***Strong Trigger Warning***

…and yet it’s amazing sometimes the capacity they can have to floor a person completely.

Take today for example. There I was, debating away on Comment is Free as I’m wont to do when I’ve got some time on my hands, when I decided to click over to this post that was showing then as the most commented (and by implication the most popular) piece on CiF.

CiF’s regular feature “What do you want to talk about?” doesn’t make it to the top of the list very often, mainly because usually when it gets to a certain point one of the CiF editors will simply remove the current thread and start the discussion again. This time however, it’s been allowed to run on, so now there are over 800 comments.

As a CiF contributor I make a point of reading the What do you want to talk about? thread pretty regularly. Sometimes there are some really good ideas posted there for articles people would like to see and discussions they’d like to have. Indeed, I have been known on a couple of occasions to email the editor, Matt Seaton, and bagsy one of the suggestions, to get in there with my request to be the one to write the piece before he gives the commission to someone else.

Today, however, was not one of those days. Today was a day when I read the comments and instead of being inspired to write something for CiF on the proposed subject, I found myself unexpectedly triggered, and crying and shaking in front of my computer screen.

The offending comment’s after the fold

This is what a new poster, who calls himself thagrote, has decided he wants to see discussed on Comment is Free:

Please let CIF be a forum in which we can have a serious discussion about the issue of adults who find themselves sexually attracted to minors. If you do a bit of research, you’ll find that such people are a substantial sexual minority. They do not necessarily abuse children or even go near them, they do not necessarily look at child pornography, and they do not necessarily display any symptoms of mental disorder apart from the fact that they find children or young teenagers sexually attractive (which you may or may not think is a symptom of mental disorder).

How do I know all this? Well, I am a law-abiding minor-attracted adult, who sees doctors on a regular basis due to physical health problems, and has never been declared insane. The only thing about me that would cause alarm is the fact that I find children sexually attractive. I’m not violent, I’m not crazy, I don’t break the law, and I’ve never been sexually abused myself, before you ask. Clearly, for some reason, my brain has developed differently to the way most men’s brains develop, and this has led me to find young girls arousing.

Anyway, enough about me. I have spoken to many many people online who are in a similar position to myself. On behalf of them, I would like to suggest any of the following topics for discussion at CIF:

– Should cartoon child pornography be criminalised? Does it encourage child sexual abuse, or does it offer paedophiles a harmless alternative to looking at real child pornography, or abusing real children?

– Is it actually true that viewing child pornography without paying for it “creates a demand” for more child pornography, and therefore more child abuse? Or will the abuse happen anyway, regardless of whether paedophiles look at the pictures of it?

– What is so harmful about sex? Rape is obviously harmful, bad sex can be painful, but is there any real evidence that a minor who consents to a safe, enjoyable sex act with an adult will actually go on to suffer any harm, apart from that inflicted by people who condemn the child for having sex, and describe the act as “dirty”?

– Why is it up to adults, and not children, whether certain sexual behaviours involving children are considered inappropriate? If an adult or a child makes sexual advances on a child, why do adults tell that child that he/she has been abused, rather than the other way around?

I could probably go on for ever.

Just please, please acknowledge the existence of people like myself. Please allow there to be a sensible, public discussion about the sexual rights of children and minor-attracted adults.

I’m not asking anybody to agree with the views implicit in the questions I have listed. I just want these issues to be taken seriously, because they are serious. The social rejection that people like myself have to deal with can be enough to drive us to suicide.

Now obviously there’s enough in just this one post to enable anyone who knows anything about paedophiles to recognise instantly some of the classic self-serving self-justifying paedophile tactics. There’s a reference (repeated in later posts) to minor-attracted adults, a deliberate changing of the identifying language that enables the paedophile to distance himself from the criminality he advocates. There’s his assertion that some children do in fact consent to safe enjoyable sex with adults. And in his final question there’s an attempt to shift the blame onto some of the victims of paedophilia, an implicit accusation that some children are in fact the abusers rather than the abused. And then of course there’s the emotional blackmail at the end, the plea to listen sympathetically to this person and to let him state his case and to take him seriously, because if we don’t he and others like him may well be driven to suicide by our rejection.

Yeah I know, boo fucking hoo.

Unfortunately, other CiF commenters weren’t so quick to pick up on what was happening, so alongside my barely suppressed rage: “I’m not sure at the moment that I’m even capable of articulating just how nauseating and offensive I find those questions. I think I’d better leave the thread now before I say something I might regret,” and “Take the hint ffs. This is not the appropriate forum for these discussions. Fantasize away if that’s what your counsellor recommends, just don’t be under any illusion that the rest of us want to hear about your sick fucking fantasies, or indeed to read your profoundly disturbing attempts to rationalise your desire to have sex with kids” there were some (albeit very few) posters who tried to be understanding, and who expressed sympathy with the situation thagrote found himself in.

And as you can guess, that sympathy simply served to encourage thagrote to expound on his sick philosophy some more. Here are just a few of his gems:

“It’s true that children don’t always know what’s best for them, but it doesn’t follow that children always don’t know what’s best for them.”

“I’m happy to be completely open and honest with you, and say (as I have already implied) that if I wanted to arouse myself I’d be watching videos of 12 year old gymnasts on youtube. I haven’t come to the guardian website to arouse myself, I have come to try to take a step towards dismantling a harmful taboo.”

“You have no reason to suspect this, apart from your prejudiced assumption that all paedophiles look at pictures of child abuse. There are plenty of clothed children in home movies posted on youtube. They’re good enough for me.”

“You’re also ignoring the issue of child sexual desire. It’s debatable to what extent children feel sexual desire, but I am not in favour of legalising sex with children for the sake of adult desire only. If sex is something that only adults enjoy, then I am in favour of the current laws. But I doubt that sex is something that only adults enjoy.”

“I’m probably over-ambitious, but my primary aim is to make it possible for minor-attracted adults to come out of the closet. This is in everybody’s interests. Either paedophilia is a dangerous pathology, or it isn’t. If it is, then paedophiles need to be willing to come forward and seek psychiatric help. If it isn’t… well, I won’t go into that because you probably don’t believe it. But either way, it is in everybody’s interests for paedophiles to be open about their sexuality. Current social attitudes prevent this from being possible.”

“I know most people don’t believe that children can consent to sex. But I do. I am in favour of consensual sex between children and adults. I am against rape in all its forms. I post on message boards devoted to issues of adult attraction to minors.”

“From the amateur research that I have personally done (reading science papers, books etc.), it simply isn’t clear that there is any harm caused by actions at the milder end of the spectrum, or even further towards what I would consider the middle of the spectrum (e.g. intercourse with a toung [sic] teen, or oral sex with a child).”

Not as young as five. I think I usually like girls who are about 12. The lowest I’ve found someone attrictive is probably 10ish.

And on and on and on. For over six hours.

Understandably, once other posters had twigged what was really going on things started to get a bit heated:

“…if you think you can start a discussion here or get a piece written so that the likes of you can try to convince us that it’s OK to have sex with kids, then you are gravely mistaken. The thread will be modded to death because what you have said has set off a ball of anger in my gut and it will in others too. Other people might wish to engage with you on an intellectual level. I and many others do/ will not.

I only wish to engage you on a physical level.

Now fuck off you nonce.

But that didn’t put thagrote off, because in typical paedophile fashion, thagrote thinks he’s the victim in all this:

“I’m not going to give up until I fail. You might think this laughable, but I see myself as in the same position as homosexuals or black people in the first half of the 20th century. The situation is not fair, and it can be changed. It may even be worth dying for.”

Some hope.

It’s a bank holiday weekend so I’m guessing there aren’t many moderators covering CiF at the moment: it’s either that or they don’t realise the seriousness of allowing a paedophile free reign on one of their threads for so long. As others have pointed out in the discussion, there are potential legal issues involved here, especially if, contrary to thagrote’s claims that he’s never acted on his desires or been arrested for paedophilia, it turns out that he is in fact a convicted paedophile (in which case simply by posting such comments on the Net he could be in breach of his licence and subject to recall to custody). But whatever the reason is for the delay in moderation, I know I and others have tried to alert CiF to the debate taking place on that thread, and I honestly don’t expect the comments to stay up for much longer, or for thagrote to keep his posting rights beyond this weekend.

And after all that detailed and convoluted explanation, what I actually want to say is this. To anyone who argues that free speech should mean that anyone should have the right to say whatever they want wherever they want; to anyone who advocates unfettered free speech on the grounds that no one has a right not to be offended, and to anyone who, like one of the posters on that thread, wants to accuse me and others of needing to think more carefully about how we respond to other people, or who wants to accuse me of engaging in a witch hunt when I refuse to debate nicely with rapists and paedophiles: there are and always have been limits, and those limits must continue. Not because some of us are delicate flowers and need protecting, not because sometimes we might read stuff like the crap I’ve been reading on CiF today and we might become upset by it. But because some things are just fucking wrong. End of.