How I lost my faith in Christianity

I grew up mainly in the rural South, the stronghold of conservative Christianity, and while my parents and other relatives were not regular churchgoers, our family identified as Christian. My maternal grandmother in particular was a woman of faith, and my earliest memories of her are associated with Christianity: a massive, profusely illustrated Bible that sat on her coffee table (ironically, this also provided my first exposure to the nude human form in art, as nudity was quite common in early paintings of biblical scenes); a framed image of Jesus hanging in her bedroom with a built-in nightlight; listening to gospel records on the Sylvania turntable cabinet that hunkered in her living room; and, of course, watching her favorite program, The PTL Club, on television. This was well before Jim Bakker was involved in a sex scandal, or he and his wife were exposed as greedy tax cheats, but even after the Bakkers’ fall from grace my grandmother remained a fan, and she was not alone.

My grandmother was an amazing woman in many ways and I loved her dearly, but she was far from perfect. Her legacy is stained by her lifelong tendency to overlook my grandfather’s many infidelities as if they never happened, and also by what she did after I informed her about my molestation. Right after it occurred I reported the incident to her. I did not do so because I was upset by it; rather, I simply included it as part of my description of what I and my abuser had done over the last half hour since she asked me about it. Her reaction, however, should have been different. First, she told me to stay away from “Hans” as I call him—that part I get. The problem was that she also asked me not to tell anyone what happened, not even my parents. I, being loyal to the adults in my family as I was taught to do, obeyed, but I continued to wonder why long after the fact. It was only after many years that I began to piece it all together.

On the one hand, I think my grandmother’s motivations were altruistic. My father had a reputation in those days of being hotheaded, and my molester being an acquaintance of my aunt and uncle, she probably suspected Dad would react badly to the news, to the point where it might cause a rift in the family. Looking back, I can’t say she was entirely wrong. On the other hand, I think she was also covering her own behind to some extent, as she realized that if this came out it would reflect badly on her. After all, she was the one who sent me outdoors alone with this man neither of us knew very well. I had only just met him that day! For the longest time, then, she and I were the only family members who knew what had happened, though eventually the rest of my family learned of it too. A secret that toxic cannot be contained forever.

Through it all, while the actuality of it could not be denied, my grandmother had managed to repress the details of what had happened even as I held onto them. To this day I can remember the specifics fairly clearly. This is because I never allowed myself to forget them, from the funny thing I said to Hans as he was molesting me right down to the spot on my grandparents’ property where it took place. My grandmother, meanwhile, was a woman in deep denial about many unpleasant things, her complicity in my abuse being only one of them. I should state for the record that I do not hold this against her. She was a simple country woman and it was the late seventies in the rural South—to my thinking, she did what she thought was best, at least in part. In a time and place where even homosexuality was still extremely taboo, she understood that what had happened to me might not be something that should be out there in the open. Besides, back then people—and kids especially—did not talk about sexual things in polite company. Anything like that got swept under the rug.

Though she’s gone now, I still love my grandma. Even so, it’s clear to me that her religious views impacted how things turned out for me. As I’ve discovered time and again in my interactions with hardcore Christians, such denial is a hallmark of right-wing religion, and it only seems to be getting worse. Over the course of my life I went through several periods in which I embraced Christianity and tried to live that life, most notably during my late teen years and in my mid-twenties. Not coincidentally, both of those time periods in my life are marked by problems.

It was at age eighteen that I took on a babysitting job initially offered to my sister and then offered to me after she turned it down. The five-year-old girl I was sitting for was at the time the youngest child of a single working mom. Her and her then-boyfriend were biker buddies with my parents. Although I was certainly aware of my desires by then, I “gave them to God” as the phrase goes, and prayed on the matter. After doing this, I believed that God had dealt with it and removed this issue from my life. Besides, I strongly identified with people who were actively fighting sexual abuse, mainly Andrew Vachss, whose books I read with fervor. How could I be a pedophile if I was doing such things? That was my thinking. Thus, when the girl I was watching began to do things that tempted me—trying to grab my crotch, trying to get me to touch her, and running around the house naked—I was ill-prepared and had no idea how to handle it. I faced a degree of temptation I had never before (or since) experienced. I had let my defenses drop, believing I was protected. Obviously I wasn’t.

Not only had I come very close to acting out with this girl who seemed to me all too eager to participate in such forbidden games, I out-and-out fell in love with her. My head was a mess, and I knew I needed to get out of that situation or I would eventually give in. Ergo, I moved away from my hometown for a few months, living with my best friend in Port Huron, Michigan while I got over my feelings for “J”. When I returned to Hastings, the very same day, with her mother’s help, “J” called me. I still don’t know how she found out I was back. Maybe it was purely coincidental. Whatever the case, she wanted to see me. I was pleasant but explained that I was just too busy to come visit her anymore (a lie). After that I didn’t see for several years. She was about 8 or 9 when I saw her again—she was by herself selling candy bars for some school thing or other. The last time I saw her she was 10. This was at a local park, where I’d gone to snap some photos of ponds for an art project. She asked me for a hug, which I gave her . . . reluctantly. To this day I still have feelings for her. She was my first real love, and as they say, you never quite get over those.

The second time I threw myself into religion was around age 23. I had again moved to Tennessee and was living with my grandparents. I attended church faithfully with them every Sunday morning and evening, and sometimes on Wednesday nights too. I participated in a Christmas play, and even gave a lecture one night. I started working for the church’s treasurer at his used car lot. He was a corrupt and greedy man who exploited his costumers and kept two sets of books. One of his good friends was a racist who once told his daughter to bash a small black girl in the head with a rock. He and my grandfather regularly went out together and met up with poor women for sexual liaisons. My grandmother knew of these things and looked the other way, as did I at the time. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, as the saying goes. That’s the justification many Christians make to themselves for such things. Had I adopted the same philosophy, I likely would’ve wound up in prison. Thank God I didn’t.

Right about that time is when I began to actually read the Bible, to recognize and think about its many inconsistencies. It was that questioning of things I had long taken for granted which eventually led to me losing my faith, but that alone would not have caused it. I could always come back to the comforting notion that, while there were many errors and problems in the Good Book (it was recorded by men, and men were fallible), the essential truths were solid. But I quickly arrived at another problem, and it was this which finally did in my faith for good. That was a growing awareness of the fact that most of Christians I knew had long rejected the actual teachings of Jesus Christ in favor of a growing political ideology which posited pretty much the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. As much as I tried, I could not write off this trend as a mere fad, and indeed this philosophy has only become more dominant and entrenched with time, culminating in the election of a man who clearly embodies none of the traits of Jesus or his immediate followers and yet somehow has come to be endorsed by the religious right. There was all the evidence I needed that Christianity was false, for how else could so many of Jesus’s purported followers get it so wrong?

This, of course, is nothing new. Many Christians of the Medieval era somehow came to believe that God wanted them to torture and murder anyone who didn’t conform to whatever the official teachings of the church was at the time when nothing in Christ’s gospel suggests anything of the kind. Later the church broke apart, forming Catholicism and Protestantism, and then the Protestant faith shattered into about a thousand different branches, all disagreeing on some matter of doctrine or other.

What has bubbled to the top of that mess over the last couple of decades is the vilest, most selfish and most hateful aspects of religion, and it shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. It all makes me very thankful that I will never have kids, because I would be terrified for the future of my descendants now if I did. Fascism and ultra-conformity are on the rise, and I should not be surprised to see the United States becoming the evil empire that must be defeated by the rest of the civilized world in the next world war. I have seen far too many supposed Christians endorsing what would amount to genocide against a number of groups, especially my own.

That might very well be the ultimate culmination of current trends, and there are plenty of signs pointing in this direction, but the biggest one to me is the outright rejection of Jesus’s teachings. Jesus endorsed the renunciation of worldly goods and a life of service to the poor. Modern Christianity has tacked in the other direction, as people like Joel Osteen and other prosperity preachers have never been more popular. As was demonstrated by Osteen’s behavior in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, these guys care more about their bottom line than about actually helping people as Christ charged them to do. Likewise, Jesus taught pacifism, telling his followers not to retaliate if attacked but rather to turn the other cheek. Modern conservative Christians, meanwhile, have embraced and endorsed nearly every possible form of violence—not just self-defense, which I could understand, but hawkish military offensives, capital punishment (remember that Jesus stopped a legally ordained execution in progress), the violent removal of illegal immigrants, corporal punishment of children, you name it.

Most disturbingly, racism and bigotry of all sorts are coming back into fashion amongst these so-called Christians. Where Jesus hung out with criminals and outcasts of all sorts, the new stripe of Christian are sanctioning more and more the radical displacement and oppression of anyone not like themselves. Muslims who have caused no harm are being banned from entering the US, and the children of illegals, many of whom have never known anything different, will be deported soon as DACA comes to an end. Last year during the election I saw many people, including my own sister, claiming that Trump was the “godly” candidate. I was stupified, as anyone who knows anything about Trump—hell, anyone with half a brain who has ever watched him speak—knows there is nothing even remotely godly about Trump. Donald Trump’s only god is Donald Trump. As he continues to prove what a morally bankrupt individual he is with every passing day, even a great many of the people who voted for him can no longer stomach his incessant lying, hateful policies or his obvious treachery against America. And yet, somehow much of the religious right remains faithful to this vulgar demagogue, either because they are woefully self-deluded like my grandmother was or they simply don’t care.

During president Bill Clinton’s sex scandal the religious right proclaimed loudly and obnoxiously that they could never countenance a man of such low morals who would cheat on his wife. Less than twenty years later the religious right’s priorities have shifted drastically, so that it was nothing for them to welcome Trump, a man known to denigrate and even sexually assault women, to cheat on his wives often, to reject those same wives when they no longer suited him and to remarry a younger, more attractive one. And that’s not even getting into all Trump’s other problematic behaviors with respect to Christian doctrine. Clearly the Christians who were surveyed back in the late nineties were either lying or conservative Christianity has changed so radically in twenty years’ time that it’s no longer recognizable as the same belief system. Either way, it points to a huge problem with Christianity itself. If the religion is indeed so malleable that it can be twisted completely out of shape for the sake of convenience, then its central tenets, including everything that Jesus Christ taught, are completely meaningless in the end. Simple and unshakable truths do not change.

Personally, I love Jesus. That may sound like an odd thing for a politically liberal non-Christian to say, but if you examine Christ’s teachings they line up far better with my core beliefs than they do with the modern conservative Christian’s. Christ was about loving other people, including those you don’t understand. He was about self-sacrifice and living a life in service to those in need. He was about peace and love and renouncing worldly things. Basically, if Jesus were alive today, he would be rejected by his own supposed followers, labeled a bleeding-heart liberal and a social justice worker (SJW), a term that seems to inspire revulsion in the far right, as if helping the downtrodden and persecuted was somehow synonymous with rape and murder.

I’ve seen these so-called Christians on the internet explain why LGBT folks should be imprisoned, tortured or killed while in the same breath they claim that these actions somehow demonstrate their love for gays and lesbians. With us MAPs they don’t even bother to claim their will to torture and murder is about love—they just openly endorse our destruction, even if we’re guilty of nothing but fantasizing. Modern Christianity seems to have no problem embracing Orwellian doublespeak and thought policing. Anyone with an ounce of human compassion is and should be horrified by what Christianity has become.

My sister claimed before the election that God wanted Trump to be president. If He did, then it was to teach His followers a lesson about putting politics above Him. They don’t seem to be getting the message though. Over the last few decades modern conservative Christians have sold out, trading in the purity of their faith and all that was good about their religion for political expediency. They have sold their souls to the devil of politics, to the point where their beliefs no longer have any resemblance to what Jesus actually preached. When I was a kid the going Christian craze were wristbands with WWJD? on them. WWJD? equals What Would Jesus Do? I’m not sure exactly what he would do if he were alive today, but I know what he wouldn’t do: he wouldn’t have endorsed a person of such low moral character as Donald Trump for president, let alone voted for him. He wouldn’t have been slow to condemn the white supremacists and bigots who are starting to get bolder and more aggressive. He wouldn’t give Joel Osteen and his kind, people who get rich off of exploiting the faith of others, the time of day. Never forget what he did to the moneylenders in the temple. And he certainly would not be advocating violence against anyone.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am no longer a Christian. Now, you might argue, “Yes, but you shouldn’t judge God’s worthiness by His followers.” I agree to an extent. If it were only a matter of a handful of crooked and wayward souls claiming the faith, then I would make some allowances for that. The problem is, it is not a small minority. There are far too many people who have renounced Jesus but still somehow claim they are following his ways. How so many people can seemingly reconcile such disparate philosophies with no trouble indicates that there has to be something wrong at the heart of things. A decent and loving God would never allow so much hate and nonsense to flourish in His name. It is exceedingly clear to me that Christianity is a dying ember, and its ashes are bitter. Too many of the people who claim to believe in it are being dishonest. You know it and I know it. They are aware that their faith is empty, and in their resentment over that fact they are using their religion as a weapon to take down as many of the people they hate as possible before it fizzles out for good. That is what’s going on, and it is a tragedy of epic proportions.

I love Jesus still, but I could no longer abide the majority of his followers. That was the road to my loss of faith in Christianity. As for Jesus, I still have faith in his message. Maybe someday his followers will come back to it, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.

Best article yet on pedophilia

The South African branch of the Huffington Post just published an outstanding article on pedophilia written by Dr. Marlene Wasserman (a.k.a. Dr. Eve), called It’s Not A Popular Subject, But The Latest Research About Paedophilia May Help Us Protect Our Kids, and I have to say, I can’t find a single fault with it.  That may be a first.  Bravo to all involved!

The modern betrayal of intellect: why the moral panic over pedophilia has no roots

In 523 AD, while in prison awaiting trial for alleged treason against the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great, the famous Christian philosopher and logician Boethius penned one of the most far-reaching and well-received religio-philosophical tracts of the medieval age, The Consolation of Philosophy, in which he concludes that human contentment can only come from God, and furthermore, that God must be known through the intellect, the highest and best quality a man possesses, standing in stark contrast to his fleeting passions. This Christian tradition of experiencing God through the mind was the core of medieval philosophy, which itself sprang from the classical tradition. Boethius, highly influenced by Plato and especially Socrates, understood that it was the mind, not the fickle and often treacherous heart, that ultimately led one to God, and thus to true happiness. This was accomplished through study and reasoning (theoreos, to use Aristotle’s term).

This is not to say that medieval Christians were never guilty of falling prey to their passions. Certainly the Inquisition was motivated to a large extent by fear, but I would suggest that the bigger portion of it arose out of politics, namely the need for the Church to augment and reinforce its power and prestige.

Likewise, to a large degree today’s power-hungry—including not only certain politicians but also a particularly vicious stripe of media demagogue—though they did not invent these moral panics, definitely use them to great effect to increase their own popularity and influence in the socio-political sphere. In order to be successful at this, such individuals need to completely break down the appeal of reason, which to some degree restrains them, and tap into pure emotionalism. Thus, you have people like Alex Jones who wantonly, indeed ecstatically, not only eschews logic but outright attacks it. On his internet-based show InfoWars, he has more than once gone into fits of raving lunacy and glossolalia, spitting and raging at the camera. Jones, who claims to be Christian, has violated the entire historical arc of Christian thought by equating his base animal appetites with masculinity and virtue. Of course, by his own admission this is all an act. Or is it?

In any case, it’s no mystery why Jones would spend an entire episode of his show attacking my Salon pieces (in which he doesn’t criticize my ideas so much as attack my name, my face and my imaginary crimes): my first article was essentially a call for society to look at one of the far right’s favorite target groups, pedophiles, more reasonably than they are prone to. Pedophiles are in many ways the star target for fascists. Pedophilia is an easy issue to inflame people’s passions over, especially when those people have been systematically misinformed for decades and the taboo against pedophiles is so powerful that few without a direct stake in the matter are willing to stand up in their defense. It’s also an easy way to make a slippery slope appeal, thus seeming to vindicate their increasingly unpopular views on other minorities: look, if we give rights to gays, then next pedophiles are going to be able to rape your kids and you won’t be able to do a thing about it!

These sorts of arguments have little or no foundation in reason, and that’s why they appeal so much to the might-makes-right crowd. You don’t need to make a long and thought-out intellectual argument if you can bypass the brain and go straight to the heart. Fascism has always been an intellectually lazy form of authority, but in the past it has at least demonstrated respect for and attempted to wear the sheen of reason, to slyly base its moral pronouncements, no matter how skewed they might be, in the science and philosophy of the day (e.g. social Darwinism).

At this point, however, the political right has essentially renounced that long tradition altogether in favor of openly and enthusiastically embracing a new Dark Age, where reason has been entirely divorced not only from spirituality but from rightist politics. The right-wing internet is a veritable breeding ground for deliberate misinformation and thought-terminating clichés. (Yes, this exists on the left as well, but not nearly to the same extent.) The new gray and black propaganda delivered in the form of graphic memes—the internet version of the sound bite, only with even less context and fact-checking—is sometimes even in direct conflict with itself, but that is largely irrelevant in a medium where there is no need or plan for long-term cohesion of thought. Most Americans seem incapable of taking the big picture view of reality these days, a fact which people like Jones and the Russian Trump-trolls readily exploit, feeding right-wing web surfers, many of whom are simply unwilling to properly check facts, or don’t have the time to, a constant stream of new memes.

If this were somehow helpful to the overall situation then it might perhaps be forgiven to some extent, but the thing about reason is, it’s usually on the right track. Faulty reason exists, certainly, but a person who is truly devoted to understanding and solving a problem will almost inevitably arrive at a reasonable position sooner or later. The problem is, once an issue becomes a politicized one in an environment where political rivals have devolved into mortal enemies, then those who take an oppositional stance are no longer devoted to solving the problem. While they may claim they want to do so, in reality they are only intent on creating political scapegoats, which is why we have a culture where something as absurd and spurious as the Pizzagate conspiracy can gain any sort of traction.

In that light we can better understand the recent vote on a child exploitation bill by the House of Representatives, in which the House overwhelmingly supported the bill that hands down a harsh 15 year sentence to teenagers who are caught sexting each other. Child sex laws may have originally been made in good faith and with the actual goal of fixing, or at least curtailing, the sexual exploitation of children, but thanks to the ongoing moral panic we as a society have moved far beyond that point and straight into Bizarro World. There are effective measures and there are ineffective measures, but this spectrum is not a straight line like many may imagine. It’s a circle, and when you push too far in one direction, you’re ultimately going to come back around to the other. This is where we are as a culture, because our methods for dealing with these issues both in the legal domain and the social one have become measurably counterproductive.

Politicians know it too, but they are to some extent now captives of the very moral panic they helped create back in the 80s and 90s, and even Democrats, those bastions of reason and tolerance in most respects, have a hard time justifying to their constituents voting against measures which on the surface may seem to combat the problem but really don’t, so many of them simply pick their battles elsewhere and vote with the majority. I’m certain that’s what happened here, despite the fact that throwing the book at kids who get caught having a little fun with their phone cameras and their own bodies doesn’t punish hardened child porn purveyors but rather the very kids these laws are supposed to protect. It’s a first-class load of Orwellian double-think, but few in Washington are willing to call it that. Instead we’re now facing the substantial growth of a whole new class of thought criminal: the self-exploiting teenager. Congrats! Kids now have even less reason to trust their elders when it comes to sex mores, and like drug use (which is now an epidemic in this country), the very taboo nature of it is only going to give it more appeal to a group already prone to rebellion.

In the social arena things aren’t much better, and may arguably be worse. The constant refrain of anonymous internet trolls to pedophiles of “Kill yourself” and the calls for a pedo genocide (not to mention the legal policy of mandatory reporting) not only do not act as much of a deterrent to sexual abusers, it almost certainly makes the problem worse, for the zeitgeist of heavy hostility simply alienates pedophiles from the mainstream and pushes them further underground, including those who may be facing temptation and could benefit from seeking help before they offend. But again, despite what they may say, curtailing abuse is not the actual goal of most folks who harass and target pedophiles with hate speech. Maintaining a socially acceptable scapegoat on which to vent their rage and frustration is, and even more so now that pedophilia has been tagged to liberalism (nevermind the fact that most of the politicians and cultural leaders who have been caught sexually exploiting minors have actually been conservative).

Now, let us imagine a society where legal execution for child sex offenders was a real possibility. Sexual abuse is still going to happen. Ratcheting up the taboo may deter some, but for others—those who are risk-seekers—it will only provide more temptation, since the stakes are higher. And when they do abuse, what do you think will happen? I guarantee child murder will increase, since a) the incentive to hide the abuse is now much higher, and b) when child sexual abuse and child murder are both capital offenses, an offender has nothing to lose by killing his victim if there’s a chance he might get away with his crime by forever silencing that victim. Executing sex offenders is clearly a wholly irrational response to the problem, not simply because the punishment does not fit the crime but because it severely increases the danger to children themselves.

But, as is increasingly clear, society’s views on pedophiles and sex offenders are not rooted in rationality. Neither in a desire for a proportional reaction to the offenses committed, nor in a genuine aim to help pedophiles better integrate in society and give them the tools and support they need to keep them from offending in the first place. I’ll wager if they were interrogated with a polygraph, the majority of those who scapegoat pedophiles would ultimately reveal that their hatred has little if anything to do with empathy for kids or abuse survivors. It’s no coincidence, I think, that some of my detractors have actually said to me they were happy I was sexually abused as a child (failing to grasp, or more likely not caring, that if I hadn’t been molested I may very well not have developed pedophilia in the first place).

As the left-wing/right-wing divide grows even more . . . well, divided and America continues to be at war with itself, reason, truth and civility have become the most important casualties in that war. Within this new political reality, the non-offending pedophile’s prospects for being understood are poor. Nevertheless, it’s an undertaking of great worthiness, and like Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, though I may be viewed by some as mentally unstable in my own time, I reckon history will eventually vindicate me. So I’ve deemed the risks worthwhile, as I do not judge the current anti-intellectual lapse a permanent state of affairs for a country as resilient and experimental as America. Reason will return here someday, of this I’m certain. When it does, I will be ahead of the game. 🙂

7 reasons why pedophilia is a sexual orientation

This post has been a long time in coming. There is an ongoing debate about the status of pedophilia as a socio-cultural entity. Is it a sexual orientation, a fetish, or a mental illness? Is it like homosexuality or different? These questions are important, because the answers will determine how we as a society treat the issue going forward. While I am not a scientist, a sociologist or a political expert, I am a pedophile so this certainly has a direct impact on me, and I have some unique insight to offer here. Beyond that, I am fairly well-read on matters pertinent to pedophilia, including keeping up with the latest science from experts in the field.

Before I get started, I would like to point out that my friend and fellow virped Ender has already covered this topic pretty well, and I will no doubt be touching on some of the same points he made. I do want to go a bit beyond his article though and get a little more in-depth with the topic. Alright, so the title of this article should make it fairly obvious where I stand on this issue, and now I will spend some time explaining why I have come to this conclusion. I have discerned seven valid reasons why pedophilia should be regarded as a sexual orientation and will outline them all here. So let’s get to it.

(1) Experts mostly agree that pedophilia is a sexual orientation – It’s no accident that the majority of scientific experts who study pedophilia have come to the conclusion that it is a sexual orientation or something very close to it. In a 2011 Canadian parliamentary session, Dr. Vernon Quinsey and Dr. Hubert Van Gijseghem, when consulting lawmakers on the matter, both concluded that pedophilia was, like heterosexuality and homosexuality, something essentially immutable. And shortly after my Salon articles came out, an anonymous expert in criminal psychology made similar comments on Reddit. Among the most prominent of experts on pedophilia—people like Michael Seto, James Cantor and Klaus Beier—have also come out on record as describing pedophilia as a sexual orientation or tantamount to one. All of these experts did not come to this conclusion willy-nilly. I know it’s trendy for people of a certain political stripe to deny science that doesn’t accord with their beliefs, but unfortunately for them, that’s not how reality works. These are legitimate experts, and their opinions have merit.

(2) There are compelling genetic reasons for pedophilia – Setting aside the current lack of definitive genetic evidence for pedophilia (or homosexuality for that matter), there are some pretty solid reasons why a genetic mutation for pedophilia would almost certainly occur in some humans. In all societies up to about the late nineteenth century, children rarely survived into adulthood. If a child was orphaned, its chances of survival decreased even more. Thus, it would have been quite beneficial to those children for an unrelated adult to take them in. Given the costs of raising and caring for a child in societies where resources were scarce, it would’ve been unlikely for that to occur. Barring a desire to do good at their own expense, there are only three basic reasons why an adult would take on the costs of caring for a dependent child that was not their own. One, the adult wanted a surrogate for children they couldn’t have (the main reason people adopt children today), two, the adult wanted a cheap source of labor, and three, the adult wanted a youthful sexual partner.

Now, I am not suggesting that this justifies sex with children. But let’s be honest: genes are not compelled to behave according to human morality. Indeed, nature is, if anything, inherently amoral. Morality is a human invention, which helps explain why it varies from culture to culture and mutates over time. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that nature might have its own reasons for the development of pedophilia. Given what we know about the low chances of children making it to full adulthood in the past, it makes sense that a small percentage of pedophiles would appear in any society of a significant size. It also explains why sexual abuse was not much of a moral issue in past societies. In fact, their genes often had a better chance of being propagated if humans—girls especially—began to procreate early, because even if they survived into adulthood they tended to live much shorter lives on average than adults do today.

There is also another factor of relevance here: neoteny. This is the retention of juvenile traits in a species for a certain period of time. Humans maintain neotenic traits far longer than most other species. In fact, humans maintain some neotenic traits indefinitely (examples include smaller females compared to males and flattened facial features in both sexes), and these traits are often considered to enhance sexual desirability. There are a variety of reasons for this, but ultimately, with respect to pedophilia, it is really no wonder that sexual attraction to children would develop among some human adults. It’s likely a rather small mutation in a species prone to pedomorphism.

(3) Pedophilia has an emotional component – It is commonly understood that teleiophiles, straight or gay, frequently fall in love with their desired partner, but the same thing occurs with pedophiles as well. There is a grave misunderstanding amongst non-pedophiles that pedophilia is only about sex, but this is not true. Yes, there are pedophiles who don’t give a fig about children beyond their sexual attractiveness, just as there are adults who simply are out to get laid and have no emotional investment in their partners. But not all pedophiles are like this. Having encountered hundreds of pedophiles online over the twelve or so years I’ve been active on the internet, I can say that the vast majority of them have confessed to an emotional attraction as well as a sexual one.

I would even go so far as to say that it is the emotional connection more than anything else that keep virpeds like myself from acting on our desires. It may seem ironic, but it is nevertheless true that the presence of real children in their lives has the most desexualizing effect for many pedophiles. It’s much easier to romanticize and objectify kids when you only see the clean, groomed, snappily dressed, well-behaved, pleasant, quiet kids in advertisements and TV shows, but real kids tend to be messy, cranky, hyper, obstinate and so on. Also, forming a real-life relationship with a child assures that pedophiles are more invested in that child’s welfare and less likely to want to cause him or her harm.

(4) Pedophilia usually begins at the onset of adolescence – As with heterosexuality and homosexuality, pedophilia begins for most pedophiles when they hit puberty and first begin to experience sexual feelings. Some young pedophiles may not immediately notice anything unusual if they are attracted to same-aged peers, but they will begin to notice as they age and their preference does not age with them. In my case, I had the first uncomfortable taste of my sexuality at age twelve when a group of my sixth grade peers and I were talking about the girls in our class that we found attractive. The other boys pointed out how pretty the most developed girl in class was and I clammed up because the girl I happened to like was the least developed girl in class. But my real sexual awakening was about a year later when I saw a seven-year-old neighbor girl at my grandparents’ place and realized my preference was for significantly younger girls than I had first imagined.

(5) Pedophilia is not a choice – Like heterosexuals and homosexuals, pedophiles don’t choose to be attracted to children. It’s a truism with gays and lesbians that, given the stigma they face, no one would willingly choose that sexuality for themselves. Well, increase that stigma a hundred-fold at least for pedophilia. We are basically the least popular people in the world. Even serial killers have their fans, and they torture and murder people. You would have to be the worst sort of masochist to be 12 or 13 years old and say to yourself, “Hmm, I think I’m gonna choose to find 5-year-olds attractive. That will make me soooo cool with all my friends.”

Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, I spent a long time in denial of my sexuality. As a teen in the nineties I even modeled myself on a popular anti-child abuse activist, Andrew Vachss. To be sure, I was also pretty horrified by what I knew of sexual abuse, so it wasn’t really much of a stretch. In fact, I could’ve easily continued down that road if I had been better at self-denial, but I’ve never been much good at lying to myself for long. But that experience taught me something. It is my hunch that many of the most extreme anti-pedophile activists are really just insecure, self-hating pedophiles who hide their sexual insecurities by projecting them outward. I’m certain that some of them are, because I almost became one of those guys myself.

(6) Pedophilia is very likely immutable – The evidence isn’t quite definitive yet, but as the experts mentioned above have pointed out, pedophilia, as with other sexualities, tends to be fixed for life. So one cannot be cured of pedophilia since it is not a disease. Yes, in practice it is incompatible with laws and social mores, but the average pedophile is no more prone to attacking children than the average peer-attracted male is prone to attacking the adults he prefers. This myth has persisted for a long time, and it’s easy to understand why: the only time people really hear about pedophiles is when they have broken the law. So naturally there is an assumption that every pedophile can and will act out at some point. But this is nonsense. Most pedophiles can control themselves just fine and often do, which means they frequently go undetected for the entirety of their lives.

(7) Logic suggests pedophilia is a sexual orientation – Here’s where we get into the essence of the debate, I think. Bear with me because this segment will be long. When we consider what a sexual orientation is, there are at least two different factors that are at play, and where you come down on pedophilia’s designation likely depends on how you feel about those two factors. One of the factors is science; the other is politics. It’s important to recognize that homosexuals have fought a long, hard political battle to get the recognition, rights and respect they enjoy today. It’s remarkable that they have made such headway. Even so, their fight is not over by a long shot, and the critics of gays and lesbians, particularly on the political right, continue to try their damnedest to roll back everything the LGBT community has accomplished. One of the ways they do this is by linking the current fight by pedophiles for their own rights to the LGBT movement and to blame it for what the naysayers see as a future in which child sexual abuse has been “normalized”, to use their term.

To be sure, this fear is not an entirely invalid one. Given that homosexuals ultimately demanded and received the right to sex without legal interference, it is understandable that people might fear something similar happening in the future with pedophiles. However, there are some important distinctions to be made here. First and foremost, gays fought for the right to love each other. For those pedophiles who seek the lowering or removal of age of consent laws, the fight is entirely one-sided. Children are not organizing and demanding the right to love pedophiles in turn. If they were, this discussion would be a very different one. But that is never going to happen. Why? Because children, when they are even aware of it, by-and-large neither desire nor enjoy sex, and furthermore, they lack the psychological development to understand what such activism would even mean.

Which leads naturally to the other important distinction between the gay and pedophile movements: kids are unable to meaningfully consent to sex or romantic relationships. They cannot sign contracts, or vote, or drive either. These are not cruelties inflicted on kids (as pro-contacters will often argue), nor are these restrictions imposed for moral reasons the way laws against gay sex used to be. These laws and rules are in place to protect a highly vulnerable and naive segment of society from being manipulated by people who generally do not have their best interest at heart.

Thus, from a purely political standpoint, it makes sense that some would oppose the designation of pedophilia as a sexual orientation. But the term ‘sexual orientation’ is not merely a political distinction; it is also a medical/scientific one, and for me at least, science always trumps politics. Science has long been considered immune from politics, as it is a way of discerning reality as it is, not as we want it to be, and the scientific method has been perfected over time to be foolproof. It is only quite recently that well-established scientific truths have come under major attack from political factions, particularly from the right but also in some cases from the left. As the science of sexuality continues to be refined, it is important for all of us, no matter where we stand on these issues morally, that we use the correct terminology and understand the difference between a scientific designation and a political one.

Barring a definition which artificially restricts the concept of sexual orientation to refer only to gender preferences, pedophilia ticks off all the boxes that scientists have traditionally used to determine a long-term, fixed sexual preference. That this was initially limited to the single dimension of gender preference does not mean that that tradition is correct. Sexuality is a complex tapestry to which there are several dimensions, including age preferences (chronophilias), and age preference is not limited to pedophiles; it applies to all sexualities. It’s just that in the past, a preference for adults was assumed. But ask yourself this: does my sexual preference have an age dimension? The answer is, of course it does. Your preference for males and/or females, whichever it may be, does not begin at birth and end at death—your preference is almost certainly limited to a particular age range, say 20 to 40 or thereabouts. It may extend up or down a few years depending on the maturity/youthfulness of individuals, but it is not indefinite. For pedophiles it’s the same, only our preference tends to be fixed in the prepubescent years.

Logically speaking, a sexual orientation is best defined as who or what one is sexually oriented towards, and that preference is a multidimensional spectrum. Suggesting that one is simply gay or straight is not really enough information for a full picture of what one’s preferences are. You could be a gay or straight teleiophile (meaning you prefer adults in their prime), a gay or straight pedophile, or even a gay or straight gerontophile (meaning you prefer older people—yes, those do exist too). Ergo, it makes far more sense to recognize age preference as a dimension of sexual orientation since it is built into it anyway rather than designate it as something else. It may be politically inconvenient, but it is nevertheless scientifically accurate, and science trumps politics. Anyway, the moral issues surrounding sex with children are in no way impacted by recognizing pedophilia for what it is, and that is the most important point to take away from this.

Addressing Some of the Fallacies Used by Opponents of the Designation

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons why pedophilia should be labeled a sexual orientation, let’s examine some of the fallacious arguments used by opponents of the designation.

Pedophilia isn’t a sexual orientation because children are not a gender – This one goes right back to my last point, and it is ultimately a fallacy of irrelevance. (There are a lot of those in this debate.) Again, there is nothing inherent to the concept of sexual orientation which requires that it only apply to gender preferences, and there is a solid logical argument for designating sexual orientation as anyone or anything to which a person is sexually oriented.

Children cannot consent to sex, so pedophilia is not a sexual orientation – Yep, another fallacy of irrelevance. While it is relevant to the moral and legal aspects of adult-child sex, whether preferred partners can consent or not is irrelevant to the concept of  sexual orientation. These are very distinct things. A sexual orientation is, or should be at any rate, a scientific/medical designation based on a number of criteria involving the person who experiences it. External moral, legal and political factors should have no impact on the accuracy of a medical diagnosis.

Pedophilia is not found in nature – Actually, this is quite untrue. In fact, our closest genetic cousins the bonobos have been observed engaging in all sorts of sexual practices, including with juvenile females. Another interesting species that has recently been observed engaging in pedophilic sex is the black widow spider. Adult male spiders have learned to mate with juvenile females in order to avoid being cannibalized. They engage in intercourse with the young spider, planting their seed in the juvenile female, where it will remain until the female reaches maturity, at which point the female will then become impregnated.

But even if it was true, setting aside the fact that humans are still part of nature, this would still be a fallacy of irrelevance, not to mention a naturalistic fallacy. It is wholly irrelevant whether other species practice behaviors that we wish to recognize as part of that designated spectrum of human sexuality.

Pedophilia is a fetish, not a sexual orientation – Um, no. The American Psychological Association defines fetishism as a sexual fixation on a nonliving object or nongenital body part (Wikipedia). Maybe you define children as objects or body parts (at which point I must ask, who is the sick one here?) but children are, in fact, a distinct class of people, just like men and women. And, as with males and females, children have appeared in every society since the beginning of our species, so there is every reason to see them as a dedicated group to which a sexual orientation would naturally develop, and that designation would apply and be understood in every society under the sun. Contrast that with, say, an attraction to people with pink hair. Pink hair is neither naturally occurring nor universal to human societies, and an attraction fixated on pink-haired people could be viewed as fetishistic, since it is a nongenital body part (pink hair) that is the turn-on there.

Pedophilia should not be normalized – This is one of the major criticisms used not only against the recognition of pedophilia as a sexual orientation but for pretty much any sort of discussion or research of the pertinent issues that is even remotely sympathetic to pedophiles, even the non-offending sort. It’s essentially a slippery slope argument based on fears of child sexual abuse somehow gaining the same protected status as gay and lesbian sex. While that fear is understandable on some level, once you take into account all the facts, it should be fairly clear that this is never going to happen. The points laid out in reason seven above for why pedophilia is different from homosexuality are quite sound and should be convincing enough to allay those fears.

The problem is, many people are quite cynical and believe that as soon as honest and open-minded discussion of these issues is allowed, it will fling open a Pandora’s Box and we will quickly slide into a society where anything goes, including the rape of children. But there’s a vast difference between presenting an issue fairly and accurately and condoning horrific behaviors. Recognizing pedophilia as a sexual orientation does not automatically imply allowing or excusing the abuse of children. It simply means viewing it in a way that can be understood and classified in an existing medico-scientific model. The criminal and moral status of adult-child sex still would remain quite separate from that.

Indeed, such a classification would likely contribute to the lessening of abuse in the long run, primarily by destigmatizing the concept of attraction itself and making it more likely for those who fit this sexuality to come forward and seek help if needed, or to seek out communities like VirPed where they will have companionship and support in living a legal and ethical lifestyle. Destigmatizing and accurately classifying pedophilic attraction does NOT mean legalizing sex with kids. I know in this current time of “alternate facts” it is easy to be skeptical about truth and accuracy even in the sciences, but society has never morally devolved from a better understanding of an issue. If anything, it is much easier to manipulate a society’s mores and values when fear, inaccuracy and suppression of honest debate take precedence over a clear and accurate attempt to understand a controversial issue.

I’m in love!

Today I am writing about something I never thought I would write about: I have love in my life at last, and yes, she is over the age of consent. First off, I will say right now that I will not publicly identify her, so don’t ask me to do so. There are a few reasons for this. First, she lives in a country (I won’t name it either, but I will say it’s in Eastern Europe) where the status of females isn’t great. That, combined with the fact of who I am, would likely make life pretty difficult for her there, especially as she is still quite young and is currently enrolled in university. Secondly, I wish to protect her from the harassment and guilt-by-association nonsense she would almost certainly face if publicly linked with me, even if our relationship is still presently confined to online communication. Thirdly, it’s what she wants. She has no desire to be in the public eye right now in any capacity, and I completely respect that.

Now that that’s been established, for the purposes of this post and any future post in which she is mentioned, I will call her Zora. A few weeks ago, Zora approached me in Facebook and, though a bit shy and nervous, informed me that she had seen the Barcroft Media documentary about me and that she had developed feelings for me. I admit I found this difficult to believe at first and thought perhaps she was a troll or someone out to sabotage me. But as I got to know her, her story really captured me and I found myself dropping my guard more and more. And then I began to explore her Facebook page and found pictures of her. As soon as I saw her, my heart was captured by her beauty. I can’t explain how or why it happened, but for whatever reason I fell in love with this girl who was half way around the world and could barely speak English. We communicated through Facebook’s message feature, and this is still our primary means of talking to each other, though we have also Skyped. There is no question that she is real and that she truly loves me, as I do her.

What can I say about Zora? She is the most amazing, most beautiful, most awe-inspiring person I’ve ever met. She’s tough and vulnerable all at once. She is into virtually all of the same things I’m into—genre fiction, art, vintage technology, antiques, elephants. She is a pretty good artist in her own right, and I look forward to seeing how her skills continue to develop. She loves the same authors I do, and the same rock bands. She inspires me every day and gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. For the first time in years I am hopeful about my future. Of course, the fact that she lives far away and doesn’t yet speak fluent English are certainly obstacles for us right now; nevertheless, these things are not insurmountable. I do want her to come to America, and she wants this too, but I also want her to finish her schooling. This will give her the opportunity to not only get an education so that she can be self-reliant when she makes it to our shores, but also it will give her time to make absolutely sure she really wants to be here before she takes that giant leap.

Yes, there is a large age difference, and yes, neither of us have had a real relationship before this. These may seem like things that might divide us, but in reality they are the very things that have drawn us together and that continue to strengthen our relationship. As I sit here and contemplate my reality, I am in awe of the miracle that has occurred in my life. Until this point I never believed that true love was in the cards for me. Now I know that isn’t true. And even if Zora and I never even meet in real life or cement our relationship physically, I will be forever thankful to this incredible girl, as well as to John Balson and Rauridh Connellan who made that documentary, because if not for them, Zora never would’ve learned about me and never would’ve come to my virtual doorstep, and I never would’ve had the chance to fall in love.

I don’t know why life is the way it is. I don’t know why I was born without a right hand, why I was sexually abused or why I developed a sexual attraction to prepubescent girls. I don’t know why I have spent so much of my life suffering and alone. But I do know finally why I came into this world. There are two reasons: one is to be a public advocate for people who are stuck with a sexual attraction to children but want to do no harm. The other is to love this girl, and be loved by her in turn. The strange thing is, these two things are not mutually exclusive, for if a guy like me—a 44-year-old one-armed MAP who has long felt unlovable and that many people have mocked for everything from his name to his appearance—can find love in this world, then anyone can. Never give up hope, my friends. Your soul mate is out there somewhere, and he or she is looking for someone special just like you. I know it. 🙂

Great article about my buddy Gary Gibson

The UK newspaper The Sun has published an article about my friend and fellow VirPed member Gary Gibson and his wife. Gary’s humanity and the love between he and his wife comes through loud and clear. Check it out. It’s called I Don’t Think of Him as a Paedo. Please ignore the sensational headline and the horrendous grammatical issues (seems like copy editors are rare these days), and be sure to watch the accompanying video!