Conventionally understood as the sexual molestation of children. This word
confuses me because it actually means “love” (philo) and “children” (paedo). Like “philosophy” means love of wisdom (sophos) and “philanthropy” means love of human beings (anthropos).
How can someone who loves
a child sexually abuse them? And how does a culture get around to accepting
that a word which means “love of children” actually means raping them?
The same way it gets
around to believing that if a man sexually assaults little girls in a washroom,
it’s the fault of gay people who like to have sex in public. We are faced
with so many sexual taboos in our society it’s no wonder that
everything gets fucked up.
We ignore the sexuality
of children but feel free to accuse them of being the “seducer” when caught in bed with them. We expect women to be sexual and
available but disrespect and blame them when they are. We pathologize the
desires of gay people but conveniently scapegoat them for the depravities of
I don’t think that limiting public sex has anything to do with protecting
children from assault. We’d have to limit the
sexual activity of people who work in schools, in churches and sports clubs. We’d have to eliminate sexual activity in the home.
My daughter is at risk
everyday she goes out into the world. But I have to believe that the value of
allowing her to develop independence, to size up the situation around her and
develop her own modes of protection, is greater than the risks she takes to do
that. But anything could happen, and if I think about it too much I’d crack.
But it’s not sexual openness, the sexual expression of gay people or the public
sex of anybody that is responsible for the risks to my daughter. I happen to
believe that less secrecy and hiding leads to less misunderstanding, confusion
and harm. I certainly might have avoided some unpleasant sexual experiences in
my life if I’d had more information, if I hadn’t felt like the people
who loved and supported me would be horrified by my sexual exploration.
At the same time, I’m not in favour of sex in public where it might be encountered by my
child. Some of the comments printed in “Protecting the Children” (Xtra, Oct. 7, 1999), advocate public expressions of pleasure as a
challenge to a sex-phobic culture. The problem is that sexual activity doesn’t always look like pleasure, especially to a child.
I faced this dilemma
earlier this year at the Inside Out Festival. I wanted to take my daughter to a
screening of shorts entitled “Suburban Days”. I’ve taken her to the festival before so I was very surprised to find that
the Paramount theatre had blanketly rated everything as restricted. Why?
Because it’s gay content? And gay content is inevitably inappropriate for minors?
I asked around a bit about the films in the program and decided to take my
daughter in anyways. The films did not corrupt her and she enjoyed, even
related to, most of what she saw. But it was the sexual explicitness in one
film that disturbed her. With a limited understanding of sex and no physical
experience, it didn’t look to her like the two men were giving
each other pleasure. She hid her face from the scene the way she does when
something she’s watching is violent.
I think it would be a
confusing, if not disturbing, experience for any child to witness much public
(or private) sex. On the other hand, I don’t think children are at
greater risk of assault because some people—maybe even mostly gay
people—have sex in public places.
When it comes to
protection of children, as a parent I expect that gays—or anybody else—having sex in public locations are discreet enough that a child is not
likely to see them. And if it’s the legal prohibition
that fosters such discretion, then I’m in favour of that. Just
as I’m in favour of speed limits for the reduction of harm, even though I
speed all the time myself.
But I also expect society
to stop hiding from sexuality, to stop the distortions and false accusations.
These raise the risk level far higher than two half-naked homos getting it on
in a washroom, on a park bench or in the sandy, sun-warmed grass behind a
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