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Moral Panic Does Not Protect Children from Pedophiles

extreme denounciation of sexual desire is not helpful

Date: 09/30/2006

[In a list specific to professionals working in the field of domestic violence, a discussion breaks out about NAMBLA... This email was rejected by the moderator without explanation.]

On Sep 30, 2006, at 5:33 AM, Kathleen Dunkelberger wrote:

Thanks for this info. I never would have known there were organizations in our society that freely write about breaking the law and performing these perverted acts upon children... I am amazed that they are actually allowed on the internet to enlist more sickos like themselves. From reading the nambla website it appears they try to state they are for gay and lesbian rights but obviously they fail to recognize that all people, heterosexual or homosexual, still have an obligation to respect the law and children. JUst because a person is a gay or lesbian does not give them the right to break the laws in this sick manner by seducing our kids into their way of life.

I do not agree with the political aims of NAMBLA (I think that age of consent laws are good and necessary), but I find the extreme hostility toward and disparagement of those attracted to people who are underage problematic and alarmingly similar to the attacks against lesbians and gay men (e.g. "seducing the young into their way of life").

Further, to say that NAMBLA is failing to "recognize that all people, heterosexual or homosexual, still have an obligation to respect the law" fails to recognise that consensual adult homosexual sex had been illegal in many states until just a few years ago. NAMBLA's position, as I understand it, is that age of consent laws, like sodomy laws, are discriminatory and should be abolished. Whether or not we happen to agree with this, stating that they advocate breaking or disrespecting laws does seem reminiscent of the attacks targeting lesbians and gay men in the past.

We don't usually get to choose what we feel attracted to--it just happens. One should not be labeled "pervert" or "sick" for something that is beyond her or his control, because it is disrespectful. If calling homosexuals "perverts," "sicko," or "criminals" hasn't made them straight, calling these people these names won't do any good either.

On the other hand, we are in control of our own behaviours, and as such we are personally held accountable for the actions we take. We need to communicate to these people that our laws will severely punish adults who engage in sexual contact with underage folks without demonising them for having sexual feelings that they cannot control.

Beware of group psychology: when people are isolated into a small group with like-minded individuals, their shared views and values become more extreme or pronounced than they were in the beginning. This is what happens in many religious and political cults.

If we push them underground by persecuting them and shutting down their websites, they will have only themselves to talk about their desires, which is likely to result in their developing justifications for acting out on them. By engaging them and having mutually respectful relationships with them, we can help them retain sense of reality. Further, they are more likely to seek counseling to refrain from acting out their sexual attraction if we didn't demonise them for holding such desires.

Emi Koyama

There is an update to this discussion.