Countering the myths about stigma

It’s no secret to most people here that stigma plays a role in enabling abuse and prevents survivors from speaking out about their experiences. I recently wrote a blog post for my website about how the stigma against MAPs specifically protects most abusers from scrutiny, impedes prevention research (as we saw with the Allyn Walker harassment campaign), and limits support for individuals who are at risk of offending but want help to reduce that risk.

Unfortunately, among the general public and even “experts” who oppose the relevant research, there’s a widespread misconception that acknowledging the role of stigma would take accountability away from abusers or even allow them to excuse their actions as the result of stigma they experienced. To anyone who is paying attention, this is an argument in favor of destigmatizing minor attractions, survivors speaking out, and support for those at risk of offending (after all, abusers can’t use stigma as a defense if there is no stigma). However, I still see a lot of claims that MAPs are “threatening to offend” if people don’t accept them or that prevention experts are “justifying abuse” when either group points out the correlation between stigma and abuse.

I’m wondering if there’s a better way of phrasing these conversations that would clarify that pointing out the effects of stigma is intended to argue in favor of removing that stigma to keep kids safe, not justifying abuse or using threats to gain acceptance. Of course, there are also some malicious actors who intentionally conflate attractions with abuse to claim organizations like Prostasia are trying to “destigmatize child abuse,” but I think most of them know that they are spreading misinformation and no level of clarification will convince them to stop, which is why I’m focused more on people who genuinely believe the “threats” or “justification” myths.

Thoughts?

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  1. acknowledging the existence and voices of maps who in spite of stigma have still not offended nor intended to offend, and/or who right now are not close to offending in any way, and their experiences/what they are like

  2. the hatred of maps and belief map = offender/inevitable future offender is part of a wider carceral culture which casts perpetrators of violence as a certain ontological Type of (non-)person and Good People as a certain ontological Type of person. they excuse child sexual abusers by claiming that they “couldn’t help it” because their actions were merely the result of a difference in their innate or otherwise unchosen brain or bodily composition, or equivalent thereof, or any other internal trait (i.e. thoughts/feelings/fantasies that are not their moral beliefs).

  3. mapmisia upholds the oppression of children by adults by creating a class of ontologically evil Bad Adults from whom the pure, innocent, helpless children need to be protected from by Good Adults utilizing their power over them. puritans ignore that adult-on-child abuse occurs along axes of power, including adultism, and particularly this same paternalistic authority, and that these teachings are harmful to children and are abusive and traumatic in and of themselves. destigmatizing mapness, deconstructing the idea of “irresistible urges” inevitably causing csa, is a step toward targeting the actual structures of power which uphold child abuse rather than merely a scapegoat. somewhat analogous to how deconstructing bioessentialist, anti-kink/sex-negative, transmisogynistic, and homophobic predator-stereotyping beliefs are essential to ending patriarchal sexual violence against cis women.

  4. when you tell someone they will inevitably abuse because of something in their brain and they hear it enough times to believe it sometimes they hide from the rest of the world sometimes they kill themself and sometimes they think there’s no point in trying not to because it’ll happen anyway so why don’t we just do it now instead of waiting. in general, people are better at not abusing, at checking themselves, at examining their own actions, at reflecting upon themselves and their social standings accurately and helpfully when they are in a better state of mind, when they have more social supports and connections, when they are not being surveilled and oppressed and abused 24/7, when they have the time and space to orient themselves and connect with their surroundings and the people around them. this goes for everyone, even if it manifests with variations for different specific subsets of people, i.e. maps. when marginalized people are desperate and in pain and feel they have nowhere else to go without the luxury of long peaceful time to learn about consent and autonomy and safety and accountability and how to treat each other well and have never been taught that instead of “abuse is good (one day you will be abuser instead of abused and that is all you can/should ever aim for)” then often they will not punch up or even sideways, but down. youth, particularly children, and younger maps, are often the easiest target for this, abuse a culmination of every other marginalized adult’s frustration being taken out on them because they are the last people they can harm, themselves, without as much consequence of authoritarian punishment.

  5. we, individually, take responsibility for our own actions and for holding ourselves accountable to ethical principles. i, personally, am not saying i would abuse a child if mapmisia cracked down harder on me. i am not saying that i can see no other way to prevent offending among i.e. my own community than “getting them to hate their own mapness less.” i am saying however that mapmisia as with other authoritarian mechanisms encourage larger disturbing general trends. mapmisia creates antis and anti communities create sexual abusers among themselves. maps who are antis are also much more likely to be sexual abusers.

  6. nonmaps vs maps is currently an axis of power and sexual abuse occurs along axes of power. what child and adolescent maps regularly face from nonmaps is horrific. i suspect this would be unpopular to bring up in a respectable blog post though.

  7. deconstructing mapmisic beliefs includes deconstructing various puritanical beliefs about csa because mapmisia conveniently sits at the center of many of these debates. this includes belief in authority-figure/nuclear family hegemony, focus on ruined/stolen purity/innocence/virtue and occurence of sex outside of legitimized marriage rather than survivors’ loss of autonomy & the actual experienced trauma itself, the taboo on speaking about csa bc it is viewed not only as unethical but as dirty/impure/sinful and staining the survivor, survivors believing that their abuser abused them bc they did something to make themselves uniquely attractive to them, etc are all tangentially related and “destigmatizing survivors speaking out about being abused” is obviously a given (and that also means viewing csa as well as adjacent categories of deviants lumped in with it as no longer “taboo”/unallowed to be talked about which is what csa perps rely on)

  8. all fantasies and other non- tangibly-harmful things are ethical and that argument can be made/we can say “mapness is not unethical” without tying it in to stopping csa. we would advocate for that regardless. however, as the justifications for mapmisia are under this current society heavily tied to the structures that enable csa, when doing full comprehensive analyses we address the csa argument too.

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Still reading/processing all your points, but thought it would be worth pointing out that we’ve already done that to some extent. Unfortunately it was limited to specific examples rather than looking at the culture of abuse, simply because there’s not strong research regarding hatecrimes/institutionalized discrimination against MAPs yet

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Wanted to share one appoach to this discussion taken by a support group for MAPs (that was unfortunately recently forced to private their secondary account after Twitter wrongly banned their main). Sharing with permission.

I like the idea of putting the focus on how stigma has failed to prevent abuse thus far, and I think it could be a particularly strong argument when paired with evidence that stigma also makes it harder for survivors to come forward. Admittedly those are slightly different types of stigma, but they both stem from the same misguided belief that stigma prevents abuse.

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Reframe the issue without acknowledging the far-right tactics. For example:

  1. You’ve heard us say stigma hurts abuse prevention. That’s because making it easier for people to get support with their mental health simultaneously makes it harder for those same people to make bad decisions because they have support not to.
  2. Acknowledging the human dynamics of how and why abuse happens isn’t a justification for abuse. It gives us the chance to intervene before further abuse happens by putting evidence-based prevention systems in place.
  3. When has hating a group of people ever encouraged them to seek support? No matter what the group of people is, all people deserve support, and providing that support can reduce a variety of social harms. (you wouldn’t even need to state sexual abuse here, that’s implied by who Prostasia is and why we exist)
  4. Primary prevention is a fantastic method of addressing issues. What is primary prevention? It’s washing your hands before you eat. It’s getting a flu shot. It’s ensuring people have support so they don’t make poor choices.
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@TNF_13
I can’t think of any better way to state it. Your points are simple to understand and precise.
I don’t think it will sway many of the crowd that are more concerned with “normalizing pedphilia” than preventing CSA, but that is the uphill battle we face.
Pedophilia should absolutely be normalized in the since that a teen who has these feelings should be able to talk to a trusted adult or therapist without the fear of being disowned, assaulted, or thrown in a wood chipper.
In many ways I feel that going through adolescence with minor attractions is more difficult today than when I was a teen in the 90’s.
Yea I knew about the stigma, but there wasn’t as much of a platform for hatred back then either.

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