Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pedophiles like science fiction: More on fanfic's child porn problem and Samuel R. Delany

"I read the NAMBLA [Bulletin] fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I've ever found. I think before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about. What the issues they are really talking about, and deal with what's really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13." — Samuel R. Delany, Queer Desires Forum, New York City, June 25, 1994.

At NAMBLA's site, Linda Frankel's Beyond Bounds: Intergenerational Relationships in Science Fiction and Fantasy begins by asking "Why read or write science fiction and fantasy?" Her answer boils down to "Because that's where the stories about adults having sex with children are."

There's anecdotal evidence that pedophiles often like science fiction. TrekToday's "Articles on Pedophile Star Trek Fans Ignite Controversy" says members of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit "stick by their claim that the vast majority of people that they bust seem to have an obsession with sci-fi. And that most of them seem to really like Star Trek."

At The Arcane Archive - Crowley and Paederasty, Cat Yronwode wrote,
Walter Breen was eventually convicted of child sex abuse by testimony taken from parents in the local coin collecting community, not in fandom ... Another former NAMBLA member and close friend of Breen's was the Bay Area science fiction fan and "free love" exponent Jefferson Poland, a.k.a Jefferson Fuck Poland, a.k.a. Jefferson Clitlick Poland. He too was convicted of child sex abuse and spent time in the slammer. He is now a registered sex offender, forbidden from consorting with children. No, i cannot personally vouch for the fact that every member of NAMBLA is a child sex abuser...but i knew both of those men personally -- and they both were. Their cohort Sandy Cutrell -- by which i mean all three were good friends -- was also a member of Bay Area science fiction fandom in the 1960s. He may not have been a member of NAMBLA, but if not, probably only because his interest was the sexual abuse of *girl* children. He admitted his entire sorry history to me in the mid-1980s, and explained that friends of his had barred him from their house because he gave their young daughter comic books as a bribe so that she would sit on his face. Needless to say, i did not take this confession lightly and i told him he was unwelcome in my house as well. My point: here i knew three Bay Area sex abusers in the 1960s, two convicted and one self-confessed, of whom all three were members of science fiction fandom...
A major fanfic site, Archive of Our Own, formed in 2007 when LiveJournal began cracking down on child porn. They currently offer 242 works under Pedophilia and 133 under Chan. The distinction is explained in Mark J. McLelland's The World of Yaoi: The Internet, Censorship and the Global “Boys’ Love” Fandom:
While most yaoi deals with older teen-age characters, a subgenre of yaoi known as shōtakon (Shōtaro56 Complex – a play on rorikon or Lolita Complex) specializes in stories about and depictions of the sexual adventures of younger boys. In the English-language fandom, these stories are often designated ‘chan fics,’ –chan being a diminutive suffix commonly appended to children’s names in Japanese.
My suspicion is that chan, like most porn, breaks down into two broad categories:

  • Erotic art: Art intended to have an erotic effect.
  • Grotesque art: Art intended to disturb.

For an artist, these are both valid intentions. The Nude Maja and Guernica are equally great art.

Humans being humans, one person's erotic art is another person's grotesque art, and vice versa. Humans being humans, people may make erotic art and grotesque art purely from a wish to experiment.

But at some point, the difference between an experiment and an obsession begins to become clear. A teenager's experiment in yaoi or chan is likely to mean less than an adult's indulgence. McLelland suggests that child porn produced by and for women is significantly different than child porn produced by and for men. I would've been inclined to accept that argument until recently, but after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's testimony and thinking about other female child abusers, I'm skeptical.

Ultimately, porn is porn, made by and for humans. The great majority of people who indulge in any form of porn are able to separate fantasy from reality. Just as no one should assume people who like rape porn want to rape or be raped, no one should assume people who like child porn want to abuse children.

But it's also right to wonder what underlies an obsession.

NAMBLA's goal is to eliminate the age of consent so adults may legally have sex with children. Now, I'm going to say something that will be obvious to most people and impossible to grasp by the sort of intellectual who does not let reality interfere with a beloved theory: Adults should be concerned about the safety of children around NAMBLA supporters. If someone supported a group that wanted to legalize kicking dogs, it would be right to be concerned about dogs in that person's presence.

This is not an argument for censorship—I fully support the ACLU's defense of NAMBLA. As noted in ACLU Statement on Defending Free Speech of Unpopular Organizations, "In representing NAMBLA today, our Massachusetts affiliate does not advocate sexual relationships between adults and children." Everyone should have the right to try to change the law.

But free speech includes the right to inform attendees at all-ages conventions that a NAMBLA supporter will be in attendance. Yaoi-Con wisely requires all attendees to be at least 18 years old. They know that what is fantasy for most of their fans may not be fantasy for all of them. What Walter Breen, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Edward Kramer did cannot be undone, so lessons must be learned from their crimes to ensure that the science fiction community will never be a safe haven for people who wish to engage in sex with children.