Pantomime villain for a Whitehall farce

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Not since the glory days of Whitehall farce has there been such a long-running theatrical success in London for unsophisticated comedy as we have been getting lately from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The  plays famously staged by actor-manager Brian Rix half a century ago had them rolling in the aisles with comedy based on the embarrassment of silly characters being caught with their pants down in compromising situations. Much like that, IICSA was been caught playing a very silly game of musical chairpersons, in which a chair was snatched from under the bottoms of three successive lady judges, leaving them humiliatingly dumped on their judicial posteriors and out of the proceedings. Oh, how we laughed! See Heretic TOC’s “review” of the “show”: “The chair is dead, long live the chair!”

And then there was the barrister who dropped his briefs. Allegedly. The QC appointed as counsel to the inquiry suddenly found himself suspended from his job after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a lift – not very elevating! He was later cleared in a separate inquiry of any wrongdoing but then – what a rib-tickler this was – yet another inquiry decided the earlier inquiry had failed to inquire sufficiently, or in the right way.

The big difference between those original Whitehall farces and IICSA’s comedy of errors, of course, is that the latter laughs are an entirely unintended aspect of what are supposed to be deeply serious proceedings.

But the worlds of London theatre in the 1950s and the public inquiry theatricals now in progress have another major feature in common apart from the laughs. Those Brian Rix plays were performed at the Whitehall Theatre, close to the old Palace of Whitehall and hence right at the heart of the UK’s government and political complex, as summed up in the words “Whitehall” and “Westminster” – parliament being housed, of course, in the nearby Palace of Westminster.

Which is where the pantomime villain of my headline makes his timely entry, just as the panto season is coming up. And who should that villain be but – wait for it – ME!

Boo! Hiss!

Let me explain. Among the dozen or so separate strands of investigation on IICSA’s packed agenda is the Westminster one, which is probing “child sexual abuse” (CSA) and exploitation “involving people of public prominence associated with Westminster”. This strand will look into “evidence of conspiracy, cover-up, interference or tolerance” of CSA  committed by Westminster V.I.P.s, and whether “governmental, political and law enforcement institutions were aware of and took appropriate  steps; and whether there are adequate safeguarding and child protection policies in place within political parties, government departments and agencies”.

About a month ago I received an official communication from IICSA’s chief solicitor requesting me to submit evidence to the inquiry specifically in relation to this Westminster strand. Why? To respond to utterly farcical, laughably ridiculous conspiracy theory allegations to the effect that back in the day, in the 1970s and 80s, the government was being run by a secret paedophile elite with links to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), an organisation I led for a number of years.

Boo! Hiss!

Blimey, I thought, in my old-fashioned way, you’re  ’avin’ a laugh, gov, ain’t ya? What’s a small-time villain like me, an ’umble felon just like Fagin, hanging about with his little gang of boy pick-pockets,  gonna be doin’ a-mingling with proper gentlemen like that? We might nick their fancy silk handkerchiefs, if we’re lucky, but that’s as close as it gets.

But public inquiries do not Have A Laugh. Distinctly challenged in the sense of humour department, they tend to be In Deadly Earnest. So when IICSA solicitor Martin Smith posted me a list of 10 specific questions about PIE’s alleged Westminster connections, I knew it was not to be taken lightly.

I could have ignored the letter. It was only a request for a response, after all, not a command. There was no suggestion – not at this stage at least – that I might be subpoenaed to appear in person and interrogated under oath. Nor was I in any sort of trouble, having been jailed long ago for my supposed misdeeds: this time they had bigger fish to fry, or so the conspiracy theorists wildly imagined.

Anyway, I decided there would be no harm in addressing these questions soberly and seriously, just as IISCA must have hoped. At the same time, though, I decided, this was a fantastic opportunity to give the inquiry a piece of my mind. So, after a lot of hard work in recent weeks, some of it spent digging out old PIE documents and going through them, a few days ago I submitted 10,000 words of evidence. Roughly the first third was taken up with answering Mr Smith’s questions. The rest ranged more widely, attacking the absurdity of the conspiracy theorists’ wider allegations, especially as regards PIE, the insanity of the “believe the victims” dogma, the deranged narcissism of extremists within the victim lobby, the rising tide of toxic victim feminism over several decades and the appalling waste of time and money going into IICSA’s utterly bogus, vulgar, populist activities.

Have I missed anything? Probably, but you get the drift.

The key questions on PIE were on whether we had members who were MPs, lords, or other “persons of public prominence” associated with Westminster, and on whether the organisation ever received government funding.

My answers are very full and forthcoming. Names are named! Secrets are revealed! But if you think I am going to blurt it all out here and now you can think again. I shan’t do that because I feel it is more important here to focus not on the questions the inquiry were asking but on the ones they are desperate to avoid. Not to worry, though, because I have posted my entire evidence here. Enjoy!

So, what is IICSA trying to avoid? Essentially, yet more embarrassment. Or, rather, embarrassment of a selective kind. The inquiry is perfectly happy to expose past institutional shortcomings. That is at the heart of its declared purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is bound to embarrass those who were in charge at the time.

That’s the good embarrassment, if you will, but there is also a bad sort: IICSA doesn’t want to see itself become nothing more than a laughing stock; nor does it want to dwell on police chiefs, politicians and others who have become an embarrassment to its own aims lately – people who have made fools of themselves or worse either by taking the “believe the victims” credo too far, or by generating baseless conspiracy theories that have come unstuck.

For instance, IICSA has decided not to talk about the collapse of Operation Midland, set up by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 2014 to investigate lurid and very far-fetched allegations of sexual assault, brutality and murder by paedophiles in high places. The operation was closed in 2016 when it was eventually concluded that the star witness, a supposed victim named publicly only as “Nick”, was just a fantasist who had led the police up the garden path.

One good reason for IICSA to avoid this issue at the moment is that it is presently before the courts: “Nick” has been charged with perverting the course of justice and is due to stand trial in March. But the inquiry could easily wait until after the trial. In its preliminary hearing on the Westminster strand IICSA gave other reasons, too, the decisive one being “that possible failings in these police investigations are remote from the central purpose of this inquiry”.

To me this sounds like an excuse. It enables IICSA to dodge the key issue – very much central to its inquiries – of the basis on which you decide that “victims” really are victims. At once time, and quite properly, accused persons were deemed innocent until proven guilty in court, and those making allegations of a crime against themselves were called “complainants” not “victims”, right up until the court verdict. This presumption of innocence was grievously undermined when the MPS proclaimed in a joint report with the NSPCC that those who had made complaints against the late TV star Jimmy Savile should be called victims rather than complainants even though no case had ever been brought to trial and Savile was no longer around to defend himself.

This “believe the victim” tendency reached it apogee when Supt Kenny McDonald, the head of Operation Midland, said the police believed the accuser “Nick” and declared that his claims were “credible and true”. They were neither. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have seen that the claims were ridiculous. While it would have been wrong simply to laugh “Nick” out of the police station when he first made his complaint – some investigation was in order – the unforgiveable folly was to put dogma above evidence by declaring the claims to be true when that could only properly have been a matter for a court to decide.

It may also be significant – in terms of IICSA avoiding embarrassment – that missing from the 10 questions put to me by the inquiry was anything about the fanciful allegations trumpeted by tabloid journalist Don Hale, although these claims had been mentioned in the preliminary hearings.

Sunday Times journalist James Gillespie asked me about Hale’s claims in an interview I gave him by email in 2015. He wrote:

The journalist Don Hale, who claims [1970s politician] Barbara Castle gave him a “dossier” alleging a number of politicians were active supporters of PIE, says [former prime minister] Ted Heath regularly attended meetings. He also says that the late Tory MP Rhodes Boyson would distribute [PIE’s] Magpie magazine and organise speakers in support of PIE. Further, he claims that PIE had an office in Westminster staffed by two people. Is any of this true?

Most of it was so ridiculous that, as I replied to Gillespie, it hardly seemed to require any rebuttal from me. I added that “I will do my best to spell out why these claims are such nonsense, although the conspiracy addicts cannot be expected to listen.”

The only half-true bit is that my successor as chair of PIE, Steve Smith (now Freeman) did indeed have an office in Westminster, in the basement of the Home Office no less, where he worked with another PIE member! But it was most definitely the government’s office, not PIE’s, and the PIE members were not PIE staff: they were paid to do work there for the government. Yes, it sounds odd and so it was. Some heretics may recall that I blogged about it.

As regards the preposterous claim that Edward Heath, Conservative prime minister in the early 1970s, had attended PIE meetings, it ignored the fact that our leanings and contacts were clearly on the Left of British politics, far away from Ted’s Tories on the Right. The same flaw in Hale’s claims applies to an even greater extent in the case of Rhodes Boyson, who was a hard-liner on the Right of his party, a former headmaster who had been very keen on stern discipline and favoured caning as a punishment. In PIE we were utterly against that, as shown by a magazine we had that was devoted to children’s rights, where we took an explicit stance against such corporal punishment.

The fact that so many of the allegations made by the likes of Don Hale, “Nick” and others have remained unsubstantiated and have rightly been judged fake news, ought to be a massive embarrassment to IICSA. One would think so, given that the inquiry appears to be taking such “news” mighty seriously, rather than exercising healthy scepticism.

By the time the IICSA has digested my extensive witness statement, they may well conclude it would be unwise to call me to give evidence in person at the public hearing scheduled for March (fixture clash here with the trial of “Nick”!) on the Westminster strand precisely because I might give voice to unwelcome scepticism. In comments made here at Heretic TOC a few days ago (27 Nov @ 14:02), I mentioned the possibility of finding myself in “hand-to-hand combat” with Prof. Alexis Jay, who handled the famous inquiry into street grooming in Rotherham. She is now in charge of IICSA as the inquiry’s fourth chair, so we could certainly come face-to-face in the proceedings.

Once the barrister dealing with the Westminster strand, who appears to be Andrew O’Connor QC, has read my evidence, he will be aware that my scepticism extends to the work of Prof. Jay herself. In my submission I noted she had “conducted what became a very high-profile report on Rotherham, concluding that at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation there between 1997 and 2013”. She won’t like what I said, including several paragraphs casting doubt on the claim that all of those 1,400 “victims” were really victims. Among them, I said, were those who, far from wanting to be rescued from their “abusers”, saw Prof. Jay’s work as an unwelcome interference with their private lives. Come to think of it, I can’t see anyone at IICSA’s theatre of fantastical abuse nightmares wanting me to turn up and get them “woke”.

Boo! Hiss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Barbican: bums and barbarism

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We don’t expect anything much to happen at 9.30 on a Sunday morning.

It’s a time when usually I would be mooching about with a cup of coffee and looking forward to another coma-inducingly complex Brexit analysis on the Andrew Marr Show, where we are no longer, it seems, stuck on the “backstop” (that’s the ordinary backstop), or even the “backstop to the backstop”. We have made great progress. We have moved on, so that instead of failing to come to any agreement on backstops we are now hopelessly mired on the “transition”, and even the “transition from the transition” – and no, for those of you who haven’t been following closely, I am not talking about trans persons or any aspect of sex or sexuality.

But I soon will be, as you will be relieved to hear.

So. Sunday. No comforting coffee or mystifying Marr. Just an empty platform in a quiet London Tube station as I make my way to the start of a conference. With only the sound of my own footsteps for company I make my lonely way to the exit. As I turn a corner onto a staircase I see my first humans. A couple. Or so I think, as the stocky man and slim woman appear to be walking together side by side some distance up ahead of me.

So when he gives her a firm spank on the backside I guess it must be a relationship thing. You know, playful. Pert enough posterior, I must admit, barely covered by hot-pants of a provocative shortness I haven’t seen for decades in my own sartorially challenged thigh of the woods. The young lady was about 30. Had she been only 20 years younger I would certainly have envied her “boyfriend” or “partner”.

Expecting some lively banter between the two, I was quickly disillusioned. Without a word, and without looking back or in any way acknowledging the man, she quickened her pace up the steps. As the distance between spanker and spankee grew it became apparent he was drunk, lurching from side to side. I gave him a wide berth as I overtook. Not that I thought he would spank my elderly male backside (no hot pants there, I assure you!) but I didn’t want any sort of confrontation.

That same morning, though, I found myself voluntarily confronting about a hundred people over this incident when I raised it as a question in a conference session at the Barbican Centre titled “Consent classes: from school to parliament and beyond”. By the time I spoke, several of the feminist platform speakers had come on strong in various ways (no surprise), suggesting that teaching strict rules for consent to schoolchildren or students is vital but not enough; basically, the consensus was little short of “All men should be castrated”.

In this atmosphere, I confess, I didn’t have the balls to suggest that even young children can consent – I might not have kept them for long had I tried! In any case, I was curious to sound out opinion on the Tube station spanker.

“A funny thing happened on my way to the conference,” I began. Well, not really: to me it had been “funny peculiar” but no way did I want anyone to think I meant “funny ha-ha”. I was also acutely aware that many women complain of sexual harassment such as uninvited spanking on an almost daily basis. So I took pains to emphasise that in all my many years I had never before actually witnessed such an incident in front of my very eyes.

“What should I have done?” I asked. “Should I have intervened in any way?”

It was pleasant, I have to say, to find myself in a good-guy role for once, the role of the Concerned Bystander. OK, so I hadn’t actually done anything good. A proper “English gentleman” might have taken the scoundrel by the scruff of the neck and given him a damn good thrashing, but that would have been far too aggressively masculine to win the approval of this conference session.

No, just thinking vaguely the right thoughts in an ineffectual way was apparently good enough for this surprisingly easy-to-please audience. One of the sterner panel speakers, law professor Susan Edwards, author of Sex and Gender in the Legal Process, seemed to think it was important that my consciousness had been raised. Alisha Lobo, a university students’ “community officer”, said she would have intervened herself, but only to go and ask the woman if she was alright. As a man, though, could I have done this without raising worries about my ulterior motives?

A guy in the audience pointed out that everyone, including the perpetrator, knows that spanking a complete stranger in a Tube station is bad behaviour. Consent classes would make no difference.

The best answer came from panellist Joanna Williams, author of Women vs Feminism and associate editor of Spiked. Instead of getting all worked up over “someone touching someone’s bum on a Sunday morning at Barbican Tube station”, she said, women should be celebrating their freedom, gained not so long ago, to go out in the world as independent people. The present emphasis on victimhood through “harassment”, “micro-aggressions” and the like, risked sacrificing spontaneity, freedom and intimacy. The Tube spanker’s behaviour was definitely unpleasant but the cost of trying to eliminate such incidents through ever greater vigilance and sex-negativity was far too high.

I am happy to say she got a very vigorous round of applause.

The conference was the excellent annual Battle of Ideas chat-fest on topical controversies, from #MeToo to Brexit to climate change, organised by the Institute of Ideas, whose director, Claire Fox, will be known to many heretics as a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. Those with an elephantine memory will recall that I wrote about this gathering a couple of years ago in “Are we (or they) driving kids crazy?

With Steve Freeman, my successor as chair of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), barbarically incarcerated on an indeterminate sentence of “imprisonment for public protection” (IPP) for the last seven years for child porn offences , I thought I should also attend the session on the policy of offender rehabilitation in prison, and whether it works.

Much of the session was focused, reasonably enough, on the lack of funding for getting offenders back on their feet when they leave the prison gate. Instead of getting the help they need they are left to wallow in unresolved problems, especially as regards drugs and alcohol, and a lack of skills that would enable them to gain and hold down a job. As a result, they soon find themselves back inside after re-offending: it is known as the revolving door syndrome.

I would have preferred a session given over entirely to the horror-story that the IPP system has become. The idea was supposed to be that “dangerous” prisoners, including sex offenders,  should only be released when they are no longer considered dangerous. In theory this need take only as long as necessary to successfully complete a treatment programme aimed at rehabilitation – which might mean a matter of months rather than years. In practice, staffing and other difficulties have meant that the required courses have often been long delayed, and the Parole Board has been reluctant to release anyone labelled “dangerous” for fear of the media shit-storm that would ensue in the event of any further offending.

Also, there has been a huge problem for heretics. In order to “pass” the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) the offender has needed to convince the assessors running the courses that he (it’s usually a male) has changed his beliefs and no longer has an “offence supporting attitude” or a so-called “cognitive distortion” that makes him think consensual sex with minors is OK. A lot of us would struggle with this test, wouldn’t we?

Then, last year, came the shock news (no surprise to me but it was to the authorities) that the SOTP doesn’t actually work, and that those who have successfully completed the courses re-offend at a higher rate than those who do not! Logically, then, if you cannot “cure” offenders who are too “dangerous” to release, they must remain locked up.

So it’s a nightmare scenario for the remaining IPP prisoners, who find themselves stuck in a legal limbo that neither the parole authorities nor the politicians dare tackle. It has become a gulag system, much like the endless “civil commitment” faced by many sex offenders in the U.S. i.e. continuing detention behind bars long after their sentence has ended, waiting for a “cure” that does not exist. Note that the IPP is officially a life sentence, although the offence leading to it can be relatively minor, with a minimum term (sometimes called the “tariff”) that might be under a year. In Steve’s case it was two and a half years and he has so far served seven.

Nobody at the Barbican even mentioned sex offenders until I raised the subject.

Wouldn’t it be a far better use of resources, I asked, now that the SOTP is known to be useless, to spend the money instead on practical post-release help, making sure ex-offenders have somewhere to live and so forth? Whether the remaining IPP prisoners should in justice be released immediately, after completing their tariff, was a follow-up question I had in mind, albeit the session was too short to take it.

The panel included Jerry Petherick, previously a prison governor responsible for HMP Dartmoor and now the director in charge of all the G4S prisons in the UK, including HMP Rye Hill, where all the inmates are sex offenders. To my surprise, this guy from the hard-nosed capitalist business of making money out of locking people up came across as surprisingly pleasant and well-meaning, notwithstanding the terrible mess his company has made of riot-stricken HMP Birmingham, now taken back into state control.

And judging by the answer he gave me he is pleasant and well-meaning but with little to offer but waffle and bureaucratic bullshit. He spoke of the “demise” of the SOTP, saying it had caused “real uncertainty as to how and how effectively it will be replaced”. How indeed. He didn’t get much further.

In the chair was Pamela Dow, a former director of strategy with the Ministry of Justice. She claimed the SOTP had worked well in its early phase when it was in the hands of experienced clinical psychologists, but when it was rolled out over the whole prison estate it was not given enough funding and was delivered by poorly trained staff.

I totally believe her. But again unanswered was the question of what comes next?

Nobody mentioned the new Kaizen programme, perhaps because there is some embarrassment over this fancy-sounding rebranding of the SOTP, re-launched with a few untested tweaks. This is designed to be a more “holistic” (great buzzword!) course for supposedly high risk offenders such as Steve,  incorporating “biological, social and psychological factors”, whatever that means. There is also the Horizon programme for lower risk offenders. As a blog associated with the journal Sexual Abuse pointed out, these courses may be evidence-informed but they are not evidence-based. Citing forensic psychologist Ruth Mann, the bloggers suspect that we can see “the evil twin of evidence-based policy-making” at work in this case, namely “policy-based evidence-making”.

But there may be some faint hope for better policy. The holistic approach (soothingly served up to me by Mr Pecksniff, sorry Petherick, when I button-holed him at the end of the session) could actually have something going for it. In the damning academic evaluation of the SOTP, one of the possible reasons given for the programme’s failure was its one-size-fits-all nature, with violent young rapists considered just the same as gentle and often elderly kind inmates.

I could have told them this. In fact I did, in an article published in the house journal of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) a few years ago. Maybe someone has noticed at last. My main point was that heretics like us do not take kindly (pun intended!) to having it dinned into us that we must have “cognitive distortions” and lack empathy. Either of these failings could be a factor (as one would expect when children are manipulated or coercively molested) but it ain’t necessarily so. And if it ain’t so we won’t buy it. We will instead either be in open revolt against the objectives of the course or seethe in quiet resentment. Either way, the programme will fail.

Far better, I said, would be to have programmes that respect the individuality of the inmates concerned, giving participants the opportunity to discuss their beliefs freely, and any evidence they know of that supports them. Resistance to the prescribed ideology should not on its own be taken to indicate that an inmate is still dangerous when a fair and intelligent evaluation of their expressed views would suggest the opposite.

Steve could pass that course, and rightly so.

As the U.S. fights over judging a judge…

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With the United States tearing itself apart over sexual allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick for a vacant place as one of the Supreme Court justices, today’s guest blogger, veteran NAMBLA activist Peter Herman, gives us his take on dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee public hearings in which the stakes are huge. The outcome will potentially tilt the balance on the court in a way that could have massive implications for the future of gender relations and sexual mores in America – and even the wider western world – for a generation or more. Peter watched at length the testimony given by Kavanaugh’s main accuser, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, and the embattled judge’s self-defence.

 

WHEN THE CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST

“What goes around comes around.” Those are words that Brett Kavanaugh used in anger as he lashed out at some of his questioners during Senate confirmation hearings. Though he meant these words in a different context, they have further significance, which I will come to.

As of this writing, no one knows whether the candidate for one of the highest judicial posts in the United States will get a pass. In either case, it will be bad for him. As with Justice Clarence Thomas, who was also accused of sexual misbehaviour, the taint will always remain.

I have strong feelings against Kavanaugh; but as for whether his appointment to the US Supreme Court will be a good thing for the country, I cannot predict. Again, I will come to that.

I watched almost all of Ms Ford’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, and it would seem that almost any reasonable person witnessing both accounts cannot but see that the judge is either lying outright or lying to himself. Most telling was his refusal on several occasions to agree to an FBI investigation where at one point there were several seconds of silence as he could no longer rely on the canned responses he had been giving to these requests.

Of course, the FBI has done a lot of underhanded things in the past, especially under the tutelage of Edgar Hoover, but with the glare of responsible news media it is unlikely the agency would prevaricate. It is almost impossible to believe that Kavanaugh did not fear the uncovering of very uncomfortable events in his life.

He could not hide his past heavy drinking, but what he could try to hide was the strong likelihood of his belligerent demeanour while drunk and his inability to remember his behaviour while drunk. People who drink know that there are “mean” drunks and “mellow” drunks. Under the influence of brain-altering chemicals, there is no way of choosing the type of behaviour you will succumb to. Such people most often have no or little memory of their actions while drunk. It is a real life Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation.

What is most likely is that Kavanaugh did have some memory of what he did but was so horrified of behaviour he would not otherwise do while sober that he could not face the reality. As an adolescent, he had to deal with a strict Catholic environment and parents who had high ideals for him. This may be why as a jurist he has employed a large number of women all of whom report exceptional kindness on his part. It may be that he is like those Calvinists who, faced with a predetermined choice by the God they believe in, lead virtuous lives to prove to themselves that they are indeed the ones whom God has determined to save.

This is why I earlier said I could not predict whether, in my own view, Kavanaugh would be good for the country. Like the composer of Amazing Grace, a sinner can, when facing his own terrible sins, make amends. Kavanaugh, in his testimony, said very partisan things that would show him not to be the impartial and measured jurist needed for the highest court in the land; but that could have been a desperate move to save himself from the precipice of shame. Though no one can predict what kind of Justice he would be, I personally would not take a chance with him.

There is great irony in the predicament that Kavanaugh finds himself in. For decades now, lawmakers at all levels have whipped the flames of hysteria regarding sexual behaviour, and judges have obliged by imposing outrageous sentences. As awful as Kavanaugh’s alleged act against Ms Ford was when both were teenagers, a more understanding culture would have provided a way for the perpetrator to apologise, somehow make amends and not be labelled for life. This did not happen then, and it is surely not happening now. How long will it be until sufficient chickens come home to roost?

There is a further irony, at least for those who love boys and are persecuted for it, in that we may side in this case with the “Me Too” movement. Too many women who have been truly abused have erroneously projected their hurt onto those truly loving and consensual relations between men and boys. The answer to those who are therefore hostile to undifferentiated feminism is that we, male and female, boys and girls, men and women are one species and often subject to irrational conclusions.

Anger, confusion, shattered lives… and love

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Footage of a disgraced teacher’s banishment to a bleak, cramped, lonely existence in an isolated caravan in the middle of nowhere after an offence of downloading “child sexual abuse images” provided a 90-minute Channel 4 TV documentary this week with the perfect visual symbol.

Alex, a teacher for 15 years and father of two young adult daughters, found himself exiled from a six-bedroom, well-appointed family home in the face of his wife Kate’s anger, bloodcurdling online abuse and frosty hostility from the neighbours in their respectable suburban location.

It is with these neighbours that Married to a Paedophile begins. Or rather their houses. We see Kate braving an outing to her front garden to give the film makers a quick briefing on what had become mainly enemy territory. Pointing to the house opposite, she said the lady there had been “lovely” to her since the news of Alex’s downfall. The other houses were a different story: This one: nasty. That one: horrible. Over on the right: enemy. Across to the left: enemy.

Then there were the social media messages: “Gotta wonder about the wife. She’s gotta be a whore.” That was just one of the milder ones.

None of this will be at all surprising to my fellow heretics here at Heretic TOC. It is an agonisingly familiar scenario, even if most of us haven’t had a female spouse’s point of view as our starting point. Reading this, the first thought coming to many here may be that Channel 4 did a comparable doc not so long ago called The Paedophile Next Door, from Testimony Films. With the honourable exception of a fine contribution from our own Ed Chambers, it turned out to be a dreadful compendium of shock-horror clichés.

But really there is no comparison. The latest offering is from a different outfit, Brinkworth Films, and is of vastly higher quality in every way: the time and care taken over its production, the presentational style, the absence of clichés, the refusal to be judgemental. It is a work of integrity that enables its participants to express themselves at length and in depth, giving breathing space to the issues, doing justice to their complexity.

Director Colette Camden’s achievement owes much to the fact that she focused on just two families in which the husbands were convicted of downloading and followed what happened to them for 18 months, from the wives’ immediate reactions to the arrests to longer-term repercussions over this lengthy period, as the shock-wave spread to children and grandchildren.

As for the husbands, their views and feelings were also explored. My reaction was in large part to see them as co-victims of brutally oppressive and unnecessary police and legal processes, but realistically we must suppose that most of the audience will take a different view. That’s fine. I am just happy the programme doesn’t thrust any particular interpretation down our throats.

It shunned that easy resort, the holy wrath of an outraged presenter; it even spared us the tears that our emotionally incontinent times seem to demand at every turn, not just from the recently bereaved but from those who have simply won a tennis championship, or a singing contest, or even merely earned some praise for baking a cake. The participants in this particular programme really do have plenty to cry about, God knows, and we may be sure there has been no shortage of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But what we see is calm reflection. We know, as any sensitive audience would, that these have been traumatic times for all concerned. It needs no emphasis. What we see instead is the longer term reality: the unavoidable stoicism of just having to get on with things; the mental struggle of coming to terms with the bald fact that nothing will ever be the same again; and the gradual rebuilding of shattered lives.

A key innovation that enabled people to speak and be shown freely was that the participants did not appear in person. Instead, their names have been changed and their actual spoken words were lip-synched by actors, who did a superb job: I would not have known they were not the actual families if I hadn’t been told. It also meant that everyone could be represented visually, including the little grandchildren of the second family, without them being hideously defiled by censorious pixilation.

As for that “perfect visual symbol” I mentioned at the start, I suspect a lot of artifice went into its depiction. Just as actors have been used as stand-ins for the people, stand-in locations have also been deployed, so that the families cannot be identified by their houses or neighbourhoods. So what we get is supposed to be similar to the original but not identical.

In the case of the caravan, my hunch is that artistic licence was taken. But any “cheating” was in a good cause: rather than taking us away from the truth it compels our interest in it. The beat up little old van is just a tad too humble; and its picturesque isolation, not on a caravan site but set in a scene of otherwise unblemished rural loveliness, at once blesses the eye and burdens the heart. How, we cannot help but ask, can it have come to this?

What, then, do we learn? What do these dramas tell us?

It would be unwise to generalise too much based on a sample of only two families but some clear points of interest emerge that our own prior knowledge will surely tell us are widely applicable.

Broadly, the story on the wives’ side is of mixed emotions: lingering loyalty to the partner they loved, but also anger and a deep sense of betrayal. As for why this had happened to them, there was very little to be seen but puzzlement, confusion and incomprehension. Lucy and Jes, Alex and Kate’s daughters, were far more sympathetic towards Alex than Kate was. Lucy, especially, made a valiant attempt to explain away her father’s transgressions in terms of mental illness and depression.

Kate took umbrage in a far more personal way: her partner had committed a criminal offence, she insisted. Worse, he had insulted her.

“I’m really angry that he would want to look at that stuff when he had me,” she protested. “What was wrong with me? Why not stick to what was right, what he should have been looking at, which was me?”

It would have taken a paedophile to explain that she need not have felt bad on that account. A paedophile could have pointed out that sexual attraction to children is an ever-present and powerful orientation, not a trivial seeking after novelty; nor does it imply lack of loyalty towards a sincerely loved adult partner.

Sadly, no such paedophile was available to say this. There was Alex, of course, but he turned out to be in deep denial. Kate tells us the first thing he said when he was arrested, and kept repeating, was “I’m not a paedophile. I’m not a paedophile.” Same with the husband in the other featured family, Robert. According to his wife, Helen, he too insisted he had no sexual interest in children. He told her he didn’t watch the videos, he just liked collecting them!

The fact is that both of these guys had been caught bang to rights with multiple images showing children, some of them very young, sexually engaged in “pretty much everything”, as Kate put it, while some of Robert’s images were clearly very extreme. Mere curiosity? A magpie-like collecting compulsion? I don’t think so. Alex got off relatively lightly with a 12-month community service order, whereas Robert served a prison sentence and was behind bars for 16 months. Both men, I think it is sensible to conclude, were definitely paedophiles.

It is more than understandable, of course, that they felt unable to admit it to their wives and families. As Alex dryly admitted, “You can see why people can go off you.” Clearly a man of easy charm, he reminded me of former politician Neil Hamilton, disgraced in the parliamentary cash-for-questions scandal back in the 1990s. One senses that, like Hamilton, Alex will bounce back. Even by the end of the programme he was able to talk of finding a certain happiness, despite all the heartache his family had been through: life is simpler now, he said philosophically.

Robert, by contrast, is in prison when the programme starts and we hear about him through his immensely loyal wife, who visits him inside frequently and is ready to meet him at the gates on his release date. “I’ve loved him for 44 years,” she says, “you can’t just switch that off.”

Ultimately, though, as time moves on, so do Helen’s sentiments. She has her little pre-school grandchildren to think about, and her daughter-in-law has strong feelings on the matter. Also, a nice new man, Richard, comes into her life. She’s still friendly towards Robert but is haunted by the knowledge that one of the images in his collection was particularly extreme, showing a man masturbating over a baby’s face…

It is a triumph of the programme, I suggest, that it is content to present Robert as a much loved and plausibly lovable man despite this damning revelation. His little granddaughter, we hear, was angry because no one would explain to her why her beloved granddad had gone to prison and why she couldn’t see him again. The kids, of course, are usually the last people to have their views taken into account…

 

AMERICAN CIRCUMCISION

Has anyone seen this documentary, just out, called American Circumcision? It is available through a range of outlets on a paying basis but there is a free trailer. It is getting good customer reviews at Amazon, such as this one, from Dave JP, on 31 August:

A highly informative documentary exposing the myths (or lies) about the alleged “benefits” of the elective surgical mutilation of male babies that goes back only to the late 19th century in the USA, done for a variety of changing rationales but until recently (whatever the irrational pretexts) solidly embedded in the cultural milieu to the point that it had become sheer routine custom. The film explores the revulsion and anger of men who were damaged physically and emotionally, as well as the regrets of parents and health care professionals for their complicity in perpetuating this tragedy, which is still dismissed by some with offensive comments such as “Get a life”. Fortunately, as the film shows, people are waking up, questioning, protesting, and even suing the practitioners who engaged in this barbaric non-therapeutic ritual.

M.A.D. policy on children is truly disturbing

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The myth that children are asexual and “innocent” is crucial for those would crush us (and the kids). But the reality is now proving harder for them to escape thanks to the social media.

Appallingly for the haters, but thrillingly for heretics, primary school kids are now encouraging each other to watch online porn; they are making sexy selfies and also involving their friends in sexually explicit films. British children’s charity Barnado’s has told parliament that “self-generated child sex abuse images” (kids “abusing” themselves!) have shot up fourfold, with children as young as five involved. In evidence given to the House of Commons science and technology committee, the organisation said three-quarters of referrals for “child sex abuse” are now internet-related.

The Daily Mail’s report unsurprisingly tried to spin this by dragging in talk of “grooming” by adults. But Emily Cherry, of Barnardo’s, said young children are “increasingly becoming perpetrators as well as victims”.

In the good old days, of course, kids did not need to go online. They could roam freely and find hot action with each other in all sorts of locations, from behind the bike sheds to in the long grass – or even within Dr Barnado’s Homes. Barnardo’s was set up in 1866 to provide residential care for orphans and other needy children. In order to facilitate their better welfare, founder Dr Thomas Barnado was not above kidnapping the young housemates! Nor has the organisation been entirely free from sexual scandal.

If these reflections on the history of Barnado’s offer a hint of the hypocrisy that often goes hand in hand with moralising about child protection, a couple of other recent news stories reveal it in spades.

A prime example came up in the case this week of former pop impresario Jonathan King, after a judge blasted Surrey Police for multiple failings in an historic sexual abuse case they brought against him. King’s trial was aborted in June. It was the fourth he had faced, including the only one in which he was convicted, back in 2001, a conviction he is now seeking to have reversed.

The reasons for the fiasco in June were not reported until this week, when Judge Deborah Taylor finally set out in detail what had gone wrong.

Also held back until now was the verdict in another trial of a big name from yesteryear, radio DJ Chris Denning, who at one time worked for King’s company UK Records. While King’s latest trial was still in progress, Denning was cleared of an historic sexual abuse case against a 14-year-old boy. The verdict could not be reported at the time because it was feared the result might improperly influence the outcome of King’s trial. I was delighted for Chris because he is a great guy, as I knew from being a fellow inmate with him in HMP Wandsworth over a decade ago. Sadly, though, he is still in prison, serving two 13-year sentences handed down some time ago in relation to other cases dragged up from events decades ago, so he will not be released until about 2020.

I knew Jonathan King as well through a mutual friend I had also met inside, but let’s not get too diverted by that.

I feel pleased for Jonathan, too, but he is not the main character in my story today. Instead the focus should be on Mark Williams-Thomas, former detective turned “investigative journalist”. Remember him? It was his dodgy documentary for ITV on Jimmy Savile that finally set ablaze the dry tinder of rumour about the late entertainer, who never seemed to have an adult partner but flirted with young girls quite openly on his TV shows.

Williams-Thomas relied for his revelations on the word of a woman who has since been credibly dismissed as a serial fantasist. The BBC, presented with similar gossip, quite rightly turned down the opportunity to screen a similar documentary made by one of its own producers.

Whereas the BBC soon found itself vilified for cowardice over its refusal to trash the late star’s reputation on a slender basis, unscrupulous chancer Williams-Thomas was the hero of the hour.

Now, though, he has been put in the dock himself, metaphorically at least. This follows his role as a police detective in an investigation of the King case that followed perceived failures in how Surrey Police had handled things at an earlier stage.

It has been revealed that in 2014 Surrey Police learnt that Williams-Thomas was said to be offering to sell information on King’s alleged victims, and even introductions to them. This put a massive question mark, to say the least, over the ex-detective’s integrity. Judge Taylor said it meant King should never have been charged on evidence taken by him.

So much for Williams-Thomas. As for Surrey Police, they have been forced into an apology for a litany not just of blunders but of acts that would seem deliberately designed to rig the case, if the Daily Mail report is correct. That account shows the judge making numerous swingeing points of criticism, including the claim that officers misled the court and hid evidence that would have undermined alleged victims’ stories.

After the jury was discharged back in June, we are told, Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Hayes, the senior investigating officer, went off sick due to “mental illness”. Prosecutors have now announced that they will not be seeking a re-trial.

Judge Taylor said the case had not even been driven by concern over getting justice for any victims. Instead, it was all about Surrey Police trying to repair the reputational damage they had incurred through their previous failings, in their investigations both of Jonathan King and Jimmy Savile.

You want more evidence of police hypocrisy? You want further proof that even the higher realms of government plainly don’t give a toss about kids’ welfare despite constantly banging on about it?

How about the recent disclosure that British police and intelligence agencies have been deliberately exposing children to the danger of extremely violent physical reprisals by using them as spies in covert operations against terrorists, gangs and drug dealers? A committee of the House of Lords revealed the practice while raising the alarm over government plans – yes, this is Her Majesty’s Government we are talking about – to give law enforcement bodies more freedom over “their use of children”.

The committee expressed alarm over proposals to extend from one month to four the period of time between each occasion that child spies go through a re-registration process. In other words, the plan is to allow the authorities to embed kids within criminal networks for a lengthy period. How bizarre is that? As Richard Littlejohn would say, you couldn’t make it up.

Neil Woods, a former undercover police officer who investigated drugs gangs around the country, told The Guardian, “It’s going to rack up the violence because as soon as gangsters think that there are more spies in their ranks then the classic arms race reaction is to increase the amount of terror, to make sure that those people are more scared of the gangsters than they are of the ramifications of the police.”

I found it particularly shocking to learn that this use of child spies is overseen by the investigatory powers commissioner, Lord Justice Fulford. A Home Office statement said, “Throughout any deployment and beyond, the welfare of the young person is the paramount consideration.”

Really? Really? I find this official complacency quite stunning. Many years ago Adrian Fulford and I were fellow members of the NCCL gay rights sub-committee. He struck me as a pleasant and decent person, a man of integrity. It just shows, perhaps, how compromised establishment figures can become, tainted as they inevitably will be by being forced to ponder, in many awkward contexts, whether the end justifies the means.

Or perhaps, though it seems unlikely, he takes the robust view that kids are more capable than we think and that their lives will be massively enhanced by being entrusted with such an excitingly grown-up role. Many of us heretics, indeed, might see some romance in the thought of a junior James Bond getting the better of a sinister, cat-stroking, international criminal mastermind, or foiling a dastardly jihadi plot for a new 9/11.

Well, sure, but there are limits. As with child soldiers or chimney sweeps, this undercover kids scheme goes way beyond them in terms of acceptable difficulty and danger.

Still on the theme of hypocrisy over serious child abuse – and of undercover work – I wonder if anyone saw an amazing edition of Dispatches on Channel 4 last month called “Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network”?

For an investigation of Facebook’s methods, a reporter worked undercover after getting a job as a moderator with the social media behemoth’s UK operation based in Ireland.

About ten minutes in, there is footage of a woman saying she reported seeing on Facebook a video of a man repeatedly kicking and punching a little boy, aged about three. She was told it would not be deleted as it did not violate Facebook’s terms and conditions. The undercover guy is heard asking his supervisor about such material, for which they have a policy aptly called M.A.D.. This is their shorthand for stuff the moderators are supposed to “Mark As Disturbing” rather than remove.

The supervisor explains this by saying that if there is too much censorship “people lose interest in the platform… It’s all about making money at the end of the day”. In the first two days after it was posted, we are told, the video with the little boy was shared more than 44,000 times.

We also see a sign on the wall of the moderators’ office giving an instruction to mark certain categories of material as disturbing (but not to delete), including videos showing an adult “inflicting burn or cut wounds” on a child”, or “tossing, rotating or shaking of an infant too young to stand by their wrists, ankles, legs or neck”.

Shockingly, we are told via the programme’s voiceover that unless they are streamed live, “in our experience videos of child abuse are not usually reported to the police”.

In the case of the little boy mentioned above, though, it was discovered that the video originated in Malaysia. The child had gone to hospital. The culprit was his step-father, who had been arrested and jailed for a year. The video went on Facebook in 2012 and was still there six years later when the Dispatches programme was being made. It is used by Facebook as an illustrative example to train new moderators on what is acceptable as M.A.D. content.

Mad indeed.

Not that there is never a case to be made for showing violence, including violence against children. I have in mind a classic newspaper photo from the Vietnam war showing a little girl running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back in a napalm attack. She was later identified as Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The photo shocked the world. Its publication did not end the war but certainly helped build up public sentiment against it.

The justification for perpetually showing images of extreme violence against children on Facebook is much more tenuous though. Arguably it might be possible to identify a perpetrator by doing so, but if Facebook had a track record of success in this regard I suspect they would be telling us about it.

As for child nakedness, that would of course be far too horrific to show – unless the child was being horribly burnt at the same time!

 

A THREAT WE SHOULD RESPOND TO

My attention has been drawn to a recent Boychat post by Queer Furry headed “IMPORTANT: a threat we should respond to”. He writes:

The DSM Steering Committee considers changing the DSM entry about pedophilia by omitting the sentence “Pedophilia per se appears to be a lifelong condition”.

This would likely encourage even more doctors to “cure” MAPs by making them submit to electro shocks or other inhumane treatments. And yes, such treatments are still in use and have been used on MAPs who are minors as well. Parents can literally force their children to this kind of torture.

We need to respond to this. And fortunately, we can. There is a 45-day public comment period which ends on August 29. Here you can submit your own comments. Here you find more information about the proposed change.

I completely agree with Queer Furry over this. DSM is the bible of American psychiatry and its influence extends far beyond the United States. Those who are seeking this change are clearly reluctant to accept what scientific research has confirmed in recent years, namely that paedophilia is a sexual orientation. As such, it is not amenable to change through therapy. Attempts to bring about such change are bound to fail, as with now discredited “gay reparative therapy”, and typically result in nothing but misery, disappointment and psychological trauma.

Queer Furry cites an important paper on this by Allyson Walker and Vanessa Panfil, titled “Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue”, published last year in Critical Criminology. The official link to this paper is here. A very relevant quote from it can be seen in QF’s BoyChat post.

In a recent comment here, I wrote: “As with party politics, there will be some occasions when it makes sense for kind radicals to work with those who are usually opponents. I will be talking about one such occasion in a blog coming up shortly.”

What I had in mind was the Virtuous Pedophiles, who posted their own draft response to the proposed DSM change on SexNet. I am happy to say they did an excellent job. While there is no need to work jointly with them on this in a direct way, it is worth saying that we see eye to eye on this issue, so we can support the same cause at the same time.

Mutual support aimed at self-acceptance

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Support for those who are sexually attracted to minors and who feel lonely, depressed and desperate on account of their orientation is not conspicuously available in most countries. All that is offered is brain-washing aimed at bullying so-called “offenders” and presumptive “ticking time bombs” into cowed submission to the law.

At least in the Netherlands, though, there is an alternative. It has been pioneered by an old friend of mine, Dr Frans Gieles, who is well known in the kind community as the long-time leading light of the  organisation Ipce, which has run a discussion forum and annual conferences for many years and is now of global significance thanks to its superb online library of scientific and other scholarly resources. In today’s guest blog Frans put us in the picture regarding the humane – law-abiding but non-judgmental – mutual help groups he has organised and developed over several decades, with individual therapy offered as an alternative or supplement.

Frans, a true “wise old man” of our movement, was born in 1941. A grandfather now, many years ago he used to be a house-father and a staff member in children’s homes and a foster father at home. A qualified therapist and expert in education, his PhD thesis was on conflict management and meta-methodology.  Frans has his own website.

 

HELPING PEOPLE IN THE NETHERLANDS WITH PAEDOPHILIC FEELINGS

Looking back …

… to the 1980s: we then had 18 self-help groups in the Netherlands, mostly under the umbrella of the NVSH, the Dutch Association for Sexual Reform. This organization is unique, with nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. Early in its history it played a pioneering role in the encouragement of family planning. Supporting openness about sexuality and the acceptance of sexual diversity, the NVSH offers counselling and support for minorities. This has long included paedophiles as well as gays.

Now, all that is left is a single self-help workgroup that organizes two “encounter groups”, one for the eastern part of the country and the other for the west. These offer individual counselling and therapy. The term “encounter groups” comes from the work of psychologist Carl Rogers, who developed the idea of non-directive therapy. Participants in the groups are encouraged to share thoughts and emotional reactions that arise in response to their fellow participants’ actions and statements. The emphasis is on sharing emotions, rather than on judging people.

What happened?

Internal conflicts, conflicts with the local NVSH board, misbehaviour of members or simply lack of members or leadership. Within society, the climate changed from around the mid-1980s onwards.  Relative tolerance towards paedophilia turned into rejection and hostility, so people became afraid to join groups associated with it.

A major development in 2014 cranked up this environment of hostility, when pro-paedophile organisation Vereniging Martijn (the Association Martijn, usually called just “Martijn”) was banned by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. Martijn had advocated for the societal acceptance of paedophilia and the legalization of sexual relationships between adults and children. The court reinstated (following a successful appeal) an earlier ruling in a lower court that the association’s actions and statements were in conflict with the accepted norms and values of Dutch society and that the ban was needed in order to protect children. In 2015, an appeal by the association to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) was rejected.

Who survived?

The NVSH Workgroup, called “JORis”, a name which stands for “Youth-Adult Relationship, intimacy, sexuality”. This workshop survived under the umbrella of the national NVSH Board, now with two encounter groups: JON (= JORis East Netherlands) and West.

Especially after the end of the Association Martijn in 2014, more people became members of the JON group, who started a second encounter group in the West in 2015. New members kept coming in and continue to do so, so that there are now about 50 members. Regularly, both groups have to split themselves into two subgroups.

JORis and society: bridges to build

In the Netherlands, we have several institutions for “ambulant” forensic-psychiatric care. “Ambulant” means you get there under your own steam. You go along for an appointment at an office in town rather than being treated residentially in a clinic or other institution. Most of the clients are referred on a mandatory basis, sent by the court; but the care centres are also open for people going there voluntarily, most of them referred by health care institutions. But those who go voluntarily often complain that they are treated simply and solely as potential offenders, especially if they are obliged to join group sessions. So they leave.

These forensic-psychiatric institutions and the JORis groups used to exist in two almost entirely separate worlds. JORis, for their part, accepted the work of those institutions and their methodology, but the respect was not mutual. The institutions did not accept the existence and methodology of the JORis groups. Frequently, the institutions often forbade their clients from having contact with anyone else who admitted to paedophilic feelings: this made it impossible for them to join the self-help oriented JORis.

This has changed in the last couple of years.

At least, a bridgehead has been built. The forensic and mental health institutions have begun to refer clients to coordinators and therapists working with the JORis. With these professionally qualified figures seen as responsible intermediaries, clients are now being allowed to join the groups. Bridges not yet built are those over the gap between probation/rehabilitation officers and the JORis groups, and also between JORis and the closed forensic-psychiatric institutions.

The methodology: encounter groups

What kind of social setting works best for these help-seekers?

The encounter groups are primarily self-help groups. There is no “therapist” with “clients”: people help each other if they need help. Often, they are helped simply by the opportunity to speak openly.

The main methodology is narrative. Members are asked to tell their own, authentic personal story. They are asked to listen carefully, without expressing any kind of judgment or giving unwanted advice, and also without interruptions such as “Oh, in my case …” or “In my opinion …” They are stimulated to ask questions, to try to understand each other, and to acknowledge others’ contributions in their replies. Sometimes, a metaphor may be helpful: “Your story tells me you have been like a tortoise hiding fearfully under your shell; but now you are venturing out of it.”

Themes for the conversation are seldom set beforehand; rather, they should emanate from the group discussion. Sometimes, a theme will emerge in response to a topic that is clearly one of lively concern among the members.

We see this methodology working if members are asked to tell their narrative again, e.g. if a new member enters the group. We then hear that the narrative has changed, has developed itself, and thus that the person is developing himself. For instance, the first narrative is often something like, “I blame society for …” and “They” are held responsible. Later on the word “I” appears in the narrative instead of “they”.  Also, the first story is often “I am afraid of …, so I avoid …” or a story of fear, isolation or obsession. Later on, a kind of courage may appear, a kind of knowing how to live and to act – or how not to live and not to act.

The theme of “self-acceptance” is especially important and basic. Only with at least the beginnings of self-acceptance will people be able to search for ways of living that are legal, social, and maybe even happy. The members are mostly men, ranging from 18 to 81, so to say. Most questions come from our members in their twenties. The older ones may be a model for the younger ones, but also the younger ones for each other.

Also, downloading pictures is regularly a theme – not with the question “How can I do it?”, but “How can I stop it?”

The ethics of the group imply avoiding sexual contact with children, at least  in future. Most members do not even want such contacts; they want contact with children, not sex with children. Some say “I might want this if it were ever to become legal, but in reality I actually avoid sexual contacts”.

The group conversation is quite strictly led along these lines. This is to prevent the conversation from running in all directions, in which case members might complain “my head is getting overloaded”. This is an especially important consideration for members who are on the autistic spectrum but it applies to others too. They will say, “This group and what I am hearing here confronts me with myself. This is heavy. My head is quickly full.”

In the individual contacts, self-help and the narrative method is the first form. In some of the contacts, if these are more or less therapy, other methods may be used as well. The first is the non-directive way, but sometimes a more directive or cognition-led way may be better.

Our methodology is described in more detail here.

How does the group work in practice?

In 2015, the structure of both groups was changed. Both groups have a small team of coordinators, together with one central coordinator who is also the conversation leader of both groups: that person is me. Both groups have professional therapists connected to the group. We are able to give therapy to those who ask for it. I am a qualified therapist with a PhD.

The possibilities offered are:

  • Participating in one of the two encounter groups;
  • or in a smaller subgroup;
  • individual contact with one (or two) coordinators and/or active members;
  • individual contact with a professional counsellor or therapist, within JORis or without JORis;
  • partner interviews with (a pair of) professional counsellors.

All combinations are possible.

The individual contacts, offered in connection with group attendance or instead of it, were started because some members felt the group sessions were often “too heavy”. The individual sessions or subgroups allow the full groups to be lighter in tone.

Both groups meet each month on a Sunday from 3pm to 9pm, including a long pause and a dinner; these breaks provide opportunities for mutual contacts and for speaking about whatever one wishes.

Membership is free. Members are asked to make a donation towards the costs of running the group and for the dinner; their travel costs may be subsidised or fully covered. From last year onwards the NVSH has been providing a subsidy and a modest degree of financial recompense for the otherwise entirely unpaid voluntary work of the coordinator/therapist.

Whoever comes along to the groups makes their own personal introduction to the central coordinator. This introduction must be truly personal in the sense that their full identity must be given: that is, with their real name, address and photo ID, such as a passport. The coordinator listens carefully to the new person, without any judgment. The types of help on offer are described and there is a discussion as to what would be the best option for the newcomer. Using a nickname to participate in the groups is allowed, as long as the coordinators know the real data.

There is often anxiety over going into a group. In those cases, individual contact with the central coordinator, or a small subgroup, is offered. Such contacts can be lengthy, even lasting several years, before the person dares to enter a group – if ever.

Themes

Some important themes are:

  • Fear
  • Parents
  • Self-acceptance
  • “There is a monster within me”
  • Diagnoses
  • Isolation

These themes are mentioned with an explanation in our Report 2016 A.

  • “A group is scary and heavy”
  • Again: Self-acceptance
  • Therapists
  • “Downloading”

These themes are mentioned with an explanation in our Report 2016 B.

Secondary Problems

A number of people arrive with a history of problems, including “helpers” who failed to help. So they often have plural diagnoses and are on medication. There are also secondary problems: depression, suicidal thoughts, (severe) autism, neuroses, attachment problems, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, addiction – and more.

These problems are not inherently connected with paedophilic feelings, but, in our current society, they may occur in combination with it and so are said to be co-morbid. We do not know what causes what. It is hard to distinguish cause from effect. Causality could even run in both directions, or the association between different types of problem could be random.

Young people

Recent research confirms quite exactly our experience with young people.

The mean age for becoming conscious of one’s paedophilic feelings is 15. The mean age of “coming out” for the first time is … 22. To whom? Usually to one’s mother or a friend.

Note that between the mean of 15 and the mean of 22, lies a mean of seven years: seven years of lonely worrying and puzzling.

How many people in their teens or twenties are left facing all this anxiety on their own? We must reach out a hand to them.

Sooner or later they may reach the point of self-acceptance, and gradually find a manageable, and perhaps even happy, way of living sociably and within the law. Members in their thirties or forties, maybe in their mid-life crisis, as well as older people have also found that way.

They are not “offenders” and they surely do not want ever to become a perpetrator. They do not recognize themselves as in a “treatment” programme that approaches them only as a potential offender. They need to be approached as “non-offenders” – thus they need a methodology and an underlying theory quite different to that of current offender treatment.

Their narrative, and that of the JORis groups, is given above and in our annual reports.

Reports

Here below: (a) the recent research report just mentioned, (b) again our methodology described, (c) our three most recent (half-)annual reports, followed by (d) my website about “Helping People with Paedophilic Feelings”, in which I combat the current offender treatment methodology and offer alternatives for it.

  • (a) Cash, Brian Martin; Self-identifications, sexual development and well-being in minor-attracted people: an exploratory study – A Thesis – August 2016 – Faculty of the Graduate School of Cornell University.
  • (b) The narrative that may be told … in the self-help groups JON and JORis West.
  • (c) JON report 2016 a.
  • (c) JON report 2016 b.
  • (c) JON report 2017; and:
  • (d) Helping people.

 

 

Proudly sticking out my double CHIN!

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When Dave Riegel kindly offered to host a link to my CHIN paper recently published in Sexuality & Culture, he was more alert than me to the need for an explanatory summary to go with it – a double CHIN, as it were – or an edited highlights version. As he wrote along with the link:

This paper comprises some 15,000 words and 33 pages. While composed with the academic or professional reader in mind, it can be read profitably by the layperson who puts his mind to the task, and who follows the logic carefully. For those who feel the sheer size is overwhelming, it is suggested that they begin at the “An Alternative Ideal” section.

Good advice! And at Dave’s request I am now taking a couple of steps to provide a reader-friendly introduction to the article. One of the steps, for visitors to Dave’s SafeHaven site, will comprise a short piece to go with the link there. The other step, for heretics here, appears below. It aims to encapsulate the paper’s main themes.

Before starting, I will just note that as I write, less than two months after CHIN’s publication, the paper has been downloaded 2,200 times from the official Springer site, a figure that I feel more than justifies splashing out, as I did, to pay for Open Access, making the paper freely available to all. Heretics here have donated generously in response to my appeal aimed at raising funds to cover the fee but I am still considerably out of pocket. So please consider making a donation if you have not already done so: see Donate button near the end text of the right-hand column or email me (tomocarr66@yahoo.co.uk) to ask for my international bank account number.

So, here we go.

It may help to begin with how CHIN came about. This has roots going back seven or eight years to a meeting in a London pub with psychiatrist Richard Green, whose record of pioneering support for gay and trans rights will be familiar to many here and who has recently published a memoir of his involvement in these issues. At Richard’s instigation we were joined for lunch by Agustin Malón, a Spanish specialist in sex education, whose views seemed agreeably liberal. We got on well, and in the years that followed I read a number of his academic papers with growing enthusiasm.

He was never a committed heretic, but his writing always showed understanding and goodwill. Many years ago, he wrote in the preface to his doctoral thesis:

Those who love children – and who very rarely attack them – undoubtedly lead a complicated existence; especially those who are attracted to prepubertal children, since society is not likely to allow them to live out these experiences in relative liberty and tranquillity. We have a lot to learn – as do they – about how to permit them to live out and express those desires through channels that are more acceptable, and that cause fewer problems for both minors and society.

This clearly indicates empathy but it is hardly a radical position. There is nothing to suggest he ever thought child-adult sex could ever be allowed. So I was agreeably surprised when a paper of his appeared in 2015 in a leading academic journal. The introductory Abstract noted that such relationships might indeed be morally permissible under some circumstances, based on his understanding of general ethical principles. What he was saying, in effect, was that the usual “anti” arguments, such as the idea that children cannot give valid consent, are weak: they do not stand up to close scrutiny.

Excitingly, it looked as though Malón was finally getting on board with true radicalism. But that turned out to be wildly over-optimistic. Seeing only a glass half full, I was overlooking the half empty perspective. His article was planned as the first of two. The first would throw out the weak case against child-adult sex; but the second would bring in some new, much stronger, “anti” ideas to replace them! So we would be left not with a radically libertarian analysis but a beefed up conservative one!

This could have been very deflating, but when the second article appeared, in 2017, I soon began to see it as an opportunity. Malón’s new paper was grounded in virtue ethics. And just as he had seen the weakness of the usual “anti” arguments, it seemed to me his “virtue” approach was also full of holes. All I had to do was point them out. Also, without placing any great store on the virtue concept as a basis for deciding whether any sort of behaviours should or should not be permitted, answering Malón’s case appeared to offer a marvellous platform for talking about active child-adult sex as potentially something that could be seen positively, as part of a virtuous adult’s life.

Malón’s appeal to virtue ethics is part of a revival in recent times of a very old sort of moral philosophy, going back to ancient Greece. The person of good character, in this way of thinking, is one who lives life well in the sense that their behaviour tends to promote their own well being and that of their society, and may even be considered good for human flourishing in general. Virtue ethics these days is often referred to as “neo-Aristotelian” moral philosophy, as Aristotle was one of the key figures in the field among the ancients, following Socrates and Plato, and a good deal of his writing has survived.

It makes sense to ask, as these great philosophers did, what sort of life a good life is, and what makes for good character. One problem with this, though, is that you tend to get very different answers depending on when and where the question is posed. Different cultures have widely divergent views. Life could be harsh in ancient times and that was reflected in what was seen as morally acceptable. Aristotle, for instance, defended slavery.

Perhaps that is why Malón doesn’t mention him! His approach may be neo-Aristotelian but the figure he draws on for inspiration is a leading public intellectual of our own times, Sir Roger Scruton, knighted two years ago for “services to philosophy, teaching and public education”. The official citation emphasises his promotion of “freedom and Western values” in Soviet-era Communist Europe, but in Britain he is better known for his love of fox hunting, his distaste for homosexuality and his ferocious hostility towards anything he considers to be perverted or obscene – including, of course, paedophilia. He once argued that gays have no children and consequently no interest in creating a socially stable future, so it was justified to “instil in our children feelings of revulsion” towards homosexuality.

His ideas on sexual morality find their fullest expression in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation, which is undoubtedly a hugely sophisticated and erudite work, running to over 400 pages. Unfortunately, Malón appears to have been over-impressed by it and uncritically blown away. In my article, as a result, I found that really I had to regard Scruton as my primary opponent. The first part of CHIN is in effect an attempt to demolish Scruton’s thinking, and I hope readers will feel I have succeeded.

After that I found myself gloriously free on the open philosophical road, able to put my foot on the gas, driving the article hard towards my own vision of “An Alternative Ideal”. Dave Riegel is quite right to propose this section as a possible starting point: it avoids the unfortunately necessary negativity of the early sections, allowing the reader to get straight to what I hope will be considered more inspirational material. In fact, with this in mind, you could perfectly well begin and end with this single section.

Those who want to take that advice are free to do so. What I think may be useful in the remainder of this blog is to give a guide to the overall structure and main contents of CHIN.

Abstract and Introduction

The Abstract and the Introduction were written with the academic reader in mind and will perhaps feel rather perplexing and unhelpful to a wider audience. As Dave says, though, a careful, attentive reading should reap rewards.

The Illusion of Sexual Exceptionalism

This section is one to skip unless you are keen on philosophy. It tackles the idea that human sex of any sort is unlike other aspects of morality and needs a different kind of ethics. This view is at the heart of Scruton’s book, which takes a “phenomenological” approach focusing on human “intentionality”, a tricky concept which takes him 15 pages to “explain” in an appendix that leaves the head spinning. Basically, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors that enables him to claim, unpersuasively, that where sex is concerned the birds and the bees may do it but human sexual desire is on an altogether more elevated plane, such that ethical discussion essentially has to be inward looking:  we must contemplate our feelings for other people without reference to the wider world of nature, or indeed without delving into what science can tell us about our own sexual natures and how best they might be enabled to flourish.

Virtue Ethics and Child-Adult Sexual Relations

Malón’s particular contribution with regard to child-adult sexual relations sets out by identifying three potential lines of argument against paedophilic behaviour made available by the virtue approach. They are considered under these headings: (a) perversion and obscenity; (b) the sexual bond; (c) erotic neutralization and “extended” incest. CHIN responds to each of these three approaches.

Perversion and obscenity

Malón invokes childhood “innocence”, but he does not defend the concept against the charge that it represents a state of ignorance in which children are deliberately kept by adults in order to control them. Instead he seeks to justify the tradition in which a high value has been placed on virginity, a valuation challenged by feminists as being at the heart of patriarchal control of female sexuality.

It has also been put under scrutiny from an evolutionary perspective, and here I draw on the work of psychologist Darcia Narvaez. She suggests that we have been wrongly “projecting onto the past a scenario like today’s of sexual restriction and competition, assuming sexual competitiveness for virginity, and emphasizing the timing of first sexual behaviour”. Evolutionary psychology, she says, has wrongly assumed “mate competition and male desire to control female reproduction to ensure genetic dominance”.  Among the small-band gatherer-hunters of the past, in contrast, “sexual relations are widespread with experimentation at all ages”. Also, “As with our bonobo cousins, individuals do not wait for the right fertile mate. Sexual relations are more about pleasure than control.”

With this in mind, I raise the possibility that it might be beneficial to practise intimate relationships well before the time when there could be reproductive consequences. I note that childhood and adolescent sexual experiences with adults have been reported in very positive terms in the research literature as relationships characterised by warmth, pleasure, affection and humour.

The sexual bond

Malón argued that the child’s capacity for intimacy and to be emotionally connected to another person would be damaged by a sexual relationship with an adult. He did not even claim there was any evidence for this in the case of consensual encounters. I decided to stick with a single really good counter-example, that of the psychoanalyst and theorist Heinz Kohut: he claimed his sexual relationship at age 10 with an admired tutor was life-saving for him when his parents’ marriage was deteriorating.

Erotic neutralization and “extended” incest

It is difficult to argue in favour of sex with children in a nuclear family setting simply because behind closed doors it is hard to be sure kids have real choices: no one wants to see them become sex slaves of their parents. This has nothing to do with the danger of producing deformed or otherwise genetically damaged offspring in an incestuous union, as young children are physically incapable of becoming fathers or mothers. And, despite his use of the word incest, “blood” relations have nothing to do with what Malón is saying. He talks about so-called extended incest, by which he means any adult-child contacts that show some of the same psychodynamics as family relationships, especially via the quasi-parental authority invested in teachers, sports coaches, scout leaders, etc.

His argument is not against such authority, quite the reverse. Rather, he thinks that having a sexual relationship is likely to undermine legitimate authority. Good parents, after all, teach their children good values and try to set an example through their own good behaviour. An implicit assumption is that unless they are firmly in control, they will not be able to keep their children on the right path. By revealing their own sexual needs, by “surrendering” to passion, they become vulnerable to the child’s power; and in a consensual relationship the child can withhold willingness to meet those needs.

The argument is a strong one, but I argue that it puts excessive emphasis on the value of hierarchy. I give examples of role reversals that can be valuable for children and adults alike, where the younger party is in command.

An Alternative Ideal

Please simply read this section: it is easier going and arguably more important than some of the other parts.

Some Further Misconceptions

Intellectually, this section is a minor mopping up operation after zapping all three of Malón’s main arguments but it contains some interesting evidence you are unlikely to have seen elsewhere: use the search terms “Bemba” and “Nyakyusa” for some fascinating material on pre-pubertal consummation of marriage in African tribes – as researched by intrepid female anthropologists in the mid-20th century.

A prudential argument

This short section deals with the argument that child-adult sex may be harmless or even beneficial at the time but damaging in the long term on account of the social stigma attached to such encounters. Some give this as a reason not to permit them. I cite philosopher Stephen Kershnar’s powerful counter-argument.

Conclusion

The paper concludes with a plea to look at the evidence rather than just assuming that child-adult sex is harmful; it is also pointed out that relevant research has been systematically blocked and censored in recent times.    

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