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Discussed herein: Our approach to pedophilia isn’t working | Ariel Castro wanted help. So why didn't we help him?
By Sophie McAdam; for Salon
Click pic for link.

I've been watching the back catalog of Law & Order SVU lately, observing a tendentiously left-center establishment POV on the sexual abuse of children (among other matters) that, so far in my viewing, hails from ~14 to ~10 years ago. While my impression may need amending if I get into more recent seasons, I can't imagine too much has changed to interrupt or redirect the zeitgeist in the intervening decade: indeed, during this period, chapter after chapter of scandal has unfolded around the Roman Catholic Church's pope-tickling network of complicity in protecting the many, many pedophiles in its employ. In the secular world, the public rage and appetite for blood seem as militant and as homogeneous now as was evident among Don Cragen's (Dann Florek) "dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies". When Eliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) loses his tenuous self-control and starts roughing up a perp, he is acting on behalf of your average breeder, terrified—beyond any sense of reason or justification—of what might happen to their children if some grown-up makes their naughty bits stiff.

Case in point, a random and unscientific example of our collective bloodlust, just happened upon: July 2012, a questioner posted to

"I live in Michigan and so does my boyfriend. I am fifteen years old and in February I turn sixteen. However, my boyfriend is seventeen and turns eighteen this September. His parents are worried about when he's eighteen it being considered statutory rape, even though both mine and his parents consent."

One of the first responses read, in its entirety: "you should be placed in a foster home, and your parents should be jailed."

Where does that shit come from? Wait, wait, don't tell me... Century upon century of Puritanical "sex is sin" rubbish combined with the ever-expanding period of mollycoddling our offspring, feeding them Disney lies and forestalling further and further into their adulthood the bequest of any information that's truthful and potentially useful? Am I close, doc?

Let's put aside—way the fuck aside—Ariel Castro and his profoundly (and inexcusably) troubled ilk: kidnapping, imprisonment, forcible sex, etc. are out of the scope I'd like to discuss here. In fact, I'm not sure why Salon author Sophie McAdam took the opportunity of Mr. Castro's discovery and arrest to make a point about how we treat "pedophiles"; Mr. Castro's pathology, as Hannibal Lector famously noted of his former patient Buffalo Bill, "is a thousand times more savage" than simply being drawn, sexually and affectionally, to minors. I'm not the least convinced that a healthier and more open public dialog re pedophilia per se would have preempted Mr. Castro's horrifying actions, which seem to me to come from a deeper and scarier and more broken mental quadrant.

Rather, I'm talking about consensual sexual relations between human beings of differing ages. (This is basically where I go all NAMBLA all over you, so you might want to stop reading right now, defriend me, and hate me eternally. Which will, of course, prove my point rather handily.)

Ms. McAdam writes that "There are an estimated 45 million victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. — one in four women and one in six men. It’s a mind-boggling statistic that’s even more staggering when you consider that sexual abuse is massively underreported."

Anything approaching such proportions is not "staggering"; it is by definition normative. Saying so doesn't place any moral judgment on the phenomenon; consider the vast majority of humans susceptible to buying into demonstrably preposterous religious belief. But Ms. McAdam is expressing a sentiment as silly as being aghast and agog at the number of humans with attached earlobes. Gracious me, what are we to do about this earlobe problem? If something like 20 percent of human children experience a sexual act before whatever arbitrary limit the State defines as the age at which they may consent to do so, then "sexual abuse" is less underreported than overbroadly defined.

Rather than adjusting our attitudes to "understand the perpetrators", as Ms. McAdam suggests, why aren't we talking about tangible harms? Once more from Hannibal Lector (who, I suppose I should remind everyone, was pretty freakin' smart and only ate grownups): "First principles... Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?"

What, then, are the dangers and harms inherent in sexual contact between two sexually mature humans who happen to differ widely in age? Why does society and the law assume every instance of sexual relations between "children" (who may be as old as 17 years 364 days) and "adults" (who may be as young as 18 years 0 days)—see, e.g., this here—is de facto deleterious to the younger person? Does the law even allow for variance of harm? In many cases, no, it doesn't.

Yes, most States have "close in age" exceptions, which certainly make some sense: the majority of humans tend to understand and seek the company of, for lack of a better term, peers, and age-specificity in the earlier decades of life skews more toward narrow differences than it does later in life. But again, we're describing norms; not everybody works the same way. Depending on variances in both nature and nurture, humans reach significant levels of self-realization and agency at a wide range of formative ages. Planting an arbitrary and immutable milestone by which all intersexual behavior will be judged—particularly one that is likely to lag six years behind sexual maturation—is so profoundly dismissive of actual human nature as to be criminally negligent. It makes me bugfuck crazy—and has done since I actually was a teenager—that our society at large withholds from all persons until an artificially imposed marker the agency, the ability to make decisions on their own behalf.

Full disclosure: I have, to my knowledge, had exactly one sexual liaison that would have counted as statutory rape (I was 24, he was 16) despite my partner's enthusiasm for the venture, which perhaps overshadowed my own. On one occasion, somewhere around the age of 40, I felt some uncomfortable pangs of attraction to a 15-year-old I had known since his birth. (I name no names; both are likely readers here and many friends will know in both cases of whom I speak.) In the latter case I had the strange feeling of being flirted with; in retrospect, I figure I was not completely mistook but that the flirtation I felt was purely affectional rather than sexual. Beyond these two exceptions I have no cultivated friendships with minors and no interest in forming such. I am not, therefore, making these arguments on my own behalf or in justification of any actual or hoped-for behavior on my part.

Conversely, I am pretty much alone among the humans I personally know to have felt and fully accepted, around the ages of 12 to 15, an explicit sexual lust, complete with masturbatory fantasizing, for my father. And in my freshman year in high school, never having had the slightest sexual contact with another person and so not quite knowing, in that immediate experiential sense, what was to be done, I still knew I very desperately wanted my mouth on Coach Treen, second period PhysEd. Had I, by some miracle, some untapped well of sophistication, managed to bring off such a wankworthy tryst, and had my best efforts thereto been legally vacated by a statutory rape prosecution against the Coach, I would have been very put out indeed.

I'm not arguing that children should not be protected from abuse. I'm not arguing that adults should be permitted with impunity to manipulate and bully and play power games with the children in their lives in search of sexual fulfillment. Yes, adult fixation on young people—even sexually mature and relatively sophisticated/self-possessed young people—can be pathological in nature and devastating in consequence. We certainly cannot abandon all sense of societal and legal responsibility to keep young humans from physical or psychological harm. All I'm saying is: one monolithic standard, one set of rules, does not cut it. Not every instance of minor-adult sexual contact is de facto abuse. Circumstances, actions, and intentions should be assessed and any tangible harms weighed. Any young person who has freely chosen to explore his or her sexuality should be respected for his or her agency in having done so. If the minor unequivocally claims not to have been harmed, the grownups need to put the fucking pitchforks and torches away.

Hmmm, a quick websearch shows Buddy Treen, now 57, is President of the Southern Shore Chapter of the New Jersey Wrestling Officials Association. 'Scuse me, I'm suddenly feeling 14 again...
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