‘Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement, refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?’
Last week Salon ran a comment piece by Tracy Clark-Flory which opened:
We usually hear pedophilia talked about in terms of mental illness – if not evil – but Aug. 17 a motley crew of self-identified “minor-attracted persons” and mental health professionals have gathered in Baltimore to talk about it as a sexual identity. At hand is an issue deeply important to both groups: the revision of the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.
I have written elsewhere on the mental gymnastics employed by some of the judiciary when it comes to accepting either the vocabulary of excuses put forward by child sex offenders to exculpate them from responsibility for their offences, or minimising the harm suffered by child victims.
Of course these arguments, attitudes, utterances and opinions would not hold currency were it not for the lawyers who advance them on behalf of their clients and quarters of society that either accept them or give them tacit approval via a passive and apathetic response.
This week UK judges severely weakened legal rules that limited sex offenders’ unsupervised access to their own children. Judges declared that it was a human rights violation to prevent offenders’ from having this access. After all, they said, family life and unfettered access to ‘family life’ is their right – the rights of child victims factor in only as a secondary issue. Despite the rhetoric and declaration of a charter of human rights for children, they continue to have their status at citizens of equal worth negated. More troubling is the fact this so often occurs when children are most in need of protection from sexual predation or sexual violence.
In the same week, a US conference was held on ‘pedophilia’ under the rubric of men who are ‘minor-attracted – in other words men who desire and seek to sexually abuse children. The conference sought to advance the rights of this particular group of men by influencing the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to better reflect a particular understanding of pedophilia as a psychiatric illness.
The DSM is the psychiatric bible and has been criticized for its development as a diagnostic manual based largely on incomplete and unscientific data – indeed psychiatrists ‘vote’ on additions and revisions and much research has highlighted the gendered nature of the psychiatric illnesses proclaimed in the book with some disorders being so ridiculous they beggar belief.
That fact that many have been removed or revised in response to societal and cultural awareness and changes in attitudes to gender and race is a testament to how mental illness can be socially constructed and even vanish from our vocabulary and treatment as society and psychiatry reconcile certain social and cultural beliefs and attitudes.
The psychiatric nomenclature declaring certain types of sexual offenders or men who declare they have not yet engaged in sexual activity with a child but have a predilection of sexual attraction to children, as individuals with a mental illness as opposed to criminals (or at least potential abusers) is a worry for many reasons.
Why is this ‘illness’ the almost exclusive problem of men and not women? It is an ‘illness’ that has been going on for centuries without recourse to any successful treatment.
I have a problem with the term ‘pedophile’ because it can be literally translated as a lover of children. Chat rooms for pedophile advocates highlight that they do not seek to ‘hurt’ children, but it is patently clear they have no concept – morally or otherwise – of what it is to ‘hurt’ a child. And believe me in my professional work I have seen first- hand the hurt suffered by children by ‘pedophiles’ – hurt that punctures the very soul of young lives and leads to damage across adult lives.
If we accept it is an illness then it is an illness afflicting almost exclusively men and has inflicted a tsunami of catastrophic damage to the lives of countless millions of children that amounts to an emotional genocide across time and place that appears to have no end.
Those advocating for these men are concerned that the law and society misunderstand ‘pedophiles’ and view them alongside ‘molesters’ of children. There exists a problem in the teasing out of men who are sexually attracted to children but say they have not acted on it as opposed to men who say they are sexually attracted to children and have acted on it.
As studies continue to show, men who are sexually attracted to children will generally move to act on that attraction. Those who have not as yet physically acted on that attraction may very likely seek other forms of intimacy with that attraction perhaps by way of viewing child pornography or engaging in contact that might not be sexual but may well still be harmful to a child’s healthy development.
We should feel a strong discomfort about a group seeking to define the parameters of what they say is their sexual orientation and have it accepted as an illness when that particular ‘illness’ can and does lead to various forms of abuse and exploitation of children around the world.
There is also the problem of normalizing the idea that many men harbor sexual desires for children. At a time when we are battling the enormous and endemic problem of child pornography and child sex tourism, we need to ramp up our collective check of society’s moral compass on accepting, even reluctantly, that sexual desires for children are a modern illness afflicting men around the world.
There are moral, ethical and even psychological questions as to why the sexual predation, desire and sexualisation of children is the almost exclusive domain of men. In late modern society we need to ask ourselves some strong questions – is the sexualisation of children a link to the sexual desire for children and the growing market in child pornography and child sex tourism. And again to ask why these issues have the common denominator of children and men.
I worry about the gendered nature of an illness where men harbor sexual desires for children – and which research consistently shows so many men will act upon – and want this targeted behaviour to be classified as an illness. We have become a humanity that pathologies our behaviours and actions to an extraordinary degree, thus removing notions of responsibility, decency and a solid moral compass.
The 20th century is marked by consumerism with our identity linked to what we buy. I buy therefore I am, is the credo. And just as our high consumerism causes so much destruction – professionals have helped us craft a language of illness and pathology about our buying habits. Why reflect on a problem and see ourselves as central to it when we can tell ourselves it is an illness and thus another ailment in society we can seek treatment for.
Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?
It is not the redefinition in the DSM that will ‘cure’ this peculiar illness of men nor provide the type of moral erudition needed to tackle the world wide problem of child sexual abuse. It is the refining of humanity and our capacity to deal with an entrenched crime inflicted on children.
Some important observations also in a piece on the Generation Next blog. We need to start confronting the impact of this material on survivors of sexual assault.
Child advocates are calling for the resignation of chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos for allowing Amazon.com to sell such titles.
“Amazon’s history of blatant disregard and complete inhumanity toward child victims is evidence that Amazon needs serious leadership and policy changes,” says Eva Montibello, executive director of Protect Mass Children, an organisation aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse.”
Today a guest post from Melissa Atkins Wardy. My own piece on Amazon’s promotion of child abuse was published on ABC The Drum on Friday. On the same day I read Melissa’s piece which I thought warranted exposure here.
We’ve never met but like many women I collaborate with internationally I feel connected through the concerns we share.
On Silence and Taboo
November 11th, 2010
Taboo: (n) A strong social prohibition or ban relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden based on moral judgment.
Pedophile: (n) A person, 16 years or older, with a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (usually 13 years or younger).
Fester: (v) To putrify, rot, or decay over a period of time.
Silence: (n) Relative or total lack of audible sound.
As by now you have heard, a firestorm erupted on Twitter yesterday when two bloggers sent a tweet about a book for sale at the major retailing website of Amazon.com. I clicked the link and there it was: a manual for pedophiles on how to groom, molest, and rape children. It was not a memoir or psychologist’s explanation, it was a how-to manual, an instruction booklet on how to rape children. Rape. Children. Sex with children is always illegal, it is always rape. This, for sale on one of the largest, most accessible retail websites in the world. Mainstream. I tasted bile. I taste bile as I type now.
I was an intern at the District Attorney’s office and later in several law enforcement and investigative offices during my collegiate years. Right after college I worked as an investigator at a PI firm, and spent most of my time hanging out at the Sheriff’s department trying my hand at cold cases, mostly homicides. With that background, I have been exposed to the nasty, damaging world of pedophilia. I’ve seen a lot of stuff I wish I could unsee. Unlearn.
Yesterday morning I wasn’t shocked that a manual existed, as I’ve known for years that pedophiles consider their predilections to be a hobby of sorts, and love to share secrets and tricks with each other on how to evade law enforcement, groom victims, perform certain sex acts with little physical evidence left behind, how to get away with certain things to fall into a lighter sentencing catergory should one get caught, etc. It is a lifestyle built on lies, manipulations, deception. I’ve seen documents like this before. In order to survive pedophiles fly under the radar and keep their conduct to closed, derelict communities of acceptance.
Yesterday morning I was shocked that the manual would be so mainstream. We ALL should have been shocked it was so mainstream. The book’s right to be there was being defended. It wasn’t a legal issue of free speech or child pornography, it was an issue of business standards. Amazon is a privately owned entity and under no obligation to carry, sell, or protect this writing. But Amazon let the book stand. Amazon made the statement that the instructional manual of child rape was not found to be so heinous that it warranted immediate removal and a public apology. The presence of the book said that the taboo is sliding, that the concept of child rape has a place in our society.
Amazon should have standards that state that any materials propagating or supporting the molestation and rape of young children is prohibited and has no place on their site or in our society.
Pedophilia must remain taboo, and considered unacceptable in every form, in every circumstance. There is never a time when it is permissible for an adult to have any type of sexual relation with a child.
Parents and others spoke out, loudly, some in rage, some in shock, over this book being available on a site they used and trusted for their families. I spoke out loudly. I spoke about it all day long. I called authorities and media to alert them to the book and the story. I informed my parent community and that of others to rally parents, to collectively say “NO WAY we will let this stand.” My community, my parents around Pigtail Pals made phone calls, placed emails and follow up emails, they contacted and were interviewed by media, they posted the information and alerted their friends. They took action on a day when silence would not stand.
The book is now gone. But the problem is not.
The problem cannot be met with silence. For those who criticize, saying our voices attracted attention and increased sales, it did. Hopefully it also increased awareness, increased a feeling in people to take up action. People had the right to speak out against something so vile, so abhorrent that most of us became physically ill when we thought about it for too long. And hopefully those curious people, most of whom I’m willing to bet are not pedophiles, who downloaded the book into their Kindles and read as many pages as they could stomach, now have a new frame of reference to just how disgusting pedophilia is, and how unfair and damaging it is to its small victims. Amazon was concerned on protecting its customer’s purchasing rights, while most of America, and the world, was concerned over the rights of our children not to be molested or raped.
Yesterday gave marketers and retailers the message that our society will not stand for the peddling of pedophilia and profiting from the harm to the bodies of the small children we cherish.
Whether you took part in the uproar yesterday or not, the problem is not gone. Today, tomorrow, and the next day, consider an action you can take to give voice to the sexual abuse of children. Contact law makers for stricter sentencing, donate items or time to shelters, mentor youth so that there is a caring adult in their life advocating for their health and wellbeing, volunteer at a Take Back The Night, and set a standard in your own family – sexual violence toward any person at any age is unacceptable. Talk to your children about their bodies and sex, and who may and may not touch them. Give you children the voice that should they ever be approached or be touched, they be unsilent.
Today, tomorrow, and always, be unsilent.
Pedophilia festers in the silence, the taboo slides when we stay silent. BE UNSILENT.
[trigger warning for survivors of child sexual assault]
After a global protest and threats of boycott, on-line bookseller Amazon removed The Pedophile’s Guide to Love & Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct from its site yesterday.
The book endorses sexual crimes against children.
The E. book by Phillip R. Greaves, which was available for Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, is an instructional manual which teaches pedophiles how to break the law so as to avoid getting, caught or so as to attract ‘liter’ [sic] sentences” if they are caught.
In using the term ‘pedosexuals’, the book asserts that the sexual abuse of children (often their own children) is simply a sexual preference. The idea is that pedophiles are a misunderstood sexual minority who ‘love’ children. The book compares the plight of pedophiles to the plight of Jews in World War 2. This is a deadly idea that covers up the reality of what is being promoted: the rape of children.
In its initial statement, Amazon said it “believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchase.”
Yet Amazon’s own policies prohibit content of certain kinds, including “offensive material,” as well as content that “may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.”
Perhaps teaching men how to rape children and get away with it just wasn’t offensive enough?
A word about the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Here’s what it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This only explicitly refers to Congress making laws on speech, not state laws and not local regulations, but the way the Amendment has been interpreted however means that it is now broader in scope. However, rather than conferring a right to free speech on the part of individuals or companies, it restrains the exercise of certain power by certain (governmental) bodies. Amazon is privately owned, it can largely set its own limits (which it seemed to do, then ignored).
Should ‘freedom of speech’ trump a child’s right to be safe and not be harmed? The promotion of sexual abuse of children should be met with zero tolerance. Children’s rights to safety outweigh a pedophile defender’s ‘right to free speech.’ This book does more than promote, it falls in the legal category of ‘child abuse materials’.
The laws in Australia are aimed against not only “child pornography” but against the wider category of “child abuse material”. As this instruction manual for child abuse is an e- book, it could fall under the prohibition against using a carriage service to access child abuse materials. So this book could be actionable under Australian law.
Those defending this material don’t want any regulations. But in the absence of people regulating themselves, ie. not abusing children and not publishing how-to guides on pedophilia, then regulation is necessary.
It was great to see how one woman’s complaint against Amazon set off a global protest resulting in The Pedophile’s Guide being removed from the site . But that’s just one of the titles to which Amazon links. There are more here.
Some people ask, how do you draw the line in regulating speech? We draw the line on harm, and we need to hold the line on this.
Here’s my thoughts on the issue on Channel 7s Morning Show this morning. Fiona Patten from The Australian Sex Party appears too.
The Australian Sex Party doesn’t seem to have any issue with pornography depicting young women as little girls, which also plays into the hands of those who desire to abuse children. I’ve written about that here.
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