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Tony Grist

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But I Didn't Want To Be Safe [Oct. 10th, 2008|10:22 am]
Tony Grist
When I was four I developed an obsession with a girl called Carol and told her I wanted to eat her.  At around the same time I was having lurid fantasies about genitally-imprecise, gender-confused, sado-masochistic sex orgies. Slightly later I developed a big thing about cowboys with their shirts off, and- slightly later still- fell in love with the dark-skinned, half naked slave girl in an illustration to my children's edition of the Pilgrim's Progress.  There were Christian and Faithful striding patriarchally through Vanity Fair, manfully drawing attention to themselves- and there was she in the bottom left-hand corner of the plate, with her hair falling about her face and her breast hanging down just so, laying waste to Bunyan's allegory.  Balls to the celestial city,  I wanted her!

I was kept ignorant, but ignorance isn't innocence. Children are not innocent in the Victorian sense of the word. They are- as we've known since Freud- seethingly sexual and- just as important- insatiably curious.

So why this obsession with keeping their little minds pure? I can only suppose that most adults have- wilfully and ignorantly- forgotten what it's like to be a child.

If there'd been an internet when I was a kid I'd have been furious to know there were walls in place to keep me "safe"- and  I'd  have done everything in my power to circumvent them.
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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-10 12:40 pm (UTC)
How did you know what a sado-masochistic sex orgy was at four? I'm sure I didn't even know that sex even existed until a good deal later..
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From: nostoi
2008-10-10 02:52 pm (UTC)
I would guess that when Tony came by the knowledge of what a sex orgy was he was able to identify what he had been experiencing when he was four.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-10 03:03 pm (UTC)
I didn't know what sex was either- which is why my imaginings were anatomically inaccurate- but this didn't stop me having fantasies I can now interpret in those terms.
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[User Picture]From: litchick
2008-10-10 02:22 pm (UTC)

I don't know either, but I'll take a stab -

I wonder if it has to do with suppressing desire for children when we get to the point in our development to know enough about sex to be shameful about it. Does shame and suppression of childhood sexuality serve a survival purpose? And yet, there are cultures that have ritualized pedophilia.

Didn't this all come about around the Victorian era? Isn't childhood innocence an invention of the late 19th century?

This has to be largely cultural. If you lived to menstruate before the 19th century, you were married and pregnant. So much for innocence.

Camille Paglia takes up this line of questioning in some of her work, but I haven't read any conclusions. She mostly uses childhood sensuality as a sexual barometer in culture, just like homosexuality has varying levels of tolerance throughout history.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-10 03:33 pm (UTC)

Re: I don't know either, but I'll take a stab -

The idea of childhood as a special, innocent time is relatively modern I think. The earliest "cute" pictures of children- in which they're represented as something other than miniature adults- start appearing around the middle of the 18th century.

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From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-10 02:53 pm (UTC)
Perhaps there is a desire to keep children from becoming sexualised as they would lack the common sense at this age to deal with their sexuality responsibly. For instance children who are exposed to sex at a young age tend to start behaving inappropriately to their peers. Where would that lead... pregancies in primary school, 7 year olds with STDs?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-10 03:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, perhaps...

Only no-one seems to have bothered about this sort of thing until the 19th century. Before then children shared their parents' beds, got to hang out with farm animals etc...etc and it doesn't seem to have crossed anybody's mind that they were being corrupted...

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From: nostoi
2008-10-10 03:09 pm (UTC)
What a refreshing lot of sense you speak!

Is it a hang up on our societal notion that sex is a "bad" thing still? Christian morality?

I feel we force children into a pure state in much the same way as we once did with women. They do not think this, they do not think that. Because we do not WANT them to be impure or knowing or anything like that we force them into being what adult society wants them to be. It's so bloody condescending.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-10-10 03:18 pm (UTC)
Biologically speaking people are designed to start being attracted to a person of the opposite sex when they start showing signs of being fertile, right?
But having a relationship with say a 10 year old that looks that way is morally and ethically wrong because they are not fully grown mentally, you would dominate the relationship etc.
So that kind of relationship is judged by most people to be an abuse of power.
Should a ten year old be able to have a sexual relationship with another ten year old? Again, probably no, as they still lack the knowledge to deal with this aspect of their life.
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[User Picture]From: red_girl_42
2008-10-10 08:30 pm (UTC)
I think you're right that children are not as "innocent" as we want to think they are. I know people who get very disturbed at the thought of young children masturbating, and I don't understand why. It feels good--why wouldn't they? I did it. I know my son does it. I used to have orgasms climbing ropes in gym class. I didn't know that's what they were, I just knew I really loved climbing ropes!

I wonder, however, if you're looking at the drive to de-sexualize young children from the wrong standpoint. Maybe the real purpose of it isn't to take children's sexual feelings away from them, but to keep adults from crossing that line and having sexual activity with children. If we as adults maintain an image of children as pristine, asexual beings, then perhaps it makes it easier to draw that line and refrain from treating them in a sexual way.

In other words, desexualizing children is a way of keeping adults from the temptation of having sex with prepubescent kids (if they are in fact so tempted). Perhaps the discomfort in admitting that kids have sexual fantasies and feelings comes from not wanting to seem like a pedophile. If you say that kids are sexual, does that mean you are saying it's okay to have sex with them? It's a lot easier to just say, "children have nothing to do with sex at all" then to have to explain that "yes, kids do have sexual urges but I don't think it's okay for adults to take advantage of that." Too many people are unable to detect that level of nuance, and will brand you a pedophile the instant "child" and "sex" appear in the same sentence.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-11 09:49 am (UTC)
That's a very good point. I think you're right. If we acknowledged our children's sexuality- openly, frankly, freely- it would put us in a very dangerous place. What we're doing when we insist on keeping the little darlings unpolluted by the world is protecting ourselves.
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[User Picture]From: zephyrcrow
2008-10-11 03:25 am (UTC)
"If there'd been an internet when I was a kid I'd have been furious to know there were walls in place to keep me "safe"- and I'd have done everything in my power to circumvent them."

Exactly.

We got the Internet when I was 10. Even on AOL in the early 90's, there were dark corners, secret areas and predators. My parents only let me go on certain areas within the Parental Control guidelines when they were around.

I figured out how to circumvent these precautions fairly quickly. I had seen porn by the time I was 11 or 12, and had an Internet boyfriend by the age of 13.

There was a newsgroup on hacking. It was there that I first read the hacker credo, "Information wants to be free." This experience laid the groundwork for everything that has happened since.

Even middle school libraries have books about occultism, sexual psychology, cannibal murders, cults, and anything else considered taboo. I was hungry for information about the specific things that I was told I wasn't meant to know about, so I found and devoured it.

I think most children crave knowledge. If you try to hide it, they'll just develop a precocity for uncovering it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-11 09:58 am (UTC)
I was fascinated by the paranormal. I think to a certain extent this was a substitute for porn. There was no way- in an English middle-class home in the late 50s and early 60s- before the end of the Chatterley ban- I was ever going to get my hands on anything to do with sex, but I could freely scare myself silly with ghost stories. My parents faintly diapproved of me bringing home books with eyeless phantasms on the cover- and that added spice to the experience.
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From: ext_127439
2008-10-12 01:18 am (UTC)
On a related note- are we doing children a favor or dis-service when we lie to them about things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? I`ve heard arguments posited that we`re doing them a favor by giving them an opportunity to re-frame the world through their own eyes when they finally ealise Santa Claus is not real. But isn`t that just an apology?

I`d wonder if we don`t tell these lies to children just because it keeps them cute and innocent for a long time, which are traits we value for some reason- I`m not really sure why. Raising a child is programming a complex computer program. Would you lie to a computer program as you input data, so it has to be re-taught everything again? I don`t think tat would be beneficial.

If we`re saying it increases the child`s creative capacity- well why not just be honest and say Santa Claus is not real, but it`s a fun game?

Why not treat children not like cute toys and more like the adults they`re going to be?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-12 11:20 am (UTC)
I used to agonise about this when I was a vicar. I worried that if we insisted Santa was real, just as we insisted Jesus was real, kids would eventually conclude they were both fairy-tale figures. Of course this was really all about me. On the one hand I was committed to the belief that Jesus was real- and on the other I knew- deep down- that he was entirely made-up.

I think we should be honest with children. I don't see any harm in playing the Santa game, but if they ask us- straight out- if it's real or not, I believe we should 'fess up.

I don't remember how I and your mother handled it with you guys. Do you?
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