Church efforts

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By: C.C.

Suspicion has it that MARTIJN would not be particularly fond of Christian points of view. This would for instance find expression in an unwillingness to review publications that go into child sexuality as well as religion. While it is true that the current committee members and editors cannot be found in the front pews of their local churches each Sunday, it would be highly remarkable if we, outcasts among outcasts, would have a policy against an entire group of people who share a certain (spiritual) philosophy, even if that is a Christian conviction and if we are all too familiar with the rotten sides to Christianity - or, to put it more cautiously, with the rotten apples among the representatives of that religion.

MARTIJN has never bothered to be discriminatory in that respect. At least not as far as I can see, for in the eighties and early nineties I would sooner have been the subject of a portfolio in OK than a contributor of articles. Digging through a heap of back issues, it seems to me that MARTIJN has scarcely ever broached the subject of religion. OK 22, from 1989, contains an interview with the French psychologist and clergyman Joseph Doucé, who was murdered in 1990. Sadly, the interview focuses solely on Doucé's social activities, not on the person in all his aspects. OK 34 presents an interview with the Dutch Reverend Hans Visser. In OK 38, Daan Smit inspects the bible in the light of intimate relations between young and old, and the Reverend Donald Mader reacts to this in the double issue 39/40. A comic strip in OK 62 ridicules a Jesuitic missionary.

Two booklets OK has not reviewed are De andere kant van de medaille. Over de vraag: is pedofilie misbruik van kinderen? (The other side of the coin. About the question: is pedophilia child abuse?) from 1998, and Misunderstood Intimacy. A Pastoral Approach to Pedophilia from 1999, both published by the Foundation for church social work (KSA), which is connected with the Pauluskerk in Rotterdam. The booklets, available from the Amsterdam gay bookshop Intermale and from the KSA, contain articles by various authors. In The other side of the coin, which appeared at the time of the study conference of the same name held in the Pauluskerk (see OK 67), there are two contributions that I value especially much. The piece "Misselijk" (Sick), penned by an anonymous boylover and complemented by the testimonies of two boys, is extremely suitable to be presented to outsiders. 'Do you understand that I get sick of the media? Not a day passes when I don't hear I'm a horrible creature out for sex and pornography, who rapes children and then casts them away. Or kills them. Or something like that. And if you repeat that often enough, no matter whether it's true or not, you start to believe it.' The author also remarks, 'Among pedophiles, I have met all types of people, from people on the dole to nuclear physicists.' I absolutely support this observation; the only thing that undermines my belief that we are a cross section of society, is the fact that I hear practically no women describing their erotic feelings for children. Just mentioning Irina Ionesco and Mary Kay LeTourneau time and again, or supposing that women hide behind the image of the maternal, affective nurturer, does not convince me that the number of female childlovers would even come close to the number of male childlovers. The candid Internet as well shows men, men, men. Or have women really been battered into the closet and into the popular social roles so firmly? I would be astounded. In a Dutch newspaper, Selma Schepel recently mentioned 'the fact that females are generally only sexually aroused by those who are bigger, older, stronger than they are, whereas males are programmed in such a way as to get excited about younger, smaller and more tender creatures.'

The other article I have read with much pleasure is "Die van ons doen zoiets niet!" - een bericht uit de praktijk ("Ours don't do that!" - a field report) by Jan Wauben, former prevention worker at the RIAGG (Regional Institute for Outpatient Mental Health Care) in the south of Holland. The article is a loose review of John Randall's Childhood and Sexuality: A Radical Christian Approach (1992). Wauben has expressed his views less extensively in old issues of OK.

His article is skeptical, balanced and intelligent. Just like Dr. Van Naerssen, he believes that the (sexual) classification of humanity leads to rigidity, and he isn't happy with the term 'pedophilia'. He thinks we shouldn't just look at the radical, pathological properties that outsiders attribute to the 'pedophile' creature - and only to that creature -, but also at the equally radical opposite myth, according to which the full-blood pedophile is the ultimate selfless helper of all children: an image that arises now and then when attempts are made to counter the demonization of childlovers, and that only reinforces the stereotyping and dehumanization. Wauben describes this opposite myth as 'a caricature of the (almost only) true friend of children, who only wants the best for children, who can put aside his own wishes just like that, who has fun when the child has fun, who isn't out for sex in the first place, who, out of love, can even do without sex if this is best for the child, the ideal mentor, who doesn't resemble the accursed predator and rapist one single bit, but who also doesn't resemble... a real existing human being (M/F).' The reviewed book by Randall also seems to come up with this defensive image.

According to Wauben, in our society most people by far who are attracted to children have been inculcated at their mothers' knees with the ethos that is hostile to sex and at the same time obsesses over sex, and that for this reason one cannot assume that these people are less selfish, less macho and less lust-oriented than the rest of society: these people too are 'products of their era'. I should add that the demonization we are undergoing greatly increases our self-pity (and with that our self-centeredness), our aggression and our obsession: potential talents, positive energy, the ability to be loving et cetera are crushed by these circumstances.

Reading Wauben's article requires a greater degree of intellectual effort than the piece by the anonymous boylover, or the cautious foreword by Hans Visser. And then I haven't mentioned the rather statistical contributions of Gorrit Goslinga and J.R.F. [edit] about the American researches by Rind, Bauserman and Tromovitch: I don't think that the handful of outsiders reading this booklet will go out of their way to try and grasp these statistic salvos. The tabloids are so much more interesting and comprehensible. But a disarming article such as Sick could have appeared in any national newspaper: this is the type of article that we can show to the outside world, and it is a good thing that they are not only found in a stigmatized periodical such as OK. Lastly, Don Mader's notes on 'religion and intergenerational relationships' seem to me to be relevant mostly to boylovers who take an interest in spirituality. Mader also goes into the book by Randall mentioned above: 'Remarkably, Randall's book remained wholly unnoticed in circles of pedophiles and boylovers. My first reaction to this book is [...]: what's so radical about this? Everything said here is simply common sense. Perhaps that's exactly his point: in this day and age, sticking to common sense has become a radical act.'

In Misunderstood Intimacy, we find a translated plea for 'pedophilia' that was first published in the late seventies by, believe it or not, the 'Protestant Foundation for Responsible Family Development'! Another contribution consists of a translation of an excerpt from the Handboek Pastoraat (Guide to Pastoral Care) from 1985. The Reverend Alje Klamer extends advice to pastors on how to treat the subject of 'pedophilia' in a balanced way. A remark is made in this excerpt that I've come across in other articles from the booklets as well: the sexual desires of the 'pedophile' would usually subside when the child reaches a certain stage of adolescent development. The implication that, as a rule, there is a clear distinction between pedophiles (attracted to children) and non-pedophiles (attracted to adults) is oversimplified. I for one don't feel attracted exclusively to children or young teenagers at all, and for this reason I sometimes hear the jocose remark 'pseudo-pedophile', or something along those lines. Yet, I think it's good to be alert to the inclination to categorize which may motivate such remarks.

A third contribution to Misunderstood Intimacy consists of a number of questions posed by a KSA staff member, with answers by Don Mader. The staff member feels that when research is carried out into child sexuality, this is done because the adult (you and I) would have a vested interest in that. Mader replies that current prevailing concepts of child sexuality, just like the concepts from his own youth, are harmful to children and that for this reasons it is important that these views become more realistic by means of research. I would like to add that many of us have certainly not forgotten how our sexuality was approached when we were children, and that for us it is depressing to consider what a society like ours has in store for any child, including those still unborn. After all, this society holds that in the case of sexual, indeed, of affectionate contacts between minors (including teenagers) and adults, there are two kinds of people: victims and offenders. As the author of Sick tries to make clear, those who hear it repeated long enough that they are offenders, eventually will feel they are offenders. Likewise, people who hear it repeated long enough that they are victims, eventually will feel they are victims. Recently, certain people tried to convince me that I am my friend's victim, because he is in his sixties and I am in my teens.

source: Article 'Church Efforts' by C.C.; Translation of 'Kerkelijke inspanningen'; OK Magazine, no. 75; October 2000