Nothing like Nordic noir to cheer us up!

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Stunning research in two studies, from Finland and Germany, has already been reported this year, both of which give a big boost to the heretical claim that kind people are much kinder – more caring in their feelings towards children and liked by them – than the present, all-pervasive, vilification suggests.

I’ll start with the one that looks at children’s own perceptions, not least because studies of this type are exceedingly rare, and provided they have been well conducted they are pure gold. This is a study based on the Finnish Child Victim Survey. That word “victim” doesn’t sound very promising, does it? But it was a survey with thousands of child participants, carried out in schools, that looked at children as victims of real crimes and mistreatment, such as theft and physical violence, as well as so-called “child sexual abuse” (CSA) by a much older person. Crucially, it was not assumed that the children would think they were victims. Instead, they were asked how they would characterise these contacts.

And guess what? Most 12-year-olds reported CSA as a positive experience. Go compare that with the dogma touted on sex offender courses that no child would ever want or enjoy it!  More about the Finnish findings in a minute.

As for the German research, it is one of those big, prestigious, neuroscience affairs that might be completely wrong – this is cutting edge stuff, after all, looking at the most complex structure in the known universe, the human brain – but which we would be foolish to ignore. It is a paper by Jorge Ponseti, an established figure in the field, along with a team of no fewer than 18 co-authors. The take-away point from it for now is the study’s tentative conclusion that male paedophiles, far from being aggressive and rapacious, appear to have a stronger caring, nurturing response towards the young than other adult males. It is good to see science at last catching up with what many of us have known all our adult lives just by being aware of our own more tender feelings towards kids. In fairness to science, though, nearly three decades ago (and as the paper notes) the Austrian ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt expressed a similar view, suggesting that paedophilia might in some cases be based on an “eroticization of parental love”.

The implications are obvious and could in future hardly be more profound for how paedophiles are viewed in society if this pioneering study’s findings are confirmed through further research. This is so important that it needs a separate blog, which I plan to bring out in due course.

Turning back to Finland, what we have is a 2018 paper based on the large (n = 11,364) population-based sample of sixth and ninth grade schoolchildren conducted in that country in 2013 and published in 2014 (in Finnish) as the Finnish Child Victim Survey. The paper, by Lahtinen et al., focused solely on the CSA data in the survey. The sixth graders were mostly aged 12 and the ninth graders mostly aged 15 at the time of the survey, which was completed on a voluntary classroom-by-classroom basis in schools across Finland. Respondents’ gender distribution was equal. So-called “abuse” by adults (perceived by some respondents as abusive but not by others) was based on the question “Have you ever experienced sexual advances or intercourse with an adult or a person at least 5 years older than you?” Follow-up questions were asked about the age of the respondent and age of the other person at the time of the events. Over 70% of the reported incidents involved actual sexual contact rather than a non-contact proposition or exhibitionism.

The children, answering the survey on classroom computers, were able to give their responses anonymously, without pressure from therapists or law enforcement sources, and without time for their memories to be overwritten by distorting influences at a later stage, as adults. So this procedure avoided any colouring added by the culturally imposed notion that children are asexual and “innocent”, or by the preconception that any sexual involvement with an adult must amount to “abuse”.

Perhaps the most striking finding, as noted above, is that a majority (54%) of the 12-year-olds who reported sexual contacts with an adult described it as a positive experience.

This finding, being potentially embarrassing to the child abuse industry (which thrives on generating and elaborating victim narratives rather than discovering reasons to be cheerful) was not headlined in the report. Instead, it emerged in an emailed response to questions presented by an independent researcher to Monica Fagerlund, lead author of the Finnish Child Victim Survey itself. The email was sent back in 2016, long before the very recent appearance of the Lahtinen et al. paper. The independent researcher was none other than Filip Schuster, who will be known to many here for his extremely well-informed comments at Heretic TOC.

However, Lahtinen et al.’s published paper contains further data of an inconvenient nature for the victimological view, as will be clear to the savvy reader despite the authors’ attempts to talk the implications down, through caveat and spin.

The analyses focused on the subsample of 256 children and adolescents who reported having sexual experiences with adults or with someone at least five years older at the time of the incident. This subsample amounts to 2.4% of the total sample, a figure some might feel is very low, and indeed reassuringly so on a conventional view, given that a survey of children themselves would appear to be the most reliable method.

For the boys, the experience was often positive (71%), whereas for the girls it was less often so evaluated (26%). Almost half of the girls (46%) said the experience was negative, compared to 9% of the boys. These findings were much the same for the sixth and ninth graders.

The most popular reason for not disclosing the contact to an adult was considering the experience not serious enough (41%). Other options included: “I did not believe that anyone would be interested” (14%); “I did not believe that disclosing would help me” (14%); miscellaneous other reasons (8%) included “I did not want to”, “There was nothing to tell”, and “I enjoyed it”. More negative reasons accounted for barely a quarter of the total:  “I did not have the courage to tell” (14%); “I was too ashamed to disclose” (10%).

The authors commented in the paper:

The small number of answers to the question of whether a sexual incident with an adult was considered negative or positive does not enable testing statistical significance…. Most of the children reported these incidents as positive. This highlights the potentially contradictory views of an incident from the perspective of the respondent compared to that of society and the law.

I posted on Sexnet about the paper, asking specifically for members’ expert opinion on this statistical point. The size of the subsample (n = 256) is indeed small compared to the overall sample (n = 11,364) but to the layman the absolute number looks easily large enough to derive valid inferences in which considerable confidence can be placed.

Having mentioned the authors’ caveat on statistical significance, I should perhaps add a word about their spin. In fairness this is pretty much confined to two sentences in the “Conclusions and implications” section:

These results, taken together with the finding that many of the children did not label their experiences as sexual abuse, indicate that more age-appropriate safety education for children and adolescents is needed to encourage disclosures to adults early enough… Early disclosure is crucial, both for ending the abuse and for preventing perpetrators from moving on to new victims.

Again, I posted on Sexnet about this, writing:

So blinkered has research become that the policy point here (more safety education needed) will probably seem utterly uncontroversial to most people working in the field. That is because, for them, the victimological paradigm has become incontrovertible common sense. But this is zombie science. It lacks an alert appreciation of the data before the authors’ eyes, which clearly indicate that a very significant (in lay terms at least) proportion of the “victims” are only thus designated by convention, not by the evidence. This is not to argue against the goal of reducing real victimisation. It is just to suggest that a bigger and very important picture is being missed.

I am pleased to report that Mike Bailey, psychology professor at Northwestern University, and Sexnet moderator, supported my interpretation of the stats, posting to say “You are correct that size of the sub sample with ‘CSA’ is adequate for statistical tests.” He also said the study was “unusually informative”, thanking me for posting about it and kindly saying “Your take on this study is trenchant and brave”.

This was too good to last, sadly. Before you could say “knee-jerk reaction” my long-time adversary James Cantor had piped up, making a complete snowflake of himself (or of his colleagues) by asserting that my criticism of the CSA industry was offensive and would deter discussion of the paper – as though the 300-plus researchers and clinicians on Sexnet would be scared to challenge me. Yes, that’s me, little me, the sole surviving, vocal, non-virtuous paedo perv on the forum, faced with the massed ranks of the abuse industry’s intellectual elite, including leading lights within the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)!

But at least Dr Cantor admitted that he agreed “with the basic conclusion of the posted article”, which is something. As is the fact that Dr Bailey was prompted to post again, saying my reference to the CSA industry “raises an issue I’ve been meaning to write about for a while”.

And write he did, at considerable length, in a remarkable post admitting that “in the culture at large, we are biased in a way that exaggerates the harmfulness of child-adult sex, often in a hysterical way”. He proceeded to write his own four-paragraph critique of the CSA industry, saying, for instance, government funding for research on CSA “is extraordinarily biased towards searching for harm” rather than positive experience. Nor were there grants to study why there might be positive experiences, including the possibility that iatrogenic harm is avoided when children and their adult partners manage to avoid law enforcement in their relationship, with its crushing impact on the younger partner as well as the older one.

Bailey’s contribution was wonderful but there were also a couple of tough queries arising from the detailed stats that put the validity of the findings in some doubt. Follow-up emails by Filip to Monica Fagerlund and Hanna-Mari Lahtinen elicited some further information but not enough to settle the key issues. Hanna even sent me a friendly email out of the blue, saying that in order to get good answers to the questions being raised she would need “qualitative data such as written answers to open questions. Unfortunately we did not have such questions concerning sexual abuse in this questionnaire…”

Yes, unfortunate but understandable. There is only so much that can be packed into a single survey.

Not to worry, though, for I soon discovered that the Finnish Findings are strongly supported by the Danish Data! Yes, in this rapidly unfolding Scandinavian thriller series (a Netflix box-set can’t be far off) another study has turned up in the nick of time!

Like the Lahtinen et al., paper, this Danish one was based on a rare survey – vanishingly rare in the US and UK at least – of school students rather than adults. The article, by Karin Helweg-Larsen and Helmer Bøving Larsen, came out in 2006 and appears to have been somewhat overlooked – certainly by me, perhaps on account of its miserablist title: “The prevalence of unwanted and unlawful sexual experiences reported by Danish adolescents: Results from a national youth survey in 2002”.

On close inspection, though, which required a few calculations of my own, it looks very hard to justify any claim that the survey was entirely or even mostly about unwanted sex. Rather, it was about illegal sex below the age of consent, set at 15 in Denmark. The participants in the survey were 9th grade students, nearly all of whom were themselves aged 15. Unlike the youngsters in Finland, they were not asked whether they felt the experience had been positive or negative but they were asked whether they felt it had been abusive or not. Thus the experience may or may not have been perceived as enjoyable and beneficial but it seems reasonable to infer that those who did not feel it was abusive probably thought they had consented to what happened, in fact if not in law.

So how many of these apparently consensual encounters were there? The authors wrote:

“A total of 7.5% of girls and 2% of boys reported CSA where the older person was at least five years older than the child, but less than half of the respondents perceived these experiences as sexual abuse.”

The relevant data were to be found in Table II, albeit without the percentages I was looking for. After working these out, is became clear that fully 60% of the respondents (boys 65% and girls – of whom there were far more – 59%) did not consider they had been abused.

What all this amounts to is extraordinarily good news. The Danish survey strongly supports the Finnish one in allowing us to conclude that when children are allowed to give their own perception of their sexual experiences with much older people, usually adults, a high proportion of them in effect say they consented to what happened and look back on it as something good in their life.

The CSA industry does its best to hide these encouraging facts even as it unwittingly discloses them via surveys aimed at discovering an endless parade of victims for society to be anxious and miserable about. Instead of joyful stories of companionable intimacy, everything has to be turned into bleak Nordic noir. We must not let them get away with it!

 

 

 

Prejudice masquerading as therapy

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

 

Deferred prosecution for softcore child porn

by Anonymous

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

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

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

Pathologising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confusing setting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forensic ideology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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