Heretic TOC gets its mojo back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a blog like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must be half a mo by now.

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

 

UNSENT LETTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Megan’s Law faces challenge

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David Kennerly today updates the theme of his June 2014 guest blog Techno-tethering globalises oppression. The news is not good. International Megan’s Law, a nightmare piece of legislation, was signed last month by U.S. president Barack Obama. But, as David reports, a grassroots fightback is already  underway, and a legal challenge has been launched that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

 

A battle is lost but resistance is mobilized

We lost the battle, brewing for some eight years in Congress, which will effectively stop those of us, U.S. “registered sex offenders”, from venturing outside our own countries. The enactment of International Megan’s Law is not the end of the war, however, as we are fighting back against this injustice in the courts and, to the extent that we wield any influence, in the media.

The bill was signed into law by President Obama February 8th of this year and will stoke the fire under the simmering cauldron which “child sex offenders” inhabit and further diminish our already depleted portfolio of rights.

To capsulize the highlights of the law (and which I see as the nadir of a once free society):

  • It will criminalize the act of traveling outside the U.S. without prior notice and permission from the government. Ten year terms in federal prison await those of us who fail to do so.
  • It will obligate the Department of Homeland Security to notify foreign governments of the anticipated travel of U.S. “child sex offenders” and encourage those governments to do what they will with that information, whether that be to slam the door in our faces or something even worse.
  • It will obligate the Department of State to revoke the passports of U.S. “sex offenders” and require them to reapply for new ones with a designation affixed to each indicating that its bearer is a “sex offender”. [Note: this provision is not limited to “child sex offenders” but includes all “sex offenders”]

There are a number of other details, none of which ameliorate the law to our advantage, which provide a structure for carrying out this mission or which specify the information which the “sex offender” must provide before travel, such as detailed itineraries, purpose for travel, places one intends to stay, etc.

So much for spontaneity in travel! Of course, that assumes that there are countries which will let us in the door in the first place.

Here’s the funny thing: perhaps the most important aspect of this law, notification of foreign governments of the intended travel by U.S. “sex offenders”, has already been the practice of the U.S. Government for some three years. The U.S. has been issuing these foreign notifications, in the absence of any clear authority to do so, and Registrant travelers have already been turned away in droves by many countries, some of which have, coincidentally, explicitly (and very recently) announced laws forbidding “sex offenders” from entering their countries.

So, the peculiar thing about this new law is that we already have a very good sense of how it will play out and the results, so far, aren’t pretty, with many Registrants facing humiliating refusals at foreign ports of entry and being made to get on the first returning flights to the U.S.

Exceptions to those countries routinely turning away all Registrants, however, appear to be some Western European countries such as The Netherlands and France (but not the U.K., of course). Many other countries, particularly Asian and Latin American countries, as well as Russia, have joined with the U.K. in refusing entry to U.S. “sex offenders”.

The eerily-named governmental consortium called “The Five Eyes”, which consists of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had already been turning away each others’ “sex offenders” for many years now, a fact which provides some strong clues as to the origin of this more recent global expansion of the policy of internal exile for “sex offenders”.

The critical component which is facilitating this world-wide travel ban is the international police agency, INTERPOL, which has openly lobbied for such bans. This is an agency which deserves far more scrutiny than it once did when it was mostly a sleepy backwater in danger of complete irrelevance. It has been completely made-over by the most powerful governments who comprise its membership and the new Interpol is very muscular and frightening, indeed. If ever there were an entity deserving of a full-on paranoid conspiracy theory, Interpol would be it.

The only way that we know anything about the fallout from our government’s extant policy of notifying foreign governments of U.S. Registrants’ travel (which predates the recent law, not yet in effect) is from the message boards at California RSOL where a number of us started discussing this looming issue some three or four years ago.

The only way we knew which countries were barring us was by simply attempting to travel to those countries and then reporting back to the CARSOL discussion forum. The U.S. government neither informed us ahead of time that it had begun notifying foreign governments of our “sex offender” status nor did it provide any reports of which countries had been refusing us entry.

We are preparing a country-by-country matrix based upon those attempted travel experiences which will be available shortly. Nevertheless, the information in that report will exist only because individual Registrants reported their experiences to the CARSOL message board and that information will almost certainly not be complete.

If this is sounding a bit like a grassroots effort to fight back against an ugly, unfolding (and uncommunicative) juggernaut aimed precisely at us, then you are right.

From what I can tell, our group, alone, has been gathering the appalling details of this secretive regimen and exposing it to the light of day although we now have the satisfaction in knowing that they are beginning to be known more widely, thanks to a handful of media reports.

I am encouraged by the individuals or publications which have begun to respond critically to IML such as Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids), David Post (of the Volokh Conspiracy, now part of the Washington Post), Reason, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Counterpunch, and the Washington Times. No, they’re not overwhelming in their number, but striking in their willingness to break both the complicitous silence and the flip-side hysteria which has gripped the press for so long when the subject is “sex offenders”.

This development, i.e. the enactment of International Megan’s Law, perhaps more than any previous outrage against Registrants, appears to have helped many to find their voices and to raise them in protest against the continued degradation of “sex offenders”, including those who are not themselves Registrants.

So, while IML has not quite merited a full “news cycle”, it has aroused something which I find intriguing, even promising: the emergence of individuals and groups willing to speak out against the shrieking unreason which has dominated the “sex offender” public discourse for decades.

We are not taking this terrible law laying down, either. We are challenging International Megan’s Law in the U.S. Federal District Court of San Francisco having fired our responding salvo immediately after the cowardly, former constitutional law scholar, President Obama, signed the bill into law early last month.

The California Reform of Sex Offender Laws and its Director, attorney Janice Bellucci, representing four unnamed plaintiffs, filed the civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of IML on a variety of grounds, including as an abridgment of First and Fifth Amendment rights and the clause against ex post facto laws. Those plaintiffs represent something of an overview of “sex offenders” whose circumstances raise different or distinct constitutional issues, such as the right to travel in employment or the right to live with or visit family members.

Since the appalling, and completely un-protested, Protect Act of 2003, which made it a U.S. crime for an American citizen to travel overseas and to have “illicit sex” with someone under the U.S. age-of-consent of eighteen and which also forbids Registrants from sponsoring foreign-born spouses for U.S. citizenship, there have been a number of American Registrants living overseas in their spouse’s country, their spouses having been kicked-out of America by that law.

Now, with IML, those Registrants find that they are being deported by their spouse’s country back to the U.S. and are prevented from living with, or even seeing, their own spouses and children, who cannot join him in the U.S. due to the Protect Act.

One of the plaintiffs in the challenge to IML is from that category of persons caught in the double-bind of two terrible laws. Another has lost his livelihood after being permanently barred from business travel.

A temporary injunction, barring the U.S. from further notification of foreign governments of the status of U.S. Registrants as well as halting the issuance of “sex offender” passports, has also been filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco but has not yet been granted.

We now await word from the court granting us that injunction and for our lawsuit challenging IML to wend its way through the courts, a journey which we suspect will take us to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Techno-tethering globalises oppression

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David Kennerly, who debuted last year for Heretic TOC  writing about his childhood in the American Midwest, now makes a welcome return. This time his theme journeys to far horizons – places that may soon be closed to us for actual travel if restrictions envisaged by governments worldwide have their way. Yes, it’s a very alarming thought and one that has accordingly prompted David to document in considerable detail what the securocrats and fear-peddling politicians are up to and why we need to wake up to it. In his guest blog today he outlines two essays specially written for Heretic TOC but which he intends also to use as a basis for lobbying more widely. Links are given to these articles.

 

The thin wedge to immobilize citizens

An introduction to two essays exploring the unfolding war on freedom of movement

Over the last several months, I have been researching a series of legal assertions now being advanced by governments worldwide. While being enacted piecemeal in individual countries, they can only be fully understood in aggregate and in the recognition that these governments are clearly working jointly towards achieving their aspirations for tracking people’s movements and restricting our freedom of travel.

Developments in this area are very dynamic and so my findings are a work in progress. Nevertheless, enough is now known to perceive a clear and ominous trajectory in governmental ambitions to regulate the movement of all people, both within and between countries.

It is nothing new that government has always had such ambitions. What is new, and fundamentally different from any other moment in the past, is the unprecedented ability of the state to realize its dreams by means of an immensely powerful digital infrastructure. Its far-reaching ambitions for total control now lie fully within its grasp. The limits of technology that once held its desire for omniscience in check have been effectively removed, granting it an extraordinary level of power over the lives of its citizens.

So far, my writing in this area consists of two pieces:

1) A report on “The International Megan’s Law”, both as a bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives (to be considered now in the Senate) and as a global concept which extends to all other nations through both international agreements and international bodies, such as Interpol (a previously backwater agency revived through the opportunities afforded by Islamic terrorism), who coordinate and implement its sweeping and dangerous policies. The openly hoped-for result of the U.S. bill is to prevent American child sex offenders from ever leaving the U.S. But it is also clear that this goal is being at least partially attained with, or without, the help of Megan. The title is: “DEAD END: The International Megan’s Law Assault on Everyone’s Freedom of Travel– The free movement of the individual is increasingly seen as a revocable privilege – not an inalienable right”.

2) A report on the current treatment of American sex offenders who return from travel abroad (from any country) by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Those who have traveled over many years likely noticed some dramatic changes in the way they were welcomed back home by that agency soon after September 11, 2001. That treatment has only escalated in severity since then: it is ever more intrusive, more threatening and more violative. So much so that many have decided travel is simply no longer worth the degradation they will experience upon their return. And that is, after all, the point of such harassment, isn’t it? The title is: “HOMELAND SECURITY’S ASSAULT ON TRAVEL: How America’s sex laws endanger your, your children’s and everyone’s freedom of movement as travelers are routinely detained, interrogated, searched and harassed by the Department of Homeland Security”.

I identify this trend, that of limiting the movement of people through the imposition of regimes of extreme pretextual scrutiny, as one which is running counter to another trend now emerging as a reaction: the demand to restore freedom of movement as an essential principle of freedom itself.

This counter-trend is up against powerful adversaries, as governments have always been in their dealings with a citizenry grown complacent and unsuspicious of their motives.

But, of course, there are also those who believe the government message that there are real perils requiring the movement of people between countries to be as constrained as technology allows. They fail to appreciate that the historical porosity of borders has been a bulwark against the denial of the rights of the individual and has helped to propagate free societies; they also fail to appreciate the near-limitless effects that present and future technology will have upon their autonomy and upon their future array of choices. Systems now being devised will forever limit their opportunities and constrain their interactions with others but in ways which they cannot foresee.

It would be a terrible shame to see our civilization succumb to tyranny through the incuriosity and untroubled indifference that is so characteristic of so many of its members.

Men used to go to war and die for the rights that so many now eagerly volunteer to relinquish, identifying them as, somehow, quaintly anachronistic and no longer affordable or even terribly worthwhile.

Those of us who know these rights are not just worthwhile but vital have an obligation to say so, to bear witness to the unfolding destruction of our liberties and to do all in our power to stop a dangerous movement fundamentally inimical to freedom.

Tom has graciously (and patiently, I might add) invited me to share my findings and observations on his wonderful site and, for that as well as his critical and discerning eye and valuable suggestions, I am grateful.

When I first became aware of his work through a fortuitous discovery of Paedophilia: The Radical Case more than thirty years ago (can it be?) I was immediately impressed.

Neither of us knew, or could have known, the depths to which society might submerge itself in the decades to follow. While our optimism for society’s near-term future may have since undergone a dramatic reassessment, we both (it would appear) continue to assert what we believe to be true, a fact which must – by itself – betray some indication of hope.

I also hope you will read both of my current works on freedom of movement. They are, I believe, essential reading in order to understand some of the implications of the authoritarian shift that has taken hold in society and which threatens to repay us – for our complacency – by doing its very worst.

 

TOC adds:

As regular readers will recall, I travelled to Brazil in February and was allowed entry without challenge despite being on the UK register of sex offenders. However, on the eve of the World Cup Brazil announced the start of a crackdown. A reader has alerted me to a news item in the press there from earlier this month saying that an American “convicted for pedophilia” has been deported after trying to enter the country.

The same reader also spotted a news story from 17 February. This reported that 51 “paedophiles” had been denied entry to Mexico. The text says these refusals had been “since last year” (“desde el año pasado”) but I guess what is meant is over the course of the previous year rather than just the first six or seven weeks of this one. Could be wrong, though.

 

Midwest garage stories

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David Kennerly, in this guest blog, vividly recalls childhood freedoms we have lost. As Heretic TOC was unfortunately unable to use the piece at the time first proposed, it was offered by mutual agreement for first publication at the excellent website You Are Your Story. Now it is reproduced here with the approval of webmaster Jay Edson, who has posted here as “Jedson”.

It’s very strange for me to hear today’s parents, and other oddly obsessive adults, nattering on about sexual “acting out” in children, convinced that an external, malign, influence must be responsible. They insist, without any evidence to support their view, that children must necessarily receive some form of social contamination necessary to infect them with an urge to play with each others genitals whether from pornography or possibly the suspicious bachelor down the street.

In their view, kids simply do not possess, on their own, the wherewithal to discover sexuality independently of some corrupt, exogenous and – invariably – adult male force.

I would like to ask them: Have you NO memories of your own childhood? Is it that you NEVER fooled around as a kid? How could you NOT have explored your, and your friends’, bodies?

If one is to believe them (and it’s hard for me to do so) then theirs was a radically different childhood from my own.

The following is a brief excerpt from my own exploratory childhood and my reflections upon it, today. And yes, it is absolutely true.

I performed fellatio, for the first time, on another boy when we were both seven years old one afternoon in my family’s garage, having never heard of it, nor seen it demonstrated, before.

It just seemed like the right thing to do (nearly fifty years ago). And, so it was.

It had been my idea, and Jonathan was game.

At first, my technique left much to be desired and consisted largely of simply “holding” my friend’s penis in my mouth, for a bit. I was, after all, starting from scratch. Like playing “chopsticks” on the piano during ones first lesson.

Soon, however, I would learn of the advantages to be conferred to us both if liberal, and vigorous, application of my tongue were employed.

We suffered a brief impasse when Jonathan suddenly stated, out of the blue, that what he really wanted to do was to “pee” in my mouth.

I quickly removed it from my mouth and, looking up at him, told him emphatically “No!”

That was a deal-breaker for me. At least, in that first encounter.

We did eventually come to an agreement which was mutually satisfying and would, in most cases, save me from the unwelcome taste of urine.

Later, I became aware of other boys also performing oral sex on one another (“what a coincidence!”, I had thought) their having arrived at the practice quite independently of my own brilliant inventiveness.

Most memorably, one such occurrence had been said to have occurred on a neighbor’s front lawn in the middle of the afternoon!

I hadn’t witnessed this with my own eyes but, I knew the boys said to have given this performance and, knowing them to be “wild” – by anyone’s standards – found the account completely credible.

That they would have given the neighborhood such a public performance I thought dangerously stupid. But, apart from it taking place on an elderly couple’s front lawn, it seemed perfectly reasonable – and to be expected – to my seven-year-old self.

Sucking, and other contact with penises not-ones-own were, instinctively, an extension of play, friendship and boy’s adventuring, to our developing minds. And it really was fun, after all!

Sometime during that or the next year, a parental alert went up in the neighborhood with mothers asking their kids if they had encountered a suspicious young man in a Volkswagen offering to “give rides”.

Apparently, one of my more attractive friends (a handsome blonde-haired boy) had taken him up on his offer and was told by the young Volkswagen-driving stranger that he was a student at the local university. Those were the only details provided to me by my mother and, if she knew any more, she wasn’t telling.

I was, of course, properly concerned, not knowing what it was he was up to other than a twisted desire to “kidnap”; the ostensible, and stated, basis for our mothers’ alarm.

This specter of a dangerous male adult, at the time, existed quite separately from my penchant for oral sex which, in any case, continued uninterrupted.

One major difference, of course, between now and then is that my parents, as with many parents of the time, did not articulate the sexual nature of such concerns with strangers to their kids.

So we had the advantage, as children, of not associating the danger of specifically designated “strangers” with our own, emerging, sexuality.

A sexuality, I might add, which we continued to explore in secret, even so and – crucially – away from what would surely have been the disapproving gaze of our parents.

I now realize that our parents gave us both the extraordinary freedom of movement and the hours of unstructured time necessary to conduct our many- and varied – explorations, whether they knew it or not.

All quite different from what kids are given today.
But it’s also true that sex, as a whole, was stigmatized back then and we learned that our parents seemed terribly concerned, in particular, with pre-marital sex (I had a sister who was six years older than me).

But even POST-marital sex was stigmatized, back then. ALL sex was nothing but stigma and something you just didn’t discuss with other people. Perhaps not even between adults having sex with each other, for all we knew.

Oh, about that: I was already aware of the “facts-of-life”, as it were, having received this arcane and simply astounding tidbit of information – not from my parents, of course – but from my older sister.

After I quickly disseminated this improbable, but credible (coming from my teenaged sister) revealed truth to my classmates, it propagated outward like wildfire.

I believe our school’s kindergartners, alone, (perhaps) remained unsophisticated in the ways of human sexual reproduction from that day forward (ah, the scale of lost innocence!).

My mother, having thus been spared the onerous task of any thoroughgoing birds-and-bees discussion in the future (although who knows if she or my father would ever have attempted it?) instead faced the prospect of reprimanding me for my jaw-dropping indiscretions after having been called by another, very irate, mother naming me (in a portent of the future?) as the source of the salacious revelation.

From that day forward, my relationships with other boy’s mothers would never again be comfortable or easy.

That her admonishments to me were as muted and tentative as they were was the only surprise. But then, again, maybe not; it was SEX, after all. If my father knew, he said nothing; also out of character.

Besides sex, it was also true that overly friendly strangers could themselves be stigmatized back then, but they had to actually cruise the streets in cars, in neighborhoods where they were completely unknown, offering rides to boys whom everyone recognized as particularly adorable, to qualify as the kind of “strangers” warranting especial wariness.

So, in my child’s mind, the dual stigmas of sex and preternaturally solicitous strangers existed as entirely separate phenomena; any connection between the two remained blissfully unformed.

I’m sure that this was true for many other kids at that time, as well, and in a way which differs vastly from today’s vigorously regulated, and tightly filtered, childhoods.

Sex was “dirty” – but so was playing in the mud. That didn’t keep boys like me from enjoying either.

But sex, on the other hand, was MUCH easier to hide.

And we knew, instinctively and logically, that what our parents didn’t know of our explorations in the garage, in the woods, in the creek, in the basement, in the YMCA changing room (although probably not on the front lawn) could hurt neither them nor us. They just weren’t to know anything about it. And it was our job to keep it from them.

You see, secrets were an essential part of our childhoods. And that’s the way we wanted it.

And, on some level, I believe that’s the way our parents wanted it, too.

To some extent, we kids lived separate lives from our parents. And that was just fine with us.

 

DAVID KENNERLY WOULD ALSO LIKE TO MAKE A PITCH FOR NAMBLA:

And now my pitch for NAMBLA which I’m working on to try to drum up some support:
“I want to remind everyone in our circle that the organization, radioactive though it may appear and clumsy though it may have been in the past, does perform several essential and vital roles in the world. Without it, many boylovers and – yes – boys who have looked to it for what little hope they possess will be that much more isolated.

NAMBLA publicly asserts our humanity and insists upon the existence of an ethical framework for man/boy love which we urge others to understand and to embrace.

Lastly, there are lots of people, curious about Man/Boy Love as well as our organization, who visit our website to learn about this issue and to make some sense of it, including academics and scholars, civil libertarians, attorneys, students, civil administrators and possibly even future policy makers.

It is essential that our voice – of all voices – be heard in the unfolding and evolving debates which effect our future.

So yes, NAMBLA exists as more than just a recurring trope on Comedy Central, even if it is also that.”

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