Archive for August, 2011

Relative

August 31, 2011 - 5:24 pm Comments Off

Yeah, this is a cold. Not a bad one though, and I’m thinking I can shake it off pretty fast.

In the mean time, go here. It’s in French and thus its reason for existence may not be immediately apparent, but it’s near relatives photoshopped half and half so you can see the facial resemblance. Cooler than it sounds.

Everyone Likes Puppies

August 30, 2011 - 3:55 pm Comments Off

I am currently feeling Funky in a way that either announces an odd allergy attack or presages the onset of a virus. Either way my powers of concentration are notably reduced and my patience in scanty supply, so today you get puppy pictures.

Most really young puppies need a heat source, a lamp or a pad. It took a night and a day of unexplained crying to learn that what these two really wanted was a heat sink. As you can see they snuggle up to it, happy as harp seals on an ice floe.

It’s apparently best if you belly right up to it. Oooh, yeah.

The piglets at one week old. They’re a little bigger now than they were in the first photo.

Like mother…

…Like offspring.

Cultural Anthropology

August 29, 2011 - 4:35 pm Comments Off

It’s the early part of the Republican field sorting itself out, which means time to pander to the heartland, which means time for the almost entirely coastal and urban-dwelling members of the media to treat this activity and the heartland itself as an excursion to an alien planet, populated by dangerously exotic natives.

Religion becomes a particular sore point, because it is both a slice of the country a candidate- even a Democratic candidate- must at least not overtly horrify, and something that media seems to find extremely puzzling. (I find THIS extremely puzzling- most Americans grow up either religious or around the religious, yet journalists often act as though overt religiosity were not just embarrassing or wrong but actually foreign.)

Now, I’m not one that thinks the religion or lack thereof of candidates is a private thing that it’s simply gauche for the media to question or interrogate; religious and philosophical beliefs often form the bedrock on which a person’s ethical structure is founded, not to mention a fair amount of worldview and what one thinks of the basic structure of the world. It can be tribalistic or inclusive, and it absolutely affects what kinds of actions a candidate may or may not take. (Though not nearly as predictive as their past actions are.) I just wish the media were up to doing it with some degree of literacy or understanding both of the religion they’re talking about, the subcultures within it, and the various interactions between them. There’s rarely an insider’s understanding of the various power dynamics and actual degrees of influence; a very good litmus test is whether someone refers to Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist as an example of Southern Baptists, when Westboro is affiliated with no Baptist convention (Phelps was kicked out decades ago for advising a parishioner to beat his wife) and is in fact something much more like a one-family charismatic cult than it is any kind of Christian sect.

Michelle Bachmann seems to be drawing a great deal of this mix of fear and loathing. I don’t like her at all, I like her husband even less, and her religious outlook is at least mixed up in some of the reasons I find her problematic- but I also find her a fairly garden-variety* sort of Christian according to what I know of American Christians. I see constant darkly muttered references to how the Bachmanns are from some sort of terrifying theocratic sect- and see the word “Dominionist” tossed around a lot- but so far as I can tell she’s not particularly distinctive among serious Lutherans, which aren’t exactly a radical fringe group.

Yes, you can point to people who are or were involved with scary substrains of Christian thought, including Dominionists, as “influences”, but if you combed my bookshelf of everything I’ve ever read that I thought was important and influenced me in some way you could probably come up with a lot of fairly scary things- and this is true for anyone who has ever given any sort of serious thought to anything in their entire lives, especially when dealing with large cultural and philosophical issues. This, by the by, goes for politicians on the left, too- I don’t think Barack Obama is a scheming Alinskyite neo-Weatherman due to his past reading and associations, I think he’s an intellectually fairly shallow man who ran in the right circles and read the right things who is mainly scary because it strikes me the only thing he ever really gained deep understanding of, and competence with, is campaigning.

The fact of the matter is, to be literate within your culture or subculture, there are things you are more or less obligated to read or at least be influenced by just by exposure to those ideas. If you’re not part of that culture, it’s much more difficult to distinguish which references and exposures are part of bedrock, directed belief and which are more like part of the wallpaper. (If you want a good example, the tendency of fundamentalist Christians to be shocked and alarmed by the magic-and-demons aspects of fantasy literature and gaming geek culture is an excellent one.)

Cue Bachmann campaign actually having to explain to the media that a remark about “God getting our attention” about fiscal policy by sending natural disasters was a joke and not a serious attempt to suggest that God is striking us with plagues because he doesn’t like Ben Bernanke. This is what I mean by the tone-deafness of the media in reacting to religious people and religiosity- in a culture in which references to God and what God’s doing or wants are common, it’s very obviously a joke and the audience in the video reacts to it like one. Absent that familiarity, it’s apparently possible to react with unfeigned horror that Bachmann would suggest God is striking us down for our financial hubris.

This is, by the by, one of the reasons I’m very skeptical of the concept of “dog whistles”- which are supposedly code terms politicians and other speakers use to tell their base/shared culture something without alarming the media or unaffiliated people. There’s a difference between secret code language designed to subvert America and the concepts, metaphors, and worldview a speaker shares and may assume; while it may indeed be a shorthand reference for a belief or a point a naive audience would find horrifying, it’s not always, and I think it’s far more often done because that is the vocabulary and outlook the speaker has than because he or she is trying to put one over on the audience and signal his “real” audience what he or she will really do once in power.

The dissection of Bachmann’s “head and tail” comment regarding Obama’s military adventures in Libya as a metaphor for America’s role in warfare is a good example; it’s a quote from Deuteronomy, “The Lord will make you the head and not the tail”. People seem to be freaking out that this is a dogwhistle to Dominionists, because they use the phrase as a theological justification for why Christians have a God-given obligation to rule. Well yes, they do. However, it’s also really common for people in religious circles to use Biblical metaphors, period; I’ve seen serious theological debate, sometimes radical debate, over passages and lines I’ve also seen used as metaphors much as we use any common cultural metaphor to describe a situation. I don’t think it’s any more innately sinister than describing someone entering a difficult situation as “walking into Mordor”.

The interesting thing about dogwhistles is they almost always seem to be identified as such by anyone who is outside the culture/movement supposedly being dogwhistled. Just about every time I’ve seen the reverse- someone thinking a politician is speaking to them/their group in code- it almost always turns out to have been a case of wishful thinking. Most groups really aren’t satisfied with being supposedly represented by a leader who is completely unwilling to speak of their beliefs straightforwardly in public, even if they understand they are an unpopular minority.

If we want to know what Michele Bachmann, or any other politician, believes and how that would affect their governing, our best bet outside looking at their past actions is to ask them- and we’re not going to get anywhere particularly productive or particularly far if the people asking are so illiterate in their own line of questioning that they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. If they are unwilling to answer a straightforward question that isn’t starting off wrongheaded (the theological equivalent of asking an evolutionary biologist why, if humans evolved from primates, monkeys are still around), then that tells us something as well. Otherwise, the most that will be accomplished is further convincing Americans that don’t find Christian culture innately alarming that they are being talked to, and ruled by, a completely clueless self-deemed elite- which are already Bachmann campaign themes.

Don’t want to see her in office? Don’t show her to be right.

*Yes, I’m entirely aware of her views on gay people and evolution. Sadly they are not all *that* exceptional.

Assortative Mating Upheld, Film At Eleven

August 26, 2011 - 6:07 pm Comments Off

Pickup Artist tactics work… on women who are either explicitly just looking for casual sex themselves, or else hold misogynist attitudes themselves. In other words, PUAs and men with similar attitudes about how men, women, and dating and mating work are mating with women who agree with them that that’s the way the world works- everyone within that world is playing “the Game”, or as I put it earlier, living on Planet Zongo. Or, to put it more generally, people date other people who share their worldviews, consciously or unconsciously, even if those worldviews are shitty and they think they’d like to live somewhere nicer.

This is essentially a “researchers set out to prove rigorously what should be a fairly easy intuitive conclusion” story, and one which I applaud, but there’s not a whole lot to add to “researchers find PUAs, targets are the same species with a shared mating dance” thing. I do have two points to add, though.

1. In my experience, misogynistic attitudes often go hand in glove with misandric attitudes if you look at them long enough. Thinking of men as demented feral dogs who’ll do anything to mate isn’t exactly a flattering attitude about them any more than thinking of women as Gatekeepers of Pussy just waiting for someone “alpha” enough is. Another way you could put the mindset of these women is “looking for the best out of really low expectations”.

2. Related to 1, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same weren’t true of women who more blatantly think very little of the opposite sex, i.e. those that things like “men are so stupid, women have to save them” images in advertising are aimed at. Because the human race loves its confirmation biases, they are finding men who agree that they are stupid and self-centered by nature (and why would you work to change something like that if you thought that was just the way the world worked?), and act it. Either way I think these studies would have benefited tremendously by polling its subjects on negative attitudes toward men as well as women.

We don’t find it surprising and controversial when we self-sort our lives and experiences into smaller circles, with more even worldviews created by a sort of community conformity. Geeks run with geeks, people of like political stripe tend to congregate, subcultures are a fact of life. Why then should it be surprising when “manipulative sexist” turns out to be its own, populated by both sexes just as the rest are even if they’ve drawn a chalk line down the middle, rather than The Nature Of Men and Women?

I Would Jump Off The Cliff, Too

August 25, 2011 - 3:37 pm Comments Off

All the cool kids are doing it, but more to the point, it’s really simple content. Kang is starting to find her feet at mothering, but we really could use another day or so of caught sleep. In general.

The apparently NPR-generated sci-fi and fantasy reading list. Bold is stuff I’ve read, italic is stuff I’ve started and didn’t finish, and commentary is in parentheses. I realize this will make the list much more difficult to copy and I don’t care, this counts as substantial content if I add commentary, right?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien (I realize this makes a substantial chunk of the geek population want to strip me of my Vulcan ears, but I found Tolkien unutterably boring. I realize a lot of later fantasy builds on, rips off, or riffs on Tolkien, but at least a lot of them do it with a far better sense of humor.)

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (This was on my fifth grade summer reading list. Why, I have no idea, but I’m glad it was. I actually like the Dirk Gently series much more, even though no one else seems to have read those than me.)

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card (I think smart kids are required to read this between the ages of ten and seventeen. I tried to read the first sequel. I didn’t get far before I got the sensation of having disappeared up Card’s ass.)

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (The spice must flow, but I’ll let it flow right on past me.)

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin (Friends don’t let friends read giant epic cycles if the author has no idea where he’s going or appears to be losing interest.)

6. 1984, by George Orwell (I’m not a huge fan of depressing dystopian fiction no matter how classic. Stingray is, however, and his copy is well-worn.)

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (Assigned reading, seventh grade. I like basically every single other thing Bradbury has written more. See also, dystopias aren’t my cup of tea.)

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (I knew someone who loved this series so much I could just about bet money I therefore wouldn’t. You’d understand if you’d met the guy.)

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (Not me, but again Stingray’s copy is well-worn.)

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (Several times. I <3 Gneil.)

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (The movie was better.)

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan (See my comment on Martin.)

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell (Assigned reading, seventh grade again. Come to think of it my English teacher that year had a huge hardon for both dystopias and bleak commentaries on the human condition. He also assigned The Oxbow Incident.)

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson (Not me, but Stingray again. When the first reason someone can come up with for why I’d want to read something is that it defined a genre, not because it’s fun, I’m usually satisfied with skipping it on the assumption the genre therefore covers it. Stingray wishes me to note that HE thought it was fun, but he thinks nearly all things cyberpunk are fun.)

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore (Book and movie both. They were both good in their own way.)

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (No, but I did read The Positronic Man, for which Robin Williams should be shot for daring to adapt.)

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (This was not a good introduction to Heinlein. I haven’t really been able to overcome my irritation with him accumulated over the course of the book. I read the author’s original cut, I understand a lot of the more objectionable stuff was cut out in later editions, which may explain why I remember it so much less fondly.)

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss (What, and who?)

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (Pass.)

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (Very, very different from most of the movie adaptations. If you look at it with your ladybusiness glasses on it’s also a really interesting dark fiction pretty clearly inspired at least in part by her rough experiences with birth.)

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick (No, though I did read Man In the High Castle.)

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (People take this one way too goddamn seriously. As a light read it’s not half bad.)

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King (Only everything subsequent to the first book, which contrary to the opinion of a lot of King fans, sucks. Sorry.)

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (I slept through large portions of the movie, twice. does that count?)

25. The Stand, by Stephen King (The unabridged edition. I kind of wanted a medal at the end. The whole thing was somehow less than the sum of its parts.)

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson (I was bored and annoyed in equal measure at the end of the first two or three chapters. Stingray loved it.)

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (Bits and pieces.)

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut peaked with this one in my opinion. Pity it was so early on.)

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman (Oh Neil. Along with Alan Moore he reset the bar for comics writing.)

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (More assigned reading. Far more interesting as a book than a movie.)

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein (Still haven’t forgiven him for Stranger.)

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (Among the more hair-raising children’s fiction out there. The Plague Dogs is even worse. Adams missed a calling as a horror writer.)

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey (My first exposure to McCaffrey is how BATSHIT she is with her fans. Pass.)

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller (Never heard of it.)

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells (I went through a Wells phase in high school and read pretty much all of ‘em. This was by far the weirdest.)

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne (I think I read a comic version. I was unimpressed.)

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny (Oh yeah… Zelazny. He exists. I can say pretty much the same about the next several books/authors on the list.)

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven (I actually do mean to, one of these days.)

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Tolkien gets, if that were possible, even stuffier!)

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (Meh. The protagonist made me want to punch him pretty much every scene he was in. Neil didn’t really master novel-length fiction with no pictures until American Gods if you ask me.)

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke (Yet more assigned reading, this time on a summer reading list. Someone in my school’s English staff was a huge sci fi fan, in retrospect. I liked it a lot, and went through a later Clarke phase because of it. Tales From The White Hart is my favorite. No, I can’t explain why I skipped 2001.)

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan (By the time you finish Sagan trying to do fiction, you will have counted each of the billions and billions of seconds of lost time.)

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (See Neverwhere. The movie was better.)

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (See Snow Crash. Stingray loves it, I still can’t stand Stephenson.)

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks (I was- am- quite heartily sick of dystopias and zombies alike, but when Stingray finally badgered me into this one I LOVED IT LOVED IT. One of the best things I’ve read in the last several years.)

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle (Another one I mean to read, someday.)

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett (If Pratchett wrote it, I’ve read it. I like this one in particular because I’ve heard atheists describe it to me as an anti-religion polemic and believers describe it to me as a powerful defense of faith.)

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Some. I like it well enough, but not enough to buckle down and devour the rest.)

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett (See Small Gods. Although why on earth Going Postal is in here but Hogfather or Reaper Man or Night Watch isn’t is a complete mystery to me.)

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind (Described to me succintly as Conan the Libertarian. So far pass.)

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Mean to, haven’t yet.)

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (No, but I’ve read a bunch of other Matheson.)

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard (I’m uncomfortable with quite that level of Walter Mitty.)

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (Haven’t, mean to)

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne (Good grief did Verne like journeys.)

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore (I’m allergic to elves.)

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi (A strong start and Scalzi’s only gotten better, IMO.)

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke (No, but I can’t see why on earth I didn’t in the aforementioned Clarke phase.)

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey (No, I mean to.)

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury at his most gloriously purple. I liked it anyway.)

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire (I think I need to try this one again. I think I was just young enough the point sailed over my head.)

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde (Not that it inspired me to read more of the series. Neat concept, dull execution.)

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson (Even Stingray gave up in defeat after the first ten percent inspired no “and then what happened”, but DID require homework.)

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher (Ehhhh pass. I don’t want to read Butcher taking himself seriously, thanks.)

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock (I was nowhere NEAR emo enough a teenager for Moorcock.)

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury is strongest at short fiction, if you ask me.)

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson (The first book is sitting on my bookshelf, never been gotten around to yet.)

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Happy Families Are All Alike

August 24, 2011 - 6:58 pm Comments Off

….We don’t really have one under our roof quite yet though. Kang is going through a steep learning curve on motherhood, which has not been helped by yesterday’s stress. Everyone here is pretty frazzled and sleep-deprived. Regular content will resume when we have something like a normal schedule again, as well as the ability to concentrate.

Not All Endings Are Happy

August 23, 2011 - 1:44 am Comments Off

Puppy number three did not make it. He or she died in the womb at some point and we spent all night at the emergency vet clinic dealing with the situation. I’ll spare the details but they were pretty rough on everyone involved.

The other two are strong and healthy. Give us some breathing room for a bit, hm?

Gone Gynecological

August 22, 2011 - 3:17 pm Comments Off

Kang spent the previous what feels like forty-seven years going into the first stages of labor before finally getting round to it starting around noon today. A boy and a girl pup have been born so far, with at least one more sibling due on the way.

So yeah, I’m hanging out in an entirely too hot room that smells like an entire women’s college on a synchronized period plus wet dog running on a little bit of scattered sleep. Full blow by blow when we’re all done and I’ve had some sleep.

Learning Good, Predation Bad.

August 19, 2011 - 6:03 pm Comments Off

I swear I sometimes post about things that aren’t reactions to Peter. He’s just good at getting reactions out of me that don’t fit in a blogger comment box character limit and/or arguably ought to be posts of their own anyway.

Today’s- or really, yesterday’s, I wanted to do this then but there was no time- is the problem of pedophilia, a discussion of both the issues in general and specifically of a group whose mission is to re-examine the DSMV with respect to pedophilia- with input from pedophiles themselves. I’ll quote from the group’s description of their immediate goals:

This day-long symposium will facilitate the exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, mental health practitioners, and minor-attracted persons who have an interest in critical issues surrounding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The symposium will address critical issues in the following areas:

Scientific and philosophical issues related to the DSM entry on pedophilia and/or hebephilia
Effects of the DSM entry on stigma, availability of mental health services, and research
Ways in which minor-attracted persons can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process

I’d recommend reading Peter’s whole post, as I usually do with these things as well as sampling at least some of the other linked articles and reactions, because most of mine are based in the context therein and I’d like to get through this without having to recap all of it. I’ll try to provide what I can, though.

Point one I wanted to address has already been made in the comments, which is that pedophiles and child molesters aren’t necessarily the same thing. Peter says:

My huge problem with the way B4U-ACT talks about this problem is that they appear to deliberately adopt a neutral, non-judgmental approach to those with pedophilic tendencies. For example, their second principle states:

2. INDIVIDUALITY. We realize that other than their sexual and emotional feelings toward minors, minor-attracted people do not have any particular characteristics in common. They vary as do all people, and it is inaccurate to claim that all or most minor-attracted people have certain beliefs or personalities, exhibit psychopathology or specific personality disorders, or engage in particular behaviors. We do not assume that they abuse children, that they are prone to deception or violence, or that their sexual feelings are more compulsive or uncontrollable than other people’s. We see clients as individuals, not as a category.

If someone has never committed an offense against children, that’s not an inappropriate attitude. If such individuals can be helped to control their wrong attractions, that’s a good and healthy thing for society. My problem is that I don’t see B4U-ACT actually coming out and saying, bluntly, that such attractions are wrong.

And while my visceral response is to entirely agree with him, I can’t really nod my head and agree that the state of being attracted to children is, without action, either inherently wrong or morally the same as acting on the attraction. Most of my principles- the ones that have been actively examined, anyway- are based around the idea that what makes your actions right or wrong is what you DO, not what you think. We may commit murder in our minds a thousand times in a day, but until you actually raise your hand to your fellow man, you haven’t done anything wrong- something maybe for you to be concerned about with regards to your mental health, or serve as a warning sign that problems are going unaddressed, maybe, but nothing that would even remotely give, say, the state the right to restrain you.

Part of the problem as I see it with this is we really have no clue at the moment how many people who are attracted to children actually molest children, if that number is “all of them”, “almost all”, “some”, or “a minority”. We know what the recidivism rates are for people who go to prison for child molestation, but if you presented me with any other psychological issue, or even a generic unnamed issue, and told me that our sole source of data on people with the issue was collected from prisoners, I’d say we had a massive sampling problem and truly understood very little on whatever the issue was.

Realistically speaking, we’re not going to get a lot of data or understanding either if we insist that part of the mandated protocol for a patient admitting attraction to children is to immediately get to work reinforcing that they are worthless evil people. Call me a liberal, but I think the “child molestors are the worst kind of monster there is” meme is well-established in our culture, to the point that the easiest way for a prosecutor to get just about every kind of judicial protection for suspects overlooked is for a child to be involved and the allegations to be sexual. I think it speaks to the degree of our cultural hatred for people who molest children that I’m seriously worried typing this paragraph that someone is going to derail the discussion by either accusing me of being a pedophile myself or that I think we’re too hard on actual child molestors.

One very troubling trend I’ve noticed in the people speaking out against this group is comparing them and their goals to earlier movements to destigmatize other things that used to be viewed as sexual deviancy disorders- like homosexuality. The argument seems to be that first the psychiatrists were willing to reconsider the idea that being gay wasn’t a horrible disease, and then the next thing you know we have gay marriage and now we’re going to have accepted pedophiles too!

For a given value of “correct”, they’re right; actual child molestors would very much like this outcome and have done a fair bit of comparing their own plight to that of homosexuals, which I would link you to if I wanted to open that particular portal to Hell. The process from electroshock therapy for having bad thoughts about the same sex to two old women getting married in New York did indeed begin with depathologizing first, and then to a process of greater acceptance through exposure. Pedophiles who want to be free to act on their desires and people who fear that very scenario can easily see the parallels.

The problem with basing any kind of argument on that is that it’s a self-weakening one; if you argue that it’s bad for us to not react with total hatred and revulsion and immediate criminalization to pedophilia because we stopped reacting with total hatred and revulsion and criminalization to homosexuality and then homosexuality became OK, that immediately begs the question of why that’s such a terrible thing if the only obstacle is our collective energy to maintain visceral disgust.

The difference between molesting children and homosexual sex isn’t “we only still disapprove of one of them”, it’s that one of them is sexual activity that one party is incapable of consenting to, and one is almost always completely consensual sexual activity between two adults. (And when it’s not, it’s rape, which amazingly enough is still illegal and disapproved of.) Sex with a child and sex with an adult of your own gender isn’t just two flavors of “deviant sex”, it’s one flavor of sex versus rape. This is not a distinction that should be left between the lines or taken as given. Actual child molestors would love it if we did that more often, because it leaves them all the more room to paint themselves as merely misunderstood people facing visceral and unfair societal revulsion.

I agree with Peter that some things are wrong-just-wrong and moral relativism is a hazard, but I think it’s extremely important to retain our moral compasses to be capable at all points of articulating WHY something is wrong. And if all you CAN articulate for why both homosexuality and pedophilia are wrong and we should never have stopped violently hating the former is “because God thinks so”- you are welcome to your opinion and may even be right, but this is a secular society when it comes to policy, as well as psychiatry, and the argument will quickly wither.

All that said, Peter is entirely right to see the danger in pedophiles who want to freely act out their desires using the same social structure to advance that goal, because they absolutely will and if you know where on the internet to look*, you’ll find them doing just that. He’s right to use the Catholic church as an example of an institution that lost sight of the scope of the wrong done by people who molest children, and who acted to shelter them and thus opened thousands more children to predation. Those are real threats; we as a society, and maybe as a species, have a huge problem separating understanding from empathy from sympathy, and psychologists are not immune.

I don’t know whether B4U-ACT is going to be a group that opens inroads into a corner of psychology where we have very little- I would say dangerously little- understanding or not. In order to do that successfully a group that wanted to try would have to have and maintain perfect credibility, and reading some of the linked articles I’m not at all sure that’s going to be them. If not the only thing they’ll achieve is making people more vigilant to the threat of being lulled by predatory pedophiles.

One more point I wanted to make, though it doesn’t flow all that cleanly with the rest: working to maintain the attitude that pedophiles are HORRIFIC MONSTERS may not actually protect children as much as we think it will. It may serve as a clumsy bulwark against moral relativism, but one of the most commonly cited reasons given by victims of abuse, perhaps especially sexual abuse, for why they didn’t report earlier (or at all) was because they didn’t recognize it as abuse, because their abuser was someone known to them and maybe loved and they couldn’t be an abuser because they weren’t a monster. This is also how real predators manage to get actual protection from their neighbors and friends even after their victim reports- good old so-and-so couldn’t have diddled that little girl, he’s our friend and neighbor and he’s not a monster, we’d know if he was a monster. She’s probably lying, maybe someone encouraged her to lie, someone bad. We don’t want to believe we could have harbored, related to, bonded with a monster, and the lengths of psychological protection we’ll go to in order to avoid facing that can sometimes only be shattered by staggering evidence.

I don’t think I can see a way where we will cleanly thread the needle going forward- there are too many hazards, both in ourselves and in the way our society works- but I don’t think the position we’re in now is a healthy or harmless one either.

*I have a very bad habit of turning over digital rocks.

Animal Update

August 18, 2011 - 4:04 pm Comments Off

Vet is very pleased with the progress Zydeco has made on the antibiotic injections and wants to slow them down some. He looks brighter, is more active, and is leaking a lot less pus and gore. He’s far from over it yet but he’s recovering.

Kang is packing at least three big pups in her belly, with room for a fourth to be hiding in there as well. Delivery any day now, as opposed to another week or so as I had thought.