Because the term “pedophilic” means “child loving” I have decided to use the word “pedocriminal” instead to highlight that an adult sexually abusing a child is comitting a crime – never an act of love or affection.
I’m not going to make a pronouncement as to whether anyone is born attracted to children – since that isn’t my area of expertise – but let me make an important note here and say that many pedocriminals also hurt adults. That’s how you get the man abusing both his wife and his (step-)daughter. If you imagine the pedocriminal as a hermit, working really hard not creep by the local school every week, you miss the married/partnered/dating one who lives next door. Many pedocriminals are opportunists aroused by vulnerability and by power – meaning that while a minor might give them a particular thrill, they will also attack an adult. Because these men aren’t irresistibly drawn to children. They chose to do this and thus carry full responsibility for their actions.
Another key example of pedocriminal apologetics and applying the adult “sex work” rhetoric to the situation of paid to be raped children is found in a 2016 policy brief by the NSWP (Global Network of Sex Work Projects), an international advocacy group for the decriminalization of all parts of the sex industry (aka pimps and johns, not just women/men in prostitution), flying the flag of HIV prevention. It covers hundreds of organizations including SANGRAM, an Indian organization cut off from US aid, because it was caught aiding pimps and preventing the rescue of sexually exploited girls, the NZPC (New Zealand Prostitutes Collective) who advocate men who buy children on the street be not targeted so much and TAMPEP (The European Network for the Promotion of Rights and Health among Migrant Sex Workers) who refer to clear cases of pimping and exploitation of adults and teenagers as “sex work”. Finally the Mexican branch of the NSWP was caught in a media cross-fire in 2014, when their chairwoman was arrested for pimping and trafficking about 200 women. The NSWP did not distance themselves from the woman charged, but defended her and continues being involved in the global debate and lobbying battle over prostitution law.
In its brief the NSWP discusses “young sex workers”, defining the relevant group as young people aged 10-24 (p. 1). It distinguishes between over 18 and under 18 by calling the former “young sex workers” and the latter “persons under 18 who sell sex” to avoid seeming overly euphemistic (although this phrasing begs the question: What is a person who sells sex? A ‘sex seller’. Hardly any difference to ‘sex worker’, is there now). The brief cites a 2011 analysis of several studies on STI and HIV prevention which – just like studies by researchers with abolitionist convictions – confirms that 20-40% of prostituted people first enter the industry as minors. According to the brief this group of children and young adults are especially endangered by the risk of HIV infection, stigma, discrimination and criminalization – but never explicitly the pedocriminals who pay to rape them.
With this definition and framing of the issue the NSWP is going against international agreements as laid out by the UN on the rights of children – as they themselves acknowledge (p. 3). This framing is excused by deferance to the fact that some sexually exploited children do not perceive themselves as being victims of a crime – a theme the brief returns to repeatedly arguing that the language of “exploitation” and “trafficking” would be alienating and potentially “stigmatizing” to children who don’t view their situation through said lens (14 mentions of stigma, 0 mentions of men who pay to rape children).
“Not all young people who sell sex, including those under 18, necessarily identify what they do as work or exploitation.” (p. 4)
Identity is king even in the realm of paid child rape. Let that sink in.
The NSWP tries to sound neutral using “selling sex” as supposed mitigating terminology, much like the pro prostitution movement has convinced many people that “sex work” is a neutral value free term to describe adult prostitution – when both are far from it. “Selling sex” makes child sexual exploitation sound on par with “selling lemonade”, when in truth we know these realities are a world apart and thus require differentiating language. No mention is made of the fact that the rhetoric of “selling sex”, too, potentially alienates children who do view themselves as victims of violence and that refusing to call a situation “child abuse” without confirmation from the victim – despite no doubt present in international law – plays right into the hands of pedocriminals. We will return to this aspect shortly.
Repeatedly the text reveals the NSWP makes a distinction between physical coercion (“trafficking”) and children who enter sexual exploitation due to poverty or non-obvious reasons (just as it does with adults!), as well as exploitation with and without a pimp (p. 8) – suggesting that non obviously coercive child exploitation with no pimp might constitute a lesser injustice. Just as with adults the brief also distracts from the crime of paid child rape by informing the reader that children in poverty may turn to other risky activities such as begging, street vending, unregulated factory work (as opposed to regulated child labor?) and drug dealing for survival. Additionally – while continually condemning stigmatization and expressing concern at the social isolation of sexually exploited children – the brief suggests a significant number of children enter the industry to finance a particular lifestyle:
“While many young people sell sex for physical and economic survival, some young people also sell sex to access an improved lifestyle beyond basic subsistence, including consumer or luxury items and aspire to express autonomy and individualism through consumer goods.” (p. 5)
The mentality expressed in this sentence is exceptionally perfidious and causes active harm to sexually exploited children. In my country Germany exploited children are sometimes referred to as “baby hookers” or “lolita whores” and suggestions that a child would “whore” itself out for fancy clothing, handbags or traveling are made by the media and public (I also observed this victim-blaming occur in relation to high school girls in Japan when I was staying there).
This rhetoric leads to stigmatization of exploited children. This is a very fancy backhanded way of saying “children ask for it”. This is in total/intentional ignorance of the social pressures on teenagers to convey an upper class lifestyle to attain social acceptance and of the common human behavior to compensate for lack of self esteem and social connections with material goods. The behavior described in the sentence is a form of self-harm – not self-expression.
More of a slippery slope for victim blaming is constructed on p. 5, which deals with “negotiation skills” which young people “may lack”, suggesting that if only they were taught such their circumstances may become tolerable. This is again identical to the modern common rhetoric around adult prostitution that argues that rapes and infections with harmful or even deadly disease can be prevented by “professionalizing” the individual prostituted adult to be a better smooth talker, to insist on condoms and boundaries – effectively making the perpetrator invisible, taking the blame off of him and putting it on the victim.
This passage suggests that children may be able to prevent some of the worst outcomes of child sexual exploitation if only they’d be more skilled at convincing adult men that e.g. a blowjob is sufficient in order to avoid anal rape (as soon as the situation is made explicit it’s much harder to nod your head in agreement, isn’t it?). Do we really want to replicate for children the experiences adults in prostitution have being told they should have used their “business smarts” and that their own failures are the cause of their injury and trauma? Do we want paid to be raped children to feel like “they’re the problem”?
Throughout the entire pamphlet the pedocriminals paying to rape children are invisible. They are only mentioned once in a quote by a “sex worker” from Kazakhstan (p. 10) and therein referred to as “clients”. The men who pay to sexually access other people’s bodies really are invisible – not just in adult prostitution, but also in the pro prostitution lobby’s rhetoric regarding the paid abuse of minors. The NSWP policy brief treats pedocriminal men as “Voldemort”, making reference to some of the cruel results of their violence (infections with HIV and other STIs, physical injury, unwanted pregnancies –> important, because some places pedocriminal rapists have parental rights), but without once explicitly mentioning the perpetrator. The brief makes it appear as though the “clients” are clouds of smoke that materialize out of nowhere, hover over the child or young adult, disappear and whoosh – suddenly there is the addiction, infection, pregnancy or injury. Simply magical!
Also magical – because (pedocriminal) fiction – is the tale of the child who seeks out sexual contact with adults truly looking for intimate fulfillment: On p. 7 the NSWP brief explicitly states that some minors enter the sex trade motivated by “sexual initiative owning”, “love” or “pleasure”. For this claim the brief references a research paper discussing HIV infection prevention inside “cross-generational relationships” (fka pedocriminal grooming situations) in Malawi – one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 173rd out of 182 countries (entirely flying in the face of Malawi feminists who fight to end systematic child abuse and want to raise age of marriage to 21). This research was funded by the American branch of the Save The Children international charity, whose British branch was busted in 2018 for executives comitting sexual abuse against children & harassement of adults, and uses the “Continuum of Volition” model by which not all pedocriminal abuse cases necessarily need be classified as such, depending on the child’s expressed motivations (since used by other academics seeking to excuse systemized child abuse, e.g. in Kenyan secondary school).
At the very least this paper is able to consistently name who is responsible for the lack of condom use and the infections to prostituted and non-prostituted women and girls – even if it refuses to properly hold them responsible:
“There is no villain. It is important not to label men as predators because social norms permit the behaviour. Similarly, it is important not to make men the enemy and assume that girls and boys are only victims, as some might play a willing or even conducive role in perpetuating the practices.” (p. 6/85)
” […] we should not consider all young people as vulnerable and passive when they are involved in sexual relationships with persons who are older or more powerful. Rather, there are empowered young people who choose to engage in sexual relationships with older people for emotional security, such as sex for pleasure, sex as part of a love relationship, or potentially to demonstrate fertility and/or bear a child.” (p. 7/86)
In relation to the wish for pregnancy: Children don’t want to have children. Children want love, acceptance and stability. An underage girl who gets pregnant by an adult man is hoping that he will stay with and care for her, because in this society portrays the nuclear family as perfect, free of violence, full of love and as reliable (even though many women start experiencing abuse by their partner upon pregnancy). No one can blame minors for wishing for a sweet and stable family, especially since many of them won’t have grown up with one, but to suggests that they can find it with the pedocriminal is harmful nonsense.
Summarizing the paper: Not only do we have 5 white western researchers discussing survival sexual exploitation of African girls in harm denying terms, these arguments are precisely what pedocriminals utilize to excuse their raping of children: Labeling their victims exceptionally “mature”, “fast” and “initiating” and consequently “enjoying sexual contact”. It is then argued that the contact can be accurately labeled a “cross-generational intimate relationship”. There is no more masking of it: This is a simple replica of standard pro pedophilia arguments.
Returning to the NSWP brief:
“Even young people in exploitative situations report complex feelings toward the person exploiting them, who may also be a source of love and support.” (p. 7)
What’s missing from the brief is any discussion of trauma and trauma bonding (in a prostitution context often called the “loverboy method”), which is an evidenced reality for many adults in prostitution, as well as in adult abusive relationships and consistently observed in children who experience unpaid abuse. It is extremely common for children in a variety of violent and exploitative situation to sweet talk their conditions and their abuser and even to defend the adult harming them. Having a teenaged friend of mine fall victim to a child rapist and pornographer I have first-hand experience of having a minor describe an overtly violent pedocriminal act to me and then argue that it was a mere “misunderstanding” and that the abuser really loves them. Arguing that child rape – paid or unpaid – does not require confirmation from the victim as such is not paternalization, it’s very basic child safeguarding.
One would hope no organization doing on the ground work with children is uncritically taking advice such as from this brief and out there right now actively affirming children’s trauma bonds with pedocriminal abusers – but sadly there are. But specific youth services aren’t the only organizations affected, as any organization working with prostituted persons will find that children are usually not far away from where the adults are. The NSWP brief itself admits prostituted adults and exploited children are frequently found side by side in the same environment (p. 6). The brief argues unashamedly that decriminalizing adults who sell sexual access and those who profit from it would in turn benefit children, because those people constitute many exploited minors “community support network”. Now that’s a horrific euphemism for pimps I haven’t heard before.
The brief isn’t entirely clear if it is advocating for decriminalization to directly extend to the adult taking money off the raped child, but it remains a possible interpretation. Much like with the NZPC recommendations to the Kiwi government, the NSWP, too, appears to prefer a hands-off approach to men who pay to rape minors (“repressive methods”, p. 2) and recommends giving out condoms, teaching negotiation skills and employing other “harm reduction” methods instead.
Read the next part here.