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Thursday, March 8, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Minor Dispute

Posted by on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 2:58 PM

I am a minor-attracted person and I found your advice that you gave to CWIA about his attraction to minors entitled "Another Gold-Star Pedophile" dated March 7, 2012, to be inaccurate and hurtful. You pride yourself to be a pioneer in helping people and in particular launching the "It Gets Better" project that tries to help teens avoid suicide. I would like to ask you the following questions:

1. Would you have given this advice to a person attracted to adults of their same sex?

2. How would you have felt if CWIA was a teen instead? Would you have given them the same advice? Would you been concerned at all about how that would have made them feel?

3. What would you have said to a teen who came to you with this concern?

I feel that the advise that you and Dr. Cantor have given is extremely hurtful. People who are attracted to minors like myself are not concerned about offending. We are concerned about loving relationships with children. I believe that people like you who are attracted to adults of the same sex were in the same situation like us a couple of decades ago, and unfortunately until now, hence your "It Gets Better" project. Prejudice and phobia do not need a specific target. The problem is not in who we are, it is in this innate quality of the people who persecute us.

Your advice is absolutely wrong and has no place in accepting people for who they are.

Looking Forward To Your Answers

My response after the jump...


1. No.

2. My advice would have been the same even if CWIA were a teenager: people who are attracted to children are not monsters. Pedophiles don't choose to be attracted to children anymore than gays and lesbians choose to be attracted to same-sex partners, heterosexuals choose to be attracted to opposite-sex partners, or bisexuals choose to be attracted to both sexes. But unlike gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals who attracted to other adults, it is impossible for a pedophile to engage in sexually intimate behavior with a preferred partner—a child—without committing rape. Prepubescent children are incapable of consenting to sex. Period. The End. Fin. I believe that we should not place obstacles in the paths of pedophiles, regardless of age, who are seeking the support they need to avoid offending. Indeed, I think we should make that help available to pedophiles without charge. And I believe that pedophiles (or "minor-attracted persons") who have not offended—men and (more rarely) women who have successfully battled their sexual attraction to children—deserve credit, not condemnation.

3. Seems like the same question again, LFTYA, but here goes: Pedophiles have my sympathy—pedophiles who have not offended—but my message to pedophiles is the same regardless of their ages: your desires, which you did not choose, can never be realized.

And a bonus letter/update...

I don't know if you remember me, but I wrote in, I think, in 2002, and my handle was SADBOY. Here's the column my letter appeared in and you had more advice for me in a followup column.

Well, anyway, I just wanted to say I appreciate that in the last year you've run a few more columns about people who are having trouble with pedophilia and you handled it in a kind way. (You also did a podcast on the subject.) I wish I could've had it together as much as the other writers when I wrote in, but I was only 20 at the time and I remember thinking that writing you was my last hope for getting any feedback, or any kind of help or answers about that issue. I was so confused and scared back then.

I just wanted to tell you that I didn't become a teacher. I gave that idea up, thankfully. I pretty much gave up all hope in ever being any kind of helper to kids. In the almost 10 years since I wrote you, I've been through a lot of therapy and things. I haven't touched or anything like that, either. I told my family in 2005 because one of my siblings was going to have a child and I panicked. Now I actually have an adult partner of almost three years. We are in love and I'm working on being physically attracted to him and it's getting better every day. He is understanding of my situation and is a wonderful person.

I just wanted to say that you responded correctly to what I said. I was clueless. Thank you for running my letter back then, it really helped me wake up.



Comments (263) RSS

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tabletop_joe 1
The verbiage of that first letter is unsettling.
Posted by tabletop_joe on March 8, 2012 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Tracy 2
GAH!! No, no, no! I appreciate Dan's thoughtfulness and tone with regards to pedophiles. But folks like this first letter writer?!?! No no no! (Also, Albee's "The Goat" is now running through my mind. And I'm pretty sure that CONSENT is what's required in all situations. And consent isn't something that can EVER be garnered from children or animals)
Posted by Tracy on March 8, 2012 at 3:16 PM · Report this
"We are concerned about loving relationships with children."

No, you are concerned about how to have sex with a child who cannot - as Dan says - give informed, adult consent.

You need help, not advice.
Posted by westello on March 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Vince 4
I can just imagine the kind of shit going on in less controlled situatuions in Asia and South America. Those people are so poor they sell their kids.
Posted by Vince on March 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
A lot of mindblowing stuff in this post.
Posted by gloomy gus on March 8, 2012 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Dear pedophile: Looking forward to the day you get shanked in a prison shower and slowly bleed out.
Posted by Or jump from a bridge on March 8, 2012 at 3:18 PM · Report this
I'm glad Sadboy is doing better now. I came across that letter in the SLAP the other day and wondered if he was okay.
Posted by Jen in Madison on March 8, 2012 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Wait- isn't the whole thing about being attracted to a child going to be problematic when that child ages, LFTYA? Do you envision yourself falling in love with a child and loving them until -their- old age? Because while same-sex attracted people may not be hot for old-people-in-general, growing old with a partner is part of the deal and their sex is generally presumed to stay the same. Child-attracted people cannot expect the basis of attraction (age) to stay the same and the two cannot be dealt with as the same.

Plus, development/consent, etc. ANY involvement with a child is offending- statutory-rape is a criminal offense. Please read SADBOY's letter and get thee far from children and in to therapy.
Posted by S-Lo on March 8, 2012 at 3:24 PM · Report this
That first letter has NAMBLA santorum all over it.
Posted by jade on March 8, 2012 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Fnarf 10
"We are concerned about loving relationships with children"

Try this on for hurtful: you're an unapologetic wanna-be rapist, and persecuting you is the right thing to do.
Posted by Fnarf on March 8, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 11
People who are attracted to minors like myself are not concerned about offending. We are concerned about loving relationships with children.

No, no, no, no, no, No, No, NO, NO, NO!

You'd better be concerned about offending. Because if you offend, you will have done an unspeakably horrible thing to a defenseless human being. And you will no longer have the very few people--like Mr. Savage and Dr. Cantor--who recognize your affliction for what it is, and treat you with compassion instead of the reflexive hatred and revulsion the vast majority of humanity feels towards you, in your corner. You will be all alone. And you will deserve it.

"Loving relationships with children" are not for you. I'm sorry. But that is how it is.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on March 8, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
"People who are attracted to minors like myself [AND ARE PREDATORY ASSHOLES] are not concerned about offending. We are concerned about loving relationships with children."

There. Fixed that for you.
Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Dan, I agree with your advice on this particular problem -- with one exception. I don't believe anyone deserves "credit" or a "gold star" for failing to harm a child, despite their intense sexual attraction to children. To obey the law, to keep children free from harm, this is what is EXPECTED. This is the bare minimum. That many people show weakness where he does not does not exalt him. That you think so may be part of the problem! Perhaps society's expectation of pedophiles to offend is partly to blame for the psychologist-confidentiality problem.
Posted by mockingJD on March 8, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
BEG 14
@9 repeated hundreds of times.

And yeah, what about growing up? Thats what children do. So then what? Toss 'em out and start out fresh over again? For the next 50-70 years of your life? Nuh-uh.
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on March 8, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Can we agree that pedophiles don't need an it gets better project that helps them not commit suicide, but rather a free razor blade and sleeping pills project to speed there departure from this planet.
Posted by simonsays on March 8, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Allyn 16
I’m torn between pity and panic. Good for that young man. I wish him luck in life.

As to the first LW. Stay away from children. Please seek help.

I tend to have blood thirst in the regard of sex crimes. God almighty, I’d attempt to castrate you myself if you harm any kids I love or know. Please get help before you destroy someone’s life in your selfish pursuit of “love”.
Posted by Allyn on March 8, 2012 at 3:39 PM · Report this
@15: No, we can't agree on that. Most don't offend, most struggle mightily to resist acting on their urges, years after year, decade after decade, and most do it alone and without any support. They—the good ones—deserve credit, not suggestions that they should off themselves.
Posted by Dan Savage on March 8, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
evilvolus 18
@13 - Refusing to distinguish between pedophile rapists and pedophiles-in-treatment doesn't seem to be in anybody's best interest.

You avoid molesting children because it's wrong, and because every fiber of your being thinks that would be horrible. The letter writer avoids molesting children because he knows its wrong *despite having a physical urge to do so.* Whether you like it or not, the latter person deserves a little praise.

@15 - No, we can't agree. But thanks for trying, fuckhead.
Posted by evilvolus on March 8, 2012 at 3:45 PM · Report this
Catherwood 19
I wonder, Dan, how useful therapy can be for a would-be pedophile. If that's simply "who they are", in the same sense that all the therapy in the world won't turn a gay guy into a not-gay guy (or a straight guy gay, for that matter). What can therapy accomplish in this case? Providing tools to resist the ever-present temptation, I guess, but it's sad to see someone who is, in a sense, broken, and recognize that they can't be "repaired", but only taught to survive in their broken state.
Posted by Catherwood on March 8, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 20
I'm concerned about the LW's lack of concern about offending. It really sounds to me as if he has ALREADY offended (raped, sir), and his distorted semantics reflect some sort of thought-gymnastics he's doing to deal with his guilt. It is not "loving" to have sex with children. It would be "loving" for LFTYA to take a note from SADBOY, and stay the fuck away.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
@15 your level of violent fantasy is pretty disturbing too. People like you who act on these feelings do a lot of harm in the world because the true nature of the target is less interesting to you than your sadistic physically violent self-aggrandizing vengeance fantasies. I wish there were a lot fewer people who acted out these kinds of fantasies/delusions. There would sure be a lot less domestic violence and child abuse. I applaud you if you are one of the people who can restrain yourself from acting out your self-righteous violent fantasies. If not, I hope you immediately get the jail time you deserve. Consider getting some therapy before it screws up the lives of those around you, if you ever feel you are close to the edge.
Posted by cracked on March 8, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
evilvolus 22
@19 - Some psychological conditions cannot be cured any more than the more appropriate sexual orientations cannot be changed. But a combination of support structure and assistance in developing coping mechanisms can hardly hurt, can it?

And I know at least one prior LW on this subject was asking about the rather harshly-named "chemical castration," which is both an excellent option, and *very* difficult to have access to without an MD in your life.
Posted by evilvolus on March 8, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this

I have to disagree. I mean you're right, keeping children free from harm is baseline morality, not exalted behavior.

But your post blithely dismisses the power of libido. To recognize that a libidinous impulse will always be wrong and destructive no matter how intrinsic it is - to overcome our libido's power to trick our own mind into all kinds of rationalizations for bad behavior - to keep that up unfailingly over the course of an adult lifetime - I believe that does deserve some credit. Maybe not a gold metal, but at least a gold star.
Posted by East Coast Douglas on March 8, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
It's not a violent fantasy to wish pedophiles would remove themselves from this world. It is insensitive and a whole lot of other things, but I am not condoning hunting anyone in the streets. I am curious Dan how it can be said that most don't offend. Is there a way to know what percentage of the populace has these "fantasies" and how many act on them of that percentage. I know my attitude comes off as beyond callous, but I trully struggle to see a place in this world for repressed sexuality. Look at how ignoring urges has worked out for the catholic church.
Posted by simonsays on March 8, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
@24, it may not be violent to wish there were no pedophiles. It's a violent fantasy to want to send them razor blades and sleeping pills.
Posted by clashfan on March 8, 2012 at 4:08 PM · Report this
It's the narcissism of the first letter writer that's so off putting: the euphemism "minor-attracted person" as a value-neutral substitute for the value-laden term pedophile, the attack on Dan's original advise for not trying to make pedophiles feel good about their own desires in an "It Get's Better" like way, the framing of the main concern as a "loving relationship with children."

It's all about him (I presume it's a male) and how Dan (and we) should make him feel better about his desires.

Unlike the original letter writer, and SADBOY, there is zero acknowledgment of the person-hood of children. No only is there no no recognition of the impact of sex on kids before they are able to consent, or even understand the emotional issues, but he uses the classic pedophile justification of defining such a one-sided encounter as a "loving relationship."

Everything in that letter is selfish.
Posted by East Coast Douglas on March 8, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Nothing to say about pedophiles, but I would like to say that I went back to that old SL from 2002 and out of all of Dan's acronyms (e.g. GGG, DTMFA, CPOS, NALT) DOAC really, Really, REALLY deserves a come back...or on as the situation dictates.
Posted by LukeJoe on March 8, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Report this
OH...I do have something to say about pedophiles...and that it's creepy the way organizations like NAMBLA describe us adult-attracted homos as sex-obsessed perverts. I'd listen to NAMBLA with a little more empathy if (as a group of pedophiles) they weren't constantly slut shaming me. I mean, is that called for? And please, to upstanding people like SADBOY, I apologize for even bringing them up. It's just something I have noticed that this LW reawakened.
Posted by LukeJoe on March 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
Lance Thrustwell 29
@24 - Look man, you won't find many people who give child molesters less slack than me. But Dan is right; a pedophile who SUCCESSFULLY resists his urges to rape children sure as hell deserves our help and support. So that he can keep on succeeding at that. It's not up to you or anyone else to decide when someone else should off it.

Except actual ongoing, unrepentant child molesters like the the LW. Those guys need to die.
Posted by Lance Thrustwell on March 8, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
That is the perfect response, Dan.

Also, something I'd like to see happen in the future (but likely never will) is a greater acceptance of what is generally referred to as "virtual child porn" - that is, animated porn that portrays non-existent minors. Provided there can be studies done that demonstrate such porn acts as a useful substitute, so that pedophiles are less motivated to seek out actual children. This would at least allow them to have some sort of gratification in their lives without having to hurt anyone in the process. Because, as you said, no one gets to choose what turns them on in life and likewise they should not be punished if their only turn-ons happen to require hurting others.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Lance Thrustwell 31
Whoops - the First LW, not Sadboy.
Posted by Lance Thrustwell on March 8, 2012 at 4:21 PM · Report this
kim in portland 32

No. You scare me. The object of your sexual and romantic desires cannot consent. Abuse is not love. You will never have justification for cohercing a minor and sexually assaulting them because you want love. You need help, compassionate help, and to stay away from minors.


Thank you for continuing to stay strong. Thank you for all the efforts you have made. I hope things with your partner work out.


Posted by kim in portland on March 8, 2012 at 4:24 PM · Report this
What sort of treatment is out there for pedophiles that doesn't involve going to jail first? Dan, what do you advise as far as practical resources for these people?
Posted by ishf on March 8, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
10/10 troll
Posted by Swearengen on March 8, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
Good to see the Homo Ship pulling up anchor and trying to sail away before the 'minor attracted' community jumps on board.
Posted by Horse fucking is non-normative too on March 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Does anyone remember the episode of South Park where Cartman joins NAMBLA? The boys' response when creepy old pervs offer just this kind of rationale is really all anyone needs, I think: Dude, you have sex with children.…
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
@33, as long as they're not in contact with children, pedophiles can apparently talk to licensed therapists without being turned in to the police.…
Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
you are such a good man, dan. i've been so incredibly moved by this series of letters.
Posted by martarose on March 8, 2012 at 4:35 PM · Report this
TreGibbs 39
WTF??? HELL NO !! Dan - you were WAY TOO nice to this guy. Anyone who is sexually attracted to children is a predator and has NO PLACE in society. PERIOD.
Posted by TreGibbs on March 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
I will make another attempt to reasonably disagree.

It seems the only reason why people think sexual relations with children (or 'loving relations' as the LW puts it) is the belief that children cannot consent meaningfully.

Yet we believe children can consent meaningfully in a number of situations. In fact, from early on, we encourage them to 'take power' and make decisions: which clothes to wear, etc. Of course they must be kept under control, because their experience level is very low and their reactions are not yet adult-like; but it does seem we want to give them power to make decisions as soon as possible. So, if we ask a child to play a video game, or chess, or hide-and-seek in the park, and the child agrees, this agreement is held to be meaningful. We believe the child has meaningfully consented to play the game.

Why can't a child meaningfully consent to sex?

My impression is that this is because sex is still seen as That Big Thing With Hugely Enormous Consequences (whereas games, which sometimes can be as complicated as sex, or even involve danger of physical harm, are seen as OK with adult supervision).

I can't find anything logically harmful in sex that would, by itself, make it inherently more dangerous to kids that some of the games and fun we allow them to indulge in in a playground (under adult supervision, just in case).

If this is so, why do we assume children can meaningfully consent to such games, but not to sex?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
A loving relationship with a child involves protecting them, advising them, teaching them and equipping them with valuable life skills. A loving relationship with another adult involves completely different things. Not just sex - loving adult relationships involve emotional support, shared goals and maintaining a partnership dynamic. A child is unable to provide these things the way an adult can. To expect that a child *can* be in a loving relationship with an adult the same way two adults can be in a relationship with each other is to completely ignore the realities of childhood and the personhood of the child involved. Children aren't just tiny adults - they need a lot of things that adults don't need; and don't need some of the things that adults do.

Even drawing a child into a non-sexual but still romantic relationship is crossing a boundary that really should not be crossed, and will likely harm that child in adulthood.
Posted by R.Taylor on March 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
seandr 42
Dan, thanks for being the intelligent, honest, reasonable, and compassionate sex advice columnist that you are.
Posted by seandr on March 8, 2012 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Wait, why didn't Dan call out the first letter writer for being some homophobic douchebag satirizing pro-SSM arguments by applying them to pedophiles?
Posted by Catface Meowmers on March 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
@32(Kim in Portland), I imagine that the opinion I expressed in the previous post will seem strange, contradictory, and perhaps a little scary to you. I hope you'll understand that I mean nothing of the sort, and that I am simply really interested in the topic.

Children should never be harmed. But why is sex so harmful that "adult consent" is necessary for it (as opposed to the "child consent" that is sufficient for children to play games with each other, or with adults)? What is it with sex that makes it so harmful?

The equation "children+sex = danger" is so automatic, it reminds me of other similarly automatic reactions -- against gay sex, or kinks.

To those who are (as I myself am) survivors of childhood abuse: the questions I ask should not be construed as implying that you were not abused. There are manipulative/predatory people out there abusing children, and I'm not in the least suggesting this should be tolerated -- in general, since manipulative/predatory people are bad to anyone, including adults, but especially to children, whose lack of experience makes them especially easy targets to victimize.

The question I'm asking is quite different. I hope you won't misunderstand me.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 4:47 PM · Report this
@39 I'm sure it makes you feel great to act as zero-tolerance as possible when it comes to pedophiles, but what then would you say is a practical solution to someone who you claim "has NO PLACE in society. PERIOD."? Should the government start issuing erection-tests to all boys when they reach the age of puberty, to discover what turns them on? And if the answer happens to be per-pubescent children, should we then just euthanize them on the spot?
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 4:49 PM · Report this
theseamster 46
Does anyone else think there's at least a 50% chance this is a fake? Not just random, but specifically someone who doesn't know a lot about Dan's approach to this subject and was trying to bait him into saying something they could point to as being inappropriate from whatever conservative angle. Some fundies think all gays want to molest children anyway so perhaps they were assuming/hoping he'd be more supportive of this person's "problem."
Posted by theseamster on March 8, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
@40: Seriously?

If a kid puts together a godawful outfit to wear one day, the absolute worst possible thing that could happen is an embarassing picture shown to the prom date a decade later.

You're basically saying that because a kid can consent to play games with an adult, or even interact with an adult in any way, they should also be able to consent to sex. Seems to be the same sort of reasoning which holds that a woman who consents to get drunk also consents to sex with whoever happens by. No. It doesn't work like that. Look up the meaning of the phrase 'age-appropriate'. Playing a video game with a kid is age-appropriate. Sex with a kid is not.
Posted by R.Taylor on March 8, 2012 at 4:53 PM · Report this

Dude, ankylosaur, nice try and all that, but your argument still isn't going anywhere. Sex is inherently more dangerous that playing on the goddamn monkey bars and--and I think this is pretty fucking important--the kind of harm a child can suffer from sexual trauma is not quantifiable. You fall and break your leg playing, well, you get a cast, you heal, and move on with your life. As a child who endured a "loving" encounter I can tell you that the consequences are not necessarily immediately apparent. A prepubescent child cannot understand sex the way that an adult can, and therefore cannot possibly consent. Why do you compare it to playing games? My impression from your regular comments is that you're not a troll at all, so why are you persisting with this line of reasoning? Sex is "That Big Thing With Hugely Enormous Consequences!" You must know this, ankylosaur. I really, really have a hard time believing that you actually mean what you've been saying.
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 4:53 PM · Report this
seandr 49
@19: I wonder, Dan, how useful therapy can be for a would-be pedophile. If that's simply "who they are"

Good therapy is usually premised on discovering and accepting who you are and finding strategies to cope with or address your problems, whatever they may be. No therapy can change a person into someone else, and no decent therapist would even try.

Personally, I don't think there's any question that therapy and even support groups would help pedophiles navigate their lives without offending.
Posted by seandr on March 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 50

Yeah, because prepubescent kids are absolutely chomping at the bit to have a chance at 50-year-old cock.

Kids largely have no sexual impulses, besides perhaps knowing that touching themselves in certain places can feel good. A hideous-to-them (and likely to the rest of us) old man touching them is entirely a different story. Sorry you're so fucked in the head that you can't tell the difference.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM · Report this
@44: You need to research child development before you start spouting off any more of this garbage.
Posted by R.Taylor on March 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM · Report this

I think your comments are well-thought out, and I actually agree with you (a little) in that it's not necessarily the case that no child could ever possibly consent to sexual activity of any kind. After all, I'm sure there are others reading these comments who (like me) had little episodes with their siblings as children "playing doctor" and other such activities that were obviously consensual.

But as a practical matter, there's no possible way for an outside party (the police, government, or whoever) to measure consent when it comes to children. Up to a certain age, no child has the emotional capacity to understand what they are consenting to and why. There has to be some point where we say "Ok, at this age, the vast majority of kids are capable of understanding the emotional and physical aspects of sexual activity and can reliably give consent." In other words, there must be a hard age of consent in some form or another, regardless of exceptions that will always exist.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
singing cynic 53
I am about 80% positive that the first LW is fictional - a troll trying to trap Dan into endorsing pedophilia. Right?
Posted by singing cynic on March 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
balderdash 54
Not sure if NAMBLA or just troll. This is Poe's Law territory.
Posted by balderdash on March 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
@47, yes, that is indeed what I'm suggesting: that sex is like games. And that is the crux of my question: why is sex not like games? What is the danger inherent in engaging in sex -- be it physical or emotional -- that cannot be found in games?

Of course, being with an abusive asshole is harmful. But it will be harmful also in the context of playing a game, since the abusive asshole will not protect the child, will hit him, etc. It's not sex that makes this bad, it's the abusive asshole.

So again: what exactly is it about sex that makes it inherently more dangerous for everybody, so that children cannot be assumed to consent meaningfully to it -- whereas they can be assumed to consent meaningfully to games in which they could in principle also be physically harmed?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:01 PM · Report this
@46 - a good chance, I'd say. My first thought was that it was polygamy troll.
Posted by agony on March 8, 2012 at 5:03 PM · Report this
@48 (chicago girl), I hope I don't disgust or destroy your trust in my sincerity. I don't want to offend or attack anybody; I am sincerely asking a question that I think is meaningful and deserves an answer. I'm not a monster in disguise, nor am I defending monsters.

I am also a survivor of abuse (in my case -- of all clichés! -- an Irish Catholic priest). I've had to deal with problems similar to the ones you describe. But I think these problems don't come from having had sex with an adult; they come from having had sex with that adult, who was a manipulative/predatory asshole. Does that make sense to you?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
@ 30, yes that research is slowly starting to come out:…
here is a thread on the article on a leftist forum i participate on:…
Posted by dutchie on March 8, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
I have a rather un-conventional opinion on the whole "can children consent so sex?"-issue, and my answer is yes, yes they can but only with other children. I lost my virginity (PIV) when I was just turned 11, with a boy who was 6 months my senior. He was my best friend and my first boy-crush (I had my first crush on a girl when I was 8). The experience wasn't harmful or dangerous, I wasn't coerced or manipulated, we were just two curious children mutually discovering the differences between boys and girls. As I have seen sex through the eyes of a child I can however say that the experience wouldn't have been at all positive with an adult involved, whether the adult was well-meaning or not. Lets not pretend that children aren't sexual creatures, even before they are sexually mature or have gone through puberty (I entered into puberty when I was 12), but acknowledging the fact that children can and do have sexual feelings and are sometimes curious about sex doesn't mean that they can consent to sex with an adult. Sex is intrinsically tied up with deep emotions (yes I have had sex without love or commitment and even with total strangers and yes they were pleasant experiences that doesn't mean what I'm saying about emotions isn't true) even more so when sex is new to you. What I discovered when I lost my virginity was that this was something I wasn't ready for yet and I didn't have sex again until I was 16. Children need freedom to explore their sexualities, outside of any interference from adult sexuality.
Posted by Friendstastegood on March 8, 2012 at 5:09 PM · Report this
@19, @49 -- besides, there seem to be people whose sexual urges do indeed reflect childhood problems: they're not simply "wired" to like this or that, they are actually struggling internally with some dilemma or problem that they translate into a kind of sexual behavior. These people could be helped significantly by therapy. It's worth trying.

People used to think that kinky people were 'broken.' Now with kink-positive activists like Mr Savage, this is no longer so prevalent; but then some people fall into the opposite fallacy, namely, believing that kinky people are always 'pre-wired' and never broken.

Plus, what seandr above said.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
ankylosaur, as laurelgardner pointed out in the SL thread, adults should not rely on children to fill their adult needs for emotional support, sexual satisfaction (or friendship, or financial support). It's bad for the adult, and it's worse for the child.

I could imagine letting children teach each other about sex (though I don't, in practice, because some children have internalized dangerous lessons about sex and power). But adults cannot be trusted to keep sex at some idealized level that's age-appropriate for the child.

History shows us that adults are prone to sexual abuse of people in their power. That's why we stand up for children now, and don't trust adults to be sexual around them.
Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
@55's sex. Sex isn't like other things; hadn't you noticed? Sex makes people vulnerable in a way that nothing else can, no matter what age you are. Trying to reduce it to a mere physical exercise is both pointless and absurd.
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
@52, I tend to agree with you. The way our society is organized (depending on things like 'age of consent' -- the magic numbers 18 and 21), it would be difficult to act otherwise.

Still, societies change. Maybe ours will in the future in a direction that will make it possible for (The science-fiction writer Samuel Delany wrote a book, Trouble on Triton, with a society which accepted sex for children, from about age 8-9 on -- without fixed limits, even for that. It was of course very different from our society, but its basic structure seemed logical enough and might work).

And, even if we agree that our society is not going to change in this direction -- I think the question ('why not sex with children?') is interesting, because it really makes us think hard about something our society takes for granted: what is the inherent danger of sex? Isn't it just a pleasant activity? If sex is dangerous, where does the danger come from?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this

I understand that you are distinguishing between actual abusive pervs and an abstract argument. But, abstractions aside, do we really think there has ever been any kid-fucking adult who wasn't an abusive perv?
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this

Thanks for posting those links. Although, I don't think decriminalizing porn that contains actual children can or should ever be considered as a solution. Even if, as that study suggests, it genuinely reduces the rates of child rape and abuse.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 5:18 PM · Report this
here is a consequence that you can't get from falling off the monkey bars: pregnancy. i would say that this reality is pretty fucking damaging for a ten year old, and something that routinely results from pedophilia and incestuous relationships.

but the main answer to your question is that the innocent "games" you speak of don't have a power-dynamic in them, and sex most certainly, absolutely does. and it is this power dynamic that is used to abuse a young child. because once someone has more power than you in a sexual relationship AND YOU ARE NOT THEIR EQUAL (i.e. a small child) you lose your voice (among other things) and this is unequivocally wrong. Yup. Wrong. No. Arguing. About. It.
Posted by kgdlg on March 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM · Report this
@55: But sex is NOT like playing hide and seek. Sex puts someone in a position of vulnerability and makes relationships far more complex than they would be without it. Sex is breaching the boundaries that we've set up around the rest of the world. Sex has some very real consequences - physical, mental and emotional. Adults are capable of realizing this, because their brains have developed a capacity which they lacked in childhood. Children are not tiny adults, with all the reasoning capabilities that most neurotypical adults have. Children's brains are literally incapable of understanding complex ideas and projecting long-term consequences for their actions. This is why we don't let children vote or drive, either.

There's a reason why we also don't believe that the severely developmentally disabled can consent to sex - they are also incapable of handling the issues of sex (note: I mean *severely* disabled, on the order of requiring full-time care, not someone with a disability who's nevertheless capable of taking care of themselves). We protect children from adults who abuse them physically and mentally, as well.

Try this one on for size, as well: When an adult talks about a childhood sexual encounter with another adult, the experience has rarely, if ever, been talked about in a positive way. Most adults feel that they were harmed by childhood sexual experiences with an adult - even if it was a 'loving encounter'. I will grant that it's possible, in some rare instance, for a child to have a sexual experience with an adult that is not damaging. However, it's FAR more likely that the child will be harmed - and sometimes, that harm is not readily apparent until years later, when the child has grown into an adult and starts trying to develop their own sexual and romantic relationships. If something is harmful in 99 out of 100 cases, or even 80 out of 100 cases, we have every right as a society to say that it is wrong - especially because I don't know ANYONE who thinks they were harmed as child because they DIDN'T have a sexual encounter with an adult. So if something is far more likely to be harmful than not, of course we as a society are going to say it's wrong and people shouldn't do it.
Posted by R.Taylor on March 8, 2012 at 5:24 PM · Report this
@61(EricaP), indeed adults should not rely on children to satisfy their emotinal needs -- that would be plain stupid. But using the game analogy: we don't play games with children because we want to satisfy our desire to compete and excel in sports. Adults have a clear and obvious advantage over children in any game they play. And yet playing games and sports with children can be fun -- just not in the same way that it would be fun to play games and sports with an adult.

A person who wants a child to satisfy his/her emotional needs in a romantic relationship is indeed fooling him/herself: this ain't gonna happen. But this is not what I'm talking about.

But adults cannot be trusted to keep sex at some idealized level that's age-appropriate for the child.

Why not? This sounds like the argument that men 'have to be sexually abusive towards women' because 'they can't help it.'

Children have to trust adults for survival. Adults are assumed to be capable of providing for the needs of a child, including his/her emotional needs, without taking advantage of the situation to be abusive assholes with the children. When they are, we (other adults! -- why can we be trusted?) are revolted, and rightfully so.

Why should sex be any different? What is the inherent danger of sex that makes it so much more likely that adults will ignore all boundaries, forget they're dealing with a child and pretend it's another adult -- if they don't do this when they're playing games with the child? Indeed, why is sex so dangerous?

History shows us that adults are prone to sexual abuse of people in their power. That's why we stand up for children now, and don't trust adults to be sexual around them.

History has a horrible record of abuse -- of the poor by the rich, for instance; or of women by men; or of Blacks by Whites; or of one national/ethnic group by another. Does that mean these groups should not interact sexually?

I understand that the problem of meaningful consent makes sexual relations complicated when the partners have different levels of power. But: don't different levels of power make all relationships complicated -- because if you have power you never know if a friend is really your friend or is just caving in to your power, etc.?

Again, what is it about sex that apparently makes us see it as so much more inherently dangerous?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
@62, what I've noticed is that society tells us that. Society tells us that sex makes us vulnerable in a way nothing else does (this has something to do with the taboo of nudity, I think: we feel so helpless when we're naked, as all those nightmares about being suddenly naked in your workplace can attest).

Does sex reallly makes us inherently more vulnerable? More so than love? Or than friendship? I really don't know, and I wished I could measure.

Scientists have often point out that interesting things come out when you question the 'obvious.' I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, chicago_girl; I'm simply, honestly, asking why.

(I don't see animals being so squeamish about sex, for instance, or hiding it from their offspring, or feeling so especially vulnerable in the sexual realm. Is this special thing that you see in sex only found with humans?)
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Just seconding this part of R. Taylor's post @67: "If something is harmful in ... 80 out of 100 cases, we have every right as a society to say that it is wrong."

Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 5:35 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 71
Again, what is it about sex that apparently makes us see it as so much more inherently dangerous?

Well, I don't know. What's so bad about rape? If sex is simply akin to a game, then what's the big deal if a man holds a woman down and forces his penis in her vagina or anus? Surely, that's no worse than if he cajoled her into playing tennis when she didn't really feel like it.

The reason kids are presumed to not be able to consent is because, for many children, "consent" and non-consent look exactly the same. Children cannot be counted on to properly articulate what they want or don't want. If they don't understand what's going on, it might not occur to them to say no. It might not even occur to them that they have the right to say no. Children mostly don't have the right to say no to their parents or their teachers. Despite your patently false bullshit about whether they have the "right" to consent or not to wearing certain clothes or playing a game, they don't have the right to refuse to do what their parents tell them to do. How would it occur to them that they have the right to say no to a rapist?

That is why statutory rape laws exist. If they didn't exist, even in cases of forcible rape, it would be virtually impossible to secure a conviction, because many (probably most) child victims don't say no or fight back.

And rape is a bad, dangerous, physically painful thing, no matter how "loving" the rapist thinks he's being. And no matter how many what-if mind games you like to play.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
@67(R.Taylor), all the different things you've said about sex do seem to agree with my perspective: they're all social ideas about behavior (limits, boundaries, etc.), not physical facts inherent in sexual activity itself. It's not sex that is difficult or complicated or full of inherent dangers, it's how we place sex in our society that produces this context.

I'd again point to animals: because most animals don't really have a culture/society the way humans do, they are usually not so sensitive about sex, and don't seem to have a concept of 'sexual shame' (something apparently found only among humans).

Which is I think the basic point for me: what is dangerous about sex is nothing in its mechanics or its simple stimulus-pleasure structure, it's all the other things that are not sex, but that we link with it: shame, love, boundaries, self vs. other, trust, "propriety", "appearances", friendship, mutual duties, etc. It's these things that the child can't deal with (yet), it's these things that may harm him/her -- not the mechanics of various sex acts, which are not much more difficult to handle than so many sports and games (plus the basic idea of all games: we do it for fun).

When an adult talks about a childhood sexual encounter with another adult, the experience has rarely, if ever, been talked about in a positive way.

I assume a good reason for that is (as in the case of non-monogamous couples that Dan talked about a while ago) that, if there are people who as children had sex with adults and yet were not harmed (and perhaps even experienced joy and growth), then they aren't going to come out and offer the information, precisely because most people would react very negatively. They probably would simply not be believed.

A colleague of mine told me he had exactly this experience: sex with an adult woman while he was still 9 or 10, without any bad consequences. (He was the first person who got me thinking about this topic, by the way.) Of course a single data point tells us nothing about statistical behavior, I hasten to add.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
Congratulations, Ankylosaur!

You have now been named Emperor of the Universe. You are the absolute ruler of Life, the Universe and Everything - your whim is law.

How would you go about designing a way for the rare cases of non-harmful child/adult sexual interactions to happen while still protecting all the other children from being abused and exploited?
Posted by R.Taylor on March 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 74
I feel like it's 50/50 that it's fake. That said, as much fun as it is any time a LW comes into the comment threads to debate and defend themselves, I think could be amplified by 100 for this topic. Or it might just be the very polar opposite of fun. Regardless, I'll be checking back periodically and opening up all the unregistereds.
Posted by mikethehammer on March 8, 2012 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 75
@55: What @62 said!!! Besides, not knowing "why" sex is something Big And Dangerous to kids (whole fields of science and philosophies have developed to try to find out "why") doesn't mean that it simply isn't. This is a matter of trusting the vast evidence that shows that sex with children can be profoundly damaging to the entire life of a human being. I don't know of anyone who's played an innocent game with an adult who ends up haunted for life.

I'm sorry, but the arguments you make, ankylosaur, are, I'm afraid, the same exact arguments that pedophiles make to rationalize their damaging behavior. I wouldn't let my 8-year-old make a decision regarding walking out on a high wire without a net, because he couldn't know how dangerous it is and he would likely overestimate his ability to handle it. And I wouldn't want him to make a decision about having sex. I appreciate your trying to parse out the "why?", but I hope you can understand that the evidence shows very clearly that the consequences DO appear to be very different than poorly-made decisions about fashion. I speak from personal experience.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this

That's exactly how I am right now. I was molested by my father when I was 13. I'm in my thirties and I'm still scared of men, but also have shameful dreams/fantasies about 13 year old girls and older men.

Does that make me a pedophile?
Does this mean I have no place in society?

I've been to therapy but it's pretty ineffective when I can't be honest with the therapist for fear of being arrested.

Posted by KindaBroken on March 8, 2012 at 5:49 PM · Report this
@70(EricaP), I would say: "If something is harmful in ... 80 out of 100 cases, we have every right as a society to say that it is dangerous, but not necessarily wrong." (Fighting against the Nazis in the countries they occupied during WWI is a good example of a thing that is dangerous -- 80 in 100 mortality is probably about right -- and yet not wrong.)

But this begs the question: what is dangerous? Where is the danger? People used to say that kinks were dangerous, because they're 'gateway behaviors' that lead to self-destruction. And we'd hear apocryphal stories about the guy who started with some light masochism and ended up killing himself with erotic auto-asphyxiation, as if this were a natural progression. Don't some people think 24/7 D/s relationships "dehumanize you"?

A lot of the fear of kinks has to do with assuming worst-case scenarios as the only ones, and with imagining extreme obsession as always part of the game.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:50 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 78
it's these things that may harm him/her -- not the mechanics of various sex acts, which are not much more difficult to handle than so many sports and games (plus the basic idea of all games: we do it for fun).

Unwanted sex (i.e. rape) is physically PAINFUL, not to mention extremely emotionally damaging for reasons far beyond simple shame about having sex. What about that don't you understand?
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 5:50 PM · Report this
kim in portland 79
@44: ankylosaur,

I can't stay and talk. And, I don't think that you want children to be hurt. This is academic for you.

I don't think that children can give meaningful consent, because they can't understand or prepare for the consequences of sex. Or know how to get help. And, I'm not just talking about physical damage done to their bodies, STI, or pregnancy. I'm also thinking about the effects of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, the likelihood of re-victimization in adulthood, etc. I also don't think they can psychologically deal with fear/pain and liking the attention. I think some, like me, see the abuse as punishment, fear not being believed, and struggle with feelings of guilts for the consequences their abuser may suffer. Plus some children lack the ability to verbalize what has happened to them.

Sorry the above is all disjointed. If you were in my world and saw the woman (and few men) who enter into violent (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal) that were abused as children. Who think somehow they deserve to be abused now. They don't know what healthy adult relationships look like. Or meet a woman who can't have children due to the trauma her cervix suffered from being sexually abused. I just can't fathom that a child can consent and understand the risk. Maybe, I'm not farther a long in my journey, as I still get furious for the child I was. Furious for being bribed and then threatened. I want to go back in time and help her, and let her know we are okay. We come through strong and compassionate.

Take care.
Posted by kim in portland on March 8, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
@78, I'm not talking about unwanted sex.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 81

The majority of child rape is unwanted sex. How, your holiness, are we all supposed to tell the difference when the victim is a young child?
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 82
Ankylosaur: It seems from my position as an armchair psychologist - :) - that your own previously being abused has maybe warped your perceptions on the issues being discussed here. When you mention your own molestation, you don't mince words, you seem to call it what it was unequivocally. & yet, either you're just being a huge contrarian when discussing pedophilia, or you have issues from your own youth you have to work through. Is this part of how you see what happened to you as a child?

I get that you're from somewhere else (Brazil) & you now live somewhere else (The Netherlands) & both of those places are significantly less hung-up about sex than us here in the Puritan-founded, GOP-hates-women USA. We as a nation tend to flip out when even thinking about children as sexual beings, which they sometimes are. "Oh my gosh! Think of the children!" & we have Megan's Law, & possibly other over-reactions & attitudes that make it hard for pedophiles to get help.

But something you seem to play down a child's inability to consent to sexual activity with an adult. Yes, that's a clearly drawn black and white line. No, I don't think that has to be redrawn, no matter how physically developed or sexually precocious the child, or how genuinely well-intentioned, physically youthful or otherwise benign the adult is.

It's not simply that sex is more dangerous than some other kinds of "games" (to put it in the terms you have been using), although it is. Pregnancy & STD's are the least of the list of worries there.

2 things to consider. #1. The imbalance of power between an adult & a child is just too great, & always will be, for there to be benevolent sexual contact between them. The lowliest adult (usually) has more power than even a well-off child. The relationship between a child & the adults in their life is always going to be off in terms of who has control. You can't compare choosing to have sex to allowing a child to pick their outfit or what foods they will eat.

A child playing doctor with another child is a meeting of equals, is normal & natural, & is also a false equivalency to draw between that & an adult/child situation. A man/woman, different races, different income level pairing as adults may all have some level of imbalance, but that's between 2 adults, who have the vocabulary & (hopefully) experiences to allow them to choose & navigate those imbalances between themselves.

#2. A child's brain is still forming its impressions, determining what things mean, & how it all relates to them. If a child's trust is taken advantage of, they learn not to trust. If a child's body is used without their full knowledge of all the consequences, they learn to feel like that's okay, like that's a way to manipulate & be manipulated throughout their life.

Children simply can't consent to sex w/ an adult because they can't grasp fully what they are consenting TO. I say this w/ all respect for young people, their hungers & curiosities.

You can't throw people off of this idea by saying, "Oh, but why is sex so much more dangerous"? That's disingenuous. As others have stated, sex makes us much more vulnerable to others, & children should be allowed to grow into young adults & make their own choices about who to do that with.

Anyhow. You don't seem like a bad sort, ankylosaur, I've read your comments here for quite some time. But you seem to have a weird desire to rationalize how/when it might, someday, in a perfect society, be okay for adults to participate in sex games with kids. I don't feel that day will come. Teach our kids? Yes, please - in a classroom, w/ proper terms & access to birth control & lack of shame - that's an idealized society I hope for. But since the roles in society they play are just too different in terms of power, that's all it should be.

Also, I wonder if writing so much about it over the past few days has brought your own past to mind. Maybe there are still some issues there? (Said kindly, not meanly.)
Posted by Eva Hopkins on March 8, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
@ 65, I completely agree, although in this internet day and age criminalising childporn consumption (note I say consumption, not creation) is more principled symbolism than actually making a difference. It's only the stupid schmucks that get caught. As a society we should focus our precious limited resources at stopping the abusers, the creators of new kiddie porn, not go out of our way to find those non abusers who download some 4 decades old Scandinavian naturist pictures.
But Yeah, real kiddie porn should remain a no no, but outlawing virtual porn and stigmatising its consumers seems to be hurting children and as such, no matter how gross we think it is, should be legal.
Posted by dutchie on March 8, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
@Kim in Portland, indeed such situations of abuse are not what I'm talking about, and you're right to some extent in saying it's purely academic to me. Since I'm not at all sexually attracted to children (much the opposite, actually), my main point of curiosity is why we think sex is so dangerous for them, and what this reveals about what we think about sex and how we see it (as opposed to what it physiscally is).

I agree children can't deal with all those things you mention. But none of these things is inherent to sex: they are inherent (if at all--are they really?) to adult relationships, and to adult relationships in our society, as they are currently construed. One could just as well say that children can't really have friends the way an adult can -- because they can't deal with all the adult aspects of friendship in our society yet. But this doesn't mean they can't play hide-and-seek and have fun with it.

I think part of the problem is that when one imagines sex between adults and children, the first images that come to mind are extreme -- either extremely obsessed adults, or at best adults who expect their children to behave like adults (à la Humbert Humbert) and who want an adult emotional relationship from children. Of course these people are wrong -- just like adults who might play sports with children as if it were sports among adults (say, football with all those bone-breaking tackles) are indeed being abusive, besides being utterly stupid (what's the fun of expecting from your game partner a behavior that s/he simply doesn't know yet or isn't physically capable of producing?)
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:03 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 85

"Again, what is it about sex that apparently makes us see it as so much more inherently dangerous?"

I don't know, but you asking the commentariat at large to tell you what's inherently dangerous about non-consensual sexual activities (because, as I can personally attest, being forced to let my grandfather's brother slide his hands all over me and breathe heavily was much worse than being talked into a game of chess): it reveals your raging idiocy, your sociopathic inability to grasp the concept of physical, emotional and sexual violence, your inconsiderate dickery in barging into a thread filled with acknowledged survivors to demand they tell you why having someone's body shoved into yours against your will isn't exactly like that sixth game of parcheesi you didn't wanna play, your disgusting glee in playing devil's advocate on one of the few things the motherfucking TALIBAN knows can destroy the survivor's life. Frankly I don't give a shit whether you were sincere, trolling, amused or horrified or "just logical". Congratulations, you have the privilege of getting to think about this without having to remember someone's hands or mouth or penis or breasts on you, or remembering your clothes being pulled off and and...

Congratulations. You're fucking disgusting in a way that Sadboy isn't. I honestly didn't think anything or anyone could viscerally offend me in the way that pedophiles do, but you've succeeded. Have yourself a lovely day while I try to wash his memory off me again.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 6:03 PM · Report this

Maybe lose the smarmy, self-satisfied attitude as it doesn't really help your argument, eh?
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 6:05 PM · Report this
The troll is strong in that one, Mr. Savage. I think you responded sincerely to an arched letter trying to compare homosexuality to pedophilia, except in the disparaging way.
Posted by Snowguy on March 8, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 88

To clarify... I have nothing, absolutely nothing against gold-star pedophiles and I fully support Dan's take on that they need treatment, care and compassionately vigilant supervision, not jail. In my second-last sentence I was referring solely to offending pedophiles.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 6:08 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 89
both of those places are significantly less hung-up about sex than us here in the Puritan-founded, GOP-hates-women USA

That's really not true about Brazil, frankly.

Sexual abuse of children is pretty rampant there, and they have a fucked up ideal of femininity where women are expected to be extremely sexy (like tatas hanging out/short mini skirt sexy) but they are, under no circumstances, *supposed* to have promiscuous sex.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
History has a horrible record of abuse -- of the poor by the rich, for instance; or of women by men; or of Blacks by Whites; or of one national/ethnic group by another. Does that mean these groups should not interact sexually?

Uhm, I'm gonna say "yes", in a power inequity sense. It rarely ends well if there is a power differential that one person feels like there would be serious consequences if they were to discontinue the sexual relationship. See: why the boss shagging the help is frowned upon. Help can lose their job by not continuing to have sex with the boss, and that is not cool. Controlling abusive adult men, I'm not happy with you doing your number on any women, either. Adults can make kid's lives pretty awful, and can, in fact, force them to have sex- size differential and all.

...and, what about that? Little girl parts are not meant to accept big men parts, and no little people parts are gonna take on /anything/ in the same way adults are- they lack the hormone levels that allow tissues to soften and stretch with arousal. Hence "evidence" of abuse- often tearing or bruising that /should not be present in childhood/.

Aside from all the "no, it's not right" stuff. And pregnancy risks.

I see a slippery slope problem of when someone in fact is mature enough for sex with an adult sized or aged person- is it puberty? I don't know- and it's gonna be different for different people, which is why it doesn't seem /so/ wrong for the 21 year old to have a 15 year old SO, but- laws is laws.

So, yeah, abuse of a teenager- different than that of a toddler. But both still have consent and power inequity issues if the sex is with an adult.
Posted by bu on March 8, 2012 at 6:10 PM · Report this
@81, you're angry at me, it seems. Sigh. That's not what I wanted.

I'm not saying we should go out now and try to distinguish 'good' pedophilia from 'bad' pedophilia. Hell, the discussion in this very comment thread shows it's not a settled question. We're light-years away from that. Right now, the best thing is to stop it from happening -- which is why my advice to CWIA in the other thread was to curb and control his desires for the whole duration of his life.

There may well be people out there who as children had sex with adults and lived happily, but I'm pointing this out as a topic to be researched and talked about, not as a pass for forgiving anything that happens anywhere to anyone.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 92

Yeah, there's a guy in this thread arguing that kids obviously would benefit from fucking adults and *I'm* the smarmy, self-satisfied one here.

Crawl back under your rock, nimrod.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
@85(makavitykitsune), that means you're talking about a different topic from mine. I'm very sorry for your experience. I've also had the unfortunate experience of meeting (of all clichés!...) a Catholic Irish priest who couldn't respect boundaries, and I did have to fight the issues that resulted from that.

I'm talking about something different from that. The fact that you don't see it -- that you jump to the conclusion that what I'm talking about is abuse of children -- is part of the problem, and part of the reason why I raise the topic.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
@92, you think this is what I'm arguing? Interesting. As I said to @85 above, the fact that you jump to this conclusion is part of the reason why I think this topic ('why is sex dangerous?') should be talked about.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:16 PM · Report this

I guess I agree with you on that point - that there's a big difference in the level of harm inflicted between those who make child porn and those who consume it and we shouldn't be putting large resources towards the latter group at the expense of other, more productive ways of dealing with the problem.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 6:18 PM · Report this
Sloggers have no problem letting kids give consent to adults to reach into their twats to pull out a fetus. Why so nervous about cocks going in there with consent?
Posted by Glad u all found a moral compass on March 8, 2012 at 6:18 PM · Report this
@90, who wrote:

..and, what about that? Little girl parts are not meant to accept big men parts, and no little people parts are gonna take on /anything/ in the same way adults are- they lack the hormone levels that allow tissues to soften and stretch with arousal. Hence "evidence" of abuse- often tearing or bruising that /should not be present in childhood/.

Of course not. Trying to get a child (or in fact anyone) to do something they cannot physically do is clearly abusive (besides being rather stupid). But do you think sex has to be "big men parts in little girls parts"? PiV as "the essence and be-all of sex" is something SLOGGERS have always argued against. Why go back to it once sex with children is mentioned? What is sex to you?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
"Children cannot be counted on to properly articulate what they want or don't want. If they don't understand what's going on"

Good to see you support parental consent for children to get abortions.
Posted by Or is your moral compass defective? on March 8, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this

Alright dude. I'm not aware of this fantasy person you're referring to that thinks kids would "obviously benefit from fucking adults," but I get it - you're a crusader. Go get 'em tiger.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
@ankylosaur No, just flat out no.

1) Childrens bodies are different, not to mention much smaller. I don't even want to go into some of the things the news has published in just the last five or so years. In a few of them the children were actually killed by the sexual act.

2) If a sexual experience with a child could end with the child unharmed is actually possible, why hasn't it ever been brought to light? Why is every end result an emotionally scarred adult?

3) A few cultures throughout the centuries have at some time sanctioned sexual relations with children, so if this was so beneficial why didn't the practice continue? And why is the practice particularly hated in democratic first world nations, even with all our varying values, if it's really just like any individual persuit?

BTW, I didn't even want to join this discussion, but I can't believe this is the arguement that you're choosing to persue in two different comment threads. Let it go. There is no intellectual victory possible here.
Posted by mygash on March 8, 2012 at 6:22 PM · Report this
Dude, ankylosaur, people have said it over and over again. Let me repeat: Sex is not like playing video games, or choosing an outfit, or whatever other quotidian endeavor you come up with as an example. Sex is PROFOUNDLY personal. It is the ultimate release of the defenses, the ultimate show of vulnerability. It is the sharing of our bodies, that which we only keep to ourselves (or the doctor when getting a checkup, and note how impersonal they keep it for our own good). It is an enourmous leap to make, particularly when you're new to it, like somebody said, and YOU HAVE TO BE EMOTIONALLY READY for it. Children are not emtionally ready. They are still developing. Thus, they are incapable of giving consent for sex. Is that clear to you?

If you were to rush a child into sex (colloquially known as rape) before he/she is emotionally ready to deal with the psychological ramifications of sex, then you will likely incur lasting, perhaps permanent, damage. You say you're a survivor of child sexual abuse. You should know. Reflect again on how it has affected your emotional development. And reading your stuff, bro, you sound like you need help.

Again: Children are not like adults.
Posted by floater on March 8, 2012 at 6:26 PM · Report this
@90, plus, here's the thing with the power differential: as far as I can see, this power differential should make all relationships complicated, and indeed it does. In the olden segregationist days, friendships between Blacks and Whites were much less frequent, and when they happend their parameters were usually very different from those of friendships between people of the same race.

But sex is singled out -- sex is the one thing that is "most difficult". My point: this happens not because of anything inherent to sex in itself, but because of our attitudes to it. It's not that sex "has to be" a specially dangerous arena -- more so than family, friends, work, etc. -- for power differentials to raise their ugly heads; it's that the symbolic value of sex to us -- sex as it is construed in our society -- makes that very difficult.

(Note, in passing, how our society is fascinated with power -- part of the reason, I think, why it is so easy to eroticize it and create BDSM sexualities.)
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:26 PM · Report this

I know that sex makes me vulnerable in ways that nothing else can, and I also know that society isn't the primary cause of this.

Let's look at it from a different angle, and yes, bearing in mind that we are talking about a concept, not about real pervs. However, when I had my unfortunate run-in with the father of one of my friends, I didn't know what was happening, exactly--I didn't know enough about sex to put a name to what was happening. What I remember most was how it felt inside. I'm sure you and everyone else who has been abused will know what I'm talking about. The confusion, the shame, and above all, that awful sick feeling, had shit to do with society--I was too little know about that stuff. It was dangerous by itself, and not because of what I'd been told or not told. I think you'll say this was because of the man, not the act itself. Obviously, I can't really separate them, but I've endured plenty of crap in my youth that involved adults being jerks and unfairly exercising their power over kids, and this was nothing like that all. I know I won't be able to verbalize this to your satisfaction, but it's the sort of thing that's hard to nail down. The most wonderful and the most horrible experiences of my life have been sexual.

As far as your point about animals go: 1) we're humans. We have emotions that they don't, or ones that they don't have in as much depth, depending on the species. 2) We have the power of reasoning/logic, which allows us to believe we are being constructive when we repeatedly analyze the behavior of ourselves and our peers in the hope of figuring out exactly what everyone is really thinking. This means that it can be very, very, very hard for a person to let something go, especially something bad. Animals don't really have this problem. 3) A couple hundred years ago, it would be normal for a couple to fuck while sleeping in the same bed as their kids. Now, at least in affluent societies, parents doing such a thing would probably have their kids taken away from them. Because now we have central heating and cheap housing. Point is, animals do things in a way that isn't so far from what humans have done. But that doesn't mean that civilization is turning sex into something nature never intended; it's just a fact that with things like shelter, reliable food sources and free time, humans are going to try to get more out of sex than the basic fulfillment of our animal functions. Sometimes social constructs exist because they are simply part of human nature, and I believe that there are strong, inherent emotional components to sex.*

*I am not suggesting that all sex is based on feelings, or that non-monogamy is bad, or anything else like that. Just that, generally speaking, people without specific personality disorders will have feelings or one sort or another for a sex partner at some point.
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 6:27 PM · Report this
So glad to see the fundies have now found there way here, ready to add valuable insight to the topic of child rape, given their long and illustrious history with the practice.
Posted by flang on March 8, 2012 at 6:28 PM · Report this
Great, another troll mustered up the courage to register.
Posted by mygash on March 8, 2012 at 6:31 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 106
@ ankylosaur come on, fella. Even a physically comfortable sex act that was coerced out of a 6-year-old child can be damaging for the long term (I can't even believe I'm engaging this question). The data shows this. Just because some trauma is "only" in the psyche doesn't make it any less real. Same goes for emotional trauma and even persistent pain that that may (or may not) have anything to do with the way "society" has imposed its expectations on us (your favorite theory). We are not only physical beings. But it sounds like you've dug in your heels pretty permanently here. The only thing I can imagine is that you are coping with your own history by imagining that sex is only physical.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 6:32 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 107
Righto, dude. Let me summarise your argument. Because some theoretical kid out there somewhere could possibly find some benefit from fucking someone twice their age who could (take your pick) throw them out of their house, beat them, starve them, expel them, excommunicate them, rape them, kill them if they refused... because that kid really NEEDS to explore that possibility of the adult who has all these powers against them (because if you doubt that adults have those powers over kids, as a survivor, I really don't know what you're doing on the internet).... we should all consider why sex with adults isn't a bad thing, really.

As for the priest who disrespected your boundaries? Sure, right now you think it was a problem because HE was an asshole. (My grandfather's brother was a priest, too. I feel your pain on that.) If it had been more than him, if it had been six or seven people, you might have the experience to talk about whether it was HIM or whether it was the boundary violations. I can personally say, as someone subjected to multiple boundary violations, that one guy being the worst, that the violations were themselves a problem. That I did not consent. That it did not feel good. Also, my abuser was a perfectly nice guy when he wasn't, and (to others) even when he was abusing me and those of my friends I couldn't keep safe from him. Hell, I knew what a raging prick he was and I still had moments when I liked him. Bantered with him. Gave him the benefit of the doubt, trusted him a bit, relaxed...and then he did it again. Rinse, repeat until age 13 or so, when I figured out it wasn't going to stop and quit doing anything but pretending.

Frankly, what you're doing seems to be the pedophilia equivalent of "rape fantasies mean she wants to be raped". Well, no. Sorry. It means she wants to have a nice consensual scene which everyone pretends isn't. In much the same way, kids are perfectly capable of being sexual with each other, without the predatory power-dynamics involved in being raped by adults. It's not a question of sex, it's a question of power. (Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn't it? What else isn't about sex but power? Right! Rape! Moving on.)

>_> That came out very snarky. Sorry, I'm triggered all to fuck right now.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 6:34 PM · Report this
@mygash, thanks for the response!

1) if children's bodies are different, it means the things they can do and profit from are different. So: do nothing that hurts the child physically.

2) for the same reason gays used to stay in the closet: because negative reactions would ensue. I'll bet nobody would believe a child who said s/he had sex and wasn't harmed ('s/he doesn't know anything yet!'). I'll bet nobody would believe an adult who said s/he as a child had had sex with an adult without harmful consequences ('s/he's lying to herself!'). Besides instigating crusaders like keshmesh above.

And still there seem to be some such cases. A colleague of mine once told me he was one. I've read a couple of articles here and there about such cases. I'm not aware of any research into them, though.

3) because there's such a thing as culture. The fact that the Greeks were OK with (some kinds of) homosexual relationships, for instance, doesn't mean the Romans had to be -- or that Western society would have to be. The Greeks lost, their institutions and way of life were changed -- and the acceptance of (some kinds of) homosexual relationships disappeared.

Certain things that also not so long ago were considered horrible by all Western nations (pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, etc.) are no longer universally condemned. The fact that sex with childresin still is doesn't mean it is necessarily inherently different; maybe things simply take time to change.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:34 PM · Report this
@101, who wrote:
Dude, ankylosaur, people have said it over and over again. Let me repeat: Sex is not like playing video games, or choosing an outfit, or whatever other quotidian endeavor you come up with as an example. Sex is PROFOUNDLY personal. It is the ultimate release of the defenses, the ultimate show of vulnerability. It is the sharing of our bodies, that which we only keep to ourselves (or the doctor when getting a checkup, and note how impersonal they keep it for our own good).

Yes, and I have also repeatedly answered with something like: this is how our society construes sex. That there is nothing inherently like that in sex itself -- in the mechanics and simple stimulus-pleasure structure of it -- can be shown by the fact that animals, who also have sex, don't share all those problems and complexities you mention.

Sex is not all that complicated, or all that transcendent. Sex is not inherently "the letting go of all barriers" (judging by most of the letters Dan Savage gets, barriers are still quite well and strong in bed) -- this is a romantic ideal, and a good one at that, but not a result of the physical act of sex.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
@106, of course. Which is why I'm not talking about sex that is coerced. (The point is that others think children can't meaningfully consent here -- even if s/he enthusiastically consents it's still "coerced"; and I wonder what is it about sex that makes consent so much more difficult to give, especially since we do accept a child's consent to play, say, a game of chess or hide-and-seek, as meaningful.)
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:42 PM · Report this
@89 (keshmesh), even though I agree Brazil is not "less hung-up about sex" (it's just different there), I have to disagree with your characterization. That's not how Brazilians are. I am a Brazilian myself, and quite critical of other Brazilians (who often tend to ignore their problems). But what you say isn't really true.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 112

Sex isn't that complicated or transcendent, no.

You know what it is, when it's not consensual?


Look, you say you're a survivor, so I'm giving you something of a pass in terms of good faith. But you're clearly having Issues surrounding consent to this day, to the point where I seem to be one of three masochistically edifying people on this thread telling you why rape is bad, and that there is only so much power differential one can have before all sex IS eventually rape (see masters and slaves, soldiers and prisoners of war, wardens and prisoners, the one guy who has a gun during the zombie apocalypse and anyone who doesn't...) and that adults and children fall, irreversibly, into that space.

You say children ought to have the right to choose.... lovely! It'll be true just as soon as they don't ever have to worry about violent, possibly lethal consequences for REFUSING. In the absence of a right to a meaningful no, there cannot be a possibility of a meaningful yes.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 6:45 PM · Report this
@112 good point.
Posted by chicago girl on March 8, 2012 at 6:47 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 114

So if I asked you to play a game of online chess with me right now, gun to your head, no consequences if you forfeit in three moves or win or lose, no risk of violence unless you refused... and you, being not suicidally stupid, nodded yes and played that game...

You'd be exactly as traumatised as if I held that same gun to your head and raped you instead?

Are you listening to yourself right now?

Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 115
@110 okay, change "coerced" to "convinced" if you like. And maybe it would help you understand the difference if you considered "informed consent" being a degree of "consent", especially when "consequence" is part of that information. Because you cannot deny that -- whatever the reasons -- the very real likelihood for undesirable consequence DOES exist. The data shows this. It just does.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 6:57 PM · Report this
Okay ankylosaur. I've cared for infants and toddlers with STI's from "games" played with them. Did they consent? Does the child consent when they accept the candy? Is that permission to perform sex with the child?Children cannot consent. Because they don't fully understand. Once they are cognitively able to understand what is being asked of them then consent can be given or withheld.

Lets not also forget the power dynamic. Children rely on adults for food, shelter, care and often their emotional and mental needs. If the adult wants sex, the child cannot refuse without risking some of their basic needs. Its not just a power imbalance. Its a risk no dependent child can afford.

That's why its wrong. Children don't truly understand and the power imbalance. Its the same with people that fantasize about rape. The act of sex where one party cannot refuse, regardless of why, is rape period.

I personally believe the age of consent should be lower, 15 or 16 in some cases. But kids that age can understand what they are doing, and make a yes or no choice. A six year old can't. That's the problem.
Posted by 12hazel90 on March 8, 2012 at 7:04 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 117
@110, Actually, you know what. Let me stretch my argument further.

If I were to hold a gun to a kid's head and demand it play chess with me, thus leaving it no meaningful no, would that not be innately traumatising? Even if the child in question were perfectly content to be glued to its chessboard every other hour of the day?

Let me say it again. This is not about sex. If a child wants to have sex with another child, without either child having to use force (in which case again, lookit, this is no longer about sex), I see no problem. An adult having sex with a child is about power, whether you want to look at it like that or not. Did you step away from and call the cops on your priest? I know I didn't mine. Why? Because it felt quite all right and a bag of chips, how's about we hit the disco after? Or because you were terrified, silenced, knew you wouldn't be heard or believed? I know that's how I felt. Hell, that's how I was made to feel once I DID tell.

This is not about sex. This is about power.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 7:06 PM · Report this
Have you read Foucault and other French intellectuals' work on the subject? There was a similar debate in France in the 1970's and covered some of the same points:……
Posted by This is a legitimate debate on March 8, 2012 at 7:08 PM · Report this

Why should an adult be involved? I said it was wrong for adults to fulfill their sexual needs with children, and you agreed. So, for you, it's not about the adult's sexual needs, it's just about the child's budding sexuality.

Well, several people on this thread have said that sex between children might sometimes be okay. So, that would take care of any sexual interest that is genuine on the part of the child.So, tell me, what does the child have to gain from learning about sex with an adult? Do you think that there should be specially trained coaches for this, or that parents should teach their children? What are you proposing?

Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 7:11 PM · Report this
Ankylosaur's taking a lot of hits here, but the question is a valid one. It's not just "Why is sex inherently dangerous," it's more--and tell me if I've got this wrong, Ankylosaur--"How much of the emotional danger associated with sex is constructed by our own attitudes toward it, and how much is inherent in the sex itself?" Isn't that what you mean when you talk about what a Great Big Thing we've made out of sex? So the question would be, is sex really such a Great Big Thing, or have we just collectively placed that value by whatever mysterious social process? Which means, of course, that if we have, then that meaning could be changed and replaced with something else. By A Not Big Deal, say. And in some responsible, future world we could take that Not Big Deal and introduce it to children carefully, encouragingly and healthfully.

Me, I can't prove it, but I think that sex is inherently intense and risky and thus very, very important to keep away from the kids; simply changing how we think abut sex won't affect that. That's my opinion Ank, and that seems to be the governing attitude behind the responses you're getting. But like you say, it's interesting to wonder how much we can change by being, say, more generous and supportive of others' sexual interests; or a little more relaxed about the fact that everyone loves to fuck and could we just get over that. Global attitudes to sex are beyond my ken, but I'm willing to bet there are societies that engage in sex more easily and with less fuss than we do in ours. Meanwhile, others feel great shame for even contemplating the act--which only shows that our reactions are indeed strongly socially conditioned. How much and how productively they can be challenged I couldn't say, but I'm not willing to experiment on children.
Posted by LateBloomer on March 8, 2012 at 7:11 PM · Report this

Since you have attempted throughout this entire thread to disregard every argument about the psychological, developmental, and societal impacts of sex with children, despite claiming to have had a negative experience in your very own past, I will go ahead and attempt to answer your "logical" question first.

"why is sex so harmful that "adult consent" is necessary for it (as opposed to the "child consent" that is sufficient for children to play games with each other, or with adults)? What is it with sex that makes it so harmful?"

Like many people in this thread, I'm a bit astonished I'm even stooping to answer this question, but since 80 comments haven't fucking helped you see reason, here goes. Sex, when we boil it down, is about a hormonal and biological response within the body, a response that elicits pleasure, arousal, and ultimately orgasm. The basis of being biologically equipped to enjoy and successfully engage in sexual behavior (i.e. reach orgasm) is primarily dependent on the maturity of the sexual organs. This is why puberty is such a big deal; it is your body readying itself to be able to successfully engage in sex.

Now that we've covered a bit of rudimentary biology, I hope you understand that a human body that hasn't undergone puberty - a child's body - is not in any way, shape, or form able to handle sexual encounters. While there may be small episodes in which a child might acknowledge their reproductive organs and what feels "good," the actual development of those organs has not been completed, the hormones triggering a full sexual response have not been produced, and biologically the child's body is not physically mature enough to engage in adult sexual behaviors.

Thus, should an adult attempt to engage in sex with a child, there is a great chance of that child being harmed, since, let me spell it out for you again, THEIR BODY ISN'T READY FOR SEX. Someone in this thread has already mentioned the trauma the female cervix can undergo when sex is engaged in at too early an age. A ruptured cervix is a terrible thing, it's incredibly damaging and painful. Hemorrhaging and rupture of the lower intestine can also happen in anal sex with a child. There is also the threat of lesions within the vagina or anal walls if a full size penis is inserted into them; these lesions may also occur since the hormones that help ready a person for sex are not active and the child's body will not be able to respond, thus placing the reproductive organs at risk.

I do hope you understand that harm of the reproductive organs is far more severe than a scrape induced during a game of tag. These are parts of the body that are personal, sensitive, and are essentially cherished. To have an adult selfishly damage them early in a child's life is a tragedy that no one should endure. Now, the very threat of damaging a child's reproductive organs and thus harming their sexual encounters for life should, to any reasonable person, show that sex with a child is indeed a dangerous act. To follow your ridiculous game of equating sex with minors to everyday scenarios, sex with a child is like severely striking a child, or shaking a baby. It's terrible, it can cause lifelong damage physically (which seems to be the only fucking thing you're concerned with) not to mention psychologically.

I could go into WHY the psychological impacts of sex with children matters even more, but since you've refused to see them as a problem (it's society's way of treating sex that's the issue, animals don't have hangups over sex, it's all good!) I'll end this post hoping you understand the severity of sex with minors, and how goddamn harmful it is.
Posted by sharpe0 on March 8, 2012 at 7:14 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 122

what is the inherent danger of sex? Isn't it just a pleasant activity? If sex is dangerous, where does the danger come from?

One could just as well say that children can't really have friends the way an adult can -- because they can't deal with all the adult aspects of friendship in our society yet. But this doesn't mean they can't play hide-and-seek and have fun with it.

I'm not saying we should go out now and try to distinguish 'good' pedophilia from 'bad' pedophilia.

The fact that sex with childresin still is doesn't mean it is necessarily inherently different; maybe things simply take time to change.

Your own words, asshole.

Besides instigating crusaders like keshmesh above.

Fuck you.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 8, 2012 at 7:15 PM · Report this
@83(Ms Hopkins), no problem -- we're all armchair psychologists here, aren't we? :-) And I had wondered how long it would take for someone to suggest that the idea I discussed here would somehow be a consequence of my sad childhood experience.

I could give you a detailed description (I did it elsewhere; I wrote a lot about it when I was still struggling with it, years ago). But the way it relates to the topic I raise here is simply that the Irish priest in question was, well, a manipulative asshole. It was not (non-penetrative) sex with him that harmed me, but the assholery and manipulation; the threats, the lack of concern for how I felt, etc. What was wrong, I think, was not sex with an adult, but with an asshole manipulator. (Are there still some issues, you ask at the end of your comment. I suspect any victim of abuse will tell you that issues always remain. They never really go away. They become, for better or for worse, a part of who you are. But I'm not having a hard time with them, no.)

My point may in some way be related to that event and its aftermath. But here is my standard answer: whatever motivates an idea, it still stands or falls on its merit alone. For its truth value and possible merits, it doesn't matter what the reason why it occurred to its author, or why s/he brought it up, were.

I question the idea that children are inherently harmed by sex. At least in some cases (sex between children, as in the personal experience that @59 above shared) it apparently didn't cause harm. So my point is that the harm that sex in our society may mean to children is more a consequence of how our society views sex -- the expectations, the symbolism, the mutual duties, the gender roles, etc. -- than a consequence of any specific sex acts in themselves.

So, on your points:

#1: the imbalance of power is indeed great, but it is just as great for any activity. Which is why adults don't play games or sports with children the way they play games or sports with other adults. Of course this has to be taken into account. But since we do play games and sports with children, without inherent harm (and actually even with some benefits), we conclude there are ways of solving the problems created by the imbalance of power, so that adults and children still have fun. Why should sex be, per se different? What makes it less "solvable" than sports?

#2 indeed children are still not fully formed: they are growing. Which means that all activities with children have to be done with care, with an eye to the consequences for the child. But again, we do take care of that when playing sports. We don't ask children to perform beyond their capacity; we take into account their behavior, their lack of experience, their lack of awareness of dangers, when playing sports with them; and we lower our own sports performance to their level. There are solutions for that. Again, why should sex be so inherently different?

You put it in these words:

Children simply can't consent to sex w/ an adult because they can't grasp fully what they are consenting TO.

Mostly everybody above has repeated this statement, in one version or other: children don't understand what they are consenting to. And my question: what is it? What is it that they're consenting to, what is so dangerous or complicated about it that they can't yet grasp? My answer: not the physical act, or its consequences and physical dangers (pregnancy, STD); that's not difficult to grasp, and we know they do, since we tell them how to avoid diseases ('don't put that dirty thing in your mouth, or you'll get sick!'). It can only be the construal of sex: its symbolism, what it's supposed to mean, this Big Thing With Terrible Transcendent Consequences that is no longer simply sex, but Sex: That which makes us more vulnerable.

Children are indeed ill-equipped to deal with the symbolic aspects of our society, which are complicated and take quite some time to grasp and feel comfortable with. But this is not the mechanics of sex; it's its symbolism.

I'm not trying to be disingenous, Eva. People react as if I'm trying to indulge in sophistry, and defend some outrageous viewpoint just for the hell of it. That's not the case. I really think it's an interesting question. It's not a "weird desire to rationalize a society with sex games between children and adults" (since I'm not attracted to children, whether or not this will ever happen is immaterial to me, just as whether or not centaur fetishists will ever be able to realize their fantasies).

It's what this particular topic tells us about how sex is construed in our society -- as this dangerous thing, with teeth that could hurt an unprepared child, more so than a sport or game accident could -- that I find interesting.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:15 PM · Report this
@keshmesh, yap, these are my words. Did you understand them?

Thanks for wishing me sex. I have lots of it already. I hope you do, too.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Alright, everybody. Let's give up on this guy. Let's pull ourselves from this thread and do something else with the rest of our day.
Posted by floater on March 8, 2012 at 7:18 PM · Report this
Hey, I thought "parts" was all inclusive. People, adults and children, have several. Insertable and receptive. Big is bigger than little. I said, girls, men, and little people, thought that would cover MOST sex acts. Yes, I neglected the (statistically few) women who abuse children.

What is sex to me? if the right person breathed in my ear, I'd consider that sexy. We don't have room for this. I was not specific because I figured I'd leave something out. Let's just say, all you and I can think of between us.

Back down. Don't attack me for something I didn't say. Sorry I wasn't more specific so you could launch into me accurately. I also, if you read it all, alluded to a slippery slope argument to the SIZE issue. The EMOTIONAL one- hell, grown adults seem to be all over the board. Seems only right that we let kids be you know, kids, before they get drug into all the other issues surrounding sex.

We are supposed to protect children. They are not adults, and are not equal to adults. Until that power imbalance changes, it is not right to take advantage of them in any way.
Posted by bu on March 8, 2012 at 7:20 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 127

There you go, have yourself a risk.It's objective and physical and stuff!

If your response to this is "why not have adults fuck boys, then?" then I really just have to wish you a lovely life as a child rape apologist (since apparently the many commenters, myself included, who've stated in words of very few syllables that the issue is not sex but power, and that children can have consensual sex with each other, have not made an impact on you) and move on.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 7:23 PM · Report this
@sharpe0, thanks for attempting to provide a comprehensive answer. The condescending tone was not really necessary, but I understand where you're coming from, so it doesn't matter.

You make several assumptions that are usually not made here at SLOG:

(a) that sex is only possible with the sexual organs engaged in penetrative intercourse, and that this is the kind of sex I meant; both assumptions are unwarranted.

(b) you assume that the absence of hormones means a total lack of interest and/or enjoyment in sexual activity of any kind; this is indeed claimed by some, but by far not by all, theories on human sexual and psychological development; perhaps I should give you some references?

Now: the jist of your argument (like that of many others above) is that, since children aren't adults and don't behave like adults (as you painstaingly point out, they don't have the hormones, and their genetial organs aren't fully developed), anyone who tried to have sex with them and expected them to behave like adults is going to harm them (besides being a rather stupid person for having such obviously wrong expectations).

And that is of course true.

But that is not what I am talking about.

Just as in: when we play sports and games with children, we don't play the way we would with adults. If someone did that -- if someone started playing football, say, with children, as if they were adults -- he would of course physically harm the children, and that would be wrong.

But that's not what we do when we play sports with children. And that's not what I'm talking about in the sexual realm either.

I hope this makes things clearer. Once again, thanks for your interest, and I hope to hear your thoughts on the topic.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
@127, yes, but you repeatedly fail to answer: since the issue is power, how come we can solve this issue in so many things (sports, games, etc.), but not in sex? What makes sex different?

I'm not a child rape apologist, by the way.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:29 PM · Report this
@127(bu), indeed, we're supposed to protect children. So let's not do anything that physically harms them. You see, even though children are indeed physically smaller than us, it's possible to physically interact with them in many ways without causing broken bones, ruptured skin, bleeding, or even pain. We do this all the time when we interact with them. Sex isn't different in principle.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:32 PM · Report this
kim in portland 131

Do you think your daughter or one of her friends has the ability to give informed consent? Do you think that if she was asked today that she would understand what was bring proposed and the consequences both long and short term would be? Do you think she'd feel safe and could freely say no, to this larger adult? I don't think she can. I don't think she has enough life experience to make that decision at this point in her life. I don't think her brain has developed far enough. And, thus, I think we need to maintain a priori assumption that minors can not give informed consent. That any consent ever offered is one not based on free will but of fear.

I'm walking away from this thread. I can't help feel upset by it. I can't see things your way. We will need to disagree. I don't think a child's brain has the capacity to give informed consent, nor are they emotionally, psychologically, or physically prepared. They may have the resilience to survive, if older rationalize that they can do this for a roof over their head, but even that is not informed consent because a "no" would leave them homeless. I'm sorry that I don't have the words to express what I'm trying to say, even now I lack the words to explain fully my victimization. How sad is that, married and two kids, post baccalaureate education even, and I don't have the words. I just can't participate, it hurts too much.

Take care.
Posted by kim in portland on March 8, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 132

If you're not interested in fucking children yourself (and I take you at face value that you're not), then why this burning need to justify adult/child rape? I just, what's your axe to grind, dude? I'm not accusing you of anything, I'm just morbidly curious at this point. Seriously, why are you toddling on and on and on this track, when you've been met at every turn with "don't abuse power", instead of "don't do dirty things!" as you seem to keep misconstruing our arguments to be?

If someone asked me very nicely to have sex with them while their bestie held a gun to my child's head, I would fuck them with total enthusiasm and as much skill as I could, if it meant my child living another minute. I think we can agree that that would, despite my enthusiasm/skill/voluntary nakedness, be rape. Similarly, when an adult who has the power to (at the very least) hurt my substantially weaker body, or excommunicate me, or expel me, or make my parents beat me to a bloody pulp on just their word asks me very politely to have sex with're damn right I'd have sex with them, because hurt, excommunicated, expelled, homeless and beaten AND RAPED would be a lovely alternative, wouldn't it?

And yet, weirdly enough, it would. Be. Rape.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 7:35 PM · Report this
@125(floater), that is actually good advice. Basically you guys are repeating the same things, causing me to give the same answers, which you then don't address further but more or less ignore, going back to the original claims. Obviously we're spinning our wheels here. A pity: it's an interesting topic, and quite revealing about the role of sex in our society ('gateway to adult personhood'). But there are indeed better things to do, and it doesn't seem likely that any new ideas or answers to my questions will be proposed.

Bye-bye. Take care! Enjoy your day!
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:37 PM · Report this

A few things I don't think I've seen addressed:

1) I'm not sure human sexuality can be compared so freely to animal sexuality. Humans are much more complex emotionally, and therefore our interactions -- ALL of them -- are incomparable to animal interactions.

2) There are power dynamics in any relationship, yes. However, adults are inherently authority figures to children. Always. Further, adults have additional powers of thought that enable them to easily manipulate children. It doesn't even have to be intentional or malicious manipulation on the part of the adult, but the fact remains that children are more likely to consent to what an adult requests because (a) it is an adult and (b) adults tend to ask for things from children in a specific way they know will be most likely to be responded to in the positive, and children do not have the complexity of thought or social knowledge to understand that. Therefore, adults have an inherent advantage in getting their way in ANY adult-child relationship...and children inherently have a more difficult time providing true honest, fair, informed consent than any adult would in the same situation.

3) You seem to imply that there would be a value in abandoning the social significance we have "placed" on human sexual interaction. While I can agree that's true in some ways (I don't think seeing a penis on the tele should be a big deal, for example), I think there is value to be found in allowing sexuality to continue to be something inherently personal and intimate...and, by extension, something that causes vulnerability. Our interpersonal relationships benefit from the bonds sexuality can cause, whether society has "invented" those bonds, or not. Can you explain why you believe there would be value in reducing sex to "Just a game"?

4) I can think of lots of reasons I engage my kids in game-playing. I can think of zero I would want to engage them sexually, and not just because I find the idea repulsive. I cannot fathom a single benefit to a child from sexual interaction with an adult. Nor can I fathom a single reason for an adult to want to sexually interact with a child, other than pedophiles, who, if my understanding is correct, would like to have the kind of long-term emotional relationships you have admitted children are incapable of having.

The fact is, children develop at a set pace. If a child is confronted by something before they are physically and/or emotionally developed enough to handle that thing -- even if it is not an inherently "bad" thing -- it can cause a tremendous amount of confusion and distress. My son, for example, is really intelligent and therefore absorbs a lot of information he really isn't emotionally ready to handle, and as a result he is suffering from depression.

Finally, just out of curiosity, do you have any evidence that adult animals engage in sexual behavior with their offspring, particular before their "teenage" years? Off the top of my head, it doesn't seem like even animals engage in sexual behavior, particularly with adults, before they begin sexual development (e.g., puberty).
Posted by krista1203 on March 8, 2012 at 7:38 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 135
@130 but sex is different, blanche. Again with your sex-is-just-physical schtick... Oh, I give up...
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 136

Yeah, except we HAVE solved this problem in sports and games. I don't notice three-year-olds playing in the NHL. I don't notice toddlers climbing Everest in little adorable flag-adorned walkers. We don't require 3 year olds to take the GRE along with graduate students to determine if the 3yo is going to be able to get into Harvard when s/he's 23, hm?

Kids compete with kids. Adults compete with adults. Adults participate in these activities to the extent of teaching children, which in terms of sex is comparable to sex ed, which (as best as I recall) doesn't involve fucking every kid in the class. I've talked to my daughter about sex. However, I've managed, through some superhuman feat of understanding, to grasp the difference between exposing a child, consensually and IMPERSONALLY, to abstract information about physical realities and coercing said child into those physical realities! I've also talked to her about war, terrorism, child abuse, rape apologia, feminism and puppies, without shooting her, strapping a bomb to her chest, dumping her in a Mormon enclave or having her be raised by wolves. It's not rocket surgery.

You're right, you're not a child rape apologist. You do seem not to have, like, wandered around the park ever, though.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
@132, oh, because what I'm not talking about is not rape -- or only in the sense that society would deny children the possibility of agreeing meaningfully to it (while assuming they can agree meaningfully to many other things that are in principle equally complicated).

But you keep going back to power imbalances, guns to the head, etc. when I explicitly said I'm not talking about such extreme situations, and that the natural power imbalance between adults and children can be and is negotiated around in other kinds of activities (games, sports, etc.), but not in sex -- and my question was always, why not? Why is sex different?

We obviously think children can consent meaningfully to some things, or else we'd never suggest them any activities and ask if they're interested. But sex is different; sex is dangerous; and the whole point of my being here was to ask why sex is so different and dangerous. The basic answer was "you lower your barriers, you make yourself vunerable", from which I concluded: this is social construal, not something inherent to sex (since animals, for instance, engage in the physical act without these moral/social consequences).

Bye-bye to you, too. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:43 PM · Report this
@125, I'm all for it! Just one more thing to ankylosaur, and anyone who tries to argue his position in the future...

Human beings are animals, yes, but we also have an extremely well-developed frontal cortex that allows us to process complex emotions, anxiety, and experience a heightened sense of consciousness and sense of self. No other animal on this earth has shown the capacity for thought and self-reflection that humans have; it is what has allowed us to essentially control the environments in which we live, to say nothing of experience thoughts, concepts, and emotions that are incredibly elaborate (physics, philosophy, literature). I think we can all agree that the human brain handles thoughts that are a lot more complicated than the thought of your average chimp, dolphin, or dog.

Again, this is all simple biology, learn it!

Given the enhanced thought processes that make up human society and mental complex, I truly hope you understand that throughout history and even in a variety of contemporary societies, sex is very rarely considered just another "action." True, American society and the Western world have put emphasis on sex and, to a certain extent, the "shamefulness" of the act that is unique to our culture. Our society does indeed portray sex as a Very Big Thing, sometimes (sadly) a Very Big Bad Thing if you will, and I do agree that many people's hangups about sexual expression are grounded in this cultural concept. It is why some people freak out over sexual kinks or homosexuality. We, as readers of this blog, generally reject these hangups and attempt to be sex-positive, and I'm sure there are parts of the world that incorporate a much more relaxed lifestyle regarding sex and sexual expression.

Still, the mental aspects of sex cannot be denied, especially when we consider the complexity of human emotions and psychological experiences. Your argument that other animals don't have such hangups about sex is, I hope you don't mind me saying, complete bullshit. You're disregarding the fact that humans have a much more complex thought process than other animals, a thought process that can very much lead to a large host of psychological issues and psychological trauma should something drastic happen during its development. This is why sex with a child is dangerous and damaging; there are many ways in which the development of a child and his or her reaction to the sexual act can negatively influence them psychologically.

No matter how "pleasant" or "carefree" the adult makes the sexual act, there is a physical and psychological imbalance between the adult and child. The child may feel anxiety, fear, discomfort, or trauma that they may or may not be able to articulate, REGARDLESS OF HOW THE ADULT ATTEMPTS TO INITIATE THE ACT. In addition, a typical child may not completely understand what the sexual acts are or their implications. How could they, when their body can't properly respond to sexual advances? This is why, ankylosaur, sex with a child is damaging, both mentally and physically. If you still don't get it after over 100 comments of people spelling it out for you, then there's something wrong with the way you perceive the world, as it's pretty much clear as day sex with children is always going to be not the right thing to do.
Posted by sharpe0 on March 8, 2012 at 7:47 PM · Report this
Do you have an answer to "why should adults do this?" (my question above at 119, and macavitykitsune's @127)

If we make the question about deep-tongue-kissing, instead of sex, I still come back to: "why should an adult kiss a child in that way?" For adults in our society, it means one thing. Maybe in a less toxic society, it would mean something else.

Are you proposing a society where deep-tongue-kissing is the equivalent of cheek kissing?

Do you see no reason (in that alternate society) for distinguishing between deep-tongue-kissing and cheek kissing, where one is for friends and one is for lovers?

Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
@ 120

I have a friend who grew up on a kibbutz. When he suggested to a younger adult me that sex was just a fun thing, not so emotionally laden as I in my post pregnancy hormone haze was insisting it was, I was furious. Two decades and a lot of learning have shown me that you know, he kinda had a point. Funny thing, he said to me recently that two decades and a lot of learning taught him the same thing. So yeah, it may be a boy/girl thing, or it may be an age thing, but it's definitely a Thing.

So now I have teenagers. I talk to a lot of their friends, boys and girls. It seems foolish to pretend that they are not sexual beings. To arm them with information and safe places to talk and go to for help if they need it and birth control they'll use seems to be the right thing to me. Ultimately I can't tell them what to do, and I didn't start talking to them at any magic age- there were discussions from the time we could discuss. More than anything, I want them to all come to it with a sense of wonder and good intentions. To be good to each other, and never do or ask someone to do something that isn't comfortable and right for them. And to know that those things can and will change. That right there puts them light years ahead of where I was at their ages. But the talks when they were smaller were much more literal, because that's where they were developmentally.

Sex is a lot of things to a lot of people. It seems to be more to more people at sometimes and less with different people and and and- christ, I don't know.

And if I don't know, I can't see that it's easy for a CHILD to get it either. Yeah, that kinda naughty-but-feels-good-too feeling? Sure, you want more of that. But when you're older and you get a sense that maybe it wasn't quite right, being touched that way- it's usually, if it's not the physical ramifications- it hurt, or you were physically harmed- it's the confusing emotional ramifications that do you in.

Ideally, I want to approach sex with an equal. I want nothing to be at stake but mutual pleasure. I don't want to be excessively physically uncomfortable- I don't even want to be chatteringly chilly or raging hot, call me a wimp- I don't want to be afraid, of who I'm with or what I'm doing, and if I don't quite know what I'm about to do, I'd like to minimize any uncertainty about the other person's intent.

So, maybe-because I'm noodling this out on a Thursday evening- it's about trust, and a belief that I'm not going to be harmed? No matter what physically happens?

And I can't see getting there with someone not understanding that, too. And not being in an unequal position relative to me, either.

And I'm a big ol' girl and all, but "merely physical" interactions carry their own set of feelings and emotions. You know, besides the "real ones" for people I care about or the "hormonally induced ones" that all the stuff cascading through my body is trying to trick me into feeling.

How can a child- a CHILD- sort through that, with an ADULT? I just can't see it. The power imbalance, the experience imbalance- aside from my culturally and evolutionarily conditioned "ick" response- it's all a "no" for me.

Posted by bu on March 8, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
@136, I didn't say "compete". I said "play with".

Ever saw a dad play baseball with his kid? Or a coach playing with the players of his junior league team? Are they not having fun? Do you think they would rather be competing against other adults in an adult baseball game? Do you think they don't enjoy playing baseball with kids by itself, no matter how different it is from playing baseball with adults?

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 142
-_- 137,

If you can't be bothered to read when I do in fact address precisely your point... wev, dude.

Also, if hide-and-seek and sex seem equally complicated to you, you're either a ninja or you have really lousy sex. I'm kind of amused.
Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
And, ankylosaur, stop saying that we are all repeating ourselves. You are the one who can't say anything more than "it's like sports, it's like a game." That one's not working, so try to find a different way to express yourself. You've got a Ph.D.
Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 7:53 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 144
@kim in portland. Thank you for setting a good example here. As a guy who wishes to god that he'd never "said yes" as a child (my decision was profoundly ill-informed, and so I can't accept ankylosaur's definition of "consent"), I'll also have to take leave, to spare my sanity. I haven't detected in him any interest in learning the answers to his questions. It's gone way beyond the thought experiment that I'd hoped it was.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 8, 2012 at 7:55 PM · Report this
What is sex, for humans? An intimate physical act in which you make yourself vulnerable to another person. You're hearing that, over and over, from people who are into ltr-only sex (like myself) and people who enjoy experiencing that intimacy and vulnerability with someone they just found on Craigs List, because it is hot. The fact that no one is explaining that sex is exactly like Parcheesi to them is BECAUSE IT ISN'T.

Sex for humans is not like sex for animals. Perhaps because we pair-bond, more likely or in conjunction because we assign symbolic meaning to everything and try to find patterns and make those patterns work for us. People who enjoy sex without emotional commitment have tried to explain to you that they do not view sex, inherently, as something free from emotion, and complicated ones at that. Oral sex and brushing the teeth are not the same. The emotions and vulnerabilities of the first are not analogous to those of the second. Maybe for hamsters or grasshoppers it would be, but that is not who we are. We have complicated group dynamics which we track and for which we modulate our behavior according to who's nearby, we make plans involving life times, we craft intricate stories.

And animals, I believe, do not normally exhibit anything like a large adult and small child engaging in sex. Animals that put a lot of effort into raising young with a prolonged period of helplessness and teaching, like humans, do not spend time training the young how to engage in sex. They rely on hormones to take care of that after the young polar bears or whatever are off on their own, finding other young polar bears.
Posted by IPJ on March 8, 2012 at 8:00 PM · Report this
@138(sharpe0), thanks for the biology lesson! One curious thing about pre-frontal cortices, by the way, is that they don't disappear when we're not having sex. So when we play games and sports, our pre-frontal cortices are also there, you know, with all those complex emotions and thoughts that also permeate all our gaming behavior. Which is why humans also do not play games the way animals play games; we're much more complicated.

And yet humans play games with children. I wonder why that is? I mean, all your complex and quite learned biological argumentation suggests that, given our hugely developed pre-frontal cortices, we shouldn't be playing games with children. After all, these activities are so semanticized and semiologized in our pre-frontal cortices! Now, how can that be... unless we think sex is different somehow? As in, say, construed by society in a way that makes it more dangerous than it really is?

Goodbye, sharpe0. It was good coming into contact with your great expertise and your charming interest in the depth of the human soul. Have a nice day!
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 8:00 PM · Report this
@ankylosaur, Sorry if my comments sound condescending, but I'm frustrated since I can't understand where on earth you're coming from with your reasoning. There is a biological reason puberty happens, and there is a biological reason why the human body/mind is so ill prepared for sex before puberty. Lack of puberty doesn't mean lack of interest, but we can all agree that an 8 year old probably doesn't completely understand the detailed mechanics or emotional forces involved with sex, regardless of how openly they are raised. Only when one engages in sex does one begin to comprehend these things.

Years after puberty, when the body's hormonal response has stabilized, a person is ready to respond positively to sex and the brain is most likely developed enough to not be scared or confused by the intense mechanics of it (regardless if it is penetrative or not). A kid can't understand this, nobody could who hasn't had sex or whose mind isn't developed enough to realize what a sexual organ is and what sex is about.

This is how I understand contemporary sexuality today, and why there are laws against having sex with a child. I feel that to engage a child, an individual with far less mental or physical development than an adult, in sex is just not right.
Posted by sharpe0 on March 8, 2012 at 8:03 PM · Report this
@139et al.(EricaP), indeed the emotions are beginning to soar, which suggests it's time to call it a day. I'll address your questions, because they're indeed interesting. (By the way, I didn't mean you, EricaP, when I said 'you're repeating yourselves'; I meant the people who kept repeating the same points. The need to repeat the sports metaphor was caused by that.)

I really don't know why an adult "should" want to do that. I suppose ultimately to help the child's mental and psychological development (I'm not talking about abuse), if we need a rational reason; but ultimately, I suppose, because both the adult and the child would ideally enjoy it. If either of them doesn't, then, no matter how carefully designed the whole thing is, it shouldn't be done.

Yes, I suspect there could be a society in which deep-tongue-kissing is equivalent to cheek kissing (just as there are societies which think cheek kissing is repugnant). Kissing is a good example of cultural non-universal.

I suspect all societies will have some way of distinguishing friends from lovers by behavior (which is sort of circular: if a society has words for friends and family/lovers then of course there must be some way to distinguish them). But it doesn't have to be the way we do it.

By-bye, EricaP. I hope you won't feel bad about my questions here. They were sincerely meant, and without any hidden evil intentions.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this
I forgot to address nudity: No.

There are cultures in which family or large group bathing are normal (Japan), or co-ed saunas (Scandinavia), or changing into bathing suits while standing in full view on the beach (Russian babushkas). In none of these is adults engaging in sex with children also considered normal and nothing to get excited over.

Pretty much all societies seem to have an idea of modesty and covering the genitals for adults. (I recommend a look at the New Guinean penile coverings.) I would say most believe some level of childish nudity is fine, whether that's a toddler in a small tropical group running around in beads or an American toddler running naked through the sprinkler on a hot day . Children are not yet seen as needing to modestly cover their genitalia. Nor are they seen as available for some gentle instruction into sex for fun, for all the reasons a number of people have tried to explain to you, physically and emotionally and culturally. While, as Erica notes, you keep saying 'but it's really just like playing football as a family!'
Posted by IPJ on March 8, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
macavitykitsune 150

I specifically included a teaching perspective in my answer. I teach because it's fun. It's not fun, however, because I'm engaging my students as equals (you do believe that sex is a matter for equals? You never addressed my point about warden/prisoner sex earlier. If you think coercion's all right, I guess that's your deal and I pity people who seem attractive to you), it's fun because I'm imparting knowledge which means they can engage society more meaningfully in turn themselves. I know what my abuser was imparting to me, and it wasn't knowledge. Also, the difference between sports and games and sex? If you are in fact going to avoid addressing, oh, pregnancy, STIs, trauma, cycles of abuse, all the other pesky problems I and others have brought up, no, there's no difference between sports and sex. This is because if you take away the colour, species, size, shape, sound, personality and identity of an elephant and a plum, there is no difference between an elephant and a plum. Hooray! (Kind of like how when you take away all the differences between rape and sex, they seem identical.)

You're arguing in extremely bad faith, while we've been tearing open very personal wounds and details to deal sincerely with you, you amazing dipshit. I'm tired, I'm angry, I'm sad, and I'm watching people I respect and admire (Kim, Erica) walk away triggered and sad and hurt, and you (and engaging with you) are unequivocally not worth it. I'm done here.

Posted by macavitykitsune on March 8, 2012 at 8:23 PM · Report this
@147(sharpe0), no problem. Indeed it's such an automatic assumption in our society ('sex is dangerous, especially for children!') that it's easy to understand why you should not see where my argumentation is coming from.

I understand sexuality as something that isn't inherently dependent on hormones, erection, vaginal lubrications, or even orgasms. (A kinky BDSM practitioner could tell you about how things can be sexy without any of these elements.). Sex is about obtaining pleasure with your body, pleasure which is ultimately linked to genital organs, orgasms etc., but which gradually fades into other kinds of pleasure. (A massage is a good example of an activity that can be designed to mix sex with non-sex in almost any proportion.) Things change dramatically after puberty in terms of how to obtain pleasure with one's body, as anyone who has gone through it clearly remembers, but it's not like there was nothing there before.

An 8-year-old cannot understand all the social implications of sex, all the things we think and imagine about it in our society (and which cause the emotions you're talking about). Certainly. So any good body-pleasuring behavior involving children would have to take this fact into account.

See, the point is: you're claiming it is impossible for there to be any situation of sexual body-pleasuring interaction between an adult and a child that wouldn't lead to harm.

I'm saying: perhaps not. Perhaps it is possible. And I'm wondering under what circumstances this would be the case.

I understand that you feel this is impossible; that sex with a child is "simply not right" because the child "doesn't understand". I'm trying to go deeper into these feelings and ask myself what lies behind them. Because I suspect that these feelings just might be wrong: that the reason why you feel them is social, not biological.

And that is an interesting question. Or so I think.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 8:23 PM · Report this
@IPJ, who wrote:
Children are not yet seen as needing to modestly cover their genitalia. Nor are they seen as available for some gentle instruction into sex for fun, for all the reasons a number of people have tried to explain to you, physically and emotionally and culturally. While, as Erica notes, you keep saying 'but it's really just like playing football as a family!'

Indeed, but I have responded to them, basically by saying that the same problems occur with sports, and yet are solved. You say I keep repeating it; I haven't seen anyone address the question, and how come sports have the same problems and yet we find solutions? If I have missed something (so many people writing, and yes, with a lot of repetion), please forgive me and point that out to me.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
@131(Kim in Portland), I've just seen your post, and it did bring a couple of tears to my eyes. Indeed, looking at how emotions have soared (I've been called a few strange names already, and some people question my motives), I think this all was a bad idea.

My hope was to engage in a conversation about how our opinions about sex and what it means (rather than the physicality of it) shape how we view what is 'wrong' about it -- like sex with children, and what it inherently is or isn't.

But it is indeed thoughtless to want to discuss this when there are people here who were hurt by horrible abusers who did not take their personhood into account. You are the most sincere one with your reaction to this topic, and you really make me sorry that I didn't take this factor into account. It actually makes it easier to accept the reaction of people like keshmesh or macavitykutsune.

To you, and to all others: to hell with my point, truth or falsehood, social influences and the nature of sex. I did not intend to cause you guys pain or suffering, and obviously I have, and I should have known better. I've been there myself. I apologize. I'm now officially dropping this topic, and going out for a walk. The sky is full of stars, which always makes me feel better.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 8:40 PM · Report this
Dan Savage has taken a much harder line on people who HAVEN'T pretty much openly expressed an intention to have sex with children. How did this letter-writer not get the riot act with those creepy NAMBLA talking points. He is concerned about "loving relationships with children." So wait, does he want to have sex with children but make sure he does it the right way? Does he think there's a right way?

Pedophiles who don't offend deserve support from society to make sure they keep it that way. Pedophiles who are trying to justify child-rape as a form of "loving relationship," as it sounds like that letter-writer is doing, scare the living shit out of me.
Posted by Daniel_NY on March 8, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
As Macavity already explained, because if you take away all the things that make an elephant and a plum different, they are indeed the same. (We share something like 70% of our DNA with bananas, so I imagine elephants and plums are similarly related.) Checkers does not feel just like football, and neither one feels like sex. Unless we strip it down to 'well isn't it a human interaction' which deprives all human interactions, big and small, fraught and insignificant, with no unique qualities which might imply different rules for answering the telephone and engaging in sex and going to pottery class.

And like so many, I am out.
Posted by IPJ on March 8, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 156
@keshmeshi - never been to Brazil, was basing my comment on a friend's experiences living there.

Ankylosaur, in short, what has been happening above is, you keep saying, "But why isn't sex like football? Why would there have to be an extra problem there, between a child & an adult?" & people tell you why (vulnerability, power imbalance, lack of a child's ability to consent as they don't know what they are consenting to) & you keep saying - 'no, that's can't be it. *Why* is it different? Is it that we've made sex into something mysterious? Does it solely come from our attitudes?', etc. You have asked a question; people have given you several salient points for answers or at least for contemplation, & when you respond to them, it is almost as if you haven't heard them, or what they said hasn't registered, at all. People answering aren't only getting upset as some of them have had negative childhood experiences, as you yourself have, but because it seems as if nothing they said *before* when answering you, has been heard.

There may be a perfectly valid debate to be had about, are we (& by we, I mean primarily Americans, as that's my socialization & experience) relaxed enough in our attitudes when teaching kids about sex, are we instructing them openly without being hungup or creepy; is our general attitude about sexuality a healthy one, in this country. Right now, I'd say no, in many ways - discrimination against same-sex relationships; fights over access to things like birth control & abortion; fascination w/ TV shows & entertainers that's alternately faux-wholesome & pornographic. Lotsa conflicts.

But that's an adult discussion. & sex, whatever form of it, needs to be between age-appropriate partners (folks old enough to know what they're doing & its ramifications - OR - two kids innocently experimenting with one another, where there is no/not much power imbalance).

I dunno what to say other than that. I hope the stars comfort us all. Big hugs to all the survivors of abuse reading this, who tried to participate here in good faith.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on March 8, 2012 at 9:04 PM · Report this
You all are an extremely thoughtful and urbane bunch, and from what I've seen you've been wayyyy more gentle than I believe Ankylosaur deserves. Given Ankylosaur's comments, I'd assume he's a pedophile who's desperately seeking justification for his actions from Dan's readers. Ankylosaur appears to be attempting to draw a line between "appropriate" and "inappropriate" sexual activity with a child. ANY sexual activity with a minor is sexual abuse and/or rape. There's no such thing as "appropriate" sexual activity with a child. He attempts to liken sexual activity with a child to playing a game. Sex isn't just a physical activity -- it's not a game like kickball or football or soccer. Sex is both a physical activity -- which forces the participants to be extremely vulnerable physically -- AND an emotional engagement. One of the reasons Dan has done so well as an advice columnist is that it is really very difficult for *adult* humans (with decades of experience and a lot of coping mechanisms) to engage in sexual activity without harming each other emotionally and sometimes even physically. Dan excels at giving advice that helps people be good sexual partners... but even when we have help, it takes humans a long time to learn how to have sexual relations so that everyone is consenting, safe, and all parties feel cared for, respected, and desired during the experience. While -- as Ankylosaur points out -- adult sexual partners always have a power dynamic that affects their sexual relations, consenting adult partners are roughly equals in the bedroom. The same is never true of a child and an adult when the adult attempts to engage the child in a sexual encounter.

Touching a child in a sexual manner isn't sex. It's rape. Rape isn't actually about sex. It's about hurting another person in a way that stems from the power the rapist has over the victim, in a way that causes the rapist to enjoy the misuse of that power. Because there is a permanent power dynamic between an adult and a child due to the adult's much greater size and experience and the child's comparative fragility and inexperience, any adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is raping the child. There's no way a child can be an adult's emotional equal -- not even roughly -- and they always, always are harmed by the interaction. Let me make that clear: Children are always harmed physically or emotionally by sexual interaction with an adult. Period. It is not possible for an adult to engage a child in sexual activity without harming them. Children are not capable of consenting to sex, or any kind of sexual activity, with an adult.

I think Ankylosaur knows all this. He claims to have been a victim of sexual abuse. If this is true, it is possible that because of this abuse, he doesn't know, or is denying, that sex isn't just a physical activity -- and in fact he may need to think that in order to function. If sex is just a physical activity, then the abuse he suffered as a child didn't mean anything more than playing a game of soccer.... but it's quite obvious from his harping on the topic that it did in fact harm him. He asks the same questions over and over, and continues to disbelieve or fail to comprehend the answers that Dan's readers give him. I sincerely hope that he seeks counseling and that he is not himself responsible for the care of any children.
Posted by EastCoastC on March 8, 2012 at 9:06 PM · Report this
I think adult arousal is a key part of the danger.

When adults are aroused, they feel the strength of their own sexual needs, and (even in an alternate universe), they will tend to forget to put the child's needs above their own. That's why it might be possible to let children experiment with each other, because their arousal is less dangerous -- both because arousal is less strong before puberty, and because they haven't established the sexual patterns that mean that tongue-kissing leads to groping, which leads to oral sex, which leads to PIV. When children discover tongue-kissing, they can be happy just exploring that for months or years. If someone has already taught them other patterns, they won't have the joy of discovering it for themselves, with a willing, similarly inexperienced partner.
Posted by EricaP on March 8, 2012 at 9:07 PM · Report this
"People who are attracted to minors like myself are not concerned about offending. We are concerned about loving relationships with children."

The other guy was wonderful, as was Dan's advice.

You on the other hand, should kill yourself at the earliest opportunity. If you need any advice on how not to fuck it up and end up in a ward, please let me know.
Posted by Lord Domly Pants's Bane on March 8, 2012 at 9:18 PM · Report this

From reading your comments and the responses, I feel like your central question is: why do we deem certain behaviors wrong and not others? Why is sex special? People have given you some reasons, using deeper principles that, in part, justify treating sex differently, e.g. readiness, ability to consent, and strong likelihood of emotional damage. But from your comments, I don't think you'll ever feel satisfied with these reasons, because there is no ultimate justification for we deem sex with children to be morally wrong.

It's true, our society sets the bar much higher than others have historically. I believe there is/was an African culture in which young boys, upon reaching puberty, have their virginity taken by the older "aunts" of the tribe, as an educational experience, as well as a rite of passage. Your view seems to be that, since such (perhaps) non-harmful systems of sex between adults and the newly pubescent are evidently possible, we as a society shouldn't have such an absolute view about adult-child sexual encounters, or at least should think more deeply about the reasons behind our objections. However, I think you ignore a major point: every moral prohibition by a given society is, at its heart, arbitrary. This doesn't make them less valid.

Yes, as we've progressed, we've identified certain key principles which underlie much of our morality, and from those principles have tried to establish degrees of self-consistency in our decisions. But as aesthetically and intellectually pleasing as a perfectly consistent moral system containing only a small set of principles might be, it may be an impossible task. In other words, as moral decisions are fundamentally arbitrary expressions of social opinion, it may not be possible to fully describe them in a consistent way with only a small set of principles. Some things, such as sex with children, may have aspects which are unique to themselves.

I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning things that are rarely questioned, but here I think you're digging too deep, and passing over very reasonable arguments because they don't show pedophilia is wrong in every conceivable circumstance. But if you've ever had a good ethics class, you should remember that it's possible to drill down in a similar fashion to everything we deem wrong, and eventually they all start to break apart at the seams.
Posted by dhawk on March 8, 2012 at 9:28 PM · Report this
Mr Ank - I believe this counts as an illustration of my saying that you would rather be right than kind. What a Tiresian moment that turned out to be.

You can wound me at any time; I don't really matter. There are others here who will give quite as good as they get. But can you seriously remain unmoved by knowing that you have distressed Ms Kim? That is a new standard of sangfroid.

I lack the time or inclination to try to piece together the specifics I'd need to be comprehensive about your points. I'll accept that your friend had non-harmful sex with an adult on the presumption that you accept what he says as credible personal testimony. And it seems reasonable to accept unharmful encounters between children.

To use your sports comparisons, I shall provide a short answer and then I am going to bed and shall not have time to return to this thread for about twenty hours. Adults can play "child soccer/baseball/tiddly winks". Some children can play "adult chess" (raising hand), but chess has such built-in handicapping possibilities that it's just a question of removing the right number of pieces to provide a fair contest. But to give this a different twist from what other people have said, I'd maintain that, in the vast majority of cases, adults can't have "child sex". Now I must go to bed - I've given you a new line; see if you can develop it.
Posted by vennominon on March 8, 2012 at 9:28 PM · Report this
I took a quick peek, and see that, while I was typing, Ms Erica posted something rather similar ahead of me. As I am sure I didn't explain it properly, assume that I am more or less on her path. *waves to Ms Erica*

This is actually reminding me of the debate in *Pride and Prejudice* that never gets resolved between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. In Chapter 10, Mr J, Ms Cute and Ms Kim may recall the question of whether Mr Bingley, should he be on the point of leaving when a friend asked him to stay another week, yielding to such a request was more a tribute or censure of his character, coming to the following point:

"To yield readily - easily - to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you."
"To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either."

And now I really must go to bed. Dormez bien!
Posted by vennominon on March 8, 2012 at 9:38 PM · Report this
@19 - Notice that SADBOY mentioned falling in love and developing an attraction to his partner. This doesn't happen with sexual orientation, you don't get gays "developing" their ability to be attracted to women. The other big difference? Gay isn't caused by environmental factors, but the evidence for links between childhood abuse and adult pedophilia abounds.

Anklyosaur - have you ever actually HAD sex? I really can't see how you could possibly continue this broken record if you actually have...
Posted by laurelgardner on March 8, 2012 at 9:46 PM · Report this
Back from my short walk.

Mr Ven, I think you're right. I've heard the criticism of wanting to be right rather than kind before. Let's say it's more complicated than that (it's more like what you once about your answers to LWs: you not always feel like giving them the advice that would lead to them being happier). My ideal would be to be kind rather than right, but yes -- I often fail to live up to it.

I was indeed very much sorry for having distressed Kim (see @153). I hope she'll be able to forgive me, but I'll understand if she doesn't. Have I wounded, Mr Ven? That wasn't the intention. Please accept my apology.


Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 9:57 PM · Report this
@158 (EricaP), indeed. The strength of the arousal was one of the factors that supposedly explained Hearbroken's boyfriend's failure to respect her limits. Interacting with a child presupposes that the adult is responsible, and has the presence of mind to see what is going on and prevent and solve problems as they occur; the adult is 'the teacher' even when he's having fun. Being aroused makes that much more difficult, and presents a problem.

Is it unsolvable? I don't know.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
seandr 166
Hey Dan, I have an idea - an entire week of SLLOTD dedicated to oral sex!
Posted by seandr on March 8, 2012 at 10:12 PM · Report this
Okay. Sports metaphor... go. Most sports have levels and leagues. Teams and tournaments based upon skill, size, age, grasp of the game and age. How about you play hockey with an NHL team? If you can great! If you can't, it doesn't matter how careful they are you still can't measure up.
An adult is in a completely different league. Putting an inexperienced, smaller child in the same arena is inherently dangerous. Not because they can't play, but because they can't play like an adult. Developmentally appropriate touching (sexual type activity at the child's level) ie. Tickling. Hugs. Cuddles... can be done. But the adult generally understands that we are keeping it in the children's league. Full adult sex, in all its varied forms is not for the peewee players.

Hugs between adults can be fun sexy time! Hugs between an adult and child can also be fun, but nit sexual because we are playing at their level. Not bringing a child to ours
Posted by 12hazel90 on March 8, 2012 at 10:14 PM · Report this
@dhawk, what you say is actually quite close to my point, even though you go a little further ('every moral rule is ultimately arbitrary'). So you don't agree with Kant's moral imperative?

My basic point is not really about whether or not our society should go this way. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. My basic point was that clearly there was something added -- something social -- to the question of sex with children, something that goes beyond the mere mechanics of the act, because these were clearly insufficient to justify the reaction. And you did agree with that in your post; so in fact we agree.

Now, you bring up another, more theoretical point, about the consistency of moral systems. I think the crux of your argument can be found here:

[...] every moral prohibition by a given society is, at its heart, arbitrary. This doesn't make them less valid. [...] But as aesthetically and intellectually pleasing as a perfectly consistent moral system containing only a small set of principles might be, it may be an impossible task. In other words, as moral decisions are fundamentally arbitrary expressions of social opinion, it may not be possible to fully describe them in a consistent way with only a small set of principles. Some things, such as sex with children, may have aspects which are unique to themselves.

Indeed, but what are the specific aspects that make sex with children unique in themselves? The aspects mentioned by others all have equivalents in other areas of interaction with children, in which reasonable solutions were found; so they can't be the answer.

(What is the logical/ontological status, by the way, of features that make certain things unique and prevent ethical systems from evolving to their simplest form?)

I suppose it is ultimately possible to claim everything we deem wrong is not 'ultimately wrong' (I believe this is the argument about good and evil being relative, is it not?), but it is not what I was trying to say. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that a naturist explanation to 'why no sex with kids' doesn't work; and that there might be benefits from not automatically equating sex with children with evil and harm.

Basically, yes, I think that "... we as a society shouldn't have such an absolute view about adult-child sexual encounters, or at least should think more deeply about the reasons behind our objections." Thinking about one's reasons, not taking things on faith, expressing them as carefully as possible... that tends to help us escape from traps and find possible harmful aspects hidden inside our moral systems.

Maybe, as you say, the rule of no sex ever with children is one such unique thing which simply cannot be improved in any way no matter what, especially in our society. But then again, maybe it is not.

That is all. Hopefully that is not offensive?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 8, 2012 at 10:20 PM · Report this
"See, the point is: you're claiming it is impossible for there to be any situation of sexual body-pleasuring interaction between an adult and a child that wouldn't lead to harm.

I'm saying: perhaps not. Perhaps it is possible. And I'm wondering under what circumstances this would be the case."

Then put up or shut up. If you can't come up such a set of circumstances or even move in the general direction of finding them, your hypothesis is resting on a foundation of bullshit. Thus far, you fail utterly even at the task of analyzing and deconstructing any of the social conditioning you CLAIM is the only reason sex with children is harmful.

"I understand that you feel this is impossible; that sex with a child is "simply not right" because the child "doesn't understand". I'm trying to go deeper into these feelings and ask myself what lies behind them."

No, you're not. If that's what you were doing, you'd be just as open to the idea that there IS something legitimate behind them as to the idea that there isn't. That's how real scientific observation happens, with an open mind.

Clearly, however, you're not entertaining any explanations contrary to your little pet hypothesis because you've failed, repeatedly, to engage with any of the in-depth arguments made against it. You're neither open to being proven wrong, nor do you seem to be interested in fleshing out any of your own arguments.

"Because I suspect that these feelings just might be wrong: that the reason why you feel them is social, not biological."

You can suspect that all you want, but if you're going to address this issue with any intellectual integrity, you need to actually (a) identify the sociological constructs and factors that could be creating this problem as a means of demonstrating that it IS purely sociological and (b) study biology enough to be able to rule out biological factors.

My guess, based on what you've written so far, is that you've studied the biology of sex and that of childhood brain development very little indeed. If you'd studied the latter, you'd understand just how complex the development of the brain mechanisms for social interactions really is. Imposing an interaction as biologically, neurologically complex as sex (NOT complex because of social constructs, biologically complex - read a damn book) onto a developing brain is like trying to fire a kit rocket before the glue is dry; it will burn and break because it's NOT READY.

Finally...the hubris and arrogance you are demonstrating in this argument is remarkable. You have a half-baked little sociological theory, one that you seem to THINK no one here has ever considered before. Personally, I considered it and dismissed it when I was still a teenager, and a big part of WHY I dismissed it (before I'd read about all the biology stuff) was because I observed that the levels of trauma and pain suffered by victims of this kind of abuse were high enough and universal enough to be INconsistent with the "social construct" theory. But you're just bulldozing right over that, right over their experiences and emotions, as if you somehow know better. Of course people are offended, of course people are pissed at you.
Posted by laurelgardner on March 8, 2012 at 10:25 PM · Report this
BEG 170
I'd say @82 has summarized it up nicely.

The issue is the power differential. It can't be ignored, it can't be made to go away, and it poisons this whole thing.

I say this as someone who testified in court as a third grader to put a pedophile away behind bars.
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on March 8, 2012 at 10:37 PM · Report this

I think you come to this from the wrong side.

If an adult is not sexually interested in children, why should s/he engage in sexual acts with them? No. (To stay with your sports metaphor: I am not playing sports with my nieces because I am not interested in that.)

Now, if an adult is interested in sex with a child, we need to examine why. Sexual impulses are very selfish. (I am not having a sexual relationship to fulfill my partner in the first place, but to fulfill my own wishes first, and then hopefully his.)

So why is an adult wanting to have sex with a child?
- To teach the child? (If this is the case, we need to ask is that more beneficial to a child than experimenting with another child? I would definitely say no.)
Also, why does the adult want to teach a child sex? Does the adult need that to feel more empowered? In that case: not a good idea, because that means s/he wants to have sex with the child because of the power imbalance. So: NO!

- To fulfill his own sexual urges (pedophilia). Since sex is selfish, this case is all about the adult's needs. So: NO!

Children have sexual feelings. From quite an early age, some children enjoy masturbation. But their emotional set-up is not comparable to that of adults.
Yesterday I read an article about how little children are already able to understand unfair behaviour but they aren't able to react accordingly. Unfortunately, it was in German, but since you speak Dutch, Ankylosaur, you might be able to read it:… )
Posted by migrationist on March 8, 2012 at 10:37 PM · Report this
"@83(Ms Hopkins), no problem -- we're all armchair psychologists here, aren't we? :-) And I had wondered how long it would take for someone to suggest that the idea I discussed here would somehow be a consequence of my sad childhood experience."

Okay...I missed all this before.

You should know that's not an uncommon response to sexual abuse to form a view of sex as simply being an act devoid of any intense or significant inherent emotional meaning or vulnerability. Pretty sure it's a form of dis-association.
Posted by laurelgardner on March 8, 2012 at 10:45 PM · Report this

I never found what you wrote offensive; I generally applaud questioning the unquestionable, although I understand how arguing in the abstract on this issue could be perceived as insensitive. I do think you are sincere, and aren't offering a defense of child rape. But again, while I believe it is good to think carefully about things which go unquestioned, even if they seem self-evidently true, I think you've reached a level of questioning where all morals break down. (Yes, I believe that all morals are arbitrary, but not that they are meaningless or irrelevant.)

Moving away from the theoretical, there is also the pragmatic issue that has been raised several times. If the potential for abuse and harm is very high, then the best solution available may be a blanket restriction, even if the sharp edges don't acknowledge the possibility that such relationships could conceivably exist with little to no harm. And that practical reality may never change, except perhaps the age at which we draw the line.
Posted by dhawk on March 8, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Report this
MythicFox 174
People like LFTYA are the reason why it's so hard to establish a system for pedophiles to get help without being arrested on sight.
Posted by MythicFox on March 8, 2012 at 11:11 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 175
I agree whole-heartedly w/ seandr @ 166. (See, guy, it can happen.)

I want to go have a really hot shower & hopefully renewing sleep in my fluffy bed, now.

'night, all.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on March 8, 2012 at 11:16 PM · Report this
BEG 176
The dissociative element is a strong one, for many of us, I think. I tend to downplay mine, and it's way too easy for me to say it didn't affect me, although it most certainly did. It would be very easy for me to follow a similar line of argument as anklysour -- but the reality is that it isn't a harmless event regardless of how dispassionately one can look at it later. There's no sense in putting any child through that.

I grant you there's some terribly gray lines on transitions -- an 11 year old is very different from a 15 year old, and so on. But I think this is adequately addressed by recognizing there's quite a bit of difference between peer experimentation (within a couple years range) and someone 10 or more years older.

Children get targeted *because* they are defenseless. It's easier to keep them from talking, and to make sure people don't believe them if they do. Disabled children, even more so.
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on March 8, 2012 at 11:19 PM · Report this
kim in portland 177
Dear ankylosaur (153 & 164),

We're okay. I'll be okay. I hope the stars helped.

Kind regards,
Posted by kim in portland on March 8, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Report this

I'm late on the thread, but I think I know what you're getting at. You're asking why is it that, in our modern society, there is no acceptable form of sexual activity that is child-appropriate and that involves children and adults. Just like when adults (parents?) play sports with their kids: kids can't look out for themselves the way adults do, so caring parents make the activity safe and age appropriate. The activity is about the child, it's centered around their needs, capacity, maturity level and enjoyment. Although adults may enjoy teaching and participating, the activity is FOR the child.

So why is it that no such form of (acceptable) child-adult sexual initiation exists in society? Like it's been pointed out, children are incapable of navigating the complex mess that is adult sexuality, but it's not true that children are not sexual, at least to some extent.

My opinion is that no such child-adult age-appropriate sexual play exists because of adults, not just because of children. In ALL human societies, sexuality is heavily regulated. Our view of sexuality is shaped by culture, but sex rules are so universal across diverse human societies that there's got to be something about human nature that makes sex taboo. Sex involves strong urges that can't always be tamed, dropped inhibitions, a risk of pregnancy, imbalance in strength (at least between men and women), strong emotions and attachment (ocytocin anyone?) etc. It's complex, and it's quite plausible that our specie evolved to develop taboos around it. For example, I believe that most human adults find the idea of mixing kids and sex extremely icky. The though honestly makes me gag, and the strong reactions you've trigger on this tread proves I'm not alone to feel that way.

So my point is that most human adults really really don't want to go there, because it's repulsive to them. Might be engrained. And given how wild and complex adult sex is, it's probably in the best interest of children that most people are wired that way.

Which means that our society doesn't have clear and safe guideline for child-adult sexual interactions because most adults find it extremely repulsive and inappropriate. A small minority of adults don't have those inhibitions (pedophiles). Instead, they are somehow sexually attracted to children, which means that their urge to mix children and sex is not motivated by a desire to care for / train /initiate the child, but by an urge for personal sexual gratification. In other words, pedophiles don't have the child's best interest in mind, they are trying to satisfy adult urges with someone who can't look out for themselves in such a context.

So yeah, my guess is that the majority (all?) of sexual acts that involve children and adults are harmful to children because they are not conducted to address the child's needs. Most adults are too repulsed by the thought to want to engage in such an age-appropriate activity. (e.g. did you know what fatherhood leads to a drop in testosterone in men?). And since the only people who seem willing to go there aren't looking out for the kids, it's really best to have laws that protect the children.
Posted by BBChatone on March 8, 2012 at 11:31 PM · Report this
Neptune 179
I'm way late to the party, but to add my two cents to the great ankylosaur debate:

I could play football with my brother. I could play golf with my uncle. I could play poker with my grandmother. I could play checkers with my mom. I could coach a little league team. I could play fetch with a dog. I could play hide-and-seek with children at daycare. I could play bingo with the elderly residents of a nursing home.

But in none of these situations would it be appropriate for me to ask someone to "play" sex. There are times when - even if the person involved could technically consent - sex is just not okay. And yes, that's a societal construct. But telling children that sex is equivalent to a fun game would be lying to them, because games and sex exist in very different contexts. In a society where sex WAS considered a game, no different or less appropriate than checkers, golf, or football, THEN children (and families) would be involved, the same way they're involved in those games. And I know our society has some warped views of sex, but I think this is one place where we get it right. Sex isn't a game that you play with everyone who wants to, because it involves more than just the desire to do the activity itself. I can want to play checkers, but I don't have to be physically attracted to my opponent to enjoy it, because I don't need them to "stimulate" my interest in the game. If two people really want to play checkers, nothing else about them matters much in relation to the game. That's not the reality of sex. And telling a child that sex is just a fun thing two people can do is incorrect and a lie - and our society is right to frame it that way.
Posted by Neptune on March 8, 2012 at 11:49 PM · Report this
@laurelgardner, I've clearly offended you, so please accept my apologies. Your post is (I hope you'll agree) a bit too emotional, so I'll only choose what I think is the main point/accusation and react to it. Feel free to address it further.

You said:

Clearly, however, you're not entertaining any explanations contrary to your little pet hypothesis because you've failed, repeatedly, to engage with any of the in-depth arguments made against it.

I disagree. The basic answer I gave to these explanations is that all of them have analogues in the sports metaphor (i.e., the 'the child doesn't understand it like an adult does'; 'the child's body isn't like the adult's body yet'; 'there is a power imbalance between child and adult'; etc.) All of these correspond to similar situations in sports ('the child doesn't know all the rules'; 's/he can't play like an adult [which is basically @167's point above], s/he's not physically/mentally strong enough / ready for it'; 's/he will get hurt if we play "adult league" sports'; 's/he will be afraid of playing with me, because I'm a "powerful adult / authority figure"'). All these things have been solved (we play simplified versions; we don't do rough stuff; we take the child's skills and limitations into account; we 'lower ourselves to the child's level, as @167 put it'; we sort of suspend the power imbalance, in that we give the child a chance of really winning at his level, and don't arbitrarily impose our authority on him; etc.).

I'm not saying the exact same solutions would work for sex. But I'm saying that the idea analogous solutions could be found doesn't seem to be logically unacceptable.

As for why I talk in the abstract and don't give specific situations... Indeed, I won't do that. Look at how offended, and -- worse yet -- how hurt people here felt just because I discussed it in the abstract. If I had tried to come up with some sketch situation in which things would work out, what do you think the reaction would be? Some people would probably claim this is not a thought experiment but just my secret fantasy, that I'm a pedophile myself (which I'm not) and I'm trying to rationalize the abuse of children. Worse yet: some people here, including people I respect, would feel very hurt. (They already do.) So I'm not going to do that. If you really want me to take a shot, it would have to be by e-mail.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:10 AM · Report this
@179(Neptune), who wrote:
And yes, that's a societal construct. But telling children that sex is equivalent to a fun game would be lying to them, because games and sex exist in very different contexts. In a society where sex WAS considered a game, no different or less appropriate than checkers, golf, or football, THEN children (and families) would be involved, the same way they're involved in those games.

Indeed. That is the point I was trying to make (or, at least, submit to discussion). Curiously, though, you contradict this claim in the very next sentence, saying that "our society has gotten it right: sex is not a game," i.e., a universal statement. But how can you believe this, and also what you wrote in the preceding paragraph? Aren't they in contradiction?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:14 AM · Report this
@dhawk, who wrote:
(Yes, I believe that all morals are arbitrary, but not that they are meaningless or irrelevant.)

Moving away from the theoretical, there is also the pragmatic issue that has been raised several times. If the potential for abuse and harm is very high, then the best solution available may be a blanket restriction, even if the sharp edges don't acknowledge the possibility that such relationships could conceivably exist with little to no harm. And that practical reality may never change, except perhaps the age at which we draw the line.

Indeed. I can easily accept that. Besides, questioning motivations and reasons for moral rules doesn't necessarily imply wanting to change them (one could responsibly want that only if one already saw a better solution); but simply opening one's eyes to the truth behind them.

The pragmatic problem is the most serious one I can see. But I wonder to what extent it comes from the stigma on pedophilia (didn't someone somewhere say that pedophiles play nowadays the role that used to be played by heretics and witches--i.e., the commonly accepted source of all evil?). Again, I don't want to open a whole can of worms; but an old teacher of mine said once that the best solution to a pragmatic difficulty is usually itself pragmatic (and should be open to improvement).
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:26 AM · Report this
@177(Kim in Portland), I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear that. Yes, they did help. I calmed down.

Some commenters have asked further questions, and I've elaborated above on said questions. If the mere thought brings back memories and pain, then please skip them. Please!

Take care.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:31 AM · Report this
seandr @166 yes!

BEG @176 "Disabled children, even more so."
Ye gods, yes.

@178 "pedophiles don't have the child's best interest in mind" -- but it's key to remember that pedophiles sincerely believe they do have the child's best interest in mind.

@180 the fact that you're still going on as if your sports analogies haven't been well and truly debunked means that you have a block around this matter which you should take up with either (a) a good therapist, or (b) an NHL hockey team (thanks, @167)
Posted by EricaP on March 9, 2012 at 12:31 AM · Report this
(@184, I should have said: some pedophiles who act on their desires sincerely believe they have the child's best interest in mind. Obviously some pedophiles don't act on their desires, and some are happy to be abusive...)
Posted by EricaP on March 9, 2012 at 12:33 AM · Report this
@170(BEG), and my question about this (already to @82 above) is: but how come this power differential doesn't power all interactions between children and adults? How come the fact that the adult can always stop the game and say 'it's time to go eat / sleep / take a shower now' (i.e., the adult is the authority figure and calls the shots) doesn't necessarily poison games and play between adults and children? (My guess: because we've found working solutions to them.)
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:34 AM · Report this
@170, I meant to say: 'how come this power differential doesn't POISON all interactoins...' Sorry for the typo.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:35 AM · Report this
@176, the dissociative element shouldn't be downplayed; and indeed what happens to you in a very true sense never goes away, you simply learn how to deal with it and incorporate it into who you are. Like all bad experiences in life. But no, I don't think this is my motivation for thinking about the topic. It is there, somewhere, but I think the real motivation for me is that I have a 'fetish for the truth.' I want to see what's behind the matrix, as it were.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:41 AM · Report this
@184(EricaP), and I've offered several reactions to the criticism of the sports metaphor (the latest in @180), which I think have gone unheeded.

@167 is actually a good reason why I think the sports metaphor is actually not bad. As s/he observed, we thoroughly modify our sports behavior when dealing with children: we certainly don't play with them with the Adult League rules. Likewise for sex: things are scaled all the way down to the child's level.

I suspect the basic problem is that people think I mean I'm saying it's OK to (as @167 put it) include children in "Full adult sex, in all its varied forms", which indeed "is not for the peewee players." As if I were saying, 'throw the kid into the arena of sex, and tell him/her to swim,' which I'm not. The criticism by @171(migrationist) above is actually closer to criticizing what I was actually talking about (certainly not "Full adult sex, in all its varied forms" -- even adults don't start their sex lives like that!). I'm responding to him below.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 12:50 AM · Report this
"We are concerned about loving relationships with children."

No you are not....No you are monsters...this is what the person who molested me between the age of 6 and 10 and eventually raped at 12 said....until the age of 17 when he lost any interest in me because i was becoming a man.... and presented the whole thing as a game that "adults" engage into..
At 52 the trauma is still there... and with all the negative impact of that dreadful experience. I only regret one thing not to have killed myself back then.....believing that things would get did not to the extent of my expectations (Sorry Dan) (loving long term relationship, increased self confidence etc....). I never forget that I was thrown without consent into an adult's world and deprived of my innocence. No Ankylosaur ......No it is forbidden games, No . No. No
Posted by chaya760 on March 9, 2012 at 12:56 AM · Report this
@189 you claim to have argued against your critics, but that's not true:
@180 you said "All these things have been solved" plus a whole list of things that don't address questions like the one about arousal making adults unreliable, which you agreed @165 was difficult: "Is it unsolvable? I don't know." But then you continue as if it has been solved.

You are not interested in the truth; you are interested in finding ways to support a delusion.

Posted by EricaP on March 9, 2012 at 1:07 AM · Report this
Other questions to ask:
Do children even want to have sex with adults? While the children I know might masturbate and play doctor with their peers (huge variation between children), I haven’t ever seen behavior that looked like sexual interest in adults.
Do children benefit from sexual play with adults?
From playing games and sports with adults, they learn techniques and strategies. Do they need that for sex? I say no. A fulfilling sex life is more about knowing what you want and enjoy, being able to communicate that, being able to communicate your limits, listening to your partner, accepting your partner’s limits, than about knowing the best technique.
Children can learn what they want and enjoy by exploring their bodies alone and with peers- no adults needed. All the communication skills and empathy, they can be taught in none-sexual contexts.
So, in my opinion, there is no benefit to children from sex with adults, but lots of possible pitfalls and dangers.
I live in Germany, where the legal age of consent is 14, the same age as for criminal liability (and as to start working). It seems more in tune with brain development to say, you are able to assume responsibility for yourself now in most ways, then to say: at 12 you are able to know if you commit a crime, but only at 18 you are able to decide if you want to have sex.
Posted by migrationist on March 9, 2012 at 1:11 AM · Report this
@171, thanks for the Spiegel link. (I actually also speak German; I learned Dutch by basically changing most of my German into Dutch, so now I can still read German but not speak the way I used to.)

Most people don't engage in sports with children -- in fact, many people (as I remember from another comments thread in this site) are actually annoyed at children and their 'whimsical' behavior and would rather have nothing to do with them.

But at least some (maybe many) people actually enjoy interacting with children. Some of them even enjoy raising them. Why is this the case? Given all the problems inherent to interacting with children; given that children can't give you the kind of validation and happiness that you get from adult relationships (friendships, loves, etc.); and given that in fact at least some people don't want to have anything to do with children, why should any of us find it good, even fun, to interact with them?

And yet we do. To some people, playing with children is fun, in a way that is totally different from playing with adults. In some sense, it's a totally different experience, and people can and do have all kinds of opinions about it.

I assume that the basic motivation for a person to engage in any way with a child (barring cases of professional obligation, legal duties, etc.) is indeed that it is fun.

So, in the case of sex, you ask: why would an adult want to have sex with a child? Your suggestions sound good to me. To teach the child? So that's a person who enjoys teaching. OK. Indeed, as you suggest, one should ask if this is beneficial to the child. Since the child is the weaker, more defenseless of the two, his/her safety must be the first and foremost concern. So, can this be beneficial to the child? Your answer is a resounding no. Mine is a less resounding "I don't know. Maybe." Teaching-by-doing works in other areas (language learning jumps to mind); it might work here as well, though I'm not an expert in didactics and don't know how exactly to tackle this task.

Also, it is important to know why the adult wants to teach the child sex: there could be ulterior motives (ultimately abusive) that one certainly wants to avoid. As you say, if the person just enjoys the power imbalance and likes to be obeyed, this is going to be a bad idea (just like, in general, teachers who teach only because they like to be authority figures -- the king/queen of the classroom, as it were -- are also a bad idea.) I'd imagine that, as in the case of other kinds of teaching, the OK motivation would be: to allow the child to grow in this area, to give him/her the benefit of the adult's experience, to help avoid mistakes/errors, to watch and guide the child's development -- the kind of thing that teachers who love to teach enjoy.

Now, suppose the person doesn't want to play sports with a child in order to teach the child, but simply because s/he enjoys playing sports with children: for some reason, they're more fun for him/her than playing games or sports with other adutls. That is a different, and more troublesome, motivation, since it doesn't guarantee that (a) the adult knows what s/he is doing, (b) the adult understands children, their world and their needs (beyond the mere game playing), (c) the adult even cares about the effect of playing with the child on the child. In other words, this person has a good chance of being selfish, and thus forcing the child to play a certain game with him/her may indeed be abusive. (An old uncle of mine, who used to take me to soccer matches just because he enjoyed watching them and thought that I should, too, since it's "obviously such a beautiful sport", is probably part of the reason why I really don't like soccer, despite being Brazilian.)

But that is not necessarily the case. There are people who like to interact/play with children because they find it fun, yet are not selfish: they incorporate elements of the teaching motivation above, and they take into account the child's feelings and reactions. Usually they also care about the child (they're "friends"), know the parents (if they aren't a parent themselves, or a relative), and like to help. They tend to become a part of the child's life.

I suspect -- though I can't offer you proof -- that there are people who like sex with children, yet are not selfish, in the same way those people I describe who like to play with children but are not selfish.

You claim that sex is inherently selfish. I'd say instead that human beings are inherently selfish: it is not difficult to claim that everything we do is "for ourselves" (we love the feeling of being altruistic). I don't think sex is especially selfish, when compared with other activities. (Eating is also selfish; We always eat 'for ourselves,' not for others. Hunger is also an urge, and a stronger one than sex. It doesn't follow from that that we're necessarily going to steal food from children every meal time, when hunger returns. Some people would, of course, steal lolipops from children and eat them; but these are not the people I'm talkign about.)

As you point out, children do have sexual feelings, but they are very different from adult feelings. Likewise, they also want friends, and fun, and interesting things to do, but they don't behave like adults in any of these areas. Children are different from us. It doesn't mean that we can't interact with them in all these areas in a way that isn't harmful, and is even fun, to the kid, and to the adult. Again, I offer the idea that this is in principle also possible with sex; it's the way our societies construe sex, and the symbolism and the rules built around it, that tend to reduce this possibility to zero. Or so it seems to me.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 1:22 AM · Report this

you claim to have argued against your critics, but that's not true:

Why not? I've certainly addressed their points.

you said "All these things have been solved"

And for sports, I indeed think have been. Do you disagree?

about arousal making adults unreliable, which you agreed @165 was difficult: "Is it unsolvable? I don't know." But then you continue as if it has been solved.

Not exactly. I'm denying the automatic assumption that it is unsolvable. Adults can control their emotions, and they can think ahead; they don't have to act impulsively and let everything happen on a whim, as many people pointed out when discussion the behavior of Heartbroken's boyfriend, who was rightfully chastised for not having done so, for having let his arousal dictate his whole behavior.

It is difficult. But it's not impossible. Ethical sex, which takes the needs of the other into account, which is not simply arousal-arousal-arousal, is possible. (Just as playing sprots without thinking all the time about winning is also possible.) Which is my (implicit) answer to that comment.

You are not interested in the truth; you are interested in finding ways to support a delusion.

Erica, I'm sorry if I'm making you angry: that's not my intention. Maybe Mr Ven above is right and I'm again trying to be right, not kind.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 1:33 AM · Report this
ankylosaur, you have often been an insightful and valuable contributor here. On the subject of pedophilia, however, you are being disingenuous to the point of stupidity and offense. You keep asking why sex is a "Big Important Thing With Lots of Consequences" - do you really not get that sex IS a fucking Big Important Thing With Lots of Consequences? The possibilities include babies, STI's, and intense emotional bonding or trauma. I think other commenters are right on target with the issue of dissociation - if you are incapable of seeing the distinction between sex and sports, you may need professional help.

Sex is NOT the same as playing chess or choosing what outfit to wear. The fact is, it doesn't matter if your daughter can give "meaningful" consent to chess or not, because chess is not an inherently dangerous activity. But no, she can't give meaningful consent, because if you insisted that she play chess with you, she would have to do so. And she can't give meaningful consent to sex, because she isn't able to make an informed decision about the consequences. I sincerely hope that you are giving her a better example than you are setting here.

Yes, the distinction between "minor" and "adult" is a vague and arbitrary one. Yes, it's easy to think of examples (an 18 year old having sex with a 16 year old) that are technically "statutory rape" but are probably relatively harmless and reasonably consensual. Yes, it's possible and not at all unusual for minors to have sexual experiences with each other without any negative fallout. And yes, the age of consent in the US is probably higher than it needs to be, for many people at least.

But you need to drop this line of questioning, because it is really not painting a positive picture of your mental health.
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 1:36 AM · Report this

Some of the points you raise here, I've already anticipated and answered one post above. Especially why I think that children don't benefit from sex play with adults.
Please read the Spiegel-Link. It illustrates why children may rationally understand that they are treated unfairly but are still unable to refuse, even if the other person is another child (it's not about sex but money, but the findings might translate well into all areas of a child's life).

This underscores the feeling of most people on this thread, that children can not give meaningful consent. If they do something that they find unfair because their brain isn't developed far enough yet to reject an unfair proposal, how are they supposed to give informed consent?

The other thing about your argumentation that I disagree with, is the whole concept of sex being taught. Sex is something to be discovered. (EricaP put it quite nicely above.) And in my opinion, it is best to discover with someone equal, and not someone much more experienced who is eager to teach.
Posted by migrationist on March 9, 2012 at 1:37 AM · Report this
@192, interesting questions. Here are some of my answers, plus anecdotal evidence.

Do children have interest in adult sex? Remembering my own life as a 7-, 8-year old, I would say, definitely, yes, because everything grownups do (work, talk, tea parties, etc.) seems inherently interesting. An anecdote: my 9-year-old daughter has already learned about sex (my wife and I read the Dutch age-appropriate book with her about a year ago, etc.). It turned out she had heard a lot (pretty much everything) from other chiildren at school already; it would seem children talk about that. At one point, while reading the book, she directly asked us if we did that. We said, yes. She immediately answered, "I want to watch you guys do it." -- something neither I nor my wife were prepared for. We didn't know what to say. She insisted on it for several weeks, with my wife gently refusing and telling her 'it is a little complicated, people feel ashamed, it's not for your age, wait a little,' and me supporting her. Eventually she gave in and turned her attention to other matters.

Of course, her interest was probably more motivated by curiosity about 'one more strange thing grown-ups do', not so much sexual feelings. But I don't think the latter were entirely absent either. It's all a continuum.

Do children benefit from sexual play with adults? Yes, on the technique and strategy realm, as you said about sports. They may also learn something about communicating and finding out what they like (or at least realizing that finding out what they like will be important later on), but that may be a little too complicated. Indeed, good sex is mostly about communication, but technique and strategy are not nothing either -- judging by the number of very popular books dedicated to filling people's gaps in the technique department.

In the Netherlands, where I live, children are required to learn to swim, which is defined as a set of techniques and skills -- there's a list of things they should be able to do in a swimming pool at the required level ('zwemdiploma's A, B en C'). Biking is also carefully taught to children here, though traditionally by the parents, not by a 'zwemschool'. Even though these activities certainly transcend the skills and techniques, clearly skills and techniques matter.

Can children always learn what they want and enjoy by exploring their bodies alone? I've heard from several women (EricaP here is one of them) that women often have difficulties in finding what exactly they like or don't like; some (many?) even never masturbate. Society even still sort of expects them, apparently, to be very unaware of what it is they like or don't like ('the guy will guess it, it's his job'). And even men, even when they do find things they like (it's kinda difficult to miss the penis), can develop wrong or non-productive habits (Dan Savage talks about the 'death grip' caused by too much very specific masturbation that makes it difficult for some men to have an orgasm with a women later on in life.). Wouldn't it be beneficial to help children avoid these pitfalls?

Of course, there are pitfalls and dangers of their own in sex between children and adults. It's not a no-brainer -- far from that. But I don't see that it's an unsolvable puzzle either.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 2:04 AM · Report this
@195(Chase), The fact is, it doesn't matter if your daughter can give "meaningful" consent to chess or not, because chess is not an inherently dangerous activity. But no, she can't give meaningful consent, because if you insisted that she play chess with you, she would have to do so.

Indeed. And if I insisted that she play chess with me with no reason other than my personal amusement, that would indeed be abusive (see my uncle taking me to soccer matches). I'd be against that. Chess with children has to have the interest of the child as a strong component: it cannot simply be "for me." I'd imagine sex with children could be like that.

I think what I'm getting at here is: there is a distinction between "authority" and "abuse of authority". Because we refrain from abusing authority when dealing with children, we can give them meaningful room for decisions, at their level, and compatible with their skills. People here say that this level and skills excludes any kind of sexual interaction, no matter how mild. I'm not convinced. Children can do (e.g., in playgrounds) things that are often more physically demanding than sex, and with some potential for physical harm, too.

And she can't give meaningful consent to sex, because she isn't able to make an informed decision about the consequences. I sincerely hope that you are giving her a better example than you are setting here.

I have no interest in sex with children, and I'm certainly not going to make experiments with her. Thought experiments are thought experiments, not full-fledged recipes for success. I'm discussing a theoretical topic, not telling people how to raise children.

The question of not giving meaningful consent goes back to understanding the consequences. Yes, a child is less able to understand them than an adult, but this is true of everything, not simply sex. It would be the adult's responsibility in this case to make sure the child is safe and sound, just as it is the adult's responsibility to make sure the child is not drowning in the swimming pool, or that no bad accidents when the kids play basketball -- at least as far as the physical consequences go.

It's the socio-emotional consequences that really make this a near-impossible task: it's how our society construes sex that makes me ultimately say it wouldn't be ever a good idea, at least in our society. It would only be possible if we changed our society (as Neptune@179 suggested above). The way things are now, sex with children is what sports with children would be if it meant automatically involving children with NBA politics and manipulations.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 2:25 AM · Report this
@190(chaya760): I am deeply, profoundly sorry for what happened to you; believe me, I agree it was abusive, bad, and wrong. I hope you can find it in yourself to go beyond such horrible events in a way that puts them in proper perspective in your life. I've myself had to struggle with these feelings at one point in my life, and they've also never gone way.

It's only that this is not what I'm talking about.

Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 2:27 AM · Report this

My rhetorical question wasn't about children being interested about sex between adults, but about sex with adults. So, children of course are interested in sex between their parents but that doesn't mean they want to participate (apart from watching, apperently).

I disagree about the technique and strategy: there isn't the perfect technique. Everyone likes something else. Everyone I had sex with so far (not too many, I admit) preferred different kinds of touches etc. in bed. I know my body pretty well but with someone new, something I used not to be excited about seems so exciting all of a sudden.

The books on sexual techniques are titillating and fun to read. They are also good for inspiration. But different to swimming and other sports, there isn't one physical technique that is essential to having good sex. (The manuals regarding potentially dangerous sex plays are way too advanced for any child, anyway, to get into this discussion.)

Re: the death grip. It's only a problem if it leads to discontentment for the wanker and/or his partner. That can happen with every kind of sexual touching: one woman might need direct clitoral stimulation, another one might find that painful. Which kind of touch would one "teach" to a child as the appropriate technique to stimulate a woman? Some men like a finger up their ass, others find it a turn-off: which "technique" is the proper one?

No, in my opinion there is no universal sexual technique that needs to be taught!
Posted by migrationist on March 9, 2012 at 2:33 AM · Report this
Just fucking drop it, dude. Stop. You've already caused several posters to exit the thread in well-justified disgust. There are people with Aspberger's who are more socially aware than you are being right now. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you really expect people to agree with you, or are you just trying to prove a point despite the fact that virtually no one here is buying your argument? Because you've long since crossed the line from trying to be kind to trying to be right, and in vain, because you're not right. The question of whether or not children can *ever* have non-harmful sex with an adult is not worth answering, because it has been shown over and over again ad infinitum ad LITERAL FUCKING NAUSEUM that the potential for abuse is too high to risk trying it. And yet you persist in ignoring this point no matter how many times it is made to you.

I don't give a damn whether or not you play chess with your daughter. I fear for your daughter, and right now you are being a clueless ASSHOLE.

Fucking stop it.
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 2:35 AM · Report this
@196, I've read the Spiegel article, which is not specifically about sex, but about all kinds of unfair situtations. If you take this conclusion too far (which would go against the spirit of the article, I think), it would logically imply that children could never give meaningful consent to anything, so if we ask them to come play hockey or baseball or soccer and they say "yes, let's!" or "no, not right now", then their answer is menaingless and shouldn't be respected. I think all would agree this is not the case.

The fact that chidren are clearly in many ways defenseless means that it is the duty of the adult who is with them to provide them with defenses, by having their best interest in mind, by paying attention to all the things that are unfair to the child but that the child him/herself may not know how to communicate or react to. The adult has full responsibility for what happens, in all cases. Period.

So: either people believe that children never can give meaningful consent (neither to sex, nor to anything else) -- and in this case, why ever bother to ask them what they want?; or then they believe sometimes children can give meaningful consent, and in this case, to what?

I think most people here will agree that children are capable of some kinds of meaningful consent (more so than animals, for instance), but not many. Their point would be simply that sex of any kind involving a grown-up, no matter how mild, is never in this set. And my point about this is that the reason for that is not inherent to sex itself (there doesn't seem to be much about the activity, I think, that makes it more like that than other kinds of physical interaction), but our cultural construal of sex and what it implies (a Big Thing With Consequences, etc. -- which is true, in our culture, because that's how we deal with sex.)

To illustrate the cross-cultural point, consider the Ancient Greek concept of παιδεραστία (pederasty), or man-boy love (involving usually an adult man and a boy in his teens), which was, it seems, a common practice and also an artistic ideal. Here's a quotation from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

Scholars have debated the role or extent of sexual activity, which is likely to have varied according to local custom and individual inclination.[8] The English word "pederasty" in present-day usage implies the abuse of minors, but Athenian law, for instance, did not recognize consent and age as factors in regulating sexual behavior.[9] As classical historian Robin Osborne has pointed out, historical discussion of paiderastia is complicated by 21st-century moral standards:

"It is the historian's job to draw attention to the personal, social, political and indeed moral issues behind the literary and artistic representations of the Greek world. The historian's job is to present pederasty and all, to make sure that … we come face to face with the way the glory that was Greece was part of a world in which many of our own core values find themselves challenged rather than reinforced."
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 2:45 AM · Report this
OK, Chase, you win the chase.

Let me sumarize:

I'm suggesting that there might be circumstances under which sex between adults and children wouldn't be harmful. Posters above disagree because

- the child doesn't understand, and therefore cannot give meaningful consent;
- the child's body is not ready;
- the child is in a powerless position;
- the child is defenseless and easy to manipulate, both physically and mentally.

I suggested that, like other activities involving adults and children, these problems could be tackled (basically suggesting that the problem is logistical, and has been solved for comparable activities, with the adult of course always bearing full responsibility for what happens):

- things might be tuned down to a level the child can understand, to make consent meaningful
- only things the child's body is ready for could be done;
- the powerless position can be relativized as it routinely is in other activities where children are given true choices;
- the adult in question is aware of the child's defenseless state and has the child's best interest in mind (again, as is the case in other activities involving children and adults).

As Chase says, others are clearly not buying it, and also not offering new comments or criticism (with a few exceptions, like dhawk and migrationist) so no meaningful progress in the conversation is being achieved, and nobody is benefitting from it (quite the opposite actually).

OK. Over and end.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 4:28 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 204
Wow, ankylosaur. 12 hours of your life dedicated to your argument (from post 40 @ 4:41pm to post 203 @ 4:28am), which seems to have provoked absolutely nobody to consider it seriously. Hope it was worth it.
Posted by Matt from Denver on March 9, 2012 at 5:52 AM · Report this
Somewhere around the end of this thread you left "Grinding in on an abstract philosophical point while dismissing all biology, child development, and social aspects as inconvenient to my abstraction." And have entered the territory, "If I molest children, I do/will do it in a way that is special and loving and child-appropriate, and they will of course look back on it happily."

Please consider the possibility that the inability of someone to discard preconceived notions and open up to other possibilities about how adult-child interactions might work may rest with yourself, and not with everyone in this thread who disagrees with you.
Posted by IPJ on March 9, 2012 at 5:59 AM · Report this
geoz 206
Another day when I'm very glad that you, Dan, are answering questions.
Posted by geoz on March 9, 2012 at 6:04 AM · Report this
I have urges to murder people who do heinous things to others, I do not expect a reward for NOT doing it.

I just know it is wrong and I do not do it.

Posted by Kylere on March 9, 2012 at 6:35 AM · Report this
Two more thoughts:

First, people with certain types of autism can be taught to recognize emotion by rote practice. Eyebrows rise, eyes widen, mouth opens slightly: surprise. Could that be sadness instead? No, it's surprise. But could we picture a world in which those things indicated sadness? Not if it contained people. Those indications of surprise go across cultures, even if rules for how surprise or sadness may be publicly expressed vary. Some victims of childhood sexual abuse disassociate from sex, viewing it as no different from a sneeze in importance. This doesn't change the fact that for normal people, sex is A Very Big Important Deal, or that lifted brows and widened eyes indicate surprise. If you are wired not to see this, you will need to take other people's word for it.

Second, if one had that hypothetical different world, but populated it with people and not bananas, a whole lot of things would remain the same. People would still live in social groups, they would spend a lot of time figuring out hierarchy in those groups and how to work with it, they would still pair bond. There is a lot of very hard biology behind those things.
Posted by IPJ on March 9, 2012 at 8:12 AM · Report this
@Kylere 207

There's a big difference between resisting the rare, occasional urge to murder someone and resisting the constant urge to fulfill your sexual needs. I don't think pedophiles who successuflly resist those urges should be congratulated, but some appreciation and understanding is certainly called for.
Posted by flang on March 9, 2012 at 8:39 AM · Report this
Ankylosaur doesn't experience sex as transcendent or a big deal. To him (as he steadfastly maintains) it is no different than sports. That should tell all of you who are arguing so passionately against his position that he is fundamentally different than you. He wants to explore why rain is wet and insists that your belligerent replies that obviously it's wet (because it's rain!) are based only on social constructs. You will never convince him.

Some folks are broken that way. They don't feel what most other people feel. Empathy is not possible when the experience of another person is so alien.

By all means, ankylosaur, go determine the mechanism by which rain is wet. But for now please grant a little more respect to the opinions of the multitudes here who are satisfied that it is, at a minimum, empirically so.
Posted by Mr. J on March 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
@204 I don't believe it. I just don't believe it. This thread has to be a record, or a few. Twelve hours?
Posted by floater on March 9, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Report this
Actually, I have the perfect summary:

This is the song that never ends.
It just keeps going on, my friend.
Some people started singing it not knowing what was
And they'll continue singing it forever just because -

Posted by floater on March 9, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
nocutename 213
@210: check your hotmail account
Posted by nocutename on March 9, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
John Horstman 214
@19: That's the case with pretty much any therapy, though. Even drug-based treatments to 'correct' neurochemical atypicalities don't work perfectly for most people, and the whole point of therapy is teaching people to cope with psychological problems in ways that are functional for them (don't lead to self-harm, harm of others, arrest, social isolation, etc.).

@39: That's like saying that any man who is attracted to a woman who does not consent to have sex with him (and will never do so) is a predator. Attraction isn't rape, sex without consent is rape. Defining thought as crime is immoral - we should only be judging people on their actions. Pedophile have a strong desire to harm others for their own gratification. Given how difficult resisting such a compulsion proves for most people (look at the rate at which people who agree to monogamous relationships with people to whom they're attracted cheat on their partners, doing them harm, though not as much as sexually assaulting someone; alternately, consider how many people burn gas as a simple matter of convenience when they have other options, which is terribly harmful to all of us collectively as well as people in oil-producing countries specifically), those who successfully resist acting on their attractions deserve credit for doing so, and all pedophiles deserve some degree of compassion for being saddled with antisocial compulsions (as does anyone with a mental illness).

@ankylosaur: The "sex + children = bad" presupposition is so prevalent that you're not likely to find much support. My personal take on it is that: 1) Children have sexualities. Many children, and even fetuses, masturbate, and many children (I'd say a strong majority, though without specific studies to cite, I'm just going to stick with weasel words) engage in sexual activities with other children like observing and touching genitals ("doctor"). 2) Adult-child sexual contact *may* not be intrinsically harmful; however, determining this with any certainty would require experimentation that would be EXTREMELY unethical, as it would definitely involve behaviors that would constitute abuse for either a significant majority or all of the experimental group, and would probably be impossible anyway, because... 3) Within our historical-cultural context, adult-child sexual activity is frequently experienced as harmful by the children. We don't know how frequently, as any non-harmful cases are likely to be invisible, but we do know that it poses a significant threat of harm given all of the cases of which we ARE aware. While I think it would be extremely interesting to find out more about what conditions influence whether adult-child sexual activity is experienced as abuse or not by the child - if only to determine what steps might help children who have been abused after the fact, by not contributing to their sense of violation, alienation, shame, or anything else because of how they're treated and how their abuse is viewed - I really don't think that can happen in any sort of productive way until we both manage to eliminate (or nearly-eliminate) rape culture and construct cultural models of childhood that allow for agency (I'm not talking sexual agency specifically, but agency in general: legally and socially, children are frequently treated as possessions of their parents, objects without agency; it's justified with the "for their own good" argument, but given that that it's proved to be false in many cases - women, Black people, any colonized population - and that studies of childhood agency with an eye to accounting for cultural biases are JUST starting to be performed, I don't think we can accept that argument on its face). We also need people to stop clinging to essentialist notions.

To make it clear to everyone: I don't think harming people is okay, generally, and specifically with respect to adult-child sexual activity, I think that it's almost always (possibly always) harmful and therefore NOT OKAY. I think that a lot of the harm results from how we culturally construct sex (rape culture, slut-shaming, and problematic gendered sexual norms), childhood (idealized models of 'innocence', 'protection', and a lack of agency), and the intersection of the two; however, the fact that I think there's a heavy contextual component to the harmfulness of adult-child sexual activity DOES NOT, in any way, serve as an argument that it should not be illegal or is not wrong, as any such activity necessarily takes place in a historical-cultural context that makes it harmful. Exactly because of how we construct divisions in agency between children and adults, there is always a severe power imbalance making any sexual activity at the very least extremely coercive, and therefore almost certainly harmful (and certainly unethical).

I'm very much in agreement with your points about non-sexual coercion of children ALSO being abuse in many cases, especially with respect to bodily autonomy (I oppose allowing circumcision or other non-essential bodily interventions on this basis, but I'm also talking about things as simple as insisting on letting a relative kiss, hug, hold, etc. a child when the child does not wish it, simply because said relative wants to do so, or forcing children to endure activities that they find intractable and are not demonstrably valuable, like church services). But, like I said, the construction of childhood, like the construction of gender, is taken as an essentialized given by so many people, you're not going get much support at this point. Still, some of the most progressive/radical social justice movements are just beginning to tackle childhood agency (generally not sexual agency). I do find the implications of the fetal personhood push on childhood agency interesting, though. For some reason, a fetus is considered to have interests that override those of the woman in which it's growing, but once it's born, its interests are immediately superseded by those of its parents. This is probably rooted in intense patriarchy/sexism - the interests of the fetus can override the MOTHER'S interests, but not the FATHER'S, which come into play once the fetus is born and is a baby.
Posted by John Horstman on March 9, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
One of the best things about Dan posting the links to the old letters is the chance for us all to revive DOAC (Defecating On Ann Coulter)!
Posted by joybd on March 9, 2012 at 10:12 AM · Report this
John Horstman 216
@210: The problem with your essentializing THIS issue is that the exact same logic has been applied to women being stupider/less capable/weaker/etc. than men, Black people being 'made' for slavery, etc. The things that you're saying empirically 'just are', are the way they are within a particular cultural context. Acknowledging the importance of context doesn't make one broken, it's makes one rational by bounding knowledge claims to the particular context in which the empirical observation was made, and not presupposing that what is true in one context can be universalized without any evidence that it can be (this doesn't mean that nothing can be universalized, just that claiming a universal truth based on contextually-bounded data is wrong). You're not wrong that lots of people experience sex as transcendent/meaningful, but you have no basis to assert that this is an essential quality of sex, as opposed to a cultural projection, and that therefore anyone NOT experiencing it that way is "broken" (by the way, the fact that NOT all people experience sex as something laden with so much meaning is pretty much the only proof necessary to demonstrate that said meaning ISN'T ESSENTIAL). All you're doing is refusing to acknowledge the possibility of your own cultural biases.

But, yeah, children totally don't deserve recognition of agency, nor women, nor brown people, nor gay people, nor, really, anyone who isn't ME.
Posted by John Horstman on March 9, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Report this
@216 Mr. J wasn't saying children don't have agency. He was saying ankylosaur's experience of adult arousal and sexuality seems to be different from the rest of us on the thread. I don't see how you get to "children totally don't deserve recognition of agency."
Posted by EricaP on March 9, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
@204, to some extent. I think I've learned (or confirmed) something about people today.

@205, I do consider this (and similar) possibilities. I hope you will also consider the opposite one.

@210, some people believe the way gays experience sex is 'broken'. You're entitled to your belief that sex is transcendent if you want (some Christians do say it is from god) and if that is how you interpret its physicality (as opposed to intimacy with others), of course. (But then, what exactly is incompatible between transcendence and children?)

@210, by the way -- do you know that H20 molecules aren't wet? There's a reason why rain appears to be wet, and it's not an obvious one (it's an "emergent property"). Likewise, there's a reason why sex and children are seen as an impossible combination ("culture").

@Mr Horstman, that is indeed more or less my point, yes; and what you call 'eliminating rape culture [...]' is what I called cultural change. I do think there is essentialism in the construal of childhood, and it's easy to point at examples of it being done differently elsewhere (the Greek concept of pederastia, in which man-boy relations, including sex, were seen as part of an ideal of education, jumps to mind; yet I'm pretty sure Ancient Greeks weren't really all 'broken' or 'differently wired' as Mr J and IPJ above might perhaps suggest). Despite such examples, it is indeed difficult to talk rationally/constructively about something that runs counter to crucial concepts in our culture. Indeed a lot would have to change for this to become possible, and I don't see it happening any time soon.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
nocutename 219
Do you think it is possible that you don't experience sex as a particularly transcendent experience, and if that is the case, then it's not so much a question of the incompatibility "between transcendence and children" as you said @ 218, but rather that that sense of "otherness" that sex occupies for many, if not most people, that particular quality of transcendence is what you refer to when you say things like (I'm paraphrasing here): Sex is This Big Dangerous Thing That Has So Much Importance?

Because for many or most people, it may not necessarily have the quality of danger (which is where I think we're all getting hung up), but it definitely has the quality of "This Big Thing Which is Important."

This, I think is crucial to why this huge impasse has been occurring in your attempt to have this discussion. Your position is predicated on the idea that the only reason sex seems different from any number of "pleasant" (your word) activities, is because our culture has constructed it to be different, complete with negative and positive associations and expectations, which lead to judgments free from logical consideration.

But many of us are saying that sex is indeed different, in kind, not simply degree. That doesn't mean we don't also see and can't also acknowledge social constructions and historical baggage. It also doesn't mean we aren't capable of having casual, carnally recreative sex. But whatever it is about sex that sets is apart and perhaps above all other pleasant activities *feels* damn real to most of us, separate from its socio-cultural significance.

And it appears, based on your sports analogy, on the fact that a while ago you mentioned seeing a good movie with someone as being equally capable of providing the same kind of emotional bonding that sex can achieve, and some long-ago comments you've made about being disappointed in sex or in disappointing your partners, that your experience of sex is not the same as a lot of ours. Perhaps it doesn't seem to be transcendent or at least not uniquely so to you.

Without that common understanding based on experience of what sex *is* this conversation falls apart for obvious reasons.

I'm not even trying to address the idea of whether consensual, healthy, positive sex is possible between adults and children; I'm just saying that if a disparity between your experience of the sex and most of ours indeed exists, your purely theoretical examination of this issue as one which gets us to examine the "interesting" questions of humans' social construct of the "dangers" of sex isn't going to be able to get off the ground.
Posted by nocutename on March 9, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 220
@ 218, and what was it that you confirmed?
Posted by Matt from Denver on March 9, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
nocutename 221
Oy: this what happens when I hit "post comments" before I proofread. Forgive the errors.
Posted by nocutename on March 9, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
BEG 222
Anklysaur, I would submit to you that in a sense, we /do/ have "junior varsity" play with children. When we display affection, love, respect, and interact with them via kissing and hugging, we are teaching them the start of boundaries, affection, how to relate to others... all of which comes into play with "senior varsity" play (ie sex) once they are old enough. Without the strong concept of personal boundaries, people get into immense trouble later on in life. And childhood is the best place to learn about that.

As for the Greeks, we're still discussing post-puberty; pedophilia tends toward pre-pubescent (and with that comes the gray area I mentioned previously on the transition point, which IS viewed differently from culture to culture, with many happily marrying girls off as child brides [and in which cultures they STILL do not thrive, for the simple biological fact that their bodies cannot handle the stress of reproduction yet]) AND not only that, but it was focused on the boys (quite probably because of that pesky pregnancy issue).

So it is very complicated, and you will never find a culture in which sex-based play is considered appropriate and normal between children and adults.
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on March 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Regardless of the degree to which anyone experiences sex as an intense emotional bonding experience, and the degree to which that is culturally derived as opposed to biological (it's almost certainly both), the fact remains that the odds of contracting HIV or becoming pregnant from a game of tennis are vanishingly small and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. When things are literally a matter of life and death they take on greater significance. They had damn well better.

As for the ancient Greeks, they also practiced slavery, which is entirely a cultural construct and one which I hope we can agree (role-playing entertainment value aside) we are far better off without. The fact that they engaged in something doesn't make it acceptable. Cultural values may be relative, but that does not make them equally valid.
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 11:17 AM · Report this
@ 217: He gets to it in the same way that people have traditionally scared away crows.
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 11:21 AM · Report this
@213 nocutename
I closed that account. Try me here:
Posted by Mr. J on March 9, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Corylea 226
I know a man who's attracted to children but who knows it's wrong, and the way he deals with it is by doing age-play with his girlfriend. His adult girlfriend pretends to be six. This isn't as satisfying for him as sex with an actual child would be, but he has enough moral sense not to have sex with an actual child. For him, the age-play is better than nothing at all.

I can understand, intellectually, that the age-play is a useful safety valve and that it's good that his girlfriend is willing to give him this outlet. But even the age-play makes me want to puke, and I could never be this man's girlfriend.

Pedophiles who don't touch children really do have an undeservedly hard time.
Posted by Corylea on March 9, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Alanmt 227
Sheesh, Ankylosaur.

I haven't read all the comments and back and forth, so forgive me if I repeat what others have said in this colossal thread. Step outside of yourself. You ask "Why do we think children will be harmed by sex". But I don't think it. In my work, I actually see it. They are harmed.

Is it possible that this child or that one might not be harmed by x activity or at y age? Yes, amongst the millions of children in our world, such is possible. It is also possible that if I train 10,000 12 year olds for six months in open face rock climbing, 1 or 2 of them maybe able to free climb half dome. The problem is that you don't know which ones until after. They are the ones at the top, while at the base of the cliff are the bodies of all the others. How many parents are going to sign their kids up for my course? None. Or at least, no good ones.

This is not a logistical problem. This is a risk problem. Children lack the capacity to consent. And there is no way that the party who can consent on their behalf could do so without being criminally negligent.

I know that you are a thoughtful person. I get a sense, probably wrong, that this is some sort of "I am really okay" thought process, that you think you could have handled what happened to you if it had been done by someone else in some other way. I don't know the answer to that. But we both know this is an intellectual exercise for you: you wouldn't actually put another child at risk to try to get the answer to your question. you know the score. You are not a bad person because of what happened to you, even if there was something about it that you learned to like or want.
Posted by Alanmt on March 9, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
@219(nocutename), in the sense that everybody has their own experience, and that it is ex hypothesi impossible to assess anyone else's experience of anything directly, of course my experience is different. Everyone's is unique.

The point is that you are all agreeing on one point ("Sex is Different", "Sex is A Big Thing"). Many posters above seem to be claiming the reason for this agreement is natural: sex indeed is a big thing. I'd point out that there are many cultures that don't agree (and see sex, for instance, as a means for producing children, not this big source of intimacy and personhood that our culture sees in it). From this, I suggest that this feeling -- that sex is This Big Thing With Consequences -- is culturally based, and not determined by the physical experience of sex itself (or at least also co-created by the kinds of physical experience that a given society will label as 'sex').

I don't think my experience is any less 'transcendent' or 'wowy' than most of you people's, nocutename. (I'm also on record comparing D/s sex to "angelic visions...") I don't think there is a difference of intensity here (as far as I can compare what I experience with what I've seen others describe, including here in SLOG). It's just that I tend to think about the cultural aspect of this experience -- the part of it that depends on how our society presents it (as A Big Thing, and also Possibly Dangerous, and therefore Not For Children). The basic argument in this case would be again that there are societies that disagree (cf. the example of Greek pederastia; but I could mention South American groups I'm familiar with, among which -- until recently -- children as young as 5 watching, and even being together in the same bed (actually, hammock), with adults having sex was not uncommon).

The comparison to watching a movie comes from the idea that what makes sex wowy is not so much the sensations themselves (masturbation is also quite intense), but the fact that you're doing something with another person who is there in the same room also doing it to you. It creates a feeling of closeness and connection, an intimacy, that goes beyond the act itself. And that does not depend only on that act: a similarly intense connection is possible under other circumstances. And indeed it is.

I'm not saying sex is undistinguishable from other activities. I'm not saying sexual pleasure is not on a class of its own (cf. again the "angelic visions"). But I'm saying that we put sex on a pedestal a little too much, making of it an almost out-of-this-world experience (near-religious, in a not too exaggerated sense)... when in fact sex is grounded right here, on this world.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
@227, well, you do understand the main point then, which is that it is possible. You mention certain numbers: that I am less sure about. I don't know how likely problems are (and considering all the taboos around children and sex, I don't even know for sure how you could evaluate them; the way things are, we only hear about sex and children when it goes wrong and someone is harmed; if there are cases in which this doesn't happen, they are not coming to come out and volunteer the information; given the stigma, people wouldn't probably even believe them).

People talked about the children's lack of capacity to consent. My argument was that we do assume children have the capacity to consent meaningfully in a number of situations -- say, to play games or sports. Why should we assume that, but not for sex? The basic answer was a variation on Sex Is Different, Sex Is Dangerous, and I basically tried to argue that sex has indeed inherent dangers, and serious ones, but that they are not impossible to solve (problems of safety and security have already been solved in other activities involving children and adults). Some people then got angry and accused me of defending child abuse. In fact, I was only claiming that what makes sex different is social construal: our society's vision of sex is such that children are incompatible with it, with any sex, no matter how mild or pre-planned. But this is a cultural fact, not a natural one, I think.

Others have suggested that this was motivated by my own past experiences. In the sense that you never really "get over" these things, that they stay with you forever -- you can gain perspective and incorporate them, but they're going to be forever part of who you are -- this is of course trivially true. Anyway, a rational argument does not depend on the motivations someone has for proposing it; it stands or falls on its merits alone. If indeed our cultural equation sex = Big Deal With Lots of Consequences leads to sex + children = Always Bad (so that in other cultures that might not hold), then it is true; if it isn't, then it isn't; and any reasons I may have for thinking about it don't really affect this.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Report this
@227, but preventing HIV infenction or becoming pregnant can be successfully avoided, just like other serious dangers in children's activity -- contracting all kinds of diseases in playgrounds, etc. -- can also be successfully averted. This can't be the crux of the problem: it can be solved. It is possible to have safe sex, without HIV infections and pregnancy.

The fact that the Greeks engaged in something doesn't make it acceptable to us, but it certainly shows that it was acceptable to them; which means that not accepting it is not part of 'being human', but part of 'being American' (or Westerner, or whatever cultural label you prefer). Likewise with slavery, which is also a social construct: there is nothing in nature that forces slavery to exist, only cultural norms in places where it is practiced.

Which is my point. Us being against sex for children, no matter how mild or carefully planned, is part of culture, not nature. It doesn't follow from anything inherent to sexual activity, which could in principle be kept under careful control so as not to cause harm.

This doesn't mean it's not valid, or even reasonable (especially in the context of our culture's ideas about sex), to be against sex for children. That's a different point (one that migrationist and dhawk above also argued).
Posted by ankylosaur on March 9, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this

I remember, as a pre-pubescent child, having crushes. But I had them on other children, and even though I knew (in a way) what sex was, I didn't want to do that with the boys I had crushes on in elementary school. I wanted to spend time with them and kiss them, but that was all I wanted to do.

I didn't have real feelings of sexual attraction until I hit puberty. Even then, I mostly had crushes on boys around my age. It wasn't until high school that my interests broadened to older men, such as fairly young teachers.

I kind of doubt there are many children who have crushes on adults, and even if they have crushes, what do they actually want to do to those adults? Do they want to have sex, or do they just want to kiss them and spend time with them?

I also remember my elementary school understanding of sex. I knew that the man stuck his penis in the woman's vagina, but I had no idea WHY he would want to do that or why she would want to let him. I would have been similarly bewildered by any other sex acts that I've learned about since then at that age.

And I did have a "playing doctor" experience when I was little with a perfectly nice boy, and while I am not scarred by it now, it did absolutely nothing to benefit me for later sexual activity. I was still pretty naive and had no idea what I wanted when I started having sex as an adult. So I suppose I question the teaching value of sex acts with children.

Especially when one considers how different a child's body is from an adult's. I touched myself as a child, and it felt sort of nice, but nothing like after I'd gone all the way through puberty. And before puberty, I didn't mind minor pain, but I certainly didn't like it- and yet as a sexually active adult, I am something of a masochist.

Also, even though some of our attitudes toward this subject might be societal in cause, you can't pretend that society doesn't exist. Even if a child is sexually interested in adults and has some limited, non-physically damaging sex with them, they can't escape the fact that when they grow up and understand their culture, they will learn that it is not acceptable for adults to have sex with children and the fact that the adult had sex with them anyway will at the very least make them feel weird about it.

As for the adults- a person might say that a D/s 24/7 relationship is degrading, but the submissive started the relationship equal to the dominant and chose to relinquish their equality for their own pleasure. In a relationship between a boss and a subordinate, even if the boss has the power to fire the subordinate, if they're moral people they realize that the relationship cannot have any effect on the way they do their jobs. A child, however, is never an adult's equal. They cannot consent to give up an equality they don't have.
Posted by alguna_rubia on March 9, 2012 at 2:12 PM · Report this
@ 231: The point about children being unable to give consent has been made 190 times in this thread already. The asshole you're speaking to is incapable of grasping that point, which is why this entire conversation has basically turned into a game of "but why?" with a three-year old.
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Report this
I all but guarantee that the letter writer was a Conservative fuck trying to get Dan to say it's OK for adults to fuck kids, thus publicly discrediting him. It seems obvious to conservatives that if you're pro gay sex and pro kinky sex then you're pro all sex. That letter just reeks of attempted entrapment.
Posted by Root on March 9, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Congratulations, ankylosaur, you've now done what the very first letter-writing sociopath could only dream of doing and turned this 200+ comment thread into a NAMBLA Moebius loop. And that's pretty much all you've accomplished, aside from the fact that any good will you've built up with me in the past has been utterly fucking undone. But good news! It turns out I have a greasemonkey script that allows me to filter out clueless bloviation from creepy assholes. Consider yourself permanently shit-canned. I also highly recommend you get some therapy, possibly of the psychiatric variety. I'm quite serious about that - this has been an epic, pathological meltdown.

If anyone else would like to follow suit, they can get the same script here:…

(As a bonus, it can also filter out a certain tiresome blog-flogger who keeps linking to her site.)
Posted by Chase on March 9, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Alanmt 235
FTR, ank, I was speaking of emotional damage. You can't wrap a condom around an eight-year-old's brain and say, unequivocally: "hey, it's all going to be okay!"

Like I said, it's possible that some small number of kids won't be harmed or or only minimally. I don't know why adult rape victim X is mostly fine while adult rape victim Y's whole life is ruined, but I do know there are more Ys than Xes and that among children, the ration has to be much worse. Amongst abused children, I have only seen Ys. But you can't predict anything other than that a lot that overwhelming majority, maybe even all kids who are used thus will be emotionally harmed.

Also, your societal construct theory is bullshit. Social and psychological sciences may seem squishy compared to rigorous physical and biological science, but the scientific method is applied and reliable data reported. The primary harm comes from the act, not society's response to it.
Posted by Alanmt on March 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM · Report this
@19, via 22, psychology cannot be changed, but it can be controlled, even where there are no drugs for a condition or without the help of the drugs available for that condition. I have a psychological condition, one for which drug therapy is available (and it's only harmful to myself and *kinda* the people closest to me because they had to put up with me being insufferable). I chose to learn how to control it without drugs. It's been difficult, but wildly successful. It can be done, and I honestly feel like the results are more "permanent" because I *deal* with relapses rather than freak out if my drugs wear off or stop working for me, and I know the symptoms of a relapse rather than being dependent on something that just masks my symptoms such that I might not immediately notice an oncoming relapse. No disrespect to people who take drugs for their psychological conditions, do what works for you, but conditioning and control are possible and effective.
Posted by Ms. D on March 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM · Report this
I only read until comment 129, so if this has already been addressed, forgive me.

Ankylsor, you are not engaging honestly in debate. YOU have a claim. YOU need to define the claim.

You said "maybe sex with kids isn't so bad!"

Lots of people responded saying "sex with kids is bad because of XYZ."

Then, you come back with "But XYZ doesn't fall into my definition of sex with children!"

This is, frankly, cowardly of you. It allows you to have all the fun of taking a controversial stance without ever actually defining what you mean so that WHAT YOU MEAN can be addressed.

I'm a little disgusted by it, actually, since your level of commentary otherwise indicates that you know the rules of debating a claim.

Before anyone can debate with you in a reasoned and intellectually honest way, you need to provide examples. Specific examples of what you mean.

Honestly, I have a feeling that you won't do this, or, if you do, and someone comes on to refute it, you will fall back on the No True Scotsman fallacy you've been engaging in this entire time.

For instance, if you were to be intellectually honest, and said something like: "I think oral sex performed by a trusted but not related adult on a child (not the other way around) would not harm that child" that would be great, but it would only be step one.

If a poster came on and then said "I had oral sex performed on me by a trusted adult who was not a relative, and it was far more complex than you make it out and I consider it abuse even though it felt good" will you then say "then your experience doesn't count"?

I think you will. I think you will say, essentially, "you don't count because you are a data point I don't want to look at." Sorry, but I think you're too deep into your theory to realize that you're falling afoul of No True Scotsman.

Posted by Bon on March 9, 2012 at 6:53 PM · Report this
"My hope was to engage in a conversation about how our opinions about sex and what it means (rather than the physicality of it) shape how we view what is 'wrong' about it -- like sex with children, and what it inherently is or isn't."

Bullshit. If it was, you wouldn't have begun without defining your claim. I've since read that you've got a phd. If you can get to that level of education without knowing how to argue a claim, you went to shitty schools.

"But it is indeed thoughtless to want to discuss this when there are people here who were hurt by horrible abusers who did not take their personhood into account. You are the most sincere one with your reaction to this topic, and you really make me sorry that I didn't take this factor into account. It actually makes it easier to accept the reaction of people like keshmesh or macavitykutsune."

Put another way: "I'm still right; it's just that we can't discuss it rationally because all of YOUR sexual experiences as children count as abuse, which is what I'm not talking about. But I"m still right."

Oh, and you don't deserve to feel better. Discussing whether sex could ever be something that children could consent to: awesome topic. Discussing it using fallacy and self-righteousness: now you've made me angry. Discussing it using fallacy and self-righteousness with people whose experiences you have made the subject of that fallacy: You deserve to feel bad for a long time. I hope you do, but you won't.

Posted by Bon on March 9, 2012 at 7:09 PM · Report this
queerness 239
@ankylosaur- You seem to be arguing that an ideal sexual relationship (healthy, happy, consensual) could indeed exist between a minor/child and an adult. I believe that is entirely possible- in an ideal world. However, we do not live in such, and while some of the aspects that are less than ideal can be addressed and improved, other very practical ones cannot.

It’s hard to argue against healthy, happy, consensual sex activities. However, if society made a “space” for these kinds of activities/relationships, it would not stop child abuse from taking place. And unfortunately, creating a “gray area” where in some contexts (healthy, happy, consensual) sex acts with young people are ok while in other other contexts (unhealthy, coercion) they are not may only make distinguishing the two harder. How do we tell the difference between a child who has consented and one who has been coerced? Can you imagine a child at their rape trial hearing arguments that they asked for it, or that they were willing then but are lying now? I am not willing to put a child through that horror just to make some "actually ok" sex acts (happy, healthy, consensual) legally ok (all adults & minors).

Teaching a child good sexual and self preservation habits still does nothing to address the power imbalance that is inherent in all adult/child relationships. Maybe this child would be empowered to say no, and then report it if the worst happened, but then the child would somehow have to prove that the rape/molestation (as opposed to a consensual act or nothing at all) occurred. Taking the hard line against any and all sex acts with minors removes this problem. And because the bottom line is that there is absolutely no need for minors and adults to engage in sex acts together, both can do without and stick with age-similar partners.

Of course the ideal of happy healthy sex acts between any consenting partners is better than our current system which does punish and cause harm to those who don’t deserve it. But when you take that ideal and try and enact it in the real world you find it is bound to another ideal- that the difference between consensual and coerced sex acts would be as plain as day and night and visible to all so there would never be any question whether someone had indeed been assaulted or not. That second ideal can never be realized, so we do what we can with our imperfect system to minimize pain. Which pain is greater, that adults and minors have to avoid sexual relations with each other, or that a child might be raped and then further harassed through a trial and then may or may not ever be believed or have justice? My personal answer to that question is “protect the kids, everyone (kids & adults) can get their rocks off another way”.

Posted by queerness on March 9, 2012 at 8:01 PM · Report this

It's too bad that people can't read your arguments without assumptions about your "true" motives. I've found that your arguments generally make good points, and most of the objections are based on misunderstanding what it is your actually saying. You've made a fairly specific and consistent point, although you have allowed yourself to get drawn into side debates.

In any case I mostly agree; the gut reaction of disgust (including my own) toward adult-child sexual relations is likely dominantly based in culture. I do however think a non-negligible component of it is a "natural" human reaction (i.e. common across all times and cultures). But making natural/cultural distinctions is very problematic in general, so I don't know how any of us could really know beyond a rough guess whether it's primarily a cultural or a natural reaction.

Nevertheless, as I and others have pointed out, and you've acknowledged, much of this discussion is moot given the culture that we do live in. On the other hand, who says arguments in the abstract have to be directed toward a goal? Anyway, it's obvious that not everybody can separate their feelings and appreciate arguments for the exercise of carefully thinking through a topic, but that's human nature (or is it culture? ;)
Posted by dhawk on March 9, 2012 at 9:22 PM · Report this

First, I would object to comparing a child watching their parents having sex to a child being involved in sex with an adult.

Second, the taboo against child-adult-sex seems to be quite wide-spread, across most cultures, comparable to cannibalism. Like cannibalism, there are some exceptions to the rule, usually very heavily regulated, such as pederasty in ancient Greece, or the Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan. And like cannibalism there might be very good reasons why the practice is rare and regulated.

Even heavily regulated pederasty in ancient Greece was not everywhere accepted (not in Ionia, for example), and also Platon suggested that ideally tthe teachers should refrain from sex with their young lovers/pupils.
It is hard to say in hindsight if the practice benefitted the young men (who were, btw, usually adolescents, not children) or harmed them. One point you have ignored so far is the question about the cultural construct of harm. What in our culture and time is considered a negative outcome for the child ("he was traumatised") might be interpreted as a positive outcome in a different culture and time ("it made a real man out of him").

Interestingly, the practice of pederasty in ancient Greece and the bacha bazi in Afghanistan have one thing in common: the culture doesn't allow for adult men and women to have an equal relationship. Therefore, adolescent boys have to fill the role of affectionate public partner for the adult men.
Posted by migrationist on March 9, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Report this
ankylosaur I'm going to give you some advice.

Stop posting.

Stop it.

You've already triggered and driven out several commenters. You've been harping on the same points over and over again to the point where there's no point in reading your comments.

I truly don't think you're a bad person but you need to let this go. You need to walk away and drop the subject and not bring it up again for a while. Right now you're more invested in winning then talking things through.

Please just go, for your sake and the others in the thread.
Posted by msanonymous on March 9, 2012 at 11:59 PM · Report this
msanonymous, OK.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 10, 2012 at 5:46 AM · Report this
@migrationist, very pertinent points.

I would also distinguish those two situations, but I would suggest they cast light on each other, and are suggestive of the need for more in-depth studies. (Think about how many people in our society would jump to the conclusion those kids were harmed because they witnessed sexual intercourse between adults; and so up close they actually could, and did, touch said adults.)

Pederastia in Greece was also a literary ideal, described by poets as 'heavenly'. Plato didn't agree with them, of course, but many others did, and extolled the practice. (Reading the Republic, it is not hard to see why some people think Plato was too restrictive and stifling on his judgment of others.) It is hard to say much in hindsight, as you point out, but mostly because we have so little access to how things actually happened (as opposed to artistic renditions of it). One thing we can say, though, is that it went on and on for centuries, during some of the brightest and most interesting periods of Greek history and Greek thought -- without being generally condemned or abhorred by the population. In other words, it is not obviously a factor that necessarily leads to social instability and decay.

Indeed most boys were around puberty, but not by far all. Boys as young as 12 entered in pederastia relationships with older mentors; and as far as I can remember there was no discussion in the Greek literature on the topic about 'the right age' to begin it. Those who practiced it didn't seem to be as concerned with it as we are today.

Your point about the cultural construal of harm is well taken, but it also applies to our culture. We also may misconstrue as harm ('the kid was abused!') things that maybe really weren't. In fact, I would not be surprised if some of the harm felt by victims of child abuse came from the stigma -- if some victims didn't end up thinking they were victims and reacting accordingly rather than actually being victims. (Please do not understand this as implying that there are no true victims and no true horrible stories. There are; and way, way too many.)

Consider, as a comparison, for instance, even in our own society, those fundamentalist Christians who construe the situation of children who are raised without religion and faith in a god as being 'harmful', 'barbarous', 'atrocious', 'abusive', etc. -- because said children's immortal souls are being deliberately and willingly defiled and condemned to eternal damnation. They are construing as harmful a situation that (at least for me) does not really involve harm.

There may indeed be good reasons why certain practices are rare in the world. One such practice, for instance, is gender equality: even in societies reputed to have it (like some hunter-gatherer groups, or the Ancient Minoans), actual practices and stereotypes would still be considered unfair by many a feminist thinker. There may also be good reasons why this is so (pregnancy hinders women in more active social practices, men are in average physically stronger, etc.).

These reasons still have to be understood. It's not clear whether the reason why pederastia-like customs aren't frequent implies that we should -- or shouldn't -- follow it. Just as in the case of gender equality.

Taking this into account, wouldn't you agree that there is a need for more data on the topic, and that jumping to conclusions and final judgments is a bit hasty?
Posted by ankylosaur on March 10, 2012 at 6:08 AM · Report this
And now, out of respect for each other, let's follow msanonymous advice. Migrationist, you have interesting and important points, and I feel like discussing them further if you're interested, but not here. My e-mail is Feel free to send me a message if you want to further discuss the topic.
Posted by ankylosaur on March 10, 2012 at 6:10 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 246

Maybe this helps: in health care (BSc in Nursing) and psychology (Masters in psych), we're clear to teach that children can assent to treatment, but they CANNOT consent. Consent requires an understanding of risks and benefits, likelihoods and probabilities.

So, I'm quite clear that children can't really consent to much. They can agree to do things, but informed consent is usually quite beyond them. If my nephew is playing soccer with adults or other kids, it's because his parents (or other caregiver like teachers or babysitters) have consented. He assents to the game by running in and joining. It's the caregivers' responsibility to check out the sturdiness of the monkey bars, make sure the game's age appropriate, etc.

So, if people who've been trained in child psych teach future psych professionals that kids can't consent even to simple things. Why should they be able to consent to sex?
Posted by Canadian Nurse on March 10, 2012 at 6:22 AM · Report this
GymGoth 247
As offensive as the letter-writer was, I'd like Dan's opinion on whether he sees any differences between pedophiles and pederasts? I mean he chose the words "before puberty" to state that pre-pubescents cannot give consent.

What about post-puberty minors? Do you believe that post-pubescent minors also cannot give consent because they are not emotionally mature enough? When I read about 16 or 17 years old boys who end up having sex with a teacher I just can't equate that with day care sexual abuse.

Grant it this is a difficult subject but I am curious what others think about it.
Posted by GymGoth on March 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM · Report this
Thank you ankylosaur .
Posted by msanonymous on March 10, 2012 at 7:32 AM · Report this
I live in Germany, where the age of consent is 14. However, there are certain restrictions.

A 14 year old having sex with an adult is usually legal, unless the adult is in a position of power over the teenager. So, no teacher, caregiver, social worker etc. who works with the teenager is allowed to have sex with the teenager.

And I think that is pretty sensible. It's like a prison guard not being allowed to have sex with an inmate: the power imbalance is just too skewed in one direction.
Posted by migrationist on March 10, 2012 at 8:19 AM · Report this
Michael of the Green 250
Here is an example of being both wrong and unkind. A's questions actually have been answered, but he's not listening. It's the sad process of digging in one's heels while lacking humility.
Posted by Michael of the Green on March 10, 2012 at 9:10 AM · Report this
@246 thank you for that helpful distinction between assent (agreeing to something your guardians have authorized) and consent (agreeing to something, with a full understanding of risks and benefits, likelihoods and probabilities).

Posted by EricaP on March 10, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Seconding Erica in thanking 246.

@247, I would first point out that I think ages of consent for adult activity are necessary, and am not at all bothered by their line-in-the-sand aspect. An entertainment lawyer insisting that his desired client is *clearly* old enough to sign a binding contract and shouldn't have to wait 4 months probably suspects that with a few months to consider his desired partner will have a change of heart. The wannabe adult partners of the underaged--for sex or any other adult consensual activity--are hardly in an objective role to evaluate whether the child is able to freely consent to do exactly what the adult wants them to do.

Migrationist's distinction of the child above the age of consent but the adult in a position of authority over the child is important. A coach, teacher, guardian, boss, etc has been given authority over the 16 year old, the teen told to defer to the elder's guidance and wisdom, that if your mentor suggests something that seems odd you trust that they have a reason for it and do your best to comply and open yourself up to learning. The power imbalance is too screwed up. Authority figures need to keep it in their pants, and if the mentee makes a pass note that the power dynamics are fucked up and that's almost certainly a huge portion of the pass. If you're too immature to say 'no', you're too immature to be having sex.
Posted by IPJ on March 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
ballard dude 253
So let me get this straight... there is actually an ongoing debate about the morality of pedophilia?
I'm with Dan on this... pedo's who abstain DO deserve a lot of credit for not harming children. F*cking children is wrong, always. I am not open to the idea that pedophilia can EVER be circumstance or developmentally appropriate. 250+ comments?!
Posted by ballard dude on March 10, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
BEG 254
Don't forget the pile on factor. You have one person trying to do a theoretical construct of the morality, and all the rest jumping on it (and spawning sub discussions).

It's the kind of thing where everyone wants to jump in and have their say.

I think it wound up being very valuable, because I now have the point of consent versus assent to bring out in similar type of discussions (no I don't wind up discussing the morality of pedophilia very often; in person, I'd be more likely to bean the person over the head -- but you'd be surprised at how many men want to fuck 15 year old girls and how they're *totes* askin' for it) and how that interacts with power structures. (props to @246 and to @252).
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on March 10, 2012 at 2:45 PM · Report this
I have a question for pedophiles. Let's just say you have a lasting relationship with a child, disregarding the issues involved with it. When the child grows up, are they still attracted?
Posted by aag3981 on March 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM · Report this
247 please don't start. Also please read the other comments in the thread about power imbalances and how those can be damaging in a relationship. Just because someone is [arguably] physically mature doesn't mean they're mentally or emotionally mature.
Posted by msanonymous on March 10, 2012 at 9:56 PM · Report this
GymGoth 257
@249 Thank you for the comment. I agree that the power imbalance is important so perhaps the teacher/student example is faulty.

@252/@256 "If you're too immature to say 'no', you're too immature to be having sex." I can't conceive of a way out of preventing sexually mature minors from having sex. So are we saying that sexually mature (and active) minors can only engage in sex with other sexually mature minors? I'm not opposed to that, it just seems like this gets into a tricky area.

A case in point: there are many reports of say an 18 year old male having sex with a 15/16 year old female (depending on jurisdiction). The male ends up with a statutory rape charge and placement on a sex offenders list. That doesn't seem right. The male could be a virgin and the female very experienced. Yet our society condemns this and then applauds Donald Trump on his latest 20+ his junior new wife.
Posted by GymGoth on March 11, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
257 I think there's a difference between an 18 and 16 year old having sex and and 16 year old having sex with some sort of authority figure.

Mainly due the power difference. In the latter case the 16 year old may not be able to say no without risking their well being, which is something that's less of issue with say an 18 year old boyfriend/girlfriend.
Posted by msanonymous on March 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM · Report this
I didn't mean the teens with that line. I meant the adults. Because in the case of sixteen year olds I can see a crush on the teacher and attempt at seduction (where this version never flies with ten year olds). I do not buy, from thirty-five year olds, "Well this hot young technically underage thing offered, and I couldn't say no!" Of course you can say no. "It was all the young immature person's fault, I just had sex because they offered, I'm innocent!" is a shoddy excuse. I expect adults to act like adults--this includes 18 year olds--and that means responsibility for one's actions and not blaming them on other people.

We have general agreement that sexual exploration in those under the age of eighteen should be with peers, because it minimizes the obvious power issues. Much older adults nailing the barely legal are icky but legal. (They may still deserve social condemnation.) Much older adults nailing the not-yet-legal deserve more than a severe frown.

Let us say the age of consent in a state is 17. I don't think an 18 year old having sex with a 16 year old should be prosecuted. But the law on the books protects 12 year olds with 18 year old "boyfriends", and 15 year olds being coerced into "consenting" to sex with a much older male who wants to insist she asked for it, when what he was really looking for was someone easy to override and adult women weren't giving that to him. A few poor prosecutor choices are not enough reason to throw out the age of consent laws. I guess we could write 'half-age plus seven' into law until the younger person reaches the age of consent, but that's just shifting around the hard lines, not removing them.

And of course, as an old person I can look back and point out that the guy could have waited a few months to have sex with his underage girlfriend. Nothing bad was going to happen if they waited, unless you count "she would change her mind and he wouldn't get laid after all" as 'bad.'

Finally, no one applauds Donald Trump for anything, including whoever he married lately.
Posted by IPJ on March 11, 2012 at 6:38 PM · Report this
Ankylosaur is having an academic debate about the morality of adults having sex with children. His arguments appear to focus on these assumptions:
1. sex is not inherently more dangerous than many other activities in which we allow children to indulge.
2.the "harm" resulting from child sexual encounters is from the meaning of the act (because of social construction) rather than the act itself; therefore:
3. in some ideal sex-positive society, social norms could exist that would allow healthy adult/child sexual contact.
I have not seem him refute in any serious way the notion that sex can, indeed, have serious biological consequences, and for that alone I find his argument specious. Even if you completely agree with points one and two (and they do have some merit) I submit he is missing a critical point: every culture has sought to delineate boundaries of acceptable/unacceptable sex because sex is about POWER. Claiming the power of God/gods/laws enables you to decree who should be having sex with whom. In earlier societies, who was allowed to procreate (since for most of our history sex has been inseparable from procreation) was tied closely with economics and politics. This is still true. In a warlike culture? Then your scripture and social norms will tell you to procreate madly so you have future armies at your command. Want lots of followers (or just not to die out while you're wandering in the desert)? Then your religious leaders will tell you not to use contraception (or not to fuck someone of the same sex).
Collectively. humans will be free of wanting to issue taboos about sex when they are free of the need for power, and that ain't gonna happen in any evolutionary scenario I can imagine. There will NEVER be a society where any/all sex is value-neutral; it's just not human nature. (Of course, if ankylosaur believes in complete social constructionism, he won't believe in a basic framework of biology (i.e, human nature) on which culture constructs.)
So, can I see a culture where adult/child contact is allowed or even encouraged? Of course. But, let's remember, as human beings, our social meanings are based on concepts we develop. Our squeamishness about adult/child contact is based on such concepts as "consent," which is based on the concept of "psychology", which in this century is based on the concept of "neuroscience" that tells us that children cognitively cannot consent to sex ---an act ALWAYS with some element (even socially constructed) of danger and power.This mythical society where adults can have sex with kids? Probably one where the concepts of consent and human cognitive development as we understand them do not exist. That is NOT an IDEAL "sex-positive" society and not one in which I want to live. I am quite happy to live in THIS culture, where we protect children and others who do not/cannot consent.
Dude, I think you need to talk to somebody.
Posted by Bochon on March 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM · Report this
shurenka 261
@40, Uh, STDs (including lifelong ailments like AIDs and herpes), pregnancy, and also a whole lot of emotional baggage aren't present in any children's "games". And the physical risks parents usually take with their kids are quite low. No smoking, drinking, driving, or boxing for lil' Johnny.

The emotional baggage especially. Sex, for adults, is usually laden with meaning and many people have important beliefs about who they will have sex with. Some people wait for marriage or until love, etc. Kids wouldn't understand that or have time to form their own beliefs about sex. They would be easily taken advantage of. This is also the reason we generally do not allow kids to control their own financial resources at a young age -- they'd get taken advantage of, they wouldn't know the "value" of what they possessed.

Throw in major power imbalances (adults are physically stronger and more worldly, better to use manipulation; and kids are generally trained to trust and follow adults they know) and you have the perfect recipe for abuse. I don't think there could EVER be an adult-child relationship free from this worrying abusive dynamic, in which the child would have enough independence to say "no" or the cognizance to care for themselves and understand the risks.
Posted by shurenka on March 11, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
Gou Tongzhi 262
Both of these people should do the world a favor and commit suicide. Seriously.
Posted by Gou Tongzhi on March 11, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Report this
It seems if it weren't for msanonymous, we would have ended up with 6000 posts, ranging from "what is inherently dangerous about sex?" to "what is sex to you?" to "what is 'is'? " to what is "what?" Why is it so hard for some people to grasp that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and sexually exploiting a child falls into the latter category? God, I feel like I need a few dozen showers after reading this thread. Some subjects are too obvious to be worthy of this kind of navel-gazing pseudo-intellectual blathering, surely.
Posted by Karina on March 12, 2012 at 1:55 AM · Report this

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