A couple of paedophilia-related stories reminded me last night of a debate I had a while ago on the subject of the 'childlove' movement.
The debate revolved around the applicability of a no-platform attitude to 'childlove' advocates in relation to anarchism, or whether a commitment to free speech should be the deciding factor. This has parallels, in tone at least, to the issue of free-speech for fascists or tyrants, and as with either of those, I argue the side of no-platform.
The wider issue of youthful sexuality is of course complex. The undoubted grey areas of growing sexual awareness often do bear wider discussion, and without doubt some of the criticisms levelled at the use of legislative systems to set this arbitrary 'ah you're 16 now, go for it' boundary are spot on. The growth of sexuality and the capability to handle sexually charged situations is not equal for all, and it is impossible to see the direct use (let alone the realistic enforcement) of laws which can penalise the exploration of this within peer groups.
'Childlove' advocates however seek to enter this terrain with a very specific outcome in mind. The most famous group, the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), have argued consistently for a vision of sexuality which would allow them unprecedented scope to act on their attraction to children. They argue that if the child is willing, the adult should be able to have sex with them. In order to 'protect' the child, they lay down a series of rules of engagement.
Why am I talking about adolescent sexuality and 'childlove' advocates on a libertarian communist blog?
Well, for two reasons. One is that it has strong relevance to the concept of free speech as practiced and allowed by libertarian communists both at home and worldwide. Should we accept its advocates on our media outlets, to speak at our meetings, or indeed to speak at the meetings of others, out of a commitment to everyone's right to say what they want, as long as we have the right to refute it? Or should we regard it as a virus to be put down wherever we see it, to expunge from society with every means at our disposal?
This would seem a purely theoretical argument of course, without the second reason - they wish to be part of the anarchist movement and use our theory to back up their propaganda. One of the loudest voices in NAMBLA has been Hakim Bey, longtime darling of many anarchists in the US as author of Temporary Autonomous Zone and a staunch advocate of 'childlove'. His influence has drawn many others to the doors of anarchist theory, and has on occasion seen the subject of 'childlove' brought up within our media, via forums, attempted use of our buildings and publications and outlets.
Of even more concern is that ‘childlove’ advocates writing with an eye for mainstream readership have attempted to hook their views both into the anarchist and gay rights movements and to me neither are acceptable.
They attempt to blur the argument by talking about the age of consent, children's self-exploration and using examples of teenagers being sent to prison for having sex with people only a few months younger than them, where the real issue is of much older adults using their greater experience and positions of trust to influence individuals who are by their nature impressionable and unaware by comparison.
There can be no equality of relationship between an adult with years of experience and a child, exploitation is inherent regardless of the supposed principles the ‘childlove’ advocates adhere to. I have put the word ‘childlove’ in speech marks throughout because while it is unfortunately a description of their advocacy group it is also a further means of blurring what its adherents are – people who wish to molest children.
You cannot ‘love’ a child as you could love an adult in a relationship of equals. If you say to a child 'do not run into the road, you'll get run over' they will most likely believe you and act on your advice, because you are trusted, older, wiser and several feet taller than them. Similarly, you'll often be believed if you say there are monsters under the bed.
And this is the fundamental point where it comes to libertarian thought. Coercion is most often applied to force or the threat of force backing up systems of inequality, but it can also apply to situations where your mere word holds total sway over the understanding and imagination of others. What makes a relationship between adults equal is the ability of one or the other to disagree, to understand a given situation with the full benefit of hindsight from a myriad of experiences with adults which tell them everyone is fallible.
A relationship in which only one party has this degree of learning and critical ability is not consensual, and its consummation would be rape. The dominance that is always held by one party, the exploitation inherent in the act, is incompatible with anarchism.
Fundamentally they espouse a misleading viewpoint, that the struggle for freedom, for an end to exploitation, for a reasoned understanding of humanity and growth, is in any way connected to their own desire to fuck kids.
Which brings me to the original debate. Should these people be allowed use of our resources to promote their views?
No. We would not help promote other forms of domination such as advocacy of capitalism or fascism, why should we help promote this? Our movement is not here to help people get their kicks from destroying the lives of others, it is here to promote the emancipation of the working classes. Even if we do not consider this as a no-platform issue, we do not have the time or resources to spare aiding viewpoints which are directly counter to our own.
Should we no-platform them? Frankly, I don't think we have the resources available to do this either, but as with fascism and capitalism itself, in an ideal world I would say yes, as with any lying, disseminating creed which seeks to worm its way into the hearts and minds of the public, it should be attacked at every opportunity.
Most important in the context of anarchism however, is how 'childlove' affects us direct. If we play host to this monstrosity, we risk being tainted by it. It damages our effectiveness in achieving real gains if our hangers-on include 'childlove' advocates. And that is unacceptable. If we are to progress, it must be with such parasites torn from our flank. If they seek to ally themselves with us, we must seek to expel them in such a way as to make clear which side we are on.