WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN, AT TIMES IN GRAPHIC TERMS. IF YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE OFFENDED BY THE CONTENT, THEN I SUGGEST YOU READ NO FURTHER. IF YOU DO HOWEVER, PLEASE DO NOT COME LOOKING FOR ANY APOLOGIES AFTERWARDS, FOR NONE SHALL BE FORTHCOMING.
I read only recently of a conference which took place at Cambridge University in July 2014 on paedophilia and hebephilia (sexual arousal from pubescent children and teens aged 11 to 15). So was this some scholarly conference looking into the root causes of sexual abuse of children, treatment of offenders, the effects upon their victims and care given to them? Not a bit of it. This was nothing but a bunch of paedophile apologists who try to claim that their vile practices are natural, normal, and in the case of some, beneficial and the ‘rights’ of children.
Amongst those attending was the Tom O’Carroll, who in the 1970s founded the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). No surprise there. O’Carroll, a former boarding school teacher and Open University lecturer, has often been under investigation by police for his activities. Among other things he distributed was a list of suggested careers for paedophiles. It will surprise few to discover that top of that list was to become a member of the clergy. More sickening was the suggestion of shoe salesman – to enable paedophiles to look up the skirts of little girls. In 1980 O’Carroll published a book, Paedophilia: The Radical Case, in which he argued that children had a “human right” to seek sexual partners and engage in sexual relations. O’Carroll has received several jail sentences for his activities, most of which have been ridiculously short, including 2½ years after being caught in a police sting which proved he had access to 50,000 indecent images of children.
Another attendee at the conference was Ken Plummer, an emeritus professor of Sociology at Essex University. In 2012 Plummer published on his personal blog a chapter from his 1991 book, Male Intergenerational Intimacy. In this chapter he argued,
“As homosexuality has become slightly less open to sustained moral panic, the new pariah of ‘child molester’ has become the latest folk devil… …Many adult paedophiles say that boys actively seek out sex partners … …’childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.”
In those few lines alone, Plummer exposes his true nature; the manipulative nature of a paedophile, heavily in denial. He also proves himself to take a wholly unscientific approach to the subject.
Firstly, there is a huge difference between homosexuality and paedophilia. Contrary to the conference attempting to argue that it is “natural and normal” for men, paedophilia is neither. Whilst the “gay gene” is as yet an unproven, scientific research strongly supports the hypothesis that gender and sexuality are decided before birth, and therefore natural and normal. This is not the case with paedophilia, which far from being natural, is a “learned behaviour”, and it is neither normal, nor has much in fact to do with sexuality. Learned behaviours can range from perfectly harmless sexual activities between consenting adults, such as role play or BDSM, to dangerous predatory behaviours, such as stalking, rape, and of course paedophilia. There is no paedophile gene.
But even then, paedophilia, like other forms of sexual assault, is not even primarily sexually driven. Paedophiles are in fact inadequate individuals, seeking to assert power over those unable to defend themselves. The paedophile, like anyone carrying out any form of abuse over others, be that verbal, written, psychological, physical, or sexual, deep down is a bully, and in the true nature of the bully, a coward.
Secondly, to attempt to equate paedophilia with homosexuality is not only a false dichotomy, it is one which is downright dangerous to members of the LGBT community. I take the point that Plummer is not connecting the two. That is not however how the vast majority of the uninformed cisgender / heterosexual population see it. All too often the LGBT community, particularly gay men, are accused of being child abusers. This stigma, fed by some religious communities, particularly among the Christian and Islamic faiths, leads to consequences for gay men ranging from being ostracised by their local community and even family members, to violent attacks and even murder. Discussing this matter with one friend, he stated that it is true that when parents discover that he is gay, they “look askance at their children”.
In fact, not only are the vast majority of gay men not paedophiles, the facts tell us that, statistically at least, children are safer in their company than that of heterosexual males. It has been continually proven that the vast majority of men who carry out sexual assaults are heterosexual, and even married men with families of their own, even those men who prey upon little boys. Indeed, case studies have shown that most men convicted of paedophile assaults upon boys, have expressed horror and disgust at any suggestion of them having sexual contact with other adult males. This only serves to underline the fact that paedophilia is not driven mainly by sexuality but rather by the craving for power over others.
Thirdly, of course paedophiles are going to claim that children sometimes approach them sexually. Paedophiles being extremely manipulative and heavily in denial, this is merely an attempt to shift the blame onto the victim, a common tactic used by a great many of offenders of many crimes, and certainly among sexual offenders, particularly rapists. Consider how often a defendant in a rape case has claimed “She was asking for it”, and how often the defence counsel has attempted to cast aspersions upon the character of the complainant. Sadly, this has too often proved successful and has seen many men guilty of rape walk free from court, but that is changing. We no longer live in the days when Roscoe Arbuckle walked from court a free man after his anal rape and manslaughter of Virginia Rappe, because his counsel showed her to be a “good time girl”. The character of any victim should never even enter the question when considering assaults upon them, and that applies as much to children as it does to adults who have been victims of rape.
And yes, there may be times when a child approaches an adult sexually. That however is not a green light for the adult to act upon that, but rather to behave like a responsible adult, and gently rebuff them. Further than that however, if a child is behaving overtly sexual, then that should set off alarm bells in the head of any well-adjusted adult. No child learns overt sexual behaviour naturally, but must have learned it from somewhere else, and that may indicate it is time to get the authorities involved. We have all heard the old jokes about nymphomania, yet not many are aware that it is a recognised psychological disorder, and the cause in most cases is sexual abuse in childhood. I recall reading of one case once, of a little girl who have been molested by both parents from such an early age that she considered sex normal and thought that it happened to every child. So it is that children subjected to sexual abuse and seeking closeness, will confuse sexuality with affection and compassion, and ‘come on’ to an adult. Any paedophile reciprocating the sexual advances in any such scenario is not standing by the “right” of the child to a sexual partner, as the apologists would claim; they are merely taking advantage of the situation to gratify their own perverted urges.
There may also well be a small number of cases where children, having learned a little about sexual matters may think they want sex but they obviously do not and cannot comprehend the reality of what they seek. I particularly liked the analogy one psychologist used for such cases; that of likening it to a kid wanting to drive a car. Many children love cars, which they see as fast and exciting. Yet only a maniac would allow a child to drive a car, and most children even if offered would be horrified or scared to death to even try, or if they did try would very quickly discover that they were in way too deep in a frightening situation, far beyond their control. Exactly the same applies to children making sexual advances. Again, it is cognisant upon the adult to act responsibly when children are in dangerous situations, and protect them from themselves.
Fourthly, the claim that “’childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.” is unscientific in it’s very basis. One does not have to be a genius at biology to know that prepubescent bodies are not ready for sex. Vaginal or anal penetration can lead prolapse and a host of other physical problems both immediately and which may stay with the victim for the remainder of their lives. Extreme damage caused to girls through sexual assault can result in the inability to bear children once the girl reaches adulthood. Likewise the continued buggery of children can lead to fistula in ano, a particularly nasty and extremely painful small channel that develops between the end of the bowel and the skin near the anus. There is also obviously the dangers of vaginal and anal tearing, the pain and complications that can cause, and the dangers of spreading sexually transmitted diseases through the said tears.
Then there is the psychological construct. It may have escaped Professor Plummer’s notice but most kids are far more interested in playing with toys, turning a cardboard box into a pirate ship, and scanning the horizon for sweet shops, than they are seeking out partners. In other words, they are children, in every way possible, and to therefore claim that childhood is a “historically produced social object” is a nonsense. Going by Plummer’s twisted logic, there should have been no problems with children going down coal mines, up chimneys, working in mills and heavy industry etc. But is precisely because they were children that such terrible practices were ended.
Plummer is not the first paedophile apologist to use this particular argument, and it is deeply seated in the Victorian middle class construct, where children had their childhood stolen from them, were made to dress like adults, and behave not as children but rather as little adults. That of course was in the days when there were no stringent laws governing sexual behaviour. From those days came the saying “Children should be seen but not heard.”, whereas the reality all too often was that children were treated obscene – but not heard. By trying to deny that childhood is indeed a physical and psychological reality, Plummer would therefore seek to return to those days, happily in denial of the damage which was done to millions of children before society took steps to come down heavily upon it.
One of the main thrusts of the conference was that “paedophilia is natural and normal for males”. This is yet one more unscientific claim, for it is not only special pleading for male paedophiles, but it would either completely ignore the incidence of sexual abuse of children by women, or suggest that where it does occur, the female perpetrators alone are deserving of punishment.
Whilst the incidence of female paedophiles is much lesser than that of their male counterparts, it remains very, very real, and none the less damaging to the victims. There are radical feminists who try to claim that female paedophilia does not exist and where it has taken place, there has been a man involved who has been the main perpetrator, and the woman has done his bidding in fear for their life. Many such tried to claim this for Myra Hindley; that she was led on and made afraid by her partner, Ian Brady, as they abducted, sexually molested, tortured and killed five children in the notorious ‘Moors murders’ of 1965. Anyone believing that need only read the transcript of a tape discovered in Brady and Hindley’s house, in which she clearly ordered a little girl to strip naked and derided her as she did so. Again, the paedophile is not driven primarily by sexuality but power.
Of course, another absurdity in this claim is the fact that where couples who abuse children are involved, that the mother will allow her own children to be abused to save herself. I’ve no doubt there are a minority of such mothers, but would suggest that they are very, very few indeed. The overwhelming vast majority of mothers would sooner lay down their own lives to protect their children, even undergoing unbearable pain, than allow anyone or anything else to ever harm them in the slightest.
Such claims are also proved false by cases of single women child abusers, where no man is involved. A letter to Forum magazine from a woman named only Mrs JP of Leicester (and who was never traced), and which has since been repeated in many works of sexual psychology, claimed that she was a mother whose husband was often away on business trips. She claimed that as her children sleep naked, she had performed fellatio on her 11 year old son on several occasions, and finally, when he was scared one night she had taken him into her bed and, feigning sleep, had positioned herself so he entered her from behind. That she described the boy often having nightmares has led many psychologists to believe that the writer’s claims were all too real.
A case from the USA recounts that of a 45 year old single woman who expected neighbourhood boys to consider her “mistress without payment”. Her penchant started when she got hooked on heroin and would sleep with up to six boys per night, usually aged between 11 and 15, although younger boys would sometimes be brought along. Although she got herself clean of drugs, and managed to get a job, her habits had not changed and she was eventually convicted of having sex with two boys, one aged 13, the other only 8, after the younger told his parents.
More recent cases included a single mother in Scotland who made her 6 year old daughter suck her breasts while she masturbated, and a single American woman who had seduced a 9 year old neighbourhood boy, who even had his own key to her apartment.
We therefore see that paedophilia does not recognise gender boundaries, and to claim that it does is not only disingenuous, again it is deeply rooted in the denial which is part and parcel of the paedophile mindset. It is actually laughable when one considers it; to even suggest that being of one particular gender, a sexual activity is normal where it is not in another. That does not occur anywhere else in any sexual identity, so why should it pertain to paedophilia? Simply because it does not, because paedophilia is neither natural, nor normal.
In his book Bizarre Sex, renowned sexual psychologist Roy Eskapa affirms that even well-adjusted adults exhibit slight sexual arousal at the sight of naked children, and this is backed up with other studies. The amount of arousal however is so slight as to be imperceptible and most certainly not enough to categorize those tested as paedophiles, nor does this suggest that paedophilia is in any way a natural phenomena. And if the apologists are relying on such findings to support their claims, then they are stretching the point to the limits of incredulity.
Having been molested from the age of four, and anally raped when I was six, my basest reactions to the likes of O’Carroll, Plummer, and their apologist friends, is to have them ‘disappear’ one by one, where they can be beaten to the point of death, when they are pleading to die, only to deny them that death, allow them to recover, then repeat the punishment – and to do that over and over until their bodies can finally take no more. The more intelligent, more human, side of me tells me that I, and we as a society, must never allow ourselves to sink to their level. I am better than them; I am not a bully. Apart from which, where child molesters are caught, I take the same view of that of the famous Nazi hunter, Dr Simon Wiesenthal; that not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done, openly and held up as an example to others. That is the way a civilized society acts. To do any otherwise is to make ourselves no better than the offenders.
And without for one moment being an apologist for paedophilia, I would opine that there may well be an argument for listening to non-active paedophiles. Whilst many may throw their hands up in horror at this, I would suggest that by doing so, we may very well be able to get them the help they require, and by doing so, we can protect more children from becoming victims. It would certainly be much more helpful than the sensationalist newspaper campaigns which occasionally take place, to ‘out’ paedophiles, which have more to do with increasing readership numbers than justice, and which have in the past led to innocent people being shunned, ostracised and even violently attacked. In one such case a woman doctor had her office burned out, purely because the sign outside read “Paediatrician” – that’s right, someone who actually helps children had her surgery burned out, purely due to a newspaper editor trying to increase sales, mass hysteria and public ignorance.
Offering help to paedophiles is of course a very contentious and controversial issue. Many politicians would be loathe to go near it, for fear of losing their parliamentary seat at the next election. But if it is explained carefully to the electorate that this is a way of protecting children, without just locking people up, out of sight, out of mind (and no, we’re not bringing back the death penalty – ever), at taxpayers expense, then it may well be the only road to go down. It should also be emphasised to the public that many paedophiles are in fact victims of childhood sexual abuse themselves, and are caught in the “cycle of abuse”. Therapy is the only way of breaking that cycle. Heavy-handed methods, public naming, and stirring up lynch mobs can only result in the detrimental effect of driving abusers underground, where they become invisible – and thus much more dangerous to society. Sexual abuse, like all forms of abuse of children, is certainly much more prevalent than many give credence to, and it is way past time all societies brought it out in the open and discussed it, rather than brushing it under the carpet and looking for “quick fixes”, which are not fixes at all.
There are various methods of therapy which could be employed, ranging from aversion therapy, in which the participant is taught to be repelled by their urges, to sexual surrogates, where the participant has contact with another adult, leading up to full sexual intercourse, which teaches that adult sexuality is there to be enjoyed, not to be afraid of.
Neither am I at all naive about paedophiles however. If society is to help them, then they must first admit that they need help, and with some of them, as the aforementioned conference illustrates, that is never going to be easy. As I have said before, and as myself and any other survivor of child sexual abuse can attest to, paedophiles are amongst the most devious and manipulative individuals on the face of this planet, and they are also heavily in denial. Any paedophile who makes a cry for help therefore must not only show they want help, they would have to be prove they are truly contrite and fully admit that they have a problem which they want to be cured of.
And that can only begin by not trying to claim that their urges are in any way natural or normal. Any paedophile who attempts that argument, whatever their gender or sexuality, is deserving of the condemnation of society, and if they are active, the full penalty of law.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, this has been my hardest ever article to write. I was abused at a time where children did not speak about it, and even if they did, they were generally not listened to, ignored, or told they were lying. Do not ask me about my childhood – I have blocked the vast majority of it out, even what should be happy memories, because they are tainted with sadness and fear. In the case of my abuser, he died before I could bring him to book, and I have always felt that death cheated me of justice. It has been a long, hard struggle, but I do see myself as a survivor, which I only achieved by reading widely on the subject. By doing so, I was able to assure myself that I was in no way to blame for what was done to me. Nonetheless, almost 50 years later, I still sometimes wake up crying as the demons haunt my dreams, as they no doubt shall do to the end of my days. That is the reality of paedophilia, of the damage it does, and for anyone to claim that to do that to an innocent child is in any way “natural” or “normal” is not only false and disingenuous, it is absolutely no justification for the life sentence I or any other survivor has been given, and which only we survivors know the full enormity of. Indeed, it is but one more deep and hurtful insult to each and every one of us.
And if anyone is repelled or upset by any part of this article, I make absolutely no apologies. It is frankly too important an issue to be careful about avoiding offending the sensitive nature of others.
Not offended at all … I do however think it makes a better argument to assert that right and moral, comes from consent … not any “natural” or “unnatural” cause.
(Just to be clear I mean free adult informed consent not some abuse of power or coercion or something)
And the feels at the end …. Oh the feels!!
Hugs if wanted, but you have my admiration for speaking up anyway.
Thank you Dave. Hugs are always welcome. 🙂
A well thought out and written post Xandra. I agree with you whole-heartedly. I honestly had no idea that such conferences even existed. Thanks for speaking out about what is obviously a difficult and highly personal subject.
I agree with valsouth, thank you for writing about this.