In one of the interminable threads that devolved into endless discussions of pedophilia a couple of months ago, I raised an academic question about whether those who were commenting could come up with a reason why pedophilia was "wrong" without relying on a Judeo-Christian cultural context. The history, I argued, was that in Greece and to a lesser extent in Rome, pedophilia in some forms was culturally acceptable; only those pesky Christians managed to radically change the culture.
For me it was just an academic speculation, but apparently I was much closer than I had ever considered possible.
In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”
Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.
Child welfare experts responded to Dawkins’ remarks with outrage — and concern over their effect on survivors of abuse.
I'm just curious what people think? Even in the midst of the groping, fondling, and raping of kids, and hiding/covering up of the crimes which occurred among clergy of my faith, it was exceptionally rare that anyone actually tried to condone it as being harmless.
Ok, I'll try this one again to see if I get a bite:
It is NOW accepted as normal that a certain percentage of the population will be sexually attracted to the same sex. It is crystal clear that homosexual behaviour exists in every society and will NEVER be eliminated. ALL the arguments given for the "harm" homosexual activity does have been answered and the activity is now considered (by enlightened societies) to be normal. Likewise pedophylic behaviour will never be stamped out - no matter how much moral panic people attempt to generate. The harm resulting from that behaviour stems from violence and/or coercion. This means that it revolves around the concept of consent. This is, of course, complicated. I feel relatively safe in saying that a 3-year-old is not capable of understanding sex. I feel equally safe in saying that one does NOT need to be 18 years old to not only consent to sex but to pursue it. The concentration MUST be on the violence and coercion - NOT on the sexual activity. If someone coerced or physically forced a young person to eat an ice cream bar they didn't want to eat, I could see both physical and emotional damage coming from this - REAL damage - not the "damage" trumped up by journalists trying to sell a sensational story or a therapist trying to generate business or, MOST importantly, moral absolutists trying to generate moral panic to feed their superiority complex.
Where is the dividing line. Obviously it's different among individuals. If a 25-year-old with the emotional maturity of a 9-year-old is coerced into having sex, it's not pedophylia, but, equally, it is NOT OK.
The moral absolutism which states with religious certainty that sex between (or among) THESE individuals is OK but sex between THESE is not - PURELY because of their birthday is sick.
The focus MUST be on the violence and coercion - NOT on the sexual activity itself.
"The concentration MUST be on the violence and coercion - NOT on the sexual activity." - but often, grooming and manipulation are used to achieve the same ends.
Manipulation is very close in meaning to coercion. But I maintain that, where consent is achieved, harm is likely to be minimal.
One thing I believe is not given ENOUGH credence in law or in the courts. In my opinion consent may be withdrawn at any time. This interaction should not be treated like a contract. A young person will often be curious and give consent, then, get second thoughts. Withdrawal of consent should be just as binding as never giving consent in the first place.
Of course, sexual consent is informal unless contractual (e.g., in a BDSM relationship) and only then when the contract is between full adults.
In another culture where consent isn't even an accepted legal concept, things get murky. Are we to respect their culture and its ways or impose our own and then carry on with a pretense of cultural and ethical relativity? Is it our job to recreate the world in our own image? If believing one is right is enough to justify such an imposition, well that is what the Christians and Muslims do, isn't it?
"used to achieve the same ends"
"the same ends" - the assumption that sexual contact between minors and majors is inherently and absolutely morally evil in nature - no matter how you get there, right?
And, of course, 40 years ago and more, homosexuality was absolutely evil. How many millions of lives were ruined, not by the homosexual acts themselves, but by society's abhorrence of the participants.
"consent is achieved," - through grooming?
The word, "grooming" appears to be some sort of trigger, however it's probably no different from anyone wanting to gain another's trust. Be kind, gentle, honest etc. and you will be repaid with trust. Of course all these attributes, when practised between a major and a minor transform instantly from desirable traits to despicably evil "grooming".
My motivation is to deal rationally with the insane notion that we can draw clear, thin, straight lines between that which is horribly evil on one side and that which is normal, natural and legal on the other. We need to recognise that it's a LONG way from stealing and raping a 3-year-old at one extreme to telling a 17-year-old she looks pretty at the other. (Yes, I suspect that, to a moral absolutist, offering such a compliment would probably be considered "grooming".) Between these extremes there are not even well-defined steps - there's a continuum. Trying to discuss the various points on this continuum with people who don't even recognise that there is any space between the two extremes feels pretty futile. To them it's as certain as arithmetic: minor + any sexual context = evil.
How about a 9 year old, a 12 year old or a 13 year old? Is that not evil to groom a girl of this age for the purpose of sex?
Somehow I think you're rationalizing - making excuses to yourself to say it's OK, when it's not.
"The word, "grooming" appears to be some sort of trigger, however it's probably no different from anyone wanting to gain another's trust."
Grooming (Sex) Definition
While this has been debunked on the first page, Dawkins has a point. There is a long history of pederasty in many societies, speaking to likelihood that the "creepiness" connected to it today is a social construct. In general, applying modern moral and ethical standards to earlier events is a futile exercise.
Not to mention applying our standards to other cultures. What next? Bring them Bibles, too?