We need more kink-shaming

Some of you perverts need to keep your fantasies to yourselves.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Culture Politics

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If someone had told you a few years ago that in the future USA Today would publish an article expressing sympathy for paedophiles, you’d have thought them mad. This most middle-market of newspapers, landing on the doorsteps of decent folk up and down the Land of the Free every morning, shedding a tear of empathy for paedoes? Get real. Not going to happen. Ever. Well, welcome to 2022 folks, where wokeness has dragged us so far down the putrid well of moral relativism that now even family newspapers are wondering out loud if perhaps we have been a tad harsh on people who find children sexually attractive.

I wish I was making this up. But it’s there in black-and-white for all to see. ‘What the public keeps getting wrong about paedophilia’, said the USA Today headline. Stupid public! The article opens as follows: ‘Paedophilia is viewed as among the most horrifying social ills. But…’ But! That’s probably when the reporter should have stopped writing. It’s at that moment they should have shut down their Mac and ventured out for a long walk to ponder how their career brought them to a situation where they’re saying ‘But’ to the long-held belief that paedos are sickos. ‘But’, the piece says, ‘scientists who study the sexual disorder say it is also among the most misunderstood’. Apparently, boffins have discovered that you can be born a paedophile, just like you can be born gay. ‘Paedophilia is likely determined in the womb’, we’re told. How long before paedos start marching behind the banner ‘Born this way’? ‘Don’t hate me, I can’t help lusting after toddlers, I was born like this.’

So that’s one of the things the ignorant public gets wrong about paedophiles, apparently. You prejudiced idiots think paedos are perverts who create and indulge their perverted fantasies through illicit associations and the sharing of warped ideas and images, when in truth they were born with this predilection for kids, much as they were born with blue eyes or fair hair. ‘The evidence suggests it is inborn. It’s neurological’, one expert tells USA Today. And if it’s inborn, if it can’t be helped, then we shouldn’t be too tough on paedos, right? Yes, brace yourselves, USA Today hints at this very point. Perhaps it is time we started ‘destigmatising paedophilia’, it suggests.

There is ‘controversy over “destigmatising paedophilia”’, USA Today says – no shit! – but perhaps it’s time we had that conversation. It tells readers there is ‘growing support in the field’ for the proposal that paedophilia should be destigmatised and that paedos should now be referred to as ‘minor-attracted people’. Apparently this would encourage more paedophiles to seek help and therapy. At the moment they’re too ashamed to say, ‘I’m a paedophile, I need help’, so maybe we should allow them to say: ‘I’m a minor-attracted person. I was born like this. I would like some assistance to make sure I never act on my inborn sexual impulses.’

I’m going to put my neck on the line here and say that if you’re a paedophile, if you sexually desire children, then you should feel ashamed. You should be consumed by shame, in fact. There should be a stigma attached to paedophilia! I can’t believe it is necessary to write that sentence. A stigma is a mark of disgrace. And adults who fantasise about sex with children are a disgrace. They are a disgrace to themselves, to their families, and to society. The very notion of ‘destigmatising paedophilia’ speaks to the relativistic rot we now find ourselves in, where our willingness to make moral judgements has been so throttled by decades of anything-goes, everything-is-valid bullshit that we can’t even bring ourselves to say: ‘Paedophilia is bad. Paedophiles are not good people.’

Handily for those of us who do not read USA Today, or even live in the US, that august publication decided to turn its paedo piece into digestible nuggets of information on Twitter. Clearly it wants to reach as much of the stupidly anti-paedophile public as possible. ‘We think we know what a paedophile is. There’s a lot we’re misunderstanding’, said the opening tweet in a long thread. The thread went on to say paedos cannot control the fact that they are ‘attracted to kids’ but they can be ‘taught self-control’ so that they never abuse kids. On it goes, tweet after tweet about what a sad life these perverts live, bless ’em. You have to wonder who at USA Today said: ‘Guys, let’s do a Twitter thread on how misunderstood paedophiles are.’ Not surprisingly there was a backlash and USA Today took the Twitter thread down. Another victory for the ill-informed, paedophile-hating masses.

Quick question: what is going on? Amazingly, this USA Today piece didn’t come out of thin air. Indeed, it is a report on a growing academic concern that stigmatising paedophilia does more harm than good. There is now some fairly serious discussion in universities about renaming paedophiles as ‘minor-attracted persons’ (MAPs) in order to indicate that theirs is just another form of sexual attraction, albeit one that can have devastating consequences if the paedos (sorry, MAPs) act on their perversions (sorry, their inborn sexual desires). At the end of last year there was a huge controversy at Old Dominion University in Virginia after one of its professors, Allyn Walker, published a book titled A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity. Yep, paedos want dignity now. It’s the new civil-rights movement, don’t you know.

What is striking is the extent to which people like Walker use woke language to make the case for showing greater respect to paedophiles. Walker says we should use the names and terms that paedophiles themselves prefer. Well, we wouldn’t want to offend them or ‘erase’ their sense of self. ‘[It] is important to use terminology for groups that members of that group want others to use for them’, Walker says. This is ‘less stigmatising than other words like paedophile’. This is an actual professor at an actual university insisting that we avoid offending paedophiles and instead show respect for their self-identification as ‘minor-attracted persons’. You thought ‘Respect my pronouns!’ was bad; how about ‘Respect my identity as a person who finds children sexually desirable’?

So much controversy swirled around A Long, Dark Shadow that Walker was eventually forced to resign from Old Dominion. That isn’t good. Censorship is not the right answer to any question, even the question ‘Why the fuck is this professor using the words “dignity” and “paedophile” in the same sentence?’. Intellectually and robustly pushing back on Walker’s hyper-relativism would have been a more fruitful response than shutting these views down.

Yet what is even more startling than Walker’s silencing is that some respectable voices implicitly back the view, still, that we need to ‘destigmatise’ the conversation about paedophilia. Elizabeth Letourneau of Johns Hopkins University says, ‘Many adults with sexual attraction to children want help to control it… Stigmatising the conversation puts kids at risk.’ What is disturbing here is the mainstreaming of the phrase ‘sexual attraction to children’, as if this were a straightforward desire, akin to other forms of sexual attraction. Do people not use the word ‘perversion’ anymore? Perversion is ‘sexual behaviour that is considered abnormal and unacceptable’. Isn’t ‘pervert’ a better term than ‘minor-attracted’ for freaks who fancy kids? And of course we now have USA Today saying there is ‘growing support for [Allyn] Walker’s point of view’ and for referring ‘to paedophiles as “minor-attracted people”’. You start to wonder how USA Today will cover child-abuse horrors in the future. ‘MINOR-ATTRACTED PERSON ARRESTED FOR ACTING ON ATTRACTION TO MINOR.’

What a weird world we live in. On the one hand we’re constantly being told to ‘destigmatise’ certain ways of life, whether it’s ‘minor attraction’, zoophilia (that’s perverts who have sex with animals), men who like dressing as babies, the pup fetish (people who pretend to be dogs), and so on. Suggest that these are warped pastimes that decent human beings should not engage in and you’ll be accused of ‘kink-shaming’. Shaming people for their sexual perversions is a big no-no in the woke era. And yet at the same time, white men, heterosexuals, ‘cis’ people and members of other mainstream identities are constantly being told to express shame for… well, for existing. You horrible, privileged people must permanently atone for being born and for taking up oxygen that could be being breathed in by far more fascinating and fabulous individuals. So being a white, straight bloke is stigmatised while being a whackjob who thinks kids are sexy is destigmatised. Reader, civilisation is in trouble.

The normalisation of strange fetishes has been gathering pace for a while. BBC News publishes photos from Pride marches showing grown men dressed as babies, complete with dummies in their mouths. Which a) is pretty damned insulting to gay people, for whom Pride was created, the vast majority of whom don’t get a kick from dressing as babies, and b) makes you wonder what the photo editors at the Beeb are smoking. One writer has wondered when the alphabet soup – LGBTQIAA, etc – will include Z. I don’t have to spell it out, do I? Zoophiles, he says, ‘aren’t just lascivious farmhands shagging goats… that’s just plain bestiality’. No, zoophiles are people who ‘genuinely prefer animals over members of their own species’. Goat-Attracted Person (GAP), perhaps? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, even bestiality is getting a woke makeover.

How has this happened? How have we wound up in a situation where perversion parades itself on public demonstrations and where even hyper-perversion (loving animals, desiring children) is skulking on the sidelines, waiting to be added to the alphabet soup? It’s because we have abandoned judgement. You are no longer allowed to say ‘That’s weird’ or ‘That’s disgusting’ in response to a person’s abnormal urges and impulses. Instead you must nod along and gush – ‘Wow, what a fascinating identity, tell me more!’. This is why TikTok and other sites of narcissistic revelation are awash with weirdos discussing their made-up gender identities in minute detail or barking like dogs to indicate their attachment to the pup fetish, and why anyone who says ‘What the hell is this?’ will be denounced as dumb, misinformed and bigoted. ‘Bigotry’ is the slur used to shut down critics of perversity. At the more extreme end, way beyond pup fetishes and the gender-shapeshifting nonsense, there are voices that now say maybe even paedos and practitioners of bestiality should be included in the spectrum of ‘sexual attraction’. Our loss of moral judgement and universal standards has, not surprisingly, opened the floodgates to increasingly wild demands to ‘Respect my identity!’, where ‘identity’ really means ‘messed-up perversion’.

The weird thing about our era is that shaming is seen as good when it is aimed at people whose only offence is to hold views that grate against woke ideology but bad when it is aimed at people who bark like a dog as their partner marches them through the streets with a leash around their neck. So if you are a feminist who believes biological sex is real or a black free-thinker who criticises BLM, you’ll be Twittermobbed, publicly shamed, possibly even publicly shamed out of your job. But if you’re an agender, asexual demigirl pup whose pronouns are pup / pupself, you’ll get 40,000 followers on TikTok and ceaseless validation from genderqueer influencers. What a time to be alive!

In short, shaming is all the rage when it is aimed at intellectual dissenters against social-justice groupthink, but it is bigotry of the lowest order when targeted at people who fuck goats. Shaming is celebrated and encouraged when the target is a critic of wokeness, but it is demonised when it is aimed at people who have – let’s be frank – let themselves down. This is why we have terms like slut-shaming, fat-shaming and kink-shaming (described by one mainstream newspaper as an ‘attempt to embarrass someone for what they like to do in bed’). This is why even in a piece on some people’s perverted fantasies about eating human flesh, a journalist felt the need to say, ‘I’m not here to kink-shame’. Well, we wouldn’t want aspiring cannibals to feel embarrassed about their… sexual attraction? Maybe the desire to carve up a fellow human being and consume his fat and muscles is also inborn? Born this way! These woke deployments of the word ‘shame’ are intended to protect sick behaviour from the criticism and repudiation of good, normal people. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s an idea. Maybe being a slut is shameful? Maybe being morbidly obese is a bad thing that you should try to rectify? Maybe wanting to be treated like a dog is not, you know, good? Maybe feeling attracted to animals or children is disgraceful and repugnant? Let’s bring moral judgment back into play. Let’s stop shaming people for holding normal political and moral views and instead shame those who get turned on by six-year-old boys. That is wrong. That is disgusting. That is deserving of stigma. A society that cannot see this is a society that is utterly bereft from morality, truth and decency.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Culture Politics


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