Why ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’ will fail

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Today’s guest blogger, Stephen James, is well known here as regular commentator Stephen6000, whose succinct contributions often provide a sensible counterpoint (or antidote!) to some of the always welcome but often wild “thinking outside the box” we tend to see in the heretical comments here. He has also written for the NAMBLA Bulletin and for the Newgon web magazine Uncommon Sense. His logical approach is consistent with his work as a published author of formal philosophy. With Adam Powell, he was a joint founder of the unfortunately ill-fated Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which fought a brave but losing battle to engage positively with mental health professionals. 

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First, the caveats. I am not setting out to condemn “Virtuous Pedophiles” (VP). In fact, when I read the introduction on their home page, I can scarcely find anything to disagree with. Many paedophiles do need the sort of help this group have to offer and it is very welcome they are there to offer it. Also, many questionable claims are made about VP that need rebutting. It is sometimes suggested, for example, that VP thinks paedophiles should regard themselves as mentally ill or “defective” in some way; but, as far as I can gather, this is not their view. (The introduction just referred to certainly carries no hint of it.) If we are going to criticise VP, it should be for what they actually maintain, not for what we merely imagine their views to be. But there is one thing in this introduction I do disagree with and that is the reference to “sexual abuse” –  for example, in the statement “But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually”. For reasons to emerge later, I think this term should be avoided, at least for non-coercive sexual contacts between adults and children.  (In this, I am in agreement with  Child Abuse as a Construct Reconsidered”, which is part of the famous academic study commonly known as the Rind Report.

Also, whenever we discuss if a project will be successful or not, we need to carefully consider what constitutes the bar for success. VP can almost certainly be successful – indeed, probably has already been – in terms of helping some MAPs feel better about themselves, leading possibly to fewer suicides. It can also persuade some open-minded people, those less susceptible to media propaganda, to see the plight of MAPs in a more sympathetic light. Some of these people are therapists, who may be persuaded to improve the way they deal with their minor-attracted clients. There will be a little less misery for MAPs as a result of all this.

But I get the impression that VP is hoping for more. I think they want to reach a point where most MAPs can live a “normal” life, which, in this context, we can perhaps interpret as meaning a life that is minimally impacted by the fact that they are MAPs, largely free of hatred and with broadly the same opportunities as non-MAPs enjoy. Now, I don’t deny the possibility of such a state of affairs coming about. What I do claim is that it won’t be achieved by VP’s tactics and I want to explain why.

VP will not discuss the moral standing of adult-child sex. They agree with mainstream society that it is simply wrong, period. So they do not challenge the view that if an adult has sex with a child, it is always a bad thing. This has some important consequences, which we can bring out by asking what kind of relationship between mainstream society and MAPs would be broadly acceptable to both.

Apart from a few “aromantic” MAPs, most want to form relationships with young people that are “loving” in the broadest sense. They would of course like (some of) these relationships to be sexual if this were possible; but, besides that, they would like to enjoy the company of youngsters in other everyday activities. In fact, I think we can go so far as to say this would be essential to their happiness. The question is: can mainstream society bring itself to accept this?

And the answer is surely no, as long as mainstream society continues to regard adult-child sex as intensely dangerous. Of course, some MAPs are quite capable of spending time with youngsters without either feeling tempted to initiate a sexual relationship with them or succumbing to that temptation if they are. But from the perspective of mainstream society, that is not good enough. They cannot tell who is and who is not “dangerous”. Therefore, though we may reach the point where it mostly does not wish to actively persecute MAPs (perhaps partly as a result of VP’s efforts), society will never accept MAPs freely associating with young people as long as it persists  in its belief that adult-child sex is intensely dangerous. At best, continuously supervised access will be allowed in some cases, and while that might be acceptable to some MAPs, I do not think many would be happy in such a restrictive situation, even if they have no sexual intentions regarding their young friends.

But once it is accepted that consensual adult-child sex is not intensely dangerous, that, indeed, it is not intrinsically harmful at all, then there is no general reason to try to prevent it from happening and it will then be possible for MAPs to have happy and fulfilling lives within mainstream society.

I can well imagine how a typical member of VP will react to this argument. There are likely to be two main responses. One is to say that mainstream  society is right: consensual adult-child sex is intrinsically harmful. (Or, relatedly, they may claim that consensual adult-child sex isn’t even possible, as children are incapable of consenting to sex with adults.) But, on these matters, the evidence seems to be on my side, not theirs. The second type of response they are likely to make is that the suggestion is politically naïve: even if it were the case (which they deny) that adult-child sex can be morally acceptable, mainstream society will never accept it; so the VP approach is the only one that is politically feasible.

And yet it is possible to change people’s minds about the moral standing of adult-child sex. This happened to a great extent in the Netherlands in the 1970s, with resulting legislative changes that modified age-of-consent restrictions in a liberal direction (though these were later repealed). This could happen again, if MAPs would unite in favour of the radical approach.

Of course, depending on one’s personal situation (and one’s level of bravery!), this has to be done very circumspectly in the current climate. I am certainly not advocating breaking any laws. I am suggesting that people do what they can to communicate the truth to others. I believe that if this were done, the needed reforms might eventually come about.

If they did, this would probably be a net benefit, not only to MAPs, but also to young people. When consensual adult-child sex does lead to harm, this seems to happen mainly because of the taboo against it. This is supported to some extent even by the literature of our opponents. I’m thinking especially of Susan Clancy’s The Trauma Myth, in which the author shows that in most cases the experience of sex with an adult is not unpleasant for the child at the time – psychological harm comes later in the form of guilt feelings, which are, of course, entirely dependent on there being a taboo. (This is why I argued above that the term “sexual abuse” should be abandoned for non-coercive cases, though this does not mean I think people should pursue such relationships under current legal and social circumstances.) Get rid of the taboo and the well-being of those children who enjoy sex with adults (and the adults they themselves will become) will be greatly improved.

I was very tentative in my statement above about the likelihood of success in bringing about the needed reforms. It is affected by many factors beyond our control. But of one thing I am certain, for the reasons explained earlier: the VP approach will definitely not yield more than very limited societal improvements either for MAPs or for children. Perhaps we need moderates as well as radicals to introduce new ideas to the public in a relatively non-threatening way. But, rather than VP, our moderates had better be of the kind represented by B4U-ACT, who are neutral on the moral standing of adult-child sex, otherwise they will undermine the radicals. If the only agenda is VP’s, I guarantee there will be no large-scale society-wide improvements in the plight of MAPs or the children whom they wish to be close to.

 

YOUTH SPEAK OUT ABOUT YOUTHLOVE

An earlier guest blogger here, the Japonist (hope that’s a reasonably accurate label of convenience!) who writes as “Peace”, reports the start of a new venture called “Kids Club anthologies”, the first such anthology being titled (no capital letters) out of the mouths of babes – youth speak out about youthlove.

The introduction begins:

Despite all of the noise from the anti, pro, and neutral side of youthlove, there is one group whose voice is often forgotten – youth themselves. Whether this is from an ageist assumption that youth don’t know what’s good for them or the unfortunate reality that youth don’t often get a chance to express their view in print media, it represents a glaring omission in most discussions of topics such as youthlove, the age of consent, and adult/youth relationships. A true discussion of these subjects can’t be had if only adults are granted a chance to speak.

As Peace explained to me in an email, the series will be anthologies of “rarer, hard-to-find, or more obscure pieces” written by paedophiles or about adult/youth relations, the age of consent, sexual attraction to youth, etc., “with each anthology following a theme of some sort”. This first one collects material from the late 70s to the mid 90s “written by gay boys and lesbians, self-proclaimed dykes and fags, feminists, youth liberationists, and groups for queer youth”.

It’s a great idea, not least because youngsters are no longer able to speak out so freely on sexual matters: censorship prevails. It’s a very different story when the topics are adult-approved, as will be seen from my next item below.

 

CHILDREN’S CLIMATE STRIKES GO GLOBAL

It’s fantastic, of course. Great to see and hugely inspiring. The mass movement of school kids out of the classroom and into political activism against climate change is now a global phenomenon. Marching on Friday with placards and banners bearing slogans such as “There is no Planet B” and “The sea is rising, so are we”, tens of thousands of children all around the world in over 100 countries took part in “strike” action to demand that the political elite urgently address the climate change emergency. Fantastic, too, that this action has attracted massive media attention, which will add significantly to the steadily mounting  pressure pushing climate change up the political agenda.

And not just fantastic but utterly amazing that this huge movement was started as recently as last August by schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, then just 15, when she started to skip school on Fridays to protest about climate change outside Sweden’s parliament. By December she was giving an impassioned speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland and a month later – after a long overland journey because she refused to go by environmentally unfriendly air travel – she berated the complacency of all the billionaires and other high rollers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, urging them to “behave like our house is on fire, because it is.”

Quite rightly, Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I would be very happy for her to win except that she could have serious competition from other school kids, including Emma González and David Hogg, who responded swiftly to a massacre by a rampaging gunman last year at their Florida school. In the wake of the attack, instead of settling for the usual pious prayers and condolences offered by politicians running scared of the powerful gun lobby in the U.S., they vented their anger by demanding action on gun control. And they got it: a state bill was passed bringing in a range of important reforms to limit gun possession and its dangers, and Donald Trump was even forced to take some action (on “bump stops”) at the national level.

Such achievements are eminently worthy of acclaim and Heretic TOC should arguably have made this theme a lead item, not a relatively brief down-page affair. What I am concerned to avoid, though, is a phoney pretence that children – real children, if you will, as opposed to high school seniors such as González and Hogg, verging on adulthood, are in any position to be politically effective on their own. Even the somewhat younger Thunberg had a massive amount of support from adults – a younger child could hardly “run away” to Davos without parental and other help, much less get an invitation to speak there.

And they only know that climate change is so important because adults have taught them about it, probably in school. That’s great. It shows our schools are getting at least something right. But let’s not pretend it is about children’s innate wisdom or any such sentimental bullshit. Kids know more than anyone about their own lives and feelings, though. That is the area of their expertise and that is where there is real scope for thinking about how they might be accorded greater respect, and their agency acknowledged.

 

KINDLING FRESH INTEREST IN MY JACKSON BOOK

Bizarrely, I have been so busy that I find myself a couple of weeks late plugging the new Kindle edition (priced in U.S. dollars here) of my own book about the late King of Pop on my own blog!

I guess regular heretics here all know about Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, which came out in 2010 shortly after the megastar’s death. Some will even have read it. They will be aware it is an enormous 624-page door-stopper of a tome, weighing in at over a kilo, making it an expensive affair to produce, to deliver, and to buy. In some far-flung parts of the world purchasers have had to part with sums a good deal north of £30 to secure a copy. Bless them, some have actually done just that: there has been a modest number of such customers from Austria to Australia and from Belgium to Brazil.

Now, though, the new Kindle e-book edition can be yours for barely more than a tenth of such an expensive outlay, at a very affordable £3.78 from Amazon in the UK and around $5 in the US. And it comes with a substantial new Preface written in the wake of the sensational Leaving Neverland documentary.

Readers will discover that it was not necessary to be a music industry insider, or otherwise close to Jackson, to discover a huge amount about his relationships with boys, long before the latest revelations and even before his trial: plenty of legal filings and other useful sources were in the public domain for those who cared to look, from the early 1990s onwards. In fact, as many other unofficial biographers have found, it is the insiders – especially family, and those with jobs and contracts to protect – who are most likely to circle the wagons and deny everything. Many of the relevant documents, including lengthy transcripts of interviews and phone calls featuring Jordan Chandler and his father Evan – who was the driving force behind the first allegations against Michael, against the wishes of his reluctant son – were scrutinised by me. These are featured in the book. Even Jordie’s Uncle Ray, and specialist Jackson bloggers such as Desiree Hill at mjfacts, have admitted that I was an assiduous and astute researcher. As for understanding Michael as a boy lover, there’s a lot to be said for the adage: “It takes one to know one”.

In terms of the depth of the book’s coverage, not to be found elsewhere, over 65 pages are devoted to the relationship between Michael and Jordie. Oddly, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons also includes a vastly more systematic and in-depth account of the 2005 trial than is to be found elsewhere, with well over 130 pages on this.

As for breadth, just count the boys!  Well over a dozen were clearly in “special friendships” with him over the years, including the Leaving Neverland boys: you will find plenty about Wade and Jimmy in the book, including strong early indications of their intimacy with the star. A staggering seventy boys are named in all – including three princes, no less! – along with reasons to place most of them among Michael’s more diffuse erotic entourage.

And just for good measure, I might throw in the fact that Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons got rave reviews from more professors (of psychiatry, psychology, cultural studies, you name it) than you could shake a Jacko crotch-grab at – not that you would want to!

 

LOUSE OF LORDS OR LOUSY JOURNALISM?

Those who read the comments here religiously will be aware of this item already: my headline echoes a much cleverer one in The Sun – credit where it’s due, the redtops do tend to be good at snappy puns.

Their most formidable skill, though, lies in knowing how to be deeply obnoxious even when the “story” is vanishingly thin, a gossamer concoction of loosely woven threads of non-story.

Let’s just consider the first couple of sentences:

Britain’s most notorious paedophile campaigner was treated to a plush champagne bash at the House of Lords. Twice-jailed Tom O’Carroll, 73, was among up to 60 guests who were thanked last December for donating money to a children’s book charity.

What’s the story? Essentially, that an old bloke did something that would normally be considered public spirited and praiseworthy: giving money to a worthy cause. A not very well-off bloke, actually, with no income beyond the humble state pension, so if The Sun had been disposed to tell the gospel truth there would have been a “widow’s mite” angle in it for them: see Luke 21:1-4. But it should come as no surprise that the generous spirit of Jesus, who praised the poor widow for giving her all, should be far from the thoughts of the tabloid take-down artists.

I did not give my all – just a bit more than I could sensibly afford, actually – so I can by no means claim anything like equal merit with the  biblical widow; but you might feel, as I do, that it’s a bit rich for The Sun to use this particular event, a reception to thank donors, as a stick with which to beat me.

Gentle poet Ginsberg doesn’t deserve this

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Last time, Heretic TOC showed how the past is being pilloried in an orgy of accusations and recriminations. Among the cultural icons suddenly being denounced is the poet Allen Ginsberg – a remarkable twist of fate for his reputation so soon after being lionised as a crusader for freedom in two recent movies, Howl and Kill Your Darlings. But do those delivering the damning judgements really know what they are talking about? In a guest blog today, Eric Tazelaar points out that the younger generation of commentators would not have known those they now so freely castigate – unlike Eric, who knew Ginsberg personally.

THAT 70S SHOW: A DECADE RE-CONCEPTUALIZED (AND REPURPOSED)

I have often wondered, beginning some thirty or more years ago, what long-term effects anti-pedophile hysteria, then just starting to gather real steam, would have upon children as well as their eventual adult selves.

The results now appear unequivocal and much worse than my worst imaginings so long ago.

“Thou shalt not suffer a paedophile to live!” seems not too strong a sentiment to represent prevailing societal opinion.

As is unavoidable – if one lives long enough – one is increasingly struck by the youthfulness of those high-minded idealists who now predominate among our journalistic detractors, most of whom were not yet born when Britain’s future Labour leaders rubbed elbows with Tom O’Carroll and PIE under the NCCL umbrella.

Many have decided that the decade of the 1970s was not only weird but had to have been almost supernaturally so, like the “weird” witches in Macbeth.

For one columnist, Tim Stanley, writing recently for The Daily Telegraph, the 1970s were not just “weird” but positively infested with “evil” villains actively propagating their “perversion” amongst the credulous and unsuspecting young.

“Evil men once exploited the sexual revolution and the Left’s naivety to advance their agenda and invade the mainstream.”

It couldn’t get much more black-and-white than that, now could it?

To Stanley, Allen Ginsberg, a man whom I knew well and whose amorous attentions, when I was eighteen years old, I politely rebuffed, is said to have been one of those “evil” infectious agents.

I was thunderstruck when I read that. Evil? Allen Ginsberg? Allen was possibly the least evil person I ever knew, unlike Andrea Dworkin whose unconcealed hatred for all things male and an unwavering conviction in the innate superiority of women made her, to my mind, a manifestly dangerous influence upon impressionable minds.

Stanley quotes her as having said of Ginsberg: “exceptionally aggressive about… his constant pursuit of under-age boys’’.

To that I say “Bullshit!” Although I was not, at eighteen, “underage” my rejection of his erotic interest in me was immediately accepted and we went on to become friends. Furthermore, I saw him interact many times with actual “underage” boys, none of whom he treated with anything but the greatest of gentleness and respect.

I will add that, of those friendships with boys with which I was familiar, most of whom were children of staff or students at the Buddhist school where he taught, none appeared unwelcome and neither the boys nor their parents showed any evidence of feeling threatened by him. Indeed, he was greatly respected and trusted throughout that community.

Allen behaved exactly as I would wish all people would behave: with the highest regard for the rights and dignity of the individual. One should aspire to be precisely that kind of person.

Clearly, Tim Stanley had never met Allen Ginsberg or Tom O’Carroll. Or Andrea Dworkin, for that matter.

No, Tim Stanley simply possesses the unshakable conviction that every lie, every distortion, every libel uttered about Ginsberg, O’Carroll, PIE or NAMBLA and, for that matter, all paedophiles, rings with an unassailable truth, having been levelled by those with intentions wholly good and pure. To Stanley’s mind, paedophiles and their cause are beyond all redemption and to be utterly destroyed, a process which I see to be well underway.

For Tim Stanley, facing down such irredeemable evil, there is no other side to the story and fact-checking in the interest of those proclaimed as evil simply isn’t required or even seriously considered.

But the state in which child lovers exist today is not the worst of it. An even starker reality which confronts us all is the sad and diminished state in which children and adolescents now find themselves, essentially held captive in what amounts to walled gardens where they are unable to form any contact with others not explicitly authorized or to be exposed to any idea deemed “inappropriate” by any but the most puritanical governess.

They benefit only from the society of other kids within one or two years of age or their families (but often minus Dad) or those adults specifically designated and vetted by the state.

All potentially contaminating ideas and people are carefully filtered-out to prevent their inadvertently contaminating today’s kids who, in their strict isolation, spend less time outdoors in unstructured and unscheduled freedom than ever before.

And, it would seem, when eventually they do grow up, they are often angrier than previous generations of young adults, harbouring resentments and suspicions which might be seen as unavoidable given their isolated and artificial childhoods in which kidnapping and molestation were identified as a continuous peril.

So it should not be surprising that many now also see paedophiles as an underlying source of their own social impoverishment as well as their greatest fear while growing up.

Bogeymen made their childhoods both frightening and constraining and they are, understandably, deeply resentful, even if they are misguided.

So this is where we are now:

• where rebels of genuine courage, many long-dead, are utterly vilified for having spoken that which was so obviously true, while hateful, emotionally unstable, misandrists are lionized for their viciousness and sanctimonious cruelty;
• where children, who have been urged daily – incessantly – not to talk to strangers, grow into adults who resist talking to, or trusting, strangers.

As shocking a reality as it is it should probably not come as a great surprise. The years have spoken and the answer to a question I asked, so many years ago, turns out to be much worse than I then imagined.

THE DAILY MAIL STABLE IS AT IT AGAIN

Back to me again, your usual host. I didn’t need an alarm clock this morning. It was quite alarming enough to wake up to the BBC news on the radio at 7am and hear the sound of my own name in the first item of the bulletin. But mine was just a bit part. The big news – or what The Mail on Sunday is foisting upon the nation as news – turned out to be based on the rabid paper’s latest bid to turn itself from a newspaper into an historical journal.

This new foray back into the 1970s, and into who was supposedly promoting paedophilia at the time, had its crosshairs firmly fixed on a senior judge, Lord Justice Fulford. I’m not going to dwell on this ridiculous story or on the details of my alleged connection with the judge all those years ago when he was a junior barrister. For one thing, I honestly can’t remember the details. All I recall is that Adrian Fulford, as I then knew him, was a courteous, pleasant, thoughtful guy with a serious commitment to civil liberties. I see nothing in that for which he need apologise or express any regrets. High Court judge and the child sex ring (allegedly!) is the place to catch up with these bizarre concoctions if you are so minded.

HERETIC TOC’S FIRST ADVERTISEMENT

Despite having a substantial readership (which probably includes a lot of journalists in the wake of recent publicity), Heretic TOC has not so far been overwhelmed with advertising. We haven’t seen any ads here for prestige cars or designer clothes or fine old whisky, which is a great shame as the money would come in handy. It would seem that for some unknown reason the commercial world isn’t all that keen to have its products associated with children’s sexual self-determination and paedophilia, themes which tend to come up here quite a bit.

We do now have our first ad, though (see sidebar, right). Happily for me, MindGlow Media has decided to make a special promotional offer on my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. Obviously the ad. is limited in space, so on this, the occasion of its launch, I am going to give it a bit of a boost by including below a selection of the more favourable review comments the book has received. Actually, there have been very few non-favourable reviews except for hysterical trashings on Amazon by people who clearly haven’t bothered to read it. So, here goes:

“The most engaging, informed, and generous-hearted book we have on the subject or are likely ever to have. I recommend this book strongly.”
Professor James R Kincaid, University of Southern California

“His vivid and insightful commentary is a joy to read.”
DJ West, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Criminology, Cambridge University

“… a profound cultural critique of received assumptions about childhood innocence, pedophilic ‘power’, and parental goodwill.”
Professor Thomas K Hubbard, University of Texas at Austin

“…the pace of a natural storyteller. This book kept me gripped throughout… a nuanced, thoughtful analysis, backed by thorough research, and at the same time a roaringly good read.”
Vitaly (Amazon)

“A recommended read. Not just another book about ‘Wacko Jacko’. There won’t be anything written quite like it.”
Richard Green, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles

“…a damned good book! Only the most foolish of people would log onto Amazon and take an ignorant shot at Carl Toms’ work without having read it…”
Desiree Hill, blogger

“It’s been many years since I carried a book with me, anxious to read it over everything else in my life…destined to be a classic in the field of sexuality, along with Krafft-Ebing, Freud, Kinsey, and Masters/Johnson…”
Sally Miller (Synergy Press)

“Congratulations to Mr Toms for having the courage to write the book that had to be written about Michael Jackson, but no one else dared. The irony of this detailed and cogent look into Jackson’s heart and soul is that it is being condemned by those who ought to embrace it: Jackson’s most faithful fans.”
Colton Alexander (Amazon)

“Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons…is the answer for anyone who still may harbor questions about Jackson’s sexuality. This encyclopedic tome leaves no stone unturned… There is a whole host of references to document all that Toms contends in this book… ”
Caz (Amazon)

“The author’s prose is engaging, humorous and dramatically compelling – this is one exceptionally gifted writer who has produced a most persuasive and compassionate volume…Far from coming over as a crazed partisan for paedophilic rape, Toms manages something which Freud, at his best and most heroic, often achieved – discussing issues which the prevailing moral order insists may only be addressed in tones of compulsory revulsion in calm, neutral and sane language. Sometimes, sanity is scandalous.”
Ben Capel (Philososphere)

“…fascinating, challenging and discomfiting. Anyone wanting to understand Michael Jackson will need to read it. The idea that pedophilic relationships can be harmless or even beneficial to children is disturbing to many people, including me. The lack of scientific evidence supporting my largely visceral reactions against pedophilic relationships has been one of the most surprising discoveries of my hopefully ongoing scientific education…O’Carroll argues against my intuitions and he argues well.”
J Michael Bailey, professor of psychology, Northwestern University

Hard to put down, despite its heft. The style is conversational, engaging, and inviting. It read almost like a mystery story in parts; I couldn’t wait to find out how the next part would be resolved.
Dr Pega Ren, sexologist

…a great and absorbing read…Toms’ exhaustive research paints a far more detailed and nuanced portrait of [Jackson] as well as an intricate tableaux of the world he operated within. I was…astounded by a number of revelations…If you’re interested in Michael Jackson, you have to read this book.
Eric Tazelaar, BoyChat

Deep in the weird heart of Texas

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“Keep Austin weird!” This eccentric battle cry of a city that is the state capital of Texas surprised me when I looked the place up, especially when I discovered that weird in this context essentially means liberal. After all, the state that gave the world George W. Bush is notorious for its right-wing hard-line anti-liberalism. But that is the point. It turns out the capital is a cultured city, an oasis of civilized values in the midst of a redneck desert – which goes a long way to explaining how it came to play host recently to a conference that included some rather radical input, albeit within a respectably sober framework of legal studies.

Held at the University of Texas School of Law, the event was called Sexual Citizenship and Human Rights: What Can the US Learn from the EU and European Law? The list of sponsors and supporters impressively included the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Center for European Studies, the European Union, and the William A. Percy Foundation. The speakers included figures we might regard as somewhat conservative, but their input was balanced by the inclusion of more daring choices. The themes, too, ranged from merely liberal to boldly radical, as is hinted in the session titles:

• Same-Sex Marriage and Family
• Transgender Rights; Anti-Discrimination
• Youth Sexual Rights
• Pornography and Children
• Sex Work, Migration, And Trafficking
• Do Sex Offenders Have Human Rights?
• Therapeutic Approaches to Sex Offending

In a state where the “Kill a queer for Christ” car bumper sticker might have been invented, gay marriage no doubt still seems a dangerously liberal idea. To us heretics here, though, it is now a conservative issue, along with “traditional” campaigns to combat discrimination against gays and trans people. Likewise, therapy for sex offenders has long been fertile ground in which to plant illiberal and coercive practices. But the inclusion of youth sexual rights, “sex work” (significantly not stigmatised as prostitution in the title) and the idea of rights for sex offenders, all point to more radical possibilities.

As for drawing on inspiration from European law, forget it! Yes, many experts in European law were present, but those of us who live in Europe know it is hardly a paradise for children’s rights or those of MAPs. More inspiring by far is that some speakers were pointing to the need for more radical thinking on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, who were all these interesting contributors? Gert Hekma was one name that will be familiar to many here. A Dutch sociologist, author of Past and Present of Radical Sexual Politics (2004), he has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Homosexuality, the Journal of the History of Sexuality, GLQ, Paidika and other journals. He spoke on “Sexual rights for youngsters and the fight for their self-determination in the Netherlands since the 1950s”.

I do not yet know what he said, but I do know we will all be able to find out quite soon, because recordings from all the sessions from last month’s three-day conference are soon to be made available. I am told this should be in the next couple of weeks. I imagine there will be a link at the conference website of the Center for European Studies. There was also live video streaming. I managed to catch some of the sessions, including the final one, which culminated in a wonderful paper by Jim Hunter, who was a guest blogger here at Heretic TOC with a piece called Show me an abnormal mountain back in March. His contribution was very well received and he was also feisty and articulate in the Q&A afterwards.

One new name to me was Florian Mildenberger, from Germany, a specialist in the history of medicine. Among his many books one that particularly takes the eye is a biography of the late pedophile activist Peter Schult. Prof. Mildenberger spoke about paedophilia in Germany. The introductory notes for his paper observe that the same liberal, social democratic, green and socialist think tanks that once (believe it or not) supported paedophile emancipation today use medical and biological reasoning to condemn it – just as such thinking was once used to condemn homosexuality and female emancipation.

As for forensic criminologist William Thompson, who spoke on “Pederasts, parents, police and moral panic; the ongoing saga of child pornography”, I was delighted to hear him, clearly in great form, in the live streaming. Bill and I were on TV together as panellists ten years ago, when the BBC’s After Dark series focused on paedophilia. As the introductory notes to his presentation stated, he has conducted over 200 successful investigations into false allegation/conviction cases. He been called as an expert defence witness in numerous contested pornography cases in the UK.

William Andriette is another Bill familiar to many of us. A veteran American gay journalist, his deep-thinking articles have enriched many a debate, as did his speech this time on “Sexual politics beyond human rights”. I am particularly indebted to Bill for an article in which he observed points of similarity between racial and age divisions in society, focusing on inter-racial sexual relations in the old American Deep South. I drew on this piece extensively in a chapter of my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, in which the late star’s allegedly enormous power was put into the context of the vastly greater coercive power of the state and society.

In terms of heavyweight reputation, though, Fred Berlin has to be considered the star billing whether we like him or not – and many of us do not, on account of his support for “chemical castration” in certain cases. However, I would very much urge heretics to listen carefully to his contribution titled “Understanding pedophilia and other paraphilias from a psychiatric perspective”. There was much in it that was exceedingly reasonable and humane.

Last but very definitely not least, I should mention Thomas Hubbard, the conference organiser, a distinguished professor of classics at Austin. As a Greek specialist, he has had occasion to study “Greek love” in great depth, writing extensively on a culture in which pederasty was institutionally accorded an honourable connection with mentorship and pedagogy. Much as he understands and appreciates the distant past, though, Tom is not content to live entirely in it. He is very actively engaged with contemporary issues of sexual mores and laws – courageously so, indeed, bearing in mind just how hostile Texas and the US in general can be towards those who deviate in any way from “the dominant narrative”.

The conference has inevitably loomed large in his life in recent months, but so has another major creation of his that should concern us: he and fellow classicist Beert Verstraete have co-edited Censoring Sex Research: The Debate Over Male Intergenerational Relations, a book that came out in August from Left Coast Press. I have read it and can assure everyone it is important to us for any number of reasons. Almost every one of its ten chapters is worthy of a review of its own. I hope to be saying much more about this volume in due course.

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