An Increasingly Rare Open Thread

Sorry I’ve been so inactive on “Alas” lately. It’s a pretty simple math: 10-12 hours a day spent working on Hereville means less time (and, probably more importantly, fewer spoons) for blogging.

My deadline for this books is August 6th, but I’m hoping to be done by sometime in July. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to find a way to post regularly, if not frequently.

Anyhows:

  1. Jena Sheriff Seeks Revenge for Civil Rights Protests That article is sort of the background for Requiem for Catrina, a really excellent article by one of the Jena 6′s lawyers about why this new outrage has been pretty much ignored nationwide.
  2. Compassion for Evil – a blog post arguing for humanizing pedophiles.
  3. “Machete Order” — the correct order to watch the Star Wars films in. He makes a good argument.
  4. An Iranian nuclear bomb will not pose a existential threat to the United States, but it will bring home a reality that most politicians in Washington have learned to ignore over the years: Iran is a major regional actor that wants a seat at the table.”
  5. She Has No Head covers, once again, the great debate over if male and female characters in mainstream superhero comics are equally sexualized because both are drawn with idealized bodies in skintight outfits (or less). The answer is no. As a comic book artist, I always finds this debate depressing to read, because it seems that a lot of comic book fans are actually incredibly insensitive to reading even obvious nuances of comic book art.
  6. Stephanie Greene is being charged with murder. Her crime? Breastfeeding her newborn.
  7. Archie gay marriage comic sells out in face of boycott call.
  8. Learning the Right Lessons From the Philadelphia Abortion Clinic Disaster | RH Reality Check
  9. How Kermit Gosnell Got Over—and Poor Women of Color Paid the Price – COLORLINES
  10. 22 U.S. senators call for marriage equality plank in Dem platform
  11. Who Is the Aggressor in the Culture Wars? – Conor Friedersdorf
  12. Cheering on the Nightmare Scenario: Why it would be a good thing if Republicans, next time they’re a majority in the Senate, get rid of the filibuster rule.
  13. Right versus pragmatic – Marco.org A good post (with illustrations!) about illegal file sharing.
  14. Why people should be allowed to erase memories
  15. Some left-wingers are sexist asshats. (Credit to RonF for the link.)
  16. Trademark laws, PYREX vs pryrex, and glass cookware that explodes when you heat it. (Again, thanks to RonF).

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42 Responses to An Increasingly Rare Open Thread

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Thanks for the credits!

    As far as the filibuster goes, I’d love to see the Democrats lose their Senate majority. But I’m not hoping to see the filibuster go, even if it means that (should Pres. Obama fail to win a 2nd term) it would hinder conservative nominations to the Supreme Court. What I would like to see, however, is to get away from what I’ll call courtesy filibusters. If one party or another wants to filibuster, then make them actually physically do it; stand up in front of the Senate and C-Span and God and start talking until their mouth dries up. And then, when they’re all done, have a vote. A few pictures of someone reading the phone book or whatever in trying to block legislation or nominations will have a salutary effect in these days of 24-hour news cycles and YouTube.

  2. 2
    Megalodon says:

    I think the topic of the “Compassion for Evil” post should be brought up more often, but the post invokes some problematic assumptions.

    One of the key things that I learned is that people who were sexually abused as children are much more likely than the general population to become pedophiles.

    I cannot remember if this was mentioned on other “Alas” threads, but haven’t there been statistical problems with supporting the “cycle of abuse” and “victims become abusers” theory?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse#Causal_factors
    http://www.gao.gov/archive/1996/gg96178.pdf

    (I’d like to take a moment to say that there are some people in this situation — possibly a lot of people in this situation — who deal with their pedophilia in the right way, by not raping any kids. These people are fucking heroes and it is a damn shame how little support we have for these decisions in our society.)

    People are fucking heroes because they do not commit rape? Alright, that just leaves a bad taste.

    This issue sort of came up on a Feministe thread. However, the post author closed the comments after self-identified pedophiles started posting on it, apparently shopping for sympathy.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/08/18/salon-flubs-reporting-on-child-predators/

  3. 3
    Jadey says:

    @ Megalodon

    You are right on point. I tried to raise that in the comments (gently) though there has not been a response yet. It a very common misunderstanding of the research findings, which only really shows it as an actuarial predictor among convicted sexual offenders for the risk of their *re-offending* and (i.e., mathematically-speaking, sexual offenders who report a history of child sexual abuse tend to also be more likely to commit further sexual crimes than other sexual offenders who do not, although we don’t necessarily understand or agree upon *why*, just that there is a statistical relationship among many other statistical relationships with other predictors) and sometimes to distinguish between sex offender and other offender populations (i.e., they tend to report statistically greater levels of childhood sexual abuse, but not always – and not necessarily in the majority either, depending on the sample), but it’s such a low-occurring behaviour overall with so many contributing factors that it is very, very difficult to statistically model, even doing long-term longitudinal studies.

    But that is not a very exciting way to think about the numbers, and so the idea that it’s a causal and extremely predictable cycle of abuse definitely captures people’s imaginations more. And likely only causes more suffering for survivors of abuse.

    As for the “heroes” comment… Well, I can only imagine that if he felt so very at risk for becoming like the person who hurt him, it might make sense from that perspective to applaud other survivors who successfully resisted this perceived powerful urge. I think if applied in general (i.e., survivors and non-survivors alike) or with an understanding that the risk of becoming an abuser oneself is not as high as has been believed, it would be a lot more strange and ill-fitting.

  4. 4
    ballgame says:

    There are undoubtedly sexist asshats on the left (of both the misogynist and misandrist variety), just as there are unquestionably rightwing asshats in feminism.

    Having said that, I’m not sure why you would assume that an actual left winger put up that flyer, Amp. (I can certainly understand why Althouse would.) ‘Rat fucking’ goes back to Nixon’s time (and undoubtedly before), and from what I understand Rove had a knack for false flag operations, so I suspect that tactic is well understood among a certain subset of right wingers.

    Anybody can put up a flyer.

  5. 5
    Grace Annam says:

    Megalodon and Jadey,

    You’re absolutely right, that misunderstanding of any relationship between being a juvenile sexual assault victim and going on to be a pedophile is very common. It’s vile and does real damage to the many, many people (roughly one in four people) who were victimized as children.

    I once had to stand in a room full of cops, one of whom I knew for a fact was a child sexual assault survivor (and where, statistically, 1 in 4 were survivors), and listen to a police sergeant say casually, “Well, molest victims grow up to be pedophiles themselves,” as though it were a straight cause-and-effect. I told him he was wrong and pointed out that if that were true, with each active pedophile having many victims, in about two generations everyone would be a pedophile. He shrugged it off.

    Grace

  6. 6
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    What I would like to see, however, is to get away from what I’ll call courtesy filibusters. If one party or another wants to filibuster, then make them actually physically do it; stand up in front of the Senate and C-Span and God and start talking until their mouth dries up. And then, when they’re all done, have a vote. A few pictures of someone reading the phone book or whatever in trying to block legislation or nominations will have a salutary effect in these days of 24-hour news cycles and YouTube.

    Good heavens. Ron and I agree on something. Is it Backwards Day?

    Grace

  7. 7
    DaisyDeadhead says:

    Increasingly irritated by bloggers and commenters on liberal blogs, from nice progressive areas, who don’t know what we go through around here:

    Edward Lee Elmore freed from SC Death Row, walks out.
    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2012/03/edward-lee-elmore-freed-from-sc-death.html

    Many of us are still fighting the ‘old fights’ and it would be nice if the folks in blue states were a wee bit more sympathetic!

    Okay, climbing down from mini-soapbox (/rant)

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    In order to make Senators do the sort of filibuster Ron describes, we’d have to completely overhaul the filibuster rules. Under current rules, it’s not possible to make someone “actually physically” do a talking filibuster.

    Personally, I think the folks with the majority should be able to pass laws if they keep their majority together, and then face consequences with the voters if the laws they pass suck. The current system — in which the minority party has an enormous influence on legislation but is effectively never held accountable for the influence they wield — isn’t good democracy.

  9. 9
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    As with most situations, the rules you want when you’re in a majority are very different from the rules you want when you’re in a minority. Neither side seems especially good at putting on the hat of their opponents, which is bullheaded/stupid/hubristic/all three.

  10. 10
    Robert says:

    Personally, I think the folks with the majority should be able to pass laws if they keep their majority together, and then face consequences with the voters if the laws they pass suck. The current system — in which the minority party has an enormous influence on legislation but is effectively never held accountable for the influence they wield — isn’t good democracy.

    Why on earth would we want “good democracy”? Democracy makes for a good image for a proper republican system, where better-informed elites rule, with the consent of the people. Democracy itself is hopelessly unworkable.

    The people, in the mass, are almost incapable of determining whether the laws that are passed “suck”, and in the cases where they are so capable, they are generally either not interested by the time the next election rolls around, or the determination hasn’t been made by that time, because of lags in implementation, legal challenges, etc. Counting on popular discontent with the legislature to disincentivize bad lawmaking is akin to having a blind driver, and relying on the passengers in the back seat to let him or her know whether they are steering properly.

    The populace can pass judgment on broad policy intentions and broad philosophies of government, and vote accordingly, but are abjectly incapable of finer control than that. Congress considers thousands of bills each year, and passes hundreds; even highly-informed voters are probably familiar (and that only in the barest outline) with a handful of them.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    This week’s “Savage Love” had a letter addressing #2, interestingly enough.

  12. 12
    Megalodon says:

    This week’s “Savage Love” had a letter addressing #2, interestingly enough.

    Yes, it also continues the “you deserve praise because you didn’t commit rape” message.

    I shared your letter with Dr. James Cantor, a psychologist, associate professor at the University of Toronto, and editor in chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal Of Research And Treatment. (Follow Dr. Cantor on Twitter: @JamesCantorPhD.) The first thing he said, CWIA, was that you deserved praise—he called you “an ace”—for making it this far without having committed an offense.

    Someone who is burdened with an attraction to children—no one chooses to be sexually attracted to children—and successfully battled that attraction all of his adult life deserves credit for his strength, self-control, and moral sense.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/march-7-2012%2C70428/

  13. 13
    ballgame says:

    Of all the problems in this world, I have to think that ‘people giving positive feedback to those who successfully resist powerful internal compulsions to do evil’ has got to rank near the bottom.

  14. 14
    Megalodon says:

    Of all the problems in this world, I have to think that ‘people giving positive feedback to those who successfully resist powerful internal compulsions to do evil’ has got to rank near the bottom.

    I am sure lots of reasons, desires, impulses and compulsions motivate evil behavior. I am not sure how high pedophilic attractions ranks in terms of inexorability or irresistibility. Have there been psychological or psychiatric studies about the strength of pedophilic attraction? What is it on the level of? Is it powerful like some kind of drug addiction? Is it powerful like the need to defecate?

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    I think that whether it’s weak or strong, it’s reasonable to see valorizing simple decent behavior as being unnecessarily compromising of moral expectations.

    But I also agree with ballgame that such behavior has to be towards the bottom of the list of possible social evils a person can contribute to. Show me someone whose worst act is being overly congratulatory towards the rape-inclined but non-raping, and I suspect you’re showing me someone who is better than just about everyone who has ever lived.

  16. 16
    Elusis says:

    Having worked clinically with at least one person who identified themselves as having strong pedophiliac urges which they undertook to actively resist acting on*, I feel comfortable saying that the experience was educational for me about the amount of self-control it could potentially take for someone to live in this way. For this person, every time they experienced sexual arousal (which can happen, as you know Bob, just by waking up from a sexual dream or having normal hormonal fluctuations), they had to contend with the knowledge that their sexual “itch” would be most effectively scratched by an activity such as searching for child porn online, coupled with the knowledge that doing so would be contributing to actual harm toward children.

    And while for most people, having the occasional sexual fantasy about something “taboo” (incest, rape, bestiality, name your flavor of “wrong” and someone who is perfectly psychologically healthy has fantasized about it) is a safe activity, for this person, they could not afford to go there even in their mind because they felt it would undo the work they had done toward curbing their other urges. This person had explored the possibility of medical and pharmaceutical options for removing or drastically lowering their sexual drive, but was attempting to be satisfied with a sexual relationship with an appropriately-aged (and fully-informed) partner.

    It was a LOT of work for this person, from what I could tell, and was a regular issue that both members of the couple had to deal with, as the person’s partner had agreed to serve in a kind of warden/gatekeeper role (had the person’s computer passwords, regularly checked the person’s bank and email accounts for any suspicious activity, etc.) I did not necessarily like the client but I wound up feeling great compassion and appreciation for the effort he put in at self-management – his story sometimes sounded similar to narratives about living with the effects of a serious disability, or life for a gay or lesbian person well before the gay civil rights movement began and homosexuality started to really enter mainstream consciousness.

    Perhaps my feeling here is colored by having had two other people whom I knew well (one long-time client and one moderately close social contact) eventually come to police attention for trying to act on pedophiliac urges, both of whom I learned about via the evening news. (The client never revealed his compulsions to me.)

    Ultimately I was very glad to have known the client who was trying to come to terms with their feelings while openly acknowledging they would lead to very serious harm if acted upon. I did feel respect for them and appreciation for their efforts, which I don’t think equates to “handing out cookies.” I felt honored to be a part of the very small group of people who knew this about them, and to be able to both give them positive regard and also challenge them therapeutically in the role I was hired for (see note).

    * I was not the clinician treating this aspect of the client’s issues, as I am not qualified to do so by virtue of my training and supervison. I was providing couple therapy for the person and their partner.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    Like you, I have some experience in a psychological setting with individuals with these predilections. (I used to work for a psychologist who did competency evaluations for accused persons, in all areas of criminal behavior, including sexual offenses.) And I totally agree that life for such people must be very difficult, and that life for those who recognize their preference causes harm and who try to essentially nullify their sex life must be damn near impossible. (My boss largely agreed, and essentially came down at a position that those who have become canalized in their behavior are effectively untreatable, after he spent years trying to treat them, but that those who have the predilection but not yet the behavior might be able to keep it under control – but it would be very difficult.)

    So I can see both sides of the question. I won’t condemn someone for thinking that “hey way to go with that whole not raping kids thing” is reprehensible, and I won’t condemn someone for giving support to someone who honest-to-god is fighting a daily battle not to rape kids.

  18. 18
    Bear says:

    I’m not sure I understand why praising someone with pedophilic tendencies for not acting out those tendencies is a bad thing. Can those who take that position explain in plain language why that is?

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    I don’t take the position but I understand it, so here goes: it has nothing to do with pedophilia. You can replace “pedophilic tendencies” with any tendency, inclination, or drive to commit any bad action. You can go farther, and replace a tendency to commit a bad action with a disinclination or obstacle to committing a good action. And regardless of the specific topic or action, the fear is that the praise will lead to a lowering of the standard for everyone.

    We don’t praise people with itchy fingers for not robbing us. We don’t praise lazy guys who’d honestly rather just get drunk and watch football for instead half-heartedly checking their kids’ homework and submitting to a game of hide and seek. We don’t praise misogynists for not losing their temper at the slow cashier at Wal-Mart and screaming sexual obscenities at her.

    There’s a certain bar of behavior, in other words, and – regardless of your inclinations or difficulties or tendencies – everyone is expected to reach that bar whether it is easy or difficult in their particular case. There is no praise for reaching the bar. I forget which comedian it was who lambasted people for praising men in his community for performing the basic normative tasks of fatherhood, but “you don’t get a cookie for that, that’s your god-damn JOB” was more or less the gist.

    “Not molesting kids” is the normative expectation. Special praise for reaching the normative bar seems like it will inevitably lower that bar, by making what used to be normative perceived as an exceptional performance. Things that are exceptional performances are not things that everyone has to live up to, or should feel bad about failing to live up to. So the norm slips downward.

  20. 20
    Eytan Zweig says:

    “Not molesting kids” is the normative expectation. Special praise for reaching the normative bar seems like it will inevitably lower that bar, by making what used to be normative perceived as an exceptional performance. Things that are exceptional performances are not things that everyone has to live up to, or should feel bad about failing to live up to. So the norm slips downward.

    I’m not sure this is correct – at least not if strong pedophilic urges are taken to be a mental disability. People suffering from a strong eating disorder may receive praise for behaviour that the rest of us find unexceptional – I certainly never have trouble eating a meal when I’m hungry, but I know people who have had to face a daily struggle to do so. I don’t feel that the encouragement they received lowered the bar for acceptable behaviour for the rest of us.

    There’s something inherently ablist about the “don’t call them heroes” argument – none of us here struggle with an urge to rape children, or to seek out images of others raping children (or at least, none of us have admitted to such) – and therefore we can take the position of “it’s really easy for me, therefore it must be easy for you”. But just because it’s easy for us, we don’t know if it’s easy for everyone.

    Yet as I write the above, I also am made strongly uncomfortable by the position I’m taking. Treating pedophilic urges as a disability feels like it’s giving pedophiles an ethical pass. And more importantly, it feels like rewarding them. If there are two people who have exactly the same behavior (not seeking child porn, not raping children or otherwise sexually assaulting them), but person A has pedophilic tendencies and receives praise, while B does not and receives no praise – doesn’t it look to an outside observer like A is receiving praise *because* of his tendencies?

    But to flip again, that too is an ablist line of thinking. If two students finish school with equal accomplishments, yet one had strong learning disabilities, she may receive accolades while her friend does not. Is it fair to say that she was rewarded for having learning disabilities in the first place?

    I think people need to be judged by their actions. But working to resist strong urges *is* an action. Persons A and B above are not equal in their actions, even though what they’re both doing is not raping.

    None of this changes anything about the people who *do* rape children. The willingness to praise a person who has pedophilic urges but resists them does not equate to the willingness to excuse people who give in to those urges (not to mention that I don’t believe most child-rapists are actually pedophiles; I think a lot of them are simply rapists who find children easy victims but have no particular attraction to them). But am I willing to accept that in some cases – such as the one Elusis described above – meeting the socially accepted norm is difficult, and therefore deserves praise? Yes, I am.

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    Neptunus Lex is a blog hosted by a retired Naval Avatior; he used to fly F-18′s off of carriers and saw action in the Second Gulf War. He also had a number of other posts, including XO (2nd in command) at the TOPGUN school. He retired out of the Navy soon thereafter and wrote about it all in his blog (which he started while on active duty). His blog had a conservative/libertarian bent but all were welcome and he enforced civility on all. His blog touched on the military (especially the Navy), politics, poetry, philosophy and life in general. We learned about his life in the Navy, outside the Navy as he tried to adjust from life at sea and in the air to life in the cube farm, and struggling with various issues including when his daughter came home from college with a heroin addiction. And he didn’t just write a blog. He’s written two other series of postings centering on life as a flyer and life on a carrier that are going to be published as novels.

    Lex escaped the cube farm. TOPGUN needs pilots to fight against the pilots it trains, and Lex, having both passed the TOPGUN course and helped run it was an ideal person to act as an adversary pilot. So he got hired to do just that. Over the last few months he’s blogged on that, and how squirrely what he was flying (an Israeli Xfir) acts on occasion.

    Two days ago something went wrong when he returned from a training run. Apparently facing the option of ejecting from the plane where it might go God knows where on the base and kill people or controlling the plane until it hit the ground, CAPT Carroll LeFon chose to stay with it and ended up plowing it into an empty building. He leaves behind a wife, a son (who has followed him into Naval Aviation) and two daughters. There are over 840 comments on a condolences thread on his site, many of whom are people who served with him or are non-military users of his blog (who were equally welcome to lurk and post). His passing has been noted on at least 3 dozen other blogs.

    The blogosphere has lost someone who wrote well and true with both grace and wit and did not tolerate at least a lack of grace in his blogging community. I’ve lost a friend. I’ve been quite sad the last couple of days, and I don’t expect that to lift anytime soon.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    That’s really sad, Ron. He sounds like he was a wonderful person. I’m sorry for your loss.

  23. 23
    Elusis says:

    How sad, RonF. I’m really sorry.

  24. 24
    KellyK says:

    That is really sad. I’m sorry, Ron.

  25. 25
    Grace Annam says:

    That really sucks, Ron.

    Being in a service profession that loses a lot of people, I’ve had more experience than I ever wanted in honoring the dead. On one level, you have to get inured to it in order to function, but there’s a part of me which always feels lesser when we lose another one.

    I’ve lit a candle for Lex tonight.

    Grace

  26. 26
    RonF says:

    There’s over 1200 comments so far, including one from the Secretary of the Navy. There’s memorials being organized in at least 8 cities so far. He touched a whole lot more people than I had thought.

  27. 27
    Megalodon says:

    Having worked clinically with at least one person who identified themselves as having strong pedophiliac urges which they undertook to actively resist acting on*, I feel comfortable saying that the experience was educational for me about the amount of self-control it could potentially take for someone to live in this way.

    I am sure lots of rapists (who rape other adults) have described their urges in the same overpowering manner, and go on about how it took superhuman effort to resist and control those urges, up until they “succumbed” to them. Perhaps some were telling the truth.

    For this person, every time they experienced sexual arousal (which can happen, as you know Bob, just by waking up from a sexual dream or having normal hormonal fluctuations), they had to contend with the knowledge that their sexual “itch” would be most effectively scratched by an activity such as searching for child porn online, coupled with the knowledge that doing so would be contributing to actual harm toward children.

    They have other options besides abusing children or searching for actual child pornography. They can simply fantasize and masturbate without any external aid. They can seek subject matter pornography that does not depict actual children, like written pornography, animated pornography or pornography that features adults who are made to look younger. And if they have adult partners who will tolerate it, they can role play. All repulsive practices, but they are mostly legal, I believe. I think it is still an ongoing debate whether or not pornographic fantasy causes people to escalate or embolden their sexual behavior or whether it acts as a cathartic, relief mechanism. Whether it has differential effects on pedophiles and non-pedophiles, I don’t know, and I don’t know of any such research about that question.

    And while for most people, having the occasional sexual fantasy about something “taboo” (incest, rape, bestiality, name your flavor of “wrong” and someone who is perfectly psychologically healthy has fantasized about it) is a safe activity, for this person, they could not afford to go there even in their mind because they felt it would undo the work they had done toward curbing their other urges.

    So most non-pedophiles can fantasize about violent, inappropriate sexual activity like rape without some appreciable risk of their behavior escalating? But when pedophiles fantasize, it causes some grave risk of them escalating their behavior and acting on their impulses? Is there evidence about such a bifurcation between other inappropriate sexual desires and pedophiliac desires? Something apart from a pedophile’s subjective description of the intensity of his own urges?

    This person had explored the possibility of medical and pharmaceutical options for removing or drastically lowering their sexual drive

    From what little I know about the literature, I believe that remedies like chemical castration and even surgical castration have mixed results on the recidivism of sexual offenders.

    his story sometimes sounded similar to narratives about living with the effects of a serious disability, or life for a gay or lesbian person well before the gay civil rights movement began and homosexuality started to really enter mainstream consciousness.

    Any comparison between pedophilia and the LGBT community is a minefield, and I am sure the disability rights movement would at least be ambivalent about comparison between disability and pedophilia.

    Perhaps my feeling here is colored by having had two other people whom I knew well (one long-time client and one moderately close social contact) eventually come to police attention for trying to act on pedophiliac urges, both of whom I learned about via the evening news. (The client never revealed his compulsions to me.)

    How does this color your feeling? What do the actions of these two individuals reveal about the intensity or resistibility of pedophiliac urges?

    I did feel respect for them and appreciation for their efforts, which I don’t think equates to “handing out cookies.”

    Well, I guess I have to understand what is meant by “cookies.” Usually, “handing out cookies” describes situations in which privileged people get positive feedback and appreciation because they claim that they are trying to reject and see past their privilege and accept egalitarian precepts. Personally, I think not raping people is a much lower bar than “checking” one’s privilege.

  28. 28
    Megalodon says:

    I’m not sure this is correct – at least not if strong pedophilic urges are taken to be a mental disability.

    Greece has already ratified this notion that pedophilia is a disability. Now pedophiles in Greece are entitled to disability pensions. Disability advocacy groups were not pleased.

    http://news.yahoo.com/furor-greece-over-pedophilia-disability-174002476.html
    http://disabledaccessdenied.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/greece-declares-paedophilia-a-disability-and-decides-to-pay-monsters-a-pension/

    I wonder if pension applicants have to prove their pedophilia?
    Anyway, I think there is huge moral problem with categorizing an inappropriate sexual fixation as a disability.

    People suffering from a strong eating disorder may receive praise for behaviour that the rest of us find unexceptional – I certainly never have trouble eating a meal when I’m hungry, but I know people who have had to face a daily struggle to do so. I don’t feel that the encouragement they received lowered the bar for acceptable behaviour for the rest of us.

    That may or may not be true about the bar being lowered. But there may be a moral difference between behaviors that are mostly self-harming and self-destructive versus behaviors that necessarily involve the personal violation of vulnerable members of the population. If a drug-addicted person prostitutes herself to get drug money, lots of people may react with pity and compassion. If a drug addicted person prostitutes her child to get drug money, lots of people react with anger and contempt. And I think the different reactions are justified.

    There’s something inherently ablist about the “don’t call them heroes” argument

    Once again, there is this premature acceptance of pedophilia as a disability.

    none of us here struggle with an urge to rape children, or to seek out images of others raping children (or at least, none of us have admitted to such) – and therefore we can take the position of “it’s really easy for me, therefore it must be easy for you”.

    True, nobody here apparently has the urge to rape children. But I am sure that at least some people here have had urges and desires (sexual or otherwise) that cannot or will not be fulfilled. I am sure lots of people in the general population deal with that. Some more than others. And for a variety of reasons, some people will never achieve a consensual sexual relationship in their lives. That may be pitiable and such, but that does not mean that they deserve positive feedback and appreciation for not engaging in violence and rape.

    But just because it’s easy for us, we don’t know if it’s easy for everyone.

    True, but we are not obligated to believe a pedophile’s description of how overpowering and irresistible his urges are.

    But to flip again, that too is an ablist line of thinking. If two students finish school with equal accomplishments, yet one had strong learning disabilities, she may receive accolades while her friend does not. Is it fair to say that she was rewarded for having learning disabilities in the first place?

    I do not think pedophilia is akin to a condition like Down Syndrome or dyslexia, neurologically or morally. But apart from that, one could argue there is a difference between a person receiving praise for making positive, supererogatory improvements to his/her life versus a person receiving praise for adhering to the negative, minimal obligation not to harm other people.

    I think people need to be judged by their actions. But working to resist strong urges *is* an action. Persons A and B above are not equal in their actions, even though what they’re both doing is not raping.

    I do not think the alleged intensity of a person’s actions in itself justifies differential recognition or feedback. Even if we accept at face value a pedophile’s claim that he must use extreme self-control and brutal willpower to not act on his urges, I do not think his intense restraint merits positive feedback or praise. The culmination of his hard work is merely him not raping. And same thing for anyone supposedly having to expend greater effort to resist committing other violent, wrongful actions. Parents are expected not to abuse their children. For parents with compliant children, that may be an easier obligation to fulfill. For parents with rebellious, defiant children, maybe they have to work harder to fulfill that obligation. I am not going to laud a person who says, “It took every ounce of strength for me not to immerse my son’s arm into a pot of boiling water.”

    None of this changes anything about the people who *do* rape children. The willingness to praise a person who has pedophilic urges but resists them does not equate to the willingness to excuse people who give in to those urges

    No, it should not change anything. But I am sure some pedophiles and gullible therapists will try to equate it into an excuse, or have done so already. It is not hard to see how they will play it. “Gosh, my therapist told me I showed superhuman, heroic strength for all that time I went without raping children. Well, we can’t be heroes all the time. Who can blame me for having a lapse? I’m only human.”

  29. 29
    Grace Annam says:

    I am sure lots of rapists (who rape other adults) have described their urges in the same overpowering manner, and go on about how it took superhuman effort to resist and control those urges, up until they “succumbed” to them. Perhaps some were telling the truth.

    I suggest that there is a qualitative difference between people who experience an urge directed only toward a morally forbidden target, and people who experience an urge directed only via a morally forbidden method. I could be wrong; this is not my area of expertise. I’d have to think about this more and I’d be curious to hear from those who have studied it.

    But even apart from that, it seems to me that rape of an adult is a crime of power and domination, not sex. Rape of a child could be about sex, and often includes no component of actual physical force or threat of physical force. The rapist has committed a crime because society has rightly deemed children to be incapable of consent, even if a particular child agrees actively seeks the sex. The issue is disparity of judgement and capacity, approximated via age, which is why many jurisdictions reduce or negate the offense, or look the other way, if the children in question are near majority and the difference is small. (For instance, how many people in California or Hawaii have had totally consensual sex with their 17-year-old boyfriend or girlfriend while they themselves were 18 years old? Technically rape in the statutory sense, but it does not provoke the moral outrage we feel when speaking of facially consensual contact with, say, a 13-year-old.)

    They have other options besides abusing children or searching for actual child pornography. They can simply fantasize and masturbate without any external aid. They can seek subject matter pornography that does not depict actual children, like written pornography, animated pornography or pornography that features adults who are made to look younger.

    In my jurisdiction, in the child pornography statute, “child” is anyone under the age of 18, and “pornography” is any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving, or made to appear that it involves, a child involved in the conduct. It’s very broad, and arguably includes a lot of anime the creators and consumers of which don’t think of as child porn.

    So no, images are not always available to such people.

    That said, of course you are right in that they can gratify themselves to some extent without external aid. And, even if they couldn’t, it simply has to be illegal to have sex with people who lack the capacity of informed consent. If that’s a person’s target of attraction, then it simply sucks to be that person.

    That seems to me to be the crux of what Savage and the researcher he is quoting are getting at, that pedophilia is an orientation. In fact, if you listen to Savage’s podcast, he interviewed a researcher (I think it was the same one) a few weeks ago, and the researcher drew a distinction between pedophiles in the clinical sense, which meant people oriented to children who are prepubertal, and a different group with a different name which escapes me, who are oriented to children in the early stages of puberty. Apparently the groups are reasonably distinct, which in my mind does tend to support the notion of pedophilia-as-orientation, just like gynephilia (orientation-to-women/femininity) or androphilia (orientation-to-men/masculinity), except that the object of attraction is legally and morally off-limits.

    And for many people who aren’t asexual, celibacy is hard, and takes effort and attention. If the objective of the celibacy is that the celibate person not hurt other human beings, then I don’t see a problem with saying, “Good job with the whole not hurting other people thing.” It’s not like it’s a monetary award, or a medal. It’s just “that’s good”. I think that’s what Savage is trying to get at with his term “gold-star pedophile”. He’s not calling them “admirable”; he’s suggesting the sort of accolade we give to someone who did something which is hard for them and easy for most people.

    Maybe what some people, possibly Megalodon, fear is legitimizing a middle ground, where just a little bit of child rape is okay. But I don’t think this does that. I don’t have trouble with a conceptualization where “none” is “good job – keep that up” and “one” is “let’s see if we can put you in prison and mandate treatment”.

    Grace

  30. 30
    Megalodon says:

    I suggest that there is a qualitative difference between people who experience an urge directed only toward a morally forbidden target, and people who experience an urge directed only via a morally forbidden method.

    Perhaps there is some psychological or psychiatric difference between the two. I do not agree there is any qualitative distinction. They both want to do something that is morally and legally forbidden (and should stay that way) and they both will have to forego gratifying those urges.

    But even apart from that, it seems to me that rape of an adult is a crime of power and domination, not sex.

    This attempted clean, abrupt dichotomy between “power and domination” and “sex” is clumsy and probably fictional. Some compulsive rapists claim they cannot even be aroused unless they are actually forcing and hurting somebody. That’s at the extreme end of the spectrum. More commonly, some rapists (who rape adults) can engage in consensual sexual acts, but they just do not find it as gratifying as raping somebody. And on that note, there are pedophiles who can and do engage in consensual sex with adults, but they just do not find it as gratifying as raping a child. How many times have we learned about some guy who is married with children who turns out to be a serial rapist or child molester?

    Rape of a child could be about sex, and often includes no component of actual physical force or threat of physical force.

    Yes, some pedophiles try to seize upon this distinction to distinguish themselves from other rapists and molesters. And some rapists who rape adults use methods that minimize or obscure the use or threat of overt force, like using chemicals to incapacitate the victim. Some rapists compel their victims to pretend that the rape is a consensual encounter, and prefer not having to manifest force throughout the assault. Assuming that rape of a child “often includes no component of actual physical force or threat of physical force,” that does not purge the act of “power and domination” and nor does that mean the perpetrator is not enjoying the power and domination he is exercising over his victim. It simply may be a different kind of power distinct from threatening to beat or kill somebody if they do not comply.

    The issue is disparity of judgement and capacity, approximated via age

    And that issue is not confined to the rape of children and juveniles. It becomes the prime issue in rapes that involve adults who are mentally disabled or chemically compromised.

    In my jurisdiction, in the child pornography statute, “child” is anyone under the age of 18, and “pornography” is any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving, or made to appear that it involves, a child involved in the conduct. It’s very broad, and arguably includes a lot of anime the creators and consumers of which don’t think of as child porn.
    So no, images are not always available to such people.

    I do not know where your jurisdiction is. If it is in the US, I do not know if your jurisdiction has updated its statutes since 2002 to comply with Supreme Court precedent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcroft_v._Free_Speech_Coalition

    But even if there is some reason or exception that allows your jurisdiction to maintain that prohibition, I did say “mostly legal.”

    And for many people who aren’t asexual, celibacy is hard, and takes effort and attention.

    Perhaps it is hard, but celibacy is too often characterized as some inhuman, insufferable deprivation for which people deserve praise for enduring. And that is just ridiculous.
    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2003/02/17/sex-is-an-overrated-waste-of-time/

    If the objective of the celibacy is that the celibate person not hurt other human beings, then I don’t see a problem with saying, “Good job with the whole not hurting other people thing.” It’s not like it’s a monetary award, or a medal. It’s just “that’s good”. I think that’s what Savage is trying to get at with his term “gold-star pedophile”. He’s not calling them “admirable”; he’s suggesting the sort of accolade we give to someone who did something which is hard for them and easy for most people.

    I do see a problem with it. Nobody is entitled to sex, and I do not think people deserve positive feedback merely for going without something they are not entitled to in the first place. For a variety of reasons, some people will never have a consensual sexual relationship. However, their lives of involuntary celibacy do not merit praise merely for not attacking somebody out of frustration. Similarly, I do not think beleaguered parents with unruly children deserve kudos for not abusing their kids, even though it may be harder for them to resist abuse than for parents with compliant children.

    Maybe what some people, possibly Megalodon, fear is legitimizing a middle ground, where just a little bit of child rape is okay. But I don’t think this does that. I don’t have trouble with a conceptualization where “none” is “good job – keep that up” and “one” is “let’s see if we can put you in prison and mandate treatment”.

    My objection is out of principle. Whether it is foregoing sexual abuse of children or other bad things like regular murder or stealing, I do no think people deserve positive feedback for adhering to the bare minimum requirement of decent behavior. But that aside, I do have trouble with a moral conception in which one side is supererogatory, laudatory action and the other side is condemnable, punishable conduct. And in practical terms, I dread how pedophiles will run with such feedback. It is my experience that lots of pedophiles have a tremendous capacity for self-absorption and self-pity, whether or not they offend. Pedophiles who offend have bemoaned and wailed, “It was too hard to resist! I couldn’t help myself. Whoa is me!” On the Feministe thread about this subject, some self-identified pedophiles started posting. Though they claimed they had never acted on their desires, they started posturing about how sad and difficult it was for them to resist their urges. It was a creepy moment. I do not want to legitimize their contention that they are the victims of their own desires.

  31. 31
    Myca says:

    And if they have adult partners who will tolerate it, they can role play. All repulsive practices, but they are mostly legal, I believe.

    Excuse me?

    —Myca

  32. 32
    Megalodon says:

    Excuse me?

    I am referring to the practice of pedophiliac adults who have adult sexual partners and who ask their adult partners to pretend to be juveniles during sexual role play in an attempt to sate their urges. Persons have every right to consensual role play. But I am not obliged to think that every variety of role play is so wholesome.

  33. 33
    Myca says:

    Aside from total celibacy, what sexual activities could someone with involuntary pedophiliac tendencies engage in that you wouldn’t term repulsive?

    —Myca

  34. 34
    dragon_snap says:

    I am referring to the practice of pedophiliac adults who have adult sexual partners and who ask their adult partners to pretend to be juveniles during sexual role play in an attempt to sate their urges.

    What about adults who engage in consensual sexual age-play with other adults, and who aren’t motived by pedophiliac desires – is that equally un-wholesome? Is it the motivation, or the action, or both which you find repulsive?

    (Please note that, though I don’t have detailed thoughts on the subject, I’m pretty sure I think that the motivations don’t really matter, and the actions most certainly do.)

  35. 35
    Megalodon says:

    Aside from total celibacy, what sexual activities could someone with involuntary pedophiliac tendencies engage in that you wouldn’t term repulsive?

    Honestly, I cannot think of any at the moment.

    What about adults who engage in consensual sexual age-play with other adults, and who aren’t motived by pedophiliac desires – is that equally un-wholesome?

    Not equally.

    Is it the motivation, or the action, or both which you find repulsive?

    Both.

    (Please note that, though I don’t have detailed thoughts on the subject, I’m pretty sure I think that the motivations don’t really matter, and the actions most certainly do.)

    Your prerogative. I would not write off motivation as entirely irrelevant. If adults engage in consensual sexual-age play with each other, that is one thing. If the motivation for that age play is because one partner lusts after the couple’s own minor child, that could “matter.”

  36. 36
    Grace Annam says:

    Honestly, I cannot think of any at the moment.

    Not missionary-position sex with the intent to procreate, between a consenting man and woman in a monogamous legal marriage, when that particular sex does not involve paraphilic thinking of any kind?

    In other words, is the most vanilla, socially-acceptable-across-the-board act: does that become repulsive in your eyes because one of the partners also sometimes experiences, but does not act on, pedophilic attraction?

    Just doing the scientific thing, here: testing the endpoints.

    Grace

  37. 37
    Megalodon says:

    In other words, is the most vanilla, socially-acceptable-across-the-board act: does that become repulsive in your eyes because one of the partners also sometimes experiences, but does not act on, pedophilic attraction?

    I understood the question to be about substitute sexual activities that a pedophiliac person undertakes specifically in order to relieve or quell those pedophiliac urges.

  38. 38
    Eytan Zweig says:

    So, if a person who has pedophilic urges engages in a sexual act involving only consenting adults in an aim to control those urges you find it disgusting, but if the same pedophile engages in the same sexual act without any consideration to the effect of that act and their pedophilic urges, you find it acceptable?

    (Note – I’m planning to respond to what you were saying in @28 and @30, but doing so properly requires a bit more mental energy than I have at the moment)

  39. 39
    Megalodon says:

    So, if a person who has pedophilic urges engages in a sexual act involving only consenting adults in an aim to control those urges you find it disgusting

    Yes. Not that I think it should be proscribed or prohibited, or anything to that effect.

    but if the same pedophile engages in the same sexual act without any consideration to the effect of that act and their pedophilic urges, you find it acceptable?

    I do not establish what consensual acts are or are not acceptable. As for what you described here, no, I would not be revolted. I would just have the same generic indifference which we display to most personal things that we learn about other people’s behavior.

  40. 40
    Megalodon says:

    Not missionary-position sex with the intent to procreate, between a consenting man and woman in a monogamous legal marriage

    If a pedophile is intending to procreate, then that could be cause for concern and alarm. At least, Savage seemed to think so:

    So long as there is no specific child in specific danger—so long as you don’t have children (please don’t), CWIA, and don’t work with children (please don’t)—your therapist is required to keep whatever information you share confidential.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/march-7-2012%2C70428/

  41. 41
    Grace Annam says:

    If a pedophile is intending to procreate, then that could be cause for concern and alarm. At least, Savage seemed to think so:

    To the extent that the pedophile is going to be parenting, and therefore around a child night and day, I share Savage’s concern.

    If we were able to sever procreation from parenting, as in a case where we could guarantee a child would be given up for adoption, I would not share his concern, since I’ve never seen any indication that pedophilia is heritable, any more than heterosexuality is.

    However, in our society, procreation and parenting are linked by default, and via very powerful legal mechanisms. So, I would share Savage’s concern.

    However, that wasn’t the point of my question, which I think you know perfectly well. Take the phrase “with intent to procreate”, and remove from consideration the question of whether sex-absent-procreation is okay, and the question stands.

    Grace

  42. 42
    Megalodon says:

    However, that wasn’t the point of my question, which I think you know perfectly well. Take the phrase “with intent to procreate”, and remove from consideration the question of whether sex-absent-procreation is okay, and the question stands.

    My subsequent response in Comment 40 was just an addendum brought up by the implications of a pedophile engaging in a reproductive sexual act.

    I answered your question along with Zweig’s question in Comment 39. If a pedophiliac person engages in consensual sexual acts “when that particular sex does not involve paraphilic thinking of any kind,” then, no, I myself do not have any personal revulsion. I would just have the same generic indifference which we display to most personal things that we learn about other people’s behavior.