Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trouble imagining our existence

Michael Seto is a friend of celibate pedophiles. In a world where many people assume we are monsters, he does not. In a world where many scientists will not speak outside of the mainstream punitive view against pedophiles, he will tell the truth as he sees it, including that sentences for child sex abuse perpetrators and those possessing CP are too severe and that investigating CP possession and online solicitation are poor uses of limited police resources.

But his writing still reveals a skepticism about us. Since I just read his book, he's in my thoughts. Perhaps I would see more extreme versions from other scientists.

A few quotes: "Can pedophiles be entirely abstinent, eschewing even their preferred child pornography?" My reaction is: Why on earth is that even a question? Does anyone doubt the existence of men who rarely look at ordinary pornography? Even though it is legal? There are still a great many men even in the developed world who don't even have private internet access.

"A pedo-hebephilic individual who is sufficiently antisocial to overcome the social and legal prohibitions against sex with a child is likely to engage in both forms of offending. A pedohebephilic individual who is low in antisocial tendencies may engage in child pornography offending but is unlikely to commit contact offenses. Finally, a pedohebephilic individual who is high in self-control, low in sex drive, and living a life with strong family, social, and community ties may not act illegally at all."

The bar of skepticism is very high here. If everything is perfect, then there MIGHT exist an individual who does not act illegally at all? I would suggest it is highly likely that such an individual will not act illegally. And what about the man who is so-so in self-control, high in sex drive, and living by himself? Could we not imagine that a great many such men might also not act illegally at all?

The passage continues: "This does not mean an entirely abstinent life because this last group of pedophilic individuals may still fantasize and masturbate about sex with children or may view legal images of children that they find to be sexually arousing (e.g., images of children in underwear or swimsuits), but it does not mean criminality."

It certainly sounds like he still feels these men (including me) are doing wrong. Let's instead start from the premise that pedophiles, like everyone else, deserve the right to the pursuit of happiness. Pedophiles' pursuit is of course limited by the need to not infringe on children's happiness, but here there are no children being harmed -- not even viewing past abuse. Since pedophiles are people with an unfortunate sexual orientation, wouldn't private, legal sexual fantasies be what you would want for them if you have any compassion? He holds the view that pedophiles viewing CP are slightly more likely to abuse children, and perhaps he thinks fantasizing to legal pictures might possibly have the same effect. But he seems unable to get out of the mindset that their potential to abuse children is by far the most important attribute of celibate pedophiles. I do not dismiss even one extra crime as unimportant. But for instance a night curfew of poor urban young men (with no criminal history) would surely do far more to reduce crime -- and it's unthinkable to do that.

There's a reason he doesn't write much about totally law-abiding pedophiles -- neither he nor any other scientist knows much of anything about us. But I can dream of a short section like this that could have been included in his book:

"This book has focused on pedophiles who commit either contact offenses against children or CP offenses or both. We can say very little about those who commit no offenses at all, because we scientists never meet them. There might be very few of them. But it is entirely possible that there is a large group of pedophiles -- perhaps larger than the group of lawbreakers -- who never break the law. They may masturbate to thoughts of children or legal pictures of children -- fulfilling their natural human sexual desires in the best way they can that is ethical and harms no one else. Their inability to have fully satisfying sex lives is likely to be distressing to them, and they deserve our sympathy and respect."

As I've said, Seto is a friend of celibate pedophiles.

And he is far from alone. Michael Bailey is now one of our most sympathetic supporters, and as of a few years ago he believed that almost all pedophiles eventually molest children. He is notably open-minded on most sexuality topics, but apparently the evidence or the imagination (?) just is very hard to come by even for receptive scientists.


  1. http://celibatepedos.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/trouble-imagining-our-existence.html#comment-form

    In reference to: "There's a reason he doesn't write much about totally law-abiding pedophiles -- neither he nor any other scientist knows much of anything about us."

    There is another reason: he is paid to investigate paedophilia the motive, not paedophilia the orientation. Nobody but us cares about paedophilia as we expereince it. Only it's criminal manifestation is significant to the general public. As long as I can read phrases like "convicted paedophile" in even the most liberal press, this semantic impasse will block understanding.

    Andrew Solomon, in "Far from the tree", relates the heartbreaking destruction of Deaf culture by oralists, who insist deaf people ought to lip read and learn to speak, rather than use the rich culture of sign that has developed over hundreds of years. This devastating insult to deaf people's wellbeing was perpetrated (primarily against deaf children) in the misguided belief that the deaf ought to be like everybody else, not distinctive. Not living on their own terms.

    I don't want to offend deaf people but I draw a direct comparison between this and the suppression of paedophiliac erotic culture. Sex is a language that enables empathy and restraint just as it enables cruelty and self interest. To be truly virtuous, paedophiles need a language to make sense of their feelings, whether they be platonic and selfless or raunchy and (yes) abusive. Currently, the suppression of this language is absolute. Even material that is nominally legal, such as a nudist publication, can be prosecuted as child pornography if paedophilic interest can be demostrated. The extreme case also prosecuted is private, unpublished fiction. That is truly an inquisition.

    The only line I draw for a culture of paedophiliac erotics is that its production is intrinsically harmless, meaning that fictional accounts are always acceptable while actual records of sexual abuse are not.

    Michael Seto is a genuine, caring person, but his work is never going to contribute directly to our welfare. He is, to transfer the Deaf culture metaphor, an oralist.


  2. You raise issues I've never thought of before -- a pedophilic culture of eroticism? It seems quite a stretch to expect any scientist to be even thinking about that. We have so many more basic requirements. There are places online where substantial quantities of erotic stories with pedophile themes can be found, notably at asstr.org. I'm not aware of any online communities focused on that, let alone real-life community. Whatever vestiges there are of celibate pedophile culture seem very shadowy.

    Oralists were misguided, but I think you overlook a sensible motivation: they wanted deaf people to be able to get jobs and be economically independent, and that required language skills.

  3. "they wanted deaf people to be able to get jobs and be economically independent, and that required language skills."

    I think its a bit more complex than that.

    "We have so many more basic requirements."

    No we don't.


  4. Anonymous the place of literature inside human culture is less about inventing it and more a question of acknowledgement. I think you are quite right to point to how the minor attracted person will have a set of images that are erotic as part of being a sexual person.

    Have you read any authors like Michel Foucault? He wrote of sexualities that were viewed as transgressive - homosexuality, and he also wrote of categories of person socially positioned as abnormal - mental patients inside medical institutions. As part of this he also talked of rules in discourse, the idea being that what is said and who can talk is guided by power inside social relations. You are pointing to how the current rules operate when discussing the relations of the young and the old.

    Finally I think you are also right, things are not always simple are they.

  5. Ethan the book by Michael Seto you refer to is called Pedophilia and sexual offending against children: Theory, assesment, and intervention. His text is concerned with sexual offending - actions judged to violate law. Perhaps the term child sex abuser is what Seto is really discussing. The issue he assumes is that the abuser is a pedophile, and I think that is the point Anonymous is wanting to raise.

    David Thorstad wrote a paper titled "Man/Boy Love and the American Gay Movement" which was part of the book Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological, and Legal Perspectives. In it part of his claim was how some in the gay movement committed an act of sexual assimilationist politics. He was very critical of this move. I agree with his view regarding this. I also thing he points to a larger problem - an overestimate of what the legal changes they wanted would bring about. It is more then simply the issue of the age of consent. When that issue was pushed to one side, and Thorstad describes how this happened, the discourse of protection has taken primary control over what is and can be said.

    As a person who sees himself as not breaking the law I suspect you are not taking into account both the way things are and the way things work. I mean no message of harm to you, I simply thing it remains more than just an issue of being a guy who say not only would I not do certain stuff, I would never even think it.

    1. Peter, Michael Seto has written at least two books. The one you refer to is an older one, and the one I quote from is more recent. Seto is intimately familiar with the difference between pedophiles and abusers, I can assure you. It's a central element of his research.

      What you write about Thorstad doesn't have much to do with this post that I can see. The history of pro-contact pedophile activism isn't something I at present plan to address in this blog, except occasionally as relevant to other points.

    2. My comments are not meant to challenge your celibate stance Ethan. I strongly support you in that.

      But I do want to challenge your assertion that "We have so many more basic requirements". Your title for this blog post is "Trouble imagining our existence", but the trouble isn't Michael Seto's, it's ours. How can we imagine ourselves when we're not allowed to represent our feelings?

      Peter, I have read Foucault, and I agree with you that power relations shape discourse. I'd also invoke Chomsky and the "bounds of thinkable thought". I feel very strongly that we need to be free to discuss our feelings without fear, which we are definitely not at present.

      But rather than focus on 'discourse', I want to emphasize our internal dialogs and our ability to process speculative realities. This ability is fundamental to the development of moral insight. Fantasy is not reality, it is a virtual stage on which we can act out in safety the diverse scenarios that reality might present.

      Silencing this internal dialog doesn't prevent 'evil' thoughts, it simply guarantees we'll be unprepared when such thoughts inevitably arise.


    3. Anonymous I can hear the message you send and you make good points.

      First both you and I have a positive goal and that attitude I see as what underpins the construction of an ethical life. Personally I see the issue of discourse to not have separate world, the inner and the outer - what I tell myself and what is part of the discourse that engages others. For me the rules and power relations operate as it it is one space and we mediate and live out the constraints, permissions, and yes the moments of resistance (Foucault corrently sees the positive contribution this has).

      Have you read Jean-Paul Sartre and his discussion of freedom? I have not looked at his writing for some time but I seem to recall he had views on whether an inner life distinct from action can be seen as useful, he certainly held views on how to live responsibly, and wrote at a time when making those decisions mattered a great deal.

      A difficulty is how some in society are concerned and perhaps fearful about the imaginings of the minor attracted person. It is a mistake to think social concern only involves action. For some the idea of a pedophile standing next to a child and his thoughts while standing there involve fear and rage.

      On this point have you read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I have begun this book and find it genuinely interesting.

    4. Peter: "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt"?

      Have you read Ethan's post "Eating your road-kill pet dog"?

      I agree that existential questions lie at the heart of our condition. There are real problems with the idea of 'free will' as a actual thing, but as a psychological possibility, I think it performs an important function. I think, after Daniel Dennett, that 'free will' does not exist in real time, but evolves as an influence over time thru the formation of 'habits of mind'. Another existentialist thinker who has influenced me is Kierkegaard, especially his book "Either/Or".

      If a little girl or boy friend is getting cuddlier and cuddlier, a question we might ask ourselves is: who is this little person, and who am I? What do we want from each other? Is it the same?

      Of course, the answer is no. No two people ever want the same thing, but if we can gain a little distance from the situation by faking up some 'free will', maybe we can make better decisions.

      Some people's idea of freedom is the ability to respond without constraint to impulses that arise without effort. Others, such as Buddhists, see things exactly the other way.


    5. It is very interesting for me that although the three of us may have different views on some aspects of sexuality and life for the minor attracted person, there is a considerable amount we do agree on, not the least being the idea that to reflect, question, be responsible, and finally to be involved in shaping our fate, is a real must.

      I am glad I came to this site Ethan, as I have said to you in an email, I have my own blog, but the more of this kind of talk we can get going the happier I am going to be.

    6. We may have different views on some aspects of sexuality but we're all attracted to children. That makes us representatives of a marginalized minority and we must keep this in mind when criticising one another.


  6. I respect other people's views, as I am sure do you. I would argue, and you disagree, that the politics of sexual identity and law that the gay lobby has been fighting since that turn in 1969 and Stonewall has a lot to do with the current talk of the pedophile.

    I did not raise the issue of what you term pro-contact pedophile activism, but I dare say that is how you wish to position me. I hold the view currently that an ethical life is more than have I broken the law or am I likely to. For me ethics is what everyone is asked to do - how to live the good life (clearly not a reference to "let's party") and how to manage desire. I find much of the discussion by authors like Jacques Lacan, Freud, Foucault, Slavoj Zizeg, and others really interesting.

    I hope I have not been positioned so that what I offer is of no value, that would indeed be an example of what Anonymous points to - the modern rules that govern social discourse about the minor attracted person.