It was a few months ago that I was awakened to the idea of the mind as an utterly free playground; a space where all your wildest, sickest, most twisted ideas could manifest and run wild; a place where no one could judge you for what you found arousing or interesting. It’s not that I ever thought otherwise, but simply that I had never been so aware of the truth of that freedom. Over tea a fellow writer and I were discussing the more primal, base desires and fetishes some people have, and she mentioned something in particular which she didn’t find arousing, but which I did. Do. I admitted to feeling guilty about the fact that it turned me on and she, effectively, absolved me simply by pointing out that no one has any right to what goes on in my head.
Since then, this thought has left me in a much freer place when it comes to fantasies and ideas, and, as you can imagine, I’ve spent a fair amount of time contemplating it. But there is a place where I find some difficulty.
I’ve written about paedophilia before; I suppose as someone who engages in age-play I am ever aware of the distinction and the truth that I will probably have to defend my kinks against allegations of paedophilia at some point in my life. This makes the subject a particularly hot topic for me. Furthermore, it is possibly the most difficult thing to discuss in our society, and to me that signals a need to discuss it.
In previous pieces I have made a distinction between those who are sexually attracted to children and work to suppress those feelings, and those who act on their desires. To my mind there is a very clear and important difference between these two groups. However, it is almost taboo to make a distinction because we live in a world that utterly demonises even the desire.
My problem really stems from this: I can’t find any other way to consider proclivities towards children other than to compare those desires with sexual orientation and sexual kinks. I truly believe that in the same way a person cannot choose to be gay or straight, s/he also cannot choose to be attracted to certain kinds of people. With that in mind I actually have a great deal of sympathy for those whose sexual desires are so deeply unacceptable.
Here I feel the need to, once again, make the distinction between the desire and the act. There is a world of difference between desiring something and doing it. There is no punishment strong enough for a person who actually sexually abuses a child. It is utterly unforgivable.
But where, then, do we go when it comes to a person’s internal playground?
Yesterday someone I had been chatting with for a few days crossed a line. Finding our common ground in age-play we talked about it a lot. Then I received this text:
Morning […]. Hope you’re well. Just spent an enjoyable half hour perving at the 11 y o schoolgirl cunts in McD’s. X
This message almost immediately became a matter of public discussion rather than a personal problem. For myself I found that the tone of the message displayed a lack of emotional intelligence given that we had only been speaking for two or three days. That, to me, is a deal-breaker. However, the content of the message itself made me wonder: where is the line between the freedom of your mind’s desires and what you actually do in reality?
Did he cross a line in looking at the girls? Or in telling me? Or somewhere before that?
Of course, I asked twitter:
Man proclaims desire to dress me up as a little girl then confesses to perving over 11-yr-olds.
Ardent age-player or paedophile?
(Forgive the crude wording; I was limited to 140 characters and hiding in a cupboard at work.)
I was actually impressed by the many reasoned responses I received. Those who found it distasteful were very clear about it being their own personal response; for example one person said it would creep her out. On the other side someone was less eager to make any judgement at all, saying that they chose not to condemn people for their thoughts but rather pay attention to their words and deeds.
In fact, based on the response I got it would be fair to say that, by and large, people didn’t react with the usual flaming-torches-condemnation you might expect. But the message is worth mentioning for the way in which it made me wince.
Perhaps this man didn’t cross a line but simply made me feel uncomfortable – which is rarely conducive to getting to know someone online. But even if he didn’t, he was close.
The real question, I suppose, concerns to what point this mental freedom can extend. On the one hand, if you are in an intimate relationship with someone, being able to share your darker, more perverse ideas is a wonderful thing. There is a closeness found in sharing something and having it accepted that you rarely get elsewhere. So to some extent the internal world of desire can be externalised.
But not in every case, and not with every truth.
My personal response to the message was to point out that it was a little unsettling. I was lucky in that I received a reasonable apology and that he backed off quietly when I let the conversation die out. I don’t know enough about him to condemn him, but I know I went as far as I wanted to with him.
At the end of the day, these types of situation have to be handled on a case by case basis; but it seems important that the thoughts and questions be out there, because while certain acts do deserve the most severe of punishments, it worries me when we, as a society, condemn without thinking. Words that are attached to child abuse are such hot buttons that we can barely consider these cases rationally. And that to my mind, is a problem.
All in all, thought before action.