmatisation and even prosecution of children who seek to be so educated.

9.  Stigma

A lack of openness, of proper sex education and the stifling of children’s capacity to decide what they do with their bodies and emotions, makes it harder for children to be able to give “informed consent”. However, if we accept that a child in a relationship can become “progressively informed” then these are not insuperable obstacles.

But the stigma society loads onto such relationships is an insuperable obstacle.

The trauma often experienced by adults who have participated in non-coercive intimacy with adults occurs not at the time of the sexual activity but when the child/adult grows old enough to experience the stigma such activities provoke, and re-contextualise them as “abusive”. Can a child make an informed decision on how she will react in, say, ten years when this stigma really starts to bite?

This is an extrinsic source of harm imposed on such relationships by society. While this stigma exists there is a significant risk that harm will eventually result from even the best conducted, most loving child/adult intimate interactions. It is unlikely that a child engaged in a relationship with an adult could be made fully aware of this stigma – if she were, and had internalised it, she would be unlikely to wish to engage in the sexual activities.

This very serious risk of trauma is one that neither the child or the adult can reliably forestall.

  1. Conclusion

Children can give “simple consent” (“negotiated on-going micro-consent” ) to sex but society creates conditions which make it impossible for children to give fully “informed consent”.

First, society denies children the concepts and information by which they can think about and make sense of feelings and emotions they experience in their bodies and minds. Society then says children cannot give “informed consent” because they are “innocent” (read “ignorant”). Society use the ignorance it creates to justify the very creation of that ignorance.

Even if a child does adequately fulfill the normal criteria for being “informed” (i.e. those that are assumed in adult-adult sex) there is one criterion that will ensure that the child cannot ever be fully informed: the knowledge of the nature and extent of social stigma associated with child/adult sexual/sensual relationships. If the child is ignorant of this, she clearly is not “informed”; if she is aware of the stigma, faced with such a horrific prospect, she is unlikely to wish to engage in the sexual activities.

In a society where such relationships were not so heavily stigmatised, in which children were given the conceptual tools by which to be aware of their bodily integrity and autonomy, they would be able to give “informed consent”.

But all this is missing the point: society’s talk of “informed consent” is a smoke-screen, a sleight of hand, a boxer’s feint.

When Antis talk of “informed consent” they do not do so out of concern to define the criteria necessary for a child to consent. They do it out of an awareness that evoking “simple consent” doesn’t adequately do the job of shutting down child sexuality. “Informed consent” is their next line of defence.

Present an Anti with a hypothetical child who is sexually experienced, who is knowledgeable, who is independent-minded and autonomous, who lives in a society where adult-child intimacy is licit and who is eager to engage in intimacy with an adult.

Ask him ”Can that child consent to a relationship with an adult?”.

Furnishing us with a prime example of begging the question, his answer will be “No, of course she can’t! She’s a child!”

 

TWITTER TRAVAILS

Last time, in What to do about the Twitter twats? I wrote:

“I have drafted a letter to the police, calling for an investigation into the individuals who have posted incitements to violence and death threats.”

At the end, I asked for advice:

“Should I send that letter I drafted or would it just be a waste of time and effort? Is there anything else that can be done? Your views would be most welcome.”

Thanks for all the comments made. I think I probably will send the letter, but before I go ahead I’ll be consulting a solicitor next week for his professional input.

 

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