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Bringing dark desires to light


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I liked the comment from feministe:

"Good article. It seems to be rare to see rational argument rather than sloganising or outright hysteria when talking about these matters."

I should add that children have never been a sexual object for me. I have on a number of occasions also pointed out that interfering with a child before the completion of puberty is a real danger for the development of the young person. How do I regard the sexual activities of child before puberty? Some might think that children do not have any sexual interest until puberty, and I think that is naive. Kids may not always understand what is going on but they can be provocative without knowing that they are teasing...sexually. It's up to the adult to set the conditions of appropriate behaviour.

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Talk about covering different sides of an issue. These are excerped from the article. Compare this:

Some academics do not dispute the view of Tom O'Carroll, a former chairman of PIE and tireless paedophilia advocate..., that society's outrage at paedophilic relationships is essentially emotional, irrational, and not justified by science. "It is the quality of the relationship that matters," O'Carroll insists. "If there's no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power, if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm."

and this:

writing last year in the peer-reviewed Archives of Sexual Behaviour, Bailey said that while he also found the notion "disturbing", he was forced to recognise that "persuasive evidence for the harmfulness of paedophilic relationships does not yet exist".

With this:

Findlater says the notion that a seven-year-old can make an informed choice for consensual sex with an adult is "just preposterous. It is adults exploiting children." Goode says simply: "Children are not developmentally ready for adult sexuality," adding that it is "intrusive behaviour that violates the child's emerging self-identity" and can be similar in long-term impact to adults experiencing domestic violence or torture.

I have to agree with the latter view. A child has no idea what an adult sexual relationship involves and isn't ready for it psychologically or physically. Children have sexual urges and interest very early -- certainly before they're five -- and will interact with other children sexually when given the chance. But that's almost always healthy self-exploration and has none of the hang-ups doing similar things with an adult would bring.

My view is that a sexual relationship should be between people of equal power in the relationship. Otherwise it's almost certain to be exploitive, even if the more powerful one has only the best of intentions. My opinion, of course.


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I have always viewed the causes behind an adult/child relationship as the result of arrested development in the adult and some greater emotional need on the part of the child. Contributing factors seem to come from parental disturbance of the normal emotional development of said adult during the formative years. Things like little Billy being punished for masturbating in the bathtub at age six.

In my early college years I was exposed to the work of Dr. John Money, the man who developed a good deal of the thinking about deviant sexual behavior. Bio here:


He was at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and a lot of his writing was on the shelf in my psychology professor's office. I went from reading about what made men gay (the whole point of focusing on his work in the first place) to reading his clinical papers. Those pages, and a good medical dictionary, kept me busy for a whole semester and my Prof indulged my interest.

There was really no single conclusion about the cause of pedophillia, but it is still classified as a psychiatric disorder with little successful treatment. Aversion therapy and medication aside, treatment only brought about a very small success rate to keep the adult from continuing offense. This is a figure most legal authorities cite in wanting to keep offenders locked up for life.

As an author I might write about relationships between a boy below the legal limit and an adult male. I espouse the theory that boys are sexy by nature, and in our society, sex often takes the place of real emotional bonding. But how little is really known about such relationships and why they develop. Perhaps all the instances I write about are an exploration in search of answers. Sigh.

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...My view is that a sexual relationship should be between people of equal power in the relationship. Otherwise it's almost certain to be exploitive, even if the more powerful one has only the best of intentions. My opinion, of course.

Many of the commentators, essayists, and researchers concerned with discussing paedophilia manage to dance around this critical point that Cole is making. They invoke concepts like agreement or commitment between the two participants in such relationships and hope to convince themselves and us that these elements demonstrate acceptable partnership and mutual benefit. But, like Cole, I insist that such a relationship must be exploitive if the participants are not equally powerful. There is a compelling reason that we turn to the concept of a "consenting adult": someone must have reached the age and stage where the act of giving consent is recognizably meaningful within the society in which they live.

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There is entirely too much hysteria and blatant ignorance about this subject.

Far too many people don't even know or understand the basic definition of pedophilia. Let's start there and look at wikipedia's definition:

As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia, or paedophilia, is a psychiatric disorder in persons 16 years of age or older typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 11 years or younger, though specific diagnosis criteria for the disorder extends the cut-off point for prepubescence to age 13). An adolescent who is 16 years of age or older must be at least five years older than the prepubescent child before the attraction can be diagnosed as pedophilia.

This definition narrowly defines the boundaries of pedophilia by age of the victim and the perpetrator. It also defines pedophilia as primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children.

What has happened largely as a consequence of hysteria is that the law has broadly define "pedophilia" as any sexual contact between a person 18 years of age and any person under 18- even if it is a day under 18. The law is a blunt instrument and in this case it is more like a mace.

In many US states there are Romeo and Juliet and age of consent laws that create more common sense buffers around legal age requirements but they vary from state to state and often apply only to heterosexual relationships in more conservative areas.

Because of these laws, we have tremendous numbers of people on sex offender registries that are no danger to anyone. A recent audit of a state sex offender registry concluded that 2/3rds of the people listed there were unlikely to offend again. Had there been Romeo and Juliet laws, they wouldn't have been charged in the first place.

In the United States elected judges seem to try to out do each other in sentencing people for sex offenses for political purposes. When it is a matter of law verses common sense, judges are likely going to convict rather than face opponents in elections that claim that they are soft on sex offenders.

What I would like to see is four major changes in the way we deal with sex crimes:

1. The laws need to be made uniform in the United States and applied equally to homo and heterosexual relationships. As it stands now it is far to easy to get judicially gay-bashed.

2. The sex crimes statutes need to be broken out into more realistic categories. Some states call child pornography "the sexual exploitation of a child" (this used to be applied to pimps that ran under-aged prostitutes) because the laws have not caught up to the reality on the ground. As it stands now, sex crimes are all felonies with mandatory registration. There needs to be misdemeanor options for judges and prosecutors.

3. There needs to be a sex offender registry but we need to be much smarter about how it is done. Treating all sex offenders as serious threats is a significant waste of resources. I propose a three tiered system: Level 1 sex offenders are most dangerous and/or violent. They are repeat offenders with diagnosed sexual paraphilias. If they are ever allowed out of jail, they are electronically monitored and registered for life. (Crimes: capital rape, abduction molestation) Level 2 sex offenders have committed serious sex offenses but are 1st offenders. They have not been diagnosed with a serious sexual paraphilia. They stay listed. (molestation, sexual battery, rape 2) Level 3 sex offender have committed minor sex offenses and are not considered dangerous. They can leave the sex offender registry after 5-10 years. (exhibitionism, statutory rape) Such a scheme allows for resources/incaration to be better applied to sex offenders that are dangerous.

4. We need to remove the hysteria from the system. The law treats all sex offenders the same but only "lawyer logic" would ever group rapists and child abduction/molestation with an 18 year old that fell in love with a 16 year old or a drunk college kid that was seen urinating. All four of these offenses are the same in the eyes of the law but only an idiot would put them on the same footing.

We would do well to heed the words of Christopher Dawson:

"As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."

Society has become so repulsed by the grossest of sex crimes, we are creating a legalistic monster that none of us want to live under.

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Well said indeed, James. We all, I think, agree that true paedophilia involving the prepubescent is appalling. But I find it equally appalling that, when paedophilia hits the headlines, reason tends to go out of the window. There was a ghastly case in the UK ten years or so ago when the gutter press stirred up such a response that mobs roamed the streets attacking the homes of those they thought - often wrongly - were paedophiles. Being apparently unable to read beyond the first syllable, they even smashed up the premises of a paediatrician.

Where it is a matter of ephebophilia (involving post-pubertal, not prepubescent, kids), it seems to me that James is absolutely right. The police and the judiciary need discretion to take individual factors into account. Take for example consensual sex between an 18-year-old and a 13-year old. I can easily envisage that in one case it would deserve prosecution, while in another it would be acceptable, depending on the circumstances and the maturity (mental, not physical) of both kids involved. I've written a story myself which centres on this question, and when the Guardian article appeared it seemed a good opportunity to gauge the forum's views.

As one comment on the original article wisely says, "This is a grey area - always has been and always will be. All you can do is agree to some guiding principles and try to apply them intelligently, diligently and sensitively to individual cases. The answer, as always, does not lie with unfettered liberalism or the puritanical mob, but somewhere in between."

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If it's over the legal age of consent, then I think anything goes. God knows, how many older wealthy men are running around with 20-something supermodel girlfriends (or wives)?

But I agree, you see relationships like this, and you go: "oh, yeah... I'm sure the spouse isn't in it just for the money." :huh: Let's face it, an adult sexually involved with any teenager -- of any sex, legal or illegal -- is going to be weird. There's no way it's going to end up well. The kid just isn't going to be emotionally mature enough to handle it, and assuming the older guy has most of the power and money on his side, it's not a balanced relationship.

I'm reminded of Calvin Klein's recent messy break-up with the male ex-porno star, with numerous lawsuits, rehab stints, and police investigations. If a guy with hundreds of millions of dollars can't make it work, I tend to doubt average people ever could. The 40+ year difference in their ages did not help.


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