LSM interviews Yours Truly

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Leonard Sisyphus Mann, distinguished guest blogger here at Heretic TOC, has interviewed me for his own blog, Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans, focusing on my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons – how it came to be written, for instance, and the high drama over its publication, including a ferocious and sustained attack against the book from thousands of Jackson fans around the globe, even before its appearance.

The first part of the two-part interview is scheduled for publication tomorrow evening, so you might want to watch out for it. Also included is a Special Offer – a bargain price for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, exclusive to readers of Consenting A̶d̶u̶l̶t̶s̶ Humans. The second part is due to follow a week later, on Wednesday 19 April.

So, that’s it for now, just the above brief news item: short, but sufficient, I trust, to pique some interest.

Willy power and ‘the will to power’

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Women are apt to chastise us guys for being ruled by our dicks, and there is no shortage of high-profile cases that would seem to prove them right. Time and again, prominent figures such as Bill Clinton have fallen from grace thanks to sexual indiscretions of a crazily risky kind, temptations to which they could only have succumbed if their brains were being bypassed at the time.

When a Kind man finds himself in trouble over an illicit relationship, no matter how consensual, the outcome is of course much more serious than for a politician, whose job and reputation may be at stake but not his liberty. Likewise the politician’s femme fatale may well find herself rocketed to fame, fortune and a great social life by the “scandal” in question, as did Monica Lewinsky, whereas the child partners in paedophilic relationships are all too often traumatised by their “rescue”.

Occasionally we encounter an interesting hybrid category where comedy and tragedy meet in equal measure. Did you hear the latest about Simon Danczuk? He is the MP, it will be recalled, who made his name by damning a deceased fellow MP as a paedophile and then setting off a false alarm about an allegedly widespread Westminster VIP paedophilia scandal. He was recently suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old girl. He reportedly admitted “inappropriate” behaviour, saying that younger women were his “Achilles heel” and that he needed therapy for sex addiction. And a week or so ago he ended up being arrested and put in a Spanish jail cell after an altercation with his ex-wife that saw her reportedly suffering cuts and bruises leading to hospital treatment.

Just the sort of person to lead a moral crusade against sexual transgression, eh? In rueful mood, the 49-year-old politician apparently said of himself “No fool like an old fool”. To which Heretic TOC would add, no hypocrite like a morally fulminating, anti-Kind hypocrite! Methinks it be not too un-Kindly to savour a modicum of schadenfreude over his downfall!

Most of us Kinds, fortunately, have our sexuality under control, unlike Danczuk and his ilk. I like to think we keep our ethical standards and our public stance on sexual morality under scrutiny as well, especially here at Heretic TOC, so that our private and public attitudes are kept in harmony. It is called integrity: as the dictionary puts it, “The quality of being honest (my emphasis) and having strong moral principles” and also “The state of being whole and undivided”. The private and public standards of the hypocrite, by contrast, are sharply divided. They are neither honest nor moral; and they lack integrity.

But we must beware of complacent self-satisfaction. Yes, our private beliefs and our public stance may fit well together as an honest and coherent whole. But how have we arrived at them? Are our beliefs just rationalisations of our desires, making our stance just as false as that of the hypocrites?

Ernest Jones introduced the term “rationalisation” to psychoanalysis in 1908, defining it as “the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action the motive of which is not recognised”. It was an explanation which (though false) could seem plausible. The term has generally been used ever since by psychologists and psychiatrists to refer to false beliefs. However, when someone’s beliefs appear to be self-serving it is all too easy to accuse them of rationalising even when their beliefs are true.

It is one of the many sticks our opponents use to beat us. In their hands it is a rhetorical device to discredit any arguments and evidence we might bring to bear in support of our position, without having to go to the trouble of refuting the arguments or probing the evidence. As such, it is an ad hominem argument: it plays the man not the ball.

As the admirable Leonard Sisyphus Mann pointed out in his Consenting Humans blog:

Even proving conclusively that an opponent has a personal stake in the arguments he’s making does not invalidate, or even weaken, the position they are arguing for: it is perfectly possible to argue something out of self-interest and be correct: many English slave owners actually supported the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act because domestic manufacturing was becoming more lucrative than their plantations, and the huge compensation that parliament was proposing to pay slave owners for loss of their property would allow them to cash in a failing resource and invest in that increasingly lucrative domestic industry – indeed the mills of the North of England were built on the proceeds of this compensation.

Mann cites Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless, who wrote that we must not make “the foolish mistake of supposing that we can settle controversies by… labelling their arguments ‘rationalisation’… A true opinion as well as a false one may owe much of its strength to irrational motives.” The main value of an alertness to rationalisation, says Mann, is a reflexive one: “An alertness to rationalisation is primarily a tool for sorting out our own thinking rather than that of others.”

Having said that, being Kind in our society may afford us a degree of immunity against self-serving rationalisation that is not afforded to those with mainstream sexual tastes. Clinton was apparently able to convince himself (and for a while fool others) by rationalising that he did not have sex with Lewinsky, based on sex being defined as coitus not oral sex: she gave him head but they did not screw. Can you imagine Kind people making that argument, even in the privacy of our own heads, to deceive only ourselves? I don’t think so, not when oral sex with a minor counts as rape and we have constantly dinned into us that even looking at pictures of naked kids is somehow horrific. We can and do reject such characterisations, but society is on our case so much that we cannot get away with superficial excuses: we are forced to think much more deeply than Clinton ever needed to.

Even so, we are not totally immune. There are those among us, for instance, who take a cynical view of morality in general, like Red, the BL hero of Rod Downey’s novel The Moralist. Our reasoned choices, Red insists, are just “a second-generation copy of desire”: everyone, not just Kinds, makes up their morality to suit themselves. Everyone rationalises.

In essence Red is a Nietzschean. Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morality, made his famous distinction between master morality and slave morality. Stripped to its basics, it amounts to an assertion that being “good” is a mug’s game. That’s just for losers, notably those without power, such as slaves, including the early Christians when they were being persecuted and martyred by the pagan Romans. Instead of doing whatever they wanted, which was the philosophy of the winners, or the ruling masters of society, the Christians had to settle for “good” behaviour and hoping their reward would come not in this life but the next, in heaven.

The master morality, by contrast, is seen as noble. Instead of abasing himself before God, and repenting his sins in the Christian manner, the moral aristocrat has a keen sense of his own self-worth, such that “good” is whatever seems good to him, not to some censorious authority, whether divine or secular. “The noble type of man,” Nietzsche wrote, “experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, ‘what is harmful to me is harmful in itself’; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.”  The strong-willed man values such things as good, because they aid him in a lifelong process of self-actualisation through what Nietzsche called “the will to power”.

It is a philosophy that seems very plausible as developed in Downey’s novel, on account of Red being a very appealing character. He is a romantic figure, a revolutionary. He is glamorous. He has style. He cuts a dash. And, most important of all, the boy he loves admires and loves him too.

But what if the hero were a little more flawed? It’s a point I took up in my review of the book some years ago:

Let’s imagine Hannibal Lekter saying to himself “What I want is good.” What he famously wants is to eat people. So why can’t we accept this as morally acceptable? Is it just because we happen to have different wants? Is it because most of us (presumably) do not wish to eat people? No, it is because we do not wish to be eaten. Hannibal’s wants are inconsistent with ours, so we need some system – some reasoned, principled system we can agree on – to arbitrate between competing wants. This engages law as well as morality, but both systems of restrictions on behaviour ultimately derive their authority from beliefs as to what is harmful.

Downey goes some way to tackle the Lekter factor. His hero’s morality is thus based not just on any old whimsical desires a body might have, but on love. It is right and good to follow our hearts, to be guided by our desires. But the major and highly disputable premise is that we will all wish to act with love. Well, that’s still no problem for Hannibal Lekter. He just loves eating people!

According to Red, “The moral struggle is not between good and evil, right and wrong, but self and society.” But “society” is not just government, it is not just authority telling us what to do. It is us, as well as them. It speaks volumes about our alienation in modern society that we lose sight of this. Other people – friends, family, lovers, colleagues – all want subjective “good” things that differ both subtly and drastically from one person to another. The way out of the problems this creates is the mutually advantageous resort to reason and, yes, moral principle. This need not result in the tightly defined codes and rules that are the authoritarian’s paradise. It does not imply God-given fundamental truths as to what is good, but rather a consensus of shared feelings between all the interested parties – a consensus that is easier to achieve in small communities, albeit less universal and more questionable on that account as well.

So the Nietschzean “will to power” is not enough. And we all know how disastrous the philosophy of “will” was to become in the hands of the Nazis, when it was extended from individual self- actualisation to the collective will of the “Aryan race” and the glorification of the German Reich. Compared to Hitler, Hannibal Lekter is just a lovable eccentric!

Rather than stepping onto the slippery slope that begins with the “will to power” and ends with Triumph of the Will, world war and genocide, we should admit that moral discipline is necessary. That doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to a triumph of the willy (and fanny!) It just means we must be vigilant in challenging our own rationalisations.

 

LOTTERY-LEVEL WIN FOR COMPO KID

The Los Angeles Times reports that a former student who impregnated a California high-school teacher at the age of 17 has received a $6 million compensation settlement from the school district.

But compensation for what? For being a teenager over the age of consent (over the British AOC at least) who was lucky enough to have a consensual relationship with a young woman who is now 29?

They have to be joking don’t they? If this is victimhood, there must be millions of teenage boys (and younger!) who would bust their asses for a part of it.

Yet this is what Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the unnamed “victim”, reportedly said about the astronomical damages award:

“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student.”

No evidence as to the “damage” done to the now 21-year-old “victim” is presented in the LA Times story, which is otherwise quite lengthy. Arguably, the baby could be considered collateral “damage” of the relationship. Nothing was said about who will be bearing the cost of the child’s upbringing but the “victim” has joint custody with the mother. This financial burden could account for part of the settlement, but $6 million? The infant could have gold-plated diapers for that sort of money, and more than enough for a decent upbringing through to college graduation.

Humble or haughty, nasty is naughty

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When New York-based journalist Paul Willis, from a newish online outfit called VICE News, emailed me early in December, I was not overly excited by his proposition.

In fact, I found it a bit depressing, albeit worthy of attention. He wanted to know about paedophiles who suffer from depression. Well, many do, of course. Nothing surprising about that given the stigma and oppression we have to put up with, even if we behave like saints. Mercifully for me, I am blessed with a generally optimistic and cheerful disposition: I may be down, but never for long. So I thought I was probably not the best person to help with this important story, and decided to pass it on to friends at the Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which has mental health at the heart of its mission.

One very significant contribution they made was to give Willis an excellent article by FUMA co-founder Stephen James, which highlights how MAPs’ mental health problems are often exacerbated by unsympathetic and ignorant “therapy”.

What I did not know at the time, unfortunately, but I should have guessed, was that Willis had also been in touch with the Virtuous Pedophiles. And his article, when it appeared just over a week ago, was firmly anchored to the VP narrative. Ironic, huh? Virtue favoured by VICE! Titled “Realising You’re a Paedophile Can Make You Want to Kill Yourself”, it was fine in its sympathy for non-offenders. It made the important point that the stigma and consequent social isolation faced by many MAPs can be hugely damaging.

But what sort of damage? While a high rate of suicidality was rightly mentioned, the main emphasis was on the dread possibility that some MAPs might be radicalised and turn towards “extreme stances” like that of “a notorious pressure group called the Paedophile Information Exchange, which advocated abolishing consent laws completely”. The article also mentions support for “children’s sexual self-determination” as part of a belief system by which “most of us are understandably horrified”.

Some of this excoriation is the journalist’s own, but much of it comes straight from Virtuous Pedophiles Todd Nickerson (formerly online as “Markaba”), who may be remembered from a recent Salon article, and also a guy called “Brett”, said to be a VP moderator. Brett said he had “nothing but disdain and contempt” for “pro-contacters”, among whom he named me personally.

I have no trouble living with Brett’s disapproval but being branded “pro-contact” is another matter entirely because it slyly misrepresents those of us who would like to see cultural changes and legal reforms leading to the possibility of sexual self-determination for all. It falsely implies we favour ignoring the law in favour of sexual “contact” at any price. Others here, notably Dissident and Stephen6000, have favoured the expression “pro-choice”. Even VP co-founder Ethan Edwards, who also figures in the VICE piece, has expressed reservations over the “pro-contact” description. In a comment on Heretic TOC last year as Ethane72, he more reasonably spoke of “pro-legalisation”.

To outsiders this might seem a trivial distinction, like the minuscule differences in Monty Python’s Life of Brian between a bunch of fissiparous liberation groups in Roman-occupied Judea. When they are exhorted to stop squabbling among themselves so they can fight “against the common enemy,” the foe they first think of is not the Romans but the Judean People’s Front! Freud, in his Civilization and Its Discontents, called it  “the narcissism of small differences”.

Is there a way of avoiding such differences and fighting together for a better society? If it were down to relatively sensible people like Ethan it might be possible. In reality, though, we have irreconcilable purists on our own side, and on the VP side there are Rottweilers like Brett who prefer the language of “disdain and contempt” to seeking common cause. Referring to “pro-contacters”, he is quoted as saying:  “It’s partly because of that crowd so many people are unwilling to listen to me and paedophiles like me.”

One interesting message we may read between the lines here is that even though the VPs are clearly having it pretty much entirely their own way in the media, the battle for hearts and minds among MAPs is another matter: we pro-choice or pro-reform folk, who together identify as the Kind community, appear at least to be holding our ground in the ideological front-line against “virtuous” thinking.

And with that in mind, it’s time for a despatch from another part of the battlefield: Sexnet.

The fun kicked off when Nick Devin, co-founder of VP, posted a link to the VICE article on the Sexnet forum, which as regulars here may recall is an email information exchange and discussion group primarily for senior researchers and clinicians in the fields of sexual biology, psychology and behaviour, with a small seasoning of sexual minority activists, journalists and other odd bods in the mix – a blend whose composition is in the gift of the moderator, psychology professor Mike Bailey.

Now what y’all need to know about Nick is that like Uriah Heap in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield, he is really, really humble. His shtick is to ingratiate himself with the experts at Sexnet by never, ever questioning their wisdom or expertise. He doesn’t need to, of course. The VP line is that society is right to condemn child-adult sexual relationships, so why would he argue with the big cheeses on Sexnet who do research showing what is “wrong” with paedophiles’ brains, or who test and refine sex offender treatment programmes?

“When I was quite a young boy,” said Uriah, “I got to know what umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite. I stopped at the umble point of my learning, and says I, ‘Hard hard!’ When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. ‘People like to be above you,’ says father, ‘keep yourself down.’ I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I’ve got a little power!”

Just like Heap the Creep, Nick has learned to play his ignorance like a fiddle, making a virtue of it, as of so much else. So when he posted that link on Sexnet to Willis’s VICE piece, he did so in the most “umble” way possible, offering no comment or opinion of his own. And what a cunningly powerful tactic that turned out to be, enabling him to disseminate smears against alleged “pro-contacters”, including “disdain and contempt” for me as a named fellow Sexnet member, without so much as a word, as it were, from his own mouth.

Honour bound to reply, I rebuked VP for their smear tactics and Nick for his personal role in promoting them. Which unfortunately allowed Nick to play the “umble” injured innocent: What me? Begging your pardon, good sirs, I am just the ’umble messenger. Why are you being so ’orrible to depressed paedophiles? Why are you being ’ateful towards us VPs?

He even cited a taxonomy of MAPs devised by Ethan Edwards, ranging from “hands-on offenders” at one end to “anti-contact” at the other. Specifically praised are those near the out-and-out anti-contact end who are “humble/laid back: Leaves it up to society to figure out appropriate ages of consent, realizing that they have a selfish interest in lower ones, and maybe it actually does cloud their thinking, so they set that aside.”

I’ll come back to that question of “selfish interest”, and how supposedly “pro-contact” paedophiles “rationalise” our beliefs, another time. For now, though, I would just note that our guest blogger Lensman has a superb new blog on this theme at his own website, Consenting Humans.

Anyway, as you might expect, I replied to Nick’s ’umble observations, including his further accusations that I was ignoring data favourable to VP and misrepresenting his organisation. My riposte proved too much for the least ’umble figure on Sexnet by far, the toweringly arrogant James Cantor, who has long been a near ubiquitous presence in VP’s media campaigns.

Cantor was volcanic.

“I do not believe O’Carroll belongs on Sexnet,” he thundered. “…despite years of mere argumentativeness, O’Carroll has presented no actual information, just twisted misreadings of what someone else said, leading us to waste time untwisting it back into what we did say.  No one can or will learn anything from rhetorical games.”

Yes, well, we know James of old, don’t we? Those who have been around here a while will recall that my “no actual information” back in 2012 included a critique of his brain-imaging research, which had supposedly shown a “deficiency” in the white matter part of paedophiles’ brains. My critique was supported by a British neuroscientist who blogs as Neuroskeptic. But that didn’t stop Cantor – or Jimmy “the Screamer” Cantori, notorious hit-person of the Toronto mafia, as I dubbed him – from denouncing me as “an impostor”, with the implication that only accredited scientists should talk about science (except, of course, in an ever so ’umble way!)

As Cantor is one of the biggest of the big guns on Sexnet, it might be supposed this latest screaming denunciation would see me being shown the Red Card. But no! Purely ad hominem attack, which this was, is generally frowned upon in the forum, and Mike Bailey was not overly swayed. He wrote:

“Tom O’Carroll is on SEXNET because he knows stuff and because he has a principled position that, although I don’t entirely agree with it, is good for sex researchers to hear, if they listen. He has also sometimes been exceedingly patient with those here who clearly think he’s wrong and distasteful. (This patience, unfortunately, has never extended to Nick Devin and Ethan Edwards.)

“The intellectual divide between Tom’s and Nick’s/Ethan’s views is interesting, and I’ve learned things reading them (and I haven’t always agreed with either side). The debate invariably gets personal to some degree, but not so much that I generally need to get involved. It’s understandable, sometimes, like in the present case. I happen to know that Nick forwarded that article because of Tom’s quote, which he found striking, rather than because of what the VP member said about disliking Tom. But it is understandable that Tom thought otherwise.”

As you can see, Mike exonerates Nick from ulterior motives. He could be right, but I don’t think even a psychology professor can just “happen to know” with any degree of confidence whether a person’s stated reason for doing something is the real or only one. Neither can I, to be fair. Having watched Nick’s manoeuvrings for years now, though, it is hard not to be suspicious.

Mike closed with a call for “future examples of intellectual calmness and generosity” on both sides. Following this, one item soon arose on which there was some modest scope for agreement with the VPs. This time Nick posted a link to a new article titled “Can Child Dolls Keep Pedophiles from Offending?” I commended it as an interesting piece, and noted that Heretic TOC had blogged in similar vein last October. This piece, as I don’t think I have mentioned before, was taken up by several of the tabloids in Britain: the Sun, Mirror and Express. These stories were all of the twisted, warped, vile, sick pervert variety, as may be imagined, which suggests that the VPs and their allies in the media may be far better placed to get this particular idea taken seriously than any “pro-choice” supporters will be able to bring about any time soon.

 

RADICAL CASE IN RUSSIAN

Congratulations to the latest translator of Paedophilia: The Radical Case, who emailed today to tell me he has completed a Russian version of the book. It is now online here, although I don’t suppose many of us will be able to read it, including me. I can tell you the title, though, which is rendered as

Педофильский радикализм. After that comes the “Author’s preface to the Russian translation”, which looks like this: Авторское предисловие к русскому переводу. I can’t see it topping the charts for Russian reading this month, but I like the thought that after all these years someone would think it worth making such a big effort to give them the chance to give it a whirl.

 

DAVID BOWIE IN TROUBLE

Meanwhile, David Bowie’s new album Blackstar surely will be a posthumous chart-topper. But that doesn’t mean he can just relax up there in Heaven, confident his reputation is secure, oh no. Unlike Jimmy Savile, who was able to rest in peace for almost a whole year before accusations of child sexual abuse began to surface via a TV documentary, the Bowie bashers are already at work. We now have The dark side of David Bowie, a story in Salon by culture editor Erin Keane, in which she takes the vaunted genius to task for his “history of sex with underaged groupies in the ’70s”. But his one named “victim”, Lori Mattix, says it was consensual so, hey, no problem!

 

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