Nothing like Nordic noir to cheer us up!

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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!

 

 

 

A wild ride towards self-acceptance

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Ed Chambers, today’s guest blogger, bravely strode into the public arena three years ago when he outed himself as a non-offending paedophile on British television, via the Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Next Door. Not long afterwards he would be invited to Canada to take part in I, Pedophile, a film being made for CBS doc series Firsthand, broadcast in 2016. After the earlier programme, when he was named only as “Eddie”, I said his appearance had been the one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing production. So I am very pleased he has decided to tell us about his long battle to come to terms with his orientation, a struggle that has seen him engage in both cooperation and combat with therapy providers and the Virtuous Pedophiles (Virped).

I pre-announced this blog as “the Big One” last time because I knew it would be breaking entirely new ground. As far as I am aware, this is the first time a prominent former member of Virped has gone public with a stinging critique of the organisation and repudiated its philosophy – not counting, of course, his own devastating comments here following Peter Herman’s recent blog.

 

WE MUST BE STRONG IN THESE DARK TIMES

Now a middle-aged man, I have struggled all my adult life with a preferential attraction to prepubescent girls. Without being able to openly express this at the earliest opportunity, and correspond with those who could relate to me, it has been the cause of a great many emotional and psychological issues. With my academic and sporting pursuits suffering as a result, mainly through the use of drugs as an aid to denial, only recently have I been forced to face the realities of who I am. I wish I had done it sooner.

Several times I have reached out to mental health professionals in the NHS, and on numerous occasions I have asked for chemical castration and psychodynamic therapy. My journey for the purposes of this contribution began in 2001, in my late twenties. This was the first time I thought I was ill, when I wanted to know that I wasn’t paedophilic, or if I was that it could be changed. This first encounter was a disaster. At the end of a 45-minute session with a consultant psychiatrist, I was offered very little, other than a pen in order to sign the notes that had been made. Both the psychiatrist, and subsequent community psychiatric nurse to whom I was referred, viewed me with a look of horror, recoil and a complete lack of understanding. It broke me in such a way that I moved from my home town of twenty five years, to the adjacent city to start a new life, with a new identity.

Roughly seven years later, after leading a virtuous life, I returned to my habits of old. I had used cannabis as a crutch in my denial of being paedophilic since the age of 16, and my use of relevant pornography stretched back as far as 1998. I was fooling myself to believe that I could be any different, the draw was too strong. I carried on in a sort of limbo, with no one to talk to about the nature of my libido.

In 2011, in what would be a defining moment in my life, I had the opportunity to resurrect my first love, the Lolita with whom I had been so besotted in my teenage years. It was a crazy idea, as she had morphed into an overweight whale of a woman for whom I had little interest. I quickly moved on, this time hitting the drugs and pornography with a vengeance. It was a damning confirmation of the very thing I had tried to deny. As a matter of course, I proceeded to slide myself as clumsily as I could into a lot of trouble. As I crashed and burned, I desperately tried to find support.

I found Virped in 2013. To the probable dismay of many here, I owe them my thanks for the support I have received. However, it is not quite as simple as that. The persecution and harassment I have been subject to in my life would scarcely be believed, so will remain undisclosed, at least for now. Nevertheless, to say I needed a crutch is akin to stating that Kim Jong-un is fond of nuclear weapons. I found what I needed to survive, but with the accompanying incompetence of the NHS in the UK, I was still without therapy and the libido-reducing medication I was asking for.

Cue Dr Sarah Goode and her book Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction to Children: A Study of Paedophiles in Contemporary Society, recommended to me by none other than fellow Virped, Gary Gibson. Halfway through the book I emailed Dr Goode, discussing with her my experiences with StopItNow and the NHS. By the time I had finished her book, something I view in retrospect as a shallow and narrow-minded assessment of the realities of being a Minor Attracted Person in contemporary society, I had already met with her and Steve Humphries, director and presenter of The Paedophile Next Door, in the latter’s office in Bristol. In May 2014, the filming of my contribution was finished, and I began the patient wait for the release in late November.

In these dark days, I travelled to Berlin for therapy at the Prevention Projekt Dunkelfeld (PPD), which has 11 centres across Germany. Anyone with the correct diagnosis will be assisted by the most understanding and considerate people, providing they have health insurance, or can pay privately. I found the German bureaucracy a nightmare, and it caused me a great deal of stress and problems in trying to settle there. However, a MAP can tell the staff everything and not be criminalised, not made to feel like the antagonist of an Alien movie, or told they are mentally ill. They will bend over backwards to help and it is a gift to us, from the only government in the world that gives a shit, and a credit to our community. With each visit to this institution, I was proud that I had finally been given something.

At this time, the release of The Paedophile Next Door was a huge disappointment to me. There was no talk about the PPD. Simply stated, there was the sacrificial paedophile, the “expert” doctor trying to garnish sympathy for the bogeyman, all the while pitted against the other participants who professed their universal hatred against our kind. Subsequently, my UK address was visited three times in two days by the police, much to the dismay of my friend who subsequently disowned me. I had found Ground Zero and flatlined.

Here in Berlin I found the beginnings of a revelation. I had come to terms with all of the descriptions mental health professionals use to describe people who are sexually attracted to children. I had even started to use them myself. I identified as a paedophile now. I had accepted it, whereas before I had wasted so many years of my life in denial. Although I was treated very well here, I had to move on once more, without therapy or drugs. Despite the PPD, the seeds of doubt were now firmly planted in my mind. Was I really ill or subject to a conspiracy that both undermined the existence and behaviours of MAPs as well as children who were sexually active? As for Virped, and their manifesto for the non-offending MAP, the writing was already on the wall. I had already seen they were complicit in the war on paedophiles, in the insidious guise of trying to help them.

It’s fair to say I was on the run. Before our communication ceased, my friend in the UK had informed me of the considerable interest the English police had shown in me. On top of that, I had seen some of the tweets that had suggested people were aiming to lynch me for the greater good. Suitably, I found work in Northern Cyprus, ironically a country only recognised by Turkey, and I figured I would be safe for a while. It was here I made contact via Virped with Matt Campea, a bright, young director with an open mind and a drive to represent MAPs as the protagonist. Whilst in Toronto, at considerable expense to Matt, I contributed to his documentary I, Pedophile. At the release in March 2016, it turned out to be the Yin to The Paedophile Next Door’s Yang, and was everything I and the Virped community had hoped for.

On my return to the UK, after 30 months of exile and now devoid of finances, the biggest surprise for me was to make it through the airport at all. I had imagined I would be taken aside by the police for questioning about various things, not least my participation in The Paedophile Next Door. Step by step, I rebuilt my life, and on the recommendation once again of Gary Gibson, sought the help of Juliet Grayson and therapy at StopSO. It turns out, as the full name would suggest (Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending) that involvement with any therapist here concentrates on prevention of offending, and in this respect therapy does not cater for the well-being of participants. They are not subject to mandatory reporting laws, but are subject to ethical reporting by the therapist to their governing body, and accordingly the governing body would report to the police. Simply, one cannot discuss the very things that one needs help with. It is a madness that I pointed out to Grayson in numerous emails, and something she ignored. In fact, ignorance appeared to be her style, as it was a treacherous betrayal of my trust that caused me to pull out of another documentary project that we had started working on with VICE, promoting StopSO as a ground-breaking development for the treatment of MAPs. Inevitably, VICE would’ve presented this as a new way of processing sex offenders. I had become used to the way media organisations dealt with people like me, and the topic as a whole. Once bitten, twice shy.

I now realise, as a 43-year-old, it is society, not me, that is sick. I was 13 when I began to realise that my preference was for a body-type indicative of being paedophilic. As I have grown older, I have realised that my paedophilia is far more than a sexual attraction. It has been a wild ride, from denying my true self through the use of drugs, to crawling through the depths of suicidal thoughts and behaviours, to my exaltation above the ignorance of the multitudes to understand and appreciate the true sexual beauty of prepubescent girls.

There have been several times when girls in the age range 6-15 have expressed a sexual interest in me, and this includes a general curiosity in what it’s all about. Whilst I have never engaged them, this has been through a fear of harming them in some way rather than a fear of how society will view or judge me for having had said intimate relationship. This is indeed a fear that was born out of the tall tales of the child-rapist, reported all too often in the tabloid press. Rather than being born out of a desire to protect children, society’s bent towards banning intergenerational relationships is born out of a desire to subjugate the child and deny them essential rights to express themselves in any way they choose. It is out of this perversity that Virped was born. It is a support group for MAPs, but only as long as one conforms to the idea that it is our kind who are mentally ill, perverse in nature for our appreciation of the beauty of children. And yet, no one cares to cure us, aid us in our struggles, offer us what we need in order to lead that all-important law-abiding lifestyle. Therapy, PPD to one side, does not exist. All you will find in the eyes of those that return your look is horror and hatred.

Civilisation has reached the point where control is ever more paramount. Through the use of television and social media, surveillance is at an all-time high and becoming ever more pervasive. The dogma of Virped encapsulates the need of this intrusive society to control the thoughts and actions of everyone so that it conforms to a narcissism that is born out of pseudo-religious rhetoric. Quite simply, humanity in general refuses to acknowledge that adult sexual attraction to children should exist at all, and these spurious attempts to remove it from existence revolve around how it might appear to a race of aliens visiting in their space ships, or indeed Almighty God as He reclines on His cumulonimbus.

We need to reach out to young MAPs, and others of our kind who need help, and steer them away from the perils of Virped, and the dogma that will warp them into believing they are ill. I believed in Virped, as I did mental health professionals. Now I see them as an extension of a sick world that denies the rights of anyone under a set age, a world that has found the eternal shadow monster in a demographic that means no harm. We must be strong and survive these dark times whence we exist as the sexual heretic.

Self-abasement that invites contempt

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Be on notice, I boldly announced last time, that a “real event” may be on the way at Heretic TOC. Thus did I appear to be heralding a uniquely momentous forthcoming contribution. Today’s guest blog is not what I had in mind, which may seem a grossly discourteous way to introduce a guest piece, by talking it down, but I am simply stating a fact. Today’s article was contributed after my fanfare and was unexpected. By pure coincidence, though, its subject is in the same ballpark as the much anticipated Big One and makes a worthy warm-up act. It comes from veteran activist Peter Herman, formerly one of the editors of the NAMBLA Bulletin and also a past contributor to that organization’s website as well as twice being a previous guest blogger here.   

A CAUTIONARY TALE

A peculiar group calling itself Virtuous Pedophiles (American spelling), is currently presenting a different face of paedophilia. “VirPed”, to use their own abbreviation, believes that their members’ attraction to minors is an unfortunate and un-chosen affliction that they have determined to never act on so as to never hurt children. VirPed members appear sincere in believing that they suffer from an inborn defect, perhaps like alcoholism, that can be controlled but that has no apparent cure.

Being virtuous is undeniably admirable. So why is this group’s self-identity so disturbing?

The problems with this self-deprecating posture are manifold. Foremost of these is an abject sense of self. The VirPed belief system seems to grow out of a woeful lack of understanding of the human condition, of its amazing diversity and a too readily credulous faith in a pseudoscience that is not much different than that of the witchcraft manuals of old. They too easily accept the deceit that children are unable to give consent when it is obvious that they consent to many things of great import in daily life. More on this later.

But what is most striking is the pathetic lack of dignity VirPed’s cries for help projects. Their craving for approval as exhibited by the posting of a number of quotes on their site uniquely by self-appointed experts speaks volumes to their pitiful need for acceptance. Anyone who has ever observed certain classrooms of very young children assuming exaggerated postures of compliance to impress and get approval from their teachers will see a similarity (not to attribute this trait only to children who are after all at the mercy of their teachers: goose-stepping soldiers, faces turned in unison to their leaders, are no different). We all seek acceptance, but self-respect demands a different approach – one that takes into account and defends the true nature of the much maligned so-called paedophile.

It is evident that VirPed is clueless about human nature in that their pleas for understanding in the face of ignorance and blind hate are useless. One simply needs to look at responses to their tweets to get a sampling of the unrelenting hostile attitude. How tone deaf they are is exemplified by the very name they chose. Taunts such as “virulent VirPed”, “VirPed vermin” and “VirPed viper” too easily come to mind. But even without the easy hook they present to the haters, they still suffer the opprobrium of most of conventional society. The individuals who support them are overwhelmingly those whose professions and livelihoods feed on the victimization industry.

Above all, the sanctimony of this group is an insult to the vast unseen community also attracted to minors, who do not feel afflicted, but yet never engage in the arbitrarily prohibited acts of intimacy in current Western societies. VirPed eagerly defends these prohibitions evidently to highlight how sincere they are in their own self-denigration. VirPed besmirches as “pro-contact” those who are attracted to minors, as they themselves are, but do not accept VirPed’s orthodoxy. This aspersion ignores the fact that the vast majority of these “pro-contact” individuals nevertheless lead lives of abstention, not because prohibited yet consensual associations would prove harmful in themselves but because they know that negative societal consequences would be the actual causes of harm. There is much greater virtue in denying yourself in this way than in denying your very being by characterizing it as sick. Presenting oneself as damaged but contrite in VirPed’s situation is not only pitiful but downright repugnant.

The argument of VirPed-enabling charlatans such as James Cantor, who finds that “paedophiles” have brains that are incorrectly wired, is flawed in a way that will surprise. How unfortunate that Cantor’s ilk is unaware that a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. Do Cantor and like quacks actually understand the utter complexity of the human brain? No doubt we are all “wired” in various ways as legitimate brain research seems to indicate. And Cantor’s acting as Dr. Frankenstein does not add anything to this fact but distorts it to his own ends.

The miraculous thing about this already known premise is how varied brains can be. Bach, Einstein, Gauss, Newton just to name a few had uncommon brains. So have those who are autistic or transgender. Not long ago the latter would have been relegated to the fringes of society out of total ignorance of their potentials for enriching the social fabric. But whereas being autistic and transgender also entail handicaps that can be compensated for, paedophiles, notwithstanding the general calumny about them, are fully functioning individuals, comfortable in their own skin, whose attraction to young people is the grand motivator for the unrecognized good they do.

Given their invisibility, the social benefit of the vast cohort of those who are attracted to minors can only be guessed at. John Money used the term “paedophilic genius” to characterize those men of genius who were attracted to children. Among these, to name just a few, are Lewis Carroll, Michael Jackson, James Barry, Oscar Wilde and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. We could also add the renowned American poet Allen Ginsberg whose boy-love poetry and support of NAMBLA were no secret. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel laureate in medicine, may not be as well known, as are countless others who have made exceptional contributions to society. But looking for the exceptional among so-called paedophiles misses the point. We usually become aware of those who have made a positive contribution only when disrepute unjustly falls on them.

Examples abound. The Catholic priest Bruce Ritter who founded the acclaimed Covenant House, a New York City haven for throwaway teenagers, had his life end in undeserved disgrace. The Foxfire endeavour that engaged students in Appalachia to research and treasure their culture became a celebrated national project. It was founded by a young teacher whose love for boys inspired his devotion to open their vistas. Though the foundation has continued to exist and prosper since 1966, no mention of the paedophilic genius who started it is mentioned in its materials. That teacher’s life was ruined on discovery of consensual relations with boys. The idea that such individuals nevertheless caused immense harm is as ridiculous as the belief in some current Muslim societies that religious apostates or heretics harm their religion and should therefore be condemned to prison or worse. The ruin and oblivion imposed on the unjustly disgraced is disturbingly reminiscent of the former Soviet Union’s Orwellian effacing of those no longer in favour.

I asked a man I once knew and who had been sent to prison for molesting a boy, “if your actions as you suggest were welcomed by the boy, how could it have come to that?”His response, “The boy had been in a car with his parents and an acquaintance when the subject of child molestation came up. The boy eagerly spoke up citing his own positive experience to counter the arguments being made by the adults in the car.’ As with children in Soviet era browbeaten to betray heresies by their elders’, there was no other possible outcome.

The opprobrium facing anyone who is attracted to minors insures that the contributions of this great and truly virtuous cohort as yet cannot be fully known. What we can ascertain is that the few we do know about cannot but be indicative of a vast untapped potential of individuals whose attraction to young people inspires a need to help them. The loss of this great potential is the more tragic when we consider all of the actual harm done to children that brings no comparable consequences. Among the most egregious of these is the gun violence killing and maiming of thousands of children each year. But this is only a sliver of the vast hypocrisy by those who wring their hands at what they consider sexual abuse of children but do little to otherwise safeguard them and promote their wellbeing.

If the faulty “wiring” accepted by VirPed and promoted by its cheering gallery is so prevalent one would wonder why nature persists in this “mistake.” Human beings have evolved through evolutionary happenstances. Genetic “mistakes” often result in benefits not only to the organism but also to the group. In human groups for instance, paedophiles’ attraction to the young make the former well suited to be mentors. Ancient militaristic Sparta should not be our model but its society is indicative of how sexual attraction was once coupled with mentorship to the benefit of the fighting unit. Such mentorships surely exist all around but woe befall anyone, especially single men, who show too much affection, too much dedication or even offer a little help. Heard at a swimming pool:

“You won’t believe what this boy asked me to do.”

“What, something awful?”

“No, he needed me to untangle the knotted cord on his Speedo. You can imagine what I could be accused of!”

And at an educational conference:

We are no longer allowed to touch pupils, not even with a pat on the shoulder. If we wish to confer praise we should simply say something like “Well done, James.”

There are those who would argue that the mentorship of the young by the mature occurs in any case. But much of it is through bloodless paid services such as teaching. Surely examples of passion and selflessness exist in such professions, but those are rare enough to be the subject of the occasional TV human interest feature.

Part of the denial of identity by the self-serving virtuous crowd stems from the guilt trip they place on themselves. The idea of self-interest seems to them something to be ashamed of. Anyone who has ever given it any thought realizes that the one totally devoid of self-interest is a carpet to be trod on. We have all known of individuals, be it the selfless mother who demands nothing of her children or family or the employee who never stands up for himself, where the need for approval only brings disrespect.

Hillel the Elder, the great Jewish ethicist, said “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” This pithy observation on the human condition two millennia ago is as valid today as it was then. The one whose desires are not balanced with the recognition of the desires of others deserves at least as much contempt as the one who always denies himself to the benefit of others.

Now, NAMBLA has been the favorite bête noire among the uninformed of this world and for which VirPed enthusiastically parrots condemnation. NAMBLA in its founding principle has always insisted that consensuality be the key element to any relationship. This has been mindlessly countered with the dubious notion that children are unable to give consent. This includes, in many jurisdictions, individuals just short or eighteen years.

Some decades back, before instant recordings, when differentiating between “good touches” and bad touches first came in vogue, a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service)TV program attempted to present the concept to young children. When “bad touches” were described to the children participating in the program one boy piped up asking “What if I like it?” Out of the mouths of babes oft come words of wisdom!

It is quite obvious that children are very capable of giving or withholding consent all the time. Progressive environments where this is understood will give youngsters a wide range of options when it comes to such things as education, nutrition, clothing or most other things that affect the young person.

Sex is another story. Though the stages of sexual development vary for all people, the subject is extremely uncomfortable if not anathema when it comes to children. A colleague I once knew confessed to me that as a seven-year-old he had had the “hots” for his female elementary school teacher. Though not universal, it is highly unlikely that his story was that unusual. On the other end of the spectrum, some adults never experience sexual attractions of any kind or only mildly so. We are all different. But, in this society and especially in English speaking ones, any adult sexual interaction with an evidently willing youngster will risk punishments often more vengeful than that for vicious murderers. That ample scientific evidence supports the fact that harm is absent even when consent is murky matters not a bit.

There is an inverse to the prohibition just described. None of us have a choice in being born or the environment we begin life in. Some are born into toxic environments where families or societies can block out all outside influences that would allow their children options outside of negative constraints. Yet there is no legal recourse preventing adults in these situations from, for instance, teaching their children racism or religious indoctrination that harm them. Likewise, there are few legal recourses to sanction parents withholding certain medical procedures when based on religious belief. Other egregious examples abound.

We are all influenced by the opinions prevalent in our societies. Luckily, not everyone wears the limiting blinders making us aware of more rational options. Unfortunately, VirPed followers are not among the enlightened and have avidly drunk the Kool Aid.

As a final caution to you VirPedians, the doctor Frankensteins that you so avidly court, instead of bringing you sympathy, will surely provide you with an unenviable cure. If faulty wiring is the perceived problem, you can be sure that brains can readily be operated on. If the dubious frontal lobotomies promoted in the 1930s could be performed then and chemical castration today, the possibility of the state messing with your brains using increasingly sophisticated electronics is not a great reach. And to others with narrow minds and too ready to condemn those different from yourselves, do not be so sure that in our increasingly technology besotted society some perceived defect in your little brains will not send you to the operating table. Take counsel from Pastor Martin Niemöller, the anti-Nazi theologian and concentration camp survivor who wrote these prophetic words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.

A revolution as deep as evolution

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The precipitous downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein last month over allegations of “casting couch” sexual harassment and even rape, dramatic though his fall from grace was, can now be seen as just the beginning of a mighty cataclysm, a cultural October Revolution to rival in scale and significance its political predecessor in Russia exactly a century before.

Weinstein himself has been accused of impropriety by at least 77 women, mainly actresses and models, including 12 allegations of rape. While none of these has so far resulted in criminal charges (but it is still early days), the man’s own admissions of dubious behaviour hardly exonerate him.

Even if many of the accusations are no more than hot air, they have nevertheless been very hot. Hot enough to ignite a conflagration of further accusations not just in the entertainment business (where actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., and filmmaker Brett Ratner all had projects cancelled once the finger was pointed), but also in US media organisations and in other countries, especially within the British political scene. In the so-called “Pestminster” scandal, Westminster politicians from both of the main parties came in for a drubbing, the biggest scalp being that of Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, who was forced to resign for the heinous crime of touching a woman on her knee 15 years ago. Even his accuser, journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, admitted that she had not been “remotely upset or distressed”, and thought the pressure for his departure from office was an over-reaction. But he was made to go anyway, in a move that further destabilised an already weak government. Along with the farce there was also tragedy. Carl Sargeant, a minister in the Welsh devolved government, hanged himself following unspecified sexual allegations.

Not cut out for the job? Aled Jones, who won fame as a choirboy and is a presenter of the long-running TV programme Songs of Praise, which features Christian hymns, has been taken off the air by the BBC after being accused of sexual harassment. He is seen here with a cut-out of his younger self.

Russia’s Revolution was famously described as Ten Days That Shook the World. Is it ridiculous to compare that vast upheaval to women’s (mainly women’s) current uprising against men’s, well, risings up? I thought about characterising these events in a less dramatic way, as something almost routine. I could have spoken of the latest “moral panic”, following many others in recent decades, most of them focused on various aspects of “child abuse”, real or imagined (mainly the latter). But the term “panic” didn’t seem to cover what is now going on, which smacks more of a determined, long-brewing, revolt rather than a panicky reaction to a newly-perceived danger. I could also have dubbed it the latest “witch-hunt”, which seems to be the cliché of choice among those who really are panicking, including men who see unsolicited pussy-grabbing and tit-squeezing – or even outright rape – as their inalienable right. However, the term “witch-hunt” implies an unjust campaign against innocent people, but there is nothing unjust about calling to account those who really have engaged in sexual assault – and my impression is that a substantial proportion of the complaints are probably genuine. So the term “witch-hunt”, like “moral panic”, fails to capture what is going on.

A “revolt”, by contrast, conjures up visions of seething discontent, with pressure slowly building from below and then erupting violently, with uncontrollable consequences that may in some cases be just and in others grossly unjust. In such a scenario, even entirely well-behaved, respectful men (and women) are right to be alarmed, because revolts tend to be instigated and led by opportunists and extremists – attention-seekers and compo hunters, in this case, aided and abetted by sour-faced, fun-hating, feminist zealots. In this scenario it is not just the bad guys who need worry: innocuous flirting between adults is also being put off limits, with a consequential poisoning of the atmosphere that threatens legitimate courtship and sexual relations in general.

Nothing could be more profound or revolutionary in its implications. The mass nature of the movement, and hence the scale of the threat, is perhaps best symbolised in the emergence of the hashtag #MeToo, under which banner women have been rallying in droves to share their own experiences of alleged sexual assault, harassment, or rape on social media. It has been called the Weinstein Effect, which sounds rather bloodlessly scientific, like Boyle’s Law. For me, though, there are echoes of “I am Spartacus”, Hollywood’s entirely fictional but highly emotive rallying cry of solidarity among the oppressed in the great Roman slave revolt.

So, yes, the revolt against men’s sexual behaviour is a pretty big deal, and this is a view that receives interesting support when taking an ultra-broad perspective. By that I mean not just the most dramatic moments of history but also the very deep past, as studied by evolutionary biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson. He feels society has reached one of those pivotal moments when a new norm is being created, and enforced much more strongly than before. Evolutionary theory, he reveals in a recent article, can tell us a lot about norms:

In any animal or human society, social status can be achieved in two ways: by physical intimidation or by cultivating a reputation as a cooperator. Status is taken in the first case and bestowed in the second case. In most animal societies, status is mostly of the taken variety. If overt bullying is rare, it is because the hierarchy was previously established and is no longer challenged. In most hunter-gatherer societies and many other small-scale human groups, status is mostly of the bestowed variety. Bullying doesn’t work because those being bullied have the collective power to resist.

The coming of agriculture and a rapidly growing population largely put paid to this benign power of collective resistance. Increasing competition over the land needed for cultivation led to territorial wars, and fighting them successfully meant people were obliged to give unquestioning allegiance to the warriors who became their chiefs and kings. These had to be incredibly ruthless, brutal characters in order to fight their way into the job. Thus they were definitely status takers. They did not go blathering on at  some job interview about how passionately they would work to alleviate the miseries of the poor in the hope of having status bestowed on themselves for being nice guys.

These tyrants, as they often were, could enslave whom they wished and make them compliant in all manner of ways, including sexually. The most legendary figures, such as Genghis Khan had no shame over cornering as many women as they could physically find the time and energy to screw; and they would slaughter hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in order to secure their domination. Rather than lowering their status, as rape and murder would today, these sociopaths used such crimes in order to cement their position at the very top of society.

They could do no wrong. Their word was law. A great sultan could have a huge harem with hundreds of concubines kept for his exclusive use. He would have hundreds of men castrated at his command to guard these women against more sexually potent rivals. Rulers could even defy with impunity the supreme taboo, against incest, with the royalty of ancient Egypt being just the most famous example among many. As for children being sexually off-limits, not a bit of it: the kings of Tonga took upon themselves the “duty” (poor things) of personally deflowering every virgin in the kingdom – and they did not wait until the child’s 16th birthday.

The change from the power of naked military might to the power of money that came with the growth of capitalism created a new class of status takers – a class that includes the Groper-in-Chief of the United States, Donald Trump. If the day comes when even this most truly Alpha of all males can no longer flout the rules with impunity, women will have good reason to celebrate. As Megan McArdle has written in a very reasonable article, men should not be vindictively punished for past deeds they may genuinely have thought at the time were acceptable; but only when the Trumps of the world get the message that they can no longer be status takers will we be sure progress has been made.

A David Sipress cartoon in The New Yorker is right on target.

Profound movement in this direction, fuelled from below, has been building gradually for several centuries now: rulers eventually needed the support of the people in order to raise finance for their wars, which they did through parliaments based on an ever-widening democratic franchise. This now includes women, who are increasingly becoming prime ministers and presidents. Business moguls, for their part, have begun to need a more educated, sophisticated workforce, with female as well as male participants, contributing organisational and creative talent rather than muscle. These are key features of modern society that are beginning to see powerful men somewhat cut down to size: once again, as in hunter-gatherer society, everyone is being made to play by the rules. And not just by paying lip service. Those who will be most successful in having status bestowed on them are the ones who truly take to heart the fact that they must win the hearts of sexual partners, not just drag them off by their hair like cartoon cavemen.

We kinds, at least those of us who have been successful with kids, have always understood this. Utterly powerless compared to parents, kind men (and some kind women) have always been obliged to win the friendship and high regard of children, rather than just taking sexually what we want. We have never, in modern times at least, been in any danger of feeling a misplaced sense of entitlement to kids’ bodies in the casual way that The Donald and so many other men evidently feel they have a right to grab any woman they fancy.

In itself, this is good. We should not feel entitled to others’ bodies, whether they belong to children or to adults. As we all know, though, it is possible to have too much of a good thing; or rather the good element, which in this case ensures that we are well-mannered seekers of bestowed status (and that we are truly kind in every sense), can all too easily be outweighed by less benign pressures. Instead of merely being constrained within entirely proper and necessary bounds of kindness, kind people are viciously oppressed. Our sexuality and reasonable aspiration towards loving relationships are crushed beyond all reason.

The way things are going, if extreme victim feminism becomes all-triumphant and men are in effect neutered, the consequences will be far more shattering for humanity than the mere hiccup that was the Russian Revolution. We kinds (including female ones) should thus feel a considerable degree of solidarity with men in general in these difficult times. While we should agree with the feminists that any sense of sexual entitlement is wrong and needs to be tackled, we should also join well-behaved men in facing down the anti-sexual zealots, for some of whom “feminazis” is not an unfair description.

 

AN ITEM IN THE PIPELINE

Today’s blog, the first for nearly four months, comes as a bit of a surprise to me as much to anyone out there who has noticed the return of life to Heretic TOC. The news over these months has been as amazing and appalling as ever, with enough going on to justify at least a blog every week, but unfortunately I remain very busy with other things and cannot report that service will now be returning to normal.

On this one occasion, though, I have had a particular reason to break my silence. Well, two reasons really. There is the obvious one that the Weinstein Effect was crying out for comment. The other is that I wanted to do what I could to revive interest in Heretic TOC because a potentially very significant guest blog has been commissioned, and I don’t want to run it at a time when the readership has entirely buggered off elsewhere in despair of seeing much going on here. Be on notice, then, that a real event may be on the way. No promises, as I have yet to see a draft of the piece, but I certainly hope to in the near future.

 

 

 

Why Prince George always wears shorts

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This is your captain speaking! This is an important message. Listen carefully. There is absolutely NO TRUTH in the rumour that this blog has been hi-jacked by mutineers masquerading as “guest bloggers”. My command remains unchallenged. For morale-boosting reassurance, uplifting martial music will now be played.

As for scurrilous suggestions that I have been sleeping at the wheel, or the joy stick or whatever gizmo it is that keeps this show on the road… Or on the runway. Or in the air. Or… Where was I? Ah, yes, in command, that’s it! And I have decided it’s time to cheer you lot up back there with some absolutely spiffing, top-notch in-flight entertainment, starting on a patriotic note – patriotic, that is, if you happen to be a traditionalist Brit who loves the monarchy.

Personally, I don’t, much. But I am as much a sucker for charming royal children as any reader of the flag-waving tabloids or Hello! magazine.

Prince George in shorts… with strange man!

Have you noticed, by the way, that where royal kids are concerned, everyone is allowed to be a paedophile? Britannia  magically waives the rules against fancying kids when it happens to be royal ones. They are public property, so we can all drool over their loveliness without fear of arrest. Celebrity ones too, I suppose, like the Beckham kids, albeit father David took flak recently for kissing his daughter on the lips. Usually the photos speak for themselves, so nothing about the illicit nature of the enthusiasm need be too verbally obvious.

Occasionally, though, one may spot a rare indiscretion, as in the recent commentary by Yahoo Style on the outfits worn by four-year-old Prince George. Whereas the Daily Mail concocted some dubious  blarney for the fact that the little Royal Highness is always dressed in shorts (“it’s a royal tradition”), the unnamed Yahoo fashion writer just blurts out the truth, in car-crash English but we get the point: “…he looks hella cute in them.” The article ends, “Tradition or not, we need no excuse to adore Prince George’s shorts.”

Here! Here!

That “hella” thing is a helluva mess from the word-mangling key-clacker (or I am just showing my age?), but they probably won’t be sacked for it. Unlike Wendy Henry, editor of the Sunday tabloid The People, whose treatment a generation ago of Prince George’s father in his short trousers days was more than indiscreet: these days anything similar might well precipitate investigation over indecent images of a child.

In the issue of 19 November 1989, Henry published a front-page photograph headlined “The Royal Wee”, showing Prince William, then aged seven, dressed in his school uniform –  including shorts – taking a leak. The photo was captioned “Willie’s Sly Pee in the Park”.

The photo was doubtless slyly taken, and it was surely not the only shot stolen by the impertinent paparazzo. The published image did not reveal the princely prong in all its majesty but others on the roll (as it would have been in those pre-digital days) could well have done. Who knows what incriminating evidence a police raid on the picture editor’s office might have yielded?

As far as I am aware, Henry was not investigated by the police, but her act of lèse–majesté was too much for the paper’s owner, Robert Maxwell, a man not noted for an excess of scruples. So, she had to go.

Prince William was in the news again last week, of course, along with brother Harry, in connection with their new documentary for ITV in commemoration of their mother Princess Dianna, marking the 20th anniversary of her death in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36.

The boys and their mum: title photo for the ITV documentary

 

Diana: Our Mother, I found, is a moving tribute to the late princess for a number of reasons. The story of any tragically early death could hardly fail to be affecting, especially when it comes, as this one does, from two sons who so obviously loved their mother deeply. That Diana famously had a rare gift for winning hearts makes it especially touching, in the most literal sense: she would hold hands with AIDS patients, chatting in a physically close, friendly, way at a time when they were being shunned like lepers by others. Likewise her contact with those whose bodies had been shattered by land mines, and others reduced to living rough on the streets, was characterised not just by empathy, but by kindness whose sincerity was made manifest in her body-language, in her closeness and tactility.

The biggest impression the programme made on me, though, came through what it revealed about Diana as a mother. What William and Harry said about her was striking in itself, but the real impact came through family photos of her and the boys together: fabulous, beautiful pictures of them all having a whale of a time. Royal families have an advantage over us peasants in this regard: they can have an official photographer on hand, ready to capture those special moments of rapturous glee, whereas ordinary families – even the happier ones – tend to end up with terrible photos on the mantelpiece, all forced smiles for the camera and static poses. Or used to. I suppose it is better now, in the age of the video camera and the smart phone, but I haven’t seen much evidence of it. Am I wrong? Has a revolution in superb family photography passed me by? Do let me know.

Diana’s philosophy as a parent, it seems, was quite simple: kids should have fun. And be naughty. Just like herself. William said she used to send him rude cards:

“Usually she found something, you know, very embarrassing… a very funny card, and then sort of wrote very nice stuff inside.  But I dared not open it in case the teachers or anyone else in the class had seen it.”

Prince Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, spoke of her willingness to break the rules:

“One of her mottos to me was, you know, ‘you can be as naughty as you want,  just don’t get caught’. She was one of the naughtiest parents.  She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks.  Our mother was a total kid through and through.”

Know who that reminds me of? Michael Jackson. He was brilliant with kids whose parents had been too tough on them, too ambitious for their success and too demanding, as his own father had been. That’s a big part of why kids like child star Macaulay Culkin loved to hang out with him.

Prince William and Prince Harry on Harry’s first day at Wetherby School in London, September 1989

Just giving kids what they want all the time is in general a terrible idea; but that is exactly what some of them need, some of the time – including, I would think, boys like William and Harry, who might otherwise have been suffocated in the tight, disciplined, joyless embrace of a “proper” upbringing as potential heirs to the throne.

Jackson, incidentally, met Diana backstage after one of his London concerts, with her husband, Prince Charles. He did not see her sons – the evening event was past their bedtime – but it soon became clear he was very keen to meet William, especially, who was then aged six while Harry was three. He subsequently bombarded Diana with phone calls, inviting William to stay at Neverland. That was destined never to happen, so he had to make do with keeping a framed blowup photo of William at his home instead, showing the little prince on his first day at Wetherby School in 1987, wearing, yes, his regulation shorts.

I said above that I would be starting with royal children, but sadly I have to finish with them, too. I had hoped to bring you up to date with some other items but they will have to wait, as I must turn to other things. My intervention today, incidentally, after saying a few months ago that I would be handing over to guest bloggers for the foreseeable future, or simply leaving the site unpiloted, has been done on a whim and should not be taken as indicating a sustained return. Guest bloggers have been doing a great job and another guest piece is among my files, awaiting publication. I hope more will come, so please feel free to send submissions.

Because it’s a free country, asshole!

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The comments here at Heretic TOC have long been enriched by the hugely informative wisdom of “A”, whose only fault is to have chosen a pseudonym that is absolutely useless as a search term; locating her back-catalogue of contributions is thus a bit of a nightmare. Today, though, she steps into the spotlight with a guest blog you will definitely want to bookmark in your own records if you are interested – as I think we should be – in the difficult decisions faced by children and adolescents who find themselves struggling with gender dysphoria. Following my own explorations of the theme in Trans kids 1: Insistent, consistent, persistent, “A” made an insightful comment from her own perspective as a former “tomboy”. This now appears below in an extended version. “A” describes herself as “a law-abiding but pro-AOC-abolition BL and GL woman who had a tomboyish, but never gender-dysphoric, childhood”. With an academic background in linguistics, including research-level training, she has undertaken varied work around the world. She tries, she says, “to reconcile MAP politics and feminism”.

PERSISTENCE AND DESISTANCE: A TOMBOY’S VIEW

I highly recommend the blog Trans Research. Much of the most up-to-date research is Dutch, as much of the most ‘advanced’ treatment of gender-dysphoric kids is Dutch. Here, for instance, is a Dutch long-term follow-up study of puberty suppression and here‘s another.

According to this Dutch study children should probably not be allowed to transition socially before they are ten. This recommendation is based in part on the experiences of five natal girls who had effectively lived as boys for some years, then during puberty wanted to ‘switch back’ to being girls. All had “significant feelings of shame for their earlier boyish appearance” and some worried about being teased or excluded by classmates over the switch back. Two are quoted about their difficulties with this. While it seems that the girls did in the main manage to switch over to more feminine appearance and behaviour relatively smoothly, one struggled for years, first fearing that she’d be teased if she wore earrings and bracelets like the other girls, and then actually being teased after the move to high school, which she’d hoped would help her “make a fresh start”. The gender-dysphoric boys, however, had not dressed as girls full-time during elementary school and had been perceived by the other children as boys, just different boys. Perhaps if they’d been effectively living as girls, rather than feminine boys, some of them too would have struggled with switching back.

The tomboy makeover is a major trope in our culture. “My little tomboy now wears satin and lace” go the lyrics to Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen. Tomboys who grow out of it are all over classic girls’ literature: I remember being, at age twelve, quite irked by the ending of Carol Ryrie Brink’s 1936 novel Caddie Woodlawn, in which an eleven-year-old frontier girl who does everything her brothers do finally decides to settle down a bit and learn sewing. In the film Now and Then, a less-than-entirely-successful but quite popular 1995 attempt to make a Stand By Me for girls, a sporty twelve-year-old binds her growing breasts — till she gets attention, and her first kiss, from a cute neighbour boy who likes her basketball skills.

It’s a trope for a reason, and part of that reason is that it has a lot of truth to it. When I was fourteen or fifteen and we were all changing after PE, one of the other girls remarked, apropos of what I can’t remember, that when she was younger she’d wanted to be a boy, and almost every girl in that room said she had, too. An acquaintance working on a neuroscience PhD recommended to me Lise Eliot’s book Pink Brain, Blue Brain and Rebecca Jordan-Young’s book Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, both of which I recommend in turn. Jordan-Young’s book deals extensively with girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, “a genetic disorder which causes overproduction of androgens from the adrenal glands…[and] is the most common cause of genital ambiguity”. Girls with CAH on average have more masculine interests as children than unaffected girls. In chapter eight of her book, Sex-Typed Interests, Jordan-Young examines this Swedish study of CAH and non-CAH girls ages two through ten.

The CAH girls in the study spent less time playing with ‘girls’ toys’ and more time playing with ‘boys’ toys’ than the control girls. But the other side of the story is that the most popular toys among the control girls, as measured by number of seconds spent playing with a particular toy, were Lincoln Logs and a garage with four cars. Jordan-Young points out that “the normal control girls spent three times as long playing with the garage and toy cars as they did playing with the baby doll. The only ‘girls’ toy’ that was in the ballpark…with these boys’ toys was a pair of Barbie and Ken dolls. (I suspect that Barbie and Ken were riding around in some of these cars.)” At the end of the study, each child was offered one of a car, a doll and a ball to take home, and while no girl from the control group picked the car, control girls were roughly 36% more likely to choose the ball than the doll. Granted, this was in Sweden. But maybe ‘boys’ toys’ are just more fun for many kids, regardless of sex!

However, of course, almost all women are happy to be women. My experience suggests that if you stand in a crowded urban train station at rush hour, say, you’ll be in the presence of at least a couple of women who as girls were hardcore tomboys — to the point of insisting on short haircuts and gender-neutral nicknames, being delighted to be mistaken for boys, frequently wishing to be boys, becoming distressed at puberty and covering up their developing bodies with baggy clothes, etc. — but who are now happy to be women. Some are feminine women; others remain quite androgynous or ‘gender non-conforming’; most are heterosexual, though a disproportionately high number are lesbian or bisexual; and most, it seems, end up in long-term relationships with men and have kids of their own. And many will tell you quite forcefully that as children they would have jumped at the chance to transition, but that they now feel this would have been the wrong choice for them, and are glad they didn’t get to make it.

Social transition is sometimes set in motion alarmingly early these days, with very young kids ‘going stealth’, like this little trans boy (natal female), who transitioned socially at five:

“The week before he starts school, he changes his name to one that sounds more male. The principal and his teachers know his gender status, but to everyone else he’s just one of two hundred little boys showing off to each other on the playground. He worries about his body betraying him, turning him into a woman against his will, and we tell him that doctors can help him with that, if it’s still what he wants when the time comes.”

But if it’s not still what he wants when the time comes, won’t he find it awfully difficult to change back if none of his friends from kindergarten even know he was born a girl? So what does not letting kids transition socially before ten look like? Maybe something like this. The seven-year-old natal girl in question is allowed, as she should be, to present and act as she wishes, but she’s still known by a female name and female pronouns, and “at school, everyone knows she is a girl” though “no one has ever known her to look or act like one, so she gets treated more like a boy”. Her parents are willing and ready to support whichever path she eventually takes, including social and medical transition, but are well aware that that’s far from an inevitable outcome.

The son of blogger Bedford Hope, aka Accepting Dad, walked a similar middle road in middle childhood. He wore long hair and pink skirts and was fine with either set of pronouns as long as you weren’t making fun of him, but he was clear that he was a boy. At thirteen, the age when kids tend to be at their most ruthlessly conformist, he was already deep-voiced and nearly six feet tall, and he went underground with his femininity for a while, to the point of forbidding his parents to mention it. At fifteen, he was out again as a male-bodied person who likes to wear skirts and loves fashion. His parents, too, were willing and ready to support social and medical transition if it came to that, but in the meantime it was watchful waiting. It worked: partly because the parents handled it well, partly because the family lives in a socially-liberal East Coast area of the US, and partly because of the kid himself: he has great social skills and always had a lot of friends both male and female, and he responded robustly to teasing — asked on the playground why a boy would want to wear a dress, he replied “BECAUSE IT’S A FREE COUNTRY, ASSHOLE!”

A shy, awkward, sensitive kid would have required more support in walking the middle road. But then, shy, awkward, sensitive kids require more support with a lot of things. With the best will in the world, though, there are going to be at least a few kids who need to transition socially before ten, who can’t be happy any other way, and I think they should be allowed to. Yes, there’s a risk to that, but there’s also a risk to letting kids play out by themselves or have sex or even try out for the school play.

Another observation from the first study I linked is that, at least in the Netherlands, the age range ten through thirteen is often when kids end up moving towards their eventual path: ‘persisting’ in their wish to transition medically or ‘desisting’ from it. Before this four-year span, outcomes are difficult to predict. After it, kids are much less likely to change their minds, whichever path they’ve picked. But I do wonder if sometimes ‘desistance’ isn’t seized upon too eagerly, if the books aren’t closed prematurely — after all, fourteen is awfully young to know you’re cis ;)! There does seem, according to the Dutch study discussed here, to be a group of ‘persisters-after-interruption ‘: young people who try in adolescence to make it work as cis homosexuals, but who then come back to the clinics in early adulthood requesting transition. I wonder if there isn’t also a group of ‘underground persisters’ whose desires to change sex continue, but are hidden. The blog post from Transparenthood above contains an example of what many people say to the parents of tomboys:

“I had a cousin that was a tomboy. She dressed like a boy and played with the boys until she was fifteen. Then she suddenly blossomed and now she is the most beautiful, fashionable woman you’d ever meet. Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it.” And if you scroll down, there’s a rather sad comment:

“I became one of those 15 year olds who allegedly ‘blossomed’ into femininity, boyfriends, makeup, and eventually heterosexual marriage (white gown and all) and motherhood…Guess what? That strong cross-gender identification is still there, half a lifetime later…I still think about it every day. I still wonder whether I should have pushed harder to be my true self, even though in the 1960’s there was no support for such thinking and certainly no medical options.”

Someone who in my view talks a lot of sense about this stuff is one Catherine Tuerk, a nurse, married with grown kids, who started a support group for gender-variant children and their parents after realising that the advice she’d been given to stamp out her son’s childhood femininity — he’s now a gay man — was wrong. Here she describes her 1950s tomboy childhood as her “glory days” and wonders, as I have myself, why some tomboys today don’t have more fun “liking to be boys”.

Here she says what many wouldn’t dare to: “Parents have told me it’s almost easier to tell others ‘My kid was born in the wrong body’ rather than explaining that he might be gay, which is in the back of everyone’s mind. When people think about being gay, they think about sex — and thinking about sex and kids is taboo.”

Indeed: it’s almost an article of faith among many socially-liberal cis people that the little natal boy who loves to dress up as a princess or mermaid isn’t expressing anything to do with a sexual orientation, because prepubescent kids aren’t sexual: (s)he’s expressing his (or her) gender identity, which is entirely separate from sexual orientation and which flows simply and purely from the innocence of children’s unsullied, unsexual hearts. “Why are you thinking about what’s in my six-year-old’s underwear?” is the devastating, unanswerable rejoinder to those who object to trans children using the ‘wrong’ toilets.

Some true believers in gender identity as entirely separate from gender expression and sexual orientation (the ‘Genderbread person‘ is popular now) wonder in all sincerity where the trans girl tomboys and feminine trans boys are. Well, there are probably never going to be many of them, but there may be a few. The Transparenthood blog post above describes a child who may, or may not, be a trans boy but isn’t hyper-masculine, and this post describes a “tomboy trans girl”. I do wonder, though, where we have ended up when a five-year-old who wears dresses every single day and prefers tea-sets to trucks but has lots of physical energy and likes to swordfight with sticks can be described as a tomboy, or a child who likes romantic comedies, small dogs and elaborate hairstyles, who prefers hip-hop dancing to sports and who wrestles with male friends and plays Barbies with female friends is deemed, at the tender age of seven, unmasculine.

Gender roles for kids are in some ways more restrictive than they were when I was coming up. Remember teenage girls in the mid-90s, all baggy jeans and flannel? And Lego, as many have remarked, isn’t for everyone anymore: there’s boy Lego and girl Lego (Lego Friends).

I’ve watched some video footage of child trans activist Avery Jackson, who appeared on the cover of National Geographic. I am not in the least qualified to diagnose Asperger’s, and even people who are cannot of course do so on the basis of a few minutes of video, but the way she talks does remind me a bit of some of the ‘Aspies’ I know. The documentary Kids on the Edge: The Gender Clinic, about trans kids being treated at the Tavistock Clinic in London mentions that about half of the kids seen at the clinic show “autistic traits”. That can, of course, mean many things. It can mean “this child is somewhat socially awkward and quite obsessive but is within the normal range of personality and behaviour and doing fine”. It can mean “this child is really struggling and becoming increasingly unhappy and it’s obvious to everyone that they are on the autism spectrum and desperately in need of the help a diagnosis would bring, but the money-starved public services are dragging their feet on diagnosis, so we have to say ‘traits’ for now”. Then again, it can mean “this child has a lot of symptoms of different conditions that tend, as these neurodevelopmental things do, to co-occur and overlap, and they might get an ASD diagnosis or they might not, but right now we’re focusing on the dyslexia and dyscalculia/the Tourette’s/[etc.], because that’s what’s causing the worst problems”. Trans Research has an Asperger’s/Autism subsection.

The 1997 book FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society by Canadian researcher Holly, now Aaron, Devor contains some interesting information on child sexuality. Several of the men interviewed recalled the sexual things they’d done as girls: one started masturbating as a girl of three or four; another’s first partnered sexual experience occurred when he, then she*, was twelve, and involved ‘heavy petting’ with another twelve-year-old girl; a third was having penis-in-vagina sex with adult men beginning when he, then she, was a girl of fourteen. Heartwarmingly, one met his soul mate at school when they were girls of twelve. They were inseparable at once, and at the time of the interview they’d been together ever since — over two decades.

Finally, two more articles I like, and recommend: S/He and What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?

*Sorry about all this he-then-she stuff, trans readers. I know it isn’t the most up-to-date or respectful terminology but it’s what Devor uses in the book.

 

It’s not the sex, it’s the violence

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Today’s guest blog started its life as a letter to me from an old friend I’ll call just Mike. With his permission it is now turned into a book review and a memoir of Mike’s own experience of school life in the not-so-distant, but very different, era of the British Stiff Upper Lip. On a personal note, I might add that the author of the book under review emailed me about 18 months ago as part of his research. Why me? He made some reference to wanting “another voice on the culture” of boarding schools, even though he knew I had not attended one as a boy. Unbeknown to him, however, I did teach and live, briefly, at Ardingly College, a residential school attended by Private Eye editor and Have I Got News for You star Ian Hislop. He was a nine-year-old there in the prep school section at the time – not that I knew him carnally, unfortunately, or at all, as I was with the senior section. I think the author’s real interest, though, was my connection to a former prep-school teacher who is now in prison. He wrote: “I know that you are or were close to Charles Napier, and may think he has been unfairly treated.” Yes, I did think he had been monstrously treated, and still do, as I wrote in Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

 

So, over to Mike’s review:

Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, crimes and the schooling of a ruling class, by Alex Renton; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017

The book starts out well enough.  It is a crushing indictment of the worst aspects of private education in the UK.  Not only the schools themselves, but the parents who so willingly sent their kids away to board, in cold, cruel environments for twelve or thirteen weeks at a time, at the age of seven, or eight.

Even allowing for hyperbole in some of the complainants, I can clearly remember shivering with cold as I cried myself to sleep in my little iron bed; and at other times chewing my teddy’s ears because I was so hungry.

My second autumn, I cried because I told myself that the pigeons’ cooing in the eaves sounded so beautiful…  So beautiful that the sound made me weep?  Phew, where was my little head?

It was war time, so the food was doubly ghastly and I remember being made to sit for hours until I forced down a plate of macaroni-cheese — which looked like mouldy cats’ guts chopped up to me — because the rule was that we had to eat whatever was put down in front of us.  I did swallow it down, eventually, but then I sicked it up — so the victory was theirs.  And, of course, I had to clean up the mess…

Beatings were a commonplace, but enough of my own recollections, wretched though they were.  Suffice it to say that I have had a very bad couple of days and nights with the memories that the bloody book dredged up.

Yet these are mainly pertaining to the first part of the book, where Renton concentrates mainly on the coldness and the cruelties of that dreadful system.  The attitudes of some of the teachers and these being abetted by the parents involved, and ultimately, by the law of the land, are laid bare.  Renton’s views on child cruelty and the wholesale heartlessness of that system chime with mine.  He might be speaking for me…

Significantly, he speaks of what I would simply term ‘separation anxiety’ in young children.  Kids desperate because there simply was no-one to go to for help or warmth.  Except other kids — who also blubbed themselves to sleep…

It is the second part of the book that really depressed me, though.  Given that there clearly were some bad and ruthless ‘takers’ among the many teachers, who are now involved with the law — though Renton takes a broad, condemnatory brush to them all.  Even senior boys at prep schools (we’re speaking of 12-13-year-olds, now) are condemned for ‘raping’ younger boys.  Admittedly he does not condemn coeval activity and in fact, he quotes John le Carré in his meditation on the ghastliness of his own prep school — his first-hand experience of ‘sticky frogs’ clinging together for warmth in a freezing world of cruelty and despair — with the ring of absolute truth…

Dystopic?  Yes, and I feel, justifiably so, because one of the things Renton does address is the number of actual suicides among boys in British boarding schools.  But returning to Renton’s Poisoned-Gothic style in the second half of his work.  He brings on the big guns (sigh) of ‘attack’, ‘assault’, ‘abuse’, ‘molest’ and ‘victim’ as the standard terms, whether or not violence was present.

I know that I am the only one complaining about this linguistic dishonesty: but the whole argument of these passive-resultants — of these ‘victims’ — jars horribly with his descriptions of his own sexual contacts in which his own volition was very much present.  So, there is childhood volition, but when an adult is involved, this volition flies out of the window, apparently…

Then, of course, he tries to claim that ‘paedophile rings’ (sigh again) were formed among teachers in prep schools.  Operating as wicked cabals, no doubt?

I suppose we should be glad that he didn’t go on to claim baby-sacrifice on the nearby moors at midnight, but really the second part of the book is ghastly reading.

I never had an adult sexual contact at my prep, or my later boarding-grammar school; but there was plenty of sexual activity between the boys, including with younger ones.  But the whole edifice rested on consensuality. Only one senior boy, during my time at B—–, actually forced a junior boy and he was beaten up so badly that he had to leave.

I think there is probably a case for suggesting that Renton’s idea of forced sex is at least partially deflated by my own experience, and from conversations with other people who had gone through the same, or similar boarding experiences.  That is to say, if you made a proposition to a boy and he said no, you simply smiled and moved on…  This was because there were so many other boys who would ‘go for a walk in the water-meadows’.  And no, I’m not joking, and I suggest that where there were so many boys willing to play, then rape was redundant!

I sat in the back of the coach on my way home for the last time and I cried my eyes out.  I was sixteen and I was off to join the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice, and sexually speaking, I knew that my life was over!  A kind old duck sidled up to me and asked me what the matter was. What could I say? And yes, I did have a bitter sort of laugh about that, later on. And then, of course, I grew up!

Of course, my love-life wasn’t over, but the opportunities for adventure were very few and very far between as I scrabbled my way up through the service to become a pilot. For a start, how could I hazard my longed-for career as a pilot for the sake of short-term happiness?  The answer was no, and I only had to read the News of the World each week to know what was happening to fellow paedosexuals…  And then there were the Lord Montagu of Beaulieu scandals.

Back to Renton’s book. I admit that it hit me really hard. Not the Gothic descriptions of rapine, but the highly accurate descriptions of, particularly, those abandoned kids at that school’s front door. Renton asks the mothers. particularly: ‘How could you do it?’

The silence is deafening, of course. They would say because it was a cultural imperative and ‘everyone else was doing it’. Damn them!

Another memory. A boy called Harry. He was taller and stronger than me by a long way, but we were made to get into a ring and box. I was terrified, but more terrified of showing fear, so I went at him like a windmill. He simply dotted my nose bloody and then easily knocked me down with a second blow. Then the silly kid got into trouble for blubbing because he’d hurt me!

What absolute bastards those people were. We were seven and eight and we were supposed to act like vicious little men. Harry and I were good friends after that and he pretended to be a useless boxer thereafter. He used to just wave his gloves about and let other kids hit him.

How can I remember what happened as long ago as 1944? Christ, I can remember coming down the stairs to the smell of lumpy porridge in the mornings; the incredible stench of an outside urinal; the swish of the cane and delayed bite of the hideous pain. Oh yes and developing boils on my knees during my second year…  Many of us had boils. I wonder why?

Oddly, one of the few things I still like is lumpy porridge. I couldn’t face the day without it! Another positive is that when I went to No. 1 School of Technical Training — where the discipline was fierce — they set their ex-guardsmen drill instructors on us, I just smiled inwardly and thought: ‘This is easy!’

And when the big brutal senior entry came in to wreck our barrack room just before a kit-inspection, I thought nothing of it and had my kit ready in no time.  Truthfully, after boarding school, the training centre was a boat-ride.

I urge you to read the book if you have a strong enough stomach.

[Heretic TOC: This marks the end of Mike’s letter, but another one followed, after I told him I wasn’t that keen on subjecting myself to Renton’s antagonistically “Gothic” view of consensual sex between teachers and boys: we are more than sufficiently familiar with the ubiquitous “abuse” narrative. I don’t understand why Renton would be so hostile in the book, given that his attitude to children’s sexuality is by no means as negative as the “innocence” narrative requires. This relative reasonableness comes out in his conversation – we had a lengthy and perfectly amicable Skype chat –  and also in an article he did for the Observer in 2014, when he wrote: “Besides, the sexual abuses were, in my version of the story, just detail: the real narrative was of five years of deliberate crushing of our individuality, the suppression of emotional freedom. Sexual bullying seemed just a part of the violence and cruelty that was the basic currency of the school and hundreds like it; the tools with which it squashed our little forms into the mould.” What was wrong, then, he seems to be saying was the bullying, not sex per se. Who could disagree? But let’s continue with Mike’s second letter: ]

From my personal point of view, it is not the detail that matters. It is the desperation that I felt as a small boy, having no-one to turn to for help. When you were very new, trying desperately to remember complex school rules and weird traditions; being beaten for such ‘crimes’ as forgetting to change into house-shoes (sandals) when one came in from outside. Even as a small child, I was forgetful, so I got a lot of ‘stripes’ for that.

As for your attempts to get Renton to see that Charles Napier wasn’t the monster that he claims, well, that’s like the pissing-into-wind, one-sided-argument that we are all faced with in this world to today. The one-eyed paedophobe will go on using his maximum pejoratives, come what may?  Regardless of the truth and the realities of childhood volition? And yes, his professional pragmatism as a journalist would have come into the mix of hatred, rage and fear.

And yes, on second thoughts: don’t read the book! It is very depressing! Not least, because of the level of Renton’s obvious obsessive-compulsive ‘pursuit of justice’. Yes, he was flogged to within an inch of his young life by a ‘drunken monster’ — probably a sado-masochist; yet it is the sexual events of prep and public school life that he pours most of his Gothic passions into. So — as you say — he gives the punters what they really want to read? He sells the book with salacious references?

[Heretic TOC again: Precisely! There is a big market for misery memoirs in general but a much bigger one for “sexed-up” misery.]

 

 

 

 

 

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