Every Breath You Take…

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  1. Avatar zic says:

    This is first draft, I did not have the strength to re-write or edit. So please forgive the typos.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to zic says:

      I fixed a couple of typos. Honestly there may be more — but this was pretty hard to read for typos. It was pretty hard to read in general. But powerful and brave.

      Two questions for you:

      First, what do you make of the feminist claim that rape is about power, and not about love or even sex? I’m sure you’ve heard it before; I generally agree with it. But I do somewhat plead ignorance here: I have never had even the momentary impulse to rape anyone, and so I can’t claim any greater insight in to a rapist’s mind. Still, there are strong reasons to find this idea plausible and even empowering. How do you feel?

      Second, you write, “changing someone’s sexual orientation is wrong,” but it’s not clear to me that this is always the case. Most gay people don’t seem to have fluid sexual orientations, but some apparently do. And we can always imagine that the ineffective, hurtful “conversion therapies” of the present day could be replaced by a therapy or a drug that actually works.

      What then? Changing the orientation of a gay man or a lesbian who is oriented toward adults seems clearly wrong if they don’t want to change. But changing the orientation of a pedophile seems potentially justified to me. Many pedophiles would prefer not to be attracted to children and would happily take the cure. One might also make the case that even those who experience no remorse about their pedophilia should be compelled anyway, in the same way that we involuntarily quarantine people with easily communicable fatal diseases.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


        I would say that changing someone’s orientation against their will when they have done no harm to others is wrong. However, should someone prove themselves harmful, steps to address this harm seems reasonable. Society does this all the time. We jail murderers in part to prevent them from perpetrating more harm.

        The question for me is… does the presence of pedophilic urges constitute a great enough threat of harm to change the orientation of someone who has never acted on those urges? I don’t really know.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I would think not. But that’s based on a probably biased sampling of pedophiles (ya look at enough artists and creative types…)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Jason, thank you; this is the conversation I was hoping to get at.

        On feminism and rape; I’d posit that rape is often about power, but that this is an oversimplification of a complex thing, too. If someone feels entitled to use of another’s body, that’s about power, yes. But it’s also about their own lust and needs, it’s about confusing the difference between lust and love, about respect.

        On orientation; first, I don’t think orientation is binary; I think it’s a spectrum, and the people on the far ends get labeled “gay, lesbian, pedophile, etc. I think most of us are, probably, more fluid then we’re comfortable admitting in polite society. Which would lead to many people having some attraction to children, but easily able to ignore it because there are also other attractions. It’s the far end of the scale that is, I think, problematic here.

        One of my fears in working to fix orientation in pedophiles is that it will lead to efforts to fix other orientations. It is a slippery slope potentially leading to the binary view of orientation, and I do not welcome that.

        The only treatments that I’ve read of that seem to help control a desire for love and romantic attachment to children is suppressing the libido. I have heard little to suggest that therapist actually even know how to treat pedophiles; and enough of the horror stories about therapists reacting with such horror when the tendency is first revealed to suggest that it’s not well covered in training and probably lacking in actual science; but I may be wrong.

        I do know one thing: people who resist, who seek help, and who do not harm should get a whole lot more credit and respect then they do.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        This is not to defend pedophiles but no. There must be at least an attempt at a criminal act before the state should be allowed to bring action against a person for the good of society. Even if a person has urges that society can not condone like pedophilia or violence, there can be no taking action against that person without at least an attempt to act on those urges.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Even if a person has urges that society can not condone like pedophilia or violence, there can be no taking action against that person without at least an attempt to act on those urges.

        Sorta off-thread, but why would committing a crime justify tinkering with a person’s sexual orientation? We just lock those people up, don’t we?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @leeesq the problem is that without witness or severe physical damage and DNA, it is the word of a child against the word of a respected member of the community.

        The problem is that most families won’t report, even if they know, because of the shame.

        The problem is that after, it’s already too late. I do think sexual abuse should here should rightly be considered a crime. But I think that the potential of sexual abuse should be dealt with outside the criminal justice system, and we pretty much don’t bother.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


        I heard a comedian recently do a bit on the popular image of a mid-life crisis… namely a guy in a convertible with a 20-year-old. He made the point that he liked 20-year-olds when he was 20, liked them when he was 30, likes them now that he’s 40, and will probably like them still when he’s 50. Though I don’t know how much serious thought went into the bit, it did get me thinking about the changing nature of attraction.

        We wouldn’t fault a 10-year-old for looking at another 10-year-old and thinking, “I like that.” We wouldn’t fault a 14-year-old for doing the same with another 14-year-old or a 20-year-old with another 20-year-old. It is when differences in ages start to arise that discomfort grows. But is it necessarily reasonable to expect that as someone ages the type of person they are attracted to also ages? I mean, that would dictate that 60-year-olds only found other 60-year-olds attractive. And what I see in the world tells me otherwise.

        Now, obviously there is a big difference between attraction and acting on that. A 40-year-old who looks at a 12-year-old and thinks, “That’s hot,” is different than a 40-year-old who engages a 12-year-old in a physical or emotional relationship. But when we treat those two people as the same, we don’t allow space for the former to seek healthier outlets for his orientation. And perhaps make it more likely that he becomes the latter.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        But I think that the potential of sexual abuse should be dealt with outside the criminal justice system, and we pretty much don’t bother.

        You’ve mentioned this idea on some other threads and I don’t disagree with the suggestion in broad outline, but I wonder about the specifics you have in mind and how they would play out in practice. Would the focus be on practices that would prevent abuse from being perpetrated? Previously you mentioned MRI evidence used as a screening tool. Are you thinking about things of that nature? Others?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @kazzy I think you get to something important here: it’s a fixation on a certain age. I’ve certainly met men (and women) who remain fixed on 20. But as I’ve aged, I find I’m attracted to men who are my peers, not to men who look like my children. My husband says the same thing; an attractive woman with some silver in her hair is much more likely to catch his eye then a young woman who looks like she should be dating our son.

        Though I hesitate to offer this, I suspect it might have something to do with how we internalize what love and attraction is; a physical look or a mental compatibility, for instance.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        There are indeed a myriad of factors that go into physical attraction.

        I’ll say this… I’m TERRIBLE at judging people’s ages. Absolutely god awful. Like, I’m often off by decades, not just years. I don’t even know why I bother, I’m so awful.

        There have been times where I’ve seen a woman I could correctly identify as younger than me but who I figured was probably 22 or 24 and whom I found attractive. I’ve then found out she was much younger than I thought. A teenager. I felt skeeved out. “How could I!” I thought. “Is there something wrong with me?” I’ve tentatively concluded that there isn’t. That someone catching your eye from across a room is but a collection of body parts to the brain. And if those body parts are arranged just so, the brain will react in a certain way. It’s not a predilection I have… I don’t find myself regularly attracted to younger women and in fact tend to skew older much of the time. But… all this is complicated. And when we attempt to simplify it, I think we do ourselves a real disservice.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @stillwater I wish I had answers for you, I don’t know.

        The one thing I would suggest is better education for children as the go through puberty. But we can hardly get basic birds-and-bees education recognized, let alone education that helps a child learn to evaluate their developing preferences. And what I think would help would also help children learn to recognize that they might be gay, might be trans and benefit from HRT now, not after puberty’s come and done it’s damage. So I don’t see much hope of this happening at all.Report

      • I am midway through my thirties and I find twenty year olds physically attractive. In their own way, though. Attraction is – or ought to be – more than just physical. And twenty year olds are… really pretty young. It’s harder for me to connect in my mid-thirties than it was when I was approaching thirty, and much harder of course than when I was their age. It’s… unfortunate all around when it doesn’t work this way.

        One of the things I had to confront when I decided to substitute teach was “What if I find the young girls attractive?” Not the ten year olds, obviously, but I was figuring that I would get a lot of high school gigs and that includes some reasonably woman-like girls.he young

        It turned out that I had more grade and middle school assignments, but even when I had the high school assignments it turned ou that I had nothing to fear. As attractive as they were in their own way, I wasn’t attracted. It was an appreciation through a distance. However attractive they were, it was drowned out by their youth. I like young people, and I liked many of the young ladies in the same way that I liked many of the young men. But in a romantic context? A sexual ones? The word that comes to mind (and this may sound cruel in a way that I completely do not intend) the word that comes to mind is “obnoxious.”

        It makes me really glad that I am not of that age. That my wife is not of that age. And if heaven forbid something were to happen to my wife, I wouldn’t be looking anywhere near that age (up to and including the early side of twenties) even if it were entirely possible. It would take a remarkable exception to make me reconsider (I speak of twenties here, I obviously wouldn’t reconsider a sixteen year old for a multitude of reasons) dating across the velvet ropes of human progression.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Zic, humans have a long history of trying to deal with the darker urges of human nature before they became a problem for society like the Eugenics movement. These solutions tend to towards the morally problematic. Its very difficult for the victims but a reactive response to abuse is probably the best solution possible.Report

      • @will-truman “dating across the velvet ropes of human progression.”

        What an amazing turn of phrase. That line is just awesome.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


        Though I work with much younger students, my job sometimes has me working with high school students. What you describe is spot on. I might see a 17-year-old who I can recognize as having nice physical features. But then she’ll do something decidedly 17-year-old-ish… something a 17-year-old Kazzy might have found just darling… but which makes a 30-year-old Kazzy put on his “mean teacher” hat and put a stop to.

        People of any age can have attractive physical features. But as an adult, I find nothing at all attractive about children. And most 17-year-olds are still very much children.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


        humans have a long history of trying to deal with the darker urges of human nature before they became a problem for society like the Eugenics movement.

        You know, I think I expressed recognition of that when I said I didn’t think we should try to fix orientation; that it was a slippery slope.

        But I also challenge how quickly something like eugenics gets put out as a reason to not do anything when we’re facing a known harm. No response is also an action, a choice to accept harm. I think we can work to solve complex problems and include knowledge that it’s possible to go too far, to go to eugenics or turning gay kids straight or whatever as a restraint in the process.Report

      • @tod-kelly Thanks! I’m kind of proud of it.

        @kazzy Exactly.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Zic, lets just say that a lot of my fellows were victims of one the largest sociological experiments of all time which I’m not saying because of Godwin. Thats why I’m leary of them. I understand why you and people in similar situations would support them but from a personal standpoint, its not something that I can approve of. My people have a horrible experience with them.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        When was the last time you protested against American Eugenics laws?

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @leeesq I understand this, I appreciate this. But I fail to see how the holocaust can be anything but a warning to maintain people’s basic civil rights. I was deprived of those rights; and there are millions of children the world over who suffer this every day, often in far worse condition then I. I would suggest we’re failing attracted to children who don’t want to act on that attraction for lack of support.

        So I think you err to far to the side of maintaining the status quo.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @zic, the sexual and other abuse faced by millions of children across the world is horrible The domestic violence that millions of women have to endure is terrible. I am not in support of that. However, our track record of identifying and dealing with this before it happens is so-so and not so great in itself. The eugenics movement was an attempt to eliminate the darker parts of human nature and resulted in thousands of people getting sterilized against their will for no good reason among other horrors. I can not see a movement to pre-identify potential pedophiles or other abusers before they have a chance to act as being any more successful. The reactive action against abusers isn’t very good but it might be the least worse based on human history. Human history doesn’t make me incredibly optimistic about your proposal,

        What I would support is a better mental health system where people who believe themselves to have a dark urge and in need of help could come forward at their own volition and receive such help for free. This isn’t politically possible but its the best way to deal with it.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        The best that can be done to “identify” pedophiles before they offend to is track and treat children with severe behavrioul problems. Many of those kids show warning signs like harming animals,etc. Those kids need extensive and usually long term treatment. Often their families also need support. At best we do a fair to good job of it in some cases, less so in others.Report

      • @leeesq

        I think you’re speaking a little past what Zic is saying here. She openly says that the criminal justice system is probably not the best, or at least not the only, way to address the issue. And she goes so far as to say that she’s uncomfortable with compulsorily changing pedophilic desires, even (I presume) in cases where the person has acted on those desires. Those admissions seem to take pre-identification for coercive purposes and the reductio to eugenics off the table. Whatever pre-identification scheme she might endorse seems much more consonant with this claim you make:

        What I would support is a better mental health system where people who believe themselves to have a dark urge and in need of help could come forward at their own volition and receive such help for free. This isn’t politically possible but its the best way to deal with it.

        I think I’ve seen Zic make a similar argument in other threads, if I remember correctly. (I don’t mean to put words into her mouth, so if I misremember, I apologize.)

        I do think one problem with mental health provision is that it would be very hard to fashion a system where someone can seek treatment without having a therapist report them as being “a threat to themselves or others.” I’m not sure how to draw the line here. I imagine that such mandatory reporting requirements, however they function in practice, are designed to prevent abuses before they happen and to protect therapists who believe they must take action but who otherwise would feel hampered by therapist-patient privilege. Again, I don’t know the answer here.Report

      • @zic

        I think I agree with this:

        On feminism and rape; I’d posit that rape is often about power, but that this is an oversimplification of a complex thing, too. If someone feels entitled to use of another’s body, that’s about power, yes. But it’s also about their own lust and needs, it’s about confusing the difference between lust and love, about respect.

        I think one of the ways in which a miscommunication develops between anti-rape activists and those who are listening to their message the first time is an almost reflective recognition of what you say here a recognition that leads people at first blush to react against the “power” message. “Lust” and “passion” play a role in rape, at least potentially, and to deny it outright is to oversimplify a bit.

        But only a bit. I think it’s correct to say “rape is about power.” It’s a decision made by someone who is more powerful against someone else who is less powerful. It’s about imposing one’s will against another and doing something to which the other declines to consent.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        yeah, that’s true of /deliberate/ rape.
        Sometimes rape isn’t exactly /deliberated/, though.
        “I thought you wanted that”
        (as an honest thing, not someone trying to paper over other thoughts)
        combined with the other person too drunk to say “no” (despite, perhaps, expressing
        non-consent in more physical ways)….

        That’s not about power, mostly. It’s about lust, and being too drunk to think straight.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        WHY are you using the past tense with the term Eugenics Movement?
        Here, In America, the laws are still on the books and still being enforced.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Ah, Zic.

    This is not the way the world should be.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Both personally and behalf of all the editors at OT, I wanted to take a quick moment to thank zic for this submission, which I imagine must have been difficult to put to paper let alone share.

    Powerful, powerful stuff.Report

  4. Avatar Kim says:

    Lust is not love. That orientation, fixation? That is not true love.
    A man who loved you would have walked away, if he could not control himself.
    And if he could control himself? He’d never have mentioned it to you.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:

      I don’t know @kim.

      I agree, true love would be walking away, not harming. In part, I wrote this because I believe the closet we put pedophiles in creates enormous harm, and I think the discussion needs to go to it as a sexual orientation.

      But there is this: I have no doubt that what this man sought was a romantic relationship with me; he wanted me to be a willing partner in sex, combined with the joy we had together before there was a sexual element that I was aware of.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        He wanted you to be a “willing” partner. He wanted you to cave.
        That’s not the same as being willing.
        Systematic harassment and bullying, spying and stalking?
        That’s not the behavior of someone who respects your wishes.

        It’s not that I object to the fact that he was a pedophile — that’s mostly just “a fact”, in my eyes.
        It’s the abuse, the systematic empowering of himself at your expense.

        Also, someone who wanted a willing partner would remove himself from your presence if you proved to be unwilling — which you did (okay, perhaps he would try
        to mold your perceptions first — “that was supposed to feel good”).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @kim I agree with all these things; loving someone should entail not harming them; but we also know that that’s not how the world actually spins; that there all too much labeled ‘love’ that is really holding on and controlling and manipulating.

        It seems to me that there are two different things going on here — our tendency to view love through this idealized lens of what it should be, and the actual things we do, which include great harm, because we think we feel ‘love.’

        I would posit that actions speak louder then words.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:


        I’m reminded of Tod’s comment elsewhere on the multiple and various types of love. I think what makes it hard for people to accept your pedophile as feeling love is because it makes them feel forced to identify with him. “If I feel this thing I call love and he feels this thing he calls love…” I think what you demonstrate here is that what he felt can be described as love and still be wholly different from the type of love other people experience.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn.
        But I speak up about how we “twist” love, because that’s NOT something
        that’s permanent. We can fix that. We can empower people, we can change ourselves.

        We can learn not to be jerks. (at any rate, I’m trying! With limited success, but still!)Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        People very much want “love” to name this pure, transcendent thing, and not this thing our brains do, which then manifests as a wide assortment of human behaviors — some wonderful, some horrible, most somewhere in between.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        People very much want “love” to name this pure, transcendent thing, and not this thing our brains do, which then manifests as a wide assortment of human behaviors — some wonderful, some horrible, most somewhere in between.

        This is tricky. On the one hand, I’m inclined to say that people very much believe it’s not this thing our brains do because that’s it’s not. Could a brain in a vat correctly be said to love another person? By definition, the answer is no, even tho a brain in a vat would have all the experiences normally associated with doing so.

        On the other hand, including all the behaviors resulting from a brain process as being part of the definition of love implies only that without a brain there would be no love. But it doesn’t entail that love is nothing more than a brain process. Love is, by most people’s conceptions of the term, a feeling or state that is other-regarding. Attempting to reducing other-regarding behaviors to self-regarding ones, or more eliminativistically to reduce them to a brain state, seems like a mistake to me. I don’t think it can be done, myself.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kim says:

      I know what you mean. This is a story of love like…Hitler “liberated” the Sudetenland.Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:

    It takes courage to write what you did. Kudos and respect.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Thank you for sharing this, zic.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:


    Thanks for sharing your story. What remarkable strength you demonstrated and continue to demonstrate.

    I’d venture to guess that many pedophiles invoke “love” when attempting to justify their crimes… to themselves, to society, and to their victims. I wonder about the unique damage this causes their victims… victims who are only beginning to understand what love is. How many victims are led to believe that what is happening to them is okay because, hey, it’s love? How many victims struggle to develop a healthy understanding of love because they were exposed to such a distorted version of it?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      These aren’t questions for you, @zic , to answer. They are more musings that your piece brought up for me.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

      How many victims struggle to develop a healthy understanding of love because they were exposed to such a distorted version of it?

      Here I think it’s important to consider how incredible common child-hood sexual abuse is. Chances are pretty good that you know several victims, but will never know they experienced it.

      There is absolutely no doubt that it can be very damaging for many victims. I suspect every victim has some troubles. But I think many (I don’t know if I should say most here, but I’m tempted) are resilient and do just fine. Some, like myself, might even say that what we gained in self-knowledge was valuable, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say worth it.

      One of the most disturbing trends in discussions are the “life ruined” comments. It may be ruined; but I’d prefer to hold out hope that someone’s life was not ruined, and they can lead a life that’s normal, productive, and filled with the same kinds of joys and sorrows. I’m always concerned that the way people so easily bandy about the ‘that child’s life is ruined’ comments might cause a person to give up in their darker moments. Perhaps that’s silly of me, but I think it’s important to hold out hope of normal.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        It also sets up a false dichotomy… on this side you have people who were abused and who will never love properly and on that side you have people who weren’t abused and who are guaranteed to experience healthy love. So much goes into our conceptions of love and how we eventually experience that attempting to draw a one-to-one correlation is damn near impossible. You also have the individual factor… the same experience can have opposite impacts on two people because of how they individually respond to it.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    I am going to ask you all to stop with the, “This is not love.”

    From his perspective, that’s exactly what it was; no matter how twisted. I did not write this to be told, no, he was wrong to think it love, I wrote it to help you understand that’s exactly what he thought.

    The barrage of telling me otherwise only reinforces the trap that I and thousands upon thousands of other children have found ourselves in. You’ve got to step into his mind; the romantic love he wanted was with a child; this was his view of love.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

      Sorry, didn’t see this before responding, again, above.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to zic says:

      Same as Kim – I didn’t see this comment before I posted mine. I’m sorry.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to zic says:

      No offense intended.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

      Please, I might have been too harsh.

      But if this conversation is about, “This is not love,” it fails to get at what should matter, for him, it was about love. And to prevent even one girl or boy being the object of that love, we need to address it from that perspective; from a perspective that helps someone like my pedophile recognize that, no, this isn’t love, and here’s how you can make sure you don’t do damage when you confuse it with love.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

        On the subject of “how can it be love,” I would add this:

        Love is a transcendent thing — like religion, or art, or community, or freedom. We have a tendency to look at transcendent things with a romantic’s eye, and attach to them only those things that we find beautiful and affirming.

        But part of what makes something transcendent is its very ability to pierce our normal boundaries of concepts like good and evil. Every community defines outsiders as surely as it embraces its own; every freedom for one person has the potential to demand the stripping away of freedom for another; every religion that tells us we can be a more moral people offers with it the opportunity to cleanse others through fire. Love is no different.

        Love, like religion or art, cares not for kindness, or gentleness, or empathy. That part’s up to each of us as individuals.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to zic says:

      It may be helpful to remember that love, though mostly something we encourage and celebrate and take joy in, is not always the unambiguous good depicted in art and legend.

      So we confuse “love” with “socialization” when we recoil that the harmful and inappropriate way this man expressed his … love … for his niece. I hestitate to use the word, too, but that’s the whole point here. The passage in which the pedophile expresses relief that his victim is sexually active with older men is telling — what he did to his young victim he did because he saw it as a duty to initiate her into adulthood. This is an echo of similar kinds of ideas from cultures past.

      I know other survivors of incidents kind of like this. I’ve no license whatsoever to share with the rest of the world what’s been shared with me. Nor is it appropriate for me to inquire about the manner in which this continues to harm our author beyond what she’s chosen to share. But there is a good reason that this sort of thing is so forbidden and elicits such a visceral reaction in the rest of us.

      And to say that in cultures of the past this sort of thing, or something similar to it, would not have been nearly so alarming is no mitigation whatsoever. We do not live in cultures past. And if this sort of thing were commonplace in cultures past, perhaps this helps explain the attitudes and occasionally erratic behavior of figures from history, figures like Tiberius and Caligula.

      What I am interested in knowing is, if this is an “orientation” the way being straight or gay is, how can that be reconciled with what is socially acceptable in our culture? Obviously, we will never allow license to behave in this way, because the behavior is so very harmful. Perhaps it simply cannot be, and if this is how one is oriented, then that must be repressed no matter what and too bad for the repressed pedophile. I can live with that myself, but I lack the orientation in question and I see no duty on the part of an adult to initiate a child into sexual adulthood. Indeed, I see a duty on the part of adults to shelter their children from such initiation, until they start knocking on the door of adulthood asking to be let in, which they will do on a self-directed basis with their boyfriends or girlfriends of their own age — the experience that I suppose the majority of us have had.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The passage in which the pedophile expresses relief that his victim is sexually active with older men is telling — what he did to his young victim he did because he saw it as a duty to initiate her into adulthood. This is an echo of similar kinds of ideas from cultures past.

        I believe this was a rationalization; a way to make acceptable what society told him was unacceptable. It was the excuse that made it okay.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Understood; obviously, I was not intending to domesticate the act by reciting the rationalization.Report

  9. Avatar Michelle says:

    I am so sorry you had to go through this ordeal, zic, and thank you for your courage in writing about it.

    I agree that pedophilia is a form of sexual orientation but one that cannot be expressed because of the tremendous harm it inflicts on its victims. These folks need help finding a harmless way of dealing with their orientation but damned if I know how to get from here to there.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Michelle says:

      Many become great artists. If you’re capable of wanking off to a fantasy, that ought to be encouraged — particularly in this case (or others where it’s inappropriate — rape fantasies, etc).Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kim says:

        This is an interesting and thoughtful response Kim and I think I agree. The electronic and internet world offers a palliative solution in escape into fantasy. Electronic representations or avatars played by consenting (indeed enthusiastically consenting) adults cannot be victimized.

        The devilish question, however, is one of promotion. Does the promotion of fantasy alternatives replace or ameliorate the predation and harm or does it encourage it?Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Thank you for sharing Zic, I am truly sorry you, or anyone, has ever suffered this.Report

  11. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    This was very powerful Zic and one of the most difficult things to read ever posted on this site.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’m sorry.

      You know, I was very lucky. I had some inner reserve, I don’t know where it came from, but it served me well (though I made a lot of mistakes and am lucky I didn’t find a lot more trouble as a teen).

      His other victims (there were others, mostly family members, and we seemed to stack up one after another; he lost interest when we hit 15 or 16, depending on how fast we physically matured) were not as lucky, for the most part. I’ve led a relatively normal life since; I did a good job keeping him at bay. Most suffered far more, and have a lot more guilt about the relationship, and have had trouble forming healthy relationships as adults.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I don’t know how you wrote this, but I am glad that you did. That you were able to confirms something I’d suspected about you and your strength. Thank you for sharing it, though I wish we lived in a world where it never happened, so you didn’t have to.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

      Thank you, Chris.

      About how I wrote this: I’m a self-taught writer, I didn’t go to college. I had a serious head injury when I was 14, and don’t remember high school; I also self-medicated, and so don’t remember even more. I was not successful in school.

      When I write, and I wrote professionally for a long time, I write to a person. I pick one person I know (or, with the internet, have a sense that I know) and write to them. Sometimes, a group. Here, I imagined the people who comment regularly. You were there, as was almost everyone who’s commented and many who haven’t. But mostly, I wrote it to Tod, since I’d be sending it to him, and I trusted him to make the judgement call about posting or not posting it. It is an accusation against a person who’s now dead and cannot defend himself; and deserves scrutiny at that level.

      I’d been thinking about it since Rose’s post on Dylan Farrow’s essay, and the conversation there.

      I wrote it in one sitting, it took about 20 minutes, and I did not re-read it, I just sent it to Tod, since I’d already decided I wanted to write it.

      Normally, I would have spent a few days going over it, making sure the verbs were active, the pronouns clear, etc. I have trouble with these things. And spelling.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        I should add:

        The details of those first few days are so trapped in my memory I cannot forget them. I remember what I wore. I remember standing at the sink, feeling dizzy, and saying, “Nothing.” I remember his tone. It’s always the same. It’s stuck in my brain, in the amygdala. I assume I have post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the greatest joys in my life is that we no longer make full-sized (1970’s full-sized) maroon Buicks. They cause me to totally panic.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        I like the method of writing to someone, particularly when writing things that are extremely personal, as this clearly was. I may borrow that method in the future.

        Thank you again for writing it.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        @zic, I have also written TO someone, when things that were theoretically not to someone were too hard to write otherwise. It’s nice to know you do it too.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @maribou I pretty much always do this. I think it’s the storyteller in me. Even the most dry, rule-process journalism can benefit from a specific person to hear it as a story.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        @zic did you write many letters growing up (or at some later part of your life)? I went to band camp in 10th grade and I think the extended-by-letters-later friendships I formed there both gave me hope I *could* make friends, and prepared me to later find many of my best friends (and better yet, Jaybird) on the Internet – but I also think they were a great help to my writing. I had (have, though we are not THAT close anymore) one friend with whom I exchanged literally hundreds of pages a year…Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @maribou I didn’t write letters until I was 16 or so; I’m dyslexic, and couldn’t read fluently until 5th grade (end of 6th grade, I read on a college level and retained something like 85% of it; which I know because they thought I’d cheated on the test, since I’d been in remedial reading the year before, so the retested me many, many times.)

        I did write poetry; I also composed a lot of music.

        But writing is difficult; I am not wired for it; my skills are verbal, and there’s a difference. My children are like this, too; near-genius on the verbal/vocab scores, near-imbecile on the writing scores. That I can write at all is due to constant effort since I was in my early 20’s, and my father-in-law gave me a computer. A pre-PC type PC called a Stearns, with a most primitive word processor on it.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @maribou I did write to my Sweetie, after we met and before we could live together; many pages every few days; but never to anyone else.

        So in a way, he was my first listener; but I never connected the two (my letters to him and my habit of writing journalism to a specific person) before.

        For a future symposium, I hope we tackle the subject of writing.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        @zic Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Sorry if this is too far into the weeds, but I am intrigued (once again) by the similarities and differences between us.

        I’m not dyslexic, but I am dysgraphic. (I mostly found cognitive or pragmatic workarounds for it, long before I knew “dysgraphic” was a thing, and of course being able to backspace is the world’s biggest blessing for my writing). So I don’t have such a big split as you do, between the facility of my verbal and my written skills, but I do remember being scored on some instrument as a 4th-grader, and coming out 99th percentile on everything, reading and vocabulary college-level blah blah, and then being 42nd percentile on coding (decoding? that thing where they make you translate code and write it down, and the translating was no problem but the writing was really hard and it took me a long time and I didn’t come anywhere near to finishing enough of it). And me saying, “yes, I have trouble with that, writing is hard” and the school people shrugging it off. (To be fair, I often think I was better off because they shrugged it off. )

        In any case, writing was my least favorite subject from 3rd grade (when appearance of the writing started to matter, and I first started to have to copy and recopy and recopy to get it right) until… well, now, actually, I still hate writing for a grade. I was terrified of the writing portion of the GRE, because it is timed and it takes me forever to write things without them being full of spelling mistakes and missed words and etc. I *actively* enjoyed the verbal skills portion. Two very different things. When I have enough time (as I usually do in personal writing), I turn the writing *into* reading by writing down any old crap and then spending all my time on the revising stage.

        Overall, though, I still *hate* writing on many levels. But I also love it (I used to be a poet, when I was younger and had more brain cells – it crops up, again, now and then). Mostly I love writing *to* people. Because then they write back. And with a few rare individuals (my friend, Jaybird, a few others), writing letters felt like a different thing – just like talking, only I could think about it more clearly and go back and edit what I said into something closer to what I wanted to say – or if I didn’t, I knew that particular person would probably understand at least part of whatever it was I meant.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:


        I turn the writing *into* reading by writing down any old crap and then spending all my time on the revising stage.

        I adore re-writing, though it took a long, long time to feel that way about it.

        I think I have two modes, and they use drastically different process. One I think of as poet mode; very spontaneous, often drawing on the verbal/musical skill. I wrote this like that; and I tend to do that in comment before the onset of migraines here.

        The second is writing to re-write, which is how I worked as a journalist. Get the damned thing out, and then sculpt it. The computer is an essential tool here; I could not do this type of writing without the physical aid of the keyboard; the spelling is often more in my muscle memory then anything, like knowing piano scales.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

        Good God, zic. You’re amazing – what you’ve been through and the abilities you display today considering it all. Just amazing. You’re a fantastic writer.Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    Wow. Totally off topic, but there’s a wild turkey in my back yard.

    That’s totally healing to me. I escaped to the puckerbrush.Report

  14. Avatar Patrick says:

    And to prevent even one girl or boy being the object of that love, we need to address it from that perspective; from a perspective that helps someone like my pedophile recognize that, no, this isn’t love, and here’s how you can make sure you don’t do damage when you confuse it with love.

    I think this drills down to a core thing about love that’s been danced around on many of the posts but hasn’t been articulated (although I haven’t read all of the posts, so maybe I’m wrong on this score). Again, our language is insufficient to describe the nuance that is one of the more important factors of the label.

    Love between people needs to be love between people. Not a love of one person.

    Saying “I love this person” who doesn’t love you back is different from loving someone who loves you back. Consummation isn’t about physical congress as much as it is about union.

    If you love someone, and they don’t love you back, and you attempt to coerce them into loving you, that’s ultimately not the sort of love that I would consider to be real romantic love. It’s a perversion of romantic love; romantic love ultimately should not be selfish in that way. Moreover, it’s a perversion of romantic love that can actually lead to all sorts of bad things in-between fairly normal people having a fairly common sort of dysfunctional adult relationship, but it’s illustrated most starkly here.

    The tendency to fall into unrequited love is a problem you’re supposed to grow out of, iff’n you ask me.

    For people who can differentiate between their desires (which may or may not facilitate consummated romantic love) and their actual actions, this can be something of value, in and of itself. I’ve loved people that didn’t love me back the way I loved them; when I accepted that and accepted the fact that you can indeedy love someone who doesn’t love you back and that’s okay for both people involved, I’d say that was a growing experience (at least, it was for me).

    For people who cannot differentiate between their desires and their actions, who cannot accept that their physical attraction (or mental attraction, or both) can exist without requiring reciprocation, I’d say they haven’t learned that lesson yet. Indeed, if they’re incapable of learning that lesson, then I’ll go as far as saying that they’re broken people. Maybe they can be fixed, maybe not. But what they can’t have is consummated love, and they’re fooling themselves if they think otherwise.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick I agree.

      It is one of the biggest challenges each of faces, I suspect it an evolutionary challenge at some level, an ongoing change in our species, and one that may separate into two branches if we’re lucky enough to survive that long.Report

  15. Avatar Murali says:

    Wow, I just don’t know what to say.Report

  16. Avatar dexter says:

    Zic, Very powerful and brave piece of writing. I have spent several weeks in a coed psyche ward for depression and, at first, was amazed how many of the women’s problems started with an older man’s sexual advances. After a while I just wondered how long it would be before they got strong enough to talk about it.Report

  17. Avatar zic says:

    In the OP, I say:

    He kept our household going, fixing the things we were too poor to replace.

    I should have expanded on this. Like most similar stories I’m aware of, my pedophile did a lot of good. He was always helping people. I constantly heard what a great guy he was. Probably for all the wrong reasons, of course, the effort to build good will in the community seems a shield to protect you from getting caught. It’s like building up a character defense.

    Nonetheless, that good exists, right there beside the evil. Just like my love for him existed, even as I wished him dead.

    I learned some very complex lessons here, thing I think a lot of people don’t learn until they’re much older. Most importantly, an understanding of ambiguity. Multiple things can be true at the same time.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

      The lessons about ambiguity are some of the most powerful effects my childhood had on me, too. Sometimes, I think my life would be better if I saw less ambiguity… but mostly I see it as a silver lining of sorts.

      Thank you so much for posting this. I have often wondered about the details of what happened to you, and I think knowing them sheds a lot of illumination on my own story (both in the similarities, and in the differences). I can’t really say much more than that; which makes me all the more appreciative of what you’ve done here.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou says:

        @maribou (and others,) I thought you’d appreciate this, a philosophical examination of the lessons of ambiguity:


        I’m not saying that we should stop caring at all about logical consistency in working out our positions on moral issues. But I think it is interesting and reasonable to ask why we do care. Moral philosophers, as theoreticians, naturally tend to focus on the theoretical coherence of statements and their implications. But morality isn’t mathematics. It is perfectly rational, in one sense of the term, to prioritize practical consequences over logical consistency. Once we accept this, we will perhaps be more comfortable taking a pragmatic approach to moral problems, and feel free to do so without dissimulation or apology.

        (hat tip to sully.)Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        @zic , Thank you, that was an interesting read.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:

        The article you linked to is wrong wrong wrong!

        When I have time, I will point out why. But for now, just note that even a pragmatist has to have some account of the goals the pragmatist thinks institutions should be designed to meet. The author talks about treating people well etc etc. Presumably, if one is to think that one’s pragmatic goals are even somewhat justified by reasons, they cannot tell us to both do and not do something. It cannot also be the case that something both is and is not a pragmatic goal. But consistency is easy to achieve, so long as one is willing to make arbitrary distinctions. The difficulty is that there really isn’t a philosophically sound account of when a given difference is morally relevant or otherwise. That is to say, the nearest cousin to her argument (that a particular distinction is not arbitrary if it can be justified pragmatically) is respectable, even if wrong. Her actual argument misses the mark badly.

        Note also that while most accounts of moral realism involve some metaphysically dubious premises*, even if we are to be thoroughly constructivist about morality, if we wish to keep our practice of morality separate from the mere expression of preferences, the sorts of consistency constraints that the author deplores come back in force simply because they are constitutive of the practice of morality.

        *Metaphysical dubiousness is only involved if you are a moral non-naturalist. That is, you believe that moral properties reduce to non-natural properties that are somehow different and weirder than other non-natural properties like those associated with pragmatic oughts, mathematical properties etc. The queerness objection kinda loses its force when you try to think what other sorts of things are also similarly weird. If you think that moral properties are ultimately reducible to natural properties (or complexes of natural properties) then one can be a realist about morality without holding to any metaphysically dubious claims.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou says:

        @murali (remember, I am not a philosopher),

        Presumably, if one is to think that one’s pragmatic goals are even somewhat justified by reasons, they cannot tell us to both do and not do something. It cannot also be the case that something both is and is not a pragmatic goal.

        But this is, I suggest, exactly the thing that ambiguity suggests. Something can be both good and bad. My feeling is that much goes astray when we fail to consider this, so fail to consider what’s often called ‘unintended consequences.’ We can, for instance, rebuild a complicated intersection that causes small amounts of gridlock and is considered unsafe; and in doing so, improve it so much that driver’s no longer take care going through that intersection and create new dangers.

        One of my favorite examples of this is the Big Dig in Boston. It used to be that getting on to Storrow Drive from the Central Artery was dangerous, you had to cross the X of traffic going to Rt. 93 toward New Hampshire. This problem was perceived to be so awful that it was one of the primary reasons people accepted a massive construction effort that took well over a decade and cost billions of dollars.

        Now, that problem truly is solved. And it’s the folks trying to get on Rt. 93 who must cross the X. But at least there’s a park where an elevated highway used to be, and the North End is no longer separated from the remainder of the city. But that has caused gentrification, and traditional residents are being priced out of the neighborhood.

        And on and on we spin.

        One action can be both good and bad depending on how we view it. One person can do both tremendous good and tremendous harm, depending on which moment we look at that person. I might see that the motivation for the good is not good, but the person standing next to me might not see that.

        You’re very opening line, The article you linked to is wrong wrong wrong! suggests that you still have some lessons to learn from the school of ambiguity. I hope they’re kind; sometimes they devastate. Still, I’m open to being wrong here; because there’s many ways I probably am. But you should consider the ways I might be right.

        /remember, I am not a philosopher; so you’ll need to give me good resources that I can access to understand a philosophical argument. I’d be most grateful.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:


        Note, ambiguity is a different beast from logical inconsistency. Take your intersection example, there are good making and bad making aspects to improving the intersection. I’m not even claiming that there needs to be a definite fact of the matter as to whether doing so is better. But, when coming to a decision, the decision is about whether or not to make a particular improvement. So, while some (maybe even many) things may be neither wholly good nor wholly bad, nothing is both wholly good and wholly bad at the same time. The latter is logically inconsistent while the former is not.

        The point I was trying to make was the moral systems, when conceived as practical rules to coordinate people’s actions, must be capable of coordinating people’s actions. That is why general free for all egoism is not a moral conception. It doesn’t direct peoples’ actions in such a way that if people advance claims only in accordance with the rules, those claims will be successful. When we make moral arguments, we don’t merely look at logical consistency, we apply some sort of external criterion. Often this involves something about not making arbitrary distinctions. If her point had been about how the distinctions we think of as non-arbitrary are not as cut and dried as we commonly make them out to be, then I would have agreed. Instead, she gives a weird slate pitch about logical consistency which is either nonsensical or dishonest. Dishonest because if she is not serious about maintaining moral discourse, she shouldn’t talk as though those who are interested in doing so have no logical consistency requirement to adhere to. She is free to say that morality is bunk and that we are free to discard all talk about it. She would be wrong still, but the case would be harder against her. But her position is more complicated. She apparently wants to maintain our social practice of morality for pragmatic reasons. I can get behind that. But any stable set of moral norms must have some process of justification. That is to say, there must be some process by which people should be able to convince dissenting others to adopt the norms in question. No norms can be stable if they are only backed by coercion. In fact, in order to count as a norm, it must be backed by an internal or critical point of view. Logical consistency is the bare minimum required for justification. Justification cannot work unless there is some purchase for arguments. Justification proceeds by moral argument e.g by appealing to some shared standard. Without logical consistency moral argument would be impossible and thus morality, even as a practical system would be impossible.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

        Something can be both good and bad.

        Not, as they say, simpliciter. It can be good wrt A and bad wrt B, but it can’t be both good and bad.

        I agree with Murali that even a pragmatist is constrained by consistency (tho I disagree with Murali that there is a perfectly consistent moral theory, one that doesn’t devolve to adhocery at some point). My criticism of the argument you quoted would be that voluntarily throwing out consistency as a condition on our justification for certain judgments, normative claims and policy prescriptions would basically eliminate justification from playing a role in our thought processes. We’d instead we’d merely account for certain types of practices as expressions of whimsy, or power, arbitrariness. And even if those practices yielded good results, we’d be prevented from justifying them on those grounds. That seems like an intellectual state of nature, to me, where the lives of ideas are nasty, brutish and short.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou says:

        But any stable set of moral norms must have some process of justification. That is to say, there must be some process by which people should be able to convince dissenting others to adopt the norms in question.

        But I think this is exactly what’ she’s arguing; that we have imperfect knowledge, and that as strong as our moral conviction might be, we always need to be open to considerations that challenge our convictions because our perceptions of good and bad are limited at best; and an awareness of the bad we don’t know about or the good we don’t know about can and should leave us open to change.

        But here’s where I think you’re really missing the boat, @murali — you’re focused on changing the minds of others with your arguments. Perhaps the real nugget of my experiences with ambiguity is not the importance of converting others to my argument, it’s making certain I’m open and receptive to being converted to their arguments even as I cling to my own. One directs out, the other, in.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou says:

        @stillwater I’m not sure I agree. Something can be both good and bad wrt A alone. You will, I know, simply split that to an ever small wrt; always the qualifier that this is good A, this is bad B. But if both apply to the same subject, I’m not certain that there is not an encompassing good and bad combined.

        Take women entering the workforce in the numbers they did in the 1970s. It was good for women, it gave them a kind of economic freedom they hadn’t had before. But it was also bad for women, because it placed both the burden of home and work on their shoulders.

        Again, I’m not a philosopher. I’m ignorant. But I think I’m better equipped to face what life throws at me because I can parse at least some the many layers of different meanings and outcomes and morals any situation involves then someone who searches for binary outcomes. That requires the mental flexibility to evaluate the ambiguities and chart a course that may well require adjustment as new ambiguities arise.

        To fail at this is the path of the ideologue.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Maribou says:

        Much of these discussions have at their base the notion that there is some mind-independent moral truth to be found, that a moral system can be discovered, the way a formal mathematical system is.

        I believe otherwise. I think human society is at its base a physical system, where our brains take a critical role, but with all the complexity of any other real-world physical system.

        But it doesn’t feel that way, because each of us is one of those brains, with our little surges of oxytocin, and our models of society, which seldom match society as it is, and our models of ourselves, built on a tower of rationalization and self delusion. On and on.

        Moral system are beliefs that themselves are part of this physical system. One might search for some optimal set of believes, according to some imagined criteria (which itself is a thing in the brain, a part of the system), but at no point does one truly step out, step above.

        My goal is to maximize flourishing and diminish suffering. My words are a physical process.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:


        I knew I should’ve read the whole article before commenting on it. Dagnabit.

        What she’s (?) arguing is actually something pretty subtle, it seems to me. She’s not arguing for abandoning consistency, she’s questioning why we value consistency in moral reasoning akin to that of an axiomatic model. She thinks doing so – imposing that standard of justification – it might just be a convention (a “conversational convention”, in her words) that requires justification itsownself.

        For example, she wrote

        I’m not saying that we should stop caring at all about logical consistency in working out our positions on moral issues. … An advantage of not insisting on logical consistency as a sine qua non of any acceptable moral position or ethical theory is that we will be more likely to give due weight to pragmatic considerations.

        Also, this,

        To a large extent this is indeed our default way of thinking in everyday life. Nevertheless, there is a difference between thinking of consistency as intrinsically good and thinking of it as pragmatically good most of the time. And I would argue that the latter point of view is preferable.


        The considerations touched on above perhaps help to explain why we value logical consistency in our moral judgements . We value it in other areas as a necessary condition of truth; we see it as central to our notion of rationality; and in policy and practice it is closely linked to our conception of fairness. So maybe our commitment to consistency gets carried over from these spheres into the realm of moral theory and reflection. It then becomes something like a conversational convention, a rule that everyone recognizes and that helps give form to the discourse.

        I quote at length because that’s a view that I endorse and embrace, and actively argue here at the league. I wouldn’t have been able to argue for it along the precise lines she did, nor as compellingly, I don’t think, but the thesis is one I accept. In fact, I just made a similar argument to Jaybird and Patrick that mirrors this line of reasoning pretty closely, that is, that it’s only because a person adopts and imposes a model of rationality on others along the lines of an axiomatic system that another person’s rationality can be challenged. And part of that view (and attribution) includes, as the author of the link makes clear, assuming that moral claims can be analyzed by analogy to (eg) true statements expressed in mathematical languages and other similar systems of thought.

        So I’m inclined to agree with that part of the argument: there is no justification for imposing a strict concept of logical consistency to moral claims on analogy to abstract disciplines (or even science). Those types of claims seem radically different (to me anyway, and presumably her as well). So the article is largely a defense of pragmatism insofar as pragmatics is criticized for entailing contradictions, it seems to me. And that imposing strict criterion derived from other disciplines requires a justification. I’m down with that. (At least, insofar as I’m understanding the argument correctly, which I might not be.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Maribou says:

        Still, right, I took her to be arguing that consistency is, along with the other principles and heuristics we use in making moral judgments and moral claims, something that needs to be justified. And I’m cool with that. Having to justify consistency or fairness will help you discover relevant differences that might have gone unseen had one simply accepted that because we do X in case A, we should also do X in case B.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:

        ad-hocery is different from inconsistency. For example, I could discriminate against anyone below 1.72m in height and be consistently acting on the rule: we ought to care only about people more than 1.72m tall. The distinction may be entirely ad-hoc, but it is consistent. I will agree that most if not all moral theories are ad-hoc in some way, but few are actually inconsistent.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:


        morality is distinct from beliefs about morality. And we don’t have to go beyond physical facts to establish mind independent morality. Consider, the following crude reduction: By morally good, and morally bad, what we mean is pro-social and anti-social respectively. A necessary condition of pro sociality is said action/rule being able to stably order conflicting claims if everyone accepts a rule or principle condoning the action in the given circumstances. It is a brute, mind independent and natural fact about particular rules or principles that any society in which they are widely accepted entertains a serious risk of implosion. One such example is “Any amount of wealth even the minimum required to feed and clothe oneself is bad”. Thus, if there is a plausible reduction of moral facts to natural facts, then we could establish mind independent moral truths by exhausting the physical facts about society.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Maribou says:

        @murali — I’m familiar with the difference between a first-order and second-order moral statements, so we can move on from there.

        But you haven’t established morality, as such. Instead, you have established a (possible) fact about human society. And the ol’ is/ought thing still remains.

        I mean, if saying “In social situation X, actions such as Y tend to lead to result Z” were enough, then moral philosophy would have settled everything hundreds of years ago. If saying “System of belief Q leads to more stable societies than system of belief R” answered the big-tough issue, then the philosophy departments could close down and we could get down to the work of figuring out which systems are Q and which are R.

        Seems to me that ain’t how it played out. The reason that is not how it played out is this: those are not first-order moral statements. Those are first-order statements about humans societies.

        A first-order statement is this: “Societies should foster and maintain stability.”

        Should they? Why?

        (Note that regardless of your answer, I can keep asking ‘why?’ Which is in many ways the original problem, and also your challenge: a reason that, at some point, I must stop asking ‘why?’)

        Add to this the fact that moral systems don’t actually work this way, since they are “software” (an imperfect metaphor, but it will serve) that run on the “hardware” (an even worse metaphor) of actual human brains and cognitive abilities, a fact which seems permanently obscured whenever one approaches first-order moral statements as if they have truth value semantics.

        But of course they don’t have truth value semantics. Right?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:

        “Societies should foster and maintain stability.”

        Should they? Why?

        Well, if the crude reduction I gave was a good one, then “should” just means fosters and maintains stability (edit as necessary for grammaticality). That it is true by definition and enquiry stops there so long as we both agree that it is a good definition. Not just any reduction would do. A proper reduction would be such that we could look at it and see that it captures the meaning of the terms morality and ought etc etc. This is enormously difficult. Moral theory has pretty much failed to progress because
        a) analytic philosophy as such has only taken off in the last century
        b) a lot of moral philosophers are resistant to the idea of doing the reductive work
        c) The reductive work is enormously difficult.
        d) the fields of psychology, sociology, economics and anthropology have only just begun to take off and even then many still have difficulty disentangling themselves from their ideological commitments.

        The sort of conceptual reduction, if it is to be appropriate, should be sensitive to the best set of facts in the social sciences.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Maribou says:

        @murali — I think I get you, but I don’t think your program is going to get what you want, not a truly mind independent moral system, not a real thing in the world you can point to and say, “This is the source of moral truth; this resolves the debate.”

        Regarding your social order example, some douche-nozzle drunk on Nietzsche can stagger in and assert that “chaos is better,” that social order should be opposed, since clearly life should be a struggle in a state of nature, and clearly ordered societies only make room for the mass of “sheeple.”


        And after all, suffering is good. Dostoyevsky said so.

        (And I cannot believe I spelled “Dostoyevsky” correctly on the first try.)

        I can point to a billion facts of society, and a billion causal relations, and deep truths from the social science. I can show the clear difference between flourishing and misery, between sickness and health. On and on.

        I cannot provide a mind-independent fact that shows someone should prefer the latter.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:

        to extend the hardware software metaphor, objective morality may be identified by looking not at individual software, but looking at the hardware and noting that the hardware limits the range of software that can run without producing errors. Internal consistency is like having non-buggy software and at least for morality, the sort of hardware we have places limits on what software we can run without bugs. The question of which software we can run without bugs given the hardware limitations is truth functional.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Maribou says:


        At some point, either someone is wrong about the facts (e.g. a well ordered society redounds to everyone’s benefit and the cunning and strong and crafty benefit more from a well ordered society than they would from a state of nature) or the disagreement becomes purely linguistic (e.g. the rest of us use morally ought in a way that refers to conduciveness to well ordering of a society and the other guy is just confused about the meaning of ought) Of course all this depends on whether any reduction we provide is a good one. The one I gave is far too crude and is even when refined, at best a partial reduction. None of what I said actually establishes morality per se. But, it does show how it is possible to settle the question.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      “Probably for all the wrong reasons, of course, the effort to build good will in the community seems a shield to protect you from getting caught. It’s like building up a character defense.”

      You are obviously better situated to know, but I wonder if it is really fair to assume his good works were necessarily done with the intention of hiding his crimes. It’s possible they were done sincerely. Especially if what he was experiencing was love.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        Both, I think. I have gotten some sense of good deeds as acts of contrition; but they also provide access and lead other’s to give you the benefit of the doubt.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s really remarkable you are able to see him as a flesh-and-blood human, despite what he did to you. So often we want to make people into monsters, declare everything and anything about them monstrous, and then shield our eyes. And while the desire to do so is understandable, I don’t think it serves us in the long haul. What this man did to you was no doubt monstrous. But humans are more complex than their most monstrous acts.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s really remarkable you are able to see him as a flesh-and-blood human, despite what he did to you.

        This is relatively new for me. Mostly it stems from honestly trying to find ways to help other children, too. As a matter of criminal justice, it fails because of lack of reporting, lack of proof when reported, and it’s after the damage. The tendency to shield our children and schedule every minute of their lives has probably helped prevent a lot, but it also leaves the more vulnerable children the most at risk. And there’s little that I see addressing the ways of reaching those who commit such crimes and helping them; though this strikes me as the single best line of prevention possible.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        As someone who works with young children (and, sometimes, older children), is there anything I can/should be doing? I’ve taken the classes on things to look for and all that, but I’ve never heard from someone who him/herself was a target.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy I would say the most crucial thing is identifying a too-intense attachment between an adult and child; and when the child suddenly rejects that attachment, are the most obvious signs. That would probably sweep up far too many innocent people to be anything more then a potential indicator, however.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        But what about in terms of supporting the child? I mean, it seems that the system failed you and it surely will fail many more children. But surely there are players within that system who can make a difference, even if a small one. Is there anything you wish an adult had said to you or did that might have been a small gesture but would have resonated greatly?

        I mean, the odds are against me knowing that a child is being or has been victimized, but there seems to be little harm in preparing.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy I’m probably not the best person to answer that; I didn’t really get any support.

        That said, always listen. Always wonder why a child who was thriving suddenly stops thriving, and reach out to that child. Probably some shelter from the bullies on the playground are in order, too; this opens you up to that sort of abuse because you social signalling get’s all mucked up.

        But I’m not a therapist. And I also think there’s some good indication that too much talk therapy here is counterproductive for a couple of reasons, one, it runs the risk of creating false memories, and two, remembering is reliving; the real goal for treatment here (presuming PTSD) is teaching the child how to stop remembering. (This is probably the greatest problem with a criminal justices approach; it puts the child in the position of having to let the perpetrator confront them; it’s re-victimization. That is why the DA didn’t pursue a case against Allen.)Report

  18. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    Powerful stuff zic.

    The word love is vague and ill-defined. Other languages seem to offer more precision. There are at least three things that could be present in those who love.

    1. There is erotic love. A passionate madness. This is felt as an overwhelming urge: “I cannot live without connection to this person.” Erotic love is really distinct from but often coincides with (or begins with) physical lust.

    2. There is caritas or agape, a spirit of charity and good will. Selfless love of others to improve their lives. A willingness to sacrficie for for the other.

    3. There is philia, best exemplified by deep and lasting friendship and long marriages. It requires mutual knowing and understanding and an idea of reciprocity and a shared love of goodness.

    It seems to me that your abuser -please correct me if I’m wrong- felt eros for you constantly. That is no suprise. Think Lolita. Think the ancient Athenians.

    Your abuser occasionally, perhaps, felt caritas, or charitableness towards you too. But this may have been guilt. Certainly he should’ve felt this more and sacrificed his own erotic connection (not necessarily lust) for your well-being.

    But your abuser had no notion of philia or true friendship to you. He did not get to know what you wanted and needed and try to reciprocate.As you say, it was a love that was not loving.

    Erotic love is powerful. And it is beautiful. But it is also often evil, especially when not tempered with other kinds of love. That is a hard thing for all of us to truly accept.

    Thank you for your story and please tell me if anything I have said offends.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      Offends? How could this possibly offend? It’s the best description of the types of love that we feel yet. I love it for it’s simplicity, eros, caritas, and philia. And yes, the philia, the caring for my well-being in my own right and agency, instead of as a reflection of him, was completely missing.

      thank you, @shazbot3Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to zic says:

        Thanks Zic,

        I just wanted to make sure that the channels of communication are fully open given that this is a painful topic.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @shazbot3 I appreciate that.

        But all said, I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t feel safe, and I’m not particularly interested in the, “Glad you’re okay,” or the “that wasn’t love,” comments because they don’t really move us anywhere. I am okay, I’m different then I might have been. I like to think I’m better for the most part; though I know I have a few odd quirks.

        But think on this: in this thread, we’ve covered a lot of ground. I think we are well beyond the titillation of sex and into the dark emotional waters. There has not been on single comment about my life (or some other kids life) being destroyed or damaged, which I take pretty great offense to, it’s a prejudgement. It’s been a discussion on harm, potential treatment, and the nature of twisted love.

        Which is pretty much what I’d hoped for.Report

  19. Avatar James Hanley says:

    The strength it took to write this awes me. The strength, or integrity, or both, it takes to look at pedophiles as humans, not monsters, awes me even more.

    And I hear what you’re saying. But I read this as a guy who has know adult women who are so emotionally traumatized they still can’t form healthy relationships, and who has three daughters I would die or kill for. I’d rather anything at all happen to me than to have that happen to my daughters. My internal response is kill. Torture even. Make them suffer pain in proportion to the pain they cause.

    I know I’m your audience. But I think the best prevention is elimination.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

      I know I’m your audience. But I think the best prevention is elimination.

      I felt like this for a very, very long time.

      But I also recognize it as part of the impulse that drives pedophiles into the shadows, too. It’s an impulse to resist if we’re interested in keeping our daughters (and sons) safe.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        I don’t know. I think we need to teach our children what to watch for, tell them it’s not their fault, that there are bad people who try to fool us into pretending to be good, and that they should report it. And we should have a culture of taking those reports seriously. Then, as with an elderly dog, take the predator for a walk, so there is no next victim.

        I’m listening, zic, and I’m thinking about what you said here and on that other thread, but I’m inclined to think that pedophiles is different, not N orientation, but more akin to schizophrenia, not fixable, not manageable.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        @james-hanley – I find myself with a lot to say to you on this subject and absolutely zero way to say it in a public venue. (i’ve tried, and deleted, about 8 different ways of getting at what I mean without saying anything that doesn’t feel safe.) if you’re interested in having me do so, I would email you my thoughts.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        I’m inclined to think that pedophiles is different, not N orientation, but more akin to schizophrenia, not fixable, not manageable.

        If I believed that, it would be a great relief. I could unload a pile of pain. They’re broken, they’re beyond redemption. Dead men walking; full of cunning and guile. But then there’s nothing but the shadows, either. No reason to seek help, to refrain. And given innocent until proven guilty, no reason for their to be fewer children with my fate, either.

        I seek a decrease. You’re not getting us there with this line of thought, it’s just a perpetuation of the status quo. I see no suggestion, for instance, that the orientation — if it is that — is genetic. If it were, this might help achieve decrease by weeding out the bad genes.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @james-hanley here’s probably the most concise summary of research/treatment I’ve found. It does consider it an orientation, and recent MRT scans reflect the same centers of the brain lighting up as in ‘normal’ adult attractions, though that’s not part if this particular link.


      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:


        While I fully understand… hell, even empathize… with the impulses you share here, my concern is this: Imagine the guy who has these urges, these impulses, to do to a child what @zic ‘s pedophile did to her. He fights to resist them, fights to avoid doing the remarkable harm fulfilling those urges would accomplish. He wants to seek help, but knows doing so is a death sentence, a figurative one if not a literal one. So he suffers alone, ultimately fails to control them, and recreates the nightmarish scenario presented in zic’s story.

        Now, if these people really are irredeemable, then there might be a very limited scope of options available should they make themselves known before acting. And maybe those options are such that no one would avail himself of them. But if we can expand our thinking just a bit, identify ways in which maybe we can’t change them but in which we can work with them to avoid them causing harm, it would seem to me that we would probably see fewer victims, even if ever so slightly.

        Basically, we can kill pedophiles on sight but only be able to do so after their damage becomes known, and hope that this would serve as a sufficient deterrent. Or we can act more deliberately to stop them before they strike. As tempting as the first one is, I can’t help but think the latter needs to be the better choice.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        Maribou–don’t feel that you have any obligation to share with me, but I will listen if you choose to do so, and you can certainly feel free to email me.

        Kazzy–I’m only talking about killing those who commit the acts. And even then I’d set aside my personal feelings and support using the rule of law; but damned if I can accept it when someone gets 18 months for doing those things. For the others, fine, let them come in and take whatever drugs we can find that will stop them. Then monitor them.

        zic–Honestly, I’m listening. But honestly, folks like me are your toughest audience.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:


        I agree that an 18-month sentence for a violent crime that can continue to harm the victim for years to come is unacceptable. We absolutely should come down hard on those who have caused this harm and you are right that we must temper emotion and avail ourselves of the proper avenues in doing so.

        It is the ones who haven’t caused harm, who feel they may do so, and who would like to pursue a different path that deserve society’s support.

        A real difficulty arises in attempting to do both.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        18-month sentence

        When you compare the numbers of sentences vs. the numbers of victims, it becomes sort of obvious that most of the perps never face any accountability, let alone a sentence or a slot on the local sex-offender registry.

        Just sayin’Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:


        I’m not going to continue to defend myself here, but I’m wondering if we’d make that same argument, say “let’s not discourage them from seeking help by punishing them too harshly,” about psychopathic serial killers.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:


        First, I don’t think you should feel the need to defend yourself. I might disagree with you on some of the finer points here, but probably agree with you more than I disagree and don’t find your position in need of defense.

        To your point, I’ll clarify my position by saying this… I think we should punish harshly those who do real harm to others. This includes pedophiles and psychopathic serial killers. As soon as you cross the line from “potential to commit harm” to “actually committing harm”, you lose any and all sympathy I might have had for you. However, if there exist people who have done no harm to others but feel they might and they come forward seeking help to avoid doing harm, I think we should help them. THAT SAID, seeking to do the latter should not stand in the way of the former. If someone says, “We should go easy on this actual pedophile so that a potential pedophile might come forward for support,” they have gone too far.

        I’ve seen some people say, “If someone even looks at a kid, we should tar and feather him.” That is the mindset I am pushing back against. If that is not one you hold, my disagreement is not with you.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        As soon as you cross the line from “potential to commit harm” to “actually committing harm”, you lose any and all sympathy I might have had for you.

        James hasn’t crossed that line, kazzy. At least not in anything he’s said in this subthread as I’m reading it. I mean, I hear your worry and all….Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:


        “Defend myself” was a poor choice of words. I don’t feel attacked. I should have said “defend my position,” which would have been more accurate. I was reading the threads and realized that my response seemed pretty different than what anyone else was saying, and was very much at odds with what zic was arguing. So it’s not one where I want to be the hard-line hard-ass. And the “torture and kill them” reaction is not my normal reaction to anything else, even terrorists and serial killers–it’s a very personal reaction to this issue because I can only think of my daughters, and how this has been one of my constant fears since they came into my life (and the difficulty of balancing protecting them from harm with not being over-protective and denying them an opportunity to live life–and that’s the symposium post I almost wrote; that love is fear, terror even).

        But if my poor word choice came across as me indicating I felt attacked, no, not even a little bit.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        My feeling are the same as James’s. Twice now I’ve been called as a juror in cases of child molestation. Both times I’ve asked to be excused because it’s not an area where I can be rational or judicious.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        you ought to ask some pedophiles. I think they might tell you different.
        There’s a good deal of art out there by pedophiles, and a lot of it’s
        (somehow) done without abuse of children.

        Willpower varies across the human race — I’ve seen someone bend
        a metal bar that can take 300lbs, just through sheer force of will
        (yes, this does require strength, but it’s not that much).

        I think pedophilia is more like the potential to be an addict, than
        being an addict itself. But if Sam swears off liquor, well, then a
        pedophile often swears off kids.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        Just checked back in after a few days away…

        I was using the proverbial “you” there. Re-reading it, I see how it might have seemed I was losing sympathy for @james-hanley . Certainly not. I was speaking about hypothetical pedophiles and how my feeling about them would change based on whether they had actually committed harm or not.

        I think your visceral response is a common one. Especially among folks with daughters. I can certainly empathize with it. I would just hope that as a society we would rise above this visceral response. Which it seemed you acknowledged in noting you’d want things to proceed via the rule of law.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:


        I hear you. I served on a jury once, and it was a child molestation case. A good number of jurors got bumped very quickly because they were open about not being able to judge fairly. As I recall, one man said, “He’s a child molester, I want to see him fry.”

        I did think I could judge fairly, and still believe I did, but the he said/she said nature of the case, the fact that the guy was a now-ex boyfriend, and that the defendant’s lawyer couldn’t even afford a decent suit, still make me wonder if we convicted him rightly. If we hadn’t, I’d still be wondering if I denied those little girls justice.

        At least I know now how to avoid sitting on one of those juries again.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to James Hanley says:

      @james-hanley – I will be in touch via email sometime this weekend.Report

  20. Avatar Kazzy says:

    By the way, @zic , that’s a beautiful picture up top. I hope its subject still dances.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

      That was before my last dance recital. My parents were still married then, and we could afford such luxuries as dance lessons. My mother made the costume.

      She doesn’t dance on a stage, no. And not as much as she’d like in a crowd, since her dance partner is usually on the stage playing an instrument. When he’s playing the sax, he often will leave the stage, and bring to the dance floor with him for a few minutes, because he knows I love to dance.Report

  21. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Ahhhh…Zic. Anything I say here feels very compulsory in the sense that obviously your story requires acknowledgement as incredibly heartfelt and personal. Rather than join the chorus of everyone doing that I will just say that I am soooooo glad you are around here. We are all lucky to have you.Report

  22. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    What James said about awe. To strength add wisdom and grace.Report

  23. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    zic, as everyone has said, the fortitude you show in writing this piece is astounding. And the degree of perspective you have achieved, and your remarkable ability to convey it with some truly memorably inventive conceptual approaches in writing, are, as I said in a subthread above, really quite something.

    I have a couple of basic-information questions for you on the observations you have about pedophilia and sexual abuse that I wonder if you have some knowledge of simply from having obviously given a lot of thought to the issue. Of course, if you don’t have this info at top of mind or would prefer not to discuss it, I’m happy to just do my own research.

    I wonder if you’ve come across reliable estimates of what percentage of the population it is thought might really be pedophilic in their orientation (if we agree that is the way to look at pedophilia), in the sense of having persistent or overwhelming urges toward children. I imagine it’s somewhere around 2%, but really I have no real sense of it. Maybe it’s considerably more than that.

    And then, of those, is there a sense of how many of them go on to act on those urges and become sexual abusers?

    A further question then, one which we’ve talked about in other threads as being essentially impossible to get a real sense of, though I have to think that there can be some basis for responsible speculation, would be how many people in our society at any one time do we think have committed sexual assault against a child?

    The point is probably becoming obvious: the numbers, as I imagine them anyway, seem likely to nearly necessitate that there really is an incompletely overlapping Venn diagram representing pedophiles and child sexual abusers. As you have pointed out, not all pedophiles end up abusing kids (at all, even not-physically). Meanwhile, not all sexual abusers of children are pedophiles. Some pedophiles are able to recognize that to act on their desires (with real children, rather than in role-playing of some kind or other with consenting adults) would be to not just commit a heinous crime from society’s perspective, but also to commit a devastating human offense against another person that deeply and lastingly harms them in a way that almost no one else will be able to ever truly understand. (Others, I imagine though don’t really know, have the urges that qualify them as pedophiles but essentially never really seriously conceive the notion of actually acting on them.)

    It seems to me that if we take as a given that, somehow, perhaps in a biological mistake of some kind, it’s just a fact that a small part of our species really has this as their “natural” sexual orientation (or at least some part of it), that you are quite right that it’s incumbent on us to do more to recognize that those who naturally have this orientation (if it’s the case that some do) – but also understand and accept the dictates of both society and human decency and never allow their desires to cause them to abuse children (whether physical or verbal) – are really doing everything we can reasonably demand of them, and that it’s not a negligible demand. Namely, we demand (rightly) that they not only refrain from true expression of their natural sexuality (if that necessarily involves sex with children), but accept that it will never be accepted by society, will always be thought of as heinous and perverted (because it would be that), and will always, with good reason, be illegal and thought of as one of the most notorious crimes a person can be accused of. If this truly is in any real sense someone’s honest and true sexual orientation, then that really is a pretty big ask. I’m not saying we should set a day aside of such people or anything, but we should allow ourselves to acknowledge their silent struggle – and that their struggle is one meant to help keep our children safe at least from one more predator.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying that I agree with you. Ultimately, we have to punish those who fail in this struggle, and of course those who never honestly make the struggle. (I’m not sure what to say about how to approach that punishment other than to say that if our prison and criminal justice system is inhumane, then it’s inhumane for sexual abusers as much as for everyone else in it. If this is the one group of offenders we actually wish that inhumanity upon (and they are not the only offenders who visited inhumanity upon their victims), then we should be willing to look ourselves directly in the face and say that that is what we wish. That you apparently don’t have that wish or others like it for them, anymore anyway, is just one more impressive thing about you, zic.) But we also ought, for our own sakes, to do everything we can to prevent as many people who deal with these urges from giving in to them in ways that destroy lives and families (including their own).

    There’s one last point I want to make, and it’s on the subject you said you’d like us to accept and not challenge you on, so I am going to be very careful not to challenge you. I wouldn’t, and no one should, doubt your assessment of your abuser that he felt love of a kind for you. No doubt many or most child abusers believe they feel this or some other kind of love for their victims. But I think it’s important that we not reason from the reality that inappropriate, wrong love of children can lead to their abuse, as it did in your case, to a belief that sexual abuse of children, even sexual abuse perpetrated by pedophiles, indicates the certain presence of love, even of the worst kind, somewhere in the equation. Certainly it must be the case that many victims would not acknowledge that their abusers thought they felt any kind of love for them. Each victim surely has her own sense of this.

    Some sexual abusers of children are pedophiles who love their victims in an evil way. But some sexual abusers are just evil, and truly want only to harm (maybe just some of) their victims. And some of them, I think, are likely pedophiles as well, albeit ones who don’t love (all of) their victims. Meanwhile, some pedophiles must go through life loving children in sick, wrong, and impossible ways, but never hurting a hair on any child’s head.

    What a terrible, love-filled world we live in.

    I hope this comment is not hurtful to you in any way, zic, and I hope it’s constructive in some way for the community. Again, with others, my respect for your choice to share this here knows no bounds.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Michael, the tone of your comment cracks me up; trying to be so gentle and not offend. I thank you, but it’s really not necessary. If I weren’t willing to discuss, if I didn’t feel safe, I wouldn’t. I feel it’s really important for me (and others who feel they can) to talk about what happened because there’s so much ignorance, lack of information, and misinformation.

      I spent some time (I would not call it exhaustive) reviewing literature. The best summary I found, was the Harvard report, which I linked to above, an I’ll include here, again:

      Much of the information out there is on websites with an agenda; a lot on right-leaning websites that try, for instance, to build a case that pedophilia=homosexuality. Others are on victim-advocacy group sites. In both cases, I would be suspicious of numbers reported.

      I have found no statistics that seem reliable on rate of pedophilia in the general population. There are a lot of victims, as identified by surveys; but one pedophile tends to have many victims. From what I’ve read, most eventually act it, if it’s only ‘non-harm,’ viewing child porn or masturbating while watching naked children.

      There’s also a lot of ‘research’ that tries to define characteristics of pedophiles; which I found sadly disturbing. Some suggests they’re physically smaller or have lower intelligence or are socially inept. Interestingly, this was all research done on people incarcerated as pedophiles, which may have weeded out the smarter and charming pedophiles who don’t get caught.

      From DOJ,

      Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18); 34% of all victims were under age 12.

      One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under age 6.

      Forty percent of the offenders who victimized children under age 6 were juveniles (under the age of 18).

      The last item suggests that slightly less then half the assaults are not by a pedophile, but committed by another child; yet there’s some indication that true pedophiles also start young and continue.

      Frighteningly, the rates of assault are unknown, estimates are astonishingly high 1 in 5, for girls and 1 in 20 for boys, (please not that this sounds like rape stats, and that bothers me, I question the stat). Additionally, an early assault is an indicator that you will be raped as a teenager (this happened to me).

      But one thing is astonishingly clear: this is not stranger danger. That’s rare. It’s someone the children know.Report

  24. Avatar parx says:

    Everyone has commented about the pedophilia aspect of the post. What struck me most, oddly enough, is the maroon car.

    Is there any way to counteract or dilute or fight against the cultural twining of “it’s not true love unless it is an obsession – the more obsessed, the more it’s love” The song cited in the title is seen as a self-undercutting look into the role of obsession in love, but there are many many others that are still treated as positive examples that true love keeps trying after frequent and vehement objections. The one that most typifies this is Ray Parker Jr’s “You Can’t Change That” The woman is told that she is to be the object of his love and “there’s nothing you can do or say” to change it. She can change her telephone number and address, she can change the color of her hair or the clothes she wears, but that won’t stop him. This song is still played on oldies radio without comment. There are others…

    In the comments, there are several grudging acknowledgements of how difficult it would be to change the inner pedophilia of ones such as the uncle here. Even after the acting out here, familial pressures and internal feelings prevented a total “outing” of the perp. Maybe there’s a way within the family to focus on the “maroon car” aspect and at least limit the damage done with the unsaid more serious allegation acting as a catalyst to modify the behavior.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to parx says:

      I’m struggling to understand this, @parx

      The maroon car was my warning signal that he was near. It was often sitting in the driveway when the bus brought me home from school, for instance. If it wasn’t there, going home was safe. If it was, it was not safe. So maroon cars, particularly full-sized maroon cars, would trigger a PTSD response for me; seeing such a car still puts me back at the kitchen sink, holding on for dear life as waves of nausea and dizziness wash over me, as I say, “Nothing.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        Johanna and I used to have one of those cars, a Mercury Grand Marquis we picked up cheap when we needed to buy a second car in a big hurry. I hated the thing–the whole design was suited to elderly people crunched low in the driver’s seat, and the maroon interior was pimp-alicious. We called it the Granny Pimpmobile. Although it’s dead, I noow I find myself disliking it all the more. But maybe, just maybe, thinking of those cars as ridiculous Granny Pimpmobiles will hell ease the reaction at least a tiny little bit.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @james-hanley I think I said it upthread somewhere, but: that they don’t make full-sized cars (like 1960’s and ’70’s full sized) any more, and that most of those they did make have long since moved on to that junk yard in the sky, I’m saved from most of this particular triggering.

        Small blessing, that.

        But the pimpmobile image, with all it’s sexual connotations and potentials, doesn’t actually help all that much, either. Rather, it reinforces the intent of the maroon car.Report

      • Avatar parx in reply to zic says:

        zic, your puzzlement is due to my poor way of stating what I meant to say.

        I was wondering if the presence of an unusual obsession might be easier to bring up to others than the wrongful conduct itself. Or failing that, if a child’s sudden fright over a car might be a way of communicating a problem than the thing that familially cannot be stated.

        I was reacting to the story about he and his car causing a breakup with the young boy. Maybe there was no way that you could have gotten him to back down at that point, but maybe the car could have been that which was discussed.

        I typed my comment after interviewing a potential client with a harrowing tale of molestation by an uncle today. She was the last in a line of young women in her family who had been abused by this uncle. Maybe if there had been some way for one of the elders to bring up the subject in a tangential manner would have stopped him or slowed him down for the others. Maybe there is no way. I guess I just wish there had been – a lawsuit is possible for our client, but that’s really not going to solve her pain and suffering.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @parx thank you for explaining.

        What you suggest might, I think, have been useful in therapy. I doubt anyone in my family would have gotten the fear; people were all pretty busy with their own pain and struggle to survive; certainly my slide from honor roll to barely passing didn’t trigger any warning signals to anyone. But that was a very different era; and that slide in grades was pretty common for a generation dipping into habitual marijuana use; I suspect the school systems were overloaded with dropout potential.

        I want to be clear on something else; my immediate family depended on this person; his skills kept our furnace, our washing machine, our water pump, our water heater, all the machinery of a household on the verge of failure functioning. I had absolutely no intention of putting any end to that support, it would have been as huge a letting down of my family as giving in would have been letting down myself.

        I think this perception is fairly common; the urge to defend the abuser roots deep in most victims.Report