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Dear Jesse, please don’t give up your day job

Jesse Bering, the evolutionary psychologist, has decided to play Agony Aunt and has penned a collection of suggestions to reader questions. The gorge rises; one struggles to avoid flinging the laptop across the room. Take his answer to a “Deep-thinking Hebephile” who thinks we ought to reconsider age of consent laws, to make it easier for him to have sex with the objects of his desire.

Whenever society screams about some demon or another, it’s probably just caught an especially alarming sight of itself in the mirror. Given the historical flux in age-of-consent laws, there are few among us who aren’t the direct descendents of those who’d be incarcerated as sex offenders today.

This is true. We probably all have rapists in our pedigrees, too, and thieves and murderers, and even priests. That does not imply that we should accept these behaviors because they just are; even if you are doing your best to be the dispassionate observer of an evolving group of animals, you should also wonder whether rapists/pedophiles, even the ones who manage to reproduce, are actually selectively better at reproducing than individuals who favor consenting, willing, cooperative partners. This is not part of Bering’s perspective, strangely enough.

And then he tells this bizarre, disturbing story.

Rind points out that it’s foolish and manipulative to demand that all teens frame their consensual trysts with all adults as inherently negative. He tells of a 14-year-old Jewish boy who lost his virginity to a prostitute in her 20s on the eve of the Holocaust only to soon perish at a concentration camp. On learning after the war from his son’s friend that the boy died a “man,” the boy’s father smiled and wept with pride. The irony, of course, is that today’s moral panic dictates that this teenager should be called a “survivor” of sex abuse had he actually escaped Auschwitz.

Holy crap. I’d think he was a survivor of sex abuse if he escaped that warped old deviant he called a father. I would find no consolation in the idea that a child of mine suffered stress and torment leading to death, but managed to put a penis in a vagina. I also wonder, if it were a daughter, would he have wept with pride at learning she’d managed to protect her virginity before death? The irony here is that this strange old man attached so much importance to virginity.

So Bering is deep into boring pedant mode and pretending to be the objective observer, but he really exposes his own biases. The other thing completely missing from his discussion is a recognition of the fact that sex involves at least two people — to Bering and his correspondents, the targets of their passions really are just objects, and consideration of their interests and desires is simply off the radar. It’s a bit like eavesdropping on psychopaths talking about their next victim, and it’s distressingly creepy.

I won’t even touch the letter from the obese anti-feminist looking to improve his social relationships (Bering’s advice: testosterone supplements), or the woman who finds teenage girls infuriatingly shallow (Bering notes that at 29, she’s “a young, reproductively viable female with diminishing mate value in the throes of intense intrasexual competition with potential rivals for a desirable mate.”) Allow me to suggest that if what you really want is a completely non-judgmental referee to provide biological rationalizations for any behavior you exhibit, Chris Clarke has the routine down cold.

Comments

  1. davidct says

    Not the sort of analysis to give the field much respect. It comes close to making parapsychology start to look respectable.

  2. jenibuehler says

    Jesse Bering is brilliant! I don’t care what anyone else says. The Belief Instinct is the best atheist book out there. Hands down.

  3. Artor says

    My Irish ancestors were headhunters, In keeping with tradition, I should find someone from an enemy tribe to provide a decoration for my doorpost. Why, what do you know? I think I found a perfect candidate!

  4. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Jeni obviously suffering from a severe case of hero worship. No amount of information can penetrate that wall of self confirming thought.

  5. says

    Jadehawk, that was kinda the point these two were trying to make. Actually, one of the first things that made me start questioning my faith was finding out, in middle school, that Mary would have been “just about your age!” If you go back far enough, everyone is, as I said on my own FB profile not too long ago, “a disease-ridden, genocidal pederast.” Point being that people don’t deserve to be put on the same registry as dog rapists for having consensual sex with somebody two or three years their junior. Or get prison time for owning nude photos of themselves. There are red flags sprinkled all over Deep Thinker’s writing, but he does make a point–our sex crime statutes *are* a crazy mess. The problem is, how to fix things without leaving holes in the system for predators?

  6. jenibuehler says

    “I would be quick to criticize it for clearly not educating the reading on rational thought and logical fallacies.”

    Maybe too quick. Can you be more specific? The Belief Instinct is not a treatise on how to be a rational thinker.

  7. says

    Did you get mine? I come out on your side, Jade. I just like to point out when my opponents make relevant points so nobody can accuse me of reacting emotionally–and that’s important when you’re dealing with issues so charged that it’s difficult to even legislate them properly. I apologize if my style of rhetoric seems to dwell overly on the other side, but it is a topic I’ve fretted about sometimes. As I said, though, the problem with reforming what problems we have is figuring out how to deal with small differences in age while still denying predatory types access to kids. The four-year exceptions a few states have seem like a good start, but I’ve always thought we could come up with some kind of test…

  8. says

    so that’s a “no” on the understanding of the word “hebophile”. so just to make this clear, we’re talking about a guy who’s attracted to barely pubescent kids, 9 to 12 years old. Any point relevant to sex between and with older teens in entirely misplaced in this conversation, and no reform should ever include legalizing sex with kids that young

  9. DLC says

    Evolutionary Psychology = DWAG = Dumb Wild-Ass Guess.
    Another Evo-Psychbabbler opined that : “women historically were 1 to 2 percent lesbians and men 3 to 5% gays because they make better aunts and uncles” this caused me to sit back and say “W.T.F.! what were you smoking, and where can I get a lid of it?”

  10. N. Nescio says

    I don’t know who Stephanie is, but she did some serious creep-smacking in the comments of that article. Kudos.

  11. says

    I commented on this at Stephanie’s as well. I think the willingness to believe that elements in social conditioning (such as the fetishization of youth) are natural comes from people who do not fully understand the nature of socialization. In Bering’s case, he ought to be ashamed of that inability; he should have been exposed to several years, at a minimum, of introduction to the problems teasing out biological imperatives and social conditioning. The field of evolutionary psychology appears to suffer from that particular weakness, and from an oddly ahistorical urge to apply the researcher’s socialization to everything he or she wishes to justify.

    It’s flatly impossible to isolate biological imperatives from social conditioning under sufficiently rigorous conditions to be sure of cause; the best we can do is temporarily isolate subjects from conditioning, but they will bring that conditioning into the experiment with them and respond to any prompts they can which are germane to that conditioning. Really, Bering should be rather embarrassed of himself if he hasn’t had enough education on designing experiments to figure that out.

    As far as the specific subject goes, because of the fetishization of youth, concluding that something is ‘natural,’ as if it is possible to separate social conditioning from urges which are said to be ‘natural,’ Bering is also being irresponsible. I find myself wondering if he skipped the ethical seminars which I thought we a part of being allowed to have a doctorate in a science which studies and experiments on people; research has consequences. If I want to experiment on people (and I will be), I have to prove to several regulatory boards that the experiment won’t just be necessary, but that it will not cause harm. Scientists, especially those studying humans, are required to understand the social context of their experiment. His rationalization is harmful– it is part and parcel of rationalization used to excuse the sexual abuse of minors.

    If I saw him at a conference (unlikely, we have different focuses), I would avoid him like the plague. He apparently has had a poor education in terms of how to do experiments and how to be ethical, and I distrust anyone who is willing to misuse a doctorate so flagrantly.

  12. crocswsocks says

    Priests, indeed. My surname is Clark, which is Olde Englishe for “priest” or “scholar.” Of course, when surnames originated in England, all scholars were priests, so it really just means “priest.”

  13. crissakentavr says

    I think I’m more disturbed by the way that Stephanie’s thread devolved into ranting of how alcohol is unhealthy. Ugh. Anything is unhealthy in excess, but precious little evidence that this particular is bad in moderation other than assumptions.

    Really don’t see why something which is ‘natural’ should be the deciding point in whether an action is ethical or not. It’s merely one of many bits of information one should take in. If something is going to be expected, you’ll need to mitigate or work around it somehow, and it’ll always be a problem to be dealt with. Natural shouldn’t imply good, in any sense. It’s neutral at best.

  14. littlejohn says

    I figure we’re all descended from hairy fellows infested with lice and given to flinging shit at each other. In fact, several of my cousins in West Virginia still do that.

  15. says

    I think the whole thing lacks a bit of flexibility. And, no, I don’t mean 40 year difference when I say that, or something stupid like that. Its not more rational, or moral, to have idiots whining that 18 is too early, because they didn’t get married first, either, which also happens, and a myriad of other things. And, as an example, while I have no problem seeing some moron arrested over *acting* on their desires, after looking at a bunch of photos some 13 year old may have posted of themselves, its going too damn far to arrest the 13 year old, and placing them on a sex offender list, for distributing their *own* photos, of themselves.

    There is a lot of stupid involved in the whole thing, even if none of it stems from the moronic objections dear old Jesse has. And, one of the stupidest one is that, within certain limits, we only have a problem with underage people marrying, if its someone over aged. Since the whole issue is supposed to be, in principle, protecting them from themselves, and their immaturity, etc., this makes no damn sense. The age limit wasn’t set to protect against pedophiles. That distinction didn’t come up until *after* the rule was in place, and being enforced, in the first place.

    Another example: It has got to be, frankly, the dumbest thing in the universe that, in some places, when they choose to enforce it, someone 18 could be arrested for sleeping with someone they where *already* sleeping with, possibly off and on, for years prior, purely because one had a birthday earlier than the other. Yet, this is a perfectly irrational, but strictly logical (by definition of what the law says), conclusion as to how it must be enforced. That if it is may have more to do with whether the parents, or the cops, or the church, or some other authority, approve the relationship, is just icing on the cake.

    So, yeah, a lot of arguments can be made for the law, and the consequences of those related to it, being bloody stupid some times, but Jesse’s argument isn’t one of the valid arguments for why its sometimes poorly considered.

  16. jenibuehler says

    @jadehawk: ” so just to make this clear, we’re talking about a guy who’s attracted to barely pubescent kids, 9 to 12 years old.”

    Actually, no. Hebephiles are classified as being attracted to 11 to 14 year olds. Not that that’s any better! But we should try to be precise here.

  17. teambonoboagogo says

    @mouthyb- You start to go into the subject matter @ hand, but then fall short of good analysis. We do have a history of the species to go on when it comes to socialization factors.

    It seems likes lowering the age of consent to what was normal throughout history (and actually is the norm in much of non-USA present day) would be harder on the parents (and others who freak-the-fuck-out about it) who have been poorly socialized than on the teens.

  18. says

    Actually, no. Hebephiles are classified as being attracted to 11 to 14 year olds.

    it’s defined as being attracted to people at the onset of puberty; which is still dropping, especially for girls*. Though you’re probably right in that “deep-thinking hebephile” understood it to mean 11-14, and therefore labeled himself thus. why the DSM-V will be using such an outdated age-range for onset of puberty I don’t know.

    *see for example:

    The baseline cohort included 1239 girls. The proportion of girls who had attained breast stage 2 varied by age, race/ethnicity, BMI percentile, and site. At 7 years, 10.4% of white, 23.4% of black non-Hispanic, and 14.9% of Hispanic girls had attained breast stage ≥2; at 8 years, 18.3%, 42.9%, and 30.9%, respectively, had attained breast stage ≥2. The prime determinant of height velocity was pubertal status.

    from
    “Pubertal Assessment Method and Baseline Characteristics in a Mixed Longitudinal Study of Girls”, Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 3 September 1, 2010

  19. adamgordon says

    Oh, hey, look everyone, it’s teambonoboagogo @26, the same creepy asshole who got banned for sockpuppetry over on Stephanie’s post. I’ll pose the same questions here that you refused to answer there:

    * How old are you?
    * What is the age group to which you feel sexual attraction?

    Still waiting, Cupcake.

  20. says

    team: Which is interesting, because you aren’t able to go into the subject at all, with any sort of rigor. Don’t demand studies, refuse to read them, and then claim you’re the only one who has evidence. Or, rather, do. It makes you look even more disingenuous, as if being a creeper and evil wasn’t bad enough.

  21. teambonoboagogo says

    @mouthyb- i’ll do whatever the fuck i want: i’m not pretending to be an expert making claims- just refuting shitty ones, yo.

    You came off as the pompous ‘expert’ in your lengthy windbag post, but said so little of any substance. How can you be satisfied with such shit?

  22. teambonoboagogo says

    @mouthyb: btw, love your demand for rigor as if you walk a one way street w/ that burden

  23. says

    Team: By your metric, which appears to be to claim that the argument is over because you like the sound of your own voice. So far all I’ve seen is the rationalization of rape (the ‘consent is not important, just my boner’ posts at Stephanie’s blog), the rationalization of child abuse (‘the abuse of children is just good exercise’ and ‘as long as I’m pleasured, it’s all in fun’ at Stephanie’s blog), and a general unwillingness to listen to anyone else.

    I shudder to think what goes through your head from this sample. What a foul place it must be.

  24. says

    team: And you’ve cited? Oh wait, you haven’t. You’ve just nattered on about how totally awesome sex with children is.

    From that, you’ve concluded that the subject needs more study. Your boner is not evidence of anything.

  25. teambonoboagogo says

    @mouthyb: Yeah thats right, I am not making a claim one way or the other. If you could break out of your filter bubble, you’d see that’s a common approach in your own camp- namely, lack or rigor w/ little more than “i’m creeeped out, so I/we just say so..”

    but keep on flinging the mud of “you child rape supporter”- are you training for the political arena in the US?

    Or expect more- up to you

  26. says

    ha! that’s some goalpost-shifting going on over at Stephanie’s:

    Team: You haven’t done the research! Where are the sources!

    *mouthyb posts research and sources*

    Team: no, it only counts if you can prove that one country gets age-of-consent exactly right

  27. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    @jade- consider yourself ignored for ignorance & dishonesty

    Sorry, Team, Jadehawk has a sterling reputation here for showing evidence to back up their claims. Funny how you don’t cite anything relevant, just show attitude.

    Guess who I think is the liar and bullshitter…

  28. says

    @jade- consider yourself ignored for ignorance & dishonesty

    you wish. you’re lucky your comments were deleted (because sock-puppeting is sooo honest, right?), or else I could have quoted you for everyone to see. nonetheless, my summary is correct: you first whined about a lack of sources, and when sources were given whined about how they don’t say anything about which country gets age-of-consent right and which allow rape

    but ignore me if you wish; in terms of content, all you’ve offered so far were such gems as suggesting teens who have sex they might not be able to say no to would be getting “a great workout”. better then if you don’t respond at all.

  29. eidolon says

    What appears to be missing from teams responses is a lack of consideration of what actually constitutes ‘consent’. It is too simplistic to ignore the ability of older individuals to manipulate, control, or coerce young teens. Further – do you really think back in the good ol’ days, and some places today, such relationships were/are consensual?

    Shit – there is a reason that a 16YO cannot sign a binding contract.

  30. teambonoboagogo says

    @mouthyb- with all those degrees, you should be are of the problems associated with appeal to authority

    Your URLS refer to children- which is off-topic- or don’t support much of any claim of harm or at which age the ability for consent is best obtained.

    So, on this social science test, you fail.

  31. Stacy says

    @jade- consider yourself ignored for ignorance & dishonesty

    This from the asshole who asked for sources, and then, when mouthyb provided them, whined that mouthyb was fallaciously appealing to authority.

  32. teambonoboagogo says

    @eidolon-

    1) WTF you idiot. Why should we care about the argument of adult manipluation- we send kids to school shortly after they are born where they are manipulated & indoctrinated by adults (of varying degrees of ridiculous belief systems) for their whole childhood. Or do you claim otherwise: that that is universally beneficial and sex is universally harmful?

    2) Lack of ability to consent to sign a legal contract? again, really? you’re going to compare the claims of psychic damage underlying the ever-shifting age of ability to consent to sex to the very real risk involved in a binding legal contract crafted by morons who bring you frivolous lawsuits day-in and day-out?

  33. teambonoboagogo says

    @Stacy- would you be the asshole if you were wrong about that? (or: even if you bothered to check to see if the sources were legit, you didnt bother to give an assessment, asshole)

  34. adamgordon says

    Again, team, I repeat:

    * How old are you?
    * What is the age group to which you feel sexual attraction?

    To which I add:
    Is it possible that a need to rationalize your own sexual urges/behaviors is clouding your ability to think critically?

  35. teambonoboagogo says

    oh fuck this– I’m sorry you idiots are caught in your filter bubble of shit.

    BTW, yes feminism is a filter bubble where otherwise smart people like PZ can compartmentalize. Hope you find your way out so you can be more impactful in bring out the science in social science

  36. Stacy says

    Chris Clarke’s parody of Jesse Bering’s blather is hilarious. Don’t miss it; almost makes up for the noisome rationalizations of Team Gross.

  37. says

    BTW, yes feminism is a filter bubble where otherwise smart people like PZ can compartmentalize. Hope you find your way out so you can be more impactful in bring out the science in social science

    translation: I don’t actually know what the fuck I’m talking about, but I don’t like feminist social analysis, so i’ll call it a filter bubble and pretend that means something

  38. eidolon says

    Team..

    snappy rejoinder.

    Why should we care about adult manipulation? Well, since you are basing your argument upon consent, the fact remains that any so-called consent is quite possibly fictional for young teens.

    That whooshing sound was the idea that a 16 YO is not mature enough to make contractual obligations going right over your head. If they are not considered wise enough in the ways of the world to enter into a contract for a credit card, perhaps they may not be so wise in matters that have far greater consequences.

    Oh..nice flounce, BTW

  39. says

    I leave the house to run an errand and see the Horde is on it. :)

    Team: You might actually be dragging those goalposts in a circle, which is something, I have to admit, I’ve not seen before.

    Appeal to authority, it does not mean citing sources. Wikipedia is not that hard to use.

  40. says

    Some of the sources referred to child abuse (which can be used to refer to adolescents, the original age range referred to by the letter writer.) The rest referred to statutory rape. I’m guessing you didn’t read those.

  41. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    anuran, #13: I don’t think that automatically makes you a heebophile, but my schiksa girlfriend in Toronto probably qualifies.

  42. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Notice how team still didn’t answer adamgordon’t questions:

    * How old are you?
    * What is the age group to which you feel sexual attraction?

    But he did get in a sneer at “feminism” before the flounce.

  43. says

    ‘Tis: It’s the feminist gynocracy and our jackbooted reasoners; we’re interfering with his boner and such things are not to be tolerated.

    Apparently, at least for Team, they also aren’t to be thought about, introspected on or analyzed, outside boner = awesome. Nauseatingly, the ‘but I was turned on and the kid started it,’ which Team used on Stephanie’s site, is not uncommon for rapists. Frankly, and shallowly, I feel like if someone like Team thinks I’m being a terrible person, I must be doing something right.

  44. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Team: You might actually be dragging those goalposts in a circle, which is something, I have to admit, I’ve not seen before.

    Yawn, Alan Cl*rke, Shiloh, Piltdown Man, Txpiper, etc., ad nauseum.

  45. forjo says

    When would one actually be labelled a hebephile? When on reached manhood…about aged 21? Because I’m sure middle-aged teenagers, and, probably teenagers older, around 16 and 17, would be attracted to 14 year olds – most definitely not 11-13 year olds though. Keeping in mind that my definition, though I could be wrong, of hebephilia is those attracted to those around ages 11-14.

  46. says

    forjo- My interpretation of it has always kind of been that you’re labeled a hebephile when the thing you’re mainly in it for is the age of the other person (which includes the pedophiles who say things like “Oh, there’s a 20 year age difference but we’re in TRUE LOVE” because that’s malarkey). You can’t really fault teenagers for being attracted to pubescent teens, though. Hell, I had a crush on a twelve year old once- when I was fourteen.

    Also, I wouldn’t call the 14 year old a victim of sexual abuse either(ignoring creep!father), if he went out and got the prostitute himself. Yes, there are still problems with younger teens going and buying prostitutes, but a lot of those problems stem from the idea that sex is inherently immoral, and the fact that children aren’t properly educated in how to make decisions about sex.

    Unless they’re coerced/groomed/otherwise fooled though, I’m hesitant to call it sexual abuse. Perhaps another word to cover the other problems, but not really abuse.

    All of that said, please don’t take any of that to mean that I support people who value others based solely on the percieved sexual appeal of being a certain age and then say things like “Well they wanted it, it wasn’t abuse!!!” because that’s an objectification/bullshit combo move right there.

  47. Gregory Greenwood says

    teambonoboagogo @ 45;

    Why should we care about the argument of adult manipluation…

    Isn’t it obvious? There is a significant disparity in experience, power and actual or perceived authority between adults and children, and this disparity must cast any claim of consent on the part of a minor in a very dubious light due to the risk of coercion, whether physical or psychological. Age of consent laws exist to establish a minimum level of social and intellectual development at which point a person can be considered capable of providing meaningful consent. While one may be able to argue semantics around the fringe of where the exact age could be set, erring on the side of caution is essential to avoid creating legal ambiguities that would inevitably be exploited by paedophiles.

    we send kids to school shortly after they are born where they are manipulated & indoctrinated by adults (of varying degrees of ridiculous belief systems) for their whole childhood.

    I think that you will struggle to draw a credible equivalancy between school attendance and child rape – and that is what we are discussing here: the risk of child rape. Oddly enough, (and I imagine I speak for many other posters here) I think that avoiding scenarios that could facilitate the rape of children should be a high priority in our society…

    Or do you claim otherwise: that that is universally beneficial and sex is universally harmful?

    I realise that you may think I am going out on a limb here, but I am going to call it – childhood indoctrination* = bad. Child rape = worse, and since children who lack the cognitive development to provide informed consent cannot consent in any circumstances, and all sex sans free consent is by definition rape, then yes; all sex between an adult and a child is child rape, and child rape is universally harmful.

    Lack of ability to consent to sign a legal contract? again, really? you’re going to compare the claims of psychic damage underlying the ever-shifting age of ability to consent to sex to the very real risk involved in a binding legal contract crafted by morons who bring you frivolous lawsuits day-in and day-out?

    Claims of psychic damage? You are aware that rape is universally recognised as a highly traumatising event for adults, right? I cannot imagine the harm it must inflict on a child, and yet you seem to think that the risk of poorly drafted contracts is a more pressing concern? Are you really sure you want to stick with this curious position? I remind you, we are talking about potential child rape here.

    —————————————————————-

    * I assume that you are discussing religious indoctrination masquerading as education such as creationism taught in science classes here, and that you are not simplyt classing all education as indoctrination by default.

  48. says

    Grimalkin:

    Definition of child abuse, according to the US gov: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/whatiscan.cfm

    On the problem with prostitution and children: http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/usa.htm

    http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/factsheet.html

    http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview/the-victims?gclid=CISU4vHOnq0CFQhbhwod0VOdlw

    It would be extraordinarily unusual for a child to choose prostitution without the coercion of an adult figure for several reasons: first, because being a sex worker requires the correct resources to procure clients. Second, because it requires the ability to not be involved in school or any of the legally required activities children are involved in. Third, if we’re assuming they have a home, that activity would be something a reasonable parent would notice (an unreasonable parent might be party to the activity.) If we’re assuming homelessness, let me assure you that people are often territorial, and that pimps love underaged kids because they’re easy to manipulate.

    Several questions for you: if someone is underage and cannot sign legal contracts, can they make the decision to engage in the risks entailed with prostitution? Can they insure their clients wear condoms and do they have the ability to demand condoms? Do you know how children tend to end up in prostitution? Do you know what the lives of underage prostitutes are like?

    Abuse generally means the misuse of power or authority. There are precious few cases where a child is involved in prostitution which do not involve an adult abusing power or authority.

  49. says

    Let’s face it, when you talk about sexual abuse you’re talking about betrayal. The subject shows trust in the abusing party, and that party betrays the subject.

  50. says

    Woah, mouthyb, I think you misread me completely. By no means am I at all saying that is acceptable or okay in any way for a child to become a prostitute. Please don’t think that’s what I was saying, because that would be creepy as hell.

    I meant a mid-aged teen going out and buying a prostitute like in the example given, certainly not being one. I do agree that there are no good reasons for a 14 year old to become one, because that’s definitely a red flag for all sorts of abuse and shitty home life.

    All I’m saying is that if a 14 year old goes out and buys a prostitute on his own volition, I wouldn’t call him sexually abused. Sorry if I worded that poorly in my first post.

  51. Azkyroth says

    all sex between an adult and a child is child rape, and child rape is universally harmful.

    Technically, I think there’s research showing that a significant fraction of minors who had sexual contact with adults weren’t harmed or traumatized by it (and that this tended to correlate with those that considered themselves to be “willing”). I don’t remember the study, but the Congress at the time passed a resolution censuring the research basically unanimously. This isn’t terribly relevant to policy matters, because the risk of harm is serious and omnipresent even with ostensibly “willing” contact, and there’s almost certainly no way to eliminate it, but inaccurate statements, especially on emotionally charged issues, intrinsically bug me. :/

  52. says

    Grimalkin: Ah. Sorry, I’ve spent several hours today trying to explain to a scary asshole why sex with children is bad, and my temper is short. My apologies for misreading you.

  53. says

    It’s no problem, I can understand why all of that would put you on edge. It’s sad that there are people who really want to defend things like that though.

  54. says

    Tell me about it. My day started with coffee and the desire to do something rather violent, when I started reading blogs. Fortunately, for a holiday, it hasn’t been all bad, but I think my blood pressure briefly caused steam to come out of my ears.

  55. Sandiseattle says

    chigau, you’re assuming that the football has the momentum to make it all the way across the Möbius surface.

  56. chigau (難しい) says

    Sandiseattle
    What direction is gravity on a Möbius surface?
    and how many is it?
    lavender?

  57. Sandiseattle says

    chigau:
    Down of course, assuming of course that a Möbius shaped football pitch would even have enough mass to have gravity.

  58. pf says

    When I look at how compliant the average child becomes when I suggest that I might get very angry in the very near future, I realize that I hold near-total control over them. The chances of them directly defying me telling them what they’ll be doing are pretty small. The reason us adults have this control, is to guide children away from harm and towards things beneficial to them.

    Using that control for sordid sexual gratification, though … that’s quite sickening, and I unreservedly despise anyone who thinks it’s okay to do so. It’s worse than a betrayal of trust. It’s dereliction of duty.

    I’m willing to entertain thoughts of adjusting when and with whom we’d allow the young to have sex, without repercussions to them. I’m very much against making available the very young to all ages, though. There’s just no way that can be safe for them.

    By all means, use science to arrive at a decent policy which allows human beings the maximum chance at enjoying sex as soon as possible. But please never ever make it open season for sexual predators.

  59. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @azkyroth & others

    The response to sex when one is unable to consent is varied and idiosyncratic. This is true of both adults and children, but let’s just refer to children as the default here b/c they are the subject of discussion in this thread. The response varies in part based on the form of sexual contact and the manner in which it is initiated, whether or not it was pleasurable from a physical standpoint, whether or not the child is interacting with a person that the child finds, in the abstract, the adult to be attractive, whether or not the child perceives themselves to have initiated sex, and the nature of the relationship of the child to the perp outside of the sexual context.

    Then there are other things that affect the idiosyncratic response, including age at first contact, whether they know others to whom this is happening and how those others respond, and personal emotional dispositions of the particular children.

    It actually is the case that some children do perceive sex that they had with adults to have been a positive experience.

    However, as has been alluded to, it is impossible to predict in advance what the ultimate response of the child will be…and the response can pass through stages which include initially positive reactions but ultimately net negative responses when factoring in later repercussions.

    There are laws banning reckless driving, even though not all reckless driving leads to economic damage, injury, or death. Sex by adults with children most often has negative consequences and for the majority of kids those negative consequences outweigh any positive consequences that might result. Also, in all cases, children to not have the opportunity to effectively consent. While some of the kids might have desired some or all of the sex involved, the lack of ability to say no invalidates the whole concept of a yes. This means that, under the definition where sex without consent = rape, ***all sex with children by adults in which the adult is not, in fact, so disabled or incapacitated to actually be a victim, is the rape of a child***.

    It is also true that some people might ultimately make the assessment that a career bump that derived from a douche-nozzle boss made a net positive out of situation in which that boss sexually harassed the person in question, and/or even employed occupational power to rape that employee, when that boss decided getting their old victim out of the office via promotion was the easiest way to get rid of a problem. If you happen to have suffered little enough trauma from the harassment and/or rape and great enough benefit from the boost in income or other occupational opportunities, good for you. I’m glad for you. But that is not a case for legalizing sexual harassment and occupational rape.

    Likewise children have an astonishing ability to accept almost anything that happens as normal: without sufficient life experience, it can easily seem as if anything that happens to you *must be* normal. While this can lead to bad things, such as an inability to understand that it would be possible to reach out for help with something that is traumatizing them, it can also lead to good things.

    A side note that seems relevant? Psychological studies of children growing up in war zones has found that a certain percentage accept war as “normal” and, though hating it, are able to put horrendous suffering behind them as soon as the war is over with less trauma than other kids and than nearly all adults.

    So, yes, some children might believe that the sex that they have with adults is just how sex happens, that this is “how love is”. Even if their rapist breaks up with them and starts raping another child when one victim ages out of the perp’s fantasy age range, a child might rationalize that many people who have loving relationships have those loving relationships end…and fail to get it that the perp just didn’t care about the child, ever.

    This is not an argument for legalizing the rape of children any more than the fact that some children survive car wrecks is an argument for legalizing drunken driving.

    Fuck. That. Noize.

  60. Azkyroth says

    Not even close.

    There were a lot more words but I was quite explicit that the research I was reporting having read about was not being presented as a reason to legalize sex between adults and children and that I didn’t advocate such. Since I agree with what Crip Dyke posted having it addressed to me as if it were a rebuttal to a position I held or had advocated was hurtful and alienating. I am utterly mystified as to how anyone could have the opposite impression from my post except a mindless determination to see it no matter what, and I’m reasonably certain I have enough tenure and community presence here that some kind of benefit-of-doubt would be due, even granting that there was doubt.

    You, on the other hand, can simply fuck off.

  61. Gregory Greenwood says

    Azkyroth @ 71;

    While I accept that certain children may be ‘willing’ in a scenario of sex between an adult and a child, and that not all such children may suffer psychological harm from such an experience, the fact remains that they cannot consent, even if they believe they have done so, because they lack the capacity to consent. I do not view the specific level of damage inflicted in each individual case as the issue here so much as the fact that consent is simply not possible in these circumstances, and as you point out the risk of harm is so very great, and so utterly impossible to eliminate or even mitigate in any circumstance where a child and adult may have sex, that I consider it reasonable to class all sex between an adult and a child as rape due to this unavoidable lack of consent.

    I do find this topic emotive, and this may be the reason why my language is less precise than it perhaps should be.

  62. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Azkyroth…

    Please accept my apologies for a misunderstanding.

    I got a phone call just at the end of writing what I wrote so I didn’t finish up the way I meant to, nor did I read it again to check how it came across.

    Yes, I was saying more or less what you did.

    My intent was to elaborate on and agree with what you said. Perhaps I didn’t say that I was agreeing because… you’re absolutely right. It would be ridiculous to read what you wrote as advocating for legalizing child rape. You were arguing against that & I thought had brought up something important but hadn’t explored it as much as I wanted to do. There are some things that are common between adults and children (e.g. responses are individual and idiosyncratic) and some that are different (e.g. limited experience allows children to accept the exceptional as normal, thus they don’t ask, “why me?” because they’re busy thinking it happens to everyone and just move on to the dealing with it).

    Again, I apologize for communicating the impression that you were acting like Team. You weren’t. I didn’t say that you were, but (unfortunately) I also didn’t way you weren’t. I addressed it to you b/c you opened the issue I wanted to discuss and I was clearly adding on to what you were saying.

    It is sad to me that you read me as saying “fuck that noise” to you rather than fuck that noise to a specific argument that is being made by Team (and too many others around the internet, not least Jesse). It is not sad in the same way that you were sad being associated with child rape advocates, but sad nonetheless.

    I hope this makes what happened clear and that you can understand why I didn’t think I needed to say, “azkyroth wasn’t advocating this,” and why I failed to proofread for clarity.

  63. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    P.S.

    I didn’t really think that “@ someone” meant that the following post was **disagreeing**. Is there some reason that it should?

  64. says

    jadehawk writes:
    such wonderful reading material for the day on which a certain subsection of humanity celebrates a teenage girl giving birth after getting impregnated by a much, much older man.

    Is that why christians don’t like the idea that a victim of rape who gets pregnant might want to terminate the pregnancy? It does seem suspicious…

    The idea of “informed consent” between a god and a mortal strikes me as nonsensical, so I have always considered the alleged start of christianity to be a rape. It goes downhill from there.

  65. saguhh00 says

    These fathers who “worry” about their sons’ virginities creep the Hell out of me. It’s all a barely disguised incest fetish, they pretend to worry about the sex lives of their sons while masturbating and imagining their own sons with erections.

  66. Azkyroth says

    These fathers who “worry” about their sons’ virginities creep the Hell out of me. It’s all a barely disguised incest fetish, they pretend to worry about the sex lives of their sons while masturbating and imagining their own sons with erections.

    I wouldn’t necessarily go that far – it can be explained as hope and fear for their sons’ ability to fit into and satisfy the requirements of the culture of masculinity as formulated in our society…which happens to be extremely toxic.

  67. juice says

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much. He feels deep pangs of guilt when he’s turned on by those young sexy college students and this is his way to purge his demons.

  68. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Methinks

    No you don’t. If you were actually capable of forming a coherent thought, you wouldn’t have made this post.

  69. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    juice #95

    When the first word of your post, “methinks,” is an obvious lie, then why should we give any credence to anything you say?

  70. says

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much. He feels deep pangs of guilt when he’s turned on by those young sexy college students and this is his way to purge his demons.

    Right. PZ is all about purging “demons.”

    Feeling guilty over normal human thoughts, feelings and desires is more of a religious thing, really.

    Methinks youthinks not enough.

  71. Gregory Greenwood says

    juice @ 95;

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much. He feels deep pangs of guilt when he’s turned on by those young sexy college students and this is his way to purge his demons.

    Tell me; did you develop delusions of being able to read minds before or after you became an obnoxious jerk?

  72. pacal says

    So Mr.,,,

    Bering notes that at 29, she’s “a young, reproductively viable female with diminishing mate value in the throes of intense intrasexual competition with potential rivals for a desirable mate.”

    So rather than deal with this person’s comment about finding teenage girls “infuriatingly shallow”. Mr. Bering deals out an ad hominem, which consists of telling the person that your a older, decining women who fears the competition of younger more attractive women / girls. So of course her opinion can be dismissed by this example of mind reading silliness. Talk about patronizing and contemtible.

  73. pf says

    So totally impressed by people accusing PZ of pedo leanings. Yeah, I’m so convinced he’s evil, now.

    This is such a strong argument, it blows me away.

    Clearly, this means everything he ever said is wrong.

  74. says

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much. He feels deep pangs of guilt when he’s turned on by those young sexy college students and this is his way to purge his demons.

    Even if so. Good on him.

    Why should he feel guilty about being attracted to college students (assuming they’re adults)? Why “good on him,” if that’s what he’s feeling/doing? Assuming, of course, that he’s not acting on it, or letting it affect his grading. He’s a professor, they’re students.

  75. says

    Crap. Forgot to preview the blockquotes. Let’s try that again. ING said:

    Methinks PZ doth protest too much. He feels deep pangs of guilt when he’s turned on by those young sexy college students and this is his way to purge his demons.

    Even if so. Good on him.

    Why should he feel guilty about being attracted to college students (assuming they’re adults)? Why “good on him,” if that’s what he’s feeling/doing? Assuming, of course, that he’s not acting on it, or letting it affect his grading. He’s a professor, they’re students.

  76. says

    Oh, please. I’m 54 years old, in a happy and satisfying marriage. My students aren’t even half my age. I don’t have the slightest sexual interest in them, and they have even less sexual interest in me…and as someone who views sex as more than just slapping meat, but as a mutual interaction between two people, that leaves me cold right there.

    You will have sex with a minuscule fraction of the population of the world, no matter how profligate you are. If you’re one of those people who sees every contact between two human beings as requiring some sexual component, your perspective is totally bizarre and messed up.

  77. carolw says

    Juice@95
    Have you seen PZ’s wife? Why would he even notice his students? He’s got a hottie at home, and, as he says, they are happily married.
    Have a porcupine.

  78. Sandiseattle says

    NathanDST @ 107: would you be an advocate of “look but don’t do” or something better like polyamory?

  79. says

    @Sandiseattle:

    NathanDST @ 107: would you be an advocate of “look but don’t do” or something better like polyamory?

    Both, depending on circumstance. For example, in the case of PZ and the students (if he had any interest in the students, which he says he doesn’t — which I find surprising, but not unbelievable: I’ll take him at his word, while noting that it’s by no means universal that 54 year olds have no sexual interest in 20-somethings, even when happily married), I would advocate a “look but don’t do” approach. There are good reasons to discourage sexual/romantic relations between professor/student, as well as boss/employee.

    Or, in a broader sense relating a little more to the original post, at the local mall I often see young women that I find sexually attractive, that spark a sexual interest, and I’m positive that some (many) are under 18. How much under, I have a hard time telling, and can’t say for sure that none have been under 16, or younger, given that girls seem to be maturing physically very fast these days. However, that is a CLEAR case of “look but don’t do.” It doesn’t bother me to have the interest, or the occasional fantasy. I would lose self-respect and deserve condemnation if I ever acted on such interest or fantasy. I’m speaking ethically here, not just legally. The potential harm isn’t worth the potential pleasure (which probably wouldn’t be all that much anyway, without the conversational stimulation and other interactions that I enjoy with sexual partners).

    Between properly consenting adults, however, I advocate polyamory (I’m poly myself, though currently my only relationship is with my wife). This includes adults with large disparities in age. Relationships can take on many forms, and many dimensions, and polyamory allows for that.

  80. says

    (if he had any interest in the students, which he says he doesn’t — which I find surprising, but not unbelievable: I’ll take him at his word, while noting that it’s by no means universal that 54 year olds have no sexual interest in 20-somethings, even when happily married)

    My SO is only a few years older than their students and has negative sexual interest in them. It’s like asking why people aren’t hot for their twin sister or something.

  81. says

    My SO is only a few years older than their students and has negative sexual interest in them. It’s like asking why people aren’t hot for their twin sister or something.

    I suppose. It probably surprises me only because it’s not the way my own mind seems to work. On the other hand, my sexual interests in men aren’t nearly as broad as my interests in women, so why should I be surprised?

  82. wanderingname says

    I just graduated in psychology, and while I don’t disagree with the notion that evolutionary psychology can be a useful avenue of research, articles like this disturb me deeply as evo psych doesn’t have enough evidence to make such bold claims, and really really shouldn’t be turned into an advice column in it’s infantile state.

    The just so stories coming from evo psych seem to be making it into the new psychoanalysis. Their claims are largely unfalsifiable, unduly confidence and they seem to believe that they can explain everything.

    Take for example, one of Jesse Bering’s statuses on facebook. “PZ Myers on being asked if he finds his college-aged students appealing:

    “Oh, please. I’m 54 years old, in a happy and satisfying marriage. My students aren’t even half my age. I don’t have the slightest sexual interest in them, and they have even less sexual interest in me…and as someone who views sex as more than just slapping meat, but as a mutual interaction between two people, that leaves me cold right there.”

    I can understand them not being interested in him, but he needs to see a doctor if he doesn’t find twenty-year-old coeds sexually attractive.”

    The comments are even more bizarre: “(Jesse Bering) I beg to differ. If it would be “boring at best” having sex with a beautiful twenty-year-old, he’s even worse off than I thought.”

    “(David P. S) for PZ sex is “a mutual interaction between two people…” I think he’s implying that college students aren’t people. Talk about dehumanization.”

    In any case, if you’re interested in the whole discussion, I’ve emailed it to your gmail address PZ under the subject ‘shit Jesse Bering says’.

  83. says

    “(David P. S) for PZ sex is “a mutual interaction between two people…” I think he’s implying that college students aren’t people. Talk about dehumanization.”

    Weird, and rather a stretch. That’s not at all how I read PZ’s comment. I read him to be saying that physical attraction isn’t enough for him, there needs to be cognitive and emotional interaction as well. Obviously, that requires a certain level of compatibility in personality. Which is something that he would have good reason to believe he won’t find with a traditional college student in their early twenties.