Friday, May 16, 2008

Child-Internet-Safety-Software and other false comforts.

"Do you have child internet safety software on your computer? If you do, just what are you thinking?"

Back in the day, when I ran what many would call a "porn site," I refused on principle to put up links to net-nanny, cyber-sitter and other such spyware. Why? I checked them out. Net-nanny was set up to censor "Liberal" links, such as the National Organization of Women, not just "adult material." My notice was "protected by the human brain" and instead of "Adult Material," I labeled it as being "for grownups." I'm going to check these folks out. I smell a far more substantial story.

(Later)... no. Simply a variation of the old "Internet, Threat or Menace" idea, with some good ideas that are essentially aimed at making parental panic responses more effective and to suggest (accurately) that if one is paranoid about one's kid's safety, reliance on such tools is a foolish delusion.

Our resources will help you to stop the criminals. We’ll show you how to thwart sexual predators cold in their tracks. We can also help you stay in front of the problem. And, the problem cannot be overstated. According to a study released in 2002 by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrown-away Children (NISMART II), an estimated 6 children per hour are abducted by a non-family member. In approximately 50% of these cases, the children are sexually assaulted. By the time children are 18, the surveys indicate that as many as one in eight boys and one in five girls will have been sexually abused.

This makes every child a potential target for sexual predators. This could make your child an unwitting target, too. Don’t let that happen!

Sexual predators are on our streets, in our neighborhoods and at our schools. Not only are they there, they are an ever growing danger on the Internet.

Be prepared and take charge of you child’s safety. Take ACTION!

Ok, like all the best "call to action" types of appeals, these assertions are at least somewhat true - although the data of surveys about sexual abuse percentages have been called into question.

You see, it really helps the statistics if you count all sexual encounters before the age of 18 regardless of consent and regardless of who initiated what. I'm not saying that this added pile is not a problem - but it's quite a different problem. Actually, it's several different issues, each one requiring it's own specific response. It's distinctly useless to treat them all as the same "crime," inasmuch as that any reasonable assessment causes one to put the quotes around the term, for clearly, in many particular cases, that is an arbitrary distinction.

And that's damn dangerous, because there are other things in the same pile that are treated as being the exact same crime that are inarguably criminal. Expanding the pile to include things that are criminal only because they offend taboos rather than cause provable harm trivializes the actual harm done by real criminals and gains them apologists.

Years and years ago, as I was trying to make sense of that pile of festering crap I laughingly refer to as my "childhood," I took a side trip into trying to comprehend pedophelia and sexual predation. I read both sides of the issue. I have to say, honestly, that it's hard to tell exactly which perspective is more delusional, but one statistic - presented by the "hang 'em high" crowd - struck me hard enough to leave a permanent mark.

I found a citation that restated it with higher numbers and in even more alarming terms:

The second classification of sexual offender is defined as a preferential child molester. These offenders have a sexual preference for children and usually maintain these desires throughout their lives. Preferential child molesters can have an astounding number of victims and these crimes can remain undiscovered for many years. In 1995, a child molestation case in Texas caused a national uproar when the suspect was due to be released from prison after serving a six-year sentence for the rape of a 6year-old boy. He told the police that he got away with abusing over 240 children before getting caught for molesting a single child and if released, would do it again(4). One long-term study of hundreds of sex offenders found that the pedophile child molester committed an average of 281 acts with 150 partners.
For the moment, let us take the sexual aspect out of it. Indeed, let us take the underage aspect out of it, and remember that in order to have a sexual encounter, first there must be a relationship and trust, because that is how this particular sort of person operates - by non-violent seduction.

You might think that would be easier with someone underage - and if we are speaking of those under the age of, oh, say, six, that may well be true. Nonetheless, that is a relative statement.

I've been involved in the raising of children, and it would be foolish indeed for anyone to think that a trusting relationship with a child is something that can be assumed.

So, let us look at it from the perspective of sheer numbers. 150 partners. On average. In the particular case cited, 240, before a misstep or mistake that caused discovery. Let us assume that this was in fact due to the "victim" feeling they had been factually abused.

I wonder just how many ordinary heterosexuals who are sexually attracted to persons within their own age cohort could manage a statistic better than one out of three.

So, let us put aside for the moment what the pedophile is doing wrong. Take that as a given - especially since the particular person was self-aware enough to inform society that he could not be trusted and would offend again. A person, obviously, of genuine conscience and who obviously must care for children, a trait that is obviously key to their better-than-average statistics and who is aware that their nature is absolute conflict with an outcome they must strongly believe in. Consider that genuine criminals tend to lie to the parole board about such matters.

In order to achieve a sexual goal, he had to do a tremendous lot of right in order to even get into talking distance of "wrong." I don't want him running around loose - but I do damn well want him available as a resource. I want him to be able to expiate his sins, if you will, by telling us what he did to make children feel cared for and loved. Because, folks, that is what it takes, not just to exploit a child, but to raise a child so that they become solid and sane members of society. And in that regard, a child is harder to delude than many adults.

The implication that certain pedophiles may well be making a net contribution to society is not to be taken as approval. The fact that parasites infect the body politic, and that more successful parasites are to a degree benign or somewhat commensal is immaterial.

The parasite is not the problem. Indeed, it's pointless to even BLAME the parasite. The problem is that there is a niche that a parasite can adapt themselves to fit. To the extent that they fill that niche by doing something that the family or culture cannot or will not do, than the net ethical equation is that the parasite is being permitted to exist as an alternate to society or family dealing with it's issues. You see, if you blame the parasite for exploiting a niche that actually needs to be filled in order for family or society to function - the net result will simply be a succession of successfully better adapted tapeworms who are more successful at controlling the family or the social matrix toward the end of maintaining their comfortable existence.

As would you, I might add.

Now, let me refer to a few things that I learned along the way, both from offenders and survivors. And let me underline something - this sort of person is the sort that many survivors refer to as "their favorite perp.1"

Indeed, and this is a wildly conditional statement, made up of a number of different inputs, but, that particular "perp" was the one that definitely made a difference toward the positive in their survival.

Tragically, many children and indeed, many adults these days, are so conditioned that they cannot actually trust a relationship unless they are exploited to a degree that permits them to believe they are of a minimum absolute value to another person. That is to see, they see themselves as being primarily sexual objects as the foundation of their entire self-worth.

In this context, a "good perp" is one who made contributions to a level of self-worth beyond sexual availability.

But it could be worse. At least they have the minimum self-worth required in order to survive and perhaps grow. Those who's self-worth is crushed usually find some awkward and messy way to die, often taking others with them.

There are many personal profiles on Yahoo and other services that would underline this with used brainfloss, but aside from being NSFW, I feel it's my job to floss my brain so you don't have to. :P

Let me put this as bluntly as I can. I'm afraid that in a certain dark and tragic way, those survivors who were victimized in this particular way by the sort of person we are speaking of were lucky.

Which leads me back to the selection criteria of such pedophiles. Getting into the head of a pedophile requires that you read their verbal dribblings, and I did just enough of it to feel a genuine sad caring for the poor bastards - while simultaneously wishing to scrub myself with bleach. But at some level, I had to admit that there was an extent to which that reaction was the result of considering and listening to soemething that violated one of the strongest social taboos we have. Well, actually, it's several, but let us not overly complexity this.

The bottom line is that the majority of molesters were molested themselves in ways that arrested their own personal development, and there is very likely a further required inherent sexual orientation required to overcome common-sense aversion to risking everything for satisfactions that could be had safely and cheaply in other ways, if those were in any way at all acceptable.

They cannot be cured, any more than you can "cure" a homosexual. But as I said, it's obviously a complex of predisposition and experience. The experience itself is something that IS within our ability to control, to preclude if possible, and if not entirely possible, it's certainly possible to create an ethical context in which the child will grow into a person who will not damage other persons regardless of their own missteps.

Sexual predators are no different than any other sort of predator. Ultimately, successful predators exploit weakness, opportunity and the ignorance of their victims. Ask any rabbit that reaches adulthood how that works.

The fact that so much predation exists and the consequences so widespread among the population should of course alarm and concern us, but not in the ways we are told we should be concerned and alarmed by the ramshackle taboo system we laughingly refer to as "western morality."

You see, a moral system - in order to work at all - is first ethical, and based on real information about real persons, not dogmatic presumptions about human sexuality that are not just presumably, but provably untrue.

It should fairly easy and reasonable to follow a well-designed moral code and the benefits for doing so should be obvious to both the practitioner and all who see. It should definitely NOT be in conflict with the existing social matrix or require certain false-to-fact assumptions in order for it to function, since if it's advice is otherwise worth following, it can be completely disrupted by a follower learning that a basic foundation of it is provably untrue.

Trust me, this can lead to the Uncharted Swamps of Suck. The pun is intended - but not as the primary message. That is to say, not only does the result suck - but as the joke goes, not particularly WELL, either.

Most importantly, in order to be effectively protected from a predator, one must know what a predator looks like, what they smell like, their likely strategies and tactics and what techniques one can use to avoid being prey. There is absolutely no way to achieve this end while at the same time requiring that the "prey" be kept ignorant of the very existence of wolves.

Indeed, it's rather obvious to me that our current assumptions about the appropriateness of speaking about, much less teaching appropriate sexuality is so much to the advantage of sexual predators that it's wise to assume that any advice that relies upon conventional morality and assumptions of the workability of "Traditional Family Values" is questionable at best, almost certainly dangerously irrelevant to actual situations, and - frankly - designed and spread with exactly that in mind. It will work for some; perhaps many - but it will predictably create, isolate and make vulnerable enough victims to keep the predators fed, while keeping the vast majority ignorant of the true nature of the problem.

I believe that to be a problem that must be addressed. I'd underline this with strong language, but frankly, I cannot think of language strong enough. Suffice it to say that when "moral" conduct leads directly and predictably to the lifelong harm and misery of a large segment of the population, the word for it is not "Morality." "Evil" is a much more appropriate word... though again, not nearly strong enough from the perspective of myself and others who have been considered to be the disposable price of a proper sense of vigilant propriety.

That morality has an underlying foundation of fear and hatred and in order to function at all, requires it's adherents to become numb to the consequences on actual persons of applying and enforcing broad, rigid, authoritarian principles. All persons who are unable to function within it's narrow strictures are defined as disposable, while those capable of adhering to it's appearances while exploiting those within or without are not even identified as problematic. Morality, in these United States, has become almost entirely an exercise in visible propriety that need have no genuine meaning beyond "not getting caught."

One should not ask, "how did Ted Haggard get away with it so long?" The question is, how could such a person, who's very taste in church art, rhetoric, teachings and mannerisms should have been ringing alarm bells among the discerning have actually passed the first interview, or even graduated from divinity school, should he actually have any such training.

My personal opinion is that there is no longer any place for persons of discernment and conscious, deliberate ethical concern in either church or politics anywhere east of Center, and has not been for some long time.

The fact that the powerful among church and state have clearly ordered things to allow them to indulge the vile habits in private that they condemn in public to be more than enough reason to personally implement a change. Alas, the usual reaction is to deny in the face of manifold and obvious horrors that any such thing could possibly be true.

Yes, I do mean you. Stop expecting other people to live up to standards you expect on your behalf. Set high standards for yourself, live up to them, and set a good example - or, frankly, you are damned.

To quote Christopher Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus," "Why, this IS hell, nor am I out of it."

1 - I'm choosing to be a complete and utter bastard and make you search through Ghostwolf's story to find the precise reference. Frankly, the reference won't make a whole hell of a lot of sense until you get a sense of the alternatives.

You will be tempted to say "that couldn't happen today." Yes it does. Check Google News "Child Sexual Abuse" and note the dates.

You will be tempted to say "It couldn't happen in my town." If your town has more than ten thousand, it certainly does - and there are probably several instances on record. Ask a social worker. Be prepared to buy them a drink, though and offer a shoulder. NOBODY gets paid enough to deal with this crap.

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