Interview with minister Hans Visser - The minister who shuts out no one
By: Marthijn Uittenbogaard & Jeroen Maaskant
Recently, two members of the OK editorial staff, Marthijn Uittenbogaard (MU) and Jeroen Maaskant (JM), have interviewed minister Hans Visser. This as a result of the fact that Hans Visser has been connected to the Rotterdam Pauluskerk (Church of St Paul)1 for 25 years. Hans Visser intends to write a book about pedophilia.
(MU) You have made a stand for other sexual minorities for years now. How do other clerical colleagues react to this?
That is a complicated question. Not everyone is feeling positive about this. However, most of the time this subject is not touched upon and Visser is left to his own devices. There are people though who agree with me. In the early days, the Church chose for support to pedophiles, but in the last few years they have chosen for abused children. They do know that this is a very one-sided opinion, but it simply is the spirit of the times. Society regards children as sexless. There should be an inquiry into child sexuality and pedosexual relationships.
(JM) Is it possible to publish a book nowadays with another starting point than sexual abuse?
Yes, that should be possible. Frank van Ree did it too. But one should be careful, because it could have all kinds of consequences. There are many inquisitioners in Holland who try to catch you by picking out certain little sentences from it.
(MU) Why did you decide, more than ten years ago, to become a member of MARTIJN Association? By the way, if you do not want this out in the open, we'll cancel this question.
No, that is no problem. It is not that I am always equally enthusiastic about the contents of the magazine. But I think it is just important that all kinds of sexual minorities, varying from sadomasochistic people to transsexuals, pedophiles as well, have their own magazines, write for each other, can publish their stories. There is nothing wrong with that. I understand that there has been some kind of wich hunt against your magazine. That is not good, though you have to reckon with the difficult times. You cannot pretend that it is still 1975. As a result of Dutroux the entire discussion about child abuse has started and all the media are focused on that nowadays. You should ask yourself what abuse is and what pedophilia.
(MU) How do you look back on sexuality when you yourself were a child? Did you have knowledge and feelings about it?
In the early days children between six and twelve were expected to be more or less sexless. However, it turned out that this is not true. Children that age have certain sexual feelings. It is a very difficult subject, for study too. How is it with the sexual perception of children and young children? Investigation would probably yield some more understanding for what happens between adults and children. You see, I myself come from a Christian milieu where sexuality was, broadly speaking, a common topic of conversation. But my mother did warn me though for child molesters and for a homosexual neighbour. I did not know at all what that was and therefore I never understood it as a child.
(MU) Do you think by now that all people have a hetero inclination and a homo and pedo inclination as well, but that only the percentages differ from person to person and from time to time? And that as a consequence you only talk about sexual preferences and not about sexual inclination? (This question has also been asked him in 1991 and the answer then was: 'I do not know, but I do know the thought. I can image something like that all the same. In fact nothing human is unknown to any human being.')
We have made a lot of pigeon-holes and the scientists and the investigators love that. It makes it easy to distinguish the matters. Allright, we all know that there are bisexual people and hetero and gay people. There will be people who are boylovers, who feel attracted to boys from the age of fourteen to eighteen. Some people are heterosexual, but sometimes they have an attraction to something else.
(MU) Do you think that believing in honesty, respect and love is better than a belief in an abstract god?
I don't know any abstract gods. The Jewish-Christian tradition does not know an abstract god. God of the Jews only became known for His deeds. He is an ally to people and that is far from abstract. There are people who have abstract gods, but I have not much in common with them.
(MU) Should not we protect children extra from what can go wrong as is happening now?
In a society, we should teach people not to manipulate. We should call people to account for that. It is conceivable that there are working situations in which people must abstain from any relationship. This goes for anyone working in education, and for my profession too. You certainly ought to show some reluctance. Anyway, this only goes for certain groups. If there is an older person who likes to go about with a child, then it will have to decide for itself what this means. What suits to the child's age; it is very clear that sexual acts which do not suit to an eight-year-old, may suit to a sixteen-year-old. This has to be considered case by case. There are sixteen-year-olds who are not ready for it. You cannot fix it all a little bit beforehand. But to not make the discussion turbid, you should not say anything by definition about the misuse of power as adults by the pedophiles. It is my opinion that pedophiles have a great responsibility towards children, know exactly where this limit is. Yes, it is very stupid of course, that there are pedophiles who did not do so, but this goes too for heterosexuals who have manipulated, raped, suppressed and threatened their partners. There is a lot of suppression going on in society and it is not only happening in the relationships between pedophiles and children.
(MU) Where, do you think, is the present pedo wich hunt coming from?
It has partly come from across America. Women liberation is happening. That is quite a success. But, suddenly children come into view who might be abused, which will happen undoubtedly. And then there is a great protection in relation to children. Then we start a wich hunt against pedophiles, because then all pedophiles are lumped together all of a sudden. Look here, one parish priest in the United States with celibate frustrations, well, they are not doing very smart things either. Those guys are jerking around secretly. That is exaggerated then and enlarged upon in America. That's why this wich hunt has been quite severe. These people were all put in these prisons; people who fled from America and thought it would be a little bit better in Europe. This turned out badly too. Here we have this same mood. I don't know how we should get out of that again. We will get out of it. There will come a day that people think more sensibly again. This book by Judith Levine is a very nice book. I read it a couple of years ago. She denounces this American narrow-minded sexual thinking considerably and ridicules it. I thought it a pioneering study of which a lot of Americans took notice too. Apparently not in politics. This is one of the biggest problems in the United States. Sometimes you can meet many, many people at university who have very good thoughts about it, bus as soon as these people are members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, it will stop, because it will cost them votes. This goes too for drugs and abortions. This goes too for pedophilia and that is a pity. It is the same in Holland. There is no good discussion anymore.
(MU) Should the possesion of child porn be punishable?
No, of course that is all over the top too. Look here, there is porn and everybody knows that there is porn of which I think: well, so what. Not that I have investigated it deeply, but there is porn of which I say, darn, what is this? You must try to find a balance. Well, I always had the feeling it did not get out of hand in Holland that badly. But okay, if the government says, yes, we want to distinguish things a bit. That has in itself a risk of moralism.
(MU) Do you think that there are children who like it to give an adult a blow job or who like being blown themselves?
That is a question which is very difficult to answer. I spoke to a man once who went through this. And he said that he did not quite understood this thing, the whole blow thing. He said, I have experienced no harm from it, but something happened of which he did not see the point. So, it depends very much on the perception of the child. This makes it a difficult discussion. That there may be situations where there is no direct damage, or situations which are not: oh, terrible, now criminal law will have to intervene. You cannot make a general rule out of it, you cannot say that does not matter or the children themselves will decide. A child needs a certain protection in a society. That is not forbidden; the parents are responsible. I think that as a child that age is involved in certain sexual acts, you should think deep of course; is the child ready for that. Would this be possible. I can decide myself what a child will like, but the question is if that is true. That is the dishonesty which a pedophile can apply to himself.
The next question is asked by a member of MARTIJN Association through e-mail:
Mr Visser, do you see a trend in the attitude of regular and alternative social workers in regard to the relief of people who have pedophile feelings or are struggling with them, but absolutely cannot be counted to the camp of child molesters? Has the understanding for these people's feelings decreased or increased, during the last ten years?
Look here, a rape will always be reprehensible, because something happens what the other one does not want. But what happens with mutual consent or what is not that radical that the child could endure psychic or physical damage by it, there is no understanding at all for this in society. It should be there, because we would understand more then about the sexual life of children and adults and about their mutual relationships. What we do know from history is that things always happened and always will go on. This will stay the same anyhow, so it would be good that this all is not burdened with negative judgements. It should be discussed what is possible and what not. There have also been teachers who had affairs with students which have never seen the light of day and never led to prosecution. What was solved internally sometimes. In my own life I have seen examples, among which a principal; a teacher at a primary school said, hey there, I see you are doing it this way, I would like to advise you to do it that way. And that this man said, thanks for the warning.
(JM) Can I ask you a somehow philosophical question? If you could relive your life again and you would be at the start of your own career, would you make the same choices as you did?
Well, during my life I wrested myself from certain things, of course; prejudice, certain bourgeois morals, if they would not be there you could move a bit more freely at a younger age. There are things which came into my life rather late, because there was pressure on them for a long time. But, generally speaking, I would not say: if I would be born again, paradise would come to me. I acquired paradise partly myself.
At the end of the interview minister Hans Visser was presented Gert Hekma's new book 'Homoseksualiteit in Nederland van 1730 tot de moderne tijd (Homosexuality In The Netherlands From 1730 To Modern Times)'. In the next edition of OK more about this book.
1 The Pauluskerk gives shelter to homeless people, drug addicts, illegal people, refugees, heroin prostitutes, mentally disturbed people and to everyone who needs help in any way.
source: 'Interview With Minister Hans Visser - The Minister Who Shuts Out No One' by Marthijn Uittenbogaard & Jeroen Maaskant; Translated from Dutch (Dutch version is more extensive); OK Magazine, no. 89; June 2004