Civilization and its demons
Civilization and Its Demons
Before 1948, the annus mirabilis of the Homophile Movement, you could publish nothing favorable or even neutral about homosexuality in the good ole USA. In that year came Kinsey, Vidal, and the Bachelors for Wallace, out of which grew Mattachine. It organized the first ever petition, demonstration, parade, case that dismissed charges of lewd behavior, college level courses, and first ever magazine. One, which after a two year struggle won in 1958 from the U.S. Supreme Court the right to be distributed by the U.S. Post Office, and thus blazed the way.
Today, like with homosexuality before 1948, you can't publish anything or even neutral, much less positive, about pederasty -- now conflated with pedophilia, and demonized (as witchcraft was by the Inquisition and communism by Joe McCarthy). At long last, the Roman Catholics, traumatized by the priest sex scandal, which just now even penumbrating His Holiness the Pope himself, are trying to distinguish the two: pederasty being with adolescents and pedophilia, supposedly much more damnable, with prepubescents. Three women have succeeded in publishing studies of intergenerational sex which are not so extremely demonizing: Harmful to Minors by Judith Levine (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), The Trauma Myth by Susan Clancy (Basic Books, 2009), and Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction To Children: A Study of Paedophiles In Contemporary Society (Routledge, 2009).
Two major studies of male-to-male intergenerational sex that actually tried to justify it in certain cases still remain unpublished: Rind et al. (1998): "A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse (CSA) using college samples," and Richard Yuill’s Ph.D. thesis (2004), Male Age Discrepant Intergenerational Sexualities and Relationships. Male-to-male is the most condemned type of intergenerational sex, a holdover from homophobia, but only one third as frequent as male-female intergenerational sex, and both are less frequent than female-female (which often just amounts to cuddling or petting without penetration or climax, which therefore makes it hard to assess or enumerate) and female-male, which was formally praised as making a man out of the boy until not so long ago!
Since Rind et al.’s - meta-analysis was condemned unanimously by both houses of Congress, the only works even mildly supportive of intergenerational sex have been by three women, Levine, Goode, and most recently by Clancy.
Two other major studies, one by Bruce Rind and the other by Richard Yuill have been suppressed during this time since both claim that intergenerational sex involving young males is much less common than the abuse of females, – often not at all harmful - in the absence of force, incest, or intimidation, and, a positive and beneficial experience for many young people.
O tempora! O mores! When I was young, a woman who made a man of an adolescent was assumed to have benefitted him. Now women are jailed for it, even if it is not one of his teachers, shrinks, or other care-givers. Those women are often convicted, even if the guy loves or marries them. For 30 years now it has been virtually impossible - to publish anything positive or even neutral about “boy-love.” – [I’m not sure this adds anything to the piece].
Unlike the Greco-Romans and the Chinese, both of whom merely pitied those not privileged enough to belong to their “superior” civilizations although within them and failed to live up to their high standards of education, taste, and culture, the followers of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) hated and persecuted their “others”. Whether internal or external foes, they claimed that such people were inspired by Satan and doomed to hell. The Israelites, who gave birth to Judaism, demonized Gentiles and the “polluted” Jews among them, especially “males who lie with males as with females” and wished to exterminate them all. When the Christians usurped the role of chosen people from the Jews, they too damned all non-Christians, and among their own non-conformists especially sodomites, associated as they were in the religious mind with heretic more than any other sinners. By the time that I was young, and when religion seemed to be waning among western societies, we deemed communists and “homos”as threats to our security in this world and as cosmic threats to our eternal salvation. Today, with communism defunct and homosexuals tolerated, we now demonize terrorists and pedophiles - always an internal sexual threat paralleling an external one - a hysteria that neither Greeks nor Romans nor Chinese suffered from. For that matter, as far as I can determine, no other cultures, except those inspired by the Abrahamic religions, and their dogmatic successors in the western world - liberals, Marxists, and fascists - feel the apocalyptic inspiration not to resist, restrain, or pity the “others”, but to exterminate them root and branch with a Manichean fervor.
Like necrophilia and bestiality, considered by Krafft-Ebing victimless oddities (though a growing number of animal rights activists now deny that bestiality is a victimless act, and a number have always considered corpses to be sacrosanct), animation is not required here by victimologists [does this mean questions to do with “virtual reality” indecent Internet images? as was the case with the medieval Jews desecrating the host or the Templars urinating on the cross. But even Psychopathia Sexualis didn’t include historically perhaps the most attested sexual deviation, that is congress with extra-terrestrials of whom the devil and his incubi and succubi were the most numerous victimizers in the Abrahamic religions, not to mention the Pagans, with a vast array of Greek and Latin deities and heroes usually bisexual who victimize humans of all ages, or those vast numbers known to have sexual congress with humans in Africa, southeast Asia, and the Americas against which exorcism is still performed and practiced in all its various forms. (I question whether this paragraph rather strays from the subject in hand).
Having herself been “abused”, the journalist Judith Levine uses her own and other narratives as well as some sociological and psychological data in Harmful to Minors (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) to question the dogma of the sex-abuse industry. Levine’s probing work incorporates information from a variety of sources, including interviews with young people and adults, newspaper articles, internet sites, visits to schools, and more, in concluding that it is okay, normal, and natural for children to have sex. The only real harm in childhood sexuality, as the subtitle suggests, is the peril that results from our modern cultural obsession for “protecting children from sex.” To date, the book has received a considerable amount of attention on Amazon Books, with some 56 reviews, of which nearly 2/3 tw-thirds(36) are favorable, giving the book a full 5 stars (and on Google books where it has received 5 stars from 28/42 readers)---- . The majority praise Levine, for trying to shed light on an important and sensitive issue and for noting the frivolity/paranoia in our modern approach to childhood sexuality in the US. One reader commends Levine for pointing out “the plethora of new laws that, though well intended, are founded on terribly flawed evidence and pushed into enactment by highly neurotic people who understand nothing of what constitutes real harm in the real world,” while another suggests “one can make a compelling case that pedophiles are created by society's prohibition against children satisfying their natural adolescent curiosity during adolescence, the pedophile being a product of arrested sexual curiosity.”
As might be expected, however, Levine’s bold work also occasions shrieking denunciations and scathing reprobation, for example, from supporters of abstinence-only education programs. She is criticized for using pseudo-science, discredited for not being a parent, and scolded for being “unwilling to understand those who don't think the way she does.” One reader advises us to “Read the book--ponder it--but have a few grains of salt handy.” Another objects to Levine’s work on the grounds that the “book is no more than postmodernist claptrap, masquerading as science.” “The positive attention it's garnered,” this same reader tells us, “is due more to the desire of academics and pseudo-intellectuals (too often synonymous) to appear au courant and grab a ride on the PC bandwagon than to any redeeming social value or merit contained within its covers.”Another reader -suggests “Thanks to this book, more teenagers and children are going to have so-called "protected" sex and end up with STDs…This book is another effort to sexualize children at younger and younger ages. The people who make fun of abstinence make ME laugh. I didn't have to have an AIDS test before my wedding.”
However we choose to interpret Levine’s book, or whatever side we might take in the debate about childhood sexuality, one thing is for certain, Harmful to Minors has opened up a “Pandora’s Box” around an already sensitive issue, and we should expect it to be read, debated, and referred to for many more years to come.
Sarah Goode also created a popular uproar with her - long-winded title Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction To Children: A Study Of Paedophiles In Contemporary Society (Routledge, 2009). So far she hasn’t received any reviews on Amazon (or Google) but like Levine she has been denounced, although she insisted that pedophilia, which she problematically defines - as sex between someone older than 16 with someone younger, although terrible, was not as dreadful as the sex-abuse industry stated.
By implication, Clancy supports the unpublished dissertation by Richard Yuill, approved by Glasgow University 5 years ago. Considering myself unqualified, and also seeing no reviews for either of these books on either Amazon or Google, I have elicited the following commentary on Sarah Goode’s book by Richard Yuill:
“In a recent ethnographic study on paedophiles in contemporary society, Sarah Goode certainly recognizes the lowly position of self-identified child lovers within contemporary Western society, yet fails to fully theorize the implications of this when it comes to core epistemological issues of knowledge production, scientific veracity, and what cultural stories are able to be disseminated. The central reason for this oversight is her naive adoption of an essentialist perspective on adult-child sexual relations and subsequent failure to engage with constructionist and deconstructionist insights on childhood.
“Furthermore, the attitude Goode displays to her research respondents is far from empathetic or ethical. Indeed, most of her final summation amounts to a rubbishing of the “supposed” positions taken by self-identified paedophiles, and tends to take the form of a self-congratulatory monologue on how convincing she finds the child sexual abuse (CSA) paradigm in her understanding of adult-child sexual relationships. Goode also doesn’t hide her complicity in current legal strictures on paedophiles, by openly declaring her intent to contact the police, and in positioning her work as an important tool in “child protection.”
“Her basically unreconstructed modernist approach to sexual epistemology ultimately fails to provide significant theoretical or practical insights. In contrast, Goode’s reliance on developmental and neurophysiological approaches lead her down a blind alley, one which supposedly presents a liberal notion of progressive toleration, but in fact ultimately binds sexual theory and praxis to a bureaucratic, monolithic regimen, and consigns both paedophiles and children to a sinister and dystopian future.”
The third and most spectacular and debated book on this subject is Sarah Clancy’s The Trauma Myth (Basic Books, 2009). The Trauma Myth has driven a stake through the heart of the dogmatic assertion of the child sexual abuse industry that intergenerational sex - even that of infants under 6 and children under 13 with adults over 18 - is automatically traumatic to the younger person. Clancy says that it only traumatizes those 10% compelled by violence and intimidation. Rind et al. (see their meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin, July 1998,) claimed that boys on average were less frequently traumatized than girls, partly because they were less abused through incest and force than girls. That work was -censored by both houses of Congress.
While denouncing intergenerational sexual contact as - widespread and highly controversial, Clancy asserts that trauma only occurs years later, when a hostile society condemns it to the victim as an adult. One wonders whether if society were to accept such relationships as inevitable, as it has homosexuality, prostitution, and gambling, there would be no harm at all – a solution that she doesn’t seem to consider. Since legalizing those relationships often seems to have had positive results, she should at least consider having the age of consent lowered to 14, which would mark progress and reduce trauma and other damage. – Not needed I think.
The main reason why Clancy’s Trauma Myth has evoked such shock (26 reviews to date, of which 15 give the book the lowest rating, one star) so soon after its publications is not only its catchy title compared to Sarah Goode’s tedious one - but because it asserts that intergenerational sex involving pre-pubescent children does not immediately create a trauma. She asserts that the trauma comes only later, after the infant or child grows up and learns that what it did is considered horrible, and - internalizes that he/she might have in some way encouraged it - thus Consequently, this work -–potentially opens the way to the claims of the still-suppressed, but more favorable to intergenerational male-male relations, works written by Rind and-Yuill. Rind has argued that in fact there is no harm at all in many cases of such male sexuality if it does not involve force, incest, or intimidation, and that in general, it is less-traumatizing than the far more common adult male with underage female encounter, and that it shouldn’t be called a pathologicaldisorder as it currently is in the DSM-IV - diagnostic manual.
Clancy’s work is not without flaws. I think that she might have made greater distinctions about whether incest and the effect on girls as contrasted to boys might have increased the adverse reactions as some think. Perhaps the most - crucial point is that she restricted her interviews to adults who were under age 12, when they had the sexual encounter --with - an adult. As Rind et al. suggest, younger children tend to have more negative experiences in sexual encounters with adults.Still, the work provocatively explores a controversial topic, and for that its’ value should be rightly acknowledged.
As a historian, all I can say is that throughout much of recorded history and as far as I can ascertain throughout preliterate societies also, the immense majority of sexual unions, often commencing with marriages between males in their late teens (17-19) and females in their early to mid teens (13-16) under 16, were without trauma, so that trauma from such a union surely must be a modern social construct as Susan Clancy has implied.
The answer that she offers is so clear, dramatic, and precise that I shall let Clancy speak for herself! She seems to have anticipated much of the debate that her work has generated:
“Given the assumption that victims themselves report progress, it is understandable that advocates do not want to see, hear, or collect any data that might rock the boat.” (107) “The trauma model is not a good fit for the reality of such violations.” (107) “I realize that many people committed to helping victims of sexual abuse do not really care about the truth surrounding the actual event. The trauma theory’s in accuracy does not matter to them.” (108) “…our lies about sexual abuse are not helping the victims” (108) “Sexual abuse is common and harmful; it is never the child’s fault.” (111) “Characteristics of the sexual abuse experience related to trauma (like how frightening it was, whether penetration or force was involved, and how many times it happened) do not do a good job of forecasting the significance of the victim’s psychological harm in the aftermath.” (112) “Indeed professionals should have paid more attention to what the victims had to say from the beginning. A growing number of scholars in the sexual abuse field are coming to agree that understanding how and why sexual abuse damages victims probably has little to do with actual abuse and a lot to do with what happens in its aftermath.” (113) “…At a later point the victims come to ‘relabel’ the experiences as ‘traumatic.’ I believe I am, however, the first to highlight this ‘relabeling’ as characterizing most cases of sexual abuse… in my study–no different from other research– the exact amount of time it took for the victims to conceptualize what had happened to them varied.” (121) “…once they had re-conceptualized’ these formerly ambiguous events– did the experience become psychologically traumatic and begin to exert its negative events.” (122) “When they discover they have been abused, victims frequently report feelings of betrayal.” (122) “It is the direct result of the conscious malicious intention of another human being.” (123) “…the degree of betrayal the victims felt in the aftermath was an inverse function of how traumatic the abuse was when it happened: the less traumatic it was, the more betrayal the victims reported.” (125) “Yet only 5 percent spontaneously reported feeling angry at their abuser.” (127) “Almost 80 percent felt both [victim and abuser] were at fault.” (129) “Victims almost invariably express guilt about the occurrence of the experience and usually blame themselves.” (131) “…the less traumatic (forceful, frightening, threatening) the abuse was while it occurred, the more guilt and self-blame the victims report later on.” (135) “Today, as a function of the mental health field’s relentless emphasis on trauma, force, and violence and the subsequent embargo on any real-world, practical information about the reality of sexual abuse, most victim’s experiences slip under the radar– their stories are ignored, dismissed, overlooked, or denied by the very people who purport trying to help them.” (140) “The trauma conceptualization results not only in victims’ negative feelings of guilt and isolation not being neutralized but in their being exacerbated; victims feel worse.” (141) “…shame is overwhelming…the trauma theory needs to go.” (142) “ A growing body of data indicates that feelings of betrayal, shame, guilt and self-blame are potent predictors of psychopathological symptoms and disorders like depression, low self-esteem, and PTSD in the aftermath of sexual abuse.” (143) “Today sexual abuse is widely accepted as common and never the victim’s fault. But not much has changed regarding the victim’s decision to speak out about their abuse…Less than 10 percent of actual crimes actually get reported.” (150) “Whether either avoidance or suppression is actually beneficial is unclear.” (155) “Since the vast majority of crimes are never reported, the vast majority of perpetrators go unidentified and unpunished. Instead, according to a consistent body of data, they often commit similar offenses with other children.” (159) “…they must come to believe that they should be should be unafraid, unashamed and as un-stigmatized by others as a mugging victim.” (160) “Further, there is no clear neurobiological evidence that repression (the mind immediately and automatically erasing a memory) is even possible.” (162) “The worst part of the sexual abuse was how other people reacted…It turns out that there is an inverse relationship between psychological damage and social support.” (170) “By highlighting trauma-therefore emphasizing characteristics of a type of abuse that rarely exists– many mental health professionals advocating for victims to be believed, and supported, not blamed or doubted, are fostering the conditions that lead to denial, blame and minimization in the first place.” (176) “It has spawned a billion-dollar industry of media savvy professionals, academics, publishers and politicians who have transformed sexual abuse from a backwater social issue into a major social, health and legal concern.” (177) “Thirty years later, what has changed? Sexual abuse is still the best kept secret in the world.” (178) “The book started with a simple question, why is the experience of sexual abuse, as described by the victims, so different from how professionals portray and communicate it to the larger population?” (179) “…the trauma conceptualization of sexual abuse ‘has shown itself to be utterly resistant to facts revealed over twenty years of research.” (182) “Ten years ago, Bruce Rind, a professor at Temple University, and his colleagues published a paper in the prestigious journal Psychological Bulletin, arguing that sexual abuse does not immediately and directly lead to harm. Professional and societal outrage ensued.” (182) “The American Psychological Association called for a repudiation of the article, and public figures like Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh attacked the authors for conducting garbage science and for wanting to ‘sexualize our children and normalize pedophilia…You cannot challenge the trauma conceptualization of sexual abuse because of a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in mental health and policy circles since the late 1970’s– a rejection of any information that highlights children’s involvement in or compliance with these crimes and a relentless preference for information having to do with the frightening, forceful, violent and threatening nature of sexual abuse.” (183) “Sexual abuse may not be a horror show for most victims when it happens, but certainly can become one later in life.” (184) “Sexual abuse is very wrong, regardless of how it affects victims…It is time to develop a stronger ethical position on the matter, one less dependent on the presumption of harm and more dependent on the premise that the act is inherently vile and unfair to the child.” (186) “Today, most states limit the time in which criminal prosecutions may be brought forward regarding cases of sexual abuse towards children. For example, in many states, once the victim turns eighteen, a five-year statute of limitations exists to bring civil suits forth based on sexual abuse claims.” (190) “…child sexual abuse should have no finite reporting period.” (191) “Highlighting the truth about sexual abuse also has clear implications for the recovered memory debate: the question as to whether people can forget and then, later on in life remember (or recover) their sexual abuse experiences. The answer is, conditionally, yes.” (191) “…cases in which a victim suddenly remembers abuse experiences that were obviously or subjectively traumatic when they happened (they involved pain, terror, violence or force) then it is possible the victim is experiencing a false memory– that the abuse experience never happened.” (192)
O tempora! O mores!
Certain topics today are even more taboo than intergenerational sex, but seem to be far more widespread than the general public believes: necrophilia in nursing homes and hospices (including sex with those near death and thus helpless); sex with the mentally retarded; and what has come to be greatly discussed, in prisons, rape by guards both male and female of underage youth and of other prisoners, as my late friend Steve Donaldson exposed when he founded the “Stop Prison Rape Society” some few decades ago. -
The solution to this much contested debate is more not less published research from all sides and viewpoints so that - knowledge is broadened, as opposed to the unequal access the CSA industry has at present compared to rival accounts.