Long life

I thought paedophiles were rare – but then I read the newspapers

At least it's one problem that doesn't affect me directly

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

One problem from which I am confident I don’t suffer is paedophilia. I have always liked picking up babies and hugging them, especially my own children or grandchildren, but never in the ‘Rolfie deserves a cuddle’ kind of way. The idea of sexually lusting after children seems to me not only abhorrent but also almost unimaginable. If anything is against nature, it must be to regard children as sexual objects.

I have always known, of course, that paedophiles exist. I was aware of it when, as an eight-year-old, I went to a prep school in Berkshire where the headmaster would snog the prettiest boys (alas, not me) in their dormitory beds and where the violin teacher had a habit of placing his hand on my thigh. But this was fairly innocuous stuff, and only later did I learn that some paedophiles have urges so strong that they will not or cannot keep them within tolerable bounds.

Accordingly, parental panic about paedophilia has sometimes brought about controversial responses such as ‘Megan’s Law’ in the United States, which decreed that the identities of convicted sexual offenders should be made known to their neighbours, and such as Rebekah Brooks’s copycat campaign in the News of the World for the ‘naming and shaming’ of such people in Britain. But neither had any perceptible effect on the amount of sex offending that went on, and even Brooks herself later admitted that her campaign ‘could have been done better’ and that it had ‘carried risks of vigilantism’.

In addition to all that, we have all become aware in recent years of the many cases of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and of the shock that this created within the Church (possibly, in my opinion, being a significant factor in the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, who in his previous Vatican job as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had to read all the revolting dossiers on this scandal pouring in from around the world). Nevertheless, despite everything, I had continued to regard paedophilia as something that didn’t affect most people, a perversion confined to an unfortunate few, and an evil that was at least limited in its effects.

Now, for heaven’s sake, it doesn’t seem like that at all. After the tsunami of allegations against entertainers, politicians, and people in every walk of life — allegations that in some cases have already proved fully justified — it has come to seem that paedophilia is a condition shared by vast numbers of men and that those who do not suffer from it may just be a lucky few.

There have been efforts in the past, especially through the Paedophile Information Exchange, to make paedophilia respectable, the PIE’s stated aim having been ‘to alleviate [the] suffering of many adults and children’ by campaigning to abolish the age of consent and to legalise sex between them. But the PIE wound up in 1984, and its campaign was not a success. Sex between adults and children seems to remain the one form of sexual activity that society is not prepared to tolerate, and we can only be grateful for that.

If there were ever any chance that people might come round to it (and there surely never was much), it will have been killed decisively by the sheer horror of the revelations about Jimmy Savile, especially his ruthless abuse of disadvantaged and mentally damaged children in the medical institutions he patronised. It would obviously be grotesque for anyone to argue that what he got up to could have ‘alleviated the suffering’ of anyone except, conceivably, of himself.

One might perhaps have some tiny feeling of sympathy for Savile, with his fixation on his weird, heartless, domineering mother with whom he yearned for intimacy. One might even feel sympathy for Rolf Harris, covering up depression and emotional coldness with a ghastly false bonhomie. One might even feel sorry for Cyril Smith for having been so fat. But none of these drawbacks could ever begin to excuse their behaviour towards children. There are circumstances in which even murder may be forgiven, but when it comes to child abuse, a line is quite rightly drawn. If there is one good thing to have come out of all this, it is a strengthening of the public’s conviction that the innocence of children must be protected at any price. Meanwhile, one feels very smug not to be a paedophile.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “UK Man Wins Court Case Against BBC For 9-11 WTC 7 Cover Up”
    You might want to check this out, Britisher pals.

  • The Red Devil

    ‘. I was aware of it when, as an eight-year-old, I went to a prep school in Berkshire where the headmaster would snog the prettiest boys (alas, not me) in their dormitory beds and where the violin teacher had a habit of placing his hand on my thigh. But this was fairly innocuous stuff’.

    I hope you’re being ironic. It’s fairly sick and disturbing stuff.

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Many people seek to drown their unhappiness in self-indulgence, whether it be booze, drugs, food, or sex. Others just like to over-indulge and delight in gluttony of every kind. Either way, it’s unhealthy for the person and those affected by them. The greed of the powerful for sex has become more publicly known, and if they are forcing themselves on the unwilling or the inappropriate, they invite the full force of the law to prosecute them. That this hasn’t been the case makes a mockery of decent British values and invites the contempt for these I thought The Spectator would reject. All that has happened now is that abused persons who once would have been be ignored, or did not see a point in coming forward about what happened now do so.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “I went to a prep school in Berkshire”
    Not Pangbourne?

  • rtj1211

    The reality which few will address is that, whilst we are all obsessed with what ‘perfect development from newborn to adult’ means in physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual terms, the reality of the world is that most are imperfect to some degree, from the minor things which don’t matter and are often charming, to the more seriously different (which may or may not pose danger to others).

    There are many good reasons why this may occur. The first is external shock too great to be assimilated by a normally developing brain, leading to shut down to prevent further harm. You only have to look at war zones to see the effect on children, the effect of murdering gunmen in school classrooms, the effect of traumatic bullying, the effect of early parental loss, the effective of severe postpartal depression etc etc. What is a physical 12 year old may still be an emotional 4 year old, an emotional 1 year old and a totally repressed sexuality.

    The key question is what happens if conditions improve so that that shut-down can now be opened up again?? How fast, if at all, do the repressed areas of life catch up? What happens overall to the spiritual entity?? And, if societal strains shut things down again at a new stage of development, what is the overall outcome??

    Here are some questions to ask:

    1. What happens if an adult’s sexual development stalled at just that point when children explore their bodies and show their ‘bits’ to each other?? Is that paedophilia?? Remember, that young children don’t have sex with each other but they do get curious.
    2. What happens if emotional adolescence doesn’t happen in the teenage years but starts in the adult years? Are you attracted to 13 year old girls of 25 year old women?? I can’t speak for everyone, I can only say that in my case it was still adult women I was attracted to. But I wouldn’t put it past the bounds of reason that for some, it could be teenagers.
    3. What happens if you never really had a childhood but had to be an adult growing up? Will you seek to experience that which you missed and, if so, will being with young teenagers be part of that?? Again, I don’t know, but it’s possible, isn’t it??

    There will be a lot of people who will have zero tolerance for paedophiles. They don’t understand them, can’t understand them and so have a primeval response of protecting their own and ostracising the freaks.

    You can have tolerance for the predicament of paedophiles without allowing them to act out their desires. The real question then is: are you torturing those paedophiles by telling them that they can’t experience sexual pleasure the only way it is possible for them?? Yes you probably are, but that doesn’t mean you have to submit to their needs, does it?? But it means that you are human enough to understand that they are what they are and, most likely in most cases, had little control over becoming that way.

    Most of life, after all, is people saying: ‘I want to be seen to be King, so people ought to be like me’. Most people are cruel to some people in their lives, but they get away with it societally. Paedophiles probably won’t any more. And rightly so.

    Now people have a choice; they can be zero tolerance, all paedophiles are evil. Or they can be zero tolerance, paedophiles must be kept away from our children but treated with compassion without submitting to chicaneries.

    I just hope that those who claim to be Christians, don’t pepper the line ‘all paedophiles are evil’. They are what they are, they must absolutely be kept away from children, but you can’t be very Christian if you have no interest in understanding why they are.

    To each their own choice, but please retain integrity in your own lives……

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