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Another Gris Gris Bites the Dust
2008.01.23 (Wed) 21:50
We're the subject of lots of idiotic verbal attacks. Many of them amount to little more than "you guys suck!" — these lame, drive-by insults, left by people who lack the ability to counter our arguments, can be found all over our site. But that's not the only category of negative comment that we receive on a regular basis.
Sometimes someone who considers himself to be rational comes to our site, and finds himself nodding at everything he reads — applauding our approaches and our conclusions on a host of subjects. Until, that is, he comes to one...particular...subject. The subject in question varies from person to person, but, in this scenario, the end result is always the same. Upon reading about how we applied the same logic and reason to this one subject that we have applied to every other subject, our heretofore staunch ally suddenly does an abrupt about-face.
Now don't get us wrong — disagreement with us is not only acceptable, it's desired. We've said on many occasions that we aren't looking for blind adherance to our positions, but rather intelligent discourse. The problem is that, in the scenario we're writing about, the reader who has consistently — just like we have — applied logic and reason to every other subject we've written about has — unlike us — abandoned these tools when it comes to his pet topic. As Penn & Teller said: "Everybody got a gris gris" — meaning that everyone has some silly belief or behavior that they cling to, regardless of their usual rational approach to topics in general. Upon reading our treatment of his own gris gris, a reader who previously applauded our logic now declares that we are irrational assholes who have set aside logic and reason in order to arrive at our opinion on this one subject. In other words, he accuses us of doing precisely what he himself has just done.
We've seen this so many times; like when readers laugh along with us at those kooks who believe in psychics...and then proclaim that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and condemn us for calling Christianity a silly belief. We've also seen it when someone agrees that, say, Reiki is an unproven, ineffective form of quackery, but then insists that applying the same label to aromatherapy is just wrong.
But to be totally honest, up until a few months back, we hadn't ever seen this "argument" coming from a pedophile.
On August 20 of last year, we received a form submission from a reader calling himself "Howard Kline," who describes himself as a "pedophile activist." Before we reprint his message and our reply, we want to point something out. Although both Howard's message and our reply originally contained links to Howard's website, we have chosen to remove those links. Our reason for this is that, if Howard's goal was to drive traffic to his website by tossing out comments like this, then we have no desire to grant him his wish. In addition, we are confident that, should anyone decide to fact check the quotes we attribute to Howard, finding his site (and the quotes in question) amounts to about two minutes of searching on Google (or, if the material is no longer there, a little more searching on the Wayback Machine). We'll warn you, though, that while Howard's site doesn't contain pictures or other media depicting pedophilia, it does contain a number of stories, musings, and accounts that, quite frankly, made us pretty fucking angry just reading them. Caveat surfer.
Here is Howard's note to us:
Name: Howard Kline
Yes, you may use my name.
Ugh! I was so hopeful that your work is founded on logic and reason until I came to this on your page on minors:-- "Statutory rape laws are a sound idea, because they correctly criminalize pedophilia." Would you please expand that page by explaining the reasons, aside from the religious conviction that sex is so harmful that children need to be protected from it, that pedophilia needs to be criminalized? Yes, children need to protected from real rape, including all forms of manipulation and exploitation, but in consensual sex-play between children and adults, the greatest harm is caused by authoritarian forces that break it up and brow-beat the kid into accepting the role of a victim.
Sheesh, I expected better from this site!
For loving free,
Reference, see for example: http://XXXXXXX
PS, you may cite my website if you wish, but to prevent spam, please don't publish my e-mail address. Thank you.
Our reply, edited for formatting and to remove the links, is as follows:
As a note, Howard referred us (in his first contact) to a page of research studies that he claimed suggest that "most or all harm from childhood sexual relationships is secondary, in other words, that the harm comes not from the sexual activity, but from the intervention of parents, therapists ... or police." Some of these studies seem to arise from questionable sources (including organizations who state their purpose as "a forum for people who are engaged in scholarly discussion about the understanding and emancipation of mutual relationships between children or adolescents and adults" — yes, that sounds completely unbiased), and regardless of source, all of the studies pretty clearly suggest that the secondary harm can aggravate or exacerbate the psychological trauma derived from sexual abuse. That is, they do not suggest that the secondary harm is the "sole" cause of harm (which is what Howard is trying to pass off as the "surprising truth" — though it is neither true nor, coming from Howard, surprising).
To continue with our reply:
Howard did, in fact, reply to our response — and in a much more apologetic fashion than we had expected (in fact, we half-expected no response at all, judging by our history of drive-by assholes). In his reply, he mentioned that he has "not had any sexual contact with a child in over twenty-five years and [does] not anticipate doing so ever again unless there is a change in both laws and some manner of social consideration of the subject." He also granted that he does have a boundary — his own age of consent — though he did not specify it, claiming he would in his next e-mail...which, five months after the fact, has yet to appear.
Howard also mentioned the following:
* Please note that my request to you in my comment was not that you change your mind about the criminalization of pedophilia being right (as much as I'd like that), but that you explain on the site your reasons for believing in that . You have given me an extensive answer, but in a private e-mail. I understand that many, maybe most, people believe that the reasons for abhorring pedophilia are self-evident, and perhaps that's why you feel no explanation is necessary. But your e-mail has shown that your abhorrence of it is based not on self-evidence, but on a good number of reasons. Do you think it would suit the purposes of your site to say on it what those reason are, instead of letting the notion of pedophilia being "correctly criminalize[d]" stand on its own?
And we agreed with his reasoning here, as we said in our subsequent reply:
Put simply: yes, you are absolutely correct on this point. Our Score entries are, to say the least, notoriously brief, and this is far from the first entry which has attracted negative comments not because of our position, but rather because of our lack of detail or explication. It bears repeating that the Score entries, as originally published, were essentially mere "outlines" which we planned to later expand into full-fledged position papers...but that "later" never really came to pass. Instead, the Rants started to eat up more of our time and energy, and our focus shifted to them, while the Score has remained quite short on details.
That said, each time we've been questioned on a Score entry that lacks detail, we've used the resulting communications to flesh out the details of the entry. You can see examples of this if you read our Score entries on Libertarians or swearing. As such, we certainly plan to use our exchange with you to flesh out the section on minors.
Howard wrote one more quick missive, a month later, in which he explained that he was involved in other projects, and had no time to reply. He promised to return to the conversation when he got a chance, but that was the last we heard from him.
To be blunt, our encounter with Howard Kline leaves a pretty bad taste in our mouths. We're aware that people like him exist; that there are people who truly believe they have rational, justifiable logic supporting their hurtful and misguided behavior (the "GodHatesFags.com" Phelps clan springs to mind here). But to be confronted with one was quite an eye-opening experience. We have every confidence in our position on this issue, and we will firmly state our opinion that Howard's abandonment of logic in this context is due (perhaps entirely) to his own personal sexual desires. Unlike Howard, we truly have thought through this issue in a manner wholly consistent with our view of all other topics...and our conclusions, we believe, bear this out.
Here's the basic point: children are not just small adults. They lack the neurological and psychological development to weigh many of life's decisions. So while it's true that children do not have the same rights as adults, the trade-off is that they have more protection than adults, and that's a system that works quite well. Not only can a child not consent to sex, they cannot consent to anything in any legally binding way — not as a "punishment," but so they can't get entangled in something from which they might have difficulty extracting themselves. As an extension of this line of reasoning, they also can be (and, for the most part, always should be) tried in juvenile courts.
In terms of pedophilia: sex is simply not the issue here — the ability to comprehend and consent to sexual situations is. Howard's inability to grasp that point is, we're sure, based on the fact that he reached his conclusions about pedophilia (based on his inherent preferences) before constructing his arguments (loosely patched together to support those preferences).
Frankly, any rational person must admit that a child of six months lacks the ability to consent to anything. Clearly that child cannot understand any of life's decisions, and cannot consider the ramifications of making a decision one way or another. And once we agree that there is, therefore, some age below which a child cannot consent, the discussion becomes distilled down to simply figuring out where that line is. For our part, we've chosen seventeen, but we can certainly see arguments for setting the age of majority higher (and maybe very slightly lower, though we really don't agree with doing so). But someone like Howard — who sees no need for these laws protecting children — has clearly thrown logic and reason out the window (along with compassion, we might add) in order to justify his own sexual desires.
Howard came to our site hoping to find logic and reason. Well, Howard — you got your wish.
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