Give generously to Shag the Children

72 Comments

“Did the earth move for you?” as the aid worker said to the quake victim after sex in the ruins.

Or maybe this particular aftershock was followed by, at best, a less romantic “Thank you, ma’am” plus a few dollars. Or “Thank you, young lady” if she happened to be a marginally underage 17-year-old in Haiti where the age of consent is 18.

Oxfam staff in that country after the 2010 quake, as the world has known since The Times broke the story early this month, had been involved with prostitutes, according to the organisation’s own leaked internal report, which was reportedly “unable to rule out that some of the sex workers were underage” – a sensibly cautious conclusion, but careful caveats were utterly ignored, of course, by opportunist moral panic mongers, who lost no time in deciding there had been rampant child prostitution and a plague of predatory paedophiles.

Personally, I have little doubt that those who risk life and limb in war zones, earthquakes, and other dangerous scenarios, to help desperate, traumatised people, will tend to end up physically exhausted and psychologically shocked themselves; so it seems mean to begrudge them a bit of R&R, at least at the end of their tour of duty. That was certainly what the American military thought during the Vietnam War, when soldiers were billeted in Thailand for a vacation on their way home, where they were expected to enjoy the services of sex workers, including underage ones, notably in the beach resort of Pattaya. Previously just a fishing village, Pattaya grew to accommodate one of the biggest red light districts in the world. R&R was a military term meaning “rest and recuperation” but the soldiers often called it “I&I”, for “intoxication and intercourse”.

As for the “underage” aspect, this may have been officially frowned upon by the US military, but nothing was done about it and a blind eye was turned to soldiers cavorting with even very young girls and boys in Pattaya, Bangkok, and other R&R destinations such as the Philippines.

There is no evidence whatever that Oxfam’s leadership ignored staff involvement with obviously underage sex workers, or younger children, and there has been no more than a hint that anything went on with underage persons at all. Yet the storm in the British media was immediate, sustained, and so relentlessly thunderous one might have supposed this was the most appalling, sickening scandal in the long history of scandals. It was as if “we murdered babies in their cots”, beleaguered Oxfam boss Mark Goldring lamented in a Guardian interview; but, if he thought his bemused bleating would help, he would soon have to think again. Only days later, after coming under heavy fire for daring to complain about being unreasonably attacked, he found himself forced into a grovelling apology for his remarks, in front of a parliamentary committee.

Why? This level of outrage is usually reserved for cases involving children. But there were no children; or at least there were only imagined, slightly underage, teens in the case of Oxfam.

The hue and cry is to some extent easily explained by the view that people in certain occupations, such as the clergy, and teachers, are expected to set an example to others. When they fall from grace, therefore, they disappoint high expectations. Some media commentators have explicitly made this point in relation to Oxfam, although it is by no means obvious to me why those doing this type of work should have to demonstrate saintly celibacy when the task in hand frequently calls upon them to prove their worth in other ways – for instance, like soldiers, they very often need to show courage and endurance. So are we saying, as we sit at home comfortably doing nothing, that these people – many of whom are volunteers, or very modestly paid local staff in poor countries – must be perfect in every way so as not to fall short of our pampered expectations?

The unreasonable requirement of saintliness has definitely contributed to the outrage against Oxfam and other aid organisations dragged into the scandal, notably Shag the Children (sorry, Save the Children), UNICEF, and latterly the Red Cross, but this is not the half of it. There are at least two further factors. The most obvious one for Heretic TOC’s usual concerns is that victim feminist outrage is no longer confined to concern for child victims, so the lack of evidence that Oxfam staff availed themselves of child prostitutes in Haiti does not kill the story. I will come to this factor later.

A much nastier aspect of all this, sadly, is that not only do we punish other people for falling short of standards we would be hard-pressed to match ourselves, we also rush to engage with a narrative that seems to justify our own hard-hearted, lack of compassion and generosity. Well, I say “we”, but really I mean readers of the Daily Mail and similarly minded elements of the mainstream media, which have leapt onto the Oxfam story, following it up with page after page of reports and commentary all designed to play up the idea that the charities are hopelessly corrupt, siphoning off donated money off into huge executive salaries and bloated expense accounts, while conducting wasteful and inefficient operations in the field. Another element in this narrative, in fact an ideologically even more important one, is that government aid also goes to waste, allegedly ending up in the pockets of “corrupt dictators” and the like rather than the people who need it.

Ian Birrell, in the Mail on Sunday, even managed, at least implicitly, to link these two themes – private charity and government aid – when he took the opportunity to hammer Oxfam over their “flawed” (but he did not say what was wrong with it) recent report on global inequality. On their website, Oxfam said in January: “Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%, and nothing went to the bottom 50%.”

The Mail and other billionaire-owned media outlets hate any such “socialist” hints that the super-rich are not paying their way, with the implication that they should be taxed more in order to finance not just foreign aid but also health, education, etc., at home. Thus hacks like Birrell are hired to stir up public resentment against outfits like Oxfam for daring to think about important issues of politics and finance instead of (actually, as well as) building tent cities for quake victims, distributing emergency food aid and so forth.

A counterblast to this mean-minded, selfish attitude to the world was to be found, though, by those with the patience to look beyond the headlines and in the right places. The distinguished foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn, for instance, writing in the Independent, said that if we care so much about Haitians we should be asking why Oxfam was there in the first place. It was not as though Oxfam staff were too busy having it off with prostitutes to organise food distribution and so forth in the immediate aftermath of the quake, which was in January 2010. Months passed after that during which UN soldiers, brought in from Nepal to help, inadvertently brought cholera with them, starting an epidemic that killed over 7,500 in two years.

Few recent commentators, said Cockburn, bothered to ask what Oxfam was doing in Haiti at the end of 2010, long after the quake itself, and the beginning of 2011. He wrote:

In fact, Oxfam was trying with some desperation to stem the cholera epidemic, the first outbreak of which was detected in central Haiti in October, from spreading further. By the following month, it had reached Port-au-Prince and Oxfam was trying to provide uncontaminated water to 315,000 people already rendered homeless by the earthquake. An Oxfam statement on 10 November describes how “Oxfam continues to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and activities in the camps/communities where we are working. A cholera strategy is being developed to guide our activities for at least the next three months. At this time, we are reinforcing our water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in camps where we already work in Port-au-Prince, and in Artibonite. We are currently reaching over 400,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, and another 100,000 individuals mostly through our emergency food security and vulnerable livelihoods (EFSVL) programmes.”

This work, in Cockburn’s view, “kept a lot of people alive who would otherwise have died”. But foreign journalists and politicians huffing and puffing about the alleged exploitation of Haitian sex-workers did not even appear to notice that there was cholera epidemic raging in Haiti while Oxfam was there, and neither noticed nor apparently cared about the vital work being done by Oxfam.

The clashing worldviews represented by Birrell and Cockburn do not appear to speak directly to our primary concerns here at Heretic TOC and I know that expressing my left-leaning view may serve only to piss off the right-leaning (or toppling over) heretics among us. Nevertheless, the Oxfam aspect of the “predatory paedophiles” narrative is inextricably embedded in a world of politics, economics and human values: to remain mutely agnostic on these big issues would surely be to deprive our discussion of context and depth.

I said I would return to the fact that the absence of child prostitutes in Haiti did not kill the story. Suddenly, this is part of an emerging theme. The entire #MeToo movement in the wake of Harvey Weinstein has been about allegedly exploited and vulnerable women rather than children. As for prostitution, the “social purity” campaigners in the 19th century would dearly have loved to ban it altogether, and this has been an aim of moralistic feminism ever since. The big stumbling block for a hundred years was men’s entrenched political strength; when this came under serious challenge with second-wave feminism in the 1960s and beyond, further headway was prevented by sex workers themselves, who organised and gained a media presence in the UK through the English Collective of Prostitutes and through COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) in the US.

Now, it seems, their voices are being drowned out by the all-conquering victim lobby. A recent BBC report, for instance, did not mention any such organisations or quote anyone in support of sex work when covering a review of a police deployment, Operation Sanctuary, which saw 18 people jailed for the “sexual abuse” of young women “groomed” in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in northern England. The review concluded that “vulnerable women” are probably being “extensively” abused across the UK and that the government should look at tightening up the law.

The most depressing aspect of this, for those of us who value sexual self-determination at all ages (and personal freedom generally) is the mounting pressure against even adults being allowed to make their own sexual choices. This was made clear in the review’s finding that the authorities did not have the powers to intervene with adults to stop them “making bad choices” or forming “inappropriate relationships” – with the implication that such powers ought to be established in law.

As for how far some feminists are prepared to go in stamping out sex work and “exploitation”, it was made almost comically clear in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World At One, when host Martha Kearney interviewed a BBC colleague, Gemma Cairney, who had helped raise funds for Oxfam until the present crisis. Asked what could be done to prevent such scandals, Cairney replied, apparently in all seriousness, “We need to change human nature”. Even Kearney, a fellow female and no doubt a card-carrying feminist, remarked that this might be a bit ambitious; but I fear all too many women would be up for the challenge – provided that the target was only men’s human nature.

 

Nothing like Nordic noir to cheer us up!

221 Comments

Stunning research in two studies, from Finland and Germany, has already been reported this year, both of which give a big boost to the heretical claim that kind people are much kinder – more caring in their feelings towards children and liked by them – than the present, all-pervasive, vilification suggests.

I’ll start with the one that looks at children’s own perceptions, not least because studies of this type are exceedingly rare, and provided they have been well conducted they are pure gold. This is a study based on the Finnish Child Victim Survey. That word “victim” doesn’t sound very promising, does it? But it was a survey with thousands of child participants, carried out in schools, that looked at children as victims of real crimes and mistreatment, such as theft and physical violence, as well as so-called “child sexual abuse” (CSA) by a much older person. Crucially, it was not assumed that the children would think they were victims. Instead, they were asked how they would characterise these contacts.

And guess what? Most 12-year-olds reported CSA as a positive experience. Go compare that with the dogma touted on sex offender courses that no child would ever want or enjoy it!  More about the Finnish findings in a minute.

As for the German research, it is one of those big, prestigious, neuroscience affairs that might be completely wrong – this is cutting edge stuff, after all, looking at the most complex structure in the known universe, the human brain – but which we would be foolish to ignore. It is a paper by Jorge Ponseti, an established figure in the field, along with a team of no fewer than 18 co-authors. The take-away point from it for now is the study’s tentative conclusion that male paedophiles, far from being aggressive and rapacious, appear to have a stronger caring, nurturing response towards the young than other adult males. It is good to see science at last catching up with what many of us have known all our adult lives just by being aware of our own more tender feelings towards kids. In fairness to science, though, nearly three decades ago (and as the paper notes) the Austrian ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt expressed a similar view, suggesting that paedophilia might in some cases be based on an “eroticization of parental love”.

The implications are obvious and could in future hardly be more profound for how paedophiles are viewed in society if this pioneering study’s findings are confirmed through further research. This is so important that it needs a separate blog, which I plan to bring out in due course.

Turning back to Finland, what we have is a 2018 paper based on the large (n = 11,364) population-based sample of sixth and ninth grade schoolchildren conducted in that country in 2013 and published in 2014 (in Finnish) as the Finnish Child Victim Survey. The paper, by Lahtinen et al., focused solely on the CSA data in the survey. The sixth graders were mostly aged 12 and the ninth graders mostly aged 15 at the time of the survey, which was completed on a voluntary classroom-by-classroom basis in schools across Finland. Respondents’ gender distribution was equal. So-called “abuse” by adults (perceived by some respondents as abusive but not by others) was based on the question “Have you ever experienced sexual advances or intercourse with an adult or a person at least 5 years older than you?” Follow-up questions were asked about the age of the respondent and age of the other person at the time of the events. Over 70% of the reported incidents involved actual sexual contact rather than a non-contact proposition or exhibitionism.

The children, answering the survey on classroom computers, were able to give their responses anonymously, without pressure from therapists or law enforcement sources, and without time for their memories to be overwritten by distorting influences at a later stage, as adults. So this procedure avoided any colouring added by the culturally imposed notion that children are asexual and “innocent”, or by the preconception that any sexual involvement with an adult must amount to “abuse”.

Perhaps the most striking finding, as noted above, is that a majority (54%) of the 12-year-olds who reported sexual contacts with an adult described it as a positive experience.

This finding, being potentially embarrassing to the child abuse industry (which thrives on generating and elaborating victim narratives rather than discovering reasons to be cheerful) was not headlined in the report. Instead, it emerged in an emailed response to questions presented by an independent researcher to Monica Fagerlund, lead author of the Finnish Child Victim Survey itself. The email was sent back in 2016, long before the very recent appearance of the Lahtinen et al. paper. The independent researcher was none other than Filip Schuster, who will be known to many here for his extremely well-informed comments at Heretic TOC.

However, Lahtinen et al.’s published paper contains further data of an inconvenient nature for the victimological view, as will be clear to the savvy reader despite the authors’ attempts to talk the implications down, through caveat and spin.

The analyses focused on the subsample of 256 children and adolescents who reported having sexual experiences with adults or with someone at least five years older at the time of the incident. This subsample amounts to 2.4% of the total sample, a figure some might feel is very low, and indeed reassuringly so on a conventional view, given that a survey of children themselves would appear to be the most reliable method.

For the boys, the experience was often positive (71%), whereas for the girls it was less often so evaluated (26%). Almost half of the girls (46%) said the experience was negative, compared to 9% of the boys. These findings were much the same for the sixth and ninth graders.

The most popular reason for not disclosing the contact to an adult was considering the experience not serious enough (41%). Other options included: “I did not believe that anyone would be interested” (14%); “I did not believe that disclosing would help me” (14%); miscellaneous other reasons (8%) included “I did not want to”, “There was nothing to tell”, and “I enjoyed it”. More negative reasons accounted for barely a quarter of the total:  “I did not have the courage to tell” (14%); “I was too ashamed to disclose” (10%).

The authors commented in the paper:

The small number of answers to the question of whether a sexual incident with an adult was considered negative or positive does not enable testing statistical significance…. Most of the children reported these incidents as positive. This highlights the potentially contradictory views of an incident from the perspective of the respondent compared to that of society and the law.

I posted on Sexnet about the paper, asking specifically for members’ expert opinion on this statistical point. The size of the subsample (n = 256) is indeed small compared to the overall sample (n = 11,364) but to the layman the absolute number looks easily large enough to derive valid inferences in which considerable confidence can be placed.

Having mentioned the authors’ caveat on statistical significance, I should perhaps add a word about their spin. In fairness this is pretty much confined to two sentences in the “Conclusions and implications” section:

These results, taken together with the finding that many of the children did not label their experiences as sexual abuse, indicate that more age-appropriate safety education for children and adolescents is needed to encourage disclosures to adults early enough… Early disclosure is crucial, both for ending the abuse and for preventing perpetrators from moving on to new victims.

Again, I posted on Sexnet about this, writing:

So blinkered has research become that the policy point here (more safety education needed) will probably seem utterly uncontroversial to most people working in the field. That is because, for them, the victimological paradigm has become incontrovertible common sense. But this is zombie science. It lacks an alert appreciation of the data before the authors’ eyes, which clearly indicate that a very significant (in lay terms at least) proportion of the “victims” are only thus designated by convention, not by the evidence. This is not to argue against the goal of reducing real victimisation. It is just to suggest that a bigger and very important picture is being missed.

I am pleased to report that Mike Bailey, psychology professor at Northwestern University, and Sexnet moderator, supported my interpretation of the stats, posting to say “You are correct that size of the sub sample with ‘CSA’ is adequate for statistical tests.” He also said the study was “unusually informative”, thanking me for posting about it and kindly saying “Your take on this study is trenchant and brave”.

This was too good to last, sadly. Before you could say “knee-jerk reaction” my long-time adversary James Cantor had piped up, making a complete snowflake of himself (or of his colleagues) by asserting that my criticism of the CSA industry was offensive and would deter discussion of the paper – as though the 300-plus researchers and clinicians on Sexnet would be scared to challenge me. Yes, that’s me, little me, the sole surviving, vocal, non-virtuous paedo perv on the forum, faced with the massed ranks of the abuse industry’s intellectual elite, including leading lights within the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)!

But at least Dr Cantor admitted that he agreed “with the basic conclusion of the posted article”, which is something. As is the fact that Dr Bailey was prompted to post again, saying my reference to the CSA industry “raises an issue I’ve been meaning to write about for a while”.

And write he did, at considerable length, in a remarkable post admitting that “in the culture at large, we are biased in a way that exaggerates the harmfulness of child-adult sex, often in a hysterical way”. He proceeded to write his own four-paragraph critique of the CSA industry, saying, for instance, government funding for research on CSA “is extraordinarily biased towards searching for harm” rather than positive experience. Nor were there grants to study why there might be positive experiences, including the possibility that iatrogenic harm is avoided when children and their adult partners manage to avoid law enforcement in their relationship, with its crushing impact on the younger partner as well as the older one.

Bailey’s contribution was wonderful but there were also a couple of tough queries arising from the detailed stats that put the validity of the findings in some doubt. Follow-up emails by Filip to Monica Fagerlund and Hanna-Mari Lahtinen elicited some further information but not enough to settle the key issues. Hanna even sent me a friendly email out of the blue, saying that in order to get good answers to the questions being raised she would need “qualitative data such as written answers to open questions. Unfortunately we did not have such questions concerning sexual abuse in this questionnaire…”

Yes, unfortunate but understandable. There is only so much that can be packed into a single survey.

Not to worry, though, for I soon discovered that the Finnish Findings are strongly supported by the Danish Data! Yes, in this rapidly unfolding Scandinavian thriller series (a Netflix box-set can’t be far off) another study has turned up in the nick of time!

Like the Lahtinen et al., paper, this Danish one was based on a rare survey – vanishingly rare in the US and UK at least – of school students rather than adults. The article, by Karin Helweg-Larsen and Helmer Bøving Larsen, came out in 2006 and appears to have been somewhat overlooked – certainly by me, perhaps on account of its miserablist title: “The prevalence of unwanted and unlawful sexual experiences reported by Danish adolescents: Results from a national youth survey in 2002”.

On close inspection, though, which required a few calculations of my own, it looks very hard to justify any claim that the survey was entirely or even mostly about unwanted sex. Rather, it was about illegal sex below the age of consent, set at 15 in Denmark. The participants in the survey were 9th grade students, nearly all of whom were themselves aged 15. Unlike the youngsters in Finland, they were not asked whether they felt the experience had been positive or negative but they were asked whether they felt it had been abusive or not. Thus the experience may or may not have been perceived as enjoyable and beneficial but it seems reasonable to infer that those who did not feel it was abusive probably thought they had consented to what happened, in fact if not in law.

So how many of these apparently consensual encounters were there? The authors wrote:

“A total of 7.5% of girls and 2% of boys reported CSA where the older person was at least five years older than the child, but less than half of the respondents perceived these experiences as sexual abuse.”

The relevant data were to be found in Table II, albeit without the percentages I was looking for. After working these out, is became clear that fully 60% of the respondents (boys 65% and girls – of whom there were far more – 59%) did not consider they had been abused.

What all this amounts to is extraordinarily good news. The Danish survey strongly supports the Finnish one in allowing us to conclude that when children are allowed to give their own perception of their sexual experiences with much older people, usually adults, a high proportion of them in effect say they consented to what happened and look back on it as something good in their life.

The CSA industry does its best to hide these encouraging facts even as it unwittingly discloses them via surveys aimed at discovering an endless parade of victims for society to be anxious and miserable about. Instead of joyful stories of companionable intimacy, everything has to be turned into bleak Nordic noir. We must not let them get away with it!

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: