Our Collective Trauma

January 4th, 2008 by Raza

Today, participating in another debate on child sexuality, responding for the so-manieth time to the ‘argument’ that children cannot consent to sex because they do not understand it as adults do, I was struck with an insight that, while not strictly new, I had so far not realised the full significance of.

Quoted here is the most relevant part of my response:

“…What we have over children in this area isn’t some superior qualification, it’s a bothersome and persistent superstition. And if anything, we’d be far better off collectively forgetting it.

In fact, y’know what? I think that the “adult understanding of sex” is nothing less than one big collective fucking sexual trauma resulting from the constant and inescapable influence of those who picked up on it before us. It teaches us only shame and inhibition, yet we all think it’s so very fucking important that everyone else adheres to it; at least to the same degree we do. Children are initially free of this, leaving us so shocked when they don’t echo our negativity-induced disinclinations that we try everything we can to keep them out of any situation where we think they might ‘need’ them. And when that fails and they get exposed to sex anyway, we hammer away at them with our guilt and anger at double strength so that by the time they’re adults, they’ve got twice the trauma the rest of us can claim and we can all ooh and aah at each other about the horrors we’d all be exposed to if we ever let go of the accompanying dogmas.”

Forgive the ranting writing style. Now, what I am talking about here is the idea that our typical adult inhibitions with regard to sex – whether they be as small as an the inexplicable lack of desire to share it with someone we haven’t first established a formal romantic connection with or as all-consuming as the guilt-ridden unwillingness to even speak of such things in the very bedroom where they occur with the lovers they were shared with as we may find it in the more extreme sexual conservatives – are all part of a psychological ‘trauma’ inherited from the people around us of the very same kind as may plague those individuals that we label the ‘victims’ of childhood sexual encounters.

Anything we feel on the subject of sexuality that isn’t explained by its pleasant and simple practical nature – any desire for privacy, any concept of situational appropriateness, any overly complex, ritualised approach to the subject we may need before we may feel inclined to open up to share it with someone, any random and practically entirely unrelated demands we may make of potential partners… all of this is part of the very same legacy of sexual shame that constitutes the traumas that ‘pedos’ and ‘child molesters’ are accused of bringing down on their ‘victims’.

All the observable characteristics are certainly similar, barring the different intensity. And the idea that a trauma shared by an entire civilisation has gone unnoticed by our efforts at psychiatry is entirely feasible when said psychiatry still for the most part holds normality as its ideal of health.

And when you spot that connection, it becomes far easier to imagine how this burden of sexual negativity that we already share with every individual as they grow up intensifies strongly when one is made to feel that it applies exceptionally to them – such as, per obvious example, when one has been publicly identified as having partook in sexual interaction under various kinds of ‘inappropriate’ conditions.

So when we, the ‘adults’, are reflecting on a child’s lacking understanding of sex while, in all honesty, no satisfying account of what this ‘understanding’ would constitute or how it could desirably be applied to any decisions on the subject, I don’t think it’s an understanding we are really looking at. What we see is the absence of our own inhibitions, our own sexual trauma as they have yet to pick it up from the extended human contact we have known, and we worry that lacking it they would do things that we would be ashamed of. The obvious (protective and well intending but still entirely intuitive) reaction is “If have a strong disinclination to do it, there must be something wrong with it, therefore they must be safeguarded from that course of action.”

Responding to this, we seem to be looking to ‘vaccinate’ people with a smaller dose of sexual trauma so that they may gain the fear needed to avoid choices that would result in the full brunt of society’s disapproval landing on them, at which point our intensified reactions would cause a trauma of such strength that even we no longer consider it desirable. Children are sexually ‘off limits’ because they have yet to receive this vaccine.

Like the christian god in the story of Christ, we try to reach out with compassion so that we may save the world from our own wrath. And the irony, as always, goes entirely unnoticed.


6 Responses to “Our Collective Trauma”

  1. inescapable Says:

    Our Collective Trauma…

    Bookmarked your post over at Blog Bookmarker.com!…

  2. Strato Says:

    You make many interesting points; one of which I would like to pick up on is your comment that:

    psychiatry still for the most part holds normality as its ideal of health

    Naturally, psychiatrists go through a long period of medical training, as with all medical personnel, and as such are subject to the same neuroses and indoctrination as most ‘professionals’. In addition, they become part of the System, and have the same interest in preserving it as those higher up in the power structure. Which leads me onto my main point, which is the medicalization of sexuality..

    Regardless of how far we think society has progressed in terms of its attitude to sex as being purely for reproduction, that concept still stains all public education of sex; and particularly sex education for young people. In a highly medicalized fashion, they are taught from the very earliest age that men and women have “reproductive organs” (note the limiting description), and are instructed on how men and woman biologically ‘make babies’ together, when they are ‘in love and committed’. They are indoctrinated with the notion that the ideal to which we must all strive is a ‘happy home’ (nuclear family, high-income jobs, nice house with a white picket fence). This is the picture that is drilled into them as to what being ‘normal’ means, and that this is the only way of attaining ‘happiness’.

    As young people reach puberty, the education shifts focus somewhat, but still maintains its overall objective (“you may not like the controls your parents place on you, or you may be disenchanted with family life, but you can get your revenge: create your own perfect family – that’ll show your parents!”. In this way the Order seeks to perpetrate itself – and is remarkable successful. The crux is that individuals become their own enemy. What conditions and controls their behavior and thoughts throughout their life is their own brains, their own feeling of repulsion, shame and fear.

    The instruction that is provided to young people (courtesy of approved doctors’ guidance) is a phenomenally effective form of self-perpetuating deception. The combination of the medicalization of sex, and slow indoctrination of ‘normality’ and ‘success’ throughout infancy, childhood and teenage years, creates the distorted image of the human body and its capacity which lingers and destroys. The mind control used is impressive: ‘sex is something which adults do to make babies – you are not yet capable of making babies, but one day, in the distant future, that happiness can be yours – in the meantime, you must listen to your teachers and parents – if you don’t, only ruin, ostracism, loneliness and misery will ensue’.

    When adults speak of ‘an inability to consent’, all this means is that the young person has not yet received the full indoctrination necessary for him or her to be capable of perpetrating the deceit.

  3. IsmAvatar Says:

    Pardon me for being young and “unindoctrinated”, but I found this highly linguistic post (article, what have you) to be very difficult to read.

    Nevertheless, I think I still managed to get the point out of it. The argument quoted here (or was it a counter-argument?) appears to be a long-winded approach to what I refer to as the “innocent” argument. Hopefully in the near future I myself will be writing a post in which I will label and address many common arguments encountered, but for now I’ll write up something ad-hoc.

    A lot of people when arguing against child-sexuality will throw out this “innocent” argument, claiming that a child is “innocent”. I call this “the dreaded I-word”, not because I don’t have a response for it, but because it is one of the few arguments that actually uses a word for its dictionary definition (see “sick” and “wrong” for examples of words that don’t do this) and that as such it begins with 2 simple *false* assumptions, straight out of the definition.

    Assumption 1) Children are innocent.
    Assumption 2) Sex is not innocent.

    Merriam Webster defines innocent as “free from guilt or sin. Blameless. Harmless in effect or intention. Free from legal guilt or fault. Lacking or reflecting a lack of sophistication, guile, or self-consciousness. Artless, ingenuous.” Or here’s my favorite one. “Deprived of something.”

    Almost makes you want to think the cherubs are going to grow wings any second. Lovely definition of innocent, very idealist. Too bad it doesn’t apply here. Children aren’t innocent, and Sex isn’t guilty.

    Sorry to burst any idealist bubbles about children, but many of them are little criminals, and they are certainly not free from sin. They can cause harm, and can be blamed for it. Oftentimes they come up with the darnedest-sophisticated plans too.

    Secondly, to suggest that sex is an attribute of those who are not “innocent” is to say that sex is not innocent. It is sinful, it is harmful, it is confusingly sophisticated, guile, prejudiced, malicious, and it is a crime. By George, why do we let ANYONE have sex?!

    Sin aside (I’m an atheist, sin is meaningless to me), sex is beautiful and healthy. It’s pretty simple, too. Now granted I haven’t had the privilege myself to try it out (gasp), but I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what goes on behind closed curtains – a lovely dance that can be as simple as the missionary position or, for the more experienced and daring who need a little zest, it offers plenty of room for expansion such as kama-sutra on the balcony. It doesn’t matter if you have dark skin, dimples, a certain religious upbringing or following, ancestry from foreign countries, what have you, sex can (‘can’, not ‘may’) be experienced and enjoyed across all kinds of boundaries, free of prejudice.

    Of course, I say all this while setting aside an almost hysterical conspiracy theory that you seem to be bringing up here, but I felt it needed to be said, and perhaps once I have a better understanding of this strange language you use, I will be able to partake in this particular discussion further and more knowledgeably *shrugs*.

    N.B. – No I won’t be your poster child. I’m starting to get a little too old for that even.

  4. Steve Diamond Says:

    Excellent post…excellent responses…I’ve got nothing more to add, at this point in time.

  5. Daniel Says:

    In fact, y’know what? I think that the “adult understanding of sex” is nothing less than one big collective fucking sexual trauma resulting from the constant and inescapable influence of those who picked up on it before us.

    This sums up one of the central problems of a society that has been given the comfort and organisational capability to indulge itself in ritualising natural processes. Complications and overly intricate, nonemergent adaptations of base instincts are given credit and authority, with the negative events that happen when they are not observed being used to justify their re-application. Thus it becomes “sensible” and “pragmatic” to respect some of the most contrived and non-native social systems imaginable.

    The vaccination idea is certainly a smart way of looking at things, and indeed the effects of introducing a child to this “sexual trauma”, but I doubt that there is a knowing application of said attitudes to protect them from our own reactions. We are certainly attempting to protect the young from what we feel is innate to later sexual activities, although I doubt that most parents are reflective enough to see that they are causing the problem.

  6. Daniel Says:

    Pardon me for being young and “unindoctrinated”, but I found this highly linguistic post (article, what have you) to be very difficult to read.

    I think you’ll pick up just fine. I’ve never had a problem, but I’ve been in touch with Raza for almost two years now, and when I first contacted him, neither of us were more than an equal number of years past our respective ages of innocence.

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