Guardian: Paedophiles are ‘ordinary members of society’ who need moral support
Britain’s most persecuted minority have found a new advocate. An article this morning in the Guardian by feature writer Jon Henley addresses misconceptions about paedophiles, quoting one “expert” who believes that: “It is the quality of the relationship that matters”.
No, this is not not some sick send-up on my part. “If there’s no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power,” says Tom O’Carroll, “if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm.”
O’Carroll is a former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange with a conviction for distributing indecent photographs. The Guardian acknowledges this, but gives him a respectful hearing and points out that “some academics do not dispute” his views. For example:
A Dutch study published in 1987 found that a sample of boys in paedophilic relationships felt positively about them. And a major if still controversial 1998-2000 meta-study suggests – as J Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, Chicago, says – that such relationships, entered into voluntarily, are “nearly uncorrelated with undesirable outcomes”.
Most people find that idea impossible. But writing last year in the peer-reviewed Archives of Sexual Behaviour, Bailey said that while he also found the notion “disturbing”, he was forced to recognise that “persuasive evidence for the harmfulness of paedophilic relationships does not yet exist”.
Henley attaches a lot of weight to the views of Sarah Goode, a senior lecturer at the University of Winchester:
For Goode, though, broader, societal change is needed. “Adult sexual attraction to children is part of the continuum of human sexuality; it’s not something we can eliminate,” she says. “If we can talk about this rationally – acknowledge that yes, men do get sexually attracted to children, but no, they don’t have to act on it – we can maybe avoid the hysteria. We won’t label paedophiles monsters; it won’t be taboo to see and name what is happening in front of us.”
We can help keep children safe, Goode argues, “by allowing paedophiles to be ordinary members of society, with moral standards like everyone else”, and by “respecting and valuing those paedophiles who choose self-restraint”. Only then will men tempted to abuse children “be able to be honest about their feelings, and perhaps find people around them who could support them and challenge their behaviour before children get harmed”.
I’ll leave you to make up your minds about this argument, but here’s a point to bear in mind. It was precisely this sort of “enlightened” attitude that persuaded Catholic bishops in the 1980s to adopt a mild, nuanced approach to suspicions of clerical paedophilia.
Read all Damian Thompson’s Telegraph Blog posts here