Several authors have documented the hysteria over child sex abuse in the past (1,2,3,4), but the hysteria continues today and is even becoming entrenched. I’ve documented one writer’s clearly hysterical prescriptions against child nudity and physical contact with children in detail in a previous post (see Respecting Children’s Boundaries). In this post I will discuss some recent examples of hysteria and the refusal of the hysterics to confront criticism.
Some individuals continue to believe that early sexual experience between different age groups is usually seriously harmful – despite the lack of valid evidence, and even despite the existence of clear counter-evidence (5). In one of the most infamous moments in recent American history the U.S. Congress voted to censure the American Psychological Association for publishing that evidence.
In his study of logic, Willard Quine describes how the strength of a belief should correspond to the strength of the evidence. Strong evidence should foster a strong belief, while weak evidence should foster a weak belief. In contrast, if someone has a strong belief based on weak evidence, or a weak belief despite strong evidence, then those beliefs are irrational (6).
The strongest evidence is that which we can observe with our own senses repeatedly, such as an experiment that can be repeated. The next strongest form of evidence is an observation we have made ourselves but only once. That is weaker because our single perception may be mistaken, and over time we must rely on memory, which is known to be fallible. A still weaker form of evidence is the trusted witness. Although he may usually be reliable, he may be mistaken or lying in some particular case. The weakest form of evidence is the unknown or anonymous witness, who may be the biggest liar in history as far as we know. A witness has little incentive to be truthful if we have no way to confirm or disconfirm what he claims.
Western culture today is inundated with the testimony of unknown or anonymous witnesses claiming that child sex abuse is usually seriously harmful, that talking-cures are safe and effective, and that the “professionals” who “work with” victims of abuse have gained reliable knowledge that we can generalize to everyone. No wonder hysterics prefer to ignore or censor the counter-evidence.
After more than 30 years of mass hysteria over the sexual revolution (7), some writers today are still wringing their hands over the supposedly traumatic effects of any sexual experience between different age groups, without citing any evidence other than their personal experience, as if their case is typical, or as if we should ignore the principles of inductive logic: generalize as much as you want, because the hysteria is supposedly above criticism.
I’ve attempted to contribute to several blogs by politely pointing out the need for verifiable scientific evidence, and I request documentation of the claims made. I also cite counter-evidence, in the hope that the writer will confront it. But some bloggers simply refuse to publish or reply to my comments, as if they don’t trust their readers to remain faithful to the dogma when they learn there are two sides of the story.
A few bloggers do publish and reply to my comments initially, dismissing my request for documentation as unnecessary because the supposed truth is “obvious,” and they claim the counterevidence is imperfect but without specific reasons. They insist on the supposed superiority of other evidence which they neglect to specify.
When I politely suggest that a writer’s replies to my queries are inadequate, that what they claim is far from obvious, and I insist on specific documentation for their claims, they then censor my further contribution to the discussion altogether. Some give up trying to insist that all child sex abuse is usually seriously harmful, and instead resort to an old trick: rhetorical arguments about (all) children’s supposedly inevitable incompetence to consent (see Age of Consent). I point out that competence to consent is not a moral question but an empirical claim equally lacking documentation, but they refuse to confront that objection.
Comments in one clearly hysterical blog attacked me personally, apparently the same blogger under different names, and when I replied he refused to publish my defense, so he made it appear that I am unable or unwilling to reply. That blog eventually became “private,” so unwelcome critics may not even see the blog anymore. I managed to learn that the blog itself is no longer active, and previous posts about child sex abuse have been deleted.
Another blog banned me in the middle of a debate, after they quoted one of my blog posts incorrectly and out of context, falsely accused my blog of being “pervy,” and ignored that all of my previous comments on their blog received mostly “likes.” I was banned nonetheless, as if my further challenges to politically correct dogma would be too dangerous for adults to read. That is the kind of deceptive and distorted propaganda that promotes and maintains hysteria.
Even some big “news” media are very selective in publishing comments, censoring anyone who challenges their writers to document hysterical claims. Under the guise of “moderating” comments, they only publish comments that agree with the point of view expressed in their writer’s story. There are sometimes hundreds of comments in support of the writer’s article, and seemingly no criticism at all because very critical comments have been censored. Readers are misled into assuming that the hysteria over child sex abuse is unanimous. That is hardly honest journalism.
I can understand refusing to publish spam, foul language, etc. But refusing to publish calm and polite disagreement with the writer’s point of view is pure dishonesty in the service of mass hysteria. The editors are afraid to admit their story is superficial sensationalism promoting hysteria.
There was a local case of a man who was savagely beaten by a hysterical mob because they thought he is a sex offender against children. A rumor started and that was all the mob needed to hear. They didn’t bother to confirm whether he was actually a sex offender or not. The attitude of the mob was: Punish first, and ask questions later. If that’s not hysteria, then what is?
That was a clear case of gratuitous sadism driven and excused by hysteria. Individuals who probably have no interest in children in their daily lives, take legal matters into their own hands, commit assault and battery, and we are supposed to believe they are good, responsible citizens concerned about morality, justice and protecting children?
The individuals in that mob were exhibiting the most disgraceful form of human behavior, but that indictment of the ill effects of hysteria was never reported by the mass media. At this point many unscrupulous individuals have a vested interest in maintaining the mass hysteria over child sex abuse, to hide their own responsibility in the disgraceful violence and destruction they have contributed to.
In the past it was common for children in preschools to sit on a teacher’s lap, but nowadays many preschools have policies which prohibit that, with potentially negative effects on both teachers and children (8). The focus of such policies is the male lap, not the female lap, and the primary goal of such policies is not to avoid sex abuse, but to avoid hysterical suspicion and possible lawsuits based on false accusations.
It is known that skin contact with children stimulates production of an adult’s hormones for nurturing behavior. Prohibiting physical contact between children and caregivers may cause or contribute to child neglect (the leading cause of serious injury and death in childhood), and is therefore potentially dangerous for children. Extensive contact with children is also known to decrease levels of a hormone associated with aggression: testosterone.
It is also possible that some adults who were physically abused when they were children, and as adults are now at risk of becoming physically abusive themselves, may self-medicate through affectionate physical contact and thereby protect children. Some animal research found that traumatized, anti-social monkeys improved after gentle contact with young monkeys.
The mass hysteria over child sex abuse is openly exploited by some parents going through a divorce to make false accusations against a spouse for ulterior (e.g. financial) motives. At least one consultant advises parents going through a divorce to never be alone with their own children to avoid false accusations, which are often believed by the courts at face value without meeting the normal standards of evidence (9). Individuals who make false accusations of witchcraft in the middle of an international witch hunt are worse than hysterics – they are psychopaths.
One noted psychiatrist suggested that we all have some “pedophilic tendencies,” and the popular interest in child sex abuse is merely a respectable way for some individuals to think about, talk about, and visualize (fantasize) adults “having sex” with children (10).
In a discussion of one of my book reviews on Amazon, a hysteric said I am “probably a high-up member” of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). I replied that I have never been a member of NAMBLA at all, and have never even visited their web site (if they have one). I also challenged the hysteric to point out exactly where I have ever said anything promoting pedophilia. She did not respond to my challenge, and instead deleted her comment. In another discussion elsewhere, a different critic first called me a NAMBLA member, but later said calling me a NAMBLA member would be a disservice to that organization!
Recently on a major photo-sharing website a hysteric complained that a member had posted “inappropriate photos” in a child photo group. He called the images “thinly-veiled, pornography-like” photos. But the photos in question were of a child wearing a bathing suit in normal poses on the beach, no different from any other normal, family photos. The hysteric’s complaint seemed so silly that I wondered if he was joking. Instead of succeeding in starting a witch hunt, the hysteric himself was banned from the group after he refused to respond to a demand that he apologize to the photographer he attacked. All of which indicates that although the mass hysteria over child sex abuse seems overwhelming, it is actually a paper tiger.
Attorney Lawrence Stanley has described how the myth of a huge market for so-called “kiddie porn” has never been substantiated, despite being thoroughly investigated by the world’s most high-tech law enforcement agencies. For more than 30 years the FBI, Interpol, U.S. Postal Service and other government agencies have spent millions of dollars investigating, but they only succeed in uncovering little mom-and-pop operations with a handful of customers. Although there seems to be a huge market for adult porn, there is no evidence for a “huge” market for kiddie porn, there never was any such market, and probably never will be.
The hysteria over so-called “pedophilia” is similar. For years I have observed apparently suspicious individuals on the web who seem to be undercover investigators posing as pedophiles in an attempt to entrap real pedophiles. The only trouble is that the supposedly real “pedophiles” don’t exist, or if they do exist they are greatly outnumbered by the undercover investigators. What is popularly believed to be the mass threat of “pedophilia on the web” is actually created and maintained by government employees with nothing better to do but waste citizens’ tax money on fishing expeditions.
If we define pedophilia as a sexual fixation on children, then it is probably extremely rare (11), and should certainly be considered a very low priority on the long list of problems facing society in general and children in particular. To milk that rare condition as much as possible, opportunists and profiteers (investigators, therapists, sensationalist journalists, ambulance chasers) attempt to broaden their potential market to include anybody who says the words sex and children in the same sentence, or anyone who photographs a child in a bathing suit on the beach, regardless of the absurdity of their case, the waste of valuable resources, and possible damage to innocent people that result.
Hysterics need to get their own priorities straight. In addition to the exaggerated concern over supposed dangers to mental health, there are also confused expressions of moral outrage over children’s sex play. However, honestly concerned writers distinguish between transgressions against morality and transgressions against convention. A transgression against morality entails an identifiable victim and an identifiable injury. Photography of family nudity and social nudity, or sex education, child massage, etc. are conventional to some people and unconventional to others. But there are no identifiable victims and no identifiable injuries in photography, nudism, sex education or massage.
Even an actual injury in an identifiable victim is not necessarily a moral issue unless there is evidence of an intent to cause harm or a reckless disregard of a possibly harmful outcome. Individuals are hysterical when they eagerly censor opposing views and focus on attempting to punish alleged perpetrators rather than trying to do anything to prevent actual injuries or help actual victims.
Some parents and teachers actively encourage children to interpret sexual experience negatively and react with panic by using specially prepared videos and pamphlets about so-called “bad touch.” Some hysterics buy multiple titles of indoctrination pamphlets that all say virtually the same thing: sex abuse is so catastrophic that warnings must be repeated over and over again. Rather than protecting children from potential harm or minimizing actual harm, such terrorizing sacrifices the child’s best interests and attempts to cultivate a negative reaction in children that some adults want them to have.
Some pediatric textbooks now repeatedly advise physicians to “Always remember to screen for abuse” (12). That warning appears even in a section on labial adhesions (!) and is inexplicable except to protect doctors from the risk of accusations by hysterical parents that the physician exhibits “too much” interest in separating the child patient’s labia as part of the exam. Some pediatricians even promote so-called “counseling” for sex abuse (no longer called “therapy” to avoid malpractice suits), even though such “help” has never been shown to be safe or effective by medical standards.
To paraphrase Nietzsche: Whoever crusades against sexual terror should be careful she doesn’t become a terrorist herself. Some journalists have been known to completely invent stories and then publish them as “news,” and the following examples of some recent headlines certainly seem unbelievable:
Ten-Year-Old Girl Accused of Rape During Game of Doctor
Hand-Holding Deemed a Gateway Sexual Activity
Photo Lab Reports Kids’ Bath Photos to Police
The initial concern over child sex abuse 30 years ago may have been motivated by a noble desire to protect children from insensitivity and exploitation. What is wrong or perverted about sex play between different age groups is not the difference in age, but when (if) a younger person’s best interests are sacrificed for an older person’s selfish pleasure or profit.
That is a perversion of the natural ideal of older individuals sacrificing themselves and nurturing children to help them grow strong and become constructive contributors to their community. That ideal has now been corrupted into its opposite: promoting the mass hysteria over child sex abuse is blatant exploitation of children’s best interests for the pleasure and profit of some adults who are primarily interested in their own personal, political or financial goals at children’s expense.
1. Ofshe, Richard & Watters, Ethan. Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sex Hysteria. University of California Press, 1994.
2. Wexler, Richard. Wounded Innocents: The Real Victims of the War Against Child Abuse. Prometheus Books, 1995.
3. Lyon, Kathryn. Witch Hunt: A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused Justice. Avon Books, 1998.
4. Pendergrast, Mark. Victims of Memory: Incest Allegations and Shattered Lives. Upper Access Book Pub., 1995.
5. Rind, Bruce et al. A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples (Psychological Bulletin 1998, Vol. 124, No. 1, 22-53); and Rind et al. The Validity and Appropriateness of Methods, Analyses, and Conclusions in Rind et al. (1998): A Rebuttal of Victimological Critique From Ondersma et al. (2001) and Dallam et al. (2001) (Psychological Bulletin 2001. Vol. 127. No. 6. 734-758).
6. Quine, W.V. et al. The Web of Belief. McGraw-Hill, 1978.
7. Roiphe, Katie. Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at Century’s End. Vintage, 1997.
8. Tobin, Joseph (ed.) Making a Place for Pleasure in Early Childhood Education. Yale University Press, 1997.
9. Tong, Dean. Ellusive Innocence: A Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused. Huntington House, 2002.
10. Gardner, Richard A. Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Creative Therapeutics, 1991.
11. Seto, Michael J. Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory, Assessment and Intervention. American Psychological Association, 2007.
12. Adams, Paula J. (ed.) Practical Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.