Proudly sticking out my double CHIN!

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When Dave Riegel kindly offered to host a link to my CHIN paper recently published in Sexuality & Culture, he was more alert than me to the need for an explanatory summary to go with it – a double CHIN, as it were – or an edited highlights version. As he wrote along with the link:

This paper comprises some 15,000 words and 33 pages. While composed with the academic or professional reader in mind, it can be read profitably by the layperson who puts his mind to the task, and who follows the logic carefully. For those who feel the sheer size is overwhelming, it is suggested that they begin at the “An Alternative Ideal” section.

Good advice! And at Dave’s request I am now taking a couple of steps to provide a reader-friendly introduction to the article. One of the steps, for visitors to Dave’s SafeHaven site, will comprise a short piece to go with the link there. The other step, for heretics here, appears below. It aims to encapsulate the paper’s main themes.

Before starting, I will just note that as I write, less than two months after CHIN’s publication, the paper has been downloaded 2,200 times from the official Springer site, a figure that I feel more than justifies splashing out, as I did, to pay for Open Access, making the paper freely available to all. Heretics here have donated generously in response to my appeal aimed at raising funds to cover the fee but I am still considerably out of pocket. So please consider making a donation if you have not already done so: see Donate button near the end text of the right-hand column or email me (tomocarr66@yahoo.co.uk) to ask for my international bank account number.

So, here we go.

It may help to begin with how CHIN came about. This has roots going back seven or eight years to a meeting in a London pub with psychiatrist Richard Green, whose record of pioneering support for gay and trans rights will be familiar to many here and who has recently published a memoir of his involvement in these issues. At Richard’s instigation we were joined for lunch by Agustin Malón, a Spanish specialist in sex education, whose views seemed agreeably liberal. We got on well, and in the years that followed I read a number of his academic papers with growing enthusiasm.

He was never a committed heretic, but his writing always showed understanding and goodwill. Many years ago, he wrote in the preface to his doctoral thesis:

Those who love children – and who very rarely attack them – undoubtedly lead a complicated existence; especially those who are attracted to prepubertal children, since society is not likely to allow them to live out these experiences in relative liberty and tranquillity. We have a lot to learn – as do they – about how to permit them to live out and express those desires through channels that are more acceptable, and that cause fewer problems for both minors and society.

This clearly indicates empathy but it is hardly a radical position. There is nothing to suggest he ever thought child-adult sex could ever be allowed. So I was agreeably surprised when a paper of his appeared in 2015 in a leading academic journal. The introductory Abstract noted that such relationships might indeed be morally permissible under some circumstances, based on his understanding of general ethical principles. What he was saying, in effect, was that the usual “anti” arguments, such as the idea that children cannot give valid consent, are weak: they do not stand up to close scrutiny.

Excitingly, it looked as though Malón was finally getting on board with true radicalism. But that turned out to be wildly over-optimistic. Seeing only a glass half full, I was overlooking the half empty perspective. His article was planned as the first of two. The first would throw out the weak case against child-adult sex; but the second would bring in some new, much stronger, “anti” ideas to replace them! So we would be left not with a radically libertarian analysis but a beefed up conservative one!

This could have been very deflating, but when the second article appeared, in 2017, I soon began to see it as an opportunity. Malón’s new paper was grounded in virtue ethics. And just as he had seen the weakness of the usual “anti” arguments, it seemed to me his “virtue” approach was also full of holes. All I had to do was point them out. Also, without placing any great store on the virtue concept as a basis for deciding whether any sort of behaviours should or should not be permitted, answering Malón’s case appeared to offer a marvellous platform for talking about active child-adult sex as potentially something that could be seen positively, as part of a virtuous adult’s life.

Malón’s appeal to virtue ethics is part of a revival in recent times of a very old sort of moral philosophy, going back to ancient Greece. The person of good character, in this way of thinking, is one who lives life well in the sense that their behaviour tends to promote their own well being and that of their society, and may even be considered good for human flourishing in general. Virtue ethics these days is often referred to as “neo-Aristotelian” moral philosophy, as Aristotle was one of the key figures in the field among the ancients, following Socrates and Plato, and a good deal of his writing has survived.

It makes sense to ask, as these great philosophers did, what sort of life a good life is, and what makes for good character. One problem with this, though, is that you tend to get very different answers depending on when and where the question is posed. Different cultures have widely divergent views. Life could be harsh in ancient times and that was reflected in what was seen as morally acceptable. Aristotle, for instance, defended slavery.

Perhaps that is why Malón doesn’t mention him! His approach may be neo-Aristotelian but the figure he draws on for inspiration is a leading public intellectual of our own times, Sir Roger Scruton, knighted two years ago for “services to philosophy, teaching and public education”. The official citation emphasises his promotion of “freedom and Western values” in Soviet-era Communist Europe, but in Britain he is better known for his love of fox hunting, his distaste for homosexuality and his ferocious hostility towards anything he considers to be perverted or obscene – including, of course, paedophilia. He once argued that gays have no children and consequently no interest in creating a socially stable future, so it was justified to “instil in our children feelings of revulsion” towards homosexuality.

His ideas on sexual morality find their fullest expression in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation, which is undoubtedly a hugely sophisticated and erudite work, running to over 400 pages. Unfortunately, Malón appears to have been over-impressed by it and uncritically blown away. In my article, as a result, I found that really I had to regard Scruton as my primary opponent. The first part of CHIN is in effect an attempt to demolish Scruton’s thinking, and I hope readers will feel I have succeeded.

After that I found myself gloriously free on the open philosophical road, able to put my foot on the gas, driving the article hard towards my own vision of “An Alternative Ideal”. Dave Riegel is quite right to propose this section as a possible starting point: it avoids the unfortunately necessary negativity of the early sections, allowing the reader to get straight to what I hope will be considered more inspirational material. In fact, with this in mind, you could perfectly well begin and end with this single section.

Those who want to take that advice are free to do so. What I think may be useful in the remainder of this blog is to give a guide to the overall structure and main contents of CHIN.

Abstract and Introduction

The Abstract and the Introduction were written with the academic reader in mind and will perhaps feel rather perplexing and unhelpful to a wider audience. As Dave says, though, a careful, attentive reading should reap rewards.

The Illusion of Sexual Exceptionalism

This section is one to skip unless you are keen on philosophy. It tackles the idea that human sex of any sort is unlike other aspects of morality and needs a different kind of ethics. This view is at the heart of Scruton’s book, which takes a “phenomenological” approach focusing on human “intentionality”, a tricky concept which takes him 15 pages to “explain” in an appendix that leaves the head spinning. Basically, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors that enables him to claim, unpersuasively, that where sex is concerned the birds and the bees may do it but human sexual desire is on an altogether more elevated plane, such that ethical discussion essentially has to be inward looking:  we must contemplate our feelings for other people without reference to the wider world of nature, or indeed without delving into what science can tell us about our own sexual natures and how best they might be enabled to flourish.

Virtue Ethics and Child-Adult Sexual Relations

Malón’s particular contribution with regard to child-adult sexual relations sets out by identifying three potential lines of argument against paedophilic behaviour made available by the virtue approach. They are considered under these headings: (a) perversion and obscenity; (b) the sexual bond; (c) erotic neutralization and “extended” incest. CHIN responds to each of these three approaches.

Perversion and obscenity

Malón invokes childhood “innocence”, but he does not defend the concept against the charge that it represents a state of ignorance in which children are deliberately kept by adults in order to control them. Instead he seeks to justify the tradition in which a high value has been placed on virginity, a valuation challenged by feminists as being at the heart of patriarchal control of female sexuality.

It has also been put under scrutiny from an evolutionary perspective, and here I draw on the work of psychologist Darcia Narvaez. She suggests that we have been wrongly “projecting onto the past a scenario like today’s of sexual restriction and competition, assuming sexual competitiveness for virginity, and emphasizing the timing of first sexual behaviour”. Evolutionary psychology, she says, has wrongly assumed “mate competition and male desire to control female reproduction to ensure genetic dominance”.  Among the small-band gatherer-hunters of the past, in contrast, “sexual relations are widespread with experimentation at all ages”. Also, “As with our bonobo cousins, individuals do not wait for the right fertile mate. Sexual relations are more about pleasure than control.”

With this in mind, I raise the possibility that it might be beneficial to practise intimate relationships well before the time when there could be reproductive consequences. I note that childhood and adolescent sexual experiences with adults have been reported in very positive terms in the research literature as relationships characterised by warmth, pleasure, affection and humour.

The sexual bond

Malón argued that the child’s capacity for intimacy and to be emotionally connected to another person would be damaged by a sexual relationship with an adult. He did not even claim there was any evidence for this in the case of consensual encounters. I decided to stick with a single really good counter-example, that of the psychoanalyst and theorist Heinz Kohut: he claimed his sexual relationship at age 10 with an admired tutor was life-saving for him when his parents’ marriage was deteriorating.

Erotic neutralization and “extended” incest

It is difficult to argue in favour of sex with children in a nuclear family setting simply because behind closed doors it is hard to be sure kids have real choices: no one wants to see them become sex slaves of their parents. This has nothing to do with the danger of producing deformed or otherwise genetically damaged offspring in an incestuous union, as young children are physically incapable of becoming fathers or mothers. And, despite his use of the word incest, “blood” relations have nothing to do with what Malón is saying. He talks about so-called extended incest, by which he means any adult-child contacts that show some of the same psychodynamics as family relationships, especially via the quasi-parental authority invested in teachers, sports coaches, scout leaders, etc.

His argument is not against such authority, quite the reverse. Rather, he thinks that having a sexual relationship is likely to undermine legitimate authority. Good parents, after all, teach their children good values and try to set an example through their own good behaviour. An implicit assumption is that unless they are firmly in control, they will not be able to keep their children on the right path. By revealing their own sexual needs, by “surrendering” to passion, they become vulnerable to the child’s power; and in a consensual relationship the child can withhold willingness to meet those needs.

The argument is a strong one, but I argue that it puts excessive emphasis on the value of hierarchy. I give examples of role reversals that can be valuable for children and adults alike, where the younger party is in command.

An Alternative Ideal

Please simply read this section: it is easier going and arguably more important than some of the other parts.

Some Further Misconceptions

Intellectually, this section is a minor mopping up operation after zapping all three of Malón’s main arguments but it contains some interesting evidence you are unlikely to have seen elsewhere: use the search terms “Bemba” and “Nyakyusa” for some fascinating material on pre-pubertal consummation of marriage in African tribes – as researched by intrepid female anthropologists in the mid-20th century.

A prudential argument

This short section deals with the argument that child-adult sex may be harmless or even beneficial at the time but damaging in the long term on account of the social stigma attached to such encounters. Some give this as a reason not to permit them. I cite philosopher Stephen Kershnar’s powerful counter-argument.

Conclusion

The paper concludes with a plea to look at the evidence rather than just assuming that child-adult sex is harmful; it is also pointed out that relevant research has been systematically blocked and censored in recent times.    

Welcome to the joys of Springer!

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The publication of yet another dry, difficult, boring article in an obscure academic journal may seem no big deal, but I hope heretics will be persuaded that one specific recent addition to “the literature” really is major news for us.

Some readers will have noticed straws in the wind – a hint or two from me in the comments section, even the actual news being leaked at a couple of Kind chat forums – and now the time has finally arrived when I am ready to spill the beans with an official announcement.

Official, that is, because the article is my very own. I like to think the really special thing about it is the content – what it actually says in its 15,000-words – but the most immediate aspect to crow about is that this is the first piece of mine accepted as a work of serious scholarship after going through the process known as peer review i.e. after being read and critiqued in detail by other scholars, who tend typically to be professors and other senior academics.

This in itself would be of no great interest to anyone but me, but when the article in question claims that consensual child-adult sexual relationships could be ethical, or even represent the embodiment of an ideal in human relationships, it does become a bit special. And when that article is written by an activist without so much as a doctorate to his name, much less a chair in moral philosophy, it becomes unique. Even more securely unique, indeed, given that my formal introduction to ethics was acquired while studying an Open University course in philosophy from a cell in Her Majesty’s Prison, Wandsworth.

“Unique”, as it happens, was an epithet used by one of the three anonymous (so they can criticise without inhibition) peer reviewers, who wrote: “The article is unique, interesting, important, and nicely argued. It will be an important contribution to the literature.” Another reviewer called it “stimulating and polemical” while the third said it was “…a great article. Very well researched… Well written and well argued throughout.”

Enough with the fanfare! The title of the paper is “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal: Virtue Ethics and Child–Adult Sex”. It was published online by the journal Sexuality & Culture on 20 April. The print edition will probably come out later this year, from which point it will grace the shelves of university libraries.

Wannabe readers will not need to hunt it down in the groves of academe, though, nor will they need to pay through the nose for it or seek a pirated download (somewhat harder to find now, following a lawsuit last year). No, all they need in order to read the full text free of charge online, or to get a free PDF download, is this link to the article’s page on the Sexuality & Culture website provided by Springer Nature, a gigantic academic publishing corporation.

And thereby hangs an important tale. Springer didn’t get big and profitable by being generous. It may look as though you are being offered a free lunch but it won’t be the publisher picking up the tab. Most of their articles are paid for in the traditional way: the reader has to buy them, just like going into a bookstore and buying a book. That tends to be very expensive for the reader, at £35 or more (around $50 U.S.) for an article of typically only 15-20 pages, unless they are able to borrow a copy from a library. This has been getting increasingly difficult in recent years because the libraries themselves in the UK and elsewhere have been finding it harder to come up with the money for their subscriptions to the journals. This means there is an increasing danger that only a small elite have much chance of discovering the latest scholarship and research.

Determined to reach the widest possible readership for my own pro-Kind paper, I decided this was not good enough. I could have done the same as most authors, which is to transfer the copyright to the publishers, so they can charge for the “intellectual property” (the article) and keep all the money that comes in. Doing it that way means there is no cost to the author. But I decided to put my money where my mouth is by forking out far more than I can sensibly afford in order to retain the copyright and exercise my choice to make the paper free to all readers under a scheme known as Open Access.

I paid Springer’s standard charge. Including VAT this came to a whopping £2,311, or over 3,000 American dollars. The first sign that this was money well spent is shown by the figures: in the first three weeks there have been over 300 downloads from the publisher’s link and more via ResearchGate, which is a networking site for scientists and researchers. This might seem small potatoes compared to the million a minute or whatever it is for cute cat clips going viral on YouTube but it is extremely good for a scholarly site – and unlike the cat clips a good article can have a long-lasting influence on people who are themselves seriously influential – such as public intellectuals (those high-profile profs who tend to be on the telly a lot), or leading bloggers and journalists.

With the help of a single generous sponsor I also made an earlier Springer publication of mine Open Access. This was a book review (which did not itself need to be peer reviewed) titled “Arthur P. Wolf: Incest Avoidance and the Incest Taboos, Two Aspects of Human Nature”. Without me making any significant effort towards publicising this review, it has gained 2,100 downloads since going online in November 2015. I confidently expect my present paper to get much bigger figures, not least because I intend to trumpet it far and wide.

The fact that I put my own money upfront this time around was an expression of my passionate belief in “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal”. It was also an act of faith in heretics here that you will wish to play your part by supporting my endeavours. I trust you will be willing to make whatever donation you can, not just to ensure that I can pay my next electricity bill now that I have taken a big hit to the wallet, but that I can also keep Heretic TOC and other projects going on a flourishing basis. My only income these days is a state pension. Thanks to serial career-busting activism over the years I have never been able to generate more than a sliver of a pittance from company pensions or anything of that sort.

That was my choice of life-style. I do not complain. But looking forward to the next few years I will be unable to keep on giving my time so freely unless I can cover my costs . I might be forced to give up Heretic TOC entirely, along with any further scholarship, in order to supplement my meagre income by devoting my time to commercial work instead – editorial consultancy and research such as I used to do after being recruited by Gordon Wills in the 1980s, in the field of marketing, and in more recent years Bill Percy, assisting with his history writing and research projects. The earnings in both cases were good, and the work was interesting, so it is tempting to go in that direction again.

I would far rather stick with what I am doing now, though, as I feel it is more important. But for that I need your help, your contribution. That is why, as you will see, I have added a Donate button to Heretic TOC. You will see it on the right hand side of the page. It is the last item, after the Follow button. The system uses PayPal, which is a very easy way of paying from accounts in any major currency, either using a credit card or your own PayPal account.

Nominally, your contributions will go to Dangerous Books Ltd, which is the name of the company I set up principally as the vehicle for promoting and selling my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (authored under the penname “Carl Toms”) some years ago. My PayPal account just happens to be in this name but it is not actually a company account. So your contributions will go to me personally and be entirely at my disposal.

I see no reason why the donation system should not work smoothly, but if there are any teething problems with it do let me know.

In making this appeal I am acutely aware that many heretics have faced career disasters and consequent financial limitations comparable to my own, so may not have much to give; others will have been so traumatised by unkindness to the Kind that they have found it tough just to hold off depressive inertia and keep themselves going sufficiently to make a modest living. To these I say, give what you can and you will be doing yourself a favour as well as me: you will feel good for having contributed. It’ll cheer you up a bit!

There are also those who have been resilient; they include skilful, talented people who have done well in life, being wisely alert to pitfalls and how to avoid them. Among them are those who generously came to my aid a couple of years ago when my need was far more desperate than it is now. When it looked as though I would need an expensive legal team to keep me out of prison, this gallant band of stalwarts rose to the challenge stupendously, some pledging four-figure sums. Fortunately, in the end I needed only a tenth of what had been offered and accepted that amount with relief and gratitude.

To these heroes, and to others who are at least modestly prospering, I would now say I have no need for a four-figure sum from any single individual (but of course it would be nice if any millionaire heretics happen to be feeling bountiful!) I would urge you, though, to think seriously about a three-figure one: without a number of donations at this level I could be struggling.

Enough with the funding!

A word may be needed about the paper itself. It is not an easy read, especially the first sections. One of my main targets in this early part is the stance taken by the eminent British conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. Heretics who are into philosophy might enjoy what I hope is a successful demolition job on his enthusiasm for denouncing “perversion” and “obscenity”.

It is in the later part, though, that I feel I really get motoring. This is where, having ditched the negative approach to sexual “virtue” espoused by Scruton and his supporter Agustin Malón, I develop my own, positive, approach.

I might add that I have met Malón a couple of times and downed a few beers with him. He is a very nice guy; so our differences are ideological rather than personal. A Spanish scholar, he is a professor of education, and has written a number of papers pertinent to our concerns that are far more humane and sympathetic than anything I have seen from Scruton.

 

THE BITER BIT: WHAT A HYPOCRITE!

Would you Adam and Eve it! John Woodcock MP, the man who had me kicked out of the Labour Party could be shown the door himself, after being suspended at the end of last month over – wait for it – alleged sexual harassment! It is claimed “he sent inappropriate messages to a former female member of staff”.

In an even more delicious irony, the first thing Woodcock did to undermine my position in the party two years ago, after the police alerted him to my background as a Kind activist, was to go blabbing to the press. And guess what he is complaining about now?

Yes, you’ve guessed it: he is upset that his detractors have gone blabbing to the press! The BBC quoted him as denying the truth of the allegations, and as saying:

“The decision… to place details of my case in the press and then suspend me places a serious question mark over the integrity of the process….”

Oddly enough, he didn’t seem so concerned about “the integrity of the process” in my case, which I blogged about in An Open Letter to the Labour Party.

Can’t say I feel a lot of sympathy for him. As he appears to have made it his life’s mission to undermine Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at every opportunity, the party would do well to see the back of him.

 

HOT CONTRABAND IN PRISON

Email received this morning from a correspondent in the U.S.:

“I talked with a fellow tonight who was recently released from prison. He told me that someone smuggled a copy of your book on Michael Jackson in by having it mailed to an inmate who was not there on a sex crime, so his mail is less scrutinized and it got through. Then, to allow the sex-crime inmates to read it, someone took the cover from a book by Isaac Asimov that was about the same size, and replaced your cover with that so the guys could read it without the guards knowing what they were reading.”

So, never mind drugs, mobile phones and the rest, it seems the cool item to smuggle into prison now is Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. Way to go, dudes!

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