Twenty questions answered by T. Rivas

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Interview by: Leon

1. Is pedophilia a mental illness?
It completely depends on your definition of a mental illness. If mental illness in the psychosexual sense is defined as a condition that makes it impossible for you to get offspring with your partner in the "normal" biological manner, then all gay and lesbian pedophilia, and all pedophilia with younger children, is to be considered a mental illness, but so is asexuality and homosexuality (involving two adult partners), as well as many fetishes. This is obviously a reactionary definition of mental illness, which would be rejected by the LGBTI-community and most progressive people. If you define mental illness as something that is intrinsically detrimental either to the person's own well-being or to that of others, then pedophilia as such cannot be considered a mental illness. It should be regarded as an in itself neutral orientation like bisexuality, rather than as a real disorder, such as a desire for erotic cannibalism (a rare condition known from gruesome cases such as that of Armin Meiwes).

2. Can you give a brief explanation of the work and findings of Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman?
Their main contribution lies in the assessment of the after-effects of what is usually called Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). They found that negative consequences are mostly related to involuntary contacts or relationships, and that many relationships that are termed CSA are actually voluntary from the perspective of the minor. In my book Positive Memories I focused on presenting accounts of such voluntary relationships as given by the former minor that were not considered (intrinsically) harmful by him or her.

3. Do age-of-consent laws protect children?
They may protect them from real (involuntary/non-consensual) sexual abuse, but they do not protect them from a social environment that also wants to prohibit consensual relationships, or from the distress, sadness and frustration that such a prohibition typically causes. General laws against rape and other (non-consensual) types of abuse that are not based on any age of consent have the advantage of protecting children from real abuse without imposing anything unwanted on them.

4. It's claimed that children are unable to make the decision to engage in sexual acts with an adult as their brain is less developed, isn't this fact?
I suppose it is a fact that he human brain only reaches neurological maturation around the age of 23, although the brain keeps on developing during our entire lives. I personally hold that we should only allow those types of sexual acts with adults that we would also allow in the case of relationships with peers. If we believe, as I do, that children are capable of engaging in voluntary erotic relationships with peers, at a level that harmonizes with their developmental and personal characteristics - ranging from kissing or cuddling to intercourse - then it makes no sense to believe that they are not capable of engaging in the same kind of sexual acts with an adult. They might underestimate the societal outrage surrounding such acts with an adult (as they themselves don't experience these as non-consensual or morally wrong), but this has to do with the social and cultural context - values and taboos, not with the sexual acts as such. They can't be too naive about the sex as such in just one case, and not the other. It makes sense to make sex (as such) between minors illegal, or legalize voluntary relationships with adults, but not to forbid only the latter (nor only the former, for that matter).

5. Aren't the emotional aspects of the relationship too much to handle?
We should distinguish between two types of emotional aspects: intrinsic emotional aspects of the relationship and emotional aspects caused by external parties. I personally believe that negative emotions caused by the outrage of parents, relatives, neighbors, etc. are far too much to handle for children. So for that reason, I endorse the idea that within present-day society it is morally wrong for an adult with "pedophile" feelings to engage in a sexual or even close platonic relationship with a child (I'm only excluding platonic relationships with close relatives). The external response may be very negative and traumatic and one shouldn't want to expose a child to such an overwhelming amount of hatred and bigotry. Regarding the intrinsic emotional aspects, I first believe that an adult should be sincere to the child about his or her intentions, so that no false expectations are created (for instance: if an adult has an exclusive pedophile orientation and feels no attraction to other adults, so that a life-long erotic relationship seems rather unlikely), and never abandon the child at the level of a close, platonic friendship. Secondly, I believe that the child should never do anything that goes against his or her own wishes or personality for the (continuation of the) relationship as such. The child should be the one who determines what is going to happen and how emotional it is going to be. Thirdly, I believe that responsible relationships should be monitored by the child's parents or caretakers, in the same way that relationships with peers commonly are, so that any emotional damage or confusion is prevented as much as possible. More in general, I'd like to comment that children are capable of very strong feelings of love for other people. This is a natural thing, not something that should be seen as problematic.

6. What is the youngest age you consider it acceptable for a child to engage in a sexual act with an adult?
It depends on the sexual act, obviously. Kissing and cuddling would be acceptable for most toddlers, shared masturbation or petting would be acceptable for many or most preteens, et cetera. Penetration would not be acceptable for very young children. There may be exceptions, but they would be so rare, that we can safely conclude that penetration is not an acceptable part of a consensual relationship with a preteen. In general, I would say that anything that is acceptable for a child of a certain age, personality and stage of development, while engaging in a sexual act with another child, would also be acceptable for that specific child within a relationship with an adult, obviously within given anatomical limitations.

7. Do all children desire or need sexual contacts with adults?
No, certainly not. There is no evidence for this bold idea, and it really makes no sense a priori. Not all children are sexually or romantically attracted to adults, some minors are even attracted to younger children, and some children are asexual! Also, some children have a higher libido than others, and some children are introverts, who in general only desire sexual contact with people who are extremely special to them (who may sometimes be an adult, but often another minor). It is a strange myth that used to be espoused by certain pedophile advocates, but in my view it is downright ridiculous and does not do the cause for a responsible emancipation any good.

8. What are the potential benefits of a relationship between a child and a pedophile, in regards to sexual development of the younger partner?
The benefits in regards to sexual development have to do with the sexual experience the children get, both in terms of their own bodies, pleasure, preferences, and in terms of knowledge of the body and pleasure of the adult (although this is mainly important - not counting the intellectual benefit - for children who as adults will engage in a relationship with an adult who has the same sex as the "pedophile"). From a broader perspective, the relationship may help a child develop a positive attitude towards his or her own sexuality and sex in general.

9. Sex aside, what aspects of a relationship between a pedophile and a young person could be considered desirable?
The main desirable aspect is of course the relationship itself, in terms of love, friendship and affection. This is no less important than for other relationships the child engages in. Then, assuming that the adult is responsible, he or she will encourage the child's positive development, in numerous ways, ranging from intellectual and cultural growth, to moral development, and strengthen the child's general well-being and positive self-esteem.

10. What are some of the real potential negatives from a child's involvement with a pedophile? Meaning the relationship itself, not the social reaction.
The potential negatives mainly have to do with immoral pseudo-consensual relationships that are not totally consensual, but involve manipulation and deception, or limit the child in his or her social or general development. In such a relationship, the child will cross boundaries, which means he or she will feel abused or betrayed, either immediately or later on. This will cause psychological damage comparable to that of an openly abusive relationship. (See my Ethical Criteria: Within real consensual, morally responsible relationships, which remain consensual in all important (sexual and non-sexual) aspects, the main problem that could arise is that a child falls madly in love with an exclusive pedophile (who only feels attracted to children) and wants the erotic relationship to continue for ever, even if the child has been told from the start that this won't be an option. Mind you, I have been in touch with seemingly exclusive pedophiles who were capable of continuing the sexual aspects after all, but there will probably be cases in which this is simply not possible. In such cases, it is important to support the child emotionally, stay close to the child, and perhaps arrange for some psychological counseling. By the way, many pedophiles also have erotic feelings for adults to a certain extent (or, more specifically, for a former child they had an erotic relationship with).

11. If pedophile relationships can be positive, how come workers in the social sector are educated that these are all exploitative and traumatising?
One reason is that such workers are almost exclusively confronted by sometimes very shocking and damaging abusive relationships and their consequences, or by child prostitution or abusive child pornography. By the way, let me stress that I cannot take any pedophile "activist" seriously who honestly believes there is nothing wrong with such evil practices, which have nothing to do with youth liberation. Another reason is that there is a very big taboo surrounding harmless voluntary relationships. It is a topic most people would not even want to address. The idea is that children are inevitably coerced and harmed in such relationships, and that the exceptions are simply fabrications or amount to self-deception by victims who can't face their traumas. Pedophile relationships would simply be always wrong, and there would be absolutely no evidence for harmless voluntary relationships.

12. Do governments welcome research which goes against the common narrative of all sexual relationships between children and adults being abusive?
I'm not sure if there is a government that does, but most certainly do not. Because of the huge taboo I just mentioned.

13. Is it true that pedophiles almost gained full recognition as valuable members of Dutch society during the 1970s, and if so what changed?
Well, there were some serious debates going on, two well-known spokesmen and authors being psychologist Frits Bernard and politician Edward Brongersma. Their tradition is still continued by contemporary activists, such as Marthijn Uittenbogaard, but under much less tolerant conditions I should say. The negative change in attitude of the public is due to several large scale sexual abuse scandals, such as the notorious serial abuse case of very young children by Robert M. and of course the crimes of Marc Dutroux in Belgium, as well as multiple incestuous cases. Such cases, quite understandably, received a lot of coverage within the Dutch media, and determined the public perception of pedophilia. To the extent that the intolerance towards pedophiles grew stronger and stronger, and nowadays there is hardly any tolerance left. Most contemporary Dutch people do not even accept a basic concept of harmless, morally sound consensual pedophile relationships.

14. Do you foresee the way in which pedophiles are perceived and treated getting better or worse over the next few decades?
I don't have a crystal ball that could tell me, I'm afraid, but my guess is that it may even get a bit worse, as a consequence of a more general growing intolerance towards sexual diversity (except maybe for well-established orientations such as homosexuality - especially of the "normal", well-integrated kinds), which in turn is related to conservative and reactionary forces concerning sexuality, both on the right and on the left. This also affects tolerance towards things like legal pornography and prostitution. We're living in quite a dark age in this respect, as well as politically with far-right and populist parties and politicians still being on the rise. But this situation can't last for ever; repression and injustice are huge problems that will one day need to be solved properly and fairly.

15. What similarities do you notice between the society's response to pedophiles and Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews?
Perhaps the main similarity is that pedophiles are considered abnormal, immoral people by their very nature, who therefore can't be treated as equals and who don't have exactly the same human rights as everyone else. Who can't be taken seriously in debates, and need special treatment programs. Not gassing, fortunately, although I suppose some would really want to give all pedophiles the death penalty, even to those who have never erotically touched a child. Or at least castrate all of them, physically or chemically. However, the psychotherapies that are being imposed on morally responsible and other pedophiles alike are often really humiliating and alienating and the pedophile side to their personality is presented as a great problem that needs total control or even eradication. There usually is no question of a positive or even neutral attitude towards pedophile feelings as such.

16. In a more tolerant climate, how would we protect the young against the inherent power imbalance between them and the pedophile adults?
By informing them about their rights, and about both abusive and truly consensual relationships. And of course through the friendly, unprejudiced monitoring of the relationship by the parents or caretakers. Legalizing consensual relationships does not mean that such relationships should suddenly become as unmonitored as relationships between two adults.

17. What could parents do to ensure their child has freedom to engage in consensual relationships but also remains safe?
I'll quote some passages from the Discussion in my book Positive Memories: "By communicating with their child, they could regularly check (in a relaxed, non-directive way) whether the relationship and its possible erotic aspects really match the child's wishes and expectations and whether the adult adequately respects the child's boundaries. {...} More in general, they could also explore the adult's personality, level of self-control and integrity and make sure he or she has no (relevant) criminal record or reputation as a rapist,or as a 'lover boy' or 'sugar daddy' involved in child prostitution. In case of doubt, it may be a good idea to consult (benevolent) professional experts. The latter could also develop readily available guidelines to optimize assessment. {...} A seemingly rude but very effective precaution consists of asking the adult for a copy of their ID. Any adult who is sincere and does not have a secret agenda will understand why this is a good idea. (Remember that we are talking about a situation in which morally sound 'pedophile' relationships would have been legalized.)"

18. What is your personal vision of how to reduce the hostility towards pedophiles and give youth more choice in their associations?
There needs to be more information about cases such as the ones collected for my book and it needs to be assessed in a rational way by the sexological and psychological community. Sexologists and psychologists and other intellectuals and workers, who are convinced that it is only fair to legalize positive, consensual relationships (albeit under strict conditions, see my Ethical Criteria, mentioned above), should try to join forces and issue collective statements in books, interviews, documentaries and so on. Former children who used to be involved in a harmless, voluntary relationships should also be encouraged to speak out. This could change the atmosphere, assuming of course that the nasty reactionary dark age we're living in will be over by then, and result in an emancipation movement that encompasses such intellectuals and works, and of course youths and former minors as well as responsible pedophiles and the people who love them.

19. What would your message be to pedophiles who now feel trapped and isolated; who are unable to speak their truth or express their love?
I would say: be patient, don't swallow any myths about your psychosexual or general psychological health, don't demonize your own feelings. Certainly do not engage in any non-platonic relationship as long as this is illegal, as it probably would affect both yourself and the child very negatively. Regulate your sexual needs by guiltless masturbation based on fantasies or legal images. Seek support from friends and relatives, and try to make sense of things through your political or spiritual believe system. Don't reduce yourself to your partly repressed sexual orientation and make sure that all other aspects of your personality are thriving and developing. Express yourself privately by writing, art, music, etc. and be as happy as you can. Get involved in activism, ranging from some type of aid, to a human or animal rights movement. Don't forget that others matter as much as yourself and feel connected. Stay alert for any positive changes in society, but remain cautious until liberation has arrived.

20. If the law allowed room for beneficial pedophile relationships, what qualities would a responsible older partner need to have?
I would like to refer to my Ethical Criteria once more;, which imply obvious qualities such as self-restraint, responsibility, caring for the minors, and sincerity towards the child and his or her parents or caretakers. Apart from such qualities, he or she also needs to possess a basic level of both cognitive and emotional empathy. Also, the adult needs to have sufficient emotional intelligence and communicative skills.

source: 'Pedophilia Interview with Dutch Psychologist (T. Rivas)'; Interview by Leon ('Youth Liberation');;; Text on Patreon: 4 June 2018; Youtube; 3 June 2018