Observation on Assumptions in Discourse

One thing that has always bothered me is how discourse surrounding obscene imagery makes certain fundamental assumptions. Given the state of moral panic surrounding it, I haven’t voiced these thoughts and allowed the conversation to maintain its ignorance. This too has bothered me, so I’ll post here in the hopes that someone braver can spread these ideas.

The most striking image of obscenity is perhaps the adult male molesting or raping a female prepubescent. Everywhere you look, this is the what people have on their minds when they mention CP and CSAM. Yet, and this is what lead me down this line of thought, child sexual abuse is not only defined to cover a much wider range of scenarios, but very often enforced for them too. We seem to inform ourselves how to treat a diverse set of related concerns with discussion centered around a very narrow (but not uncommon) subset.

This is also not exclusive to concerns surrounding pedophilia. For the incredibly diverse sadists, it is again an aggressive male on a helpless, unconsenting female. Only zoophiles fail to possess such a stereotype in my expereience.

The reason for the assumptions is an understandable and even somewhat informed bias: men tend to be aggressors, and females are physically disadvantaged, relatively more precious, and subject to extended suffering in the form of pregnancy. However, there are hundreds of millions of people in the United States alone. Each person is an individual, and inevitably a statistical thorn in somebody’s side.

Take for example a masochistic, submissive man with autogynophilia. Such people indubitably exist. Yet if one were to be investigated, they would likely be tried as a sadist because the material they enjoy would coincide with the expected material for default accusation. This would be a miscarriage of justice, given that the obscenity laws are justified by the concept of “moral corruption” and its possible consequences.

My example is not unique. More relevant to this forum is the case of “straight shota”, which has spread widely precisely because most people fail to realize it is legally no different than lolicon. There are also the vore and macro/microphiles, whose fantasy is very often masochistic and sometimes expressed as unambiguous snuff. A morbidly amusing thought to me is how a story depicting a shrunken adult being sexually abused by a child would still classify as child sexual abuse material in many jurisdictions. How can a powerless person abuse someone with comparatively infinite power?

That’s more-or-less all I wanted to say, really. We need to expand our considerations to individuals that do not conform to our biases, and especially those who do so in non-obvious ways. Perhaps the “moral corruption” argument may still stand, but at least it will do so on a more informed basis.

1 Like

The issue here isn’t so much so the idea of obscenity per se. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, tastes, mores, etc. and this entitlement is guaranteed under a certain legal protection.

The problems with this concept arise when those opinions, tastes, mores, etc. are imposed or enforced on others for their own sake, at the expense of the rights of those who may or may not share them. The mere fact that those rights are not considered, but rather discarded in favor of the prejudices of an “assumed moral majoritarian” perspective is literal fascism. The rights of the individuals who make up these majority collectives are shelved with the intent of preserving or protecting a moral ideal, not knowing that such enforcement both undermines and devalues their meaning and validity by making them compulsory, which is antithetical to the free speech principle.

Nobody will disagree that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a heinous and disturbing crime, but to which this ideal may be preserved if it were to maintain its legitimacy ought to be limited to the contexts by which such an ideal is even warranted - matters or situations where the rights of actual, real children are implicated or involved, not fictional characters or stories where no victims, potential or otherwise, are implicated.
Extending that preservation interest beyond that undermines it because by focusing on matters where real children are not involved, it is overextending to areas to that of preference and ideology, rather than that of harm prevention or punishment. It becomes less about the children who suffer or are put at risk by CP/CSAM and their abuse or trauma and more about the emotional response of the masses, that which may not even be rationally focused on the former. The imagery, the mere thought itself becomes a point of contention, rather than the actuality, furthered by the legal consequence of even engaging with such a topic and eliminating the realms by which a person may safely and securely engage with this topic lest they fall prey to mob-like moral panic, making things difficult for artists, writers, clinicians, and people with a sexual interest in children to safely, confidently, and securely engage with and explore these topics without harming real children.
It also greatly disturbs me because if, by chance, a situation arises where a child is sexually abused and exploited but it fails to rile up a moral panic, then that child’s suffering and victimization would go unnoticed or even be tolerated because the focus wouldn’t be on their well-being or safety, but rather the ‘ick factor’. There’s a reason why consumers of fiction will defend their works with “it’s just a drawing” and be believed, but consumers of CSAM will never defend their criminal material with “It’s just a photograph”.

Child sexual abuse is a very complex and sensitive matter, and censorship is nothing but the embodiment of doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty. If we are to actually remain committed to the prevention of child sexual exploitation, we must limit the ways by which we uphold their interests by restricting punitive actions only to matters that actually involve those interests, not their mere idea or expression or disagreement. The freedom of speech is a good thing in matters such as this because these types of individual idealistic conclusions are best settled organically, not forcefully or authoritatively.

The fact of the matter is that likening the reality of child sexual abuse to its fictional depiction undermines and devalues the grim reality of CSA. Children are not characters in the fictional narrative that is your life. They are people. And fictional characters in a story somebody wrote or a drawing some artist made are not people. They don’t have rights and their ideological significance is wholly arbitrary. The same could be said about any type of fictional atrocity, be it fictional violence or otherwise ‘offensive’ sexual expression that does not cause actual harm.


I will start by saying that I agree with the spirit of your argument. However, your response is in fact a perfect example of something I had failed to voice in my original post: it is too abstract. For people who operate well in abstract, rational thought, the line of thinking is largely inarguable (short of additional evidence). However, the vast majority of us are neither rational nor comfortable with abstract thinking. It is the case that society will always* bend (if not bow) according to the wishes of this majority.

Therefore, I feel it is not pragmatic to adamantly push this argument to the general public. Instead, one should challenge assumptions in obvious, concrete ways. Even better - one should challenge them with their own arguments (although with great care, as people are prone to clamming up when uncomfortable). Always appeal to emotion. In this manner, those who are not skilled in abstract, rational thought can come to the same conclusions that you have. As the opinion of the public changes, so too will that of lawmakers and politicians who seek their votes.

Furthermore, there is an undercurrent to your post that strikes me as counter-productive. At all times, one should avoid definitively claiming a side, an identity and morality. In doing so, you partition the world into “us” and “them”. The best politicians are the ones that manage to let people form their “own” conclusions as to the politician’s true intention; in their own ignorance, people are willing to pursue delusion over truth.

This has another dimension in the fact that your own insistence on the harms of misdirected efforts comes across as “protesting too much”. Even worse, it gives me the impression that you’re pushing a “good pedophile” narrative - a narrative whose efficacy I am skeptical of. I do not know whether this assumption of your character is actually true or not. I have also not studied the sexual revolution and normalization of LGBT in depth enough to claim authority on what works. However, I still feel it is inadvertently pushing away people who quite readily form assumptions from baseless bias.

Lastly, since assumption rules these days, I will briefly disclaim. I do not wish to assign a normative value to anything said here. Indeed, it may well be the case that kakistocracy is the optimal policy for humanity. I don’t know. I only know that these patterns seem to be “the way things are”, and working against them is pointless. My tone is not intended to be particularly argumentative or against you - merely unreserved as a consequence of a lack of time to better word things.

*This is probably hyperbole in the long run, but suffices for recognizable societies.

PS: Having written this, I realize I should expand further on how your abstract argument might be counterproductive. Generally, by remaining abstract, you invite assumption. What exactly are the “opinions, tastes, mores, etc.” that everyone is entitled to? Depending on the context of a conversation, people will be thinking different things. An opinion can be that some people do not deserve human rights, a taste can be for human flesh, and a more can be the mutilation of children. If you remain abstract, you allow people to assume the worst when it is in your interest to help them see otherwise. That is why I advocate discussing these unexpected (I am at loss for a better word) scenarios: they shift the assumption from man fantasizing about assaulting little girls to individuals with harmless or impossible fantasies. I do not care to comment much on the matter of actual CSAM.

1 Like

Interesting point you bring up there, particularly that which pertains to appealing to one’s emotional. The world is built around convenience…or so I like to believe.

But that’s the issue here. These types of matters do require a degree rational thought and abstract thinking to even comprehend them, let alone argue against them.
I can’t really say that I agree with you that the majority of people are uncomfortable with rational or abstract thought. I’d say it’s a considerable number, but not a majority.

I do believe that with enough evidence, charisma and perseverance, even the most prudent of conservatives could be convinced of the fact that the obscenity doctrine is unconstitutional without resorting to employing shallow, political rhetoric or pandering to their emotional side.

One could argue that what I just described is an idealistic improbability, as conservatives are nothing but emotion, prejudice, and irrationality, the antithesis of reason. Indeed, one need only look at the plethora of unbiased historical accounts dating as far back as the 19th Century to see their ideology at work, with conservative statesmen responsible for drafting, enacting, preserving, and defending policies that would later be overturned and regarded by the public as civil rights abuses. Things like, but not limited to, slavery, racial segregation, racial and ethnic discrimination, LGBT persecution were championed by conservative statesmen, who always explained or justified these atrocities through conservative principles.

Yet, in spite of all this, there are some who seek more. Those who seek consistency, logic, and reason.

Those who are forced to engage with matters on a rational, logical, or consistent basis who always wind up veering towards a moderate, liberal line.

I’m not comfortable arguing with someone who’s unwilling to see reason, and I’m certainly not comfortable employing their shallow, exploitive and fallacious rhetorical devices which are antithetical to reason as a means to pander to or exploit their ignorance.

My skepticism and disapproval of this is due, in part, to the chaotic and arbitrary nature of these conclusions. They’re not confined to a logic tree, they’re not founded on or held accountable by any empirical evidence or verification, nor do they conform to any rules rulesets that ascribe them consistency.

If the logic by which the conclusion, belief, or ideal is propped up by is arbitrary or flimsy, then likely so is the conclusion, belief, or ideal.

The second part is due to the fact that employing such rhetorical tactics innately undermines the credibility of the speaker. Sure, they can backtrack and use logic, reason, and abstract thinking to justify their point but by doing so they also demonstrate to those they are trying to convince that they were not arguing in good faith, which only bolsters their resolve and reaffirms their prejudices.

Well… I don’t really agree with this either. It reads eerily similar to the kind of manipulative rhetoric I mentioned previously and suffers from the same levels of chaos and inconsistency as before.
Of course you want their ‘truth’ to align with the actuality, but if you want that truth to be built on solid footing, then the footing needs to be sound.

If truth is a matter of preferential, idealistic delusion, then what’s the point of living?
You’ve already lost control of your own ‘destiny’, so to speak, succumbed to the whim of the majority where rights are devolved into privileges and privileges are devolved into suggestions or nice thoughts.
I’m sure there’s some nihilistic, reductionist pedantic argument founded by neuroscience to back up this observation.

This is the hardest part of the argument because it essentially humanizes pedophilic individuals and pleads for what antis may perceive as a malicious attack on their culture, akin to communists during the Red Scare or Satanists during the Satanic Panic.
It is one that is of utmost importance and one that requires proponents to have sound, conclusive, empirically valid evidence at the ready to back up these points, which thankfully, we do have.

In essence, the facts of the matter are that no, pedophilia and pedophilic pornography consumption alone are not casually linked with, nor are they significant risk factors associated with hands-on contact offending and that fictional pedophilic pornography, as is the case with all pornography, happens to lower a person’s likelihood that they may commit an offense or behave aggressively sexually.
Pedophiles who commit sexual offenses against children typically share similar, if not identical, risk factors with adult rapists. These factors are limited to psychological and social disorders, callousness, and personality traits that, when combined, form a very consistent profile that can determine a person’s likelihood of committing a sexual offense and that their interests are only coincidental factors, as is masturbation and excessive pornography use.
The priority here is ensuring that these empirical accounts are made apparent.

As far as claims about “normalization” are concerned, it’s a very hot topic with virtually zero sound or conclusive empirical support. It’s one of those things that can be analyzed and deconstructed by examining other types of media, like violence and rape-themed pornography, along with crime statistics. It simply just doesn’t add up.
As for the LGBT rights thing, there’s a stark difference between “normalization” and desensitization, as well as the innate “lack of fear”. It implies that everyone is a conformist to a larger cultural zeitgeist and that subcultures with opposing viewpoints or tastes can’t coexist.

It is unfortunate, isn’t it?

In fairness, I do not have any evidential backing for this claim. It is merely an inference from a life lived, and that old tautology: “half the population has below-average IQ”. I find that so far as the average goes, it is still insufficient for the complex world we live in.

These sorts of statements do nothing but work against you, even if they are true. For the type of conservative you are describing, it changes little - their mind is made up. But for the type of conservative that merely votes “not progressive” or seeks power without cause, it alienates them. Perhaps it brings other progressives to your side, but this type of “virtue signalling” leads to “purity spirals” which are counter-productive and especially rife within the “left”*.

That’s understandable. I don’t think I would be, either. Being able to write “The Prince” doesn’t mean I can be him.

Indeed, although I would argue that almost all human reasoning falls prey to this; we cannot bridge “is” and “ought”, we cannot prove consequence. Science is merely a statistical trick, and one that does not work particularly well for phenomena that cannot be produced in a lab. The attachment to reason is paradoxically illogical.

This is definitely a legitimate concern. Perhaps the ideal is to open the conversation with emotion, and close with logic. By opening with emotion, you steer the participant’s mind away from their biases and by closing with logic you give the impression of authority, legitimacy.

There isn’t, at least objectively. For better or worse, singular truth is probably beyond the reach of humanity. It is productive to make the best of it.

Yes, I believe “locus of control” fits here. People do well when their locus is within themselves, and become depressed when they believe it is not. I struggle with this myself, as it is hard to find reason to believe in a number of myths necessary for it to be within myself. In general, we are social creatures and in particular we are social creatures born near the bottom (or middle, depending) of a very tall hierarchy. In a more particular sense, you will always live in a society, and to live in a society means to surrender at least a part of your locus to others. In modern, industrial societies, this varies from almost nothing to everything in the case of being jailed or drafted into action. Besides the fact that we are biological organisms, there is also the problem of free will in abstract, which I feel has been best answered by Hume’s argument against miracles: free will cannot exist because by effecting the world, it becomes part of the world and subject to its physics, no longer making it “free”. Finally, on a spiritual level, it seems absurd to me that a “self” exists in any meaningful capacity.

Indeed. It is painful to watch movements, so commonly leftist*, hamstring themselves by pressing to hard, too fast. It ends up making so many enemies where allies could have been easily won.

Another issue that should probably be mentioned is that this is an unfortunate time to be championing science. Replication issues have been brought to light, as well as issues of ideologically motivated research, misleading statistics, and unsound conclusions. There is a lack of trust in “science” because the institutions associated with it have been negligent, and where they haven’t, are subject to commentary by a hostile media. This is too many words to say that even rational people look upon published evidence with skepticism. The tragedy is that all but a few of us lack the ability to assuage that skepticism.

I agree, but the engine of most legislative systems is not evidence-based reasoning. It is perfectly “valid” for a legislative body to come to a conclusion contrary to the data, if the established method of “debate” and “reason” dictates so. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing, either. Consider that a legislative system serves the interest of the humans under its purview. Too many counter-intuitive moves -effective as they may be- alienates the populace and undermines the legitimacy of the institution. I believe we already experiencing such a phenomenon today, although not as a major force.

It might very well be the case that they cannot. Being specific by considering the debate around trans individuals, coexistence implies the recognition of their legitimacy. For someone who rejects that, it is victory for the trans movement. This is also not necessarily a “bad” thing. A divided planet is a planet subject to evolutionary pressures. If we are responsible (hah!) in aligning the pressures to our interests, this serves to globally optimize our well-being.

*The left-right dichotomy has a very weak basis and is not particularly meaningful in my opinion.