Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gary Glitter - what do we do about paedophiles?

Gary Glitter is back in the UK after completing his sentence for having engaged in sex with under age girls back in Thailand. The tabloids are, of course, having a field day, unleashing all the venom and bile they can muster against this convicted "paedo" and "ageing pervert".

I have been thinking about how we should deal with paedophiles recently, and have come to a few surprising conclusion (that's to say, I surprised myself). Let's start with a thought experiment.

A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

Suppose that you find yourself inhabiting a world in which mature responsible adults have the bodies of children, and immature, vulnerable children have the bodies of mature adults.

Gary Glitter would find himself very much at home if born into such a such a world. He can have consensual sex with those he finds sexually attractive.

I, on the other hand, am in trouble. I find myself sexually attracted exclusively to individuals who are immature and vulnerable and certainly not in a position to enter responsibly into any sort sexual relationship. Of course, that's not my fault. But what if I nevertheless act on this impulse? Then I have done something very wrong, undoubtedly. Something for which I can be blamed.

But (and here is the key question), finding myself born into such a world, could I be sure that I would not ever succumb to temptation? Actually, I couldn't be sure. My drive to have sex with adult-bodied women is very strong, and I am not sure I could succeed in suppressing it over an entire lifetime. Put me in a situation where I am surrounded by such adult-bodied, yet immature and vulnerable individuals, could I be trusted? Or would my resolve gradually weaken? Might I begin to find all sorts of justifications for having the occasional grope, etc.? Let's not forget how many Catholic priests have succumbed.

I'd like to believe that, stuck with those desires in that situation, I would be strong and virtuous. But I am aware that I may well flatter myself. Fact is, I wouldn't trust me.

So here are some of the conclusions I am inclined to draw:

The fact that I inhabit a world where my sexual desires can be satisfied without harming the innocent and vulnerable, whereas Gary Glitter does not, is a matter of my good fortune and his Glitter's bad luck. There's nothing much that either one of us can do about our desires, or about the kind of world we find ourselves in.

And we can't be held morally responsible, surely, for things that are outside our control.

Glitter can control his damaging behaviour, of course. And he has failed to do so. That's terrible. However, I'm not at all confident I, or indeed, many of us, would fare any better in controlling our behaviour, were we in his position.

But then there is a question about just how culpable he is. Blameworthiness is a matter of degree, and I am suggesting that, while blameworthy, he may not be nearly as blameworthy as most of us suppose (the issue here is moral luck.)

However, while I don't blame Glitter for his desires, and while I find it difficult to get too judgemental about his behaviour, I'm also inclined to think that paedophiles, if innately stuck with that desire, are unlikely ever to be "cured" (anymore than I could be "cured" of my desire for adult women, were I to find myself in a situation where that was deemed aberrant).

My best guess is that most of those sexually attracted primarily to children will always pose a very significant risk to children. No matter how good and sincere their avowed intentions might be right now (compare the decision to pack in smoking: it's often sincerely and passionately declared, but rarely followed through).

In which case, while they might not deserve a lifetime's incarceration or very close monitoring and control, that may nevertheless be justified.

I am also inclined to think that merely being found in possession of child pornography warrants the imposition of a lifetime's close control and supervision. Whether deserved or not.

35 comments:

Stephen Law said...

P.S. I am not terribly well-informed about the causes of peadophilia, and might need correcting on the issue of innateness.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to seem pedantic, but it's paedophile, not peadophile.

Jackie said...

I think that being attracted to children is influenced by culture more than genes. In the US and Britain, it is unexceptable and it is unusual. In Yemmen, it is not unacceptable or uncommon for a 40 year old man to marrie and force sex with a 10 year old girl (see here). I think it has much less to do with innate qualities and much more to do with cultural norms.

I agree with Stephen that regardles of whether it is the pedophile's fault that it is attracted to children, society must be protected from it. If castration would cure that urge in male pedophiles, they could be given the choice between that and life in prison.

Paul C said...

Your thought experiment clearly stands or falls on the question of whether one believes that paedophilia is an innate predisposition or not. However it also strikes me that part of the definition of moral courage traditionally is being able to control one's "baser" impulses for a greater good - the element of self-sacrifice as the highest good that we have (to a large extent) inherited from our Christian history. Thus we could condemn Glitter for his failure to control his impulses as much as those impulses themselves...

The question for me is, if you do believe that paedophilia is innate (as I do, incidentally), whether this argument in fact extends to a large number of other attitudes and actions. I know people who are significantly more violent that most others - would we also say that they are less culpable than those others for the damage they cause? This could be extended almost indefinitely depending on how "innate" one believes certain behaviours to be - but that question of "innateness" is also highly contested as well, and surely not a coherent basis for moral judgements as a result?

The Barefoot Bum said...

I don't think anyone is terribly well-informed about either the causes of pedophilia. Nor do we have a good account of causes of the negative effects of pedophilia.

Being personally associated with several former and present faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, I have become persuaded that the state of scientific research into sexual topics much less controversial than pedophilia is woefully inadequate. Neutral, objective scientific study — study which does not presume a priori that pedophilic desires are themselves pathological — into pedophilia is virtually nonexistent.

And we can't be held morally responsible, surely, for things that are outside our control.

Of course not. Morally condemning a person's desires, especially their sexual desires, is as futile as condemning someone for obeying the law of gravity.

But, as you say...

Glitter can control his damaging behaviour, of course. And he has failed to do so.

Thus we are indeed justified in condemning his behavior.

However, I'm not at all confident I, or indeed, many of us, would fare any better in controlling our behaviour, were we in his position.

So what?

All practical ethical beliefs — from murder to jaywalking — apply to situations where some people will not be able to situations where some people are unable to control their behavior. The jaywalker is just as "unable" to control his behavior resulting from the desire to cross the street quickly. Thus we have actual police and actual prisons.

This statement might argue for "restorative" justice, rather than punitive justice, but it has nothing to do specifically with pedophilia.

My best guess is that most of those sexually attracted primarily to children will always pose a very significant risk to children.

This is just that: a guess. Since self-reporting of pedophilic desire is so strongly discouraged, we simply have no idea whatsoever how many people are primarily attracted to children. We can draw no conclusions whatsoever about the likelihood of risk.

For all we know, almost everyone (except, of course, thee and me) is primarily sexually attracted to children, and most people are indeed successful in controlling their behavior. If we include hebephilia, and Ephebophilia in our definitions, this might well be the case.

These points support your case that a person should not be held morally responsible for his or her desires, but only for their behavior.

I am also inclined to think that merely being found in possession of child pornography warrants the imposition of a lifetime's close control and supervision. Whether deserved or not. [emphasis added]

I don't like the last sentence. To simply decouple law (the imposition of control) from morality (deserts) puts the law in a vacuum. If the imposition of control for the possession of child pornography were not in some sense (metaphorical or literal) deserved, then on what alternative basis would you justify such imposition.

But with regard to child pornography, consider this thought experiment.

Anecdotal evidence going back to the earliest attempts at the study of human sexuality (e.g. Havelock Ellis and Krafft-Ebing) show that for almost every possible physical activity, from the prosaic to the bizarre, there is some person who finds that activity sexually gratifying.

We can conclude, therefore, that some people do in fact receive sexual gratification from images of violent death. Images of violent death are (perhaps regrettably) publicly available. And, as disgusting as ordinary people might find such desires, we do not actually punish such people for possessing such images.

Consider two cases: In one case, a reporter or a medical examiner takes a picture of someone who has been murdered. In the second case, a person actually murders someone for the sake of taking the picture. In all essential aspects, the pictures are identical.

Should we hold a person morally responsible for possessing the second kind of image but not morally responsible for possessing the first kind of image? Even when the the images are identical in essential character?

The purpose of this thought experiment is of course not to justify the possession of child pornography. It might well, for example, be the case that possession of child pornography really does provide empirical knowledge that the possessor really does pose an unacceptable risk to harm others, but that finding would have to be demonstrated empirically.

The point is simply to make explicit our ethical thinking about these matters.

Stephen Law said...

Yes, sorry about spelling. Perhaps peadophilia involves sexual attraction to petit pois?

Stephen Law said...

On the innateness issue, I think there's at least some reason to suppose that for many, sexual attraction to the young is innate. For there's certainly very good reason to suppose that sexual attraction towards the opposite and the same sex is largely innate. And surely it's not implausible that the kind of mechanisms that produce same-sex attraction might produce attraction towards children.

On the other hand, many child sex abusers seem to have been victims themselves. Which suggests the abuse also played a causal role.

There may well also be a sliding scale, as there is with same sex attraction - with quite a few people being mildly attracted to children, though not exclusively, through to very strong and exclusive attraction among a small minority.

Perhaps sexual abuse of someone with some tendency in the direction of children, their own abuse then acts as a catalyst, making the tendency far more powerful and destructive.

Jackie's point about Yemen etc. would fit with the point about a sliding scale. Societies in which sexual activity with 10+ year old children is not particularly frowned upon and fairly widespread are just those in which the milder, more widespread, tendency is then given free, or freer, rein. In this society, only those with a very powerful attraction are likely to act on it.

Of course I also made some assumptions about just how bad the effects of sexual abuse are on kids. Dawkins mentions that he was sexually abused as a kid, but it didn't do him much harm - not nearly as much as religious indoctrination does, in his opinion. There was a woman on R4 today saying that the real damage done by her abuse was not the abuse itself so much as the secrecy surrounding it. On the other hand, there are also many very damaged adults out there as a result of abuse.

All of this is highly speculative.

I guess my main point, as a philosopher, was that the thought experiment raises questions about degrees of culpability and blame, and also suggests that, if a paedophile's sexual attraction to children is as ingrained and powerful as my sexual attraction to the opposite sex (whether or not innate), which it may well be, I wouldn't trust them, ever.

anticant said...

Yes, nearly everything said about this here and elsewhere is indeed highly speculative! There are even more unexamined assumptions about paedophilia than about most other topics.

I probably have more professional and personal experience of paedophiles than most, having been embroiled in this emotive subject during the 1970s and '80s when the organisation I then worked for was falsely accused of "promoting paedophila" by the Mary Whitehouse 'moral majority' brigade simply because we were endeavouring to provide responsible supportive counselling not only for people like Glitter, but for those who were attracted to post-pubertal adolescents. For a first-hand account of this episode, see "Quest for Justice" by Antony Grey.

I hasten to add that far from being a paedophile myself, I find children physically unattractive, and often personally repulsive, until they are well into their 'teens and starting to think rationally.

I don't want to write at length on this subject - it is too upsetting after my still hurtful experience of being deluged with an avalanche of lies and groundless public attacks - but would just like to make the following points:

The accurate meaning of "paedophile" is 'a lover of children'. It is an emotional state, and does not necessarily involve the physical molestation or abuse of children - although the contrary notion has now become so firmly fixated in the public mind that pleading for accurate definition of two entirely distinct categories is probably useless. But in fact, not all paedophiles are child-molesters.

Secondly, what is the irrevocable and supposedly life-long damage to every child who is involved in relationships with adults deemed unacceptable in our society if such relationships are consenting and - as is in the fact the case - sometimes initiated by the child?

Thirdly, the manufactured hysteria about paedophiles which has become endemic during the past thirty years has transformed the relationships between quite harmless adults and children drastically for the worse. Anyone with common sense is nowadays well advised to steer clear of children and adolescents, unless there are compelling reasons, such as educational roles, for helping them. A huge 'child protection industry' has grown up which has sometimes inflicted far more damage on children wrongly taken into care and their groundlessly accused families than a minor sexual episode could do. For detailed accounts fo some of these scandals see Richard Webster's website [link via Anticant's Arena]

All of this has impoverished society and adult/child relationships, and I am thankful I did not grow up in such a warped atmosphere.

As for Glitter, the best thing to do about him and those like him would be to make far less fuss, and not give him the satisfaction of lurid tabloid headlines. But there is fat hope of that!

And finally I am confused by Stephen's 'thought experiment' - because Glitter & Co. are immature, irresponsible characters in adult bodies, so I don't see how they fit in to Stephen's topsy turvy world [not so topsy turvy really, because lots of children are far more mature and commonsensical than some adults - and certainly than many politicians, journalists and social workers].

In any case, Stephen's scenario was very entertainingly worked out in F. Anstey's Victorian novel "Vice Versa".

Kosh3 said...

One possibility is that if Glitter found himself in this other possible world where children inhabited fully grown bodies, that his preferences would transform to favour those fully grown bodies.

How so? Well, if part of his sexual desire for children is related not simply to what they physically look like, but to their innocence (or some other characteristic intimately associated with children), then the adult bodies then possessing that feature would become the objects of his desires. In other words, it may not be as simple as the physical characteristics of what bodies at different ages look like - it may be more psychologically involved than that.

Paul P. Mealing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul P. Mealing said...

I agree with Anticant's comments. I remember reading a biography of J.M. Barrie and The Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin, and being disturbed by some of the implications in that story. Barrie was never accused of 'molesting' and one of the 'boys' did suicide as an adult, but no one implied that there was any connection. In this day and age, I'm sure Barrie would have been treated similarly to Michael Jackson.

A couple of years ago I read an article in Scientific American where the author claimed that, clinically, paedophillia only occurs in men. The law takes a different view. In Australia, women have been accused of paedophillia, at least by the media, for having sexual relationships with teenage boys, though legally they are called 'sex offenders' and they go on a sex offenders list, even when the relationship was initiated by the bloke.

I agree with Anticant that we have gone over the top, as was illustrated recently when the Prime Minister, took part in a public debate about artwork depicting child nudity, calling it 'disgusting' and saying that he would always defend the 'innocence' of children.

There is a lobby in Australia who see sexual exploitation of children in almost every advertisement depicting children's fashions, including, in one case, where the photos were taken and published by the girl's mother.

I think there is a sliding scale, regarding sexual attractiveness to children, and I think that the offender's own childhood may be a contributing factor. I was on a jury once, who had to cast judgement on a man who allegedly had a sexual relationship with his 14 year old step daughter. Interestingly, some of the men on the jury panel admitted to feeling guilty about their own sexuality whilst judging another's.

Regards, Paul.

anticant said...

What is this ‘innocence’ of children that some adults are so quick to assume? Children are no more ‘innocent’ than you or I. They are ignorant in many respects, and – quite rightly – unaware of much that they have yet to learn in the process of growing up, not least about their own sexuality. Because – as Freud was among the first to point out, to sustained outrage in his day – children are sexual beings from the day they are born. They are also open and trusting, until their trust is betrayed by the adults around them, when they can all too easily and understandably react by becoming devious and secretive. The notion peddled by the ‘child protection industry’ that children always tell the truth, and should always be believed, is a load of starry-eyed bunkum. Childrens’ fantasies – too often encouraged by over-zealous ‘protective’ adults - have been the cause of some gross miscarriages of justice during the prevailing ‘paedophilia panic’ and the many dreadful family-wrecking cases arising out of it in Nottingham, Cleveland, the Orkneys, and elsewhere.

What is acceptable sexually is, as Paul and others have pointed out, a social and cultural question varying from place to place and time to time. As Paul says, Barrie was a paedophile in the benign sense; maybe he would never have written ‘Peter Pan’ if he hadn’t been. Lewis Carroll, with his fondness for little girls and his preoccupation with photographing them naked, would undoubtedly have been dubbed a “sex monster” by today’s scarlet tabloids, but he was actually a Victorian clergyman of positively prudish morals and was always protesting vigorously about the need to protect childish innocence from ‘unsuitable’ books and plays.

The whole subject is far more complex – and indeed subtle – than most modern commentators realise. Despite fifty years of sex research since Kinsey, this obvious fact has not yet sunk in. Surely we can all gratefully remember teachers who did a lot to bring us forward during our schooldays, because they were genuinely fond of us. They were paedophiles – but not child-molesters.

Demonising paedophiles as we do today is as primitive as the witch hunts of past centuries. I simply do not believe that in practically every street there is a lurking child molester itching to abuse the nearest child. This is paranoid rubbish.

As for moral responsibility and culpability, it is no different for child abusers than for anybody else. I believe in free will – not ‘irresistible impulse’, which is merely a weak excuse for unacceptable behaviour. We all have the power to choose, and are doing so hundreds of times every day. My choice to write this post is one example, My choice to give up smoking forty years ago was another. Difficult, but not impossible. I agree with the late Barbara Wootton, who said many years ago that regrettably, the concept of medical pathology was continually expanding at the expense of the concept of moral responsibility – an interesting issue for further philosophical debate!

Stephen Law said...

The overblown moral outrage and the portraying of paedophiles as the very worst sort of criminal, is very depressing. I agree with anticant about that.

By the way, anticant, I have not read Vice Verse, but I have seen my daughters dvd "Freaky Friday" which I believe tells the same basic story of a parent and adolescent switching bodies for a while.

Mark C said...

I wonder whether the lurid media coverage of this man and other high-profile cases of child abuse might contribute to the problem?

Imagine someone agonising alone over his misdirected sexual drive towards children. A few decades ago, many such would have suppressed the desire, rightly shamed and left wondering whether they alone were afflicted by this deviancy. Fast forward to today when a paedophile panic is on the front pages almost every day and child-abuse networks (and pictures) are available, anonymously, through the internet. In this climate it’s not such a lonely thing. Reassured by the apparent ubiquity of their desire, surely such people are more likely to pursue its physical expression? Worse still, isn’t it possible that the paedophile’s twisted world-view sees an equivalence between an adult preying on an emotionally defenseless child and a consensual relationship between two adult men? “Wasn’t homosexuality illegal until 41 years ago?” they whimper, claiming that it’s “only a matter of time” before their “sexual preference” becomes similarly accepted.

Perhaps society should consider this when it gives such prominence to cases of child-abuse. Perhaps there is even a problem with the word “paedophile” which, from its Greek roots, implies the presence of “love” in this despicable practice. Even where the term has become a universal word of condemnation and opprobrium it retains an aura of pseudo-respectability. For my part I prefer “child abuse” or even “molestation” as these carry a clearer sense of the relationship between predator and victim and the very real injury caused and of the reasons why there is no correspondence with homosexuality or other minority sexual practices between consensual adults.

Mark C said...

I wonder whether the lurid media coverage of this man and other high-profile cases of child abuse might contribute to the problem?

Imagine someone agonising alone over his misdirected sexual drive towards children. A few decades ago, many such would have suppressed the desire, rightly shamed and left wondering whether they alone were afflicted by this deviancy. Fast forward to today when a paedophile panic is on the front pages almost every day and child-abuse networks (and pictures) are available, anonymously, through the internet. In this climate it’s not such a lonely thing. Reassured by the apparent ubiquity of their desire, surely such people are more likely to pursue its physical expression? Worse still, isn’t it possible that the paedophile’s twisted world-view sees an equivalence between an adult preying on an emotionally defenseless child and a consensual relationship between two adult men? “Wasn’t homosexuality illegal until 41 years ago?” they whimper, claiming that it’s “only a matter of time” before their “sexual preference” becomes similarly accepted.

Perhaps society should consider this when it gives such prominence to cases of child-abuse. Perhaps there is even a problem with the word “paedophile” which, from its Greek roots, implies the presence of “love” in this despicable practice. Even where the term has become a universal word of condemnation and opprobrium it retains an aura of pseudo-respectability. For my part I prefer “child abuse” or even “molestation” as these carry a clearer sense of the relationship between predator and victim and the very real injury caused and of the reasons why there is no correspondence with homosexuality or other minority consensual sexual practices between adults.

Mark C said...

I wonder whether the lurid media coverage of this man and other high-profile cases of child abuse might contribute to the problem?

Imagine someone agonising alone over his misdirected sexual drive towards children. A few decades ago, many such would have suppressed the desire, rightly shamed and left wondering whether they alone were afflicted by this deviancy. Fast forward to today when a paedophile panic is on the front pages almost every day and child-abuse networks (and pictures) are available, anonymously, through the internet. In this climate it’s not such a lonely thing. Reassured by the apparent ubiquity of their desire, surely such people are more likely to pursue its physical expression? What's more, the paedophile’s twisted world-view sees an equivalence between an adult preying on an emotionally defenseless child and a consensual relationship between two adult men. “Wasn’t homosexuality illegal until 41 years ago?” they whimper, claiming that it’s “only a matter of time” before their “sexual preference” becomes similarly accepted.

Perhaps society should consider this when it gives such prominence to cases of child-abuse. Perhaps there is even a problem with the word “paedophile” which, from its Greek roots, implies the presence of “love” in this despicable practice. Even where the term has become a universal word of condemnation and opprobrium it retains an aura of pseudo-respectability. For my part I prefer “child abuse” or even “molestation” as these carry a clearer sense of the relationship between predator and victim and the very real injury caused and of the reasons why there is no correspondence with homosexuality or other minority consensual sexual practices between adults.

Mark C said...

Sorry - tried to edit that post (twice) after posting it and it seems to have appeared 3 times!

anticant said...

Freudians - of whom I am not one - would plausibly interpret "the overblown moral outrage and the portraying of paedophiles as the very worst sort of criminal" as a form of projection.

Everyone finds children attractive in some ways, and there is no clear-cut line between what is 'sexual' and what is 'non-sexual' [another modern fallacy]. By externalising and demonising impulses and desires which we - rightly or wrongly - feel ashamed of, we pharisaically comfort ourselves that "thank God we are not as these people".

And of course, for the media and specialist 'child protection workers' there's a lot of money to be made out of ballooning this into a national moral panic.

Meanwhile children are increasingly being brought up cocooned in over-protective untouchability, which doesn't do them any good and is likely to turn some of them into little monsters.

As I said before, adults who have no cause to befriend children outside their own families and educational spheres are well advised not to do so. Surely this represents social impoverishment.

A few years ago a friend of mine - a grandfather and a solicitor with an impressive record of civil liberties work in the Midlands - was groundlessly accused, at the age of 80, of behaving indecently with a little girl whom he had kindly taken out for a day in the country. After almost a year of repeated court appearances the prosecution dropped a total of eleven charges for lack of evidence. His business was wrecked, he and his wife were bankrupted, and the stress they endured was appalling.

Another case recently reported in the press concerned a mother who was taken off Eurostar and accused by the police of 'child trafficking 'because her daughter whom she was taking to Paris for a day treat was of mixed race and the policewoman concerned asserted that it was "obvious" she had no legitimate connection with the child. After being held in custody for several hours, and terrified, she ultimately received a lame apology from the police; but such an episode should never have happened, and would only do so in an atmosphere of highly irrational paranoia such as we are alas living in today.

Kosh3 said...

"Surely we can all gratefully remember teachers who did a lot to bring us forward during our schooldays, because they were genuinely fond of us. They were paedophiles – but not child-molesters."

That is taking the technical meaning of the world much too far, in order to less-estrange paedophiles.

Kosh3 said...

*word, not world

anticant said...

"Paedophile" has, of course, become a Humpty Dumpty word meaning "child molester" - but that is not its accurate meaning, nor is it technically correct.

Kosh3 said...

Who cares about technical correctness. Meaning is use.

anticant said...

"Who cares about technical correctness. Meaning is use."

Ask Stephen and the other philosophers posting here about that!

nicola said...

Stephen - I have never posted here before but I have very strong feelings about the subject and wish to make a few comments. My comments to you are full of assumptions but I am hoping you will forgive me that!

Firstly I want to offer this idea to you to incorporate into your thought experiment. You wonder if you would be able to resist and deny your urges in a vice versa world. I imagine you would. If you have no desire in this world to have sexual relations with a child, then you probably wouldn't want to have sexual relations with a child in a woman's body - you would know that the child-woman was not able to make an informed choice about a physical realtionship with you and I believe the idea of taking advantage of that child-woman would be abhorant to you and many other men. For you I imagine a sexual relationship would have to be also about a meeting of minds, not just bodies. For a child abuser, it is possibly (probably) more about POWER. (Kosh3 made an interesting comment on this idea) That is why they are attracted to children - because children are easily manipulated, easily silenced, and don't know they are allowed to refuse an adult. ( I have much more I could say on that subject )

Secondly, consider this if you will - there are grown women in this very world in which we live, that DO have a child-like mind due to brain injury or developmental disorders. Would you even consider a sexual relationship with such a woman-child just because she had a fully developed adult body? I would guess not. I assume you would understand that the woman-child was vulnerable and lacked the emotional maturity to make adult choices, and that even if she consented you would be likely to feel you were taking advantage of her vulnerabilty (which you would be). There are however men in this society that would willingly take advantage of, and probably seek out, these vulnerable women with child-like minds. These poor women are targeted because they are often unware of the dangers they may face. They are open and innocent to men who are friendly to them, and then find themselves in a sexual situation they don't understand. If they do say "no" the man is willing to rape them. I am generalising. I am not a man-hater. I am making a comment on men of a particular character.

Please note that I have not used the word paedophile until now. That is because I don't wish to have my comment dismissed because I have used the word incorrectly in the opinion of pedants such as Anticant who seem to have missed the point entirely. If the word originally meant "lover of children", please accept that it is not the way it is used now and GET OVER IT!

Whilst you are trying to defend men who love children innocently, and I am not offended by that defence, there are hundreds of thousands of lives being ruined. You say we are encouraging children's fantasies - how would a child know anything about sex if they had not been shown it. I think that if a young child is acting out or talking in a sexual way (and I don't mean flashing their genitals or masturbating both of which are a part of normal child development) then they have probably been subjected to some form of abuse.

Anticant wrote "Secondly, what is the irrevocable and supposedly life-long damage to every child who is involved in relationships with adults deemed unacceptable in our society if such relationships are consenting and - as is in the fact the case - sometimes initiated by the child?" OH MY GOD! Anticant your ideas are so alarming. Children may be consenting at times but they DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE CONSENTING TO and it is ALWAYS abuse. Children may often consent to or initiate physical contact with an adult - my daughter once asked me to kiss her "noony" (genitals). I said "no we don't do that" and kissed her shoulder instead. Simple. A child molestor would take that as consent and abuse that child. An adult should NEVER be sexual with a child. It is a clear rule. Urges should be dealt with in therapy. Having been abused in their own childhood is NEVER an excuse or a reason for becoming a child abuser. Many many people have been abused as children and do not go on to abuse children themselves even though they have been severely wounded and their sexual development damaged.

What is the supposedly life-long damage? It is the agonising physical and emotional pain of having been made to be sexually active too soon. It is the silence and the secrecy that surrounds ones life. It is the damage to the personality that cause parts to split off and keep hold of the memories and the shame. It is the feelings of being intrinsically bad that one internalises. It is the exhausting effort of appearing "normal" and untroubled in every day life. It is the constant internal battle. It is the self-destructive tendencies. It is the agony of watching one's children and realising that you were that small and innocent when your soul was murdered. It is the painful pondering of the shocking question "am I a potential abuser?" It is the fear of intimacy and the inability to have a satisfying and fear-free sexual relationship, even with the one you love. It is the horror of remembering. It is being haunted. It is the silent scream.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Nicola - that is an interesting email and I have some sympathy with it but to do justice to it would take a while and I am very busy suddenly! I'll try to find time to come back to it...

Anathema said...

If any of you are interested in picking the brain of a paedophile (and indeed, one that can correctly spell the term), here is my blog:

stophurt.blogspot.com

I am a paedophile.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the link Anathema. I read some of your stuff. Very brave blog and worth doing.

Mark said...

I would be interested in your blog Anathema but it is no longer there.

By the way Stephen I notice that you are still too busy to do Nicola's post any justice. From the tone of her comments I am guessing that she understands the horror of childhood sexual abuse first hand. Is it more important to you to congratulate the bravery of the self-proclaimed paedophile than it is to try and learn something from a survivor?

Well done Nicola for speaking out - I doubt you will get any where with these fellows for whom the subject seems to be but a way of boasting their philosophical prowess. Oh, aren't they so very clever? As a friend of mine put it - they seem to have reduced the subject to "trite". Don't waste your time.

I hope the post was cathartic and I hope you have found support and release for your pain.

Socratisnt said...

Imagine a man is caught sexually interacting with child. What if he made the defence that the child was enjoying it as much as him? Children are capable of experiencing pleasurable physical sensations in their genitalia so could an active paedophile defend his or herself if they were able to show that their act was purely one of shared pleasure rather than something approximating rape?

They might point out that it is common for adults to stroke the heads of children. This is comforting and enjoyable to both the adult and the child. They might then ask why is stroking one part of the body an innocent pleasure but stroking another part an abhorrent crime?

Socratisnt said...

I didn't realise how old this thread was and rushed off a thought before reading Nicola's contribution which may have made my comments seem a little glib. I was a bit excited to see such a taboo subject being openly discussed and wanted to join in. I apologise if it was offensive to Nicola.

What I do wonder though is whether the horrific results of child abuse as expressed in Nicola's last paragraph are caused as much by the way that abuse is seen by society as by the abuse itself.

I speak as someone who did experience one incident of abuse at the age of 7. It didn't hurt and it wasn't particularly frightening. My overriding memory of the incident was that it was mostly just irritating because I was trying to sleep.

When I read posts like Nicola's I start to worry - I think that perhaps I should be deeply damaged by what happened and then paranoia sets in and I start to think perhaps I am damaged but it's all under the surface and at some point it will all burst out in some psychological cataclysm.

But actually no, I just think of it as an unpleasant childhood memory and, to be honest, nowhere near as bad as getting stuck in a lift on my own at about the same age.

Perhaps I'm just weird in being able to look at it in fairly detached and analytical way - despite the sex obsessed society I live in, I don't necessarily attribute any more significance to a penis than to a nose - I can see them both as quite similar pieces of flesh.

I suspect if the incident had been painful, if violence had been involved or if there had been threats included then my memory of it would have been more traumatic but like I say - to me it was unpleasant but mostly irritating.

Now that I'm thinking it through I recall telling my mum about it some months later and that was much worse than the event because it upset her and there appeared this looming sense that something really bad had happened. This might illustrate my point that society's attitudes to paedophilia might make it worse than it actually is. Not that it should be tolerated or accepted - just that it might not be such a horrific experience for some people if they weren't told by other people that it was a horrific experience whether they realised it or not.

Stephen Law said...

Yes I should have got back to Nicola on that- sorry. I guess some people are just terribly damaged by childhood abuse, and others aren't. Dawkins mentions an episode that he says didn't particularly harm him. On the other hand, I don't doubt for a second that some people are terribly scarred. I've known one, in fact. I'm not denying that for a minute.

Nicola mentioned that I will probably not succumb to the temptation to abuse mentally child-like women. I guess not (!) But, what if I had spent a lifetime supressing my sexual urge in that direction, and this opportunity to act on it came along. Could I be trusted? I'd like to think so. But then I'd like to think I'd resist the urge to do as authority commands in the Milgram expect, yet the evidence suggests I'd succumb.

Stephen Law said...

nb none of this, to repeat, is to say that child abuse is not awful and intolerable (not withstanding the fact that some victims do sem to shrug it off). The question is - what do we do about abusers?

Socratisnt said...

I saw a documentary recently about very life-like dolls of children that people collect and look after. Some people use them to fill some kind of a gap in their lives, perhaps having lost a child or missing the joys of motherhood.

The dolls are extraordinarily life-like with realistic skin texture and weight distribution, real hair etc - they seemed to a lot of people quite "creepy" because they were so realistic.

I remember thinking that you could make such dolls with realistic genitalia and give them to paedophiles to express their sexuality in a harmless way. It wouldn't be the same as a real child of course but given that they are very realistic both to look at and to touch, perhaps it would serve as enough of an outlet for them to be able to keep their desires at a manageable level.

Of course, you would never get society to agree to it!

Leisha Camden said...

But then after a while the novelty would wear off and you'd probably want to try the real thing. Just sayin'.

As far as I know, paedophiles who are given access to fake kiddie porn are more likely to molest real kids, not less.

Anonymous said...

Replying to Leisha Camden (though it is probably a bit late), I have my doubts on this. Studies have shown either an increase or a decrease in child molestation if child pornography is allowed.

See:http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/child-porn-consumers-safe-from-prosecution-in-the-czech-republic for an example for a study showing a possibility that at least a tolerance of child pornography can lead to a decrease in child molestation. However, it should be noted other articles show otherwise. I have also heard (though I am unsure if this is true and have no links to back it up) that child pornography was originally legal in Japan but laws came into place banning it. In a study done after, it neither showed an increase or decrease in cases of molestation but stayed the same, or so I remeber.