Tweedledumbs and Tweedledumbers

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As I expected, Heretic TOC’s Lewis Carroll blog last time proved controversial. I have held back from responding in any detail to specific points of criticism in part because I felt I should avoid my own contribution becoming too much “the dominant discourse”, as it were. I am delighted to say this restraint has been richly rewarded with a number of interesting comments that have already appeared. There was also a blog-length one by “Sylvie” of such quality it cried out to be used as a guest blog, and it accordingly makes its debut below. This is Sylvie’s second guest piece, her first having been “We fight for more than Love or Pleasure”, last year.

This latest article is especially valuable as Sylvie is the author of two academic theses on Lewis Carroll and writes with obvious authority.

 

It seems that, as the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland continue, we are likely to find Lewis Carroll mentioned over and over again in newspapers, at literary events, and all over the Internet. I welcome this, as any discussion around this wonderfully complex personality never fails to thrill me. Unfortunately, it seems that we are not going to mark 2015 with white stones. Those who hope, as l very much do, to finally read an unbiased portrait of the author of the Alice books are doomed to be disappointed this year as well.

Were it not for the fact that I am well acquainted with the character of the man, I’d have good reasons to lose my sanity over the mostly absurd theories revolving around him. There are seemingly two opposite factions nowadays: the very indignant “Lewis Carroll-Absolutely-Not-A-Paedophile” one, and the apparently nonchalant “Dark-Side-Of-The-Repressed-Paedophile-Lewis Carroll”. Whereas these two battling factions claim to be distinct, truth is that they are very much alike in their lack of insight into the nature of paedophilia: they are Tweedledumbs and Tweedledumbers on the subject. Even more poignantly, they strive in controversy over a non-existing man: the real Lewis Carroll – whom they claim to appreciate but evidently fail to fully grasp – was neither dark nor sinister, nor was he repressed.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was not, in many respects, a repressed man. On the contrary, he had come to terms with himself, perhaps not without difficulty, as he had very likely been on his own on the challenging journey to self-discovery. He must have arrived at such realisation possibly after much soul-searching, as is usual when one has a rich and complex inner life. He was not “strange”. He had his quirks, true, but that’s because he was somehow naturally unconventional – in his mind first and foremost, and therefore in his outer demeanour, interests, and hobbies. I believe he was at peace with his conscience; that is why he would not welcome interference from people, whether parents (whenever he thought they were being unnecessarily cautious) or anyone who would raise an eyebrow.

When word of his “friendships” reached his sister Mary, she wrote a concerned letter to her brother. Charles’ reply (21 September, 1893), shuts the mouths, l believe, of those who accuse him of being “sinister”, and reveals instead the character of the man as well as his integrity:

“The only two tests l now apply to such a question as the having some particular girl-friend as a guest are, first, my own conscience, to settle whether I feel it to be entirely innocent and right, in the sight of God; secondly, the parents of my friend, to settle whether l have their full approval for what l do.”

He was so free from repression that he claimed the right to pursue whatever friendships he liked best: not only with children but, for instance, with adult unmarried women as well, which may not have appeared as terribly appropriate at the time. He would happily mingle with artists and actresses. He was always looking out for like-minded people.

He took decisions that were coherent with his lifestyle: he took up photography and experimented with it as long as it thrilled him. He gave it up, not because of wagging tongues but more likely because technological advancement had made photography a more complex and burdensome hobby, and he presumably no longer wished to commit that much, in his later years, to something he felt he had experimented enough with.

His decision not to proceed to the priesthood cannot be accounted for convincingly by his speech impediment, which he had managed to control to a certain extent through discipline and professional help; a better explanation is that his beliefs developed as his life progressed, taking him beyond his Anglican faith towards a more ecumenical attitude. You couldn’t hold him down; he refused to be restricted.

In a letter to his niece, Edith Dodgson (March 8, 1891), he wrote:

“A truth that is becoming more and more clear to me as life passes away –- that God’s purpose, in this wonderful complex life of ours, is mutual interaction, all round. Every life…bears upon, or ought to bear upon, the lives of others.”

He had had a religious, conservative upbringing, but despite being traditional in many respects, he was never narrow-minded, or regressive. Far from being repressed or frustrated, he had a disposition that we could positively define as all embracing. Whereas the dicta of the established Church would not easily condone such an intellectual stance, he positively included dissenters and sinners into the picture.

Likewise, as a result of the same independent spirit, he did not remain a bachelor because “it was part of his contract with Christ Church”, as it has been perhaps too naively stated. Had he considered marriage feasible for himself, it is safe to assume that, in the end, he would have married. It had been clear to him, from an early age that married life was simply not for him. Not because he was uncomfortable around adults, or he failed to be appreciative of the many benefits of marriage, but likely because he may have recognised married life as incompatible with his lifestyle, and perhaps, with himself as a man – what he was, what he could or could not give. He longed to maintain a life that was not strictly bound by domestic obligations; a life that enabled him to be free to pursue interests and hobbies, and take up things and dismiss them, and change opinion and route.

The very strong point in Tom’s blog is, in my opinion, the affirmation that Dodgson’s sophistication was not at all incompatible with paedophilia. That’s because it is rather convenient nowadays to convey the message that virtually anyone who has a paedophilic inclination, or has experienced paedophilic feelings towards a child, must necessarily be an emotionally retarded loner. To concede that paedophilia does not necessarily make one “retarded”, either emotionally or on any other level, would attribute a certain degree of “normality” to paedophilic inclinations. There is always a risk that the public may suspect that the game is not being fairly played, and that this suggested “degree of normality” clearly clashes against the modern crusade that sees all adult-child relationships as suspicious. The mere suggestion of normality would make the crusaders’ stances reek more and more of propaganda, and less of legitimacy. Far from being emotionally retarded, Lewis Carroll “had a passionate orchestra playing within his breast”, as Morton N. Cohen has perceptively remarked.

Lewis Carroll did what he enjoyed doing and he could see nothing wrong in anything he did, because there simply was nothing wrong or “strange” or “unhealthy” about him. It’s not a matter of “Victorian social sensitivities” as the apologists (scholars included) nowadays claim, rather it is a matter of what he was and what he was not: he was not dark, he was not sinister. He was not then, he is not now.

Is this what you call, living a repressed life?

Similarly deluded are those Carrollians engaged in a (puerile and rather boring, if you ask me) battle for the affirmation of an appreciation for the companionship of children, on the part of Lewis Carroll, that was absolutely free from any paedophilic implications. Whereas I could, on a good day, be willing to make an effort to try and understand the reasons of those “fans” who evidently sleep better at night if they know that their literary “hero” was as far from being a paedophile as anything could be, I most certainly am not as merciful with “experts”, who have spent decades researching the life of Lewis Carroll. If the former are naive, the latter are likely to be intellectually dishonest.

I am absolutely sure Tom was perfectly aware of the fact that Lewis Carroll was being humorous when, in an attempt to amuse a child, he reassured her that he indeed was “fond of children, except boys”. I bet any girl would rightly giggle at that!

But was it just humour?

To say that he would spend more time with girls because girls were what he would find at home while boys were in school, is deluded at best, outright dishonest at worst. Such an openly misleading remark would convince no one except perhaps a naive audience longing to be reassured that Lewis Carroll was not a “child molester”. Furthermore, by rejecting allegations of paedophilia, the speaker is implicitly conveying the message that all erotic fascination with children is unacceptable, and therefore resisting the idea that paedophilia could be a sexual orientation with a legitimate place in the complex universe of human sexuality.

For most of his life, Lewis Carroll was actively and relentlessly seeking the companionship of girls, writing letters to girls, pleading mothers to bring girls along, asking permission to take girls out, simply because that’s where he derived his emotional satisfaction. It’s not that he went to this or that home and had to be content with what he found there, namely girls. There was a component with girls – emotional, romantic, and possibly erotic, why not? – that was just not there with boys. The fact that Lewis Carroll was most certainly celibate is no evidence that he never experienced a paedophilic attraction. Rather it is evidence of his stern rules of behaviour, and what he believed to be moral rectitude.

To claim that Lewis Carroll’s pursuit of child friendships equalled that of your average Victorian gentleman is nonsense. While it is true that Victorian attitudes towards children in general, and child friendships in particular, were certainly very different from ours, it is also true that it would have been quite unusual, even in those times, for a Victorian gentleman to engage in a relentless, life-long pursuit of friendships with little girls.

To claim that Lewis Carroll could not have been a paedophile because he was able to appreciate the beauty of the adult female form, is sadly unconvincing. There is no indication that one who has paedophilic inclinations cannot, at the same time, be attracted to adults, let alone recognise and appreciate the beauty of the human form.

Finally, to claim that Lewis Carroll did not have an appreciation for the company of girls that largely surpassed that of any man or woman of his times because, in his later years, he seemed to enjoy the company of adults as well, or even more, is frankly risible. Far from persuading me that there was “absolutely nothing even remotely paedophilic” in the man’s proclivities, it is evidence of that “degree of normality” in paedophilia that has been suggested before. In other words, that there is nothing, in an individual who has paedophilic inclinations, that will prevent him or her from being intellectually sophisticated, emotionally stable, fully psychologically developed, and socially acceptable.

In conclusion, the real obstacle to an open and frank discussion about Lewis Carroll seems to me to depend upon a reluctance to admit that there might be nothing inherently harmful in paedophilia, and that there is nothing, in paedophilic inclinations, that may prevent an individual from positively contributing to the greater good. In other words, that paedophiles as well can be a force for good in society.

All his life, Charles L. Dodgson cared for and looked after people, including attending to those in need as well as relatives, and providing financial support well beyond his obligations. In his dealings with child-friends he would make sure that the child was more than happy with anything he proposed, otherwise he would step back. He was forward-thinking in many respects: he wrote numerous pamphlets, including one pleading for the construction of a Women’s University, as he believed women were equally entitled to a higher education.

Very likely he experienced obvious difficulties. Very likely he experienced frustration. Very likely he experienced disappointment. Very likely he experienced loneliness. Still he was a creative genius who would always make sure that all of his magical gifts were shared with others, friends and strangers alike. His whimsical, immortal genius has continued to amuse and inspire generation after generation of readers, up to this day. If that’s not a beneficial contribution to society, what is? If he is not an example to truly look up to, who is?

Author Will Self has recently expressed concern over the creator of Alice in Wonderland: “It’s a problem, isn’t it, when somebody writes a great book and they’re not a great person?”

According to the dominant cultural climate, anyone who experiences an attraction to children, must automatically be “not great people”. To even suggest otherwise invites reprimand and suspicion. To suggest that paedophilia may simply be a natural variant in the diversity of human sexuality, could rightly be described, theologically speaking, as a newfound “scandal of the Cross”: an idea that is so radical, that it can only be perceived as scandalous.

According to some, Lewis Carroll had such “dark side”. But let me challenge the status quo: why must this side be dark? Why can’t it be bright, instead? And why can’t you be just as great if you have it?

Lewis Carroll was anything but dark. He was not only a decent person – he was indeed what you would describe as “great”.

Then where do these allegations of a “dark side” originate from?

They very likely stem from the unwillingness to accept the idea that the same individual who experiences an attraction to children (whether this be romantic, emotional, psychological, erotic – or all of these combined) can, at the same time, be the one who will go to great lengths to ensure that a child’s wellbeing is a priority, and who naturally has a child’s best interest at heart.

Just as Lewis Carroll had.

 

SMEAR CAMPAIGN REACHES NEW LOW

In “An Idiot’s Guide to the Westminster Bubble” last month, Heretic TOC reported on a couple of events in parliament, one of which was a rally by Hacked Off, a group which aims to secure a more independent press complaints body than the toothless old Press Complaints Commission and the equally non-scary watchdog the press barons are presently trying to replace it with, an outfit laughably called the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

In their efforts to smear Hacked Off, the Mail on Sunday, owned by one of the said barons, Lord Rothermere, has run a story highlighting the presence at the meeting of someone who would be, in their words, “an embarrassment” for the group. Who was that person? Well, it was someone who had been an activist in an organisation “formed in 1974 to campaign for sex with children to be legalised”. Yes, you’ve guessed it: they were talking about thoroughly embarrassing yours truly! See here for their mighty scoop, which mentions this blog albeit without doing the courtesy of giving the name or a link.

Which is to be master – that’s all

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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Grumpy Mr Dumpty was right, unfortunately. Take the word “paedophilia”. All the queen’s horses and all the queen’s men couldn’t put it back together again in its earlier queen’s English usage as a relatively objective medical term for sexual attraction to children. Admittedly, the man who first used the term paedophilia erotica*, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, was blatantly moralistic in denouncing the “unmanly, knavish and often silly” expression of such feelings; but a century or so would pass before we learned which was to be the master meaning, and who would make it so, when tabloid interpretation brutally bound the word hand and foot to sadism and murder, ruthlessly gagging gentler understandings, choking them off.

So, when I heard Andrew Marr presenting BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week discussion on Lewis Carroll and the Story of Alice on Monday, I was not surprised to hear him say that Alice in Wonderland and its later companion volume Through the Looking-Glass (from whence comes the Humpty Dumpty passage above) are “meant to be playful and to make you laugh, which is one of the answers to the whole paedophilia worry: something so playful, so funny, is unlikely to be that sinister”.

Paedophilia in this construction is sinister. The logic then proceeds thus: playfulness is not sinister; Carroll is playful; therefore Carroll is not sinister – and cannot be a paedophile. I have cheated a bit: Marr said the sinister side was unlikely rather than impossible, but it is clear he wants to exonerate Carroll from the more defamatory connotations of the P word.

Quite right too.

Not that Marr or his guests were in denial over Carroll’s sexual attraction to little girls, in what turned out to be a rather good programme to mark the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland’s publication in 1865. Gillian Beer, who has edited Carroll’s nonsense poems and will be bringing out a volume on the Alice books later this year, spoke with exquisitely tactful precision. Speaking with Alice Liddell in mind, the real little girl who inspired the wonderland books, she said:

“I think that the figure of Alice in Alice in Wonderland is a part answer to any suggestion of damage to the children… she is so appreciated as a lively, imaginative curious, independent young girl and she is treated with such respect, as it were, by the book; yes, she is teased, yes, she is worsted, but she is absolutely…

Marr interrupts: “But she isn’t objectified?”

…no, never. It’s always told, indeed, from within her, so that it’s her sensibility we’re sharing, and it’s her sense of terror, sometimes that is informing everything we read there.”

Beer is in effect confirming points raised elsewhere in the programme: Carroll was in love with Alice and probably got into trouble with her mother for being overly affectionate towards the child; but this essentially paedophilic behaviour was not a source of damage.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, whose book The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland has just been published, was also a Marr guest. His book, one reviewer notes, draws attention to Carroll’s having written “A girl of about 12 is my ideal beauty of form.” Also, asked if children ever bored him, he replied: “They are three-fourths of my life.”

Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was an Oxford mathematics don. The picture that emerges from Douglas-Fairhurst’s book, according to a review in the Observer, is that he photographed Alice Liddell “obsessively” and was “evidently in love” with her. Alice was born in 1852. Already, from 1858 to 1862, “Dodgson’s peculiar intimacy with Miss Liddell had become the subject of intense Oxford gossip, with suggestions that the strange young Christ Church don had even proposed marriage and been rebuffed by the girl’s parents”.

The marriage proposal sounds like the Victorians’ idea of a joke; but the mere fact that there was intense gossip about the relationship refutes the modern deniers’ claim that Dodgson’s “sentimental” or “paternal” attachment to Alice was considered unremarkable in its day. Most Victorian gentlemen did not hang out with prepubescent girls; nor did they – as Dodgson did – remain lifelong bachelors. There were other girls, too, who at various times in his life occupied a special place in Mr Dodgson’s affections, to whom he wrote copious letters and whom he photographed extensively, sometimes in nude poses – photos which, as Marr’s programme noted, could not be used in Douglas-Fairhurst’s book for fear they might now fall foul of the law.

The letters, the photos and much else have long been the subject of biographic attention, perhaps most assiduously in the case of Morton N. Cohen’s 1995 book Lewis Carroll: A Biography. In an essay for the Times Literary Supplement in 2004 (“When love was young”, TLS, 10 September 2004) Cohen took issue with a “revisionist” voice, that of Karoline Leach, one of a growing band of writers who seek to rescue the author of Alice from the taint of paedophilia by contriving desperately improbable alternative narratives. Dodgson was no dodgy don, she insists: he was in love not with Alice but with her governess, a Miss Mary Prickett.

I will not waste time on this absurdity, except to say that Cohen’s demolition is strong.

His critique of Edward Wakeling, a far more substantial Dodgson scholar, is also devastating in my view. Wakeling, a Dodgson devotee for decades and a past Chairman of the Lewis Carroll Society, certainly knows his stuff and indeed has presented a lot of it on a website, including a database of the great man’s surviving letters and photos. I am assured by a Lewis Carroll Society insider who knows Wakeling personally that he is privately willing to admit Dodgson’s interest in girls had its erotic side. But it seems he feels duty-bound to protect the man’s reputation in public. As with Marr and his guests, that is a good thing if one wishes to insist upon him having been kind and considerate, rather than callously abusive; but, in Cohen’s opinion and mine, he goes much too far in trying to explain inconvenient facts away when these have a direct bearing on Dodgson’s sexual desires and even his behaviour.

In the same TLS article in which he took Leach apart, Cohen also tackled Wakeling. As the editor at that time of the latest and fullest version of Dodgson’s diaries, Wakeling had suggested that Dodgson’s interest in girls had been merely paternal. If so, why was there a falling out between the Liddell family and Dodgson in June 1863? Pages from his diary for this period, which might have explained the matter, were cut out and never recovered. Wakeling plays the rift down as unimportant, saying it lasted only “a few weeks”; but Cohen shows this “few weeks” lasted from 27 June to 19 December, almost half a year (25 weeks) when Dodgson was unable to see his beloved Alice, or her sisters.

Cohen also points out that in addition to this blatant minimisation, Wakeling ignored an important letter that Lorina, Alice’s older sister, sent to Alice in 1930 when they were both elderly. Lorina was reporting a meeting with an early Dodgson biographer, Florence Becker Lennon. Lorina wrote:

“I said his manner became too affectionate to you as you grew older and that mother spoke to him about it, and that offended him so he ceased coming to visit us again – as one had to find some reason for all intercourse ceasing…Mr D. used to take you on his knee…I did not say that.”

By this time Alice would have been 11. Girls typically did not reach menarche in those days until around 14 to 17 – much later than now. So in all probability she was still physically very much a child. On the other hand, the age of consent in those days was 12. Small wonder Mrs Liddell was vigilant, given that Alice, child or not, would soon be “legal”! Having said this, though, it may be that the rift was caused by Mrs Liddell finding out that Dodgson was becoming too close to Lorina as well, an intimacy we shall see hinted at below.

However that may be, Cohen’s revelations have done little to stem the public demand for an innocent Dodgson, along with our ever more strident insistence upon childhood innocence. And Wakeling has proved ever the man to supply that demand in a plausible, but to my mind deliberately misleading, manner. For the 150th anniversary, he has come up with a book called Lewis Carroll: The Man and His Circle, which looks at the writer through his social circle, which included royalty, musicians, publishers and artists. Yes, as he points out, Dodgson was a sophisticated character at ease in adult company; he was not an oddball loner, as some have suggested, who could relate only to children.

But so what? Wakeling implies that such sophistication was incompatible with paedophilia, which is simply false. It wouldn’t play too well as an excuse in a modern criminal court, would it?

“It is true, Your Honour, that images of children depicted in, ahem, somewhat carnal disport, were found on my client’s computer; but he also did a lot of excellent still life photography, fruit arranged in bowls, that sort of thing. Clearly, he is a cultured individual whose motives are artistic, not prurient…”

As for Wakeling’s elaborate charts of Dodgson’s letters and photographs, they appear designed to downplay the child theme by generating a bigger context: there were a vast number of letters to adults (albeit many to parents of his child friends) as well as to children; around 60% of his known photos of individuals were of children, but that still leaves a chunky 40% that were of adult subjects, and he did landscapes, etc., as well. What this ignores is the missing diary pages (whole volumes of his diaries are missing too), plus Dodgson’s letters to Alice Liddell, burnt by her mother, and a great many letters and photos destroyed or lost (only about 1,000 photos remain out of 3,000 he is known to have taken), probably by Dodgson’s heirs and possibly even by an early biographer: an obvious reason for disposing of such material would have been its embarrassing or even incriminating nature.

Wakeling’s technique seems to be to throw up a smoke screen of genuinely well researched scholarly detail in the hope that readers will be too impressed to notice its irrelevance. If Dodgson were on trial today over his “indecent” photos, Wakeling’s style of defence would cut no ice with the judge, as noted above; the jury wouldn’t buy it either.

But his actual jury is far more generous: his jurors are all the Alice fans out there, millions of them around the globe, many of them desperate to believe in Dodgson’s innocence and keen to read books in which it is asserted. I found myself among a hundred or more last week when Wakeling spoke to the Oxford Literary Festival about his new book, along with Vanessa Tait, grand daughter of Alice Liddell, no less, who was talking about her forthcoming Alice-themed novel The Looking-Glass House.

The event was held in the 15th century Divinity School beneath Oxford University’s ancient Bodleian Library, a magnificently ornate and august setting right in the very heart of Dodgson City, as it were. Not wanting to be run out of town by angry Carolingians (the noun being from Charles Dodgson, not from Lewis Carroll), I thought it best not to be too blunt when I asked a question from the floor. With an air of perhaps not entirely convincing innocence, I mildly pointed out that Dodgson had once written ”I’m fond of children (except boys)”. Would the speakers care to comment?

Up to that point I sensed a certain anxiety on the platform. Presenter Alastair Niven, a literary critic, invited questions afterwards from anyone who might “dare” to ask them. When I asked mine, Wakeling’s eyes positively sparkled with what may have been delight but I suspect it was relief, along the lines, “Oh, good, I can handle this one without things getting nasty”.

His answer was blandly reassuring: just Dodgson’s dry humour; friendly towards boys too; took about 100 photos of them; boys were usually at school when he went calling; girls in those days stayed at home, so he saw more of them. Ergo, Dodgson not dodgy. Simple!

But Vanessa Tait, who distinctly resembles her famous forebear Alice Liddell, was by no means as simplistic in her own response, and turned out to be distinctly at odds with Wakeling when someone asked what the pair of them thought of the BBC’s 150th anniversary documentary, aired in January and titled The Secret World of Lewis Carroll. Whereas Wakeling professed himself outraged by the programme, Tait seemed quite happy with it.

Presented by current affairs broadcaster Martha Kearney, the documentary was to a great extent a fan piece, actually. As a child, Kearney tells us, she took the role of Alice in a stage production of Alice Through the Looking-Glass in the village where she grew up. She loved the Alice books at that time and has been a Carroll devotee ever since.

Unlike Wakeling, though, she seemed keen to explore the truth about Dodgson’s desires. For her, this turned out to mean confronting a photo she said no respectable Victorian mother would have approved of. A nude photo of a little girl might have been acceptable in those days, but not one of a sexually maturing 14-year-old. Just such a photo, labelled “Lorina Liddell” on the back and attributed to “L. Carroll”, was discovered by the programme makers in a museum in far-off Marseilles. The overall conclusion, drawing on experts in photography and face identification, was that it was probably authentic.

Wakeling, who had long known about this photo, was having none of it. The experts’ opinions proved nothing, he insisted. His ire, though, was chiefly directed at the programme makers for failing to ask his own opinion, as though that would have settled the matter! However, when he had the opportunity in Oxford to do just that, he said nothing that I found even remotely persuasive. He did not even mention the inscription, much less refute its authenticity! His silence on this crucial evidence suggested to me he had nothing meaningful to say about the meaning of this photograph. All we learned was that he gets rather cross when anyone disputes his self-proclaimed magisterial authority!

A bit like Humpty Dumpty in fact: the photo means just what he chooses it to mean – neither more nor less. It’s all about which – or who – is to be the master.

*In the first version of this blog I wrongly said he introduced the term in 1886. That was when the first edition of his book Psychopathia Sexualis appeared. However, the term paedophilia erotica did not appear until the 12th edition, in 1912. I should have remembered my blog of 15 November last year in which this was mentioned. The term was included in the “Psychopathological Cases” section of Chapter Five, on sexual crimes. Oops, still not right! As Filip has kindly pointed out, in the comments below, there appears to have been at least a very brief mention of the term in the 10th edition, published in 1898.

PROUD TO BE A PAEDOPHILE

The GlobalPost, an online news outfit based in Boston, Mass., but not owned by the Boston Globe newspaper group, ran two big articles last month arising from the “sex abuse crisis” in Britain. They were filed by Corinne Purtill, an American reporter who is GlobalPost’s correspondent based in London. The more general article of the two adopts an uncritical approach, in which the events in Britain are viewed as a real crisis over actual “abuse”, rather than a moral panic over alleged abuse.

The other article is based on a phone interview with me. My initial response was that it is as bad as the general piece, mainly because it quotes me out of context: what I said was backed up by references to research, such as the work of Rind, Clancy and others; but these supporting authorities are deleted, so I probably come across as an obsessive crank. However, a number of other people have said they thought this article was quite good.

You can see for yourself, and make up your own mind:

The child sex abuse scandals engulfing Britain“:

And:

This man is a pedophile, and proud of it

We fight for more than Love or Pleasure

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Heretic TOC presents a guest blog today from “Sylvie”, who has the unusual and possibly record-breaking distinction of having been openly an advocate of decriminalising consensual sexual relationships between adults and children since the age of 13, arguing the case passionately with friends, classmates, and even teachers! Her liberal parents, she tells me, were the kind of people who would keep a close eye on their child without interfering. What follows is part of an email I received recently from Sylvie. With her approval, it has been edited for this blog.  

I have wanted to write to you for a long time. I feel the time has now come. Many times l have tried to sit down and write but it seemed I just could not get my head around it as my story begins when l was 13 and me being 38 now, that’s quite a frightening length of time! To make a long story short: like you, l advocate for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relationships between adults and children, and have relentlessly been doing so since l was 13. Does that make me the youngest activist who has ever lived? 🙂

I was an intellectual child, listening to classical composers at 8, reading Oscar Wilde at 10 and EM Forster at 11. I was fortunate enough to have parents who granted me unconditional freedom. Yet not everyone was as sensible so I sometimes ended up surrounded by adults who mistakenly took me for a “poser” claiming that, at my age, l could not really understand what l was reading. How pathetic are adults who belittle children! Truth is: my books were my best friends and literature has taught me more on the human condition than one could ever hope to learn in a lifetime without it; and l can assure you that not only could l understand everything l read as a child, but my understanding was real and deep.

One day – l was 13 by that time – upon returning home from school, l found this magazine and l learned that behind the story of the girl who falls down a rabbit hole was an Oxford don who went by the name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and that this whimsical, magical man happened to be, among other things, a lover of children. For the first time in my life the words “paedophile” and “paedophilia” appeared before my eyes. It struck a powerful chord deep inside, and my path has been clear to me since that day. To me it just seemed OK to love children and l could see nothing wrong with it, provided no coercion was exercised. I vividly recall looking at the image of Lewis Carroll and thinking to myself these very words: “I like you”. That was the start of a lifelong friendship between Mr Dodgson and l.

It was also the start for me of my advocacy for the rights of paedophiles. Throughout the following year l researched the subject, growing more and more aware of the discrepancy between hysteria and reality, more and more indignant at the social stigma that affects paedophilia, forcing too many paedophiles into the darkness, making them unable to open up to anyone, with the dire consequences on many levels that this forced isolation brings about.

As I had always been interested in issues surrounding civil liberties, l had from time to time magazines at home that dealt with either women’s rights or gay rights. One day I noticed an ad in the Contact page of a gay magazine. In the ad it was stated that a pressure group called “Gruppo P” had been formed to promote discussion of intergenerational relationships and that anyone who was interested in joining was welcome to contact them. I immediately did. In my letter I explained that I was a 14-year-old, that I believed that consensual contacts between children and adults existed and could be desired by both parties, that such contacts did not necessarily result in harm, and that therefore this type of non-coercive relationships had to be decriminalised. I said I was willing to actively help and join the group.

Soon afterwards I received a letter from the group’s founder, asking me to contact him at his work phone number, which l did. In retrospect l now think he wanted to make sure that l was who l claimed l was. When l called him we agreed to meet.

I was not scared. All l wanted to do was to go out and march, head up high, banner in hand, for the advancement of our cause (how much l miss the naivety of youth!) Unfortunately l was too young to formally join (minimum age required was 16) so I remained on the sidelines, eagerly waiting for the day when l could become a full member. Sadly, that day never came as the police investigated Gruppo P. The founder phoned to let me know the police might pay me a visit, although he believed that as I was a young girl they would not try to pursue a case against me. He was right: they never came. Not that I was intimidated by the thought of encountering them. On the contrary, I was eager to meet the police so I could “preach” the legitimacy of our cause (such is the folly of youth!).

The founder was in due course arrested, accused of “conspiracy”. I can testify that there were absolutely no illegal activities inside Gruppo P. Its aims were not criminal but political. Nevertheless the founder and others were arrested and held in custody awaiting trial: evidently the coming together of dissidents who challenged the current laws was considered a crime in itself. As we who hold these beliefs well know, Orwell’s concept of “thought crime” becomes a reality where discussion of paedophilia is concerned.

I recall very well the innuendos that were made. It was put about that an enormous quantity of illegal material had been found, but no such material circulated at Gruppo P! It was claimed that members were actively seeking children to groom, but l for one had never been approached in a sexual way. I was always treated as an equal; no one tried to take advantage of me.

What l also recall is the ugly ostracism of Gruppo P by the gay organisations. The police raid made their dearest dream come true: get rid of paedophiles. The gays said they “abhorred” paedophilia, insisting that homosexuals stand for sexual liberation and paedophiles are opposed to it because they force themselves on individuals who cannot consent.

I wanted to appear in court as a defence witness, but the lawyers ignored me, and my friend was eventually found guilty of conspiracy. In the following years I have seen or heard of former activists who have grown disillusioned, gone underground, given up…. For me, it is something l will never get over. I have seen or heard of too many people living a death-in-life: I cannot accept it; I will never accept it, and it brings me anguish.

I have had your book Paedophilia: The Radical Case since 2003. I have always told myself that sooner or later I would contact you, and as soon as the PIE “scandal” came out this year, l googled your name and, voilà, I saw that you have a blog. [For the “scandal” see Paedogate puts the past in the pillory]

I agree with you that this reign of hysteria will eventually come to an end. You and l might not see it, but future generations will. It is for these future generations that we must now stand our ground. Refusing to be silenced is one way, and a dignified one at that. Familiarity is another: reaching out to people who are close enables us to help them see through this fog of lies surrounding paedophilia. l have always taken every opportunity to discuss the issue. I have never been afraid or ashamed to share my beliefs. A propaganda-fed mob might bay to see paedophiles hanging from a rope but individuals will listen. For almost 25 years now I have taken the time to sit down at a table with a friend, a colleague, or a stranger, and say something like, “Look, things are not exactly what they seem. Please, let me explain.”

I spoke from the heart and from the mind; through rationality, compassion, and truth, l had them listen, ponder, and challenge their prejudice. I saw people genuinely persuaded of the unjust treatment reserved for paedophiles. I saw people genuinely sorry. I saw people, including my own mother, grow indignant at injustice. And l always thought that if we can persuade them that they are all being lied to through toxic and hysterical propaganda, and that there are fellow humans in this world who are being persecuted for the simple reason that they exist, then there is hope that they will perceive the terrible injustice suffered by paedophiles, and no man or woman of good will can tolerate a modern witch-hunt without starting to question its legitimacy.

And through questioning comes change. Am l being overly optimistic? Maybe. But l refuse to be cynical. We must work to create a society where paedophiles can lead normal and productive lives, within the boundaries of the law. Paedophiles also need to be educated: it is not only immoral, but dangerous as well, to have people indoctrinated on a daily basis, stuffing the idea down their throats that they are “molesters”, that their affections and inclinations are nothing but a “disorder” to be treated. This is a lie, and we must fight it.

As EM Forster put it, “For we fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count.”

I am willing now as much as l have been for the past 25 years, to speak up for truth, and actively help in any way l can.

My greatest pride is that in my youth I was an independent thinker. My beliefs sprang from within, and these beliefs prompted me to reach out to like-minded people, in whose company l could share what mattered most to me. These are the people I am most grateful to have met, to this day.

Malice against Alice in cyber-land attack

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Today Heretic TOC features a guest blog from Eric Tazelaar, a name that will be familiar to many here as a contributor of articles to NAMBLA’s website – which as many will also be aware by now has been under attack in the last couple of days from “hacktivists” along with numerous other sites engaging with attraction to minors. NAMBLA’s website now appears to be fully back in action and Eric has reacted very promptly with a piece on the theme of cyber-vigilantism. So well done, both NAMBLA and Eric! However, there is a danger that the site, or some of its functionality, may temporarily disappear again under further attack. Accordingly, Heretic TOC has accepted Eric’s invitation to run his article, which is also announced on the NAMBLA Homepage.

What prompted this spate of vigilantism was initially not NAMBLA, though, but the celebration of Alice Day on 25 April. As the Daily Dot preannounced on 24 April:

It’s Alice Day, a public “pedophile pride” day inspired by the relationship between the author Lewis Carroll and his young muse, Alice Liddell, for whom Alice in Wonderland was written. April 25 is supposedly the day in 1856 that Carroll met 4-year-old Alice, sparking a lifelong infatuation. In one pedophile’s own words, republished on a predator watchdog site, April 25 is a day to “rejoice in the gift of girllove and affirm the ideal so aptly typified by this special relationship.” In 2013, it’s also the day the hacker group Anonymous plans to bombard a long list of online targets with DDoS attacks, leaking suspects’ personal information and defacing their websites.

As it happens, yours truly personally had reason to be aware of the upcoming Alice Day this year, as Alicelovers magazine had scheduled the release of its second issue for that date and I had an article in press with it. The cyber-vigilantes, or rather cyber-vandals, have managed to screw up the release of the magazine, which should be available through a free PDF download via http://alicelovers.info/ The Homepage looks OK but the download is not working at the moment, as I write. Anyway, let me take this opportunity to let you know, if you don’t already, that this is a beautifully produced magazine with good articles – and of course I hope you will feel this accolade can be applied to my own modest contribution (actually titled “A Modest Proposal”) when you are eventually able to download the mag.

But enough. With no further ado, here is Eric’s article, under the author’s own title:

Hipster Vigilantism and the New Populist Attack On Free Speech in the Internet Age

“Anonymous” the self-styled cyber-vigilante group, widely recognized by its use of Guy Fawkes masks to conceal members’ identities, has launched another flurry of DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attacks to overload and thereby silence the websites of organizations which it identifies as “promoting paedophilia”. Several of those organisations targeted were NAMBLA and Boychat which suffered temporary website outages.

We were, once again, reminded of the self-righteous – if inchoate – rage which periodically bubbles to the surface in an effort to deny the rights of others to speak freely.

In the past, this atavistic fury would have taken the form of book burnings or, even earlier, the burning of people.

Today, it is expressed through the sabotage of complex computer networks and requires a modest level of technical expertise that is itself worn as a badge of honor by those who imagine themselves serving a societal good in their concerted efforts to silence others. A very public – and heroic – identification with that which is good and virtuous, as in every moral crusade of the past, is very much a driving force behind these contemporary mob rallies.

As the targets of these actions, we know, from years of experience, that those “hipster vigilantes” responsible for these “actions” are, invariably, almost studiously ignorant of our message and our mission as well as the actual danger our ideas pose to their mythological preconceptions. Their representation of our views and our motives are as scurrilous and distorted as any claims made by tabloid journalists or government agencies. But, of course, they would be.

Considering that most of them are young and grew up in the age of hysteria –  in other words, since the 1970’s – then we understand all too well why this is so.

As children and adolescents, they were spoon-fed a continuous diet of stranger danger, warnings of “bad touches”, alerts of missing children, and continuous surveillance by qualified adults while their permitted range-of-movement within which to explore life, love and humanity, shrank.

Theirs was a childhood informed by a continuous stream of missing children on milk cartons, indoctrination sessions led by alarmist teachers and earnest visiting policemen, hysterical t.v. news and the obsessive demands of parents that they remain within the ever-narrower boundaries which had come to define the limits of childhood and adolescence.

That all of these messages about strange men, in particular, were continuously delivered to them throughout their earliest years with an existential level of urgency makes it trivially easy to understand the levels of vehemence and intolerance our organizations – and our websites – now face.

Angry, destructive bands of crusaders, along with ever more oppressive laws are the result of a more than thirty-five year campaign to systematically suppress dissenting voices and contradicting evidence in order to fundamentally re-engineer society along strictly partisan – and paranoid – lines.

In this way morality, the perception of risk and reality itself have all been gradually, but dramatically, shifted over several generations while society feverishly wrung its hands, seemingly oblivious to the ongoing experiment in which it plays a starring role.

So, when we asked ourselves, many years ago, what the long-term effects would be of the sudden and astounding efflorescence of paranoia we were then witnessing, we now – finally – have our answer.

Back to TOC again. Some might be wondering whether Heretic TOC itself will come under cyber attack. Anything is possible, I suppose, but I imagine WordPress has defences to rival those of the Pentagon. Anyway, so far so good. Also, so far so good in terms of this current state of attacks remaining quite low key. Anonymous were probably hoping for a boost from huge coverage of their Alice Day campaign in the media, as happened following their spectacular (and much more pro-social) contribution to the Occupy Wall Street protest. It simply hasn’t happened. There have been a couple of articles, and that’s about it.  

News just received from our Irony Correspondent : Anonymous UK founder accused of rape at Occupy London camp.

Silence and shame at the Sheldonian

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Is silence in the face of great wrongs always shameful? If so, Heretic TOC should plead guilty. By that demanding standard I should have howled the house down at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford last week. I should have “caused a scene”, “demonstrated”, hurled thunderous, passionate execrations, pointing an accusing finger at the stage, and at one man who occupied it: Sir Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch, University of Oxford Professor of the History of the Church, winner of numerous prizes for his many books, presenter of the “landmark” BBC TV series A History of Christianity.

Ironically, he was there to talk about shame and I, along with hundreds of others, to listen. The occasion was an exploration of the topic “Shame : A Force for Good or Bad?” as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. MacCulloch was a panelist along with crime writer Ruth Rendell and an American historian, Deborah Cohen, who has a new book out, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day. It was an excellent discussion, well worthy of the Sheldonian, a splendid Wren-designed auditorium completed in 1668, sitting right at the heart of Oxford University near the Bodleian Library.

The date was 21 March. MacCulloch, the most formidably sharp and interesting of the three distinguished speakers, reminded his audience that on this same date in 1556, in this same city, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been burnt at the stake as a heretic. Cranmer had earlier recanted the Protestant “heresies” of which he had been accused in the reign of the Catholic queen, Mary. This desertion of his faith failed to save his skin. Ashamed of his weakness, Cranmer reasserted his faith in a sermon on the very day of his execution, when he had been expected to proclaim publicly the error of his ways. Then, famously, as he was being burnt, he thrust first into the fire “the unworthy hand” with which he had signed his earlier recantation. Shame, suggested MacCulloch, had in this instance been a noble force, memorably bringing out the best in Cranmer, redeeming, and more than redeeming, his ordinary human frailty.

We all feel ashamed when we fall short of our own standards, and it is surely right that we should be spurred by that shame to do better. Some might call this guilty conscience, a private matter, and argue that true shame is very different, a public affair: people are shamed into action, or into changing their ways, through community pressure. That too can be a good thing when we can all agree a common standard of good behavior, in a family, or a village; but is much trickier in large, complex, pluralistic societies such as our own. In societies like ours, paradoxically, it may be shameful to take the easy way out by falling in with the dictates of majority opinion when we have reason to believe the majority are wrong.

MacCulloch acknowledges this. In his latest book, Silence: A Christian History, he unsurprisingly sees a positive role for contemplative and prayerful silence; but he also tackles the more negative, shameful, aspects of keeping shtum, especially the failure of Christians in the past to speak out against egregious abuses. He focuses on three examples, of which these are two: slavery, and the Nazi holocaust against the Jews. So far so good. But you can see where this is going, can’t you? Yes, inevitably, his third example of negative Christian silence, in his book and in the Sheldonian discussion, is the covering up of clerical “child abuse”. This silence, bizarrely, he considers worse than the other two. Why? Because child abuse has always been against the teaching of the church, unlike either slavery or anti-semitism: the Bible depicted slavery as part of the God-given natural order of human affairs, and condemned the Jews as killers of Christ. Child abuse was therefore more shameful because it alone fell short of the church’s own standards at the time.

Well, imagine, fellow heretics, how I felt upon hearing this tosh. Apart from forgetting that the Catholic church certainly did at one time openly support real child abuse by using castrated choirboys (first authorized by Pope Sixtus V in 1589), this offensive nonsense also carries an implicit value judgment that giving a child an orgasm in necessarily worse than the chaining, whipping, beating, starving, terrifying, torturing, working to death, and outright mass murder – of children as well as adults – that characterized Nazi and slaving atrocities. Surely, I had to get up and say something? Usually, I am not shy on such occasions: I can and do raise questions from the floor. But this, I confess, defeated me. I did not trust myself to be coherent. In a room full of churchy types who had come to listen to a very prestigious ecclesiastical historian, I was worried about coming across as a raving lunatic. A moderately skeptical question might have worked, but I was just too angry to find the words.

So I compromised. At the end of the talk I knew MacCulloch would be signing copies of his new book. Being the polite person I am – perhaps far too courteous on this occasion – I bought a copy and meekly stood in line waiting for him to sign it, so I would have the opportunity to speak to him. Actually, I held back until last, so others would not be kept waiting during the substantial harangue I had in mind.

Eventually, my turn came. He signed my copy, punctiliously putting in the date. “Must have the date, eh?”, he said cheerily, “Cranmer’s anniversary.”

“Thanks,” I began. “It was a good discussion. But you seem too sophisticated a person to have such an absolutist position on clerical abuse, so-called. What if you have a priest and an acolyte who love each other?  Shouldn’t the priest have the guts to defend his love? Wouldn’t it be shameful not to do so?”

“It’s abuse,” he replied, “and the church’s teaching is clear.”

“Look,” I said, with perhaps a hint of rising anger, “I have sexual feelings for children and I am not ashamed to say so publicly. If there’s a loving relationship, why should that be abuse? How can it be right to take an absolutist stance when there is love?”

“Well, I do pretty much feel we should be absolutist on this issue. I’ve thought about it a lot.”

“Not enough, clearly,” I snapped.

Silence.

“Well, you know now how I feel,” I added, awkwardly. “And now that you do know, would you nevertheless be prepared to inscribe my name along with your own?”

I handed him my business card: “Tom O’Carroll, Director, Dangerous Books Ltd”.

He dutifully wrote out my name in the book, above his own. But he said nothing. He did not inquire about Dangerous Books, nor ask anything about me. He just silently left the card lying on the table until I picked it up. It was as though he felt any further inquiry or discussion would be just as dangerous as my card implied. Of course, he was right.

What I should have told him was that he may have thought a lot about “child abuse” but perhaps studied too little, preferring to focus on clerical stuff rather than research papers in psychology: his book shows no sign of any such reading. But I was too angry for such niceties. Frankly, I just wanted to beat the complacent bastard around the head with his own book, so that I could leave him with the sound of Silence ringing in his ears.

I took my leave, still angry, but soon restored to good cheer in the company of an old friend. An Oxford man himself, he showed me his old college, St Peters, and the next day he took me for a long walk along the River Isis, past Port Meadow and the stretch of water where Lewis Carroll once shared a rowing boat with his little child friend Alice Liddell, his inspiration for Alice In Wonderland. Those idyllic days when a man and an unrelated child could keep each other’s company without scandal – despite nude photography – seemed very far off indeed.

One other discovery before I left Oxford: MacCulloch is openly gay. Suddenly the moral certainty and absolutism of this buttoned down academic, soberly conservative in suit and tie, fell into place as part of one of the defining cultural tropes of our times: the respectable homosexual, a figure whose success has largely been build on distancing himself from the “shameful” paedophile with whom he was once bracketed as a fellow “pervert” or “deviant”. MacCulloch styles his career in history as “devoted to showing up the emperors with no clothes: the smug, the pretentious, the imposters, the liars”. I can’t help wondering when he last looked into a mirror.

 

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