A lot has been made by right-wing hatemongers about my history of flip-flopping with respect to the contact issue. It’s true; I have vacillated a bit on this issue, in my early to mid-30s especially. However, for the most part over the last ten years or so—basically ever since I first joined the Girl Chat forum back in ’04—I have been mostly in the anti-contacter camp. In fact, you can read my entire posting history at what used to be the Debates Unlimited forum (now called Intelligent Debate) by using the search function and searching my old username: Markaba 2.0. It would take you quite a long time to get through it all because I was a prolific poster and got involved in a lot of discussions in-depth. Not all of them were about pedophilia, obviously, but my longer debates usually touched on it in some way. If you searched it thoroughly, you would discover that within a few months of joining I became an anti-contacter and stayed that way pretty much the rest of the time I was there, which was right up until it became defunct in early 2013.
Now, we can quibble about what ‘anti-contacter’ really means and whether I fully met that condition, as I remained flexible on the idea of lowering the age of consent down to 14, and I was—and still am—in favor of some of the ideas presented by Dr. Robert Epstein in his excellent book Teen 2.0. But there is a vast difference between a 4-year-old and a 14-year-old, you have to admit. Anyway, I have since renounced this view; I am no longer in favor of lowering age of consent at all. In fact, I really don’t even view it as a relevant issue to me anymore. It is not where my fight lies. I will leave the age of consent issue to non-pedophilic experts to hammer out, and I am perfectly satisfied with whatever the status of this issue is. It isn’t like it is ever going to affect my life anyway. If age of consent laws were dropped tomorrow, I would still think it was wrong for adults to have sex with prepubescent children, which is the heart of my orientation, and I would resist it.
It may seem questionable to people who have been accustomed to looking at this issue from a simplistic black & white perspective, but the fact is, this stuff is complicated. There are a lot of nuances and gray areas. Read, for example, Heather Corinna’s essay Rage of Consent, which features quotes from a number of people who experienced positive sexual relationships (as teenagers) with adults, as well as some who didn’t. So, yes, better safe than sorry. I get it! But that does not simplify this issue in the slightest. Corinna makes a lot of good points in her essay, points which the pro-contacters often make themselves.
Because of the severe taboo, and the obvious selfish nature of the pro-contacters’ ultimate goal, I think there’s a tendency for the average person to reject everything they say. I understand that, but the problem is, on a lot of this stuff, they are right. The contact issue is incredibly complex. There are some good arguments on both sides, and a lot of bad ones on both sides. These distinctions are important, and there are real consequences for the way this issue plays out. One thing the pro-contacters are almost certainly right about is that the severity of society’s taboo really does make things worse for victims and survivors of abuse all too often. Charlotte Shane, a former sex worker who was raped a few times throughout her career, makes this point much better than I could in her article Live Through This. Although her thesis was made with regard to the rape of adults, it applies just as much to underage victims of sexual abuse. Society’s attitudes do have an effect on the way we ultimately process these events.
Now, I do not believe this justifies the removal of age of consent laws; this is where I part company with the pro-contacters. It does, however, warrant a long-needed reevaluation of how we as a society handle and react to these things. I agree with Shane: I think currently society almost demands that victims of sexual abuse feel horribly traumatized by any and all sexual abuse, regardless of its actual severity or the circumstances in which it occurs, for the rest of their lives. Apparently, for minors to be sexually abused is for them to suffer a fate worse than death, no exceptions, even if the minor is the sexual aggressor and enjoyed the experience.
This point is perfectly exemplified in the 2011 film God Bless America, when the middle-aged protagonist Frank Murdoch has a conversation with the teenage Roxy. Murdoch has begun a killing spree at this point, and Roxy has readily taken up with him. At one point Roxy mentions having sex with Frank, the prospect of which clearly creeps him out. Earlier he had nearly shot the girl to death, and Roxy asks him something to the effect of, “You mean you’d rather murder me than have sex with me?” To which Frank, having considered it for a second, confidently exclaims, “Yes,” as if it should be obvious to everyone. Keep in mind that Roxy was the one who tried to seduce Frank here, not the other way around.
The film thus suggests that murdering teens is actually morally superior to having sex with them, even if the teen engages willingly. I realize the film is satire, but satire is no good if it doesn’t make some astute observations about society, and unfortunately, this sort of view is not uncommon, even for adult rape victims: better off dead than raped or abused. That’s the going perspective. As a victim of molestation myself and a staunch activist against all forms of violence against children, I find this position to be horrific. Go figure. But it’s clear to me that it’s what a lot of people want to believe, whether true or not. It makes it so much easier for them to have a decisive view on the matter, and they need not think about it anymore beyond that.
Meanwhile, too many victims are suffering needlessly because they have come to believe this claptrap that sexual abuse always causes terrible lifelong trauma, and that recovery from that trauma is an uphill battle, if not outright impossible. Society is apparently perfectly fine with allowing victims—the people they claim to be sympathetic with here—to suffer, as long as people can continue to hold on to this precious delusion. Believe me, when the smoke of the extant moral panic finally clears, society will have much to answer for. But I can make this point without having to rely on the pro-contacter gibberish that usually goes with it. I know that now, but years ago this point was at the apex of my dilemma with respect to settling on a side in the pro-contact/anti-contact debate. But there are plenty of other reasons not to allow adults to have sex with kids without buying 100% into the troubling status quo position of absolutely terrible and inescapable trauma for all survivors.
So, I say to you society, and I do so with the utmost respect for you and for the sensitive nature of this issue: please get a grip. Deep down most of you know that this has gotten way out of hand. One reason so many pedophiles get sucked into the pro-contact movement for so long is that it is rather obvious to them that the views of too many non-pedophiles on the topics of pedophilia and sexual abuse are almost cartoonishly simplistic and often demonstrably incorrect. I am not saying this to be insulting, but rather to wake you up to the truth. Not only does the severe polarization cause lonely, confused pedophiles like my former self to choose the wrong side, it very likely causes needless trauma to victims. That troubles me deeply, and it should you too. I finally saw the light, but it could have gone the other way. Let’s respect both sides of this debate and give it the thoughtful, level-headed hearing it deserves. Give it some thought.