The following contains photos that may be offensive.
The Last Taboo: Sexual Desire for Pre-Pubescent Children
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All photos are by Sally Mann. Her photos can be seen at online gallery http://www.art-forum.org/z_Mann/gallery.htm .
Sexual Fascism in Progressive America
Progressives in America are rightly concerned about increasing signs of fascism in this country, such as a so-called war on terrorism that allows massive invasion of privacy and wholesale imprisonment without charge.
Such as state manufacture of propaganda for its own people; such as the assertion that anyone who challenges government policies on these matters is a traitor.
Such as a “great leader” who puts himself clearly above and outside the law.
They ought to be concerned also about another sign of the demise of American justice and human decency: scapegoating.
One sign of fascism has always been the creation of a scapegoated class whom people are taught to fear and hate, and whose very existence demands a totalitarian state apparatus of surveillance and control. A class whom no-one would dare defend.
There is a class of people in America today, numbering two million or more, who have been utterly scapegoated, ostracized, demonized and shunned. There is no longer any defense available for these people. Almost no-one on the left or the right, civil libertarians or ordinary citizens, will defend their rights.
They are regularly vilified with the most vicious and hate-filled language—language previously reserved for classes now protected: Jews, Blacks, homosexuals. They are fair game as targets of abuse and vandalism.
They are subject to utter public scorn. About 600,000 of them have been rounded up and forced to register—many soon to be monitored for life with electronic bracelets and global positioning devices.
Nearly 4000 have been locked up for life, not on criminal charges, but by civil commitment, and those numbers are growing by the day.
The remainder are mostly in hiding, desperately afraid of sudden exposure and witch hunts by neighbors, fellow-workers and friends, whom they fear will suddenly see them as monsters beyond redemption.
They are a class defined not by specific crimes (though they are accused of many offenses) but by their very being, their desires, their constitution, as allegedly broken human beings.
Presidents and Governors call them “despicable,” “disgusting,” “incapable of rehabilitation or reform,” “beyond help.”
They are loudly reviled as examples to be shunned by fundamentalist and bigoted preachers, but also by left-wing media, progressive community leaders and feminists.
Who are these scum? Arab terrorists? Muslim fanatics? No—those evil-doers appear almost benign when compared to this heinous mob. These are the most awful people in the world: SEX OFFENDERS! Worse, many are PEDOPHILES!
In fact, these two terms become mingled. Jeb Bush recently alluded to all the sex offenders in Florida as child molesters, though fewer than 1/3 of those incarcerated in that state for “sex crimes” involved people under 18.
Bush went on, “These are a group of people who are the sickest of the sick. They are truly perverts and it's not curable. Instead of civil detention, we ought to make sure…these pedophiles…are locked up forever.”
Of course among these sex offenders are indeed some criminals who have caused extreme harm: violent rapists of adult women as well as children. A few of them have kidnapped, tortured or murdered their victims.
Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins University Sex Disorders Clinic in Baltimore estimates that such crimes account for less than 1/10th of 1% of all sex offenses in America.
His studies also show that fewer than 10% of child sex offenders re-offend—though recidivism is usually given as a reason for draconian measures against them.
As child abuse experts point out, about 50 children are reported kidnapped and raped or murdered by strangers annually, compared to more than 3,000 children murdered by parents and other family members in non-sexual cases.
Most sex offenders, says one therapist who works with sex offenders in a state prison system, are “Gentle grandfathers who made one mistake in judgment years ago and fondled their grandchild.
Or lonely, geeky gay men—teenagers some of them—who sought mutual sexual release with adolescent boys.
Or young female teachers who succumbed to the wiles of handsome adolescent boys or girls. Or young men who got drunk and pushed their girlfriends over a line that is now called date rape.”
Yet the media, police, prosecutors and politicians continue to insist that children are in dire need of protection from serial rapists and murderers.
Two-thirds of parents surveyed said they feared their children would be kidnapped and or murdered by strangers. Facts simply do not matter when hysteria is involved.
The New York Times recently published a sensational story about a teenage boy who went on line to entice more than 15,000 customers to watch his own pornographic images of himself.
The Times reporter, acting less like a reporter and more like a crusading cop, coaxed the boy away from his life of debauchery, reminding him he would instantly switch from “victim” to “perpetrator” when he passed his 18th birthday.
(Actually, those under 18 may be treated as perpetrators, too.)
He helped get the boy to the FBI to close in on many of his key customers, whom the Times had further investigated on its own. These customers included police officers, lawyers, ministers, rabbis, social workers—and especially those who work with children and adolescents.
Many also were parents and grandparents with ostensibly happy families of their own. Surely one sign that something is wrong with this picture is that the “heinous criminals” are otherwise law-abiding, decent human beings with successful careers and “normal” personal lives.
No. With scapegoating, such apparent normalcy is just one more sign of devious perversity.
The key ingredients of this scapegoating campaign are of course sex and children. “Nowhere,” wrote Linda Williams in Children and Sex (1993), “is sexuality more feared in America than in the lives of children.”
(Williams has spent her professional career assuring that these ingredients produce repression.)
The core demon in the campaign is the recently created category of “pedophile” (which does not predate the 1960s as a so-called scientific construct).
Although defined by the American Psychiatric Association as persons with a dominant sexual desire for pre-pubescent children, the pedophile tag now applies to any person who every entertained a sexual desire or had a sexual incident, however minor, with anyone under 18.
In some circles, the term pedophile is now used to put down any older person who has an affair or shows interest in younger persons—35-year-olds, for instance, who “prey on” 20-year olds.
By the early 2000s, pedophile had become morphed with the still broader “sex offender,” with even mainstream media free to refer to the feared and hated class as “pervs” and “perps” and “deviants.”
This scapegoating also requires public exposure and shunning, even of those who dare defend the civil liberties of pedophiles and sex offenders or challenge attacks on them.
In particular, public wrath is displayed against those who would challenge “age of consent” laws, which are higher in the United States (now effectively 18 in all states due to Federal statutes) than in most other societies.
(Mexico's age of consent is 12 in most cases; Japan is 13,; Spain is now 14—raised recently; France, 15; and Germany 16 and under 16 with parental consent.)
Although as of the 1880s, common law age of consent was 10 in England and its former colonies, and zero in many other societies—where child-brides were common—it has been increasingly raised until there is today, within UNESCO's campaign to protect children, a call for a universal age of 21.
All sex between persons under 18 and those over 18 (or 21) thus becomes “abuse,” since there is the myth that underage persons are simply not capable of consent.
Journalists and scientific researchers who challenge this construct—or who defend some relationships between adults and minors as not being abusive—face severe consequences.
In the only instance of a U.S. Congressional resolution against a scientific paper, the House of Representatives, with only minimal opposition, denounced a study by Dr. Bruce Rind and others, published in the scholarly review, Psychological Bulletin, in 1998.
This “meta-analysis” reviewed several research protocols about adult-child sexuality, and summarized them as showing that relationships in which force was not used did not appear to cause harm, and sometimes might be beneficial. Rind and his co-authors have been systematically ostracized and excluded from many scholarly journals. ✲1
In 2005, a book by a major publisher, which contained another scholarly article by Rind, was withdrawn by that publisher (Hayworth) because of protests from fundamentalist Christians. ✲2
Other gay writers like William Herdt and John DeCecco who researched sexual outlaw behavior in the U.S. (DeCecco) or intergenerational sexuality in non-western cultures (Herdt) simply moved on to other topics.
This did not keep DeCecco from experiencing extreme persecution—while a Professor in San Francisco he had to hire bodyguards to protect him from right-wing attackers. ✲3
A number of women researchers and radical feminists have attempted to undermine or slow down the sex panic.
Among them have been Camille Paglia, Debbie Nathan, Joan Nelson, Elizabeth Stoney, Laura Marks, Gayle Rubin, Pat Califia, Carole Vance, Marjorie Heins, Joanne Wypijewski, Janice Irvine and Judith Levine.
Paglia has been castigated by other sex researchers and many feminist writers for her defense of man-boy sexual relationships in particular.
Although she has published lengthy, well-researched summaries of the history of sexuality and sexual research, she is seldom included in university curriculums involving these topics.
Many of the other women writers suffered similar consequences or censorship of their views. Debbie Nathan, who exposed and virtually stopped the so-called satanic cult child sex panic with her book Satan's Silence (Basic Books, 1996), has spoken of the icy reception her work has sometimes received.
She said, “… I have often had a sense of being intellectually and professionally marginalized, and I have experienced instances of editors killing pieces I've written about sexual hysteria because they got cold feet, as well as refusals to assign such stories.”
One woman writer, who had never had problems with previous articles on other subjects for a prestigious national magazine, attempted a balanced look at the crusade against Catholic priests, especially the sensational case of Father Paul Shanley. She was called in by the editor who said he simply could not run her piece.
Even before Judith Levine's Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex was published in 2002, a massive campaign by fundamentalist Christian groups, including Concerned Women for America, attacked the publisher, the University of Minnesota Press.
While the book was published, the Press created a new process for reviewing its books before publication.
Levine spoke publicly about how she was humiliated time and again in public. She said the manuscript for her book had been turned down by many publishers, treated as if it were “radioactive.”
Among other insights, Levine wrote that “obsession with pedophiles stems for the reluctance to confront incest and the rampant sexualization of children” in American culture.
“Adults project the eroticized desire outwards, creating a monster to hate, hunt down and destroy.” Of the outcry against her book she added, “What happened to me is a perfect example of the hysteria my book is about.”
Nowhere is censorship and shunning greater than against those who would describe or depict childhood or adolescent sexuality, or mere nudity.
The “victims” of the evil perpetrators must also be protected—and projected as the spotless mirror image of their violators—at all costs—their purity and innocence asserted (even in the face of post-Freudian revelations of the sexual lives and interests of children).
Anything portraying the physical beauty of children or erotic aspects of their lives must be banned. (See Bob Chatelle's excellent summaries of the impact of the child porn crusade on freedom of expression: Kiddie Porn Panic, 1993; Limits of Free expression and the Problem of Child Porn, 1997.)
A spate of prominent photographers were censored beginning in the late 1980s, for photos of nude children or adolescents.
The most prominent case was that of the gay photographer, Robert Maplethorpe, whose works were removed from galleries across the country, including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington in 1990, with conservative attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts which had funded some of his work.
Some cases involved prize-winning women photographers, including Sally Mann [her photos accompany this article], Star Ockenga, and Judith Livingston.
Each of them was pilloried. Livingston's son was temporarily removed from her home after she published a photo of him nude. Livingston was eased out of her professorship at Cornell, and Ockenga was dismissed as director of the MIT photography exhibitions.
Sally Mann, who did some of the most widely-published nude photos of children. Her frankly erotic photos of her own children were called incestuous, pedophilic and pornographic.
Feminist writer Germaine Greer has said of her work, “The censoring of a mother's physical delight in her children marks the last stage in the denial of the sensuality of children.” Mann now does landsape photography, and Ockenga, after a period of not working at all, turned to photographs of flowers.
Allen Ginsburg and Joseph Richy published an essay in 1990 against the radical departure from art history in which nude children and adolsecents are out of bounds.
In “The Right to Depict Children in the Nude,” their main point was that sex and nudity in children, and especially adolescents, had been a primary theme of the visual and literary arts throughout Western culture, as well as in many non-Western societies.
He pointed out that even popular advertising used photos and drawings of nude children—especially boys—and Norman Rockwell often portrayed nude or semi-nude boys on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Suddenly, all such photos and pictures disappeared. By the 1990s, when Calvin Kline made public a campaign to sell jeans showing scantily clad teenagers, he was forced to withdraw it within days. The nude child disappeared.
In fact, almost ALL photographs of pubescent and post-pubescent boys and girls vanished from most public media.
No wonder, since the Faber Supreme Court decision in 1982 labeled child pornography as wholly unprotected expression not covered under the Bill of Rights, and since the child pornography acts, beginning in 1990, increasingly criminalized almost all such depictions of any person appearing to be under 18, even when “real children” were not depicted in drawings and simulations.
(This was part of the 1996 law, but the Supreme Court declared that part of the bill unConstitutional. The language has reappeared in the 2006 bill now before Congress.)
Almost the sole exception to the disappearance of erotic depictions of children has been Greer's The Beautiful Boy (Rizolli, 2003).
She notes, “At the end of the 20th century, the guilty panic about pedophilia completed the criminalization of awareness of the desires and charms of boys.”
She took care not to provoke with openly sexual photographs, but she was clear that her purpose was to resurrect the erotic image of the boy, not as pedophilia, but as a reasonable erotic interest of homosexual or heterosexual artists.
The response to Greer has been largely positive in the art world, though not without expected attacks in mainstream newspapers and conservative journals in which she is labeled a “female pederast” among other things. Greer is Australian and has always been known as one to challenge taboos and court sensational publicity.
A Supreme Court decision (Knox V United States,1993) criminalized photographs of even clothed children, if they could be deemed erotic.
Most anti-censorship organizations simply stopped complaining about censorship in cases involving depictions of nude children or erotic situations involving children.
These were now deemed beyond the pale of civil liberty. The Parade magazine cover (Feb. 19, 2006) featured the words in large, bold type, “…Every image of a sexually displayed child—be it a photograph, a tape or a DVD—records both the rape of the child and an act against humanity.”
The feature article from which these words came was by Andrew Vachss, not a child sexuality expert, but a very high-priced lawyer who has successfully sued institutions and individuals in child sex abuse cases.
Vachss does not define a “sexually displayed child”—neither in terms of age (a 17 year old is still a child in most jurisdictions and under most laws), nor in terms of what it includes—nudity? nearly nude erotic poses?—but he makes the absolute statement that it is rape and a crime against humanity.
Nothing could be more heinous (his word). Who says? Why? Those questions are not asked and may not be asked. To ask them is to risk being accused of complicity with rape and crimes against humanity!
Vachss goes on to urge stiffer penalties for mere possession or viewing of a downloaded photograph from the internet—one assumes he means at least life in prison (which is already in force for many such offenses). The utterly evil act becomes the basis for completely scapegoating the utterly evil perpetrator.
The full force of this shunning and scapegoating is aimed at those who can be labeled pedophiles. As the National Center for Reason and Justice, a group that supports those it deems wrongly accused in sex cases, says on its website:
“Especially vulnerable have been those accused of sex offenses against children and adolescents. While none of us deny that these crimes occur, those accused nevertheless have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to receive fair trials. But too often, hysteria reigns and the accused are tried and convicted by the media.”
One day—perhaps fifty or a hundred years from now—it will appear ludicrous that our society was so consumed with anger at this class of scapegoats that it obliterated its fine traditions of liberty and justice in favor of retribution and vengeance.
It will seem odd, that American society was obsessed with concern about sexual acts with teenagers even as it pursued a pointless war that killed thousands of teenagers and others on both sides of that war.
People will hopefully someday recoil when told that a person convicted in Federal court of making a photograph of a 17 year old masturbating would receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison, yet a person convicted of the (non sexual) murder of that teen would face far less.
It will seem incredible that the focus was on sexual deviance rather than on the astronomical rate of murder and other real violence, or the growing gap between rich and poor, and the indelible mark of real poverty on so many children.
Until such a day of greater sanity, this scapegoating and shunning of all sex offenders and “pedophiles” will inevitably lead to less freedom and more insecurity for all who might engender the wrath of puritan preachers or stoke the greed of media outlets and pandering politicians.
For now, it seems unlikely that even those who traditionally guard our civil liberties or those who traditionally challenge state repression from the left will dare speak out, lest they, too, be marginalized and shunned.
“Pariah” @ APR
The writer remains anonymous because he writes and is politically active in several completely unrelated social justice movements. He fears that the shunning and marginalization he describes for those who write about this topic could compromise (unfairly) his other work.
Notes from Xah Lee
The above essay is from:
- The Last Taboo: Sexual Desire for Pre-Pubescent Children , by anonymous. At
The annotation is made by me, Xah Lee, in .
Notes to Friends and Acquaintances
Friends and acquaintances, if you see this, you'll probably think this is weird, probably something you disagree, or don't want to see. Or, even if you agree, it's not something to get involved with. Thats alright.
Remember, millions of people were put to death before, even today, because they have anal or oral sex or gay. Even as recent as 20 or 30 years ago, homosexuals are routinely put in jail. Today, in USA, gay people have this rather celebrated status, in movies, all media, even with protection and blessing by law (gay marriage). The rampant porn, legal porn, anal sex, cum swallowing, fisting, homosexual porn, we see on the web today, were legally considered as “obscene” that have placed perhaps thousands of people in jail in the past 50 years. (in my opinion, it is the internet, a massive flow of open info, made this change.)
Also, consider human history on today's so-called “age of consent”, also consider other countries. It is funny, that if you lived in a country say Asia and then move to US, all of a sudden, you are the most moraly vile person to be spitted upon.