Prejudice masquerading as therapy

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Ancient Greece will have become even more ancient by the time I get around to my promised blog about it, unfortunately, as my time is being taken up in pursuit of some hot new developments on the transgender front, which is another topic in the pipeline. The good news, though, is that an excellent anonymous guest blog has come in, offered to Heretic TOC through Filip Schuster. Filip is a friend of the author and can vouch for his authenticity. I would remind everyone that Filip has contributed some excellent comments here, especially in response to “The seven ages of sexual attractiveness” in September. In my view, his friend’s article below captures extremely well the doctrinaire flight from reality imposed these days in the name of therapy on those convicted of even the mildest offences of a sexual nature relating to minors. Note that this account comes not from the Anglosphere, as might be expected, but from an unnamed country of continental Europe.

 

Deferred prosecution for softcore child porn

by Anonymous

In the early 2010s, I was one of many targets of a national police raid against child pornography, in a Western European country. The reason they paid me a visit was that I had saved a few softcore images of young girls in a private web album. The photos had been screened by a webmaster and assessed as being “possibly illegal”. For this reason, the webmaster had closed my account and contacted the police who simply added me to the long list of addresses for their raid.  A prosecutor decided to offer me deferred prosecution because the pictures I had uploaded were “not that serious”. During the raid, the police confirmed that the material in question was all in the softcore category. It mainly consisted of so-called non-nude images and a few nudes. There were no pictures of sexual acts (other than modelling), no close-ups of genitals, and nothing sadistic, creepy or tragic. In fact, most of the models were smiling and looked amused or happy, and the police told me that this was the type of material that was produced voluntarily, to the extent that most of the girls probably even liked the modelling. They conceded that this category used to be completely legal in our country. Things had changed a lot, which in their interpretation even implied that portrait photos of clothed beautiful young girls with make-up, and legal pictures of young but adult petite erotic models, should all be seen as kiddie porn now.

They confiscated my PC and several dozen CDs or DVDs, but felt no need to arrest me or search my whole house. Two months later, I had to sign a contract which mainly meant that I agreed to undergo a psychiatric, polyclinic “treatment” at a forensic clinic, as an outpatient. I was not allowed to choose an external therapist or sexologist of my own liking, but I simply had to accept whatever they would impose on me.

I decided to agree, because the alternative would be a public court case that could easily affect my whole life.

Pathologising

At the clinic, it soon became clear that anyone with paedophilic feelings was automatically seen as a psychiatric patient. In my particular case, these feelings were linked with a presumed arrested emotional, social and sexual development, thought to be the result of an autistic disorder, namely Asperger Syndrome. I had to complete long and tedious tests which did not confirm these diagnostic assumptions, but I was still given the label “autistic”. The irony was that during the group sessions I proved that this diagnosis could not be true, because I showed more (rather than less) than average social intelligence and empathy towards my fellow patients. In the end, this was explicitly acknowledged by my therapists, but they did not adjust their diagnosis. To be more precise, I lacked all the typical defining characteristics of Asperger’s, such as developmental problems during childhood, high sensitivity to sensory stimuli, an obsessive aversion to chaos, poor social insight, deficient emotional intelligence, a limited emotional life, problems with change, or strange obsessions with unusual interests. The characteristics that I did show, such as relatively high intelligence, introversion, or limited motor skills, were not defining and also applied to many gifted persons without any autistic disorder. (After my “treatment”, I read that many intellectually gifted patients are routinely given a “false positive” diagnosis within the autism spectrum, and it even appears to be something of a fad within psychiatric clinics.).

They even seemed really disappointed when I demonstrated that their argumentation did not make sense. Also, they ignored the highly intimidating context and denied that this clearly affected my overall performance. They did not accept the truism that many patients will typically under-achieve in such an environment and that minor errors could be seen as the result of stress, rather than as clear signs that there had to be something wrong with me (i.e. on top of my paedophilic “disorder”).

It was as if they had assessed me before they had met me, and tried to interpret their findings as conclusively confirming their prejudiced diagnosis, even though there was every reason to see them as conclusively refuting it.

This was rather shocking, because it gave me the impression that my self-image did not matter to them. They did not even care that the Asperger’s diagnosis did not match what I considered one of my best developed psychological traits, my empathic ability. Rather than trying to empower me, they were really determined to force their prejudiced views onto me. It was only because I tried to stay calm and polite that I was not forced to follow so-called psycho-education sessions for autistic patients.

With my sexual offence, what particularly gave them reason to believe I had to be autistic was the fact that I thought that voluntary softcore material was ethically acceptable. In their view, I had to realize that children and youngsters below the age of 23 (when their brains would be fully developed) obviously lacked the capacity to understand the long-term consequences of their participation.

I protested that they had the right to blame me for underestimating society’s condemnation of any type of child erotica and thereby underestimating the outrage that could affect the children involved, in the long run, but that this did not imply a lack of empathy. I had simply believed that society was still a bit more tolerant about such material and agreed that if the public perception of softcore images had become so extremely negative, this implied  that it could also undermine the self-perception of the young models.

I concluded that softcore images should become legal again, as soon as society becomes more open to this. This time, it should happen  under strict conditions and be monitored by the government, to prevent any type of abuse or exploitation more effectively .

The clinic clearly had a hard time dealing with me. I did not fit into their standard typologies, because I did not have any important social, financial, compulsive or post-traumatic symptoms and my offence had remained strictly limited to what I had considered morally acceptable. The only real reason I was going to their sessions was that it was part of my contract.  Nevertheless, they kept looking for anything  that would prove I was severely disturbed.

They did not even distinguish a diagnostic category of “paedophilia without a severe psychiatric background” and they ultimately admitted that the stricter legislation would probably make it necessary to do so, because from now on many average paedophiles with a moderate interest in (exclusively) softcore erotica would suddenly be considered real criminals who really needed therapy.

Predictably, all this was quite humiliating, dehumanising and alienating for me.  I went through a lot of fears, worries and insecurity, and had gloomy nightmares.

Within my group, I was the only one who did not have to undergo a second therapy after the group sessions were completed, but they only told me so at the very last moment.

The other members of my group were generally treated even more harshly and I often felt really bad for them, which I expressed in critical remarks and supportive statements. This made me quite popular among the other group members and in the long run, even the therapists admitted that a lot I  had been saying really made sense.

Confusing setting

There was a pervasive ambivalence within the clinic’s attitude towards its patients. Everyone, including the therapists, was addressed by his or her personal name. There seemed to be lots of room for personal confessions and unfiltered responses. However, this atmosphere was merely apparent. Anything you said could and often would be used to increase the pathologising of your particular case.

This included positive traits and experiences, which were reinterpreted as signs of a selfish or criminal personality. The therapists were hardly interested in personal backgrounds of offences and tried to reduce them to standard models. They even forced us to stop using positive or neutral terms, such as “curiosity” or “models” and replaced them by negative ones.

Some therapists were kind and supportive by nature, but anything the patients told a therapist would typically become common knowledge of the whole team. This could be particularly upsetting if a therapist had been sloppy or even incorrect in his or her report.

Also, a therapist who was nice at one occasion, could suddenly become harsh and distant during another session.

For me, all this meant that I basically felt lost, confused and threatened from day one, and that it was difficult for me to conceal my real, mostly negative, feelings.

Another thing that was confusing concerned our main therapist’s attitude to erotica and relationships. She did accept the fact that erotic modelling and even paedophile relationships could be voluntary from the minor’s perspective, but remained convinced that even these were by definition very harmful anyway. She claimed that this was even true for minors above the legal age of 16. Anyone interested in such adolescents clearly had a severe psychiatric disorder, and any minor interested in an adult needed treatment as well!

In general, the analyses of personal backgrounds remained very stereotypical and superficial and they were more interested in confirming their prejudices than in understanding the individual group member. Also, they pretended to show empathy for us, by imagining what they would do in a specific situation themselves, even though none of the therapists showed any signs of a paedophilic preference… We were sick if we reacted differently than they would do.

In terms of the severity of offences, the therapists acted as if it should be absolutely clear that watching soft erotica was not essentially different from watching hardcore child porn and that it was indirectly linked to raping children. They also wanted us to believe that there was a very high percentage of recidivism, whereas this is completely incorrect.

We were stimulated to give a detailed description of our “crimes”, but the therapists got almost hysterical if we mentioned specific photographers such as Hamilton, because this would probably lead our fellow group members into temptation.

Forensic ideology

According to the forensic workers I met, all child erotica had become illegal in our country because we now knew that children were not able to deal with sexuality in a responsible, harmless way, not even in the context of softcore erotic modelling. Therefore, they had to be protected against any kind of sexuality, especially in relation to adults.

This general ideology was even shared by really kind professionals, and doubting it was regarded as a clear sign of a psychiatric disorder. All of them acted as if the debate on paedophilia is closed for good, and that anything paedo-erotic involving real children could never be innocent or harmless, let alone positive.

My main therapist believed that softcore erotic modelling was never really voluntary and that there was always some type of coercion involved. On this, even the police officers who had confiscated my PC had a less extreme opinion.

Any type of erotic attraction to children would in itself be pathological and this was also true for a child’s attraction to an adult.

If they accepted the existence of exhibitionism in children, they exclusively regarded it as a psychiatric symptom. Normal, psychologically healthy children would never get involved in erotica.

This also meant that anyone who justified softcore porn had to do so through rather transparent rationalisations and was basically driven by ruthless lust.

We were not allowed to correct such prejudices, and we had to become convinced that any type of paedo-eroticism involving real children was by definition immoral. Anyone who engaged in such things would therefore be really selfish or lacking a basic capacity for empathy.

 

Heretic TOC gets its mojo back

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The year began with a night of doubt and sorrow for Heretic TOC, or rather a somewhat more lingering concern, hinted at briefly on New Year’s Eve in a blog called “Truth, reality and baby elephants”, which spoke in riddles suffused with existential angst.

I said I feared for the blog’s mojo, and by implication my own, but remained silent as to the reason. A couple of months later, though, the Daily Mail let the cat was out of the bag in a story that mentioned my conviction last year for “historic” offences in 1978. Now that the case had been propelled into the public domain, and not in a flattering way, obviously, I felt the time had come to give my side of the story. So I wrote about it in “A rare escape, without bribery or bloodshed”, explaining my good fortune in remaining at liberty despite the present trend towards very long prison sentences.

The reason I left the court a free man, I wrote, is that neither the judge, nor the prosecution, nor crucially even the “victims” themselves, appeared to have seen me as callously “predatory”. Also, the judge emphasised that I was entitled to express my views.

Why, then, would the case leave me feeling Heretic TOC might lose its mojo, putting the blog’s future in doubt? Put simply, I worried that I might find it hard to write honestly, confidently and positively on Kind issues in future without addressing why anyone had wanted to bring a case against me in the first place. The “rare escape” blog gave me the opportunity to do that. With the cat freed from the bag, I too felt liberated from my silence and able to put my side of the story.

Since then, I feel, Heretic TOC has been substantially reinvigorated. The spring and summer months following my personal revelations saw several of what I believe to have been my best ever blogs, notably  “The law, lore and allure of the jungle”, “Latin lovers versus British bum bandits”, “Acceptable danger: the sky is the limit?” and “Willy power and ‘the will to power’”. There have also been some excellent guest blogs, by  David Kennerly, Feinmann (twice), Cyril Galaburda, David, and Peace. Readers’ enthusiasm and engagement seems to have picked up more in the autumn and winter months, with blogs regularly attracting a hundred or more published comments, many of them of a very high standard in terms of richly informative content and cogent argument.

My anxiety at the end of last year that Heretic TOC might not recover its mojo following my narrow escape from prison was of course preceded by a long period in the run-up to the trial when mojo (by which I mean a mix of excitement, interest, energy and enthusiasm) was the least of my problems. The immediate threat was a long stretch behind bars, with a five- or six-year sentence a real possibility. If that had come to pass, Heretic TOC would probably have ceased to exist in terms of fresh contributions by me, although I did have kind offers from guest bloggers and other friends to keep things going if the worst came to the worst.

I had some very generous financial offers, too, at a time when it looked as though I might be faced with heavy legal costs in order to mount a proper defence. In the event, funds were mercifully not needed for this purpose but I was helped with hotel and travel costs for a trial that was held in Wales, hundreds of miles from where I live. Supporters also kindly sponsored my attendance at a classics conference at Edinburgh University in April and the Battle of Ideas debate forum at the Barbican, London, in November, staged by the Institute of Ideas (IOI). The former enabled me to hone up my knowledge of the sexual mores of Ancient Greece, which should come in handy very soon as I hope to be blogging on this theme shortly. The fruits of the IOI event were harvested much more immediately: as regular heretics here will have seen, a good deal of the information and inspiration for my mental health three-parter had its origins in this event.

There was another truly existential threat, too, one that has since receded but not entirely disappeared. In November last year, on the occasion of Heretic TOC’s third anniversary, I blogged under the title “Extremists plot to disrupt ‘distressing’ dissent”, which reported that the UK government was proposing to tackle terrorism by cracking down on the expression of “extremist” views. Depending on how “extremism” was to be defined, this sounded to me like a potentially very serious threat to free speech which could be used to suppress almost any views at odds with mainstream thinking, no matter how non-violent their expression might be. As Simon Calvert, director of Defend Free Speech, said:

Defend Free Speech believes innocent people will fall foul of this unnecessary and dangerous piece of legislation. It will criminalise those who hold unpopular, unfashionable or challenging views. This could include pro- and anti-religious groups, trade unionists, environmental and animal rights activists, critics of UK foreign policy and people campaigning for LGBT rights.

And a blog like this.

Well, a lot of water has flowed under the political bridge since then, and with so much happening on the Brexit front, the government has made little visible progress on countering “extremist” views. Theresa May’s new government revived the plan for legislation but an agreed definition of extremism has yet to emerge, and no parliamentary bill has so far been tabled. But in the wake of the Berlin street market attack and a succession, so we are told, of thwarted plots in the UK, May’s government is understandably loath to let go. So, yet again, it all seems to be a matter of wait and see. For recent parliamentary scrutiny see here and here.

The third anniversary blog would have been followed by a fourth last month but I had started my mental health three-parter by then and did not want to interrupt it. So today’s blog has ended up being a sort of late anniversary thing combined with a half-arsed end-of-year 2016 review. Messy, but there we are.

In terms of statistics, the present blog is the 195th in a little over four years since Heretic TOC’s launch. By Christmas Day there had been 8057 published comments, which works out at over 40 comments per blog – a very high figure, especially when taking into account that in the early days I was bringing out a new blog every day. The blogs were typically much shorter then but I nevertheless find myself astonished I could find the time.  As for the number of page hits, on Christmas Day they stood at 121, 915 for the year so far, already exceeding the previous highest total for a full year, which was 2015’s figure, 115,904.

Most visitors to the site in 2016 came from UK and US (fairly equally), followed by (in order) Russia, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands; then the next Anglophone country, Australia; then Hungary, Denmark, Canada and Belgium. However, I am told that these particular stats are not very meaningful because some readers will be mailing through proxy servers that bear no relation to where the reader is based. That’s a great shame. Until I heard this, I had been delighted to see that Heretic TOC apparently has readers in such exotic places as  Mongolia, Greenland, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and many others! Oh, well, one can dream!

Looking forward, what can heretics expect from this site in 2017? As already indicated, I expect to be blogging on Ancient Greece quite soon, and I said a few weeks ago that the transgender theme is high on my list. Beyond that, I have a whole heap of topics lined up, and so do several guest bloggers. Don’t be deterred, though, if you haven’t tried guest blogging before and are wondering whether you should have a go: I am always interested in fresh thoughts from new people.

The only limitations on Heretic TOC’s activities, apart from the still distant threat of curbs on free speech, are a shortage of time and money. As I have mentioned on other occasions, I would love to be spending time on writing books, and articles for academic publications, in addition to time spent on the blog. Right now, though, it just ain’t happening. Probably that is because I am not getting any younger. I still have immense enthusiasm for writing and research, but not the energy to produce at speed. Even just keeping up with an ever rising torrent of relevant new books, research papers, articles, TV documentaries and video presentations has become a full-time job in itself.

The demands made by the core task have become such that even simple maintenance issues can seem tough. For instance, with substantial help from reader “Ronnie”, I was able to make great strides in summarising previous Heretic TOC blogs with a view to more effective searching of the whole corpus of work and to select particular pieces (plus a limited  selection of the best reader comments) for inclusion in a Best of Heretic TOC book, with an e-book edition. Yet I was unable, in the whole of 2016, to complete the summaries or make the selection. Never mind, I hope to get there in the coming year.

Another neglected task is the Blogroll, where there are dead links, and live links to dead sites. If anyone knows of lively, relevant sites that really should be included, please let me know. Meanwhile, I hope I can find time in the next few days, before year’s end, to do a bit of weeding in this little digital flowerbed.

As for money, I don’t have much but you will probably be relieved to hear that Heretic TOC is able to soldier on without appealing for funds at the present time.

I’ll just give a moment for that to sink in. OK, so….

Must be half a mo by now.

Right, time up! Now that you’ve had time to enjoy a moment of relief in peace I will add that the coming year may see an appeal for funds, depending on how much progress is made towards certain tasks, and clarity over any financial commitments they might entail. We’ll see.

Now, in winding up, just a few words reviewing the wider year, beyond this blog. I’m not going to bang on about the horrors of Brexit and Trump, or Syria and the tragedy of the Middle East in general, or the looming perils of climate change, or the seemingly freakish number of celebrity deaths. I’m not even going to mention the appalling 13-year prison sentence imposed on a 101-year-old man in the UK, nor dwell upon how the hitherto strongly-held value of humane treatment of the elderly could be so deliberately and abruptly consigned to the trash can in this case with barely a whisper of protest.

No, I will remain silent on all of that but will just note, briefly, that this was a year in which, like the trashed old geezer in jail, I have arguably been demoted to a lower status. Nothing so obvious or terrible as imprisonment, mercifully. More a sort of gentle passing on downwards towards Boring Old Fart rather than (as I would prefer, obviously!) elevation to Elder Statesman of Kind advocacy.

Why do I say so? I guess it’s the Brexit and Trump thing, mainly. My horrified reaction to these phenomena seems not to be shared by some here, perhaps those of a younger generation. So maybe from now on my opinions will come to seem more and more embarrassingly out of touch as time goes by. I suppose my views might change. I might catch up. Or I might not. Either way, younger heretics will have to decide for themselves whether Heretic TOC continues to be worth reading. I hope so, of course. Again, we’ll see!

Happy New Year!

 

UNSENT LETTERS

Bruce Muirhead, or “B.J. Muirhead” as he publicly presents his name, is a writer and photographer whose thoughtful comments have graced Heretic TOC this year. See for instance what he says here about the ideas of biochemist and controversial parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake. In another comment accessible from the same link he had occasion to mention Unsent Letters, his own novel.

Among other things, he said the book “is based on many stories told to me, although I did, of course, also draw on my experiences with my first wife – and on my knowledge of girls around 13, resulting from talking to my children’s friends when they were visiting. Interestingly, my second wife attempted to use the first draft to prove that I am a ‘paedophile’ and therefore an unsafe parent for my children.”

Intrigued, I bought a copy of the paperback, although it was the best part of three months later before I got around it reading it, by which time, I confess, I had quite forgotten Bruce’s introductory words, so came to the book with no conscious preconceptions. I was impressed, and decided to review it. A short version of the review appears at the publisher’s website, both for the paperback and the e-book. I gave Unsent Letters a maximum five-star rating on quality grounds but, as I said in the review, that does not mean it is something everyone will want to read, or even every heretic.

By reading my concise review, though, you should be able to get a good idea as to whether this is going to be your cup of tea or not. A fuller version of the review has been posted on a website called  In A Foreign Town, which features Bruce’s poetry and fiction. He also has another website for his photography.

I might just mention a few more biographical details taken from the “About” notes Bruce has posted online:

Earlier in my life I studied philosophy and creative writing at various universities, published a very small amount of poetry, an awful lot of photography criticism in the Courier-Mail newspaper and a few other places, and held a few exhibitions of drawings and paintings, before turning into a full time parent and hiding away for about 12 years.

My aim here, just so you know, is to publish random thoughts, ideas and images and perhaps get some feedback …

The laws against ‘abuse images’ are abusive

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Today’s guest blog is on child pornography, or “abuse images” as the current PC term has it, and is by Feinmann, whose debut as a blogger here was in April this year under the title “War on Kinds disguises one against kids”. Professionally retired, he remains highly active as a field researcher working on the conservation of endangered species. The splendid graphics (not intended for sexual gratification but feel free to enjoy them!) are the author’s own.

 

WAGING WAR ON CHILD PORN IS OPPRESSIVE AND DUMB

Some definitions

Pornography: derives from the Greek: πορνογραφία meaning “a written description or illustration of prostitutes or prostitution”.

Child pornography: the term appeared in North America during the 1960s, and is defined thus: “Pornographic material featuring sexually explicit images or descriptions of children”. Child pornography, when back-cast to the original Greek suggests: “a written description or illustration of child prostitutes or child prostitution”. The noun child pornography superseded the noun child erotica, but is now equated with child abuse images.

Inquisition: institutions within a system of government whose aim is to combat heresy, and is characterised by: a lack of regard for individual rights, prejudice on the part of the examiners, and recklessly cruel punishments.

COPINE scale: used by UK law enforcement (also known as officious paramilitary social workers) to determine sentencing for possession of child pornography. This ten-point scale was created in the Department of Applied Psychology in Cork in 1997 and adapted for use in UK courts. In 2002, the scale was amended to a five-point SAP (Sentencing Advisory Panel) scale. It then changed again in 2014 to a three-point SOD (Sentencing Offenders Definitive) guideline. The forging of this scalar weapon and its inclusion within the inquisition’s armoury, furnishes law-enforcement agencies with a most terrible servant to deploy … and deploy it they do with rigid absolutism.

Paedophile: a person who is sexually attracted to children, the word appearing in medical dictionaries in 1918, but, with a lack of distinction between paedophilia and homosexuality. From 1960 attempts were made to distinguish “homosexuals” from people then dubbed “paedophiliacs”. In popular usage, the word paedophilia conflates sexual attraction to prepubescent children with “child sexual abuse”.

Indecent Sentences

From Heretic TOC: What Defines Child Pornography?: “In many jurisdictions this is utterly unclear, because mere nakedness may in theory be permissible, but too close a focus on the genitals may constitute an illegal lascivious display or an indecent image. An allegedly suggestive pose can tip the balance from legal to illegal, even if the child is fully clothed.”

In his consultation paper of 2002, Sentencing In Child Pornography Cases, Tom wrote: “The danger lies in the vagueness of the word indecent. As Geoffrey Robertson QC says: ‘Indecency…is assumed to have an ascertainable meaning in law. Jurors and justices who use it as part of their everyday language are trusted to know it when they see it.’ Yet ‘scientific surveys, parliamentary debates and jury verdicts demonstrate no measure of consensus either about community standards or the sort of material which infringes them.’ It seems to me far from self-evident that indecent photographs necessarily involve exploitation in their making, especially as regards those at the lower end of the scale, in COPINE classes 1-6. Indeed, the Sentencing Advisory Panel concedes this point by saying: ‘Images that are relatively less harmful … may still involve … exploitation or degradation …’ They may. Or they may not. Unfortunately, the Sentencing Advisory Panel fails to pursue the logic of this ambivalence. Taking a shotgun approach, the Panel opts to assume the worst and blast away regardless.”

“Shotgun approach” indeed. Fifteen years on, governments still blast away with their indecent bullets to the point where free expression and free speech is critically riddled with holes. In relating the anger expressed over the murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, Peter Herman in Heretic TOC highlighted the following bitter irony: “It has come to a point where, in many parts of the English speaking world, any image of youthful sexuality and even written descriptions of it will at the very least ostracize the individual, land him in jail or possibly get him killed.”

Endlösung der Pädophilenfrage – Final Solution to the Paedophile Question

butterfly-htoc

But why is war on minor-attracted individuals waged? Why have those elected to protect the civil liberties of every citizen, failed to do so for members of this group? Why have law-makers labelled every member a sexual predator and treated them as a deformity on the body politic?

Being a paedophile has become a crime of such importance that merely to accuse someone brands them a child sexual abuser. The term crimen exceptum, a mechanism vital to the functioning of inquisitions executing social control via justice systems built on barbarism, describes this process well. The crimen exceptum updates the Magna Carta to read: we are all guilty in a court of law.

As with all inquisitions, the crimen exceptum enables a monstrously corrupt false allegations industry to flourish, enthusiastically stoked by child charities and accusers – the latter in the full knowledge that they will be believed, that their anonymity will be guaranteed even if they are found to lie, and that they can profit from selling their lies to a salaciousness-hungry media. These bounty-hunting allegators doubtless obtain an extra buzz from ruining the lives of the innocents they accuse.

To heighten the moral panic and hysteria, the inquisition classifies an image of a naked child as obscene. Ironically, perversely, and hypocritically, one cannot be arrested for possessing images of terrorist crimes or violent crimes, no matter how sadistic or sickening. Heretic TOC recently discussed additional un-prosecuted “child pornography” in the public domain. It also flagged circumcision and the curious failure to prosecute the genital mutilation of some 10,000 and 1,000,000 male babies in the UK and the US, respectively, annually.

Conclusion: it has nothing to do with the image, and everything to do with the discrimination of those that promote and enjoy child sexuality; that includes the kids themselves.

The estrangement of adults from the lives of children

janus-htoc

Frank Furedi in Spiked: “The promotion of paranoia in relation to every aspect of children’s lives accomplishes the very opposite of what it sets out to do.” With nearly one quarter of UK households with dependent children managed by a lone parent, 91% being women, one might envisage such homes to be fertile ground for feeding the paranoia Frank highlights: stranger-danger outside; evil internet inside. Any child daring to display natural sexuality will be instantly hermetically sealed within a bubble of suppression, any adult moving a hand to break the bubble, ostracised.

This from Moor Larkin: “Look after the children, the idea seems to go, and then by the time they see all this filth and perversion, they will be adults and thus impervious to any of its pernicious effects. However at the same time, a legal norm has built up that anyone looking at pictures of children in sexual poses will be likely to want to emulate that imagery in reality, and thus must be treated to remove these pernicious effects, and if they refuse to comply then they must be removed from society.”

Moor’s final comment applies increasingly to children. A primary source of child abuse images rather ironically, is the children themselves. Pediatrics in 2014 states: “That we did not find a link between sexting and risky sexual behavior over time may suggest that sexting is a new ‘normal’ part of adolescent sexual development and not strictly limited to at-risk adolescents.” With the ever-earlier onset of puberty – the term “adolescent” implies a person between 10 and 25 – time perhaps to review age of consent laws.

That youngsters experience fun (kid’s code for excitement) showing off to peers and strangers alike as cameras roll, has been self-evident to child erotica aficionados for decades. Kids, particularly boys, evidently have an interest in sexual imagery. Nothing really new there, but danger lurks on the internet. The inquisition’s Five Eyes will be quick to pounce and arrest young perverts. Oh yes, the inquisition wages a vicious war against youth sexuality too. Heretic TOC highlighted a sad fact that around one in three registered sex offenders in both the UK and the US are themselves minors. Society has totally acquiesced to the implementation of savage lunatic discriminatory laws that, far from protecting children, systematically abuse them, and go on punishing for the remainder of their hellish lives. It is time to STOP IT NOW!

Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud seep out

star-htoc

This poisonous lie from those who claim to protect society exposes the dark heart of the inquisition: “The FBI on behalf of the US government, claim that children are re-victimized every time images of their sexual abuse are viewed or transferred. That argument is one of the main rationales for punishing mere possession of child pornography, which under federal law and the laws of some states can be treated more harshly than violent crimes, more harshly even than actual abuse of children. That penalty structure is obviously irrational unless you believe that serious harm is inflicted every time someone looks at the image of a child’s sexual abuse. In that case, a large enough collection of images could equal or even surpass the harm done by a single child rape, so that it could make sense to impose a life sentence on someone who has done nothing but look at pictures.”

Another poisonous US Government lie states: “The commercial enterprise of online child pornography is estimated in 2005 to be approximately $20 billion, and it is an industry on the rise.” The lie is not easy to refute because it is illegal to research the facts, allowing the inquisition to launder statistics with impunity. In 2006, the Wall Street Journal in an investigative article commented: “to track down the number’s source yielded lots of dead ends.” A further source in 2001 concluded that the market in child pornography was actually negligible. Hyped claims that child pornography is a massively profitable industry appear to have been largely abandoned in more recent years, as the continuing lack of supporting evidence makes such claims less and less plausible. Attention is now focused more on estimating viewing figures, with people looking at what are now being called “child abuse images” being presented as a ‘social emergency’ (see also the BBC Child Pornography Epidemic link referenced in the bullet points below). The 2015 annual report of the Internet Watch Foundation claims “21% of the webpages confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery were assessed as commercial.”

More poisonous lies are recounted here.

Anglosphere child charity ‘statistics’ can be equally poisonous: “… research has shown that one in four children (27%) will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.” This is 1,258 times more than the figure given by the Parliamentary Education Committee for England. The treacherous NSPCC is no better.

These poisonous lies oil the vicious circle and empower the inquisition to:

A model for the future

When any item in demand is outlawed, mechanisms arise that circumvent prohibition. Child pornography was legally produced and sold across several European countries thirty years ago, but is now restricted to, but freely available within the dark web. As images can be viewed, downloaded, copied, and distributed to a thousand destinations instantly, the war on pornography (as for drugs) is unlikely to be won despite huge commitment, funding, and, inane declarations of war.

By waging an intelligent, pragmatic, anti-war on drugs, certain countries in Europe ensure the cure costs less than the problem. Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs for personal use in 2001 by implementing wider health and social policy changes. Results have been remarkable. The fact that Portugal benefited overall from the intelligent reversal of its stance on drugs, should be a wake-up call for governments that pig-headedly persist in waging costly, ineffective wars on items that society clearly wants.

Anglosphere countries should institute an anti-war on child pornography to unstitch manifestly corrupt and repressive laws that discriminate against citizens on the basis of their sexuality, and deny everyone the basic human right to articulate opinions and ideas. Articles 7, 12 and 19 of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration are relevant here; these continue to be breached with impunity. The unstitching process should dismantle dangerously unaccountable law-enforcement agencies (plus their allies) that design and deploy McCarthyesque witch hunts to create immense damage across society. One candidate the author would recommend for retrospective prosecution on the basis of discrimination is this one. If any single institution is guilty of fomenting mass-hysteria, discrimination and misery across the world over many decades in the total absence of any scientific justification, this is it.

We do not want future generations to have insanely fucked-up attitudes towards human sexuality like those that lie within the heads of the fascist moral “protectors” that infest Anglosphere governments today. To this end, society must ensure that every child receives adequate education on: human sexuality and human relationships, and the illegality of discrimination on the basis of sexuality. It would be instructive to highlight the fact that the animal kingdom is saturated with sexual deviance (for example: casual intergenerational sex play), and that as deviance is widespread in nature, deviance in humans is natural too.

This inquisition has been successful in suppressing free thought and scientific thought on the issue of child sexuality and intergenerational sex. Peter Herman again: “Following surveys in a number of countries, including, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the Czech Republic, a strong association has been demonstrated between the ready availability of pornography and reduced levels of sexual offending, including against children. Research also shows that non-coercive sexual acts with minors, in themselves, do not result in psychological trauma.” ipce summarises similar research findings. It is high time we revisited these findings and conducted additional rigorous scientific research to clarify the full diversity of human sexual needs, regardless of age.

Driving kids crazy: Part 3, gender

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In Part II of this three-parter on the mental health of young people, the focus was on that part of the lives of children and adolescents in which adults are not present, a realm where there is the possibility of developing self-reliance and confidence in peer groups. It was concluded there is a strong case for saying their independent culture has been disastrously undermined.

It would be simplistic to suppose, though, that the present crisis of mental health begins and ends with this dimension of concern. As well as culture there is gender, for instance. In our present era of relative equality of the sexes compared to the patriarchal past that dominates the historical record, and the gender fluidity that is becoming increasingly fashionable, we tend to downplay innate psychological differences between the sexes to an extent that appears to be exacting a severe mental health toll.

One of the key lessons I took from the Institute of Ideas (IOI) forum discussed in Part I is that boys’ needs and problems remain very different to those of girls. Evidence consistent with this view is to be seen in the epidemiological data, which show that far more boys need mental health treatment than girls in the pre-teen years but the pattern is reversed in adolescence and early adulthood, with females suffering from a rapidly rising epidemic of anxiety, depression and self-harm that has not been experienced by males. Anxiety and depression in teenage boys have actually fallen in the last decade.

Let’s start with pre-teen children. Their basic needs, in addition to being part of a loving and secure family, are for the most part relatively straightforward and apply to both sexes. The Mental Health Foundation lists them, including

  • being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
  • having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors

I single out these two bullet-pointed factors because they both include elements – vigorous exercise and outdoor play, especially free-range exploration – that we have reason to believe boys need to an even greater extent than girls. Boys in general (though “tomboys” are a fairly common exception), tend to be a lot more energetic and adventurous. It is no accident that in the cooped up conditions now prevailing, it is boys, far more than girls, who are diagnosed with ADHD.

Boys may also be suffering more pre-teen mental problems than girls because the things they are good at – fighting, making a lot of noise, disappearing for hours on end and coming home with grazed knees, muddy clothes and a dead frog in their pocket (or worse, a live one!) – tend to be systematically not just forbidden but far more disapproved of than used to be the case. Parents have always punished boys for their wilder transgressions but usually in an indulgent, admiring way: boys will be boys, they would say. Now, though, in a world with less use for muscle-power and manliness, and with fathers encouraged to discover their “feminine side”, the pre-teen boy has no clear masculine role model to follow. Cross-gender boys might feel liberated, but most will not.

This diminished use for muscle-power, and lower levels of physical activity, are reflected in an actual loss of muscle-power among children. A survey published in the child health journal Acta Paediatrica on 10-year-olds in England showed they are weaker now. The number of sit-ups they can do declined by 27.1% between 1998 and 2008, arm strength fell by 26% and grip strength by 7% and twice as many children (one in 10) could not hold their own weight when hanging from wall bars. That is a staggering difference over a relatively short period and one likely to have a differentially greater psychological impact on boys, who have traditionally been more invested than girls in seeing their growing physical strength as a source of pride.

Even more striking is the literal disappearance of boys’ “manhood” as they put of weight through lack of exercise. Parents have increasingly been turning up with their prepubescent male children at doctors’ surgeries anxious about the boy’s penis size and asking for a physical examination. Writing in the New York Times recently, family doctor Perri Klass said what he and his colleagues have found is that increasing levels of obesity have meant boys are losing their dicks – or losing sight of them at least – as they disappear beneath layers of fat. It’s not that the todgers are tinier now, just that the boys are bigger. It’s a worry that will often resolve itself once they hit puberty and the penis grows rapidly, but only if they can get their weight under control, and that is often not the case.

But, hey, never mind, fat boys and indeed pretty well all adolescent males have a great source of consolation these days, especially if they can get online: pornography. A recent report for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner by Miranda Horvath et al. was titled Basically… porn is everywhere, which says it all. Overwhelmingly, these days, boys have seen pornography by the time they reach adolescence and often well before, although the official euphemism that they have been “exposed” to porn disguises the fact that most adolescent boys need no encouragement to go looking for it.

As the report coyly puts it, “Boys and young men generally view pornography more positively”, while “girls and young women generally report that it is unwelcome and socially distasteful”.

Disapprovingly, the report continues, “pornography has been linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex; maladaptive attitudes about relationships; more sexually permissive attitudes; greater acceptance of casual sex; beliefs that women are sex objects; …and less progressive gender role attitudes (e.g. male dominance and female submission).”

In these remarks we find an important clue as to why boys tend to feel better about their adolescence and early adulthood than girls these days, and why girls are experiencing much greater mental health problems. In traditional cultures where the virginity of young women is tightly guarded, boys in their bachelor youth have to put up with a lot of sexual frustration,  albeit ameliorated through homosexual encounters with their peers or with men. Today, all underage sexual relationships have become dangerous, with negative implications for healthy sexual development within actual, fully human, person-to-person relationships.

The world of person-to-object pornography thrives, though, with boys and young men loving it. For an underage boy real girls are usually hard to get, but virtual ones are everywhere and a source of easy and immediate satisfaction. As for young men, they can find sex if they are presentable, and can even successfully demand that girlfriends do all sorts of “advanced” stuff they have seen in the porn movies, such as shaving their genitals and submitting to anal sex – or even acts where misogyny seems a likely factor, such as being urinated or spat upon. If women refuse to put up with it, no problem: males may opt to take the porn in preference: Generation Masturbation rules, OK! Not only that: young women are also under pressure to have a perfect figure and complexion, just like the porn stars, in an era when so many women fail to shape up on account of poor diet, leading to obesity. It should hardly be surprising they feel bad about themselves and self-harm more.

We know the standard feminist response to all this. Most feminists hate porn. Fat feminists even celebrate their own corpulence and insist it is the men who must shape up, not by getting thinner but by not “raping” women – an insistence which tends to mean making the rules of consensual sex ever tighter, so that everything except sex between fat man-hating lesbians is ruled off limits.

Rosamund Urwin, of the Evening Standard, had a telling anecdote along these lines when she was speaking at the IOI forum. She had heard from one poor young guy who was trying to keep up with these ever more impossible standards. He thought he had better be verbally explicit on a date, asking the woman outright if she would consent to sexual activity, so there would be no misunderstanding. Instead of being pleased by his gentlemanly determination to go through the officially correct procedure, the question “weirded her out” and she asked him to leave!

Camile Paglia, speaking in the same session, was robust against such nonsense and against the kind of so-called feminism that encourages women to see themselves as weak and vulnerable: women who cower in “safe spaces” and refuse to takes responsibility for their own behaviour (getting drunk, for instance, and then blaming men for “raping” them) do nothing for the equality of the sexes. As for porn, she is all in favour, not least because its wildness forces us to confront our repressed sexuality and the price we pay for denying it. “Toughen up!” is her message to the delicate ladies, or even “Man up!” Hearing her, in effect, urge women to be more like men as a solution to their mental health crisis came as a refreshing change to the more familiar feminist idea that men should be more like women.

Not that it strikes me as a great solution. Absolutely we need toughness in some respects, in defence of free speech, for instance, against the Snowflakes who can’t stand to be offended by unwelcome opinions. But we also need empathy, and social relationships that are not merely exploitative and objectifying – as in the worst kind of porn, which one suspects is a projection of the violent domestic abuser’s mindset – or overly competitive and individualistic.

The environmentalist George Monbiot has captured the personal appearance question from a slightly different angle:

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their “beauty” settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves. Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress?

Touching replaced by retouching. This is very telling. Monbiot is talking not about sex here but about human connection, our vital need to keep literally in touch with each other. Last time, in a comment responding to Part II, Christian briefly alluded to the work of Tiffany Field, which is well worth elaborating on here, because her research gives strong support to a link made by psychologists between high levels of crime and societies where touching is frowned upon. It is thought, in particular, that parents who starve their children of physical affection are damaging them physically and emotionally.

Physically touching children is especially frowned upon in the US but is much more acceptable in France. So Dr Field and her team had the bright idea of comparing physical interaction between parents and children sitting in restaurants in France and America. The French, who have a strong culture of openly displaying physical affection, were found to touch their children 110 times in only half an hour. Whereas in America, which has a higher rate of abuse and adult violence, the parents only made contact with their children twice in 30 minutes. The researchers also watched children and parents together in playgrounds and found that youngsters who were not touched very often were far more violent and aggressive towards other children. Field said that people who are starved of cuddling when they are young are also more likely to grow up with depression and anxiety because they feel unloved.

I doubt anyone here will be surprised by these findings. They are not the whole story, of course. This blog series has looked at a range of factors contributing to the mental well being of the young and commentators here have identified others. I have focused mainly (in Part II) on the significance of children’s own independent culture and self reliance and (in Part III) on gender as a complicating factor. These musings barely scratch the surface but I hope nevertheless they will be found thought–provoking.

WHAT A LOAD OF FOOTBALLS

I’m not sure darts champion Eric Bristow was entirely on target when he tweeted “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out”; but, like the little missiles he chucks for a living, he did have a point.

The lachrymose old leather bashers who nearly set the studio furniture afloat on a sea of tears in the course of Victoria Derbyshire’s daytime TV show may well have had something genuine to cry about and it is right that they are heard out.

But Bristow will be speaking for many in also tweeting that these guys are “wimps” and not “proper men”. It’s not so much that being openly emotional is necessarily a bad thing in a man, or that paedos deserve a kicking – a view one of the alleged victims rightly dismissed as evidence of a “stone age mentality”.

It’s more a feeling that whatever “abuse” (if any) these guys suffered could have been done and dusted long ago without the never-ending soap opera of trauma and tragedy now being played out as part of the travelling circus of historic abuse narratives that began with the Catholic Church and his since moved from one institutional setting to another.

It’s a feeling that this whole show is being kept on the road by vested interests in the therapy industry, the media and politics, and that what these particular victims are victims of is not, fundamentally, sexual abuse, but their career disappointments. They were hugely ambitious guys in a fiercely competitive business. They were not quite good enough, which is no disgrace; but now it seems they want to blame their bitter disappointment on someone else, and that is another matter entirely..

I see that Barry Bennell, the coach accused on the Victoria Derbyshire show and elsewhere in the media, has already served a long time in prison, apparently tried to take his own life recently and now faces further charges. I make no comment whatever on the legal merit or otherwise of these latest charges. I do not know who is making the complaint(s) or on what basis and it would be wrong to say anything that could prejudice the case either way – not that this blog is likely to have any influence.

What I will say, though, is that Bennell is the one I feel sorry for: a brilliant, inspirational coach, as all concerned admit, whose life has been destroyed far beyond any suffering of the supposed “abuse” victims, or so it seems to me. There were those among them who appeared content to be “raped”, in at least one case for years on end, as long as they stood a chance of getting to the top in football.

No, sorry, Bennell’s is the real tragedy.

Or one of them. In all the fuss over the snowballing football coach saga the loss of photographer David Hamilton, found dead in a suspected suicide by asphyxiation at his Paris home at the age of 83, has gone almost unnoticed in the UK.

Known for his work in fashion magazines as well as, more controversially, his top-selling books featuring nude photographs of underage girls, his death follows historic allegations of rape and sexual assault against a number of schoolgirls in France. French radio presenter Flavie Flament, 42, in particular, claimed she was raped by Hamilton when she just 13 in 1987. She and three other women were attempting to launch a prosecution against him. He denied all the allegations.

Unlike Bennell, at least Hamilton made it to a grand old age before coming unstuck, an element of relative good fortune we may be seeing less in France and elsewhere in future as the mania of the Anglophone countries spreads.

Driving kids crazy: Part 2, culture

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What could possibly count as insanity in a world that votes to make a narcissistic sociopath its most powerful person? Admittedly, we didn’t all have the right to vote, but over two hundred million did. We are told many of those millions are mad as hell, but are they just mad? Are their delusions so profound they should be considered clinically psychotic?

I wrote last time that we have moved on since the anti-psychiatry movement of half a century ago. But “Explorer” put me right by commenting that it is actually still alive and well, as evidenced by the website Mad In America, where I discovered an article titled “In a Post-Trump Election World: What is Insanity?” by clinical psychologist Noel Hunter. She has posed some fundamental questions not a million miles from my own.

Moving on, this second blog on mental health will consider important new information that has come my way since last time from three sources: (a) a recent book on the damaging imposition of adult culture on children; (b) a study on the vital but incomplete role played by children’s own culture; and (c) an amazing new study on the mental health benefits associated with a well known but underappreciated hybrid model.

The book is Alison Gopnik’s The Gardener and the Carpenter, which was discussed extensively at the Institute of Ideas forum I mentioned last time and has been reviewed by Shaoni Bhattacharya in the New Scientist. The basic idea is that parents should be like gardeners, tending young shoots and providing fertile ground but then pretty much leaving the seed of their loins to grow naturally. Instead, many parents resemble carpenters, as Bhattacharya puts it, “chiselling away” at their offspring “to create an image of success that has little to do with their kids’ wishes, talents or needs. They wilt under oppressive over-direction.”

Gopnik, a developmental psychologist and philosopher, says that “parenting”, with its aim of manufacturing a preconceived end product, is a relatively recent and terrible invention. It has become a “management plan”, stuffed with endless schedules, heavy expectations and endless surveillance: some “helicopter parents” supervise their progeny’s essay assignments and cannot lay off even when their “children” become young working adults.

Gardening, by contrast, lets kids raise themselves to a considerable extent, so that they grow up robust, resilient and adaptable in a fast-changing world.

It starts with play. Play is fundamental to learning. Packing their schedules with “enriching” activities robs them of opportunities for mental development that is genuinely their own. Jean-Jacques Rousseau had a similar insight over two centuries ago in his Emile (especially Book II), but this is now backed up with modern psychological research. When children are chained to desks, forced to focus on a life radically different from our evolutionary past, mental health problems are to be expected. As Gopnic writes, there’s “a close connection between the rise of schools and the development of attention deficit disorder”. In the US, Gopnik tells us, 1 in 5 boys have an ADD label by 17. This is a deep systemic problem that has been with us since Rousseau’s day: he knew that over-tutored kids do not thrive. But intensive modern parenting is making things much worse, like the flooding that occurs when rain keeps falling relentlessly on already water-logged land.

I guess heretics here will already be leaping to tell me that ADD, or ADHD, as it is now psychiatrically designated, is massively over-diagnosed in the US, much to the benefit of pharmaceutical corporations but not children. Gopnik could not agree more. She says, “Instead of drugging children’s brains to get them to fit our schools, we could change our schools to accommodate a wider range of children’s brains.”

Psychologist Peter Gray has studied the decline of play in recent times and its implications for psychopathology. He is adamant that for the US at least, record levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, and feelings of powerlessness are now well documented among adolescents and young adults, and that lack of play from childhood onwards is implicated. I highly commend his TEDx talk on this.

In an article titled “The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It”, in Psychology Today, he tells us that wherever anthropologists have observed traditional cultures and paid attention to children as well as adults, they’ve observed two cultures, the adults’ and the children’s. The two cultures are not completely independent and separate, and much of what children do in their own world is an attempted imitation of the grown-up one. Crucially, though, in their own cultural space they are free to do things in their own way, practising and learning by interaction with their peers. Gray writes:

Little children communicate with one another largely in the context of play, and the communications have real meaning. They negotiate about what and how to play. They discuss the rules. They negotiate in ways very similar to the ways adults negotiate with one another. This is far better practice for future adult-adult communication than the kinds of “conversations” that children typically have with adults.

This isn’t just theory, nor is it confined to the culture of much freer kids in hunter-gatherer tribes. Anyone who has seen Channel 4 TV’s The Secret Life of 4-Year-Olds (a new series is currently under way) can see it happening in front of their very eyes, recorded by hidden cameras – as in the best wild-life documentaries!

We know that in traditional societies youngsters are often required to take on adult responsibilities at a much earlier age than in our own, but even among hunter-gatherers, Gray says, play extends into the teens. As for our own culture:

As children get older, and especially once they are in their teen years, their communications with one another have ever more to do with the emotions and struggles they experience.  They can be honest with their friends, because their friends are not going to overreact and try to assume control, the way that their parents or other adults might.  They want to talk about the issues important in their life, but they don’t want someone to use those issues as another excuse to subordinate them.  They can, with good reason, trust their friends in ways that they cannot trust their parents or teachers.

Well then, having thus seen off overbearing parents and oppressive schooling, both of which leave too little room for children’s independent development and lead to mental health problems, what is to be done? Something less adult-driven, plainly, something less regimented.

So you might think the very last place to look for inspiration would be an organisation that began not merely with regimentation but with actual military assignments undertaken by boys in the course of the famous Siege of Mafeking in 1899-1900. I mean the scout movement. Robert Baden-Powell, a general in the British Army, had the bright idea of forming the Mafeking Cadet Corps. This was a group of youths who supported the troops by look-out tasks and carrying messages, including under enemy fire, which freed the men for military duties and kept the boys occupied during the long siege. The Cadet Corps performed well, helping in the defence of the town – led by 13-year-old Sergeant-Major Warner Goodyear. This early success gave Baden-Powell the kernel of an idea that he would develop into scouting over the following few years.

But don’t worry about indoctrinating kids with military values. The key thing about Baden-Powell’s Boy Scouts, as they were later to become, was a focus on self-reliance and kids patrolling independently of adults in small teams of their peers. It came to be genuinely about scouting skills – scouting out the land as backwoodsmen and explorers must do for survival in the wild. I have referred to it above as a hybrid model, because it combines adult values and background guidance with active children’s culture.

Now, get this. It was sensationally reported in New Scientist last week that Scouts and Guides grow up to have better mental health at age 50. Not just a bit better, a lot better. A study by Chris Dibben and his colleagues at Edinburgh University analysed data from a long-running survey of almost 10,000 people across the UK who were born in November 1958. They found that 28% of the study’s participants had been involved in the Scouts or Guides, and that these were a whopping 15% less likely to suffer from anxiety or mood disorders at the age of 50 than their peers who didn’t join.

The team found no association between better mental health and participating in church groups or other voluntary groups. Scouts or Guides were not more likely to come from families of any particular social status. Noting, however, that people from poorer backgrounds do have a relatively higher likelihood of mental illness, the report said this effect seemed to be reduced or even removed in those who attended Scouts or Guides.

During the 1970s, the period to which this scouting background relates, both the Scouts and Guides were still focusing on self-education in the context of small peer groups. There was adult assistance,  but not direction. Outdoor environments and physical activity were a major feature, both of which are now known to be good for mental health. Dibben et al.’s detailed report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (free download: DOI: 10.1136/jech-2016-207898) speculates that “It may be that this early exposure to the skills needed to work with a small group enables adults to more effectively develop later life social networks”. This would explain why the mental health benefits of scouting extend at least into middle age and could well be lifelong.

Sure, there is a downside. There always is, with everything. The Boys Scouts of America, for instance, has long been a bastion of institutionalised homophobia. And my own older brother quit the scouts in England at about age 12 when he became an atheist and baulked at compulsory church attendance on Sunday. I don’t suppose they still insist on church, or even belief in God, which has traditionally been part of the Scout Promise (in Britain: “I will do my duty to God and the Queen.”) But some heretics here may not like the style of an organisation which features a top-down leadership structure and explicit prescribed values as set out in the Scout Law. This once included (and for some scouting organisations still does) Baden-Powell’s insistence that “a scout is clean in thought, word and deed”. Decent Scouts, he said, “look down upon silly youths who talk dirt, and they do not let themselves give way to temptation, either to talk it or to do anything dirty. A Scout is pure, and clean-minded, and manly.”

Nevertheless, boys will be boys. Not for nothing was there a saying in less PC times than ours: “He couldn’t organise a circle-jerk in a boy scout camp!” This was an expression of contempt for anyone’s incompetence, of course, not a reference to old B-P himself. It was also testimony to the capacity of boys to organise their own “social life” without adult help. As for B-P’s sexuality, he seems to have been too repressed and moralistic for circle-jerks. However, according to his biographer Tim Jeal he had a great fondness for seeing naked boys bathing and also delighted in “artistic” nude photography of boys that would get him into trouble these days.

So do kids need grown-ups as part of their culture at all? Elijah D. Manley ought to know a thing or two about this. He recently distinguished himself by becoming the first ever minor to run for President of the United States in the recent election, at the age of 17, gaining significant support as a candidate in the Green Party primaries. In an online interview last week he used a striking phrase in a plea for adults to back off from attempting to bring about what he called the “gentrification of youth” by means of attacking or trying to influence youth culture.

It is a line that echoes what we have seen above: kids need their own space, from infancy to adolescence. That is right. But I would ask heretics here to ponder why they need it. Peter Gray’s anthropological studies demonstrated that they need it not because youth have no need of adult wisdom. Nothing could be less true. The young are learning. They need space to practise without being judged. But quite soon they will be judged, in the workplace and elsewhere. They need a permeable arrangement, in which adult values are made known to them, and grown-ups are readily accessible, but which they can experience and talk about independently, experimentally, with freedom to take risks and make mistakes.

The mistakes alone will disabuse them of the idea that their own judgement is always brilliant. Sometimes it will be. In some respects, as with adopting new technology, they will often be quicker and smarter than their parents and teachers. But often not. There will be times when they will feel a need to seek the voice of experience – and, yes, the emotional help that can come from a quiet supportive word and an arm around the shoulder. The trick is just to be available, not overbearing. And the adults in this role will do well not to suck up to the kids by overindulging their delusions of maturity. The young need rights, for sure, including legally enforceable ones, but not the patronising pretence that they are grown-up when they are not.

That is why, I suggest, the scouting model works so well for the mental health of the young: it works with the grain of our psychological development, not against it.

Headlined as Part 2 of a sequence on youth mental health, the above piece has not been quite as advertised at the end of Part 1. As already indicated, this was because important new information came my way. However, the theme I originally hoped to consider in Part 2 remains important so I have decided to extend the sequence to Part 3. The UK data examined in Part 1 gave rise to a puzzle: Why is it that boys have more mental health problems in the pre-teen years but girls have it tougher as teenagers and young adults? I will have a crack at solving this puzzle in Part 3.

POST-SAVILE PROBES GO INTO MELTDOWN

The UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is now visibly in total meltdown after the BBC’s Newsnight revealed last night that another senior lawyer has quit, with others poised to leave. Aileen McColgan, a law professor at Kings College London was the lead lawyer in the inquiry’s investigation into child abuse in the Anglican and Catholic Church and is the seventh lawyer to leave, according to today’s Daily Mail. She is said to have no confidence in the fourth chair of the inquiry, Alexis Jay, after the first three chairs were also found wanting. Even now, in the news bulletins today, prime minister Theresa May was still insisting she had “absolute confidence” in the inquiry. But it has plainly failed. It is dead. It is an ex-inquiry, as devoid of life as Monty Python’s dead parrot. The longer this is denied, the more ridiculous the government will look.

The news from IICSA comes not long after the Henriques report, trailed on Heretic TOC last month. Although the full report by retired senior judge Sir Richard Henriques was not published, the conclusions were utterly damning, with the Metropolitan Police blasted for “grave errors of judgement”, especially being too ready to believe dodgy informants in its Operation Midland inquiry into alleged VIP paedophilia. IICSA and Operation Midland have been among the numerous hysteric, sorry historic, child abuse probes set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile “scandal”. One of Henriques’ most serious findings was that police misled a District Judge when officers applied for search warrants for the homes of the key suspects. As for the complainant known only as “Nick”, whose mad fantasies  gave rise to sensational allegations against top politicians and other VIPs, the good news is that he is now under investigation for perverting the course of justice.

Are we (or they) driving kids crazy?

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A barrage of reports lately provides powerful evidence that young people, including teenagers and children, are suffering an epidemic of mental illness.

A large-scale study of 30,000 pupils by the Department for Education for England, with thousands of teenagers aged 14 and 15 interviewed in-depth, showed a 10% rise in poor mental health over the last decade; depression or anxiety afflicted one in three teenage girls. The number of under-16s being admitted to hospital for self-harm shot up by an astonishing 52%. A recent survey in England found that one in four women between 16 and 24 had self-harmed, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder were found to affect 26% of women in this age group.

The focus of media attention has been on teenage girls, especially as regards pressures attributed to problems of self-esteem. But in the pre-teen years more than twice as many boys as girls under 11 were in contact with NHS mental health services in England at the end of June 2016, according to a survey of NHS trusts.

So what is going on? As heretics, we are not short of ideas as to why children and teenagers are less happy and thriving than they might be, but we also need our intuitions to be as well informed as possible. With that in mind I took myself off to London for a discussion forum at the Barbican Centre called “Young people and mental illness: a growing problem?”, part of a two-day Battle of Ideas debating event last month run by the Institute of Ideas.

The question mark in the title hints at scepticism – no surprise, really, as the forum was initiated by Social Policy Forum, whose About page says “social policy…is rarely discussed in its own terms. This is a problem because instead of policy makers trying to find ways to better meet people’s needs, they are more likely to be found promoting behavioural change or advocating intrusive interventions into people’s lives.” Ah, yes, intrusive interventions! Some of us here know a thing or two about those and have good reasons to suspect the hyped-up horror stories, moral panics and hidden agendas used to justify them.

In line with this insight, the event description said “Influential voices claim that children today face more pressures from social media than previous generations, adding up to a ‘toxic’ childhood. Critics are wary of drawing more children into a therapeutic relationship with the caring professions, arguing that this would undermine rather than foster resilience.”

Part of this scepticism expresses itself through a disinclination to accept that there really is a mental health crisis among the young. I heard it pointed out, for instance, that school bullying, often cited as a cause of anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings, is nothing new and is an inevitable part of growing up. Kids just have to learn to live with it, the non-interventionists say: it’s part of their social education, it’ll toughen them up and stand them in good stead for the slings and arrows of life’s later fortunes. What we have these days, it is suggested, is the Snowflake Generation: over-protected kids who turn up at university demanding Safe Places where they won’t have to face intellectual “bullies” who will make them feel “uncomfortable” by challenging the politically correct dogmas they have been spoon-fed for as long as they can remember.

Those of us who value free speech will of course warm to its robust defence. We will thus welcome an important distinction implicitly made above between being made merely uncomfortable or anxious on the one hand, and bullying that entails actual or seriously threatened physical violence on the other. They are connected phenomena but radically different in degree. Likewise, there is a big difference in mental health terms between clinically diagnosed conditions such a schizophrenia and severe autism, at the genuinely serious end of the scale, and milder conditions at the other, especially when they are self-diagnosed or only discovered as answers solicited in unscientific surveys of the cheap and cheerful (or gloomy!) sort. Lots of people these days, for instance, claim to be autistic because, unlike some forms of mental illness, it carries no stigma now and has even become quite fashionable. To be “on the spectrum”, with a hint of Asperger’s, is to imply that you or your child might be socially a bit awkward but probably it’s because you are a high-flying geek, or even a genius.

How, then, are we supposed to sort the wheat from the chaff? What mental health issues do young people really face and are they truly getting worse? We have moved on a lot since David Cooper coined the term anti-psychiatry half a century ago, as part of a radical challenge to the whole idea of mental illness that involved such big names as Jacques Lacan, Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing. These days most experts accept that mental illness is a reality but there is still a huge area of debate as to where individual pathology ends and social issues begin, and how they interact. Even the word “experts” is problematic in any area of investigation where supposedly knowledgeable people cannot agree among themselves.

But at least the forum I attended was privileged to have on its speaker panel someone whose expertise in the field of mental health surveys is indisputable. This was Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A specialist in epidemiological psychiatry, he was a leading contributor to the very large and prestigious Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, published last month by NHS Digital.

An expert’s exert, so to say. A witty one, too, especially in a self-deprecating way. But it was in boastful mode that he started, joking that for those who might not know what an epidemiological psychiatrist does, it means that “I don’t get out of bed for less than a thousand people.” The serious point, of course, is that his big-league number-crunching is the only way to get at meaningful trends.

Summarising those trends, he said the general level of mental illness, contrary to what had caught the headlines, was much the same as 30-40 years ago. But the level of anxiety conditions in young women aged 16-24, had gone up from 19% in about 1990 to 26% in 2014, when the new survey was conducted. He was in no doubt that this was a real and significant change. The survey had not published data on those younger than 16, but he said he was aware a similar pattern pertained in girls below this age too. Young males, by contrast, had not become more anxious. Keep in mind the gender disparity; we will return to it.

For now, though, let’s stay with the big picture, and pan out to make it even bigger. Much bigger, sweeping across the whole of our history as a species, and across the entire planet, this time taking the perspective offered by psychologist Steven Pinker, himself an expert’s expert and also one of the world’s leading public intellectuals. Sir Simon may not get out of bed for under a thousand people, but Pinker’s datasets run to the millions and even billions, and his monumental 1026-page tome The Better Angels of Our Nature has a very relevant 38-page section on children and, in recent times, the emergence of the concept of children’s rights. It includes a lot of statistical data and discussion on what the experience of childhood and growing up has been like through history and across cultures, and, in the light of this big picture, how current cultural changes in the developed countries are affecting the young, including their psychological well being.

My worry when reading Pinker was that he seemed to be painting himself into a corner, interpreting his admittedly impressive data in a naïve way, leading to the fallacy of presentism, characterised by our present culture uncritically congratulating itself on having progressed beyond the barbarities of the past towards a near-perfect now, in which present trends merely need to be pushed forward a bit further in order to achieve a society as just and flourishing as possible. I suspected I would have to write him off as another Lloyd deMause (whose work he cites), whose historical work on childhood presents a bleak picture in which children have typically suffered ghastly cruelty and every kind of abuse, including sexual coercion and rape, for millennia and only now are things getting better.

But no, Pinker avoids the trap. So what is he saying? His Better Angels book is subtitled A History of Violence and Humanity, his mission being to explore the nature of conflict and violence and the means by which we might be able to achieve a more peaceful, cooperative and, by implication, saner future which will be better for everyone’s wellbeing, including their mental health. Exploring the recently-developed concept of children’s rights, alongside other “rights revolutions” (ethnic, women, gay, animal), Pinker begins by painting a largely deMausian scene, albeit viewed through the lens of evolutionary psychology rather than deMause’s Freudian approach. In particular, he invokes the insights of evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers into parent-offspring conflict to explain the tough time often given to children throughout history.

We have come a long way, he says, from the “little devil” theory of childhood, when it was felt that kids needed to be thrashed to beat out their innate depravity – colourfully portrayed by a German preacher of the 1520s who sermonised that children harboured wishes for “adultery, fornication, impure desires, lewdness, idol worship, belief in magic, hostility, quarrelling, passion, anger, strife, dissension, facetiousness, hatred, murder, drunkenness, gluttony” and, as Pinker joked, he was just getting started! Like deMause, Pinker sees the Enlightenment’s later invention of childhood “innocence” as mainly a good thing, because it ushered in several centuries in which kids have gradually been treated more kindly, with a much greater concern for their well-being and even, latterly, their rights, albeit largely in terms of the right to be protected against ill-treatment rather than a right to self-determination.

Now, here is where Pinker gets really interesting, because – backed by extensive data, remember, he doesn’t just speculate or make stuff up – he comes to recent times and draws two startling conclusions that go in different directions.

First the good news, which will certainly seem strange in view of the reports of mental health crisis I started off with. Pinker writes:

…over the past two decades the lives or children and adolescents improved in just about every way you can measure. They were less likely to run away, to get pregnant, to get into trouble with the law, and to kill themselves. England and Wales have also enjoyed a decline in violence against children…

And now the bad. The effort to protect children has begun to overshoot its target “and is veering into the realms of sacrament and taboo”. We can see where he is going, can’t we? Kids wrapped in cotton wool by anxious, risk-averse parents and  kept prisoner in their homes. As he puts it: “Children are not allowed to be outside in the middle of the day (skin cancer), to play in the grass (deer ticks), to buy lemonade from a stand (bacteria on lemon peel), or to lick batter off spoons (salmonella from uncooked eggs).” Most of all, they cannot explore on their own or with pals thanks to Stranger Danger. Interestingly, Sir Simon Wessely also singled this out as a persistent source of anxiety in our times, which it is also reasonable to suspect as a major cause not just of anxiety but also of depression and conduct problems for cooped-up kids.

Now, back to the more detailed local picture we started with: How might the specific findings of the various mental health surveys in the UK be best explained? What do they suggest in terms of how  a mentally healthier society might be achieved, especially from childhood through to the early adult years? It will have to be a two-parter this time, I’m afraid. There is no way I can cram a worthwhile response to these big questions into a sensibly-sized single blog.

What I can do, though, is give a brief taster of what is to come next time. I said above that I would return to the marked gender disparity in the figures: boys seem to have a tougher time in the pre-teen years, but after that it is the girls who are in trouble. I have a theory about that, and a fair bit of evidence to support it. I will also be drawing on some of the wisdom I encountered at various sessions in the Battle of Ideas, including not just the mental health one already touched upon but also discussions entitled “Are young people scared of sex?”, “Can neuroparenting save the family?” and “Feminism: in conversation with Camille Paglia”. I trust this leaves you feeling there is something to look forward to!

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ABUSE INQUIRY GETS A LIFT

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) definitely needed a substantial lift after being dogged by one farcical disaster after another since its inception.

But someone took the message too literally, it seems, for now they have put an actual lift at the centre of the narrative: you know, one of those chunky, boxy things that takes people up and down in big buildings – a lift at the inquiry’s London headquarters, to be precise. It was named as a crime scene when the inquiry’s most senior lawyer was alleged to have sexually assaulted an inquiry worker within its confines.

The BBC’s Newsnight TV programme broke the story and the corporation’s online news reported that “Ben Emmerson QC was suspended in September over concerns about his conduct, but the suspension was lifted the next day when he resigned, allowing him to keep working for the inquiry for two months.” Nothing appears to have been reported to the police and, unsurprisingly, Emmerson insists nothing happened.

You know what? I don’t believe the “victim’s” story. It simply beggars belief that a guy of Emmerson’s standing, at the centre of an inquiry into sexual abuse of all things, would do anything so stupid, especially to such a person in such a place. This reeks of the victim-lobby’s non-stop manoeuvring to get their way. Publicly, they praised him when he was first suspended, but I wouldn’t put it past one or two of them – or more – to stab him in the back by concocting a yarn intended to make his position untenable but without necessarily having to make an allegation sworn on oath in court.

The “victims” would not have forgotten that Emmerson had the courage to face down at least one of their number. As Heretic TOC reported last year, he said that Sharon Evans, one of the victims’ lobby representatives on the enquiry panel, could not tell the difference between truth and error.

 

Does ‘moe’ mean less as Japan moves on?

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Many heretics here will be familiar with ロリコン, though probably only when transcribed from Japanese into our alphabet as “lolicon”. Today we are privileged to have a guest blog on the subject by “Peace”, who doesn’t need translations. Peace knows Japanese and has been reading Japanese message boards, news sites, and blogs for some few years now, as well as sites written by English-speaking people living in Japan. He has also translated Japanese fan-made comics and zines. In his early twenties, Peace is a post-grad student, who spends most of his free time either writing fiction or translating comics and short stories. In this blog he describes a shift in Japanese culture, in which an earlier lolicon boom has given way to a related phenomenon, a “moe” boom.

 

INTRODUCTION

Two of Japan’s most well-known and infamous exports are lolicon and shotacon – erotic art of young girls and boys respectively – and lolicon often takes centre stage in debates concerning cartoon child pornography.  Pressure on Japan to meet global standards for regulating child pornography as well as turmoil from within their own country has transformed lolicon from being perceived as a harmless if strange hobby to what is often now seen as a deviant and perverse interest. Before this decisive cultural shift, Japan had a veritable mainstream “lolicon boom” starting in the late 70s that ended tragically come the 90s.  Though lolicon was toppled from its throne, it rose from the ashes and gained new life in the form of the “moe boom.”

THE RISE AND FALL OF LOLICON

“Lolicon” is short for “Lolita complex,” obviously drawn from Nabokov’s famous novel.  Though it tends to refer to erotic art of young girls or a sexual attraction to young girls, it can also be used as a noun that’s used to refer to one who is sexually attracted to young girls. It first entered the Japanese lexicon with the publication of Russell Trainer’s 1966 book The Lolita Complex; interestingly enough, the term originally applied to the reverse situation, wherein a young girl is attracted to adult males.  The publication of Tatsuhiko Shibusawa’s An Introduction to Girls Collection in 1972 changed the term to its current usage of adults interested in young girls.

The lolicon boom didn’t actually start with manga, as tends to be assumed, but with photo collections of nude girls that became popular throughout the 70s, starting with Kenmochi Katsu’s Nymphet: The Myth of the 12-Year-Old.  Both naturalist and gravure books were sold over the counter in general bookstores and some books sold up to 20 million copies.  As the 80s hit, demand for the books increased, and more than 100 photobooks were released.  However, as time went on, the books became the subject of societal scrutiny, leading to the banning and discontinuation of several series as well as regulatory practices that censored the photos.

At the same time, a new trend began to emerge in the manga and anime community.  Starting with manga by loli-legends Aki Uchiyama and Hideo Azuma, cute, wide-eyed, and childish girls took to the spotlight in sexual stories.  Subjects and situations usually reserved for older women – such as pantyshots, sexual humour, skimpy outfits, nudity, and even sexual activity – were now also in the realm of young girls.  Lolicon-dedicated magazines like Lemon People, Manga Burikko, and Petite Apple Pie began to pop up, and there was a mass outpouring of both amateur and professionally published lolicon art.  It wasn’t just relegated to the underground, either – magazines popular even now such as Weekly Shonen Champion and Animage had lolita works grace their pages.  Even people and corporations now world-renowned for their non-pornographic work were involved; for example, the video game company Enix began life by publishing games made by programming hobbyists, which included the pornographic loli-centered games Lolita Syndrome and Guest Mariko Hashimoto.  Lolicon was a force to be reckoned with, being not only popular but at times profitable.  Shotacon did not have the same kind of media presence; the closest thing was the proliferation of manga that focused on romantic and/or sensual relationships between young boys (and sometimes young boys and grown men) that was mainly consumed by girls and created by women such as Hagio Moto and Takemiya Keiko.

What’s popular is not always accepted and lolicon is no exception, with dissenting voices coming from both within and outside of the community.  Hayao Miyazaki, whose character Clarisse from the movie Castle of Cagliostro was especially popular among the loli community, had the following to say in 1988:

“[My female protagonists] immediately become the lolicon’s playtoys. In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict [such protagonists] as if they just want [such girls] as pets, and things are escalating more and more.”

At the height of the boom, women’s magazines ran critical and unflattering articles about lolicon, with titles such as “Girls are the victims of lolicon’s desires.”  There was a growing anxiety among the older generation about the newer generation and what the young adults’ preference for fantasy, fiction, and children meant for the future.

Within the manga and anime community, the term “lolicon” became popular among fans, and many wore the title with pride instead of hiding it.  The love of little girls, usually considered to be taboo, almost had its shame lifted by the lolicon boom.  Along with otaku (a word meaning a great or obsessive fan, usually of anime, manga, games, or other pop-culture interests), lolicon were not dangerous, deviant, or abusive to children, but rather just enjoying fantasy – and such fantasy was definitely important to most lolicon.  The magazine Manga Burikko originally featured more realistic sexual art as well as photographs of young and often nude women; however, complaints over the photos and the art resulted in the magazine removing the photos and focusing on manga and pictures that had softer, rounder, and more childlike characters.  One fan complained, “I feel nothing for manga that is simply about penetration or girls being raped;  I psychologically can’t accept it,” while another stated that they “preferred lighter eroticism over erotic-grotesque depictions.”

The fun ended in 1988 when Tsutomu Miyazaki was arrested for kidnapping, murdering, and then molesting the dead bodies of four girls aged four to seven.  After police searched his house and found huge amounts of anime as well as child pornography, he became branded as “The Otaku Murderer.”  The light-hearted and playful words “lolicon” and “otaku” instantly became pejoratives to describe sick-headed individuals who were dangerous or detached from reality, a stigma which still persists to this day.  Soon after his arrest, the non-profit organization CASPAR (Campaign to Stop the Abuse of Asian
Children and to Safeguard Their Rights) started up and attempted to regulate pornographic depictions of minors, whether or not they were fictional.  The early 1990s saw a successful movement to ban so-called “harmful manga” and arrest those who sold such obscene material, and the production, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute child pornography containing real children was outlawed in 1999.  Lolicon was driven underground and became relegated to niche fanzines and manga hidden behind doors, and those who called themselves or were branded as “lolicon” were seen as simple perverts.

Legislation of lolicon and child pornography in Japan continues to this day, with the most recent being the criminalization of simple possession of child pornography containing real children in 2014.  The most recent attack on lolicon and other work featuring older but still underage characters was the revision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, also known as the “non-existent youth bill.”  In 2010, the metropolitan government submitted an ordinance that would restrict “sexually provocative depictions of fictional characters who appear to be under 18 years of age” as well as work that “features either sexual or pseudo sexual acts that would be illegal in real life.”  The vaguely-worded proposal as well as its implications for free speech earned it the ire of the manga and anime industry and praise from the Tokyo Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and other child-safety organizations.  Many manga artists, both male and female, held press conferences to voice their opposition to the bill and how it threatened the industry. The bill was finally defeated in June of the same year.  Though not everyone who was against the bill is for lolicon, and though “lolicon” is still a word loaded with stigma, such resistance to the bill shows that the manga and anime industry still clings tightly to the concept of freedom of speech for all, and such freedom toward sex and fiction may have been one of the major contributing factors to the lolicon boom.  Despite this, lolicon will never be culturally accepted as it once was due to Japan’s increasing presence in the global public eye as well as pushback from within the country.

 

MOE MANIA

Not all was lost for those lolicon, though.  In the 90s, a new word began to emerge in the mainstream that described an affection towards young girls: “moe.”  Though there’s no universal theory of how the word came to be or what it fully encompasses, it certainly has the same connotation of feelings toward young girls that were popular among lolicon.  Moe tends to be described as a character that inspires feelings of tenderness, affection, devotion, and excitement within the consumer. It’s a versatile word, able to be applied to girls, boys, and even adults, but the most common application is towards young girls.  So-called “moe” manga and anime tend to be centred around the usually humorous everyday exploits of girls and have often been described simply as “cute girls doing cute things.” What’s missing from moe, and what separates it from lolicon, is the sexuality.  Very light eroticism can be moe, but more heavy sexuality is outside its scope; the commentator Tohru Honda says that the ideal form of moe love is “romantic love.”  Another core component of moe characters is that the consumer wants to protect or nurture their beloved character: for many moe fans, adding sex to the mix tarnishes such love as well as the alluring “innocence” of the character.

Despite its sexual misgivings, moe is a more socially acceptable form of love towards young girls and is more popular than lolicon was in its heyday.  Even with its cutesy designs and mostly kid-friendly stories, moe is still primarily consumed by adults.  Moe manga are usually serialized in magazines targeted towards adult males, and the amount of expensive merchandise produced and sold means that it’s being consumed by those with disposable incomes.  In 2005, the Hamagin Research Institute calculated that the moe industry made over 88 billion yen – about 887 million dollars – and that doesn’t even take into account the massive amount of fanwork that’s produced.

Though lolicon may find solace in moe, there is somewhat of a disconnect between older lolicon and newer moe fans and the way in which they envision their objects of attraction.  Moe fans may see outright sexualization as destroying the “innocence” of girls that they’re obsessed with, while lolicon call the moe fan’s attraction shallow, infantile, or obsessed only with the image of purity or girlishness rather than the image of young girls themselves.  Father of lolicon Hideo Azuma had the following to say about one of the more popular moe anime:

“I watched K-ON! It was empty. It was nothing. The jokes made no sense. It didn’t even have any eroticism, any grotesquerie. Just the mildest, faintest hint of fetishism. Are the people who made it and the people who watch it that unable to cope with reality? It just feels gross…”

It’s in this way that 80s mainstream lolicon could be seen as embracing all sides of an attraction towards young girls, while the moe boom can essentially be seen as a neutered form of its glory days: it strips away the “dangerous” sexuality and leaves us with the “safer” form of purely platonic and aesthetic admiration.  It’s not perfect, and for some such a bastardization of their sexuality is unthinkable; they will instead stay underground with lolicon where they can attempt to be free from society’s standards.  For others, though, it is the perfect situation: they can be a little weird, just a little strange, but will not be labeled as criminals or perverts.  For them, the men and women of moe, this is the only way society has allowed them to live.

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CHED EVANS CLEARED IN RETRIAL

Back to your resident blogger, and, once again, you heard it here first. Heretic TOC was a front-runner in exposing the absurdity of the Met’s Operation Midland, and has now been vindicated in supporting footballer Ched Evans’ continued claim to innocence after being convicted of rape. See When the law is out of order on rape for the coverage two years ago. Last week the jury at a re-trial brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Not that you’d guess it from the coverage in the mainstream media, where the focus was on the “outrage” felt by anti-rape campaigners, in coverage that strongly (but wrongly) implied the legal system had regressed to “slut-shaming” by allowing evidence to be heard about the alleged victim’s sex life.

While it is a good principle that a complainant’s previous sexual behaviour should not be used to undermine their credibility, which would often be in a one-person’s-word-against-another situation, the howls of protest failed to take into account that this case was different. That is because the woman’s word did not come into it. She never at any point claimed she had been raped.  Yes, she was a prosecution witness because the police decided she must have been raped, but the case was purely circumstantial and unwisely cobbled into a prosecution for misplaced ideological reasons.

Instead of admitting this, the victim-feminism zealots blamed the footballer’s “clever lawyers” for getting their man off on a supposedly dodgy basis.

One of those lawyers was Judy Khan QC, who represented me some 15 years ago at Southwark Crown Court when I was up for importing indecent images. She had less luck in that case, unfortunately. Like Ched Evans I was innocent but found guilty. Unlike Evans, who appealed successfully and went to retrial, I lost my appeal against conviction. By that stage I had run out of entitlement to further Legal Aid and so had no money to keep paying for lawyers, clever or otherwise. Thus I was obliged to present my own case, standing alone before three appeal court judges in the Royal Courts of Justice: a rather daunting experience, I can tell you!

They did at least graciously describe me as “a dedicated enthusiastic and well-researched apologist for what he sees as innocent and non-exploitative pleasure in viewing photographs of juvenile nakedness” before dismissing my legal arguments in a way that struck me as grotesquely rigged: the appeal court does have a reputation for upholding the decisions of the court of first instance if it can fudge a way to do so. But I was so infuriated by their blatant chicanery that I found myself blasting them for it there and then. “This is a travesty of justice!” I hollered, as they filed out of the court. No doubt conscious of their dignity, they remained resolutely deaf and simply kept walking.

 

BATTLE OVER HENRIQUES REPORT

One of those three judges who ignored my outburst that day (see above item) was Sir Richard Henriques, whose report into the disastrous Metropolitan Police investigation of alleged VIP paedophilia through Operation Midland is expected in a few weeks’ time. But expected by whom? By the Met themselves, certainly. They have already received a draft of the report, but a row has broken out over who else will get to see it, if anyone. The Met have said that “that key findings and recommendations from his independent review would be published” but not the full report. This would “remain private as it would contain confidential and sensitive information”, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Met’s decision not to publish the full report, which will surely be heavily critical of the police (unless it is as biased as the appeal court ruling in my case), has been the subject of widespread disquiet. It looks as though the head of the Met, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, is trying to cover up his force’s embarrassment over wasting a vast amount of money investigating allegations made by an obvious fantasist – allegations that grievously damaged the reputations of innocent people, including former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, and Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff.

Why did the Met do it? Because, as in the Ched Evans case, the authorities were too much under the influence of victimological dogma – in this case the dogma that complainants should always be believed, regardless of how crazy their stories are. This mindless mantra was most egregiously manifested when a senior officer with Operation Midland publicly described the fantasists’ allegations not only as believable, which was ridiculous in itself, but “credible and true“.

 

NIGHTMARE OF THE LETHAL SURVIVORS

You couldn’t make it up as satire: the top brass of the massive and monstrously dysfunctional child sexual abuse inquiry (IICSA) have been so much at each other’s throats that a relationship counsellor was engaged in a desperate, doomed bid to get them to work together more cooperatively. It looks as though they were driven out of their minds thanks to all the abuse they were getting from the perpetually skrieky, tantrum-throwing, never-endingly demanding so-called abuse survivors’ representatives.

The upshot is that the future of the inquiry looks ever more wobbly. Three heads have rolled already, as successive chairs have failed to satisfy the blood-lust of the undead survivors, and even the fourth occupant of the obviously cursed job, Professor Alexis Jay, now finds herself under vicious attack.

This has all been coming out through evidence given this week to the Commons Home Affairs Committee of the UK parliament. It was on opportunity, duly taken, for Jay to bad-mouth her predecessor as chair, Dame Lowell Goddard. No need for details here. The dirty linen has been washed all over the media like a Hollywood divorce, but with one big difference: the most eye-popping stuff is not the parental squabbling between Jay and Goddard but the ugly sight of the kids kicking lumps out of both of them. Earlier it was Goddard taking flak for packing her bags and abruptly abandoning the family home with just a note left on the fridge. Now Jay is under fire for sensibly trying to tidy up the house a bit by getting the inquiry scaled down to a manageable level. Andrew Lavery, of survivors’ group White Flowers Alba, reportedly said: “Alexis Jay’s position is untenable, her statement is dishonest and disingenuous. She must stand down immediately.” That was fairly typical.

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