Essay:Backyard Politics For Minor-attracted Adults
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Get Informed
- 3 Inform Others
- 4 Refuse To Internalize Society's Hysterical Images
- 5 Come Out Of The Closet – Gradually
- 6 Network with like-minded individuals
- 7 Find Safe And Shame-free Releases For Ones Sexual Frustrations
- 8 Create cognitive dissonance
- 9 Challenge Society's Identity Templates -- Across The Board
- 10 Support Other Marginalized Groups
- 11 Avoid Unnecessary Risks, And Take Care Of Yourself
- 12 References
By Jay Edson.
A Primer for Political Action in an Impossible Situation
- In the sweet name of
- Protecting the little ones...
- Such atrocities!
- The Inquisition
- Reigns, its own creations the
- True monstrosities.
In the popular imagination, any individual who experiences a significant emotional/sexual attraction to “children” is called a “pedophile” and is portrayed in the mass media as a kind of monster. If you find yourself in this group you naturally ask whether you are in fact a psychological and spiritual freak – an genetic mistake that should never have been born. Are the majority right in their apparently unshakable consensus about your nature? And suppose they are wrong. Is there anything that you can do to improve your situation?
If we are looking only at attraction to pubescent and pre-pubescent individuals, research suggests that between 25 and 30% of men are attracted to children in these age categories to an extent that is at least equal to the attraction they feel for sexually mature individuals. (See, for example, Godeon, C, Hall, N, Hirshsman, R and Oliver, L., “Sexual Arousal and Arousability to Pedophilic Stimuli in a Community Sample of Normal Men.” Behavior Therapy, 1995, 26). That is a very large number of people. But society now defines “children” as people up the age of eighteen – which obviously includes a very large number of sexually mature individuals. The number of men who are attracted to these older “children” is much larger. It seems reasonable to surmise that virtually all males who are not exclusively child-oriented feel attracted to people who are socially defined as “children” but who are sexually mature. Hormones, after all, are not controlled by social definitions and norms. So depending on how we define “children” and thus understand who is a “pedophile” we find that anywhere from 25% to almost 100% of men fall into this category. That's an awful lot of people to demonize.
For a variety of reasons, it is much more difficult to assess what percentage of women might find different categories of males and females attractive, but one can presume that attractions to “inappropriate” sexual objects is probably quite common. Again the question of how we are to define our terms is important. An unknown number of women experience genital arousal during breast feeding. The similarity of breast feeding to coitus has been pointed out by a number of authors. (See, for example, Floyd Martinson in the Sexual Life of Children – especially Chapter 1 on early developmental experiences. Bergin and Garvey, 1994. ) There is no reason to consider women who feel an intense erotic bond with the infant during breastfeeding abnormal. Some feel that the experience would be almost universal if it were not so strongly inhibited. If that is true, then almost all women have a strong pedophilic element in their natures. Even setting aside the issue of breastfeeding, however, books such as “The Beautiful Boy” by Germain Greer suggest that a great many women are not oblivious to the charms of older children.
As we try to nail down the meaning of the word “pedophile” we find that it is more than a little vague in its popular usage. Terms such as “homosexual” “heterosexual” can also be problematic. Certainly what the term “normal” designates is more a political than a scientific question. In order to side step all this confusion, perhaps another term might be worth defining. This term is “bonding profile.” The concept of a bonding profile is based on the assumption that virtually all people are attracted emotionally and sexually to a variety of types of individuals. Most people probably experience some degree of attraction to adults of the same sex, adults of the opposite sex, and to “children” (whatever we mean by this term) of either sex. The relative intensity of these different attractions varies from individual to individual, and the whole pattern constitutes each individual's “bonding profile”. Bonding profiles cannot meaningfully be designated as either “normal” or “abnormal.” They simply are. The concept is similar to what John Money referred to as a person's “love map.”
For our purposes, we will use the term “minor attracted adults” and define that as all adults who find people who are socially defined as “children” as attractive or more attractive than individuals defined as “adults.” From the facts we have already pointed out, we can surmise that minor-attracted adults constitute the largest stigmatized and persecuted group in the country. Indeed it may include a clear numerical majority of people.
Given the prevalence of strong attractions to minors, and the intensity of the persecution, it might seem surprising at first glance that very little political action is in evidence with regard to this issue. The reason for this dearth of political action is not hard to find. Sexual self-determination is denied to a wide range of individuals, from pre-pubescent people to those whose secondary sexual characteristics are fully developed but who are nevertheless not recognized as “adults” in our society. Sexual contact with this broad class of people is forbidden by those who are perceived as adults. Merely to confess that one finds pubescent and prepubescent individuals attractive can be an act of social suicide. To ever act upon such impulses, or even to give the appearance of such action, opens one to the possibility of devastating economic legal and social consequences. In such a climate, political action seems virtually impossible.
Most minor-attracted individuals go to great lengths to keep the nature of their bonding profile a secret even from those closest to them. This may provide for a modicum of safety, but at a great cost. The cost of such a choice is a life plagued by shame, fear, and loneliness. In other words, even if individuals are never “outed” and are perceived as “normal,” the inner ramifications of discovering unacceptable impulses within one's bonding profile are still very significant. One would assume, for example, that a significant portion of teenage suicide is connected to the difficulties young individuals face when they realize that socially condemned impulses are very strong within them.
The primary thesis of this pamphlet is that in order to improve their situation, minor-attracted adults must become political. The secondary thesis is that despite the general hysteria that consumes the general public, despite the draconian laws that provide outlandishly severe punishments, and despite the examples on web-based pillories of what happens to people who have dared to break any of the laws, political action is possible.
Political action is needed for three reasons. First, only through political action can individuals begin to overcome a sense of self as helpless, shameful, and inferior. Second, political action is needed so that individuals do not live out their lives in isolation regarding matters of central importance to them. Third, ultimately only through political action initiated by minor-attracted adults, will the external situation be improved. Although other groups and individuals may ultimately prove to be supportive and sympathetic to the cause of minor-attracted adults, every minority must assume primary responsibility for its own emancipation.
What then can minor-attracted adults do with regard to political action, that will eventually lead to some possibility of social change? Indeed, what can minor-attracted adults do politically without being utterly destroyed? I would suggest that quite a number of things can be done, in relative safety, that will in fact eventually lead to significant social change. Furthermore I would maintain that you and I can begin immediately, whatever our situation is, and however isolated we are. We do not need to wait until we have been elected to national and state legislatures or have the ability to conduct parades and mass rallies. Politics is a multifaceted activity that aims to change norms and power relations in a society. While ultimately political action aims at changing the situation in which we live, it begins inside our own heads, where we must learn to think differently.
Here then is a beginning list of things that you and I can do starting today, in our own backyard. I say a “beginning” list because hopefully this list will grow, with your contributions.
Effective political action must begin with accurate information. This is especially important with regard to issues related to minor-attracted adults. The popular media is awash with misinformation. Both in terms of how we see ourselves, and how the general public sees us, it is crucial that this misinformation be challenged. A good starting point might be to review the information in the following little essay, called “Factoids.”
- Factoids and the Sex Abuse Panic
- Sex offenders in the US have been subjected to a large variety of draconian laws and practices. Many of these laws are highly questionable from a constitutional point of view. They also serve to make the world a more dangerous place for everybody -- not only for the sex offenders and their families -- but for the young people they purport to protect as well. Whatever a person might think about sex offenders and their treatment in this society, surely we can all agree on the need for a rational and informed discussion of the issue. One of the main obstacle in the way of the needed discussion is the huge amount of misinformation that is published in the nation's media. This misinformation is largely in the form of factoids.
- A factoid is a statement of presumed fact that people believe to be true because they hear it repeated over and over. The extensive use of factoids has been a central strategy of those who appear motivated to maintain a high level of sex abuse hysteria. Here are a few examples of common factoids:
- 1. Factoid: The “pedophile” is set apart from most men because he finds children or adolescents sexually attractive.
- Fact: a study of randomly selected “normal” men at Kent State University (Hall, G. N., Hirschman, R, and Oliver, L. 1995) discovered that “20% of the current subjects self-reported pedophilic interest and 26.25% exhibited penile arousal to pedophilic stimuli that equaled or exceeded arousal to adult stimuli.”
- 2. Factoid: The “pedophile” is a violent man who forces himself on children.
- Fact: Michael Baurmann in the largest study of child abuse ever carried out discovered that in 80% of all cases of reported illegal sexual contacts “the perpetrator had exhibited something other than threatening or violent behavior.”
- 3. Factoid: The activities of the “pedophile” are always traumatizing and cause great harm to the “victims.”
- Fact: In their study “A Meta-Analytic Review of Findings from National Samples on Psychological Correlates of Child Sexual Abuse,” Rind and Tromovitch (1998) came to the following conclusion: “CSA [child sexual abuse] is not associated with pervasive harm and that harm, when it occurs, is not typically intense.” This peer reviewed article appeared in the most prestigious psychological journal in the US.
- 4. Factoid: The “pedophile” is unable to control himself and will always “re-offend.”
- Fact: One of the more extensive studies on this issue is called “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994” It is available from the US Department of Justice. (Langan, P, Schmitt, E., and Durose, M., 2003) According to this study, “Within the first three years following release from prison, 3.3% (141 of 4,296) of released child molesters were rearrested for another sex crime against a child.
- 5. Factoid: The “pedophile” is a brutish, primitive, self centered person who is incapable of empathy.
- Fact: Who have been some well known pedophiles? (I will use this term to mean a person who is strongly attracted to children or young adolescents.) Here are a few: Thomas Mann, James Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Alan Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, T.E. White, W. H. Auden, and last but not least Shakespeare. Most people who know anything about these people would not see them as brutish and primitive.
- 6. Factoid: Minors never feel positive about their relationships with older partners if there is a sexual component in that relationship.
- Fact: Heinz Kohut, the founder of “Self Psychology” and one of the most important psychological theorists of the 20th Century reported that "I had this private tutor, who was a very important person in my life. He would take me to museums and swimming and concerts and we had endless intellectual conversations and played complicated intellectual games and played chess together." They also did sexual things together, which they both enjoyed, but Kohut felt the sex was more or less incidental. The important thing for him was the relationship. He said "I was an only child. So it was in some way psychologically life-saving for me. I was very fond of this fellow." Heinz was about 10 or 11 at the time. He describes his years with his tutor as being perhaps the happiest ones in his life. (Strozier, 2001. “Heinz Kohut: The making of a Psychoanalyst.” PP. 95 and 96.)
- (If a person were interested in how relationships typically appeared to the younger partner in a more permissive society, he or she could read “Boys and Their Contacts with Men” by Theo Sandfort.)
- 7. Factoid: Every one convicted of sexually abusing a child was also abused as a child.”
- Fact: In “Self-Reported Sexual Interest in Children: Sex Differences and Psychosocial Correlates in a University Sample,” Smiljanich and Briere report that no statistically significant relationship was found between childhood sexual abuse and adult attraction to children. A small correlation between childhood sexual experiences and adult sexual behavior toward children has been reported in studies using prison populations, but no responsible researcher has ever suggested that every child abuser was abused as a child.
- 8. Factoid: Children are not able to consent to a sexual relationship with an older partner.
- Fact: Before saying whether this is true or not it is first necessary to determine what the statement means. If it means that they are not legally permitted to make such decisions, the statement is true providing the child falls within the age range of people who are not permitted to make their own decisions about their sexual lives. If it means that they cannot make an “informed decision” and by this use of the term it is meant that they cannot see all the possible ramifications of their decision, this is also true. But it is true of every important decision anyone of any age ever makes. So by itself it has only a very limited meaning. If it means that children are not able to express their disinclination to do something they don't want if they are in a relationship with an older person, it is untrue. Anyone who has ever tried to get a child to eat something he or she does not like, or do his or her homework when a special program was on TV or tried to get a child to go to bed when she or he did not want to knows this is not true. Children do in fact know what they want, and in a situation where they are permitted to say yes or no, they are quite capable of doing so in accordance with their real wishes.
- 9. Factoid: There is a natural progression in the “career” of the typical sex offender from minor and non-violent offenses to acts of violence or even murder.
- Fact: A person who has engaged in sexual activity with a child or young adolescent that is non-violent and consensual is no more likely to progress toward violent acts that is the heterosexual or homosexual person who is sexually active with adults. Michael Baurmann, in the conclusion to the study cited above, gives great emphasis to the fact that exhibitionists, non-violent individuals who have disregarded social norms, and violent sexual offenders are three very distinct groups. He says that “the uncritical conflation of these three groups, combined with anxious attitudes regarding sexuality, prevent the rational discussion of deviant sexual behavior that we so desperately need.” He points out that people who have committed violent acts of any kind against people are more likely to commit violent sexual acts than are non-violent sexual offenders. (Pg. 468).
- 10. Factoid: Children do not experience significant sexual urges until after puberty. This factoid is frequently expressed by the affirmation that children are "innocent."
- Fact: Mary Calderone, an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human sexuality sums up what is known about this very nicely. "What do we know about childhood sexuality? First of all, that it exists in every child ... from birth, even before birth. ...Both boy and girl babies discover by the end of their first year that penis and clitoris are sources of pleasurable sensations when touched. Parents tend to equate puberty with the onset of sexual feelings [but] sexual responsiveness [is] present from before birth." From SIECUS Report VIII (2). From an anthropological point of view Floyd Martinson makes the following point: "Anthropologists have complained for years that both the hormone and the psychoanalytic theories failed to account for the sexual activities of young children in certain primitive societies. United States data have shown the romantic interest in the opposite sex begins in infancy or early childhood, depending on the degree of permissiveness and stimulation in the social environment. In Wolman and Money, "Handbook of Human Sexuality" pg. 31.
- 11. Factoid: Homosexual contacts between men and boys are a particularly damaging form of sexual abuse.
- Fact: Baurmann, in his summary of the German study “Sexuality, Violence, and Psychological Sequalae.” by the Federal German Police Bureau states that "homosexual contacts played no important statistical or criminological role in this study. On the one hand, they composed only 10-15% of the cases, and on the other, the sexual contacts were described by the victims themselves as "harmless", almost exclusively without the use of violence by the suspect (page 287), and as a result, none of the male victims questioned felt themselves to have been injured. In addition no injury could be determined in these cases with the help of test procedures.
In addition to the factoid list, here are a few links to places where a person who is interested in facts might begin to inform himself or herself:
Attracted To Children -- http://www.attractedtochildren.org/
Accounts_and_Testimonies -- http://newgon.com/wiki/Accounts_and_Testimonies
Legal Issues and Court Cases: affecting sex offenders -- http://www.geocities.com/eadvocate/issues/
Love and Liberation -- http://loveandliberation.info/webpages.html/
IPCE (A scholarly On-line Library) -- http://www.ipce.info/ipceweb/index.htm
Male Homosexual Attraction to Minors Information Center -- http://www.mhamic.org/index.htm
The Origins of Peace and Violence -- http://www.violence.de/
Pedophilia -- Some Answers -- http://www.boylover.net/reference/index.php?page=pedophilia---some-answers
Reform Sex Offender Laws – http://reformsexoffenderlaws.org/index.ph/
You Found Me (A Challenging Personal Blog) -- http://youfoundme.org/
One need not conduct a complicated piece of social research, write the Great American novel, or produce a full-length book in order to do meaningful work with regard to informing the general public. In fact probably the most useful work will be done by many people challenging bits of misinformation that they find in newspapers, on chat groups, and in ordinary conversations between individuals. When such misinformation is found it is useful to point it out. A brief letter to a local newspaper that identifies a bit of mis-information in a column or news story, and that provides corrective information, along with a reference where the validity of the correct information can be verified, is a powerful political act. A similar comment in a chat group or simply made verbally in a conversation among family or friends can be equally powerful. Generally speaking involved arguments should probably be avoided. The current atmosphere of hysteria and persecution is supported by misinformation. When the misinformation is successfully challenged the basis for the current laws and social practices will collapse.
One technique that might be useful would be to send copies of the factoid sheet to key politicians, educators, writers, and people in the public media. Even if the factoid sheet is not published in a newspaper or other media outlet to which it is sent, the fact that the writers in the public media have this information may modify the way they present stories in the future.
Efforts to educate the public can expose a person to a lot of abuse. Here is one activist's explanation of why he persists in spite of some very negative reactions.
- "My form of activism consists of posting on listservs and other websites which may have nothing directly to do with pedophilia. As such, the members may represent a cross-section of the population, or a particular subset (e.g. teachers).
- I attempt to respond to a post which may only be peripherally related to pedophilia in a way that causes the reader to rethink his preconceived notions on the subject. This is most often covert except when the subject specifically is pedophilia.
- It is in the latter cases where I encounter the troubling or hostile posts, especially if it is a forum open to the general public, e.g. U-Tube. There comments are limited to 500 characters so one cannot really go into too much depth, although with persistence one can post a bunch of 500-character posts to make a longer point. But that is where you meet people in the "raw" state.
- Recently I had this exchange:
- Me: "Some people like to complain that the Rind study is outdated even though it is only ten years old. Well, here is a new one:
- From Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5 June 2009: "Boyhood Sexual Experiences with Older Males."
- In this study, David Riegel reports the results that "the majority [of boys] reported that they consented (in the simple, non-legal sense), enjoyed the sexual experiences at the time, and experienced no ill effects afterward."
- Read it at sebrom.info
- which immediately brought this response:
- "fuck you..you are a peophile..so deal with it if people insult you stop nbeong a fucking pussy..and stop with the BULLSHIt!!!it isnt ok to have sex with kids so go get ome help okay you habve a MENTAL DISORDER!!!!"
- This is typical of many haters who post there, suggesting various ways in which I should be drawn, quartered, castrated, stung up, etc. I try not to return the abuse, but sometimes the really persistent ones do get the better of me.
- Some ask me, "Why do you continue to post there and waste time with such Neanderthals?" First of all, such ignorant posters are the worst case scenario. I am often pleasantly surprised by some who are supportive or offer reasoned comments. And sometimes people will even contact me privately for help. But the main reason I persist is that my aim is not to convince any single poster. Rather, I want the word to get out to as many others as possible. For every one who posts, there are probably 100 who do not. They are my audience."
Refuse To Internalize Society's Hysterical Images
The first benefit from becoming better informed comes to oneself. On the basis of new information one can resist internalizing the images that one finds in the mass media. An informed person does not have to allow people who are ignorant and hysterical to paint his or her portrait. Informed people who have already been “outed” and demonized know that they are not as they are visualized in the quasi-psychotic imagination of their neighbors. Or if they have not “come out,” they know that their secret self is not as others might see it.
So long as minor-attracted adults internalize the images of themselves that they find in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and the like, they will remain paralyzed by shame and will cower in the shadows of society. Meaningful and effective political activity by such shame driven and self hating individuals is not possible. The revolution must begin in our own heads, with the establishment of more positive self images that are based on facts.
Some minor attracted adults never do internalize society's view of them. Here is an interesting, in which the writer explains why this was not a problem for him.
- "I recently had lunch with a friend who knows I am forced to be on the national registration for sex offenders. We were discussing how the words of hatred that are used to describe “boy lovers”, men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to boys, cause so much internalization of self loathing. The question was raised as to why I didn't have those feelings and why I never internalized all the many negative things that were and are being said about me.
- I think and feel that the reason I suffered little self loathing is because I myself was a “loved boy”. I had a relationship with and older man when I was 11 years old. I know in my heart and mind he never did or never wanted to hurt me. When I hear the negative comments in the national press, Oprah type shows and people I meet, the “bad words” mean nothing to me. I lived the life of a loved boy. I know what they are saying is not true."
Not everybody is that fortunate. Probably in a majority of cases minor attracted adults do internalize, to one degree or another, the negative stereotypes that one sees daily in the mass media. Most will need some help extricating themselves from the oppressive influence of these images.
Come Out Of The Closet – Gradually
Being outed as a member of the most despised group in one's community can obviously be devastating. The following description of the experience by a self identified girl-lover is not a-typical. The writer, a sixteen year old boy, had been outed by the Perverted Justice group. He is writing in a forum for the support of girl lovers, but is addressing his persecutors.
- "Congratulations! You've ruined the life of a 16year old kid. You hated him so much you started cataloging everything he said when he just started posting at 14. Congratulations! You save the fucking children [you] misguided Son of bitches. Why didn't you save me? What have I done do deserve all of this? TELL me. Am I really some kind of fucking monster? REALLY? I'm afraid of my own shadow. When I was happy, I was the nicest sweetest brightest person I could be. I tried every day to wake up with a smile. Hell, that's still even my goal though it seems unobtainable. So what am I supposed to do? I have a life full of regrets, and a future I don't even wanna think about."
Even if the outing is only to one's own family the consequences can be stressful in the extreme. Here is the description of a young man whose continuing membership in his family became problematic after they learned about his bonding profile. This account is pieced together from two posts that the writer submitted to a group that was supportive to boy lovers.
- "I'm 17 and my parents know I'm paedosexual and that I'm proud of it. They at first seemed to accept it reasonably well, however a new situation is developing which they seem to be very uncomfortable with. I've recently managed to get a 12 year old YF, who is a friend of my younger brother.
- I usually see this YF in a situation where there are lots of people around and also quite often when my brother invites him over to the house etc. Anyway, I was with my YF on Sunday and my Dad appeared to be trying to prevent me spending time with this YF. Well, I completely lost control and almost had a fight with my Dad in the middle of a street. He didn't mention the fact that he was trying to prevent me seeing this YF because I'm paedosexual, but it was obvious enough.
- Anyway, today I brought it up with my parents, first my Mum, then my Dad. My Mum said she knows I'm not a danger to boys (I hope she means that) and she was quite upset that I wasn't sure that I believed her. I think she accepts that I'm a decent person as regards respecting boys.
- [My Dad] believes that it's "inappropriate" for a 17 year old to spend time with a 12 year old. I guess someone must be sending telepathic signals to my YF, which forces him to LOVE being around me!
- I rarely feel lost. I always have an answer to everything, regardless of whether it makes much sense or not.
- Now, however, I do not know what to do.
- I have told my Dad that I hate him and I don't want to spend time with him any longer.
- I am uninterested in living with my family and I only live with them now because I need the financial support; there is no way that someone as angry as me can have a job. I cannot function correctly. I have chest pains, I feel tired, I feel awful.
- Why does everything good which happens in my life *always* get destroyed?"
So if being outed is quite likely to destroy everything good in one's life, why would it ever be a good thing? Consider this description of a person who was “outed” in the most extreme way.
- "Seeing myself demonized in the newspaper was horrifying. The year during which I anticipated the prison sentence that I knew was inevitable was torture. The experience of prison was an even deeper hell than I had anticipated. The “treatment” group was the most deeply humiliating experience of my life. If I were faced with all this again, would I prefer death? Absolutely. Yet now that it is done, even though my external life continues to be constricted, I am in some ways happier than I have ever been. They have done their best and I have not allowed them to paint my portrait. My relationships with other people are more honest than they have ever been. When I have a good experience with someone else I am no longer plagued by the question that always used to nag at me: yes, they seem to like me, but what if they knew who I really was?
- How can I sum it up? It was, when all is said and done, liberating. If I were once again a respected member of society – with my true nature hidden, would I pray for such a liberation? I am sure I would think more than twice about it. But liberation it was."
Of course situations occur in which one is outed whether one wishes for it or not. For the majority of people, however, some degree of choice is possible. What is advisable then? With the possible exception of an absolutely trusted friend or significant other, I think it is almost never worth the risk to let anyone know of events that could have legal repercussions. It should be kept in mind that very few people are able to control their tongues. Beyond this, it is difficult to say what is best.
In some cases to come out completely may not be advisable or possible. However there are degrees of being in the closet. Anyone can connect up with a boy-love or girl-love group on the Internet with almost no risk at all. This will give the person an initial experience of hearing how other people with similar feelings think, and will provide the opportunity to share one's own thoughts and feelings with others. It is a place where one's new identity can be tested. Following this perhaps one can “come out” with one or two very close friends that can be trusted. It is incredibly liberating to be who one actually is with at least a few other human beings. The most useful way to formulate the issue of “coming out” is to ask to what degree, and in what contexts, should I “come out”? For different individuals the answer will not be the same. But to formulate the matter in an absolute way – I am either totally in the closet, or totally out – is a recipe for paralysis. For most of us it would be much more productive to come out gradually, testing the waters at each step.
Each person must find his or her own way between the Scylla of loneliness and isolation and the Charybdis of social condemnation and punishment. But everybody needs to have at least one friend or group with whom he can be who he is.
Network with like-minded individuals
As we come out of the closet we begin to develop friendship networks, and eventually political networks, with other like-minded individuals. These networks need not have any official organization, or name. They are simply networks of individuals who know one another, support one another, and work together. Invariably some people will be members of more than one network, and consequently networks will become interconnected. In this way the possibilities of various kinds of support, and access to information and other resources, will be greatly expanded. Possibilities for meaningful action will also be expanded. We will find out that, as the title of that liberating movie suggests, We Are Not Alone.
The following account is written by a person who we will call Mike. Mike was fairly well known in the field of preventive health care. Because of his speaking too freely about his love of boys, he was accused of illegal activities and vilified in more than one newspaper. As the result of reading one of these articles, Jake, a colleague in the field of health care came to visit him, and confessed that he too had similar feelings about boys. They were able to talk openly about their experiences, and this marked the emergence of a new and supportive network of relationships coming into Mike's life.
- "As result of my being vilified and outed, I often felt I was in a kind of prison without walls. Fortunately, however, as some doors closed to me, others miraculously opened. My unforeseen interchange with Jake was the start of a whole new network of understanding and supportive friends, including a number of men who, like me, were attracted to boys. I found myself at the doorway of a largely underground sector of the community that I had formerly had little knowledge of.
- Jake gave me some good leads. Through him I discovered that several other activists in the international health field – persons whose commitment to social justice I had long admired – also had an affinity for young men. One turned out to be a close friend of mine in the Philippines, a highly regarded leader of the Community Based Health Care movement there. Another was a professor at a nearby University – also a good friend – who coordinated an excellent program for volunteer students overseas. Until I talked with Jake, I’d no idea of these friends’ feelings toward boys, nor they of mine. Now, thanks to course of events, we have been able to “come out” to each other, and our friendships have grown much closer. We are there for each other in times of need."
To the extent that they are outed, minor attracted adults are shunned by the rest of society. The surprising thing here is that people who consider themselves to be progressives are often in the forefront of this shunning process, parroting the same mis-information and stirring up the same hysteria as right wing extremists. This can be devastating in the extreme. Human beings are social animals. We are not meant to live out our lives in isolation. Probably the only way most minor attracted people can find a genuine sense of belonging is by networking with others who share their feelings.
Find Safe And Shame-free Releases For Ones Sexual Frustrations
This is perhaps the touchiest issue to deal with. Let's face it, though, we are in fact sexual creatures, and most of us have fairly strong urges that seek some kind of release. Something more than simply “just say no” is necessary. On the other hand engaging in illegal activities can be risky both for one's own self, and for the younger partner. Each individual will need to put together whatever works for himself or herself. However the starting point for any realistic plan for dealing with one's own frustrations is to try to free oneself from shame. The only shameful thing we can do is to hurt others. Whatever outlet we find for ourselves that is harmless should be engaged in without fear or shame.
For some of us the solution may be fairly simple. If we have more than one strong place in our bonding profile, the satisfactions that we experience with our partners who are legal will make it easier to tolerate the frustrations that we experience in other areas of our lives. This enables us to keep our relationships with our younger friends on a safe footing. For some of us the experience of being physically and emotionally close to younger people may satisfy most of our needs most of the time. While this may be sufficient for some, probably many individuals will need to add some sort of explicit sexual release in the form of masturbation. It seems sensible to go ahead and release the tensions in a safe and harmless manner rather than to try to bottle them up and be driven by them, with the risk that one might be tempted into activities that are dangerous for everyone. Although we still struggle with this issue because of a long heritage of puritanism, it's important to understand that masturbation is not either shameful or sinful for adults anymore than it is for children. If it's the best option a person has, then it should be used without hesitation.
I am not arguing that most of the illegal activities that we might desire would in fact be intrinsically damaging if they were mutually desired. It can be argued that if the younger partner is aware to a reasonable degree of what is entailed in the relationship, a relationship that includes a sexual dimension can be entered into with an acceptable level of safety. Also, it does seem to me that we owe no absolute obedience to an authority that has intruded far past its legitimate limits in trying to impose restrictions on people's love lives. The fact is, however, that in the present social reality such activities generally entail very serious risks not only for the older person, but for the younger partner as well. For this reason, it would seem that the default position for everybody should be to simply avoid illegal activities. It should also be noted that if people are going to become politically active in any visible way, their lives are likely to be scrutinized more carefully than other peoples. It is questionable whether one can become politically active in a safe way, if one is engaged in illegal activities.
The issue of the need to comply with laws that are unreasonable and unjust is one that needs ongoing discussion in the community of minor-attracted adults.
Create cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is created whenever two firmly held beliefs in an individual's mind contradict each other, or when a belief that a person has difficulty giving up comes into conflict with irrefutable facts. The existence of dinosaur bones for example, creates significant cognitive dissonance with individuals who believe in a literal interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis – one which demands the belief that the world was created some 7000 years ago. Established empirical evidence in this case contradicts one's beliefs. Some adjustment is necessary. Often this takes the form of a very convoluted explanation of things that is not really persuasive to anyone. Perhaps God created the dinosaur bones when he created the earth in order to tempt, mislead and test Christians who would be born 7000 years later. Whatever explanation one comes up with to resolve the difficulty, any form of cognitive dissonance is a serious channel challenge to a person's belief system.
One learns from the media that all “pedophiles” are devious and insensitive monsters. If one is acquainted with a person who has been identified as a “pedophile” and on the basis of long experience knows that individual to be a sensitive and caring person, this may create a serious degree of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps this is not an “true” pedophile. Perhaps he is basically a good person who was abused in his childhood and has been unable to overcome a tragic flaw in his otherwise good character. If the “pedophile” insists that he was in fact never abused in his childhood, and that he perceives his relationships with minors as positive, this blocks any easy resolution of the cognitive dissonance. A crack then appears in the public consensus.
A similar form of cognitive dissonance can occur with regard to historical figures that one reads about. The overwhelming evidence is that Shakespeare was attracted to boys. His love sonnets were in any case clearly addressed to a younger male. James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), the author of Alice in Wonderland, and Walt Whitman are other well-known minor-attracted adults. The person who most consider one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten, was clearly attracted to boys. It's rather difficult to view these individuals as unintelligent or insensitive. The fact that their creative impulse was almost certainly derived in large part from their forbidden erotic impulses further complicates the issue. These men were creative geniuses not in spite of their erotic orientation, but as an outcome of it.
Perhaps the most poignant illustration of the extreme sensitivity of a minor-attracted adult is found in a letter by EB White, the author of The Once And Future King. He confesses that he was very attracted to a young nephew and it seems clear that he probably would have acted on these feelings if he had not feared the social repercussions both for himself and the boy. The letter is quite revealing of the author's sensibilities:
- "I have fallen in love with Zed. On Braye Beach with Killie I waved and waved to the aircraft till it was out of sight – my wild geese all gone and me a lonely old Charlie on the sands who had waddled down to the water's edge but couldn't fly. It would be unthinkable to make Zed unhappy with the weight of this impractical, unsuitable love. It would be against his human dignity. Besides, I love him for being happy and innocent, so it would be destroying what I loved. He could not stand the weight of the world against such feelings – not that they are bad in themselves. It is the public opinion which makes them so. In any case, on every score of his happiness, not my safety, the whole situation is an impossible one. All I can do is behave like a gentleman. It has been my hideous fate to be born with an infinite capacity for love and joy with no hope of using them. I do not believe that some sort of sexual relation with Zed would do him harm – he would probably think and call them t'riffic.
- I do not believe I could hurt him spiritually or mentally. I do not believe that perverts are made so by seduction. I do not think that sex is evil, except when it is cruel or degrading, as in rape, sodomy, etc., or that I am evil or that he could be. But the practical facts of life are an impenetrable barrier – the laws of God, the laws of Man. His age, his parents, his self-esteem, his self-reliance, the process of his development in a social system hostile to the heart, the brightness of his being which has made this what a home should be for three whole weeks of utter holiday, the fact that the old exist for the benefit of the young, not vice versa, that factual impossibilities set up by law and custom, the unthinkableness of turning him into a lonely or sad or eclipsed or furtive person – every possible detail of what is expedient, not what is moral, offers the fox to my bosom, and I must let it gnaw.” (Quoted in O'Carroll, T., Pedophilia: The Radical Case, 1982, p 17)"
Another form of creating cognitive dissonance is presenting testimonials by the younger person in a intergenerational relationship. A large number of such testimonials exist, and they suggest that the same range of positive neutral and negative relationships exist in intergenerational relationships that exist in any other kind of relationship. One of the most carefully documented collection of such statements is found in Theo Sandfort's work, Boys On Their Contacts with Men: A Study of Sexually Expressed Friendships. I give a brief example from Chapter 2, to suggest the nature of these statements. A 14 year old boy who is called “Bart” in the study states that his relationship with “Albert”, who is 46, is “extremely important.”
- "We send each other letters, cards, packages and so on. I think that if you go to bed with someone, if you love someone, then you naturally do things together. I can't understand how boys can just see someone and jump into bed with him and then go away. I come for the pleasure of his company, too. If somehow I got in an accident and got castrated, to give a crazy example, I'd still come because it's so nice to be with him. I feel just wonderful with Albert: here is someone who really cares about me; he knows me and I know him; we have no secrets from each other. I really wouldn't want to be without it."
Providing examples, whenever it is appropriate, that contradict the stereotypical images that people have of minor-attracted adults is a powerful political action. The same thing can be said with regard to coming out of the closet with one's friends, whether this happens against one's will or because of a deliberate choice. The revelation that you are a minor-attracted adult is likely to create a cognitive dissonance in your friends and family that will challenge their assumptions about the demonic nature of the dreaded “pedophile”.
Challenge Society's Identity Templates -- Across The Board
Terms such as “gay”, “bisexual”, “Lesbian”, etc. may serve some limited purpose when we're trying to communicate in a shorthand manner. However, real human beings do fit into any tidy set of templates. Many “lesbians” are attracted to men as well as to women. Many “gay” men are are also in fact attracted by women. Most “bisexuals” are probably to one extent or another “quadra sexuals” -- that is to say that they are probably attracted to boys and girls as well as to men and women. There are not just two or three or four bonding profiles. Each person has his or her own unique pattern of attraction. There are as many bonding profiles as there are people. If we think of terms like “gay” “bisexual”, “heterosexual”, and “lesbian” as anything more than convenient shorthand terms for designating strong inclinations in individuals, we are imposing templates over reality in an artificial manner. Each of us is to one degree or another both a man and a woman, a girl and a boy, an old person and a young person. Most of us experience a sexual/emotional attraction to people in a variety of categories. If we are to be free to be who we actually are, we must cast aside all of society's identity templates and simply allow ourselves to emerge. I attempted to express something with this idea in this poem:
- An Occasion for Mirth
- I'm becoming earth.
- It's an occasion for mirth.
- I have rocks
- In my socks,
- And plants
- In my pants.
- My insides are turning to loam.
- My fingers are starting to roam
- Like rhizomes,
- Like gnomes
- Making new paths in the woods
- In twilight neighborhoods
- That are now my second home.
- I'm becoming one
- With radishes and germs,
- With spiders ants and worms.
- I'm becoming dung.
- Around my house a plethora grows,
- Neither garden nor jungle,
- An in-between kind of thing,
- Something at the edge,
- A gardungle,
- A beach, a line of sedge,
- Where androgynous birds are heard to sing.
- Its rather like the fungal
- Crop that thrives between my toes.
- I'm becoming one
- With compost piles that feed
- The multiplicity of seed
- I live among.
- It's an occasion for mirth.
- I'm becoming birth.
This is a poem about what I call my gardungle self. The gardungle self is both wild and domesticated. It exists at the edge of things. It is a place where we are in-between – where we draw on the complete multiplicity of seeds that we have at out disposal as we formulate and affirm our identities – where we are forever sending out rhizomes to new places. Within our natures we can find both a man and a woman, an adult and a child, a domesticated and faithful pet and a wild thing, a garden and a jungle. We strike a poor bargain when we exchange our rich and diversified inheritance for a bowl of pottage – for a uni-dimensional and safe, but sterile, identity template.
Every template is a prison. To refuse to be confined by society's identity templates is a political act. It is also a political act to be appreciative of the complex of identity elements in our friends and acquaintances.
Support Other Marginalized Groups
Although it would seem that at the present time minor-attracted adults are the most fanatically attacked and completely ostracized group in society, they are by no means the only marginalized group. Those with psychiatric labels are intensely marginalized. Even when society purports to be sympathetic to their plight, they are not treated as individuals whose communications need to be taken seriously. Illegal aliens are allowed into the country on the sly, because they perform important economic tasks at an extremely low wage. But they are marginalized ruthlessly. Trans-genders are held in a contempt that is still very intense. The homeless are also shunned by the mainstream of society.
The problem is that groups that wish to advocate either for themselves or for other marginalized groups almost universally distance themselves from minor-attracted adults. We see this most pathetically in the choice of the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender community which has deliberately distanced itself from minor-attracted adults in order to gain acceptance by the mainstream. The reason for this kind of distancing is clear. Groups that have been marginalized don't wish to associate themselves with groups that are even more marginalized than they are, as they feel doing so will hurt their cause. While this rejection of the more marginalized group is understandable, it is nevertheless unfortunate. The dominant elite in society has always kept its power by the technique of divide and conquer. This is obvious in the economic sphere where every immigrant group was set up to be in conflict with the already existing labor force. It is equally in evidence with regard to groups that are marginalized for various non-economic reasons.
It is unlikely that minor-attracted adults will be able to form alliances with groups that are afraid of being tarnished by their intense stigma. Even so, it is probably in the interest of minor-attracted adults to support other marginalized groups in whatever ways they can, while at the same time they challenge the wisdom of the other groups who will not reciprocate.
The fact is that other marginalized groups reject a significant portion of their own natural membership when they reject any alliance with minor-attracted adults. This is most obvious in the case of gay men. As was pointed out in an article by Bruce Rind, the historical norm for homosexuality was not relationships between adult men, but intergenerational relationships between men and boys. It is almost certain that many if not most gay men feel some degree of attraction to pubescent and adolescent males.
With the community of people who are psychiatrically labelled we find a similar situation. Certainly one of the most difficult and stressful psychological realities that anybody has to deal with is the discovery that they are driven by impulses that society considers disgusting, vile, and monstrous. If the very fount of a person's love energy is perceived by a person to be polluted at its source, such a person would be much more likely to develop problems in living that would eventually gain him or her a psychiatric label. Perhaps inroads with some other marginalized groups could be made by an appeal that they not abandon some of their own natural membership.
Avoid Unnecessary Risks, And Take Care Of Yourself
It is not possible to do politics in a way that is totally risk free. But then, neither is it possible to NOT do politics in a way that is totally risk free. How does one weigh the relative risks of doing nothing against taking action? No general assessment is possible. Every situation is different, and each person must find his or her own balance between risk and safety. It is possible to say, however, that with a life of action one can at least have some hope for a better future, and can live in the present knowledge that one is doing what is possible to make that future a reality. At the same time, we need no macho politics. The point should never be to prove how daring we are. Rather, calculated risks should be taken to achieve goals that might possibly be attainable. There is a time to attack, and a time to retreat – a time to lay low, and a time to speak out. Our actions and reactions in the moment must fit into a larger strategy.
Minor-attracted adults – especially ones who have been “outed” and have tasted the unholy wrath of our fellow countrymen – have a tendency to fall into what I would call “nightmare mode.” If you have ever experienced this, you will know exactly what I mean. You are living your life and managing fairly well, when suddenly you are reminded by a passing event – something you hear, or read perhaps – of some of the more terrifying or humiliating things that have happened to you. Your waking life takes on the subjective quality of a nightmare. Your appetite for life dries up. Your thoughts become negative. There is nothing to be done, you tell yourself. Power always trumps truth. Hope evaporates and the despair you have only barely managed to hold at bay swallows you up.
Nightmare mode is a fact. It will happen. But we cannot afford to allow ourselves to be remain passive and helpless in its clutches. Nightmare mode is fed by negative thoughts and isolation. Knowing what feeds nightmare mode provides us the clues we need to fight it. First we must examine exactly what thoughts are feeding it and either counter these thoughts with more positive ones, or make some change in our situation that reduces the immediate risks that have thrown us off balance. Then we need to find someone we can talk with. This cannot be a professional counsellor, of course. They are all mandated reporters. They work for the system whether they want to or not. So we must reach out to a friend who will listen to us and help us evaluate the risks in a realistic manner. Nightmare mode distorts our perception of things. We must always keep this in mind. We may at times need the corrective influence of others.
As political activists you must take care of yourself. Do not be an easy target. Keep connected with others who can provide support. Avoid nightmare mode. Back off when the immediate threats outweigh any gains you are likely to be able to achieve. If you survive today, tomorrow you will find another opportunity to act. Keep some activities in your life that give you pleasure. Above all, do not give up hope. Our persecutors have numbers on their side. The relentless repetition of misinformation and demonizing images in the mass media has had its effect. Also the persecutors have the legal and bureaucratic machinery of the society under their control. It can indeed look hopeless. But we have the truth on our side, so it is perhaps an equal battle. The sex abuse industry has built its case on prejudice, hysterical fears and misinformation. Like all flat earth theories, this structure of belief will crumble in the face of accurate facts. Misinformation is their Achilles heel. We know this, and that gives us good reason for hope that we will eventually prevail.
By taking carefully considered political action you will be stepping beyond the your own frustration and needs, and taking on the cause of an entire mistreated group. Taking on this larger cause of trying to help build a fairer, more accepting society – win or lose – can in itself be liberating.
- The Kent State Study
- Baurmann, Michael. “Sexuality, Violence, and Psychological Sequalae.” 1983, Wiesbaden: Federal German Police Bureau, pg. 291. (English Translation)
- Review of: Biased Use of Cross-Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Male Homosexuality in Human Sexuality Textbooks. The Journal of Sex Research 35:4 (1998), pp. 397-407