As a follow-up to the very short video interview of me by Janet Upadhye for Salon, a YouTube user who goes by the name of Hydro interviewed me, allowing me to elaborate on some of the things that were taken out of context by certain hostile parties. It’s a good interview. So be sure to check it out right here!
Vocativ has just published an article called ‘Virtuous Pedophiles’ Put Therapists In An Ethical Catch-22 by Tracy Clark-Flory, about the problems with mandatory reporting laws, and how many counselors are now outright violating these laws to protect their clients. Virtuous Pedophiles is of course discussed, and one member in particular, my friend Gary, is featured in it. I won’t lie: the article present some difficult subject matter pretty frankly, but I think it’s worth the read even if you’re sensitive to such things.
Apparently someone going by the name of Erica Ann has been contacting my friends and family in Facebook and sending them the following message:
Hello I just want you to know that you have a known pedophile on your friends list. Todd Nickerson. For your childs safety you should block him.
I find this quite amusing, as I do not hide my sexuality from my loved ones, and I even frequently discuss it in Facebook. Why would “Erica Ann” think otherwise? Of course, my friends and family being the awesome people they are, they told this person where to go, often quite colorfully. Here are a couple of examples:
There you have it. If you have any other plans to try to distance my loved ones from me, don’t bother. They know me well. YOU don’t.
A few days ago I did a video interview via Skype with Janet Upadhye for Salon. That piece is out and you can watch it here.
Margaux Fragoso, author of Tiger, Tiger, has recently been in contact with the VirPed community. I’ve spoken with her personally and she is exactly as interesting and delightful as I always imagined she would be. Well, she is officially endorsing VirPed. Here’s what she says:
I am a sexual abuse survivor and author of a bestselling memoir Tiger, Tiger, which has sold in 26 countries, been translated to nineteen languages. Kirkus Reviews called it an “Outstanding Debut of 2011,” and it was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011. The movie rights were bought by the acclaimed director Hector Babenco. In addition, my work has appeared in the New York Times, NPR, and various literary journals.
My abuse began when I was seven years old, after I met Peter Curran, who was a retiree and collector of exotic animals. Though Peter abused me, he also gave me praise and emotional support that counterbalanced my horrific home life—a viciously critical father and mentally ill mother. When Peter committed suicide in 2001, it emotionally shattered me. I would say that suicide in general is so desperately painful for abuse victims that I’d plead with even known offenders not to take that route. I have read the scientific literature that pedophilia is an orientation, not a choice, and that as long as it is not acted upon, it remains “dormant” so to speak and thereby harms no child. VP is committed to protecting children like the seven-year-old Margaux who could not protect herself and whose family did not protect her. I wish Peter had chosen a Lewis Carroll type relationship with me that involved no acts of sexuality and then I would’ve been spared countless psychological problems and years of therapy. If an organization like this one had been available to Peter perhaps he would have never offended against me and my life would be infinitely improved for it.
Virtuous Pedophiles is an extraordinary website where those struggling with feelings of attraction to children can find support and a community. It is here that they can form positive links with others and resist the impulses to offend against children. This website does a tremendous service to both children and parents by serving as a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous wherein everyone strives to “stay clean” and honorable. I believe that this website will do far more to lower child abuse rates than our current system of punishment, social ostracism, and threats of violent reprisal. I support VP wholeheartedly as an abuse survivor, as a worker with human trafficking victims, as a mother, and as an American citizen. We need more websites like this and so I hope they will thrive and flourish as it serves to protect the most vulnerable and precious members of our society—the children.
Many people have endorsed our organization over the years, but the ones that always move me the most are those from abuse survivors. After my articles came out I heard from many of them, and their stories were always harrowing, but what struck me most about them was the kindness and understanding they offered me, a direct contrast to the shrill and hateful attacks we normally encounter on the internet. And now Fragoso has offered similar words of support for Virtuous Pedophiles, which I find incredibly touching.
We continue our examination of some of the absurd arguments leveled at non-offending pedophiles:
(1) So, you don’t abuse kids—you should still keep your mouth shut and deal with this privately. You’re just trying to get attention.
There are people who think non-offending pedophiles should just shut up and not make waves. Of course there are. Because, at heart, some people are insecure and simplistic and hate having to step outside their comfort zones and look at an issue from a different perspective than they’re used to. It’s especially true of this issue, where people resent anyone who makes them see that there is moral complexity here. It’s far easier for them to despise and dehumanize pedophiles as a group when all the evidence that’s easily available to them through the media shows that pedophiles are unanimously amoral or selfish people. But virpeds shatter that illusion, and our visible presence in the media forces them to look at the issue anew. Or, they can discredit us by calling us whiny, selfish attention whores, which allows them to go back to believing we’re all bad . . . in one way or another.
What these people don’t seem to understand (or perhaps they do and just don’t care) is that, like anyone dealing with an extreme hardship, being able to talk about our issues publicly can help us deal with the stress and anxiety of our situation, which means we are less likely to be tempted to offend. So it is in society’s interest for us to speak publicly, and for people to listen to us. And anyway, whether those people see it or not, we are a persecuted minority. I have been fired from a good job for no other reason than that my pedophilic attractions were public knowledge (well, and members of Perverted Justice and their clones called my company’s corporate office and harassed them), not for any crimes or for being a bad employee, since I have no criminal record at all and I was, according to the store manager, one of the best employees they had.
But even if publicly discussing our issues didn’t result in any benefits for society, we would still have a right to talk about them and to publicly air our grievances. Calling us selfish for doing so is no different from trying to silence or suppress any other persecuted minority. It is similar to calling blacks who demand respect and tolerance “uppity niggers” or calling gays who openly express their sexuality and personality “flaming queers.” Just like being black or gay, pedophilia is not something we choose, and unlike with gays (at least in civilized nations), we are unable to express our sexuality at all. Some of us are fine with that, but asking us to deal with the horrendous loneliness, guilt and hardship privately, or to sit back and accept the persecution so as not to make other people uncomfortable, is not acceptable. And, as I’ve pointed out before, it is in society’s interest for them to know who we are, so in the long run, making it safe for us to come out is something we should all be working towards.
(2) You want recognition for not sexually abusing children.
Related to the first point is this one, which goes something like this: oh, you want to be commended for not molesting kids, which is, like, basic morality. This is, of course, ultimately a straw man argument, since our reasons for speaking out publicly are far more complex than this, and this isn’t even a consideration for most of us. I have gone over my reasons before in interviews, and I will address them again here in a bit, but first, let’s take this argument at face value. There’s an excellent quote by Anatole France that applies here:
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
What does this quote mean? In order to fully understand what Monsieur France was getting at, we need to understand the context in which he lived. France was born in Victorian-era France, where the class system was still very much in effect and the divide between rich and poor in France was much more pronounced than it is today. There were many homeless people, and starvation was common. Moreover, the law was often harshly enforced against the poor, since they had little or no recourse to legal defense and no public standing with the authorities. Thus, if they were caught sleeping under bridges—sometimes the only shelter available to them—begging for money or food, or especially stealing, even if they are stealing food to survive (as Jean Valjean does at the beginning of Les Miserables, when he steals food for his younger siblings), they would be severely punished. Theoretically, these laws applied equally to the rich, but clearly the rich would not need to do any of those things. Thus, the laws primarily targeted the poor. While France may seem to be praising the “majestic equality” of the law, on closer examination we can see he is ironically pointing out a huge inequality built into the law.
So, how does this apply to pedophiles? Well, for teleiophiles who have little or no attraction to children, or are even repulsed by the idea, it may seem that not getting sexually involved with kids is the most obvious and easy thing in the world. But these folks fail to understand several things about pedophiles and about children themselves. Pedophiles, particularly those who have no attraction at all to adults, are going to face a great deal more temptation than someone who is only attracted to adults, no? Moreover, they are often lonely, isolated and stressed, factors which are known to increase the possibility of pedophiles offending. And then there’s the fact that (as evidenced by the treatment of virpeds themselves by far too many) we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, and also the fact that due to mandatory reporting laws many pedophiles who face temptation are afraid to seek help. This perspective also presupposes that kids are never willing participants or sexual aggressors, which is simply false. Add all of these factors together and temptation can become a real issue for some MAPs. Those with self-control issues and very young pedophiles are especially at risk.
Yet, despite all of that, recognition for resisting temptation simply is not a motivation for most virpeds, or it is only a minor motivation among many. And most virpeds don’t even seek media exposure anyway. Only a few of us have done so. For myself, I have several motivations for doing what I do, and being congratulated for not offending, while it is nice to hear, is not one of them. First, I wrote my Salon articles for the simple reason that I needed money, because, thanks to the massive stigma I am pretty much unemployable and I have to make money somehow. I have some writing skills and a story to tell, so it was a no-brainer. Secondly, I needed to tell my side of things because I could no longer accept being a passive victim of society’s persecution and misinformation. If I have to live in such a society, then I am going to fight back against the bull pucky, the harassment and mistreatment. YOU, society, have forced me into this corner. It’s foolish for you to think I’m not going to start fighting back. I may go down, but I will go down swinging. Thirdly, I needed to speak out and self-identify for the same reason many gays do: because I was tired of living a lie. Finally and most importantly, I did it to help others, especially young pedophiles who need guidance and reassurance that they are not doomed to offend despite what society tells them.
(3) You’re not helping your case by being arrogant.
I’ve written two articles for Salon and done several interviews for talk radio programs, and I was never unpleasant or insulting to anyone in any of those. I was certainly critical of those who criticized me first (and no doubt everyone who has labelled me as arrogant would be too if they were in my place), especially in the second Salon piece. But arrogant? No, standing up for oneself and one’s friends does not make you arrogant. Of course, for a good number of the critics it wouldn’t matter what I said or did—they would find some reason to attack me. And that’s what this amounts to. Sorry, but I have no plans to be a pushover. If you attack me with infantile insults and ridiculous accusations, I’ll probably just ignore you. But I may occasionally fight back. That’s not arrogance; that’s self-preservation.
Given the fact that it clearly wouldn’t matter to the haters if I behaved as they think I should, they are still going to hate me, then why should I accommodate them? I have compromised far more than these people ever will, and that’s plenty. I am not going to sweet-talk them and roll over for them just because they don’t understand where I’m coming from. My position is clear and well thought out. And I am not even opposing society on the issue of sexual abuse. The least I can expect from others is respectful treatment. If you aren’t willing to extend that much to me, then I see no reason to be respectful back. You can call that pride or arrogance if you like, but deep down you know it is neither of those things. I have a lot of patience and generosity of spirit, but they aren’t unlimited. In that sense I am no different from anyone else.
This article, entitled How is paedophilia a health issue?, is nearly perfect. My only points of contention are the creepy doll-heads picture used as the header and the percentage that suggests that 40-50% of sexual abusers might be pedophiles (as opposed to situational offenders). All the studies I’ve seen have suggested that the percentage of situational offenders is somewhere between 60-80%, which would mean that the real percentage of pedophilic abusers is between 20-40%. That’s a significant difference. Other than that, it’s a great article that mentions VirPed, Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, Circles of Support and Accountability (Cantor’s organization based in Canada), and my friends Ethan Edwards (one of VirPed’s founders) and Max Weber. Check it out!