Scholar hounded over pederasty studies


No fancy philosophical focus on Foucault and his ilk this time, folks. No festive season reflections on the passing year and decade either.

Christmas is usually slow for news because the politicians and the other movers and shakers who make the headlines are at home with their feet up just like the rest of us, somnolently finishing off the mince pies.

There is seldom any let up in bad news for us heretics, though, and this month has seen a particularly shocking story unfolding in America. What makes it so alarming is that it is not a sex scandal. There is no Kevin Spacey or Jeffrey Epstein in this story.

The truly appalling news is that a man of utterly unblemished character, a distinguished intellectual, a professor, finds himself being hounded for his scholarship on pederasty in ancient Greece and for questioning whether the age of consent needs to be as high as 18, which it is in many of the states in the USA. Worse still, he is not being given the robust support by his university that should be expected. Every reputable institution of learning knows the value of academic freedom; when such places begin to waver in defence of unfettered scholarship, we have to fear the direction society as a whole is taking.

I refer to the University of Texas, Austin, and to Thomas K Hubbard, who is a professor of classics there, is 63 years of age, and ought to be able to look forward to an honour-garlanded retirement after a couple more years. Trouble kicked off publicly early this month when the city’s main newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman reported that following protests against professors “with histories of sexual misconduct”, a group of students was calling for Hubbard’s removal for allegedly “promoting harmful ideas about the age of consent and sexual relations with minors”.

The story was taken up by other papers, including, online, The Daily Beast, and later the Chronicle of Higher Education. The latter, in a report about a week after the Statesman one, signalled an ugly atmosphere, with worrying hints of a lynch mob mentality. Protesters had massed outside the professor’s home, banging on the door, shouting that he was a predator.

A rabble-rousing journal called, appropriately enough, Incendiary News, would later report that “He needed multiple officers to get away from the wrath of the students” and that one student, giving a speech, said “Pedophilia apologists like you deserve to be confronted and to feel afraid! We will make you scared to teach, scared to leave your home, scared to even exist in the City of Austin!” The same paper featured a photo of masked vigilantes with a banner and placards used in the protest, calling Hubbard a “pedophile” and “perv”. Video footage was posted, too, in which the mob are heard chanting their abuse. In a second video clip, Hubbard was filmed as the police escorted him away to safety.Graffiti were also reportedly seen daubed on a wall in the area reading “Pedo Hubbard, watch your back”. Other sources have reported that Hubbard’s house was likewise vandalised with hostile messages sprayed in red paint, and bricks may have been thrown at the dwelling.

Masked vigilantes in a hostile act of trespass outside Prof. Hubbard’s home

It might be thought that the university would be falling over itself to see such intimidation against a member of their staff brought swiftly to a halt. They could have ordered a thorough investigation of any suspected instigators among the student population and insisted the police conduct their own determined probe into the vigilantism, which clearly went far beyond legitimate peaceful demonstration.

But no, although the police have said they are indeed looking into what happened, right from the outset the university set about washing its hands of its responsibilities. In the initial Statesman story, University of Texas spokeswoman Shilpa Bakre was quoted as saying “The university condemns ideas or world views that exploit or harm individuals”, as though accepting that Hubbard’s “ideas or world views” do indeed “exploit or harm” anyone. While conceding that the First Amendment to the US Constitution protects “even offensive ideas”, there was no reported enthusiasm for this law by the university itself, nor any defence of the need for academic freedom in order for scholarship to thrive. This was before the vandalism and intimidation at Hubbard’s home; but the university’s attitude only went from bad to worse afterwards, notably as expressed in a letter to the Dallas Morning News by the Austin President of the University, Gregory L. Fenves.

This letter followed a lengthy editorial in that paper. Saying they wanted to know for themselves whether Hubbard’s position was in line with the protesters’ claims, they read one of his articles, titled “Sexual Consent and the Adolescent Male, or What Can We Learn From the Greeks” in a 2010 edition of Boyhood Studies (then called Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies). They wrote:

What Hubbard learned from the Greeks, apparently, is that society really needs to reconsider age-of-consent laws that are intended to protect children from sexual predators. Ancient Greece, he argues, showed us that “where age-discrepant relationships are commonplace and positively reinforced, they cause little or no long-term harm to the younger partner and often confer great benefit,” he writes.

That’s not all. The problem of boys without fathers in their lives might well be resolved by having men have sex with those boys, he writes. “Pederastic intimacy evolved in part as a social mechanism for addressing it.” He goes on to write, “contemporary U.S. culture has not compensated for the magnitude of the problem.”

No, thankfully, contemporary U.S. culture has not gone the way of the Greeks.

The editorial goes on to claim, “No one is more eager to defend academic freedom than we are.” But they have an odd way of showing it. They say, “Should Hubbard wish to explore his considerations at some university, he should be able to do so. But Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for supporting him while he does…” While stopping short of saying he should be sacked, the editorial adds:

Instead, we urge students to do what they are doing: Stand up against this. Make your voice heard. And as important, make your wallet heard. Let Hubbard’s classrooms be empty. Let his papers go unread. And let the school know with letters and through any reviews of your education experience that this is unacceptable. Let Hubbard’s ideas, wrong and terrible and unlearned, be first challenged and defeated and finally neglected and forgotten.

Echoing this narrow philistinism, the follow-up letter from Fenves published the next day also sided with the protesting students, saying “I understand their concerns about his ideas. I personally find them outrageous.” He too claimed to support academic freedom but then hinted that he thought Hubbard might have crossed a line by teaching controversial matter that had no relation to the subject he had been assigned to teach. He wrote that:

…we are aware of the concerns and complaints about those classes this semester. We have been and are reviewing them and will take appropriate action, within the bounds of academic freedom and the constitutionally protected right to free speech.

For the university, then, it seems investigating Hubbard’s classes is more important than probing the intimidation used against him.

As for what Hubbard has been thinking and feeling about all this, we can get a pretty good idea, from two important sources, the Chronicle of Higher Education article and also his emails to psychology professor J Michael Bailey’s online academic forum, where Hubbard and I are both members.

The Chronicle report took up the theme that NAMBLA has in the past given publicity to Hubbard’s work:

His papers have been promoted and distributed by the North American Man/Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, a group that advocates for the legalization of pedophilia. NAMBLA has been dormant in recent years, and Hubbard has said he does not endorse NAMBLA’s radicalism or criminal activity and does not have “personal enthusiasm for sex with teenagers.”

“If people in these groups support me, it may be because I am one of the few academics who is willing to listen to them and learn about their motivations, instead of demonizing them as incurable monsters,” Hubbard wrote in an email. “How can one do scholarship on pederasty or sex offending if one doesn’t talk to pederasts and sex offenders?”

As for Bailey’s forum, Hubbard’s approach to that group enabled him to rally support from a number of the world’s most reputable scientists and other scholars working in fields relating to sexuality and sexual ethics. Together, they signed a letter to go to the Dallas Morning News as a response to the papers’ editorial and the university president’s letter. The letter referred to Hubbard’s status as an accomplished classical historian, whose work had been recognized by a prestigious Guggenheim award.

Hubbard’s Guggenheim citation in 2017 directly commended his work on “a particularly sensitive and controversial aspect of Greco-Roman culture, namely the widespread practice of homosexual pederasty”.

On 21 December, Hubbard emailed Bailey’s forum. He said the forum’s letter had not yet been published, nor had another one from the distinguished historian and theorist of sexuality Prof. David M. Halperin. However, wrote Hubbard:

…they did publish this craven letter from our University President, in which he claims to be “personally outraged” by my views. I seriously doubt that he has actually read my publications or could understand them if he had (he is a civil engineer). He has made no statement whatever about the mob violence at my house.

I have not been officially informed by the University of the nature of their “investigation” of me or been asked to provide any course materials. This letter to the Dallas paper is the first I have heard about it, which violates all kinds of due process. One cannot discuss ancient Greece or Rome without commenting on the differing social constructions of sexuality in those cultures.

The implication in his letter that I have introduced “irrelevant” material or personal advocacy into my courses is utterly false and threatens academic freedom fundamentally.

So far, I have been referring to Prof. Hubbard impersonally; but long-time followers of Heretic TOC may recall that he has been mentioned a few times here and that we are acquainted. We met once, a few years ago, at a classics conference in Edinburgh and he kindly gave a pre-publication endorsement for my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. I am familiar with some of his work and find much to admire both in his scholarship and his steadfast outspokenness and opposition to censorship. The latter was very much on display in his book Censoring Sex Research: The Debate over Male Intergenerational Relations, co-edited with historian Beert Verstraete. Published in 2013, this book finally allowed a long-censored 90-page essay by Bruce Rind, another unjustly attacked academic, to see the light of day. As Hubbard put it in his introduction:

Dr Rind contextualizes his earlier analyses of psychological data through an aggressively interdisciplinary approach, showing that his earlier finding that male intergenerational relationships are usually not harmful is not as surprising or implausible as critics claim.

Incidentally, I just recently chanced upon a very well informed and deep – if somewhat nihilistic – review of this book by Diederik Janssen.

As for what the future holds for Tom Hubbard, who knows? He knows that the demonstrators constitute only a tiny minority of trouble makers and that many other students are interested in attending his classes. Whether they will feel intimidated and will stay away, only time will tell. We can only hope that they, and Tom himself, will feel able to hang in there.



A regular follower of this blog had an interesting chance encounter with Greta Thunberg recently, on a train passing south to north right through Germany and onwards to the young climate change activist’s native Sweden.

It was a fraught journey, with a train breakdown, much chaos, and a three-hours-late arrival in Malmö, in the middle of the night.

Long before that late arrival, waiting on a platform for a replacement train around lunch-time, Heretic TOC’s Europe Correspondent (as I will think of him from now on!) saw “a rather attractive girl of (I thought) about 11, slight in build”. The thought occurred to him that “if she were just a little older and larger” she could even be Greta Thunberg.

Greta will be 17 on her birthday this Friday, but still famously has the appearance of quite a young child.

Two or three changes of train later, our correspondent continues, on the way into Denmark, he “literally bumped into this girl” when they both needed to board another train for the onward journey. He said he thought he recognised her; her brief response confirmed he was right. They ended up sitting quite near to each other, “although she was surrounded by her adult keepers”. Our correspondent continues:

I exchanged one or two bits of small talk with her “keepers”, one of whom was her dad, but quickly understood that Greta herself was incredibly tired and wanted little more than to sleep. It was a first class carriage, with very few passengers, so she could and did stretch out and sleep.

She literally looked no more than a very slender 11-year-old, behaving as any 11-year-old would after a long and tiring train journey. She asked to sit away from the aisle “so that people don’t come up to me and want to talk”. She woke up about 20 minutes before another change of trains, and asked tetchily if she could sleep some more.

Her “keepers” talked of this and that, for example of how if the Madrid summit didn’t achieve anything it would just be a climate-negative in that 3000 delegates had been flown in.

It all got me thinking of the accusations you hear, of how Greta has just been manipulated by adults around her. Seeing her revert to a “normal”, tired, apparently 11-year-old, after a long train trip, did nothing to dispel that. And her expression later, when getting off the train, anxiously looking to see if there was yet another reception committee to deal with, almost made me think she was on the point of crisis. Absolutely in need of a long rest.

Later I saw she’d posted a picture of herself sitting on the floor of “an overcrowded German train”. This has turned into her “Corbyn moment”, because shortly afterwards the German Railways (DB) issued a curt tweet saying that she could have shown her appreciation to the staff in her first class carriage that had efficiently seen to her needs!

What our correspondent does not tell us here – although he did later – is that Greta’s post had not been “fake news”, as those keen to discredit her would be quick to allege, just as Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s many enemies had done in his very similar case. She really had been on an overcrowded train that day and really had found herself with nowhere to sit but the floor, as journalists travelling on the same train confirmed. But that was one of the earlier trains in the sequence, before Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, sprung into action to help their VIP passenger – and limit the damage to their reputation caused by the breakdown.

That apart, we are left with a more interesting question. Is Greta Thunberg really an exploited child? Or an heroically committed young woman?



In July, I reported the death of no fewer than three prominent heretical activists with whom I was well acquainted, within the space of less than six months. And now, still within the same calendar year, I need to mention another sad departure.

Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield, died on 21 November, aged 59. Along with about a dozen other mourners, mostly relatives, I attended his funeral in a private ceremony at Rawdon Crematorium, Leeds, just before Christmas, on 23 December.

The ceremony had to be private for security reasons. There could have been, if not a riot, then serious disruption and unpleasantness. That is because Nigel, or Leigh as he was called by those who knew him, had been a courageously defiant figure in the face of anti-paedophilic vigilantism in his local area (ominously, that “V” word seems to be rather prominent in more than one of today’s blog items).

Heretic TOC ran a piece about him in 2015 titled Hail, brave warrior, Nigel the Noble! It will be plain enough from that article as to why he attracted vigilante ire and why I found his response admirable.

Less clear, though, was the downside of his personality that played a large part in arguably making himself his own worst enemy – even with so many others – leading to his death at an early age by modern standards.

He had done very well to conquer difficulties in his early life, taking a doctorate in chemistry at Nottingham University; and, as a teacher, he distinguished himself sufficiently to gain a post as a head of department at a big comprehensive school in Buxton, Derbyshire.

But he was depressive. And he drank heavily. Common problems, both, for those of us who are Kind in an unkind society. He fell afoul of the law. He lost his job and his livelihood. He went downhill, from bad to worse, despite the amazingly loving and loyal support of an improbable partner in his final years – that, at least, is an inspirational story; but now is not the right time for its telling.


A stage, not an age, underpins BL desire


Heretic TOC is delighted to present a guest blog today by Edmund, author of the BL novel Alexander’s Choice, set at Eton College and somewhat improbably hailed in the Daily Mail as “the Etonian version of Fifty Shades Of Grey”. The book was being “feverishly read by as many Etonians, past and present, as can get their hands on it”, enthused columnist Richard Kay. And who better to write about hot lust and love between man and boy at Britain’s fabled hothouse for future leaders than an Old Etonian such as Edmund himself? More relevant today, though, as will be seen below, is another observation I once made about the author: “I think he must … be some sort of time traveller, a former citizen of ancient Athens, judging by his amazing evocation of pederasty’s golden age and the ideals of pedogogic eros and mentorship.” Edmund now has his own fledgling website, hatched only a few days ago and in a very preliminary stage of development, called Greek Love Through the Ages.


On the lowering of the usual age at which boys have attracted men

A few years ago, when I wrote a novel about a love affair between a fourteen-year-old boy and a young schoolmaster, I was already aware from long study of ancient Greece, the best-known pederastic culture ever, that my protagonist was a little below the average age of boys to which Greek men were attracted.  However, it was only through extensive correspondence resulting from my novel that it was first impressed on me that most men today identifying themselves as boy-lovers are more attracted to younger boys.  Put together, this suggested a serious discrepancy between Greek and modern preferences. This both surprised me and struck me as having important implications, so I have done some investigation which I am now reporting.

I firmly believe that attraction to boys is a natural impulse which has survived millions of years of evolution because of its benefits to the species. The evidence for this was best summed up by Bruce Rind in his Hebephilia as a Mental Disorder? (2011), showing that pederasty has been so widely practised not only throughout recorded human history, but also by other primates, as to indicate that it is an “evolutionary heritage” for which “most mature males have a capacity” (pp. 20-1). Moreover, one indication of its evolutionary function is “that mature male erotic interest in boys, when expressed, is generally coordinated with the ages at which mentorship and enculturation are most useful and efficiently effected, from peripubescence through mid-adolescence” (p. 24).  But how can it be thus co-ordinated if boy-lovers today are drawn to significantly younger boys than were the Greeks?

Much the strongest evidence for the age of boys with whom men chose to become sexually involved in any era comes from Renaissance Florence, thanks to Michael Rocke’s exhaustive study of the copious records of the Office of the Night Watch set up to police pederasty there.  In Statistical Table B.2 of his book Forbidden Friendships (1996), he gives the “ages of partners in the passive role, 1478-1502” in 475 cases recorded by the Office of the Night.  They range from six to twenty-six, but 90% (428) were aged twelve to nineteen, while only 16 were under twelve, and only 31 were aged twenty or more.  At 82 cases, sixteen was the peak as well as the mean.  A smaller sample of 58 passive partners whose ages were found in a tax record of 1480 yielded a mean age of fifteen.

The best evidence for the youngest age at which Greek boys receive amorous attention is poem 205 of Straton of Sardis’s Musa Puerilis:

My neighbour’s quite tender young boy provokes me not a little, and laughs in no novice manner to show me that he is willing. But he is not more than twelve years old. Now the unripe grapes are unguarded; when he ripens there will be watchmen and stakes.

This implies that at twelve or a little less, a boy had not quite reached the expected age.   In his poem 4, Straton says he delights in the prime of a boy in his twelfth year (ie. aged eleven).  I believe this is the sole reference in Greek literature to boys under twelve being sexually attractive.  Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, says that Spartan boys “were introduced to the society of lovers” at twelve.

Straton considered seventeen beyond bounds and there are copious references in Greek literature to boys losing their desirability with the appearance of body and facial hair.  However, an eighteen year-old could still be referred to as a pais (boy) in an amorous context and fully-grown but still unbearded youths are commonly depicted as men’s beloveds on vases.  Aristotle says beard growth occurs some time before twenty-one (History of Animals 582a).

According to P. G. Schalow, translator into English of Ihara Saikaku’s The Great Mirror of Male Love, the most important source of our knowledge of the pederasty ubiquitous in Japan for a thousand years, the age of the passive partners usually corresponded to the age of the wakashu (adolescent boy), defined by hair-shaving ceremonies performed at the ages of eleven or twelve and eighteen or nineteen.

Khaled El-Rouayheb in his Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500-1800, also describing a society where men’s attraction to boys was taken for granted, quotes the opinions of numerous primary sources on the age of boys’ attractiveness. He concludes that the range was wide, at seven or eight to twenty, but “that the boy’s attractiveness was usually supposed to peak around halfway through, at fourteen or fifteen.”

To determine the ages to which today’s self-identified boy-lovers are attracted, I consulted two of their forums. In a poll held this year on one called boymoment, seventy-six voters replied to the question “What ages do you like?” 8% opted for under eight, 81% for eight to fifteen and 10% for 16+.  The ages brackets of 10-11 and 12-13 were most popular and virtually equal choices, confirming what an old hand there told me that the many polls of this sort conducted in the past had consistently shown 11-12 as the most preferred age, in other words towards the end of Tanner stage two of pubescence.  A poll of 88 voters on a forum called boylandonline ongoing since 2011 showed 10, 11 and 12 as the roughly equal most popular choices.

Based on the foregoing, I think it is fair to postulate twelve to nineteen as the typical age range of boys to whom men were attracted historically, with fifteen the likely average and peak, and eight to fifteen as the age most online boy-lovers are now attracted to, with eleven to twelve the average and most liked.  How can one explain the discrepancy of three or four years?  Here follow three hypotheses in order of importance.


Watch a film with boys from the 1930s and look up the actors’ ages. Those who look like today’s 13-year-olds with voices that have not begun to break are more likely to have been 16. The handsome Jürgen Ohlsen in the Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex (1933) is a good example of one presumably chosen partly for his pederastic appeal, since the Nazis were not averse to exploiting such imagery.  It has happened again and again that the 14-year-old I thought I was looking at in a Victorian photo turned out to be 18.  Necessarily subjective judgements of this sort are useful as expressions of visual response to a substantial drop in the age of puberty that has been going on for well over a century.  Abundant but complicated evidence and supporting anecdotes have already been discussed in Tom’s blog of 25 September 2014, so I shall only point out the one I think best for accurate comparison over a very long period.  The voices of Bach’s choirboys in the years 1727-48 began breaking on average at 17.25, whereas those of London schoolboys in 1959 did so at 13.25 (studies cited in Politics and Life Sciences 20 (1) p.48).

This has far-reaching implications.  For example, the debate on whether historical individuals like Oscar Wilde were pederasts or gay should end.  Seen in the light of the age at which Victorians started looking like men, Wilde, with his lovers’ age range of 14-21, was unambiguously a pederast in the Greek tradition he claimed.


Sexuality is heavily influenced by culture.  I cannot see how else it is possible to explain the wild variations in degree of sexual interest in boys implied by cultures like Renaissance Florence where Rocke found (p. 115) “at least two of every three men were incriminated” over it despite religious denunciation, state persecution and the provision of women in brothels to lure them away.  The antagonism of the Florentine state failed mostly because the culture of pederasty was too strong.  By contrast, fierce opposition to sex between children and anyone significantly older pervades the entire culture of the Anglophone countries and, to some extent,  most countries. It follows then that in a culture such as today’s that is deeply antagonistic to pederasty only those innately least capable of attraction to adults will become boy-lovers, the others either shunning boys in favour of adults or never awakening to their latent capacity for attraction to boys. Tom has said in one of his blogs that hebephiles are far more likely than paedophiles to be capable of attraction to adults. This is bound to cause under-representation of potential hebephiles in boy-love forums.

Also, in several populous countries the age of consent is fourteen, and in most it is no more than sixteen, which must have the effect of disincentivising some men attracted most to boys of fourteen or more from participating in forums defined by longings for the forbidden.


Much of what is considered sex today was ignored as insignificant by pre-modern societies. Greek men sought intercrural or anal intercourse with boys, and not, as far we know, to be masturbated. Japanese men sought anal intercourse.  Masturbation only interested Florence’s Office of the Night if done with a view to seducing a boy into being sodomized.  If, as has been frequently asserted on this blog, paedophiles are much less inclined to penetrative acts than hebephiles, then more of them will have passed under the radar in pre-modern societies, while being represented in the boy-forum statistics.  However, this is only a minor point.  Excluding masturbation may have raised the mean age of the boys in the Florentine records, but cannot explain why Florentine men preferred to sodomise 15-16 year-olds rather than 14-year-olds.



In conclusion, I suggest it has been shown that if one were to allow that the age of attraction expressed by online boy-lovers has been skewed a little downwards by my second and third hypotheses, men today can be said to be responsive to roughly the same state of physical development in boys that they always have been, in harmony with their evolutionary heritage.  That the age at which this development is attained has gone down is at the heart of the modern boy-lover’s unhappy predicament.


A less WEIRD approach to children and sex


African explorer Sir Harry Johnston noted that “almost every girl” in east-central Africa ceased to be a virgin “well before puberty”.

Not that he personally knew “almost every girl”, one supposes, and certainly not carnally. Unlike many fellow adventurers back then, in the heyday of empire a hundred years ago, he does not appear to have been a sexual libertarian. He was a careful and talented observer, though, as evidenced by his studies of the flora and fauna of the region, and his knowledge of native culture was regarded as authoritative.

He was among the better colonial governors, too, keen to train and promote African staff. What he shared with his less enlightened colleagues, who felt the black Africans were inherently inferior and needed to be ruled by force, was a firm belief in the superiority of western culture – a superiority that must have seemed obvious from the fact that the British, and others westerners, were the conquerors not the conquered, the rulers, not the ruled. So of course the exotic sexual practices of the “heathens” and “savages” were regarded, like so much else about their “uncivilized” lives, as appalling, and most definitely not to be emulated.

We have done a bit of re-thinking since those days, but not enough. Imperialism is now thoroughly discredited and we are beginning to question the wisdom of global market capitalism – Lensman’s recent articles here on the aetiology of paedophobia, and our Deep Green future have added to what is becoming a vast debate.

Another aspect of this re-thinking, which re-evaluates “primitive” lifestyles more positively, is as yet only in its very early stages, and for the most part remains of fringe interest. One exception (sort of) is Jared Diamond’s book The World until Yesterday, which significantly bears the subtitle What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Diamond came to prominence through his hugely successful and rightly acclaimed Guns, Germs and Steel, which provided a profound explanation, rooted in contingencies of geography and climate, as to why westerners became the conquerors and rulers of the world.

Part of its success, I suspect, lies in the fact that its western readers could bask in the satisfaction of being “winners”, even as the book’s contents obliged them to admit that their success had nothing to do with innate superiority. Diamond’s later books, including Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, have faced more resistance: the environmentalist message they promote proved uncomfortable for those who do not wish to face the need for change.

At least Diamond had a substantial readership based on his having already made a name for himself. Others who urge a re-evaluation of non-WEIRD lifestyles remain at the margins. In line with this blog’s mission to promote such non-dominant narratives, Heretic TOC today fanfares the arrival of an important (or so it should be regarded) new article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior: “How Children Learn About Sex: A Cross-Species and Cross-Cultural Analysis”, by clinical psychologist Lawrence Josephs.

In this paper, Josephs draws together, from primatology, anthropology, and the history of childhood sexuality, evidence which supports the hypothesis that throughout most of our evolutionary past children have learned about sex basically by taking part in it, initially through direct observation of parental sex and also, still in early childhood, by engaging in sexual activity themselves, usually with peers but often also with a degree of adult involvement and encouragement. Evolutionary psychology may be all the rage in some quarters, but, says Josephs, contemporary theories of psychosexual development have failed to consider the possibility that young children have an innate disposition to learn in this way. It is a primate-wide trait that is conserved in humans, he says, but has been suppressed in modern societies. In other words, the dogma of childhood sexual “innocence” is a recent imposition that goes against the grain of human nature.

There are echoes here of Bruce Rind’s censored monograph on pederasty, which eventually appeared as a 90-page chapter a couple of years ago in Censoring Sex Research. I critiqued it in The pre-WEIRD world, according to Rind. While there was much to be welcomed in Rind’s work, its gender-specific theme of the man-boy erotic dyad was focused on adult and adolescent sexuality, whereas contemporary society’s investment in “innocence” is expressed primarily through its insistence on the supposed need to protect prepubescent children from sex, whether boys or girls. Yes, there are many who are hell-bent on discouraging even adolescent sex, but only a few deluded souls would argue that adolescents are naturally pre-sexual. This is very much the current mainstream attitude towards younger children, though, even a century after Freud.

In a way, then, Josephs’ contribution is even more fundamental and radical than Rind’s, and it is very good news that his article, far from being censored, has appeared in the most prestigious journal in its field. So how did he go about it?

The idea that concealing sex from children is a species-wide norm is a WEIRD fallacy, he begins. Actually, it is plain weird, as well as WEIRD, because anyone with an ounce of imagination would realise that in the long millennia before the invention of doors and locks, even tiny children would inevitably have seen lots of bonking by their parents and others: it would have been a wild, constantly played spectacular, the internet porn of its day. That did not stop Freud  believing exposure to the “primal scene” (i.e., a scene of parental sexuality) was harmful. In his view, it was a vital precondition of “civilized” behaviour that we need to repress and control our libido – including the incestuous “Oedipal” impulse he discerned, which he claimed we feel in early childhood towards our own opposite-sex parents.

It was in 1918 that Freud warned about the primal scene. By 1990, as Josephs points out, the sexologist John Money was proposing that “human beings who are heirs to Western civilization have a long cultural heritage of negative strategies for dealing with juvenile sexual rehearsal play. These are strategies of vandalism that thwart, warp, and distort the normally developing lovemap and make it pathological”. By this time he had some research (Hoyt, 1979) to support him. Soon there was more (Okami et al., 1998), when it was confirmed that witnessing the primal scene does not increase psychopathology. A range of historical research, moreover, is cited to show that concealing parental sexuality from children and prohibiting sexual rehearsal play have only become normative in the West in the last 300 years – research which includes studies appearing in a book recently mentioned on Heretic TOC, George Rousseau’s Children and Sexuality: From the Greeks to the Great War. I have now got hold of it: there is plenty of good stuff.

Much of the evidence that Josephs presents will already be familiar to many heretics here. The value of his paper comes from drawing on a range of disciplines and concisely presenting a case for re-evaluating the current negativity towards children’s early sexual learning and expression. The classic anthropological review remains Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (Ford & Beach, 1951), which I drew on extensively for my own Paedophilia: The Radical Case. Josephs also brings in more recent work, including a review of hunter-gatherer childhoods (Konner 2010), in which it is reported that hunter-gatherer children imitate parental sexual relations in simulated sexual intercourse in relatively small mixed-sex, multi-age play groups.

One point that particularly struck me from Josephs’ sources was this:

“Curiously, hunter-gatherer cultures, like the Hazda or !Kung, that are permissive towards childhood sexuality tend to be fiercely egalitarian and highly respectful of individual autonomy (Boehm, 1999) and do not pressure children to obey authority (Shostak, “A !Kung woman’s memories of childhood” in Lee & DeVore, 1976).”

This ought to be music to the ears of feminists who keep banging on about the need for equality in sexual relationships and fretting over adult power abuse in intergenerational sex. It shows that if we really do start learning from traditional societies, as Diamond urges, they can relax – the kids could be socially empowered as well as enjoying an agreeable childhood.

There is a price to be paid, though. Hunter-gatherer economies favour social equality; relatively acquisitive and competitive agricultural and industrial economies have different social priorities. Ancient Athens at the height of its glory had a democratic, and hence relatively egalitarian, political system, but even in that era the social ethos was one of ferocious competition: pederasty thrived not least because boys who wanted to get on in life needed a lover who was a good mentor, someone who was not equal to himself but far more knowledgeable and authoritative – and, quite possibly, authoritarian. Modern life, too, is intensely competitive. The way forward, however, as outlined by Lensman, could well involve more cooperative, and less competitive, lifestyles.

Getting back to Josephs, his paper addresses not just children’s sexual knowledge and experience with peers but also adult-child sexual touching. He notes a range of cultures in which it appears entirely normal for adults, especially mothers, to masturbate their infant children, especially as a substitute for satisfaction at the breast.

Looking beyond infancy, he reminds us of Malinowski’s conclusion in 1927, based on anthropological evidence, that when it is not socially suppressed we see “a steady and gradual increase of sexuality in the child, the curve rising in a continuous manner without any kink”. There is no Freudian “latency period”, in other words. More recently, Gilbert Herdt and a colleague (Herdt & McClintock, 2000) proposed a stage of psychosexual development between six and ten which they refer to as adrenal puberty as opposed to gonadal puberty. Beginning around six years old, the adrenal gland in both sexes begin to secrete increasing levels of androgens that are associated with the increasing intensity of childhood sexual attractions and desires. Heretic TOC reported this in The magical age of 10? Actually, with the age of puberty currently dropping at the speed of a whore’s drawers, the magical age in question may now be even lower: Josephs points to recent evidence (Palmert et al., 2001; Remer, Boye, Hartmann, & Wudy, 2005), that adrenarche begins as early as three years old, “around the time children begin to engage in sexual rehearsal play” – not to mention, I would add, that boys (or future boys!) have been observed with erections in the womb, and masturbating, as recorded via ultra-sound imagery.

All this leads Josephs to pose a brave and urgent question:

…   Exactly what constitutes interpersonally sensitive sexual touching at various ages prior to puberty has yet to be researched. Such research is necessary to understand what kind of childhood sexual touching is traumatogenic and when deprivation of interpersonally sensitive and age appropriate sexual touching becomes pathogenic…

Less bravely, but, hey, he had to get published, the author ducks away from extensive  anthropological evidence for normative adult-child sexual conduct in many cultures (Nieto, 2004). He writes:

“… traumatic experiences are most likely when adolescents or adults use pre-pubertal children as sex objects to facilitate orgasm. Such sexual practices do not appear to be normalized in cultures that allow limited playful or soothing fondling of infantile genitalia, observation of parental sexuality, and pre-pubertal playgroup sexual experimentation.”

So is he saying that fondling of infantile genitalia, etc., are not allowed among the Lepcha, for example, where “old men of eighty copulate with girls of eight, and nobody minds”? Or among the Sambia, where all small boys from age six or so are expected to fellate young bachelors? Actually, for men to fellate boys, as opposed to the boys being fellators, is definitely forbidden by the Sambia, so the answer to my query is not entirely obvious. I’d have thought, though, that even with this stricture in mind there would not necessarily be a bar on Sambia mothers fondling their children’s genitalia. Perhaps I should read Herdt’s famous studies of the Sambia more closely…

What I can say with confidence is that Josephs has made an unusual and useful contribution to the literature. Perhaps the best of it is that he has drawn the attention of psychologists, in particular (who read the Archives) to work from other disciplines: a range of inter-disciplinary perspectives is vital if progress is to be made in this complex field.

The importance of re-discovering the normality of children’s sexuality hardly needs to be impressed upon heretics here but it is worth noting the growing evidence of our failure to do so. I see that Freedom of information requests by The Sunday Times last month revealed that on average two “sex crimes” a day were reported last year from schools, two thirds of them “committed” by children, with a number of four- and five-year-olds among the “criminals”: Schools report four-year-olds for sex offences.



I was so busy moderating the comments to Lensman’s wonderful guest blogs recently that I omitted to mention a significant milestone: over 5,000 published comments since Heretic TOC was launched late in 2012. In the two and a half years since then there have been over 150 blogs and well over 180,000 “hits”, with the average running at above 200 per day this year.

The most remarkable feature by far, though, is surely the high proportion of comments that have been substantial and well argued contributions, rather than one-liners, some of them amounting to a blog in their own right. These comments now run to 256 online pages in the administration dashboard, totalling over three quarters of a million words! The blogs themselves, both my own and guest contributions, are usually around the 2,000-word mark, so these have notched up around 300,000 words. The total takes us well past a million words! Heretic TOC may be “not the dominant narrative” but its scale is becoming positively biblical!



The pre-WEIRD world, according to Rind


Dr Bruce Rind charts new territory in his latest published work. Or rather he newly charts some very old terrain, going deep into history and beyond, to the evolutionary origins of our sexuality. There are literally charts, six magnificent ones, each of which sets out a table of studies and a summary of their findings across a great swathe of fascinating erotica and exotica, with characteristic Rindian thoroughness.

Did you know, for instance, that “pederastic-like behaviour” is so pervasive among bighorn sheep that females will mimic young males in order to get sexual attention from the more mature males! Or that mature lyrebird males will follow an adolescent for hours, “serenading” him! Thought not! Such observations go way beyond “our” evolutionary origins, of course, if “we” refers specifically to humans rather than all animals.

So what is Rind up to? Is the good doctor such an eccentric, ivory tower academic that he has failed to notice humans are a somewhat different species to sheep and birds? Does he, with his obsessive systematising, falsely draw analogies between our sexuality and theirs? It would be an easy charge to level, of a kind often made in kneejerk fashion by those who are (albeit rightly) suspicious of genetic determinism. But would it stand up to scrutiny?

The work in question forms Chapter 1 of a new book called Censoring Sex Research: The Debate over Male Intergenerational Relations, which I mentioned late last year. In his introduction to the book, joint editor Thomas Hubbard tells us that in this new piece, which runs to 90 pages, “Dr Rind contextualizes his earlier analyses of psychological data through an aggressively interdisciplinary approach, showing that his earlier finding that male intergenerational relationships are usually not harmful is not as surprising or implausible as critics claim.” Actually, those earlier analyses covered man-girl contacts and other gender combinations as well. The fact that Rind sticks to “pederasty” (men with adolescent boys) in his new work is highly significant, in ways I’ll come to.

The chapter is called “Pederasty: An integration of empirical, historical, sociological, cross-cultural, cross-species, and evolutionary perspectives”. What he hopes to gain through this wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach is a way of judging scientifically whether a particular class of sexual behaviour is normal or abnormal, healthy or pathological. If the behaviour turns out to be extremely widespread and culturally accepted in other eras or cultures it becomes hard to argue that it is “abnormal” for humans, even if it is so regarded here and now. Also, a cross-species approach that demonstrates the prevalence of “pederastic-like behaviour” in other primates, or even across a wider range of animal life, would give strong grounds for believing that human pederasty had an evolved evolutionary function. To call it pathological in humans would then make little sense. Not that Rind feels we should accept the tyranny of normality, nor does he fall into the trap of the “naturalistic fallacy”: he is not suggesting that any behaviour to be found in nature is moral and good, only that behaviours should not be condemned as immoral and bad, or dysfunctional and harmful, on the basis of false information.

So, what does he find? Briefly, a lot. The six data sets summarised in his charts comprise studies of sexual relations between: (1) boys and women; (2) gay boys and men; (3) boys and men in history and across cultures; (4) immature male primates and mature ones; (5) immature male sub-primates and mature ones; (5) immature male birds and mature ones.

He starts with the easy stuff, so to speak, in order to make a relatively unassailable point straight away. Using formal academic studies, he demonstrates what would not so long ago have been considered so obvious as not to need demonstration: most adolescent boys are turned on by women. For most boys in their early teens having sex with a woman would not be seen as “abuse”. Far from seeing themselves as victims, they would be thrilled to the core by a dream come true. Same with gay boys and men: the evidence strongly suggests they like it, and why wouldn’t they? It’s when we get to “straight” boys and men that the picture becomes more counter-intuitive for those of us brought up in the developed, non-pederastic, world. Why would the boys be interested?

No, no, that’s a rhetorical question. Don’t all rush to answer! Many have done so already, notably Edward Brongersma in his enormous two-volume Loving Boys and Theo Sandfort with his structured interviews and psychometrics probing boys’ ongoing relationships with men. Quite recently Dave Riegel drew a lot of threads together in his paper “The role of androphilia in the psychosexual development of boys”, which notes that boys identify intensely with men as role models, often to the point of hero worship, and considers “the extent to which boys’ generalized inclinations to explore, experience, and enjoy their emerging masculinity in the company of older males” is also “manifested in their psychosexual developmental interests, desires, and activities”.

Rind draws on an immense range of anthropological and historical studies to demonstrate that it is the modern developed world that is unusual in not accepting pederasty: many other cultures have done so. Not for nothing is the acronym WEIRD (Western, Educated, and from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries) increasingly being used by social scientists to capture the exceptional nature of modernity. Even in our own times, he shows, it is possible for pederasty to be very positively experienced by boys. One case he cites is that of leading psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, who described a pederastic relationship with his tutor from the age of 11 in glowing terms. At a time when his parents’ marriage was deteriorating, his tutor helped him through it and “it was in some ways psychologically life-saving for me”. The relationship with the tutor was both emotional and sexual. He welcomed it at the time, even though he was destined to be heterosexual as an adult.

So far, I think, Rind is on strong ground. Likewise his trawl through studies first of primates (bonobos, gorillas, gibbons, monkeys, etc.) and then of sub-primates (from whales to rodents) and even the birds (but not the bees!), shows a huge range of species in which “pederastic-like” behaviour can be found in abundance.

What is also clear, though, is that Rind has a much tougher job on his hands when he invokes evolutionary psychology to explain all this sexual activity between adult and adolescent males. And what is a good deal less clear is the implications of his ideas for modern society, bearing in mind that we are so WEIRD, and most of us would not wish to be otherwise.

Now there are many heretics who jump at the idea that pederasty is deeply rooted in nature and has performed a useful or even vital function for many species, including our own. But we should be careful what we wish for. We may discover that pederasty was indeed an adaptive trait at one time, giving better survival chances to social groups in which it played a part. We may also find, though, that it has outlived its usefulness. Whether that is true or not could turn upon what life was like tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago, in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA) when we were gatherers and hunters. Rind bases his ideas on the view, which is not as uncontroversial as he seems to think, that not only was there a permanent struggle for survival – which is the firmly established bedrock of evolutionary theory – but also that this struggle was typically expressed not just in terms of being predators (hunters) and avoiding falling prey to other species, but also via battling for resources against our own kind: in other words, frequent warfare, possibly also including predation (cannibalism). Rind accordingly paints a picture of primitive bands, or tribes, in near-permanent conflict, such that it was utterly vital for boys to “man up” drastically as early as possible, leading to cultures characterised by fierce initiation rites – so ferocious in the case of some surviving hunter-gather cultures studied in the last century or two that they could and did prove fatal for weak or unlucky boys.

Rind proposes a “mentorship-bonding/enculturation-alliance hypothesis” arising from this scenario, in which there were four ways in which pederasty helped the male group replicate itself: (a) mentoring in skills and social demeanour (including “manning up”); (b) bonding, to which pederasty’s erotic character contributed; (c) enculturation into the practices and ideologies of the group; (d) cementing alliances with other group members that were essential for teamwork in hunting and warfare.

These days, as Rind observes, we do our “hunting” at the supermarket. Boys do not need to be all that tough. He also suggests that manhood in the rugged sense is an evolved capacity not an irresistible drive, noting that in isolated societies such old Tahiti, where warfare was not endemic, men were not tougher than women and there was a high degree of gender equality, as in our WEIRD world.

What Rind fails to acknowledge, though, is that the capacity for men being tough – which certainly exists and so must have evolved – may or may not have co-evolved with pederasty in the EEA. He provides absolutely zero evidence (such as might be obtained from gene sequencing and metrics of heritability) that pederasty is anything other than a cultural response to environmental conditions, just as the relatively gentle ways of Tahitian manhood developed culturally in response to living on a remote island where food was plentiful and they were not under constant danger of attack. No genetic change was required in order to induce this radically different pattern of behaviour. Biologist Eric Alcorn, in Chapter 5 of the book, provides a detailed and to my mind compelling critique of Rind’s evolutionary hypothesis, dismissing it as just the latest in a long and inglorious line of speculative “just so” stories thrown up by the not very disciplined discipline known as evolutionary psychology.

As Alcorn concedes, that does not mean Rind is wrong, only that there is no reason to believe he is right. I would add that he may be wrong for two scientific reasons. Frankly, I hope he is, for two ethical ones.

Firstly, so far as the science is concerned, his hypothesis relies on group selection, which has been enjoying a revival recently but is still controversial. The idea is resisted with near apoplectic fury by no less a figure than the distinguished biologist Richard Dawkins: it gets him even crosser than religion!

Secondly, Rind implicitly relies upon Napoleon, who has been all-conquering for decades but may be about to meet his Waterloo – Napoleon Chagnon, that is, the anthropologist whose work underpins the idea that our hunter-gatherer forebears were almost perpetually at war. His book Yanomamö: The Fierce People, published in 1968, became the all-time bestselling anthropological text. Critics of Chagnon and his successors, however, have shown that this celebrated ethnography of a spectacularly violent tribe of the Amazon-Orinoco watershed region was not based on a pristine society such as would have existed in the EEA at all: the tribe’s culture had already been significantly impacted by the outside world for well over a hundred years before Chagnon studied them. Also, there is a reason to believe the struggle between humans for resources would have been nothing like as intensive and violent in the EEA as it later became: during the greater part of mankind’s evolutionary history, our numbers were very small and the amount of territory available for gathering and hunting was literally boundless: instead of fighting neighbouring tribes over the right to hunt or gather in a particular area, there was always the possibility of moving to pastures new – well, not pastures but forests and savannahs in the first instance.

As for ethics, Rind’s investigations bring to mind two questions of social justice: gender equality is a very salient one; less obvious, but just as important, is the injustice that would inevitably arise as a result of privileging pederasty at the expense of other forms of adult-minor attraction, especially man-girl love and man-boy love when the child is prepubescent.

To be fair to Rind, he is not advocating pederasty in today’s world (except perhaps covertly, based on an unstated critique of modern values). Although he credibly insists it used to have a positive function, he concedes it is an evolutionary mismatch today. He likens the modern-day pederast to a naturally light-coloured moth:

“The modern-day pederast is like the moth with a light-coloring mechanism transported to an industrialized, sooted environment, in which the mechanism is functioning as designed but this functioning now imperils the moth” as it has lost its protective camouflage against predators. “Pederasty”, Rind continues later on the same page, “is currently gravely at odds with the social structure and cultural ideologies, especially since their modifications in the 1970s. Therefore, when it occurs now in particular cases, it is likely to be occurring far outside the context associated with its design, devoid of mentoring, bonding and group purpose. Its occurrence is prone to being tainted with opprobrium and a sense of exploitation and violence.”

As Alcorn astutely observed, the vivid metaphor of the moth subtly paints modern society as an agent not of progress but of sooty pollution. In some ways I think this is true, but not in the way Rind seems to imply. His elegiac remarks look to a romanticised past in which pederasty functioned well as a legitimate marriage of apprenticeship and male bonding. Fine, but it is a bit rich to join in with the usual badmouthing of modern pederastic experiences because of their supposed (often wrongly) association with violence when – as is implicit in Rind’s own account – pederasty arose almost entirely in a context of training for violence. The raison d’être of the man-boy bond was to turn soft mummy’s boys into utterly ruthless, hard-as-nails, warriors who wouldn’t hesitate to wipe out other tribes, including their children.

The societies for which Rind is apparently so nostalgic really have nothing to commend them. They thrived in a world of violent male dominance and hence extreme gender inequality, which was a recipe for every kind of horror. Ghastly as extremist modern feminism has become, with its cult of victimhood, we would not wish to return to the brutal kill-or-be-killed world in which Rind’s vision of pederasty thrived.

But was it really like that? Read “How to raise a child the hunter-gatherer way”, from Jared Diamond’s recent book The World Until Yesterday, and a totally different picture emerges, based on a more balanced appraisal of hunter-gatherer lifestyles than it is possible to take from Rind’s pages. Instead of the Hobbesian nightmare envisioned by Rind, in which pre-civilized life is seen as merely “nasty, brutish and short”, we learn of cultures that are genuinely worth imitating by the modern world in some important ways, including greater freedom for children (girls as well as boys) and their sexual expression from a very early age. These were societies with distinct gender roles, but not necessarily with great gender inequality or grossly unjust inequalities of any kind. It is only materially much richer societies – starting with agricultural ones – which allow individuals and classes to become hugely rich and powerful, unfair and oppressive.

By contrast, Rind’s dubious privileging of pederasty as a functionally evolved form of adult-adolescent sexuality is by his own admission redundant in terms of any applicability in modern society. Furthermore, his blinkered vision utterly ignores the situation not only of women but specifically of girls. Only men’s sexual relationships with adolescent boys appear to interest him. It is as though, for Rind, girls simply do not exist or are of no account. As a consequence, the pressing question of how children of both sexes can be brought up in a happier and more self-determining way amidst the endemic hysteria of modernity is not addressed. All that Rind leaves us with, in the end, are reasons to reject his special pleading on behalf of long-dead pederastic cultures. After giving us so much interesting information, that is a pity.

Making virtues of ‘necessity’ and ignorance


Many thanks, first of all, to all those who have contributed such excellent posts to a lively debate here at Heretic TOC in response to last week’s blog by the Virtuous Pedophiles. So, what are we left with after the blog itself plus some 7,000 words of comment? I think it will be a useful exercise for me not so much to sum up all this diverse input as to single out a few key themes. In doing so, I am also taking into account a further 3,000 words of email debate, to which I was privy, initiated by psychologist Prof. J. Michael Bailey earlier this month. This too was mainly an encounter between the same VPs and a couple of the heretical contributors here.

Because I aim to encourage thought, I do not propose to dwell overlong on the weaker aspects of the VP contribution, which heretics ably dissected. The strengths – and there were good points – are where we need to focus.

Briefly, then, let us get the downside out of the way first. Heretics pointed out a contradiction in the VP position. The VPs’ message to the non-MAP public is that adult-minor sexual contacts are always wrong; they tell us here, too, that in their minds and hearts they foreswear any other view. But they also say “under certain circumstances, we could reconsider”. Sugarboy’s response was “it seems that you have no ideals to fight for other than those that meet the majority’s approval. In other words, you make a virtue of necessity.”

Virtue or not, necessity will prevail by definition; accommodating to it is thus wise, not a weakness in itself. Ethan reminded us of a famous prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Wise words indeed; but they are all too readily seized upon as a pat excuse for complacent passivity. It is significant that Ethan did not mention these words from the same prayer:

Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right

The VPs’ hidden agenda, I suggest, is the same: we should leave the heavy lifting to God, whose conspicuous absence from the affairs of man has always seemed, to a non-believer like me, a huge embarrassment for the faithful. Be that as it may. My quarrel here is not with God, or believers, but with those who lack the stomach to fight for change and the vision to see possibilities for it – and indeed its necessity. I will come to those possibilities in due course.

I will just add here that the most necessary and urgent aspect of change is to halt the rapid criminalisation of children as sex offenders, an issue to which the VPs seem callously indifferent. They casually say VPs “have no problem with children experimenting sexually with similarly aged peers”. But if they had an ounce of compassion and social concern beyond the narrow horizon of saving their own skins they would have a problem with it, the problem being that such “experimental” encounters are becoming ever more subject to oppressive surveillance and eradication measures. Even at kindergarten, sexual encounters between kids these days are said to be “perpetrated” by a child who is an “abuser”, as noted in an earlier blog, Being a predator is child’s play. There is no sex play for kids any more. The VPs react to this burgeoning new victim narrative with a shrug of indifference: not our problem! Leave it to the experts!

Likewise, they very dangerously leave therapy for distressed MAPs in the hands of presumed experts without apparently asking any of the right questions or insisting on proper standards. This would make a blog on its own. At this point I would just like to thank Gary Gibson from the therapy outfit for turning up here. Gary, I may at some point want to ask you some of the questions the VPs are failing to deal with.

For the moment, I will just note the irony embedded in Niebuhr’s modern (20th century) Christian conservatism: if the early Christians had “wisely” weighed up the odds of their success in the days when they were being fed to the lions, they would certainly have given up!

The real weakness in VP’s position is making a virtue not of true necessity, which makes sense, but of a false “necessity”, in which the status quo is pusillanimously presented as inevitable. They manage to justify this lack of animation by keeping their eyes squeezed shut in order to block out the evidence that would support fighting for radical change. Thus, in order to make a virtue of “necessity” they must first make a virtue of ignorance! Ethan is quite explicit about it, saying “we bring no special knowledge to the table” about what is best for children. He shamelessly abdicates responsibility for informing himself on the subject, preferring to leave it all to the experts. While there is such a thing as genuine expertise in developmental psychology and so forth, should we be wholly reliant upon it? Based on the track record of scientists, who not so long ago were telling us that masturbation makes you go mad and that criminality can be detected from the shape of our heads (and who now insist paedophiles are on average a bit dim) this is clearly foolish.

This proudly proclaimed ignorance does not, however, inhibit the VPs from making unsupported assertions, such as “Children do not benefit from sex with adults, even if no harm is done.” On the contrary, it enables the VPs to do so with confidence, safe in the knowledge (their vestigial, minuscule bit of knowledge!) that their ignorance is invincible: they know that if they are confronted with evidence they can just stick their fingers in their ears and sing “La, la, la, can’t hear you. The experts know best. La, la la.”

This is not the time to go into detailed evidence showing that even in contemporary circumstances some children do benefit a great deal from sexual relationships with adults, or to expand on the positive possibilities that would attend a more liberated social vision. I will confine myself to mentioning that some such evidence was presented by T. Rivas, as discussed on Heretic TOC in A positive sighting of 118 black swans. I should also take this opportunity to plug a 90-page chapter in a new book in which a vast amount of evidence is presented on the positive side of man-boy sexual relationships. This is a long-censored paper with multiple perspectives on pederasty, by Bruce Rind: hence its appearance in a book called Censoring Sex Research. I hope to be blogging about this book and a related conference shortly.

Rind, significantly, is quoted out of context by Nick, as Ovid noted, in a fallacious bid to distance the fabled psychologist from claims that adult-child sex might be beneficial. This too is a product of ignorance – or, at least, I will charitably assume it arose from ignorance on Nick’s part rather than mendacity.

If making virtues of non-virtuous things (“necessity” and ignorance) are salient VP weaknesses, what about the strengths of their analysis? I believe they are correct in their claim that a measure of acceptance, in some circles at least, could be gained by those who loudly proclaim their adherence to mainstream moral opinions. As Sean noted, though:

Unfortunately, this amounts to a significant contraction of what Noam Chomsky has called ‘the bounds of thinkable thought’. Such thought policing has seldom brought positive changes to society and there’s no reason to think it will bring any to the predicament of paedophiles in the 21st C. It’s apparent that the worthy goal of ‘child protection’ readily devolves into a punitive, repressive, sex negative ideology that criminalizes and pathologizes not just sexual assault but normal childhood sexuality and sexual rehearsal. In fact, there is reason to believe that many ‘child protection’ initiatives are stalking horses for even more sinister authoritarian agendas, such as state assaults on free speech and increased domestic surveillance.

But the VPs have a significant counter-narrative. In an email, Ethan paints a rosy, even panglossian, picture of modern life compared to the past, the strength of his account lying in its element of truth. He celebrates the empowerment of women, the decoupling of sex and reproduction thanks to effective contraception, and intolerance of sex crimes such as date rape. As for children in earlier societies, they were “routinely abused physically and psychologically. In this context, unwanted sexual activity with adults might have seemed minor.” He is right to present a challenge to the idea of lost golden ages in which everyone could frolic freely together in some bucolic paradise of carefree intimacy. In most times and places life has been much harsher than it is for most of us today, both in the struggle for sheer survival and in the often brutal customs bred by such struggle. Ethan’s account, indeed, came dangerously near to being persuasive, as though – heaven forfend! – it might be based on something other than pure ignorance! Were it not for the fact that he appears never to read anything (despite having a PhD in psychology from one of the world’s leading universities), I might suspect he had been glancing at the odd page by Lloyd deMause, the “psychohistorian” who has presented history as a series of eras, each slightly less bleak for children than the last, culminating in our present relatively caring times. This simplistically progressive Mausian view has been criticised as grounded in a highly selective history of child abuse rather than a history of childhood. But I would not expect Ethan to have read enough to discover that much!

Peter Loudon, in reply, also astutely observed a fallacy in Ethan’s view:

One fallacy we all fall for is to regard the place we are now (in history) as being the place everything in the past was aiming for. The fact that we keep moving on means that this is not correct, and could apply to your assessment of where we currently stand…The price we have paid for security, immunity from dying in war, etc. is a succession of generations of people who have neither imagination nor initiative, and have traded life for obesity and a PlayStation. Everyone is held hostage to the threat of the paedophile and so no longer does anything outside or physical. Huge numbers of children suffer from ADHD.

The VPs have two even stronger points though. Firstly, they say radical activism by self-declared MAPs is doomed: MAP action on behalf of children, especially, will inevitably be discredited as self-interested. Discreet work for youth under some other designation than MAP would be more helpful, they say. I agree! Personally, having long been upfront as a MAP, such an option would not be open to me. Does that mean I would do well just to shut up? In terms of outreach to the wider public, maybe so. I do see a continuing public education role, however, for Heretic TOC and any other forums with a MAP presence which present the issues in a rational, informative and morally defensible way.

Ponder this: several times in Heretic TOC’s one-year history, the daily hit-rate has shot up massively for a while, by many hundreds, thanks to being mentioned in a hostile way on sites such as David Icke’s. Many of these people can be expected to have rummaged around the website in the expectation of being outraged. One might suppose these potentially very angry visitors would do their damnedest to set the comments pages alight with their flaming. Well, guess what? They don’t! I have not been flamed or trolled even once in 2013 so far as I can recall. Yes, they know that on a moderated site the flame would be trashed, but even so… My theory is that thousands of people go away less angry than they expected to be, and perhaps even a bit impressed. Am I wrong? If so, tell me why.

The VPs second strong point is that radical MAP activists have been reduced to talking among ourselves. This, too, is largely true. But, as my last point suggests, this does not necessarily make the exercise useless. Our actions are very, very constrained by the law and by public opinion. That being the case, we need to think, and websites such as this enable us to do so. Speaking for myself, I am too old and clapped out to lead any sort of revolution, for which in any case I lack the necessary attributes: I am more interested in “calling it as I see it” than doing all the tough alliance-building and strategy stuff that more political types do. But that need not stop younger people here from finding an opportunity to think things through and perhaps be inspired to great works.

Finally, I would point out that society is changing so quickly that none of us can really grasp how things will pan out. The western developed world has within a few decades undergone not one but several cultural revolutions, including non-marital partnerships, gay liberation and the empowerment of women. The new electronic technologies are now shifting things massively again: every kind of pornography except child porn has become ubiquitous, and is making a big impact – some of it good, some perhaps not – on the sexual sophistication of kids from late pre-puberty onwards. In this feverish climate it is by no means certain that the present panicky reaction of the conservatives, with their ever greater emphasis on surveillance and suppression, can hold the line. Children exploring and copying what they see, especially as they get into their second decade, may have a profound influence: we already have sexting and sexy selfies, and that’s only the start of it. In years to come it may prove technically impossible to hide child porn from most kids, too, including its more pleasantly erotic manifestations, in which the participants are seen to be enthusiastically engaged. Where would that take us? In those circumstances the currently dominant abuse narrative would suffer sudden catastrophic collapse, even though it now seems so solid.

It would be helpful, to put it mildly, for radical MAPs rather than VPs to be visible in the midst of such an eventuality, and for them to seize the day, in order to build a newly positive narrative. For such possibilities we need to be prepared.

The missing mechanism of harm


The “virtuous” debate over the last few days (see latest two previous posts) has been a remarkably lively one, and genuinely virtuous as regards the courteous terms in which it has been conducted. My thanks to all who have taken part. Much was asserted from the self-styled virtuous side about the potential harmfulness of adult-child sexual contacts. It is very timely, then, that I have just received a piece submitted by Dave Riegel as a guest blog which addresses this issue based on information rather than speculation. A remarkable aspect of this piece which I have not seen formally set out before is that those who are so loud on the subject of harm have no explanation as to how harm could be intrinsic to non-coerced sexual contacts: hence the “missing mechanism” of the title.

Dave started his extensive researches and writing in retirement. He has had a number of articles published in peer-reviewed journals, including the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior. He has pioneered the use of internet surveys to reach minor-attracted persons, especially BLs, thus providing a valuable source of information not reached by research based on clinical and offender samples. As will be seen, his guest blog is formatted like an academic article, complete with Abstract and References. Dave tells me he may develop and refine it further for journal publication.

The Missing Mechanism of Harm


For decades there have been claims that all sexual interactions between children and older persons “. . . cause harm, [that] this harm is pervasive, . . . [is] likely to be intense, . . . [and] is an equivalent experience for boys and girls . . .” (Rind, Bauserman, and Tromovitch 1998, p. 22). [1] There is, however, no mechanism (anon, 2013) offered as to how these sexual interactions actually cause harm, and, as noted by Bailey, “a surprising . . . lack of scientific evidence” (2011, p. 3) for these claims. Clancy (2009) took the position that at least initial trauma is a “myth,” and as far back as 1981, Constantine described the effects of interference based on this assumed/assigned harmfulness as “psychonoxious” (p. 241). This paper reviews a sampling of the literature in this area, takes issue with these unsupported claims, and argues that, instead, much real damage is done by assuming the existence of intrinsic harm when the only harm that occurs apparently is extrinsic.

One of the earliest proposals for this assumed damage is to be found in Finkelhor (1979), where he presented his research data purporting to show intrinsic harm from boy/older male sexually expressed interactions. However, when this research was shown to have a “near-fatal skew” (Sandfort, 1987, p.9) and to have been based on “a loaded questionnaire . . . ” (Bauserman, 1990, p. 305), Finkelhor abandoned any pretext of scientific objectivity and fell back on subjective “moral issues” as the “final arbiter” of the question:

 Ultimately, I do continue to believe that the prohibition on adult-child sexual contact is primarily a moral issue. While empirical findings have some relevance they are not the final arbiter. . . . . Some types of social relationships violate deeply held values and principles in our culture about equality and self-determination. Sex between adults and children is one of them (Finkelhor, 1990, p. 314).

Finkelhor did not extend his emphases on the above mentioned “equality and self-determination” to juveniles; he instead presumes to impose unilateral judgment on what they may or may not do with their own sexuality. “Victimology,” as his model came to be known, and his principal theme, “child sexual abuse” (CSA), dwell on unidirectional, assumedly traumatic “sex between adults and children.” Ondersma et al. (2001) also asserted that CSA is “a moral and legal term. . . with a sociological [i.e “opinion based”] rather than an empirical [i.e., “fact based”] foundation.” Victimology, which seems to be more concerned with the social control of juveniles than with understanding them as they really are, also largely ignores the documented examples of children willingly seeking out sexual encounters with older persons (e. g. Bender & Blau, 1937; Sandfort, 1987).

As for the significance of “deeply held values and principles in our culture,” it is well to remember that for over 200 years eminent “social scientists” like Finkelhor steadfastly “held” that young male masturbation resulted in everything from acne to lunacy, and it was only in the 1950s that this “masturbation insanity” finally was dismissed as the utter nonsense it had always been (e.g. Hare, 1962; Laqueur, 2003). Finkelhor and Brown (1985, 1986, etc.) have offered an elaborate scheme of “traumagenic dynamics,” but they still failed to provide a valid mechanism as to how a willing sexually expressed boy/older male interaction becomes harmful. Clancy also admitted that she “cannot offer a clear theoretical model as to exactly how and why sexual abuse damages victims” (2009, p. 142).

From a non-sociological and strictly physical point of view, it seems reasonable and likely that most boys would, apart from and prior to cultural negative brainwashing, find gentle stimulation of their penis pleasurable, whether they do it to/for themselves, or they willingly allow/encourage another person to participate. So why and how do such experiences become “harmful?” If the boy is coerced, or if some aspect of the experience becomes emotionally or physically distressing, then the potential for harm exists. But if a willing boy initially finds the incident pleasant and desirable, only iatrogenic outside influence would seem to be able to “reconceptualize” (Clancy, 2009, p. 121) it into “harm.” Kilpatrick also posed a very relevant question: “What has been harmed—the child or the moral code?” (1987, p.179).

Sex is basically simplistic and instinctive, especially for boys. Wilson noted “Priests, doctors, psychiatrists, and others have invested sex with magical powers . . . [but boys] . . . saw sex as being no more than just a game. . . ” (1981, pp. 129-130) whose principal purposes and motivations would seem to be the simple physical pleasures of arousal and orgasm. As such, any requirement for formalized “consent” is irrelevant; simple “willingness” is more than adequate for such initially uncluttered and essentially inconsequential experiences. However, denying this instinctual drive has the very real potential for emotional frustration and social maladjustment (Prescott, 1975).

While the sexophobia that is the basis and fundamental principle of victimology must be learned from an outside source before consensual sex can be twisted into something negative, any unwanted and unwilling sexual encounter has the potential for harm, not from the sex, but from the intrinsic infringement of the victim’s self-determination. This is true with males and females, with adults as well as children, and no attempt is made here to excuse or justify such violations.

It is unpleasant to be reminded, but the social sciences have a long history of getting things horribly wrong, from the hyper-behaviorism of Watson and Skinner through “repressed/recovered memories” (Loftus & Ketcham, 1994), “disassociative identity disorder” (Piper & Merskey, 2004), and “Satanic ritual abuse” (Nathan & Snedecker, 1995), to mention just a sampling. The decades-long gradual exorcism of homosexuality as a harm-based mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association is well known, as is the previously mentioned depathologization of masturbation insanity. The current victimological assumption of harm in regards to sexually expressed boy/older male relationships has neither objective foundations nor offers any rational mechanism of cause. It is not logically defensible, and needs to be superseded by fact based and empirically supported legitimate science.


anon. (2013) Mechanism of Harm. Internet posting by “shy guy” 22 January 2013:

Bauserman, R. (1990). Objectivity and ideology: Criticism of Theo Sandfort’s research on man-boy sexual relations. In T. Sandfort, E. Brongersma, & A. van Naerssen (Eds.) Male Intergenerational Intimacy. Binghamton NY: Harrington Park. 297-312).

Bailey, J. M. (2011). Book Review: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-011-9842-1

Bender, L. & Blau, A. (1937). The reaction of children to sexual relations with adults. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 7, 500-518.

Clancy, S. (2009). The Trauma Myth. New York: Basic Books.

Constantine, L. (1981). The Effects of Early Sexual Experiences. In L. Constantine & F. Martinson (Eds.) Children and Sex: New Findings, New Perspectives. Boston: Little-Brown.

Finkelhor, D. (1979). Sexually victimized children. New York: Free Press.

Finkelhor, D. (1990). Response to Bauserman. In T. Sandfort, E. Brongersma, & A. van Naerssen (Eds.) Male Intergenerational Intimacy. Binghamton NY: Harrington Park 313-315.

Finkelhor, D. & Browne, A. (1985). The traumatic impact of child sexual abuse: A conceptualization. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55(4), 530-541.

Finkelhor, D. & Browne, A. (1986). Initial and long-term effects: A conceptual framework. In D. Finkelhor; S. Araji; L. Baron; A. Browne; S. Peters; G. Wyatt(Eds.) A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. pp. 180-196.

Hare, E. (1962). Masturbatory insanity: the history of an idea. Journal of Mental Science, 108, 1-25

Janus, S., & Bess, B. (1981). Latency: fact or fiction? In L. Constantine & F. Martinson (Eds.) Children and sex. New findings, new perspectives.(pp. 75-82). Boston: Little Brown.

Kilpatrick, A. (1987) Childhood sexual experiences: Problems and issues in studying long-range effects, Journal of Sex Research, 23:2, 173-196

Laqueur, T. (2003). Solitary sex. A cultural history of masturbation. New York: Zone.

Loftus, E.F. & Ketcham, K. (1994) The Myth of Repressed Memory. NY: St. Martin’s.

Nathan, D. & Snedecker, M. (1995). Satan’s Silence. New York: Basic Books.

Ondersma, S., Chafin, M., Berliner, L., Cordon, I., Goodman, G., & Barnett, D. (2001) Sex with children is abuse. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 707-714.

Piper A., & Merskey H. (2004). The persistence of folly: a critical examination of dissociative identity disorder. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 49 (9): 592–600.

Prescott, J. (1975). Body pleasure and the origin of violence. The Futurist, IX, (2) 64-74.

Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., Bauserman, R. (1998) A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 22-53

Sandfort, T. (1987). Boys on their contacts with men. Elmhurst, NY: Global Academic.

Wilson, P. (1981). The man they called a monster. North Melbourne, Australia: Cassell.

[1] Note: Some of the evidence and arguments offered in this essay are to some degree applicable to other younger/older gender combinations (girl/older male, etc.), but there is evidence that boys are more forward in sexual explorations (Janus & Bess, 1981), likely to seek out older males for information (Sandfort, 1987), and less prone to experience the assumed/assigned harm cited by Rind et al. (1998).

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