Here is the text of an article from The Scotsman that criticizes Prostasia’s approach, written by a journalist who argued with us on Twitter. We disagree of course, but for the sake of balance we are reproducing the article without comment. Feel free to add your own comments, though!
Abusers will be the ones to benefit from ‘sex-positive’ advocacy
Children - mostly girls - will lose
IMAGINE you are a 16-year-old girl. Things have been rough for you lately, and staying at home is no longer an option. After spending some time on friends’ floors, you have exhausted their hospitality and need to move on. You’re out of money, ideas and luck. You need to eat, you need some way of making money until you figure out your next move. As you are a young woman, your body is in demand. Selling it to strangers becomes the only real option to earn some cash while you figure out your next move.
Now pause for a moment. Ask yourself – how free would you feel in this situation? How much choice do you have over your environment? How primed are you to make judgements about your life and your future? Are you making decisions based on experiences and desires, or more out of circumstance?
I’ve watched in stunned horror this week as one organisation, Prostasia Foundation, has mushroomed up into the space left by the latest NSPCC fiasco, offering “sex-positive” child advocacy. After some investigation, as well as advocating for comprehensive sex education – agreed – this also appears to mean having statements about age play on your website, talking about “survival sex work” for teens and engaging with those who have branded themselves as “minor-attracted” as part of a prevention strategy.
However liberal a parent you are, that can’t all be easy to swallow. You don’t have to be a pearl-clutching moralist to raise an eyebrow at this unorthodox approach, because this approach does nothing to challenge the circumstances of exploitation.
It’s unconscionable that we might be asked to turn a blind eye to a 16 or 17-year-old whose body is being purchased for sex by an adult male. Regardless of whether the young woman in questions feels she is exercising her agency in choosing to do this, we should have serious concerns about who is buying and why. As adults, our job is to safeguard young people, not to validate all of their choices. That is why they are young people, with guardians, and not independent adults. No self-proclaimed child protection charity should be putting their energy into upholding a minor’s right to commercialise their sexual freedom.
Whether the young woman in the scenario above has been “trafficked” as used in the common idiom by a third party or is “trafficked” as a result of being bought by adult men, the problem of exploitation remains. This is a choice borne of limited options, not an expression of liberation and sexual equality. Child sex “work” – even if labelled survival sex work – is a fiction. A fiction that serves the interests of buyers, not minors. Adding in caveats that provide exonerating narratives to potential perpetrators is not a direction meaningful policy should move in. Children – mainly girls – will lose. Again. I’ve been increasingly disturbed as I’ve watched the steady erosion of good judgement that has for many years served as frontline protection for young people from those with predatory urges. Rinsed through some post-modern academia, a more sexually tolerant society and internet culture, the discourse around sex and minors has distorted so badly it is unrecognisable. There is a consensus among some that being “minor-attracted” is benign if not acted upon, and that words like “sex offender” and “paedophile” are social constructs and discriminatory to those labelled by them. Minds are now so open that several brains have clearly fallen out.
“A drawing or written text that depicts an imaginary child exploits nobody.”
This organisation has also spoken in favour of not censoring cartoon paedophilic imagery, or banning the sale of child abuse dolls. They consider the former “art”, rather than child exploitation material, and the latter a prophylactic that prevents abusers from raping real children. Never mind the reams of evidence to suggest these behaviours reinforce these impulses and after a while will cease to provide the required “high”, leading to escalation.
Drawings, texts or any “creative” depiction of child abuse harms all children, as it sends a message that in some scenarios their bodies are up for grabs. It normalises abuse fantasies within certain parameters, making it easier to make the psychological leap from fantasy harm, to real harm.
The most frustrating thing about this type of pseudo-advocacy is that it asks the absolute bare minimum of those who claim a desire to protect children from exploitation. It allows “woke” individuals to get the warm fuzzies from supporting a cause, but one that in no way challenges the oppressive status quo. It satisfies the egos of males who don’t want to change in any way and validates harmful behaviour.
It sustains the gender hierarchy by demanding the least from those who hold the balance of power in a patriarchal society. Don’t want to feel bad about being attracted to kids? No worries – let’s change the language to save your feelings. Afraid of what happens if you watch child abuse images online? Just watch cartoon child abuse instead.
Instead of raping a child, buy a child-like doll to satisfy your urges instead. Instead of demanding that those who ruin lives and minds adhere to a long-held moral norm, the society is instead shape-shifting to accommodate them.
It is unconscionable that a child protection charity is pandering to those who wish to see their interest in minors as misunderstood. They are actively engaging with “diverse stakeholders” – including paedophiles rebranded as “minor-attracted persons” – to devise intervention and prevention strategies. For those who have missed out on this growing movement of linguistic trickery, MAPs or NOMAPS (non-offending MAPs) are a group of people who want to destigmatise attraction to children. Repackaging a paraphilia as a sexuality, it dulls the senses and lowers the guard against potential harm.
Blurring the boundaries around what is considered harmful to children’s safety creates fertile ground for feigned ignorance and plausible deniability. It hands power to those who cannot be trusted with it. Who ultimately benefits from this disintegration of meaning?