[CN: pedophilia, sexual molestation, intimate partner abuse. Oh — and a quite-possibly-excessive amount of Adult Language, too.]
Disgust me once? Shame on you.
Disgust me twice? Shame on — well, actually…
Maybe at that point, Salon.com, it’s time to put aside shame and instead ask why in the name of everything unholy and rank an editor in your Life section keeps publishing rot that trivializes victimization and reads like something straight out of an abuser’s handbook.
Just a thought.
So we’re all on the same page: Yes, I am referring to that “Pity the Poor Pedophile” [NB: not its real title] article^ you published last month.
It would be disingenuous of me to say I’m entirely surprised, of course. of course. I’ve long approached your site in the same way I do Playboy’s: the articles are often interesting (at least Playboy’s flowcharts are), but best avoid anything marketed as explicitly sex-related unless I’m prepared to give myself a HUGE mental tidy afterwards. Which is why I was completely prepared — eager! even — to let this article go by without comment. Honest.
But then a short while later, like a dog eating its own vomit, you decided to run a second essay by the same self-declared “celibate pedophile.” For convenience, let’s refer to this one as “Pity the Poor Published Pedophile. Because Conservative Wacko-birds Have Been So Mean to Me About that First Thing I Wrote“ [NB: not its real title either].^
The central argument of these pieces: Pedophilia is really just a form of “sexual orientation,” and — as long as the author pinkie-swears not to molest any kids — we should all feel bad for him and listen to him talking about himself as much as he wants. Because protecting children. Because not a monster.
[Got that? Errybody up to speed?
You, in the back?
‘K, great. Moving on.]
Since the points I want to make are rather specific, I’ma borrow from Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville to do the heavy lifting of outlining the holy-jeez-this-crap-isn’t-even-original problems with that first essay [I encourage interested parties — and, really, all of you who can — to check out her whole response]:
“I will reiterate that I’ve no issue with the idea that sexual predators of any stripe should not be treated as “monsters,” for a couple different reasons, not least of which is the fact that monsterizing sexual predators abets predators, because they know that merely not seeming like a monster underwrites their freedom to do monstrous things.
“So my issue isn’t with the author’s plea to not be viewed as a monster. My issue is with literally everything else about the piece, including and especially the fact that it was written at all. As I have said before, with regard to humanizing abusive men, as if the only choices are to monsterize or humanize people who commit heinous acts of violence: Humanizing abusers abets abuse.” [emphasis added]
[Hmm, ‘humans vs. monsters’ — feels like I’ve talked about that somewhere before… Oh. Right. The last time I called Salon out for publishing heinously off-target sh!t about sexual predators.
Carry on, Liss:]
“Now, perhaps the author of this Salon piece does not hope to exploit the humanizing of pedophiles in order to personally perpetrate abuse. But he doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor do his words. Which, frankly, read to me as though they were written by a skilled predator, who is “grooming” his readers to normalize his predilection every bit as much (and in many of the same ways) as offenders groom their victims.”
[For the record, they do to me too. Stayed tuned to this channel.]
“That, of course, will be dismissed by apologists as the overwrought hyperbole of a vituperative survivor who just looks for things to get mad about. Which is entirely the problem with this piece, and all the others like it: Those of us most versed in the language of predators, by virtue of our misfortune at having encountered them, are deemed too broken to be objective interpreters.
“Salon printed a profoundly coercive piece that is indistinguishable from the self-pitying pleas of sympathy predators, and they don’t even seem to be aware that they have, because they’re taking him at his word. Meanwhile, survivors who will identify the nature of this piece for what it really is will be dismissed out of hand as hysterics.
“Who does that serve? Not survivors, that’s for fucking sure.” [emphasis added]
That’s the problematic first piece, in a nutshell. What’s up with the second?
Turns out, since his grand ‘coming out’ in Salon, our would-be-sympathetic pedophile has been vilified by the “right-wing hate machine”! Breitbart et al. are the real “monsters”! Alex Jones went lunatic fringe on him! Callers to radio shows were unreasonable! Panelists on Dr. Drew interrupted him impolitely!
But all is not gloom for our courageous hero.
Respectful and supportive women have sent him respectful and supportive notes. Survivors of abuse have been grateful to him for helping them achieve “peace with their past.” In fact, the only real objections he has read have come from those “vile” right-wing haters — er, ‘scuse me: “monsters.” [I’ma go out on a limb here and guess Mr. Pedophile doesn’t read much Shakesville. Or any writing by feminists.]
Yknow, Salon, if your reading material is as selective as this dude’s, it’s starting to make sense why you took his ideas at face-value. If Alex Jones and Breitbart are your only standard for dangerous-to-the-masses horseshit too, I mean.
Also, don’t know if you noticed? But this guy is offering you some serious candy to get in the van with him.
Look at how many liberal-leaning bugaboos our author brings up — and appears to place himself on the “correct” side of — all while asking us to sympathize with his “if you call me a monster, you might make me harm children (and then we’ll both have the sads)” argument as the best, perhaps only, way to protect kids from molestation:
(1) The right-wing are loonies. Who hate him. (2) SEXUAL ORIENTATION SEXUAL ORIENTATION SEXUAL ORIENTATION [without any mention of how accusations of pedophilia have been wielded against gay men and lesbians for, oh, ever. ‘Natch.] (3) It’s time to dispense with “the old slippery slope argument” against gay marriage! Which was pedophilia! (4)
Gay pedophile conversion therapy is a terrible idea and never works. (5) Obamacare. [His home state is one that didn’t take the Medicaid expansion.] (6) Poor people are deserving. Like him, ‘member? [“In case you missed it from the first article, I am quite poor.”] (7) Godwins’ Law. [His detractors include “a self-confessed Nazi sympathizer.”] (8) Don’t you just haaate it when people misuse the word “literally”?** (9) Oh, and you did catch his point that the right-wing are loonies who hate him too, yes??
One problem: the enemy of my enemy…can still be a massive doucheweasel.
And liberal politics has never remotely approached the status of a monolithic bastion free from sexually coercive and abusive behavior.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Vocal support for liberal causes has often provided effective cover for “good guys” — who turn out to be…not so good with the ladies (and others), when looked at more closely. Just off the top of my head, recent history includes:
- Hugo Schwyzer, widely-published “male feminist” — who targeted and abused women, especially feminist women of color, for years without consequence.
- Richard Dawkins and DJ Grothe, prominent leaders in the atheist and skeptic communities — whose words have long fostered an environment hostile to women and POC. [Google “Hey, Muslima!” for classic Dawkins’ sexism/racism. For something more recent, scoping his Twitter feed is often sufficient.]
- Last week’s revelation that eminent astronomer Geoff Marcy, long-time member of Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and co-leader of a study on sexual harassment in the field — has been sexually harassing female students for years.
- And did I mention
Salonthe popular liberal-leaning media site that just gave repeated space and voice to an author asking for sympathy towards his plight of having the misunderstood “sexual orientation” — of lusting after young children?
To be clear, I am not saying that I know this individual has ever abused a child, or that he will in the future. I have no idea, one way or the other. (AND NEITHER DO YOU, SALON.)
What I am saying, is that if I were a predator going after someone vulnerable — a young person, perhaps, with a child’s commitment to “fairness” — these pieces model the process.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
There’s a wide range of approaches to sexual predators that fall between monsterizing them to the point where they must live in shantytown herds under bridges — and humanizing them through the repeated elevation of their voices and opinions on mainstream websites.
Publishing these sympathy-requesting pieces, Salon, was not just ignorant.
It was dangerous.
To the outside observer, the manipulation an abuser deploys to shift his target from nonjudgmental sympathizer to coerced participant/victim may be imperceptible. Returning to McEwan’s point in the passage above, the people best positioned to recognize such grooming in action are those who have endured similar emotional besiegement firsthand. As a former victim of abuse myself, I agree with her assessment: both essays read with the unctuous flow of a sympathy predator.
And if there is one “language of predators” I am deeply versed in, it is how to cloak one’s abuses with the language of sexual orientation.
I believe some of you may have met my ex on this blog before…
He was not a monster, even if his behavior was eventually monstrous. At the outset, I could not have imagined a straight partner more supportive of my queerness. He seemed to accept all of who I was, unconcerned at being only the second man I’d dated in a near-decade spent shifting across identities of bi, not-straight, and dyke.
So when, at the beginning of our third year together, my husband confessed to me, in a quiet, shame-drenched voice, that he needed to “come out” to me about a long-held secret, I was primed to be supportive.
The ensuing psychological torture was never about sex or identity. It was certainly not about consensual anything. It was about control. And every attempt I made to assert boundaries or otherwise resist, he countered with some version of “why won’t you respect my orientation? After all, I respect yours.”
BDSM† as his purported “orientation” came to function as a blanket excuse for escalatingly shitty behavior, including:
our sex lifehis orientation with random people at the club where we went dancing every Friday
our shared sexual historyhis orientation to a potential housemate, and only informing me after she’d moved in
violent kinks he wanted to act out on me but had never before mentionedhis orientation to some dude who happened to sit down next to us at a bar
- Seeking sympathy over
my obviously disordered and inhibited sexual behaviorhis orientation from several of our friends at a restaurant, while I was home with a migraine
As with Salon‘s “woe is me”-pedophile, my ex’s coercive strategies tended heavily towards the verbal. Not to get all Foucauldian on you, but lemme get all Foucauldian on you: discursive excess on a topic of sexuality — particularly a “taboo” sexuality — signals more, not less, power being exerted.
Though even discursive power gets boring eventually, once the controlled object ceases to flinch at mere words.
During our final date, if I could have formed an independent thought — while braced on my hands and knees, skirt flipped over my head, enduring the most excruciating pain of my life in full view of anyone who stopped to watch — that thought would have been: let me be dead.
But I no longer had my own thoughts by that point. I had only my abuser’s.
So if you had asked me that New Year’s Eve why I chose to kneel down for the beating that followed, I could only have parroted his words. I would have looked you straight in the face, eyes clouded like those of a gutted fish, and said: “I expect people to respect my own sexual orientation. How can I not respect his?”
Any suggestions, Salon?
# # #
^Yes, these links are via DoNotLink — and no, Salon, I do not intend to generate more traffic for your hot mess of clickbait grotesquerie. Thanks for checking.
** From the second publication: “[In an attack article published on Breitbart, author John] Sexton goes on to say that, with my article, I was ‘literally saying that not being a child rapist deserves special commendation.’ I was not literally saying that. If I was literally saying that, I would’ve said that. Exactly. (Mr. Sexton needs to brush up on his dictionary.)”
†We’re all clear on the profound differences between BDSM/kink and abuse, yes? How they are in no way the same thing? Okay! Glad to hear it.