The Issues: “Child Pornography,”
Boy Erotica, and “Pedophilia”
“Child Pornography” is a “hot button” issue that is rarely discussed in a rational manner. It is invariably clouded with overly broad and essentially meaningless descriptions, biased and pejorative terminology, smug assumptions based on subjectively determined “morality,” and a godlike attitude of absolute, final, incontrovertible, and exclusive self-enlightenment on the part of those who crusade against the conjured Hydra they would have the world believe exists. These demagogues exploit the phenomenon of mob mentality to create a climate of hysteria that is specifically intended to suppress and denigrate any serious inquiries into reality. They conduct an ongoing war of terror against researchers or anyone else who questions their pronouncements, not by responding to the issues, but by attacking individuals.
This book, however, is a direct challenge to these terrorists and to the misinformation they promulgate. It is not the intent of this volume to try to deal with the entire unmanageable hodgepodge of child pornography, but rather to isolate and examine one well defined segment, “Boy Erotica” (BE). We shall go beyond hysteria and conduct a rational discussion, based on empirical data, of the viewing by males of images and written descriptions of boy nudity and sexuality, and of the making of those images.
Additionally, we shall examine the underlying issues of relationships between boys and older males which include a consensual sexual component. By taking into consideration that neither “conventional wisdom,” societal and media hysteria, nor the assertions of a Pharisaical sect of psychologists who refer to themselves as “victimologists,” have little if any basis in fact, we shall examine in a new light the evidence provided by Internet surveys conducted in 2002 and 2004.
Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University is the author of, among many other scholarly works, Moral Panic (1998), which is a fairly honest examination of the social issues it addresses. In a later work, Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet (2001), Jenkins makes a perhaps reasonably believable attempt at transcending the usual hyperbole about child pornography. But he, like so many others, comes up short of that mark in that he chooses “conventional wisdom” over published scientific research, fails to make critical distinctions, employs inaccurate and pejorative terminology, and on occasions lapses into very unprofessional inflammatory rhetoric. He cites a plethora of anecdotes, but pertinent empirical data are noticeably absent.
Bauserman (2003) reviewed Beyond Tolerance and came to similar conclusions. He also noted:
Jenkins focuses exclusively on online material of interest to men attracted to adolescent or prepubescent girls (he acknowledges the existence of a parallel group of men attracted to boys, but reports being unable to locate a parallel online culture for this group). (p. 219)
I find it curious that Jenkins takes this position, when even a cursory survey of the Usenet “newsgroups” produces several examples of boy oriented groups, e.g. alt.binaries.pictures.boys, which group he even mentions (p.55). What Jenkins’ intent is in concentrating on girl oriented groups while ignoring those pertaining to boys is not clear, but it may simply be that there was not sufficient “dirt” on the boy oriented groups to titillate readers. I must confess, however, that, like Jenkins, my research interests are unilateral, only in the opposite direction, and I have ignored the girl oriented groups.
While there is little equivalent tradition for girls with older females, the sexually expressed relationships of boys with older males has a long history going back at least as far as ancient Greece. Situations were quite common back then, as well as in other cultures and times, in which the older male was first a mentor and role model for the boy, and sex was only one part of the relationship. But sex was definitely a part, and it was and is accepted in those societies. Although there is no documented evidence, the “master/apprentice” arrangement between a boy and an older male that was so common from the dawn of recorded history up until perhaps the mid 20th century might well have lent itself to the existence of a sexual component.
It must be acknowledged, however, that in coercive and economic conditions such as slavery and prostitution, boys – like females – were simply sex objects. Young girls were certainly sought after for sexual purposes, but boys had the advantage of not menstruating or becoming pregnant.
The first requirement for a rational investigation in this area is the careful deconstruction of “pedophile-pedophilia” for even the words themselves are corrupted and misused. “Pedophilia” (or “paedophilia” if one happens to be under the spell of the Queen’s English), comes from the Greek pais (παίς, child or youth, not gender specific, the combining form is paedo or pedo ) and philia (φιλία, friendly love or affection – it would be eros (ερως) if it meant physical or sexual love) (Liddell, 1888). So pedophilia is by etymology the nonsexual love of a child or youth – not sexual lust after a minor, as it has been corrupted in today’s usage. Every parent, grand-parent, uncle, aunt, teacher, and caring neighbor is – or at least should be – a pedophile.
As long as a consensual sexual relationship between a boy and an older male is seen as equally harmful and abusive as the brutal vaginal rape of a 6 year old girl by her stepfather, there can be no intelligent discussion. Not only is there a gross difference in the potentially traumatic physical aspects of the latter scenario, but analyses of empirical research based on nonclinical and nonprison samples (Rind, 1997, Rind et al., 1998) demonstrate that the perceptions and reactions of boys are drastically different from those of girls. If the perceptions, reactions, and effects of such sexual encounters are so different for boys and for girls, it thus would seem reasonable to also separate the consideration of depictions of boy/boy/older male solo and joint activities from girl/peer male/older male “pornography”
Another important distinction, with which many disagree, is the effect of the degree of willingness on the part of the boy. Some theorists adamantly insist that a boy is incapable of expressing, and incompetent to give or withhold, any form of meaningful consent. These people obviously have never taken a bright and uninhibited 8 year old boy shopping for new sneakers.
One must also note that there are two distinctive genera of erotica involving boys; pictures and text, each with its own characteristics. Additionally, there are many degrees and levels of activities from simple solo nudity through group anal intercourse orgies, and the mental state of the “actors” in pictures and videos can vary from enthusiastic cooperation to abject submission. Only when these and other salient distinctions are carefully and accurately sorted out can one begin to discuss boy erotica. We will examine later how these concerns and considerations entered into the development of the questionnaires that furnished the data and respondent observations for this book.
Bauserman, R. (2003). Book Reviews, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40 (2) pp. 219-227)
Jenkins, P. (1998). Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. London: Yale University Press.
Jenkins, P. (2001). Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet. New York: University Press.
Liddell, H (1888). Greek-English lexicon. New York: American Book Company.
Rind, B., Tromovitch, P. (1997). A meta-analytic review of findings from national samples on the psychological correlates of child sexual abuse. Journal of Sex Research, 34 (3) 237-255.
Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., Bauserman, R. (1998). A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 22-53.