Warning: If you are a minor attracted person, the ideas in this article will likely be upsetting and validating at the same time, particularly if you struggle with depression. Please take care of yourself before reading.
If you are not a minor attracted person, this article is incredibly important, but will require you to slowly and carefully read what I am about to say. It comes from a framework that is very different from yours, and I strongly urge you to take the 20 minutes to listen.
Are you familiar with the game Assassin’s Creed? The Assassin Order pushes freedom, and their creed is, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” The game further explains, “To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.”
In the series, their opposites are the Templar Order, which seek to use fear and manipulation to control what the public believes. My point in bringing it up is that as we near the end of a decade, we are seeing an ideological war along very similar lines play out across the entire world on a number of different politically and emotionally charged issues.
I think that ideological war extends to minor attracted people, and has been going on for over fifty years. How I came to that conclusion is not simple, but I believe it is connected to how we can be more effective in protecting children from child sexual abuse. This conclusion includes evidence and arguments from many sources, and I did not have time to include all of them here.
Premises Of My Argument
Before I go on, I must outline a few basic assumptions I am making that most people may not be familiar with. I could write more to provide research to support them, but they are not the main point here. My assumptions are these:
- The current criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed and often perpetuates harm and increases harm instead of increasing public safety.
- The war on drugs is one illustration of this: People are penalized merely for possessing an item that, when used, has the potential to cause harm to the health of the user and the potential to cause harm to others. Drugs are a public health issue.
- The war against sex workers is another illustration: People (primarily women and people of color) who engage in consensual sexual activity are criminalized and arrested. Police and organizations that seek to “end human trafficking” or address so-called “sex trafficking” are in effect arresting sex workers/prostitutes and often wind up charging so-called “victims” under this war on sex trafficking narrative.
With those assumptions in mind, let us continue.
Child Pornography And Labels
I have come to call “child pornography” by a more accurate label: Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) or sexually harmful imagery because a child was abused in the production of such material. Not all images labeled as “child pornography” are actually abusive or harmful (such as a teen that sends a nude to their significant other and gets charged with distributing child pornography, and yes, that actually happens), and some even use the term “child pornography” to mean images or even written texts that are 100% fictional and do not involve real children in any way. Some organizations have proposed “child sexual exploitation material” or CSEM and this is a term I have previously used as well. However, this term seems to be adopted by organizations that seek to outlaw fictional material, and that is why I have ceased using it.
It is no big secret that the majority of people convicted of having child sexual abuse material are people who have a sexual attraction to minors. That is another premise, and while there is no concise scientific study or article I can point at to, it is considered common knowledge among the literature and programs who work in this area.
Before I go any further, I want to be 100% clear on what my view is: I believe that people viewing child sexual abuse material are harming themselves because viewing such material can easily lead to enabling thoughts and ideas that can push people into riskier and riskier situations that can ultimately lead to the abuse of a child. I also believe that people who view this material are struggling, and that their viewing, much like drug use, is a coping mechanism to deal with stress or a situation that has nothing to do with sex. None of what I am about to say changes that possession is harmful in any way, shape, or form.
Where Is The Harm?
In MAP Support Club, we recently had a member bring up a series of blog posts that Ethan Edwards (one of the founders of Virtuous Pedophiles) did on child pornography. Much of what he has to say forms some of the basis for the territory I am about to carefully wade into. In particular, look at an excerpt from this post:
“Man to therapist: “I feel kind of bad. There was this woman Mary who was on the team making the sales pitch to us last week. I was in the audience and she never saw me, but she was just one very hot woman. And three times since then, at night, I’ve, well, masturbated thinking about her. And I feel sure she can just tell I’m doing it, I feel like I’m degrading her — I mean really, she KNOWS I’m thinking about her sexually without permission.”
Therapist: “You can reflect on what sexual fantasies make YOU feel bad, but one thing we know is that she does NOT know you are thinking about her sexually. She’s 3,000 miles away.”
Man to therapist: “I have this video I shouldn’t have — it was stuck in with this big batch of ordinary porn I downloaded for free. It’s a girl — she’s like 12, and she’s naked, and she’s playing with herself between the legs. She looks like she’s enjoying it, but I know that’s a lie and someone made her do it. I just know she could tell I was looking at her and getting a little aroused. It was like I was abusing her all over again.”
Therapist: “I should say so! Of course she could tell! Every time a man looks at a picture of child abuse images, he IS abusing her all over again. It’s just as if you were right there beside her making her do it! You abused her — you personally did it!””
My background is primary/secondary prevention, and again, the idea that viewing child sexual abuse material is wrong. This post floored me. Even with all of my familiarity with prevention and addressing sexual harm, I have nothing with which I can counter his point beyond pointing to the harm that viewing does and can do to the person viewing it. That is not the same thing as saying an image is inherently harmful by existing on the internet, which is Ethan’s main point that you can read if you are interested.
To continue, Earl Yarington in October pointed out that someone who did extremely heinous things is about to be released from an 18-month prison sentence, and that the sentence is not at all fair. I tend to agree with Mr. Yarington, who proposed several suggestions, but one being that going after people simply for possessing an image makes no sense when there are bigger and more traumatic harms out there, such as the production of these harmful images (child sexual abuse) and the distribution and re-distribution of it.
I have commented on how Stop It Now! UK & Ireland runs advertisements that are fear based. The police narrative on illegal images seems to be, “It does not matter what technology you use, we will find out that you were looking and we will track you down and arrest you.” Mostly, nobody questions this narrative, and the news about people who are caught in these big code-named investigations run the gamut of backgrounds: Other cops, doctors, lawyers, teachers, teenagers… anyone. Often, the word pedophile is thrown around. Most arrested are men. Yet if you cross-reference some of this with what is being reported about how illegal images are so prevalent on the internet, you realize that what this means is that there are millions and millions of people around the world who are viewing these images.
I think the propaganda is not really intended to keep children safe. That is probably one of the most controversial points I can make, calling it propaganda and suggesting it is ineffective. Arresting someone for looking at a picture or video is exactly like arresting someone for drug possession. You just did a double-take. Allow me to explain.
We can all agree that snorting heroin or shooting up meth is an incredibly harmful choice and needs intervention and support to stop, but with possession of harmful images, they are turning to those things because of some struggle in their life, or do not know that the content is illegal, or there are some teens caught up in an abusive criminal justice system superseding the intent of child pornography laws. In any case, they would be better helped by a diversion program and competent therapy, not a financial penalty, losing their job, losing their living arrangement, and spending years in prison or on probation. Those things simply do not reform most people and send many right back to prison on a technical violation.
It is propaganda for one simple reason: If there are so many people viewing these images, then it is completely impractical to expect that jailing all of these people is even possible from a law enforcement/corrections resource standpoint, let alone the fact that there are far worse things like murder, child abuse, rape, etc that the police need to be spending their time combating.
Using the above story from Mr. Yarington, someone who not only distributed harmful sexual images, but was involved in encouraging people to produce over 110,000 new images. Those are the people that rightfully warrant police attention, and focusing on those who merely view or possess these images by comparison – along with the fact that both the US FBI and law enforcement in Australia have been known to distribute these images themselves shows that punishing people for possession makes little to no sense when it comes to protecting children.
Again, it is not my desire to question the immorality of viewing harmful sexual images of children, as I do believe that viewing those images is still at the very least harmful to the person viewing them. I still believe such viewing is wrong. I believe that people who abuse drugs and alcohol are also making the wrong choices. But I no longer believe that caging people is a real solution to these harms, and I think the people who are abusing or exploiting children by producing and distributing these images are doing something far, far worse than anyone who views or downloads them. I believe a better solution is giving people the social and mental health support they need to make better choices when they are ready to make those better choices.
I must pause here briefly to point out that this is operating from a flawed framework, namely:
- The assumption that most who sexually abuse children directly are minor attracted people (this is untrue)
- The assumption that most who view sexual images of children – real or fictional – go on to become at-risk for sexually abusing a child.
In other words, the facts that has formed the basis for the narrative condemning child pornography possession (again, I believe production and distribution are far more serious matters) are not facts at all, but assumptions not supported by objective research.
Carrying Those Ideas Forward
It is here that I can reintroduce the conclusion of this post: An ideological war on minor attracted people. You hear of the war on drugs really being a war on people of color and the poor, and there are a great many examples of rich and famous people having known problems with drugs and alcohol. R. Kelly was recently exposed for sexually abusing and raping young girls, Elvis died of a drug overdose along with many other celebrities (Heath Ledger to name just one more).
Yet with people of color, especially native and black people, or people who are relatively poorer… they do not have those resources. They do not get fancy programs that help them throughout the process of becoming sober, they get handcuffs, cages, and “drug court.” Of course, the state of healthcare in America is more broadly a huge problem as well, as this short video shows.
In short, there is a disturbing human-wide trend of marginalizing and shunning people merely for being different, poor, etc. That is where I want to go with the rest of this, and that is what drives my conclusion.
What A Minor Attracted Person Faces
When a minor attracted person realizes their attractions, they will come to realize that they are somewhere on a spectrum. At one end, those totally exclusive with zero attraction to adults, and at the other, non-exclusive and their minor attraction is secondary and only comes up every now and then. No matter where someone falls on the spectrum, that will basically be their reality for the rest of their life. There is no way to change sexual attraction that we know of. It is unethical to kill or imprison people for having feelings they never chose. Some marry, some do not, some find love, many do not. The existence that a minor attracted person faces is not one that most people would choose for themselves, and indeed nobody chooses who they are attracted to.
This leads me to sexual outlets, which is a controversial topic that many minor attracted people would rather avoid so as to not anger people or gross them out. This is valid, but it does not really address an important issue that does need attention if we are going to keep children safe.
As I pointed out in my post at Prostasia Foundation’s forum, coming by fictional materials depicting children – whether through text-based erotica or cartoons – is not easy. I am well-connected and know of only about 4-5 places where I could go to get such materials. I am lucky enough to be married, many minor attracted people are not that lucky. Many child protection organizations likewise think that fictional materials should be illegal, and many countries do make it illegal, such as France, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
On top of that, real images depicting any sort of child nudity immediately causes a moral panic. Even some bathtub picture shared on Facebook, can we really argue that the harm of posting it was so egregious that we need to confiscate someone’s computer or feel that we should be outraged that someone shared it? Of course images and videos of child sexual abuse are bad, and we should go after the people who are making and distributing these images so that the children involved can get support.
Unsettling New Intelligence
When I posted my thoughts in Prostasia Foundation’s forum, I thought I was onto something from a child protection standpoint: If we can increase the number of fictional materials available for people, abusing real kids and looking for real images becomes less attractive as an outlet for most people. Why? Because the so-called “children” are fictional! Fewer ethical connundrums to face!
Well, I had a few people reach out to me anonymously. They said that if you have ever gone looking for sexually harmful images, you come to find out that those are much easier to come by than fictional materials. When I combine that tidbit of intelligence – which I am not at all inclined to verify and do not want to know the details of – with some of what Ethan said about child pornography, the research he presents, and the questions he asks, other critiques of the subject, and the political nature of child sexual abuse prevention, I am left with one very disturbing and depressing theory. I could have written several more pages to build up the basis for my theory and give evidence, but I wanted to keep this at least vaguely readable to most people.
One Utterly Depressing Theory
That theory is that most of society has waged a war against the existence of minor attracted people through a variety of means, including the war on any sort of imagery, real or fictional, that depicts children in sexual situations. My theory is that society has done its very best, at a coordinated level, based on a flawed framework they believe to be factual, to attempt to drive minor attracted people into silence and the fringes of society so that our existence becomes painful enough that we end it on our own terms or so they can justify doing it to us.
My theory is that minor attracted people are not just a misunderstood population of people, but that we are presently at war against an enemy that seeks to stamp us out of existence in the same way that sex workers are presently at war with a system that criminalizes their own bodily autonomy (I am not speaking of the bodily autonomy of children, just to be clear), in the same way that drug users are at war with a system that takes advantage of their struggle with drugs to cause more harm to our society.
When you view the common struggles of minor attracted people through this theory, those common struggles start to make sense. It makes sense why anti-contact communities like MAP Support Club need to have a rule banning conversations about sexual activity with children being fundamentally okay, because that is a very heated topic that most people do not want to discuss. It makes sense why minor attracted people would give anything to no longer be attracted to children, because they are surrounded by a society who hates their very existence and does everything in its vast power to make sure that we know we are hated. It makes sense why people want to avoid fighting for change, because being in that fight takes energy and it already takes energy to exist in a society where your very existence is being threatened from all sides.
I get it. Minor attraction is something that most people do not want to understand and for good reason. But not understanding us and not allowing us to exist by taking away every single outlet we have for our attractions, even if it is completely fictional, and putting us in cages is no longer an option. You cannot change our sexual attractions by caging us, by beating us, or by trying to isolate us from society. If there is one thing the New York Times article got right, it is that technology and law enforcement are not able to address the problem of sexually harmful images being available online. That simply is a losing battle.
Why? Because we cannot delete the internet. That is simply not going to happen at this point. Because we cannot just stop using technology that encrypts communication. From a security standpoint, that would be a complete fiasco. Trying to prevent humanity from going to places that are harmful is simply a losing battle too, and it is becoming increasingly clear at a broad level that educating people about the harmful effects of various actions and giving them the tools to make good, healthy decisions is far more effective than trying to ban things or make them so illegal that people end up in a cage for years. When you make something illegal, you make it hidden, and child sexual abuse is already a very hidden problem that few people are willing to try and tackle.
I am not, of course, suggesting that these images should be legal, though apparently the ACLU does on privacy grounds, according to Ethan. I am not suggesting that there should be nothing in place for people who view these images – quite the opposite, I applaud programs that seek to help people who struggle with viewing harmful images and wish that those programs were the solution for people today.
We need to bring these problems into the light where people can see the harm, see the damage to themselves and others, and make better choices – before they decide to go looking for harmful material in the first place. I used to be one of the people arguing the “rule of law” line, that if we do not have rules by which society lives by and uphold these rules, chaos results. However, now I wonder if the rules need to be more focused on solving the human element in harm and trauma than they are in bringing more harm and trauma to an already traumatic and harmful situation.
To add to that, I feel I must point out something. This is the same systemic coordination of dehumanizing propaganda that Nazis began with towards Jews (if you are not familiar with their process, please read more about it). The Nazis did not stop with Jews. They executed the disabled, the homosexuals, Poles, Romanians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, religious minorities, dissenters, prisoners of war… anyone society did not like or they did not like. This is historical fact. If adult-attracted people do not stand up for minor attracted people, if minor attracted people do not stand up for themselves, we will see a second Holocaust, then a third, then a fourth, and so on. Hating any group of people gives rise to genocide eventually. Notice all of the steps that come prior to actually exterminating a group of people:
I for one believe that this theory is sound and is demonstrated by evidence many people do not care to see. I do not know how much this will resonate with other minor attracted people, or what the views on this will be from programs that seek to take a saner approach to issues of preventing sexual abuse.
What I do know is that if my theory is true, I will spend every single ounce of energy that I have fighting for a future in which that war comes to an end and minor attracted people are afforded the same respect as anyone else who struggles with something. I am not a demon for being attracted to minors. Society is wrong for trying to cancel me out of existence for something I never chose for myself, and I refuse to fault myself for existing, and I will not apologize for any discomfort people feel about my existence.
Of course, hypothetically, you cannot fight a war against stigma if you are too busy warring among yourselves. You can try, and learn the hard way that you make yourself look ridiculous in the process like I did, or you can do something more productive with your time and build alliances instead of conflict. One of the oldest military strategies in the book is “Divide and conquer.”