Jimmy the screamer caught in VICE racket

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Jimmy “the screamer” Cantori, notorious hit-person of the Toronto mob, has gone to ground after a dramatic shoot-out last week when he was sensationally injured in a verbal battle with “heretic” Tommaso Caroli and “sex queen” Judith Levine, goodtime girl and slayer of child-protection racketeering. Cantori is thought to be nursing a badly-wounded ego.

The rumble broke out in a seedy speak-easy called Sexnet, where clients claim to “exchange information and ideas” about so-called “sex research”. Hostilities began after Cantori had bragged of an ambitious scheme to beef up the mob’s muscle by recruiting thugs on the street to press-gang men into “therapy”.

Seriously! James Cantor, a research psychologist whose hissy fits, dubious science, egotistic self-promotion and evangelical moral entrepreneurship in “support” of paedophiles have featured previously on Heretic TOC (see “Scientific egos as fragile as eggs” plus here, here and here for my engagement with him on his research), has now come up with a wheeze to use a vigilante outfit called Creep Catchers to “persuade” their victims – guys looking for sex who are tricked into a meeting they think will be with a minor – that they should seek treatment.

This came to light when James – which I will call him from now on because I’m a hopeless hater and he may well actually be sincere in his misguided aims – alerted Sexnet to a TV documentary about Creep Catchers by the appropriately named VICE News. James, who was interviewed on the programme, said he thought VICE did a great job, and I readily agree it was very slick and totally compelling.

J. Michael Bailey, moderator of Sexnet and himself a leading academic psychologist, also agreed, but then added that he thought James’s contribution had been “very, very good”. Usually, I find myself in agreement with Mike (it helps to agree with a moderator! 🙂 ), but not this time. So I said as much, although Judith Levine got in first with a fine one-liner, saying she thought the vigilante was the one who needed therapy – meaning a bully calling himself “Justin Payne”, a name possibly intended to evoke the idea of meting out pain in the name of justice. He was the guy actually confronting his entrapped victims, taunting and shaming them while his partner in a two-man team captured the confrontations on video.

My response was to say that:

…yes, James is very, very good at fulfilling a culturally assigned role, which is why the media lap him up.  Where paedophilia is concerned, he is the velvet glove masking the iron fist. He makes it possible for educated, civilised liberals to believe that essentially coercive therapies are necessary.

That alone would have been a red rag to a bull on Sexnet, where a substantial chunk of the membership are paid to develop and implement such therapies: most of them are well-meaning but their careers are built on oppression, including “therapy” within “civil confinement” prisons in the US from which there is virtually no prospect of release, despite treatment courses designed to make offenders safe for life outside.

What would have enraged James even more, though, was my response, and Judith Levine’s, to news he gave about a further development. He posted to say he was scheduled to be on a panel discussion with Justin Payne in February and was “hoping to use the opportunity to call on Creep Catchers to funnel victims into therapy instead of harassment”.

I replied saying “Not sure how encouraging thugs to bully and press-gang people into treatment would play with a medical ethics board. If something else is intended, what would it be? Is complicity with the leopards expected to change their spots?”

Judith posted swiftly in support:

…does Cantor really want to wave a magic wand & combine entrapment with enticements to therapy? How about just getting rid of mandatory reporting?

James is actually on record as being against mandatory reporting laws, which require doctors and other professionals to report to the authorities anyone coming to them for advice or therapy if they disclose any offence. His objection is that such laws deter paedophiles from seeking help – a very strong point because some people are genuinely desperate or even out of control and really do need it. Nevertheless, Judith was right to propose focusing on the reporting issue rather than going down the maverick route of colluding with thugs. As I said in a follow-up, the police wouldn’t touch Creep Catchers with a bargepole and neither should he – though the forces of law and order would do well to challenge the vigilantes over their harassment and intimidating behaviour.

Back to the VICE documentary itself. In one of James’s televised interview points he claimed, as he has done elsewhere, that paedophilia is characterised by crossed wiring in the brain. He said that  instead of having parental or avuncular feelings towards children, paedophiles identify them as sex objects.

Where, I asked, was this  “instead of” coming from? Why would it be one or the other rather than both? I pointed out that at least 20-25% of “normal” men show significant sexual arousal to children in lab-based psychological tests. Most of these guys would presumably be family men, with nothing to suggest they are anything other than loving parents in the socially approved sense of loving. If they can be kind, caring, and affectionate, with an element of erotic attraction in the mix, why would this double response not also apply to preferential paedophiles?

Unfortunately, Mike Bailey seemed blinded by the hostile tone of my post, saying he had been “taken aback” by my attack on James Cantor, whom he described as a humane person who just wanted to stop paedophiles’ lives being ruined.

Right! Sure! As someone whose experience of James’s humane concern has been experienced through nothing but his icy refusal to acknowledge anything I have ever said on Sexnet, through to his cold, dismissive references to “O’Carroll’s” lack of professional standing and expertise, to screaming fits of outright abuse and demands that I be kicked off the forum, I begged to differ. After seven years of this from him since my forum membership started in 2010, I had concluded that nothing would make him happier than to see this particular paedophile’s life ruined; or, better still, terminated! I suspect I must have been murdered in his dreams a number of times and I’d rather not dwell on the methods he might have come up with.

And not just me: any other Kind person on the forum who dared to utter so much as a squeak of modest dissent against his self-enforced towering authority would face a blast of withering scorn. He must have verbally murdered half a dozen of us over the years, leaving me as the last man standing. All the others have either wisely kept a low profile (two or three continue to do useful work through private contacts with key forum members) or else retaliated by giving  James a defiant blast of their own, followed by their swift demotion to non-posting status for failing to know their station.

I have huge respect for Mike and I could see no mileage in antagonising him by pursuing a vendetta on the forum against a colleague he has known for decades without, it seems, being troubled by his obvious volatility. Far better to row back a bit, then try a careful re-casting of my argument, this time without ruffling feathers. So, I apologised for my hostile tone but continued to maintain my original scientific point about “normal” men’s sexual response to children in lab tests. The information I had given was not only correct, which Mike admitted, but also relevant, which he had denied. This time, after my further explanation, he conceded I had a point, albeit he felt James did not really believe paedophiles never feel parental-type love for children. My reaction: no, maybe not, but that is effectively what he said in public and it is pure poison because it suggests that Kind people are wired up to be unkind – selfishly interested only in their sexual expression and callously indifferent to children’s feelings and best interests.

I carefully spelled out that the “crossed wires” analogy presents paedophilic mental experience as a polar opposite of the norm, rather than part of a continuum in which most paedophiles have a great deal in common with others. Thus “the paedophile” is presented in a dehumanising way as a freakishly different being. This, I said, seems to me to be on a par with the equally false and damaging claim (now largely corrected in the literature) that paedophilic “offenders” lack empathy.

It was hard to gauge what other sexnetters were thinking at this point. Posts by established academics on less controversial topics, such as a thread today on “copulatory vocalisation”, tend to be followed up quickly with colleagues chipping in further information, often with friendly banter and jokes thrown in. My posts used to be met with brusque dismissal or patronising little lectures on where I was going wrong – until both types of response were met with clear evidence that I know my way around the literature and can back up my arguments with facts. After that they tended to shut up, except for James as the ranting voice of determined hostility on one side and a few brave souls on the other who have broken ranks occasionally to offer respectful dialogue on friendly first-name terms, or even support.

Mike has always been one of these. And now he came to the rescue again. Pleased by my change of tone, he turned his mind to my argument, and this time readily agreed I had a point. Most of the others maintained what I take to be a grudging, resentful silence. Someone started a purely theoretical discussion with Mike as to whether paedophilia is or is not taxonomically distinct; two or three others called for a halt to the personal spat. James got a bit of support for his efforts to “help” paedophiles, notably from Dan Watter, president of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research; but these were very brief contributions that neither attacked me nor addressed my arguments. And that was about it. Except for Judith Levine.

She had said vigilantes such as Creep Catchers tried “to scare the living bejesus” out of people and their activities could not be condoned. James disagreed, saying “Whether we here like it or not, their actions have great public support and attention.” Opposing them directly would not work: “This method, history has shown time and again, will only fuel the fire and add to the anti-intellectual fervor of the day.” Judith came back strongly. She wrote:

…as a political tactic, every movement needs radicals to stand not only for what we might get now but what we really want & really believe in. Current “sex offender” policies and practices are not only ineffective and counterproductive…. They are wrong. Legal hyper-punishment is unjust, and vigilante violence is immoral. No one should condone them, even obliquely.

This prompted Richard Green to enter the fray in support of Judith’s record, citing not only her well-known book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex, discussed in comments here last time, but also her service as a Director of the National Center for Truth and Justice, which campaigns against what he called “problematic sex laws” and supports those falsely accused of child sex abuse.

Now into his eighties, Richard has a long and distinguished record of radicalism of his own as a leading academic psychiatrist who successfully campaigned against homosexuality being treated as a mental illness, and who made a bold bid to do likewise for paedophilia in a far less sympathetic political climate. As president of the International Academy of Sex Research he even stuck his neck out by inviting me as his guest speaker at the academy’s annual conference in 2000 – which is where I first met Mike Bailey.

Amazingly, by the time of Richard’s intervention on the Creep Catchers thread, it looked as though peace was breaking out. James posted in a remarkably emollient tone, even calling me Tom, which he has never done before. Wonders never cease! Alas, it didn’t last long. Like so many tactical ceasefires in so many conflicts, it would only take a single disaffected sniper to wreck the prospects of peace.

This time it was Nick Devin, Virtuous Pedophiles founder, who weighed in with a highly personal attack on me, saying I had always been mean to him despite his best efforts to hold out the hand of friendship. He had a point. I do not possess an effigy of Nick, but if I did it would be stuck so full of pins it would look like a hedgehog. Have I been unreasonable towards him? Maybe. But it’s hard to see clearly through a miasma of visceral loathing and contempt. Did I say I am not a good hater? Perhaps I should think again. Or maybe not. My view of Nick is not set in concrete, whereas a good hater’s would be.

Be that as it may, Nick’s “contribution” seemed to set James off again. Certainly, I cannot otherwise explain why he unexpectedly came back into the fray, like one of those horror-film monsters you think has just been despatched but suddenly stirs…

I won’t dignify what he said by repeating any of it. It was all utter crap, which I rebutted immediately, calmly and in detail, in a 2000-word volley that included reference to the opinions of sexnetters who have commended my contribution to the forum, including this, from transsexuality expert Anne Lawrence: “If Sexnet gave an award for clear, eloquent, well reasoned analysis, Tom O’Carroll would get my vote.”

The last word went to Mike Bailey:

There is no thought to excluding Tom O’Carroll from SEXNET. He knows a lot about some important topics, and SEXNET would be poorer intellectually without his presence.

That said, both Tom and his critics sometimes–too often–can’t keep themselves from digging/insulting each other. This is to their own detriment. The only people that appeals to is themselves (for retributive purposes) and the people who already agree with them. It is mostly annoying to others, and keeps others from reading their reasoning carefully. Which is a shame, because all are very thoughtful and taking important, mostly reasonable, positions.

I would be a fool to argue against any part of this, which is why, despite one or two ceasefire-breaking little salvos of my own, here, I do not rule out reconciliation with both Nick and James. But it has to be on a basis of intellectual and personal respect. Mutual, of course. They have both been invited to comment and will be treated courteously by me if they do so and, I hope, by other heretics.

Down and dirty in the VP basement

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A confession: distaste for Virtuous Pedophiles (VP) has hitherto deterred me from undertaking a thorough scrutiny of their website. I thought I knew quite enough about them, thank you very much, from their media coverage, plus exchanges with co-founders Nick Devin and Ethan Edwards on Sexnet and here on Heretic TOC.

Their input of comments to last week’s blog, Humble or haughty, nasty is naughty, however, meant I would finally have to get down and dirty, scouring their lair from attic to basement in order to make a properly informed response. That is why I have taken a bit of time over the job and is also one reason why, having made that effort, I feel it is worth featuring this undertaking as a follow-up blog. Another is the growing salience of VP in public discourse. I believe this means there will be sufficient general interest to justify showcasing the result.

Having said that, I had better issue a trigger warning. Please understand that what follows will be longer and less humorous than usual, without any particular structure leading you through from one paragraph to the next. I will simply be responding, first to Nick’s points then to Ethan’s. As such, the text itself, as opposed to inherent interest in VP, is so dull it may send you into a coma. There is more than you might expect, at the start, on research by Dr James Cantor. You have been warned!

RESPONSE TO NICK 

Nick wrote:

“Dr. Cantor’s scientific findings…appear to be generally accepted by other scientists, including Mike Bailey who we both trust. His work has also been confirmed by other researchers. Check out the resource section of our web site for some recent studies.”

What Mike Bailey and I both accept, along with others who have been taking an interest, is that James Cantor is a scientist of some repute and that his findings are interesting.

It is not true, though, that all of these findings are generally accepted. Cantor, for instance, has concluded from his own research and that of others, that paedophilia is a sexual orientation. I think he is right, and increasingly this seems to be the consensus, but the position is nevertheless contested. In one of the sources (“Are paedophiles’ brains wired differently?”) listed on your website resource section, he is quoted thus:

“Paedophilia is something that we are essentially born with, does not appear to change over time and it’s as core to our being as any other sexual orientation is.”

But Dr Paul Fedoroff is quoted in the same article as an expert with a very different view who thinks paedophiles can be “cured”. As you know, he and his colleagues (lead author Müller K.) published a claim to this effect in a peer-reviewed journal. His paper is listed on your website. Mike Bailey rebutted it, and Fedoroff et al. rebutted the rebuttal.

How are non-scientists like you or I supposed to know whom to believe? As responsible people, I don’t think it makes sense just to latch onto the first scientist who comes along who seems to know his stuff. We need to think about the evidence for ourselves, just as a lay jury must think about the evidence-based claims made in court by an expert witness (or possibly by competing experts on opposite sides).

Having said that, I have never personally disputed any of Cantor’s findings or claimed to have grounds upon which to do so. That may surprise you. It may even surprise Cantor, because his own reaction to my sceptical questions has always been one on knee-jerk hostility towards anybody coming from an “advocacy” position. He simply has no interest in patiently addressing such questions when it is easier just to hurl abuse.

Please understand that what I have disputed (but only through questions, not assertions) has never been Cantor’s findings but rather his interpretation of those findings. For instance, he wrote a paper about the “deficiency” in paedophiles’ brains of white matter.

There is a huge presumption in that word deficiency. It suggests that something is wrong. But it ain’t necessarily so. A post mortem examination of Einstein’s brain showed (or so it was reported in Neuroscience Letters in 1996) he had a smaller brain than average for an adult male: 1.2kg as opposed to average 1.4kg.  Does that mean he had a “deficiency” of brain power? Clearly not. Even when brain size is different on average between two entire classes of person (men’s brains are on average larger than women’s), it is unwise to leap to conclusions about superior functionality based on size alone.

Indeed, even where brain differences have been associated with a dysfunction, such as lack of social skills of people with Asperger’s, that brain style may also go along with exceptionally high cognitive functioning: there are plenty of geeks around with Asperger’s, and they make a huge contribution to the advancement of science, engineering, etc.

Cantor is well aware of the dangers of assuming inferiority based just on evidence of difference. He must be. He is gay. He knows there are research findings showing that gay men have subtly different physical development at the foetus stage, which is associated with disproportionately high left-handedness (as with paedophiles!), a different ratio between the length of one finger to another, etc. But he does not leap to the conclusion that gay people are inferior; nor should he.

That is exactly what he does with paedophiles though. He uses the word “deficiency” in relation to paedophiles’ brains and then, talking about brain development of the foetus, he speculates:

“A possible cause may be maternal stress or malnourishment.”

He continues:

“The more we can zero in on exactly what’s going on and when it’s happening, the greater chance of being able to prevent it from developing in the first place.”

Who could argue against such sympathetic common sense? Who would not wish to eliminate maternal stress or malnourishment?

Well fine, let’s do research on that.

But note the unexamined assumption that paedophilia is caused by an undesirable condition, and the scientist’s job is to find a way to eliminate it.

If Cantor is really being objectively sympathetic and humane, why doesn’t he apply the same logic to the gay population, given that they too are the product of in utero developmental anomalies? If he is really clever, he might be able to stop people being “born gay”, including any future Cantor clones! I doubt he will be applying for research grants along those lines though.

And here is another dodgy assumption, in the very same short passage from your own cited  resources. He claims it is as though paedophiles have cross-wiring in the brain. And, on this basis:

“It’s as if, in these people, when they perceive a child, it’s triggering the sexual instincts instead of triggering the nurturing instincts.”

The assumption here is that when the sexual instinct is turned on, the nurturing side is switched off. What Cantor does not seem to have considered, or does not wish to examine, in the possibility that for paedophiles (or for those of us who love kids as opposed to raping them) erotic and nurturing feelings towards children are not in opposition to each other. As with many mothers, they go together. In male paedophiles such feelings could well arise from a slight feminisation of the brain in utero.

As for what I think of Cantor’s findings, as opposed to his interpretations of them, I have often entertained sceptical thoughts but I have never had strong enough evidence to contest them, or not until recently.

For instance, Cantor reported that paedophiles tend to have a significantly lower IQ than average, based on forensic sampling. It would have been easy to rubbish such work on the basis that most paedophiles in the community are likely to be more intelligent than those who get caught committing offences. In fact, though, Cantor’s research is quite sophisticated and takes this possibility into account. Rather than making a weak criticism of his IQ claim on Sexnet or elsewhere, I have held my tongue.

Recently, though, I see there is a new forensic study which comes up with completely different findings, showing paedophiles’ IQ is normal:

Azizian, A. et al., 2015. A summary at the Paraphilia Research website begins “This new study joins previous research in finding that pedophiles have normal IQ.” A separate link to the previous research in question is extensively referenced. I have yet to read and assess all this, but we are talking about peer-reviewed studies.

One further point about research, before I move on. You proudly point to your resources section, which includes academic papers. I would point out, though, that it is a rather loaded selection, notably excluding work showing lack of harm associated with adult-child sexual contacts (notably the Rind et al. 1998 meta-analysis) or with positive outcomes.

Moving on from Cantor, and from research, you write:

>You are wrong when you say that I don’t criticize sex offender treatment programs.

I did not quite say that, but I accept that I inadvertently implied it. My apologies for that.

Also:

>Mike Bailey knows why I posted the link to the article [i.e. the Vice News piece discussed last time] because he, Ethan and I had private correspondence about it before I posted it. I was intrigued by the quote that was attributed to you because it sounded like you regretted not taking the path that VP has taken. Given your hostility toward us, that surprised me.

I do not doubt any of this. What I find harder to accept is that you had no further motivation, of a less charitable kind. You use the media, at every opportunity, to badmouth “pro-contacters”. Why would your approach be any different when trying to influence people on Sexnet?

>It never occurred to me that you would be so offended by the fact that someone from our group said mean things about you in the article. Like Ethan, I would have thought that you would be accustomed to this, and that you would not be so thin skinned.

That’s a bit like punching a woman in the face when you see her, then excusing yourself by saying,  “I know your husband often beats you up, so I guess you are used to it and won’t mind me hitting you as well.”

It also ignores what I said in this latest blog:

“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.”

Let me emphasise those first words: “I have no trouble living with Brett’s disapproval”. You are right to say one becomes inured to “mean things” that are said. If I were to lose sleep over insults on Twitter, or get desperately upset over routine tabloid vilification, I wouldn’t last long as a heretic.

The general rule, I think, is that bad-mouthing from those who are either ignorant, or just hired guns, is pretty much like water off a duck’s back in terms of personal impact. It can be much more wounding to hear unwelcome “home truths” from a close friend, or anybody one respects.

Or, indeed, from anyone whose views are likely to be respected by others because they appear to have some special knowledge. That would include scientists such as Cantor, and also you and Ethan (and Todd and Brett) because you are insiders to the experience of being MAPs. When you are nakedly hostile it is thus likely to influence a lot of people; also, your lack of solidarity with your fellow MAPs feels deeply treacherous.

I am sure you are aware of this. So the fact that you twist the knife at every opportunity does you no credit. It merely confirms you as vicious rather than virtuous.

I have no power in this matter though. Neither do any of us here so far as I can tell. All I can do is implore you not to abuse your own influence in the world. You can make your case on behalf of the non-offending paedophile quite effectively without resorting to incredibly offensive (especially to anyone less inured than me, and that will include most of the Kind community) anti “pro-contacter” propaganda.

You can simply choose to speak for yourselves and for other non-offenders, a category which I would think includes many of us heretics here, especially these days. Oh, and by the way, as long as you, Ethan and others go under pseudonyms we only have your word for it that you are non-offenders. Not that I am saying you ought to give your real names, nor am I accusing you. Just saying. As for your forum members, there will surely be former offenders among them who are now sincerely trying to stay “virtuous”, but not all will necessarily succeed.

While I am at it on the matter of pseudonyms, I would add another matter that should give the media some grounds for wondering just how kosher you are: VP has no constitution. You and Ethan are answerable to no one in the way you run it. You say you have “members” but there appears to be no democratic structure. You cannot be voted off the executive. This is perhaps not a great problem at the moment, especially as you do not seem to be asking anyone for money. Of course, a similar criticism could be made of Heretic TOC. However, like other personal blogs, this one is openly focused on my personal views and those of others I choose to host – usually fellow heretics but sometimes not, as in the present case. An organisation such as VP, by contrast, which aims to help distressed paedophiles (though curiously this is not listed in your official aims, which are very restricted and tucked away as FAQ Q5) arguably should be more accountable.

If VP continues as at present, successfully attracting publicity and further “members”, it will become increasingly difficult to monitor and moderate interactions on the forum on a purely volunteer basis, which will in any case have its downside in terms of quality control – as we have seen when Brett has been let loose.

If you feel the need to present a distinctive VP brand, I don’t think we heretics could have any objection to your doing so in a slightly different way. If you are going to set yourself apart, let it be from those who abduct, rape and murder kids, or who trick and exploit them: people who do real harm.

Nor would I object to you saying you do not think kids can consent, and that present laws should remain. That is certainly an arguable case and I have no quarrel at all with you saying you subscribe to it. Where I think most of us here would part company with you is when you collude with the tabloids and others in vilifying those of us who take a different position. That is just plain wrong, as wrong as the KKK used to be in attacking “dirty n……s” who “lust after our womenfolk” and seek “miscegenation”.

So please, I politely implore you, just stop it now!

RESPONSE TO ETHAN

Attempting to justify use of the term “pro-contact”, Ethan wrote:

>As you note, I see the possible confusion with using “pro-contact”, but I don’t see any strong evidence that Brett or Todd or the public at large are interpreting this as being in favor of adult sexual contact with kids today.

As Dissident wrote earlier today, it is a safe assumption that many will take it that way.

>”They are sufficiently repelled by pedophiles who confidently conclude that it’s only societal attitudes and laws that keep adult-child sex from being OK — even if they do obey the laws.”

But don’t expect Kind folk here to be happy with your efforts to reinforce how “repellent” we are. As Stephen6000 implied with his short sceptical question, you are going out of your way to reinforce prejudice based on whipped up emotions, not facts.

>“we have irreconcilable purists on our own side”

There are people whose views I respect who perhaps take an even dimmer view than I do of dealings with mainstream media such as Vice News, and who likewise might see no point in any sort of negotiation with VP over language such as “pro-contact” versus “pro-choice”, or whatever. Is that being a “purist”? Perhaps “realist” might be an expression more favoured by some.

>Todd and Brett rightly point out that even a few loud voices can stain those of us with moderate views.

Neither Todd nor Brett sound moderate to me, I have to say. Their denunciation of “pro-contacters” is rabid in its ferocity, and the VP website is likewise fiercely partisan.

Yes, I’ve taken a potshot or two myself against you guys, notably in my last blog, but only because there are limits to turning the other cheek. None of this antagonism would have started without VP setting out deliberately, right from the outset, to aim at making yourselves look good at Kind expense. It’s all there, quite clearly on your website, in your public pronouncements and even in your name: you are “virtuous” and lose no opportunity to define yourself against the “selfishness”, “self-serving rationalisations”, etc of the despised Other i.e. anyone with a different view to you, no matter how principled and indeed moderate it may be.

While our views are indeed a long way from the mainstream I don’t think we can be accused of extremism in our methods, which have always been peaceful, democratic and inclusive, which is why you are allowed to participate on this forum. We are reasonable, and as Mike Bailey says, principled. There is nothing immoderate about that.

We give no cause for you to talk in public about us in the extraordinarily hateful way you do, making us out to be all but sub-human, just as the worst of the tabloid media do. And then you, and more especially Nick, have the gall to claim we are being hateful. The hypocrisy is so naked and extreme it beggars belief that you can expect to be taken seriously.

>But the trends seem to be against you. “Holding your ground” seems like very much of a rearguard action.

Yes, it is. As you rightly point out, we have been losing ground for decades, since long before VP came along: victim feminism and “respectable” gay politics have steadily gained ground at our expense in mass culture. This does not, however, mean we are wrong or should give up. The early Christians had to fight for centuries before the tide turned in their favour.

Where I think we are holding our own and have some prospect of doing better in the near future is in the extent to which we MAPs begin to see ourselves as Kind rather than Virtuous. Bear in mind, it is not just Heretic TOC versus VP: other websites, such as those listed in the Blogroll here, offer good information and thoughtful analysis, with Consenting Humans as a recent very impressive addition. Dissident has given other examples earlier today.

There are also organisations which do not support the “heretical” perspective seen here but which are truly moderate where VP is not: notably B4U-ACT in the US, which I see has its annual workshop coming up in April, and FUMA, its fledgling UK equivalent, as mentioned in Heretic TOC last time.

>Meanwhile, 1,300 people have been inspired to sign up with Virtuous Pedophiles in the last 2.5 years. I don’t think there is any group where pro-legalization opinions are welcome (see how precise I’m being?) that has attracted members in anything like those numbers.

As we have seen from Samuel, there are grounds for scepticism over the meaning of these numbers. Also, it is not comparing like with like because Heretic TOC has not offered membership. This site scores hundreds of hits every day (over 500 yesterday). If we were to go down the membership route it is entirely possible we would get as many sign-ups as VP,  and with much less chance of people leaving through disillusion over the fact that you offer help (well, you offer your forum) that may not be experienced as all that helpful.

About your forum, you say:

“A forum provides a community to reduce isolation and desperation. The Virtuous Pedophiles forum provides a place where pedophiles can discuss living with their attraction, but with the shared understanding that sexual activity with children is wrong and that we are not trying to make it more acceptable.”

I find myself wondering exactly what this discussion amounts to, and whether many or most forum participants end up feeling they have been helped. Nick referred on Sexnet to data  I have supposedly ignored. Trawling the VP website in response to this accusation, though, I do not see anything that fits the bill, except perhaps for the “First Words” section of “Who We Are”. This showcases “…the initial messages we have received…. Reading them will give a flavor of our diversity, the themes that come up over and over again…”

These messages are interesting, and worthy of study, but they are indeed first words, which tell us why the writers came to VP in the first place. But they tell us nothing of how these people feel about VP after they have been around for a while, or why they leave if they do – perhaps because Brett has trashed their posts or they have not found the sense of community they had hoped for, or any real sense of how they can live with their paedophilia.

I may be wrong about this. Perhaps there is a lot of satisfaction. If so, VP would do well to ask members for their thoughts after they have spent some time on the forum, and when they leave, or go silent. Is there, indeed, any formal procedure for leaving? People register, but do they de-register? If not, then as time goes by your “membership” is going to be increasingly inflated by lost souls looking for a way out, a bit like the Hotel California:

“Relax,” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

Much better than just VP’s own survey, though, would be to encourage formal independent research for a peer-reviewed journal article. My call for this on Sexnet has so far gone without a positive response.

 

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!

 

The only problem is problematisation itself

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What about a 8-9 years old boy or girl who has sex play with children who are 4-5 years old?

This question was part of a post on the Sexnet forum in response to my own posting there of the kindergarten oral sex story. The implication appeared to be that such an age difference would necessarily be problematic. I think it will be worth posting my reply in full. It includes a very telling personal story briefly mentioned in the comments here a few days ago. Here, with slight editing, is what I said:

What’s the problem? As Roosevelt said (or near enough!), “We have no problem but problematisation itself.” Judith Levine copiously demonstrated in her book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex that problematising children’s sexuality serves only to create victims rather than offering protection. Let me, though, instead of quoting from Levine, give you an idea of what she and I mean in a very up-to-date example that surfaced earlier this month following the kindergarten sex story:

Ashley1988:

“I have experience as one of those kids. When i was 9 I was caught naked with 7 year old half brother. I had no idea what sex was being raised in a Mormon family. We were not touching or anything. Just comparing our bodies because we thought it was funny that they were so different.

“I was snatched out of bed at 2 am and brought to the police station by my step mother. I was interrogated by the police on camera. I got yelled at and called a sex offender and predator. I was even had to take a lie dectector test which I of course passed, but it didn’t matter.

“I was signed over to state custody, and placed in a facility for sex offenders that included men more than twice my age in a distant state. While growing up there I was sexually assaulted and raped. The group therapy sessions consisted of admitting that you are a sex offender or you could never get placed any where better. If I tried to explain it wasn’t sexual they said I was a sick perverted slut justifying my behavior and/or minimizing.

“I signed myself out the very day that I turned 18 and got a cheap apartment. I am now almost 25 and now I refuse to let anyone see me naked. It terrifies me, nobody has seen me naked since that day when I was 9, not even doctors. Other than the 68 year old man that raped me. Therapists also terrify me since they were the ones calling me a horrible sex offender. I would never be anything like those sex offenders I had to grow up with, but had to pretend I was to survive or be allowed to go to a safer place.

”I also have a deep fear of men and so I have only dated women, but still refused to let them see me naked.

“Please don’t ruin these kids lives by making things into them being sex offenders. When adults overreact they end up traumatizing them.” In Jezebel.

If you read Levine you will see that this sort of horror story has become endemic in modern America. You might ask, what about when a kid really is abusive? I would say they have better ways of dealing with things elsewhere. But that can wait for another day.

Back to Heretic TOC, here and now:

This blog’s spies report that Jimmy “the Screamer” Cantori, notorious hit person for the Toronto mob (aka James Cantor), has today been screaming like crazy on Boy Chat of all unlikely places, posting over 30 comments. Dipping into a selection, it soon becomes clear the style is very much the Screamer’s, so it is most unlikely this could be an imposter – as he once accused Heretic TOC of being.  The big question has to be, why BC? Is this meant to be a public “education” exercise? If so, some might feel the Screamer’s bombastic, you-schmucks-know-nothing, style does him no favours. What does him even fewer, if favours can go into minus zero territory, is his refusal to engage with criticism based on a close reading of his work.

“Observer” posted on BC saying “Cantor, Blanchard, and others of the Toronto Centre for Pedophile Pursuit have made up their minds that sexually expressed older male/boy attraction is a mental defect/illness, and the only data they seem to consider is that which confirms their bias. Tom O’Carroll…has a running battle going on with Cantor, and also duels with him on Mike Bailey’s Sexnet mailing list.”

The Screamer replied:

“I’m in a battle with O’Carroll? Mostly, O’Carroll is just in a battle with his own personality. I have nothing to gain (or lose) by communicating with him at all. He merely summons my name up when he needs a purpose.”

Ah, that would be like now, I guess! And thanks, Jimmy, for the free psychoanalysis about me being in a battle with my own personality. If I hesitate to disagree with you, it is probably because my numerous schizophrenic “alters” are battling for who should go first!

He adds that he “stopped participating in Sexnet a while back”.

Yes, that would be right after he had zilch to say in response to my series of detailed critical questions about so-called white matter deficits in the paedophilic brain. He says he has nothing to gain or lose by communicating with me. But unless he is capable of giving good answers to my questions there is one thing he will lose whether he answers or not: scientific credibility. As reported here, the highly rated blogger Neurosceptic, himself a neuroscientist, said he felt my questions were “highly astute” and that he basically agreed with everything I said. The questions I raised in The dubious analogy of the ‘extra arm’  and Hand to hand on handedness need to be answered, and answered well, or the Screamer’s reputation is toast.

Hand to hand combat on handedness

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Heretic TOC yesterday promised a return to more challenging material in this post. This follows a reader’s request to provide details of my further exchanges with Dr James Cantor on white matter in the brains of paedophiles. So this post will be somewhat technical, and lengthier than usual.

Just to recap and set the scene, what follows is a short extract from near the start of my email on the subject to the totally brilliant and utterly wonderful blogger Neuroskeptic. No, honestly, it is a very impressive blog, but I feel obliged to lay it on a bit thick as Heretic TOC  been honoured by a visit and comment today from him (could be a “her”, I suppose, but no indication to that effect). So, the extract:

An interesting study in this area was J.M. Cantor et al.’s sMRI paper “Cerebral white matter deficiencies in pedophilic men”. Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 42, Issue 3, Pages 167-183 (2008).

The study looked for brain regions that distinguish pedophilic from nonpedophilic men. Pedophiles were found to have less white matter. The authors suggested that the regions in question operate as a network for recognizing sexually relevant stimuli and that pedophilia results from a partial disconnection within that network.

The work is one of a series of papers purporting to indicate that pedophiles have brain deficiencies resulting from “perturbation” of prenatal development, and other misfortunes such as trauma from childhood head injuries. Papers have shown lower average IQ of pedophiles and far more left-handedness than average.

Those who really want to know about all this stuff need to read Cantor’s paper and some of the theory behind my proposed alternative, which is grounded in current understandings of brain plasticity. The key scientific development is the field of epigenetics, which is all about how environmental effects can feed back into our fundamental biology, including brain structure. The mechanism for this is gene expression i.e. the environment can alter which of our genes are switched on and switched off, with massive effects.

For quick background, if you feel you need it, see two of my Heretic TOC postings Scientific egos as fragile as eggs and The dubious analogy of the ‘extra arm’. These posts describe my initial engagement in debate with Dr Cantor on the Sexnet email list-serve forum. What follows is a further Sexnet post, by me. This Sexnet posting follows a couple of sharp exchanges on Sexnet between Cantor and myself, in which he had accused me of being “an impostor” (sic). It was following this element of personal abuse by Cantor that the moderator, Dr Mike Bailey, stepped in to say “let’s take the insults offline” (see below). My reply follows on from this. In it, as you will see, I refer to a second, more recent, paper by Cantor (co-authored with Blanchard).

SEXNET:

Mon, 31 Dec 2012 at 18:46

>let’s take the insults offline.

Damn! Yesterday, just when I had a real zinger on the way, the ref steps in! 🙂

OK, I’ll back off from anything that might be considered provocative, but I hope I may be allowed to address the “impostor” point, not in order to hurl any insults but to defend myself against one. I fear the humour with which I had intended to respond will be seen as just such a provocation, so I’ll keep it straight: I asked the question at issue as a layman seeking information, and did not present myself as anything else. I have now been challenged to “produce an alternative explanation for the handedness findings” as though I were an expert. This flatters me. I have never pretended to be anything of the sort. [Heretic TOC adds: finding of “far more left-handedness than average”: see above.]

The challenge does however suggest a further question: Does the epigenetic explanation I proposed (again, simply as a curious layman) as an alternative to James’s account of paedophilic white matter structure stand or fall on the basis of handedness findings? If so, why?

The only clue I can find on this in James’s Sexnet posts is in the reference he made to his encounter with Susie Orbach on BBC radio. James wrote:

Had she asked me whether being abused could cause the differences in the brain, I would have let her know that abuse is indeed reflected in brain anatomy, but not in any of the areas I found to be related to pedophilia.  (And I would have reminded her about implications of the handedness findings, which kept slipping her mind.)

The fact that the claimed implications of the handedness findings “kept slipping her mind” suggests either Orbach just wasn’t “getting it” or else she had some positive reason for rejecting the claims. I guess we’ll never know her reasoning; I could ask her but I am more interested in James’s, and the brevity of his remarks above doesn’t give much to go on. I will stick my neck out to interpret him, though, to agree that, yes, it is known that “abuse” which produces high levels of stress, such as children being persistently shouted at, or under frequent threat of violence, or subjected coercively to sexual impositions, can result in anatomical brain changes and that, yes, those changes have not been found in the areas where James has found differences in paedophilic white matter.

But no one is proposing (or not me anyway) childhood stress-induced brain changes as an alternative to James’s explanation of paedophilic white matter differences. I (provisionally) see paedophilia and hebephilia as non-pathological variations of sexual orientation, ranging from exclusive paedophilia (<5% of the adult male population) to a substantial, but non-preferential, attraction (up to 25% of the adult male population) at least if paedophilia and hebephilia are considered together. I wonder if James would predict that up to 25% of men – up to a quarter in various studies have been shown to have some sexual attraction to prepubescent or early pubescent children (i.e. children of pre-adult body morphology), or have admitted it – have some degree of white matter deficiency compared to the remaining 75%? Would it in principle be possible to plot a man’s (or an averaged large cohort of men’s) degree of white matter deficiency alongside the degree (as measured by penile plethysmography, say) of his attraction to children? Would James expect to find a graded matching of those data for a quarter of the male population? It seems somewhat implausible. If, alternatively, he is limiting his theory to a definitely small (<5%, perhaps 2-4%) group of paedophiles with pre-natal and infantile developmental problems, how then does he account for a substantial level of paedophilic attraction in around a fifth (25% – 5% = 20%) of male adults? For this he presumably has to invoke (not very parsimoniously) a second theory.

In Cantor & Blanchard 2012 no distinction is found between white matter structure in hebephiles as compared with paedophiles. This provides another problem for the developmental theory, as it would predict hebephilia as an intermediate type between paedophilia and teleiophilia. The authors respond by saying:

On the other hand, children in Tanner Stages 2 and 3 — the preferred sexual objects of hebephiles — might be perceived as physically more similar to children in the later years of Tanner Stage 1 than to fully mature individuals (Tanner Stage 5) by the average human observer. If that is true, then one might expect hebephiles to be more similar to pedophiles than to teleiophiles on relevant neuroanatomic parameters.

Well, the average Martian observer might be in no doubt, but my guess is that “the average human observer” would be very hard pressed to say that a youngster at Tanner stage 3 was more like a child than an adult, or the other way round. So would Tanner himself, I imagine, which would hardly be surprising as this morphology is bang in the middle of his 1-5 scale. The Cantor/Blanchard argument might work for Tanner stage 2, but this line of reasoning still looks very unconvincing.

One point to bear in mind here is that objective categorization misses the arguably more relevant subjective psychology of the hebephiles themselves. I know of many hebephilic men, often those who are married and have a substantial level of attraction to women, who report pubescent boys as highly attractive, and yet they are not at all drawn to prepubescent or adult males. This cuts right across Ray Blanchard’s alloerotic findings, which is a shame because I love his beautiful graphs and elegant exposition. Also, those who would otherwise lean towards paedophilia and teleiophilia can each be hebephilic in different ways. As Confucius said about homosexual hebephilia (but don’t ask me for the exact reference!), “The boy-lover sees the boy in the youth; the gay guy sees the man”. “Boyish” and “manly” aspects can be perceived in one and the same youth: beauty (and sexual attractiveness), and what characterises them, are indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Epigenetic factors, by contrast to James’s theory (or theories), impact upon everyone in ways capable of giving expression (gene expression, actually, or suppression) to an infinite range of personal experience. And the beauty of Jim Kohl’s pheromone idea, is that it offers a precise biological explanation of how sexual learning, including sexual orientation and even preferences such as a shoe fetish, is fed back into a person’s gene regulation following initial conditioning of a preference to a pheromonal stimulus in the learning environment. In the case of paedophilia, this would mean sexual arousal to child-related sensual stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) once these had been conditioned from an association with the pheromone, this being theoretically the primary (olfactory) stimulus.

Jim sees a role particularly for luteinizing hormone (LH), noting that LH is an important indicator of steroid hormone-mediated mammalian brain development. Significantly, in relation to James’s work, this brain development includes LH-driven changes in the ratio between white and gray matter.

This is admittedly all very speculative and Jim has long been treated somewhat dismissively here, but I see that he is no longer such a lone voice. Epigenetics, and quite possibly a role for human pheromones as an agent of epigenetic change, are beginning to look serious players in human sexuality.

Returning to handedness, I have no problem in seeing that it is not relevant to childhood brain changes beyond infancy (such as those caused by stressful abuse) but is relevant to pre-natal and infantile developmental “perturbations” that might also cause white matter differences.

As it happens, I have never contested any findings on handedness, digit ratios, etc., as markers of pre-natal or infantile developmental “perturbations”, whether in gay men or paedophiles. On the contrary, these effects seem highly plausible even though the research is dogged by contradictory results and low effect sizes, as is often the case in science: the “fog of war” is not untypically dense and slow to clear. However, until I hear otherwise, I do not see why acceptance of such findings commits anyone to the proposed explanation of observed white matter structural differences. Various bits of evidence may look as though they fit together like pieces in a jig saw puzzle, but there is sometimes a temptation to force a fit: the pattern suggests it must be the right piece, but the shape just isn’t quite right. Apologies if this is a misleading metaphor! And apologies for going on a bit.

Tom O’Carroll

Cantor JM & Blanchard R, White Matter Volumes in Pedophiles, Hebephiles, and Teleiophiles, Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:749–752

BACK TO HERETIC TOC LIVE:

My question this time to James Cantor was “Does the epigenetic explanation I proposed…as an alternative to James’s account of paedophilic white matter structure stand or fall on the basis of handedness findings?”

That was a month ago. He has not responded.

Only one thing worse than being talked about…

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I think it was Oscar Wilde who said “There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

On that basis, things could definitely be a lot worse, as heretics and heresy are constantly in the news these days. What’s different this month, though, is that the talk has not just been about the latest savage sentencing or celebrity exposé or busted paedo “ring”. No, the tone has been a fraction more elevated in the wake of Jon Henley’s story in the Guardian, which raised not just eyebrows but also quite a lot of chatter in interesting places.

Mark Williams-Thomas was probably the first high-profile figure out of the blogs. This guy, it may be recalled, is the ex-detective whose dodgy documentary for ITV on Jimmy Savile finally set ablaze the dry tinder of rumour about the late entertainer last October. He was quick enough, mainly on the word of a woman who has been dismissed as a serial fantasist, to trash Savile’s reputation. But he seemed stunned into disbelief that Heretic TOC had surfaced in a Guardian article. He tweeted, “Is it the real Tom O’Carroll from Paedophile Info Exc…?” There are of course many wannabe T.O’C.s, lookalikes, tribute acts and outright imposters, but Heretic TOC can assure him that, yes, this time it was the real McCoy (or O’Carroll).

And then there was Murdoch-bashing (well, he’s got one thing right) MP Tom Watson, who lost no time in blogging about Henley’s article and reviving his campaign against my former PIE committee colleague Peter Righton, one-time Director of Education at the National Institute of Social Work. If Watson is to be believed, Righton was into a VIP underage rent boy scene back in those days, involving a B&B in the upmarket Barnes district of London. Watson is claiming there is intelligence pointing to a “powerful paedophile network” linked to parliament and No 10 Downing Street. Naturally, in these no-stone-unturned times, Scotland Yard has started an inquiry.

If it is true, I can only say I’ve got a bone to pick with Peter: the bugger never told me about this exciting network, so I missed out on all the fun! Mind you, perhaps it’s just as well, or I’d be in the hot seat now. Seriously, though, as I told the Daily Mirror’s Tom Pettifor when he phoned again a couple of days ago, I had not the faintest inkling of any such shenanigans. As for Peter, I haven’t seen or heard from him in many years, but I wish him well: from our committee meetings, I recall a very affable, jolly, cultured man, of tastes and sensibilities as generous as his ample girth. As for him being a sexually dangerous figure, in my judgment he was no more dangerous than a rather rich gourmet meal washed down with a couple of bottles of vintage claret – pleasures I suspect he indulged in rather more often than steamy sessions in Barnes.

More fun than either the dodgy-doc cop or the campaigning MP, though, is a short YouTube video, shot to express outrage over the Guardian “giving a paedophile a platform”. I won’t spoil it by saying exactly what happens. I’ll just add that it is well worth sticking with, despite first impressions, especially for the spectacular demonstration of the presenter’s wrath. More wrath, too, in an unrelated clip that reveals Adolph Hitler’s towering rage over Jimmy Savile’s downfall. Don’t miss it: this is a classic!

What else? Ah, yes, there was Notorious Paedophile Reads Neuroskeptic. Remember Neuroskeptic? That’s the British neuroscientist blogger who backed Heretic TOC’s Doubting Thomas line on alleged paedophilic deficiencies of white matter in the brain. See Scientific egos as fragile as eggs and The dubious analogy of the ‘extra arm’. After citing the Guardian article, Neuroskeptic says “Now oddly enough, I recently had an encounter with O’Carroll, although I didn’t know who he was at the time. Here’s the tale…” Somewhat inconclusively, he concludes: “Now, as I said, I hadn’t heard of Tom O’Carroll at the time, and I assumed he had a purely academic interest in the matter, as a piece of oversold neuroscience. But now, thanks to the Guardian drama, I realize that…Britain’s most notorious paedophile reads Neuroskeptic….Hmm.”

Hmm? What’s that supposed to mean? That paedos should not be allowed to read about science? Or what? As for a “purely academic interest”, it would be naïve of Neuroskeptic to suppose that anyone’s interest in researching the structure of paedophilic brains is particularly “pure”: it is as much a political project as a scientific one: it is a phrenology of deviance, and its effect, if not the researchers’ conscious intention, will be to further entrench “the paedophile” as radically Other.

OK, that about wraps up this slightly self-indulgent round up of the gossip. Next time, all being well, Heretic TOC will be back to more challenging material. In particular, I have been asked to provide details of my further exchanges with Dr James Cantor on the science of the white matter issue. I won’t be offended if anyone skips this post, as it will be pretty technical. But some, I hope, will relish exactly that: less of the froth, more of the nitty gritty.

Three reasons to be cheerful

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A trio of weighty articles on paedophilia and related “sex offending” have made their appearance in leading journals in the last couple of weeks. What makes them stand out from the perpetual blizzard of bollocks thundering down on us with increasing intensity for the last decade or three is their positivity.

OK, it’s all relative. I’m not saying the revolution is around the corner or even that the worst is past. But at least we have seen a bit of resistance in influential places against prejudice, virulent hatred and inhumane treatment. Leading the way was The Guardian, in the UK: Jon Henley’s Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light was the first I have ever seen in a mainstream media outlet giving significant coverage to research suggesting that paedophilia is not intrinsically harmful. That was superb, confirming my long-held view that Alan Rusbridger is the best ever editor of what may well be the world’s greatest English-language newspaper – greatness to which I feel its many feminist writers have contributed, actually, although I seldom agree with them. Incidentally, there were complaints about Henley’s article but the paper has run a “Reader’s Editor” piece defending it.

Considering where the U.S. is culturally at right now, it was hardly to be expected that America would follow suit quite so strongly. Nevertheless, The New Yorker and The LA Times have done their bit. Be warned, “The Science of Sex Abuse”, by Rachel Aviv in The New Yorker, is a whopper of nearly 8000 words. The length is well justified, though, as it enables the writer to present a detailed case of civil commitment in all its manifold injustice and inhumanity. Civil commitment, as those outside the U.S. may not know, has developed extensively since Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in 2006, enabling supposedly “sexually dangerous” offenders to be detained indefinitely after serving a regular jail term. As the article shows, rather than being applied only to violent rapists, civil commitment has been used against mere possessors of child pornography. Once detained, “treatment” is offered, and release can in theory be granted if it is deemed successful, but this very rarely happens. Instead, detainees under treatment are put under pressure to confess hands-on offences they have never in fact committed, with the effect that harmless people are “confirmed” as dangerous. Aviv does an excellent job of showing of showing up the corrupt and inhumane nature of this system, especially the regime at Butner Federal Correctional Institute, in North Carolina: while this is a safe haven compared to a lot of brutal hellholes, it is also the safety of the tomb, from which there is no escape; all in all, real life Butner makes the fictional prison of Shawshank Redemption fame look benign.

Dr Michael Seto, known to me through the Sexnet specialist forum, contributed to the New Yorker piece, and another Sexnetter, Dr James Cantor, is featured extensively in the LA Times one. Yes, it’s him again, Jimmy “the screamer” Cantori, notorious hit person of the Toronto mob. The screamer’s dodgy science is central to Alan Zarembo’s piece “Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia”, which, like the New Yorker one, focuses on a guy whose only offence has been use of child porn. But never mind the screamer’s dubious claim that paedophiles’ brains are deficient in white matter, and other less than flattering findings of that sort: the real significance of this article is that it foregrounds the growing consensus in the scientific community that paedophilia is a true sexual orientation, not a depraved lifestyle choice. Being “born this way”, as it were, does not excuse bad behaviour, otherwise it would be possible for a sadistic murderer to say “Well, I was born a vicious bastard, it’s not my fault”. Nevertheless, “born this way” rhetoric played well politically in the early days of gay liberation in America and could do the same for paedophilia.

The tone of Zarembo’s article is very much along these lines, pointing to a more humane approach than the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” vindictiveness that currently prevails in America. So, I am not disappointed, even though Zarembo interviewed me for 90 minutes as part of his research for this article but not a single thing I said about radical research findings (no intrinsic harm, and possible benefits, in consensual child-adult sex) was used.

I spoke to him again on the phone yesterday, when it emerged that he is thinking of another piece, too, possibly on scientific support for the idea that minor-attracted people might be less inclined to get into trouble if they were allowed child porn animation as a safety valve: in other words cartoon porn of the sort pioneered in Japan, with their lolicon (Lolita complex) art and its boy-oriented equivalent, shotacon. That should be an interesting article in a country where the First Amendment (freedom of expression) status of animated porn depictions of children is still not necessarily finally settled.

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