The furore surrounding the curious case of Milo Yiannopoulos has blasted through the media. Journalists, commentators, and the Twitterati are calling for Milo to be hanged from the highest bough. And why not? Milo’s comments allegedly condoning underage sex were appalling. As one who has defended him in the past, I was dismayed. It is entirely unacceptable, for anyone, to in any way even hint at the trivialisation or acceptance of paedophilia. Milo, in a fit of mouth-running, finally crossed the line. He should be, and is being, roundly criticised.
My issue isn’t whether or not Milo did the wrong thing. Of course he did. The issue is whether or not he meant what he said. So, aside from the fact the footage was edited out of context (a discussion about Milo losing his virginity at thirteen), there are two factors that should be taken into account. Milo’s journalistic track record, and above all, his history as a victim of paedophilia.
Upon looking at his career, there is absolutely no way anyone could assume Milo condones underage sex. He has outed three paedophiles in his reporting, one of whom is set to commence a rape trial as a result. He ruthlessly thrashed left-leaning Salon magazine for publishing articles by self-admitted ‘non-offending’ paedophile Todd Nickerson. He has always been openly critical of child sexual predators, and planned to dedicate a lecture to the subject as part of his college tour (the topic was changed last minute). He also, in a segment cut out of the edited footage, defended the age of consent as “about right”.
As for his personal context; what has largely been overlooked is that Milo, between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, was sexually assaulted by two older men. The extent of the assault is unknown. One of them was a Catholic priest; a trusted authority figure who exploited the good faith of an insecure young boy. Milo had no support managing his trauma growing up; his parents found out about his sexual abuse with the rest of us. He did not have a good relationship with his mother or his father and lived with his grandmother for a period of time because he couldn’t stand to live with either parent.
Milo’s twenties were a sloppy parade of sex, drugs, and nihilistic parties; characteristic of someone who is trying desperately to prove to themselves they are not, in fact, perpetually victimised by their experience of rape. By his own admission during his press conference on February 21st, “It was only on reflection that I realised most of my twenties, which were spent drinking and partying…were probably me running away from something. So I may not have perceived at the time that [my sexual abuse] was the root cause, but I’m pretty sure it was.”
Milo also admitted that as someone who has suffered at the hands of a paedophile, he thought he could be as outrageous as he wanted about this subject, as a way of dealing with it emotionally. He acknowledged he was entirely wrong in this assumption, and reiterated his stance:
“I would like to restate my disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I’m horrified by paedophilia. I don’t believe that sex with thirteen-years-olds is okay…I’m implacably opposed to the normalisation of paedophilia, and I will continue to report and speak accordingly. To repeat; I do not support child abuse.”
Anybody viewing the footage, with these factors in mind, could only perceive Milo’s comments as the rather deranged, neurotic, hyperbolic ramblings of one who is truly, possibly irreparably, damaged. The fact we are not giving him the benefit of the doubt is at best, unfair, and at worst, unfeeling. Especially as there is no evidence anywhere to suggest Milo has been an abuser himself.
Consider also the gender disparity. If Milo were a woman, she would be showered with sympathy, and journalists would bay for the blood of the Catholic Church. However, as Milo is a man, a conservative, and apart from anything else, a homosexual, the first conclusion both the Left and the Right jump to is the very worst possible. At the risk of sounding like a raging progressive, this reveals an insidious homophobia still prevalent on both sides of politics. As if child rape is somehow irrelevant, even amusing, when it happens to a gay teenage boy.
Gender is not the only double standard Milo is subject to. Footage has emerged from Bill’s Maher’s now-deceased television show, Politically Incorrect, revealing Maher defending the paedophilic relationship of thirty-five-year-old teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, and her fourteen-year-old male student. He states Letourneau was in prison for “being in love”. When challenged, he responds with, “Raped? Come on. How can a woman rape a man?”
He also dropped this bombshell in a 2007 interview for Playboy, “With Debra Lafave screwing her fourteen-year-old boy student, the crime is that we didn’t get it on videotape. Was he taken advantage of? I wish I’d been taken advantage of like that.”
Star Trek actor George Takei described his own sexual molestation (at the age of thirteen or fourteen) as “delightful” and “delicious”. He spoke of it in fondest terms over three separate interviews. Director Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl in 1977, remains a Hollywood darling, and was given a standing ovation by self-appointed political analyst Meryl Streep at the 2003 Academy Awards. Actress and writer Lena Dunham admitted in her autobiography to molesting her younger sister, describing herself as a ‘sexual predator’. She is considered a feminist icon, and worked extensively on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Where is the leftist mainstream outrage at these people? They have escaped it because they have the correct politics. If Milo were a hero of the Left, we would not be having this conversation. He would be subject to a very different set of rules.
None of this changes the fact that what Milo said was inexcusably wrong. However, his behaviour is an example of poor judgment, not poor character. The smear campaign and ensuing witch hunt have been brutally unjust. The lesson Milo must learn is although everyone should have free speech, part of this freedom is choosing when to be silent. And when it comes to the wholly awful topic of paedophilia, it is, I think, one to choose to avoid in the realms of satirical public discourse.
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