Today’s guest blogger, Stephen James, is well known here as regular commentator Stephen6000, whose succinct contributions often provide a sensible counterpoint (or antidote!) to some of the always welcome but often wild “thinking outside the box” we tend to see in the heretical comments here. He has also written for the NAMBLA Bulletin and for the Newgon web magazine Uncommon Sense. His logical approach is consistent with his work as a published author of formal philosophy. With Adam Powell, he was a joint founder of the unfortunately ill-fated Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which fought a brave but losing battle to engage positively with mental health professionals.
First, the caveats. I am not setting out to condemn “Virtuous Pedophiles” (VP). In fact, when I read the introduction on their home page, I can scarcely find anything to disagree with. Many paedophiles do need the sort of help this group have to offer and it is very welcome they are there to offer it. Also, many questionable claims are made about VP that need rebutting. It is sometimes suggested, for example, that VP thinks paedophiles should regard themselves as mentally ill or “defective” in some way; but, as far as I can gather, this is not their view. (The introduction just referred to certainly carries no hint of it.) If we are going to criticise VP, it should be for what they actually maintain, not for what we merely imagine their views to be. But there is one thing in this introduction I do disagree with and that is the reference to “sexual abuse” – for example, in the statement “But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually”. For reasons to emerge later, I think this term should be avoided, at least for non-coercive sexual contacts between adults and children. (In this, I am in agreement with “Child Abuse as a Construct Reconsidered”, which is part of the famous academic study commonly known as the Rind Report.
Also, whenever we discuss if a project will be successful or not, we need to carefully consider what constitutes the bar for success. VP can almost certainly be successful – indeed, probably has already been – in terms of helping some MAPs feel better about themselves, leading possibly to fewer suicides. It can also persuade some open-minded people, those less susceptible to media propaganda, to see the plight of MAPs in a more sympathetic light. Some of these people are therapists, who may be persuaded to improve the way they deal with their minor-attracted clients. There will be a little less misery for MAPs as a result of all this.
But I get the impression that VP is hoping for more. I think they want to reach a point where most MAPs can live a “normal” life, which, in this context, we can perhaps interpret as meaning a life that is minimally impacted by the fact that they are MAPs, largely free of hatred and with broadly the same opportunities as non-MAPs enjoy. Now, I don’t deny the possibility of such a state of affairs coming about. What I do claim is that it won’t be achieved by VP’s tactics and I want to explain why.
VP will not discuss the moral standing of adult-child sex. They agree with mainstream society that it is simply wrong, period. So they do not challenge the view that if an adult has sex with a child, it is always a bad thing. This has some important consequences, which we can bring out by asking what kind of relationship between mainstream society and MAPs would be broadly acceptable to both.
Apart from a few “aromantic” MAPs, most want to form relationships with young people that are “loving” in the broadest sense. They would of course like (some of) these relationships to be sexual if this were possible; but, besides that, they would like to enjoy the company of youngsters in other everyday activities. In fact, I think we can go so far as to say this would be essential to their happiness. The question is: can mainstream society bring itself to accept this?
And the answer is surely no, as long as mainstream society continues to regard adult-child sex as intensely dangerous. Of course, some MAPs are quite capable of spending time with youngsters without either feeling tempted to initiate a sexual relationship with them or succumbing to that temptation if they are. But from the perspective of mainstream society, that is not good enough. They cannot tell who is and who is not “dangerous”. Therefore, though we may reach the point where it mostly does not wish to actively persecute MAPs (perhaps partly as a result of VP’s efforts), society will never accept MAPs freely associating with young people as long as it persists in its belief that adult-child sex is intensely dangerous. At best, continuously supervised access will be allowed in some cases, and while that might be acceptable to some MAPs, I do not think many would be happy in such a restrictive situation, even if they have no sexual intentions regarding their young friends.
But once it is accepted that consensual adult-child sex is not intensely dangerous, that, indeed, it is not intrinsically harmful at all, then there is no general reason to try to prevent it from happening and it will then be possible for MAPs to have happy and fulfilling lives within mainstream society.
I can well imagine how a typical member of VP will react to this argument. There are likely to be two main responses. One is to say that mainstream society is right: consensual adult-child sex is intrinsically harmful. (Or, relatedly, they may claim that consensual adult-child sex isn’t even possible, as children are incapable of consenting to sex with adults.) But, on these matters, the evidence seems to be on my side, not theirs. The second type of response they are likely to make is that the suggestion is politically naïve: even if it were the case (which they deny) that adult-child sex can be morally acceptable, mainstream society will never accept it; so the VP approach is the only one that is politically feasible.
And yet it is possible to change people’s minds about the moral standing of adult-child sex. This happened to a great extent in the Netherlands in the 1970s, with resulting legislative changes that modified age-of-consent restrictions in a liberal direction (though these were later repealed). This could happen again, if MAPs would unite in favour of the radical approach.
Of course, depending on one’s personal situation (and one’s level of bravery!), this has to be done very circumspectly in the current climate. I am certainly not advocating breaking any laws. I am suggesting that people do what they can to communicate the truth to others. I believe that if this were done, the needed reforms might eventually come about.
If they did, this would probably be a net benefit, not only to MAPs, but also to young people. When consensual adult-child sex does lead to harm, this seems to happen mainly because of the taboo against it. This is supported to some extent even by the literature of our opponents. I’m thinking especially of Susan Clancy’s The Trauma Myth, in which the author shows that in most cases the experience of sex with an adult is not unpleasant for the child at the time – psychological harm comes later in the form of guilt feelings, which are, of course, entirely dependent on there being a taboo. (This is why I argued above that the term “sexual abuse” should be abandoned for non-coercive cases, though this does not mean I think people should pursue such relationships under current legal and social circumstances.) Get rid of the taboo and the well-being of those children who enjoy sex with adults (and the adults they themselves will become) will be greatly improved.
I was very tentative in my statement above about the likelihood of success in bringing about the needed reforms. It is affected by many factors beyond our control. But of one thing I am certain, for the reasons explained earlier: the VP approach will definitely not yield more than very limited societal improvements either for MAPs or for children. Perhaps we need moderates as well as radicals to introduce new ideas to the public in a relatively non-threatening way. But, rather than VP, our moderates had better be of the kind represented by B4U-ACT, who are neutral on the moral standing of adult-child sex, otherwise they will undermine the radicals. If the only agenda is VP’s, I guarantee there will be no large-scale society-wide improvements in the plight of MAPs or the children whom they wish to be close to.
YOUTH SPEAK OUT ABOUT YOUTHLOVE
An earlier guest blogger here, the Japonist (hope that’s a reasonably accurate label of convenience!) who writes as “Peace”, reports the start of a new venture called “Kids Club anthologies”, the first such anthology being titled (no capital letters) out of the mouths of babes – youth speak out about youthlove.
The introduction begins:
Despite all of the noise from the anti, pro, and neutral side of youthlove, there is one group whose voice is often forgotten – youth themselves. Whether this is from an ageist assumption that youth don’t know what’s good for them or the unfortunate reality that youth don’t often get a chance to express their view in print media, it represents a glaring omission in most discussions of topics such as youthlove, the age of consent, and adult/youth relationships. A true discussion of these subjects can’t be had if only adults are granted a chance to speak.
As Peace explained to me in an email, the series will be anthologies of “rarer, hard-to-find, or more obscure pieces” written by paedophiles or about adult/youth relations, the age of consent, sexual attraction to youth, etc., “with each anthology following a theme of some sort”. This first one collects material from the late 70s to the mid 90s “written by gay boys and lesbians, self-proclaimed dykes and fags, feminists, youth liberationists, and groups for queer youth”.
It’s a great idea, not least because youngsters are no longer able to speak out so freely on sexual matters: censorship prevails. It’s a very different story when the topics are adult-approved, as will be seen from my next item below.
CHILDREN’S CLIMATE STRIKES GO GLOBAL
It’s fantastic, of course. Great to see and hugely inspiring. The mass movement of school kids out of the classroom and into political activism against climate change is now a global phenomenon. Marching on Friday with placards and banners bearing slogans such as “There is no Planet B” and “The sea is rising, so are we”, tens of thousands of children all around the world in over 100 countries took part in “strike” action to demand that the political elite urgently address the climate change emergency. Fantastic, too, that this action has attracted massive media attention, which will add significantly to the steadily mounting pressure pushing climate change up the political agenda.
And not just fantastic but utterly amazing that this huge movement was started as recently as last August by schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, then just 15, when she started to skip school on Fridays to protest about climate change outside Sweden’s parliament. By December she was giving an impassioned speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland and a month later – after a long overland journey because she refused to go by environmentally unfriendly air travel – she berated the complacency of all the billionaires and other high rollers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, urging them to “behave like our house is on fire, because it is.”
Quite rightly, Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I would be very happy for her to win except that she could have serious competition from other school kids, including Emma González and David Hogg, who responded swiftly to a massacre by a rampaging gunman last year at their Florida school. In the wake of the attack, instead of settling for the usual pious prayers and condolences offered by politicians running scared of the powerful gun lobby in the U.S., they vented their anger by demanding action on gun control. And they got it: a state bill was passed bringing in a range of important reforms to limit gun possession and its dangers, and Donald Trump was even forced to take some action (on “bump stops”) at the national level.
Such achievements are eminently worthy of acclaim and Heretic TOC should arguably have made this theme a lead item, not a relatively brief down-page affair. What I am concerned to avoid, though, is a phoney pretence that children – real children, if you will, as opposed to high school seniors such as González and Hogg, verging on adulthood, are in any position to be politically effective on their own. Even the somewhat younger Thunberg had a massive amount of support from adults – a younger child could hardly “run away” to Davos without parental and other help, much less get an invitation to speak there.
And they only know that climate change is so important because adults have taught them about it, probably in school. That’s great. It shows our schools are getting at least something right. But let’s not pretend it is about children’s innate wisdom or any such sentimental bullshit. Kids know more than anyone about their own lives and feelings, though. That is the area of their expertise and that is where there is real scope for thinking about how they might be accorded greater respect, and their agency acknowledged.
KINDLING FRESH INTEREST IN MY JACKSON BOOK
Bizarrely, I have been so busy that I find myself a couple of weeks late plugging the new Kindle edition (priced in U.S. dollars here) of my own book about the late King of Pop on my own blog!
I guess regular heretics here all know about Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, which came out in 2010 shortly after the megastar’s death. Some will even have read it. They will be aware it is an enormous 624-page door-stopper of a tome, weighing in at over a kilo, making it an expensive affair to produce, to deliver, and to buy. In some far-flung parts of the world purchasers have had to part with sums a good deal north of £30 to secure a copy. Bless them, some have actually done just that: there has been a modest number of such customers from Austria to Australia and from Belgium to Brazil.
Now, though, the new Kindle e-book edition can be yours for barely more than a tenth of such an expensive outlay, at a very affordable £3.78 from Amazon in the UK and around $5 in the US. And it comes with a substantial new Preface written in the wake of the sensational Leaving Neverland documentary.
Readers will discover that it was not necessary to be a music industry insider, or otherwise close to Jackson, to discover a huge amount about his relationships with boys, long before the latest revelations and even before his trial: plenty of legal filings and other useful sources were in the public domain for those who cared to look, from the early 1990s onwards. In fact, as many other unofficial biographers have found, it is the insiders – especially family, and those with jobs and contracts to protect – who are most likely to circle the wagons and deny everything. Many of the relevant documents, including lengthy transcripts of interviews and phone calls featuring Jordan Chandler and his father Evan – who was the driving force behind the first allegations against Michael, against the wishes of his reluctant son – were scrutinised by me. These are featured in the book. Even Jordie’s Uncle Ray, and specialist Jackson bloggers such as Desiree Hill at mjfacts, have admitted that I was an assiduous and astute researcher. As for understanding Michael as a boy lover, there’s a lot to be said for the adage: “It takes one to know one”.
In terms of the depth of the book’s coverage, not to be found elsewhere, over 65 pages are devoted to the relationship between Michael and Jordie. Oddly, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons also includes a vastly more systematic and in-depth account of the 2005 trial than is to be found elsewhere, with well over 130 pages on this.
As for breadth, just count the boys! Well over a dozen were clearly in “special friendships” with him over the years, including the Leaving Neverland boys: you will find plenty about Wade and Jimmy in the book, including strong early indications of their intimacy with the star. A staggering seventy boys are named in all – including three princes, no less! – along with reasons to place most of them among Michael’s more diffuse erotic entourage.
And just for good measure, I might throw in the fact that Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons got rave reviews from more professors (of psychiatry, psychology, cultural studies, you name it) than you could shake a Jacko crotch-grab at – not that you would want to!
LOUSE OF LORDS OR LOUSY JOURNALISM?
Those who read the comments here religiously will be aware of this item already: my headline echoes a much cleverer one in The Sun – credit where it’s due, the redtops do tend to be good at snappy puns.
Their most formidable skill, though, lies in knowing how to be deeply obnoxious even when the “story” is vanishingly thin, a gossamer concoction of loosely woven threads of non-story.
Let’s just consider the first couple of sentences:
Britain’s most notorious paedophile campaigner was treated to a plush champagne bash at the House of Lords. Twice-jailed Tom O’Carroll, 73, was among up to 60 guests who were thanked last December for donating money to a children’s book charity.
What’s the story? Essentially, that an old bloke did something that would normally be considered public spirited and praiseworthy: giving money to a worthy cause. A not very well-off bloke, actually, with no income beyond the humble state pension, so if The Sun had been disposed to tell the gospel truth there would have been a “widow’s mite” angle in it for them: see Luke 21:1-4. But it should come as no surprise that the generous spirit of Jesus, who praised the poor widow for giving her all, should be far from the thoughts of the tabloid take-down artists.
I did not give my all – just a bit more than I could sensibly afford, actually – so I can by no means claim anything like equal merit with the biblical widow; but you might feel, as I do, that it’s a bit rich for The Sun to use this particular event, a reception to thank donors, as a stick with which to beat me.