halfacanuck

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect my actual opinions.

June 21, 2004

Child porn

I mentioned in my previous post that child porn is once again a hot topic in Canadian society (or, at least, newspapers). The reason for this is Michael Briere, who recently pleaded guilty of sexually assaulting, murdering and dismembering a 10-year-old girl. In his statement he revealed that immediately prior to committing his crime he'd been looking at child porn on his computer.

And let the hysteria begin. "Briere's claim in the statement that he was incited by kiddie porn prompted immediate and plaintive pleas from Crown attorney Paul Culver and Holly's family for Ottawa to enact tougher laws to combat the scourge of child pornography," says the above news report from the National Post.

Now I feel enormous sympathy for the victim and her family. Briere is a monster and should be locked away, probably forever. I also despise child pornography and those who make it. They are exploiting the most vulnerable in our society, and that should always be condemned.

But, that said, one can't blame child porn for Briere's actions. "Indeed, the statement of facts suggests Holly was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and a random victim of Briere's uncontrollable impulses after he viewed kiddie porn on the Internet," the story continues.

Bullshit. There's an argument made, probably correctly, that pedophilia is an uncontrollable condition. I hesitate to compare it to homosexuality, because I just know someone's going to completely ignore my actual point and instead attack me for being homophobic, but I do think the comparison is valid. I'm not equating homosexuality with pedophilia in any other way than that they are both somehow "built in" to people. Gay rights activists have been insisting for years that "sexual preference" is an invalid phrase, that we should instead say "sexual orientation," and I agree with them. Pedophilia, I would argue, is also a sexual orientation in this sense.

Briere is a pedophile, clearly. He can't help that. But to suggest that he wasn't able to control his actions, that child porn somehow "forced" him to do what he did, is nonsense. As Rosie Dimanno points out in today's Toronto Star, the vast, vast majority of Catholic priests are able to subdue their lusts and resist their temptations. One doesn't have to act on one's impulses.

If it's really true that Briere was unable to resist his urge to have sex with a child, that would indicate he was not just a pedophile but also suffering from a personality disorder, perhaps APD. To blame anything for the actions of a sociopath, besides perhaps a miswired brain, is illogical and irresponsible. It wasn't child porn that made Briere into a killer. That part of his personality was already there.

But if one is to take the position that if he'd not had access to child porn he might've been able to contain his lust, one then also has to condemn regular pornography. It's a stretch to think that a photo of a naked pre-teen would trigger his psychopathy, but that a photo of a naked 18-year-old wouldn't. We have also to consider works of art depicting naked children, which are just as likely to titilate a pedophile, and novels and plays and sociological studies on the subject. If one begins to blame what we see for what we do, we start down a very slippery slope. We must take action not just against child porn but against regular porn, against art, against science, against movies, against TV shows. We must discount the evidence of our own experience that watching Natural Born Killers doesn't make us into psychopaths, that listening to Tupak doesn't make us into thugs, that reading Mother Theresa's A Simple Path doesn't make us into saints.

The main reason for the child porn hysteria, I believe, is our constant search for a bogeyman, some grand threat against which we must rail. Once it was witches, then space aliens and UFOs, then practitioners of satanic abuse. Now it's pedophiles. The pedophile is, perhaps, the ultimate bogeyman. Pedophilia cannot be detected, nor can it be predicted. It can be anywhere and everywhere. The fact that child sex crimes are vanishingly infrequent compared to crimes against adults shouldn't deter us from our crusade.

We condemn what we see as the increased sexualisation of children. I would argue, in fact, that such practices have decreased significantly. These days it is considered repugnant to suggest that young people have sexual desires, or can be sexually attractive. Were Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet now, he would be lambasted for suggesting that teenagers should be allowed to express their sexuality, as would Freud for writing that sexuality plays any role in the development of children.

Perhaps the greatest taboo, though, is to suggest that teenage females can be sexually attractive to adult males. This is to me the greatest illogicality of the whole phenomena. No-one would seriously contend that teen boys aren't attracted to teen girls, and yet there's supposed to be some magical switch in mens' heads that turns off this attraction once they pass the age of 18. Any honest man would tell you this simply isn't so.

Evolution has a lot to answer for, and the attractiveness of teenage females is one of those things. All the criteria we subconsciously use to determine a suitable mate are present in them: clear skin, clear eyes and high energy levels all indicate good health. Firm bodies indicate physical fitness. These are the things we're programmed to look for, because a fit mate means fit offspring. Nature is consistent, too: the age range during which women are most likely to survive unaided childbirth is from 15-19, and scientific studies have shown that this is also precisely the age range men find most sexually attractive (anyone who doesn't believe me can simply click here for ample proof).

Of course there are many reasons to prefer older women over teenagers: maturity, sophistication and experience, both emotionally and sexually. But none of these things matter to our reptillian brain, and that's what is responsible for our sexuality. Again it comes down to something deep in our psyche. Like homosexuals who can't control their attraction to people of the same sex, and pedophiles who can't control their attraction to children, men can't control their attraction to young (by which I mean mid- to late-teenage) girls. It's been with us for millions of years, and will remain with us at least that long.

That's not to say men should have complete freedom to act on this attraction. There are plenty of factors we, as modern humans, must take into consideration before beginning any sexual relationship, including the maturity levels of those involved. But by making it dangerous to admit the attraction exists we stifle open discussion of it. We push it underground and we make it sordid. We encourage, not discourage, the proliferation of teen porn web sites and the like, turning a genuine and universal male personality trait into something illicit, nasty and unmentionable. And freakin' expensive.

As I said, evolution has a lot to answer for. I'll be returning to similar topics later, but congratulations for staying with me this far. Men, you may now return to the above Google link. Women, you may now begin berating me via the comments box.

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