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If there is another sub-set of humanity which enjoys more universal derision than child-lovers, I can't think of it. We reserve our most caustic and public disdain for pedophiles. There is no accusation you can hurl or name you can call that packs more toxic octane than the term child molester. They are truly on the lowest rung of our social ladder, our pariahs, our outcasts, our untouchables. They have no advocates and no decent person would raise a finger in their defense for fear that there is some secret disease that lies dormant in us all which might be awakened by mere proximity.

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Knick-Nack Paddy-Whack
Amazon and Pedophiles -- We Need To Grow Up

Pedophilia is one of those subjects which cannot be discussed in a cool, intellectual way. Reason is not the language we use to utter the unspeakable thoughts and emotions aroused by the topic. The Poet's Eye must squint to see any profit at all in even mentioning sex and children in the same sentence because it causes a flood of adrenalin to be injected into our blood streams effectively bleaching any tint of sensibility or reason. We react to the whole subject with our primal selves, the earliest vestigial parts of the mammalian brain, the pure instinct to protect our offspring. It is hard to consider pedophilia with any degree of intellectual detachment because all the words are charged with emotion and fear and there is a general atmosphere of hyper-vigilance which pre-defines our way of thinking. The taboos and corresponding hypocrisies surrounding the topic prevent us from treating with it honestly. Even as you read this, your heart-rate has increased 7 beats per minute and you are beginning to feel your blood pressure swooshing in your ears.

If there is another sub-set of humanity which enjoys more universal derision than child-lovers, I can't think of it. We reserve our most caustic and public disdain for pedophiles. There is no accusation you can hurl or name you can call that packs more toxic octane than the term child molester. They are truly on the lowest rung of our social ladder, our pariahs, our outcasts, our untouchables. They have no advocates and no decent person would raise a finger in their defense for fear that there is some secret disease that lies dormant in us all which might be awakened by mere proximity.

So, maybe I won't talk about pedophilia, I'll talk about censorship instead. It appears that the largest bookseller in the world, Amazon, has been bullied into removing some books from its cyber-shelves. These books, written by one Phillip R. Greaves II, are how-to manuals for pedophiles. It's not my choice for Sunday morning reading but this is America and we have our quaint notions of Freedom of Speech. Amazon at first resisted the public outcry to remove the Ebooks from its online inventory but they have a business to run and must make their decisions with this in mind no matter how much it might strain their ideology. They had a couple of thousand customer complaints so they folded and took the books down. Some are crying Censorship. I can't call it censorship if you won't sell my book in your store. It's only censorship if I can't open my own store, so I'm not quick to condemn Amazon. They are in a tough position caught between two conflicting ideals, one being 'the free market of ideas' while the other is 'the customer is always right.' Community standards are fairly well enunciated on this subject. But I ask myself, What if the book in question were about a subject that was less offensive to me? Would I be more likely to join the chorus and shout Censorship?

Amazon doesn't sell my books either. It's not that they are offensive, it's more to do with the fact that I'm too much of an outlaw and a pauper to buy ISBN numbers for them. But I sell them nevertheless. My friends have copies. I don't feel censored, just obscure, not so much suppressed as ignored. But when I heard of Mr. Greaves' titles on Amazon and the controversy they were creating, the wildcat opportunistic publisher inside of me said, "Damn, I wish I had thought of that!" Books about forbidden subjects have a guaranteed audience. How hard could it be to write Diddling for Dummies? I played my share of Doctor when I was a kid. I'll bet that all of the public outrage and cable news mastication of the subject won't hurt his book sales either. It's better than being banned in Boston and firmly in the shock and scandal journalistic tradition of Guccione, Flint and Hefner as well as Pulitzer and Hearst. Controversy sells books and nothing causes controversy like challenged taboos.

One of my nobler and Christlike qualities is a reflex which causes me to defend the weakest among us. I can't help myself. Show me a lost cause and I'm there for more than the free food. It's my romantic notion that poet's have a duty to explain the misunderstood and to remind us that we are measured by how we treat the lowest of our fellows. Pedophiles have achieved this unexalted status in our society. They are universal outcasts. We hang signs around their necks and strap transmitters to their ankles to know just where they are so we can fear them in the night when we put our children to bed. We have whole bodies of literature dedicated to the reinforcement of the taboo we have against sex with the young. Media whores like John Walsh have made pitiful careers out of stoking the hysteria about child abductions which are fewer per capita than lottery winners, lightning strikes or most unknown tropical diseases. If you watch enough Law and Order SVU you can get the idea that there are legions of overcoat-clad salivating child molesters lurking behind every lamp-post on every school campus in the country. It's hysteria plain and simple and it sells like tacos at a bullfight. This would be merely amusing but for the fact that this caricature obscures the true nature of child sex abuse which most often occurs between family members and close members of the community known to the victim, not lurking and predatory outsiders. But this is the part of child sex that we don't want to face or talk about.

Another part of our problem with the subject of pedophilia is that our laws and customs and beliefs are all based on a false axiom. This piece of fiction which pervades our way of thinking is that children are devoid of sexuality. This is patently untrue and yet has been laid like a crooked cornerstone in the foundation of our hypocritical moral edifice. Children ARE sexual creatures and any moral system which denies this is destined for the kind of trainwrecks we see in our churches and schools and families today where shame and guilt and secrecy are the life-destroying forces much more than any erotic behaviors might be. I would advance the notion that being felt up by a priest shouldn't be a life-ruining event in itself, but the attendant shame, guilt and secrecy might be. Our problems come not so much from this old man playing Knick-knack paddywhack as from our prurient and uptight attitudes about the subject of sex in general which prevent a frank and honest communication with our children on real topics like the meaning of consent, the natural consequences and hazards of sex and who owns our bodies. This Victorian, unrealistic protectionism demeans children and leaves them completely vulnerable to exploitation of the most nefarious sort.

The Poet's Eye sees that sexual exploitation is not determined by age but by consent. Instead of pretending that our kids don't grow genitals until the age of 18, we should teach them the meaning of consent and about the ownership of their bodies. Children armed in this way are much less likely to become victims. The answer is not to picket Amazon because they are selling a handbook for dirty old men. If you think the book is dangerous then you should buy it and read it. Know thine enemy. But more likely the book is inconsequential as is the likelihood that your daughter will be snatched from her bed in the middle of the night by a maniacal sex fiend whose DNA is on the National register. When it comes to the subject of pedophilia, we don't need a handbook, we just need to Grow Up.

This old man, he played ten,
He played knick-knack once again;
Knick-knack paddywhack,
Give a dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

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Originally posted to Lightning Rod on Fri Nov 12, 2010 at 10:22 AM PST.

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