15 August 2016

The Last Taboo

Disclaimer / “Trigger Warning”
This is easily the single most "triggering" topic in our culture.  Its about the only thing which causes Americans to react as strongly as a True Believer reacts to an insult of Muhammad.  Its about children and sexuality.  If those two words in one sentence were enough to cause some strong feelings inside you, it may be better to just skip this post.


Disclaimer #2) Nothing in this is meant to advocate for, excuse, forgive, apologize for, recommend, or suggest any actual actions by real people in the real world.  This is meant as a purely philosophical social commentary.  It is about what could be, perhaps even what should be, but can not be taken out of the context of how the world really is today.  


Going back at least as far as writing, human societies have made up social mores regarding sexual activity.  Because mores are taught to us from infancy, we usually fully internalize them.  Because of our natural tendency to mistake strongly held feelings for ethics, mores become "morals", and we accept that whatever we have been taught is "wrong" really is wrong, regardless of whether it actually hurts anyone.

Sexuality is by far the most common and easiest example.

Throughout history there has been cultural acceptance of sex related acts which, in different times or places, were seen as intrinsically wrong: interracial sex, unmarried sex, homosexual sex, masturbation.  Each of these has been seen as tantamount to "evil" in some society, while being unworthy of thinking twice about in others.  In the culture it exists in the feelings around the topic are so strong that no one thinks of it as being subjective - feelings that are so strong must be legitimate!  If questioned, there are always rationalizations and justifications at the ready to prevent any cognitive dissonance, or having to admit that strongly held values might be nothing more than cultural conformity.

Even (adult, consensual) incest, one of the more universal taboos, varies in significance from one culture to another.  In some places marriage to a first cousin is off limits, while in others it is common place.  In some places it is expected that a widow would marry her late husband's brother, if one is available, while in other's that idea is repugnant.  While we in America condemn it, there have even been cultures that accept marriages between siblings, in order to avoid diluting inheritances or blood lines.
In the case of consensual adult incest it is challenging to come up with any justification for claiming its immoral without resorting to some form of scripture - the only avenue is the heightened possibility of recessive gene based genetic diseases being expressed in any subsequent offspring.

In contrast to popular assumption, this is far from a given - in fact inbreeding is frequently used deliberately by animal breeders to help in developing particular traits.  In fact, purebred lines tend to have more health problems than mutts, but this becomes apparent after 100s of years and dozens of generations of successive inbreeding.
The closest relatives inbreeding can give rise to an almost 25% risk of getting some form of genetic condition - if such a condition already happens to exist in the family.  No study exists which looks at the risk of a single generation inbreeding event (i.e. 100% unrelated grandparents), and controls for all non-genetic factors, but extrapolation for studies of cousin marriages puts the risk (over the baseline population) at only 6.8–11.2%
There are genetic illnesses - most notably Huntington's disease - which if just one parent has it, their child has a 50% chance of getting it themselves!  Yet no one makes any argument that it should be illegal for a person who has the gene for Huntington's to ever have sex with anyone.

More over, with the existence of safe and inexpensive birth control and abortion, the inbreeding argument becomes irrelevant. 

Many people will admit that while there is a automatic immediate feeling of “gross”, they can not justify the claim that consensual adult incest is “wrong”

Much of what legally constitutes child sexual “abuse” includes things in which there is no clear harm done to the child – things which would even be entirely normal everyday things not worth thinking twice about in a less sexually repressive society, such as simple (non-sexual) nudity.

“Sexual abuse can also include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography.”

“At the extreme end of the spectrum, sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse or its deviations. Yet all offences that involve sexually touching a child, as well as non-touching offenses and sexual exploitation, are just as harmful and devastating to a child’s well-being.
Touching sexual offenses include
• Fondling;
• Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs; and
• Penetrating a child’s vagina or anus no matter how slight with a penis or any object that doesn’t have a valid medical purpose.
Non-touching sexual offenses include:  Engaging in indecent exposure or exhibitionism;
• Exposing children to pornographic material;
• Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse; and
• Masturbating in front of a child.

Sexual exploitation can include:
Using a child to film, photograph or model pornography.”

If we are not going to take it as simply axiomatic that anything in anyway related to sexuality is intrinsically harmful to humans under a certain age, then the only alternative is to question the specific mechanism of harm.  What distinguishes "fondling" from "affection"?  It is the intent of the "fondler", or the experience of the fondled?  If done in a way in no way suggestive of sexuality, why would the experience be different?  And yet at the same time, how can intent - unknowable to another unless spoken aloud, effect the experience of another?
Same act, supposedly different effect, based on internal experience of another person: for example, bathing a child, innocent.  Bathing a child while thinking sexual thoughts (but not acting on them), may be considered "sexual abuse".  Obviously the actual experience of the child does not change – which means the real intent is not protecting children; it is punishing “bad” thoughts. 

The caveat "that doesn't have a valid medical purpose", invalidates the implicit claim that "penetration" is invariably harmful.  Again, the experience of one person can not vary based on the internal motivation of another if that motivation goes unspoken and the actions are identical.  What if a pediatrician is secretly getting off to something that is medically necessary?  What if someone believed it to be medically necessary, but it turns out it wasn't?  What if it really is medically necessary, and the doctor is doing it only for that reason, but the child feels violated by it?  The child's experience is the only thing that can reasonably define harm, but then we would also have to find a doctor guilty of assault for administering shots without consent of the patient.

What is the difference between "exhibitionism" and simply not wearing clothes?  Again, only the intent of the naked person.  From the point of view of the viewer, they are identical. 
For "indecent exposure" to appear on the list requires a belief that the mere sight of a human body (which includes reproductive parts) is intrinsically harmful!  How insane have we become, that something so obviously false can be taken for granted as true?
For the vast majority of the 6 million years human-ish people have existed on Earth, and for up to 90% of the 200,000 years Homo-sapiens existed the default was universal nudity (except that in that case you wouldn't have a word to describe it, because it was the assumed default.  The distinguishing term would be unclothed).
In order to accept "allowing a child to see what humans actually look like" as "abuse", one has to be prepared to claim that 100% of people abused there children at all times for somewhere in the range of 20 to 180 thousand years, for thousands of generations. 
But if the response is something along the lines of "oh, well, that's different, there was a whole different culture", well then the rule itself obviously can't be a universal truth.
So then the question has to be "why?"  Why is it harmful in our particular culture when it isn't in any objective sense?  Could it be because of how our society treats the subject of children and sexuality?  Could it be that the very rules which say to shelter little ones from reality is what is actually harmful to them?  But so many people seriously believe the sight of a naked body to be intrinsically harmful, that not only is there entirely sincere parenting advice such as:

“ • Eliminate exposure to parental nudity (intimate areas of body) by age three, including during bathing and showering. Children should be especially protected from exposure to the opposite sex parent, generally the more sexually stimulating parent.    
• Protect children from public restrooms where they would be exposed to nudity of the opposite sex. This may take effort, but generally can be accomplished.
 • Bathe siblings separately by age three. Lucy Daniels Center clinicians have frequently found that children who bathe with siblings may have more difficulty settling down to sleep, or be more likely to become involved in childhood sexual play.    
• Cease wiping children’s anal area as soon as feasible, even if they continue to soil a bit. The anal area is a source of sexual feeling for children, as it is for many adults.”

... but it is even codified into law in the majority of areas of the country.
Wait a minute... did that just say it is better to leave poop on a child's intimate areas than to risk inadvertently giving them any degree of "sexual" feeling as a side effect of keeping them clean and healthy?  It is better for them to get a painful and potentially damaging UTI than risk allowing them to feel sensations deemed "sexual"?

Damage is stated as categorical fact, so fundamental as to not need any form of evidence or qualification:

FACT : Sexual behavior problems and over-sexualized behavior are a very common consequence of child sexual abuse.”

Given that we are defining not only any forms of sexual contact, but even allowing a person to know what sex is and how it works is labeled as inherently "abusive", of course it should not be at all surprising that what some could potentially consider "over-sexualized" behavior might be a consequence.  Any sexual behavior above absolute zero is considered problematic and age inappropriate.  It is equivalent to saying "children who are exposed to babies are more likely to pretend their dolls or stuffed animals are babies", or "children who are allowed to go to the store are more likely to play shopping".  Well duh.  But one has to establish that those forms of play are actually in some way harmful before concluding that exposure to babies or shopping is abuse.

“Age-inappropriate behavior can be a very important and telling sign that abuse is occurring.•  Children who have been sexually abused have over three times as many sexual behavior problems as children who have not been sexually abused.46

•   Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to be sexually promiscuous.54,55,56””

On what grounds do we decide what is "age appropriate"?  On what grounds do we unilaterally decide that even an (adult!) choice to be promiscuous is automatically a bad thing?  
Suppose we flipped the moral assumptions on their head:  those children raised to feel that sexuality is a normal and healthy part of life, and not something shameful to be hidden and avoided at all costs, grow up to be less repressed and uptight about sex, and due to this healthier outlook are more comfortable engaging in sex with a dating partner without the intention of marriage.

“No child is prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two or three year old, who cannot know the sexual activity is wrong, will develop problems resulting from problems coping with the overstimulation.
The child of five or older who knows and cares for the abuser becomes trapped between affection or loyalty for the person, and the sense that the sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love. When sexual abuse occurs within the family, the child may fear the anger, jealousy or shame of other family members, or be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told.”

If we take out the assumption of intrinsic harm, then the conflict of the 5 or older child is being caused at least as much because of those insisting it is wrong.  If no one was preaching its immorality, there would be no conflict - exactly the same as how a homosexual person in a homophobic society experiences great distress, but the distress is coming from the social expectations, not the sexuality itself.

Extra sexual feelings arising from external stimulation are generally both overly intense and beyond the understanding of children. External stimulation stimulates children to look, touch, and wish to interact with the stimulating person in ways that they can’t really make sense of.”

Of course they don't fully "understand" - because adults deliberately avoid teaching them!


But as deeply ingrained as accepting this cultural taboo as inherent fact is, there are some who dare to question it:

“There is one symptom that may seem to stand out from the others on these lists as a more valid indicator of sexual abuse, and that is age-inappropriate sexual play or knowledge (although sexual anxieties are also listed as stemming from parental conflicts).  In a society in which we think the topic of sexuality typically is only broached with young children in general and vague terms, if at all, the detailed sex knowledge of a child will be considered unusual.  Unfortunately, we lack the necessary information to assess the predictive value of what may appear to be precocious sexuality.  We don't think of the many ways we may expose children to sexuality.  What children normally and naturally do sexually is likely to be much more frequent and involved than most people assume (Gundersen, Melas & Skar, 1981; Martinson, 1981).  Without knowing what a normal level is, we cannot determine what is precocious, greater interest than normal, and what may indicate abuse. Due to restrictions placed on the study of the sexual lives of children, we have not learned what proportion of abused and nonabused children display sexual behaviors in spontaneous play.  We do not know how many children imitate sexual behaviors modeled by siblings, relatives, or playmates.  We do not know how many children have access to depictions of explicit sexual acts in magazines or cable television or on X-rated video cassettes, and whether exposure to these models leads to imitation.  Therefore, while precocious sexual activities of young children may seem more indicative of sexual abuse than do other behavioral signs, there is too little known to form a conclusion.”

Many people cannot imagine that everyone—babies, children, teens, adults, and the elderly—are sexual beings. Some believe that sexual activity is reserved for early and middle adulthood. Teens often feel that adults are too old for sexual intercourse. Sexuality, though, is much more than sexual intercourse and humans are sexual beings throughout life.
Sexuality in infants and toddlers —Children are sexual even before birth. Males can have erections while still in the uterus, and some boys are born with an erection. Infants touch and rub their genitals because it provides pleasure. Little boys and girls can experience orgasm from masturbation although boys will not ejaculate until puberty.”

“Childhood sexual development is very complex. It is also a subject that makes many adults uncomfortable. Taken together, these two facts tend to make the question of what children want, and what they enjoy, very difficult to assess. Adults make the laws that say when children reach the age of sexual majority, or when they have the legal right to consent to sex or to have access to sexual information. Children have little say in defining what sexuality might mean to them, and they are on the whole given little positive information to inform them on this subject. But children do have phases of sexual development from the time they are born, and children's exploration of their own bodies and of their physical environment is part of normal childhood development. All too often adults lack the skills to understand and support age-appropriate sexual development for children, and instead tend to silence or shame children for exhibiting normal curiosity about activities that adults might label sexual.”

Little by little, relatively more of modern Western society is slowly moving toward greater liberalism in all forms of sexuality.  Some will concede that nudity is natural, and there are even family friendly nudist resorts. Most of (the civilized!) US realizes how important sex-ed is for children (the "stork" is finally just a historical joke, and not something actually taught to children), and of them most also understand what a terrible idea "abstinence only" sex ed (of course those places that still use it, not coincidentally, have the highest rates of teen pregnancies and STDs!) Masturbation is generally not discouraged (though still relatively rarely actively encouraged),  to finally some professionals conceding that mutual sex play between peers is normal and healthy.

And of course, any time we think of something as a universal truth, it is worthwhile to check in on other cultures:

Pukapukas, Trukese, and Lesu, where all household members sleep in the same room so that children normally observe adult sexual activities (Ford & Beach, 1951)… among the Hopi, Siriono, Kazak, and Alorese, as well as in Western cultures as late as Medieval times in Europe, children were openly touched, caressed, and sexually fondled by all members of the household. Even in recent Western history, particularly in rural areas, parents, nurses, or servants have masturbated small children to please and quiet them (Haeberle, 1978).”

In the absence of either a formal legal system or religious based moralizing, its reasonable to assume this would have been the norm for most of humanity for most of the time we have existed.  If we include simple non-sexual nudity (which constitutes a majority of what is considered non-contact forms of sexual “abuse”), the rate without question jumps to 100%.

This suggests that there is something wrong with the definition itself.

A simple proposal for an alternate definition:  Actual abuse = harm.  There has to be some specific identifiable, reasonably direct harm done to someone before it can be called abuse.

It is unreasonable for us to decide for other people what their own subjective experience is.  While there are certainly plenty of examples of people who experienced  sexual contact as children that was unwanted, which obviously qualifies as abuse, it is not, as commonly assumed, 100%.

There are in reality plenty of examples of people who, as adults, recall sexual contact as a child as positive experiences

“At the other extreme are many cases of cousins, or even siblings, playing some version of “doctor,” that is mutual looking, and, perhaps, touching of genitals. Usually, neither child is injured, or even discomfited, by this experience. I only find out about these incidents years later when they are reported to me in passing. If there was an emotional consequence to them, it was not apparent to me—except, perhaps, for someone expressing a vague sense of embarrassment and guilt.
Those guilt feelings seem to have grown up when these young people grew up and discovered that the sexual behaviors in which they had engaged are condemned by everyone—and if not condemned, exactly, at least discouraged by everyone.”
”One day [a young adult patient] mentioned to me that she had not had any sexual encounters recently except with her brother, who was a twenty-four year old divinity student. It took some animated conversation back and forth for me to learn that she had been having sexual relations with her brother for a number of years. It took a number of subsequent conversations for me to come to believe what she was telling me. I pointed out what I thought was obvious, that continuing this incestuous relationship was a terrible idea; and she ought to stop.“Why?” she asked me.”

“By the time we had sex, we had been together for many months and professed our love for each other, I had nursed him back to puffy-cheeked health after he’d had his wisdom teeth out and he had spent a great deal of time with my family on Cape Cod. Though I can’t say it was a perfect relationship or the balance of power was entirely equal (he held some advantage by virtue of being older and more experienced), I can assure you that the sexual aspect of our relationship was consensual, mutually pleasurable, non-exploitative, honest, and protected from pregnancy and STDs. (Years later as a sexuality educator, these are among the litmus tests I would suggest to teens.)
The problem that really didn’t occur to me until last week, however, is that from a legal standpoint it was not a consensual relationship.”

I was in bed only a short while with my parents when my mother decided to get up and go to a nearby farmhouse for some fresh milk. Alone in bed with Dad, I had a wrestling match with him. I remember enjoying the cuddles and embraces as Dad tried to subdue me and then he decided, I suppose, to let me win. He lay on his back, his pajamas were undone, my own nightie was up around my waist, and when I straddled and sat on my father, my naked pubic area came down on my Dad's very large and, I now know, erect penis. It was like sitting astride a broom handle. At first it lay flat against my Dad's tummy. I rocked my bottom back and forward while Dad lay very still. It was at this precise moment I learned to masturbate. Eventually Dad reached for a hankie and rolled me off him. He got out of bed and dressed in the bathroom. I continued to lie in bed and touch myself lovingly with my fingers. I then began to do this all the time in bed or when I was alone in the house, always thinking of that hard thing Daddy had, and how nice it would be to feel it between my legs again. But this was not to happen. Every other Sunday morning I went to my parents' bed, but Dad was already up and about.” 

“Constantine (1981), after reviewing 30 studies of intergenerational sexual contact, said "only a very small percentage of cases appear to result in seriously harmful or long-term consequences as judged by standard measures of psychological health and social adjustment." Sloane and Karpinski (1942), using interviews from five clinical cases, stated that "if nonparticipating adults are comfortable with the known relationship, harm to the child is decreased."

  (1973) said that intergenerational sexual relations do not always seem to have a traumatic effect and that for some individuals it even "allows a better adjustment to the external world." Yorukoglu and Kemph (1966) reported minimal, if any, short-term effects for one son in son-mother sex. Herman and Hirschman (1977) could find no distinction between women incest victims and the general population of women entering psychotherapy. Bender and Blau (1937) concluded that incest within an endorsing family can be nontraumatic. Fritz, Stoll, and Wagner (1981) found that 77% of adult women who had been victims of childhood incest had no difficulties with current sexual adjustment, had overcome negative consequences, or did not develop problems in the first place.
Nonclinical general population surveys revealing nonproblematic intergenerational sex include the Kinsey study of women (1953) indicating that 20% to 24% of the women questioned had been molested as children, about 4% having been approached sexually by adult male relatives before adolescence. The Kinsey researchers said "the contacts often involved considerable affection, and some of the older females in the sample felt that their preadolescent experience had contributed favorably to their later socio-sexual development." Gagnon (1965) surveyed 1,200 college females and found that 26% had been molested by adults before the age of 13. He concluded that most of the women did not appear to experience long-term consequences. Landis (1956), studying 500 college students who had sexual experiences with adults before puberty, said that only 3% were permanently damaged and that no harm, permanent or temporary, resulted for 81% of the males and 66% of the females. The author's descriptive survey (Nelson, 1986) of a self-selected heterogeneous nonclinical incest sample (68% of which were intergenerational) showed slightly more than 25% of younger partners in child-adult situations reporting their experiences as positive.”

“Seems the only time I see mention of incestuous relationships is either in a porn/fantasy context, or when people come out as having had non-consensual or otherwise negative experiences. But I'm wondering if there is a significant number of positive experiences. My thinking is those who feel victimized make up only a small percentage of the total incestuous population... surely not everyone has a negative view of it? I loved sex with a cousin growing up from 10 onwards and regard it as a very positive experience indeed. My reasoning comes both from my own experiences as well as how big a porn genre it is. If it were universally or mostly negative, it shouldn't have such a huge presences in the porn world much as simulated rape doesn't.”
” I had a positive incestuous relationship with my grandfather from ages 8 to 11 1/2. It was a loving relationship and mutually pleasurable. I don't regret it in anyway.” 
” All sexual acts with minors are deemed to be 'sexual abuse of a child', but here we (as a microcosm of society) are conceding that not all such acts are abusive. We end up with a situation in which 'abusive' is not the defining characteristic of 'abuse', but rather chronological age. I recall a specific case of a guy being sent to prison for sex with a 12-year-old who the prosecution admitted had 'begged' for the sex, and she continued to say she had initiated the sex and now felt no regrets, but the judge disagreed and said she had been abused but just didn't realize it yet. It seems that in such cases, we (as a society) are quite intent on making the 'victim' into a 'victim', even if that renders us the party causing the damage.
I say, if you've had positive sexual experiences of any kind, don't feel pressured to conceive of them negatively, and if you've had negative sexual experiences of any kind, don't feel pressured to conceive of them positively. That should be a salubrious rule of thumb, and it doesn't necessitate abolishing ages of consent or other protectionist statutory instruments.

My girlfriend, incidentally, had a sexual relationship with her stepbrother (so no incest) for 5 years when she was aged 5-10 and he was aged 10-15. Occasionally she wonders whether she should feel bad about it, to which my response is 'do you feel bad about it?', and her response is 'no, I enjoyed it and I feel positive about it'.”

” I was first introduced to sexual experimentation in 1959 at age nine by an eleven-year-old neighbor girl. We were part of a group of neighborhood children all about the same age, and although we carefully hid our activities from the adults, we were involved in what amounts to a sexual experimentation group. The oldest child was a twelve-year-old girl whose mother was divorced (a big scandal back then) and who had to work, leaving the girl at home by herself in the house. This provided us with a secret place in which to meet. We were very careful to avoid attracting attention, and we swore a "kid's oath" to never snitch or reveal our activities to people (kids or adults) outside our group. One problem was that there were more girls than boys, so basically we had to "take turns." In retrospect, it was kind of odd to be sitting in a 4th grade desk, in the same classroom with two girls with whom I had "done stuff with." Same thing about church and Sunday school.
There was never any coercion or pressure applied to anybody to participate. I was more than willing, even eager, to do so. The oldest girl did "organize" things a little (spin-the-bottle or by drawing cards) and we had a rule about not writing anything down. (Different cards represented different sexual acts, corresponding to the different "bases" commonly used to describe sex among elementary school kids.) There were no adults involved, at all, but when I was grown up it occurred to me that the girl who introduced me to sexual experimentation sure seemed to know a lot about adult sexual behavior for a nine-year-old…” 
” I had a good friend on my baseball team, Arthur, who told me that he and his older sister had been sexually active, and two girls on the next block over were actually pretty promiscuous, but with older boys.
So, while it may not be obvious, in my experience children are very active sexually”

"Yes, I will step up to the plate and talk very openly about how I feel about many of the topics that were discussed.  I have read all of these suggestions and not said a word.  I have written on VN several times so no I am not a troller either.  I have a degree in Social Work was a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor in the state of  Nevada.  Much of my experience came, not only from text books, but from living my own life and listening to my clients and patients.  Yes, patients, I also worked with the psychiatric patients in several hospitals in  Las Vegas.  During all of this time, I am 70 years old, went to college in my 50s, I thought I had heard it all.  No one ever hears or lives it all.   Some of things I read in here were what I use to believe and some are what I have learned as I continued to grow in life.  I am always a student, therefore, I listen to what others are saying.     My growing has brought me to the point that everyone has a different view on all subjects.  Recently, I met a person who grew up in a life of nudity which happened to include incest from the time they were born.  This doesn’t seem to have damaged that person and in fact they explained sex was not in the dirty secretive way but in the open that was the lifestyle they have always known and had sex with all the family.  It was not always inititated by the adult, children have sexual feelings as well.  The child would want to have sex and it was always available to them with no doors shut.   They explaine to them sex and nudity is not something to be ashamed if a person, is not forced to do the sex or nudity.  In this case I am referring to incest.  This is not anything that I would have believed in the past that could happen but as I am in contact with person, nothing changes, they are the same all the time.  They do not seem to be a psycho, or rapist, molester or anything.  I would like to say as normal as anyone but again what is normal? "

(first account is way down by Angel Grace – almost the entire comment thread is all debating whether it is immoral to even raise the question!)

Notice, not only how many people found childhood sexual activity positive as children, but continued to view it that was for the rest of their lives as well, but also also how those who feel it is intrinsically immoral feel it necessary to step in and “correct” other adults’ self-described first-hand experiences, to fit their own personal beliefs, and how they rationalize those beliefs, (with rapidly diminishing logic), showing that the “reasons” are in fact rationalizations, and that the root belief is simply unqualified axiom.

How self-righteous is it to “correct” these people, say unilaterally that they are victims. 
How is that any different from every other form of sex moralizing (promiscuous people (esp. female), homosexuals, porn actors, prostitutes), which some people feel entitled to proclaim that other people are “victims” for acts they willingly choose to engage in.

This reaction itself is just one more piece showing that the underling assumption is axiomatic – not based on anything real, but merely a predetermined set of rules of good and bad, completely divorced from benefit or harm to actual people.

At the extreme example of this line of moralizing, there are self-described radical “feminists” who make a serious claim that ALL “penis in vagina” sex is inherently rape!
(if you have never heard of such a thing, Google "PIV"

Obviously it is nature, (not “patriarchy”) that decided that “PIV” sex is the default.  The whole reason sex exists is reproduction, and “penis in vagina” is the only “sex” act that introduces sperm and eggs to each other.
This is not in any way a moral argument for what “should” be done or not – again, something can only be unethical if it actually harms some specific person in some tangible way – but it is an important thing to remember when considering the topic.  Since sex is completely natural, and is in fact an absolute necessity for all plant and animal life to exist, claiming that the mechanics of how it works biologically is inherently negative for female type humans is incredibly misogynistic (hence my putting “feminist” in quotes, above). 

The vast majority of reasonable healthy adults will agree that it is ridiculous to say that every woman is a victim in every sex act.  Yet they don’t hesitate to make the exact same argument if, instead of the supposed “victim” being female, they are young!

Another common tactic to rationalize the taboo is to use examples of those who found it traumatic to “prove” that it is bad…
By that reasoning you could look at the negative first hand accounts of having gay parents, or of masturbation, and use those as evidence those things are intrinsically bad.  You can easily find first hand horror stories of people who got into trouble with alcohol, or over-eating, or horrible car crashes – but no one takes those individual anecdotes and claims that therefore we should bring back prohibition, the government should enforce calorie limits, or that cars should be banned. 

 Those individuals who feel (as adults) that their childhood sexual experiences were positive are far less likely to speak up, both because of wanting to protect the other person involved, and because of not wanting the "victim" label forced on them, which invariably happens to those who do admit it.  Everything about our society’s assumptions and systems in place encourages those with a bad experience to speak up and those with a good experience to be silent - the surprising thing, given that, is how many positive accounts can actually be found.

The only independent scientific inquiry ever formally condemned by congress was one of very few that attempted to ask the question from a completely neutral stand point.
It’s findings?

“The negative potential of adult sex with children is commonly overstated” and that “the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from their child sexual abuse experiences.”
[note: the word abuse is used here because by definition any sexual contact at all is considered de facto “abuse”] 
“Research over many years establishes the negative effects of child sexual abuse are not as pervasive, severe, and long-lasting as generally assumed.  But rather than being seen by victims' advocates as good news, such research results are met with resistance, anger, and personal attacks.  This controversy reached its height in 1999 when the media, conservative organizations, and the United States Congress condemned a 1998 meta-analysis in the Psychological Bulletin by Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman.  The American Psychological Association's response to the furor was to distance itself from the article and its authors.  This episode demonstrates the difficulty of doing and reporting research where conclusions contradict strongly held beliefs.
Probably no crime outrages society as much as does child sexual abuse.  Child molesters are hated and despised.  Most people, even other criminals, hate and despise child molesters and feel they should be locked up for life.  These beliefs are widespread, not supported by facts, and result in increasingly harsh penal sanctions (Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-Quinn, 2004).
Many professionals, as well as the public, believe victims of child sexual abuse suffer grievous harm.  They claim sexual contact between an adult and a child causes depression, anxiety, eating disorders, relationship problems, personality disorders, dissociation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  They believe these sequelae are common, if not inevitable.”

“Kilpatrick (1987) reviewed 34 studies that attempted to account for long-range differential outcomes of childhood sexual experiences and found the studies did not support the hypothesis that experiences inevitably lead to long-term harmful effects. Because it is not possible to measure whether or not someone has been harmed, it is important to remember that intergenerational sex experiences, ranging from negative to neutral to positive, are reported in our society today as well as across cultures and historical periods.
Clinical populations reveal nondamaging intergenerational sex. De Young (1982) reports that 20% of her "victims" appeared to be "virtually indifferent to their molestation." Instead, they tended to be traumatized by the reaction of adults to its discovery. Constantine (1981), after reviewing 30 studies of intergenerational sexual contact, said "only a very small percentage of cases appear to result in seriously harmful or long-term consequences as judged by standard measures of psychological health and social adjustment." Sloane and Karpinski (1942), using interviews from five clinical cases, stated that "if nonparticipating adults are comfortable with the known relationship, harm to the child is decreased." 

  (1973) said that intergenerational sexual relations do not always seem to have a traumatic effect and that for some individuals it even "allows a better adjustment to the external world." Yorukoglu and Kemph (1966) reported minimal, if any, short-term effects for one son in son-mother sex. Herman and Hirschman (1977) could find no distinction between women incest victims and the general population of women entering psychotherapy. Bender and Blau (1937) concluded that incest within an endorsing family can be nontraumatic. Fritz, Stoll, and Wagner (1981) found that 77% of adult women who had been victims of childhood incest had no difficulties with current sexual adjustment, had overcome negative consequences, or did not develop problems in the first place.

Nonclinical general population surveys revealing nonproblematic intergenerational sex include the Kinsey study of women (1953) indicating that 20% to 24% of the women questioned had been molested as children, about 4% having been approached sexually by adult male relatives before adolescence. The Kinsey researchers said "the contacts often involved considerable affection, and some of the older females in the sample felt that their preadolescent experience had contributed favorably to their later socio-sexual development." Gagnon (1965) surveyed 1,200 college females and found that 26% had been molested by adults before the age of 13. He concluded that most of the women did not appear to experience long-term consequences. Landis (1956), studying 500 college students who had sexual experiences with adults before puberty, said that only 3% were permanently damaged and that no harm, permanent or temporary, resulted for 81% of the males and 66% of the females. The author's descriptive survey (Nelson, 1986) of a self-selected heterogeneous nonclinical incest sample (68% of which were intergenerational) showed slightly more than 25% of younger partners in child-adult situations reporting their experiences as positive.Some researchers have stated categorically that negative outcome is a function of the secondary effects of societal response. Benign or positive experiences are transformed into traumatic ones by the secondary effects of societal response. Bernard (1981) studied a self-selected sample of Dutch men and women who had participated as children in intergenerational sex experiences. Describing feelings of love, affection, and security, he stated that his subjects were no more neurotic than the common Dutchman and that some appeared to be more psychologically stable. He concluded, "the sexual contacts in themselves do not seem harmful, but the attitudes of society have negative consequences." Sandfort (1984), also in  Holland , used retrospective impressions as well as interviews with 25 boys who at the time were engaged in consensual, ongoing relationships with adult males. In half of the 183 contacts the boys and girls wanted the sexual contact. Sandfort concludes, "every sexual involvement of adults with children should not be considered abusive."”

This is not to invalidate the experience of those who DO find it traumatic.  There are many, and it really is a big deal.  Children unquestionably deserve protection from harm and from being taken advantage of.  They deserve rights and respect like any other human being.  And those who would hurt a child (in any form) deserve the scorn and punishment of society.

But similarly, the first hand accounts of being raised by homosexual parents or viewing pornography are in no way remotely proof that those things are intrinsically traumatic, any more than one persons anecdote of a terrible car crash is proof that riding in a car is intrinsically traumatic.

Therefore it is a fair question to ask: What makes the experience of those who did find it traumatic so negative?
Return to the very first examples: premarital sex, homosexuality, masturbation: sex acts become harmful anytime society deems them as" inherently" bad.

How much of the cases of psychological harm are related to threats, keeping secrets, or feeling guilt or shame?  All of these things are results of societies assumptions and reactions themselves!  It therefore is a circular argument, in which those trying to supposedly "protect" children are the ones ultimately causing the harm!

”Another common threat is that the other parent or other siblings will be hurt or killed if the victim tells anyone, or that they will be blamed or that no one will believe them. Some abusers play on the natural curiosity and tactile nature of the child and do not physically hurt the child. In these cases the child will ten grow up with guilt that “they enjoyed it” and therefore they are responsible or have guilt or shame over what happened.”

If we didn't impose severe penalties on the older member of sex related play, there would be no reason to keep any secrets, and therefor no motivation for any form of threats.

“Russell (1986) attributes such evaluations to denial or repression. She says, "If the relative with whom the respondent had sexual contact or who attempted sexual contact was five years or more older than the respondent the experience qualified as abusive regardless of whether or not she considered it a neutral or positive experience." Interpretation
Extreme caution must be taken in claiming causal relationships. Scientific definition of abuse must be based on the nature and extent of actual harm done, not on age differential or expectations of harm. How much of the perceived outcome was caused by the experience and how much by the societal response, need for secrecy, fear of discovery, or actual discovery? The situational variables in a given interaction include the answer to the question, What harm was done to the child or to the adult, and what impact did societal response and expectations have on those involved?”

The harm of sexuality – even consensual,  as long as it does not fall under an officially sanctioned category - is often taken as axiom.  Never qualified, or explained, simply stated as universal truth.   And it is not limited to childhood.  Many people suggest that many forms of adult choice in sexuality are harmful despite consent, for example:

Women who choose to appear in porn – regardless of specific circumstances, specific acts done, or with whom

All predicated on the idea that sex is by default negative – something people (especially female people) need to be protected from.  Even if that means “protecting” them from their own choices, by criminalizing voluntary behaviors.

Consider the following lists of things which supposedly indicate sexual “abuse”...
Except – only some of these are actually “symptoms” ascribed to "age-inappropriate" sexual activity. Some of them are for… other sex related things, which have been condemned by certain parts of society over the past hundred years, including 4 different “perversions” which self-appointed expects feel are unnatural and intrinsically unhealthy:

Behavioral signs are more common and can include depression, anxiety, anger, loss of appetite, withdrawal from normal activities, substance abuse, self-mutilation, fear of certain places or people, bed-wetting, night sweats, nightmares and thoughts of suicide..
Also be aware of sexual acting out and language that is not age-appropriate.

2) both girls and boys engage in sexual experimentation at earlier ages and are more sexually promiscuous. 

3) General debility, including exhaustion 
•  Sudden change in disposition 
•  Lassitude, dislike for play and lifelessness 
•  Sleeplessness 
•  Failure of mental capacity 
•  Untrustworthiness 
•  Love of solitude 
•  Bashfulness 
•  Unnatural boldness 
•  Easily frightened 
•  Confusion of ideas (including vulgar joking) 
•  Capricious appetite (
•  Unnatural paleness 
•  Wetting the bed 
•  Unchastity of speech, including fondness for obscene stories
•  Early symptoms of consumption, or what are supposed to be such, including cough, short breathing, and soreness of the lungs 

4) (Complaints of fatigue or physical illness which could mask depression)
(Display regressive behavior)
(Become withdrawn and daydream excessively)
(Nightmares; Sleepwalking)
(Sudden deterioration in academic performance; Inability to concentrate in school; Sudden drop in school performance)
(Poor peer relationships or inability to make friends; Acting-out aggressive behavior; Lack of trust, particularly with significant others)
(Become withdrawn and daydream excessively)
(Seems frightened or phobic, especially of adults)
(Acting-out aggressive behavior; Persistent and inappropriate sexual play with peers or toys or with themselves; Become sexually promiscuous)
(Seems frightened or phobic, especially of adults)
(Confusion; Hints about sexual activity)
Sudden massive weight gain or loss)
(Experience deterioration of body image; Complaints of fatigue or physical illness which could mask depression)
(Display enuresis and/or encopresis; Excessive urination)
(Hints about sexual activity; Engage in highly sexualized play)
(Medical conditions such as pneumonia or mononucleosis)

5)•  Loneliness and sadness
•  Marital conflicts with a controlling, angry, critical, selfish, emotionally distant or negative spouse
•  Confidence weaknesses
•  Excessive sense of responsibility with lack of balance in life
•  Poor body image
•  Social isolation
•  Mistrust and anxiety in relationships
• Excessive anger
• Guilt and shame
• Lack of self-giving to others
• Difficulty in receiving love
• Disordered priorities
• Excessive sense of independence
• Boredom with [____] sex
• Lack of acceptance by peers, particularly in adolescents and in the adolescent stage of development
• Lack of sense of fulfillment can lead to severe loneliness, depression, weak confidence and social anxiety.

6) Some behaviours and coping mechanisms common to both groups can include impulses to abuse another person in some way, sexual promiscuity or sexual frigidity or fluctuations between the two, prostitution, alcohol or drug dependency, suicidal thinking or attempts, self mutilation, abusive relationships or absence from relationships. 

7) [____] adolescents were more likely to take risks in behaviors such as use of tobacco, use of alcohol, binge drinking, early intercourse, no condom at last sexual intercourse, drug use at last intercourse, being overweight, purging, and little physical activity…
Another study using YRBS data was consistent with previous research in finding that 
[____] report high levels of victimization

8) [____] may also develop the following:
•  unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
•  sleep problems or nightmares
•  depression or withdrawal from friends or family
•  seductiveness
•  statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
•   refusal to go to school
•  delinquency/conduct problems
•  secretiveness
•  aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies
•  unusual aggressiveness, or

9) Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist, says there is evidence that [____] accompanied by a host of mental health problems, including "major depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, conduct disorder, low self-esteem … and sexual promiscuity with an inability to maintain committed relationships." 

10) This leads to girls and women feeling bad about themselves: there is evidence that sexualization contributed to impaired cognitive performance in college-aged women, and related research suggests that [____] can contribute to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depressive affect, and even physical health problems in high-school-aged girls and in young women.
In addition to leading to feelings of shame and anxiety, [____] can generate feelings of disgust toward one’s physical self.

11) [____] usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. [____]become withdrawn and … can become suicidal.
[____] have difficulty relating to others except on sexual terms. Some [____] become child abusers or prostitutes, or have other serious problems when they reach adulthood.

12) Similar extremes of promiscuity have not been documented among [____]. However, an Australian study found that 93 percent of women [____] reported having had sex with [____], and women [____] were 4.5 times more likely than women [____] to have had more than 50 lifetime … sex partners. Any degree of sexual promiscuity carries the risk of contracting STDs. [____] lead to numerous STDs and physical injuries. [____] are also at higher risk for STDs. 
… high rates of psychiatric illnesses, including depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts, among [___].  Depression and drug abuse are strongly associated with [____] that lead to serious medical problems.

13) [____] creates …, feelings of guilt and self-abusive behavior. It can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, identify confusion, loss of self-esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to difficulty with intimate relationships later in life. [____]ethically and morally wrong.

14) [____] are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violence crime.
About 80% of 21-year-olds [____] met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
14% of all men and 36% of all women in prison [____].
[____] are less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs. 
15) Research by social scientists, although not definitive, suggests that children [____] parents are far more likely to engage in [____] behavior. 

16) “ In my own personal experience, I have recognized above all else an extreme tendency to emotionally and socially turn inward as a result of the sexual, emotional, and spiritual brokenness resulting from [____]. Out of pain and fear, I have found it harder and harder to open myself up to others ... It can be aptly described as a selfishness and obsession associated with focusing on my own pain and a desire to remedy it.
This disorder has made it extremely difficult to see the beauty in others and merely appreciate life. I have low confidence and it is harder to serve and give of myself to others. My social life has also been affected, although I push myself to do what I must to endure and succeed. I have no desire to date, and social anxiety permeates my interactions with others. I am confronted with a greater depressive and anxious condition in light of [____]. These described conditions represent the damaging effects of many years of [____] on my physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual well-being.
It seems a lot of the following conditions such as shame, despair, fear of commitment to a loving relationship, weakened spiritual life are the result of guilt. I felt that early on and throughout my [____]. The world one becomes enmeshed in when [____] is pure fantasy, devoid of self-giving love, and without any of the true emotional ups and down of real relationships …  These characteristics played a powerful role in damaging my own perception of what a wholesome relationship is and created a purely sexually and selfishly focused view of relational feeling and bonding, devoid of the beauty in my partner and care for her. Returning to the focus on guilt and spiritual brokenness, it is so true that [____] creates these conditions. My relationship to God suffered as I felt more and more unworthy to confront him in prayer. Sadness and despair followed and now although I am tying to overcome, my sexual condition has made it even harder to pray or feel God's presence."

17) “profound feelings of insecurity”… “I always had that fear, beginning as a little child, that I could easily be discarded although I was a dependent living in this household and he happened to be my biological father,”… “learned from an early age that she shouldn’t discuss what her family life was like.” 
Stefanowicz was able to come to terms with the damage caused by her upbringing and subsequently to marry. Today, she is an accountant and home schools her two children and operates a website, dawnstefanowicz.com, dedicated to providing support and healing to other people 

2)       http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/15089 (on being raised by gay parents)
3)       http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume1/j1_2_1.htm (childhood sexual abuse)
15)     http://www.dawnstefanowicz.org/pdfs/ProHomoResConFindings.pdf Being raised by gay parents
17)     http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/15089 having gay parents

A couple of things are notable about these lists of alleged symptoms.
First of all, nearly every single “symptom” is some combination of subjective, abstract, or so general and generic that it could be attributed to 100s of different things.
Another thing to note is that it is virtually impossible to guess which list is describing which perversion.
And a third is that any association between condition and symptom that did exist could just as easily be explained by the conflict with societal expectations, rather than the situation itself.

ABSTRACT: Lists of behavioral indicators for suspected sexual abuse have been widely publicized in the media and in the professional literature.  The difficulty is that the problem behaviors claimed to be signs of sexual abuse are general signs of stress in children.  To spread these lists without appropriate cautions and information about their limitations can generate confusion and mistakes.  The same behavioral signs were used almost a century ago as behavioral signs for detecting masturbation in children.

Sex feelings in children natural.  Everyone knows it, but most decide it “doesn’t count”; due to “not knowing what it means” – of course they don’t know, since adults go out of their way to prevent them from learning!

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a great deal of public attention given to the pernicious and destructive habit of masturbation by children.  This campaign to stamp out masturbation was part of a movement to increase healthy life styles in the populace...
 In his books, he listed behavioral signs for parents to be alert for in order to determine whether their child was masturbating (Money, 1985).  These behavioral signs for masturbation included the following (current suggested behavioral indicators for sexual abuse are in italics):

A large part of the argument against minor sexuality involves the idea of concept of consent.
What does the concept even mean when talking about masturbation?

         Age of initiation of Masturbation
o        age 11-13: 54% men and 25% women”

The reason circumcision originally became so prevalent in America?  Prevention of child masturbation, which was thought to irreparably damage a child.  It was the responsibility of parents to prevent it at all costs, and surgery was one sure-fire way to accomplish it, at least for a little while.

Ironically enough, the same people who are most vocally opposed to female circumcision practiced in some parts of the world today – for the exact same reason: preventing childhood sexuality – are generally the same people most outraged and incensed by any form of sexual contact during childhood.
(note: I am referring specifically to those forms which make sex impossible without further surgery.  I am not referring to cliteroctomies, which are indefensible).

It becomes even more sadly ironic when one learns the actual history of the progression of “statutory” rape laws, and how we came to believe what we do today

”the intent behind the laws has morphed over the 700 years or so since they were first codified.  The first known law, passed in Westminster England in 1275, made it illegal to “ravish” a “maiden” under the age of 12 (also the age at which a girl could legally marry) without her consent. Later laws reduced this age to 10 or 11. The result was that an underage girl did not have to show that she had struggled in order to prove that she had not given her consent as her older friends did.  Age of consent laws, therefore, made it easier to prosecute a man who sexually assaulted an underage girl.  The acknowledged purpose of these laws was to protect the young girl’s “chastity,” possibly so as not to ruin her future chances for marriage.

Though they remained largely unchanged for several centuries, the laws began to morph in the late 1800s and early 1900s as other aspects of societies and the role of women changed. European nations and 
U.S. states slowly raised the age to 13 and 14 under scientific arguments that this is when young women begin to menstruate and reach physical maturity. In the 1920s and 30s as the modern concept of the teenager began to emerge and movements formed to fight child prostitution and exploitation, the age of consent in most states was raised to 16 or even 18.
Not everyone agreed with these changes, however, some argued that teenage women “were sufficiently developed not to need legal protection,” and, moreover, that “by late adolescence girls possessed sufficient understanding about how to use the law to blackmail unwary men.”  Steven Robertson of the 
University of Australia Sydney points out in an article that the term “jailbait,” gained popularity in the 1930s because people recognized “teenage girls as sexually attractive, even sexually active, but legally unavailable.”
Still, even if people acknowledged young women as sexual, the general consensus was that the laws were necessary to protect them from exploitation:

“…in making it a crime for girls to decide to have sexual intercourse outside marriage, the law protected them from themselves and from the immature understanding that led them to behaviors reformers considered immoral.
Feminists of the 1970s agreed that it was important to protect young people from exploitation but worked to ensure that these laws did not “unduly restrict the sexual autonomy of young women.” Part of this became efforts to make the laws gender-neutral and ensure an understanding of the rationale behind them:“Aiming to challenge stereotypes of female passivity and growing concern about male victimization, they made it clearer that the laws concerned all youth—male and female—and that the laws protected them from exploitation rather than ensuring their virginity.During the debates over welfare reform in the mid-nineties—the same debates that brought us the federal government’s increasing investment in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—a new rationale for these laws was thrown about.  Armed with the statistic that half the children born to adolescent women are fathered by adult men and that many of these children end up on welfare, some state and federal lawmakers began to argue that stricter enforcement of statutory rape laws would deter older men from having sex with teenage girls and would, therefore, solve the teen pregnancy problem.  California invested millions of dollars into increasing the prosecution of such cases; Delaware passed the “Sexual Predator Act of 1996,” and began “stationing state police in high schools to identify students who have become involved with adult men;” and Florida passed a law that declared “impregnation of a minor younger than age 16 by a male aged 21 or older” to be a reportable form of child abuse.”

Psychological damage in the cases of masturbation, homosexuality, viewing pornography, and being raised by homosexual parents, are all a direct result of society’s view toward that particular form of sexuality, and not due to anything intrinsic in the specific thing. 

Once the stigma is removed, it is no longer associated with the same symptoms!

Hopefully most of my readers will acknowledge that their own masturbation has not destroyed them emotionally, that homosexual people can have healthy relationships, and that adults can watch porn on occasion with no negative repercussions.

When pre-marital sex was a crime, any who engaged in it no doubt felt feelings of shame and guilt, depression, and all the rest.  In fact, people who have the most intensely conservative upbringings very frequently have all those negative feelings even within their marriages.

A partner I myself once had, had a lot of trouble with normal sexual intimacy even in the context of a committed long term relationship, as a result of  how her parents treated the subject when she was a child.  To give just one illustrative example, she and her siblings had to sleep with their arms outside of the blankets, (the rest of the body tucked in), so they could easily and instantly be checked on at night, to ensure they never masturbated.  She was always taught that the one circumstance it actually was ok to have sex in was marriage, but after a lifetime of shame and guilt for having any sexual feelings or thoughts, she could not fully accept it even in that circumstance.

Those feelings are not coming from the sex.  They are coming from the social judgments about the sex.

Children are the most vulnerable of anyone to social judgments. 

In other words, perhaps it is possible that in reality it is the very people who are so strongly concerned about children’s welfare that actually create the conditions for making sexual experiences traumatic.  It’s self-fulfilling prophesy.

“Clinical populations reveal nondamaging intergenerational sex. De Young (1982) reports that 20% of her "victims" appeared to be "virtually indifferent to their molestation." Instead, they tended to be traumatized by the reaction of adults to its discovery.”“Society often overlooks negative sexual socialization as the genesis of adult sex problems (including child sexual molestation). The continuum model emphasizes three categories of such negative imprinting:
1. Molestation and exploitation that leave permanent psychological and sometimes physical scars.2. Exploratory sex play with peers and adults that does not result in permanent damage other than that caused by social disapproval and its consequent guilt and shame.3. Cultural desexualization and denial of children's normal sexual thoughts and feelings. Many patients who present with sex problems suffer not because they were exposed to early sexual experience but because they were deprived of the natural sexual imprinting that occurs among animals and primitive humans (Harlow & Harlow, 1962).”

”Some researchers have stated categorically that negative outcome is a function of the secondary effects of societal response. Benign or positive experiences are transformed into traumatic ones by the secondary effects of societal response. Bernard (1981) studied a self-selected sample of Dutch men and women who had participated as children in intergenerational sex experiences. Describing feelings of love, affection, and security, he stated that his subjects were no more neurotic than the common Dutchman and that some appeared to be more psychologically stable. He concluded, "the sexual contacts in themselves do not seem harmful, but the attitudes of society have negative consequences." Sandfort (1984), also in  Holland

, used retrospective impressions as well as interviews with 25 boys who at the time were engaged in consensual, ongoing relationships with adult males. In half of the 183 contacts the boys and girls wanted the sexual contact. Sandfort concludes, "every sexual involvement of adults with children should not be considered abusive." In the  United States , Schultz (1980) said, "Since only five to ten percent of sex abuse involves physical injury, the presumed trauma has to be psychological or social." He suggests, "it may be useful for professionals to assume trauma is absent unless clear evidence contraindicates”

55% of all Americans have sex by age 17.

Yet an overwhelming large number of those some people apparently see no hypocrisy in claiming as adults that anyone having sex before age 17 is a victim, and labeling their partners as perpetrators. 

This has nothing at all to do with actual violence or victimization.  It has to do with sexual moralizing.  Some people feel it is their right - in fact their moral duty - to "protect" other people from their own sex related choices.  Hence in the past most people felt it reasonable to make homosexuality a crime - one in which both participants were both perpetrator and victim.  Today still it is somehow a matter of criminal law in many states for a married couple to engage in safe, mutually consensual sex with other people outside the marriage, whether as swingers or in a threesome.  This is considered a crime.  You can not legally get drunk and then have sex with your spouse.  Both parties are technically both perpetrator and victim.  Not because you didn't consent, but because some external people, who were in no way involved, feel entitled to proclaim that you are too stupid to be able to make your own choices about alcohol and sex.

“o ENDA's Dirty 30 includes such bizarre criminal acts as incest, pedophilia, prostitution, beastiality, and cross-dressing. If we don't act today, Obama and Pelosi will normalize these disorders by federal law on April 21! What Is "A Sexual Orientation?""Paraphilias" (formerly called sexual deviations) listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (

Washington : American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This list includes both paraphilias coded by the APA and paraphilias (not otherwise specified, NOS). This is not a complete list of paraphilias, but only a sample.* These are deviant sexual orientations or sexual attractions that are still considered abnormal. ...”

There are many other people who acknowledge that this form of moralizing is invalid.
There are even many who will extend the same courtesy of choice to post-puberty minors - perhaps because the majority of all people have personally had some form of consensual sexual contact before they were 18 (though the law still sticks doggedly to the arbitrary age-of-consent of 18).  But while our society has taken steps toward de-moralizing sexuality - legalizing pre-marital sex, consensual "sodomy" (oral as well as anal), homosexual sex, and in some places decriminalizing sex between consenting teens of a similar age, almost everyone (at least publicly) still maintains that there is no such thing as consent prior to puberty.

The rationale usually involves “understanding” sexuality. 
But same standard doesn’t apply to any other area – no one suggests a child should have to understand the energy balance between carbs, fats and proteins, the Kreb’s cycle, how dieting effects obesity, or the politics of the farm bill, before allowing them to eat food.
No one expects that they should understand the effects of oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphins on the brain or attachment theory, before allowing them affection or physical contact.  No one feels children should have to demonstrate knowledge of the germ theory of disease or the history of medical science before being seeing a doctor.

“As a therapist taking routine sex histories, I ask, "Who is the closest relative with whom you were sexual as a child?" Initially, approximately half the respondents say there was none; approximately one fourth describe sexual experiences with age-peers, and approximately one eighth describe childhood experiences with adults. Many say they recall no such experiences. I then ask, "As a child, did you ever feel what you would now regard as sexual attraction to an adult?" Many deny at first but later retrieve memories of genital/erotic pleasure associated with such things as playing "horsey on an adult's knee or crawling under the covers and feeling an adult's body without clothes. Further questioning often reveals that there was indeed intergenerational sexual contact. In many cases it was exploitative in character, but the powerless child failed to recognize it as exploitation. In addition, deprived of early sex education, the child failed to recognize it as sex. The child needed no information or education, however, to recognize feelings of affection, pleasure, and love.”
“So far in the professional literature only two types of children participating in intergenerational sex have been identified: powerless and precocious. Very little attention has been paid to the definition of precocious except as a negative outcome of exploitative early eroticization. The continuum model of intergenerational sexual contact, to be empirically correct, must allow for all kinds of children, including informed, consenting, and initiating participants. Such a balanced typology supersedes the unscientific belief that all children who consent and initiate do so because they are powerless. For children who do indeed consent because they are powerless, the continuum model suggests empowering them not by arbitrarily teaching them to say no to sex, but by teaching sex education in such a way that they know what sex is. Thus they will learn the difference between sex and exploitation so they will know which one it is they are refusing.”

In other words, the whole reason children don’t have a full understanding of the ramifications of sexuality is because adults deliberately go out of their way to prevent children from learning about it.  Then they turn around and use the ignorance they have deliberately fostered as the rationalization for denying children choice!

Parents regularly decide when, where and what  a child will go, eat, wear, and every other detail of their lives.  Parents get unilateral control over medical care and education.  In every other area, the fact that a child is considered too young to make their own choices means “go ahead and do it, even if they don’t consent”.  Only if the topic is sexuality does it imply “don’t allow it, even if they do consent”.

This distinction – that sex is a special case, with its own rules – is common in modern Western society’s treatment of every area of sexuality (in adults), and is dependent on the idea that sex is either sinful or sacred. If it is just another biological function, one which can potentially lead to creating another generation of humans – and happens to also create intense feelings of pleasure – but has no deeper meaning or purpose, then the reasoning for exempting sexuality from the rules that govern every single other area of life is invalid.

In the interests of political correctness and equality, the legal definition of “statutory rape” and “child abuse” have in very recent times been expanded to include both male and female “victims” and both male and female “perpetrators” – but everyone knows that the visceral reaction people have to the “child molester” / pedophile meme is usually about female children and always about male adults.  No matter how much some people will claim otherwise publicly, no one really feels on a gut level that an adult woman allowing a boy to penetrate her is as bad as an adult man penetrating a girl.  In fact, it seems too impossible to even consider – a teen boy, maybe, but a prepubescent boy?  Why, what adult woman would ever even want to do that!?
It inverts every societal assumption about sex and power dynamics, about the roles of submission and dominance by gender that are so ingrained in popular culture that they simply go without saying.  Our double standard on statutory rape reflects our deeply internalized – and extremely misogynistic – assumptions about the nature of the physical sex act itself; the idea that “penetration” is an inherently aggressive act, one which a male does to a female, or under the best of circumstances something a male and female does together, but never something a female does “to” a male.  No one ever calls the physical act in which sex parts overlap “envelopment” of a penis by the female, even though that would be an equally valid way to view what is actually happening.

The very use of the word “penetration” as the clinical and legal description betrays how deep seated this misogynistic bias is: in every other context, the word “penetration” implies something which forces its way into a place where it doesn’t belong.  So a thief penetrates the safe, and a needle penetrates the skin, but you don’t say food penetrates your mouth or a key penetrates a lock.  The word itself implies force, aggression, and an unequal relationship – and this is considered the “neutral”, clinical term for the act of sex – even when talking about a consensual committed adult relationship, even if the act is initiated or controlled by the female.

This negative view of sex is the real reason children are supposed to be “protected” from it, the unacknowledged reason that gets rationalized as being about “consent”.

The legitimate meaning of consent is simple and straightforward, and does not require caveats.  Either a person willingly agrees to something, or they don’t.

In other areas of life, the assumption is that adult caregivers don’t need consent to force children to do things they don’t want to: eat food they dislike, engage in (non-sexual) affection, wear a jacket when the adult decides it is cold outside.

It is even considered reasonable, non-abusive, perhaps even normal, to take advantage of children, by, for example, asking to fetch things, not to mention the more questionable (yet not considered abusive) examples of using a child as a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, or as free labor.

These are all examples where a child is given little to no control over a situation which directly affects them, and does potentially more psychological harm than consensual sex related contact would – if not for the social stigma.

Real respect: don’t do anything to a child, or make them do anything, unless either
A) they consent, or
B) it is known without doubt that it is definitely in their long-term best interests to proceed without consent. 
Examples of B are getting vaccinations and going to school

Common things that parents do, but which are NOT examples of B include forcing a child to eat when they aren’t hungry, or forcing them to wear a jacket when they aren’t cold.  One’s own body knows what basic immediate things it needs better than any external person possibly could.
Then there are things which aren’t even pretended to be for the sake of the child, for example giving auntie a kiss. 

"And that's the thing I try to keep in mind when I say things like, "We don't touch our vulvas at the table." Sex is something that ONLY happens when both people WANT it to happen. And that means that the only people in the entire world with any kind of say over whether or not my daughters have sex is them.

I don't get to tell my daughters they have to have sex, but I also don't get to tell them they can't. They're in charge. Your body, your decision.
I never want to be responsible for setting the precedent that another person gets to tell them what to do with their bodies, and especially with their sexuality. I don't want to be the gateway for a manipulative, potentially abusive boyfriend.

So I teach boundaries. Appropriate places. Hygiene. I teach my children that nobody is allowed to touch their bodies without permission. When we get in tickle fights and they say, "Stop!" I stop.”

That last line is a big one, one which I see far too often: playing tickle fight, or lifting them into the air, or any other type of playful contact - if a child  says “stop”, then stop.  Not doing so is abusive.  Because then you are acting without their consent.  Real consent.

The whole point of my blog is to question all axiomatic “universal truths”.  Upon close inspection, almost everything which is expected to be accepted without question turns out to be false.  Because those things which are true can stand up to questioning and their truth continues to show. 
In this issue passions run extremely high – always a good sign that people’s reasoning has been obscured, and therefore are likely to be irrational, which leads to holding beliefs and opinions which are false. 

Kinsey et al. (1953) and Ford and Beach (1951) in suggesting that early sexual experience is often positively correlated with greater adult sexual and interpersonal satisfaction.”

So why did this become so ingrained?

First and foremost: for most of human history, children, and especially girls, were seen as property.  All wealth (especially land) was passed down family lines, and controlling lineages was an important bargaining chip.  In a world far before any form of safe or reliable birth control, the only way to ensure control over one’s genetic legacy would be to both pick your children’s marriage partner, and to ensure your daughters were virgins until marriage.
Similarly, to cause a daughter to have the highest possible value in the bargaining game of marrying off your kids is to ensure she is a virgin, so that the in-law family doesn’t run the risk of being cuckolded, getting an already pregnant wife but believing her children are genetically related to you, thereby “wasting” your resources on someone else’s offspring.
Making child sexual contact the worst possible offense is simply the easiest way to ensure young women stay virgins until marriage.  Extending the taboo to males helps in the same regard, as their most likely partners would generally be a female of the same approximate age as themselves, as well as reducing the chance that he might form an attachment to a female other than the parents choice.

Pre- child protective services, courts, and prisons –and especially in a primarily agricultural society, promoting all socially undesired forms of sexuallity as “evil” is the only available way to prevent it.  Pre birth-control all sex could fairly be expected to reproductive in nature, and in a tribe of a few 100 or a village of a few 1000 people, all reproductive events are of great interest to all of society.  There was motivation to control every aspect of reproduction, hence the very concept of marriage in the first place. As with anti-prostitution mores and laws, limiting sex partners has a stabilizing effect on society, and helps prime individuals for external authoritative control in general.

And, while it is impossible to fully distinguish cultural influence from biology, there is some evidence that humans have a natural aversion to incest, which helps protect against the potential problems of inbreeding.  Despite our logic and rationality, we have a lot of trouble distinguishing between our own feelings and true ethics.  
However, incest is a specific subset, which wouldn't exclude all intergenerational contact, and besides, inbreeding doesn't become a factor until the youngest member of a pair is (physically) an adult.

Outside of social influence, the natural default of human behavior would almost certainly include some degree of sex related contact among children as well as across generations, simply because, why wouldn’t it?  Something along the lines of the story told in “My Secret Garden” (above)

The adult in the story shows zero sign of pedophillia – the commonly assumed source of all or most childhood sexual experiences.
Prevalence of true pedophilia – an adult having a strong sexual attraction to prepubescent children, which typically is stronger than any attraction to adults – compared to the percentage of children who experience sexual contact supports that the vast majority of adults who contact children sexually are NOT actually pedophiles.

They are by and large normal people.
The rate implies it is LOTS of ordinary people

As many as 21% of men in one survey admitted to having some degree of sexual thought about a child at some point – and those are just the ones who were willing to admit it!

Given society’s overwhelmingly extreme bias against and hatred for pedophiles, and that any passing thought could be interpreted as being such, the vast majority of people who have ever had such thoughts are unlikely to admit it – ever, anywhere, including in an anonymous survey.  A large number is likely to not admit it to themselves (similarly, in nations where homosexuality is absolutely unacceptable, the percentage of the population who will admit – even on anonymous surveys – to being gay is dramatically less than in cultures that accept it).
Therefore, it may be a reasonable guess that the true percentage of adult males who have, at some point in their lives, had at least a passing sexual thought about a young girl probably approaches 100%...

Which may actually explains the absolute vitriol so many express…

We always feel the strongest passions against those vices we ourselves (won’t admit that we) share.
The most outspoken politicians against gay rights, and for “family values” are always the ones who eventually get caught with a male prostitute.

The reality is, this has always happened, and in extremely large numbers.
Because every researcher on the topic uniformly lumps anything remotely sexual – things including even just seeing a naked adult at any point in life – the numbers may be grossly inflated, but since there is an extremely powerful disincentive for anyone who does not feel the other person involved in any early sex acts should get in trouble to admit that they ever occurred, the numbers may be grossly under-inflated.
Having no better numbers to go on, lets take the estimates given by many researchers at face value: 20% of all girls have some form sexual experience which would be considered illegal in the US.

“Estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse range widely.  Taken as a whole, various studies suggest that approximately 20% of women report having had some type of sexual contact with an adult during childhood.  Females are believed to have had such sexual contact at twice the rate of males.  One problem with such estimates is that the type of sexual contact reported may range from a single act of exhibitionism through subtle fondling to repeated attempts at penetration.  We do not know how severe or how frequent such sexual contacts must be before they results in emotional trauma and noticeable behavioral symptoms, or do we know how the nature of the contacts is related to the number and severity of symptoms (Wakefield & Underwager, 1988).”

We have already established that a majority of men have at least a passing sexual thought about a prepubescent girl at least once in their lifetimes.

Given that most adults who have sexual contact with children are not pedophiles, that the single most common adult in a child’s life to do so is a parent (followed by other equally close relatives such as a step-parent, sibling of a parent, or older sibling), and the very large (and possibly grossly under-reported) number of children it happens to, it seems reasonably likely to say that an overwhelmingly larger number of adults have engaged in sexual behavior with a child at least once than is commonly believed.  Outside of the (extremely rare) predatory pedophile who acts on their desires on an ongoing, serial, basis, most adults who have sexual contact with children are likely to do so with only one single child. 

In other words, allowing affection to “cross the line” with one’s own daughter, step-daughter, or niece has exactly 0 indication of a likelihood to repeat a similar act with anyone else.  Fully 90% of adult/child sexual acts are between people who are related or otherwise have a close, pre-existing relationship (such as long-time family friends).  What this implies is that, if in fact 20% (or more?) of women had some form of sexual contact with an adult as a child, its likely that somewhere on the order of 20% of men have had some form of sexual contact with a girl at some point in their lives.

Perhaps self-hating, shame, guilt, and displaced defensiveness explains why so many men are so passionate in their response to the topic?

So, lets say even after reading all this – after the dissection of the consent argument, the refutation of the assumption of intrinsic harm, and even all the first-hand accounts of positive experiences by (now) adults who are firm that they were not victims – lets say you still feel it is always immoral, no matter what.

From a strictly practical matter: there is absolutely no way society is going to discover and lock up 20% (or possibly much more?) of the population.

Our current primary method is by interrogating the “victim” – as if we haven’t learned anything at all about psychology in the past 100 years.  Even educated adults routinely “remember” details of events when they are prompted about what to recall in interrogation.  In studies researchers have been able to generate false confession rates of up to 100%, using routine police interrogation methods

”when the experiment was fast-paced (causing the participants to be uncertain if they were responsible) and when a witness claimed to have seen the participant hit the computer key, 100% of the participants signed a confession, 65% believed they were guilty and 35% confabulated details to support their false belief. These results suggest that false evidence can cause people to internalize blame and alter memory for their own actions.”

More than two-thirds of the  DNA-cleared homicide cases documented by the Innocence Project were caused by false confessions.

When it isn’t one’s own misdeeds in question?  When the person being interrogated is a young child? When the testimony given is of events that (allegedly) happened decades ago?  The reliability of testimony in those circumstances is exactly zero.

The popular notion of "repressed memories", a Freudian idea which became re-popularized due to one crackpot psychologist who was thoroughly debunked and subsequently sued by his clients, has pretty much conclusively been invalidated by modern psychological science. But having been shown by independent researchers to be entirely a fiction, it remains no less popular among the public, and certain (non-scientific) therapists.  Not by coincidence, cases of this fictional phenomenon are 100% regarding child sexuality.  It was (and is) yet one more way to justify a strongly held belief without sufficient real-world evidence – not enough women claiming harm from childhood sex related experiences?  Just convince a bunch of random people that they were victims, whether they really were or not!

The United States today has about 1% of the population imprisoned, and it is already a crises.  It is already the highest percentage in the world, and is a significant factor in bankrupting the country.

Lets say there was some possible way to find and convict every person who ever had any form of sexual contact (or, remember, even non-contact behaviors that have any hint of sexuality), and found a place to put them.  Lets say it was worth the overwhelming amount of damage it would do to the country (and by extension, the entire world), to remove 20% or more of the population from normal society.

The massive witch hunt would inevitably end up targeting social workers, police, judges, prison guards, therapists – 20% of the population means it isn’t limited to the unemployed guy who lives in a crappy apartment downtown.  It’s everyone. 

So if the scale of child adult sexual contact is anywhere near as large as most researchers agree it is, it is a problem that is unsolvable.  It’s a bit like waging a war against masturbation, or alcohol, or drugs, or the internet.  For a while you can keep “respectable” people from admitting in public that they indulge, but behind the scenes the prohibition always makes things worse than the vice itself.

Therefore, (as with lifting the ban on alcohol) even if one feels that child/adult sexual contact is intrinsically wrong, on a strictly practical basis it makes more sense to try to reduce the damage it does as much as possible.  If it is going to happen either way – and all available evidence says it will – then it would do more to protect children to focus on making it as positive as possible, rather than focusing exclusively on eradicating it.

Obvious parallels include abstinence only sex-education (which without exception has been found to raise STD and teen pregnancy rates), needle-exchanges (which lower the transmission of HIV), detox programs instead of prison, and legalized prostitution (with mandatory condom use and STD checks)

One way we could mitigate the damage is by changing the focus from
 “no sexual contact, period”
“no selfish coercion of children – in any way”. 

 Drop the ridiculous notion that young people are incapable of deciding what they do or don’t want to do.  Promote the idea that a parent has the right to force their child to do something they don’t want to do ONLY if it is in the clear best interest of the child or of other parties to do so; for example, preventing them from running in the street when cars are coming, taking them to the dentist, making them do their homework, putting them in time-out for hitting, or making them put away toys they left in the living room are all valid forms of parental coercion.

Having them fetch you something, hugging or kissing when they resist, not letting them wear a cape to the store, or making them put away toys they left in their own room are NOT valid forms of coercion.

Likewise, any sexual activity which is done by any type of force, threat, bribe, or plea, should never be acceptable. 
(Note that I have pointed out that bribes and pleas can not be validly considered “coercion” in an equal adult relationship.  But because of the power in-balance that exists between adult and child, these are reasonably considered forms of coercion).

The safest bet would be that anything initiated by the younger person is not coercive.
Any form of initiation or escalation by the older person is treading on dangerous ground.

Simply by decriminalizing the contact itself we would remove from the situation the frequently concurrent threats and always concurrent insistence on absolute secrecy – the two elements that cause the most psychological damage.  This would also have a direct psychological impact on the adult, who no longer creates a self-identity as “evil” – it is well known to psychology that (as all self-identities) this is self-reinforcing.  By avoiding that self-identify, the adult can continue to hold feelings of normal love, care, and concern, with no cognitive dissonance – which is important, because cognitive dissonance surrounding self-identity is strongly associated with disassociation.  Fancy words that mean: human nature dictates that when you hurt another person, it becomes easier to hurt them or others in the future.  If a person decides something they have done is “evil”, it implies they are an evil person, and if that is a part of who they are, the only limiting factor in harming others is the threat of getting caught. 
What better a way to ensure that as many of the children who experience it have the most traumatic experience possible?

“So far in the professional literature only two types of children participating in intergenerational sex have been identified: powerless and precocious. Very little attention has been paid to the definition of precocious except as a negative outcome of exploitative early eroticization. The continuum model of intergenerational sexual contact, to be empirically correct, must allow for all kinds of children, including informed, consenting, and initiating participants. Such a balanced typology supersedes the unscientific belief that all children who consent and initiate do so because they are powerless. For children who do indeed consent because they are powerless, the continuum model suggests empowering them not by arbitrarily teaching them to say no to sex, but by teaching sex education in such a way that they know what sex is. Thus they will learn the difference between sex and exploitation so they will know which one it is they are refusing.
Until now it has not seemed necessary to classify the children other than as victims since children's sexual feelings have been denied or relegated to the categories of sex play and curiosity. As Okami (1987) points out, however, "these are the same impulses and behaviors that in adolescents or adults are characterized as sexual desire and sexual activity.'”

In closing, let me reiterate and expand on my second disclaimer from the beginning:

All this is in no way meant to promote or condone any particular behavior from any real person.
This is all purely a thought exercise. I am exploring what could be, maybe even what should be, but certainly not what actually is.

I've made the argument that the majority of the harm from sexual knowledge or activity in young people may actually come more from society's view of it than from the actual knowledge or act itself - but the fact remains that society is actually how it is. 

 The potential harm may be a secondary effect, but that doesn't make it any less real.

In other words, the very fact that almost everyone insists it is harmful may have the consequence of creating harm even under the best of circumstances.

In a society that finds sex before marriage, or consensual adultery (swingers), pornography, homosexual sex, or prostitution - none of which are intrinsically harmful to anyone - to be immoral, it is very risky to engage in those acts, and there can be both legal and psychological repercussions for going against the status quo.
With this specific sex taboo, there are also complicated issues surrounding power dynamics that make exploitation and abuse more likely then in any of the (adult) taboos just listed; because of that even in a hypothetical society more relaxed about sex in general, there would be a need for caution.
Because of the power dynamics, the line between "seduction" and "coercion" is necessarily blurred, and any form of initiation or encouragement by an older person would always be suspect. This alone prevents letting child abusers off the hook.

Obviously, just like with ending a tickle fight on request, every person is entitled to make decisions about what is and isn't done to their own body, and that basic human respect should extend to young people just as much as anyone else. Force is obviously off-limits, but bribery, pleading, and any other forms of manipulation would be just as much.

Mostly what I hope to convey is that the sort of things that can get a person onto the sex offender registry:
Megan's Law and The Sex Offender Registry (is a seriously flawed system)

...have nothing to do with actual harm, and are a direct result of our inability to separate our emotions regarding cultural norms from actual ethics.

This is one of the many examples where that inability causes us to collectively make choices that do more harm than good.
This post is not meant to promote childhood sexuality, but it is meant to change reader's perspectives when they hear about it in the news.
Maybe that particular instance was abusive - and maybe it wasn't.
Instead of making a blanket condemnation, maybe we should look at every individual case for its specific circumstances and details before making a judgement.

For now, I think that would be good enough. We have to start somewhere...

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