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
???????????? ??????????. After that comes the “Author’s preface to the Russian translation”, which looks like this: ????????? ??????????? ? ???????? ????????. 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!