Discovering a ‘crime’ that is all in the mind

I am not sure what Plato would have made of the “platonic rape” concept introduced by guest blogger Cyril Belgrad today, but it is undoubtedly one that makes a disturbingly valid topic for thought and discussion in the sexually angst-ridden culture of our times. Belgrad is a professional with a distinguished reputation in his field.

PLATONIC RAPE

I’ve been lucky to have several long-term young friends in my life. The first, Jody, is now in his late twenties and calls me on the phone about once a week. Steve, who is earlier in his twenties, has thanked me for giving him the encouragement to pursue his career when no one else believed in him. He gives me an update every year on his birthday. Now with my third, Carl, I am thrilled to see him almost every day, either to help with his schoolwork or for fun stuff like riding bicycles.

Looking through my diary recently, I was intrigued by the following entry, written shortly after I met Jody:

Another really important thing is that I’m scared of the way I write about this relationship as a love affair. Not just for my own safety in the face of the potential mounting temptation, but also questioning whether it is fair to Jody. I would guess that he has no idea of the way that I love him. He likely does not know about erections I have had around him. He can’t have any idea that I feel romantically for him, that last night when he suggested I could go out with the single lady next door to me, my thought was “I only want to go out with you.” And I suppose that given his indoctrination in our culture, he would be angry and disgusted if he did know these things. I suppose I am using him, without his knowledge and perhaps against his will, as an object of affection. What a strange thought! Is it wrong to use someone as an object of affection? To come into their life as a friend and mentor and bearer of gifts for reasons that they don’t know about, wouldn’t understand, and might disapprove of? Is this some kind of platonic rape?

Platonic rape? As strange as that concept might sound, I find myself asking the same question today. I often get overt or subtle messages from the boys in my life about how revolting sex with another guy would be. Of course, they have no idea what they’re talking about and are only reciting the requisite mantra of our culture. But still, it makes me queasy about my feelings.

When I shared that diary entry with Tom, he was also intrigued and asked if I would write a guest post for Heretic TOC about the idea.

I start with an example of a message from a boy, expressing how he feels about my feelings.

A message of disgust

A couple of boys in the neighborhood have taken to enjoying me pulling them on my bicycle while they’re riding their skateboards. I enjoy this for the fun and exercise, but mostly just for the opportunity to be in their presence. Sometimes they hold on to the rack on the back of my bike, but I enjoy it even more when they hold on to my shoulder because then they’re touching me. Another variation I’ve introduced is pushing them with my hand on their backs. I like that too.

The other day, we were out doing this, and one of the boys, Pete, was riding alongside me with his hand on my shoulder while I leisurely pumped the pedals of my bike. He asked if it hurt my shoulder and if it was okay for him to hold on that way. I said, “Yeah, I like it.” He let out a loud, ”Eww!”, let go of my shoulder, switched to holding the rack behind me, and said something about that being creepy. I said, “What are you talking about? I like it because it’s fun,” leaving out, of course the full truth about why I liked it, which was exactly the thing he was creeped out about. He said something that seemed to mean he was freaked out that I was having fun. I wondered what in the world that was about, wondering if he thought I was riding with them out of some sort of obligation to entertain them or something. I said, “Why do you think I’m doing this? I’m doing it because it’s fun.” He said something I don’t remember, and I said something like, “That’s fine. You can hold on wherever you want,” trying to pretend that I didn’t care that he was holding the rack instead of my shoulder.

My mind, of course, was racing. I asked myself, had I said “I like it” in a way that implied anything sensual? I really don’t think so. He’s the one who read sensuality into my enjoying him holding on to my shoulder. However, his reading of that was correct. So where did his sudden awareness of that come from? Is my friendship with him going to be strained from now on by this? Will he tell the other boys what a pervert I am because I like them holding on to my shoulder? Will they freak out about it too? Will one of them tell his parents?

Pete rode behind me for a couple of blocks, and then when we were almost where we were going, he stood up again and put his hand back on my shoulder. I’m guessing that it’s more comfortable to ride standing up than crouched down, holding on to the rack. I don’t know if he was holding his nose for that last, short distance, or if he’d gotten over his disgust and things were back the way they were before. The one thing that’s for sure is that we can never sit down and talk with any kind of honest communication of feelings. So I’ll never know what’s really going on in these boys’ heads.

So when I surreptitiously enjoy the touch of their hands on my shoulder while I pull them on their skateboards, that’s an example of the platonic rape I wrote about happening with Jody 16 years ago. And in the incident with Pete, I got busted for it. Not busted with any legal consequences, but busted by a boy catching a glimpse of my true feelings and delivering the punishment of disgust plus removal of his touch. Fortunately, the punishment was short-lived, and a couple of days later he and other boys were back to riding my shoulder like I’d never said anything about enjoying it.

The problem, of course, was that I was enjoying being touched by the boy.

Defining platonic rape

Wikipedia offers a definition of platonic love as “an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise.” I am using the term platonic rape to mean:

A nonsexual interaction that occurs in the context of a sexual attraction and is engaged in without disclosure and approval of the attraction.

This occurs when one carries on a relationship that is assumed to be platonic but (a) is not platonic because there is a sexual attraction, and (b) the object of the attraction would not want the relationship if the attraction were disclosed.

Am I the only person who concerns myself with such things? Absolutely not.

In 2007, a man named Jack McClellan ran a website in which he professed his love for little girls, wrote about places he liked to go to watch them, and posted pictures he took in those places. He started this in the US state of Washington, and when he was run out of there by police and vigilantes, he resumed his hobby in California, from which it wasn’t long before he was banished as well. Although he sometimes wrote about wanting to hug and kiss girls, I don’t think the parents who had a fit about him watching their daughters play baseball were really afraid he would ever do that. What I think severely freaked them out was the thought of a man looking lustfully at their innocent princesses. As most pedophiles who have ever “come out” to family or friends know, the problem people have with pedophiles does not begin when one touches a child. People tend to get crazy just knowing that someone has a sexual attraction to kids. It’s as if, when a man looks at a child with desire, he is raping her or him with his eyes. This idea is supported by the Bible when it says, “everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Platonic rape.

As far as I know, there is no law (yet) against gazing at a child with sexual desire. Local police said as much in a poster warning parents about the “notorious pedophile advocate”. It said, “McClellan … is not wanted at this time in connection with any crime. If you see McClellan, please closely monitor your children.”

Now, what if McClellan had managed to strike up a conversation with a girl, and then patted her on the head and stroked her hair? Would that be a crime? In California, yes. California Penal Code, §288(a) states, “a person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act … upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony …” If you wonder if just stroking a girl’s hair can be a lewd act, the California Supreme Court answered yes, if it is sexually motivated: “… the crime occurs whenever … an underage child was “touched” with the requisite sexual intent. … Nothing in this language restricts the manner in which such contact can occur or requires that specific or intimate body parts be touched.”

Nothing about McClellan was platonic because he was up-front about his attraction. The point I’ve been making in the last three paragraphs is that people and some laws don’t limit their condemnation to someone actually doing something sexual with a child. The problem begins with having “lust, passions, or sexual desires” for a child. The pretense of having a relationship where such desires are present but undisclosed, and would be disapproved by the object of the desires if disclosed, that is what I’m calling platonic rape.

Note that I’m defining the concept to require that the attraction would be disapproved if disclosed, not if known. I think that at some level, not very deeply subconscious, my current young friend, Carl, knows or strongly suspects what’s up with me. I think that my interest in him is an ego boost for him, and I think that knowing I find him sexy is exciting for him, even if he would not want to consummate that excitement with me. He has even told some of his friends that I’m a pedophile, and I think what is of utmost importance to him is that they can all treat that as a very funny joke, even if he and they all believe it. I feel pretty sure that he would run the other way if I sat down with him and said, “You know, that thing you’ve been telling your friends, that I’m a pedophile, well, it’s actually true and I’d be really happy if you would be into me doing certain things with you.” I’m not at all sure that he wouldn’t enjoy me actually doing those things. But what would bring our friendship to a crashing end would be him gaining conscious awareness of my interest in doing them. Pretense is the golden rule.

Is platonic rape a problem?

If pretense is all that matters, and if platonic rape is a relationship founded on pretense, then what’s the problem? Maybe there is none, as long as the pretense is maintained. But the pretense itself is a heavy burden.

I remember seeing the movie Shrek when it first came out twenty years ago. Writing this today, I didn’t remember anything about the story until reading the synopsis in Wikipedia. All I remembered was that it was about a beautiful girl falling in love with an ugly creature. I remember sitting in the theater, identifying with that creature, wondering if anyone could ever love a pedophile. To this day, I still have insecure, painful moments when I wonder the same thing. In the movie, Shrek used a helmet to hide his ugliness. My helmet is the pretense that I am just a nice man with innocent affection for children.

When I told Pete that I liked having his hand on my shoulder, it was as if I’d cracked open the visor of my helmet, giving him a glimpse of the monster inside. His reaction reminded me of the importance of keeping the helmet clamped tightly shut. That hurts.

On the whole, my life is pretty wonderful right now. The burden of my pretense-helmet, while painful, is bearable. So if I can keep that up, is there any problem with platonic rape? I am concerned that there might be.

Jody, my first long-term young friend, had a friend, Eric. There were some moments when I felt a reciprocal intimacy with Eric. One example was when he got a bug stuck in his eye on a mountain hike. I gently held his head in my hands and used the corner of a tissue to extract the bug. When he could blink again without pain, I could have concluded my nursing with a gentle kiss on his lips, and I had the feeling he would enjoy that. (Of course, that feeling is what psychologists call a cognitive distortion or offense-supportive belief.) Eric grew into a wayward vagabond and got into some mildly serious trouble. Certainly, his alcoholic father played a major role in that outcome, but I’ve sometimes wondered if my affection stirred feelings in him that he didn’t know how to deal with and that we could never talk about. I also wondered if I could have played a more positive role in his life had we been able to explore a mutual interest in intimate affection. I once described this concern to a psychologist I knew, and it was painfully comical watching him try to comprehend my fear that I had harmed the boy by loving him without having sex with him!

That is my fear. Am I giving rise to feelings in these boys that they don’t know how to handle and have no chance of ever getting any guidance in handling, no chance to ever even just talk about with anybody? If they would run away from me if I professed my love for them, who could they run away from if they ever allowed themselves to recognize in themselves even just a curiosity about what in the world I would do with them if I could? Am I a potential source of deeply conflicting feelings in some boys that might have contributed to ruining Eric’s life and might ruin more? Would these boys, for this reason, be better off without me in their lives?

When actual sexual activity occurs between an adult and a child, that is often called child rape, no matter how the child felt about it. If the adult is prosecuted for it and the child had enjoyed or even instigated it, then the victims are both the child and the adult, and the perpetrator of harm is the societal condemnation of the affection between them. Even though the adult did not cause the harm with the sexual activity, he could have prevented the harm by not allowing the activity to occur. That’s how I’m thinking about my platonic rape of these boys. If some of them are being harmed by conflicting feelings that come up in them from being around me, those feelings are not my fault, but I could prevent them from coming up by not being around the boys.

The incident with Pete was a trivially minor case of platonic rape. I mentioned it because of the stark clarity of Pete’s message of disgust about my feelings. But it was a single incident that lasted maybe 15 minutes with a boy that I don’t see that often. Multiply that by all the time I spend with Carl, in which he has many more opportunities to get similar glimpses of my feelings. I can only wonder about the effect this is having on him. Is he just basking in the glory of my infatuation, or is he silently tormented by painful confusion about feelings he will not let himself contemplate? I can never ask him, nor his parents, nor his school counsellor. Carl and I must stumble through this dark cave together, not allowed to tell each other whether the ground under our feet feels like feathers or shards of glass. If I would exit, the cave would disappear. Would he be better off without me and this mysterious cave?

I cannot know. There are some signs of Carl moving in a similar direction that Eric went. As with Eric, there are influences in Carl’s life that I have no control of that may be pushing him in that direction. But am I a source of confusion that could help nudge him there? If Carl gets into drugs or robs a store, I will forever ask myself if the deep, dark, but thinly veiled secret of my love for him helped to push him over the edge. Of course, I’m doing everything I can to push him in the opposite direction by modeling a healthy work ethic and encouraging him to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from a job well done. Ultimately, the choice of what direction his life takes is his. But I sure don’t want to be an influence that contributes to him making the wrong choice.

Coping

My life is not consumed with fretting over this. By and large, Carl and his friends and I just enjoy our time together. Writing a blog post for Tom about the idea of platonic rape has led to this long and fretful contemplation. I have no intention of removing myself from Carl’s life. While the reason for that is mostly my own selfish joy from being around him, I also think he’s lucky to have me, both for the fun we have together and for the positive role model I am. His parents seem to agree.

So what’s the bottom line here? I submit that the phenomenon of platonic rape is real, that its existence is a tragedy, that while it’s a burden on the life of a pedophile, it also has the potential to cause real harm to a young friend, as I fear it might have to Eric, and that it is caused by our society’s severe and stupid condemnation of children participating in any sexual activity and the accompanying morbid fear of people who find kids to be sexy.

Platonic rape. Life of the modern human.

 

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Cyril Belgrad

Parting thoughts

I see that the next topic has been posted on this blog, so I don’t know if anyone will see this but Tom, who will see it for moderator’s approval.

It’s been an interesting conversation. I think I’ve seen everything relevant that’s been posted, but I’m not sure because it’s difficult to check the multiple threads for something new, and many of the threads are on different subjects.

This post originated out of thoughts I had about a concept I called “platonic rape.” Much of the discussion has been about distaste for that term because it implies that I’m doing something bad. But something that got lost in the conversation was about the real source of harm for these boys. I alluded to it with regard to Eric:

my fear that I had harmed the boy by loving him without having sex with him

There are two sides to that: my loving him and my not having sex with him. The dominant narrative in our society says that I would have harmed Eric by having sex with him. My concern in this post is that I might have harmed him by just by loving him. But what has been left out is how our society might have harmed Eric by prohibiting him from experiencing sex.

What we hear frequently about the prohibition of kids having sex is:

They can wait.

It won’t kill them to wait until they’re older.

I wonder.

How many kids kill themselves, after which parents, teachers, and friends wring their hands about how clueless they were that something was so terribly wrong? How many kids cut themselves or get strung out on alcohol or drugs, in the midst of which parents and teachers wring their hands about what led them astray? How many kids get arrested for doing something sexual with a younger sibling or cousin, after which family and police wring their hands about how he could have become such a pervert?

Obviously, there are lots of things going on that can drive a kid to suicide or drugs. But it’s also obvious that there is one prominent factor that our society refuses to ever consider as a possible cause: the prohibition of sex.

They can wait.

It won’t kill them to wait until they’re older.

While there’s been some focus here on finding an alternative, pedophile friendly, term for “platonic rape,” what about coming up with a term for something that is possibly much more problematic: the forced celibacy of adolescents? What is it? “Unrape”? “Anti-rape”? “Disrape”?

I don’t know if it’s going to kill Carl, but it’s certainly driving him nuts. And I suspect that it’s an underlying factor in the general nuttiness of the society at large.

That’s the issue hiding behind the concept of platonic rape, in which the pedophile gets saddled with the blame for harm caused by holding up a window to a child with a glimpse of a different world that they are not allowed to enter.

Cyril Belgrad

The heading was meant to indicate concluding thoughts on a conversation that is most likely at its end because I suppose people likely won’t come back here now that there is a newer post. But I’d be happy to have your thoughts on it if and when your other pressures allow. (If you do respond, it would help if you’d let me know to check back for it.)

The situation makes me sad and angry. My joy in being with Carl comes at the cost of watching him suffer. Of course, we can’t talk about it, let alone seek any solution.

Prue

Just thought I’d share 2 things I’m reading that are so good I can’t help myself.

First, “Child Sexual Abuse: The Sources of Anxiety Making and the Negative Effects” (2009), by retired social worker Arnold Veraa, sympathetic with a clear awareness of relevant scholarly literature. Overt discussion of iatrogenic harm.
ABSTRACT: Christian moral belief about child sexuality and feminist theory and practice are considered as the primary causes for the anxiety about, and exaggeration of, child sexual abuse. The negative effects of this anxiety making are discussed in relation to research and literature, the negative influences this has had on professional performance, and the subsequent deleterious consequences upon institutions, families and children. It is proposed that the manufactured moral alarm about child sexual abuse has done more harm than good.
Link: http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume18/j18_4.htm

I’m going through their references and found a fascinating piece. Bay-Cheng and Lewis (2006), Our “Ideal Girl”: Prescriptions of Female Adolescent Sexuality in a Feminist Mentorship Program
Abstract:Adolescent girls must contend with several sets of competing expectations at the discursive intersection of sexuality, age, gender, and race. This article examines how a feminist mentorship program for early adolescent girls engaged the issue of sexuality. Despite the program’s self-described feminist orientation, ethnographic analysis revealed its reliance on moralistic, age-based standards of appropriate sexual interest and behavior; the suppression of sexuality; and girl-as-victim discourse. These data bolster the call for reformed, sex-positive approaches to adolescent sexuality and reveal some of the complexities involved in cross-generational feminist interventions.

https://doi.org/10.1177/0886109905283137

Zen Thinker

The best girls are so attractive, physically, emotionally and spiritually, that they transcend sexuality. Such is surely Emma Raducanu. At eighteen she is classed as an adult, but she has plenty of grace and charm. In this elite circle I would also place Brooklynn Prince, the eleven-year-old actress, and very few others. When we say that a person’s gracefulness (including their intangible qualities) transcends sexuality, this gives an important indication that maybe sex isn’t the most important concern. This contrasts sharply with the erotic, which is almost ubiquitously present in the very best and indeed I think the erotic is more important than the sexual. The erotic as I define it is refined, higher, subtle, quasi-spiritual, and more cerebral an experience. Children are often (legally and legitimately) erotic (as I define it) and this means their qualities of character, even “pre-sexual” qualities (in scare quotes as we are all post-Freud) take on an erotic aura and energy, especially in the postmodern world. For me, the liminal eroticism of the child is becoming more and more concretised in our Instagram age.

But at my age, eighteen is very comparable to childhood, and the young adult retains the physiognomic innocence and cuteness of the child. There was even a study that childlike facial qualities in the adult have deliberately formed part of the evolutionary process of the human race. This suggests childlike qualities are in themselves attractive, as we know intuitively when we say someone is ‘young at heart’. But yes, I will be following the progress of Raducanu.

Prue

In response to a comment by Steve Diamond and Stephen James, I went ahead and produced a semi annotated bibliography which basically summarizes and links to research I’ve saved on the topic of incest. Hope it can be of some help / use to people. You can use the link below to access the file. You might have to click “download” twice for it to work. The joys of technology :p

https://anonfiles.com/H4K441G3u2/Inbreeding_Critical_Bibliography_2021_Final_pdf

warbling j turpitude

Right after i allowed the anonfiles “notifications’ request without doing which i could not download, my phone has gotten infected. It’s pretty aggressive, too. Anyone else encounter same?

Prue

Hi people.

I’ve just made a post on Freespeechtube for people having trouble with, or trouble accessing, the file I linked. Hopefully that’ll help. See here https://www.freespeechtube.org/v/15zb

I’m not very tech-literate and certainly not literate enough to purposefully transfer viruses etc to people’s computers. Though I just tried to download the file using the link but it came up “502 bad gateway” so perhaps the link is more temporary than i realized. Apologies people…

Nada

Disable javascript before downloading.
Firefox family:

Type “about:config” in a tab.
“javascript” in the searchfield.
Toggle “javascript.enabled” to “true”.

Chromium family:

Press Ctrl-Shift-P
type: “javascript”
Choose “disable Javascript”

Stephen James

Great work, Prue. Many thanks.

Cyril Belgrad

How the boys help keeping things platonic

In my relationships with my young friends, one of the most important priorities is that they remain platonic, i.e., non-sexual. As I’m sure many readers here will agree, this is often difficult, requiring the exertion of will against temptation. I often feel that the boys also struggle against temptation, wanting to escalate furtive touches or play fighting to intimate affection. (Again, the child abuse professionals call that a cognitive distortion or offense-supportive belief.)

Fortunately for both of us, the boys have something I don’t, which is a morbid disgust at the thought of anything sexual with me. The kind of disgust expressed by Pete that I described in my main post in this thread. That disgust presents a strong barrier to escalation. As sad as it makes me, I am also deeply grateful for it keeping me safe.

Cyril Belgrad

Update — Good news

The other day, I was out riding with the boys, and Pete was there. He said he was tired and wanted me to pull him, which I was happy to do. He first held on to the rack at the back of my bike, then briefly switched to my shoulder, then back to the rack. I told him that I promised not to enjoy it too much if he held on to my shoulder. I asked if he remembered the time a few weeks ago when he freaked out when I said I enjoyed him holding on by my shoulder when I pull him. He said he did, and said it was weird. I asked which was more weird, me enjoying it, or him freaking out about it. He said him freaking out about it.

Prue

Lovely story!

Zen Thinker

The Times has a leading article today: ‘Keeping Evil at Bay’. This metaphysical menace of existential proportions is, somewhat pathetically, age verification checks on social media. Pointless for a number of reasons: 1) Instagram already legitimately allows children on if the account is run by their parents. True, this measure prevents grooming and unsafe material from being viewed by children, but the end result is the same: children have an extensive presence on Instagram, with accounts in their name and solely featuring themselves. There is nothing wrong with parents promoting their children but it gets around the folly of age verification. 2) Again with Instagram, Facebook are to bring out an Instagram for under 13s. No doubt competitors will launch imitation products. Like it or not (and MPs hate it) children will ultimately have a presence on social media. 3) TikTok really clamped down on under 13s, eliminating a good proportion of accounts. Many still remain but TikTok is incredibly unfriendly to child accounts. However, if the market for under 13s social media emerges TikTok will no doubt want to be part of this.

I support protecting children from 1) sexual groomers and 2) unsafe material (e.g. suicide ideation) but the proposed measures want to eliminate children from all social media entirely, which is a ridiculous aim. And ‘Keeping Evil at Bay’: this is clearly absurd and hysteric language, and we have just about had enough of hysteria around children which is both profoundly unhealthy and psychologically damaging.

Pat

and we have just about had enough of hysteria around children which is both profoundly unhealthy and psychologically damaging.”….But you are playing a part if you don’t take the “grooming” cliche with a pinch of salt.

Zen Thinker

I try to tread a careful line with this. Sexual solicitation of a child online regularly gets two or three years in jail. Whether the harms and dangers are exaggerated is another matter. It’s never a behaviour I would remotely consider. People who engage a child (or decoy) sexually online are probably being naive and no doubt low intelligence is a factor too, from the news stories in the local press I have seen. Obviously the term ‘grooming’ is a broad brush that could just extend to a friendly conversation, so in that sense it is a disparaging cliche, yes.

Far more interesting than the term ‘grooming’ is the term ‘abuse’ as employed by the media. Far broader brush strokes that colloquially can mean almost anything: a burger and fries could be ‘abuse’ to a vegan, giving children a mobile phone is ‘abuse’. The term has effectively lost its meaning. Yet it retains its emotive power and for that reason is a favourite catchword.

Pat

Thanks for the clarification. Yes people who engage in these online liaisons are asking for trouble. There are so many who are not who they appear on the net.

Stephen James

I find it useful to put terms like ‘sexual grooming’ and ‘child sexual abuse’ in scare quotes.

Zen Thinker

I’m not comfortable with that. Although these categories are sometimes overextended, I wouldn’t want to minimise or trivialise sexual harm, which is a real thing. Children need protections obviously, just not hysteric overreactions like blanket bans on social media.

If you think it’s fine to solicit children, consider that their psychology is very much developmental, they have little recourse to stand up for themselves, and they would be hostages to fortune in a world that allowed child sexual solicitation.

Any MAP or individual with MAP inclinations should want to be protective and supportive of children and their development, while fighting against some of the absurd excesses of nannyism and fighting for a more inclusive world that allows recognition of minor attraction as a sexuality.

At least, that is my view. I’m frequently uncomfortable on here seeing the implicit view that children are somehow invincible and totally immune to any harm. A caring adult would seek to strike the right balance between protection and freedom, not swing to either extreme.

Stephen James

The reason for using the scare quotes is for me to distance myself from a whole narrative about child/adult sex which is full of misconceptions and part-and-parcel of what is in effect a witch-hunt. It doesn’t mean I approve of online sexual soliciting.

>I’m frequently uncomfortable on here seeing the implicit view that children are somehow invincible and totally immune to any harm.

That would make me feel uncomfortable too. But I have rarely seen it expressed here, even ‘implicitly’.

Is it possible that your keenness to point out how much you care about children (which I don’t doubt) is leading you to neglect the Principle of Charity in interpreting others’ views?

Zen Thinker

Stephen, I apologise if any of my words were uncharitable, my aim is to treat others fairly. I’m glad you disapprove of online solicitation, I think it is a big problem area, and leads to the ‘predator’ stereotype. I do care about children, and I’m sure you do too – I think it’s important to put children first, and I worry that organisations like the NSPCC, while having good intentions, actually end up blocking their growth.

Pat

Esther Rantzen form the NSPCC comes to mind when she was in a shopping centre and filmed a child actor pretending to be lost and in distress. She was shocked by how many people ignored the kid; I thought to myself, you helped create this atmosphere you stupid woman!

Pat

Hi Tom what do you as a CL make of seeing kids in school all day being made to wear a muzzle? hopefully that will end soon.

Pat

I know we are straying off topic, but not completely when you consider ‘science’ can be political (Rind 1998) Ivermectin has been used as a treatment for covid in many countries including India, Africa etc and is proven very effective. But this has been around for years and is cheap, so no money for big Pharma. Look at the Swine flu scandal of 2009 where pressure was put to lobby for the vaccine.

Pat

I follow ivermectin on Trialsitenews news, check it out. The areas where IV was part of their medical kits in India, cases and deaths nosedived. It seems the saying “follow the money” is more prevalent then ever.

Franklin James

I quite agree. Ivermectin is no cure-all, but its demonstrable effectiveness has been snubbed, even by its own manufacturers. Not a good way to build trust, but a very good way to shove critics into a corner.

Pat

“a person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act … upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony …” ..That would be most parents in the slammer then!

Christian

Rape means sexual assault with penetration, or sexual penetration of a person against that person’s will. So, in order to speak about “platonic rape”, it is necessary to define first “platonic assault” and “platonic penetration”.

Cyril Belgrad

That is no longer the definition when a youngster is involved. As I said in my original post, “When actual sexual activity occurs between an adult and a child, that is often called child rape, no matter how the child felt about it.” The activity does not have to be penetrative, and does not even have to involve the genitals.

Christian

In France, “rape” requires sexual penetration. Without penetration, it is sexual assault (with a lighter punishment).

Steve Diamond

I think people like us tend to get more intensity out of these instances, because “pedophiles” tend to be so deprived and starved of them…They mean more to us when they happen.

We’re like kids perpetually trapped in “our first kiss”…or our first sexual touch…because we’re not accustomed to it, generally speaking…and we’re trapped constantly negotiating interactions, we’ve not developed a method of approaching.

To my mind, this is a lions portion of why we tend to wrestle with these sorts of questions.

…We’ve been prohibited from personally developing, to a large degree.

Cyril Belgrad

To an extent, I agree with you. But I also see it from the opposite perspective.

I often think that, in fact it often seems rather obvious that, all or most people have a sexual attraction to children, and pedophiles are just the ones who don’t bury it in the dark recesses of our psyches. If that’s the case, then we are the ones with superior development, and the “normal” people are living deeply suppressed lives.

The result is the same as what you propose, that we “get more intensity out of these instances.” And yes, we are deprived and starved of them, but normals are even more deprived and starved because they avoid them and pretend they don’t want them.

Steve Diamond

I have at times wondered, just how close to “the normal” we are…particularly where it comes to literal pedophiles.

We all know, there has got to be a lot more of us than merely those of us who embrace our pedophilia.

It’s a hard thing to answer, because I know that I’m not sexually attracted to every type of human…so, I accept that a lot of people wont be sexually attracted to children…It just makes sense to me.

That said…sexual arousal to visual stimulation is involuntary…and children still have nearly all the physical parts as adults [minus female breasts]…often less hairy, and far cuter…So, why would they be of a lesser desirability?

To my mind, prepubescent children have always been “the upgrade”.

Weird thought…maybe if humans had evolved to be born old and big, just to shrink and become a child [a la “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”], this might have been a pedophiles world.

…I’m just rambling at this point. 🙂

Sayaka Fermi

I believe you are correct. A meta-analysis of phallometric studies concluded that about one-fifth of men and boys are as or more aroused by child-related than adult-related stimuli.

“Sexual Arousal and Arousability to Pedophilic Stimuli in a Community Sample of Normal Men”
https://www.ipce.info/ipceweb/Library/97-048_article.html

Cyril Belgrad

This comment is about my relationship with Carl, particularly about my feelings for him, and not about platonic rape.

I’ve gushed about how wonderful Carl is, how lovely, and how much fun we have together. But the other side of that is that he is often terribly boring. He has no intellectual curiosity, no ambition, no zest for accomplishment. He can sit and watch TV for hours at a time, including watching TikToks or David Dobrik episodes or scenes from Hobbs and Shaw over again that he’s already watched multiple times. When he’s grounded (in the sense of being confined to quarters as punishment), he’d rather lie lifeless on his bed than pick up a book and read.

Today, I was at his house and he was showing me a comedy act on his computer that he’d shown me at least once before. We got interrupted by something and I left. I had been over there for an hour or two, and as I was leaving, I felt grateful for the time with him and relieved to be out of there. There’s something going at his house tomorrow that I’ll be going back for, and I thought it will be great to go back and be with him again. I looked forward to being on my own until then.

So I came home and sat down with my computer and got involved in my usual intellectual pursuits. I was deep in concentration, reading an article with some complicated and surprising information, when Carl came riding up my driveway on his bike. I looked at Carl, then looked back at my computer screen, then looked back up at Carl, and my heart was filled with joy at the sight of him. He walked in my door and started talking about something. I glanced back at my computer screen, then looked back at Carl and decided he was more important. I got up and went to play with him.

I spent another couple hours with him until, back at his house, he ended up in front of the TV with his dad. I came back home, again with that combination of feeling fulfilled by my time with him and happy to be on my own again. I sat down and finished reading that article.

gantier99

Hmm, another thing to consider in this fascinating account of infatuation, and I don’t mean that unkindly, is the attitude of Carl’s parents towards you. What exactly is their role in this triangular psychodrama?

Carl is having to balance his love of you with love of his parents. Perhaps he already struggles with (or enjoys?) the new experience of keeping certain things hidden from his mum and dad. Or maybe they know… and maybe he knows they know.

Perhaps there is already a whole lot of stuff here that everybody knows. But there’s that unspoken rule, certain things must not be put into words, words can be like an unwelcome spotlight.

I think you really should get in touch with your ex Young Friends. I’m sure they will be able to give you some insight. A debriefing!

Cyril Belgrad

Carl’s parents are, after Carl himself, my best friends. I’m at their house all the time. I seldom see Carl without seeing one or both of his parents beforehand or afterwards or both.

Carl does confide in me, and he appreciates being able to trust me that way. It’s hard for me because I have to balance my loyalty to Carl and to his parents. I never want to lie to either one, but I can stay silent. That’s sometimes hard for Carl’s father, who has wanted to use me as a second source of discipline for Carl and a source of information about him. But I think he’s gotten used to the fact that I’m not going to be any of that.

If you think I should get in touch with my earlier (not ex) young friends, then you might want to read again the opening paragraph of my post. I talk with Jody about once a week, and with Steve at least once a year.

gantier99

Yes, sorry, I had read that. I meant that you might find it useful to specifically ask Jody and Steve whether they knew of (and if so what they remember thinking of) your sexual attraction to them.

My experience as a parent (and MAP) tells me that children know, or get a sense of, more than we give them credit for. They also have a pretty shrewd idea of what to keep hidden from adults.

So, I wonder, does Carl confide in you about literally everything, or does he avoid stuff that he really doesn’t want his parents to know he thinks about? My guess is that your friendship with his parents (second source of discipline!) would make it extra difficult for him to share his deepest feelings and thoughts with you, despite your close friendship.

Cyril Belgrad

I know that Carl does not confide in me about everything. I think the breadth and depth of what he does confide are growing somewhat, but I don’t expect to ever have 100% trust. On top of that, he is not a deep thinker, and I don’t think even he knows a whole lot about what’s going on in his head.

Cyril Belgrad

The other day, Carl showed me something on the Internet about a pair of cartoon characters called Mario and Elsa, who apparently are a couple. And then there was some sort of Q&A about them and someone asked their ages. The answer was that he is 40 and she 16. Carl made a disparaging remark about that and looked at me for agreement, which I didn’t give him. He said, “He’s a pedophile.” I said, “Yeah, okay.” He frowned darkly, then changed the subject and went on to show me something else.

Prue

People really have no idea what the “P” word means, do they? (Rhetorical). Although, depending on your exclusivity, it’s certainly possible for a pedophile to be with a 16 YO, or a 40 YO, (of course, Elsa, the female character, could be the pedophile), you’d need to be aware of non-exclusive pedophilia to make that distinction.

I have a teacher friend with a background in forensic psychology, who I can vividly recall scolding students when they flippantly used the “P” word as an insult. Things like, “Do you know the seriousness of what you’re saying?”, “What you’re accusing someone of?” [bc they’re using it to disparage when older ppl engage w/ teens, as is common, showing their ignorance by conflating attraction with action]. He would basically, quite publicly, show them up as idiots who had no idea what they were saying, but the only reason he felt comfortable doing that, is because he could fall back on his background in forensic psychology to justify his intervening.

I suppose the fear when correcting misinfo and prejudice is that you get accused of being X or Y because, as the logic goes, why else would you know that?! I suppose most of us, if you’re good at acting, have the out – “I just googled it.” Play it off as something innocuous anyone could do. Maybe, as long as it’s not done in an antagonistic way, it’s necessary to ask people if they know what the “P” word means when they use it? I do this IRL if the topic ever comes up, but that’s prob easier for me b/c I’m not a MAP / YL

Franklin James

I suppose the fear when correcting misinfo and prejudice is that you get accused of being X or Y because, as the logic goes, why else would you know that?!

Indeed. Another tactic, related to the google-move, is to say something like “I’ve never really understood why X Y Z…” and treat it as an exercise in critical thinking. I’ve had good luck with this.

Franklin James

If I may ask – and this is not a criticism – what held you back from simply saying, “Not necessarily?” Is that zone simply too volatile for you?

Cyril Belgrad

I had no interest in getting Carl into a lesson on terminology, and he would have had no patience for that. I was quite satisfied to simply not go along with his deprecation. That was shocking to him, which is what I wanted. I was letting him know that as far as I’m concerned, pedophilia is not a problem, and I did that without making excuses. I was standing up for myself in my relationship with him. If that was confusing for him, that’s part of the problem I described in the original post. But I’m not really sure it’s confusing for Carl. As I said, he’s not a deep thinker, and I think he just tucked it away in the “Cyril is weird” part of his brain.

Carl asked me today, “Why are you so weird?” I thought about it for a while, and said that I follow the beat of a different drummer and do things that I want to without worrying about being strange. He said he’d like to do that. I said it’s harder for a kid. He said, yeah, because his father controls his life. I said that’s right. I was really delighted that we had that conversation of some depth, even just for a few minutes.

Zen Thinker

Tom, the problem is some of us chronically lack confidence, and are fraught with anxiety in our relations with children. I hope you don’t find my input ‘wearisome’. I certainly celebrate the friendships Cyril has made, it is a wonderful thing. Not all of us though have the competency for such an undertaking. And as you doubtless know through our private correspondence, I have recently been scarred by the Law. This has taken its emotional toll. I sometimes wonder if the VPs would be a better fit for me but I was attracted by your intellectualism and integrity of character. As no doubt the State intends, I feel great fear about ever transgressing the Law again. So please bear in mind that I am speaking from a place of great caution and reticence, albeit girls *are* a fundamental part of my psyche and I love them as much as I fear social contact, being despised or rejected, or getting into trouble.

Cyril Belgrad

You wrote:

here was Cyril suddenly being worse than the wearisome VPs!

Ouch!

You wrote:

Cyril has … grossly overestimated (or at least agonised over) the negative potential and underplayed the positive.

I certainly have agonized over the negative potential, but I have definitely not underplayed the positive. As I quoted myself to Mr. James in response to his comment:

I have no intention of removing myself from Carl’s life. … he’s lucky to have me, both for the fun we have together and for the positive role model I am. His parents seem to agree.

And we can blame this blog for that agonizing over the negative. As I said:

My life is not consumed with fretting over this. By and large, Carl and his friends and I just enjoy our time together. Writing a blog post for Tom about the idea of platonic rape has led to this long and fretful contemplation.

You wrote:

I like the simple, robust dismissal put forward by Franklin James

You will see that I have dismissed that dismissal in a reply to him by quoting myself saying the same thing that he said. I’m surprised that you bring it up because we discussed that in our correspondence before publication here, where I also clarified that my use of the word “rape” is only mimicking the nonsense notion of “child rape,” not agreeing with it.

You wrote:

What we are seeing here, I suggest, is the fallacy of reification

Quite possibly. And what has reified it more than anything is its appearance here in the public space of your blog. Had you not asked for that, it would have remained a silly idea in my private diary that I noticed one day and shared with you.

But you did ask for the post, and I’ve gone through the fretful exercise of contemplating the idea carefully, and I stand by my conclusion from that that platonic rape is real. I also agree with you and others here that it is a deplorable notion, and I apologize for bringing it up. But I did not create the ugly reality in which it exists.

Tom, let’s not forget that you live a life in which platonic rape is impossible. As a famously out pedophile, you have the luxury of wearing your feelings on your sleeve. You don’t have to constantly ask yourself, “Do they know?” or “Do they wonder?” or “What would they think if they knew?” You are an icon that I hold up like a shrine of right living. I don’t give much energy to shame, but if I were to wallow in some, it could be for not having the courage to emulate you. Were I to do that, I could stop worrying about platonic rape. But I could likely then also kiss goodbye my paradise with Carl, and think about platonic rape only in the abstract, as you do. So I choose to remain shamefully in my cowardly life, where my feelings are a dark secret, even if everyone around me has me figured out and just politely doesn’t talk about it, where I get to revel in the sight of Carl’s lovely face nearly every day, and where I get to wonder if he would approve of my love if we could talk about it.

Now let me conclude with a positive spin that might make you happier.

Yesterday, I was with Carl and a friend when Carl made an off-hand remark about being depressed. Had I been alone with Carl, I would have asked him about that, but the conversation with the friend quickly moved on.

Later, I tormented myself with the morbid thought of Carl having depressed thoughts that lead him to end his life. And of course, I thought about what I’d written here and wondered, if that were to happen, could my relationship with him be part of what drove him to that. But then I had the converse thought. Carl actually told me a couple of years ago, when I still barely knew him, that he sometimes thought of suicide. That also happened at a time when there was no opportunity for me to ask him to say more. Since then, after getting to know him better, I did ask him once about that comment. He remembered saying it, but brushed it off as insignificant. So now, thinking about his comment yesterday, it occurred to me that the very fact that he is alive today could be partially attributed to my relationship with him, in which he has a pair of eyes that love to watch him, a pair of ears that listen without judgment, and a heart that cherishes every fiber of his being. Perhaps, rather than feeding it, my love makes his depression bearable. Perhaps.

The tragedy of this world is that as much as I encourage him to talk about his feelings, I cannot sit down and talk with him about mine. I cannot ask him if my love is difficult for him to deal with, or if it’s as wonderful for him as it is for me. Maybe, as Art suggested in his comment, maybe I could talk with him about it one day after he is no longer made of forbidden flesh. But I cannot talk with him about it now, while the fear of platonic rape is extant. I have to live with the possibility, while I hope for the alternative, that he approves of my love and appreciates it.

Cyril Belgrad

I wrote:

I hope for the alternative, that he approves of my love and appreciates it.

Thinking more on Carl’s reactions to me, I think I can say that he openly disapproves of my love — and he appreciates it.

Cyril Belgrad

Thank you Tom, but I hardly feel any apology was necessary. You invited me here for some intellectual discourse, and we’re having that. Only a truly boring subject could have a predictable discussion. The subject I wrote about is both complicated and vexing, so it’s not surprising that it got some people upset. I’m just grateful that we could discuss it cordially.

As for the terminology, I agree 100% on the importance of one’s use of language. As I said in response to another comment here, I’m interested in suggestions for a more positive term for the phenomenon we’ve been discussion.

Now, as for the days when you and I were younger, it occurs to me that perhaps the concept I’ve introduced here did not exist then because there was a far lower barrier to taking relationships sexual. I did have some such in the 1970s and I recall making a conscious decision to stop, not because of any sense that I had harmed any younger partner. Quite the contrary, they all seemed quite delighted. No, I stopped out of fear for my own safety should such a relationship be discovered.

If my relationship with Carl were taking place in the 1970s, I think it’s likely that he’d be spending some nights with me in my home. There’d be no possibility of platonic rape because we would have graduated the relationship to the level described by that other ugly nonsense term, child rape.

So perhaps this phenomenon only occurs in an environment with a high level of sexual repression.

Steve Diamond

“platonic rape”…is like “spiritual murder”…a term which exists for manipulation.

It’s noise thrown at you, to create a barrier.

I’m not trying to ascribe any intent to Cyril here [they’re doing something different]…but these terms are not generally used by people who care at all about “the others” [the designated “boogeymen behind all woes”]…They’re invented and used by people, who hold people like us in complete contempt. They often like that terms like these socially hurt people like us…and aggressively push these kinds of terms and concepts, because of it.

As consequence, many of us have come to loath these types of terms, and all the public arm twisting that accompanies them to conform and parrot them.

We’re stabbing a knife in our own backs and betraying our own code of ethics, should we ever reaffirm them.

Mind you…I think Cyril is merely exploring, and trying to hash out their own experiences here, to make sense of them…to make sense somewhere in the social conflict.

I’m guilty of doing this sort of thing myself, from time to time.

I don’t think this is bad…In fact, it displays a deep, diverse intellect among MAPs.

We just need to be careful, not to actually “drink the koolaid”.

Cyril Belgrad

I think Cyril is merely exploring, and trying to hash out their own experiences here, to make sense of them

I think that’s a decent description of what I’m doing.

We’re stabbing a knife in our own backs

I think you (and others here who have complained about my post) are also right that my exploration has devolved into some self-flagellation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if done in moderation and without punishing myself. I hold myself to a high moral standard and like to think carefully about the effect my actions have on other people.

Franklin James

A very thoughtful article. But the definition you give of “Platonic Rape” really does not deserve the label “rape” any more than minor-adult sexual interactions do, unless we buy into the culture’s interest in treating every case of cross-interests in terms of violence victimology.

Complete honesty in human relations is impossible, not even with ourselves, and for the law to demand it requires truly totalitarian thinking. Boys especially react to the pederast’s attention in positive ways they are often not aware of; the eros is implicit. The dangers you adumbrate dwindle in comparison with the inherent goodness of that attention.

We need not so much a concept of “Platonic Rape” but a revisiting of the meaning of “Statutory Rape,” which would be better understood not as “rape under the terms of the State,” but as sexual violence precipitated by the encroachment of the state.

Zen Thinker

Statutory rape is a de facto law, globally (just about every nation). Much better to consider ways in which one can express oneself without serious punishment. “The mind is its own place” (John Milton).

If one’s mind and imagination is not strong enough to create a better world than the one we live in, that is unfortunate. But in my experience the Imagination is far superior to reality.

Besides, all finer feelings are conveyed in the kind of innocent gestures Cyril describes.

The local news is full of people put away for sexual grooming. I can never understand that. Even Images is pointless when influencer accounts are legal. There’s no good reason to break the law.

So live in the imagination.

Stephen James

>Complete honesty in human relations is impossible, not even with ourselves

That’s an interesting thought. I believe there’s a lot of work in psychology which suggests that we do not know our own motives as much as we think we do. That would fit in with what you say here. More generally, we may need to reconcile ourselves to the idea that human relationships will always be inherently ‘messy’.

>sexual violence precipitated by the encroachment of the state

What would be examples of that? Might it be something like the Cleveland case some years ago in the UK, where many children were subjected to unnecessary rectal examinations because of a certain doctor’s obsession with sexual abuse?

Franklin James

Dear Fellow James,

I struggled with the right phrase here: “sexual violence” is not quite what I meant, to be honest (though the example you give might be a literal case of that). I mean rather that the state creates conditions under which normal and healthy erotic relations, even when not consummated, are in some sense “defiled” in the ways Cyril describes. What is being “raped,” for lack of a better word, is the very innocence of those relations.

Cyril Belgrad

You wrote:

But the definition you give of “Platonic Rape” really does not deserve the label “rape” any more than minor-adult sexual interactions do

Quite right, and I said so:

When actual sexual activity occurs between an adult and a child, that is often called child rape, no matter how the child felt about it. If the adult is prosecuted for it and the child had enjoyed or even instigated it, then the victims are both the child and the adult, and the perpetrator of harm is the societal condemnation of the affection between them. … That’s how I’m thinking about my platonic rape of these boys.

You wrote:

adumbrate

That’s the second new word I’ve learned here. Comments in this blog are good for building vocabulary.

You wrote:

The dangers you adumbrate dwindle in comparison with the inherent goodness of that attention.

Indeed. I said that too:

I have no intention of removing myself from Carl’s life. … he’s lucky to have me, both for the fun we have together and for the positive role model I am. His parents seem to agree.

You wrote:

We need not so much a concept of “Platonic Rape” but a revisiting of the meaning of “Statutory Rape,” which would be better understood not as “rape under the terms of the State,” but as sexual violence precipitated by the encroachment of the state.

How true! And if we could have your definition of statutory rape, that would relegate the concept to the dustbin of history, and likewise the concept of platonic rape.

Franklin James

Thank you. I was, though, quite aware of the way you were using the word “rape.” I just don’t think it is constructive. You’re getting at something interesting and real – I would not say it is a pure reification – but using such victimological jargon is not a healthy way of containing or naming the concept. You end up painting a picture in which a relationship (like yours) is obviously good for all concerned, yet contains an awkward unspoken element called “rape!” It vastly over-problematizes.

I believe that it’s generally good practice not to use the word “rape” in relations between people unless you’re talking about the actual forcing of someone to take part in a sexual act against his or her will. An equivalence will be inevitably drawn to the real and horrible thing, and we know where that leads.

Cyril Belgrad

Okay, I’m open to that thinking. What would you suggest calling it?

Franklin James

I’m still thinking about that… It seems to me that the object of your concern is not exactly what you “officially” defined: “A nonsexual interaction that occurs in the context of a sexual attraction and is engaged in without disclosure and approval of the attraction.” What that amounts to is merely doing things with somehow who does know how much you like them, which can happen to anybody. What’s missing is the effect that the insanely awful greater context has on the situation. That’s what reifies it, or turns it into something (seemingly) problematic, just as it turns normal acts of generosity or pedagogy into “grooming.”

Cyril Belgrad

Yes, indeed, and just as it turns normal acts of pedophillic sexuality into child rape.

So, a more positive terms for what is called “child rape” is simply “sexual activity with a child”.

Some more positive terms for what is called “grooming”, are the ones you mentioned, perhaps with an additional descriptor: “sexually motivated generosity” and “sexually motivated pedagogy”.

So perhaps a more positive term for “platonic rape” could be “sexually motivated friendship”.

But the problem with that term is that the whole reason this blog post came about is because of the problem created by the sexually motivate friendship, to wit, the potential for a troubling level of conflicting feelings in the child. Were we in the 1970s, when sexuality was less feared, I could have sexual activity with a child or I could have a sexually motivated friendship with a child with less concern about negative effects on the child. But it is today’s deeply repressive environment that turn that sexual activity into child rape and the friendship into platonic rape.

So what term can we use to convey the meaning of “a sexually motivated friendship, which could be perfectly fine in a same society, but which in a repressive environment has the potential to be confusing and conflicting for the object of attraction”?

Franklin James

Interesting. I’m still not satisfied with “sexually motivated friendship/generosity,” though, because it comes off as reductive, as if the sexual attraction were the ultimate motivation for the behavior, it’s ultimate meaning, when in fact it is the friendship and the generosity that are the ultimate meaning, the sexual attraction being merely one element of what inspires the relationship.

I’m beginning to wonder – though I still agree with you that this is a “thing” – whether it is a thing that can be named. Better perhaps simply better to talk about it? In time a name may emerge.

Cyril Belgrad

it is the friendship and the generosity that are the ultimate meaning, the sexual attraction being merely one element of what inspires the relationship.

Yeah, I agree. So let me change the description to “a friendship that includes a sexual attraction, which could be perfectly fine in a sane society, but which in a repressive environment has the potential to be confusing and conflicting for the object of attraction”.

You say perhaps we can talk about it without naming it. I don’t know that that’s a good idea. Phenomena deserve names.

Franklin James

A good try, but your suggestion is still wobbly, since in this scenario Eros is not so much “repressed” as it is “not conscious to the desired party” (or something like that). (The ped isn’t repressing: he expressing his interest, his “project,” of being a part of the boy’s life.)

(Side note: I’m also no big fan of acronyms, which smack inevitably of marketing campaigns, the corporate branding industry, medicalized terminology… All-caps are always bad signs…)

I dunno. The “thing” we’re talking about is real enough, intensely real. But it is so epiphenomenal on the contingent hysteria that I really don’t think it should be granted a place in some taxonomy. It would only make the hysteria seem less contingent in this day and age.

Forget definitions and names. How about this:

“Good God it’s disorienting to develop friendship with someone who’s not aware how sexually attracted I am to him/her! And it’s even more disorienting given how that attraction has been demonized! Man, that sucks!”

Franklin James

Thanks – a good point re repression; two, really, both well-taken.

“Repression” is a word to take care with. It insinuates a shared scientific interpretation across psychotheraputic/psychological discourses across which it really has none (and withwhich we might not want to be affiliated with anyway.)

What about the word “unspokeness?”

The word leads me on a ramble.

It is a way of getting at what is going on when not everyone knows exactly what’s going on, but it’s going on nonetheless, and everyone knows it, and its meaning and other meanings are emerging everywhere and everyone participates in what’s going on, and nothing needs to be said about how or why until after it’s given birth to something – the embarrassing underbelly, meanwhile, we can’t quite say anything about, so hush! Don’t say it, just giggle and grope under the bushes and hope whoever overhears you just giggles along and doesn’t tattle…

The “unspoken” is not the repressed, nor the unconscious, nor the deliberately hidden, nor even the particular sweetness of transgression.

I can’t offer any more than that bout it, apophatically, but there you have it.

As for acronyms: yes, they do indeed have “tremendous power when it comes to catching the imagination.” But I don’t see how that makes them any more virtuous than any other form of sophistry. Have they ever escaped the corporate and bureaucratic marketeer senisibilities that have embraced them over the last few decades especially, in some demonstrative way? Can you give some examples?

((Until such time, I herewith formally to agree to disagree with you in accordance with the U.N.’s general policy governing Mutually Agreed-Upon Disagreement, or “MAUD.” ))

Franklin James

Numerous replies!

You say, “The main thing for language, surely, is to be effective, not virtuous.” What do you mean, “the main thing for language?” Our discourse (on linguistic fora like this) is how we conduct ourselves, and if we are to conduct ourselves for the purpose of being linguistically “effective” rather than being virtuous, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re being deceitful of not: we are serving some other purpose than virtue, and that is, by definition, not good.

I don’t know what “the main thing for language” is. But the most important “thing” for human use of political language is the cultivation of virtue.

Take some greatly effective orator – take Hitler, why not. We can enumerate all sorts of rhetorical devices (clever acronyms curiously not among them, in Hitler’s case) that lie behind his effectiveness. “Effectiveness” has no more ethical value than any instrumental tool, technology, gadget. Fancy uniforms. Loud PAs.

Let’s face it: the impossible politics of pedophilia today precludes the presentation of friendly faces. Any acronym, however charming, will be met almost entirely with derision precisely for its attempt to associate the “obviously” predatory and harmful with the harmless and humane. Of course “we know” what “pedos do, right? – they pretend to CARE! They rationalize their sexual obsessions with some appeal to care and love…”

What sort of mind would encounter the acronym “CARE” that you’re proposing and be encouraged by it’s positive connotations to reconsider his thoughts on pedophilia/pederasty/etc.? We can imagine such minds, and there might even be a few, but, come on – forget about it.

***

Second – relatedly – I don’t propose the word “unspokenness” as any sort of motto or catch-phrase. It’s rather a concept which applies across every domain of human relationship to one degree or another.

Zen Thinker

Whilst I appreciate your radicalism Tom, I have a closer intellectual alignment with Cyril and the VPs. I love your CARE acronym because ‘Child-Adult Repressed Erotic’ just about sums up beautifully where I am in terms of my own personal journey. I watched Emma Raducanu in the tennis and I realised I could easily settle for an eighteen-year-old, she is gorgeous, amiable and debonair. The issue with children is precisely that one has to repress everything, it is forced upon us by society. I could easily find a three-year-old to be pretty or cute, as I could a twenty-year-old. Thirty is pushing it for me, but heck, J-Lo has a nice body at fifty-two! Children are more beautiful to me than adults, generally speaking, but I find myself taking up a VP or CARE position no doubt due to personal temperament, personality and inclination, as well as the absurd difficulty in expressing a minor attracted sexuality. I respect radicalism but I have never been a radical at anything. I hope we can have a respectful disagreement, although we do agree on so much besides.

Zen Thinker

I’m sure she was twice as beautiful at eight. I have seen younger pictures of her in fact, I can’t remember if it was a TV news bulletin or the Press.

Eighteen is still erotically beautiful in my eyes. But I define myself as a heterosexual with MAP inclinations rather than an exclusive MAP.

Unfortunately, I have as little chance of scoring with an eighteen-year-old as a girl of eight.

Cyril Belgrad

CARE (Child Adult Repressed Erotic) relationship

Sure, that works. I disagree with Franklin’s objections to the word “repressed”. I think it is correct. My eros is repressed in this relationship.

I don’t know that I’ll ever to write on this subject again, so not sure I’ll even need to decide what term to use for it in the future.

Cyril Belgrad

Having read and acknowledged Tom’s suggestion of the term “CARE (child sdult repressed erotic) relationship”, an idea has occurred to me in favor of the term originally used, “platonic rape”.

I wrote in a previous comment here:

my use of the word “rape” is only mimicking the nonsense notion of “child rape,” not agreeing with it.

I wrote in the original post here, with regard to my relationship with Eric:

I once described this concern to a psychologist I knew, and it was painfully comical watching him try to comprehend my fear that I had harmed the boy by loving him without having sex with him!

What comes to my mind now is some homosexuals’ taking up the pejorative term “queer” and turning it in to a celebration of their rebellious sexuality. It occurs to me that perhaps my use of the term “platonic rape” serves to mock the nonsense notion of child rape and complain to the child abuse professionals that their hysterical fear of children being sexual with adults does not protect them.

Stephen James

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-58327844

WTF!!!

If anyone ever doubted that we live in an excessively litigious society, here’s proof!

art

Have you considered coming out to your now adult friends? And you could find out how they felt about you when they were younger.

Cyril Belgrad

Have you considered coming out to your now adult friends?

Often. I am eager for that conversation. And afraid of it. And I now live far away from both Jody and Steve, and feel the conversation deserves to be in person, so it’s difficult to arrange. I might do it one day. I hope so.

Steve Diamond

Different, but related…

…I lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins for a year and a half after my parents divorced, having no idea my cousins were deeply involved in incest until I found myself in the middle of it all. It’s a considerable reason, why I have practical, personal insight into childhood sexuality…and a rather lenient view on incest today…

For much of my life, I’ve wanted to discuss what happened with all of them…but at the same time, how do you do that?

They probably consider this a can of worms, they don’t want to resurface.

We’re living in times where it’s not inconceivable, one could get prosecuted for things they did as a kid, 35+ years ago.

Even I tend to frame myself more and more as “a victim” in this, not because I literally consider myself one [though, it’s complicated and tricky…at a few points, I met the criteria], but because I don’t want my personal recounts legally used against me.

The potential discussion the four of us could have about that point in our history, probably means a lot more to me as a pedophile, than it will ever mean to them. I’d be asking them to drag up something they can no longer have, and probably want to leave in the past…because it’s a socially dangerous topic.

On a personal level…for me…I really want that discussion, which I’m not even sure they’re capable of having for themselves.

Cyril Belgrad

Interesting Steve. Yes, it seems that your difficulty bringing up the subject is similar to mine.

But you know what? On second thought, it occurs to me that your difficulty is more like if Jody or Steve wanted to talk with me about having experienced me as a pedophile in their youth — and are afraid that I would be uncomfortable talking about it.

Wouldn’t that be a terrible shame, if both Jody and I or both Steve and I want to talk with each other about our experiences when they were boys, but neither of us will bring it up for fear that it will be uncomfortable for the other one.

I’ve never thought of that possibility before. I doubt it’s happening, but it’s an interesting thought.

Prue

Just to let you know, Steve, that is so fascinating I’m actually envious: I wish I knew someone IRL who’d had an incestuous experience (esp. a long-term relationship) I could draw on.

I understand the caution w/ how hysterical ppl can be. The only thing close to incest from my own life i can think of, is something that wasn’t even incest! A story related to me of a girl dating a boy who had moved into her home after both their parents had married and moved in together. They were both similar aged (15, 16, 17, around that mark) and certainly not blood related! She was berated at school and often defended herself against accusations that she was engaging in incest, and, relatedly, that her relationship was somehow a problem. Madness…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall you helped out w/ Newgon? [Which i should say thanks for, btw, great site]. You’ll know of Joan Nelson’s work on incest then [?]. Do you find scholarship / less value laden discussions about the topic help? Providing a kind of vicarious discussion for the one you can’t, or have yet to have, perhaps?

If you’re interested I can go through my files and cite literature on incest?

Stephen James

Joan Nelson is excellent. I remember how in one of her papers she said that she herself had been involved in an incestuous relationship when she was younger and it had all seemed to be fine up until the point when it was revealed and her whole world was consequently turned upside down.

In fact I’d like to sidle in here and take you up on your offer to share material about incest, if that would be OK with you.

Prue

“In fact I’d like to sidle in here and take you up on your offer to share material about incest, if that would be OK with you.”

Gonna either post a long list or make a source doc and cite it as a link using Anon Files at the top of the blog so everyone sees it. Stay tuned!

I’ve been meaning to create source docs / annotated bibliographies apropos intergen issues for a while now, so I’ve got something to give to students if I manage to get to teach on these issues in future. Might as well get started! :p

Gantier99

Thought provoking… but hey, too much angst there?

So, the boys like you. Their mums and dads (perhaps especially their mums!) have told them about pervs. So have their schools. So have all the media and social media they’re exposed to, without exception. They’ve got the vibe: sex is bad, sex with pervs is beyond bad. But they like you! So… cognitive dissonance. Pervs are bad. I like this perv. Better not think about that too much.

Like having a mousetrap put there in their heads. Set it off unintentionally, by saying something silly like 2+2=4, and they go EWW, or end up severely traumatised.

So the trick is identify and disarm the mousetrap. Put your hand over it, and release it gently.

The armchair perv has spoken 🙂

Cyril Belgrad

Pervs are bad. I like this perv. Better not think about that too much.

Yeah, I think that about sums up where they are with me.

Prue

Although I can see your rationale, esp. when you’ve been given one clear indication that if one of the boys thought of their interaction w/ you as sexual, they’d find it “disgusting” or “creepy,” I worry about the precedent, esp. if turned into law, a concept like “platonic rape” would set. I recall reading a “philosopher” that, at the time, I regarded as a lunatic, who argued that the definition of rape should be expanded to include cases where, say, a man at a party lies that he’s in a highly paid job and a woman, evidently beguiled by these prospects, has sex w/ him as a result where she otherwise would not have were he honest. The most obvious problem, is that you can never prove she would or would not have had sex with him were she told something else. Certainly, you can never prove after the fact that a person saying something else in the past would have changed the outcome from sex to no sex, or any other outcome. And then, if you want to get reaaally nit-picky, I’d argue that you could never prove that it was X piece of information specifically that altered someone’s decision; you could always claim it’s an amalgam of things, not reducible to one piece of information. No matter how you slice it, the main issue is that such a definition puts the question of rape beyond falsifyability. A very, very dangerous precedent given how easy it would be to claim, say, 10 years after a sexual encounter, that if you had known X info you wouldn’t have done Y, therefore you were “raped.”

I can see you’re coming from a much more thoughtful place than many writers on the subject. People who simply want expansive definitions of rape as a precedent to get more on people on registries or in prison with longer, harsher, and more obscure sentences that tarry up against the definitional limits of “torture” and “terrorism.” I like how thoughtful you are, and you’re clearly very aware of sociogenic / iatrogenic / nocebogenic harm, but I fear a term like “platonic rape” might be giving undue ammo to those who oppose intergenerational rights. I really hope we don’t see Anti’s calling anyone and everyone who finds themself in a body over 18, but enjoys hanging out with under 18s, a “platonic rapist.” Perhaps a “suspected platonic rapist.”

Cyril Belgrad

I agree with you Prue, and I worry about that too. Look at what I said to Zen Thinker in response to his comment, suggesting that he sit down and talk with a girl for five minutes. I can imagine the pedophobes monitoring this blog reading that with horror, saying that I’m counseling Zen to start grooming little girls.

By the way, the situation you describe of a man being accused of rape for lying his way into a woman’s pants is already in the law in some jurisdictions, where the grounds for rape include deception. Fortunately, I think it would be hard for a woman to get a detective to take up her case when she says, “I had sex with him because he said he’s a gazillionaire.” She’d be lucky to leave the police station without being booked for prostitution. But to spin your proposed scenario a bit differently, suppose a guy who looks like Tom Cruise meets a woman and tells her that he is Tom Cruise and she has sex with him. She then feels violated when she finds out he’s not who he said he was. In those jurisdictions I mentioned, that could conceivably be grounds for rape.

I had to look up “nocebogenic,” so thank you for teaching me that word!

If some government in the world takes up legislation to outlaw platonic rape, I will be forever mortified for the can of worms I opened.

Melorder

I thought that these two lines were a joke…

“Sorry, ma’am. This money is counterfeit.”

“Then I got raped last night!”

caitlin

This philosopher, if I remember rightly, is called Tom Dougherty? I did an essay critiquing his proposal for one of my philosophy modules last year!

Prue

Pretty certain this was who I was thinking of. Berit Brogaard, “Sex by Deception,” in John Doris & Manuel Vargas, (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology, Oxford University Press

Her website is here https://sites.google.com/site/brogaardb/home

and you can read the book chapter I was very, at the time, unamused by, here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nPly2G5eAhpSpYpEMKJNiEuBNR2dlUkkH8srvtZucnQ/edit

I had not heard of Dougherty before; sounds interesting (and possibly terrifying!)

Stephen James

Actually, Brogaard’s position is not what you say it is. Here’s what she says:

“I thus reject the extremely capacious view of rape, according to which, say, Fabio lies about coloring his hair, or using roagaine, to improve his prospects and ends up having raped the person he had sex with because he lied. Lying about coloring your hair to improve your prospects may not be kosher, but sex on the basis of deception of this kind is such a wildly different animal than forcible assault that it seems worth having more than one concept of sexual misconduct.”

She says that one of the authors she is opposed to on these matters is Tom Dougherty. She includes him in a list of authors who maintain that “as a rule, sex by deception undermines consent”.

Prue

Yes I was probably misrememberring and attributing to her what are other people’s positions. Is the quote you cite from the Brogaard chapter I linked? Word searching the doc doesn’t find the quote. Though I can see she’s cited Dougherty’s work and a response to him [Bromwich D & Millum, J.  (2018). “Lies, Control, and Consent: A Response to Dougherty and Manson,” J. Ethics 128 (2):446-461. ] so I must have just not remembered / internalized his name

Stephen James

> Is the quote you cite from the Brogaard chapter I linked?

Yes, it’s the fifth paragraph.

caitlin

Hi Tom!!!
Yes that’s the one!!! Sorry for late reply (been poorly!)

caitlin

Thank you, the worst of it is indeed over!

Zen Thinker

A powerful and sympathetic account, albeit one I cannot identify with. If at church I go out of my way to avoid little girls. If one sits next to me or close by I feel paranoid. The sign of peace (pre-pandemic) when one shakes hands with those around you is especially painful, as shaking the hand of a little girl leaves me with feelings of guilt, shame and repression. I feel that society imposed this burden upon me. I cannot enjoy the company of little girls.

I feel that Cyril describes a special and important bond albeit one that has to be trodden very carefully. Certainly the thoughts of mainstream society are incredibly hostile but as long as innocence is maintained it seems to me such relationships could be fruitful, at least for those who are not pathologically disturbed by an intense guilt and shame. I am however too mentally damaged to even extract an innocent pleasure from a child’s company.

Cyril Belgrad

Hi Zen,

Thank you for your response and your description of the painful row you hoe. I can share with you a story of a good friend of mine, Alex, whose experience is similar to yours — which was a total surprise to me. Alex is actually Jody’s grandfather, and I wrote the following in my diary a couple of years after I’d first met Jody at Alex’s house.

I told Alex that the hatred and violence he was describing from his youth was something that I feel the constant threat of for being who I am. He asked if I meant being gay. I said that when I was young, I used to think I was gay, but that as I got older, I realized that I had no interest in men, but am attracted to children. I was startled when he said matter-of-factly, “You’re a pedophile,” and I said yes. Then he startled me again, saying, “So am I.” !

He talked about being on an airplane some years ago and sitting next to a little girl about eleven years old, with her parents on the other side of her, and how he agonized for the whole flight about wanting to touch her.

He said he’d never talked with anyone about this before, including (maybe especially) his wife.

He also said he’d never been caught, which leaves me with the question of what he has done for which he could have been caught. For my part, I said that I’d never touched any kid sexually.

So this was a pretty friggin’ astounding conversation. The grandfather of my unrequited boyfriend and I just came out to each other as pedophiles! Holy SHIT!!!

Without question, the circumstance is so much worse for you and Alex than it is for me. While I’m also capable of being attracted to girls, there’s no way I could have the kind of friendship with one that I’ve had with my boys.

I do hope that one day you’ll find the opportunity and the courage to sit cross-legged on the floor with a girl and talk with her about whatever is on her mind. If you do it in the lobby of the church while everyone is walking out after a Sunday service in full view of her parents and you do it for five minutes before she gets up to go home with them, then perhaps you will allow yourself to believe (if this is true) that you were doing it for the pure mutual joy of sharing a connection with another human being that you enjoy being with.

You deserve that!

Zen Thinker

Cyril, my heart says I would love to have a brief conversation with a little girl, and I would probably treasure the memory for many days afterwards. However, my head counsels caution, and in truth there are several factors weighing against that wonderful possibility: I am chronically shy, have spent my life single not due to preference (I like women) but circumstance and mental hindrances, and I would also find speaking to a girl with all the adult eyes watching and judging me to be nerve-wracking and intolerable.

I can well imagine a ‘pure mutual joy’ as you put it; my attraction to women lacks the reverence and affection I feel towards girls, and girls seem to appreciate kindness and the ego boost of attention. However I have already resolved that, in the present moment, this is definitively not a road I wish to go down. Aside from my chronically low confidence, isolative tendencies and fear of interacting with girls, I also feel that society is well and truly stacked against me, and that with that inbuilt hostility I am led to passively accept my permanent detachment from little girls.

Only when societal conditions change will I have the confidence to even briefly talk to a little girl, because I feel that the weight (real or imagined) of adult suspicions is just too great, and that triggers my sense of insecurity, inadequacy and inferiority. I would rather remain aloof and preserve my peace of mind.

Of course I will be eagerly assessing societal conditions for any hint of change. When change really sets in it tends to have a rapid snowball effect. Our culture could conceivably shift fairly rapidly – time has a tendency to be kairotic rather than strictly chronological, and this means nothing will happen and then three buses come along at once! I already see some signs of change, but nothing as yet definitive.

When I can take a little girl out to a restaurant, and no-one bats an eyelid, I will declare victory! Seriously though, I’m not holding my breath for such a societal condition to be present anytime soon.

Stephen James

Tom, if you click on the ‘Mega Archive’ link in your blogroll, you get an extremely unpleasant and disturbing message.

Damion

sorry I for got to mention that if everyone around you starts to turn against you then chances are they already know u r a pedo weather you are convicted or not.

Cyril Belgrad

It is my constant fear that either the adults around me, or the kids, or both, will cast me out, whether because they detect my sexuality or just get tired of me. I’m just enjoying one day at a time, grateful for what I’ve got for as long as I get to have it.

Damion

If word gets out u r a pedo u will just have to suck it up like the rest of us, best thing is not to spend anytime with the younger generation and start spending more time with older people or you can fuck what people think and out yourself

Cyril Belgrad

not to spend anytime with the younger generation and start spending more time with older people or you can fuck what people think and out yourself

I think my life follows a third alternative. For me, a life without youngsters around would not be worth living, so I surround myself with them. I know that makes me look wierd, but it seems that I get away with it as long as I (a) pretend my interest in them is innocent and (b) keep my hands to myself.

Stephen James

A very thought-provoking blog post!

>“everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” 
This is one of those awful bits of the Bible that should be ruthlessly excised from any decent person’s copy. After all, if this is true, what chance does any healthily sexual person have? And what chance is there of a more tolerant attitude to minor attraction emerging while we still have ideas like this floating around in our culture?

Franklin James

I for one don’t agree in the least. It’s absurd to take single lines like this out of the Bible and read them in such a simplistic light – a hallmark of fundamentalism. What is not to be taken as gospel are phrases out of context interpreted by people with a weak understanding of tradition and faith.

Stephen James

I suppose if God wrote a book from which it was so easy for demagogues and bullies to take single lines out of context to promote their aims, that’s just part of his Mysterious Plan.

Franklin James

The “Book” God wrote is all creation, not just scripture, and it includes you and me. Yes, we can put any given bit to bad uses by forgetting its part — or our part — in the whole. Freedom comes with risks.

Stephen James

Your argument seems to be that God gave humans the freedom to be bullies for the sake of some greater good. What is the greater good? The fact that some would freely choose not to be bullies, which is morally uplifting and makes it worth tolerating the fact that others make the opposite choice? But that doesn’t seem very fair on the victims of the bullies.

Zen Thinker

The problem of evil

1. God didn’t want us to be automatons, so he gave us free will to do wrong.

2. Whenever a harm is perpetuated, a greater good can come of it, e.g. compassion from pain, humility from a setback.

3. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was a moment of the most intensive suffering due to the tortuous nature of the death and his extreme sensitivity, so this sets the precedent for all human suffering. In other words, God has experienced what it is to suffer as a human being.

Plus, the Bible is *the* supreme work of literature in the West.

Stephen James

Your first point pretty much restates the argument which I addressed without addressing my response to it.

Franklin James

(Sorry I’m late!) Step back a moment. Do you believe there is such a thing as free will?

Stephen James

I think that if ‘free will’ just means doing something uncoerced, obviously it exists. The great philosophical debate mostly concerns the reality or otherwise of free will in some deeper sense, involving the ability to step outside physical causality, and I don’t believe in that. (It’s complicated, but let’s just leave it there.)

But even if I did believe in this metaphysical free will, I still wouldn’t accept retributive punishment. To take an extreme case, I think Hitler and Stalin were horrible but I wouldn’t subject them to any unhappiness if no good were to come of it, let alone an eternity of torment.

But even that doesn’t go to the nub of my argument against Zen, which was that by giving humans ‘free will’, he allows the ‘collateral damage’ of harm to individuals who (unless you believe in original sin) almost everyone would agree to be innocent. That doesn’t seem at all fair. So, depending on your definition of ‘God’, either God does not exist or he is immoral.

Franklin James

I agree there is no argument for eternal damnation here (or anywhere!).

As for theodicy, there’s never any simple answer to that. All I can say is that the suffering of innocents is immoral only given some given sense of their sanctity, which has to come from somewhere if it comes at all (it certainly isn’t ubiquitous of obvious), and that the Christian God himself became an innocent man who suffered horribly. If the purpose of creation is ultimately a unity with the divine, and the rational soul requires a certain freedom to achieve such unity, it’s not clearly “immoral” to grant that freedom.

Stephen James

I think it is, but there we may have to agree to disagree.

Franklin James

Regarding (1): of course, fundamentalists are not always simplistic people. But their literalist hermeneutics breaks from tradition in being quite deliberately simplistic.

Regarding (2): Yes, there’s quoting out of context and quoting out of context. But there’s also quoting out of context! The transparent impossibility of behaving as Christ recommends here is enough to tell us something more is being said. As for Joshua, there is plenty of context in which it will sit easily with the modern reader: the context of the New Testament, which entails quite a different mode of reading the Old. But no one, alas, reads the Church Fathers any more…

Franklin James

An interesting turn this thread has taken!

This Bible is, among other things, a chronical of how a particular people gained in understanding of a God drastically different from the gods of people around them. It was a personal God, yet the unique creator of all existence; inscrutable, but somehow ultimately just and worth having exclusive faith in. The Jews’ picture of him evolves drastically throughout the OT – God is, as it were, disclosing himself to them incrementally, at their own pace, into ever apter understandings of Him, which is no small task for obstinate humanity to follow. With the Christ event the full revelation of the expected Messiah turns out looking like something entirely different than expected, and far more radical. With the NT and the theology of the Fathers it becomes clear that God is not, and could not be, anything like a homicidal maniac, so the OT stories of God’s wrath and vengefulness needed to be read in a dramatically new light (if not rejected entirely, as Marcion claimed).

As for hell, there was no clear concept of it in Hebraic tradition until just before Christ’s era at all, so no wonder you don’t find it in the OT. It’s a metaphor for whatever punishment is due the ungrateful which mortal life allows us to imagine we have dodged. A lot of people deserve a lot of hell: I think we all agree on that. But remember too that in Christ all things are restored, and the devils themselves are at peace.

Franklin James

You don’t believe people deserve some reckoning for the horrors they have committed? I’d be very surprised by that!

Franklin James

Yes, “punishment” is a philosophically deep issue. (What does it mean for a punishment to be “humane,” for example, as you would desire it to be?)

But what “hell” traditionally means in Christianity is not necessarily one of eternal punishment. The Catholic Church has never made a clear statement on the issue, but the doctrines of “universalism” (or “apocatastasis”), according which everything and everyone is ultimately saved, is certainly the direction Christian moral logic and sensibility point. The forgiving of sins was Christ’s calling card.

I agree that burning for all eternity is not possibly a just punishment for any merely human crime. I share that intuition deeply. But that intuition is born of a Christian understanding of righteousness of which we are cultural heirs. It is “not common sense” or logically deducible through pure reason.

Stephen James

I would suggest that a ‘humane’ punishment should satisfy two conditions:

(A) It should not involve psychological or physical torture.
(B) It should not ruin the offender’s life, i.e., the offender should be able to rebuild their life after punishment.

Franklin James

Okay, you can suggest that. Anyone can suggest anything. If I were to say it is more humane to eliminate the the offender entirely, would you object? Is this really a matter of opinion?

Stephen James

Everything is a matter of opinion. (Things we call plain facts, e.g., that water is H2O, are just opinions we all agree on.) But this does not mean there is no scope for argument or persuasion. If you were to suggest that it was more humane to eliminate the offender, I am sure you could imagine some of the things I might say in response.

Franklin James

Okay, let me suggest then that eliminating the offender is perfectly humane, in fact more humane than any other punishment. I can imagine your possible responses, but it would be interesting to hear them.

Stephen James

Just to clarify, it take it you mean humane for the offender and I assume you wish to confine the claim to very serious offenders such as serial killers.

Even with such qualifications, I don’t see how you can say that ‘elimination’ is always the most humane possible punishment, though it could be in some cases – if the offender was suicidal, for example. But in other cases, it would appear to be less humane than allowing the offender to continue living in secure confinement, as long as the conditions of such confinement were tolerable. Killing the offender certainly fails the second of my two tests – it ruins the offender’s life by totally destroying it. It may also fail the first test, since, depending on the method of execution, it may constitute torture.

Franklin James

“Killing the offender certainly fails the second of my two tests. – it ruins the offender’s life by totally destroying it. It may also fail the first test, since, depending on the method of execution, it may constitute torture.”

Okay, that’s your opinion, those are your tests. To each his own, right? Again, I can still claim that elimination of wrongdoer is more humane, as we have been rid of the wrongdoer for the greater good of society.

You appeal to emotional sentiment, and even there only in terms of hypothetical “appearance:”

But in other cases, [elimination of the offender] would appear to be less humane than allowing the offender to continue living in secure confinement, as long as the conditions of such confinement were tolerable.

Again, why would this “appear” to be less humane? Is it less humane? We’re right back at the beginning: What do you mean by “humane?”

Let’s stick to reality, not appearance, as far as we are able.

Stephen James

I guess my use of ‘appear’ here was an example of unnecessary tentativeness. Maybe it’s a bad habit. So let’s just leave it out. Then it will read:

But in other cases, [elimination of the offender] would be less humane than allowing the offender to continue living in secure confinement, as long as the conditions of such confinement were tolerable.

So would you at least agree with that? (And I am only talking about greater humanity for the offender here, not anyone else who might be affected – but we can talk about that as well if you like.)

Zen Thinker

I’m with you Franklin. Origen, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa…very wise and profound thinkers. And the Bible has so much wisdom that it practically contains all things.

Franklin James

You’re quite right. The bible has to be read in concert with community and tradition. These early thinkers were absolutely incredible.

Stephen James

>…so the OT stories of God’s wrath and vengefulness needed to be read in a dramatically new light (if not rejected entirely, as Marcion claimed).

Well, good for Marcion! (Though I note from his Wikipedia entry that the Church excommunicated him in about 144.)

Franklin James

Well, bad for Marcion, for insisting on “literalist” interpretations of the OT.

He was at least wise enough to recognize that the God of the OT, thus construed, was nothing like the God revealed in the Gospels, so the OT must be rejected for bearing no sacred knowledge. He was right on that level: read the OT that way, and you have no Christian God.

Fundamentalist Christians fail to be so wise, as do fundamentalist atheists like Dawkins and his ilk.

Macion was, ultimately, excommunicated for having a close-minded approach to scripture which failed to see that Christ was not calling us to reject scripture, but to open it up and re-read it, radically.

Franklin James

A flattering comparison, whether or not an identification!

I hope you will forgive me (a decades-long admirer of yours) for offering this analogy: to be “with” Richard Dawkins on Christianity and atheism is like being “with” Oprah Winfrey on boy love…

As Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland California: “There’s no there there.”

Zen Thinker

Nice to have a fellow theist in the comments, Franklin. You seem very knowledgeable about the subject.

The spiritual, intellectual and creative sides of Christianity are my greatest consolation.

Btw, Origen on St John’s Gospel is really good!

Franklin James

I feel the same way, ZT! I’m no expert on the Church Fathers, but I’m diving in. I’ve read very little Origen proper; what would you recommend re Gospel of John?

Zen Thinker

I really like this commentary by Origen:

Commentary on the Gospel of John Books 1-10 (The Fathers of the Church, 80): Vol. 80: 080 (Fathers of the Church Series) https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/0813210291/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_fabc_MY6GH8X7H28J5DP0VDNY?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

However, it’s expensive. For a cheaper option get the iPieta app on App Store or Google Play. There is a wealth of Christian works on the app. For St John’s Gospel, I specifically recommend the Catena Aurea on St John, compiled by Thomas Aquinas. It’s on the app in full.

Franklin James

Thank you very much. Yes, this is a great series. I need library access again; I can’t deal with apps!

Stephen James

>Well, bad for Marcion, for insisting on “literalist” interpretations of the OT.

I still think there’s a lot of potential for confusion here. Would you at least be in favour of the Bible always being published with explanatory comments to help the reader ‘put it in context’?

But the more important point has already been made by Tom. The moral sentiments of the New Testament, though better than those of the Old, leave much to be desired. Bertrand Russell, while admiring several aspects of Christ’s character, points to his apparent pleasure in talking about ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’. I suppose this interpretation might be questioned – maybe he is just emphatically warning people. But clearly he doesn’t object to the idea of eternal punishment, and that seems like a character flaw.

Franklin James

(I don’t know what you mean by “the Bible always being published with explanatory comments…”)

According to what scale are we to rank “moral sentiments?” Is the New Testament to be knocked down on that scale just because Bertrand Russell thinks he has found a character flaw in Christ’s “apparent pleasure” in talking about suffering? Russell’s very humanism is rooted in the moral radicalism of the New Testament, yet he has no sense of its original radicality. Why should we listen to Russell, of all people, as an interpreter of Christ’s inner character?

What — or whose — moral sensibilities are highest?

Christ “clearly doesn’t object” to the idea of eternal punishment, you say? Well, no, it is not clear at all, taking nearly twenty centuries history of contentious thought on the matter into consideration. The orthodox, both east and west, have forever been struggling with this, the “infernalists” on one side and the “universalists” on the other. Strange and deeply felt apologia have put forth (by even the greatest – Augustine, Aquinas) defending visions of the just breathing like incense the smoke of forever smouldering souls in hell. But I take one side: the infernalists are wrong; it doesn’t work; the New Testament says not such thing. All of your intuitions, Steven, about how grotesque the very idea is are perfect correct and perfectly consistent with orthodox Christianity.

You must read David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved. I cannot recommend it more highly to you (and to Tom, or anyone). If you’re looking for an all-out attack on the idea of eternal damnation you will find it tooth and claw there on every level — philosophical, logical, scriptural, and (even) sheer moral intuition.

Stephen James

>Russell’s very humanism is rooted in the moral radicalism of the New Testament, yet he has no sense of its original radicality. Why should we listen to Russell, of all people, as an interpreter of Christ’s inner character?

I think this is unfair to Russell. In the paper where he make the remarks I cited, called ‘Why I am not a Christian’, he spends some time talking, not just about Christ’s shortcomings, but also his good qualities. He is very aware of Jesus’ radical message of compassion.

>But I take one side: the infernalists are wrong; it doesn’t work; the New Testament says not such thing. All of your intuitions, Steven, about how grotesque the very idea is are perfect correct and perfectly consistent with orthodox Christianity.

But I don’t see how you can square that with the actual words attributed to Christ in the New Testament. Or are you saying he didn’t say those things?

Franklin James

> In the paper where he make the remarks I cited, called ‘Why I am not a Christian’, he spends some time talking, not just about Christ’s shortcomings, but also his good qualities. He is very aware of Jesus’ radical message of compassion.

My assessment is not unfair at all. My question was, how do you, or Russell, rank the moral systems you claim to interpret? According to what criteria are Christ’s (or anyone else’s) qualities to be taken as good or bad, better or worse? Why is Christ’s radical message of compassion “good?” What is Russell’s frame of reference?

I said:

>>But I take one side: the infernalists are wrong; it doesn’t work; the New Testament says not such thing. All of your intuitions, Steven, about how grotesque the very idea is are perfect correct and perfectly consistent with orthodox Christianity.

You replied:

>But I don’t see how you can square that with the actual words attributed to Christ in the New Testament. Or are you saying he didn’t say those things?

What “actual words” are you talking about, specifically? Give me some quotes.

If you want to see how one can square my position with Christ’s actual words, well, again, I can only recommend you read some proper scholarship on the matter; it makes little sense for me to recapitulate it here. Read D B Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved.

In any case, the notion of eternal suffering in hell is rejected by loads of orthodox Christians, including me.

Stephen James

>My question was, how do you, or Russell, rank the moral systems you claim to interpret? According to what criteria are Christ’s (or anyone else’s) qualities to be taken as good or bad, better or worse? Why is Christ’s radical message of compassion “good?” What is Russell’s frame of reference?

You are in effect asking me to explain my own moral philosophy to you and/or Russell’s. That would be a big task. Fortunately I don’t have to do this. Instead, I can work on a case-by-case basis. I start with my own subjective hunches and then, if someone objects, I will consider their objections to see if I need to change my views or if I can just repudiate what they have to say. That’s how these discussions work in practice.

But I still maintain you are unfair on Russell, because you said ‘Russell’s very humanism is rooted in the moral radicalism of the New Testament, yet he has no sense of its original radicality. Why should we listen to Russell, of all people, as an interpreter of Christ’s inner character?’ These words strongly imply that Russell did not see the moral value in some of Christ’s sayings. But he did.

As for quotes, how about this: ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where weeping and the gnashing of teeth will be.’ (Matthew 13, 41-2)

Franklin James

Yes, I am asking you to explain the basis of your moral philosophy. If it reduces to your case-by-case hunches, well, I don’t see why your case-by-case hunches, or Russell’s, should be any more grounded than anyone else’s.

My comments on Russell do not in any way imply he did not see the moral value of Christ’s teachings. Christ’s teachings are precisely teachings of moral values, and Russell obviously sees that. My point is that Russell sees fit to situate Christ on some “moral scale” about which Russell seems to know more than Christ himself.

The Jews who encountered Jesus were quite right to ask the question, “Who the hell are you to be making all these pronouncements, ignoring and even radically rewriting the moral law?” That is the question I ask of Russell.

Stephen James

>I don’t see why your case-by-case hunches, or Russell’s, should be any more grounded than anyone else’s.

Well, let me turn the tables. What, for you, would count as a grounding?

Franklin James

I don’t know about a “grounding,” but a ground can be found only in that which transcends individual opinion and historical contingency, and which will (consequently) appeal to reason. The ground is a discernment of truth as revealed to us across every dimension of experience, every accumulation of wisdom and tradition (and occasionally their rejection).

Our “hunches” reveal our emotional reactions in our exploration of such grounds as have been handed down to us, those being, in the Anglophone world, a Judeo-Christian-shaped humanism. Those hunches are not themselves the ground of anything. That’s not to say they aren’t deeply important, only that they are a “false bottom.”

Stephen James

How would you even recognize something ‘which transcends individual opinion and historical contingency’? Maybe we need to bring Hume in here, citing his debunking of the idea of absolute necessity in favour of the force of ‘custom’.

Nada

>And what chance is there of a more tolerant attitude to minor attraction emerging while we still have ideas like this floating around in our culture?

As adultery is accepted in Denmark, yet marrried asylym-seekers were separated due to of one of them being young, we should consider the converse.

Stephen James

I was only suggesting that being allowed to gaze at women lustfully (though not of course in a ‘threatening’ way) was something close to a necessary condition for being the sort of society that would tolerate minor attraction, not that it was a sufficient condition.

But the incident you mentioned makes my blood boil. Do you have a reference?

Stephen James

Actually, it wasn’t hard to find. This article describes how the minister who made the decision got considerable stick for it:

https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/15/former-immigration-minister-misled-danish-parliament-over-illegal-asylum-order

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