This project has been in the works for about a month now. There are several reasons and goals for this project. The main reason is that the current “spectrum” was developed by Ethan Edwards and Nick Devin, the founders of Virtuous Pedophiles, and while they certainly have my respect on a number of levels, they did not consult people of varying beliefs when they created their version. At this point, their version is badly outdated, inaccurate, and stigmatizing.
Over time, the MAP community, particularly on Twitter, has reduced their 5-tier list to simply “procontact” and “anticontact” with zero nuance whatsoever, and a lot of stigma directed at anyone thought to hold “procontact” views. So, the goals of this relabeling project are to correct the misunderstandings that this false dichotomy has cause, to reduce the amount of conflict in and among the MAP community due to inaccurate and overly simplified labels, and to foster healthier discourse in the MAP community.
Before I introduce the results of this project, let me say a few words so that I am clear. First off, no, I have not “changed sides” or changed what I believe. That has not and is unlikely to change anytime in the near or distant future. Child sexual abuse is a crime, and rightfully so. At the same time, I have long pointed out that there are nuances to who is and is not harmed by what the law calls child sexual abuse, and there are nuances to what the law does and does not allow. If you are curious, you are free to explore what I have said on the subject in full. However, pay close attention to that third paragraph:
In that same vein, throughout this project, I sought to maintain neutral terminology to represent the differing viewpoints because I do not believe that being needlessly inflammatory, even towards people I vehemently disagree with, contributes to meaningful solutions. That is why I chose to use “sexual contact” instead of child sexual abuse and “recordings” instead of “child sexual abuse material.” This neutrality is intended both to capture some of the aforementioned nuances, and the idea that sexual images of children are not, in fact, all abusive and exploitative in nature. Sometimes, teenagers send nudes to one another or share them on the internet and are never harmed by doing so. Sometimes, a child has an experience that the law would call abuse, but was likewise not harmful.
I do not believe it is correct or moral to attempt to tell these children that what they experienced was harmful, and I believe that attempting to convince them that they were harmed can be more harmful to those people. Where there is harm, there must be an intervention so that the harm stops, though there are currently no clear legal processes to my knowledge beyond prosecutorial discretion that try to make that distinction.
A Note On “Pro-Contact” Stigma
Before I get to the meat of this, I need to point something out. There is the stereotype of “pro-contact” to mean “people who think kids can consent.” However, this is inaccurate. Most who fall on the “pro-contact” end of the spectrum still believe it is harmful under current circumstances to be sexual with a child. In other words, no, they do not “promote child rape” or “think maps can be sexual with kids.”
What they do believe is that society and law should change in a variety of ways (often specific to their jurisdiction) around things like age of consent and other topics, and there is a high degree of nuance to that. In other words, some might think the age of consent should be changed to 14 when in their jurisdiction, 14 year old teenagers have other rights at 14, or they simply believe society should be consistent in how it treats people with regard to age restrictions. Yet in the United States, 18 is our “magic number,” which goes back to why I do not wade into age of consent conversations. From one point of view, it could simply be said that “pro-contact” means people that do wade into those conversations.
Some views are understandably considered to be harmful, and many minor attracted people tend to hate anyone associated with them due to past experience with individuals (blaming a whole group is a bit rude there, I think, and reeks of logical fallacies around generalization), because they blame them for adding to the stigma against minor attracted people, or because they simply find their views too repulsive or triggering. By the same token, what do you think happens when you let minor attracted people, who largely struggle with mental health issues, discuss a heated topic that many people feel very strongly about?
There are reasons the stigma is there, but I question how rational all of it is. What I would say, having now reached out to people holding these views for the purposes of doing this project, is that these people are people who have ample reason to hate me and never speak to me again. I have rudely blocked many of them, slandered them, and both intentionally and unintentionally contributed to the stigma and hate that gets thrown their direction. I have been an asshole to them. They deserve to hate me and ignore what I say. Yet when I began reaching out to these very people to do this project, many of them apologized to me. Go figure that one out.
I personally think it is possible to accept someone as a person, warts and all, and disagree vehemently with what they believe. We see examples of this in many places. We see religious groups collaborating and acting for religious tolerance, we see political groups reaching across the aisle to sponsor and push bipartisan legislation, people tolerating each other in the workplace… the list of examples is rather long and I think you get the picture.
As individual people in the MAP community, you can of course do whatever you like. However, after being treated with kindness by multiple people whose views I disagree with, and believing that interacting with them would be a mistake that would go nowhere when I most certainly did not deserve their kindness… I cannot in good conscience do what many on Twitter have done and shut them out. I can, of course, ask that they respect my views and respect that my views will not change, but to treat them with the same stigma and hatred that I have in the past to me seems unproductive and unnecessarily cruel.
This continuum/spectrum has the following official contributors: Timothy N. Fury, Ethan Edwards, Frankie, Bly Rede, Schloss, Pride. There were others who contributed ideas as well, but were indifferent or against being named.
Terms Separate From Both Spectrums
Special note: These are terms that DO NOT fall into either spectrum, but rather are separate ideas reached for different reasons than the “traditional” pro/anti binary that the MAP community has largely used. These terms should not be confused with any particular position on the contact or imagery spectrums, but should be considered as falling outside of both.
These are people who refuse to use contact/imagery labels at all. Some refuse to use labels because they believe there should be more unity in MAP communities and feel that labels are inherently divisive. Some refuse because they do not want to be pre-judged or stereotyped. Some do not want people labeling them based on conversations. Some refuse for other reasons.
Youth Rights Movement
These are to be seen as separate from the contact labels. Youth rights are issues relating to the civil rights of those currently legally classified as “minors”. The problems that youth rights tackle are related to laws that unfairly discriminate against the age of young people and it believes that the protectionist/paternalist attitude of these well-intending legislations can actually become more detrimental than beneficial for our youth. For a more broad explanation of what youth rights are, this article might prove to be helpful.
Beliefs around friendships with kids and how much that applies to the non-sexual contact a minor attracted person has with children. There are varying views which largely have nothing to do with the contact or imagery spectrums, save that some do believe that friendships with children can be/are risky and that they themselves wish to avoid it (most of this view do not go around sharing it or imposing it on others).
The rarest of the rare for minor attracted people. People who are actively having sexual contact with a child/children and believe they are consenting to the contact, and believe this to be acceptable morally/ethically even if it is illegal. Disregards legal authority for some reason or another.
Very rare for minor attracted people: People who want to have sexual contact with a child/children, looking for opportunity they may not have yet for any number of reasons. Examples: Because the context is not right, because they think the children they know would not appreciate it, because they think they would be caught, etc.
This section describes how minor attracted people generally view the morality of sexual contact with children, from “procontact” at the beginning to “anticontact” at the end.
- Conditional-Contact: People who think that the morality of sexual contact with children depends on the circumstances of each situation and do not believe that the nuances/complexities of the discussion over morality or ideology can be concisely captured using labels, but that generally each situation’s morality depends on the outcome and whether or not the child feels harm was done.
- Pro-Legalization: People who do not believe the current circumstances are appropriate to be sexual with children unless laws towards children change and would not act on it even if given the opportunity because of those circumstances, and want to change the associated laws in their jurisdiction or beyond.
- Pro-Social Reform: This is the most common “pro-contact” stance. People who do not believe the current circumstances are appropriate to be sexual with children unless social attitudes towards children change and would not act on it even if given the opportunity because of those circumstances, and want to change the associated social attitudes in their area or beyond.
- Undecided: This is essentially middle of the spectrum. People who see the merits of arguments on both sides, but opt not to take a particular stance for any number of reasons. Not the same as using no labels at all.
- General Reformist: People who believe that current legislation around age of consent or other laws on sex crime in their jurisdiction should be changed, but do not believe that it should allow for sexual activity with young children (ie, Romeo/Juliet situations okay, teen sexting okay, sex offender registration laws are ridiculous, etc). Believes more should be done to protect children.
- Anti-Contact: People who believe that sexual contact with minors is generally harmful and that changing laws/attitudes about it will not make contact less harmful, or the belief that such contact should not be sought because it is or has the high potential to be harmful to the child.
- Risk-Averse: People who are against “acting on” attraction and think that friendship, employment around kids, sexual activity, fantasy, and sexual imagery are risks that can lead to a slippery slope. They may go even further to eschew any and all sexual thoughts/fantasies around children.
Generally speaking, this section refers to the viewing of imagery and beliefs around viewing, not the production of real images of children (not fiction, as you cannot argue that “producing” fictional material harms anyone), which is beyond the scope of this section and more accurately falls into the contact spectrum.
- Pro-Recordings: People who are actively seeking out real sexual imagery of children, and believe it to be morally acceptable to do so. They may or may not be in favor of the production of this imagery.
- Legally Safe: People who believe that fictional or non-fictional imagery is moral, but abstain because it is illegal and know the risk involved in getting caught.
- Imagery Pro-Context: People who think that the morality of any sexual imagery of children (real or fictional) is dependent on a variety of factors that cannot be simplified into fictional = good, real = bad, and instead depend on the situation.
- Pro Fiction, Anti-Recordings: People who think that fictional imagery or materials are okay and believe the laws should be changed, where applicable, to allow it. Anti-recordings, as in they do not believe that photographic/video imagery of real children is moral/ethical and that it should remain illegal.
- Anti-Imagery/Fantasy: People who think that any kind of imagery or fantasy involving children is immoral and should be avoided.
As you can see, there is nuance to these. For example, like Ethan Edwards, some take the “legally safe” view but are anti-contact. And of course, it is possible for someone to hold “pro-contact” views while believing that viewing real imagery of children is wrong, or even struggle with viewing said material. For that very reason, the imagery spectrum and the contact spectrum are separate. It is likewise possible for people to act in particular ways that may be incongruent with their beliefs. Views can and do change over time, with or without outside interference.
For example, someone who has previously held pro-contact beliefs, abused a child, and/or viewed real sexual imagery may then decide to become anti-contact and hold more moderate views towards imagery that allow fiction but not recordings. Likewise, someone who once held anti-contact beliefs may decide to change their views without any external interference at all. The varying beliefs are not as simple as two extremes, there is a spectrum and most people do not fall at one extreme end of it or the other. Think of it like a bell curve:
The lines here are blurred and not simple, and part of my overall goal in this project has been to demonstrate that trying to label and categorize people, particularly in a hateful, spiteful, or dehumanizing way is simply not productive to civilized conversation. It is here where the real work begins. This project is not complete simply by writing a blog post.
The work requires your participation to be complete, to use these terms and speak up when people attempt to oversimplify them. The completion of this project requires intentionality, and a willingness to internalize these new labels as the new standard. I fully expect that one day, another minor attracted person will come along behind me and do this again with more terms and more nuance, and perhaps one day we can stop bickering over who believes what and simply get to work on the real issue: The hatred that gets flung at us for having an attraction we had no choice in. I think working on that issue starts with the hate we fling at one another.