Jimmy the screamer caught in VICE racket

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

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

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

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

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

My response was to say that:

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

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

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

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

Judith posted swiftly in support:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The last word went to Mike Bailey:

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

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

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

Down and dirty in the VP basement

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

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

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

RESPONSE TO NICK 

Nick wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

Well fine, let’s do research on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also:

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

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

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

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

It also ignores what I said in this latest blog:

“I have no trouble living with Brett’s disapproval but being branded “pro-contact” is another matter entirely because it slyly misrepresents those of us who would like to see cultural changes and legal reforms leading to the possibility of sexual self-determination for all.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSE TO ETHAN

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

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

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

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

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

>“we have irreconcilable purists on our own side”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About your forum, you say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Extremists plot to disrupt ‘distressing’ dissent

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Today is Heretic TOC’s third anniversary. So I hope you will join me, in spirit at least, in celebrating. Cheers!

Looking back, the occasion of the first anniversary was marked by some rather uncharacteristically gloomy reflections on my part titled What’s the point of it all, really?  To my own question, I replied:

To be entirely honest, I am not sure. I know there are umpteen blogs I want to write, and that I am in absolutely no danger whatever of running out of things to say… But I do sometimes wonder whether… I might do better to concentrate my limited time on authoring books, or submitting articles to academic journals.

I am glad that I carried on blogging, and that was reflected in last years’ anniversary reflections, Oh shit, I forgot the kid’s birthday! My own existential angst over Heretic TOC’s purpose and future do not appear to have been shared by visitors, who continue to grow in number. The average hits per day here in the opening month, November 2012, was 89; in the corresponding month of 2013 there were 192; for 2014 the figure was up to 296. This year it is up again, to 363.

The most satisfying aspect of Heretic TOC for me has been the extent of engagement by fellow heretics, with a grand total – a very grand total – of 5,767 comments published so far as I write. One piece in this third year, Inadmissible Testimony, drew an astonishing 484 comments. This year also saw the most page views in a single day since the blog began: 1,685 on 20 July.

One wonderful aspect of this participation has been the generally high quality of the comments, which on a good many occasions have given me information and ideas I have quietly purloined and salted away in my own database for future exploitation. Some of these contributions have even been pressed into more immediate prominence, yoked into service as guest blogs in their own right. One of these, Towards the aetiology of paedophobia, turned out to be the first of a magnificent trio by Lensman (who now has his own excellent blog, Consenting Humans, writing as “leonard sisyphus mann”), the others being The future is green, and liberating for children and The staircase has not one step but many. All three were and remain truly profound analyses, worthy of continued study and reflection. If there is to be any lasting legacy of Heretic TOC, these pieces alone will comprise a mighty chunk of it.

As for any others that may be worth re-reading, I have been telling myself in the run-up to this anniversary that I really must have a good rummage through the back catalogue to fish out the best ones, with a view perhaps to running them as an e-book called Best of Heretic TOC, or whatever. In fact I mentioned just such a possibility in last last’s anniversary reflections. The only problem is actually getting around to doing the task. At least I have at last made a start, though, and following an appeal made here in July I am now kindly being helped by Ronnie (who posted on the About page) to compile an annotated index of every blog.

Looking forward, my feelings are still somewhat equivocal, as they were at the first anniversary. If there were any foreseeable prospect of kind people getting a better deal any time soon, if the mood were shifting towards the liberation of kids’ sexuality, rather than its suppression, I would doubtless feel a whole lot keener. To write in such an atmosphere would be truly exciting and exhilarating.

Even in a bear market, though, there are those who will always make a fast buck out of selling assets short, enabling such speculators to profit from panic. In a way, that is what the now thriving Virtuous Pedophiles are doing. They are selling kindness short, talking down the value of being kind and thereby making capital out of enabling unkindness to prosper. Their brand of writing and putting themselves about in the media might well feel “exciting and exhilarating” to those who sully themselves with it, but their success comes at the heavy price of selling their souls.

I make the point following the remarkable recent media coup by Todd Nickerson, already well known in kind circles for his posts as  “Markaba” at GirlChat and elsewhere. Not that he uses the word kind to describe child lovers. On the contrary, in a long article in the hugely influential American online journal Salon, he went out of his way to adopt the divisive language favoured by the VPs. Thus he disparaged those of us who seek liberation through long-term cultural change as “pro-contacters”, thereby deliberately fostering the false and libellous impression that we invite kind people to be heedless of present laws, or even (since it is left to the reader’s imagination) that we would condone or excuse non-consensual acts.

The media loved Nickerson’s blend of pity-seeking and finger-pointing. Big pieces soon followed in Daily Mail and The Independent; there was an interview on Irish radio.

Unfortunately, we can expect more of the same. Much more. The VPs, with whom Nickerson is now actively associating himself, have for some time been presenting a package that clearly appeals to the media, and they are now becoming a widely recognised brand.

Posting their own facts and figures on Sexnet recently, they claimed to have over 1,000 members now, albeit, in the words of Nick Devin, co-founder of VP with Ethan Edwards, “They don’t all stay around obviously, and not all participate.” Sexnet moderator Mike Bailey humorously replied: “Congratulations! (I know it’s not true, but kind of funny to think of Nick, Ethan, and 998 FBI agents on a website.)”

Many a true word is said in jest, for sure, but I rather think those FBI agents and their British equivalents will be focusing harder on Heretic TOC than the VPs, for the obvious reason that we are more likely to be perceived as a source of “extremism”.

If the success of the VP brand presents a threat to heretical thinking – and make no mistake, it does – the crudely coercive agencies of the repressive state constitute a far bigger one. In the UK, especially, where this blog is written, the latest ominous development is the government’s plan for a  new Extremism Disruption Order, already briefly mentioned in the comment columns here.

British radical Peter Tatchell has set the scene on his website, in an article titled Extremism Disruption Orders menace free speech.

The government’s main intention, announced earlier this year, is to crack down on Islamist extremism, with a view to stopping the process through which young Muslims become radicalised into taking part in bomb plots and going abroad to join “Islamic State”.

That sounds fine, but the measures the government has outlined strike at the heart of free expression. They are so broad and vague they could penalise a range of dissenting and minority opinions. The government has refused to define what it means by extremism, but the legislation will clamp down on “extremists” even if they have not broken the law. Don’t take my word for it, or Tatchell’s. Here is what prime minister David Cameron said when he was introducing the proposal:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” He then went on to promise that the government “will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”

So, no more tolerance! Obeying the law is not enough! What will be demanded in our supposedly liberal society, it seems, is total conformity.

Simon Calvert, director of Defend Free Speech, set up to oppose the initiative, said:

“Defend Free Speech believes innocent people will fall foul of this unnecessary and dangerous piece of legislation. It will criminalise those who hold unpopular, unfashionable or challenging views. This could include pro- and anti-religious groups, trade unionists, environmental and animal rights activists, critics of UK foreign policy and people campaigning for LGBT rights. Indeed, we have already seen police urging teachers to report on parents who go to anti-fracking protests.”

In such a climate, it does not need much imagination to understand that pro-kind views will be in the firing line and that a blog such as Heretic TOC will immediately be branded extremist, even though it could hardly be more polite and moderate. Indeed, when the politicians talk about what “extremism” should be taken to mean, they tend to talk in terms of “glorifying” terrorism and “normalising” paedophilia. Unlike the anti-frackers and the rest, us heretics would be seen as prime targets along with the directors of obscenely glamorised beheading videos.

Defend Free Speech has warned that EDOs could be used to prevent individuals from going to certain places, mixing with particular people or even using mobile phones, the internet and social media. The group says the government will use the civil law test of “the balance of probabilities” rather than the stronger criminal test of “beyond reasonable doubt” in order to impose the EDOs and that even the mere risk of causing “distress” could be enough to trigger the new powers.

My guess is that the worst fears expressed by Defend Free Speech will not come to pass. This group appears to be very broad-based, and its leadership includes heavyweights such as former Conservative Party leadership contender David Davis MP, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP and ex-Chief Constable Lord Dear. Robust resistance to the worst excesses of the EDOs can be expected from the now rather splendidly militant House of Lords.

Whose freedom of expression will not be accommodated though? Why, us heretical kind people, of course. In these circumstances, it may become impossible in the coming year to continue a blog such as Heretic TOC unless it is written from outside the UK. In any case, there must come a time when, as an individual, one’s contribution has run its course. While this is not quite a valedictory on my part, it is intended to hint that others – especially those in other parts of the world – should be thinking how best to sustain a discourse of heresy in the perhaps not very distant future.

Virtuous turkeys vote for Christmas

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Heretic TOC offers no detailed comment for the moment on the following guest blog, submitted without invitation by self-styled “virtuous” paedophiles Ethan Edwards and Nick Devin, although the headline speaks for itself. Some will wonder why I agreed to carry this piece at all, perhaps feeling all it will do is take us into sterile sparring and deeper entrenchment in mutual antagonism. However, I think there is enough to justify publication, both in terms of clarifying the VP position and obliging us to think about aspects of reality on which we might prefer to bury our heads in the sand. Or, rather, switching abruptly from the terrestrial to the celestial, might our more revolutionary ambitions be said to belong to Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Virtuous Pedophiles Explain Their Views

We are aware, of course, that many activist pedophiles have been critical of our organization, and we appreciate the opportunity that Tom has provided to share our thoughts. We thought it would be helpful to tell you a little bit about our history, our goals, and how we go about trying to accomplish our goals before we react to the criticism. You can find more information about us on our web site (www.virped.org).

Combatting Stigma

Our first contact with other pedophiles was a few years ago when we joined B4U-ACT. Nick was put in contact with B4U-ACT by a therapist who helped him when he was first coming to grips with his sexuality. Ethan found it from web searching.

Our time with B4U-ACT was disappointing. We believed that stigma was a major source of the problems faced by pedophiles — many pedophiles internalize societal attitudes resulting in severe depression, many even become suicidal. We felt that the main cause of this stigma was society’s conflating of pedophilic feelings with pedophilic actions. We believed that stigma would be reduced if society was made aware that many pedophiles are able to successfully resist their sexual feelings. Hence, our mantra: “We don’t choose to be sexually attracted to children and we can’t stop being sexually attracted to children, but many of us are able to successfully resist our sexual feelings. You should sympathize with us, and help us resist our sexual feelings, not hate us.” We tried to get B4U-ACT to adopt this approach. They had no interest because they felt that it would antagonize pro-contact pedophiles. They also believed that the approach wouldn’t have any impact – that people hate us because of our sexual feelings without regard to whether we act on them.

We continue to believe that we are right on this, and the early evidence is encouraging. Several sympathetic articles calling attention to the plight of pedophiles who successfully resist their sexual feelings have appeared in the year or so that we’ve been around, including in Salon, the Atlantic, the LA Times, CNN, Daily Beast and Crime Library. A recent book, Perv, by Jesse Bering, is similarly supportive, and we know that several college professors use our web site when teaching about pedophilia in their human sexuality classes.

There are a lot of people who share credit for this changing attitude, and we are among them. Will this recent spate of favorable articles make its way into the public consciousness and reduce stigma? We don’t know, but the early signs are hopeful.

Our Forum

In addition to trying to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia, we also try to help pedophiles lead happy, productive, law-abiding lives. We try to accomplish this with our forum, which is a support group for pedophiles who share our core values.

Most of the people who reach out to us are in serious distress. They feel shame because of their sexual feelings, fear that they will not be able to lead happy lives. They feel that things are hopeless, that they are all alone. Many are depressed; some are suicidal. You can get a feel for the pain that people are feeling by clicking on the “First Words” tab under the “Who We Are” section on our web site. Pedophiles who hate their attraction may be able to reach out to us but would never on principle join a pro-contact forum. But thinking we make pedophiles miserable would be reversing cause and effect.

What do we do to help? Sometimes just letting people know that they are not alone, expressing sympathy and support, can be enormously helpful. Those of us who have successfully managed our pedophilia describe how we have done so. Often this involves encouraging people to focus on other interests — job or school or recreational or social activity, or encouraging pedophiles who are also attracted to adults to focus on adult relationships. Sometimes we encourage people to see professionals, often through ATSA, Project Dunkelfeld or ilovechildren.us.

Will we be successful? Will we help pedophiles lead happier, more productive, law-abiding lives? Who knows? We’ve had about 250 people cycle through our forum in the 16 months that we’ve been around. Some join and stay, some are on for a while and leave, some leave and come back. Many of them think that we have helped. Of course, we are not so naive to believe that this means that we have really provided long-term benefit. We suppose the jury is out. We do the best we can to help.

Our Views On Legalization, Harm…

We know this is important to many more activist pedophiles. We consider it to be interesting from an academic perspective but of little practical import to our goal of helping pedophiles lead happier, more productive, law-abiding lives.

None of us lives in ancient Greece and none of us is likely to move there in the near future. Laws and societal attitudes on adult-child sex are not going to change in the foreseeable future. Activist pedophiles have been fighting this battle for more than fifty years. Many are eloquent. Many are clever. They have had no success. Laws have become more harsh; societal attitudes more severe. Activist pedophiles who promote changes in age of consent laws are pretty much reduced to talking among themselves and have no ability to influence discussion on important issues where change is possible. Their arguments have no traction with society at all. Even if we shared their views, which we do not, we would remain silent and choose a different battle.

In terms of our view of whether consensual sexual relations between children and adults are harmful, our understanding from leading sexologists is that it is not as harmful as is generally believed and is not harmful in all cases. It is, however, harmful in many cases, sometimes severely so. The problem from the pedophile’s perspective is that he can’t know ahead of time which cases will result in harm. A child who seems to be enjoying sexual activity at the time may later internalize societal attitudes and severe harm could result. Taking the bigger picture, whatever the level of harm, there is very little benefit. Very few people look back on their childhood sexual experiences with other adults as profoundly positive – the relationship may have been, but not the sexual aspects. A great many look back with great anguish.

We do not take seriously claims of activists that they are really advocating for the right of children to engage in sexual activity with adults. The claim seems implausible on its face – why is it that only procontact activist pedophiles argue that children should have the right to have sex with adults? Surely others are also concerned about children yet they don’t seem to think the right is important. Children will eventually become adults and can then have the entire panopoly of sexual experiences, so it is hard to see how denying them this right for a few years results in harm. Moreover, we have no problem with children experimenting sexually with similarly aged peers.

Relations With Pedophile Activists

We think we probably agree with other pedophile activists on about 90% of the issues – reducing stigma, helping pedophiles deal with mental health issues brought on by their pedophilia such as depression, making mental health care more accessible, eliminating mandatory reporter rules, eliminating sex offender registries, eliminating civil commitment, eliminating laws prohibiting things like virtual porn and erotic fiction… We don’t think pedophiles should feel shame as a result of their sexual attractions. We think children should not be made to feel guilty about sexual feelings and explorations. When adults do engage in sexual activity with children, we think the children should be treated in ways designed to reduce iatrogenic harm.

It is disappointing to us that pedophiles who disagree with us on a small number of issues focus on those few areas of disagreement instead of the many issues where we agree. It is particularly perplexing since it should be apparent to everyone that there is no prospect for changing laws relating to adult-child sex in the foreseeable future but our organization has helped make progress on some of the other issues.

We think the negative reaction may be a reaction to our perceived holier-than-thou attitude as reflected in our name and in our public statements that adults should not have sex with children.

In terms of the name, it was not subjected to focus group analysis among different constituencies. Ethan’s top choice was “Celibate Pedophiles”, and while Nick’s preference for the name won out, he viewed it as basically synonymous with “Celibate Pedophiles” – which he disliked as suggesting erroneously that none of us had sex with legal adults. The original internal working name was “Gold-Star Pedophiles”, after the Dan Savage column – and while we liked the column, we felt that as the name of an organization it was demeaning, gold stars being worthless fluff bestowed by adults on gullible children.

“Virtuous Pedophiles” was chosen not with regard to how pedophiles who debate such things on the internet would feel about it. It was directed to the 90% or more of society who know very little about the issue. Among them, a common view is that all pedophiles rape crying and struggling children and get sadistic pleasure out of it. “Virtuous Pedophiles” contradicts that stereotype. It is also meant to exclude those who engage in sexual activity with children by apparent mutual consent (leaving under debate how fully informed such consent could be). Yes, by our name we intentionally set ourselves apart from such pedophiles. We think it’s really important that people know we exist, and the evidence that we were right is that it can get some people of liberal inclinations to think more carefully and sympathetically about pedophiles. We do not view ourselves as virtuous in contrast to pedophiles who are opposed to adult-child sex under today’s circumstances but want to transform society so it would be truly OK – though we believe that they are mistaken. Being “not virtuous” is a moral judgment. People who do engage in sexual activity with children know better or should know better, and we do think of ourselves as more virtuous than they are. (We have a few members who have engaged in sexual contact with children, but are remorseful and are dedicated to never doing so again.)

With respect to our persistent statements that adult-child sex is wrong: The general public hates pedophiles. Pedophiles who waffle about whether adult-child sex might be OK do not get a hearing. The only way to get society to listen is for those of us who are truly opposed to adult-child sex to emphasize that fact. This requires us to say it loudly and often. To borrow from Tom’s always eloquent rhetoric, we have to burnish our halos.

We would never suggest that those of you who disagree with us should pretend you agree. But you might wish us well instead of despising us. To the extent we are successful, you might benefit in terms of all those issues we agree on.

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