The author with neighbor, Halloween, 1993
As an adult survivor of incest that combined sex with corporal punishment, I am in no way an apologist for pedophiles.
Even with the qualifier “some pedophiles” in the article's headline, some may interpret my defense of pedophilia as approval. I have to confess to a bit of marketing chicanery here. The presumption that I am going to justify pedophilia is meant to be inflammatory and a come-on to entice enraged readers who think this blog will offer deranged pity for deranged perpetrators.
Although I occupy the far left of the political spectrum and oppose capital punishment, I would vote for a ballot proposition that mandated chemical castration for the subspecies of subhuman pedophiles called sexual predators, repeat offenders or recidivists whose compulsive behavior is intractable and unsusceptible to treatment of any kind: cognitive behavioral therapy, aversion therapy, psychotropic drugs, 12-Step groups. Their disease is morally terminal and never goes into remission.
As soon as these monsters leave prison, they continue to harm children until caught and reimprisoned. Poor Polly Klaas was not the first victim of the serial predator, Richard Allen Davis, who kidnapped, raped and strangled the achingly photogenic 12-year-old in 1993 while on parole for kidnapping.
I should say that I used to favor chemical castration for incorrigible pedophiles until I read studies that said either drug, Depo-Provera or cyproterone, that’s used to kill desire may kill the offender too. Both drugs are carcinogenic and can cause cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, the drugs have the saving and undeserved grace of being reversible if not injected every three months. The reversible nature of chemical castration means that it’s actually a form of temporary sterilization.
But the ACLU and others who claim sterilization of recidivist sex offenders represents Constitutionally-prohibited cruel and unusual punishment prefer the more inflammatory, less accurate term, castration. Surgical castration is correctly labeled, and its irreversibility means never having to say you’re sorry for raping a child again.
Chemical castration amounts to capital punishment, which I reject without exception, no matter how heinous the crime or how overwhelming the outrage and knee-jerk need for revenge, which is what the death sentence represents, not justice. The debate about deterrence vs. cruel and unusual punishment belongs in another blog. But I can’t resist adding a bit more to the debate by describing my first impulse — murderous revenge — after reading about the father who poked out his son’s eye then sautéed and ate it. I felt like poking out his eye — a literal implementation of Mosaic law, an eye for an eye, a tooth for..., etc., but I recognized my fantasy about punishing the cannibal dad for what it was — vengeance, not justice.
Conventional wisdom insists that rape has little or nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. The rapist seeks to control his victim not satisfy sexual urges. Compelling evidence disproves the empowerment argument used by feminists and others. Imprisoned rapists who opt for surgical castration in exchange for immediate parole report that their libido has vanished along with their testicles.
If rape was indeed motivated by the pursuit of power rather than the need for sexual gratification, castrated rapists would continue to rape as an exercise in domination or misogyny, not as an outlet for sexual cravings which no longer exist after baritones become sopranos (castrati not Tony's last name).
Hoping that I have by now established my credentials as an enemy of those who harm children in any way, I'm going to recount a couple of my own experiences that gave me an insight into pedophile behavior — and a microscopic bit of empathy for the devils who inhabit a corner of hell next door to their victims forced to share it as adult survivors afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other fallout from childhood abuse. Insight should not be confused with approval or an exculpatory agenda.
A forensic psychiatrist who tries to explain why Hitler did what he did does not mean the therapist condones Hitler’s evil by blaming the usual suspects, horrific beatings by an alcoholic parent or mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Intellectual curiosity motivates Hitler’s biographers, not a loony attempt to rehabilitate the subject, except possibly by Holocaust-deniers who promote a revisionist history of Nazism.
Before I went away to college, sometime during the Pliocene, I planned to remain celibate for life because of the internalized homophobia and guilt I felt about being gay. I swallowed whole and gagged on the Catholic Church’s condemnation of homosexuality, which amounts to emotional child abuse because the Church’s moral objections cause unnecessary suffering among closeted gay teenagers.
That’s not histrionics, it’s history, past and current events. Cybill Shepherd, a raging heterosexual, told me when I interviewed her for a magazine article that she became an enraged opponent of homophobia after reading that 80 percent of teen suicides are gay or lesbian. I will never forgive the Church for brainwashing me, especially since it has sheltered so many pedophile priests, transferring them to new parishes with a fresh supply of young victims instead of reporting the perps to the police.
Before college, my planned celibacy had nothing to do with a fear of molesting children. I am only attracted to men approximately my age with some exceptions for brilliant 20somethings and older men with youthful, flexible minds. But in the 1960s, homosexuality of any kind, sex with adults or children, was so taboo, also illegal, that I voluntarily submitted to psychological castration.
The University of Chicago not only educated but liberated me. It took my entire freshman year for the university’s deprogramming to take effect. It wasn’t I became a sophomore that I had the courage to sneak into a school-sanctioned and funded student organization with the now quaint revolutionary name, the Gay Liberation Front. I was 19 and during my first time at the Front I met an “older,” sophisticated man of 30 I spent the next 20 years with until his death due to complications of AIDS.
There’s a rarely publicized statistic that 50 percent of predators are exclusively attracted to children. Their sexual needs can’t be satisfied by adults. The other 50 percent can derive pleasure from sex with adults, but they’re slackers who lack the social skills and persistence it takes to get an adult female into bed, wining and dining, sending flowers, etc. For these irresponsible sloths, it’s simply easier to seduce a vulnerable child who can’t fend off unwanted sexual advances that an uninterested adult could easily spurn with a loud “NO!” or a hard slap.
Millions of years of evolution have programmed the human species to reproduce because a species that lacked that biological imperative would quickly become an extinct species. Sexual desire resides in the most primitive, so-called reptilian part of the brain, the amygdala, the same home of other basic instincts and urges like hunger, thirst, pain, and drug craving.
To be a completely fulfilled human being, you have to get laid. To those who disagree by pointing to celibate yogis, nuns, and Shakers, a sect that understandably went out of business in the 19th century for lack of children to inherit and preserve their religion, I offer only two words of rebuttal: “pedophile priests.” They prove my case that a vow of chastity is near impossible to keep.
I have sympathy for the 50 percent of adults unattracted to other adults. I can imagine the tragic members of this group — not the lazy seducers who lack the patience to wine and dine an adult into bed — taking the same voluntary pledge of celibacy I had briefly made before college taught me to reject immoral morality. A college course devoted to Freud taught me to reject the homophobia implicit in psychoanalysis, and still promoted by his almost non-existent adherents today.
It’s amazing that Freud’s disciples accept his claim, repudiated in 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of psychopathology, the DSM-II (DSM-IV now), delisted homosexuality as a form of mental illness. Freud’s infamous characterization of gays as victims of “arrested development” is often cited by ill-informed bigots who want to purge gays from the teaching professions because we’re all molesters and recruiters for the gay “lifestyle.”
There are many cogent responses to homophobes other than the initial urge to dismiss them as fools. Terms like “lifestyle” and “sexual preference” annoy the hell out of me because lifestyle refers to chosen ways of life, like vegetarianism, bodybuilding, monasticism, haute couture wardrobes, whatever — not a necessity of life. Most political correctness consists of holier-than-thou semantics that allow critics to feel morally superior to the criticized. But there is a critical not semantical distinction between lifestyle and the accurate term, sexual orientation. No one has a Constitutionally-guaranteed right to wear Dolce & Gabbana. But everyone has the right to consensual sex with an adult.
Sexual orientation is also an accurate alternative for the misnomer sexual preference. What kind of masochistic pubescent would “prefer” or choose to be the 21st century incarnation of a 12th century leper? During the difficult high school years, the worst name you could be called was queer or faggot. The label didn’t mean you were actually gay. It was just a generic, all-purpose insult, like “cocksucker,” which is rarely used in the literal sense either. The crude epithet simply refers to the most nauseating sex act heterosexual men can think of to offend other heterosexual men.
Sometimes, cocksucker can be a weird, fraternal term of endearment, like blacks calling each other the “N-word.” Proof that engaging in oral sex is not meant literally comes from the fact that the insulting term is rarely applied to women. Straight men love blowjobs and women willing to give them. Just ask Bill and Monica. A survey reported that younger women are more amenable to performing oral sex than older women, which may explain why Monica and not Hillary hung out with the president in the middle of the work day, taking time off to get off.
The justification for purging high school teachers as recruiters and molesters falls apart when perpetrators of the gay equivalent of the Medieval anti-Semitic blood libel that Jews used the blood of Christian infants during religious rituals are confronted with another statistic and an axiomatic, self-evident explanation: Ninety-seven percent of child molestation victims are female.
That figure means nearly all child predators are hetero male perverts. Straight men are raping little girls because lesbian child molesters are all but unheard of. And if gay teachers were such effective recruiters for the gay “lifestyle,” then why do straight teachers, parents, and so many other hetero role models fail to “recruit” gay students to the heterosexual lifestyle?
But let’s return to the main topic which inspired the preceding digression.
Two encounters I had with prepubescent children suggested how a celibate pedophile who had been a good “boy” for 30 years and had kept his promise not to indulge his overwhelming sexual needs might succumb to temptation and violate his vow — and a child.
I always thought Freud’s claim that prepubescent children had sexual urges was risible despite the fact that I’ve been horny since I was 11. Nabokov called the founder of psychoanalysis a “figure of fun” and “the Viennese quack,” two characterizations I agreed with — until I encountered two very young boys who provided anecdotal proof that Freud was right and Nabokov wrong.
The great novelist’s contempt for “the Viennese quack” always surprised me since Nabokov’s Lolita seems to validate Freud’s belief that children are sexual beings. Remember, it’s the 12-year-old title ‘tween of Lolita who seduces a 40-ish intellectual, Humbert Humbert. He is not a predator, his pre-teen stepdaughter is the seductress.
(Nabokov insisted that his novel, ranked No. 4 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, was not obscene but conceded that having a 12-year-old actress play Lolita on screen would be. The producers of director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation agreed and cast 14-year-old Sue Lyon as the movie’s nymphet. The movie censorship code in effect at the time forbade anyone under 18 from viewing Lolita. Critics of censorship joked that the 14-year-old star of Lolita would not have been allowed to attend the premiere of her movie.)
If I were only able to get sexual release from children, I might have become a real-life gay version of Humbert Humbert, seduced by a male Lolito. Twenty years ago, two boys, a six-year-old and an eight-year-old, made sexual overtures to me. I can only imagine how agonizing it would have been to do the right thing, which I did, and ignore their advances which involved flirting, but nothing as overt as “wanna fuck, dude?” I doubt if, ignorant of the birds and bees, these boys realized their actions could be misinterpreted as flirtation. However you classify their behavior, it included physical contact which they initiated, and I didn’t reciprocate.
If I had been a celibate pedophile with 30 years’ worth of dammed-up desire, the two kids would have released a flood of repressed urges. Could a 40-year-old hetero virgin resist advances from Miss America? Many could not. I couldn’t resist Mr. America, and I haven’t been a virgin since 1971 when my college dorm mate deflowered me.
I found it easy to ignore the G-rated seduction attempts by the two youngsters who lived in the apartment building next to mine because I am not attracted to children.
My sole regret about being gay comes from the inability to have children. Adoption by a single gay man is almost impossible — and impractical on my starving writer’s budget. But I do feel the need, programmed by eons of the evolutionary imperative, to nurture someone or something. I won’t embarrass myself by revealing the pet sanctuary’s worth of cats and dogs I once fostered in a one-bedroom apartment until finding the orphans new owners after their masters died of AIDS.
Little people in all-weather fur coats, however, have never satisfied my need to nurture. Throughout my adult life, I have befriended friendless or parentless children of both sexes.
My eight-year-year-old neighbor had a loving mother but an absentee father serving in the Navy. He used to knock on my door and ask to squeeze my bodybuilder-sized biceps while I flexed. I didn’t want him to suffer further father-figure rejection, so I agreed, although it creeped me out, especially when he said, “Boy, would I love to have a body like yours!” (When an attractive adult makes a similar comment, I suggest, “Save yourself 20 years at the gym and have mine now.”)
I also gave in to the boy’s request to flex and squeeze because I remembered how much I enjoyed doing the same with my muscular brother-in-law during my prepubescence. (Ding! Another point for Dr. Freud!) My brother-in-law had been a priest who left the Church to marry my sister, but fortunately for me, he was not a pedophile priest.
My flexing and my neighbor’s squeezing continued until the young muscle fetishist’s hands began to migrate from my arm to my chest. A pedophile would have been unable to stop the migration and resist reciprocation.
A second experience would have also been torture/ecstasy for a pedophile, but it nauseated me. Imagine a 50-year-old straight male virgin rejecting well-known sexual aggressors like Sharon Stone or Cybill Shepherd.
My heterosexual business partner is a saint, albeit a frustrated one. He once resisted an unmistakable come-on from the irresistible Shepherd because he was in a monogamous marriage at the time. Divorced now, he still fantasizes about his response if he had been a gay (happy, not homosexual) bachelor when Shepherd made the move on him. I told him he should have asked for a rain check — and Shepherd’s phone number — to save for the day, the minute, his marriage ended.
My other close encounter with the third grade also reflected a need to nurture. A parentless six-year-old neighbor used to drop by to play with my computer because the grandmother he lived with was too poor to buy one that cost three grand or more at the time when today’s necessity was an extravagance during the early years of PCs. The youngster liked to sit next to me while I introduced him to the hypnotic new Computer Age, but I eventually recognized that his pleasure derived from something other than surfing Cyberia.
There were no witnesses in the second bedroom I had converted into a home office, which still had bedroom furniture, including a very convenient bed. While we sat by side, separated by only the narrow arm of my chair, I noticed that the separation had disappeared. I could feel him pressing against my shoulder with his. Again, so he wouldn’t feel rejected, I put space between us with my favorite oxymoron, “glacial speed.”
That didn’t work. He moved closer and exerted more pressure on my shoulder. I accelerated the speed I used to separate us, but his pressure took a more active form, rubbing up and down. I felt like the owner of a puppy that hadn’t been neutered yet.
I figured out how to end this icky incident without hurting his feelings. The next time he visited, I had removed the chair next to mine, and he had to stand while we resumed our tutorial. I stayed seated, which put his shoulder at my head-level and made it impossible for him to get close enough unless he stooped and knocked heads with me.
My would-be seducer is a grown man now living in his native Belgium. His clueless grandmother remains grateful 25 years after I took her grandson under my wing, and she drops off casseroles regularly, scolding me for being too thin.
Please don’t misinterpret any of this as an apologia for pedophiles. Accept it as an ugly glimpse of the corner of hell we are fortunate not to share with these wretched souls and their more wretched victims.
To skeptics who suspect that it’s not coincidental that I’m gay and my wannabe seducers were male children, but as I’ve already noted, I’ve befriended little girls as well. Since they weren’t horny and didn't come on to me, I haven’t mentioned them here for illustrative purposes.
Just for the record, I’ll describe one of the girls I befriended. A seven-year-old child I’ll call Cicely once followed me from the pool in our apartment complex to my apartment and invited herself in. Every day after that, she showed up around 3 in the afternoon when she got out of school, and we had “tea.” Milk and cookies, actually, with an adult who didn’t condescend and treat her like a kid.
I eventually learned her “back story” from my lover who knew the girl’s grandmother, a single “parent” overwhelmed by caring for her grandchild whose mother was in revolving-door drug rehab. The woman was in her mid-70’s and overwhelmed by 12-hour work days practicing law, which prevented her granddaughter from receiving the attention most children crave and which I supplied during our daily tea-time.
I was happy to give her attention because one of the reasons I enjoy the company of children is that they lack the social veneer that conceals what adults are thinking but rarely say out loud. If you’re getting fat or looking good, children will tell you. I prefer sincere rudeness over kind lies. Most of the time.
One Halloween Eve, the girl showed up dressed like Mary Poppins. Her grandmother, she said, was exhausted and had reneged on her promise to take her trick or treating. She didn’t ask me to pinch hit; I volunteered because I knew how devastated I would have been during my childhood if one of my older, adult sisters had decided not to chaperone me as I knocked on the doors of total, possibly dangerous, strangers on Halloween. In fact, I wouldn’t have knocked on any doors without one of my sisters standing shotgun because my parents would never have allowed me to hustle strangers for free candy unescorted by an adult.
We went trick or treating, which turned out to be a wild duck chase because childless gays in West Hollywood rarely pass out candy on Halloween. Every house and apartment building in Boys Town was blacked out as thoroughly as London during the Blitz.
After many months of our milk-and-cookie klatches, her grandmother turned up at my apartment while her granddaughter was visiting. I expected the look of surprise on the older woman’s face to metastasize into a hellacious denunciation and accusations of child molesting.
Instead, she smiled and said her granddaughter had told her about our afternoon rendezvous. She had dropped by to thank not curse me for providing the attention and affection she was too tired after work to give her granddaughter.
Causes Frank Sanello Supports
ACLU, ASPCA, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders