Monday, July 16, 2018

Review of movie "Una"

This is a review of <Una>, a British film from 2016, about a relationship between an adult man and a 13-year-old girl and its aftermath.

This movie is art, of course. It is about the psychological worlds of the two main characters. It deserves evaluation on that basis, and reviews have been positive.

However, it takes place against a backdrop of assumptions about how the world really operates. It is those assumptions I set out to question in this review. All information about the past is conveyed as either brief video snippets or verbal reminiscences, so detail is scanty. The movie also has long silences, punctuated by quick, soft phrases in some sort of British accent. A few of them I just couldn't understand, so I might be missing some important information.

The reconstructed story: Ray (in his 30s, perhaps?) lives next door to a good friend who has a daughter Una, age 13. He gets involved with her. We don't actually see Ray coming on to Una at all, though we can imagine that when he looks at her she can see his attraction. Una is drawn to him too and has a very active role. He works on his car in his driveway, and that is a focus for their early interactions. For instance, she leaves notes under the windshield wiper saying his girlfriend is ugly. She is constantly hanging around the car, and he later admits that he too worked on his car when it didn't need work in hopes of meeting her.

The next step we hear of is the two meeting behind some bushes in a park, where they lie on a blanket together and some considerable degree of sexual activity takes place that stops short of intercourse. The relationship takes place over a total of three months. At the end the two go away to Dover, have an attic room for the night and are due to run away to France. Here they have intercourse for the first time, twice. Una reports being sore but happy. He then tells her he is going out for just a moment, but hours go by and he does not appear. Una thinks she has been abandoned and eventually has to reveal herself as a lost child. She at first says she just ran away and Ray did nothing to her, but she reports that after she resists examination, she is drugged, examined against her will and Ray's semen is found in her vagina. She is called to testify against him by video camera, and asserts her love of him and asks Ray why he left her. We see the entire courtroom hearing this testimony. Ray serves four years in prison and some time on the sex offender registry. Una finds out only in the present that Ray actually didn't (fully) abandon her, but his courage for the elopement falters and after many hours he comes back to find she is gone, looks for her but is picked up by police, probably in the wake of Una's being discovered. Human nature being what it is, it is no big surprise if Ray's courage falters after he has had sex with her and not before, but it does not reflect well on him.

The film's present phase begins 15 years later when we find Una unhappy, having a series of one-night stands. Ray has adopted a new identity. We don't know how long she's been looking for him, but she finds his picture in a newspaper and tracks him down to his job as a supervisor in a warehouse, where she confronts him and fends off his attempts to get her out of the building to talk to her later. After many brief conversations, and after the work day is over, Ray leaves and assigns one of his employees Scott to get Una out of the building. She asks him to join her for one drink, then asks to go back to his place and seduces him (she is very attractive). But at the moment of her orgasm she suddenly breaks down. He is solicitous and comforts her. She then tells him she is in fact Ray's daughter and is staying at his house as a subterfuge to get him to reveal where he lives and take her there. She then starts to confront Ray during a gathering of 20-odd people who have gathered for drinks in the back yard. She knows before she arrives that Ray has been married for 4 years, but wandering through the house she finds he also has a stepdaughter aged roughly 12 years. He swears to Una that his interest in the girl is purely parental and he has never loved any child except her. (I believe him, as Ray knows from experience what a steep price he would have to pay and there is no reason to think the stepdaughter is coming on to him.) As one review states, we can see that Ray's life is about to implode.

That's the story. Now the evaluation:

First, Ray's behavior when Una is 13 is of course inexcusable. Doing sexual things in the bushes is totally unacceptable, trying to elope with her is worse, having intercourse with her is worse still. It takes an astounding lack of understanding on his part to think he can say he is going out for a minute and instead leave her alone for hours while he tries to get his courage up for the elopement. Even if he cared nothing at all for her, he should know she's not likely to just sit there for hours waiting for him and this is very much against his own selfish interest in every respect.

Una in the present initially tries to portray him as a pedophile, by which she means someone who preys on young girls as part of an ongoing cynical pattern. He's met plenty of such men in prison and points out he doesn't fit the pattern. No calculating serial molester is going to risk going for the girl next door and trying to elope with her. She may not believe him but his story is the truth. What's more, he's not a true pedophile. Thirteen-year-old Una has breasts and is well into puberty. Most men would find her physically attractive at a basic level. If he is especially drawn to her in a way most men would not be, he might be a hebephile. If so, he's not an exclusive one, as he has his girlfriend in the early phase of the story and in the present we see him having enthusiastic sex with his wife. Ray is not suffering from pathological attractions, but rather his actions.

Ray is not a man with a plan. He follows impulses and bad things happen. If 13-year-old Una hadn't pursued him with determination, they might never have had a relationship. Men often give in when attractive females pursue them, even when they have other commitments such as a marriage. Twenty-eight-year-old Una says he couldn't possibly be attracted to anything about 13-year-old Una but her body, but she may be suffering from low self-esteem and societal myths. Adult attractions often have a lot to do with bodies and the prospect of sex, and 13-year-olds have personalities. Temptation is laid in front of Ray and he does not resist. It is his solemn responsibility to do so, a deep moral failure when he does not, and it is fitting that he serve a prison term for not resisting. In the present, Ray owes Una an abject and deep apology, but apologies come very hard to some people who haven't achieved a level of emotional intelligence. But in the past there is no cynicism, no grooming, and the evidence on abandonment is mixed.

Where I find the biggest fault with the film is accepting the idea that Una is innocent, that she was on the path to a good life, and that Ray bears full responsibility for ruining it. There are hints that Una's relationship with her mother is not great in the present (they still live together) and perhaps wasn't in the past. Una is quite possibly seeking in Ray the sort of unconditional affection that children are supposed to get from their parents. She had three months to confide in someone about this before it escalated to the elopement. There are other ways Una could start messing up her life at age 13 -- perhaps heavy drug or alcohol use, promiscuous sex with peers, or neglecting her education. For all of those we would blame her, but somehow she is totally exempt from blame when it's an adult man who has sex with her. I am not intending to lessen the blame on Ray here, just adding some on Una. Let's consider another possible scenario. Suppose Una had taken up with a 15-year-old boyfriend who saw her for three months, had sex with her just before his family moves away, and he never speaks to her again. We might think such a boy was a cad, but he would face no legal consequences. The issue of abandonment would be the same. Just how would that have been different for Una?

One way is of course society's reaction, what pedophiles on the web sometimes call "iatrogenic harm". Una complains of being publicly humiliated as a slut, since her time with Ray is public. Let's assume that the police were justified in drugging her and taking a vaginal swab against her will (though it makes me uncomfortable). The forensic science of 15 or even 20 years ago was sufficiently advanced that they could clearly determine that it was Ray's semen. Setting aside today's actual legal requirements (which I don't know in detail), her testimony was not needed. You can imagine Ray's lawyer convincing him to take a plea bargain quietly, he would serve his four years, and Una's privacy would be protected. (In fact, I think the plea bargain would be highly likely even in today's society, and it is just a dramatic requirement to make it a full trial.) We can also speculate that Una might have been able to move forward if she had the chance to communicate with Ray right after the event, even if it was by videos censored by psychologists. If Ray had been willing at the time to make an abject apology, but also say that he did feel genuine affection for her and had not ultimately intended to abandon her, one thinks she might have healed better. It might not have ended up all that different from a 15-year-old boy abandoning her. Una's life would still be burdened by a problematic family and whatever psychological vulnerabilities that fate had dealt her. It might have been just as troubled as the one she ended up living.

I think Ray and Una both borrowed from a pattern that is in our genes. Thirteen-year-old girls have been routinely married off in other times and places, including our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and it is adaptive that they love their husbands deeply and enjoy frequent sex. Conversely, men have often married such girls and it is adaptive that they love them and desire them sexually. Our modern sensibilities disapprove because we have higher hopes for girls now -- we want them to get an education and choose their own life path when they have more maturity. But it does not make Ray's gut-level attraction (or Una's) in any way pathological. They just must not act on it. In Ray's case, the requirement is legal, and in Una's it is not but surely it is what society would urge on her in the strongest possible terms.

Perhaps in a better society, Ray could have confided to some friend or counselor that he was falling in love with Una and known that he would not be condemned for feeling that way. He would have been urgently advised not to let the friendship become sexual, knowing he would be strongly condemned for that, and tragedy could have been averted.

The strong possibility of prison did not deter Ray from sex with 13-year-old Una, but I believe it deters many other men who would be tempted by an Una. The age of consent is serving a good purpose here. I have mused in blog posts that in such a situation, if Una did not come to feel she had been wronged, Ray should not have been prosecuted. She did come to decide she had been wronged (within a few years, I would guess), so by my rule Ray would have appropriately been punished.

The film too readily accepts that Una's life troubles were entirely caused by the relationship with Ray, and too readily accepts society's narrative that she is completely without blame.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Pedophilia as a Minor Secret From Your Partner

This post is directed at pedophiles who have some attraction to adults and would like to have a relationship with an adult. (I'll focus on men attracted to women, but all other gender combinations are also possible).

Perhaps you were never all the deeply distressed by your pedophilia. Perhaps you were but have worked through it. In any case, you're now at a place where you understand that it isn't something you chose and isn't something you can change, but you know you'll never act on it. And all that together makes you a good person.

But it also might make you a lonely person. What are the options for an adult partner? For some, there is just no attraction at all. For others, there is some -- maybe enough.

Several Virtuous Pedophiles members are happily married with children and no fears of abusing anyone. Their lives are greatly enriched. In some cases, their wives just don't know about the pedophilia. In others, the wives found out accidentally and have come to accept the situation. In others, the man came to feel differently about his pedophilia and just had to come out to her, and the relationship survived. But to be fair, the wives in these last two cases typically went through a lot of pain to get to that place.

So what can a pedophile do who wants an adult partner?

One honorable thing to do is just to mention early on when dating that you do have a sexual attraction to children. Most women will put an end to things, but a few maybe won't. Sometimes open-minded women end up on a site like Virtuous Pedophiles. Pedophile/pedophile matches have been made there. But my hunch is that this won't be a promising approach for very many pedophiles.

Another option is to keep a secret. People have different notions of openness in relationships. In some it is understood that they won't discuss the past and might be keeping secrets from each other if those secrets don't affect their shared future. I think pedophilia could qualify if a man is clear that he will never abuse a child.

In other relationships it might be understood that no big secrets exist, and in that case a man who says to himself, "I'm a pedophile, and I'm going to marry this woman and keep it a secret from her" has a big ethical problem, in my view. I'm not aware of any of the married men at Virtuous Pedophiles who saw things that clearly. They might have felt some unusual attractions but not have put the label on themselves. They might just manage not to think about it in any systematic way (see <Comfortably Numb>). There's a lot of murkiness. In all cases that take this path it seems there is going to be some inner turmoil.

Is there a way to know you are a pedophile, be honest with yourself, keep a secret, and ethically get into a relationship where it is understood that there are no big secrets?

I think it might be possible, and the key is to think of your pedophilia as a small secret rather than a big secret. If you are anguished about your pedophilia, if you spend lots of time in online pedophile forums, or if you spend lots of time looking at or looking for pictures of attractive kids, it's hard to see it as a small secret. (If you feel significant temptation to offend against a child, it's definitely not a small secret!)

But if you are comfortable with yourself, quit the online forums, and only fantasize about a kid briefly now and then, maybe it could become just a little secret.

Some other kinds of sexual history and sexual preference could be honorably kept secret. If you're an ordinary guy and some woman broke your heart 10 years before and you still think about her, you might not reveal that. If D cup breasts really turn you on a whole lot but your partner has B cups, there's no need to mention that. You don't need to say which actresses or singers you find really sexy. If you're happy to watch women's figure skating, you don't have to reveal that it's the figures rather than the skating that you find most intriguing. So with that as context, why would you as a pedophile need to admit that you find kids sexier than adult women?

To fully meet my ethical standards, you should also have considerable confidence that you'll be able to keep your attractions a secret indefinitely. In <my last post>, I wrote of the dozens of women who have written to Virtuous Pedophiles, distressed to find their boyfriend was a pedophile. The most frequent path of discovery is finding pictures of kids on his phone. You should make sure that's not going to happen with you.

Just how positive do you have to be that your attraction to children will not adversely affect your relationship and that you can keep the secret? I don't think 100% confidence is necessary. Consider all the other uncertainties that come when a couple commits to each other. We all know the divorce rate is high, and when divorce happens there were often risk factors that you could identify in advance.

I recently read a biography of Thomas Jefferson. His long-term relationship with his slave Sally Hemings has been of intense interest over the years. I learned that Sally was at least 3/4 white, and thus their joint children were 7/8 white. When emancipated at age 21, at least two of them moved far away and lived as white people and were never "outed". Was it ethical for them to keep this a secret from their spouses? If discovered, it could have had dire consequences for them and their children. Yet I am sympathetic. They suffered from unjust discrimination and were entitled to do their best to escape the consequences. The situation with celibate pedophiles seems entirely parallel to me.

What I am raising here is one possibility for a rather restricted set of circumstances. Many pedophiles will feel that they could not possibly get into a relationship without revealing their attraction in advance. Many will decide they could not keep a secret. Many will feel that hiding a pedophilic identity is being untrue to themselves. And a great many just don't feel sufficient attraction to an adult for this to be a live possibility at all. But those who fit the case I have described might consider it.

I touched on some of these issues in <this earlier post>.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

My boyfriend's a pedophile. What should I do?

The Inbox of Virtuous Pedophiles get email from a great many pedophiles, most of them expressing some level of distress. They are the people our organization is designed for.

We get email from another group of distressed people too: women who are partners of pedophiles. Typically they discover images of young girls on a partner's phone or computer (sometimes legal, sometimes not). Based on my tagging of gmail conversations, I would estimate we have heard from 180 such women in the six years of our existence.

Pedophiles are at increased risk of committing a horrible crime: child sex abuse. They are also at high risk of committing another crime which most of society also considers horrible: accessing and viewing child pornography. These 180 women suggest another way that pedophiles can cause distress: by becoming lovers with women who only later find out they are pedophiles. Keep in mind that most pedophiles are non-exclusive, meaning they do have a significant attraction to adults.

The women often describe their pedophile partners, and patterns emerge. Often the man will deny that he uses the pictures for erotic purposes. Other times he will admit that he finds them arousing but doesn't consider himself a pedophile because he's not attracted to actual children, just the pictures. In the face of his partner's distress, a man will often promise to delete the pictures and never look for more, and he often doesn't keep that promise. Sometimes a man will indicate he doesn't really think it's any of his partner's business what pictures he looks at, but far more often he will express great remorse and self-hatred for what he has done. Mostly these men seem to be a bit deficient in self-awareness. Never has a woman reported a man saying, "Yeah, I knew I was a pedophile when we met, but I can't have kids for partners, and I hoped you'd never find out."

Even if you think celibate pedophiles aren't terrible people, it is tempting to condemn such men as having committed a grave moral offense. Many fellow pedophiles will condemn them. I think more compassion is warranted. A very interesting parallel case is gay men and lesbians who have gotten into long-term heterosexual relationships in times and places where homosexuality was fiercely condemned. The parallels are a sexuality that everyone else hates and that they are reluctant to embrace, and a hope that they really aren't that kind of person or that they can change. Some level of self-deception is usually involved. In recent times, you could even fault the homosexual more, because they know they have the option of moving to one of many urban centers where they would be accepted and can have a fulfilling sex life. Pedophiles have no such options.

The next question is what advice we at Virtuous Pedophiles can give these women.

An obvious possibility is to refer them to a therapist. I suspect it would be a rare therapist who would urge them to stay. Like others in society, a great many therapists think almost all pedophiles will molest children sooner or later. They and their colleagues will have heard of men who molested children or step-children, while any relationships where nothing bad happened will not come to their attention. Surely it's safer to recommend they leave, to avoid a tragic outcome. In comparison, the pain and disruption of ending a relationship will seem minor. Therapists must also consider mandated reporting issues, if a woman reports having a pedophile partner -- especially if there are any children in the family or nearby. Those mandated reporting issues in turn weigh heavily on us, we have to suggest extreme caution if such women seek therapy. We are stuck doing our best to give advice.

There are many members of Virtuous Pedophiles who have been married and successfully raised children without abusing them and have found it rewarding just as any other parents do. In some cases the partners never found out. In others, the men have been "outed" (voluntarily or not) and after some painful adjustment, the marriage survives and the children continue in an intact family without any abuse. We know that it can work out.

I suspect that many women who find their partner is a pedophile will never consider staying. They can freely write online about their horrible partner and get support and understanding. Others who aren't so sure what to do are largely invisible and can't get support in most of society. They are the ones who would write to an organization of pedophiles for advice.

From the woman's point of view, there are a variety of issues that arise.

A very common one is that these women, like most people in society, think pedophilic attractions are disgusting and evil. Reconsidering that is a major adjustment. Sometimes they get to the point of accepting it as a malady, but can't accept the idea that a man might actively fantasize about sex with children. Sometimes they accept such fantasizing occasionally as long as the man feels guilty and remorseful, but can't accept the idea the man might not think he is doing anything wrong.

The woman might also feel betrayed that he kept a secret from her, and I point out his likely confusion himself and the limited options pedophiles have.

If the partner is accessing illegal child pornography, I point out the grave legal dangers to their partner. If they live together, I also point out the potential trauma to them directly of a police raid and losing their electronics too when the police seize his.

Women whose partners say they have engaged in child sex abuse are a different case, and we rarely hear from such women. The women who write to us believe no such abuse has happened -- and I tend to believe them too. But they worry about the future as existing children get older and if having children is a possibility. I point to the Westermarck Effect, and the overwhelming experience of Virtuous Pedophiles parents that they felt no attraction whatsoever to their own children. But I certainly don't offer any guarantees. I will often tell them that having children with such a man requires keeping his secret, and it may involve some discomfort if he has any extended contact with his children's friends -- trusting him on behalf of her own children is one one thing, but trusting when someone else's children are conceivably at risk is a further step. But I point out that if necessary it is usually possible to arrange things such that no such situations arise.

I point out that if she can come to accept the man's pedophilia, she may earn his lasting gratitude, and that in any case he will never "trade up" to a 10-year-old.

Such women sometimes report that their sex life is not satisfactory. This makes sense if the man's attraction to children is much stronger than to adults. Even if it has been satisfactory, she may feel upset knowing that she is second best and he finds children more attractive. I point out that most men will find the hottest actresses or models more attractive than the actual women they are involved with. Does it matter if for him the unavailable hotter people are children? I point out that while couples therapists usually encourage openness in relationships, many (most?) will not complain about either partner sexually fantasizing about other people -- but suggest they keep it to themselves. But I will stress that a woman needs to decide whether the man's sexual interest in her is enough for her, and that it's not likely to change for the better.

In evaluating whether a relationship with a pedophile might work out, I also inquire as to the man's character. If he doesn't take responsibility for his actions and always blames other people for his failures, I take that as a negative sign. If the woman is afraid of the man or entirely submissive, that too is a negative sign. If the man actively considers and worries about whether he might abuse children, I take that as a positive sign, while his blithe confidence that there will be no problem is a negative sign.

I never promise that such a man will not abuse children in the future, but also point out that most men have weaknesses, and celibate pedophilia could be considered as one among many and not akin to being a serial killer.

I always stress that the woman must decide based on what works for her personally. I would never suggest she stay with a man because she feels sorry for him.

I'm not a professional and can't give professional advice to these women. But I am convinced that professionals can't give unbiased advice either, and the danger of mandated reporting must also be considered. So I do my best based on my own life experience and many conversations with pedophiles and other women in the same position. Unfortunately, I rarely hear long-term follow-up reports from the women on how things turned out.

I welcome feedback from others about how my messages could be improved. I also welcome tips on where else such women could go for support, perhaps "Partners of pedophiles where the assumption is that SOME pedophiles might be decent partners."

I touched on these issues in two earlier blog posts:

They were written when Virtuous Pedophiles had been in existence for two years. Now we have been around for six years, my opinions haven't changed but I have refined them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

If You Don't Say "No", It's Not Rape

I have always understood the "classic" case of rape or sexual assault. The victim says "no" and the perpetrator continues to do sexual things. It is rightly a very serious crime. I have been a bit mystified by the turmoil in recent years around people (usually women) who had the ability to say "no" to someone (usually a man), but didn't say "no", but have felt they were not only treated poorly but are victims of a crime. The Title IX offices on college campuses seem to enthusiastically support such reports and often find the accused men guilty.

The New York Times published on May 10, 2018 a collection <"45 Stories of Sex and Consent on Campus">. I'm an older guy who never was into the hookup culture, even the 1970s version, that being when I became an adult. I learned a lot from the stories.

The most common situation had these elements: a man and a woman are friendly, in a space where sex and romance are definite possibilities. They end up in private somewhere. The man makes a variety of advances (kissing, fondling, removing clothing). The woman enjoys or at least doesn't mind these up to a certain point, but then decides she doesn't want more and says "no", but after a pause the man tries again and again. Eventually the woman gets tired of saying "no" and lets the sex happen -- but resents it.

I have an idea for what a woman could say in that situation. It's roughly, "Hey, you're a nice guy, but when it comes to sexual things sometimes I want to go only so far. And that's where we are right now. You did that before and I said "no". I really mean it, and I'm counting on you to not make any more sexual advances, OK? I'm not just counting on it, but that's the way it HAS to be." I imagine that speech can be given calmly and with a smile. If a third attempt happens, the next step is to physically get out of the situation. If that's not possible, explain that what he's doing is illegal sexual assault of the kind that can get you put in prison.

In my dating life, I certainly listened carefully for "no" and watched for body language indicating discomfort. If a woman had needed to give me the speech I suggest I would feel embarrassed that she needed to, but I would certainly have respected it.

Perhaps other men would react differently. Maybe they will be hostile in the moment. But it's the longer term that seems most to drive the fear among these women -- that they will be thought of as a tease or a bitch and will get a poor reputation.

This opens up the broader question of norms and expectations. My immediate response is that men who would talk ill of a woman for saying a firm "no" are just not the kind of men that women would want to know. They should limit their attention to the men who would respect that.

But perhaps it's hard to identify such men. Or perhaps they just aren't very sexy? A few of the Times stories were of women complaining of a man asking every step of the way for permission. They found it unromantic. Reading between the lines, it was more than that -- they found the men themselves to be unattractive and perhaps even ridiculous. So it seems that men are called upon to walk a fine line -- and even worse, it's not a known fine line but depends on the woman. Imagine a scale from 1 to 10 of just how explicit a woman should be for a man to stop. Perhaps 1 is where a man should ask permission before each step and also stop if the woman's body language is not passionate and enthusiastic to each advance. Perhaps 10 requires the woman to yell or physically struggle. In an ideally harmonious society, men and women would all have the same value in mind -- let's call it 5. The cases that dominate the New York Times piece seem to be about women who think the right value is 3 and men who think the right value is 7 (or maybe as small a difference as 4.5 and 5.5). But when the woman thinks the right value is 7 and the man thinks it is 3, there is another kind of mismatch. A man could get a bad reputation from having a higher value on the scale than the woman, but also for having a lower value. The one fault is being too aggressive and insistent, and the other is being a wimp. No one is going to file a complaint against a wimp, but it's important to note how much such a reputation could hurt an actual man living in the real world.

There are two ways to make a mistake, and they are not that far apart. For comic relief, see <this XKCD comic>.

People in society can debate the right value on the 10-point scale. Feminist activists will pick a low value -- let's call it a 2. Maybe some women are arguing publicly for a 7, but their voices are far softer than the feminist voices.

What do most women really want? The 2016 US Presidential Election provided telling data. One could not imagine a starker contrast between the candidates with regards to the feminist agenda. An unrepentant pussy-grabber versus the first woman nominee -- one who also had her own strong track record on women's issues. And yet the majority of white women voted for Trump. To be fair, that doesn't mean they preferred his position, but they at the very least found some other issue more important. And for that to be true, one might think that a lot of them didn't think Trump was all that bad with regard to how he treated women. Maybe in contrast to the feminist's recommended 2, they think a value of 7 or 8 is right, and if Trump is a 9, it's not that far off.

At a certain point the law comes in to protect victims (and campus Title IX policies are for this purpose equivalent to the law). But how people relate to each other is a complicated business, and generally society allows for plenty of misunderstanding, hurt feelings and indignation before thinking that law is the proper remedy.

In evaluating the New York Times examples, I felt like very few of them described male behavior that should be deemed illegal. If a woman was not willing to give the speech I suggest, she should have no legal case.

There are exceptions -- one clear one is if someone is unconscious. Perhaps even if they are very, very drunk. But it should be a high bar.

It is relevant how women get into these situations. If you get very drunk at a party where others are very drunk and there is a lot of sexual activity going on, you are putting yourself in harm's way regarding insistent advances. This does not in any way excuse rape, but I think it properly requires a higher standard of proof and a more clear "no". If you spend the night in the same apartment with someone you don't know very well, you're also not keeping as safe as you might. If you're not willing to give my proposed speech, maybe better not to get into that position. "Blaming the victim" is the slogan that may come to mind, but that's not my point -- it is just that legal recourse requires a higher standard of proof and a clearer "no". I will unashamedly say that circumstances are relevant.

If it's important to you to only have sex that you will feel good about and not regret, and you can't tell fairly far in advance whether you're willing to have sex, and you aren't able to clearly say "no", maybe some more old-fashioned techniques are in order. Don't get drunk. Talk about expectations in advance. Go on multiple dates and do not agree to be alone in private with a man until you have established an intention to have a committed relationship. Maybe even hold off sex until marriage.

I think "affirmative consent" is one interesting proposal for where to draw the line -- maybe at position 2 on the dial. I would favor a slightly higher number, but it's part of the debate. But the standard for the law (or college disciplinary procedures) should be much higher. "No" should be what a woman said immediately before something a man did for it to be a crime.

It is also clear that many women do not actually want the number set as low as 2. We can also wonder about women's ambivalence on the subject of sex. It's a common enough idea that people's opinion in the light of day is that they shouldn't have sex at a particular time and place, but that passions and drives being what they are, part of them does want sex. One reason some people get drunk in sexual situations is to lower inhibitions and feel like drunkenness partially absolves them of the consequences of their choices. When a woman sobers up, she could blame herself, but she also may blame the man. Perhaps that blame is well-deserved within the woman's own set of values and expectations. Perhaps he was a jerk. But there is no call for law or a college disciplinary procedure to get involved.

So far we have been discussing adults. But the case of underage partners is also of interest. You would expect underage girls to be more susceptible to the various hazards involved in this situation. They are less likely to be assertive, they are less likely to be astute in judging a man's intentions or the complexities of a social situation more generally. They may be more subject to physical pain. They also will likely have little experience with how the emotional aftermath of various sexual experiences can play out and be more susceptible to regret.

Sex at any age has the potential for emotional turmoil. But for adults, the danger is offset because it is also a vital part of the good life. Feeling good about your place in the world may depend to a significant degree on whether you are having good sex. Young teens may also crave sex, but "I'll get to this when I'm a little older" is a reasonable story to tell oneself. And in any event they have (or should have) the ability to have sex with peers.

That combination of factors is why I favor an age of consent. Men should be deterred from sexual activity with such girls for fear of the consequences. I toy with the idea that if an underage girl does not come to feel that she was wronged, then prosecutors should not pursue the case. But that is not the same as a lower age of consent. Regret matters. Consent can be withdrawn retroactively because it was insufficiently informed and all a man had was "willingness". Legal sanctions are appropriate.

But for adults the situation ought to be very different. If a woman is not extremely drunk, and she does not take the opportunity to object to a man's sexual advance at the time he makes it, then she has consented, from the legal point of view.

Of course the situation can arise in any other pairing of genders of the possible perpetrator and possible victim.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Reply to Danny Whittaker on Todd Nickerson

Danny Whittaker has a website "My Own Worst Enemy", and recently took the unusual step of interviewing Tom O'Carroll for nearly 3 hours and posting the entire interview, <unedited>. Tom O'Carroll is a pedophile activist, and he has been in favor of legalization and acceptance of adult-child sexual activity for a long time. In 1980 he published "Pedophilia: the Radical Case" to promote his view, and he has never wavered from it, as with the passing of decades society's views have become ever more intolerant of the idea.

Whittaker includes a 38-minute introduction to the interview, where he defends and explains his decision to interview Tom. One thing he explicitly considered was going to Virtuous Pedophiles to find someone to interview, and he gives his reasoning for rejecting that approach. My main purpose in this post is to analyze the reasons he gives and rebut them.

He is correct that central to the concept of Virtuous Pedophiles is the idea that many pedophiles never molest children. He reasonably notes that if we are all or mostly lying about that, it undercuts our position. No one can prove definitively that they do not molest children. Whittaker says Tom with his radical agenda has nothing to hide -- but if Tom had ever physically forced himself on a struggling boy, it would undercut everything he says. Whittaker himself has no way of proving to us that he's never molested a child. But he offers specific reasons for doubting Virtuous Pedophiles in particular.

To interview a virtuous pedophile is "pointless because, having seen the comment sections underneath these articles about Virped, most people refuse to believe or just care about the non-offending claim." This fiercely independent thinker is now justifying his decisions by appealing to what people put in comment sections.

"'s just like a ticking time bomb ... and to be fair ... I don't think [the public who writes comments's] suspicions are entirely groundless". He notes that Todd Nickerson was the most famous Virped example "angling for sympathy by claiming that he's never sexually abused a child, never would, because he knows the harm it can cause because he himself suffered abuse as a child. However, it was later discovered that Nickerson had been posting in forums".

He makes it sound like Nickerson was devious, hiding his past. But in the original article, Nickerson says "In the midst of that dark era in my life, I discovered an unhealthy pedophile forum... Many of its most influential members were pro-contacters ... I found myself taking up the same pro-contacter chants, if only to feel like I belonged somewhere." That's perfectly clear, without going into detail about things he no longer believes. There is no dishonesty or subterfuge here at all. Nickerson's supposed deviousness and untrustworthiness is the key claim that underlies much of the rest of Whittaker's argument. Based on a faulty premise, it collapses.

Here's the first place it leads: "... if the best representative that the likes of Salon can conjure up to put forward as an example of this apparent compatibility between pedophilia and virtuousness is somebody who sounds like they're only committed to virtue so long as they're under duress to do so... If the virtuous aspect of virped is seen by some of its members as just a hurdle to be scaled rather than a grounding principle, then sort of what's the point? Because virtuous pedophiles minus the virtue are just pedophiles."

But let's go back to what Nickerson said -- suicidal, confused, desperate to fit in with the only group who didn't hate him just for existing. Whittaker describes his post as, "if the law were different and we lived in a more sex-positive society he would indeed engage in sex with a child if she was in love with him and she both wanted and initiated it." There are a lot of conditions there that will never in fact be met, but the girl's welfare is central to his thinking. He's not saying that he'd molest her if he could get away with it. Now, society is never going to change to make such relationships accepted in the first place, so his speculations would never have been tested even if he had continued to hold that view. There were plenty of barriers to his becoming a molester, even when he was most vulnerable and thinking least clearly, but to Whittaker he's just an amoral opportunist. It's as if Todd said that if he could take a million bucks from the bank, and everyone else was doing it, and it was legal, and the bank didn't really mind, he might do it. But Whittaker, the fiercely independent thinker, ignores all that and just follows the public emotional reaction in calling him a bank robber.

Much later in his introduction, Whittaker (with admirable openness) confronts some evidence O'Carroll gave that maybe adult-child sex isn't all that bad. Finnish youth who had sexual relationships with older people found it positive an awful lot of the time. And Whittaker notes that if that's true, we ought to reconsider whether adult-child sex is wrong after all. And yet -- Nickerson at his lowest point was entertaining ideas based on this possibility, and those musings remain in Whittaker's thinking as solid evidence that he is devoid of virtue and a molester if he could get away with it.

Whittaker speaks as if Salon went to find the most virtuous pedophile they could, and if after combing through 2,000 they could only find Nickerson, then surely the rest must be awful. (They didn't actually go hunting for a spokesperson -- Nickerson approached them.) I argued that Nickerson is actually pretty good. But the truth is that Nickerson is part of a very small group -- virtuous pedophiles who are "out" to the entire world. Most pedophiles we hear of have been forced into the public eye because they've been caught committing a crime. Journalists understandably much prefer sources whose identity they can verify. But pedophiles who are "out" to the entire world are subject to devastating consequences even if they've done nothing wrong. They will lose jobs, friends, family, housing, and even their church. They risk physical violence. If journalists insist on an "out" non-offender as a source, they have a very small handful to choose from. Some journalists recognize this reality and are willing to interview pedophiles whose identities remain secret. It's not ideal, but the extenuating circumstances are compelling indeed. The vast majority of virtuous pedophiles have kept their attraction a secret, with the same skill and judgment they have used to never commit a crime. The Nickerson who outed himself way back on his pedophile forum was by his own account a dysfunctional and suicidal person. The same pain that led him to come out is related to his past pro-contact views. The fact that he's not the 100% ideal poster child for Virtuous Pedophiles is related to why he is willing to be "out". I have nothing but admiration for him and think he's done great things. But know this: the ideal poster children for Virtuous Pedophiles stay hidden. For a quick look at the variety you can find if you're willing to listen to those who remain hidden, see

Later in his introduction, Whittaker defends interviewing O'Carroll on the grounds that he and his conservative brethren really have to look at unpleasant realities if they're going to actually make progress against child sex abuse, instead of just signaling their virtue. Whittaker thinks the general idea of non-offending pedophiles is interesting as one piece of a puzzle for moving forward. But there is one basic question in the air: is adult-child sex a good thing, or isn't it? The vast majority of the public think it isn't. Shared values are an important part of dialog between different groups. Virtuous Pedophiles shares that basic premise. But Whittaker has unfairly vilified those who share that premise, and given a 3-hour platform to someone who doesn't. It seems like a very poor choice if your desire is truly to move forward on reducing child sex abuse.

Whittaker's interview of O'Carroll is acknowledged as being painstakingly fair. But in its clarity it is still a view that conservatives (and 99% of liberals) find highly repugnant. It has the effect of presenting pedophiles in the worst possible light. It is standard fare in polarized debates to find the most extreme proponents of the opposing view and tag the entire opposition with those extreme claims. I will give Whittaker the benefit of the doubt and not claim he intended this, but it is still the net effect.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Disgust as overriding value?

Many people think that proclaiming the message of Virtuous Pedophiles is wrong. Some have launched determined attacks on us, with the result that the VP site is offline temporarily.

I always try to understand my opponents.

One sort of opponent objects on the grounds of the actual consequences. They believe that spreading the Virtuous Pedophiles message will result in net harm to children. The mechanism they have in mind isn't totally clear to me, but they may imagine harm from pedophiles who see a site that urges society to accept them, ignore the (key, central) part of the message that adult-child sex is wrong, and abuse children. Or perhaps they imagine that people will develop an attraction to children after hearing it described as something that (as a thought) might not be so bad. I think they are wrong, and at least in principle we can talk about facts. If we agreed on facts, we would end up agreeing on whether VP is OK because our shared value is reducing harm to children.

I wonder if there is a second kind of opponent. What makes me consider this possibility is Jonathan Haidt's <Moral Foundations Theory>. The basic idea is that while social liberals base their judgments of morality on "care" and "fairness", social conservatives honor those values but have additional foundations that they feel sometimes take precedence, notably "loyalty", "authority", and "sanctity/purity".

For present purposes, the key foundations are "care" for the welfare of children, and "sanctity/purity". Pedophilia -- meaning just the thoughts and not any actions -- is certainly something that violates most people's ideas of sanctity and purity. Perhaps these opponents feel that talking about pedophilia or accepting its existence violates sanctity and purity so much that it takes precedence over care for the welfare of children. Valuing sanctity and purity requires a uniform condemnation. And in fairness we cannot prove that Virtuous Pedophiles has a large effect on the welfare of children, even if we are confident that any effect is positive.

As for pedophiles themselves, we care for them (us) and we argue that there is no need to feel bad about something we did not choose and cannot change. But if sanctity/purity is your overriding value, then you might feel that such people indeed should feel terrible about themselves.

One parallel case might be parents who are opposed to sex education in schools, as it violates sanctity and purity, even if it results in more unintended pregnancies and STIs. Another might be those who think homosexuality is wrong, even if it is not a choice. I believe some Catholic priests came out as gay, while emphasizing that they honored their vow of chastity. But the Church decided that was fundamentally not OK -- the attraction itself was wrong.

If these opponents exist, it will be much harder to convince them. But at least we could understand each other and I could offer them a grudging respect for holding true to what they value.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pedophiles working with kids -- shocking?

One recent criticism of Virtuous Pedophiles online was that we don't object to our members working with children without telling the responsible adults. Surely no organization that truly valued children's welfare would allow such a thing!

First, I get the feeling. "What? Some pedophile is working with kids and they don't tell the parents? Eeek!" I was raised to believe all the same things as you, and in my gut it makes me nervous. The only pedophiles I'd ever heard of growing up were molesters, and it is alarming for a molester to be working with children.

I now do think it's often OK for a celibate pedophile, but it's a conclusion I've reached from thinking, not just feeling. I've heard the stories of hundreds of pedophiles online and I know that volunteering with kids often works out just fine. It's true that we at VP don't condemn such volunteer work (or paid work). That doesn't mean we give it blanket approval either. We urge the pedophiles in question to pay close attention to their reactions. Is there temptation? Is it getting worse? If so, then it's time to take decisive action to make sure the kids stay safe. If that means no longer working with the kids, then they should no longer work with kids.

That aside, you may argue, surely it would be wise to confess to being a pedophile so the responsible adults can make their own decision. It might be, except for the matter of prejudice -- the huge matter of extreme prejudice.

Perhaps you think that some Russian in the 1930s Soviet Union was an enabler of Communists because he did not stand up proudly and say he was an anti-Communist and opposed to Joseph Stalin. If you know any history, you know that would have been suicide. The circumstances made it morally permissible to keep silent and participate in Stalinist society. Pedophiles today have every reason to stay silent and let no one know they are a pedophile. We face loss of jobs, family, friends, housing, social support networks -- and risk physical violence as well, even if we know that we pose no risk to children.

So perhaps you would argue that if the pedophile can't consult with the responsible adult, then he should just be sure not to work with children. It's best to be safe. But how far would you go? If a family with young children moves in next door, must a pedophile move out? If he has an extended family including nieces and nephews, should he disrupt family routines and never socialize when they are present? What if there's a good deal on an apartment that happens to be across from a playground. Is he obligated to pass on it? (An awful lot of housing is pretty close to some playground or other). All these things might seem reasonable if you think of a pedophile as nothing but a potential molester. But pedophiles are people too. Our lives are as important to us as yours are to you. How far should we go to honor that "Eeek!" gut feeling?

Consider other people who pose risks. If you're a man who is attracted to 16-year-old girls (which is most men), should you never consider teaching high school? Society doesn't think so, because it recognizes that ordinary men are perfectly capable of teaching 16 year old girls without molesting them. Many pedophiles are similarly capable of interacting with children without posing a risk to them.