Dawkins under attack for his lenient view of ‘mild’ sex abuse | The Times

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Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, has prompted outrage among child protection experts by suggesting that recent child sex abuse scandals have been overblown.

(video moved to it's own article here)


 

He said that he could not condemn the “mild paedophilia” he experienced at boarding school. “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours,” he says in an interview published today in The Times Magazine.

“Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

Professor Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, describes in a new autobiography how a master at his Salisbury prep school “pulled me on to his knee and put his hand inside my shorts”. He writes that the episode was “extremely disagreeable” and that other boys were molested by the same teacher, but concludes: “I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage.”

In the interview Dawkins, 72, addresses his disagreements with the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and the physicist Peter Higgs. On the subject of abuse he emphasised that he sought to explain it, not condone it.

Asked whether the uproar over recent abuse scandals was partly a result of what he called the “shifting moral zeitgeist”, Dawkins says: “I think we should acknowledge it … But the other point is that because the most notorious cases of paedophilia involve rape and even murder, and because we attach the label ‘paedophilia’ to the same things when they’re just mild touching up, we must beware of lumping all paedophiles into the same bracket.”

Peter Watt, director of child protection at the NSPCC, called Dawkins’s remarks “a terrible slight” on those who had been abused and lived with the effects for decades.

He said: “Mr Dawkins seems to think that because a crime was committed a long time ago we should judge it in a different way. But we know that the victims of sexual abuse suffer the same effects whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.”

Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and himself a victim of child sex abuse, said that Dawkins’s comments were worrying and unhelpful. He added: “Abuse in all its forms has always been wrong … Evil is evil and we have to challenge it whenever and wherever it occurs.”

Written By: Giles Whittell
continue to source article at thetimes.co.uk

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  1. I think the first few paragraphs of this article, if not the title itself, do a good job of making clear what the Professor’s position actually is – that he can’t bring himself to judge those in the past by modern standards, for all the usual reasons, which people somehow forget when the issue is their pet cause. The NSPCC’s predictably black-and-white and not-conceding-a-continuum verdict seems to have missed his point, as do all of these critics. Professor Dawkins isn’t saying abuse was better back then. But people in the past who weren’t morally inferior to us at their core – how could they be, with the same gene pool? – could do worse things, for the same reason people no more stupid than us had a poorer grasp of the way the world works. We learn ethics over centuries, just as we learn science. You can judge policies by their effects, to be sure; but you can only understand people of the past if you recognise what background they came from. The distinction between putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and genuinely understanding them is an oft-missed one, and is well explained here (Ctrl+F to #3): http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-humans-will-never-understand-each-other/

    • In reply to #2 by Jos Gibbons:

      I think the first few paragraphs of this article, if not the title itself, do a good job of making clear what the Professor’s position actually is – that he can’t bring himself to judge those in the past by modern standards, for all the usual reasons, which people somehow forget when the issue is th…

      Jos, I don’t think that is quite what Dawkins was saying. He wasn’t saying the misbehavior was lightly regarded then. That is the reverse of the truth. Had he been found out, that teacher would have gone to prison, under the very strict anti-gay laws of the time. Richard is, I think, saying he wasn’t desperately upset by the incident, and that many children having similar experiences PROBABLY (that’s all) weren’t either. He is making no statement about the degree of “evil” displayed by the teacher, and most certainly not downgrading violence or actual rape.

      • In reply to #64 by CEVA34:

        He wasn’t saying the misbehavior was lightly regarded then. That is the reverse of the truth. Had he been found out, that teacher would have gone to prison, under the very strict anti-gay laws of the time… He is making no statement about the degree of “evil” displayed by the teacher, and most certainly not downgrading violence or actual rape.

        If you think I thought Professor Dawkins was making such a statement or such a downgrade, I may not have explained myself clearly enough. It’s standard to view past policies in a historically well-informed light, not because ethics is relativist but because… well, I won’t spell out the usual details here. But people in the past have to be cut some slack because they were standing on the shoulders of fewer ethical & scientific giants. I understood he wasn’t pushing relativism itself.

        I’ll concede the actual social and legal attitudes of the time may not have been any more tolerant of the abuse than those of our time, although note it’s not because of concerns about children. (Indeed, the wording he used concerned how paedophilia of that level of severity was viewed, quite part from the issue of which genders were involved. I was focusing on that part of the issue. Given that no sensible people today will condemn what happened on the grounds of homosexuality, the concession that’s being made when he says he can’t bring himself to condemn what happened is to do with the paedophilia issue.)

      • In reply to #64 by CEVA34:

        In reply to #2 by Jos Gibbons:
        Richard is, I think, saying he wasn’t desperately upset by the incident, and that many children having similar experiences PROBABLY (that’s all) weren’t either.

        He is bringing in imaginary viewpoints (I don’t know them and have not heard them speak or write about this situation – I don’t even know their names) to support what he considers mild pedophilia.

        I could say that a bit of wife-beating isn’t that bad – there’s murder…that’s worse. My ex husband used to beat me but I haven’t had any long-term issues from that. I know he had other wives that he used beat too, but I don’t think it did any long-lasting damage to them either.

  2. Sure enough, to blame Plato for being a paedophile and a supporter of slavery would be a moral anachronism. Everybody supported slavery then and pederasty was the norm.

    But shouldn’t we judge the Bible’s incest or rape stories, or slaves management laws, by nowadays moral standards ?

    Double standards… ?

    • In reply to #4 by Ornicar:

      Sure enough, to blame Plato for being a paedophile and a supporter of slavery would be a moral anachronism. Everybody supported slavery then and pederasty was the norm.

      But shouldn’t we judge the Bible’s incest or rape stories, or slaves management laws, by nowadays moral standards ?

      Double standards?…

      We should only judge the bible for those stories and laws as it claims to be an immortal morality. What we should be pointing out is that the morality of the slave-society system is incompatible with modern morality, and therefore the claim that the bible is eternally true or good is tested, and either the bible is an outdated moral code that should be consigned to the dustbin of history along with slavery, feudalism and the morality espoused by all of these, or that we are all moral degenerates who will all collectively burn in hell (in which case we’re all in pretty good company).

    • In reply to #4 by Ornicar:

      Sure enough, to blame Plato for being a paedophile and a supporter of slavery would be a moral anachronism. Everybody supported slavery then and pederasty was the norm.

      But shouldn’t we judge the Bible’s incest or rape stories, or slaves management laws, by nowadays moral standards ?

      Interesting point, but no.

      Today people claim that their heroes of the bible were perfect examples of morality.
      I can admire Washington for his presidency and military leadership without accepting his racism and sexism and without condemning him for it.

      When people talk about a timeless and perfect set of morals, they open the door for as much criticism as we can muster from our current understanding of morality.
      I’m sure the future will see us as we see Newton. He had some really high points, but he also made some terrible judgments.

    • In reply to #4 by Ornicar:

      Sure enough, to blame Plato for being a paedophile and a supporter of slavery would be a moral anachronism. Everybody supported >slavery then and pederasty was the norm.

      But shouldn’t we judge the Bible’s incest or rape stories, or slaves management laws, by nowadays moral standards ?

      Double standards… ?

      I suspect Richard does not judge the people in biblical times by the same standards. Rather he judges church leaders and the religious for claiming they had the absolute truth then and now. I can see Abraham (if he existed) in a sympathetic light as he reads like a mentally ill person while maintaining that people believe he was the most holly man on the earth at that time is ridiculous. There is no hypocracy in his statements.

      I’d go further, I think seeing pedophilles just as monsters (and let me be clear what they do is monsterous) is counter productive. I suspect that as we improve our studies of neurosicence we may find that like psycopaths they may have brains that are not completely developed in some areas. Now they clearly need to be locked up to protect children, however while we continue to just demonise them instead of trying to study them we will continue to have them preying on our children. I for one think we need to start understanding exactly how and why this happens and bloodly well start trying to do something to stop it. Clouding issues as simply black and white helps no-one.

  3. “But we know that the VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE SUFFER THE SAME EFFECTS whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.”

    But, actually they don’t, as is objectively demonstrated by Richard Dawkins himself, who was a victim of sexual abuse, and Ariel Castro’s victims, who were also victims of sexual abuse. They are all victims, but obviously do not suffer the same effects. Apples and bloody oranges…

  4. There is a huge difference in the comparison Dawkins tries to make here. Whether pedophilia occurred in 1750 or 2013 it is still incredibly immoral by most societal moral codes. Racism is something that has evolved and is certainly dying out of MOST societies.

  5. It doesn’t really matter what Dawkins feels about the subject, or whether he can find it in himself to condemn child abuse. What matters is that the acts are immoral.

    Regarding his own experiences, he should speak for himself. Regarding the suffering of others who were abused as children, he should leave the analysis of that to the experts.

    Just because we don’t or can’t condemn the immorality we find in history doesn’t imply we shouldn’t. There’s a stench of moral relativism that doesn’t belong here. The abuse of children is immoral no matter what century.

    • In reply to #13 by vbaculum:

      It doesn’t really matter what Dawkins feels about the subject, or whether he can find it in himself to condemn child abuse. What matters is that the acts are immoral.

      Regarding his own experiences, he should speak for himself. Regarding the suffering of others who were abused as children, he should…

      Child abuse is certainly immoral, but not all immoral acts deserve the same punishment. We don’t execute jaywalkers. And paedophiles punishment should be based on the crime they actually committed, not on our disgust at their preferences.

      • In reply to #42 by canadian_right:

        In reply to #13 by vbaculum:

        That’s over-simplistic. A purpose of incarceration should be reform, not just exemplary punishment (and I’d question how effective the latter is, intuitively appealing as it is). If someone cannot be reformed, if they pose a demonstrable ongoing threat (as say Jeffry Dahmer or Ted Bundy do) because there is something physiologically, biologically, genetically– that is inherently– wrong with them, then they should be detained indefinitely. There should be a high standard of evidence in establishing that, and it should be demonstrable that there is no hope of reform. OTOH, there is the precautionary principle: even if some proportion of paedophiles can be successfully treated, why risk releasing any of the others? I think there might be valid reasons, but I’ll have to consider that later if at all.

  6. The term “child abuse” is blanket term that covers far too much territory to have useful meaning.
    It could mean:

    1. hitting
    2. berating
    3. spanking
    4. spanking on the bare behind
    5. touching the genital region or buttocks through clothes
    6. touching the genitals
    7. presenting the penis for touching
    8. giving/getting a blow job
    9. vaginal sex.
    10. anal sex
    11. rape
    12. threats of hellfire
    13. threats of killing parents to force sexual compliance.

    The problem with accusing someone of child abuse is they may actually have just swatted a child across the shoulder but people reading will presume rape.

    I will say the following at risk of being showered with virtual vegetables as happened in past when I said this. I have talked to dozens of people at workshops whose say their lives were ruined by an incident of sexual abuse. I ask “Did you cry at the time?” The answer is usually “no”. I say “At the time then, the trauma was less than a skinned knee from falling off your bicycle. The actual trauma occurred later when some well meaning expert told you that this incident had crippled you for life, or some religious person told you that you were ritually unclean for life.” When there is an incident of molestation, the primary concern should be for reducing additional trauma. We are far more interested in punishing the culprit even if in doing do we seriously increase the trauma to the child. This is not to say you should let the molesters go unpunished, just that we should keep in mind the welfare of the child at all times. In excoriating the molestor, we can inadvertently convince the child they are permanently damaged.

    In high school when I was 15 I had an extreme crush on my biology teacher. I could barely breathe in his presence. Had I managed to seduce him, I would have been deliriously happy, but the law would consider this a particularly wicked form of child abuse since he was in a position of authority. To this day, I like to wear leather elbow patches on my sweaters as he did. The law makes no distinction who is the aggressor. The assumption is that sex is something terrible, and any 15 year old must have been tricked into it. The reality is a 15-year old will never be hornier. These laws were composed back when the average age of female puberty was 18.

    • In reply to #14 by Roedy:

      I ask “Did you cry at the time?” The answer is usually “no”. I say “At the time then, the trauma was less than a skinned knee from falling off your bicycle. The actual trauma occurred later when some well meaning expert told you that this incident had crippled you for life, or some religious person told you that you were ritually unclean for life.”

      You do know that abusers/molesters gain the trust of children before they abuse, right? When I was eleven my older brother’s friend (he was 20) abused me on at least three occasions. He didn’t walk into the room one day and rip off my clothes. He bought me things and told me how pretty and special I was – he would come on outings with me and my brother and be overly nice. So when he became sexually physical with me (it wasn’t rape, but was definitely more than “mild touching up”), it seemed a sort of natural progression. I began to see myself in a relationship with him. The only time I cried was when I found out he was getting married. It meant (to me) that our secret little affair was over and that I was no longer his special girl. Is this what an 11-year-old should have been worrying about? Would I go after him now to have him chargers with abuse? Nah. That’s because I know he was a really fucked up person.

      Please be careful when counselling people on matters of sexual abuse – there can be layers of confusion and sadness, a degree of mistrust and somewhat warped view of intimacy. Because someone didn’t cry at the time of the abuse or even 30 years later, doesn’t mean it wasn’t traumatic or did not have a long-term damaging effect.

  7. The 70s were very relaxed sexually. There was no HIV. The other diseases could be treated with antibiotics. But since we have no statute of limitations, we are prosecuting people’s actions back then by the much stricter standards of today. Legally it may be fair, but juries today are such prudes in comparison.

    I think that is improper. There should be something like a 10 year statute of limitations to avoid that effect and also to insure witness memories are still reasonably sharp.

    We have a friend who “suddenly” remembered that her father raped her daily. Her siblings say this could not possibly have happened. Her father is horrified and thinks she is mentally ill. When we asked her what corroborating evidence she had, she became furious that we would doubt her, and she refused to talk to us ever after. I have run into several people with similar stories. When you get into a politically correct witch hunt, you can convict a father on such testimony.

    • *In reply to #15 by Roedy:
      I seem to recall an article in private eye about ‘therapists’ who would find parental abuse in clients by ‘regressing’ them and unearthing ‘hidden memories’, thus finding reasons (excuses) for their unhappiness/inadequacy. When it was clearly shown that the claims were impossible in one case, instead of apologising and promising to review procedures, the scumbag concerned said. ‘There must have been some cause or why would she have said it?’ And carried on with the practice. Good luck to your friend. This shit destroys families by taking advantage of weak members. I’ll see if I can find reference.

      The 70s were very relaxed sexually. There was no HIV. The other diseases could be treated with antibiotics. But since we have no statute of limitations, we are prosecuting people’s actions back then by the much stricter standards of today. Legally it may be fair, but juries today are such prudes in…

  8. I see this all the time on blogs, people demanding stiffer penalties for some crime recently committed.

    It seems to me you must grade the penalties so that there is always a good reason to avoid the more serious crime. Here is an exaggerated example. If you enacted the death penalty both for theft and for murder, a thief would logically kill any witnesses. If the penalty for rape is the same as fondling, a predator might as well rape.

    I suspect there is very little scientific evidence that increasing penalties is much of a deterrence to crimes of passion. There are probably more efficient ways to spend your money, including ensuring all serious crimes are prosecuted.

    • No, you can always see when a post has been deleted, whether by a moderator or by the user him- or herself, as there’s a jump in the numbering of the comments.

      We haven’t removed any comments on this thread (as yet – we get to see them in reverse order, so there might be some earlier ones we haven’t seen yet), but we have seen that your comment had been flagged by the system as being possible spam and therefore didn’t appear automatically. We’ve approved it now.

      The mods

      In reply to #17 by Roedy:

      When a post disappears, can that be the moderator withdrawing it, or would that always leave a tombstone?

  9. Obviously the incident didn’t worry Richard unduly, possibly because he had the presence of mind to get off the lap and share the experience with his friends. A more timid, less robust personality might interpret it differently. I can imagine a more sensitive boy , being overwhelmed with shame and confusion. Probably keeping the incident secret, he would be putting himself in the position of being ‘touched up’ again.

    I suspect this is how the abuser starts out. He tests the water to see the reaction and if it looks as if he’ll get away with it, he may venture further next time.

    • In reply to #18 by Nitya:

      A more timid, less robust personality might interpret it differently. I can imagine a more sensitive boy , being overwhelmed with shame and c…

      Adults who were themselves physically assaulted, or ‘smacked/spanked’ in the vernacular of parents who embrace this biblical technique, most frequently report that no lasting effects afflicted them. “Smacking didn’t hurt me” is their usual refrain, before recommending ever more punitive solutions for offenders. We’ve already tried that and it’s ineffective.

      So far as we know paedophilia is a learned behaviour; a fetish. World-renowned expert Freda Briggs echoes other researchers in calling child abuse “the contagious disease.”

      The fact that Richard and most of the victims develop ‘normally’ attests to the resilience of our species.

      • In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

        In reply to #18 by Nitya:

        A more timid, less robust personality might interpret it differently. I can imagine a more sensitive boy , being overwhelmed with shame and c…

        Don’t get me started on spanking!! :-)

        Adults who were themselves physically assaulted, or ‘smacked/spanked’ in the vernacular of parents who embrace this biblical te…

      • In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

        In reply to #18 by Nitya:

        So far as we know paedophilia is a learned behaviour; a fetish. World-renowned expert Freda Briggs echoes other researchers in calling >child abuse “the contagious disease.”

        Don’t take this the wrong way the following is a question not a challenge. How do they know it is not heriditary? I can imagine how they could figure it out eg. twin studies etc. but has this been done I’ve looked in the past and couldn’t find anything. What’s the evidence say?

        • In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:

          “How do they know it is not heriditary? What’s the evidence say?” …

          Thank you Reckless Monkey. I concur wholeheartedly with your remarks: “while we continue to just demonise them instead of trying to study them we will continue to have them preying on our children. I for one think we need to start understanding exactly how and why this happens and bloodly well start trying to do something to stop it.”

          I reckon Nitya describes the continuum of child sexual abuse pretty well, re Richard’s abuser, or mild fiddler: “I suspect this is how the abuser starts out. He tests the water to see the reaction and if it looks as if he’ll get away with it, he may venture further next time.”

          Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs established the first research centre into abuse and has worked in the field since 1970. She gained access to South Australian correctional centres where a pilot study had shown that 100% of child molesters had been multiply-sexually abused in their own childhood. With this finding she extended the study by increasing the number of subjects and comparing their childhood experiences with those of men who were also survivors of but had no criminal convictions. The major finding relating to child sex offenders was that all except two (N=85) had been sexually abused by an average of 14 different persons in childhood. Fifty percent of the offenders were first abused by a female.

          • In reply to #32 by Len Walsh:

            In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:
            Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs established the first research centre into abuse and has worked in the field since 1970. She gained access to South Australian correctional centres where a pilot study had shown that 100% of child molesters had been multiply-sexually abused in their own childhood.

            I wonder what percentage of those inmates lied about being abused.

          • In reply to #39 by Shell:

            In reply to #32 by Len Walsh:

            In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:
            Briggs pilot study had shown that 100% of child mole…

            I wondered who’d lie too Shell.

            Briggs points out that strict confidentiality precluded any bargaining for parole. She believed them because of the congruence with other research of her own and of others. Her opinion aligns with that of other researchers such as psychiatrists Feierman and Sipe (links avbl) who concur that deviant psychosexual development is an outcome of environment.

            David Finkelhor, another researcher into the sexual abuse of kids, has shown repressive sexual attitudes linked to many religions may predispose some persons toward sexual activities with children.
            Further support for that causal connection is provided by Dr. John Money, a prominent authority on sexual violence. He pioneered treatments for deviate sexuality at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Money says people raised in conditions where sex is viewed as evil, and where sexual curiosity is a punishable offense, are likely to end up with warped sexual identities. Those surroundings are often produced by conservative religions.

            Money describes the harmful effects of such environments: “In girls, often you extinguish the lust completely, so that they can never have an orgasm, and marriage becomes a dreary business where you put up with sex to serve the maternal instinct. In boys, sex gets redirected into “abnormal channels,” such as a “normal amount” of “mildly fiddling” with the genitals of children I would add.

          • In reply to #32 by Len Walsh:

            In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:

            “How do they know it is not heriditary? What’s the evidence say?” …

            Thank you Reckless Monkey. I concur wholeheartedly with your remarks: “while we continue to just demonise them instead of trying to study them we will continue to have them preying on our chi…

            Thanks for the reply, exactly what I’ve been looking for I will look up Freda Briggs. 14 different people!! Bloody hell.

      • In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

        In reply to #18 by Nitya:

        Freda Briggs

        I’m much less interested in her opinion than I am in consensus.

        Here’s some opinion on Briggs. I’m not sure what to make of her. The second article claims that Briggs has

        accused an adversarial court system of further abusing children and giving licence to sex offenders to get away with it.

        lobbied for abuse-prevention programmes to be extended into pre-schools.

        produced research showing that 10% of New Zealand children had been abused by their babysitters and warned that solo mothers should try to avoid employing adolescent males as sitters.

        I’ve not confirmed those accusations with any other sources, though.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=223411

        http://www.peterellis.org.nz/2007/2007-0623_ThePress_StirringUp.htm

        • In reply to #55 by PERSON:

          In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

          Freda Briggs.
          I’m much less interested in her opinion than I am in consensus.

          The truth of the matter intrigues me more than any unsubstantiated slurs.

          I’ve not confirmed those accusations with any other sources, though.

          Right. Well, that was an elementary error, given the egregious defamation and the trouble you took to find them.

          I can’t imagine why anyone would reject legitimate, scientific data which may shed light on the aetiology of paedophilia, especially by smearing such a respected academic as Professor Briggs.

          In Case No:1086 The New Zealand Press Council characterized your strategically-mined quotes from the Herald as being untrue and professionally slanderous and concluded; The complaint (by Briggs) is upheld on grounds of a lack of fairness.

          So, do you have a strategy or just an agenda?

  10. It’s obvious that Peter Watt of the NSPCC clearly didn’t understand Dawkins’ comments, or probably didn’t hear them in full.

    So why didn’t the journalist address that by explaining to Peter Watt what Dawkins was saying, and get a further response.

    Simply publishing a comment that is almost irrelevant to what Dawkins was saying, and then claiming there’s a controversy, is just another example of crap journalism.

  11. The NSPCC – and to an extent society at large – has an interest in there being a black and white, line-in-the-sand, position on the issue of child abuse. It avoids abusers wriggling out of punishment, as they certainly did in the past, by fudging the issue and claiming complicity on the part of the victim. Unfortunately this has the effect of rendering any kind of discussion on the subject impossible. Anyone who ventures to suggest that there are any shades of grey is roundly condemned as supporting “evil”.

    What’s particularly interesting is that individuals aren’t even allowed to comment on their own experiences unless to condemn their “abuser”. I recall some years ago Stephen Fry talking to celebrity psychologist Pamela Stephenson about an experience with an older boy at school that she declared to be rape/abuse. Fry dismissed it saying it had little or no effect on him but she was reluctant to let it go and almost evangelical in her efforts to get him to admit to being a victim.

    Similarly, more than once I’ve seen social workers etc talk in relation to some prominent case (usually involving a child close to the age of consent who was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with an adult) of the need to persuade the victim that they have been abused. The implication being that they believe it is right to take a child who does not feel abused and convince him/her that they have been. That seems a measure more to support society’s need for a black/white viewpoint than to support the “victim”.

  12. A traditional Christian would surely commend Dawkins for being forgiving about the (very mild) abuse he received (I won’t say “suffered”).

    There’s a lot of bandwagon-jumping about being the loudest to condemn these days.

    I am a little worried about some of the (unintended?) consequences of Operation Yewtree in the UK, set up after the Jimmy Saville revelations. We are setting up wholesale Salem witch trials for celebrities who, in the 1960s and 1970s, may have consensually slept with 15 year olds.

    I was there. Everybody was having under age sex. Lots of it.

  13. You can be sure of a few things in life, one is taxation, another is death and another is that the imagination of newshounds are not constrained by mere reality.

    The quick and dead play monstrous tricks on each other. The quick, judge historical events from modern perspectives and the dead impose the tyranny of tradition on the living.

  14. It’s open season for Richard Dawkins.

    The actual topic of this story is irrelevant. It is simply a way for the media to showcase Richard as a “horrendous human being.” It’s a convenient way to transfer anger and hatred of pedophiles onto a man that many would like to shut up. I wonder if the author presented Richard’s view to Watt and Saunders or if they came to the paper. The article seems a bit manufactured for the sake of slamming Dawkins.

    • …he says in an interview published today in The Times Magazine.

      Sorry, but if this interview was only published yesterday, in The Times magazine supplement which accompanied the paper, how could the individuals who complained about Richard’s remarks possibly have known beforehand what they were? These people must have been contacted in advance by Times staff and asked to comment.

      This is just a Murdoch rag incestuously trying to generate a bit of controversy in an effort to increase newspaper sales.

      Controversy never did anything to harm an author’s book sales either. Richard’s publisher is HarperCollins, I believe, which is a subsidiary of… drum roll… News Corp.

      In other words, this article is an advertisement for RD’s autobiography masquerading as proper journalism.

    • In reply to #34 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

      I understand Richard’s point, but how is that different from someone saying, “Oh, we can’t judge cultures that do FGM by our standards.”?

      It’s like saying that ceremonial pricking of the clitoris is not quite as bad as the full excision practised in large parts of Africa.

    • In reply to #34 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

      I understand Richard’s point, but how is that different from someone saying, “Oh, we can’t judge cultures that do FGM by our standards.”?

      We can’t change the past, though we could be less nostalgic about it. We can influence what happens in other countries and cultures (though not necessarily in the way we think, and when messages are written in blood and C-4 the medium is the only part of the message seen).

  15. Firstly, since Richard was a victim of child abuse, he has every right to say what he wants about his experience, and to suggest others might have been through something similar. Trying to shout him down just because he is saying something the establishment doesn’t want to hear is just as bad as what the churches did.

    Secondly… Okay, if we want to talk about the suffering of children, why exactly do we pretend that child abuse only happens if the abuser is an adult. If the abuser is another child it’s just bullying. That’s a funny distinction isn’t it? That’s like saying if you’re stabbed by an adult, then you bleed, but if you’re stabbed by a child then the blood will magically stay inside your body. If we actually prosecuted based upon suffering, then chances are the average child abuser is not a catholic priest, or a member of the family, but another child.

    And finally… The big major serious problem when talking about sex abuse of any kind, especially for us, that is there is no peer reviewed research we can turn to. Smoking? Gunshots? Car accidents? We know how and why these things cause harm. Rape? Ah… Paedophilia… Well… Bestiality… Um…

    • In reply to #36 by ANTIcarrot:

      Firstly, since Richard was a victim of child abuse, he has every right to say what he wants about his experience, and to suggest others might have been through something similar.

      I agree that Richard can express how he felt about his experience and categorize it how he pleases, but I do not agree with him expressing that same feeling for the other boys who were also abused by the same teacher. Unless those men spoke with him recently and gave him permission to share the same perspective as him, then he has no business speaking on their behalf.

    • In reply to #36 by ANTIcarrot:

      That’s a funny distinction isn’t it?…

      Hilarious.

      “If we actually prosecuted based upon suffering, then chances are the average child abuser is not a catholic priest, or a member of the family, but another child.”

      Adopting a punitive (biblical) solution won’t succeed unless offending kids are given very long sentences, in adult prisons, to ensure we send the right message to any adults, including priests, who may otherwise be tempted to emulate juvenile fiddlers.

      I think preventative measures offer much more scope for success. Although, lacking any data or evidence to simply invoke chance and blame it on kids seems plausible I suppose.

      A simple slogan like ‘don’t touch’ or even fiddle mildly with kids’ private bits at all, at least until the data are in, seems a lot safer to me. Otherwise we’ll need fiddle experts to differentiate when litigation ensues.

    • In reply to #36 by ANTIcarrot:

      Secondly… Okay, if we want to talk about the suffering of children, why exactly do we pretend that child abuse only happens if the abuser is an adult. If the abuser is another child it’s just bullying. That’s a funny distinction isn’t it? That’s like saying if you’re stabbed by an adult, then you bleed, but if you’re stabbed by a child then the blood will magically stay inside your body. If we actually prosecuted based upon suffering, then chances are the average child abuser is not a catholic priest, or a member of the family, but another child.

      Children cannot be as legally accountable for their actions as adults.

  16. I think society isn’t ready to honestly examine this issue. To state that it is possible for a child to experience mild sexual abuse and not have any lasting effects is not something that today’s society is willing to acknowledge.

    The same thing that Richard describes also happened to me when I was a child. But I was much more distressed by having to take showers with the other boys in my 7th grade PE class.

    As a society we have to always side with protecting children because they are its most vulnerable members. And this applies not only to sexual exploitation, but indocrination of harmful world views, racism, etc. Fortunately, the world is becoming more inclined to side with protecting children from sexual abuse. And as time goes on I think society will adopt a more nuanced view.

  17. I agree with Richard. I attended an all-male boarding school between the ages of 10 to 17, and these was a certain amount (dare I say, a normal amount?) of “diddling”. Children are naturally curious about sex, and a lot of early exploration is harmless. I grant that real abuse does occur, but was I abused when, at the age of 13, I had sex with an older boy? I didn’t think so then, and don’t think so now: after all, it was I who propositioned him.

  18. I think Mr. Dawkins has a point when he points out that rape is not quite the same as a pat on the bum. We lock up murders for a very long time, people who commit assaults that maim for a long time, common assaults for even less time and consensual fighting generally isn’t a crime. But all of these involve violent people. Do all violent people get the same penalty independent of the actual crime? Of course not. Not all paedophiles abuse children. Those that do abuse children commit various acts that deserve varying levels of punishment. This should be common sense, and not at all controversial.

  19. Age of Consent

    I would like it if we stopped using the term child abuse because it is too vague. It could mean:

    • Cruel words designed to destroy esteem.
    • Spanking through clothing.
    • Spanking on the bare buttocks.
    • Hitting on the upper body, but not the head.
    • Fondling.
    • Oral sex.
    • Anal sex.
    • Whipping.
    • Threats of eternal hellfire to ensure sexual compliance.
    • Threats to kill parents to ensure sexual compliance or silence.
    • Rape.

    It is unfair because a principal is accused of child abuse meaning, cruel words, but people hearing it think rape.

    I get annoyed when Miss Grundy accuses Jimmy of having sex with a young child. This young child is 20 years old! We should not used the word child to describe people older than 12. People 13 to 19 should be called teenagers.

    All the time in the news elderly men are put on trial for sexual improprieties they allegedly did in the 1970s. This is unfair. No witness can be accurate after all this time. Further juries of today are far more Puritanical than those of the 70s. You should judge a crime in the proper context.

    I have talked to dozens of people at workshops who were having trouble getting over the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. I ask, Did you cry at the time? They usually say No. I note, Then than can’t be the time when you received the trauma. This original trauma must have been less than falling off a bike and skinning your knee if you did not even cry. The real trauma must have happened later. Some well-meaning person convinced you that some unspeakably terrible thing had happened to you, and it was so awful you were damaged for life. They may have convinced you the person who abused you was the biggest criminal in the history of the earth, and by extension, any tiny part you had in allowing this crime to happen condemns you to eternal damnation. We have to be much more careful with child abuse victims so that they can roll with event and get on with life. This does not mean letting molesters go unprosecuted, just that you must mainly focus on preventing further trauma to the child.

    In one case there were no adults involved, just two boys. The mother of one of the boys totally freaked and blamed his older brother for not preventing the sex play. She guilt tripped him so badly he spend the rest of his life in mental institutions.

    The notion of age of consent was conceived back when the average age of female puberty was 18. Due to hormones in meat and milk, and better nutrition generally, many girls now are reaching puberty at 8 years old. We will have to stop this premature puberty if we want our age of consent laws to be honoured.

    When I was 15, I was madly in love my biology teacher. Had I managed to seduce him, he would have been in great trouble since he was in authority over me. The law treats me as like some sexless infant, tricked by an adult into sex. It would have been the very opposite. I was hornier at 15 than any time since. Our notions of age of consent are based on some very out-of-date Victorian notions of young people and sex.

    I have heard that RRT will help people very rapidly get over childhood sex trauma.

    • In reply to #48 by Roedy:

      All the time in the news elderly men are put on trial for sexual improprieties they allegedly did in the 1970s. This is unfair. No witness can be accurate after all this time. Further juries of today are far more Puritanical than those of the 70s. You should judge a crime in the proper context.

      That’s ridiculous. How would you know if a witness was accurate or not? Maybe that sack of shit teacher who stuck his hands down Richard’s shorts was just imagined? He is 72 and it happened when he was 11 – so that’s 61 years ago. Maybe Richard just thinks it happened to the other boys – makes his story more real? If someone can remember one incident from 61 years ago, then I’m sure people can remember abuse from more recent times than that.

      And what about abuse that happened 30 years and lasted 5 years (say from 7 yrs to 12 yrs) – the person won’t recall who it was and what the abuse consisted of? If you have talked to many victims of child sexual abuse, then you would know that the sex smell of their abuser can stay with a person forever. It is one of the triggers while being sexual with partners in adulthood. There is also the eyes and voice that can be planted in the memory for decades. There’s also the feeling that Richard described of that cringing sensation that bolts down from the back of your neck to the tips of your toes. There is the feeling of feeling trapped – knowing that what you’re experiencing is wrong, but there’s no where to run – don’t know how to run – fear and shame consuming your entire body. It’s not that it’s difficult to remember, more like it’s impossible to forget. Where the memory fails completely for many is the date, the season it happened in, the number of times it happened and the location. The memory can weave in and out of time and sometimes seem like it wasn’t real simply because time passes. More than anything people remember how they felt, not necessarily the point of trauma and the feelings post such events.

      There can be, for example, 2 women who are raped. One will scream and cry during the rape and afterward. One will freeze, no sound, no scream. She may never cry. People react differently in all types of situations.

    • In reply to #48 by Roedy:

      Age of Consent

      I would like it if we stopped using the term child abuse because it is too vague.

      Agreed.

      Consent is irrelevant. A more concise term to describe the behaviour of an adult who plays with children’s genitals for his own gratification is sexual assault. No variation in the moral zeitgeist will occur, I reckon, through the expediency of introducing euphemisms like mild paedophilia or normal touching up to describe Richard’s ‘in loco parentis’ fondly fuzzy recollections.

      Fondling.
      Oral sex.
      Anal sex.
      Whipping.

      Yes, all such actions performed against children qualify as sexual assault rather than mere abuse.

    • In reply to #48 by Roedy:

      Age of Consent

      I would like it if we stopped using the term child abuse because it is too vague. It could mean:

      I would like it if we stopped using the term child abuse because it is too vague. It could mean:

      Cruel words designed to destroy esteem.
      Spanking through clothing.
      Spanking on the bare buttocks.
      Hitting on the upper body, but not the head.
      Fondling.
      Oral sex.
      Anal sex.
      Whipping.
      Threats of eternal hellfire to ensure sexual compliance.
      Threats to kill parents to ensure sexual compliance or silence.
      Rape.

      To continue Roedy’s spectrum of abuse, I think these need to be added at the more extreme end. Order them how you will, they’re all at least as bad as everything Roedy listed. Concerted effort to put a stop to them all would be a step in the right direction.

  20. Oh well, I guess it would have been unrealistic to expect that this thread wouldn’t turn into a minefield…

    And thus, the hairy ape surreptitiously tip-toes away to the safety of the nearest tree…

    :-)

  21. It’s off-message and exposes the Foundation and its aims to defamatory and distracting misinformation from the religious right. I hear the sound of hillbilly hands rubbing together gleefully as I type.

    Sorry, but right or wrong, defensible or not, these comments were unnecessary and unhelpful.

    • In reply to #54 by conroyda:

      It’s off-message and exposes the Foundation and its aims to defamatory and distracting misinformation from the religious right. I hear the sound of hillbilly hands rubbing together gleefully as I type.

      Sorry, but right or wrong, defensible or not, these comments were unnecessary and unhelpful.

      I hear the sound of corks popping out of champagne bottles as pedophile rings worldwide celebrate “mild touching up” and the lack of understanding for the poor misunderstood child molester.

  22. The problem I have with all this is that Richard’s very personal reminiscences of his own childhood (from an interview about his autobiography) are being taken as his considered opinion and programme to tackle child molestation and abuse today. As if he had written a book or editorial explicitly arguing for universal lenience towards child abuse and begun lobbying for changes in the law, rather than answered questions about his childhood from a Times journalist, which were then written up into a piece by someone else.

    From what I gather, Richard seems to be thinking about two things in this context. 1. He is saying that, personally, he was not all that badly affected by his childhood experiences, and from a position of sixty years’ hindsight he cannot summon the energy to treat that specific instance of misconduct as a serious problem. He even says that, were it to happen today, he would consider it flagrantly unacceptable (“to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today”). 2. He is saying that there are degrees of harm in child abuse cases, with some being much nastier than others, and that there is a tendency in modern culture (or some parts of it) to conflate all cases and assume them to be universally as bad as each other, not admitting of degree or nuance.

    I can see how easy it is to conflate the two and assume that he is therefore saying “we as a society should not worry about the lesser instances at all (as I didn’t with my childhood abuse), and just go after the serious ones”. But he isn’t. Those are two separate observations. He doesn’t say “nobody should condemn historical instances of child abuse” or that they are inherently less serious or less worthy of attention – just that, in the context of his own life and his own experiences, this episode does not loom large. One would imagine that as the victim in this case he is entirely entitled to decide on his own reaction and response.

    Indeed, this seems to be the core of Richard’s approach to the question of abuse – to allow the victims themselves to dictate the response, rather than having cultural and media outsiders do so for them. It is unquestionably true that some victims suffer more than others. Some, like Richard, don’t suffer very much. In his case I suspect the twee cloud of chummy 1940s public schoolboy privilege has helped to soften the blow considerably. Does this mean he is trivialising the experiences of those of his peers who really did suffer? I don’t think he is. “That wasn’t my experience of it” does not automatically predicate “and so it cannot have been yours either”.

    Likewise, he doesn’t actually say that we shouldn’t condemn historical racism, just that we generally condemn it in a different way to current racism. Which seems unremarkable enough really – we recognise it as having been harmful and dangerous, but we understand the reasons it persisted in past societies. We operate as historians, not social justice activists. Injustice in the present can be addressed and ameliorated so as to prevent injustice in the future, injustice in the past has already happened, and the best we can do is make amends after the fact. As an approach to the two phenomena goes, that’s a pretty different mindset, a pretty different mode of condemnation.

    I do think Richard suffers a certain (perhaps inevitable) lack of perspective on social issues thanks to his background and upbringing. I have myself tried to engage with him on his lack of familiarity with medieval history and the ins and outs of how historical cultural change occurs in the context of Arabic and European learning. His appreciation of that initially came straight out of Whiggish 1940s ideas of progress and enlightenment, which is entirely unsurprising. Richard is, after all, a wealthy septuagenarian from a family at the heart of the English establishment. And he is clearly very fond of his situation in life, and remembers his schooldays through rosy spectacles. But I think it is a mistake to condemn him for having such fondnesses, or for expressing them in public. Much more so to assume that he would cite this nostalgic fondness for his childhood as a legitimate reason to treat child abusers more leniently today.

    In fact, what strikes me most about Richard is the degree to which one can see him trying to engage with issues here, albeit very often through the distorting lens of his own presumptions. There is clearly a disjunct – child abuse is roundly condemned as horrific, but my own experience of it was nothing to write home about, so what is going on here? Why have I been so comparatively unaffected? Why do I not have it in me to condemn? Also, Richard is well aware that the Daily Mail inspired media lynch mob is trying to call the shots as far as our national discussion on child abuse goes, and quite understandably wishes the issue could be discussed with less bluster, prejudice and victimisation. Which seems very sensible, given that apoplectic public witch-hunts never make an issue any better, and create cultures of shame, secrecy and silence that exacerbate abuse.

    • In reply to #59 by Cartomancer:

      I do think Richard suffers a certain (perhaps inevitable) lack of perspective on social issues thanks to his background and upbringing.

      A suggestion would be then, for him to refrain from publicly defining and categorizing social issues.

      • In reply to #67 by Shell:

        In reply to #59 by Cartomancer:

        I do think Richard suffers a certain (perhaps inevitable) lack of perspective on social issues thanks to his background and upbringing.

        A suggestion would be then, for him to refrain from publicly defining and categorizing social issues.

        I highly agree. Over the past week this incident has grown beyond his original comment. Yes he is technically, perhaps legally correct, but focusing on the technicalities and offering a “hierarchy of reprehensible actions,” (de ja vu from the ‘Dear Muslima incident) he overlooks the emotionally charged nature surrounding social issues – namely sexual abuse of children. When people read his words, they are thinking of possible situations in which a child reacted strongly to a “technically” minor incident. Every child and person’s experience is unique and different. Most people consider any sexual act against children unacceptable. To tread in these socially dangerous waters by making a bold comment requires a certain level of sensitivity and ability to communicate with compassion and tact. It is best to say “This is my personal experience; I do not speak for everyone else. Their experience is their own.” Words need to be chosen wisely and free of any comparison.

  23. Today, on his Pharyngula blog, PZ Myers has posted a rant against Dawkins and his remarks on this topic. Myers, and almost all those commenting on his piece, seem to think Richard should be summarily executed! At the very least, they say they’ll never read any more of his books.
    I have seldom seen such an exhibition of stupidity. None of them (Myers himself really should know better) seem to grasp what RD actually said, which was, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly sensible. I’m posting this here because I can’t be bothered to go through the registration process at Pharyngula (which I’m now tempted to stop visiting).
    Roedy, you in particular will be horrified if you read that stuff.
    Speaking for myself, I can say (with no pride!) that I have my very own story of mild molestation by a celebrity. I was 13 or 14 (I’m now 78) and the celebrity, whom older British readers may remember, was Gilbert Harding. I wasn’t traumatised, because I was as naive as only a boy that age could be in those days, and didn’t understand what it was all about. My ex-wife, when she was a young girl, had a similar experience – she was not actually touched – and neither of us were damaged, probably because we told nobody at the time and hence were not encouraged to feel polluted.

  24. Again, I want to give sincere thanks and appreciation to Dawkins’ candid revelation. It’s a great example I hope many follow, as it would improve the world.

    As far as his critics go, how dare they criticize how he discusses and terms his experience, if they are the advocates of victims they claim to be? It’s his experience. His words. It’s absolutely monstrous to exploit his opening-up about something private, for their personal agendas.

  25. I too have deleted Pharyngula from my bookmarks. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but this isn’t the place to criticise anything else on Pharyngula.

    However, there or otherwise this episode has failed to refute what is, in my experience, an exceptionless empirical law: every criticism of a position of Richard Dawkins mischaracterizes said position in at least one detail.

    Freethoughtblogs.com is also home to several other misconstruals of him on this, including by Greta Christian and my old colleague Alex Gabriel. What really annoys me is discussions which go like this:

    A: You should let Dawkins characterise his experience his way.

    B: Whoa! No-one said otherwise. It’s Dawkins who tells others what their experiences were like.

    No… Dawkins said he “didn’t think” their experiences involved any significant long-term harm. People make educated guesses about how their colleagues (in this case classmates) were affected by a shared experience all the frigging time. Sure, it could be inaccurate; but Professor Dawkins didn’t sound like he was above being corrected in his reading of what happened. Guessing how others felt isn’t the same as telling anyone, them or otherwise, how they felt.

    • In reply to #73 by Jos Gibbons:

      A: You should let Dawkins characterise his experience his way.

      B: Whoa! No-one said otherwise. It’s Dawkins who tells others what their experiences were like.

      What he did was define pedophilia for everyone with his mild pedophilia statement with this: “I think we should acknowledge it … But the other point is that because the most notorious cases of paedophilia involve rape and even murder, and because we attach the label ‘paedophilia’ to the same things when they’re just mild touching up, we must beware of lumping all paedophiles into the same bracket.”

      There is rape and murder attached to pedophilia. There is long-term pedophilia without rape and murder. There is one-incident.pedophilia. My understanding of pedophilia is that it is any sexual act perpetrated against a child or children. An adult sticking his hands children’s pants is pedophilia, not mild pedophilia. I don’t understand either where Richard picked up the idea that all pedophiles are lumped together. Courts and juries determine the degree of harm inflicted and deliver jail or prison sentences appropriate to that harm.

      What seemed mild to Richard may have been traumatic to someone else. What he did was present to readers his definition of pedophilia as if “we” the readers and everyone else should view it the same way he does, to the point of claiming what happened to him was just mild touching up, therefore this is really how this type pedophilia should to be labeled.

      • In reply to #74 by Shell:

        What he did was define pedophilia for everyone with his mild pedophilia statement with this: “I think we should acknowledge it … But the other point is that because the most notorious cases of paedophilia involve rape and even murder, and because we attach the label ‘paedophilia’ to the same things when they’re just mild touching up, we must beware of lumping all paedophiles into the same bracket.”

        Firstly, whether he defined paedophilia a certain way or expected the rest of us to follow suit is a separate question from the one I was tackling.

        Secondly, my reading of what you just quoted is not that he offered a revision definition of paedophilia (if you disagree, quote his definition), but that he pointed out how broad an umbrella term it is. There’s nothing in his actual text to justify thinking he said more than what I’ve noted.

        Theft is also very broad. That’s why we have subsets such as petty theft, grand theft auto, kleptomania and so on. We also subdivide sexually inappropriate acts (against children or otherwise), into such subsets as rape, assault, self-exposure, sex with someone who could consent if you weren’t their teacher, sex with someone who could consent in another US state, sex with someone a few months under the age of consent, sex with someone several years under the age of consent and so on. Unfortunately, pretty much any use of paedophilia/paedophile/”paedo” in the tabloid press doesn’t care.

        Recognising that something bad comes in different forms, with different levels of severity, or that rape isn’t synonymous with statutory rape, is worthwhile if you want to live in reality during your analysis.

  26. How dare Richard cloud the issue? when I’m burning witches, I burn witches. going round saying some witchcraft is milder than others puts a mockery on the whole idea of enjoying a public burning and forces me to question the reationale of carrying out an act based on mob-fuelled rage, which I might add, makes me more outraged since it makes me think I might be wrong when the most reliable moral compass I’ve ever known (my emotions) tell me I must be right or I wouldn’t feel so right.

    for this reason I suggest we burn Richard at the stake, as a warning to anyone else who, having had a spell cast on them then decides to question the ethics of burining all witches, that we will not stand for it.

    Just to simplify things (my moral compass says “complexity bad”), we will now be burning all witches along with any victims of witchcraft who don’t act victimy enough. make no mistake, victims are half the problem. I knew a victim who had been turned into a frog and yet, looked human. made no attempt whatsoever to look more frog-like for the trial, no croaking, hopping about and when asked to sit on a lilly pad made a right spectacle of himself. you can just imagine the problems this presented for the prosecution, it was an absolute gift to the defence team. which is why I propose we burn anyone acting on the defence of witches.

    we must not let justice stand in the way of self-riteousness

  27. I think what is actually offending many people is that he is declining his victim points. He’s shedding no tears, and realizes he wasn’t actually hurt so much. That’s heresy amongst the pity party.

    For the sake of the child-prostitutes I grew up with, who contracted STDs keeping their mother’s crack-pipe full, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Dawkins’ distinction. It’s damn well worth making. When we equate all abuse it does raise the temperature of response to mild infractions, but it also robs exceptional abuse cases of their distinction, and this affects public discourse and policy.

    Equating things makes everything lukewarm. The Catholic Church decried all sexual deviations as equal, equating homosexuality and pedophilia. Given their premise, homosexuality is bad but better overlooked rather than purge the clergy, and that’s how they treated pedophilia. It is a moral necessity to distinguish the degree and nature of abuse. To not distinguish is lazy, insensitive, ultimately narcissistic, and suspiciously Christian.

    There is an etiquette in the survivor community to never compare wrongs or say one person’s victimization is worse than anothers. This is to prevent against many communication problems and emotional deficits, tendencies of PTSD, and the general immaturity of people who suddenly find themselves forced to discuss psychological issues in real terms. The survivor community can be very obnoxious and nauseating to the uninitiated, and it is filled with jargon and they demonize anyone who isn’t savvy with their norms; just like any other group (college kids, activists, feminists, atheists, etc). The norms of this group have been offended, but not really because Dawkins was talking about his own experience. As far as the survivor community’s cultural goals are concerned (normalization, sensitivity, awareness, etc), Dawkins should be applauded. There’s a mental and cultural disconnect which is allowing for this contradiction. Scant bits of sentiment are fueling this attack.

    Speaking of PTSD, stupidity and intellectual dishonesty are common triggers, as displays of it are typical antecedents to violence or psychological torture. Basically, people BS themselves before committing an assault, and so I wonder how many amygdala are set on edge by these idiots.

    • In reply to #77 by This Is Not A Meme:

      I think what is actually offending many people is that he is declining his victim points. He’s shedding no tears, and realizes he wasn’t actually hurt so much. That’s heresy amongst the pity party.

      I don’t think that’s it. From the responses I’ve read people seem to be wondering, as I am, why he is even talking about it. Authorities on one subject sometimes address all sorts of other subjects whether there’s expertise there or not. Evolution, Islam, Pedophilia…next headline?

      When we equate all abuse it does raise the temperature of response to mild infractions, but it also robs exceptional abuse cases of their distinction, and this affects public discourse and policy.

      Do you have an example of an exceptional case of abuse that was muddied because of general viewpoint on pedophilia? It might provide some clarity.

      The survivor community can be very obnoxious and nauseating to the uninitiated, and it is filled with jargon and they demonize anyone who isn’t savvy with their norms; just like any other group (college kids, activists, feminists, atheists, etc).

      Sounds like you’re a victim of survivors. I agree though, and it can be frustrating but no way unavoidable, especially when trying sway public and political perception to get a bill passed through a legislature! An emotional shift can be a really really slow process. Thankfully some do make it through to the other side.

      • In reply to #78 by Shell:

        In reply to #77 by This Is Not A Meme:

        I don’t think that’s it. From the responses I’ve read people seem to be wondering, as I am, why he is even talking about it. Authorities on one subject sometimes address all sorts of other subjects whether there’s expertise there or not. Evolution, Islam, Pedophilia…next headline?

        I think it’s great that he spoke on the matter. Your inability to understand a thing means nothing, except you lack understanding. Really, contemplate the structure of your argument. 1) I don’t understand .: (?)

        Do you have an example of an exceptional case of abuse that was muddied because of general viewpoint on pedophilia? It might provide some clarity.

        Yes, I provided one concerning the catholic church and pedophilia. I think it is odd that you ask me for another example. Would you like another transitional fossil?

        Sounds like you’re a victim of survivors. I agree though, and it can be frustrating but no way unavoidable, especially when trying sway public and political perception to get a bill passed through a legislature! An emotional shift can be a really really slow process. Thankfully some do make it through to the other side.

        This is a weird paragraph. It is not responding to anything I wrote.

        • In reply to #80 by This Is Not A Meme:

          In reply to #78 by Shell:
          Do you have an example of an exceptional case of abuse that was muddied because of general viewpoint on pedophilia? It might provide some clarity.

          Yes, I provided one concerning the catholic church and pedophilia. I think it is odd that you ask me for another example. Would you like another transitional fossil?

          The Catholic Church decried all sexual deviations as equal, equating homosexuality and pedophilia.

          Some of the abuse in the RCC is equated with homosexuality. But not all. I’ve mostly heard the church and its defendants say it’s inappropriate behavior against girls and boys (some mild touching up that’s considered harmless) and that the church claims the priests are troubled or confused about their faith. The church minimizes abuse by employing many tactics. Richard’s remark minimized the act of child abuse. He said that he could not condemn the man who mildly touched him up. That’s fine. Those are his feelings about his experience. Richard then said that abuse or pedophilia is being lumped together, but no one was stating that all child abuse acts are equally harmful or carry the same amount of emotional or psychological damage.

  28. The virtue of distinguishing different types of horror is seen in date-rape. Some ignorant fucks(sic) might say ‘rape is rape’, but by distinguishing date-rape we understand more sociological factors and causes, which allow us to confront the problem more effectively. We come to distinguish a new type of psycho, the rufi wielding frat boy. If we just talk about rape in its worst and most generic terms, that only creates harm. It is willful ignorance. Understanding ‘mild-pedophilia’ can help us thwart future harms.

    Specificity is beneficial. Ignorance is no virtue.

    • In reply to #81 by This Is Not A Meme:

      The virtue of distinguishing different types of horror is seen in date-rape. Some ignorant fucks(sic) might say ‘rape is rape’, but by distinguishing date-rape we understand more sociological factors and causes, which allow us to confront the problem more effectively.

      Just recognize that this is a separate issue from the psychological impact of any victim. Each person experiences trauma in their own way. To tactfully distinguish legal and sociological definitions from the personal experience and psychological impact, one needs to be careful not to imply/conflate the technicalities with individual experiences. Avoiding any comparison and expressing consideration and compassion to any victim is paramount. Expressing oneself with a sense of humanity takes well developed interpersonal skills. Unless a person is highly skilled in these areas, it’s best to be aware that any comment can be viewed as insensitive, awkward, or worthy of challenge.

  29. In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

    In reply to #18 by Nitya:
    … So far as we know paedophilia is a learned behaviour; a fetish. World-renowned expert Freda Briggs echoes other researchers in calling child abuse “the contagious disease.” …

    Paedophilia is not a learned behaviour, paedophilia is not a behaviour at all. I think the best term to describe paedophilia is a sexual orientation. Paedophilia is a term that describes a trait of an indiviual consisting in being sexually and romantically attracted to children that haven’t yet reached puberty (under some definitions also to early pubescents, some definitions exclude people attracted to infants and toddlers) children (boys, girls or both). Under some definitions one has to be predominantly attracted to children to be a paedophile, under some significant attraction is enough. I think the former makes more sense and we should call paedophiles only those predominantly attracted, but it makes sense to have a term for those somewhat attracted to children too (but I don’t know any widely accepted).

    Paedophilia is associated with some kinds of behaviour, but I don’t think we can say some kind of behaviour is what only paedophiles do or what all paedophiles do. We can say, that paedophilia can be motivation for certain kinds of behaviour. People usually associate paedophilia with child sexual abuse. There is some associations between paedophilia and child sexual abuse. But a lot of paedophiles doesn’t sexually abuse children and a lot of people who sexually abuse children aren’t paedophiles.

    Paedophilia is not learned. I don’t think we can safely say that it can’t be in any case, but there are paedophiles with different life experiences. I think based on this and based on what we know about homosexuality, it’s likely that it isn’t learned at all. I think people are born with paedophilia in the sense they are born with predisposition that starts to express themselves as sexuality develops. But as far as I know, there is no clear evidence for that. Some studies suggest that, but they are based on correlation and they are based on criminal samples, which can’t be considered representative for paedophiles.

    Paedophilia is not a fetish. Fetish is an inanimate object or specific situation. I don’t people calling paedophilia a fetish, I perceive it as putting children at the same level with boots or diapers.

    We know, that people who sexually abuse children has a history of being sexually abused more often than general population. There is a some correlation, not very strong, but significant. The behaviour of sexually abusing children can be somewhat learned in certain cases, but definitely not in all cases.

    • In reply to #82 by simgiran:

      In reply to #19 by Len Walsh:

      Paedophilia is not a learned behaviour, paedophilia is not a behaviour at all.

      Welcome Simgiran and thanks for your emphatically didactic response.

      Your quote doesn’t relate to the rather stale OP and it took me back a long way to find it. If the topic itself has attracted you here then Cartomancer’s excellent contribution says it all for me.

      I think the best term to describe paedophilia is a sexual orientation…

      Can you support your hypothesis that paedophilia is a naturally occurring trait or sexual preference? A nascent sexual orientation, comparable to homosexuality, instead of a deviant fetish?

      Paedophilia is associated with some kinds of behaviour, but I don’t think we can say some kind of behaviour is what only paedophiles do or what all paedophiles do. We can say, that paedophilia can be motivation for certain kinds of behaviour.

      Paedophiles may be sky-diving architects or rap-dancing nuns, however, their particular shared motivation is to satisfy a nagging sexual fetish for children.

      People usually associate paedophilia with child sexual abuse. There is some associations between paedophilia and child sexual abuse.

      Indeed. They relate as does hunger to food. The association between religion and child-rape is the most impressive dynamic to me. 93% of child molesters are religious, according to the largest study I’m aware of (Abel and Harlow). Despite a paucity of data a prototypical child molester emerges as being a drunken parishioner, according to expert research by Carolyn Holderread Heggen.

      Paedophilia is not learned.

      Can you refute the supplied data which demonstrated it was?

      …based on what we know about homosexuality, it’s likely that it isn’t learned at all. I think people are born with paedophilia in the sense they are born with predisposition that starts to express themselves as sexuality develops.

      If you could furnish something, anything, which lends support your theory, I’d be very grateful but it sounds like a familiar Catholic bio-theological excuse to me.

      Paedophilia is not a fetish. Fetish is an inanimate object or specific situation. I don’t people calling paedophilia a fetish, I perceive it as putting children at the same level with boots or diapers.

      Adults who sexually molest children exhibit no more regard for them than they would for boots or diapers. That’s why paedophilia is a conspicuously harmful fetish, and more especially so because some victims develop consequently into perpetrators.

      There is a some correlation, not very strong, but significant.

      It is this statistical significance which lends weight to my argument, simultaneously undermining your own.

      The behaviour of sexually abusing children can be somewhat learned in certain cases, but definitely not in all cases.

      TBI, CVA or drug reactions are occasionally implicated. Otherwise perpetrators appear to emanate from the sexually repressive environments described by those psychiatrists and scientists already cited. One longitudinal experiment recently concluded wherein a homogenous cohort of bible-based families was scrupulously isolated from secular influences and they taught successive generations to rape girls as young as seven.

      …it makes sense to have a term for those somewhat attracted to children too

      Extant slang covers them already.

  30. In reply to #32 by Len Walsh:

    Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs established the first research centre into abuse and has worked in the field since 1970. She gained access to South Australian correctional centres where a pilot study had shown that 100% of child molesters had been multiply-sexually abused in their own childhood. With this finding she extended the study by increasing the number of subjects and comparing their childhood experiences with those of men who were also survivors of but had no criminal convictions. The major finding relating to child sex offenders was that all except two (N=85) had been sexually abused by an average of 14 different persons in childhood. Fifty percent of the offenders were first abused by a female.

    Can you tell me the name of the study? Is there any other study which confirms the results? I checked some other sources:

    Ryan C. W. Hall, Richard C. W. Hall: A Profile of Pedophilia: Definition, Characteristics of Offenders, Recidivism, Treatment Outcomes, and Forensic Issues, Mayo Clin Proc., 2007, http://www.drrichardhall.com/Articles/pedophiles.pdf “The numbers reported for pedophiles who were abused as children range from 28% to 93% vs approximately 15% for random controls.”

    R. K. Hanson PhD, S. Slater: Sexual victimization in the history of sexual abusers: A review, Annals of sex research, 1988 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01541497
    “The present paper reviews the empirical literature on the proportion of child sexual abusers who were themselves sexually victimized as children. While findings in individual studies ranged between 0% and 67%, on average about 28% of the offenders reported being sexually victimized as children. This rate is higher than the base rate for community samples of non-offending males (about 10%), but is similar to the rates found in other sexual or non-sexual offender populations.”

    E L Rezmovic ; D Sloane ; D Alexander ; B Seltser ; T Jessor (1996). “Cycle of Sexual Abuse: Research Inconclusive About Whether Child Victims Become Adult Abusers” http://www.gao.gov/archive/1996/gg96178.pdf “There was no consensus among the studies we reviewed that being sexually abused as a child led directly to the victim’s becoming an adult sexual abuser of children. However, some studies did conclude that it might increase the risk that victims would commit sexual abuse later. A majority of the retrospective studies noted that most sex offenders had not been sexually abused as children, and the two prospective studies showed that the majority of victims of sexual abuse during childhood did not become sex offenders as adults.”

    In reply to #84 by Len Walsh:

    Can you support your hypothesis that paedophilia is a naturally occurring trait or sexual preference? A nascent sexual orientation, comparable to homosexuality, instead of a deviant fetish?

    I don’t think there is much evidence, but there aren’t many studies about this topic as well. I know for example about studies by James Cantor about differences in left-handedness, IQ and white brain matter between paedophiles and non-paedophiles. We know people start noticing they are attracted to children at puberty. As far as I know, there is no efficient way of changing who are paedophiles attracted to. As far as I know paedophiles differ a lot in their childhood experiences, some had great childhood, some didn’t have good childhood, there are paedophiles who were molested, there are a lot of paedophiles who weren’t molested etc.

    The association between religion and child-rape is the most impressive dynamic to me. 93% of child molesters are religious, according to the largest study I’m aware of (Abel and Harlow).

    But according to that study, 93 % of control group (general population) were religious too, no difference here.

    Adults who sexually molest children exhibit no more regard for them than they would for boots or diapers. That’s why paedophilia is a conspicuously harmful fetish, and more especially so because some victims develop consequently into perpetrators.

    Based on what source? While this can be true in a lot of cases, possibly most cases, it’s not true for all. But anyway, my point was about paedophiles, not about child molesters.

    Can you refute the supplied data which demonstrated it was?

    I don’t think you gave me a source that says that paedophilia (defined based on attraction) is learned.

    • In reply to #86 by simgiran:

      In reply to #32 by Len Walsh:
      Can you tell me the name of the study?

      Wordy it is: ‘A comparison of the early childhood and family experiences of incarcerated, convicted male child molesters and men who were sexually abused in childhood and have no convictions for sexual offences against children.’

      Is there any other study which confirms the results?

      Aside from those three you have furnished for us, yes. Validating research by Mariette DiChristina, Charles Money, Jay Feierman, Richard Sipe, David Finkelhor, also endorse the developmental paradigm of Briggs et el, so yes. My synthesis of their positions was presented with my initial post.

      In reply to #84 by Len Walsh:

      I’m most relieved you didn’t join merely to vilify Richard Dawkins.

      I don’t think there is much evidence

      I don’t think any credible evidence exists to support your genetic orientation theory. Furthermore, when challenged to provide some you couldn’t discover any to provide us with, left-handed redheads notwithstanding.

      But according to that study, 93 % of control group (general population) were religious too, no difference here.

      Heggen succinctly identified the difference.

      You seem to think I’ve argued all perpetrators were themselves once victims or that being sexually abused during childhood was a necessary ingredient to acquire this deviant fetish.

      some victims develop consequently into perpetrators.
      Based on what source?

      Compelling statistical evidence from three research papers you supplied, to begin with.

      While this can be true in a lot of cases, possibly most cases, it’s not true for all. But anyway, my point was about paedophiles, not about child molesters.

      But anyway, how did you derive a lot, possibly most and all from my clinically accurate, more restrictive assertion that some victims become perpetrators?

      My point explores the aetiology of paedophilia.

      I don’t think you gave me a source

      I think you’ll find I quoted Freda Briggs, University of South Australia, Criminology Research Council, July 1994, on pages 13, 43, 45, 52, 77 and concluding with this unambiguous remark on p78: * “Child sexual abuse is clearly a learned behaviour.”*

  31. You all are missing the evidence right in front of your eyes. Dawkins is a millionaire, successful and well regarded and he just told you he has not forgotten the abuse. Yet he has forgotten – or never felt the need to recount – the many times he fell, skinned his knee or got hurt when he was 11. But you saw he remembers being touched and exactly how it felt “the feeling almost worse than pain” as he says in his own words. He remembers the person who touched him committed suicide. I know those feelings well. Make no mistake, what you are seeing here is an abused kid and the damage abuse does to a kid.
    Even 50 years down the road when the kid moved past it and succeeded past anyone’s wildest dreams. Sure you move past it and you go on with your life but you can never forget it. (Dawkins can’t) You try to tell yourself it was no big deal (as Dawkins is doing). You keep on moving on with your life but you still remember how clammy your skin felt. (as Dawkins does) How happy and guilty you felt when your tormenter died.
    To me my abuse was 30 years ago, and “milder” than rape, as I was fond to refer to it. I wasn’t some raped loser, I was strong and never let things get too bad. Me with all my 12 year old’s strength put a stop to it. And it wasn’t really abuse.. It was harmless.. It took the last 10 and lots of therapy to stop the feelings triggered by the most innocent things. A smell, a sound.. a somewhat low pitched voice.. All of a sudden your skin is clammy and you are shaking, as you were many years ago. I wish Dawkins all the luck and love in the world healing from his abuse. He clearly has a long way to go still, but talking about it, even in denial, is a good way to start down the recovery road. Surviving childhood abuse, no matter how “mild” and “harmless” is no picnic.

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