Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paedophilia and 'male whining'

It's something that's rarely focussed on, but men, in general, really are whiners about anything which even slightly impinges upon them in a society which is still, on the whole, biased towards them, not against them. We still have a long way to go to reach gender equality, yet the way many men talk, you would think that the whole of society was matriarchal, pro-woman and man-hating, that the police were ready to arrest men for rape and paedophilia for so much as looking at a woman or child and condemn them to 50 years in a slimy solitary confinement cell.

There are many parallels between their whining and scare-mongering about the liklihood of being falsely accused of rape, or of just generally being a pervert towards women, and paranoid whining about being potentially accused of paedophilia, but I want to concentrate on paedophilia in this post because that's where the whining is most confusing and complex. Because society is not nominally so ambivelent about child pornography or paedophilia as it is about women's rights.

The internet is full of men who talk as if they are held in a state of siege, as if they were going to be hung drawn and quartered as a paedophile for the slighest thing relating to children. They protest every tiny 'over-the-top' arrest or persecution of somebody for something like taking photographs of children on the beach as if the whole of men's human rights rested upon it.

For example, on the digital photography forums I visit, there are lots of threads where men moan in unison out how we are hurtling towards a society where men are snatched from the streets and jailed for merely pointing their camera in the direction of a child.

Actual convictions are decried as examples of societal anti-paedophilia mania and painted in such a way as to suggest the perpetrator did nothing wrong or suspicious. For example, a recent case many digital photography forum folks were flailing their collective arms in horror about was painted on the forum as being about a man who was arrested for taking professional portraits of children in swimwear. "Oh, the horror", they screamed, "what is next??!". "We will be lined up and shot for daring to photograph a child we were paid to photograph in the clothes their parents wanted! What has this world come to ?!".

This was for one of those creepy 'child modelling' sites, which were defended by many as in 'poor taste' but not immoral, despite their overtly sexualised poses and skimpy clothing. I note that their initial knee-jerk reaction in defence of the man prevented them from at all condemning images which they might have easily been critical of in another context.

But the worrying thing was that the people defending this man mostly didn't even look at the modelling site or look at articles reporting on the case, which made it clear that the man had not only been taking pictures of 'child models' in bikinis, but that he had also been taking naked pictures of them. Yet they cited articles which just conveniently overlooked this fact and ignored it when somebody actually posted an article talking about it in more detail.

There is knee-jerk resentment, in many men, of anti-paedophile measures, and a great and disturbing eagerness to portray themselves as potential victims of hysterical false accusation.

The media makes it easier, as the tabloids often paint the crime in such ludicrously over-the-top and pseudo-emotive terms (monster, beast, rot in hell Moira Hindley, etc), that it actually almost makes a mockery of the seriousness of the crime and makes it harder for people to take seriously. I do think some of the anti-paedophilia measures people enforce are misplaced and easy to portray as 'over-the-top'. But the misplacement is put out of all proportion, men whine and yelp about how some man, somewhere, wasn't allowed to photograph somebody's child at a football match, or about how a father wasn't allowed to host toddler's gatherings in his house on account of his being a man, instead of highlighting all these times where things went the other way.. where men were given positions of responsibility over children and abused them, where they were allowed to work with children despite having been accused of rape before, where they used the guise of photography to take photographs for their own gratification. In almost evey way our society fails to protect children from paedophiles.. it doesn't over-coddle them and over-protect them. If anything, it underestimates the liklihood of abuse.

Of course some people who engage in paranoid rhetoric of the type I'm talking about do sometimes say things like "they should be out there catching the real paedophiles, not picking on innocents!", which is, I think, a bit of a naïve sentiment, as if innocence and guilt could be determined easily in advance. I agree someone with a camera at a child's football match should be less of a target of suspicion than somebody who looks up a child pornography website, but that shouldn't mean that the whole movement towards an awareness of the risk of paedophilia should be dismissed as a mere excuse to harass men.

What is so annoying about these discussions is that frequently the real crimes and the real (mostly male!) culprits of them - the abuses that the suspicions of the police and the public are based on - seem to disappear from view entirely, and paedophila becomes like some kind of mythical bad thing which only 'innocent' men are accused of by an unfair, 'hysterical' society. As if there wasn't real cause for concern - as if there aren't men out there taking photos of children for less-than-moral purposes, as if children and people have nothing to fear about the motives of men at all! As if false accusations rose towering above the actual crimes commited, and as if men were ever jailed or even arrested as paedophiles for next to nothing!

Men make a thousand times the collective fuss about relatively infrequent targeting and mistargeting of their sex (for crimes that are almost always actually prepetrated by men), and about relatively small impingements on their freedom (it's difficult to get work with children! They get promoted to headteacher fast at a primary school instead of being a primary teacher for long! Somebody thinks they're up to no good pointing their camera at a child on a beach), than women do about the many, many inequalities they suffer every day. They also make a lot of fuss about the potential for their being hypothetically accused of things (sexual harassment, rape, child abuse) despite the fact that the liklihood of even the most obvious perpetrator being punished severely for even the most obvious, clear-cut 'real crime' is apallingly small. It's sickening that they whine so much about the very thought of men being accused of some wrong, when men get away with sex offences so lightly and are seldom convicted for them.

Is it just a priveleged groups fear and distaste and outrage at actually being the ones targeted on the basis of their privileged traits? Just resentment of being targeted when 99% of the rest of the time they're regarded as the privileged ones? Even though it is mostly men who commit these crimes? The same kind of fear and resentment that motivates them to rant about how widening the definition of 'rape' will apparently cause women everywhere to go on a false-accusation rampage and go pointing the finger at anyone who goes near them and get men put in jail for 'rape', just for fun, or because they didn't like their hairdo?

In the case of paedophila, it seems possible that the outrage is partly motivated by resentment at being viewed as a potential paedophile. They want to dissociate 'real' men in general and themselves in particular from paedophiles who, more so than rapists, are often portrayed as rather disgusting, "inhuman" "beasts" not similar to real humans or real men at all. Society in general wants to disconnect paedophiles from 'normal society', and deny any evidence that societal attitudes are at all to blame for paedophilia or at all associated with it.


Anonymous Drs. E. Dilpizoglou said...

I would like to contribute the following story in responce to your item about something that has happened to me in the past months:

I am currently studying Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Europe.

For this semester, I unwittingly signed up for the "Social Theories of Sexuality" course, having checked the reading-list as well as the teacher's, dr. Gert Hekma, professional biography.

Quote: The course aims to teach the students to understand and discuss the various sexualities in their abstract meanings, concrete realities and social contexts.

Quote: Gert Hekma teaches gay and lesbian studies in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the UvA. His specialism is sociology and history of (homo)sexuality

This teacher was but a week prior to the course exposed as a child rape apologist in the local Amsterdam media.

I immediately refused to take his class and requested enrollment into another class. This was denied to me, and I had a huge flame-war with the student-advisor as well as the Head of the Sociology Department about them (both white men) forcing me to take this class or face a whole year's retardation of my studies. It was only after I was interviewed in the campus paper wherein I spoke of involving the school's Ombudsman that I was finally granted access to another class.

*** The Pedogate Media Schandal

I have written about this at length on my student homepage but here is what happened.

An old 2004 interview of Dr Hekma's with the Dutch pedophile advocacy website MARTIJN (Dutch equivalent of NAMBLA) was unearthed and quoted from in a local TV item in the context of Gert Hekma's involvement with the near-cancellation (by homophobe Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen in a Rudolf Giuliani-esque fashion) of the so-called -16 boat or gayteens-boat event at the upcoming Gay Pride Parade 2007. The -16 boat is over of the boats participating in the parade. It was an event requested by a 14-old gay male (i.e. personal initiative) in collaboration with the Dutch gay rights advocacy organization COC. The -16 boat is specifically for teenage queers by teenage queers (they will have a party with gay peers on the boat), parents are to ride along and there is no alcohol. I totally support this event which I consider to be positive and affirmative. However, the news-item suggested a more sinister motive on the part of Dr. Hekma: his intention was to use the -16 boat as a pedophiliac parade of barely-legal "fresh meat" for older homosexual men (no mention at all of female queers).

As soon as the item was posted on the internet and shown on TV, Dr. Gert Hekma immediately claimed he had been misquoted, and that the quotes had been used "out of context", thus distorting the original message.

Both claims are patently false. As an M.A. in Media Studies, I damn well know the difference between a good and a bad quote, and this quote was well within the bounds of journalistic ethical conduct. The news channel, AT 5, specifically mentioned the source of the quote. Thanks to this reference, I and many others were able to locate the contested interview (still online at the MARTIJN website) and were able to read the quotes within the original context for ourselves. Contrary to his claims, he was not misquoted, nor did the use of these quotes in the news-item render them out of context thus distorting the message of the original.

In this interview, Dr. Gert Hekma make the following statements:

"No one can deny that children's mouths are perfect for oral sex."

"I think children need to be coerced. Children are stubborn little creatures and one needs to set them straight every once in a while, and that includes sex [i.e. where this concerns sexual matters.]"

"It's only through coercion that one learns ones likes and dislikes in sex."

"Lesbians resemble cows." (well, this explains why the -16 boat item suggested the event was only for queer boys and not girls, right? *snort*)

I want everyone to keep in mind, as per Dr. Hekma's own request, the context of these statements. Here we have an academic exonerating child rape ("coerced sex" is the legal definition of rape in the Netherlands) in the context of a NAMBLA-esque website. Hypothetically, he gives all the pedophiles reading the interview his blessings, his good name, and all the justification they need to rape children. Not that pedophiles need this justification, but they can now do so with the prestigious imprimatur of an academic from the University of Amsterdam.

As you, my fellow feminists can understand (no one at all seems to understand this here), I, as a feminist, do not wish to partake in the class of anyone expressing such despicable views, exonerating the sexual abuse of children by adults. I eventually got the transfer I had requested as soon as this media scandal came to my attention, but I would like to tell you a little more about the sheer institutional sexism that precipitated this transfer.

*** The arch-sexist student advisor: Drs. Arend Benner

The student advisor initially refused to grant me access to another course, citing protocolary reasons for his refusal, even though there were many alternatives that would enable me to proceed with the semester program as required.

This invocation of protocol was suspicious; early in the year I had requested another transfer from a course I was unhappy with and in that case he did comply, so why not now? It thus became clear to me that he was trying to break my feminist will through the facile enforcement of bureaucratic protocol.

In my e-mail I had specifically stated my feminist principles as the main reason for refusing to take Dr. Hekma's class. I also took the liberty of reprimanding the University of Amsterdam for putting a child rape apologist in front of class of unsuspecting students, oblivious to the nature of the person in front of them were it not for a rather timely Pedogate scandal in the media. I am a loud and proud feminist so I openly stated these objections in my e-mail.

Anyone who has read Andrea Dworkin will recognize the blatant sexism of the student advisor's response. For example (and this is just one of many insults): he told me that I shouldn't protest the teacher but that I should "comply to decorum as generally understood" (!!!). In other words, he's talking to me like I'm an infant or a rowdy teenager, even though I already have an M.A. from the same University. His title is "Drs", same as mine, but he's clearly unwilling to refer to me as an equal.

He also reprimanded me for having done an interview with the campus paper. In fact, he only contacted me only after I had done that interview! Dr. Brenner, like Dr. Gert Hekma, clearly doesn't appreciate media scrutiny. he was clearly steamed that I'd talk to the press, admonishing me to "only use the normal grievance procedures"... of which he is the front office representative!

*** The arch-sexist Head of the Sociology Department: Dr. P.T. van Rooden

"I will forward this correspondence to the Head of the Sociology department" threatened the sexist student advisor after I had send out a mass-mailing via the student-mailing list, requesting the assistance of my fellow students - needless to say they just wrote in to complain, no one was sympathetic (there are 0,0 feminists here apart from me, myself and I).

I wrote back: "Send away! By all means let them know that someone will protest!". So the HoSD wrote to me, still refusing to grant me access to another class but instead offering to lecture me on "the necessity of compliance to academic decorum in interpersonal interactions" (!!!). (Gawd, they all are so damn predictable!). He too was condescendingly addressing me in an infantilizing way.

Notice how both of these gentlemen refuse to apologize for their institutionalization of a child rape apologist, but instead go on and on about my protest as if it were about a mere lapse in manners - just mine, not the child rape apologist's. To me, this isn't about decorum at all. Andrea Dworkin has warned that this decorum BULLSHIT is really the sexists’ last line of defense, their Ultimate Red Herring, the last thing that the sexists can think of to draw attention away from the fundamental issues at work here.

I will not tolerate the debasement of this issue into a non-debate about decorum versus righteous indignation. That the HoSD cowers in the face in such righteous indignation is all the proof I need of his own ethical bankruptcy, as well as of the limitations of decorum itself. I will not let him trivialize this issue through his cynical framing of it as a mere lapse in manners. It is clear to me that this repetitive emphasis on manners is but an attempt to embarrass me and ultimately insulting for being angry. I am not having this. I have every right to be angry. I will not let him frame my anger, trivialize my anger of insult me for standing up to him. The only real insult here is his own attempt at such a trivializing framing.

Gert Hekma complains that no one is interested in discussing his views. Indeed, such views are not up for discussion. The University is playing a silly game of hide-and-seek with regards to views expressed inside or outside the University, failing to see that one is an academic 24/7. Anything that an academic touches is contaminated with his academic prestige. If the University of Amsterdam truly feels that exonerating the rape of children is but an "academic opinion", institutionalized under the guise of "scientific diversity of opinions", then I suggest they invite a Holocaust denier to give the next series of lectures about the 2nd World War to unsuspecting History students not knowing what they are walking into. As for diversity: where are all the out-of-the closet rape-survivors teaching Social Theories of Sexuality courses at this school? There is not a single one. The Women's Studies department was the first department to go as soon as the conservative Xian government came to power in 2002. The campus paper, predictably, called the knackered Women's Studies academics "frustrated feminists". Yes, even the mere "token department" of Women's Studies, the department par excellence to record the hushed voices of rape survivors, is just too much to ask here at this school. At my school, it's the rapists and their apologists who have the stage all to themselves.

*** Dr Hekma's separatist exoticist views on childrape

I myself wrote a long e-mail (in Dutch) to the COC (the gay rights advocacy organization) which I CCed to him, wherein rigorously debunked his racist separatist views. Needless to say, he immediately understood he was dealing with heavy, well-informed feminist intellectual artillery so he didn't even bother to reply. Some of my fellow students insisted I should take his class and debate him in class, but it is clear to me that I'm not gonna hear anything I haven't heard before. And besides, I am certainly not paying my fees to debate the mentally deranged in a mockery of what's supposed to be an "elite" education. When it's you against the insane you just can't win and the non-debate is just a pointless exercise in futility rather than anything remotely resembling dialectics. Interestingly, Dr. Hekma had the nerve to call me "Crazy!" in the campus paper for having the nerve to walk out on him!

Dr. Hekma's exoneration of child-rape is a palimpsest of the same old self-contradictory illogic we've heard a hundred times from intellectual child-rapists. On the one hand, you have the Camille Paglia argument: raping children is a time-honored (visual) tradition amongst homosexual men that heterosexuals just can't and won't ever understand, and should therefore exonerate (again: queer women are absent in this argument).
However, don't be tempted into thinking that Hekma's views on boy/man love resemble anything like the movie Whole New Thing (Canada, 2005, recently rereleased in the USA as well as Germany). This argument is not debatable because it's a very transparent attempt at tabooization. "Just don't go there, you ignorant heterosexuals".
On the other hand, you have the Mykel Broad argument (though Camille Paglia has also employed this ploy). For those of you who don't know the sod, queer punk women know and will tell you who this is; he's a columnist for the punk zine Maximumrocknroll who writes long columns about his sex-tourism trips to Asia. Like Mykel Broad, Dr. Hekma repeats the exoticist/racist/tropicalist stereotype of sexually uninhibited Others raping their own kids with impunity because child-rape is accepted within their societies. I am certainly not denying that people in isolated or remote areas will have sex with (or even resort to the raping of) whatever is available to them. This isolation was the underlying premise of the boy/man love in Whole New Thing: 13-year old Emerson fell in love with 41-year old Mr. Grant the math-teacher because Mr. Grant was the only sympathetic person in his proximity.

However, with regards to non-Western people, this "making the best of what's available" certainly doesn't mean the sex was consensual or socially acceptable in the wider society these people are a part of. No place on earth is really that isolated any more. It also does not imply the absence of rape or the absence of a vague but (yet?) unnamed or undefined concept of rape of sexual coercion. "They don't know better, so it's not rape to Them" is a very dangerous essentializing allegation. Usually, it's but an excuse to blame the victim, blissfully ignorant (or so the rapists will have you believe) of what's really happening to them, therefore unaware and unsuspecting of any harm. This argument gets lost in its own tautology. How can "consent" ever exist as a concept in such a state of (alleged) utter self-unawareness. Implied is that it doesn't. Harm cannot be termed "harm" when undefined by ignorance. Those who do object are, of course, "traitors of the race", or whatever nonsense they can think of to ridicule or attack their self-awareness. Dr. Hekma claims that non-Western people are more sexually uninhibited than "us frigid Westerners". As if THAT would somehow exonerate child-rape here at home. It's an fine example of extreme cultural relativism taken to its illogical conclusion. To debunk this kind of racism he need to repeat the same arguments we've had to rehearse since the advent of Post Colonial Studies and Black Studies.

For me, the main issue is about academic ethics. It openly state that it is unethical for an academic Sociology department to harbor child-rape apologists and to have them teach a class of unsuspecting students. This lapse in ethics basically calls for a Pedogate media scandal such as the one we've just witnessed. Whenever the University refuses to get a grip on itself and ask hard questions about what the University is institutionalizing here (thus giving it the stamp of academic approval), then the media will gladly and eagerly take on the job of naming and shaming, forcing the University under the public spotlight.

As a media scholar, the sheer rage heaped on the media by both students and scholars here at the Sociology department really bothers and angers me. I am almost on the verge of leaving this Sociology department and going back to my old Media Studies department in order to consolidate my support for the media. In fact, I now understand why these departments are separate, and why Media Studies is housed under Humanities and not under Social Studies. With such widespread hostility towards the media, it is unlikely that anyone would be able to seriously study the media under the Social Studies umbrella. It's as if these academic observers (meaning that Sociologists observe societies) can't stand the fact that they themselves are being observed by the media. Their rage proves to me that all their academic babble about the democratization of knowledge is a big lie: these academics do not even want to democratize the act of observation or witnessing itself! The media are the only other means we have in our society for balancing the monopoly of academia on the act of witnessing. As a media scholar I can attest to need of the media as a contender against academia in the production and valorization of information, events and even knowledge itself.

I would like to ask you to forward this e-mail to your respective mailing-lists and to ask them to send a nice e-mail (please, no Hard Candy, as tempting as that is*) to the Head of the Sociology department, as well as to the student-advisor. Tell them how you feel about the fact that a feminist student had to go through all this in order to obtain a simple transfer to another class.

Also, feel free to CC Dr. Hekma and tell him about all the incest survivors you know (as most pedo-"philia" is within the family), and how they feel about having their mouths as children abused for "perfect oral sex".

You could say that I got what I wanted with the transfer, but this issue just won't let me go. My fellow students were of no help. I need you to raise your voices for me. Please frwd this to every feminist and feminist publication you know who might be interested in it!

* as soon as the Pedogate scandal got out there on the wider internet, an item about it was posted on the right-wing Howard Stern-esque website Their macho forum-members immediately showered Dr. Hekma with death-threats, on the forum as well as via e-mail. The university provided him with bodyguards for his protection. I obviously wish as much attention was given to all rape survivors (instead of rape apologists), but please, don't send him any such threats. It will not help my cause at all. However, feel free to encourage him to watch the movie Hard Candy. In this media hating feminist loathing department, they could certainly all benefit from watching a good film ;-)

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post - you've summed up perfectly the idiocy behind the 'fake rape charges' hysteria of so many MRA's.
I'll be passing this onto my friends and family.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Banjo Time said...

Brilliant points! When will the privileged stop feeling so threatened by anyone else standing up for subjugated groups' rights? Wouldn't want to lose that comfy seat high in the sky, I guess!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes it is hysteria and women are apparantly to blame much more so it would seem than the men who actually commit the vast number of real sexual offences. We should apparantly shut up and stop making them all feel like perverts.

Their anger should be directed at the men commiting the crimes not women who live in daily fear of the.

11:53 PM  

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