Stolen Youth: Jaycee Dugard PART 2

Please read PART 1 Stolen Youth: Jaycee Dugard to understand the context of this post. Child kidnapping is an emotional subject to think about and discuss, but this case merits more attention than it has already received. Not brief and superficial comments, but a deeper analysis of the many aspects of what this extraordinary person may have experienced.

Being violently kidnapped at age 11 would be an incredible trauma even without any sexual abuse involved. Imagine a child suddenly torn from her family and familiar environment and brought to a strange prison-like room by some monster, without knowing why or what was going to happen next. Fear of possibly imminent death would be perfectly natural and wholly realistic. At such a moment rape or sex abuse might be the least of anybody’s worries.

After the terrifying first days or weeks she may have no longer feared that she might die soon, and instead she undoubtedly longed for a return to her family and familiar environment. After the victim was rescued her therapist would have an enormous challenge helping the victim overcome such a trauma: her feelings of helplessness, betrayal (nobody protected her to prevent the kidnapping, nobody rescued her for a long time), her rage against the perpetrators, etc. After her rescue all of those internal feelings needed to be overcome before she could resume a fairly normal life.

A therapist would have to reassure her that her feeling of helplessness over such a long period of time was understandable, but might have become an entrenched tendency or habit, which needs to be changed. No small challenge for any victim in such a case. Her understandable feeling of helplessness might make her overly sensitive to any possible threats in her future experience, so a good therapist would advise her to try to relax and not be fearful of possibly imminent disaster every day. In contrast, her feelings of betrayal were actually a rude awakening to a sad fact of life: despite appearances the government is largely incompetent to protect citizens and often does a good job of merely protecting itself at citizens’ expense. On the other hand the good news is that if most strangers don’t harm or kill children every day it’s because of our natural humanity; most people have a healthy paternal/maternal instinct to love, protect, and nurture children – not harm them.

In my opinion the victims who were in more need of therapy were the other family members. They not only suffered the child being separated from them but also not knowing whether the child was alive or dead. The worst nightmare I ever had was several years ago when I dreamed that some friends gave me permission to take their 10-year-old daughter to another city. While we were in the strange city waiting for a bus we were walking around a shopping mall when I turned around and the child was suddenly gone. I looked all over for her and finally went to the mall manager’s office. He helped me look throughout the mall and we even went outside onto the crowed street, but she was nowhere to be found. I felt such a deep sense of terror that I woke up perspiring.

But on top of being kidnapped, the victim in this case was sexually abused and raped repeatedly. Her desires and preferences were ignored and disregarded; she had no free choice or only very limited choices about sexual contact with her captor. In addition, he tried to persuade her that he “needed” to exploit her insensitively to avoid committing worse injuries against other children (he had “a problem”), so it was her supposed duty to cooperate as much as possible. In other words, her victimization was supposedly a public service. Beyond the philosophical issues in such an immoral proposition, the monster was telling her nonsense not very different from what average parents tell their kids.

There are no detailed descriptions of the rapes in the victim’s published memoir (1), so we are left to imagine what actually happened frequently over a period of years. She says he penetrated her and it was painful. She also says she didn’t enjoy it or experience any pleasure, but is that all? She says that she spent time thinking about what he might do, and that he did “disgusting things” to her. Does that mean he tried to do more than merely penetrate her? We can imagine a monster coercing her to orally stimulate him, and the aversion she would have felt. Or perhaps he orally stimulated her, and depending on how sensitive or insensitive he was, such an experience might cause ambivalent feelings in the victim. If she was previously led to believe that only “bad girls” desire or enjoy sexual contact, or worse that sexual desire or sexual pleasure before puberty is impossible or unthinkable, then she might have the difficult task of reconciling her previous anti-sex indoctrination with the contradictory evidence of her own senses: stimulating genital contact in a general context of major sensory deprivation.

If that is what actually happened, what would a good therapist tell the victim? A good therapist should say there is nothing wrong with a helpless victim experiencing some physical pleasure during the isolation and sexual abuse, but she shouldn’t admit that publicly in her book because it might provoke other monsters to commit similar crimes against other young girls in the future. In the interest of more “public service,” she should not publicly admit that sexual experience under such unusual conditions might contradict the traditional fantasy of the “good girl” who would never experience sexual desire and sexual pleasure before puberty under any circumstances. But a private acknowledgment that such conventional beliefs are pure nonsense might actually be very therapeutic for a kidnap victim.

An even more complicated aspect of this case is the two daughters born as a result of the rapes. Before they were freed those two girls lived under the monster’s control for many years: 15 years in the case of the first-born, and 12 years for the second-born. Their mother’s book doesn’t say anything about her daughters’ possible sexual victimization. That is understandable – the mother wanted to protect her daughters’ privacy while they were minors; the two daughters themselves should be free to decide to reveal that information or not when they are mature. (They are now over 18.) But considering that the kidnap victim was in no position to protect her daughters, and knowing that the kidnapper was a very disturbed and probably psychotic individual who might have difficulty resisting the temptation and opportunity, we should not be surprised if the daughters were sexually abused too.

Once her daughters were born, Jaycee was no longer the lone captive. She now had potential competitors for the jailer’s attention. The young girls had no other boys or men to distract them. Was their jailer uninterested? Did he suddenly reform and become a good boy? Or is there a hidden chapter in this story? Growing up in a makeshift prison isolated from the larger culture, a micro-environment where rape and child sex abuse were the norm, girls who experience early sex abuse might very well react differently from their mother or other girls whose early childhood was in a very different “politically correct” context. In the possible event that the daughters were also abused, and if their reaction to their experience was very different from the mother’s, I think they should be supported and validated however they reacted, rather than being encouraged to deny or hide how they reacted to their sexual experience – if any.

Imagine a known sex maniac supervising the education of two very young girls – a captive audience. It’s possible that he exploited the opportunity and they grew up without traditional sexual inhibitions. In that possible scenario, a man of his age would have so many opportunities that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill the demands of two energetic young girls who had nothing to be ashamed of, as well as two mature women available to him. Eventually he might even become bored with sex as well as overwhelmed by guilt. After all, the girls were slaves and prisoners who had committed no crime, which would explain why after 18 years of successfully evading arrest he inadvertently gave himself up to police.

In Western culture today there is tremendous social and political pressure against acknowledging sexual desire and sexual pleasure before puberty, so it is not surprising if some individuals (especially girls) are strongly discouraged from revealing feelings and experiences that contradict conventional cultural values and expectations. We might even call such denial a cultural imperative, since it’s not like Western culture tolerates a diversity of viewpoints on sexual desire and sexual pleasure in childhood. Strict adherence to a hysterical dogma is required and enforced by law. Good girls are mentally castrated girls, period. No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s possible that – and would not be surprising if – what the mother said in her first book is a highly selective and politically correct version of what went on.

But the whole truth – politically correct or not – has some claim to be heard, regardless of the possible repercussions for cherished beliefs about good girls. It is clear to me that even good girls may feel sexual desire and experience sexual pleasure under some conditions. What is needed is the voices of courageous girls and women to acknowledge that themselves and stop the gruesome cycle of mothers mentally castrating daughters generation after generation. It might be essential for the girls in this case, as well as satisfying to them, to validate what they felt regardless of the possible damage to cherished conventional beliefs about what is really possible and acceptable for young girls. No more “public service.”

It might also be very lucrative for the girls to tell their story, especially if it includes what a large segment of the public secretly considers spicy elements. The whole story might even include an attempted cover-up. A greedy author might be tempted to embellish the story to maximize profits, but I suspect that the simple and whole truth in this case is spicy enough.

Child sex abuse that is insensitive, exploitative, or coercive is a danger, but should it be such a hysterical priority for society? There is a much more cruel, serial killer that steals the lives of 7 children every day, 2,500 children every year in the U.S. alone, and he is active all over the world. We know who it is; that monster’s name is Cancer. During the 18 years that Jaycee Dugard was a prisoner, 45,000 children were killed and 90,000 parents suffered a kind of slow, living death. Isn’t it bizarre that most people rarely talk about that monster? They sit around worrying about the possible effects of nudity and early sex play instead. Videos about the Jaycee case on YouTube have 100 times as many views and comments as videos about children with cancer. When a child’s prognosis is TERMINAL, she can’t even be encouraged to enjoy sex play with other terminal patients because hysterical laws define child sex “abuse” so broadly they include everything and don’t allow exceptions.

The state of California spends millions of dollars every year confining sex offenders who have already finished serving their sentences. Is the state afraid that putting sex offenders against children in prison might actually make some sick individuals even more dangerous to society than they were before? In other words, does the prison system create monsters? Other states spend a lot of money registering sex offenders, some of whom are hardly dangerous to anyone and are even children themselves (e.g. teens exchanging nude photos of each other or having consensual sex with each other). All that money wasted on sex hysteria could be better invested in child cancer research, a need far more worthy than protecting the cherished ideal of the good girl.

Over 90% of the federal tax money spent on cancer research is for cancer in adults – not cancer in children. Big Pharma may claim they must go where the greater monetary profit is, but why isn’t our tax money spent on child cancer research? Where is all the outrage and public concern for the vast majority of child deaths and suffering that have nothing to do with sex? The mass hysteria over child sex abuse is not about protecting children from harm and suffering; it’s about protecting the pathetic primitive doctrine of the supposed sexual “innocence” of the good girl. Public service? Here is a great video for any adult with a strong stomach who is seriously interested in children’s health and safety:


1) Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster, 2011.

Posted in child sexual abuse, children, sex | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Stolen Youth: Jaycee Dugard

In June 1991 an 11-year-old was kidnapped by two strangers and subsequently held captive by them as a sex slave (and slave labor) for 18 years. The victim’s subsequent release at age 29 (along with the two daughters she gave birth to while a teenage captive) led to a $20 million damage settlement from the state of California and a book by the victim that became an instant bestseller. The victim’s book “A Stolen Life” is a priceless record of her unusual experience (1).

Despite the extreme rarity of stranger abductions, many people believe that such a thing is likely to happen often unless hysterical measures are taken to “protect” all children from a similar fate. As I and others have pointed out, statistically the average child is 300 times more likely to die as a result of physical abuse or neglect by his own parents than be abducted by a stranger for sex. Nonetheless, the mass hysteria over rare stranger abductions makes all children indirect victims of this and similar tragedies. California’s infamous Coalinga concentration camp for sex offenders is a testament to that hysteria. Ironically, the victim eventually realized that in their makeshift prison her daughters were safe from being kidnapped like she was.

After her long isolation and deprivation, she expresses more wisdom than many parents: “…sometimes when we shelter our children too much, we are really protecting ourselves.” Nonetheless, some reviewers claim this book justifies their over-protectiveness of their own children. Sex is worse than death. A child being repeatedly raped by an adult is an injury that should not be trivialized, but is it really worse than death? The victim who authored “A Stolen Life” doesn’t seem to think so, and neither do I. At one point during her captivity she even says she’s happy most of the time, and she hopes her mom and half-sister are as happy as she is most of the time. At another point she says “I’m actually happy to see him [her captor].” He makes her “laugh with all his jokes and antics.”  After her second child is born she wishes he would stay home more. After one of her outings when her purse is stolen, she wonders if she’s safer in her makeshift prison. “At least I know what to expect here.”

Rare stranger abductions and child sex abuse seem clear-cut issues of right and wrong, but some difficult questions remain. Before the kidnapping the victim seemed to be happy, but she was hardly living an ideal life. She never knew her real father, didn’t like her step-father very much, had been in four different schools by age 11, and felt she “needed” a dog – as many children in less than ideal families do. In school she had to write an essay on “If I had one wish.” She doesn’t wish her absent father loved her and came to see her. She wishes she had a dog. She was apparently led to believe that her biological father had abandoned her at birth, but he denies that and has now made public attempts to contact her. She seemed to worship her mother and never says a critical word about her, except that the parent forgot her promise to kiss the child that fateful morning of the tragic abduction. Little girls are famous for writing about their rage against their mothers in their dairies. But there is no rage expressed against the smoking mother in this book.

Most girls today don’t realize they are mentally castrated by their mothers and become sexually dysfunctional because of their mother’s misguided anti-sex indoctrination. Sexual dysfunction in women is hidden because Western culture calls such dysfunction “normal.” Healthy sexual function (clitoral erection, easy orgasm) isn’t necessary to live and be reasonably happy, but that doesn’t justify mothers mentally castrating their daughters. Misled by the cultural belief that “good girls” and women simply have no sexual desire or less desire than boys and men, misguided castrating mothers go unrecognized and uncorrected. Many adults are absolutely convinced the worst possible thing that can happen to a child is sexual “overstimulation,” even though nobody has ever defined what that mysterious word is supposed to refer to, let alone ever given a coherent explanation of why it is so indescribably dangerous. Many mothers are actively destructive and even fervent in the mental castration of daughters – keeping girls prisoners in their own home. Some mothers are guilty of openly or secretly terrorizing daughters against sex, while other parents are merely guilty of sexual neglect and omission.

Was that the case in this victim’s background? When a new mother is abandoned by her partner it’s not surprising if she regrets the sexual experience that conceived the child and is then overly restrictive of her daughter’s sexual development. The victim in this case said she didn’t know anything about sex by the time she was eleven. Was she deliberately kept ignorant? The victim says she misses her little half-sister dearly, but she seems unaware that many sisters have violent physical fights and when some sisters grow up and are no longer under their parents’ control they stop speaking to each other. I’m not suggesting that the victim should be coldly philosophical, and I don’t mean to point a finger at the victim’s family of origin in this case, but we must not assume that before the kidnapping the victim was living in a fairy tale and her youth would have been blissful if it were not for the abduction. Fairy tales of normal life are what people tend to assume. It’s what we would like to believe. But reason calls for a balanced perspective.

Nor do I deny that the kidnappers’ behavior was monstrous, but we don’t have their side of the story. Considering the circumstances, even if we do hear the kidnappers’ story we can’t believe them. Anybody who kidnaps an 11-year-old for sex has lost all credibility (unless what the kidnappers say incriminates themselves and/or is corroborated by reliable and impartial witnesses). The kidnapper was reportedly taking psychotropic drugs to treat mental problems, but there is now suspicion that such drugs themselves may cause erratic, violent, or suicidal behavior in some cases. The kidnapper assaulted the child with a stun-gun and then kept her handcuffed in a state of sensory deprivation. He deprived the victim (and eventually her daughters) prenatal and pediatric care. Was that the behavior of a sane human being? He was willing to risk losing his freedom for the chance to have sex with an 11-year-old. What kind of sanity is that?

In any case, nobody asks to be born a monster, and sometimes other people play a large part in turning someone into a monster. The kidnapper had previously been sentenced to 50 years in prison for the brief kidnapping and rape of a woman. Was that punishment just? He probably spent the first 10 years of his confinement wondering if he might be released on parole after 10 years, or maybe after 20 years, or maybe after 30 years. Was that humane confinement, or was it torture? Was he raped in prison without protection and without any retribution for the perpetrators? I don’t think a mentally balanced person kidnaps and rapes anybody. Did the state “punish” an individual who was already very sick?

I feel great sympathy for the young victim and her family of origin, and I’m not questioning her sincerity, but many factors may have contributed to some important details about the experience being left out of the narrative. The very title of the book is an exaggeration. The victim’s youth was stolen, not her life. Although youth is a very important part of our time in this world, youth isn’t your whole life. There are many possible details before, during and after the victim’s captivity that we will never know. Here are a few interesting things the victim does tell us.

Unsurprisingly, the victim laments being coerced to have sex. She says she hated it so much. “Each and every time. There is no enjoyment for me…” I believe that coercion is always negative, even if orgasm results. On the other hand, Western culture promotes the belief that “good girls” have no sexual desire – only bad girls do. So we don’t expect any 11-year-old girl to voluntarily confess she wanted to have sex or enjoyed it, even under ideal (non-coercive) conditions. Most 11-year-old girls are not allowed the opportunity to express sexual desire and experience sexual pleasure. Conventional ideals of the “good girl” do not give them permission. She says “He did disgusting things to me.” But whether or not sex is perceived as “disgusting” is a value often imposed on people in early childhood before they are mature enough to chose their own values. In this book the kidnap victim never has anything positive to say about sex.  There is not one single positive word written about sex in the whole book – before, during, or after her captivity.

The victim only admits that being isolated and deprived of social contact, she was naturally glad to get occasional visits from her captors. Is that the whole story? Considering the cultural context of political correctness that prohibits acknowledgement of sexual desire and sexual pleasure early in life (especially in girls), it would be surprising to hear otherwise. On the other hand if a rape victim is already sexually dysfunctional, as most women are today (2), then we should not be surprised if the sex was not pleasurable. Nor should we be surprised if a sexually dysfunctional woman who is raped blames her lack of pleasure on the coercion rather than her pre-existing sexual dysfunction.

At one point in the narrative the victim says she had the childish hope that if she “thinks really hard” about something it won’t happen, so during her long hours alone she thought really hard about all the things her captor might do when he comes to visit. Typical magical thinking in childhood, perhaps. But the practical effect of that belief in this case was to give the young girl a perfect excuse to “think really hard” about the man having sex with her. Very interesting indeed. In reality, thinking about sex is nothing for anybody to feel ashamed of, not even a victim of coercion, unless we buy into the traditional myth that “good girls” have no sexual desire – only “bad girls” do.

A disturbing aspect of stranger kidnappings is so-called Stockholm Syndrome, in which the victim comes to have positive feelings and an emotional bond with her aggressors. The principle is simple: If you can’t beat them, then join them. The victim in this case eventually referred to her prison as her home, and the people around her as her family. Unless I’m mistaken, that included her captors, since the man is the father of her children, and she depended on him to take care of her and her daughters. When she became a young woman she ignored multiple chances to escape, and even feared the thought of other people rescuing her. “I don’t want to get them in trouble [referring to her captors].” She went to the beach with her captors, the nail salon, etc. She eventually says “…it doesn’t bother me that much when he hugs me anymore.” She says she thought he loved her. It’s difficult for the average person to imagine what it’s like to be held captive for over 10 years, and sometimes Stockholm Syndrome happens after only a very short time. When she was rescued, she had known her captors almost twice as long as she had known her mother. At age 22 she wrote in her journal “I don’t even remember what she looks like.”

One of the kidnappers reportedly behaved like a psychotic, e.g. hearing voices, and other classic symptoms. It’s convenient to consider him responsible for his actions rather than insane, especially if we want an excuse to hate and hurt (“punish”) somebody. The other kidnapper was an older, barren woman, and both the male kidnapper and the young victim say the woman was jealous of her husband’s attention to the young victim and her beautiful daughters. The two children born into the makeshift prison were eventually encouraged to call the pathetic older woman “mom,” and the very young (real) mother who had breastfed them their “sister.” A sad and bizarre situation that is difficult for the rest of us to imagine. In a TV interview the victim plainly called the woman’s jealousy “sick.” I agree. In my opinion a mentally balanced person – man or woman – would never have participated in such a despicable tragedy in the first place.

The two beautiful, healthy children born as a result of the rapes is a positive factor that complicates the tragedy. In the end, the victim admits she’s glad she had her daughters; who wouldn’t be glad about that? “I would do it all again. The most precious thing in the world came out of it…my two daughters.” She might have remained childless otherwise, as many women today do. The traditional romantic fantasy is that children should be the product of love, so children of rape may even be aborted in some states that otherwise prohibit abortion. How absurd and pedophobic an idea is that! Children deserve to be loved unconditionally because they are children, not because they were produced by you or because they were supposedly the products of true romance.

Toward the end of the book she says she doesn’t hate her captors even though what they did to her and her family was unforgivable. Then she mentions how much her original family and friends suffered, rather than how much she and her daughters suffered. I agree that her family had probably been the ones who suffered the most, not the kidnap victim and her two daughters born during the captivity. When a child cancer patient dies, it is understandable if someone says the surviving family suffered more than the patient. I’ve met some cancer survivors who don’t even remember their childhood cancer, although their parents certainly remember. The 18 years of captivity weren’t as bad for the abduction victim as for the friends and relatives living free and wondering if she was still alive and how much she was suffering. Not knowing anything was a worse nightmare. Would her mother and other relatives wish they (or the abduction victim) were never born? Of course not. In the end, they were all happy to have been born. This case illustrates that even under the worst conditions, having healthy children is usually worth it.

What about the two daughters? Do they have the free choice to visit their father in prison now (if not for him then for them)? Are they free to pity their father or are they forced to reject him? He could be harmful to even talk to, but I think pre-screened letters and photos should be possible if the girls want that. Are the girls free to see their grandfather? Their mother seems to be wiser than most people in that she realizes a person is not fully alive without free choice. But I wonder if like most women she doesn’t realize that without a body that functions sexually a woman is not fully alive either – an injury committed by millions of mothers against their daughters every day. Beyond the incentive of physical pleasure, sex can be an excellent way to communicate positive emotion and feel close to another human being. Talk is cheap; women spend so much time talking about love, but their bodies are silent.

The victim’s separation from her family for 18 years was a tragedy, but some individuals never have a family from the day they are born until the day they die. Jaycee Dugard eventually started a foundation to help other victims of abduction overcome their experience. The foundation’s image is a pinecone, which symbolizes that life can always be restarted: I’m glad her life restarted and I hope other victims of abduction can restart their lives. But in reality life cannot always be restarted for everybody. According to the web site the victim recently spoke at a conference on Stockholm Syndrome at Harvard. I haven’t read or listened to the presentations, but the speakers reportedly criticized calling the phenomenon a “syndrome.” Even more perplexing to me is the immense popularity of the victim’s story. There are 2,500 reviews on Amazon – more than any other book I know of – mostly brief and superficial comments by women. Why are so many women eager to read the details? I’m reminded of the popularity of the old “True Confessions” magazines, and wonder if some readers get secret, erotic enjoyment in reading about sex crimes.

Recently a five-year-old boy in Arizona was found dead after he wandered away from his family campsite. There was no abduction, just a lack of parental supervision. That’s the typical cause of serious injury or death in childhood – not abduction by strangers. Not only are such tragedies statistically much more frequent than stranger abduction, in qualitative terms that boy’s life can never be restarted. His parents can’t hope for his future. Despite the coerced sex that Jaycee Dugard suffered, in relative terms she was one of the lucky ones. “A Stolen Life” is a short book about a very long period of time. Hopefully, someday she will reflect more on her early life and write a more detailed and balanced description of her early sexual education (or lack thereof) and how that might relate to her reaction to her coerced sexual experience and current sex life (or lack thereof).

There is good reason to believe that some mothers set the stage for a negative reaction to even minor sexual abuse. As an idealistic young woman the victim wrote in her journal “I want to change the world, make it a better place to live. A place where I want the kids to live.” Ironically, this abduction victim’s unique experience could actually contribute much to dispel the ridiculous myth that early sexual experience is worse than death. Some drama queens promote the belief that even a single experience of minor sex abuse should be an international scandal, but here is a person who experienced multiple rapes over a period of years and not only survived but is glad she did and glad she had two children as a result – and with good reason. There is evidence that throughout most of human history children learned about sex by watching their parents enjoying the act (3), but today normal sexual behavior is not only hidden from most children, some parents don’t even talk about sexual desire and sexual pleasure with their kids. Isn’t the anti-sex crusade in modern culture to blame for pathetic sexual fixations and widespread female sexual dysfunction?


1) Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life: a memoir. Simon and Shuster, 2011.

2) Sammy Elsamra, Michael Nazmy, David Shin, Harry Fisch, Ihor Sawczuk, Debra Fromer. Female sexual dysfunction in urological patients: findings from a major metropolitan area in the USA. BJU International, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2009.09091.x. Another survey: 60% of women never or almost never experience orgasm during intercourse. Cited in: Kamisaruk, Barry R. et al. 2006. The Science of Orgasm. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 17.  See also: Laumann E,  Paik A,  Rosen R . Sexual dysfunction in the United States: prevalence and predictors. JAMA 1999;281: 537544

3) Josephs L 1. How children learn about sex: a cross-species and cross-cultural analysis. Arch Sex Behav. 2015 May;44(4):1059-69. doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0498-0. Epub 2015 Feb 18.

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Playing Doctor

“…the ability to experience and know pleasure is an essential ingredient of wellness.” -bell hooks

In her book “The Secret Lives of Girls,” researcher Sharon Lamb describes interviews with many girls and women who revealed their experiences of sex play during childhood. Beyond playing doctor, the subjects admitted playing striptease, deep kissing, naked parade, kissing genitalia, etc. as children. The experiences described were not unusual exceptions; they were normative in Lamb’s sample of 122 rich and poor girls and women in over 25 states (1).

Discussions of human sexuality should not be distorted by a focus on only victimization and danger. Although dangers do exist, accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education should include discussions of desire and pleasure. In other publications Lamb has given due attention to the problem of over-sexualization (see below). As Lamb put it: “… just because there are problem versions of sexual play and games doesn’t mean that all sexual play is harmful to children.”

One of the first cases described in the book blew my mind. When I was about seven a neighbor boy and I pretended he was a girl and I was the boy. (See Learning about Love ) We undressed and pretended to tie him up (imaginary rope), and I “forced” him to kiss my penis and put my penis in his mouth. Then we switched roles. That’s a game only boys play, right? Wrong! Lamb offers the report of two seven-year-old girls who played exactly the same game, probably with the exact same words: “Now you be the man.”

So how is it possible that many parents feel wholly justified in prohibiting their children (especially daughters) from even playing doctor – asking advice columnists how to make kids stop that – let alone naked parade, etc., as if such sex play is “abnormal”? One plausible explanation is that such parents have ulterior motives. They merely want any excuse to rob children of their sexual power, or in other words some adults want to deprive kids of the pleasure of making their own sexual choices.

The traditional idea that “good girls” are not interested in sex (only boys and bad girls are) is a burden that hurts girls by causing unnecessary shame and guilt feelings. Normal girls are encouraged to feel they are immoral or perverted if they have or express any sexual feelings. If perfectly normal girls want to explore their sexual feelings through play we force them to sneak around like criminals.

Boys suffer too, since they are usually assumed to be the aggressors whenever boys and girls are “caught” playing sexually together – even when the boy is younger than the girl. Lamb describes several reports of little girls behaving provocatively, e.g. deliberately exposing their underwear to boys, and trying to hit boys in their genital area as an excuse to then comfort the boys there by caressing the boys’ genitalia.

The author also mentions the incredible cases of a six-year-old suspended from school because he kissed a girl, and a teacher who threatened her pupils that she’d “better not hear” about any kissing games. I’ve previously referred to an unbelievable media report of a ten-year-old girl arrested for playing doctor (see Child Sex Abuse Hysteria)

Most people have some kind of power, including sexual power, and exercising that power can be pleasurable in itself beyond any satisfaction from orgasm. An analogous case is someone who ignores expert advice on a large purchase, and instead goes out and buys something on (his own) whim to fully enjoy the shopping experience.

When I played rape at age seven I experienced genital erection but not orgasm, and yet the game was exciting in that we were making our own sexual choices – free from any interference by parents or other adults who are greedy for power and eager to take those choices away from kids (e.g. imposing an adult’s choice to abstain on a child). Ironically, such adults claim they are superior to real rapists (forcing someone not to do something is superior to forcing them to do it?), and some adults even claim they are thereby making children “free” – free to do what adults tell kids to do!

In some cultures a popular saying is: power is better than sex (that saying is likely popular due to widespread sexual dysfunction). If you’re very greedy for power, you’re not content to just manage your own sexual choices – you want to manage other people’s sexual choices as well. Hence traditional attempts to manage and even micro-manage children’s sexual choices. Power-hungry adults claim they are protecting kids from abuse, guilt feelings later, pregnancy and disease, but in reality sexually dysfunctional adults are primarily protecting themselves from losing opportunities to enjoy power and control.

Children can be protected from most boogey men by simply providing accurate, balanced and comprehensive sex education from the earliest age, and at most some responsible monitoring at a reasonable distance. The same excuses were used in the past to justify men managing women’s sexual choices, slave owners managing a slave’s sexual choices, and modern social engineers dictating what they want (calling their preferences “appropriate” sexual choices) in the bedrooms of all other adults.

In polite society people aren’t supposed to talk about sex in general, and especially not sexual desire and sexual pleasure in women, and certainly not before puberty. But the practical effect of such traditional etiquette is to perpetuate the belief that girls and women have less sexual desire and less sexual pleasure than boys and men – a belief that is evidently false. Worse, the supposed lack of sexual desire and sexual pleasure in girls and women becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since as I have pointed out previously, the absence of genital stimulation during development before puberty is likely to cause permanent and irreversible clitoral erectile dysfunction 

Can we believe the stories girls tell about their sex play? Are they exaggerating, or is there a lot more going on that remains unmentioned? One case described by Lamb points to the latter possibility. A little girl told her interviewer she’s a perfect good girl who never does anything bad, always obeys her mother, and has no problems at school. But independent sources revealed that this self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes has actually been caught in the act of writing gross profanity on the walls of the school bathroom. A closer study of her own words indicates she may have committed serious vandalism outside school. There is a clear possibility that the things girls do admit about their sex play may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Sex play isn’t the only secret part of girls’ lives. Lamb also asked her subjects about aggression, and discovered that many girls have indulged in gratuitous aggression and even enjoyed it. An example is two girls who put broken glass in the cookies they baked for their father. More common is aggression toward weaker children. We don’t like to think that “innocent” little girls are capable of outright cruelty toward weaker siblings or other children, but they are. Who knows how many false accusations of sex abuse were motivated by gratuitous sadism?

Lamb wrote that her purpose is to expose that “Girls, like boys, are deeply sexual, deeply aggressive creatures.” That “these are human impulses we all share – the taste for revenge, the sexual urges of the body, the desire to dominate another.” Most importantly, that these desires exist from early childhood. Lamb states clearly: “Sexuality does not begin at thirteen.”

Recently I witnessed a girl (age 10) on the street put her hand on a teenage boy’s butt. It occurred in the middle of several people and she smiled mischievously, so it was no furtive gesture. In response the boy said something like “What? You like my butt?” The child didn’t reply. Her mother was sitting at a table 2m away, and didn’t comment. I suspect that the child’s motive was playful, and the boy’s response was what he felt was expected of his masculine role in responding to the little kid’s misbehavior.

A game described by several of Lamb’s subjects is “Chase and Kiss,” and she reports that in some schools (both lower income and middle-class) the object of the game was to touch the butt of the other person rather than kiss. Exhibitionist games were also popular in the girls’ reports. Lamb says: we can’t deny the pure pleasure in being watched.

Lest anyone suspect that Sharon Lamb is some radical sex maniac, note that she was one of the co-authors of the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls. That report attacked the increasing focus on sexy clothes, sexy dolls, sexy bodies, and sexy behavior presented to girls in the mass media today. Although I agree with the importance of teaching children media literacy, I criticized that report in my first blog post five years ago on so-called Premature Sexualization.  Another co-author of the APA Task Force Report was Deborah Tolman, whose own study of teen girls’ sexual experience “Dilemmas of Desire” I reviewed in Sexual Equality

This short introduction only scratches the surface of the subject, so I will reread this important book and offer a more detailed analysis in a future post.


  1. Lamb, Sharon. The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do-Sex Play, Aggression, and Their Guilt. The Free Press, 2001.
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Child Massage

Anyone who has experienced a professional massage knows that massage is very enjoyable. The standard price may seem excessive relative to the pleasure, but there is actually much more to massage than merely pleasure. Searching “child massage” on the web reveals that there are reliable authorities to confirm the health benefits of massage, even if the massage isn’t performed by a professional. So why don’t most people practice daily massage? Why isn’t child massage more popular?

There are several books and videos available about child massage (1,2,3,4). The University of Miami Medical School has a Touch Research Institute which has published over 100 studies on all ages. They have found that massage facilitates weight gain in preterm infants, enhances attentiveness, alleviates depressive symptoms, reduces pain, reduces stress hormones, and improves immune function  The research has been partly funded by the Johnson and Johnson Baby Products Company. J&J itself also published a great book many years ago: “The Many Facets of Touch” (1984), as part of a Pediatric Round Table series.

Daily massage is now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and many pediatricians, especially for babies, and there is no good reason to stop the practice as a child matures. The skin isn’t merely a covering for the internal organs; human skin is also an organ of perception – the largest body organ of any kind. Gentle skin contact causes a cascade of physiological effects that communicate safety, friendship, and affection, as well as modulating mood and the immune system, regardless of who does it (5).

Busy parents should invest their limited time in talking with children about what the children are interested in, expressing love and guidance, but words aren’t enough. Daily massage is a way to communicate feelings in addition to words. If parents aren’t always available, siblings or friends can learn how to perform a good massage with a minimum of study and effort. As I describe in my free video Buddy Massage gentle skin-to-skin contact also fosters social relationships, especially when monitored by a parent, teacher, or other responsible adult.

Children should be informed that interpersonal skin contact is an option rather than an obligation or an unspeakable taboo. The prior, voluntary consent of the children giving and receiving the massage is always needed, as well as parental consent. Appropriate hygiene before massage is also mandatory. Children should be informed that massage relaxes the body and mind, so a child being massaged may fall asleep. The child receiving the massage may also experience a genital erection, which is another natural consequence of deep relaxation.

Sleep and genital erection are nothing to be ashamed of. If massage takes place in the nude, as it normally is, and if there is a genital erection, the child should be praised since erection is an indication of healthy genital function. If anything, not experiencing genital erection may indicate dysfunction. Failure to experience clitoral erection may be normative in adult women, most of whom were mentally castrated in childhood, but clitoral erectile dysfunction is not normative in children.

Schools in several countries now include “massage time” in the classroom to foster relaxation, social harmony, and discourage bullying (6). Satisfying children’s need for gentle skin contact may discourage many from indulging in unnecessary violence or inappropriate sexual contact. Once kids have experienced a good, thorough massage at home or in school, they will want it again every day. But once a day is enough. Children would get bored with too frequent massage; they never lose interest in other forms of activity, especially physically active games or sports.

The various members of the shame lobby (religious fundamentalists, feminists, psychotherapists) are suspicious of skin contact and nudity, especially for children, and blatant paranoia over child sex abuse is rampant thanks to the sensationalist “news” media, political opportunists, and profiteers in the sex abuse rescue business (7). Some drama queens declare that any skin contact with a child is “overstimulation” and worse than death, despite the clear evidence to the contrary (see The Rind Study ). Unfortunately, social workers, teachers, law enforcement agents, and other government employees are sometimes more interested in their own job security or career advancement than in protecting and serving the public.

How pathetic to see parents who certainly know better pretending to be “concerned” about nudity and skin contact in order to appear politically correct. In the current climate of mass hysteria over sex, parents should inform children that child massage and buddy massage should preferably be discrete rather than openly broadcast. Schools can play a role in normalizing child massage, since whatever schools do is widely considered socially acceptable – even though the prestige of traditional schools is actually unjustified.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that many individuals who are hysterical about skin contact and nudity have a personal agenda; they are probably sexually dysfunctional due to touch deprivation in their own childhood, and can’t bear the envy of thinking other children may enjoy what they missed. A community needs rules, but that doesn’t mean any and all disagreement and non-conformity to numerical norms must be viciously censored and violently suppressed. A community that behaves so intolerantly must view itself as extremely fragile, or else so-called threats to community stability are merely an excuse for gratuitous sadism.

In an ideal world people would respect individualism, diversity, and nonconformity. Once upon a time, some countries even officially boasted that they value courage and rugged individualism. But times have changed. Nowadays, some people are so insecure and paranoid that the only courage many people respect is the “courage” to conform to the current whims (“standards”) of their dumb-down community, “informed” by the highly selective and sensationalist “news.”

Hopefully, someday child massage may become widely accepted, and communities may enjoy the social and health benefits of citizens who have never been deprived of innocent skin-to-skin contact.


  1. Aucket, Amelia. Baby Massage. (Morrow, 2001).
  2. Jelveus, Lena and Anders, Jelveus. Swedish Child Massage. (Swedish Health Institute, 2004).
  3. Torporek, Robert. The New Book of Baby and Child Massage. (Running Press, 2001).
  4. See and search “Child Massage” on YouTube for many others.
  5. Montague, Ashley. Touching. 3rd ed. (Harper and Row, 1986).
  6. See and
  7. Levine, Judith. Harmful to Minors. (University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
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Sex in School

It’s scandalous that schools are showing very young children videos of adults expressing sexual desire and experiencing sexual pleasure, including genital intercourse. Although no other species in the animal kingdom hides copulation from their young, it’s scandalous that civilized human beings are utilizing modern audio/visual technology for accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education. But wait. In reality, schools are not providing access to such videos to children. Why not? Why is sex kept a secret from children?

Hypothesis #1: Accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education would distract future adults from focusing on spiritual matters.

This is the historical justification for sabotaging children’s healthy sexual development, and a religious agenda is still part of what some scholars (e.g. Howard Gardner) call the “hidden curriculum” in schools today. The early Christian Church even included a sect that advocated the physical castration of priests. As a young man St. Augustine considered joining such a sect. But this hypothesis is disconfirmed by counter-evidence. There are individuals who are sexually uninhibited but nonetheless true believers and preach the wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth. (See Professor Polyamory’s blog in the right column under Blog Roll.) Although it seems intuitive that the more we focus on the body, the less we will focus on the spirit, there is no valid evidence that focusing on the spirit is fostered by mental castration. As far as we know, the opposite may be true: “inhibiting” healthy sexual development in childhood may actually foster the creation of hypocrites, and interfere with an adult’s capacity to sincerely focus on spiritual matters.

Hypothesis #2: Accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education would distract future adults from focusing on commercial production and consumption, and thereby harm the economy of communities and nations.

This hypothesis likewise fails due to counter-examples, such as my own personal experience. Despite my early exposure to sex and lack of sexual inhibition, I have always been highly materialistic, constantly looking for ways to increase my disposable income in order to buy the latest toys and gadgets, as well as useless but fascinating antiques. I’ve also spent tens of thousands of dollars vacationing in exotic places (45 U.S. states and 20+ foreign countries), instead of merely staying home and enjoying orgasms.  Although my early sex education was not accurate, balanced, and comprehensive, there is no reason to believe that better sex education in schools now would lead to the creation of adults who are less eager producers and consumers of non-sexual products and services in the future.

Hypothesis #3: Accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education would distract future adults from the need for self-defense and national defense, thereby leaving us vulnerable to attack and invasion.

My personal experience again demonstrates the contrary. Despite being sexually uninhibited since birth, I developed a great interest in arms and weaponry very early in life, and eventually became a proficient handgun and rifle marksman who competed against and occasionally beat U.S. military-trained marksmen. Although I wasn’t enthusiastic about volunteering for military service, that was because of the difficulty of being guaranteed a place in Officer Cadet School, rather than any lack of enthusiasm for military service itself. I’ve also worked as a successful firearms dealer and junior rifle club leader, promoting the shooting sports in my community. I have also had a life-long dedication to unarmed self-defense and physical exercise, and even now at a fairly advanced age I can still outperform many young men in calisthenics.

Hypothesis #4: Accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education would distract future adults from higher learning and purely intellectual interests.

As a teacher for more than 20 years I have watched many children grow up, and my frequent observation is that the most sheltered children whose parents diligently “protected” their sons and daughters from sex education, have not turned out to become scholars in any sense. Quite the contrary, hiding sex from children seems the surest way to produce a generation of young people who are sexually dysfunctional as well as being wholly superficial and even anti-intellectual in every field or topic. This hypothesis is also refuted by my own character: my early exposure to sex and lack of inhibition have not prevented me from becoming a life-long learner and regular consumer of non-fiction books, scholarly journals, academic conferences, and professional web casts. If anything, my early exposure to sex seems to have cultivated my intellect.

Hypothesis #5: Accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education would create future adults who are less dependent for gratification on institutions and elites, and thereby create adult citizens who are less vulnerable to manipulation and control.

This hypothesis is consistent with the primary function of modern schooling. In the distant past education took the form of apprenticeship training for a specific craft or trade. In English-speaking countries churches offered the first organized instruction outside the home or workplace for indoctrination into religious dogma. Initially there was resistance to the idea of government providing free schools to the poor masses, and that resistance was overcome only with the rise of the threat of revolutionary movements spreading in continental Europe in the 19th century, hence the perceived need to indoctrinate English children politically against “foreign” ideas, beyond any need to train young people for future jobs.

Although there are now many competing interests against school reform, the hypothesis that government-directed schools seek (whether successful or not) to control and manipulate children is the most plausible explanation for anti-sex education. The widely acknowledged failure today of conventional schools (even among “successful” students who have been “well-schooled”) to cultivate citizens who are able to think independently and creatively, lends support to a sinister and conspiratorial rationale for opposing sex education, and calls for a re-evaluation of the traditional goals and values of schooling.

In a future post I will consider the confused content and methods that traditional schools are burdening children with instead of utilizing modern audio/visual technology for accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education. It’s hard for me to imagine that effective sex education someday could be worse than what traditionally inhibited teachers and parents are already doing to children every day in the here and now to “distract” children from sex.

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Polyamory: Origins of Jealousy

Traditionalists claim that monogamy is inevitable for human beings because jealousy is an inherited instinct, so polyamory  (multiple mating) is unrealistic. But I believe that the reality is quite the contrary: the traditional problem of jealousy is an effect rather than a cause of monogamy.

Toddlers are innately possessive of objects but they learn the benefit of sharing rather quickly from older teachers. Children learn to share their toys, meals, bedroom, bathroom, sidewalk, street, park, playground, school, public transportation, etc. Infantile possessiveness is largely unlearned very early through experience with teachers and other models. Possessiveness is fostered by scarcity: when desired objects or spaces are scarce, possessiveness and jealousy are more likely.

In contrast, interpersonal jealousy is learned. In a three-person relationship jealousy is primarily learned from observation of older models. A small study 15 years ago claimed infants exhibited jealousy when their mothers showed affection for other babies, but that finding has not been replicated. Other experts believe early jealousy results from the prior experience of being the only child: older sibs are jealous of younger sibs. What causes jealousy is upsetting the individual’s prior status. Jealousy is less likely among twins, each of whom was never the only child.

In a polyamorous family two wives who live together may synchronize their menstrual cycles and become pregnant at the same time, thereby producing children of the same age, without the risk of complications of twins in a single pregnancy.

A nursing infant is not jealous of an older sibling nursing on the other breast. But a small child is banished from the parents’ bedroom and thereby learns the monogamous principle of “odd man out.” While two young siblings are amazingly willing to share an adult, jealousy usually enters the equation when there are two or more adults involved. In a small monogamous family where there is only one child and two adults, jealousy between the adults is likely; or when there is more than one child and only one adult, jealousy between the children is unsurprising. Scarcity fosters jealousy.

Jealousy is especially likely when there is a scarcity of opposite-sex members in the group: two or more females and only one male, or two or more males and only one female. More than once I’ve had the personal experience of a mother and her daughter literally fighting over me. The child didn’t hope to possess me exclusively, let alone hope to be the prima-donna. The child merely wanted mom to share, which the latter was quite unwilling to do.

More typically, whenever I hug and kiss a mother, the daughter carefully watches my every move out of curiosity, just as a young girl will watch and listen to an older couple talking to each other. But whenever I hug and kiss a daughter, the mom keeps us under subtle surveillance out of the corner of her eye. Monogamous moms also keep tabs on how much a mate spends on gifts for her vs. how much he spends on daughter. The monogamous adult’s interest is not to protect the child from “sexual” abuse; mom wants to protect herself from losing her official position as prima-donna.

A glaring example of motherly jealousy was once when I was sitting in a large armchair and my girlfriend’s daughter came and squeezed in alongside me. Mother objected that the chair wasn’t big enough for two people, so daughter moved to the couch. But then mother contradicted herself by coming over and squeezing in the armchair alongside me. Daughter naturally observed: “If the chair isn’t big enough for little me and him, then how come it’s big enough for you and him?” Mom simply replied: “It’s time for you to go to bed!”

Another common scenario is a boy who reaches the age when he no longer wants to sit on mom’s lap, and begins to prefer playing with his big sister. The mom pretends that she needs to keep the sibs at a proper distance to prevent them from becoming “too close,” but in reality mom wants to prevent her son from straying “too far” from herself. Recently a ten-year-old boy and girl (close friends since preschool) asked their parents if the boy could sleep over at the girl’s house. It was the boy’s mother who refused permission.

Freud claimed a small child wants to kill one parent in order to possess the other parent exclusively (the “Oedipus complex”), but I have observed the contrary: one parent often wants to kill (divorce) the other parent in order to possess the child exclusively. Freud confused his own pedophobia with human nature or instinct. Parents feel jealous and behave possessively toward their children in traditional monogamous groups, but not necessarily in other circumstances.

Even children’s friendships are often monitored and fostered or inhibited according to the monogamous parent’s fear of competition for affection. A constructive and responsible parent accepts a child’s affectionate feelings for a friend, and at most guides a child to choose friends who contribute to good social development. But many parents actually choose a child’s friends according to the parent’s political or religious preferences or other parental idiosyncrasies, which are irrelevant to the child’s interests.

A major disadvantage of monogamous jealousy is that one adult can pretend to be interested in a third party (with the implicit threat of future abandonment) precisely to make her “only” mate jealous and value her more, with misery generated that is not only unnecessary but absurd – a pathetic spectacle that impressionable children can observe and imitate.

Feminists originally demanded more help from males in childcare, but once economic and other concessions were granted, and women discovered that children (especially girls) tend to become very close to fathers, feminists backtracked and now complain that fathers and daughters must keep their distance to avoid “sexual abuse,” i.e. what is often merely sex play such as tickling, playing horsey, etc., which is officially defined as “abuse” regardless of the characteristics of the specific experience. The supposed negative effects of early sexual experience may also be confounded by the jealous or hysterical reaction of adults after the experience is over. One practical result of the new “gender equality” is a generation of women who are sexually dysfunctional.

The frequent result of monogamous jealousy is a child deprived of physical affection and emotional intimacy. Dad isn’t allowed to cuddle with daughter, so daughter isn’t allowed to cuddle with any boys. Hence, the spectacle of children allowed to cuddle with pets or stuffed animals but not with each other or the opposite sex parent. Kids are allowed or even encouraged to obsess over objects made of metal or plastic, as if possession of a “safe” inanimate object will bring you the same happiness as “dangerous” interpersonal intimacy. Instead of learning the pleasure of skin contact and self-stimulation of the female erectile organ (clitoris), girls are mentally castrated and forced to suffer the complete sexual isolation required by adult jealousy.

Boys are less damaged because the penis is wholly external so surreptitious self-stimulation is easier to get away with. I suspect that parents (especially mothers) are also more tolerant of boys being “naughty,” possibly because adults know that a sexually dysfunctional son is far more destructive to eventual sex roles than a sexually dysfunctional daughter. Female sexual pleasure is not indispensible. Through cultural distortion and miseducation, sexually dysfunctional women are considered “normal” or even “morally superior” to boys (and especially girls) who are sexually functional.

In contrast, adults who repudiate jealousy in a polyamorous family become models of shared intimacy. Healthy children are allowed and encouraged to express their sexual desires and enjoy sexual pleasure with whomever they please. Instead of hiding one’s feelings and behavior and feeling guilty about it, polyamorists accept and welcome open expressions of healthy sexual function. Female sexual dysfunction is not normal or morally superior to natural enthusiasm for sex play and sexual learning at the earliest age. It’s also normal and healthy to desire, enjoy, and prefer sexual pleasure (rather than object pleasure) throughout life.

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Polyamory as Multiple Parenting

A polyamorous family consists of more than two adults and may have several children who are not necessarily related to each other biologically. What makes a family polyamorous is sexual non-exclusion. Polyamorous parents and other adults practice sexual inclusion. In a polyamorous family the adults attempt to repudiate possessiveness and jealousy, and may even enjoy the presence of multiple members who share intimacy. In polyamory you don’t love someone else instead of your primary mate; you love someone else in addition to a primary mate. Polyamory is not a form of rejection of your “true love,” but a form of wider acceptance.

In contrast, the modern monogamous family is a simple model: one father, one mother, and usually one or two children produced by that father and mother. In the past a monogamous marriage used to include an average of about four children, with four grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and many cousins all living nearby. There were several adults or older siblings available to care for, stimulate, and protect the younger ones. Homes were usually filled with people so kids received stimulation from many different sources: same age, older, and younger members. Children slept in the same room and often in the same bed. But nowadays monogamous families are much smaller and more mobile; relatives often live far away so the children suffer relative isolation and neglect. It may be no coincidence that behavioral and developmental problems have been increasing over the past 50 years.

Children living in the contemporary, small, monogamous family suffer a form of social deprivation. Spacing two pregnancies far apart is typical and may be convenient for the parents, but not for the children. When there are only two sibs wide apart in age, they don’t have as many common interests as children of the same or similar age.  The learning benefits are usually for the younger sib rather than the older sib, although the older sib may benefit from observing parents model care of a younger sib. In later childhood traditional schooling with children segregated into overcrowded groups of same-age (and sometimes same-sex) peers, an antiquated curriculum, and an authoritarian teacher, is certainly not an ideal form of group interaction and in any case does not compensate for early social deprivation.

It only takes two parents to create a child, but a polyamorous family has more caregivers or “alloparents” available to care for, stimulate, and protect the dependent children. Ideally, all the adults in a polyamorous family contribute to the loving care and protection of the children, and the adults may not even know who the children were produced by. Children, like fathers, never really know who the biological parents are even in a monogamous family. We commonly assume that the legal parents are also the biological parents, but that is not always or necessarily the case even in monogamous families.

Some polyamorous families may choose to be “childfree,” but I think such pedophobic groups would not be serious alternatives to monogamy. As I suggested in previous posts on pedophobia, disliking children is misanthropic. To quote de Sade: “True libertinage abhors progeniture.” (“120 Days of Sodom.”) Some macabre authors like Emily Dickenson were childless.

Polyamory is inappropriate even for adults who do want children but for no other reason than pride of ownership. It was very satisfying to me recently to learn that a woman writer who previously said she “chose” to be childless, now admits she actually did want to have a child but turned out to be physically unable to become pregnant. Why didn’t she adopt? Who knows how many other adults supposedly uninterested in children are likewise hiding their medical infertility?

The adults and children in contemporary monogamous families are typically obsessed with the constant threat of infidelity. In some cultures calling someone a victim of infidelity is the worst insult in the language. Monogamous couples waste considerable time and other resources in mating competition and/or mate-guarding. In contrast, a successful polyamorous family is a model of more harmonious intimacy; mature polyamorists view attraction to others as natural and an expression of healthy sexual function, not something to feel guilty or angry about. (More on infidelity below.)

A biological advantage of polyamory is that gene flow across groups is useful to avoid the potentially deleterious effects of inbreeding, and genetic change is important to combat our greatest enemies: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. There is good reason to believe that speedy change of the immune system (not necessarily improvement but mere change) is beneficial in keeping ahead of our quickly evolving micro-enemies (1). There is likely to be more gene flow and genetic variation in multi-mating groups than in fixed-pair mating, contributing to the genetic health of the next generation. In view of the worrying appearance of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, the tendency of some individuals to be selfish and pass on his/her own genes exclusively is less likely to promote successful survival than more rapid genetic change.

There is some evidence that children benefit from the stimulation of being in multiple relationships, i.e. having siblings. There is also some evidence that children with multiple (two) parents are more advantaged than children growing up with a single parent. Epidemiological data suggest that growing up in a single-parent home is a risk factor for behavioral and developmental problems just as growing up with parents who are alcoholic, abusive, drug addicts, etc. An extreme example is the tragic early life of only-child Mary Shelley who grew up with a widowed parent and subsequently wrote her macabre story “Frankenstein.”

Polyamory offers many advantages but the greatest potential advantage of a polyamorous family is the presence of multiple caregivers or alloparents. An experiment in massive stimulation sent professional adults (males and females) into homes to spend time with children around the clock, and the kids achieved significant improvements in their I.Q. scores in a relatively short time. In the long term we should also expect other improvements in children’s intellectual and social development, such as creative thinking. As with learning more than one language, the child’s brain develops more flexibility as well as accumulating experience in a greater quantity and wider variety of social situations.

There is a well-known physiological process of activity-dependent synapse formation. When the brain is developing during childhood, more synapses are formed the more stimulation the child’s brain receives. The reverse process is neural pruning: if the developing brain doesn’t receive much stimulation, then many neurons are pruned and die, possibly resulting in some form of dysfunction, including organ dysfunction. These processes are widely accepted in brain science and in no dispute. I have previously suggested that these well-known processes apply to sexual function as well, specifically clitoral function (see Clitoral Erectile Dysfunction).

Most children today tend to fear instability because it seems to threaten neglect and abandonment, but in my experience when kids are confident of receiving competent care from somebody or other, they get bored easily and actually prefer a variety of fresh caregivers. Monogamous parents traditionally terrorize kids against “the wicked step-mother.” However, when a healthy brain is developing it needs stimulation, so an abstract concept like “loyalty” is of secondary importance to a child before indoctrination into monogamy. The high-sounding word “loyalty” in this context merely means exclusiveness: excluding “outsiders” from physical or emotional intimacy.

Healthy children are strongly attached to primary caregivers, but confident kids are also very practical and flexible. Children are great believers in the practical principle: if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with. To a child exclusiveness has value only if and when it avoids interpersonal conflict, not because exclusiveness has some abstract ethical value in itself. Children are extremely “loyal” to their parents as long as the latter are in the same room.

In early childhood education a common belief is that a child benefits from having a primary caregiver assigned to that child, but there is no hard evidence for that belief. As far as we know, multiple “primary” caregivers may be better. Of course, there may be a point of diminishing returns: 5 parents per child may be better than 10 parents per child, and 2 or 3 languages may be better than 5 or 10 languages. That remains to be seen.

Mothers and other females traditionally invest more time and effort in childcare than fathers and other males, especially in other species, but there is no reason why that pattern must persist in humans of the present and future. Beyond gestation and breastfeeding there is no reason to believe that childcare by females is always and necessarily better than childcare by males. It is obvious that in humans the best childcare depends more on the behavior rather than the gender of the caregiver, and experiencing the different behavior styles of males and females may be conducive to broadening children’s perspective. A mother with three husbands may be just as useful to children as a father with three wives.

Traditionally the stay-at-home mother is the preferred form of monogamous family, but it is far from ideal. Children have so much energy that one adult can’t keep up with even one child, let alone more than one child. Fatigue, neglect, and/or boredom are probable unless there are more caregivers who can take turns resting and care-giving as would be easy in a polyamorous family with multiple adults.

Fluidity of membership in a polyamorous family may be considered neutral or even constructive because individuals naturally change over time. New and different caregivers may mean improvement in childcare. An important thing is that the terms of membership in a polyamorous family are clearly specified and agreed to in advance of becoming a member and investing in the family. Violent conflict often results from one person unilaterally changing the rules formerly agreed to. Monogamous couples usually begin with the mutual agreement “till death do us part,” but within a short time one spouse may unilaterally declare “I’m not dead yet but I’m parting anyway.” A kind of initial contract specifying terms of dissolution of agreements (and consequences for unilateral violations) would minimize violent conflict later.

The reason infidelity often causes a violent reaction is because it is dishonest. In contrast, when extra-pair contact is agreed to in advance, there is no real “infidelity.” Dan Savage has used the phrase “ethical infidelity” but that is a contradiction of terms. When extra-pair contact is agreed to in advance, it’s not “infidelity.” Although possessiveness and jealousy are commonly thought to be instinctive and inevitable, a very young child with flexible models eventually realizes that the dream of exclusive possession can become a nightmare if the person she wants chooses somebody else for an exclusive relationship instead. Sharing loved ones is a safer and more reasonable compromise that is easily accepted when a young child’s personality is forming.

Much interpersonal conflict is due to competition for an exclusive relationship. So when relationships are shared, there is less need for such competition. Changes in the make-up of the monogamous family due to divorce, death, or other reasons are usually very disruptive and stressful for the adults and especially for the children. But lacking models of possessiveness and jealousy, children in a polyamorous family may grow up more resilient and better able to withstand natural disruptions in social relationships when disease, accidents, or other sudden changes are forced on them.

The children who grew up in a successful polyamorous family should become adults who get along smoothly with other families, both monogamous and polyamorous, rather than forming enclaves or tribes in isolation from the larger society. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t expect that. The major obstacle would be possible rejection and ostracism by individuals and groups with vested interests in protecting monogamous marriage, what Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’ have called “the marital-industrial complex” (2). Much misery in childhood is due to disputes over custody of children when monogamous couples separate. In contrast, polyamory offers the hope that children will have a buffer of many close relationships that are unaffected by a change in one caregiver.

The first successful polyamorous families to go public would face the greatest challenges. There are a few videos on YouTube of polyamorous families, some of whom feel a need to hide their polyamory from the children, possibly because of a perceived need to avoid public disclosure. There are also many polygynous Mormon families in which the polygyny is not a secret. The children seem to grow up in the same home although each mother has a separate bedroom (3).

Intimate relationships are often problematic. The place you are most likely to die a violent death is in your own home. That may not change in a polyamorous society. There is always a risk of envy, dissatisfaction and resentment in social relationships. But I suspect that across generations the individuals who grow up in the socially rich environment of a polyamorous family will be better equipped to compensate for human frailties, than those individuals who grow up in an average or even “ideal” monogamous family. Although there are many cases of failed monogamous mating, they may be explained by problems other than monogamy itself. But some successful polyamorous families would disconfirm the traditional belief that monogamy is the only viable formula for raising strong and healthy children.


  1. Ridley, M. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. Penguin, 1993.
  2. Ryan, Christopher and Jetha’, Cacilda. Sex at Dawn: How we Mate, Why we Stray, and What it means for Modern Relationships. Harper, 2010.
  3. For example: and
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