In response to blog and media coverage that quoted selectively from
the comment below, which is an addition to a larger published story
called "Defending the Right to Pleasure", Erik Moeller has asked me to
add a link to his public response to what he calls a defamation
campaign. The public response can be found here:
http://intelligentdesigns.net/blog/?p=101. The original post below
has not been altered.
--Rusty Foster, Kuro5hin.org maintainer, April 28, 2010.
First, I would like to point out that the main reason for writing this article -- and putting it under the Help! topic -- was not to convert those who fundamentally disagree, but to get support for the project described in the article. The length of the text may have distracted from that, and I apologize for it -- but I think it was inevitable. The alternative, to split it up, would both make it more difficult to get the big picture and to actually convey the necessity of a pro-pleasure project ("OK, your article series was interesting and all, but now we know that you really just wanted help for your obscure project! -1 from me!").
So far, one person has e-mailed me and offered to help and another has directly subscribed to peacelist-tech, the mailing list I have created for the activities related to building this project. Two other readers have expressed general agreement by mail. If anyone else wants to help, please e-mail me or subscribe directly to peacelist-tech. Donations would also be welcome, of course.
I wasn't very specific in what the site should cover because that largely depends on the involvement by others. With few people, a complete reorganization of the current site is hardly possible and most work would consist of adding new papers to the archive (mainly HTML and proofreading work). With more people and some room on a server where Scoop could be installed by someone with the necessary skills, more could be done (including coverage of current pleasure-related news and events). It all depends on you.
Addressing the comments
First, thanks to everyone for their feedback. There are no arguments that I haven't heard before, but it's good to see them all compiled in a single place. In order to avoid having to follow many different threads, I am going to compile the replies in one comment, but I will structure them with headings. If you are irritated by the length of this comment, please read only the parts that interest you.
Pedophilia and Incest
One of the first editorial arguments against the article was that it is just a "defense of pedophilia", suggesting that either I am a pedophile, or at least that I have some sympathy for pedophiles (maybe part of a conspiracy?). I have pondered putting a disclaimer into the article ("I am not a pedophile. I am a 22-y-o heterosexual white male") but I see no reason to give this concession to the child sex hysteria.
But if there was any doubt, yes, I am defending that children can have sex with each other. Not only adolescents, but also children of earlier ages -- whenever they want to. It is a scandal in itself that the subject of child sexuality cannot be discussed without people raising the specter of pedophilia. That is the direct result of the witchhunts I have described in the article, where so-called therapists induced false memories in patients and horrible stories of mass abuse were produced -- child sexual abuse was portrayed as being literally everywhere, and celebrities proudly described themselves as "survivors" of sexual abuse.
As a result, not only were many harmless, affectionate adult/child situations (parents hugging, kissing, tickling their children, for example) stigmatized but also child sexuality as a subject in itself. Children and even teenagers are mostly portrayed as asexual, and if it's obvious that they are not, they are required to "control" their sexuality. The problem goes so far that in some cases of gay teenagers put in therapy because of their sexuality, local youth gay centers didn't offer to help because they feared to be seen as pedophile-defenders. These people have a hard enough time fighting for gay rights as it is, so they avoid tackling another "hot button" issue. Unfortunately, that means that teenagers like Lyn Duff, who was sent to a therapy center in Utah for being a lesbian, are hardly offered any help. (Do a Google search on her name to learn more about her case.)
The Incest Taboo
What is my position on pedophilia, then? It's really simple. If the child doesn't want it, is neutral or ambigious, it's inappropriate. This excludes most adult/child sexual contact, but only little child/child contact. There is another key to the puzzle - the incest taboo. Incest leads to an increased amount of genetic defects, because defects in the genetic code of one parent are more likely to be corrected in the combination with the genetic code of the other.
That means that incest is disadvantageous from an evolutionary perspective. In primates, there exists a simple yet effective mechanism to prevent us from having sex with our closest relatives. Thinking of the people we are bonded with in a directly sexual context creates a feeling of disgust: Think visually of sleeping with your mother or father to find out what I mean (the feeling is stronger if you still live with your parents). Even if your mother is the most beautiful person in the world, the feeling is totally different from that you have when thinking of having sex with some other beautiful person you like. This is the reason "motherfucker" is still one of the most emotionally effective insults. For the same reason, even the bonobo chimps, who otherwise do practically everything that is conceivable in the area of sexual behavior, don't have incest. With the exception of a few genetic defects, all people have this taboo.
What that means, now, is that any mother/father-child-sexual relationship is going to be a highly traumatic experience for the child. The incest taboo usually sets in shortly before puberty, and experiences which are forgotten should have no long-term effects. Again, there is much hysteria to be found, some people "discover" at age 45 that they have been abused as a baby; thanks to "therapists" again who ask the respective suggestive questions.
But it's different from family to family what is seen by the child as a sexual experience. In a sexually repressive family, where all nudity is hidden from the child, a single instance of nudity could be remembered by the child as a sexual memory, invoking the incest taboo and causing disgust. In a family where nudity is not a taboo, it is not associated with sexual actions, and therefore no problems result.
Pleasure-repressive people might argue that the best way to avoid problems would be to ban all nudity, instead of allowing all. However, if you succeed in doing this, you only make the situation much worse. The reason is that you can ban nudity, but you can't ban sexuality, and sexuality doesn't begin at puberty. If you remove nudity from the child's view, other situations will be interpreted as sexual. Some religious fundamentalists even see the face of a women as an obscenity, or ban them from riding bikes because their legs move so seductively. When you apply this "logic" to children, you create all sorts of weird fetishes when sexual feelings are encoded into non-sexual subjects.
There are people who have a fetish for crucifixion, for example. In one case I know about, the person explains this because they had a large vivid Jesus cross in the living room. That was obviously an image that had been burned into his memory, and for some reason encoded as sexual, probably because of the half-nudity. As an adult, he creates quite professional photo-manips of crucified women -- that is the best way for him to be sexually aroused. I know of other similar cases with fetishes ranging from the harmless (foot fetishes, wet clothing) to the extreme (necrophilia). It is worth pointing out that the majority of sex offenders stems from conservative, sexually repressive households. This has been verified by various studies (Amir 1965, Gebhard 1965, Kant & Goldstein 1970, Geiser 1979, Fox 1980, for example).
Pleasure and Affection
A lot of people were worried that I "confused" sexual pleasure with "other pleasure" or physical affection. First, I am indeed talking mostly about body pleasure and not pleasure in general, but that includes sexual pleasure. Unfortunately, people have artificial barriers in their heads when it comes to sexuality, especially child sexuality. Let me quote an article by Jacqueline Livingston to illustrate this point:
Because I was raised in a family where my sexuality was repressed (as most of us were), I thought touching one's genitalia was something that occurred in teen years. As a new parent, I learned differently. Sometime in Sam's first week, when I was changing his diapers, his hands went to his genitals. My first impulse was to brush his hands aside, but I hesitated long enough to realize that here was an important decision--to be free or not to be free, that is the question.
I encourage you to read the complete article, it is also a great commentary on the hysteria related to child pornography. Many people think that affection is good and all, but when children start acting sexually, things are taking a wrong turn. This is a barrier that doesn't exist in reality -- the same pleasure center (the septal region in the limbic system) of the human brain is activated during sexual pleasure that is also activated in the pleasure derived from physical affection, touching etc. The question is which other brain regions are active at the same time: just the somatosensory/touching region, or also the sexual regions? This determines whether we feel that a certain type of pleasure is "sexual" in nature. In other words, it's not the pleasure that is different (although it may vary strongly in intensity), it's the feelings that accompany it.
I envisioned thousands of parents repeatedly pulling their babies' hands away, slapping them, or spanking--whatever it took to teach them that the area between their legs is forbidden territory. I had grown up thinking/feeling it was a dark and dirty business down there. My mother was undoubtedly responsible. She must have pulled my hand away from my sex hundreds of times. I wasn't going to make the same mistake.
So if one type of pleasure is beneficial, there is no reason to assume that another type isn't, if it doesn't come with harmful side effects. Whether there are any such effects in the case of child sexuality I will discuss later on. There are reasons to assume, though, that the deprivation of the most basic types of pleasure (resulting from touch or sexual actions) causes many problems, including brain damage and violence. This is only natural, since children are programmed to desire closeness to their mother (being away from her causes discomfort, permanent discomfort causes long-term damage - being close to her is an evolutionary advantage) and children are sexual human beings (sexual relationships strengthen social bonds and are therefore beneficial to the community, an evolutionary advantage).
Now, some have argued that I have failed to show any research supporting the claim that the expression of sexuality is beneficial to children, and not only to adolescents. This is easy to assume, and I should have pointed out that "premarital sex" doesn't mean quite what you may think it means in the "primitive" cultures examined by Prescott/Textor. Marriage in most of these cultures happens at teenage age (the Balinese marry at age 12, for example). Premarital then also means preteen. Those who are shocked by the idea of children having sex with each other (something which is commonly acknowledged as "playing doctor" in most European countries) should maybe go back to 1948, when America was in some ways more progressive than it is today, and about a third of the adults examined by Alfred C. Kinsey in his groundbreaking sex surveys remembered preteen sexual games with other children before puberty.
Diseases and Pregnancy
There are two killer phrases of those who advocate sexual repression: teenage preganancies and STDs. Advocating a natural relationship towards sexuality, they argue, would be wrong because children and adolescents don't have the responsibility to deal with these problems. To begin with the problem of pregnancies, let me start by quoting some recent news:
Friday March 2 11:44 AM ET
Teaching sexual abstinence doesn't work, while educating kids (and allowing them to educate themselves) does. This is only logical: By teaching someone to suppress their sexuality, kids are totally unprepared when having spontaneous sex under the wrong circumstances later. They don't know how to handle the condoms (most condom problems result from mishandling, the rest from inferior quality), if they think of condoms at all. However, if kids are allowed to "train" even before they are actually able to reproduce, this is unlikely to ever happen.
Dutch Offer Winning Formula to Cut Teenage Pregnancies
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Sex education, free contraceptives and liberal
attitudes toward sex are among the best ways to reduce soaring
teenage pregnancy rates, a Dutch researcher said
The Dutch should know. The tiny country better known for its cheese,
windmills and canals has fewer pregnant teenagers than most Western
Less than one percent, or 10 per 1,000, 15-17 year-olds in the
Netherlands get pregnant each year, compared to nearly five percent
in Britain, which has the highest rate in Western
Europe, and 99 per 1,000 in the United States.
[It is notable that Britain is also the most conservative. The government
there has even started similar sexual abstinence programs to the US.]
``Teenage pregnancy seems virtually eliminated as a health and social
problem in the Netherlands,'' Dr. Simone Buitendijk, of the Dutch
Institute for Applied Scientific Research in Leiden,
The Dutch have seen a steady drop in the number of young mothers for decades as teen pregnancies have been increasing in other countries. In the early 1970s four percent of live births
in the Netherlands were to teenagers. By the late 1990s the figure had dropped to one percent.
``It's due to a whole mix of things. It is very hard to pinpoint what the major factor is. The liberal attitude is probably one very important determinant,'' she added in a telephone interview.
Better Knowlege Of The Birds And Bees
While other countries have been expounding the joys of no sex, the Dutch have accepted that teens are sexually active and have introduced measures to deal with it.
``In Holland teens know about sexuality and about procreation, how it works and what you should do not to become pregnant. Their peers know and it is a very socially acceptable thing
to prevent pregnancy,'' she added.
Birth control pills are available at pharmacies and free through a National Sick Fund, a state-funded system that ensures low income people have medical care, and statistics show that
Dutch teenagers are using them.
In 1995, 70 percent of sexually active 18 year-olds were on the pill and 40 percent of students three or four years younger. Eighty-five percent of teens used a condom, the pill or both
during their first sexual experience.
Buitendijk, who will present the Dutch data at a meeting on child health in London, said condoms are popular among young teenagers but the pill gains preference as they get older.
``Factors that positively influence contraceptive behavior in Dutch
teenagers are their sufficient knowledge of reproduction and
contraception, the large amount of information available to
them both in school and informally and the general permissive
attitude the Dutch hold toward teen sexuality,'' she said.
Proof that birth control is the key is supported by a drop in teenage
abortions in the Netherlands but an increase in sexual activity. So
more teens are having sex but fewer are getting
pregnant or having abortions.
The situation is similar with STDs. Condoms, when properly handled, are a safe measure against both pregnancy and STDs. But they can only be properly handled if the kids are familiar with them. That means that sex education is not only essential, it is essential at an early time.
(The "primitive" cultures usually handled contraception by coitus interruptus. For this, training is especially important. STDs were obviously not as big a problem then.)
Correlation vs. Causation
One obvious argument against the cross-cultural study is the difference between correlation and causation. Societies that lavish affection on infants and tolerate premarital sex are 100% non violent. Societies that physically punish their infants and punish premarital sex are 100% violent. (This is based on the latest data on the cultures examined, which is somewhat different from the 1975 data.) Now, let's take a look at the different possible hypotheses that can be based on these facts:
- Repressing pleasure causes people to become violent. Increasing the amount of pleasure would lead to less violence.
- Violence causes people to repress pleasure. Reducing the amount of violence would cause people to be more tolerant towards pleasure.
- "Something else" causes both violence and the repression of pleasure.
Now it must not be forgotten that there can be a multitude of reasons for punishing (body) pleasure. Many cultures argue that pleasure is against their religion, some here on K5 argue that the repression of pleasure is necessary to feel accomplishments. So there is definitely no singular cause to the repression of pleasure. According to possibilities 2 and 3, a culture would therefore be possible that represses pleasure (punishes infants and premarital sex), but is not violent. Likewise, a culture would be possible that allows pleasure, but still is violent. Such a culture has not been found in the cross-cultural study, nor has it been found in the comparison of today's cultures. On all the primitive cultures where data exists, according to the latest data, not a single one has been found that is both peaceful and anti-pleasure, or violent and pro-pleasure.
From this data alone, it can therefore be reasonably argued (unless there are reasons to assume that there is a singular cause for people to repress pleasure), that the repression of pleasure is the cause, and adult violence is the effect. Even if the cross-cultural study stood alone, it would be evidence enough to assume such a relationship. But it doesn't stand alone.
Keep in mind that Prescott is a developmental neuropsychologist, and that's what his primary work was: studying the human (and monkey) brain. I have pointed to the research showing that deprivation of physical contact directly causes violence in monkeys (chimpanzees are 98,4% genetically identical to humans and also exhibit this behavior) -- such experiments cannot be done on humans for obvious reasons -- and that stimulating the pleasure center of the human brain stops all aggression. If any further confirmation would be necessary for the effect, this is it.
There are lots of other reasons, too, including the simple fact that the pleasure/no-pleasure experience is one of the earliest ones and most basic ones, if not the most basic one, the infant makes, and all other experiences (and the value system itself) are based on it. The primary motivations to act violently -- not in self defense, but because of enjoying it -- must be formed in early life. Based on this, there can only be three possibilities, that the repression of pleasure causes or prevents violence, and the other data clearly refutes the latter, or that genetic defects cause violence. If you assume genetic defects, the distribution of violence would not be as unequal as it is in primitive cultures. Please note that I am not arguing for a singular cause of violence and aggression, but for the repression of pleasure as a main cause (and a good way to compensate other possible causes, like bullying or poverty).
The body pleasure/violence relationship is one of the must fundamental and most certain ones we know. Yet it is one of the most controversial ones. The reasons are not in science, but in culture. People who do not like pleasure will always find reasons to ignore science. If we want to change society, we need to work on it. You know where to find me.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
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