Photo by Sophie Bassouls/Sygma

Call a child rapist a “child rapist”

The feminist fix: No one is pre-programmed to “desire” sex with children

Artillery Row

“Call a child rapist a ‘child rapist’” is the sixth article in Julie Bindel’s online column for The Critic, “The feminist fix”, which explores feminism’s answer to today’s challenges. The fifth article, on closing loopholes for fetishized violence, can be read here.

The recently released book A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity, does what it says on the tin. Described as “a crucial account of the lived experiences of this hidden population”, its author Allyn Walker makes an argument for de-stigmatising adults who are sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children.

Walker gives a resounding pat on the back to those Minor-Attracted People (MAPs) who choose to not rape children. They (because Walker identifies as transgender) said in one interview that it is important to say “MAP” out of respect for the terminology that “members of that group want others to use for them. It is less stigmatising than other words like paedophile”.

Suggesting that those who wish to have sex with children should be able to use childlike sex dolls to satisfy their “urges”, Walker argues that MAPs “didn’t ask” to be sexually attracted to kids.

Foucault seems to not appreciate the vast power an adult has over a child

I agree with Walker on one thing: the word paedophile is wholly inappropriate and should not be used, although we will not agree on the reasons why.  I have long advocated for the abolition of the word, preferring instead “child rapist” or “child abuser”. The literal meaning of “paedophile” is “lover of children”. It is classed as a medical condition, which it is not. A person is not pre-programmed to “desire” sex with children. Look at Jimmy Savile: he abused adult women and men, children and corpses.

The view that sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children is a sexual identity and somehow hardwired, as opposed to chosen or socially constructed, has been around since the 1960s, and promoted by the likes of French philosopher Michel Foucault.

Foucault, famous for his theories on power and sexuality, seems to not appreciate the vast amount of power an adult has over a child. Whilst in Tunisia in the late 1960s, he allegedly sexually abused Tunisian prepubescent children. According to French essayist Guy Sorman, “They were eight, nine, ten years old, he was throwing money at them and would say ‘let’s meet at 10pm at the usual place’.” This, it turned out, was the local cemetery: “He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn’t even raised.”

But according to the Queer identified writer Laurie Penny, who posted an essay on Substack entitled, “What Foucault Got Right: On violence, libel and Queer Theory”: “Michel Foucault has been demonised for decades, presumably on the basis that it’s fine to libel the dead and fun to libel the French.” So, Foucault’s critics don’t like him because he was a Frog?

Not surprisingly there were some sharp criticisms of Penny’s take on Twitter, to which she responded, “Well, if you’d read the piece, you’d see that what I’m doing is more complex.”

Penny concludes that the revelations about Foucault are probably libellous rumours, and that, based on her expert assessment (she has read his books in recent weeks) “…it seems unlikely that Foucault actually assaulted children”.

I have also read Foucault, but perhaps with different eyes.

In his book History of Sexuality there is a disturbing scene where a little girl gets dragged into a ditch and sexually assaulted, which he describes as a “timeless bucolic pleasure”. Foucault is also on the record saying that sexuality should never be criminalised, because criminalising rape is sexually repressive. He has argued that as a crime, being raped is no different from being punched in the face.

Then there is the infamous letter of 1977 that Foucault signed, in which it was argued that statutory rape should not be a criminal offence (thereby obliterating the legal concept of an age of consent). The letter was part of a broader defence of two adult men who had raped (or, as Penny puts it, “had sex with”) pre-pubescent girls.

“[Foucault] and other degenerate eggheads argued against the concept of a legal age of consent. That bit definitely happened. And it was definitely a bit fucked up,” writes Penny.

Men who abuse children need to be stopped, punished and deterred

Child abuse apologism is rife amongst a number of male sexual libertarians. Some years ago, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell saw fit to praise a book whose introduction contained the line: “Adults who love children and express it sexually are replacing gays and blacks as society’s newest scapegoats”. The book decried “hysteria” and “witch-hunts” against child abusers, and condemned child protection as an oppressive force of control over the young. Foucault and Tatchell have both argued that punishing sex between “consenting” children and adults curtails the sexual development and potential pleasure for children.

Most sexual abuse of children takes place in the home, perpetrated by men known to the victims. These men are not usually labelled “paedophiles”: this word is reserved for Colin Pitchfork and his ilk — evil-looking men who prey on children previously unknown to them.

Labelling child rapists as “paedophiles” gives the impression that they are suffering from a condition, and that there is some kind of gene that predisposes them to be sexually attracted to children when there is no scientific or other credible evidence to prove this. Men who abuse children need to be stopped, punished and deterred, not treated for the “illness” known as paedophilia.

Some experts who try to unravel the phenomenon of paedophilia give the impression that being “attracted” to children is a sexual orientation rather than a choice to harm them; that these people are part of a weird sub-group and different from “ordinary” members of society; that there is a medical explanation, rather than a social one, for their behaviour; and that they are different from the fathers and other male relatives who abuse children in the home.

The first time I heard the term “Minor-Attracted People/Person” was in an interview with Tom O’Carroll, a key member of the Paedophile Information Exchange who is sexually aroused by pre-pubescent children. O’Carroll told me he thought the German term “kinder” should replace “paedophile” because it “sounds like a kindly Uncle”. The feminist fix for the sanitisation of child sexual abuse is to get rid of all the euphemisms and medicalised terms and to call these individuals child rapists and child abuse apologists.

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