I have a primary defense mechanism; I intellectualize almost everything distressing. Capturing data, historical analyses, socioeconomic and psycho-dynamic inter-personal contexts, cataloging, indexing, keeping what art critic Rosalind Krauss calls a Perpetual Inventory, I am often removed. Most of the articles I have written here are about about other people. Even the more intimate pieces reveal a need to elude bare nakedness. I cannot be fully naked; in other words, I cannot be fully transparent on every level because that would be quite literally impossible. It would require a complete merging of all of “me” with all of “you”–the reader. Yet, an approximation of myself can be presented. And the signs are often so clear that one does not need a hypothetical dissolution of selves into a unified-consciousness.
In my book, Prison As Power: Being & State Contra Negativity & Notion, I wrote about my experiences as a prisoner. Yes, I have been imprisoned, or formerly incarcerated (although this term feels too sanitized for me, I understand its utility). Yes, I was convicted by a jury of fraud and blackmail. So, what? You can chose to believe the Crown’s case, or you chose to believe my counter-arguments. Or you can chose to believe bits of both. But have you read either? If not, then: So, what? But the book was about far more than me; in fact, it is mainly a record of the people I met, an account of solidarity and pain, and dominant contemporary epistemological frameworks–artistic, racial, cultural, economic structures–which create the conditions for mass incarceration.
I served ten months in some of the worst conditions imaginable. I was sexually assaulted, placed in a vulnerable prisoners’ unit that did not have capacity, so that when the other prisoners were let out, my cellmate Csonger Sandor and I were subjected to every manner of verbal abuse. Repeatedly, I was asked if I was a nonce. I refused to say anything out of solidarity with my cellmate. Later, after I left “the dungeon prison” HMP Bedford, a riot broke out, and some of the vulnerable prisoners outside of the secure wing were nearly killed as the attackers used fire extinguishers and other implements to attempt to break down the cell doors. Csonger wrote to me saying he feared they would torture him, and he considered taking his own life to prevent a slow, painful death. I guess most people would say: So, what? Just another pedophile who deserved it, right? Indeed, on this topic, even prison abolitionists have said to me that offending pedophiles should be murdered.
Let me be clear, child sex abuse is abhorrent and should never be tolerated. Let me also be very clear: pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same. They are, in fact, entirely different phenomena, and can be mutually exclusive. There is a preponderance of evidence1 2 3 4 5 that pedophilia, hebephilia and ephebophilia, essentially almost all the chronophilias (probably including gerontophilia), are endogenous sexual orientations. Additionally, both clinical and ethnographic research is indicative that pedophilia begins to manifest itself, as with other sexual orientations, at a very early age, and is there is no evidence of causation between pedophilia to early external trauma. After spending weeks on end locked up in a 10′ x 8′ space with a pedophile, I came to this conclusion myself. Probing Csonger, as I detailed in my first book, was not easy. No, it was not easy to learn that my cellmate molested Y, an infant–and that his girlfriend participated in this abuse, a fact he had hidden from the court until I motivated him to put the interests of Y over those of his girlfriend. With Csonger, I needed to know more, I needed to know why. And this free inquiry, without judgement, actually prevented further child sex abuse. I also spoke with other child sex offenders in the vulnerable prisoners’ unit, and I documented their histories, cases and experiences in great detail. After I was released, I found resources that helped me write about the subject beyond this rich, but limited, ethnography.
After the release of my book, I wrote several follow-up essays devoted to the subject, arguing that pedophilia should be included as a marginalized sexual orientation, and that prison abolitionists, and all reasonable people, have a duty to clearly challenge the dominant discourses that mix-up non-offending pedophiles with offending pedophiles, and child sex offenders, groups that are often mutually exclusive. For this I was attacked, and a lunatic fringe from the Russian-based “Occupy Pedophilia” to an anti-Black, Black Trump supporter in South Carolina joined in common cause to socially erase me. Entire documentaries were made about the subject of “me,” websites with my personal information were made in droves, and Grzegorz Szymanik of Gazeta Wyborcza’s Duzy Format (usually reserved for celebrities), wrote a five-page spread about me, with a very flattering full-page graphic design of me controlling masses of people with my fingers over a keyboard. (This was probably because I called out his friend for her racist Blackface performance. Public relations rule number one: If criticized by someone, never miss an opportunity to use their ex-prisoner past against them!)
All of this is starting to sound so gossipy, isn’t it? So bizarre, so irrelevant, and so tiring. So why am I writing this piece? To cut the cord. The lunatic fringe has pursued me for years; they have harassed me and people who have worked with me; they even (unsuccessfully, as I am an EU-citizen) attempted to have me deported from Poland; they have kicked me out of LGBTQIA rallies in Warsaw; they have attempted to find out everything about me: my location, my passwords, any and all potential criminal activities, even if some of them are clearly completely invented. They have called me a “pedophile advocate,” a criminal, and a liar. These are all true: who here has not lied? As for being a convicted criminal, I cannot argue against that. And yes, I advocate for the rights of pedophiles to receive support and treatment in order to prevent child sex abuse and to end child exploitation. To that end, I am calling for VR developers to put their rational hats on and use the same machine learning (GAN) behind This Person Does Not Exist to create virtual children who do not exist. Already, non-offending pedophiles rely on dolls, stories and drawings to express their sexual orientation in a way that does not harm children. Creating VR diversion therapy is the future. It is difficult to say this, but we cannot change a sexual orientation, whether it be gender-oriented or time-oriented. Furthermore, a large number of pedophiles do exist, and the number one factor that causes offending is social isolation. Demonizing pedophiles isn’t working. The lunatic fringe, the mainstream, you my dear readers, may bring fire and brimstone down upon me and I won’t budge from this position.
Perhaps I would benefit from telling you about myself here: I have been a victim of child sexual abuse. I have been a victim of child abuse. And the person who took advantage of me was not a pedophile; he did not have lifelong urges to have romantic and sexual involvement with children. This is called situational abuse, and it must be distinguished from pedophiles who act on their sexual orientation. Why? Because it means that pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same. They can be mutually exclusive. According to a peer-reviewed article in Nature, by Translational Psychiatry, “only approximately 50% of convicted child sexual offenders (CSO) are pedophiles, and clinical sexology and psychiatry have revealed the existence of pedophiles who never commit child sexual offenses.2 Non-offending pedophiles show better social functioning, greater empathic abilities and greater sexual self-control than pedophilic CSOs.3”
When I was 17, I dated a 22 year-old cis heterosexual man named X. We met at the annual Halloween street party in Ashland, Oregon. He was smart; he was beautiful. One night, I was hanging out with friends at Dutch Brothers Cafe on D Street in Grants Pass, OR, and he came, knowing I was there. He told me he loved dancing with me at the street party, and wanted to see me again. My heart raced. I had had one sexual partner before, but I felt this was different. We really dated. He even met my grandmother. He would take me up into the mountains where we would have sex, make a fire overlooking a valley, and watch the sunset. However, about three months into our relationship, which had been turbulent due to his bipolar affective disorder, he told me “The last time we had sex, I had to imagine you were a 12 year old girl.” I had turned 18, and I was a savvy kid. I was in my second year of college. But I was still a kid. And this impacted me deeply. I felt deep sadness for X. The pain on his face expressed a sorrow that I will never forget. He truly wanted to be anything–even gay in an ultra-conservative backwater like Southern Oregon (he was one of the few people who marched with me and the rainbow flag during Friday art nights, holding my hand)–except what he was. He later denied that he was even bisexual, and lives as a straight man with at least one child now. His father, I learnt about a month or so after we broke up, had been molesting X’s little sister. I do not regret that X was my first love. Why? Because he taught me that compassion is meaningless if we only apply it to people who are socially acceptable.*
When those who are relentlessly and obsessively pursuing me, attempting to erase my ability to participate in social and economic life, for speaking about pedophiles, for being a formerly incarcerated person, for whatever, and when people around me fold like Scarlett O’Hara fainting on the staircase in Gone With the Wind at the slightest hint of controversy, I know where I stand. It isn’t an easy position, and it produces a feeling akin to Speeding Through Concrete. But it is the only position I can take if I am to be as true to myself as I can be. Have I engaged in illegal activities? Have I supported pedophiles in order to prevent or stop them from offending? Have I offended you?
*Ironically, probably as a defense mechanism, he would go on to become a raging right-wing fanatic.
**Featured Image: Jackson Pollock’s Number 1A (1948) was created using his “drip technique.” New research shows the technique was geared to avoid a classic fluid mechanical instability. Credit: “MOMA Pollock” by C.K.H. is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.