Friday, August 22, 2014

Do you believe in telepathy?

Man to therapist: "I'm so, so upset! You know my mother's been slowly declining, and I flew out to visit her. After I got back, I had a thought flash through my mind that I wished she would just go ahead and die! It was just that once, but I felt ashamed. Then she did die, six days later! She knew I was an awful son and that's why she died."

Therapist: "I can see you'd be upset, but she didn't really know you had that thought, right?"

Man to therapist: "I feel so terrible. I have this video of a guy being followed by a sheep across a field. He just looks so terrified -- I mean, he didn't know sheep weren't dangerous, but it's still hilarious. I have a copy, and last night I was really depressed, and I knew it would cheer me up a little if I looked at it again. I did -- I had a good laugh. But I just know he could tell I was laughing at him. My viewing caused him pain."

Therapist: "I'm glad you found something to cheer you up. But think about it -- there's no way he could know you were laughing at his video, right?"

Man to therapist: "I feel kind of bad. There was this woman Mary who was on the team making the sales pitch to us last week. I was in the audience and she never saw me, but she was just one very hot woman. And three times since then, at night, I've, well, masturbated thinking about her. And I feel sure she can just tell I'm doing it, I feel like I'm degrading her -- I mean really, she KNOWS I'm thinking about her sexually without permission."

Therapist: "You can reflect on what sexual fantasies make YOU feel bad, but one thing we know is that she does NOT know you are thinking about her sexually. She's 3,000 miles away."

Man to therapist: "I have this video I shouldn't have -- it was stuck in with this big batch of ordinary porn I downloaded for free. It's a girl -- she's like 12, and she's naked, and she's playing with herself between the legs. She looks like she's enjoying it, but I know that's a lie and someone made her do it. I just know she could tell I was looking at her and getting a little aroused. It was like I was abusing her all over again."

Therapist: "I should say so! Of course she could tell! Every time a man looks at a picture of child abuse images, he IS abusing her all over again. It's just as if you were right there beside her making her do it! You abused her -- you personally did it!"


  1. Funny stuff, Ethan! The social mores that prohibit thinking of children in a sexual way create an emotional response so strong that reason goes out the window. The idea that looking at an illegal image victimizes the child all over again is an article of faith, not to be questioned.

    If someone fantasizes about the eight-year-old next door--a very real child--it is perfectly legal. If someone dresses their two-year-old in a shirt that says "Sexy Baby", that's acceptable. Looking at an old photograph or video of that 12-year-old girl, though, that's illegal. Even crazier, having that old photo or video on your hard drive--and never looking at it--can put you in prison for years.

  2. Thanks, Marie. I know this injustice lies at the heart of your life these days. It is an article of faith that hurts so many people.

  3. Hi Marie, I read some of your blog. It's so good to have somebody speaking out about this who can't so easily be accused of self interest.

    When minor attracted people or sex offenders criticise the excessive and irrational responses to paedophilia, child pornography and related issues, we just look like child molesters wanting a free ticket.

    The action at a distance, reverse causality, fabricated evidence and pretextuality that underlie draconian penalties for child pornography offenses is best understood as fascist exploitation of social anxiety and moral panic, exactly parallel to the "war on drugs".

    To keep hold of power, the powerful cultivate fear in the populace. In turn, the the populace give up their freedoms in exchange for protection from the "evils" that threaten to engulf them. Hitler said people would gladly accept slavery if they thought it would protect their children, and how right he was.

    Finally, do you know Matthew 8:5-13 or Luke 7:1-10, the story of the centurion and his boy? Many have read these passages as showing Jesus' compassion for a man, an outsider, who loves a child. I'm not a Christian myself, but that seems right to me.


    1. "The action at a distance, reverse causality, fabricated evidence and pretextuality that underlie draconian penalties ... is best understood as fascist exploitation of social anxiety and moral panic, exactly parallel to the "war on drugs"."

      The parallel that came to my mind was the Committee for UnAmerican Activities ^.^

  4. Bloom, one way our worldviews differ is that I focus on how much better things are than they have ever been, in some respects. I'm a fan of Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature". I think an enabling condition of society worrying so much about child sex abuse is how recent it is that other far more serious threats to children's welfare have disappeared -- and I support that worry when it isn't carried too far. We want to make the world an even better place for children. I'd like it to be better for pedophiles too, of course.

    1. I've read that book and I agree that the world today (or most of it) is much less violent than in the past, despite the efforts of certain fundamentalist groups to reverse that progress.

      However, I view the moral panic around as paedophilia less a response to violence than a continuation of a social control strategy that operates by problematizing sexual knowledge and sexual pleasure. I can talk to you about that forever but I'd rather emphasize that I do understand that sexual violence is a problem and that children are on the receiving end of much of it. If this wasn't true, there would be no grain of truth on which to elaborate the hyperbolic picture that informs public understanding.

      As with the harms of drug dependence and substance abuse, there are sexual harms that need to be addressed, but also as with drugs, a moralistic and punitive approach to sexual exploitation and transgression is less effective than treatment and education. The "war on drugs" and the moral panic around paedophilia have so far wrought far greater harm than they seek to address. The only people who benefit from this situation are the rich and powerful ideologues who act like Roman emperors feeding Christians to lions to entertain the plebs and win their support.