Saturday, January 08, 2011


What is an adult?   Somewhere I have a list of characteristics from a mental health person -- I think Menninger -- but let’s be simpler.  Let’s look from the eyes of the offspring, the human being that is NOT an adult.
To a newly fertilized egg, an adult is code for a budding body plus a matrix in which to embed and grow, fed by osmosis from the adult blood stream to the newly creating one.  That blood stream might contain a virus, a bit of retrocode, called HIV.
For the emerging newborn the adult remains an environment supporting system but the passage through the vagina may infect them with HIV.  The adult is a vector, a disease carrier.
An infant or toddler gradually separates from the adult, if they get enough nurturing and embracing.  If they don’t, they die -- whether or not they have HIV or any other disruptive bits of code.  For the lucky an adult is a eu-adult or for an unlucky baby a mal-adult.  One supports growth and happiness and the other does not -- often the difference is somehow related to when that human being was forming.  A host of diseases must be guarded against, including HIV.  In countries where blood transfusions were routinely given to children as a health measure, hordes were infected.

Things can go very wrong in many ways.  Pediatric studies are those that address the process of children becoming adults.  We have no term for adults who specifically love children in a helpful way.  Maybe parents, with luck.  An adult who loves children is called a pedophile but it doesn’t really mean they love children: it means they want sex with children.  No one says “eu-pedophile” or “mal-pedophile.”  In fact, pedophilia doesn’t distinguish among the natural age groups of children, except for a few other broad categories with Greek names.  Adults who make sexual contact with children of any age can give them HIV, whether the adult is male or female, homosexual or heterosexual.
A hebephile wants sex with children who are barely beginning adolescence, the “second birth” into adulthood.  They are usually 11-14.  To those children an adult is a controller and a persuader because this age of child is beginning to think and to choose or stand against.  In some countries fourteen is old enough to be a legal adult, old enough to leave the home.  For girls, old enough to marry.  For boys, old enough to whore.
An ephebophile wants sex with children who are fully adolescent but not yet adult.  They are usually 15-19.  Our whole culture is ephebophilic.  We want to be old enough to be sexual but not old enough to be adult.  Someone’s daughter remarked recently,  “Seventeen” magazine is for twelve year olds.  An article confided that “Vogue” -- which is supposed to be for adults -- is really for sixteen year olds.  Someone remarked that the pattern for Playboy centerfolds is a sixteen-year-old girl who is three months pregnant.   Many female models and movie stars are that age.  Many whores and soldiers are that age, vulnerable to HIV.  Legal children this age consider themselves adult.  They say,  “I can handle it.”
If there is a term for wanting sex with children younger than 11, I don’t know what it is.  Legal status in terms of “philia” sex depends on several things:  To be plain, was this between an adult and a child or was this between children?  Is one is quite a bit (3 or 4 years) older than the other; is one past adolescence and one not?  If there is no fertility, is it sex?  If there is no penetration, if there is consent, is it okay?   Does it matter if the children are of two different genders?  One of the most difficult legal problems is sexually active ephebophiles, when one person is still a technical child  (“jailbait”) and the other is a technical adult but both are old enough to want to marry.  Yet marriage can require the skills of a full adult in terms of economics and raising children.  Success can depend upon the support of the larger community.
It is possible for an adult or another child to eroticize a hebephilic child or even younger by wrestling or tickling or presenting images and stories or even over-fond petting and grooming.  Even probing for damage by a professional counselor can be eroticizing, as in the case of the day care school hysterias.  Not all eroticizing leads to sexual performance, but it can cause acting out of many kinds.  
Sex and death can mix, either because the adult finds death exciting (maybe because of the control).  There is no word for this except murder.  (Necrophilia is sexual desire for someone who is already dead.)  There is no way to distinguish between killing a child for the pleasure of it and killing a child to shut them up.  They are vulnerable to accidental death, such as “the choking game,” and to street drugs.  Maybe over-the counter-drugs like allergy pills to make them sleep.
Sometimes when I tackle a conceptual problem like this -- which is the foundation for addressing the actual problem -- I end up overrunning my ability to truly and deeply understand.  And yet much of what we don’t like happening has its beginnings in not recognizing early signs or not having ways to think about what we are seeing or just not seeing it because we don’t have the concept.  These are human thinking difficulties in many risky contexts because of the prevailing confusion and, sometimes, the danger.  But if no effort is made to figure it out, to really look at what happens, then we can’t create laws and strategies to address them.  More risky is the practice of many in society to censor behaviors AND any mention of them by attacking the origin, trying to discredit that person.
HIV-AIDS is only one problem in a syndemic.  If our young people are having sex that creates babies when they are too young to have the resources to raise them, that’s one kind of problem.  If there is an adult in the family who thinks it is fun to tickle a child until they wet their pants, that’s another kind of problem.   If there is a child who has watched something disturbing and eroticizing, perhaps by accident, that’s another kind of problem.  They are all problems to some degree but often part of the problem is realizing that there even is one.  Maybe a child who is quiet and withdrawn just needs to think or maybe something life-threatening is developing.  I was a suicidal hebephiliac, to put it pretentiously/portentiously, and others have confided the same.  When we were little, no one knew.  We found our own ways to compensate, maybe reading which is one way (safe!) to find a consoling adult.  (My father traveled, my mother’s mother was dying of cancer, I had two younger brothers, and in those days I was a conformist.  No one even knew I needed glasses.)  I was lucky -- there was no AIDS then.  We were terrified of polio, the epidemic of the Fifties.
Sometimes I think I should put up a little booth like Lucy in “Peanuts,” a “listening booth.”  No therapy.  No advice.  Not a confessional.  Just listening, ten cents.  I think anyone who did that for long would be compelled to action.  


These categories are just too Freudian for me. They don't add up to what I know about sexuality. These are just boxes. The tragedy is that we scare people with this nonsense and they feel badly if they either fit into a box or don't fit into a box. It's lose, lose. Which is what we typically do in a clinical context when it comes to sexuality which is a fluid thing. But we do not really see it that (we give it that lip service) way, but the boxes are what people typically believe defines them. Very sad. 

I find it depressing. I deal with older adolescent males who have the hardest time with it. The younger ones are too filled with themselves to know. But the older ones have all this guilt just drilled into them. It is so hard to work past that. I honestly think Freud did a lot of damage. 


I agree with Tim.  The boxes should go.  They were invented in the 1900's to fit a particular sort of temperament and set of scientific notions which are no longer relevant because of the DEEP paradigm shift and social changes of the past decades. But denial only goes so far -- how SHOULD we respond to the lives of young people -- INCLUDING their sexual lives?  ARE THERE any categories or principles beyond not harming them?

The trouble with Freud is that he was always projecting is OWN psychoanalytic issues onto everyone else.  Being raised in repressive Jewish society in Vienna with a nanny would give anyone a complex -- but the rest of us were NOT raised like that.  In fact, some have raised themselves.

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