FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Candy Man and Other Myths About Pedophilia

by Steve Perry

On the shelf in my fourth grade classroom-north wall, near the front-there sat the obligatory set of junior encyclopedias. Now and again during lulls in afternoon study time, either Brenda S. or I would go and retrieve the R volume. Then, sitting cross the aisle from each other near the back of the room, we proceeded to inspect together the cross-sectioned diagrams of the human reproductive system.

The details of interior plumbing were of no particular interest to us, but we always lingered over the sketched male and female forms that surrounded them like sausage casings-the ample, pendulous breasts on one side, the dejected-looking penis on the other-while exchanging the occasional meaningful look.

I remember it as well as Proust recalled his madeleines; it was one of the more worthwhile experiences of my elementary school years. Nowadays, alas, it would be grounds for throwing one or both of us in the kiddie calaboose and tattooing Sex Offender on our foreheads.

Do I exaggerate? Not by much.

Judith Levine’s endlessly reviled Harmful to Minors: the Perils of Protecting Children from Sex contains numerous stories of youngsters branded sexual predators and forced into humiliating regimens of “counseling” for behavior no less benign. Surely by now you have heard of Levine’s book, published a couple of months ago by the University of Minnesota Press after being declined by a string of commercial publishers; before the ink was dry, pols and shrinks were rising as one to condemn it.

The charge? Soft on child sex abuse, which in the present climate is as good as being soft on communism (and lord, how we miss communism) or brown-skinned terrorists.

Levine’s book is actually a fine and brave effort at putting into perspective various matters regarding children, adolescents, sex, sex abuse, and sex education.

It’s true that Levine seeks to debunk much of the child sex-abuse hysteria that has been causing convulsions all round the U.S. since the spate of day care sex abuse scandals in Jordan, Minnesota, and across the country in the 1980s.

Despite the fact those cases proved to be fictions promulgated by zealous interrogators and small children anxious to please them, the stranger with candy-the adult predator seeking children to sodomize, or worse-has become one of our more durable icons and useful political props.

Levine commits two principal heresies against right-thinking. First, she asserts that the stranger with candy is not really the problem we make him out to be. (On the special matter of priests with candy-who can scarcely be called strangers-more in a second.) She notes that a great many reports of extra-familial “sex abuse” involve consensual liaisons between adolescents a little below the age of consent and boyfriends or girlfriends a little above it.

As regards the great bogeyman in all this, the pedophile moving with stealth through Internet chat rooms, she makes two interesting points: first, that the manufacture and distribution of kiddie porn through the Internet is controlled almost exclusively by police agencies running sting operations (an LAPD detective is quoted boasting as much); and second, that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children places the total number of reported adult/adolescent assignations arranged through the Internet from 1994-96 at a whopping 23. The Internet was young then; if you assume the number has tripled or quadrupled with the growth of online households since then, you come to 50 or so cases a year across the entire country.

Hardly the epidemic we’re led to believe, particularly when you bear in mind that a high proportion of these involve nerdy guys not much over the age of consent and lonely girls not much under. (And no, I am not saying I’d like to see my own child in one of those relationships-but then again it’s hardly the portrait of the Internet Stalker we are routinely presented, is it?)

The grand and terrible irony is that child sexual abuse remains as real a problem as ever. But it’s not the stranger with candy putting kids at risk; the vast majority of such abuse occurs in or near the home at the hands of male adults in positions of authority and trust-the father, the uncle, and to a far greater extent than even the most cynical supposed, the parish priest. (Interesting factoid from the May 10 Minneapolis Star Tribune: In 1989, at the time of Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance, there were no fewer than 11 priests cooling their heels after sex abuse allegations at St. John’s in nearby Collegeville, news that surely would have astounded all those Church officials now pleading ignorance to the scope and duration of the problem.)

Levine’s second heresy is her belief that post-pubescent teens are bound to explore sex, entitled to do so, and perfectly capable of having constructive sexual experiences. In these abstinence-only days, parents do not like the idea that their kids are sexual beings for many reasons, some practical and worthy and some selfish and narrow. The abstinence movement, notes Levine, is partly about “reversing, or at least holding back, the coming of age, which for parents is a story of loss, as their children establish passionate connections with people and values outside the family.”

This being America, we should also ask how many parents do not feel a pin-prick of resentment over their kids’ newfound power to explore pleasures unsanctioned by the parent. So it’s hardly surprising they’d rather tell their kids not to think of it.

But in the age of AIDS and of dwindling abortion rights, “child protection” of this sort comes at a terrific cost.

Steve Perry is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch and a columnist for The Rake.

He can be reached at: sperry@mn.rr.com

More articles by:
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail