LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM – WTF?

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… localism instead of convergence, identitarianism instead of universalism, short-sighted egotism instead of collaboration, and the calamitous idea of focusing on those considered to be similar while shunning “the other”. I fear the way that so many people hope to defend themselves from the malaise of life, from existential confusion, by choosing a group identity and sticking to it.  – Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist, former radical student activist, historian of the philosophy of science

The politics of identity is narcissistic and needy…. It’s all inherently censorious. Because if your political activism is indistinguishable from your natural characteristics or cultural identity, then any criticism of your political activism will inevitably feel like an assault on *you*. This is why student politicos in particular are so insanely cagey about open debate, forever hiding themselves in “safe spaces” and trying to ward off campus anyone who criticises them in the same way monks might once have wielded crucifixes to chase away witches. – Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked! in The Spectator

Are identity politics intrinsically as disastrous as Rovelli and O’Neill claim? After all, there could be no politics at all without groups of like-minded people rallying together against others who think differently. These opposing groups have always thought in “Us and Them” terms, if not along lines of gender and sexuality then of social class and wealth. In Britain and elsewhere these differences have been the lifeblood of democracy. Marx urged the working class to unite. This could be considered identity politics because the workers first had to identify themselves as part of the “working class”, a separate entity set against the exploitative “bourgeoisie”. But at least Marx envisioned a society beyond class warfare, based on equality and justice for all. His thinking was grounded in a universal concept of justice, with fairness for everyone, not winner-takes-all. This ideal was betrayed in those countries that took the revolutionary road; but democratic socialism has been more honourably successful.

Like democratic socialism, our vision for the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the 1970s was grounded in a universalist ethic. We believed in sexual liberation for all, not just for paedophiles. That is why we supported women’s liberation and children’s rights – the right to sexual expression, of course, but much more as well. It is why we supported GLs not just the BLs who were always by far the largest part of our membership. Even sociologist Frank Furedi has conceded that “PIE and its sympathisers did not simply express a form of liberationist identity politics”. Yes, we initially rallied together around our shared sexuality, as the “working class” once rallied around their labouring status, and as women and gays rallied around their gender and sexual desire; but shared identity was just an organising tactic in the service of a vision – as we saw it – for everyone, not just our own narrow group.

There were those in the gay movement who thought in a similarly constructive, inclusive way. It is thanks to them, and to those who began to identify and organise as other sexual minorities, that the male homosexual identity (gay) made common cause with the female one (lesbian) and those of bisexuals and transgender people, giving us the combined LGBT movement. This is now sometimes expanded to include Q for Queer, the last of which is potentially a capacious vessel for those who don’t fit in anywhere else and don’t quite feel able to come out as anything definite. Wonder who that could let in? 🙂

It hasn’t stopped there, either. We now have a rich alphabet soup, even extending in one formulation to LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, flexural (WTF?), asexual, gender-fuck, polyamorous, bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism”. At first blush it all looks like a wonderfully comprehensive celebration of sexual diversity, a huge range of sexual identities assembled in a great conclave, bringing people together in an identity politics of the best sort, based on solidarity, not division.

But we know different, don’t we? For instance, one elephant most definitely not in the (bed)room is sexual attraction to animals, which could be designated by Z, for zoophilia. Not that I know anyone who fancies sex with elephants, but then I’ve never heard a mahout talking candidly. Anyway, you won’t find Z on the list and P is conspicuously absent from the party too. So are N. and H; and E. Indeed, none of the controversial chronophilias named by Michael Seto and discussed recently here in The seven ages of sexual attractiveness make it to the recognised lists of initials: paedophilia, nepiophilia, hebephilia and ephebophilia all go unmentioned, as does the umbrella term MAP and even the unthreatening Kind. Maybe that’s our fault. Maybe Kind activists should be pushing harder. But to blame ourselves is a bit like blaming Jews for failing to stop the Holocaust: swimming against a flood tide of hatred is sometimes just too hard.

Interestingly, though, a couple of lonely voices – openly gay ones, and not closet Kinds as far as I can tell – have been pressing for greater inclusivity. Putting to shame the “respectable” gays who have climbed the ladder of social acceptability and kicked it down to stop others following, are two brave guys: psychologist Jesse Bering and gay history expert Gert Hekma. Bering, author of Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, pointed out in an article last month that “LGB people arguably share more in common with the Zs and Ps than they do the Ts, since being transgender isn’t about who (or what) you’re sexually attracted to, but the gender you identify with. Unlike those representing the other letters in this character soup, trans people say their sexuality plays no role at all. Why then are Ts included while other, more unspeakable, sexual minorities aren’t?”

Hekma, for his part, noted in a conference presentation this summer that the proliferation of initials moves our understanding of sexuality away from sexual behaviour towards a terminology of identity and orientation. As such, it echoes a change noted by Foucault from “doing” to “being”: a century or so ago, the sodomite became the homosexual, moving from a legally defined act to a medical concept of an identity. A main idea of sexologists at that time was that the identity of the homosexual should be accepted but the behaviour should be prevented. It was a variant on the Christian theme: accept the sinner but not the sin.

Homosexuality has long since moved on from that limitation, but a proliferation of marginalised variations are candidates for moving into the space thus vacated. Hekma mentions a whole range of fetishes. “The list is endless,” he says, “Have a look on grindr and tumblr for the dozens of sexual fetishisms.” He points out that in its most accepted variation the continuously expanding list of initials as yet excludes “the major classical perversions” (BDSM, fetishism, paedo-, necro-, copro-, zoophilia). He argues in favour of taking them into the fold, including paedophilia. Such an inclusion could hardly occur without legitimising paedophilic fantasy at least. As Hekma says:

The point many people miss on questions of sexual variation is that fantasies are central and most desires need not be enacted in immediate reality but they often happen in indirect and imaginary ways. Sexual preferences can be staged.

This politics, emphasising identity over behaviour, and especially over behaviour in the real, non-fantasy, world, arguably offers an advance worth having. It may be that the Virtuous Pedophiles could succeed in having “virtuous”, or not-acted-upon, paedophilia accepted as VP on the initials list if they chose to go down that road. It could be a staging post to greater acceptability, as it was for homosexuals. But, in order to succeed, this form of identity politics would seem to depend for its success on denouncing us Kinds – we who do not agree with “virtue” but have it thrust upon us anyway, through draconian laws and policing. As we know, the VPs appear all too keen on this divisive style, and it pays off for them. It is no accident that Jesse Bering has expressed his support for the VPs but not for the Kind views espoused by more radical activists.

Divisive identity politics has featured strongly here at Heretic TOC recently too, at least in the comments. One contributor, under a bewildering variety of names (Why? It just looks schizophrenic), has been not only virulently anti-feminist but also militantly pro-hebephilic and just as aggressively against every other kind of sexual minority and even those in the “normal” mainstream. For him, even heterosexual teleiophiles – adult men attracted to adult women and vice versa – are just perverts because adults’ “natural” preference (for males at least) is for the freshly nubile girl, at the very start of her reproductive potential.

I prefer not to dismiss ideas merely because they seem strange. That would be very much at odds with Heretic TOC’s heretical mission. So, I will concede there is a case to be made that throughout most of human pre-history it might well have made sense for girls to start having babies as soon as they physically could, and that a man’s preferred choice of sexual partner would reflect this. Infant mortality was likely to have been very high, and a whole range of perils including disease, attacks by predatory animals and occasional famine would have made it impossible to sustain or grow the population without full use of every year in the female reproductive cycle. Evolution must have favoured early reproduction or we would not be here to ponder the ways of our ancestors. So, it seems inevitable that for hundreds of thousands of years what we now call hebephilia would have been, along with ephebophilia, the most natural of sexual orientations for males. Having said that, our culture and social needs are very different today. Civilised society has moved on from pre-history in many ways that are a great improvement. None of us, of whatever orientation, can justify our sexuality solely by reference to a long gone past.

A bigger problem with this contributor’s ideas than the mere logical weakness of his argument, however, is the divisiveness of his hebephilic identity politics. According to this way of looking at things,  hebephilia is the only good and virtuous way of loving. Paedophiles and ephebophiles, even bog standard teleiophiles, are perverted in this account, driven solely by selfish lust.  It is a peculiarly nihilistic “politics” because it systematically trashes every possibility of political alliance, which is the way real politics gets done. It gratuitously makes enemies of everyone. In any case, there is no clear  taxonomic split between hebephilia and paedophilia, nor between hebephilia and ephebophilia: the overlap between these categories is considerable, as discussed here recently. Just as there is no “pure” race, such as the Aryans, on which the Nazis based their delusions of racial superiority, there are no pure unalloyed sexual orientations either. We may identify as solely hebephile, or whatever, but the majority in any orientation category are mongrels with a range of tastes.

Again, though, the weak logic behind the contributor’s truculence is less significant than the attitude itself. It is divisive, as already noted, and it is also self-centred, expressing not so much a group identity as an individual one: it is a politics of one person against the world, which is not a practical politics at all, but more a cry for help or a scream of rage against everything being so complicated and confusing these days. As such, it echoes O’Neill’s view, above, of those censorious modern students who are so “narcissistic and needy”.

As for why things have taken such a turn, and what might be done about it, those are perhaps stories for another day.

 

KING OF THE STING IS STUNG

Yo! Great news! The bastard has got his come-uppance at last! Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, former star undercover reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers, especially the Sun and the now defunct News of the World, is facing jail for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos two years ago. Following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, a jury today found the 53-year-old “King of the Sting” and his driver guilty of plotting to pervert the course of justice.

It’s all over the news, including this Daily Telegraph report, and nobody could be more delighted than me, not least because I was a victim of his lies myself, a story told in When Heretic TOC met the Fake Sheikh, written in July 2014 soon after Judge Alistair McCreath publicly concluded that Mahmood had attempted to persuade a witness to change his evidence and then lied about it under oath.

In my case, Mahmood tracked me down to a naturist resort in France, where he pretended to be not a sheikh but a sheikh’s aide, tasked with the role of checking out the resort to see whether it would be possible for his boss to take a discreet naturist holiday there. His real mission, though, using a very “underage” looking female reporter as an accomplice, was to tempt me into some sort of indiscretion. Maybe they hoped I would proposition her. When that failed they simply made up lies and another accomplice took a photo with a long lens that made it look (falsely) as though I was standing naked with a young boy and chatting him up. Mahmood even had the gall to write up the story in his autobiography, claiming it as one of his successes. See also my follow-up story, The strange case of the brilliant ‘bimbo’.

 

HEWSON HAMMERS ‘ABUSE FUNDAMENTALISTS’

I guess most heretics here will be aware by now that yet another fiasco has struck the bloated, unmanageable “independent inquiry into historical child sexual abuse”. After losing no fewer than three chairpersons, the inquiry now has to deal with the departure of a key figure who had been holding the wreckage together – counsel to the inquiry Ben Emmerson QC, who resigned at the end of last month.

Fewer readers, though, may be aware that the excellent barrister and commentator Barbara Hewson penned a stinging piece on the subject for the Daily Mail under the headline “This fiasco of a sex abuse inquiry is totally out of control…and has to end NOW”.

The most stunning aspect of her analysis is that unlike the politicians, or most of the media, she has dared to criticise the so-called “survivors”. The inquiry, she says, “has always been dogged by rancorous in-fighting between different camps of ‘survivors’ of historic sexual abuse.” She says prime minister Theresa May did not anticipate when she decided to set up the inquiry two years ago in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, “just how extreme many of the campaigners demanding an inquiry were.” Not pulling any punches, she writes:

I call them ‘abuse fundamentalists’. Some of them are avid conspiracy theorists, recycling tall tales from the Eighties era, when panic about alleged Satanic ritual abuse was at its height….They have all been traumatised, they claim, and everything that is wrong with their lives today is somebody else’s fault. [There is] a vocal lobby who seem as impervious to reason as religious fundamentalists. Unless you submit to their world view — a fixation on the idea that society is riddled with shadowy VIP paedophile ‘rings’ shielded by an evil Establishment omerta — they will viciously condemn you as an apologist for paedophiles.

And there is more! Well worth reading in full.

Down and dirty in the VP basement

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

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

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

RESPONSE TO NICK 

Nick wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

Well fine, let’s do research on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also:

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

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

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

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

It also ignores what I said in this latest blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSE TO ETHAN

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

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

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

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

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

>“we have irreconcilable purists on our own side”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About your forum, you say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Humble or haughty, nasty is naughty

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When New York-based journalist Paul Willis, from a newish online outfit called VICE News, emailed me early in December, I was not overly excited by his proposition.

In fact, I found it a bit depressing, albeit worthy of attention. He wanted to know about paedophiles who suffer from depression. Well, many do, of course. Nothing surprising about that given the stigma and oppression we have to put up with, even if we behave like saints. Mercifully for me, I am blessed with a generally optimistic and cheerful disposition: I may be down, but never for long. So I thought I was probably not the best person to help with this important story, and decided to pass it on to friends at the Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which has mental health at the heart of its mission.

One very significant contribution they made was to give Willis an excellent article by FUMA co-founder Stephen James, which highlights how MAPs’ mental health problems are often exacerbated by unsympathetic and ignorant “therapy”.

What I did not know at the time, unfortunately, but I should have guessed, was that Willis had also been in touch with the Virtuous Pedophiles. And his article, when it appeared just over a week ago, was firmly anchored to the VP narrative. Ironic, huh? Virtue favoured by VICE! Titled “Realising You’re a Paedophile Can Make You Want to Kill Yourself”, it was fine in its sympathy for non-offenders. It made the important point that the stigma and consequent social isolation faced by many MAPs can be hugely damaging.

But what sort of damage? While a high rate of suicidality was rightly mentioned, the main emphasis was on the dread possibility that some MAPs might be radicalised and turn towards “extreme stances” like that of “a notorious pressure group called the Paedophile Information Exchange, which advocated abolishing consent laws completely”. The article also mentions support for “children’s sexual self-determination” as part of a belief system by which “most of us are understandably horrified”.

Some of this excoriation is the journalist’s own, but much of it comes straight from Virtuous Pedophiles Todd Nickerson (formerly online as “Markaba”), who may be remembered from a recent Salon article, and also a guy called “Brett”, said to be a VP moderator. Brett said he had “nothing but disdain and contempt” for “pro-contacters”, among whom he named me personally.

I have no trouble living with Brett’s disapproval but being branded “pro-contact” is another matter entirely because it slyly misrepresents those of us who would like to see cultural changes and legal reforms leading to the possibility of sexual self-determination for all. It falsely implies we favour ignoring the law in favour of sexual “contact” at any price. Others here, notably Dissident and Stephen6000, have favoured the expression “pro-choice”. Even VP co-founder Ethan Edwards, who also figures in the VICE piece, has expressed reservations over the “pro-contact” description. In a comment on Heretic TOC last year as Ethane72, he more reasonably spoke of “pro-legalisation”.

To outsiders this might seem a trivial distinction, like the minuscule differences in Monty Python’s Life of Brian between a bunch of fissiparous liberation groups in Roman-occupied Judea. When they are exhorted to stop squabbling among themselves so they can fight “against the common enemy,” the foe they first think of is not the Romans but the Judean People’s Front! Freud, in his Civilization and Its Discontents, called it  “the narcissism of small differences”.

Is there a way of avoiding such differences and fighting together for a better society? If it were down to relatively sensible people like Ethan it might be possible. In reality, though, we have irreconcilable purists on our own side, and on the VP side there are Rottweilers like Brett who prefer the language of “disdain and contempt” to seeking common cause. Referring to “pro-contacters”, he is quoted as saying:  “It’s partly because of that crowd so many people are unwilling to listen to me and paedophiles like me.”

One interesting message we may read between the lines here is that even though the VPs are clearly having it pretty much entirely their own way in the media, the battle for hearts and minds among MAPs is another matter: we pro-choice or pro-reform folk, who together identify as the Kind community, appear at least to be holding our ground in the ideological front-line against “virtuous” thinking.

And with that in mind, it’s time for a despatch from another part of the battlefield: Sexnet.

The fun kicked off when Nick Devin, co-founder of VP, posted a link to the VICE article on the Sexnet forum, which as regulars here may recall is an email information exchange and discussion group primarily for senior researchers and clinicians in the fields of sexual biology, psychology and behaviour, with a small seasoning of sexual minority activists, journalists and other odd bods in the mix – a blend whose composition is in the gift of the moderator, psychology professor Mike Bailey.

Now what y’all need to know about Nick is that like Uriah Heap in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield, he is really, really humble. His shtick is to ingratiate himself with the experts at Sexnet by never, ever questioning their wisdom or expertise. He doesn’t need to, of course. The VP line is that society is right to condemn child-adult sexual relationships, so why would he argue with the big cheeses on Sexnet who do research showing what is “wrong” with paedophiles’ brains, or who test and refine sex offender treatment programmes?

“When I was quite a young boy,” said Uriah, “I got to know what umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite. I stopped at the umble point of my learning, and says I, ‘Hard hard!’ When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. ‘People like to be above you,’ says father, ‘keep yourself down.’ I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I’ve got a little power!”

Just like Heap the Creep, Nick has learned to play his ignorance like a fiddle, making a virtue of it, as of so much else. So when he posted that link on Sexnet to Willis’s VICE piece, he did so in the most “umble” way possible, offering no comment or opinion of his own. And what a cunningly powerful tactic that turned out to be, enabling him to disseminate smears against alleged “pro-contacters”, including “disdain and contempt” for me as a named fellow Sexnet member, without so much as a word, as it were, from his own mouth.

Honour bound to reply, I rebuked VP for their smear tactics and Nick for his personal role in promoting them. Which unfortunately allowed Nick to play the “umble” injured innocent: What me? Begging your pardon, good sirs, I am just the ’umble messenger. Why are you being so ’orrible to depressed paedophiles? Why are you being ’ateful towards us VPs?

He even cited a taxonomy of MAPs devised by Ethan Edwards, ranging from “hands-on offenders” at one end to “anti-contact” at the other. Specifically praised are those near the out-and-out anti-contact end who are “humble/laid back: Leaves it up to society to figure out appropriate ages of consent, realizing that they have a selfish interest in lower ones, and maybe it actually does cloud their thinking, so they set that aside.”

I’ll come back to that question of “selfish interest”, and how supposedly “pro-contact” paedophiles “rationalise” our beliefs, another time. For now, though, I would just note that our guest blogger Lensman has a superb new blog on this theme at his own website, Consenting Humans.

Anyway, as you might expect, I replied to Nick’s ’umble observations, including his further accusations that I was ignoring data favourable to VP and misrepresenting his organisation. My riposte proved too much for the least ’umble figure on Sexnet by far, the toweringly arrogant James Cantor, who has long been a near ubiquitous presence in VP’s media campaigns.

Cantor was volcanic.

“I do not believe O’Carroll belongs on Sexnet,” he thundered. “…despite years of mere argumentativeness, O’Carroll has presented no actual information, just twisted misreadings of what someone else said, leading us to waste time untwisting it back into what we did say.  No one can or will learn anything from rhetorical games.”

Yes, well, we know James of old, don’t we? Those who have been around here a while will recall that my “no actual information” back in 2012 included a critique of his brain-imaging research, which had supposedly shown a “deficiency” in the white matter part of paedophiles’ brains. My critique was supported by a British neuroscientist who blogs as Neuroskeptic. But that didn’t stop Cantor – or Jimmy “the Screamer” Cantori, notorious hit-person of the Toronto mafia, as I dubbed him – from denouncing me as “an impostor”, with the implication that only accredited scientists should talk about science (except, of course, in an ever so ’umble way!)

As Cantor is one of the biggest of the big guns on Sexnet, it might be supposed this latest screaming denunciation would see me being shown the Red Card. But no! Purely ad hominem attack, which this was, is generally frowned upon in the forum, and Mike Bailey was not overly swayed. He wrote:

“Tom O’Carroll is on SEXNET because he knows stuff and because he has a principled position that, although I don’t entirely agree with it, is good for sex researchers to hear, if they listen. He has also sometimes been exceedingly patient with those here who clearly think he’s wrong and distasteful. (This patience, unfortunately, has never extended to Nick Devin and Ethan Edwards.)

“The intellectual divide between Tom’s and Nick’s/Ethan’s views is interesting, and I’ve learned things reading them (and I haven’t always agreed with either side). The debate invariably gets personal to some degree, but not so much that I generally need to get involved. It’s understandable, sometimes, like in the present case. I happen to know that Nick forwarded that article because of Tom’s quote, which he found striking, rather than because of what the VP member said about disliking Tom. But it is understandable that Tom thought otherwise.”

As you can see, Mike exonerates Nick from ulterior motives. He could be right, but I don’t think even a psychology professor can just “happen to know” with any degree of confidence whether a person’s stated reason for doing something is the real or only one. Neither can I, to be fair. Having watched Nick’s manoeuvrings for years now, though, it is hard not to be suspicious.

Mike closed with a call for “future examples of intellectual calmness and generosity” on both sides. Following this, one item soon arose on which there was some modest scope for agreement with the VPs. This time Nick posted a link to a new article titled “Can Child Dolls Keep Pedophiles from Offending?” I commended it as an interesting piece, and noted that Heretic TOC had blogged in similar vein last October. This piece, as I don’t think I have mentioned before, was taken up by several of the tabloids in Britain: the Sun, Mirror and Express. These stories were all of the twisted, warped, vile, sick pervert variety, as may be imagined, which suggests that the VPs and their allies in the media may be far better placed to get this particular idea taken seriously than any “pro-choice” supporters will be able to bring about any time soon.

 

RADICAL CASE IN RUSSIAN

Congratulations to the latest translator of Paedophilia: The Radical Case, who emailed today to tell me he has completed a Russian version of the book. It is now online here, although I don’t suppose many of us will be able to read it, including me. I can tell you the title, though, which is rendered as

Педофильский радикализм. After that comes the “Author’s preface to the Russian translation”, which looks like this: Авторское предисловие к русскому переводу. I can’t see it topping the charts for Russian reading this month, but I like the thought that after all these years someone would think it worth making such a big effort to give them the chance to give it a whirl.

 

DAVID BOWIE IN TROUBLE

Meanwhile, David Bowie’s new album Blackstar surely will be a posthumous chart-topper. But that doesn’t mean he can just relax up there in Heaven, confident his reputation is secure, oh no. Unlike Jimmy Savile, who was able to rest in peace for almost a whole year before accusations of child sexual abuse began to surface via a TV documentary, the Bowie bashers are already at work. We now have The dark side of David Bowie, a story in Salon by culture editor Erin Keane, in which she takes the vaunted genius to task for his “history of sex with underaged groupies in the ’70s”. But his one named “victim”, Lori Mattix, says it was consensual so, hey, no problem!

 

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.

Whither the punitive state? Whither go we?

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The final chapter of Roger Lancaster’s Sex Panic and the Punitive State, a book lauded by many heretics, is titled “Whither the Punitive State?”

Frustratingly, it doesn’t really address its own question. While it would be unrealistic to expect firm predictions, or a rousing action plan (“Sex offenders of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but your tags!”) all we get is a lame – because also unrealistic – list of “pointers for a sounder public discourse”. What it lacks is any sense of agency: good things would happen if his suggestions were adopted, but there no indication of who is ever going to do so. It is as though Lancaster had been sitting at his desk thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought like me?”

But they don’t! Many of his readers, to be sure, may think like him and will benefit from his penetrating analysis of our woeful times, but we are left with little sense of engagement in making better things happen. Perhaps the closest we get is this:

“Concerted efforts by scholars, public intellectuals, journalists, and others could begin to make tabloid culture less respectable.”

But who is to do the concerting?

The political landscape might change if, say, the increasingly huge expense of incarcerating ever more sex offenders becomes unsustainable; in that eventuality, economic facts will have been the driving force towards a new discourse, not the conscious efforts of Lancaster or his readers. But concluding that history is just the working out of blind forces beyond our control might have seemed too bleak a note on which to conclude his book.

Nevertheless, it is one of several difficult considerations we must face unflinchingly if we are to “keep it real” as heretics. Another is whether the existence of a powerful state is necessarily a bad thing.

Marx, Engels and Lenin all asked not so much “Whither the state?” as “Wither the state?”

Friedrich Engels was the first to articulate the idea (which he attributed to Marx) that the state in a socialist society would wither away: the propertied classes needed coercively enforced laws to protect their unfair advantage; once the war against such injustice was won, the state would atrophy from lack of any purpose. But famously this vague “withering” thing, magicking the state away with a wishy-washy wave of Marxism’s rhetorical wand, never happened, either in the Soviet Union or in any other avowedly Marxist society: on the contrary, the state under Stalin, Mao and other Communist leaders grew ever more totalitarian and oppressive without even being efficient.

Likewise, we heretics have our own radicals who quite rightly oppose both “sex panics” and “the punitive state” but fail to propose plausible alternatives.

Recently, for instance, I unexpectedly found myself in a debate with the generally excellent Ben Capel at Inquisition 21st Century. At one time I was somewhat contemptuously dismissive of “unscientific” psychoanalysis grounded in the Freudian tradition. Ben put me right, alerting me to the radically humane potential of such therapy as compared with the supposedly more scientific CBT, which is used in coercive and degrading ways in penal settings.

So I value Ben’s thoughts highly and was pleased when Brian Rothery, editor of Inquisition 21, invited me to respond earlier this month to an article by Ben titled “Cruel and unusual punishment”. He had written that parents, as well as MAPs, sometimes find themselves subjected to unjust treatment at the hands of the state, suffering “harassment from social workers to the point where they are driven to mental breakdown or flight”, then seeing their children taken from them into state custody.

The article was part of an initiative called “The Rallying Point”, designed “to bring together isolated and fragmented groups” to fight back against the exercise of power by a state perceived as heartless and arrogant, blundering and bureaucratic.

I like the idea of rallying together with others who suffer injustice, but nevertheless found myself uneasy over the uncompromising anti-statism. Yes, I thought, social workers can sometimes be excessively interventionist. But should it be ignored that children are murdered at the rate of around one every 10 days in the UK at the hands of their parents, sometimes following unspeakable neglect and cruelty? I think not. What we do not hear so much about, and perhaps we should, are the cases where social workers intervene successfully and children are found better homes with loving adoptive parents.

Ben was unmoved when I made this point, insisting that the state should “withdraw and leave its citizens unmolested” until a whole bunch of tough conditions had been met, such as “until cops and social workers are required to have deep and enduring insight into their own irrational drives and sadistic tendencies”.

But, I asked, would the citizenry be left happily “unmolested”? Or would life be nasty, brutish and short? The Hobbesian nightmare of violent anarchy in the absence of a strong state is no mere imagining, I said, but well grounded in man’s truly savage history. The challenge is how to keep the baby (the rule of law) while throwing out the bathwater (unjust laws and unjust law enforcement). Note that my “savage” assessment relates to our history: prehistoric times are another matter, and I will be coming to those below.

I suggested that human rights law, a recent development, is a beginning.

Children’s rights, too, as I have argued here before, are only sustainable in a context of enforceable law backed by state power. And, believe it or not, those rights are being successfully used in Britain right now as a bulwark against intrusive police inquiries into the sex lives of young people.

How? Through Gillick Competence.

And here’s the context: the big, bad state in full panic mode has resulted in police forces around the country being tasked to hunt down teenagers exploited through so-called “grooming”. Publicity following a report last year that had claimed 1,400 victims in just one town, Rotherham, put pressure on the police and other official agencies to reveal the “true” scale of abuse elsewhere – which in practice meant intruding into the intimate behaviour of many youngsters who do not regard themselves as victims at all.

Gillick Competence, as I discovered obliquely from a BBC radio report, is protecting these youngsters. The Gillick principle, enshrined in a House of Lords ruling, acknowledges the competence of many young people under 16 to make important decisions in their life, including, implicitly, the decision to have an active sex life. This ruling, made in 1986, enables them to get advice on contraception and other sexual matters independently of their parents. That is an important reason why, as the BBC reported, police forces asking their intrusive questions found they encountered difficulty in getting answers from other public bodies, notably the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is important in this regard because children are likely to be seen by healthcare staff, such as their local doctor, or school nurse, if they are sexually active and need contraception advice or have related medical needs. Thanks to the Gillick ruling, these staffs have been able to rebuff police enquiries in the name of patient confidentiality.

Thus a legal ruling, backed by the force of the state’s laws, is here seen in support of children and against the police. What this tells us is that reliance on a narrative of the oppressive state crushing the individual is hopelessly simplistic.

As for the ignorance and malevolence of police, social workers, etc., it is easy to reject the state that employs them. But then what? Ben talked about the “spontaneous cultivation of informal networks of trust and solidarity between people” as an alternative to state power.

Umm, really? Like a modern love relationship, say, which is a spontaneous coming together of two people who love each other and set up house together? But what happens if they fall out? Who gets the kids? What if one partner is murderously jealous after a betrayal? In the absence of law, it’s every man (and woman and child) for themselves and devil take the weakest.

And so the debate went on. Readers can decide for themselves who “won”. I like to think my logic was strong but persuasion comes mainly through the heart not the head and Ben definitely had a better story to tell in that regard.

In another debate, though, this time with Nick Devin of the Virtuous Pedophiles on the Sexnet forum, the roles were reversed. Nick was characteristically dour, dull and “realistic”, while I was the “romantic” rebel. In an earlier exchange, I had blasted him as being part of the problem, not the solution. He snapped back at my “fatuous” efforts, saying I spend far too much time blogging to “like-minded people” who collectively wring our hands over the unreasonableness of the world at large and accomplish nothing. “Occasionally,” he said “you speak to the press and invite blowback which leads to more derision and hate.”

You can read the full exchange here. Part of my response addressed fundamental aims:

At heart I am a “make love not war” type. I was never a drop-out or a hippie. I am too driven for that, rather than “laid back”. But my vision sort of harks back to the 1970s and invites us to think how we could take the most promising elements of those times forward while ditching the bad, especially the gender inequality and male chauvinism. Having just finished reading Douglas P. Fry’s wonderful recent book, War, Peace & Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views (O.U.P., 2013), I am persuaded that the deep prehistory of humankind was not Hobbesian as Steven Pinker and other popular writers would have us believe, and that our future as a species will more and more depend on cooperative strategies rather than the intense competition that has prevailed from the agricultural era onwards. This shift away from extraordinary and often deadly intra-species competition, which arose initially in response to relatively recent Malthusian resource-pressure crises not evidenced in the EEA [environment of evolutionary adaptedness], will be far more compatible with gentler and less rule-bound erotic styles: more bonobo than chimp, if you will. I would argue this as a feminist vision bearing in mind that the erotic governance of bonobo society depends fundamentally on strong female alliances capable of holding males in check.

I admitted, though, that I have little idea of how to plan politically for the achievement of any such exotic utopia – or zootopia! So did I have more rationally defensible grounds for swimming against the tide of public opinion? Something more rooted in the here and now? I continued:

Looking first at the social ills we face in society, there is an urgency to many problems which appears not to concern Nick, or he regards them as a matter for “experts”, people above his pay grade. He wants to help paedophiles deal with the strain of their sexual repression – the hopelessness, the depression, the suicidality – but seems wholly blinkered as regards the social context of their lives. As a result, his remedies are like trying to cure a cancer with a band aid. He ignores, for instance, that the sexually so-called “moral” cultures are the most disastrously violent on earth, as we see from Islamist extremism and kick-ass, gun-toting, America, where sexually repressive, moralistic beliefs are instilled from childhood.

My approach at least engages with discussion of this social context rather than focusing narrowly on “adjusting” the “abnormal” individual to the procrustean bed of a sick society – an enterprise doomed to contribute to the sickness not alleviate it.

Can it be any accident, I ask myself, that all the desperate, at-their-wits-end people turn up at Nick’s door, looking for help he cannot give, whereas the bright, cheerful, upbeat, full-of-ideas folk come to my parties and have a ball…

My blogging for a constituency of “the like-minded” as Nick claimed, is certainly no big deal in terms of what the wider world thinks. Within that constituency, though, something significant does take place… Heretic TOC has a therapeutic function. Sure works for me: despite all the hammering I’ve had in terms of wrecked career, prison terms, missing out on family life, …vilification and sometimes physical attack, you won’t find me depressed or suicidal these days, or drinking too much…

… we are not afraid to critique society vigorously and engage with the media on unapologetic terms. Usually they ignore us; but to dismiss the exercise on that basis as a waste of time and energy is to miss its massive value to us. I fight, therefore I am. To resist is to be alive and to be me… not just the meek, compliant, person our oppressors want us to be.

Back to Roger Lancaster. I started by slagging him off for his lack of answers, or rather his failure to project his own big questions into the future with any conviction. I find Fry’s vision more interesting, even though, bizarre as it will seem to anti-statists, he holds up the European Union as an example of the way forward. He accurately notes that the EU, much derided these days as a corrupt bureaucratic monster, was founded soon after the Second World War in order to secure lasting peace through trade and prosperity.

But for the most part it has worked. It has delivered a peaceful life, backed by relatively efficient governance and the rule of law, for hundreds of millions. Has it resulted in the acceptance of child sexuality and freedom for adult-child sexual relations? No. Is it heading, like national governments, towards risk-averse child “protection” and entrenching a victim culture? Yes. Does the expansion of supra-national institutions like the EU threaten a world monoculture, potentially culminating in the tyranny of the “moral” majority across the globe? Yes.

Does this dystopian vision terrify me? Sure it does. What I share with Fry, though, is the perception that focusing on strategies of human cooperation – strategies developed in our prehistory, as he demonstrates, and now extended into modern statecraft – offer the best long-term hope for a rational, peaceful, future in which loving intimacy for all may be allowed to thrive.

Love and peace, brothers and sisters, love and peace!

‘Harmless’ paedos venture out of the shadows

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It’s time for Heretic TOC to turn film critic, as several new films of MAP interest have been brought to my attention recently. Well, I say critic, but it’s more a modest noticeboard function as most of the movies in question have not yet been released, or are not readily available with English sub-titles.

Among the latter is Daniels World (Danieluv svet), winner of the Audience Award at Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in the Czech Republic. There’s a trailer, but most of us will probably get a much clearer impression from a couple of other sites, including one with distribution details and a synopsis:

Daniel is a young man. Daniel is a student and a writer. Daniel is also a pedophile. He is in love and makes no secret of his sexual orientation; not even in front of the parents of his beloved boy. Daniel has never hurt any child. Neither have Jirka Fx100d, Tomáš Efix, Petr Kasz, MR_Xguard, Host, Simgiran, Silesia, Elrond or others from the community of Czech pedophiles. What is the way of the most intimate of feelings in Daniel’s and his friends’ heart? The film introduces the rises and falls of people living with paedophilia. It portrays Daniel and the community of Czech pedophiles. It narrates a story of a forbidden love and constant struggle to come to terms with oneself and the society.

The marketing information at the above site actually tells us English subtitles are supposed to be available but it doesn’t seem to have happened just yet: the title does not appear alphabetically in the distributor’s English-language catalogue.

Director Veronika Lišková has described the origins of the project and how it was handled. What I found particularly interesting and promising is Daniel’s total openness – a very brave choice for a young man in today’s world, even allowing for differences between Czech culture and that of the Anglophone world. What makes it slightly less difficult for him, or perhaps a lot less, is that he is committed to being what Lišková calls a “harmless paedophile” i.e. he is sexually non-active even though he is in love with a boy.

At least, this is what I picked up from the inevitably garbled (but much better than nothing) Google Translate version of a review that appeared on a Czech site. The shrewd-seeming review of this 75-minute documentary said Daniel’s World is “definitely a very important contribution to the public debate on this topic” albeit with serious limitations, notably as a result of Daniel being portrayed almost entirely in terms of his sexuality.

My chief anxiety, though, and doubtless that of other heretics here, would be somewhat different. The portrayal of paedophiles who present themselves as “harmless” all too easily becomes just propaganda for “virtuous” paedophilia – repressed, neutered, making no demands on society to end the current lunacy. The reviewer tells us, indeed, that Daniel’s doctor makes an appearance, giving his diagnosis on screen. That doesn’t sound good. But his “patient”, who is a literature student, has come out to all and sundry by writing his autobiography as well as appearing in this film. This encouragingly suggests a touch of Paedo Pride rather than the hand-wringing angst of those sad, shipwrecked souls who find themselves washed up on the desolate shores of Virtueland. He doesn’t seem like a beaten man to me, or a reflexive conformist. He is surely no mere CBT fodder. Let’s hope not anyway.

Ice-Cream Hands is a 10-minute short film made in 2002 but elusive to me for a long time. It didn’t come to my attention at all until about 2010. My name had been in the programme notes of the Brazilian University Film Festival, where the film had been screened in 2003. The notes said:

Experimental. Mr. Sprinkles. Single, 35 years. He loves ice cream … as well as little Jude, aged eight. An experimental narrative that relies heavily on the biographical work of Tom O’Carroll, a confessed “lover of children” in the UK.

As may be imagined, I was intrigued to know what this was all about, so I emailed Gavin Youngs, who had been listed as director. He replied, promising to post me a copy of the film, but somehow it never happened. I was prompted to try again this year when something jogged my memory. This time he came good, telling me I could see the film with the password 2002 on Vimeo. Ice-Cream Hands was the first film Youngs made at film school and he claims not to have watched it since. He now runs The Apiary, an independent company that produces films for clients in the creative industries. Commissions have included work for the Royal Australian Ballet and the National Gallery of Victoria.

One can understand that he might be keen to distance himself from such a controversial subject now that he has such prestigious connections in the art establishment of his native country, but he need not be modest about this first work, which was shown in 2004 at St Kilda Film Festival, Australia’s largest and oldest short film event, which is an Academy Award qualifying event; and much later it was featured in the Berlinale Talent Campus section of the 2011 Berlin Film Festival.

At St Kilda’s it was extremely well received. Bill Mousoulis, himself a well regarded Australian film director, wrote:

The absolute highlight of the festival for me was Ice-Cream Hands, a film about paedophilia. And it is an important film in that regard, asking brave questions such as “Is paedophilia per se, without any abuse, a bad thing?”, but it’s mainly a stunning film due to its form, style and sense of aesthetics. It gets far away from the dreaded naturalism that seems to dominate Australian cinema, and goes for an eclectic, excited combination of various stylised elements.

I’d say that’s one hell of a commendation, not least as he says he personally saw 70 of the 150 short films on show. Another reviewer, Rose Capp, also expressed enthusiasm:

Gavin Youngs’ Ice-Cream Hands… interrogates the idea of childhood innocence, tackling the topic of pedophilia in a courageous and original fashion. Minimal dialogue and an intentionally whimsical visual style mixing naive animation with stylised live action offer an appropriately disturbing take on the subject.

I think she’s a bit off target, especially with the near compulsory “disturbing” cliché, except that for me it definitely was disturbing in terms of sheer suspense. It may have been only 10 minutes long but I found it as gut-wrenchingly intense as any Hitchcock thriller.

Not that Ice-Cream Hands really had anything to do with my supposed “biographical work”, which turns out to have been a mistake in the Brazilian programme notes. Instead, the narrative is interspersed with short quotes flashed up briefly from my 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. Youngs assures me he was granted copyright permission for this by my publisher, Peter Owen Ltd, but no one from the firm ever bothered to tell me about it! I very much agree with the recent (1 November) comment by “Kit” on a Boy Chat thread that these quotes are a bit heavy-handed and overdone (they also wrongly make me look a bit of a VP but I’m not complaining), but otherwise my verdict is a big thumbs up for the film’s cinematic qualities and overall impression. Do let Heretic TOC know what you think.

As for Butterfly Kisses, it is a project I heard about around a year ago on the grapevine, possibly when Blue Shadows Films were undertaking research by contacting MAPs through Boy Chat and Girl Chat. Their website has now put up a brief notice for what I think may be intended as a full-length feature film due to come out next year:

This story is set right now in today’s world that is perhaps more broken, lonely and self destructive than ever. It focuses on the lives of three best friends. The protagonist, JAMIE (17) has realised he is not like the others but that he’s attracted to girls much younger than himself. He doesn’t want to feel this way. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He doesn’t want to do anything wrong but is now facing a life of loneliness and abstinence or exile.

Like Daniel’s World, and indeed Ice-Cream Hands, this description suggests a focus on the familiar “virtuous” angle – it looks like being sympathetic rather than radical. But, hey, a new Lolita would be pushing it a bit in these times. Actually, come to think of it, Lolita the novel was widely held in the literary establishment to be a moralistic work that in effect denounced, rather than celebrated, paedophilia, even though author Vladimir Nabokov was, as we now know, a GL himself.

One interesting aspect of Blue Shadows is the sheer youthfulness of the team, although they do have a token boring-looking old suit among them on the financial side, which gives some reassurance they aren’t just a bunch of kids having fun. While it is true they are only just beginning to grow out of their shorts and into their full-lengths, their budgets for the latter now run to a pretty grown-up £7 million per title.

Then there is Passion Despair, which sounds very exciting – so much so, unfortunately, that I’m not sure it would be wise to download it in the UK, and I have not done so. Jed Jones, presumably the same Jed who now comments here, put up a webpage about it in 2012 which begins thus:

The film that’s banned everywhere! The truth they don’t want you to know: a whole studio of former child web models who say, loud and clear, with the full support of their families, WE ARE NOT VICTIMS.

Now, when Jed says “banned” he probably means the film is unable to be shown for public exhibition in cinemas and elsewhere because a certificate has been refused. That would be the usual interpretation. But as I understand it the film could still be legal, depending on the jurisdiction in question. It seems to have passed muster in Poland as it was premiered publicly there at the Gdansk Dokfilm Festival in 2011. Perhaps Jed will tell us more on this specific matter although I should add that his webpage gives all manner of interesting information about Passion Despair, which need not be repeated here.

I’ll just stick with a few key details. Passion Despair is a documentary by Swiss director Steff Gruber. It features his fellow countryman Daniel Leuenberger (yes, another Daniel and another Daniel’s world: very confusing). This Daniel is a photographer working in Moldova who specialises in photographing girls aged between 9 and 14. Gruber met him there while working on another project.

Now for another documentary I first heard about only yesterday on Sexnet although it came out in 2012. It is from Austria and is called Outing. It has enjoyed a few outings itself, at festivals in Switzerland and Iceland in its first year, and very recently, this September, in Norway at Skeive Filmer: Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Whereas Daniel in Daniel’s World manages to be totally open with everyone about his paedophilic feelings, the focus in Outing is on Sven, whose situation is surely much more usual. He has spent his entire adult life with secrets that isolate him psychologically if not socially: there are people in his life, but he cannot share his inner life with them. Sven, we are told, is creative, reflective and was willing to talk honestly. That is why, after approaching a group set up for paedophiles in Germany who were seeking support in living within the law, Sven emerged as the “star” attraction for the filmmakers, who appear to have done a thorough job: they filmed, at intervals, over a four-year period, enabling them to see how Sven’s life developed.

One learns all this from an interview with filmmakers Sebastian Meise and Thomas Reider at the website of the Austrian Film Commission. There is also a trailer on YouTube which, I have to say, goes out of its way to be not only bleak but also boring: it’s as though the makers feel obliged to depress and alienate their audience in order to show they are serious.

I doubt that this pair took the same dreary approach with a (sort of) incest-based drama they had done earlier, though, called Still Life (Stilleben). The synopsis on IMDB has this:

A father pays prostitutes to play the role of his own daughter. The shocking revelation concerning his long-secret obsession tears up the family’s delicate fabric. The son blames himself, and he resolves to find out whether his father ever acted on his fantasies, while his sister wants to sort out her memories on her own. Despite her uncertainties, their mother’s reaction leaves no question as to what she thinks. The father ultimately has to find a way of coping with his shame and feelings of guilt.

Still Life may or may not be straightforwardly a “sexploitation” movie but the final title on Heretic TOC’s list for today is a drama we will probably find neither boring nor exploitative though it may be controversial. This is Force Majeure, and the great joy is that unlike all the obscure stuff above, most of us should soon be able to see this in the cinemas or buy it for home viewing.

Perhaps that is because it is about manhood, not paedophilia, although the gender issues engaged should be of interest to more than one sort of heretic here. I heard about Force Majeure in the New York Review of Books last month.

It’s all about the emotional and moral fallout from an incident on a Swedish family’s holiday in a French ski resort. When an avalanche threatens to engulf their hotel, the father panics and runs for it, leaving his family to their fate. Nobody in the end dies, but how can the family live with dad after that? Isn’t the senior male supposed to be the brave protector, after all? Or is that out of date in these gender bending times?

There is no way this can fail to be a compelling theme, although I do somewhat suspect it is all part of a feminist plot (though the director is a man) to undermine not just macho culture but masculinity itself, and all trace of why men need to take pride in what their manhood can contribute to a family other than sperm. I am reminded of the wonderful book The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell, which challenged the belief that patriarchal societies make rules to benefit men at the expense of women. He argued that men are in reality the expendable sex, often called upon to sacrifice themselves for women and children in a whole range of ways, from defending home and hearth in warfare to being last into the lifeboats when the ship is going down.

And speaking of ships going down, I am reminded of a salty saga of yesteryear that presented a masculinity-affirming take on dereliction of duty and its aftermath. Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim is more than a century old now. It is the story of a mariner who spends a lifetime dogged by guilt over abandoning an endangered ship and its passengers. His years of atonement see his courage permanently on trial and not again found wanting. His story is not, in the end, an exposure of “manliness” as fraudulent, but a stirring affirmation of manhood and its responsibilities.

Anyway, I hope there is something here that will be of interest. This selection is just a ragbag of heretical, or heresy-relevant, films that have come my way. I don’t even bother to follow the mainstream film reviews these days so it is possible I may have missed a lot of important stuff. If so, do let me know, or better still submit a review of one or more films that could be used as a guest blog for Heretic TOC.

Making virtues of ‘necessity’ and ignorance

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Many thanks, first of all, to all those who have contributed such excellent posts to a lively debate here at Heretic TOC in response to last week’s blog by the Virtuous Pedophiles. So, what are we left with after the blog itself plus some 7,000 words of comment? I think it will be a useful exercise for me not so much to sum up all this diverse input as to single out a few key themes. In doing so, I am also taking into account a further 3,000 words of email debate, to which I was privy, initiated by psychologist Prof. J. Michael Bailey earlier this month. This too was mainly an encounter between the same VPs and a couple of the heretical contributors here.

Because I aim to encourage thought, I do not propose to dwell overlong on the weaker aspects of the VP contribution, which heretics ably dissected. The strengths – and there were good points – are where we need to focus.

Briefly, then, let us get the downside out of the way first. Heretics pointed out a contradiction in the VP position. The VPs’ message to the non-MAP public is that adult-minor sexual contacts are always wrong; they tell us here, too, that in their minds and hearts they foreswear any other view. But they also say “under certain circumstances, we could reconsider”. Sugarboy’s response was “it seems that you have no ideals to fight for other than those that meet the majority’s approval. In other words, you make a virtue of necessity.”

Virtue or not, necessity will prevail by definition; accommodating to it is thus wise, not a weakness in itself. Ethan reminded us of a famous prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Wise words indeed; but they are all too readily seized upon as a pat excuse for complacent passivity. It is significant that Ethan did not mention these words from the same prayer:

Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right

The VPs’ hidden agenda, I suggest, is the same: we should leave the heavy lifting to God, whose conspicuous absence from the affairs of man has always seemed, to a non-believer like me, a huge embarrassment for the faithful. Be that as it may. My quarrel here is not with God, or believers, but with those who lack the stomach to fight for change and the vision to see possibilities for it – and indeed its necessity. I will come to those possibilities in due course.

I will just add here that the most necessary and urgent aspect of change is to halt the rapid criminalisation of children as sex offenders, an issue to which the VPs seem callously indifferent. They casually say VPs “have no problem with children experimenting sexually with similarly aged peers”. But if they had an ounce of compassion and social concern beyond the narrow horizon of saving their own skins they would have a problem with it, the problem being that such “experimental” encounters are becoming ever more subject to oppressive surveillance and eradication measures. Even at kindergarten, sexual encounters between kids these days are said to be “perpetrated” by a child who is an “abuser”, as noted in an earlier blog, Being a predator is child’s play. There is no sex play for kids any more. The VPs react to this burgeoning new victim narrative with a shrug of indifference: not our problem! Leave it to the experts!

Likewise, they very dangerously leave therapy for distressed MAPs in the hands of presumed experts without apparently asking any of the right questions or insisting on proper standards. This would make a blog on its own. At this point I would just like to thank Gary Gibson from the therapy outfit www.iLoveChildren.us for turning up here. Gary, I may at some point want to ask you some of the questions the VPs are failing to deal with.

For the moment, I will just note the irony embedded in Niebuhr’s modern (20th century) Christian conservatism: if the early Christians had “wisely” weighed up the odds of their success in the days when they were being fed to the lions, they would certainly have given up!

The real weakness in VP’s position is making a virtue not of true necessity, which makes sense, but of a false “necessity”, in which the status quo is pusillanimously presented as inevitable. They manage to justify this lack of animation by keeping their eyes squeezed shut in order to block out the evidence that would support fighting for radical change. Thus, in order to make a virtue of “necessity” they must first make a virtue of ignorance! Ethan is quite explicit about it, saying “we bring no special knowledge to the table” about what is best for children. He shamelessly abdicates responsibility for informing himself on the subject, preferring to leave it all to the experts. While there is such a thing as genuine expertise in developmental psychology and so forth, should we be wholly reliant upon it? Based on the track record of scientists, who not so long ago were telling us that masturbation makes you go mad and that criminality can be detected from the shape of our heads (and who now insist paedophiles are on average a bit dim) this is clearly foolish.

This proudly proclaimed ignorance does not, however, inhibit the VPs from making unsupported assertions, such as “Children do not benefit from sex with adults, even if no harm is done.” On the contrary, it enables the VPs to do so with confidence, safe in the knowledge (their vestigial, minuscule bit of knowledge!) that their ignorance is invincible: they know that if they are confronted with evidence they can just stick their fingers in their ears and sing “La, la, la, can’t hear you. The experts know best. La, la la.”

This is not the time to go into detailed evidence showing that even in contemporary circumstances some children do benefit a great deal from sexual relationships with adults, or to expand on the positive possibilities that would attend a more liberated social vision. I will confine myself to mentioning that some such evidence was presented by T. Rivas, as discussed on Heretic TOC in A positive sighting of 118 black swans. I should also take this opportunity to plug a 90-page chapter in a new book in which a vast amount of evidence is presented on the positive side of man-boy sexual relationships. This is a long-censored paper with multiple perspectives on pederasty, by Bruce Rind: hence its appearance in a book called Censoring Sex Research. I hope to be blogging about this book and a related conference shortly.

Rind, significantly, is quoted out of context by Nick, as Ovid noted, in a fallacious bid to distance the fabled psychologist from claims that adult-child sex might be beneficial. This too is a product of ignorance – or, at least, I will charitably assume it arose from ignorance on Nick’s part rather than mendacity.

If making virtues of non-virtuous things (“necessity” and ignorance) are salient VP weaknesses, what about the strengths of their analysis? I believe they are correct in their claim that a measure of acceptance, in some circles at least, could be gained by those who loudly proclaim their adherence to mainstream moral opinions. As Sean noted, though:

Unfortunately, this amounts to a significant contraction of what Noam Chomsky has called ‘the bounds of thinkable thought’. Such thought policing has seldom brought positive changes to society and there’s no reason to think it will bring any to the predicament of paedophiles in the 21st C. It’s apparent that the worthy goal of ‘child protection’ readily devolves into a punitive, repressive, sex negative ideology that criminalizes and pathologizes not just sexual assault but normal childhood sexuality and sexual rehearsal. In fact, there is reason to believe that many ‘child protection’ initiatives are stalking horses for even more sinister authoritarian agendas, such as state assaults on free speech and increased domestic surveillance.

But the VPs have a significant counter-narrative. In an email, Ethan paints a rosy, even panglossian, picture of modern life compared to the past, the strength of his account lying in its element of truth. He celebrates the empowerment of women, the decoupling of sex and reproduction thanks to effective contraception, and intolerance of sex crimes such as date rape. As for children in earlier societies, they were “routinely abused physically and psychologically. In this context, unwanted sexual activity with adults might have seemed minor.” He is right to present a challenge to the idea of lost golden ages in which everyone could frolic freely together in some bucolic paradise of carefree intimacy. In most times and places life has been much harsher than it is for most of us today, both in the struggle for sheer survival and in the often brutal customs bred by such struggle. Ethan’s account, indeed, came dangerously near to being persuasive, as though – heaven forfend! – it might be based on something other than pure ignorance! Were it not for the fact that he appears never to read anything (despite having a PhD in psychology from one of the world’s leading universities), I might suspect he had been glancing at the odd page by Lloyd deMause, the “psychohistorian” who has presented history as a series of eras, each slightly less bleak for children than the last, culminating in our present relatively caring times. This simplistically progressive Mausian view has been criticised as grounded in a highly selective history of child abuse rather than a history of childhood. But I would not expect Ethan to have read enough to discover that much!

Peter Loudon, in reply, also astutely observed a fallacy in Ethan’s view:

One fallacy we all fall for is to regard the place we are now (in history) as being the place everything in the past was aiming for. The fact that we keep moving on means that this is not correct, and could apply to your assessment of where we currently stand…The price we have paid for security, immunity from dying in war, etc. is a succession of generations of people who have neither imagination nor initiative, and have traded life for obesity and a PlayStation. Everyone is held hostage to the threat of the paedophile and so no longer does anything outside or physical. Huge numbers of children suffer from ADHD.

The VPs have two even stronger points though. Firstly, they say radical activism by self-declared MAPs is doomed: MAP action on behalf of children, especially, will inevitably be discredited as self-interested. Discreet work for youth under some other designation than MAP would be more helpful, they say. I agree! Personally, having long been upfront as a MAP, such an option would not be open to me. Does that mean I would do well just to shut up? In terms of outreach to the wider public, maybe so. I do see a continuing public education role, however, for Heretic TOC and any other forums with a MAP presence which present the issues in a rational, informative and morally defensible way.

Ponder this: several times in Heretic TOC’s one-year history, the daily hit-rate has shot up massively for a while, by many hundreds, thanks to being mentioned in a hostile way on sites such as David Icke’s. Many of these people can be expected to have rummaged around the website in the expectation of being outraged. One might suppose these potentially very angry visitors would do their damnedest to set the comments pages alight with their flaming. Well, guess what? They don’t! I have not been flamed or trolled even once in 2013 so far as I can recall. Yes, they know that on a moderated site the flame would be trashed, but even so… My theory is that thousands of people go away less angry than they expected to be, and perhaps even a bit impressed. Am I wrong? If so, tell me why.

The VPs second strong point is that radical MAP activists have been reduced to talking among ourselves. This, too, is largely true. But, as my last point suggests, this does not necessarily make the exercise useless. Our actions are very, very constrained by the law and by public opinion. That being the case, we need to think, and websites such as this enable us to do so. Speaking for myself, I am too old and clapped out to lead any sort of revolution, for which in any case I lack the necessary attributes: I am more interested in “calling it as I see it” than doing all the tough alliance-building and strategy stuff that more political types do. But that need not stop younger people here from finding an opportunity to think things through and perhaps be inspired to great works.

Finally, I would point out that society is changing so quickly that none of us can really grasp how things will pan out. The western developed world has within a few decades undergone not one but several cultural revolutions, including non-marital partnerships, gay liberation and the empowerment of women. The new electronic technologies are now shifting things massively again: every kind of pornography except child porn has become ubiquitous, and is making a big impact – some of it good, some perhaps not – on the sexual sophistication of kids from late pre-puberty onwards. In this feverish climate it is by no means certain that the present panicky reaction of the conservatives, with their ever greater emphasis on surveillance and suppression, can hold the line. Children exploring and copying what they see, especially as they get into their second decade, may have a profound influence: we already have sexting and sexy selfies, and that’s only the start of it. In years to come it may prove technically impossible to hide child porn from most kids, too, including its more pleasantly erotic manifestations, in which the participants are seen to be enthusiastically engaged. Where would that take us? In those circumstances the currently dominant abuse narrative would suffer sudden catastrophic collapse, even though it now seems so solid.

It would be helpful, to put it mildly, for radical MAPs rather than VPs to be visible in the midst of such an eventuality, and for them to seize the day, in order to build a newly positive narrative. For such possibilities we need to be prepared.

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