Friday, November 22, 2013

The Correct Time For The Sex Talk

I'm a big fan of comprehensive sex education. I think it's deplorable that so many people are left to fumble in the dark, relying on instinct, cultural osmosis, and at best a smattering of pornography to  inform their decision making process around sex.

I see so much hand wringing about "the right time" to breach the subject. It's become a cultural meme that parents spend their time hoping that they can delay this conversation long enough that their kids will find out the answers on their own rather than face the embarrassment of talking to them about the subject. There is far too much truth in that meme for my taste.

So often, the time people settle on is, essentially, when it finally becomes impossible to put it off any longer. When the physical changes of puberty begin to set it, frightening and confusing the child, only then will the parent manage to overcome their embarrassment in the face of their child's panicked reaction to their own body. Waiting so long to even discuss the physical changes that accompany this stage of growth disgusts me in and of itself. Leaving them to wonder if there is something physically wrong with them when the time comes smacks of neglect.And of course, in the midst of this discussion about what's happening to their own body, that's when so many people think it might be time to talk about sex.

Why do people think the correct time to open a discussion about sex and consent is AFTER the child gets that initial rush of hormones that change sex from a potentially enjoyable activity into a drive and imperative? Because the other option is to tell them about this activity that feels really good, give them all the tools and information about how to stay safe and ensure everyone is enjoying themselves, then recognize that forbidding this activity you've just explained to them will make so little goddamn sense that a five year old will see through it.

The fact is that people have sex earlier in societies where sex education comes earlier. The sex that people have in those societies is safer, and the rates of unplanned pregnancy and STDs is much lower even accounting for this, but horror of horrors, they're having sex younger. The people who can look at this trend and say we shouldn't have this conversation "too early" are saying that they'd rather their children be sick, be parents before they're ready, even end up having nonconsensual sex if only they can keep their kids celibate for a few more years.

My policy, is if a child is old enough to ask the question, they're old enough to hear the truth. The whole truth. Not just this bullshit of explaining as little as you can get away with until they pick up on how uncomfortable you are and give up asking. If your child asks about their origins, the relevant answer to that question involves sex a hell of a lot more than it does microbiology.

You give them the full explanation they're capable of listening to, you ask them questions to make sure they understood you, and you invite them to ask followup questions both immediately and in the near future after they've had a chance to think about what you've said.

And if I can turn people's culturally ingrained hatrid for pedophiles to something that can motivate you to have this conversation, I'll share something of my background. There were gaps in my sex education down to the level of basic external anatomy. Knowing that I would receive no help from those responsible for my education in other matters, I realized the easiest way to get the information I was looking for was during a diaper change. That was the earliest time I can recall associating young children and sex in my mind.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Affirmative Consent

Since this concept has been making its rounds on the various boards and blogs I read, it feels appropriate to weigh in, in detail, on this subject.

Affirmative consent is the idea that avoiding a "no" in a sexual encounter is insufficient for true consent. That only a verbalized "yes" to each and every act performed is sufficient.

I'm actually quite fond of the idea.

The biggest stumbling block I run into when quietly contemplating a better legal situation than the current age of consent, or arguing for its abolishment in open forum, is the fundamental fact that our current system of consent for adults is fundamentally broken. We let adults abuse and manipulate one another in ways that should rightly horrify any human being of good conscience. Thus the idea of exposing children to those culturally and legally sanctioned abuses rightly causes us all to recoil from the idea.

I don't like recoiling from ideas. When I get that impulse, I choose to dig deeper. To find out WHY that reaction strikes me. Because if I recoil, I can't learn specifically what about the situation is so inimical to me, and I can't examine if those distasteful parts can be excised.

The way I figure it, if it isn't acceptable to do inflict something on a five year old child, it isn't acceptable to inflict it on an adult either. If you think we need an age of consent to protect children from predatory adults who would lie their way into bed with them, there is no valid justification for treating those same predators as harmless or even admirable just because they're doing the exact same thing to other adults.

Now, that isn't to say there aren't serious flaws with the concept of affirmative consent. Firstly, like all aspects of sexual consent in this culture, it's gendered, in that males need to get consent, and females need to give it, never the other way around. Not a problem specific to the concept itself, but a problem inherent in our culture and one that rightly needs to be called out whenever the subject of changing the standards of consent come up.

Second is that how far it needs to be taken is never sufficiently defined, nor will its proponents ever submit to limiting cases, always shreaking about their "better safe than sorry" nonsense. Under reasonable standards, this practice could force better communication between sexual partners, make everyone take accountability for their own agency in deciding to participate, and reducing the tragedies that currently result from our current standards of "implied consent". If stretched beyond reasonable boundaries, however, it becomes a standard no one can ever live up to, and thus redefines every sexual interaction as rape, with all the gendered and ageist asymetries that go along with rape accusations in our culture.

Some claim that this standard infantalizes women, because it denies their ability to speak up when something is bothering them about a sexual encounter, and instead relies on the man to ask for confirmation. Aside from the obvious sexism in the idea that only a man would need to be held to this standard (not that it isn't an objective fact of our culture that this would be the case), I actually agree that it's infantalizing. That's why I like it so much.

Maybe if we can get the level of discourse and behavior of the general population to a place where a child would have no difficulty navigating it, why would we need the age of consent or anything to replace it?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

You Need Help

Identify yourself as a pedophile online and the title is certain to be one of the first things you get in response. Unfortunately, it might well be true, just not in the way the person saying it means.

Being attracted to young people is not illness, and not evil. You are absolutely not sick or wrong for having the feelings and preferences that you do. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear.

But this society is hard to live in for even the most normal, conformist members of the citizenry. Stress builds up and we are none of us immune to any number of traumatic experiences and losses. In short, everyone needs help from time to time, and that is the entire point of having the psychiatric profession in the first place.

Unfortunately, with all medical issues, trust is an absolutely essential element. Doctor-patient confidentiality exists in order to facilitate a relationship of trust with your health care provider, so you can give them enough information for them to help you solve whatever problem is troubling you. And doctor-patient confidentiality has a pretty big hole in it where our kind is concerned.

Psychiatrists are mandatory reporters. Not only is their professional ethic accepting of them violating confidentiality in cases of suspected child abuse, they are, in fact, legally required to do so. For the intelligent and sane among them, simply acknowledging your attraction to minors is not going to be enough to trigger this requirement in their minds, but unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if this individual psychiatrist is that intelligent or sane until we've already placed ourselves in his/her power.

Setting aside the risks of involuntary commitment and the unfortunate role members of this profession have in getting minors to "acknowledge" that they were abused, there is the simple, but very real threat of being forcibly outed. And the more psychiatrists you shop around for looking for one that fits, the more times you have to put your life and future in the hands of a total stranger.

There are times I really want to take my critics up on their advice to get help. The general stress of living life, combined with the added dose of living mostly closeted and constantly bombarded by negative messages about my kind, seasoned with some comparatively minor stress tied to gender role conformity, and I'd very much welcome the assistance of a competent, trained professional to help me sort out the parts that are actually a problem. I'd even be willing to keep shopping around until I find someone willing to not treat my orientation as something that needs to be cured, if I could just be assured that there is something meaningful actually holding them back from telling others what I've said. Unfortunately there isn't. At least nothing credible.

Having no one to turn to, having to deal with all of our problems ourselves, and within our own hidden, isolated internet communities is hurting us. I have zero concern I'm going to snap and rape someone in a fit of sexual frustration. I am concerned occasionally that I might be driven to self-harming behaviors or that the stress might build up in me to the point of having me snap at my friends and loved ones and isolate myself because I don't know how to deal with the stress well enough.

I care about other people, especially those suffering through the dark place of believing society's lies when they're called monsters. But even I get tired. Even I reach a point where the stress gets to a breaking point. I'm not a perfect person, and I've got plenty of unresolved issues. I may have gotten past the self-loathing that comes with the fear that society is right about me being a rapist just waiting to happen, but I'm still vulnerable to burnout and some days the constant barrage of hatred still manages to get to me even when I know it's nothing but ignorance and lies.

For those sane, competent psychiatrists out there, who feel I'm being unfair, please recognize this comes from a place of fear. Let us know you're willing to keep this particular brand of secret, and we'll come and be grateful for the opportunity to try, even if we don't click.

For everyone who's run that gauntlet themselves and found someone who knows the difference between a pedophile and a child molester (in potential or otherwise), please don't keep this person a secret from the rest of us.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reasoning or Rationalizing

There's a difference between reasoned positions and rationalizations. Most of has have both in our mental baggage, myself included.

A reasoned position is one that you take after looking at the evidence and bowing to what the evidence tells you.When you decide on a course of action based on a reasoned position, you combine the knowledge of what the likely consequences of that action are with your own fundamental principles telling you which outcomes you'd prefer to have happen.

A rationalization isn't precisely the opposite of a reasoned position, though it's often presented as such. A rationalization happens when you pick your course of action, and then look at the evidence selectively to find things that tell you that this course of action is in accord with your fundamental principles.

These two modes of thinking can quite often lead one to the same conclusion, but rationalizations suffer from a serious risk that your actions will lead to a world that isn't as closely in accord with your fundamental principles than you would like. On the other hand, establishing reasoned positions is exhausting, requiring constant re-examination of your chosen courses of action, and the occasional devastating moment when you realize that you've been on the wrong path for some time, doing more harm than good, and needing to reverse course.

The saying "you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into" is about this divide between reasoning and rationalization.

I try to limit my rationalizations, even if I'm occasionally guilty of them. I try instead to keep my actions and principles in proper alignment, and often challenge others to do the same. One of the biggest rationalizations I've still got rattling around in my psyche is this one: I didn't reason my way into the position that I shouldn't have sex with kids. I adopted that conclusion then came up with rationalizations for why that is the correct course of action.

The evidence tells me that if I want to normalize adult-child sexual relationships, the most effective way to do so is for as many people as possible to engage in them. Stygma is removed by familiarity, and the world as a whole benefits from the progress made. If those of us who care, and who want compassionate, consensual, loving relationships weren't the ones avoiding relationships, we wouldn't have seceded the field to those individuals who don't care about love, consent, and compassion.

But to follow this course of action requires a sacrifice, and it isn't one I'd be making alone. My hypothetical lover would be put through the wringer along with me, and the idea of asking someone I care about to do that causes a nearly instinctual recoil.

But to shine the harsh light of reason on my rationalization once again, I hold as a principle that competent human beings have a right to make their own decisions, and the evidence tells me that young people are quite competent to do so. They certainly would for anyone I would consider entering into a consensual physical relationship with. So do not my principles demand that I let them agree or not based on their own will, rather than attempt to shield them from such a relationship out of a misguided protective impulse?

I don't have all the answers. I'm still struggling to put words to some of the questions. I know there's something wrong with my thinking on this one, and until I've got it sorted out, I'd rather not act. But isn't that just one more rationalization for what I was going to do anyway?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Religion

I implied a post about my religious affiliation in the comments of the previous post, so here it is.

As if being a pedophile wasn't bad enough, I'm an atheist. That may not be completely accurate, but it's probably the most accurate label for my religious affiliation that I've got at the moment. I'll be elaborating below, but it's actually sort of amusing that studies have put atheists as the least trusted demographic in the United States. I'm not sure what the other choices were, so it's hard to say whether I'd be more mistrusted for that or the thinking little kids are sexy.

Anyway, I grew up in a fairly nonreligious household. The only times I saw the inside of a church were weddings. Of course, it's impossible to grow up in the United States and not learn at least the fundamentals of Christianity.

I find the Problem of Evil convincing as an argument for the nonexistence of an omnimax God. The Problem of Evil is formulated as follows:

1) If God is omnipotent, He has the power to prevent evil.
2) If God is benevolent, He has the will to prevent evil.
3) Evil Exists.
4) If God is omniscient, He knows about evil.

God is either not omnipotent, not benevolent, not omniscient, or nonexistent.

I'm willing to entertain the idea of a divine figure not fitting the qualities of omnimax, mind you, but such a being is both falsible and actually demonstrated to be false by the reality we currently inhabit. I've read the apologetics purporting to resolve the Problem of Evil, but none have actually done so. I'm always willing to hear new arguments if anyone cares to present them, but at this point, it's looking pretty airtight.

Now, while I don't reject dieties who lack omnimax characteristics as strongly as I reject omnimax ones, I'll need convincing on two points before joining a religion purporting to have a genuine diety. The first is I'll need convincing of the existence and purported abilities of this diety. I'm willing to accept the evidence of my senses and interpret claims about a diety the same way I interpret claims about other human beings. If someone can meet that standard and demonstrate the existence of their chosen diety by objective standards, the second point on which I'll need convincing is that this being is worthy of my worship.

Moral superiority is not determined on the basis of might makes right, so supernatural power can't bolster the claims of such a being's demanded way of life being morally correct. I'm willing to grant that a superhumanly intelligent entity with greater access to information might make better ethical choices than I would with my more limited prospective, but there is zero reason those commandments cannot be broken down and explained to we mere mortals. Any entity who claims I can't understand why it's right is an entity I won't be voluntarily arranging my life around.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to accept that such a diety might not need my worship to be voluntary. I'm as vulnerable to threats and intimidation as any other human. A credible threat of Hell, for example, might well inspire me to go through the motions of Christian worship, even as I silently hate the being that's threatening me with it and look out for ways to usurp and cast down such a tyrant god. Alternately, I'm susceptible to bribery to modify my behavior if not by beliefs. Again, I evaluate gods the same way I evaluate other humans.

Now, I do have a problem with the materialist interpretations of human consciousness. Unfortunately that problem is simply that I don't like the idea of dying. Specifically, I don't like the idea of my consciousness ceasing one day, as the materialist interpretation says must happen. I very much want to believe in an immortal, immaterial soul, and I keep an eye out for information confirming that hypothesis, even knowing that that is not how you handle seeking the truth. I so very much want to not cease to be, I find myself quite often ignoring my normal requirements for standards of evidence so that I can believe there's a way out of it.

If, when I die, I find there is some diety who's been running the show and who waits to reveal itself until we die, I'm going to have a lot of questions, and whoever it is will have a lot to answer for. If the answers are good enough, we might even come to an understanding and become friends. Like I said, the same way I evaluate other humans.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Horrors of Pornography

For those who haven't been following along, I'm pro-porn. I believe in allowing people to engage with their sexualities in any way they please that doesn't harm others without the fully informed consent of those others.

Alarmist hand-wringing is nothing new. The internet didn't invent it. You need only look at the satanic ritual abuse cases of the 1980s to see how far alarmist hand-wringing can take people.

The one I'm addressing today is, as you've no doubt figured out, about pornography. Specifically the most recent alarm being sounded that because of all their exposure to pornography on the internet, men (always just men, isn't it?) are losing interest in partnered sex. The reasons cited for this are various, and not really the focus of this blog post. No, the focus of this blog post is to make lemonade.

You see, if we accept the current alarmists at their word. If we accept that they are doing real science, and that the issues they are bringing up are real. Then we come to one inescapable conclusion. All the efforts to limit access to child porn have been contributing to the molestation of children.

If all the porn that men (again with the not so subtle sexism from these alarmists) have access to in virtually limitless quantities on the internet really is "rewiring their brains" such that they're no longer interested in sex with real women, then the only morally correct thing to do is to immediately halt any and all efforts to stop or slow the distribution of child porn on the internet, and indeed start subsidizing that industry.

I realize some may object to taxpayer dollars going to support the child porn industry, but to quote an entirely different group of alarmists, "if it saves just one child."

Now, of course, I don't believe that pornography has these horrific effects on the (male) libido. I don't believe the alarmists who attach the term "addiction" as though it can damn a perfectly safe, healthy activity by pointing out that there exists some small group of people who develop addictions and compulsions associated with it. I don't believe access to porn hurts the viewer in any way.

But I figure this argument will either shut up this particular batch of pro-censorship alarmists and provide some measure of protection for free speech by using my own boogie-man status against them, or they'll stick to their guns and start lobbying for government subsidized child porn. Either way, I consider it a win.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't Like The Rules? Go Someplace Else.

If any of my readers is aware of a country anywhere on earth without an age of consent that has any rule of law whatsoever, please leave a note in the comments. The only places I've ever identified lacking the current arbitrary-age-line-based-on-nothing system are places that don't so much as have sufficient government to enforce the laws against murdering each other in the streets.

I mention this, because an infrequent, but still intriguing argument I occasionally face is, if we aren't happy with the law of the land as it stands, we should go someplace more in line with our legal philosophy. Or alternately, that we should all be deported to such a place.

The days of the frontier are over. There are no habitable places on earth that aren't already claimed by nation states willing to enforce their claim to those places with the military force of a standing army. The option of just finding an island somewhere and starting our own society isn't an option, no matter how tempting it might be.

Yet, there is something worth noting. As I've mentioned previously, population studies of male pedophiles indicate we make up about one fifth of the population, and barring evidence that there's a reason for a gender split, I'm going to just use that number. That's actually one of the biggest minorities in the United States.

That's enough that, if concentrated in one geographic area and voting as a block, could eliminate the age of consent laws of twenty states, even with every nonpedophile in the same jurisdiction voting against.

Now, there are major problems with any such plan. First and foremost, the fact that we're an invisible minority and secretive for our own survival means that it's very difficult to coordinate. Second, of course, we all have different opinions on how things should be. Just because you think prepubescents are hot doesn't mean you're interested in changing the laws that say you go to jail for having sex with them. And that's not to mention the fact that even among pedophiles, there's always a subgroup willing to look down its nose at the people they visualize as less socially acceptable than themselves.

And of course, the worst problem with such a plan is that voluntarily concentrating ourselves and taking decisive political action like that means mass outing ourselves and potentially staring down the barrels of a tank battalion when the rest of the nation decides now is the time for the federal government to standardize age of consent laws constitutionality of such an act be damned.

Still, the fact remains that there actually are subtle forces causing us to concentrate in certain geographic areas even now. As states compete with one another to be the least friendly to us in order to cleanse their populations, the losers of those fights get the refugees. The tricky part will be recognizing when that critical mass has been reached that we can act from a position of power within those states, and mustering the courage to do so.

Yes, it's a pipe dream. But there has to be something useful that can be done with our numbers to effect change. Any other potential hickups with that plan are of course, welcome in the comments, as are alternate proposals.

How Are People This Stupid?

I've made a shocking realization recently. Apparently I'm an optimist.

Only an optimist would continue to be surprised when people don't respond to reasoned argument, when people don't take the time to think through their positions, and when people uncritically repeat talking points as though they fundamentally represent their own worldview.

Intellectually, I know the tendency to look critically at one's own biases and viewpoints in the world is rare, and the willingness to face up to the mutually contradictory ideas you might be holding on to rarer still. But I keep getting blindsided when people keep acting like this.

You may have noticed I don't post particularly often. This isn't because I lack passion, or because I'm fundamentally pressed for time. It's because every time I go to put proverbial pen to paper, I talk myself out of a hundred subjects because the points that I could speak on are so basic, so axiomic, that I feel like I'm insulting my audience's intelligence when I try to take such a simple idea and break it down into something even simpler to explain it.

Most of the things I talk about seem so basic that, ironically, the fact that my opposition doesn't seem to get them makes me worry about whether they're capable of providing meaningful consent themselves.

And yet I keep assuming people will do the work necessary to keep their worldviews self-consistent. That people will be bothered by the presence of those inconsistencies when they're pointed out, and work to find out which of their beliefs needs to go. I keep being shocked when instead they build elaborate justifications because they actually care more about avoiding the work of reevaluating how they've been living their lives than they do about making sure the lives they live after this point are more faithful to what their fundamental core ethics are.

I keep expecting people to overlook typos and poor word choice, and accept clarifications in order to get at the meat of an argument, rather than using any excuse they can muster to decide not to listen to someone with views opposing their own. Because I value the argument, I keep expecting other people to behave the same.

And I know this is something people do. I recognize that people defend their preconceptions with more vigor than they'll question them. I know the very fact that I'm in the minority position in a debate means that the vast majority of people out there haven't thought through the issue. (Yes, I do believe that anyone who's thought through their position sufficiently will agree with me. Of course, I cheat. When someone comes up with a better argument, I change my position and suddenly they agree with me again.)

Yet knowing all this, I keep staring at shock when I see news articles, blog posts, forum conversations, and even in-person conversations with friends where these same factors keep coming up. I keep expecting reason and self-consistency to win the day, when I know people respond better to fallacious emotional argument.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Is And Isn't Predatory Behavior

I was reading an article by Noah Brand on the Goodmen Project blog recently. In it, he details an incident from his youth. He describes it thus:
When I was thirteen, I was approached by a pedophile.
What struck me as I read the account was how absolutely normal and reasonable the behavior was despite being described in terminology meant to arouse disgust and fear.

The first thing he opens with is a description of the man's appearance. He takes special note of the fact that his appearance was so stereotypical of a child predator, and uses it to emphasize how stupid and naive he had been for not recognizing something was wrong.

I should take a moment to inform readers unfamiliar with Noah Brand and the Goodmen project that Noah is the editor-in-chief of the publication, who's stated goals are to hold conversations about men and masculinity and to confront harmful stereotypes about men. Full disclosure, the staff of the Goodmen project, Mr. Brand included, were the inspiration for this blog post.

The encounter itself was a conversation struck up in a fast food restaurant, during which the author was lured to a secluded alley under the pretense of finding job postings. When the man made his sexual interest clear, Noah left.

There are a number of linguistic tricks that the author uses to demonize the man he encountered, and I do encourage any of my readers to look over the original post in detail and see if they can spot them on their own. Anyone who can pick out one I've missed would be doing me a favor pointing it out, so I can be on the look out for the same trick in the future.

The inconsistencies in Noah's story start fairly early on. I suppose being the editor means you don't really get people giving your stuff a once over. He describes the man directing the conversation to what job he would like to have when he was old enough to enter the employment market. He suggests the alley because the local university had set out job postings and want ads there, and that it might give him a better feel for the job market. He later recounts with mock shock that there were no postings that an eighth grader would be qualified for.

For those who missed it, the point was never that he might find a job there, only that he might get a feel for the market which might help him in a future decision on his career path. This is, a bit beside the point, since the trip to the alley was clearly a pretense, but the verbal slight of hand used here is worth making a note of. Tricks like this can hide the actual course of events in a narrative while technically not lying. After all, he never said that the man made up some lie about there being listings he could qualify for, he just set that interpretation up for the reader to jump to on their own if they weren't reading carefully.

So, if we were to strip away all the deceptive language from the original post, what actually happened in this narrative that Noah presents? He was approached in a public place by a man who struck up a conversation. The man convinced him to go to a dead end alley, and there he made his intentions clear with a pickup line. Noah left, and that was the end of it until he saw the man a year later and gave him a dirty look.

I found a few points interesting about what the man actually did, according to Noah. He struck up a nonsexual conversation with a member of his own sex, and arranged to talk someplace private before making it clear his interests were sexual. Given Mr. Brand's current age, I'd like to invite readers to consider what the state of the Gay Rights Movement was when he was thirteen years old, and ask yourselves why you might want to hold off on any obvious pickup lines until you weren't in public.

Noah mentions that he was between the man and the exit when he realized what was going on, which he attributes to luck. I'm not so sure. This wasn't someone who didn't take no for an answer, as evidenced by the fact that when Noah said no, he didn't see the man again for a full year. Given that Noah was ostensibly there to look at the postings at the end of the alley, this man would have had to go out of his way to keep from getting between Noah and the alley's exit. I think he left the out precisely because he didn't want Noah to feel trapped.

If we remove the legal issues surrounding age and gender from the equation, this man did literally everything right, yet the language he's described in invites the reader to imagine a string of infractions that build and build as the narrative progresses. Stories like this contribute to the idea of male sexuality as inherently predatory. His readership must be so proud.

I don't currently support sexual relationships between adults and minors. I hold this position because it is my belief that the social climate is such that even a perfectly consensual, mutually desired, and mutually enjoyed encounter would be twisted by society into something traumatic for the younger party, by a constant bombardment of harmful messages, legal consequences for their lover over something the younger party participated and enjoyed, and so called therapy where they'll be told over and over again that they were raped. I am willing to be persuaded, but for now that's where I stand on the issue.

But I think it's important to distinguish what predatory behavior is and is not, regardless of whether that behavior is legal and/or something I approve of. This man's behavior was not predatory. His interest wasn't reciprocated, but he was far less a predator than your average pickup artist who thinks it's his job to push past a "no" and be forceful enough that the woman he's targeting can tell herself she didn't consent to sex with him, so it isn't her fault.

Taking no for an answer is not what a predator does. I'm getting real sick of needing to state the obvious.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why I Haven't Killed Myself

It's hard to start writing about a suicide attempt, because every time I put metaphorical pen to paper, I'm reminded of all the wonderful things in my life, and all the ways I have it easier than other people. That doesn't help the depression, indeed, the guilt at feeling depressed in spite of those things only deepens the depression and the sense of worthlessness.

It's only years later that I've been able to contextualize what happened and recognize that's precisely what it was, a suacide attempt.

A bit of background. I've always been hyperaware of the legal situation that young people are in, and this dates from my time resenting it from well on the other side of the age line. My parents were and are wonderful people, but that didn't change the fact that they wielded arbitrary power against which I had no legal recourse. They weren't perfect, obviously, but if they had been less wonderful people... well, the stories are in the news all the time. Teachers were where I got a taste of what it feels like when someone with that kind of arbitrary power wants to use it against you. Again, it was never as bad for me as some, but it did happen, and the psychological pain was quite real.

Meanwhile, I was also quite isolated from my peers. I'm a natural introvert. To this day, after spending time among friends who's company I genuinely enjoy, I need to take time alone to decompress, unwind, and recover from the social activity.

When I was bullied, I was never able to view it as a temporary condition. The old "tell an adult" advice was tried, then rejected when the best outcome was the immediate cessation of hostilities, followed by a worse and more persistent campaign the instant the adult's back was turned, and the worst outcome was the adult disbelieving my words and heaping additional scorn on me, followed by a ramping up of hostilities from the initial bullies in retribution for trying to tell on them. I saw no value in the "fight back" school of thought, because I knew that if I hurt them, all that would mean was added motivation for them to hurt me even worse.

I decided fairly early on, as a result, that the only way anything would actually change would be if I fought back hard enough and vicious enough that whether they were willing to come back later and resume and redouble their torments would be irrelevant, because they would be physically unable to do so. Basically, the only way to ensure any permanent change to the status quo would be to kill one of them. I didn't have it in me to do that, which I spent considerable time berating myself over. Whether by nature or nurture, I couldn't bring myself to try to kill someone in cold blood, no matter how airtight the logic I presented myself with.

I considered just killing myself. I was quite capable of self-harming, even if I couldn't direct those destructive impulses outward. But suicide was something I realized I'd have to get right. The idea of suicide as a "cry for help" made zero sense to me. Everyone who actually gave a shit about me was presumably doing what they could already, and everyone else wouldn't care anyway, so who was going to listen to a "cry for help" suicide attempt? The only two outcomes in my mind were that I would successfully die, or that I would fuck it up, the normal bullying would continue as before, only now I'd have to deal with whatever potentially crippling injuries I'd inflicted on myself during the botched attempt.

I can easily see why people going on antidepressants are at higher risk for suicide. I didn't kill myself during that period because I was convinced I'd fuck it up and only make things worse for myself. If I had enough hope that I could do it right, or maybe that something would change after the attempt if I did botch the job, it's easy to see myself moving forward with it.

Things did eventually change for me after what I now recognize probably qualified as a suicide attempt. I was attacked in the school hallway, and I snapped. The only coherent thought in my mind through the red haze of anger was that one of us was going to die there, and I didn't care who. Either I'd end his life and thus make sure he at least, could never hurt me again, or I'd make him kill me to stop me. I was well aware that the later outcome was far more likely, as evidenced by my inability to land a single punch, even as most of the bones in my face were shattered by repeated blows to the head.

Of course, the fact that I'm able to write this should be proof enough that I failed. Some of the staff pulled us apart, and that was when things got interesting. The school attempted to downplay the incident, even as I was hospitalized, requiring reconstructive surgery. My parents pushed and the courts were eventually involved. I don't know for sure what happened to the bully who attacked me, only that he wasn't in the school after that.

After that object lesson in how vulnerable I was, and how little the school could or would do to protect me, my parents got me involved with martial arts, which helped both my actual safety, and my sense of security. I've never had to use it since I began studying nearly two decades ago.

This incident happened before I'd worked out my orientation, so this incident was there in the background as I was coming to terms with the prejudice I was going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. Since then, tons of people have tried to goad me into suicide and self-destructive behavior. I can't imagine why they think I'd even consider it knowing they'd count it as a win.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Erring On The Side Of Caution

As my arguments have grown more refined, I've noted a particular argument of last resort among my opposition. After they've been forced to admit that it is a fundamental injustice that rational, competent human beings are routinely denied the right to decide what they do with their own bodies, rather than just accept that the situation needs to change, their final argument is that we must "err on the side of caution."

What this argument represents, is the false assumption that we simply cannot know for certain who is and is not competent to make their own decisions, and therefore we must restrict the rights of people we are actually fairly sure are competent in the hopes of getting all the ones who aren't "protected."

There are two fundamental errors with this argument. The first, and most obvious, is that there is no inherent need to "err" at all. It is perfectly possible to examine an individual's mental capabilities and knowledge base to determine if this individual is or is not up to the standard for informed consent. Talking about which way you would rather err means nothing when the goal is to simply not err in the first place.

Because, we should be clear, the individuals who bring up erring on the side of caution aren't talking about making the examinations potentially more rigorous than they would need to be. They're talking only about maintaining the failed system of age lines that, by this point in the argument, even they have been forced to admit are not capable of accurately sorting those who can provide meaningful consent from those who cannot.

The second error with this argument is that it assumes as a given that in the eternal debate of freedom versus security, the right and proper side to err on is security. That has been, by no means, established in any particular issue you care to mention, so there's no possible way for it to have been established in the general case as such individuals argue.

The entire point of a legal system founded on "better to let ten guilty men go free than that one innocent man be punished" is to err on the side of freedom. Everyone who's ever been offended by seatbelt laws, helmet laws, or speed limits understands that the tradeoff on freedom versus security is never cut and dried in favor of security.

I'll admit I am an extremist. Anyone reading this blog who is surprised by that has probably not been paying attention. I fully support the right to hate speech, even against me. I'm of the opinion that the right to bear arms means the right of the private citizen to bear any weapon that the government sees fit to place in the hands of its military, and that includes nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons so long as the government in question asserts its own right to those weapons. I may make another post in the future discussing this point in more detail, but suffice it to say that on the freedom versus security debate, I'm going to choose to err on the side of freedom every time.

The worst of it, though, is that choosing to err "on the side of caution" (including times when it isn't necessary to err at all) isn't a consequence free choice. There are real harms inflicted on people when they're denied their rights to bodily autonomy including sexual autonomy. You could try to argue that those harms are lesser than the harms inflicted on someone who has been improperly deemed capable of informed consent and thus "fair game," but you cannot deny that the harms in the former situation simply do not exist.

I've frequently suggested, in response to the idea that we should "err on the side of caution," that the correct course of action would then be to raise the age of consent to 40, 60, or maybe 80. For some reason, no one seems to think it's a good idea to "err on the side of caution" in those situations.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We Can't Be Associated With You

I've mentioned before that I get barred from a lot of online forums. I am a pedophile who doesn't see anything wrong with my sexual orientation, and I am a vocal and unapologetic advocate for the rights of young people.

Quite often, the ban comes in the form of a fairly obvious and unapologetic expression of disgust at my views, positions, and/or existence. The runners of said sites establishing themselves as effectively declared enemies, and acting on the sincere belief that I'm evil and need to be silenced. In a strange way, they're some of the most respectable sorts who act to silence me, since their intentions are clear and displayed in the open for all to see. So certain of the righteousness of their position, they often hold no fear of leaving what I've already said as a matter of public record, and allow that record to speak for itself, which suits me just fine.

Slightly less often, legalistic loopholes are used to justify the bans, citing some rule or another that's been deliberately written in vague language for the sake of later selective enforcement. These are the sites that pretend to uphold a standard of free speech and pretend that censorship isn't a part of their ideology or mission statement. These are the places that tend to have drawn out exit processes, since almost no one on the internet has thought to prohibit the sorts of things I want to say. As a result, most of that overbroad language isn't actually broad enough on a simple reading, and the staff at such places is very reluctant to actually invoke and use the "we can ban anyone for any reason" clauses that are always a part of the boilerplate. They recognize that censoring me is admitting that they can't defeat my ideas in a free marketplace, and so a ban is an admission of failure on their part. These are actually some of the most satisfying notes to leave on, since typically by the time they've rewritten their rules for the purpose of getting rid of me, I've emboldened others who'd previously stayed silent.

It's only in recent years that I've encountered a peculiar third group of censors. This one actually seems to understand how public relations works, and as such, I've come to the conclusion the are the most threatening and insidious of the lot. They communicate via emails and private messages, away from the public eye, that they are oh so sympathetic to what I'm saying, but that they can't risk the public blowback of being associated with me or my ideas, before imposing secret restrictions on my posting or jumping straight to a ban outright.

In a sense, it's easy to empathize. After all, I know full well what the risks are of being associated with me. I am me, after all. Merely by letting me speak, when so many places engage in outright bans, does come across as a tacit endorsement of my words in the eyes of some idiotic members of the public, so one can see what they would have to fear.

The problem is that they're liars.

I take no issue with forums where the subjects I care about are censored entirely. Where the entire conversation simply is not allowed to happen, and anyone bringing it up is told to knock it off and/or banned. That is not what happens with those sites who utilize this friendly public relations tactic.

When you censor only one side of an argument, and allow the other free reign, that is what an actual endorsement of a viewpoint looks like. Just because the site runners and administrators don't join in on the pile-on doesn't change the fact that they've taken a side and acted as an enemy. What makes them different and worse than the first group is that they've chosen not to declare hostilities, preferring to pretend to their readership that the site is actually an open forum and that the apparent homogeneity of opinion is a fact of life rather than a product of their censorship.

These are the sites who will most often retroactively wipe away the record of any argument that didn't go their way, while leaving dozens of threads where they believe their preferred viewpoint came off better intact.

The fact of the matter is that even at my most aggressive, I don't go where I'm not invited. I never bring up pedophilia or youth rights subjects in a space where no one had breached the topic first. I do care about, and respect the fact that not every space is appropriate for this conversation. But when the conversation is happening, when someone has brought up the subject, and it's continuing, someone needs to step in and say something, speak unapologetically for the opposing point of view. The risk otherwise is that those who thoughtlessly follow the crowd will leave the mainstream viewpoint unexamined, and those who fear reprisal will be cowed into silence, creating the illusion of consensus when the truth is anything but.

I don't recall if I've said this before in one of these posts, but I care as much as I do about putting forward the idea that there is nothing wrong with pedophiles because when I was younger and figuring out my sexuality, I desperately needed to hear it. I needed to have the point that pedophiles are not the same thing as child molesters stated loudly and unapologetically, because I was afraid of what I was feeling and what the cultural gestalt told me that meant was coming. When I saw someone stand up to the crowd, that helped me, and since then, I've tried to become that voice for the next person who needs to hear it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

News Commentary: Kaitlyn Hunt

I don't do a lot of news commentary here on this blog, because I feel that the issues I'm talking about are fundamentally timeless. That said, I'm pissed enough about the case of Kaitlyn Hunt to break from that just this once.

For those unaware, Kaitlyn is a young woman who turned 18 recently, and is being prosecuted for her sexual relationship with an underage girl from her high school. The media is painting this as anti-gay discrimination, and the conversations that have started because of it need to be addressed.

Let's start with the idea that this prosecution is because the girls are in a homosexual relationship. Yes, the parents of the younger girl are alleged to be prosecuting because the older girl "turned their daughter gay". That doesn't make the prosecution a case of anti-gay discrimination. Every high school boy who has ever been prosecuted and had his life destroyed because of the overprotective parents of his lover can attest to the fact that this is a shining example of equality, at least in the fact that the law is prosecuting.

There is some discrimination here, though. And it's the media who's doing it. No one gives a shit about the excesses of age of consent laws until it's a photogenic young woman who's suffering because of it. And once the media uproar inevitably subverts the legal system and ensures that this woman will escape punishment, everyone will go back to not giving a shit about the awful age of consent laws that will still be in place.

As I've said elsewhere on this blog, I do not support the age of consent. Kaitlyn should not be prosecuted or punished for a consensual relationship. I take Kaitlyn's lover at her word that the relationship was consensual, since she is the one who ought to get to decide that.

The conversation has also spawned much hand wringing about why this isn't covered under the "obvious" Romeo and Juliet clauses many states have in place for just this set of circumstances. First off, not every state's age of consent has an exception for minors who are close in age to one another. Secondly, no state should have such an exemption.

By setting an age of consent, the state is declaring that everyone under the line is incapable of consent, and it is under that justification that individuals who have sex with them are prosecuted. As such, whether Kaitlyn is an 18 year old from her same school or a 70 year old, what matters is that her lover is legally declared incapable of making her own choices about sex.

The very idea that you can be competent to consent to sex with teenagers but not to consent to sex with adults would be laughable if it were not the explicit law of the land, punishable by sentences harsher than some murderers get.

What these laws do is say "this group is particularly vulnerable, so let's create an entire class of people who are only legally allowed to fuck people in that particularly vulnerable class."

Either Kaitlyn's lover is competent to make her own decisions about her own body and who she shares it with, or she isn't. I think she very much is competent to make that decision, whether the person she decides to have sex with is a photogenic young woman or not.


Kaitlyn has accepted a plea bargain that nets her less than a year in jail and no need to register as a sex offender. We can all stop panicking now. The photogenic white woman won't suffer the insane consequences we always intended only for those evil, creepy men. Words cannot adequately express my disgust at the national dialogue. Though one emotion I can put into words is "unsurprised".

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fantasy Versus Reality

So much of what I write shouldn't need to be said. One of the hardest parts of writing these posts without being a direct response to someone who's said something stupid is that I have to work out what people actually can't be relied upon to understand already. This is one that I run across constantly.

Very young children are able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. They can play make believe and recognize full well that their games aren't the same thing as whatever game they're playing really happening. You pretend to cut your little brother down with an invisible sword, and he falls over, but both of you know that he isn't really dead, and there was never any sword.

One of the core abilities that makes us the dominant species on this planet is our ability to imagine the unreal in great detail. That ability is at the root of our ability to plan for the future, work out the best course of action by imagining all the alternatives before actually committing to one. Imagination is a wonderful tool that doesn't get nearly enough credit. Our ability to deliberately adapt this powerful tool to use creating worlds and scenarios for our own amusement is one of the best parts of being a human being.

And yet there are a surprisingly large number of people who don't understand how fantasy works. They see the ability to plan out a move and think fantasy stops there. You hear about it every day, when people call shooter video games murder simulators, and wring their hands at the sex and violence in the media. The people who are most afraid of imagination are the ones who don't understand how to separate a fantasy from a plan.

I will unashamedly admit to numerous horrible, antisocial fantasies I deliberately indulge in on a regular basis. When someone slights me, I employ my imagination to hear the sound of their skull cracking open and feel the skin scraped off my knuckles from delivering the beating that did it. When I'm feeling horny I'll use it to touch and taste and feel the motions of a dozen scenarios with imaginary partners, consenting or otherwise, both based on real people and made up whole cloth.

I'm unashamed to admit this, because I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I can indulge in fantasy all I like, and there will be no consequences aside from a possible lack of physical activity if you overdo it. The real world has consequences that can't be dismissed with a thought, that aren't under the control of my will, and that often impact other people's lives in addition to my own.

Now, there are fantasies of mine that blur the line between a mere imagination for my own amusement, and an actual plan. I sometimes indulge myself by imagining that I'm living in a world where children are treated as people, where no means no and yes means yes, and where I can announce my sexual orientation and have it result in people helping me find a date instead of contacting the police. Every person I reach brings me one step closer to living that one, even if I don't expect I'll get there in my lifetime.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Closet

The closet sucks.

I was raised to value honesty quite highly. To this day, few insults will get under my skin quite like being called a liar.

And yet I've spent every day since working out my sexual orientation keeping things from the people around me. It was years before I said anything to my father, and longer after that I spoke to my mother about it. And every new person who comes into my life, I need to make a decision about when or if they'll ever be allowed to know about this part of my personality.

I've chosen to speak openly about the fact that I am a pedophile in all my online dealings, in part, as a way to balance out the number of lies of omission I perpetrate on a daily basis.

No one likes being in the closet. No one likes keeping everyone around them at arms length, nor does anyone enjoy constantly questioning whether the people in your life would accept or reject you if they knew the secrets you're keeping from them.

I've been very cautious and very lucky. Everyone I've chosen to speak to in meatspace about my sexuality has accepted me and recognized that I'm not a psychopath just because of what I find attractive. Likewise they've all recognized it as my right to tell people or not as I choose. That adds up to three people including my parents.

I don't like thinking the worst of my friends and family, but the closet is, by its very nature, a defense mechanism. The stakes are quite high, since once this particular secret is out, my life changes forever, for the worse. There is at least one mandatory reporter in my family, and if he sticks with his schooling, another will be added among my friends in a few years time. I haven't broken the law, but not everyone understands what the law is, including friends, family, and mandatory reporters.

Anyone I tell both my real name and my orientation to is someone that I've chosen to trust with my life. Someone who's intentions and competence at keeping my secrets I consider beyond reproach. Because when I give those pieces of information to someone together, I'm willingly handing them the power to destroy my life by accident.

I really wish I didn't need that much trust in a person to share completely. I have nothing but respect for individuals who've publicly outed themselves, whether as pedophiles or as any despised invisible minority, since they're hastening the day when that level of trust won't be necessary. I hold nothing but contempt for those who out others against their will, since they've betrayed someone who put so much trust in them.

I find myself frequently evaluating my friends and family. What signs can I give that I could plausibly deny afterward? If this person responds badly, can I cut them out of my life effectively enough to avoid the worst consequences of that bad reaction? What do they already know about the subject, and is there a way to educate them on tolerance without inadvertently outing myself before I feel safe?

For everyone who's never had to spend time in the closet, you have no idea how lucky you are.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You'll Understand When You're Older

Of all the prejudiced, dismissive remarks and thought-terminating cliches I've ever been exposed to, none has stoked the fires of my righteous outrage more effectively than "you'll understand when you're older". 

Even such gems as "because I said so" can't manage to match the level of dismissive arrogance as "you'll understand when you're older".

Implicit in the statement is the absolute certainty that whoever you're talking to is inherently inferior to yourself.  That the gap between you is so great that there is no possible way you can explain your side of the argument to the other person, because they would be completely incapable of following your inherent brilliance. 

Make no mistake.  This is not about experience.  That's what "when you have kids, you'll understand" is about.  "You'll understand when you're older" is a statement that denies any experience could possibly make the slightest bit of difference.  That there is nothing you can do about this inherent inferiority you have to the other party that could possibly bring you up to their level. 

And of course, it's a go-to excuse for stupid people who don't have an actual argument to pretend that the reason they aren't presenting one is that they're actually far too superior to the other party, not the truth, that they have no argument that could stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. 

There's an old saying among scientists.  "A theory that explains everything, explains nothing."  In other words, if you can use the exact same argument for any position at all, then it isn't an argument that's worth anything, because it's just as effective at arguing for falsehoods as it as at arguing for truths.  That's the reason lists of logical fallacies get linked to so often on debate boards. 

Still, never let it be said that I refuse to test the assertions of others against the objective standard of reality, no matter how much I disagree with them.  I was told quite often when I was very young that all the age-based discrimination I noticed and complained about was something I would "understand when I was older".  I'm older now.  I have a better vocabulary for expressing my views, and I've got a broader education in the social justice struggles of yesteryear.  But all those things I said were wrong back then, are still things I say are wrong today.  

The truth, I think, lies with an absolutely wonderful quote from Albert Einstein.  "If you cannot explain something to a six year old child, you don't understand it yourself." 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Evolutionary Psychology

I'm not a big fan of evolutionary psychology as I generally encounter it online.  The greatest sin, I think is treating evolutionary success as some sort of moral endorsement.  A close second is that absolutely annoying tendency to produce unfalsible, "just so" narratives for why the particular trait the writer is already invested in must have been advantageous to our early hominid ancestors. Working from the conclusion to build a narrative rather than looking at the facts and letting them lead one to the conclusion. 

Still, just because I give the practice little to no credence doesn't mean I don't recognize the value a certain segment of the population ascribes to these "just so" narratives.  I'm not proud and am more than willing to meet people on their own intellectual battlefields in order to advance my causes.  So while I'm no fan of evolutionary psychology narratives, I've constructed one for the benefit of those in the audience who do value them. 

Some people seem to have taken the bizzare standpoint (often used against any sexuality besides 1 man 1 woman to make a baby), that pedophiles are evolutionarily "wrong" because they don't reproduce.  Well, there are a few benefits from the point of view of pedophilia as a reproductively viable strategy. 

Consider that our species suffers from a very prolonged maturation period, during which we accumulate information and experience.  Our bodies do not reach full maturity for a ridiculously long time as compared with other animals.  This extended period of childhood means more time and effort must be spent protecting and rearing the young. 

As a result, individuals with tendencies that draw them to spend more time with children will expend more such time and effort.  As a result, the offspring of these individuals (or if they have none, the offspring of their siblings which carry their genes as well) are more able to survive to adulthood, and learn essential skills due to the increased expenditure of resources on those children by the adult in question.  The more children carrying your genes that survive to adulthood, the more viable it is as an evolutionary strategy. 

To take a somewhat more extreme track:

Neoteny, or pedomorphism is the process whereby an organism retains traits from its immature stages into sexual maturity.  Humans are a neotenous species, resembling juvenile great apes more than we resemble the adults.  The brain plasticity that pushes us out ahead of the curve in terms of mental ability is a side-effect of that process.  We see the same thing in other neotenous species (comparing dogs with wolves for example), it's just more pronounced in humans.

With domesticated animals, neoteny tends to be a side-effect of our selective breeding choices.  With humans not having anyone selectively breeding them, that only leaves the one option for how those traits were selected for.

Treating "Yes" The Same As "No"

There is an incredibly harmful narrative that's wormed its way into the mainstream discussion about sexual consent.  The idea that we should ignore "yes" and "no" when it comes to sexual consent.

What's that?  That isn't mainstream, you say?  That's rapist talk?  Why yes, that is rapist talk, but that doesn't mean it isn't mainstream. 

I am, of course, talking about those underage individuals who desire and pursue sexual relationships with older individuals.  The very fact that the age of consent exists as a law is proof of the existence of such individuals, since you don't make laws against things that never happen.

The politically driven policy is to treat the kids who said "yes" exactly the same as the ones who said "no".  I'm not talking about the adult not having sex with the kid, for those of you still unsure where I stand on that.  I'm talking about how society is to treat those kids who did end up having sex with someone in violation of the age of consent. 

What happens when you treat someone like a rape victim?  They start acting the part.  So much of the trauma that comes from rape stems not from the mere act of forced sex, but from the societal reaction.  To take one example, the feelings of bodily impurity that may come about naturally when someone is forced into sex are added to by a cultural narrative that says that a person who has been raped will never be the same again.  If the person didn't feel violated or sullied before, the cultural narrative can do the job of making them feel violated retroactively all on its own. 

By treating "yes" the same as "no", we make damn sure that everyone who said "yes" and meant it ends up exactly as traumatized as the ones who said "no" and meant that. The pattern is so consistent, an alien observer would be forced to conclude that was the point. 

The virgin/whore false dichotomy is at the root of a lot of harmful ideas the mainstream of society has about sexuality, and here we have yet another example.  The people pushing the agenda of treating those young people who honestly and enthusiastically said "yes" precisely the same way we treat those who've been the victims of force or coersion aren't doing so because it's healthy for those kids. They're pushing that agenda because in their narrow minds the only other option is to call the kid a slut and move on with their day. 

There is no inherent need to make such a child devalue his/her own choices and judgements.  There is no value in making that child feel vulnerable and exploited. If we were actually concerned with the health and sanity of those kids, we would be looking for any way to make them feel safe and empowered, rather than deliberately imposing a victim narrative on those who haven't reached that point naturally. 
The crime of rape is the crime of ignoring another person's explicit consent.  Whether they said "yes" or "no", the rapist does what he/she was going to do anyway.  Consent is all about the importance of that distinction.  By ignoring that "yes", we're making sure that whether they said "yes" or "no", someone is going to ignore their opinion on the subject and mistreat them accordingly.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Age Appropriate Content

I am a hardcore believer in the idea of free speech, open exchange of ideas, and the fundamental goodness of knowledge.  Censorship in all its forms is anathema to me.  The best use I can think of for a time machine would be to go back and save copies of the books that were burned throughout history.

I'm also a person who believes that children are people, and deserve to be treated like human beings.  These two passions of mine combine whenever the phrase "age appropriate" is uttered to send me into a sputtering, incoherent rage.  Thank goodness for the written word, where I can be articulate even in moments like these where I can't vocalize anything beyond threats and obscenities at best and animal snarls at worst.

Somehow the adults of this society have fallen into thinking that information about sex has the same effect as cracking open Lovecroft's Necromonicon.  I mean this quite literally with numerous pieces of propaganda being spread that claim that children "exposed" to "age inappropriate content" display the same symptoms as those who were directly sexually abused.  If I believed for one second that molesting a child would do no more harm than them seeing a RedTube video, I would have done so ages ago. 

Since the dawn of the internet, an enormous industry has sprung up to censor it.  Governments try to block content they don't like, and not just dictatorships like China.  The likes of Sweeden have gotten into the act of censoring explicit sexual content for everyone "for the children".  Home based firewall solutions have been the flavor of choice for the rugged individualists in the United States, but whether the nanny is the state or the parent, the internet is being censored. 

The censorship efforts don't stop at blocking the content itself, however.  After all, if the consequences were really so horrific, it would be criminally irresponsible to stop there.  No, efforts are made to ensure that young people never develop the knowledge base to frame the questions that might lead to them seeing something "age inappropriate" in the first place. 

Avoiding the subjects of sex and sexuality isn't a silent, seamless act.  A five year old can tell when you're dancing around a subject you don't want to talk about.  That's where shaming starts.  They know that whatever it is you don't want to talk about, it's shameful and taboo.  That is, in fact, the first thing they learn about it when you behave this way.  This discourages them from asking questions, because that would mean violating the taboo they've already learned is in place. 

Of course, discouraging questions is more thorough than that.  When adults do respond to questions about sex, they always give as little information as possible.  The idea, of course, is that they should only give them as much information as they explicitly ask for, lest they be "exposing" those children to sexual knowledge.  The trouble with this method is, again, a five year old can figure out that you don't want to give a complete answer for some reason, and will thus be discouraged from asking those followup questions that this method theoretically relies upon. 

If you're old enough to ask the question, you're old enough to know the answer.  The whole answer.  If you can articulate the question of how to define acceleration mathematically, you're old enough to learn calculus.  If you're old enough to ask about sex, you're old enough to get a thorough overview of the subject matter. 

But what of that most universal followup question to the clinical minimalism so many people prefer?  "Why would anyone want to do that?"  It's the most important question in any discussion of sex, and it's the one that's explicitly left out of sexual education curriculums and parental lectures alike.  Surely answering that question will just make them go out and do it, right? 

They asked the question.  They're going to want to know the answer, and it can either come from you actually answering the question, or it can come from them experimenting in whatever unsupervised time they have available.  And they'll wait for the unsupervised time because, again, by not answering the question, you're communicating that the subject is taboo and that any further attempts to get answers should be hidden from you. 

I'm not above exploiting the violent hysteria and frothing hatrid people have for my kind in order to advance my causes, and this is one that matters to me.  The children who are most vulnerable to child molesters are the ones who are most ignorant and have been taught most thoroughly that sex is a taboo.  If they don't know what sex is, they've no reason not to believe that this new "game" is legitimately just that.  Your efforts to silence their awkward questions also silences any hope of them telling you they've been molested.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Star Trek TNG: Rascals

I love Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I can and have spent hours discussing my favorite episodes and interesting aspects of the setting with friends and family.  And like everything we love, there are some things about it that drive me absolutely crazy. 

Star Trek as a whole has developed a reputation, deservedly or no, for being willing to tackle issues other programs won't touch.  I'm not going to get too deep into the behind the scenes aspects and decision making process, because my approach to fiction is very much in the Death of the Author camp.  I am far more interested in the in-universe claims of utopia and having gotten beyond primitive ideas like prejudice than I am in the real world conflicts between writers, show runners, and network censors. 

And it is through that lens that I see the episode Rascals, which shows quite plainly that even in the utopian 24th century, ageism is apparently alive and well. 

The premise of this episode is that through a transporter mishap, Captain Picard, Ro Laren, Guinan and Keiko O'Brien are physically transformed into children while retaining their adult minds. 

One of the first things that happens after the transformation is that Picard faces prejudice from his crew.  Despite the medical staff confirming that he is the same person, and that his mind was unaffected, his crew is hesitant to follow the orders of a man who looks like he's twelve. 

While initially confident he can get through the initial discomfort his subordinates feel, his friends and confidants manage to convince him that his career is, if not over, absolutely going to need to be put on hold until he looks the right age again.  He could possibly retain his rank in an honorary fassion so long as he goes and sequesters himself away back in school, but he won't be able to command a ship. 

By the episode's end, Picard agrees to a risky procedure with a not insignificant chance of scattering his molecules across three lightyears for the chance to return to normal.  Let's go over what that means, because it isn't immediately obvious.  Not only was the procedure itself risky, but even if it worked perfectly we need to remember what the intended outcome was. 

The medical staff had confirmed early on that if they did nothing, everyone who had been transformed would age normally from that point and would be perfectly healthy if they went that route.  The procedure to return them to their normal ages by design takes years off their potential lifespans.  Picard's case in particular is significant because he actually has a physical disability in his older form.  A finicky artificial heart that nearly kills him twice in the series. 

So, to reiterate, the man would rather lose decades of life, reacquire a preventable physical disability, and risk dying in an experimental medical procedure to bring all this about, rather than continue to live under the restrictions and prejudices he would face as a result of looking like he was a child. 

Keiko O'Brien's struggles during this were more personal, but no less telling.  Her husband Miles is deeply uncomfortable at the transformation, and pulls away both physically and emotionally when Keiko needs support.  By the end of the one scene this conflict is allowed, the characters are already mourning the loss of their marriage. 

For context, the marriage of the O'Briens has survived multiple instances of demonic possession, losing their daughter in a timewarp, two decades of false imprisonment and a subsequent suicide attempt, the entire Dominion War, and the most severe demotion in observed Starfleet history.  They survive all that, but Miles can't bring himself to stand by his perfectly rational, mentally adult partner just because she's currently inhabiting a prepubescent body. 

This all needs to be looked at in context.  The Enterprise is an interstellar starship with a mandate to seek out new life and new civilizations, dispatched from a government encompassing a diverse array of species with radically differing biology and social customs.  This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the weirdest thing that has happened to these people.  None of this can really be put down to shock when they've reacted with professionalism in the face of godlike beings summoning Mariachi bands, crew members mutating into spiders, and the entire concept of cause and effect breaking down before their eyes. 

Now, so there are no misunderstandings, these two scenes are my favorite part of the episode.  I adore the emotional impact of those scenes and the way this utterly-insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme transformation threatens to destroy Picard and Keiko's lives in ways they couldn't have imagined previously. 

What bothers me about this episode is that those two scenes were all we got addressing these issues, and so much about the context of the situation that I discussed up above was nowhere to be seen in the episode itself.  The episode wastes time on wacky hijinks while ignoring both the emotional core of the story and social commentary it was right on the edge of. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lying About Sexual History

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts on this blog, I have strong feelings on the importance of informed consent.

It's a fact that people lie to one another about their sexual history.  Men stereotypically inflate their numbers, while women stereotypically deflate theirs.  This is, of course, a response to the shaming responses both genders get as a part of gender policing, and most of the time the worst harm it does is in the form of failing to challenge that gender policing.  I'm in no position to condemn anyone for the choice to avoid confrontations and difficult arguments in their day to day lives given everything I hold back, after all. 

That said, a part of being in a relationship is establishing mutual trust, and within any relationship founded on a lie, informed consent is not a possibility.  Those convenient lies that make our day to day lives easier need to be put aside, little by little or all at once if the resulting relationship can be said to be legitimate. 

This is doubly the case when discussing a marriage.  The "I do"s of a wedding vow can be rightly thought of as conditional on everything the couple has told one another up to that point being the truth. 

Ah, but what of the situation where you know the other party will judge you for your past?  When you're in love and absolutely sure that you were meant to be together?  When you're sure that the truth will ruin everything and cause you both to miss out on a wonderful relationship and life together? 

In that case, I ask:  Why do you want to be in a relationship with someone who's only there because you lied? 

First off, that certainty that your partner will judge you, that's you being unfair to the partner by not giving him/her the chance to show what the real reaction will be.  You are so afraid of the worst case scenario that you've already assigned that reaction to your partner in your head, and you'll be blaming and resenting him/her for that reaction.  That's poison to the relationship. 

Second, if your partner rejects you because of your sexual history, that's his/her choice and you have to just accept that.  Your partner is a human being with his/her own standards and expectations from the relationship, and just as much right to say "no" as you have.  Whatever happily ever after you think you can build on a foundation of lies, that inkling that "what he/she knows can't hurt him/her" is you denying your partner's agency, violating his/her trust, and by far the more abhorrent act than his/her deciding that you shouldn't be together. 

When spouses discover things about one another's sexual history years or even decades after the fact that had been deliberately concealed, it doesn't just mean that the long delayed confrontation is now at hand.  It means that, but it also means that they have to deal with the fact that their partners lied to them every day of those years or decades they've been together. 

This is exactly the same sort of betrayal that one experiences when their spouse has an affair.  Trust going forward becomes impossible in light of the extended deception.  The vows are every bit as broken as they would be in the case of the affair, because the person they said "I do" about didn't have that incident in their past.

The fact of the matter is that you aren't entitled to either sexual partners nor life partners.  You have to have the fully informed consent of another human being for that, and if you can't get it without deception, you go without.  Anything else is just another kind of rape.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Child Pornography

I must ask what exactly you think goes through the minds of these child pornographers? Are you implying that without this so called "market" that they would be otherwise productive members of society? Safe, normal people don't rape children for the money.

And let's get back to the subject of the so called money. How does that black market economy in illegal information work? Information (including naked pictures of kids) isn't like a bag of crack. It's not a physical object, and can be replicated infinitely from a single artifact. A person so inclined could make available every piece of information he/she had at no charge, underwriting the entire illegal "economy". Image trading sites could decimate any sort of pay site on earth, and smart buyers with similar interests could pool resources, pay only once, and supply the material to hundreds of like minded contributors.

Now, what does that tell you about this business model? It tells me that it doesn't work.

That ignores the issue of trust, which I think is a significant one. Any financial transaction must take place amid an environment of trust. I pay you five dollars, and you provide me a burger and fries. If you don't I can inform the police about this incident and they will retrieve my money. What does a person do when they deal with a child pornographer? Do they also go to the police and say "I sent this guy a hundred bucks and he never sent me any child porn"? Or is the customer to trust in the reputations of these fine, upstanding citizens to keep their words?

Now, with the practical matters out of the way, I'd like to spent a bit discussing the moral matter a bit further. Explain something to me. What difference will the viewing of child porn make to the child depicted therein? Let us assume (as per the business model I've discussed above) that no backing is given to the criminals who created it. What difference will it make to the child? Will the destroying of all the evidence cause the child to be unraped? And how are they to know when the last photo is destroyed? Answer is they won't. From an objective prospective, there will be no difference to the child one way or the other. Either way they've been through a traumatic event (and for the sake of argument I'm assuming that we're discussing a rape rather than a fully consensual act which was simply unrecognized as such by the law), and either way they'll have to deal with that and the fact that it's possible their image is "out there".

It seems to me that there is only one organization which is capable of making a profit in this enterprise. That would be law enforcement. No one questions why the FBI has the most massive database of child pornography on earth. Everyone's so happy when they run their website "stings" no one even questions what they gave away to entice people into ordering their "premium services". What they agreed to do. What they actually delivered in order to "maintain their cover a little bit longer". And who's really keeping track of the money paid to the FBI in the course of these so called stings?

I think there might be a reason why the government is having such a hard time shutting down these kiddie porn rings, and I think it has a great deal to do with the fact that the majority of their customers are within the jurisdiction of the FBI.

A helpful link:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Whispering In The Dark

Much of the material I've posted so far is not new.  I've been posting on the internet on various forums, discussion boards, blog comments, and the like for years, refining my arguments and discarding the old ideas that I once held that couldn't stand up to proper scrutiny.  Many of my blog posts are ones I've been refining for years in debates and discussions, slightly edited for the blog format. 

I've also been banned from a lot of places.  I don't post abusive content.  I don't troll.  I don't drag conversations off topic.  What I do is talk openly about pedophilia and acknowledge the fact that I'm attracted to prepubescent girls. 

Now, as a rule, I tend to avoid any messageboard where young girls in my age of attraction are allowed to post.  I do this for my own legal protection, and to remove from the arsenal of my opponents the ability to accuse me of being on the board for the purpose of picking up kids.  That doesn't actually stop them from using that tactic, mind you, but I do put in some effort to make that a non-issue regardless. 

People have the right to set whatever rules they like in their own spaces.  I can't deny them the right to throw me out any more than I can deny the KKK the right to ban civil rights activists from their forums.  The owners of a space can censor and restrict freedom of speech for any or no reason. 

This is not me acknowledging that they have some moral right to do so, mind you.  That is only me acknowledging their practical ability to do so.  The fact of the matter is that I actually value freedom of speech.  The free marketplace of ideas is something I value so greatly that I very much will defend, to the death, the right of those who want me raped and murdered to spout their bigotry as loud as they please in the public forum of their choosing. 

How could I not value the free marketplace of ideas when it is that very thing which has allowed me to grow and develop my moral and ethical philosophy to the extent that I've managed?  If my ideas had never been subject to the brutal scrutiny of my detractors, I might never have abandoned faulty ones I once held, and I might never have seen the contradictions between some of my old ideas.  If people had not been so free to try to publicly tear down my arguments, I never would have been pushed to build a case and defend them properly. 

But those who hate me will no doubt be heartened by the fact that I'm getting tired.  I can force myself into otherwise open messageboards which choose to censor my ideas, in the hope of a few days of argument and potential growth, but it's feeling less and less worth my time to invade these "public" spaces in the face of the draconian censorship efforts made to scrub their forum clean of any trace of my passing. 

So I'm left with the question of what to do now.  That's part of why this blog exists.  I've been getting sick of my virtual posters being torn down before anyone but the censors had a chance to see them.  At least if someone ever finds their way to this blog, it'll be here long enough for them to read and consider the arguments herein. 

But what good is this blog without people willing to engage with me?  What is the value of making arguments that I'll never be able to say have stood up to vigorous attempts to eviscerate? 

Whenever I'm banned from someplace, the same platitude is always handed out.  "There are plenty of other places on the internet for you to talk, so I don't have to be bothered by the implications of not letting you talk in mine."

In practice, what these people might as well have said is: "Freedom of speech is the freedom to whisper in the dark where no one can hear."

This blog has a strict no censorship policy.  Adbots and generic spam will be cleaned out for the sake of facilitating actual conversation, and porn links will be removed to protect the blog legally, but I will never censor anyone's view on the subject at hand, whatever it may be, and however that view is articulated. 

I want people who disagree with me here.  I want intelligent opposition who can point out the faults and flaws in my arguments.  I want overemotional idiots spouting profanities and death threats at me.  I want to hear from those who agree with me on a principle, but think I've got the details wrong.  And I want any other opinion, good or bad that you have. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bullying and School Shootings

I've been bullied.

I know that there are those among you who will take the opportunity to use this fact against me, to use it to discount my arguments, and to attempt to perform the closest approximation of violence available through a text based exchange.  I know that will be the result because that has been the result countless times I've brought this fact up.  If you think any of that is going to silence me, I'll again direct you to reread the introductory post, and you ask yourself why you think you can hurt or intimidate me into silence after I opened with that.

Bullying is my top youth rights issue.  More than voting, more than age of consent, more than property rights.  So if I care so much about this one, why wait so long to post anything about it?  Because the problems associated with this issue are so painfully obvious not one of them would need to be said out loud in a sane universe.  And as such, this post requires I put into words basic human decency.  And because the heartbreaking consequences of people so universally failing to act on this issue mean I tend to get omnicidal when I resume thinking about it, and that isn't conductive to careful, thoughtful analysis or persuasive writing.

Social rules are a series of lines we draw between ourselves and others.  Boundaries need to be agreed upon, and thereafter respected.  Much bullying is crossing one or two of those boundaries by just the tiniest degree.  Once that's been done, the bully relies on the fact that the infraction was small to shield him/her from consequences, then does it again.  And again.  And again.

Bullying is not a single incident.  It isn't one kid beating you up, or stealing from you.  That isn't what it is at all.  Bullying is a pattern of such incidents.  Bullying is a prolonged campaign of physical, psychological, and social attacks, each individually below the threshold that the authorities would care about, but collectively adding up to be too much for the victim to handle.  Bullying is slow torture, and needs to be treated as such.

So much advice we give kids fails to take this pattern into account.  We tell them to "tell an adult", but when a kid comes to an adult authority figure with a minor complaint, the adult is frustrated at the kid's inability to deal with something so minor.  So that adult says "just ignore it", not recognizing that this is a pattern, perpetrated by someone who will delight in the victim bottling up their obvious discomfort as they proceed to escalate the violence while the kid still has that "just ignore it" advice ringing in their ears.

Which brings us to the "fight back, bullies are cowards" advice.  There's only one healthy response to a prolonged campaign of torture that's being actively ignored by the authorities.  Whatever it takes to make it stop.  And a victim can't simply match like for like.  Repaying each small violation with a small violation of their own against their tormenter.  The tormenter will simply delight in their ability to provoke this new response.  So when we tell the victim to fight back, the only answer for them is to make it stop by any means necessary.  If that means someone ends up hospitalized, so be it, if that means someone ends up dead because the authorites refused to intervene when the situation was minor.  So.  Be.  It.  

That's why everyone knows that it's the victims of bullying who get into trouble and the bullies themselves are left to roam free.  Bullies know exactly where the line is between their victim being comfortable and not, and they also know exactly where the line is where their activity is too minor for any single incident to be responded to meaningfully by the authorities.  When a victim fights back, they don't keep that line in mind, because they've learned that the authorities aren't an issue, because the authorities have been ignoring months, or years of torture right in front of their eyes.

Of course, it isn't always that way.  Sometimes we have a real simple case for the authorities to handle.  A good old fashioned beating incident where the victim is attacked and left bloody.  And again the authorities fail.  What happened here is called "assault and battery".  It is a criminal offense.  The appropriate response to it is a criminal trial and criminal penalties.

That is the social contract every citizen is included in, adult or child.  Instead, authority figures in the school cover it up.  They minimize the incident to the parents, using phrases like "boys will be boys".  They pressure parents not to press charges.  And they again teach the victim that their pain will be ignored, and that the bully can act with impunity.  That the social contract does not protect them, and will only ever be used to hurt them.

Shootings aren't a cry for attention.  The victims who snap and start shooting people don't want attention.  They know attention won't fix anything.  They've been taught that the social contract doesn't apply to them, and that the only way that anything will ever change for the better is if they, on their own, make it impossible for things to continue as they had.

What these people are doing is solving problems in a perfectly natural way.  Without the social contract, this is the standard way human beings settle disputes.  We created the social contract in order to prevent incidents like this.  That is the only reason we have the social contract. 

Given how utterly useless the social contract has been in protecting tormented minors who are forced, day in and day out, to spend the majority of their waking hours in close proximity to their tormentors while authority figures ignore and minimize the abuse they're suffering, you should all feel blessed that shootings are as unfathomably rare as they are.