The essay ‘Towards the aetiology of paedophobia explores the hypothesis that the current hysteria around paedophilia is an unintended consequence arising from a series of factors which are (other than the incest taboo) proper to capitalism and which are currently interacting in such a way as to create a perfect storm of anxieties around childhood and child sexuality.

These factors are: the disappearance of the child from the community and from the world of work; the education system; the predominance of the nuclear family; the operation of the incest taboo in the nuclear family, and conflicting archetypes of the child.

One of my original intentions when starting this blog was to write at least one essay on each of these factors. So far I’ve only got as far as writing about the disappearance of the child from the community, in ‘Where Have All The Children Gone?‘.

There are historical and causal relationships in the interactions between the above factors which suggest a logical sequence to such a series of essays, starting with the most fundamental and historically anterior factors and then working forwards causally and historically.

aetiology

In writing about the ‘consumer child’ at this early stage I am bucking this logical sequence and starting closer to my destination than to my point of departure – ideally I would have first written about ‘the nuclear family’, ‘the incest taboo’ and the ‘innocent child’.

My excuse is simply that the issue of the ‘the consumer child’ is one which has much preoccupied me lately and which I have been researching. I feel I have enough that I want to explore and write about on the subject for two, maybe even (gulp) three, essays , and that I’d best set my thoughts down whilst my research and reflections are still reasonably fresh in my rather unreliable mind and sieve-like memory.


In WEIRD societies (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic) there exist two dominant archetypes of the Child: the Innocent Child and the Consumer Child. The ‘Innocent Child’ is endemic to industrial economies, particularly Industrial Capitalism; the ‘Consumer Child’ is, of course, a product of Consumer Capitalism.

combined
Innocent Child & Consumer Child – can you guess which is which?

These two archetypes are fundamentally incompatible with one another, and this incompatibility is being played out on political, social, psychological and interpersonal levels – most significantly between parents and their children. This conflict has created a state of confusion and anxiety which, I strongly suspect, finds one of its expressions in the complex of ideas and feelings that might, for convenience, be described as ‘paedophobia’.

In the first part of this essay I address the emergence and nature of consumer capitalism, the invention of the ‘teenager’ and how the teenage identity has been extended to adults in order to make them more avid and less discriminating consumers.

From Protestant Ethic to Consumer Ethos

Max_Weber_1894
Max Weber

The most famous work of the sociologist Max Weber (1864 -1920) is ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism‘. In this essay he argues that capitalism emerged out of, and justified itself by reference to, protestant values such as deferred gratification, rationality, order, hard work, saving and investment, and service to others. As such, capitalism in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries provided an effective way of linking together self-interest and altruism: it offered a mechanism whereby, through investing in products and services which addressed core human needs and wants, one could respond to those needs, increase the bounty and productivity of society and, at the same time, make a profit.

The profit motive was a powerful mechanism for harnessing invention, enterprise and investment for the meeting people’s needs. It generated enormous growth, prosperity and productivity in capitalist societies (as well as, of course, extraordinary injustices and inequalities both in the capitalist societies themselves and the societies which it colonised and plundered). Many inventions and products that have made life easier for ordinary people were developed through this combination of the profit motive and ‘protestant’ values – the internal combustion engine, the spinning Jenny, seed drills, the steam engine, rail roads, electric lighting, modern medicine are all results of this catering to a genuine need via the profit motive.

But today this form of Protestant Capitalism faces a problem. It has become victim of its own success: in the developed world the core needs and wants of the wealthy have largely been addressed and fulfilled.

Of course two-thirds of the world still have many unfulfilled core needs. Unfortunately, they have no wealth, which means that they are invisible to the mechanisms of capitalism. This can be most clearly seen in the way pharmaceutical companies have artificially maintained high prices for drugs, such as retrovirals, and suppressed the production of cheap generic versions, making them unaffordable to those who need them most, in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, the lack of interest and investment by pharmaceutical companies in the development of a cure for malaria – a disease of the poor.

So contemporary Capitalism finds itself in a difficult position: it has to continue to produce and sell goods and services to make money, but those with wealth need only spend a small proportion of their wealth to satisfy their real needs whilst those with real needs don’t have the wealth necessary for their satisfaction.

The danger for Capitalism is that the wealthy, whose core needs are easily catered for, become dissatisfied with working 40+ hours a week to earn the disposable income necessary for buying products that they have no real need for, and that they instead choose to spend that disposable income on time i.e. choose to work less, spend less, lead simpler lives more focused on those things that really matter: loved ones, friends, their community and environment, their talents and passions.

Screenshot-2
France Households Disposable Income 1950-2016 (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/france/disposable-personal-income)

Capitalism’s solution to this problem has been, over the past 60 years, to switch from manufacturing goods and providing services to answer real needs to concentrating on the manufacture of needs. People have to be persuaded to stay on the treadmill, to work hard, earn a surplus, and spend that surplus on goods they don’t need and to a large extent don’t even want (does a smoker worried for his health really ‘want’ a cigarette? does someone really ‘want’ a car when all they use it is for driving to work and getting stuck in traffic jams..?).

This is why the chief industry of contemporary capitalism, the industry that defines it, is Marketing and Advertising – the selling of goods that can’t be considered necessary or, in many ways, even wanted: one doesn’t need marketing to sell essentials: food to the hungry, water to a thirsty man in a desert, clothes to the cold.

However to sell the consumer living in a first-world nation a bottle of water which costs two-thousand times more than the clean, readily available, free-at-source tap-water; or to sell hi-tech running shoes to someone whose only participation in sport is watching it on a screen, or to create a situation where the poorest people are the ones who suffer from obesity all represent triumphs of manipulation of the citizen by the Marketing industry.

So Capitalism is on a race to sell more and more stuff to people who need such stuff less and less. To achieve this end the Market combines creativity and resources with a multiplicity of strategies to reconfigure, with remarkable effectiveness, the way we think, feel, desire and act.

The contemporary Weltanschauung is largely a creation of this industry: we live in a culture in which those activities that do not involve acts of gratuitous consumption are labelled ‘uncool’ (wearing non-designer-label clothes), ‘geeky’ (bird-watching), ‘insufferably middle class’ (not having a television), ‘preachy’ or ‘smug’ (vegetarianism); where  the status of ‘Teenagers’ and ‘Tweens’ is defined according to their role as consumers; where we can feel loyalty towards a brand, or where it is considered normal that when one buys branded clothing one is paying significantly extra for the privilege of acting as an advert for that clothing.

And if last year business spent 600 billion dollars on marketing and advertising it is because marketing works – it makes us spend money which we would not have spent otherwise, it shapes the way we feel and think.

the ubiquity of the consumer ethos

Consumer Capitalism needs people to be able to consume and be subject to consumer messages all the time. It seeks to infiltrate everyday life and be present in all virtual and real spaces.

documentary-how-the-media-influences-children-and-adults-alike-1927309_f520This is not only in order to market specific products such as Diet Pepsi, but also to create a pervasive consumer mental space where the predominant terms by which we conceive of ourselves and the world are those of materialism and consumption. This can be seen in the way ‘shopping’ is now considered as a pass-time, a form of ‘therapy’ even, in how ideas of ‘cool’ have become dominant in our evaluation of products, behaviours and services, in how people identify with, and are loyal to, brands and in how interpersonal relationships are increasingly defined in terms of consumption.

Imagine a place where every wall had a poster on it saying ‘Love allah!’ and everywhere you went, including schools, you saw the star and crescent and quotations from the quran? If every quarter of an hour the programme you were watching was interrupted by short, highly entertaining bursts of religious dogma urging you to ever greater religious devotion? Wouldn’t you say this was a theocracy? Or a similar situation where every message, overtly or covertly, communicated the message ‘Support Your Leader’? As in North Korea?

When president George Bush, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, wanted Americans to do their patriotic duty he did not ask them to pray, or to tighten their belts, as usually happens when a country goes to war. Instead he urged Americans to:

“Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

And in 2006, when faced with a recession caused by the cost of prosecuting the Iraq war, he told the American people:

“I encourage you all to go shopping more”

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celebrity endorsement

Hand-held computing devices mean that we are never more than a glance and a click away from advertising and the chance to consume. Packaging; advertising on television, on billboards, in magazines; branding; advertorials (an advert disguised as editorial content); product placement in films, books, music &c; the use of sponsorship and the buying of naming rights for public facilities and high-profile events (e.g. ‘Bank of America Stadium’, North Carolina), the supply of free teaching materials to schools, which promote a company and/or their products or which deliver advertising to children (as does the USA’s Channel One News); Viral marketing campaigns &c &c all these and many more strategies make use of all and every opportunity to access the consumer’s mind.

The UK and USA may not be dictatorships or theocracies, but the message ‘Consume!’ is as ubiquitous as the marketing industries can make it.

Can we doubt that if they were capable of doing it marketing companies would insert adverts and product placements into our dreams?

The ‘teenager’

article-2301242-18FA53C8000005DC-262_470x587Up until the middle of the last century there were ‘babies’, ‘children’ and ‘adults’. Till then children were bit-players in the consumer world, purchasers of cheap toys and sweets. The marketing industry considered parents as ‘gatekeepers’: standing guard between the child and the Market. Products for children were marketed in such a way as to convince parents that the product would be good for their children.

In the 1950s, as industrial capitalism started to take on more and more elements of consumer capitalism, the ‘teenager’ as we know it made its appearance. The teenager is the marketing industry’s great strategy to get the ‘gatekeepers’ out of the way – they recognised that a child can exert much more pressure on a parent than any advert ever could.

The Teenager is particularly vulnerable to the strategies of Marketing and Advertising and this has placed them at the epicentre of consumer culture – their tastes drive market trends, and millions are spent marketing to them and researching their lives and tastes.

The marketing industry has devised strategies to market to Teenagers and children behind their parents’ backs, and made of them ’empowered’ (a word much loved by the marketing industry which conceals a multitude of sins) consumers, using ‘pester power’ and children’s influence over their parents.

The Teenage Identity makes for the ideal consumer because it privileges impulse over deliberation; instant gratification over long-term satisfaction; narcissism over sociability; entitlement over responsibility, the Present over the Past and the Future.

The teenage identity is hedonistic, focused on satisfying first-order desires (‘I want a cigarette’, ‘I want an SUV’, ‘I want that doughnut’) rather than second-order desires (‘I want to give up smoking’, ‘I want a clean environment’, ‘I want my family to be healthy’).

Because teenagers and children have less experience in handling money they have a less developed perspective than the adult on spending, debt and the value of goods. Their ‘wants’ are potentially infinite: they tend to accumulate ephemeral, superfluous and useless goods, seeking to complete collections of toys, such as ‘my little pony’, buying their favourite football team’s latest kit or the latest iteration of a video game…

In addition to this, adult cultures tend to be pluralist and distinctive, exclusive, and ‘elitist’ even, whereas youth culture is universal. Wealthy children and adolescents, whether they be American, Spanish, Japanese or Brazilian or Indian, live in a kind of shared parallel universe of manga, McDonalds, blockbuster movies, Harry Potter books, Nike footwear and pop music.

“in general, it appears that before there is a geographic culture, there is a children’s culture; that children are very much alike around the industrialized world. They love to play […] they love to snack and they love being children with other children. The result is that they very much want the same things, that they generally translate their needs into similar wants that tend to transcend culture. Therefore, it appears that fairly standardized multinational marketing strategies to children around the globe are viable.”
James U. McNeal. – “Kids as Consumers: a Handbook of Marketing to Children

Teenagers are also very subject to defining their identity in relation to groups and subcultures that are defined by possessions and, therefore, acts of consumption: clothing, make-up, music, cultural tastes &c (hence the prevalence amongst teenagers of ‘clans’ such as Goth, Emo, Cosplayer, Cyberpunk…). It is also a phase of life characterised by risk-taking, experimentation, impulsiveness, rebellion against constraints and authority, but which is also especially vulnerable to low self-esteem – which the market can purport to address through consumption (‘consumer therapy’, the anxiogenic fashion industry).

The what extent these characteristics are innate to teenagers, or are a result of social conditions – sexually mature, but obliged to remain dependent, in education, and discouraged from assuming adult roles – or to what extent they are a construct of the marketing industries is an interesting question but, unfortunately, one which I can’t address here.

the infantilisation of adulthood

But why does the market seem to so ruthlessly promote the teenage identity? Why is just about all publicity and marketing nowadays (even for products that are exclusively meant for adults – see the Budweiser ad below) pitched at the emotional and intellectual level of the early teen and tween?

After all teenagers generally do not earn a wage and have a low disposable income compared to adults. Moreover, children and adolescents constitute and ever shrinking proportion of the population in WEIRD countries, with birth-rates decreasing and people living longer ( in 1950 a third of their population was under the age of 15, today it is nearer a fifth).

The answer is that the marketing industry’s holy grail is that of endowing adults with the teenage mindset.

Youth is no longer dependent on chronology but is a life-style choice that is promoted with the utmost intensity. This process is about fostering an idea of ‘the adult’ that is dumbed-down, has childish tastes and is impetuous in its spending, an adult that will have tastes and habits of teenagers and children so that they can be sold the relatively useless cornucopia of games, gadgets and myriad consumer goods for which there is no discernible ‘need market’ other than the once created by capitalism’s own frantic imperative to sell.

The infantilised consumer-adult tends to:

childishness without pleasure, to indolence without innocence, dresses without formality, has sex without reproducing, works without discipline, plays without spontaneity, buys without a purpose, lives without responsibility, wisdom or humility.”
Jacopo Bernardini – ‘The Role of Marketing in the Infantilization of the Postmodern Adult

Likewise with other cultural products: the three top- grossing films of 2015 were ‘Star Wars VII’, ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’. All are ‘blockbusters’ (which simply means a film designed to appeal to all tastes and all demographics), all are sequels (as if we were asking, like a small child, for the same story to be told over and over again), cartoonish, and cgi- and action-heavy, devoid of real-life dilemmas or emotions…

Similarly designed for teens but marketed to adults are fast food, popular music, leisure clothing such as trainers, video games, kidult fiction and comics, and gadgets.

Then the field of cosmetic surgery and beauty products, which continues to grow, despite recent recessions, which promote the adolescent, and even the child’s, body as the ideal for both men and women – no body-hair, effortless skinniness, no wrinkles or blemishes or stretch-marks.

Cadeaux-©-Sharif-Hamza-for-VOgue-paris

One last thought: the above advert promotes an ideal of attractiveness for women to aspire to. Given that attractiveness is only meaningful when it is exercised upon an other person, doesn’t such an advert also send out the message that this kind of beauty is one that men should find attractive too?

Which raises the question of the extent to which our own desires and feelings as paedophiles might be a result of the promotion and idealisation of youth by the marketing and advertising industries.

Could Paedophilia just be the infantilisation of adult tastes taken to its logical conclusion..?


In the second part of this essay I will address the issue of the ‘adultification of the preteen child’ and why this is so important for the marketing industry and consumer capitalism. I’ll look at the role sexuality plays in this, and the nature of the ‘consumer child’ archetype.

24 thoughts on “The Consumer Child – Part 1

  1. However, there is a large place in society for free markets. An effective and efficient large organization is a hard thing to create, and competition among rival ones is the best anybody’s devised to create them. Let those who are both lucky and work hard get rich. You can put a limit on their size (no “too big to fail”). You can put strict limits on their lobbying efforts.

    This, as I’m sure you know by now, Ethan, I do not agree with. Competition among rival businesses and corporations creates too much incentive to “cut corners” in terms of safety for workers, consumers, and the environment; it encourages the production of a lot of junk that the advertising industry convinces people that it “needs,” if only to be “cool,” which results in too many people ending up in debt and living beyond their means considering the paltry degree of product most workers get in return for their hard work (the lion’s share goes to the capitalist owners); it encourages manufacturers to practice planned obsolescence and artificial scarcity, which is wasteful and outright duplicitous; and it encourages a competitive mindset in society in general, particularly between workers, which fosters a “dog-eat-dog” environment whose rampant mistrust, inequality, and ruthless competitiveness lead to all sorts of crime and mental illness, which in turn leads to America’s thriving prison industry and mass incarceration. Modern industry is based on cooperative work among millions of workers, and the world would be a far better place if these same workers controlled industries collectively and worked together cooperatively for the common good. If such was the case, we would have a considerably better world where ethical consideration of each other and the environment took priority, something the profit motive and rugged individualism thoroughly compromises and corrupts.

    All schemes to retain the market system and money, and to “tame” capitalism after the system and class-divided systems in general became obsolete and archaic towards the end of the 19th century have failed utterly, as the capitalist minority always manage to pool their disproportionately vast resources and initiate a blowback and dismantling of all reforms that manage to get pushed through. That is just too easy to do when you privately own the media and have the ability to bribe and even outright purchase the loyalty of the lawmakers. Doing the same thing over and over again, and hoping that maybe it will be different the next time, is a recipe for continued disaster. Leaving capitalist exploitation and the disproportionately powerful capitalist class intact, while simply trying to “limit” their power, leaves them in a position to regroup and pool their resources towards paying for the government to gradually once again became their tool for imposing and preserving class rule and all that entails on the world. There is no place or logical reason for a “free” market, i.e., a “free for all” (as Lensman referred to it) in modern post-industrial society.

    You can say all advertising is rotten to the core because it is self-interested, but this is too narrow a perspective. Marxists freely admit that our society’s great wealth has been built up by lots of individuals acting in their narrow self-interest. I’d be up for curtailing many kinds of advertising, including what’s aimed at children.

    More specifically, what Marxists freely admit is that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, when productive capacity was considerably more limited than it is today, and it was not technologically possible to produce an abundance for all, capitalism was a progressive system that allowed industry to develop to what it is today; and that capitalism was a social advance over the previous economic system, feudalism. It was the best and most advanced type of system that could be established at the time it was established.

    However, Marxists will also mention, on the one hand, that a lot of horrible misery resulted from the problems that capitalism created along the way to making advanced industry possible; and on the other hand, Marxists will say that capitalism has long since completed its historic mission and has since became an outmoded, archaic, destructive, regressive, and – yes! – rotten to the core system. Its progressive nature was only the case in a previous era prior to modern industrial development, just after the feudal system was replaced by it for having become similarly outmoded and regressive by the latter part of the 18th century. Marxists will further say, most vehemently, that it’s well past time that society move on to the next more advanced system, which is a socially owned, stateless, moneyless, cooperative commonwealth of workers who produce entirely for the common good of all, by taking full advantage of what modern technology and production now makes possible. But to accomplish that, we need to give up our loyalty to money and tolerance for class inequality simply because we lived all of our lives with it and are thus used to it and inured to it. We have also spent the entirety of our lives subjected to capitalist propaganda for the entirety of our lives that psychologically trained, conditioned, and desensitized us to accepting and even defending some variation of the present system. That is a form of marketing too, and a very powerful example of it.

    Let those who are both lucky and work hard get rich.

    But we all know that hard work is not the main basis of becoming wealthy. Wealth is most often inherited, and often passed on in the form of trust funds that eliminates the need to ever work or contribute in any way to society by these few lucky individuals.

    Further, a lot of wealthy companies wouldn’t develop anything if not for heavy government subsidies that all come from the accumulated tax payers, most of whom are not wealthy, yet get no cut or dividend of any sort from what their collective funds enabled a company to develop and profit from.

    And there are many, many people who work hard yet never get rich or even earn a decent income, because their line of work, while possibly very important to society, is nevertheless not lucrative under capitalism (e.g., cooks, sanitation work/janitors, writers, artists, auto repair, food disbursement). Conversely, there are a few occupations that are very lucrative yet provide no value of any sort to society outside the context of capitalism and big business (e.g., corporate law, privatized prisons, accounting, insurance, banking industries).

    Remuneration should be the “full fruit of one’s labor” for everyone who does a share of the useful work, and not based on factors related to luck. Especially not when there is plenty to go around for everyone, yet a grossly disproportionate amount of wealth accumulates in the hands of just a few. And let’s not forget that the wealthiest Americans do not add to their fortune by work, but by capital gains and speculative ventures – including giving out extremely risky sub-prime loans that they knew the recipients would most likely end up defaulting on – and nearly causing the entire market-based economy to collapse. And the only reason the economy didn’t collapse is because the government stepped in and bailed them out with billions of dollars culled from mostly labor class tax payers, who benefited in no way from this. In fact, millions of workers wre hurt by these acts, including the many who lost their homes and ended up mired in extreme debt thanks to the disingenuous practices of the powerful few who control the banks. The latter individuals who were directly involved in the market crash of 2008 ended up none the worse for wear and sometimes with bonuses for their destructive and maliciously selfish behavior.

    Selfishness on such a scale invariably leads to and even encourages irresponsibility and treating others like they are less than human. That’s hardly beneficial to society as a whole, and it hardly results in a meritocracy of any sort. There is no logical justification for the continued toleration of this, let alone defending the negative behavior that results from it on the part of individuals from both classes.

    But here’s a case. Suppose there’s an especially large and high-quality cherry crop. The supermarkets advertise cheap cherries for the selfish purpose of selling them. Consumers benefit by finding out that cherries are cheap these days. There’s nothing inherently wrong with selfishness.

    I would say, for one thing, that what constitutes “cheap” is subjective depending upon your income level under capitalism. Even those members of the labor class who are referred to as being part of the “middle class” have very unstable income, the quality of which can change over the course of a single month based on unexpected expenses of numerous sorts (e.g., a sudden layoff due to company outsourcing; a sudden medical crisis; a needed automobile suddenly breaking down). And for the many on the lower tier of the labor class who can barely afford keeping a roof over their head or their utilities turned on, because the system puts price tags on these necessities – let alone a price tag being put on food in most instances – the produce you mentioned not be very “cheap” at all, especially if 95% of what meager income they receive – even if they strain both their physical and mental health to work more than one job – is still inefficient to cover the cherries that are considered “cheap” based on the opinion of the store owners or management.

    There is much inherently wrong with selfishness and greed, especially if it results in mass amounts of poverty, inequality, crime, and environmental destruction. And even more so when technology has advanced to the point that the system no longer needs to be run that way.

    And as for creating demand, I’m not sure that’s always bad. Who’s to say that Pet Rocks are a bad thing? Leave it to people to decide whether they want pet rocks or not.

    I wouldn’t try to stop people from buying Pet Rocks if they wanted them (geez, you still remember those things, Ethan?! This totally dates you, dude!). But I do think it’s wrong for a tool that benefits only the wealthy few who control virtually everything that everyone depends on for survival to engage in selfish manipulation when a better and more socially advanced option exists.

    I suppose you could restrict ads that sell things by way of insinuation, sexy women, etc. — ones that are “free association” sort — the ones that do operate on people’s subconscious. But the idea of requiring all ads to pass some government censor is very bad.

    In a system that requires certain imagery and text to be censored and criminalized by the government, Ethan, I think duplicitous advertising that add’s little to no artistic merit or benefit to society at large is hardly worth greater efforts to keep away from government regulation.

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  2. My vision of the best society is well to the left of Bernie Sanders. I’m all for curbing the political power of the elites. I think a loophole-free inheritance tax is good, as are high tax rates on large incomes. Regulations can extend to every externality. A government program that amplifies wages is a good idea — providing an incentive for companies to hire people and discouraging automation where it is marginal.

    However, there is a large place in society for free markets. An effective and efficient large organization is a hard thing to create, and competition among rival ones is the best anybody’s devised to create them. Let those who are both lucky and work hard get rich. You can put a limit on their size (no “too big to fail”). You can put strict limits on their lobbying efforts.

    You can say all advertising is rotten to the core because it is self-interested, but this is too narrow a perspective. Marxists freely admit that our society’s great wealth has been built up by lots of individuals acting in their narrow self-interest. I’d be up for curtailing many kinds of advertising, including what’s aimed at children.

    But here’s a case. Suppose there’s an especially large and high-quality cherry crop. The supermarkets advertise cheap cherries for the selfish purpose of selling them. Consumers benefit by finding out that cherries are cheap these days. There’s nothing inherently wrong with selfishness.

    And as for creating demand, I’m not sure that’s always bad. Who’s to say that Pet Rocks are a bad thing? Leave it to people to decide whether they want pet rocks or not. I suppose you could restrict ads that sell things by way of insinuation, sexy women, etc. — ones that are “free association” sort — the ones that do operate on people’s subconscious. But the idea of requiring all ads to pass some government censor is very bad.

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  3. One interesting point now being alluded to between you and Ethan in this segment of the discussion, Leon, is the common question of how should the concept of liberty be extended to the realm of business in what we call a bourgeois democracy? As I’m sure you know, the anarcho-capitalists confer the secular equivalent of divine reverence to liberty in business, with the business owners having more or less no limitations on how they can make money, how much inequality and exploitation they spread, how much selfishness pervades the collective zeitgeist as a result, or how little each individual contributes to the common good. Freedom to be as greedy as you want, and freedom to pursue your own self-interest at the expense of the collective body to your heart’s desire, are considered fundamental expressions of freedom to such an ideology. We see this expressed not only in the market industry that you point out, but things such as the extraordinary Citizens United ruling of the American Supreme Court, which essentially gives money the status of personhood and “free speech” by allowing wealthy individuals to spend as much money as they want to influence an electoral system that is supposed to belong to all the people.

    Most relevant to that in regards to this discussion is the belief some have that the marketing industry is somehow a form of free speech. Marketing, however, is a distinct aspect of commerce that isn’t about making a statement expressing an opinion, or trying to prove a thesis so much as trying to convince people to spend money on a certain item. Does that mean marketing can be used for promoting good items too, as Ethan suggests? Well, the marketing industry is not designed to be objective and impartial about anything it promotes, nor is it designed in any way to serve the public good. It’s basically designed to provide thpse wealthy enough to pay for its services a means to convince people they have a “need” for their product. Whether or not the product is good or bad for them, or the environment, or in any way a useful expenditure of money, is entirely irrelevant to the industry. It’s designed, plainly and simply, to convince people they should be buying something so that both the manufacturing and retail capitalists can profit off of it. That is, like it or not, a form of deliberate psychological manipulation that is not concerned with facts or the public good in the least, but simply advocating for whatever product a company pays the advertising market to create a slogan for.

    And the advertising industry as we know it would not be required in a system that didn’t hinge on making money and limiting product acquisition on the basis of individual ability to pay. As a distinct creature of capitalism, it’s required to fill the needs of business, which is not inherently ethical or based on anything like equality or honesty. We do, as Ethan says, have the choice not to buy certain items, but advertising is not designed to give us information about products so as to make an informed choice, but rather to try and manipulate us into believing that we “need” the item, and that it’s worth the level of money we are required to spend for it.

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    1. You make some very good points, Dissident. If the concept of liberty were to be applied to marketing there would have to be some inherent dialectic, some inherent opposing force, to its mechanism. In a democratic system an idea or an interest is opposed by another – thus maintaining a dynamic of debate and thinking which makes the machinery of democracy work. When such a dialectic doesn’t exist then (or so it seems to me) one ends up in one form of totalitarianism or another. In other words ‘liberty’ – if it means anything – consists of a balancing act between opposed interests and ideas.

      This doesn’t exist in marketing – the closest thing to an opposing force in marketing are ‘competitors’ – buy coke or buy pepsi – the only part the consumer plays in whether they buy coke, pepsi or neither. The only oppositional act the consumer can take is inaction – marketing is something DONE TO citizens.

      This is strangely akin to the non-existent dialectic on paedophilia – the conditions for social debate are so set up that the only opposition paedophiles can give to the prevailing narrative is that of silence (Virpeds don’t count – they are given a voice because they don’t oppose the prevailing narrative). There can be no ‘free market’ – all there can be is a ‘free for all’ – when markets bandy around words like ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ and try to persuade people that they can embody these concepts they’re very much like foxes arguing for their right to have freedom of access to the chicken coop. They’re merely arguing for their freedom of access to our minds and our desires.

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  4. Many of those ideas make sense — restricting advertising to children and on a variety of unhealthful products. Advertising DOES also serve the function of letting people know about things that they can buy that are good for them — or say why their product is better than a competitor. Admittedly that is a tiny part of today’s advertising. But I’d certainly rather have laws that allow everything and then restrict it by specific exceptions rather than needing approval for a kind of advertising in advance.

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    1. >”But I’d certainly rather have laws that allow everything and then restrict it by specific exceptions rather than needing approval for a kind of advertising in advance.”

      Would you apply that principal to other social and environmental ills, such as pollution and crime?

      Marketing is not something neutral in its consequences, it is not a take-it-or-leave-it act – it determines the society we live in and tends, by it nature, to ubiquity. So the question is inescapable – whose interests should determine the nature of the society we live in – its citizens’ or those of big business?

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      1. “Would you apply that principal to other social and environmental ills, such as pollution and crime?”
        We do rightly apply it to crime. It is called a ban on ex post facto laws.

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    1. I hadn’t hear of this phenomenon before. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigo_children)

      “Indigo children, according to a pseudoscientific New Age concept, are children who are believed to possess special, unusual, and sometimes supernatural traits or abilities. They are sometimes also referred to as crystal children or star children. The idea is based on concepts developed in the 1970s by Nancy Ann Tappe and further developed by Jan Tober and Lee Carroll. The concept of indigo children gained popular interest with the publication of a series of books in the late 1990s and the release of several films in the following decade. A variety of books, conferences and related materials have been created surrounding belief in the idea of indigo children and their nature and abilities. The interpretations of these beliefs range from their being the next stage in human evolution, in some cases possessing paranormal abilities such as telepathy, to the belief that they are more empathetic and creative than their peers.

      Although no scientific studies give credibility to the existence of indigo children or their traits, the phenomenon appeals to some parents whose children have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and to parents seeking to believe that their children are special. Critics view this as a way for parents to avoid considering pediatric treatment or a psychiatric diagnosis. The list of traits used to describe the children has also been criticized for being vague enough to be applied to almost anyone, a form of the Forer effect.”

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  5. The basic outlines of this are familiar and things I’ve been hearing from decades. Here’s the key question: what should be done about it? Some solutions would involve restricting people’s liberties. I don’t think they can sell anything unless it follows (one set of) contours of the human mind. We as individuals are all free to reject those messages. So… are you simply suggesting we should all be aware of this, spread the word, and as individuals choose differently? A variety of religions offer one sort of solution.

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    1. >”The basic outlines of this are familiar and things I’ve been hearing from decades.”

      Very true. I’m currently reading Neil Postman’s ‘The Disappearance of Childhood’ – which he wrote in the late 70s and which addresses many of the same issues.I think the first use of the word ‘teenager’ was in 1921.

      >”Here’s the key question: what should be done about it?”

      The purpose of this essay wasn’t to criticise consumerism (though I am critical of it on personal and political level) but to present and explore one of the contributory premises to the anxiogenic clash of archetypes which I suspect causes late 20th Century and early 21st Century paedophobia. So the question of what should be done about it is not one that I was concerned to address in the essay.

      But it’s a good question. I think that it can be answered on two levels – the personal and the political.

      On a personal level Juliet B. Schor, in ‘Born to Buy’ gives a useful check list on how to protect one’s children from consumer culture:

      1/ get rid of the television – it’s the most insidious and relentless deliverer of children to marketing messages.
      2/ restrict and control internet access and use
      3/ eat home-cooked meals and as a family sat round a table, and don’t use fast food outlets.
      4/ practice activities as a family that are not based on excessive consumerism – hiking, cooking, conversation, reading, nature study, gardening…
      5/ as a parent ‘walk your talk’ – don’t be a hypocrite e.g. if, as a parent, you ban the children from television don’t have one in your bedroom.

      Now, when I read this list the first thought that struck me was ‘how middle class’ – and I’m middle class myself and these are all things that I practice in my own life!. And this gut reaction made me realise that the ‘how middle class’ reaction is one that has been taught me by consumer culture because it is a very effective way of denigrating values which undermine consumer behaviours: behaviours, which, when analysed with a cool, non-judgmental head, are pretty much inarguably good: consumer culture had inoculated me against behavours which would subvert consumerism!

      There are also political answers – which touch on what you write in your next sentence.

      >”Some solutions would involve restricting people’s liberties.”

      It strikes me that the only liberties being restricted are the liberties of the marketing industry. The only function of marketing is to make you buy more – that does not even count as a ‘liberty’ to me. The liberty I think should be protected is that of not having one’s thoughts and feelings manipulated in the interests of another.

      And the marketing industry’s free rein is already controlled in many countries. In Norway, Sweden and Quebec it is illegal to advertise to children under 12; in a lot of European countries local authorities restrict the proliferation of bill-boards in the approaches to towns and town centres; even in the UK cigarette companies can not advertise; Australia has introduced neutral packaging for cigarettes resulting in a reduction in teenage smoking…

      >”I don’t think they can sell anything unless it follows (one set of) contours of the human mind.”

      I kind of agree – marketing is extremely clever at turning human nature to their client’s advantage. But that doesn’t make it right. Addiction to cigarettes and alcohol and other substances could be said to follow the contours of the human mind (and body) but addiction is generally not something that should be encouraged. Just because something is ‘natural’ or bases itself on ‘nature’ (and using those words raises so many questons, ifs and buts!) it doesn’t mean it’s ‘right’ or ‘desirable’.

      >”We as individuals are all free to reject those messages.”

      Unfortunately we’re not. Most of the effects of marketing are subconscious. It’s those messages we learn and internalise that we’re least aware of that affect one’s behaviour the most.

      Also when children as young as 1 year old are being targeted by marketers (through television advertising and branding and packaging) what chance have they of rejecting the message? – by the age of three children recognise brands and receptive to the messages the marketers are conveying (http://www.livescience.com/6181-3-year-understands-power-advertising.html) – if ‘liberty’ is a concern – we should be putting the liberty of the child before that of the multi-nationals and marketing industry.

      >”o… are you simply suggesting we should all be aware of this, spread the word, and as individuals choose differently? A variety of religions offer one sort of solution.”

      I’m not suggesting anything in this essay. I wasn’t ever really being critical – the criticism that you have picked up on is something that has creeped in despite myself.

      But there are solutions – consumerism is only a recent phenomenon – it is not ‘necessary’ to the functioning of society.

      Whilst I would, or course, never advocate feudalism as a political solution – it is instructive to ponder on how ‘marketing’ was not a part of the feudal economy – which shows that other forms of economy don’t require marketing.

      Maybe I might explore this issue in a future essay – but I think that the state restricting the freedom of the marketing industry is a good start – I mean, who in Sweden and Norway, is complaining that they, and their children, are not being marketed to enough? other than maybe the marketing industry? The whole point of Democracy is the will of the people being exerted against interests that seek to harm them or which are not in their interest – it strikes me that those governments that are restrictive of the depredations of marketing and consumerism are doing exactly the job that a democratically elected and controlled government should do.

      Without a democratically elected state with which to protect ourselves we are just the milch cows of big business and marketing.

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  6. Your doctrine of “consumer capitalism” does not explain why France is much less paedophobic than the USA and UK, why paedophobia was at its lowest at the beginning of the 1970’s, and why Germany, the most typical representative of “industrial capitalism”, is increasingly bigoted as regards childhood nudity in arts. But I would note that politically, the early 70’s crowned a decade of anti-colonial struggles culminating in the Vietnam war, and at that time there were still powerful anti-capitalists movements; that France is now one of the Western countries were there are powerful labour strikes, while in Germany anti-social laws were imposed with few opposing strikes, and the US/UK are the land of Thatcherism and Reaganism. Paedophobia is a political panic phenomenon of decaying capitalism.
    The doctrine of “consumer capitalism” is a phantasm of middle class intellectuals in rich dominant countries. First, basic human needs are not satisfied for a large part of world population, absolute poverty is still massive; quoting
    http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats?gclid=CIKAjMrEts0CFcO4GwodBKMGdQ
    http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats
    http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/food/vitalstats.shtml
    — 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day.
    — 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
    — At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
    — 1.6 billion people live without electricity.
    — Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
    — 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.
    — Poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five, that is, 3.1 million children each year.
    — According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
    — One in four of the world’s children are stunted.
    — Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
    — 1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
    — Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea.
    — An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004.
    — Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities.
    — Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
    Now the gap between the poor and the rich is widening, and relative poverty is also rising. In Europe and North America, you have many people who live below what present society’s productive forces could afford them. For instance you see students who feed themselves on high-calories low quality fast food, who renounce dental care and other heavy medical expenses, people who need to borrow money in order to pay daily expenses, etc.
    It is always arbitrary to proclaim that this or that consumer product is unnecessary, that it does not correspond to basic human needs. Human needs evolve with society and culture. It is possible to live with 17th century standards, ignoring motor vehicles, electricity, the telephone, television and Internet; the Amish live like that. Then your cultural opportunities would be as low, you would get all your knowledge from a village library and hold your CH debates in a village pub, without the multiple opportunities of the WWW, television and smartphones.
    Capitalism has always been about selling commodities to consumers who can pay. And you sell them anything you can. There have always been prestige spending and ostentatious wealth. Already in primitive stateless societies, as soon as wealth and inequality developed, you saw rich people showing off their jewels, nice clothes and big houses, and organizing “potlaches” just to show that they are rich. I see nothing new since WW2 in this respect. On the other hand, there was a turn at the beginning of the 20th century, from free concurrence capitalism to monopolies, to increasing financiarization of economy.

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    1. >”Your doctrine of “consumer capitalism” does not explain…”

      Well, this essay is only the first of two parts (maybe even three) that consider the phenomenon of the ‘consumer child’.

      If I mentioned the overall hypothesis at the start of the essay it was meant merely to give some context, not as an exhaustive explication and final statement of the said hypothesis.

      You raise, in your first paragraph, a series of pre-emptive objections to a hypothesis that I am only at the start of fully exploring.

      >”…does not explain why France is much less paedophobic than the USA and UK”

      First of all, it must be made clear that if France is less paedophobic than the USA and the UK – it certainly is not NOT paedophobic. During certain periods of my life I’ve lived in France and I’m pretty sure that if I had started a passionate liaison with my neighbour’s six-year old he’d have been more likely to call round with his hunting rifle than with cakes and a glass of champagne to celebrate the new relationship…

      But, yes, I agree that the hysteria we see in the UK and USA hasn’t ignited yet.

      Of course it’s not an either/or situation, consumer or industrial. It’s much more complex than that – the proportions of the industrial/consumer blend will differ for every country, as will each country’s history, society, culture, legistlature, economy etc etc

      France is, for a variety of reasons, only some of which I fully understand (I suspect its Catholic inheritance, it having been and still being a significantly agricultural economy, the French Revolution, it pro-intellectual ethos), much less in the grips of consumer culture than the UK and the USA.

      I have lived in all three countries you mention – in France advertising is less pervasive and comes under greater restrictions than in the USA and the UK. Its economy is also more localised (in the South at least) and therefore less dependent on the global marketing of the multi-nationals.

      But suffice to say that during a period of my life I would regularly alternate periods of living in France and England – everytime I came back to England I was shocked and felt oppressed by the sheer amount of advertising and consumer messages constantly being pumped out everywhere, the sheer market-driven pop-culture banality of so much of English ‘culture’ and society, especially in the cities, and on television (which I eventually threw out). France always felt like a step back into a healthier, less consumer-driven world.

      >”why paedophobia was at its lowest at the beginning of the 1970’s”

      Well, it depends on what time-frame you’re using to make that judgment. If you go as far back as the Middle ages I suspect that you would be very wrong to say this. I’m not even sure that it’s true with regards to the 20th Century.

      Consumer capitalism started to take over (in the UK at least) in 60s and 70s – ever since then it’s got more and more intense – the fact that paedophobia has increased since 1970 seems to support the idea that paedophobia increases as consumer capitalism increases.

      But I suspect that what you’re really suggesting that paedophobia was more prevalent in the pre-1970s period, took a dip in the 1970s and started to rise again afterwards (a v-shaped graph).

      Well, I’m far from convinced that this is the case. I think that the 60s and 70s was a period where conceptions of child sexuality were being RE-EVALUATED and the whole flower power, alternative life-styles, communal living etc was a part of that re-evaluation. And I think that that reevaluation occured because of the economic factors that I outline in this essay – growing wealth meant that industrial capitalism was producing more than it could sell, and people (hippies) were realising that maybe work and spending didn’t have to be the over-arching purpose in life.

      The following graph speaks volumes on the question:

      >”why Germany, the most typical representative of “industrial capitalism”, is increasingly bigoted as regards childhood nudity in arts”

      I think that the key word here is ‘increasingly’.

      What proportion of Germany’s economy derives from industry and how much from Germany is services and consumption? this page suggests that 28% of its economy is industrand ial and 71% ‘services’ (which includes retail). Germany is maybe the most industrial society in Europe but it is still principaly non-industrial. It, like most of the world now, has long been subject to and participant in International Consumer Culture – the market’s ever growing need to find new wealth to sell to.

      >”The doctrine of “consumer capitalism” is a phantasm of middle class intellectuals in rich dominant countries. First, basic human needs are not satisfied for a large part of world population, absolute poverty is still massive; quoting…”

      Errr… I’m not sure what the point you’re making here – I think you’ve read something into what I wrote that I certainly never intended.

      I would never for a second suggest that ‘basic human needs’ were being ‘satisfied for a large part of the world population…’

      I think you’ve misunderstood something – the fact that only a small proportion of the world’s population has the wealth to consume doesn’t mean that consumer capitalism doesn’t exist – it exists amdist the wealthy 1/3 of the world’s population – and, as far as capitalism is concerned it’s only the wealthy and their money that matter. The poor are invisible. Don’t think that I approve of this situation – I’m only describing it, not approving of it!

      >”Now the gap between the poor and the rich is widening, and relative poverty is also rising. In Europe and North America, you have many people who live below what present society’s productive forces could afford them. For instance you see students who feed themselves on high-calories low quality fast food, who renounce dental care and other heavy medical expenses, people who need to borrow money in order to pay daily expenses, etc.”

      You’re right – but I don’t see how this stands as an objection to anything I wrote. Where did I say that Capitalism and consumer capitalism was a good way of running society and helping the poor?

      >”It is always arbitrary to proclaim that this or that consumer product is unnecessary”

      No it’s not.

      Someone can buy a cheap car to travel the 10 miles to work or he can buy an SUV with diamond-studded steering wheel and 5-miles per gallon fuel consumption for the same journey – one is unnecessary the other not.

      It of course is not a ‘black and white’ question – there are shades of grey but that does not mean that no distinction can or should be made – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorites_paradox.

      >”Capitalism has always been about selling commodities … there was a turn at the beginning of the 20th century, from free concurrence capitalism to monopolies, to increasing financiarization of economy.”

      your comment doesn’t address what happens when mechanisation makes labour costs go down and people in work start having surplus income – how do capitalists get their hands on that? why don’t people just work less? why does capitalism spend 600 billion dollars per annum if we’d just buy all that stuff anyway, without all that advertising?

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      1. Seriously, when I say “It is always arbitrary to proclaim that this or that consumer product is unnecessary”, I speak of a normal use of some product, and it is pointless to give the example of someone who buys a SUV to travel in a city. A SUV can be very useful for a forest warden or for someone who travels on muddy mountain paths. On the other hand using a moped just to drive only 500 meters every day, or to buy a fashionable polar jacket in a country where the weather never freezes, or kids who order in restaurant more food than what they can eat, or people who buy too much food and then throw it away, that is waste. It is not the consumer product that is unnecessary and wasteful, but the way one uses it. In the Middle Ages, rich people built themselves huge manors that were not necessary, and in some primitive societies, big men showed their wealth by destroying it in “potlach” or by organizing food orgies. There has always been ostentatious wealth and waste of it.
        The only elements you give for “consumer capitalism” are: (1) that higher productivity in agriculture and heavy industry led to fewer jobs in these trades, thus more jobs in the service sector ; (2) the increasing presence of publicity in media (TV, Internet, etc.). That is not enough for a new system.
        I don’t see the use of your graphic on sex offenses in the UK.

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        1. >”Seriously, when I say “It is always arbitrary to proclaim that this or that consumer product is unnecessary”, I speak of a normal use of some product, and it is pointless to give the example of someone who buys a SUV to travel in a city.”

          My example was addressing a very specific claim you made:

          “It is always arbitrary to proclaim that this or that consumer product is unnecessary, that it does not correspond to basic human needs.”

          On an ontological level my example shows no more than that ‘unnecessary consumption’ is a behaviour that does exist. The conspicuous consumption this instance exemplifies demonstrably occurs.

          Of course this discussion pivots around our implied definitions of ‘necessary’ – however any definition of ‘necessary’ that involves a diamond-studded steering wheel is one that has drifted a long way for the ‘necessary’ represented by, say, a starving child’s need of food.

          The examples you go on to give are interesting and give me the chance to make clear that ‘necessary goods and services’ can also come with a hefty wodge of ‘unneccessity’ – we all need food, food is undoubtedly ‘necessary’. The food that someone unhealthily obese eats is necessary – but becomes unnecessary when the eating becomes excessive and to the extent that the food is unhealthy and poorly fulfills the functions of food, when other healthier options are available.

          Likewise with clothes – it’s necessary to wear clothes in cold weather – so t-shirt in the Spring may be a necessity. But to pay maybe a $100 more simply to have the fashionable logo on that shirt constitutes an unnecessary adjunct to an arguable necessary purchase.

          Nearly all our purchases in WEIRD society have mixed in the neccessary and the un-necessary – even the extra we pay for the carefully designed packaging on, say, a pack of flour, and for any marketing that has been done – these are all ‘unnecessary’ adjuncts to the ‘necessary’.

          >”In the Middle Ages, rich people built themselves huge manors that were not necessary, and in some primitive societies, big men showed their wealth by destroying it in “potlach” or by organizing food orgies. There has always been ostentatious wealth and waste of it.

          There is a huge difference between a very few people, a king or nobles, engaging in conspicuous, unnecessary consumption and a whole country’s population doing so.

          >”That is not enough for a new system.”

          Are you saying there’s no difference between the situation in say 19th Century industrial England, where families struggled to obtain the basics for their themselves and their families – food, clothing, shelter, time – and the situation of most people in WEIRD societies – where ‘shopping’ is listed as the most common pass-time? Where people spend hundreds of dollars on the latest version of iPhones? Where dogs are almost universally fed with expensive ‘dog food’ (which solves the meat indusrty’s problem of what to do with parts of animals that humans won’t eat) when they would have a healthier (and cheaper and with less environmental impact) diet if they simply ate their owners’ left-overs (to say nothing of the grotesque situation where my next-door neighbour’s yapping chihuahuas eat better than many children in the third world)?

          In the difference between that 19th C working-class family and, say, myself and my own family, lies the difference between industrial capitalism and consumer capitalism – the 19th C family didn’t need multi-million, multi-media, viral marketing campaigns to inform them of their needs. We, apparently, do .

          >”I don’t see the use of your graphic on sex offenses in the UK.”

          In your original comment you wrote “paedophobia was at its lowest at the beginning of the 1970’s”

          What the graph seems to suggest is that (assuming that the percentage of paedophiles in the population has remained roughly constant, and that the rate of ‘offending’ has also remained roughly constant) it seems reasonable to hypothesise that the legal system (and thus presumably social attitudes) were less preoccupied and/or punitive towards child-adult sexual interactions in the years between 1918 and 1969 than in 1970. 1970 represents a peak in the number of prosecutions.

          I think there is plenty of other evidence for this – you’ve read Jad Adams’ biography of Dowson – weren’t you struck by the tolerant attitude of Dowson’s friends and colleagues towards his love of Adelaide, and other little girls? Whilst 19th C England was not ‘anti-paedophobic’ exactly, it seems to have been a hell of a lot better than today (and, indeed, ‘the beginning of the 1970’s’).

          I’d be interested to read an interpretation of the graph that makes a plausible case that “paedophobia was at its lowest at the beginning of the 1970’s” – the paedophobia of the 1970s may have been lower than that of today – but to say that it was “at its lowest in the 70s” only makes sense if you start you start your measurements at 1970.

          It’s a bit like saying that “Kathmandu is the lowest capital city”.

          Well, it is – provided you exclude from you consideration any capital city that is lower than 1.400 kilometers above sea-level.

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          1. If agricultural and industrial productivity rise constantly, then in the end the number of hungry people should diminish. So indeed, people in Europe do not suffer hunger any more. But in Asia, Africa and Asia, there is still massive hunger and difficulties for many ordinary people to get the vital minimum.
            The real difference with mid 19th Century is that countries like the UK are imperialist, so they have plundered colonial and semi-colonial countries for more than one century, this made them extremely rich and allowed them to better pay their “own national” workers. So the real root change is not the workers of Europe and North America being richer, but these countries being super-rich imperialist, with their capitalists plundering the whole world, each country having its special zone of influence. The turn came at the beginning of the 20th century, when free concurrence gave way to monopolies combining banking and industry (finance), and the sharing of the world between great powers. So we had two wars involving increasing parts of the whole world just to settle conflicts between European countries + the US and Japan (and Turkey in WW1). So the British and Germans fought each other in North Africa for reasons that had nothing to do with North Africa, the same for the US & British vs. the Japanese in Burma, Philippines, etc.
            When I say that “paedophobia was at its lowest at the beginning of the 1970’s”, I do not mean “since ancient Greece”, but “since WW2” or “since the 1930’s”. For the first time you could have (e.g., in Netherlands, France) people arguing that inter-generational love can be fine, that paedophilia is just a sexual orientation like any other, or that age of consent should be abolished, without being demonized. Sexual freedom, both in ideas and in behaviour, peaked in the early 1970’s.
            Your graphic is not convincing. Beside the obvious fact that it is restricted to the UK and that the number of “cases” is not divided by population size, rates of “crime reporting and prosecution” just do not indicate public opinion: lack of reporting of illegal behaviour does not necessary mean endorsement, simply families can fear shame because of publicity and can thus prefer to hide things. You will note that the strongly raising curve is about sexual assault of women, indeed in the 60’s feminists told women not to be ashamed of reporting sexual assaults and rapes, so there was a general tendency towards reporting sexual misbehaviour. Also, since the 1970’s, States have become ever more repressive, the “war against drugs” was launched, police became more vigilant, and there was a toughening of penalties for several things, such as bad sex, drugs, etc. Just look at the evolution of the rate of imprisonment in the US.
            One last thing. I forgot to say my opinion on “why we have paedophilia”. We have paedophilia because we have androphilia and gynephilia, that is, because people are categorized according to sexual attraction. The ancient Greeks, and several other peoples, did not bother. Bourgeois society is very apt at putting people into categories of gender, race, nation, culture and sexuality.

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  7. Yes, we are all shaped within a culture and do well to acknowledge the fact.

    >As you point out, acts and relationships that we’d define as paedophilic nowadays occurred before the Consumer Age – however the fact that we can retrospectively call them ‘paedophilic’ does not mean that that was what they meant to the people involved, or to their society at the time.

    Agreed.

    >…those manifestations of paedophilia that I disapprove of: the MOAR culture, the disrespectful comments that one sees on certain chans, or which are reported (unreliably, I don’t doubt) when someone is arrested for some offence or another. When people post photos of a little girl asking ‘what would you do to her?’ and people reply as if she were some disposable sex toy I have no doubt that the people who post such comments have constructed a definition of ‘paedophile’ and of paedophilic behaviour that is very much in line with and defined by the dominant culture

    Yes, good point, although I must be getting very out of touch: I had to look up MOAR, which looks like an acronym but isn’t.

    >I suspect that even just having the word ‘paedophile’ is a construct of our culture (when was it first used in the sense we understand it today?

    In the UK, at least, PIE must take some of the blame. Hardly anyone except psychiatrists had even heard of the word until we started putting it out there quite deliberately in the 1970s, when it was taken up big-time by the tabloids. We were consciously attempting a Foucaultian “reverse discourse”, as the gays initially did with homosexuality, attempting to turn a negative medical word into a positive badge of identity:
    http://www.theory.org.uk/f-essay1.htm

    Unfortunately, we could not control what we had started. Once the mass media had this new word to play with, they began to attach it to child rape, abduction, murder and all manner of callous thinking and behaviour utterly at odds with the “philia” suffix. Until that happened, the Concise Oxford Dictionary defined paedophilia as “Sexual love directed towards a child”: nothing there about hostility, hate, contempt or callousness.

    >I’ll accept your verdict m’lud – just don’t put on that black cap thingy…

    Not guilty! You leave this court without a stain on your character. 🙂

    >Maybe Keats was wrong when he wrote ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty,’

    Maybe, maybe not, depending on whether the beauty in question leads those who apprehend it towards a greater degree of truth than would otherwise have been available to them.

    This theme was superbly explored last month in “What do you mean by a lie?” by Steven Shapin, in an LRB review of Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud by Nick Hopwood.
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n09/steven-shapin/what-do-you-mean-by-a-lie

    Here’s an explanatory paragraph:

    “Even if you aren’t a biologist, there’s a chance you will have heard the saying ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’: the claim that the growth and development of an individual from conception to maturity repeats the evolutionary history of the species, that embryological development passes through the adult forms of species in its evolutionary lineage. The human embryo, for example, starts out looking like an invertebrate, then like a fish, then takes on generic mammalian characteristics, then an ape-like appearance, and only finally comes to resemble a human being. If you Google the phrase ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’, or its shorthand form ‘the biogenetic law’, you will probably be told four things: that its author was the biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919); that it was introduced as a key feature of German Darwinism; that it is now discredited or in need of serious qualification; and that its articulation in the 1860s and 1870s was surrounded with controversy and accusations of serious bad behaviour. Then it’s likely you’ll be shown a version of a picture produced by Haeckel which makes the biogenetic law visible and which impresses its meaning more vividly than language could ever do. As Nick Hopwood shows, this picture persists in present-day scientific discussions despite of – and in many cases because of – its being faulty or even fraudulent.”

    A couple of other key quotes:

    * …‘The iconography of persuasion strikes even closer than words to the core of our being,’ the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once said. Scientists use pictures more than most academics, but ‘somewhere along the way’, he cautioned, they have lost the sense that it’s wrong to identify pictures with the realities they represent.

    * …This means that pictures have power not just to represent reality but, with equal power, to lead you astray.

    However, as Shapin’s discussion shows, Haeckel’s foetus illustrations were also so vividly illuminating that their value (perhaps in provoking thought and encouraging study rather than in revealing absolute truth) may have outweighed this capacity to lead astray. It’s a fascinating discussion.

    One last point from my previous post, which you were too polite to point out: I should have referred to Krafft-Ebing with one “b” not two.

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  8. Well written and through-provoking, as usual, Leonard! You always give me a veritable banquet of food for thought that augments my own base of knowledge and formulation of ideas extensively. I have some comments about various statements you made, and I will endeavor to keep all of them brief and to the point.

    In WEIRD societies (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic) there exist two dominant archetypes of the Child: the Innocent Child and the Consumer Child.

    Well said, but I would add a third important child archetype that has come into heavy prominence since the current moral panic started over the past 35 years: the Exploited Child. This is the conception of a child who is helpless against abuse from adults, a threat that has generally been externalized into the Media Pedophile archetype. It has allowed several people – both within and outside of the profitable child abuse industry – to play the much sought adult archetype of the Child Savior.

    The Exploited Child may seem an extension or extrapolation of the Innocent Child, but I think it may be considered a separate but closely related archetype in its own right, possibly a “sister” archetype to the Innocent Child. The Child Savior archetype embraced by so many adults has been adopted heavily by anti-choice MAPs to ingratiate themselves with society and/or (oftentimes) to counter whatever guilt and shame they may have over their feelings. It makes such individuals appear noble and heroic while venting their rage against an externalized boogeyman that is currently an easy target, and one they are not likely to be admonished for assaulting, harassing, and hating in all manner of ways. The desire to personify the Savior archetype is also a strong disincentive to being objective about the topic.

    [To] what extent these characteristics are innate to teenagers, or are a result of social conditions – sexually mature, but obliged to remain dependent, in education, and discouraged from assuming adult roles – or to what extent they are a construct of the marketing industries is an interesting question but, unfortunately, one which I can’t address here.

    I think that question is neatly answered by your subsequent comments about how capitalism’s marketing industry is equally adept at creating the infantalized adult who develops a youth-centered identity for the purpose of duplicating their consumer habits, Leonard 🙂 Robert Epstein’s studies have also provided very strong evidence that cultural expectations and institutions heavily influence the thinking, behavior, and relationships between the various age groups (he goes into this in detail in his book Teen 2.0, the 2010 update to his 2007 tome The Case Against Adolescence).

    Likewise with other cultural products: the three top- grossing films of 2015 were ‘Star Wars VII’, ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’. All are ‘blockbusters’ (which simply means a film designed to appeal to all tastes and all demographics), all are sequels (as if we were asking, like a small child, for the same story to be told over and over again), cartoonish, and cgi- and action-heavy, devoid of real-life dilemmas or emotions…

    Similarly designed for teens but marketed to adults are fast food, popular music, leisure clothing such as trainers, video games, kidult fiction and comics, and gadgets.

    In regards to super-hero movies, comic books, and many video games, all of the above is both untrue and very biased, Leonard. I’m sorry to say this, but as a long time fan of these genres and story-telling mediums, I must concluded you are not a fan and are likely just assuming. Most of those super-hero movies, particularly the Captain America movies, feature great metaphors and allusions to real-life politics and incidents that are quite sophisticated and provide immense food for thought. This includes many references to the post-9/11 political environment and the many terrible forms of un-democratic measures enacted to combat anything perceived as “terrorism,” as well as analyzing and denouncing real-life contemporary atrocities such as pre-emptive war, attacks on civil liberties, government manipulation of freedoms, and warrentless spying. Moreover, these characters are great heroic and moral archetypes that have much to be aspired to, including the opposition of a corrupt system, the importance of questioning authority, and doing the right thing over the expedient thing. These characters are the post-industrial equivalent of what Thor, Hercules, and Lancelot used to represent in the great mythical tales of the past. In fact, modern versions of these ancient deity-hero archetypes actually appear in the movies, comics, and video games alongside the new versions, and this ‘updated’ version of Thor has both his own comic book and movie franchise.

    Reading the comics and watching the movies that have been well-written (many are not, but a huge number of them are and have been) has had a profound impact on my intellectual development, moral fortitude, and growth has a writer. Yes, a surfeit of eye candy like CGI-enhanced effects and elaborate fight scenes provide plenty of arguably mindless distraction, but this doesn’t detract from the important intellectual, political, and mythical symbolism that are also present and even inherent in the genre. The same can be said for the elements present in the Star Wars mythos. Granted, the seventh Star Wars film largely retread the story elements of the 4th (i.e., initial) installment of the series, but the elements I described above were still there. Also, the Avengers and other Marvel movies, did not replay the same stories in most of their sequels, but dealt with new scenarios, political metaphors, and complex character studies (e.g., Tony Stark trying to balance his propensity for hedonistic playboy lifestyle with being a redemptive hero; Steve Rogers dealing with being a “man out of time” whose strong morals are often considered archaic in the modern world; and Thor attempting to reconcile his warrior ethos with humility and compassion).

    As for video games, yes a lot of eye candy, and the expense of the various games represents consumerism at its worst. However, I’m not against some mindless entertainment, as long as it doesn’t detract from real world life and concerns too much. Also, it should be said that many modern video games are actually interactive movies with complex storylines and characters that incorporate all of the important intellectual and archetypal themes as do comics and films. As an example, the Master Chief of the Halo franchise is a great Noble But Misguided Soldier archetype whose saga is an important metaphorical character study of a man struggling to reconcile his life as a ruthless ‘ultimate’ soldier with the retention of his humanity.

    One last thought: the above advert promotes an ideal of attractiveness for women to aspire to. Given that attractiveness is only meaningful when it is exercised upon an other person, doesn’t such an advert also send out the message that this kind of beauty is one that men should find attractive too?

    Which raises the question of the extent to which our own desires and feelings as paedophiles might be a result of the promotion and idealisation of youth by the marketing and advertising industries.

    Our cultural zeitgeist and collective mindset is filled with contradictions, hypocrisy, and love/hate attitudes towards various social phenomena. Our love and infatuation with youth is one of these things. Many adults aspire to youthful appearance and behavior, but at the same time deride younger people and their perceived characteristics as inferior to adult “maturity.” Adults clearly find the youthful appearance sexy and something to retain for as long as possible (even with the aid of cosmetic surgery and Botox injections), yet at the same time demonize any adult they happen to catch admiring an underager “in that way.,” insisting that it’s “disgusting” to do so. Adults frequently preach lip service to values that rise above greed and materialism, yet at the same time gleefully indulge in competitive behavior in the office, buy every new bit of technology the same week it’s released, and worship at the shrine of capitalism and Ayn Rand while mercilessly attacking any suggested alternative to the system that does not include money and the market system.

    Lastly, that Budweiser commercial you embedded depicted some of the most annoying and obnoxious adults I’ve ever seen, and their supposed duplication of teen behavior was highly exaggerated and totally caricatured. If I met more than a few teens who actually acted like that I would not be a youth liberationist! In fact, if I ever wanted to torture someone, I would tie them to a chair in a room with a single TV monitor in front of them and force them to watch that commercial in a repeating loop for 48 hours straight.

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    1. Thanks for that thoughtful and thought-provoking response.

      >”the Exploited Child”

      I agree that this archetype exists and plays an important role in the cultural narrative. And I also agree with your observation that the ‘exploited child’ is closely related to the ‘innocent child’ archetype: it is what the ‘innocent child’ becomes once its ‘innocence’ has been compromised. It does the trick of maintaining the idea that children don’t have (natural) sexual desires or sexual agency, its an entirely passive construct, and when it is not passive its ‘activeness’ is treated as a kind of implantation from the adult world.

      The ‘exploited child’ archetype allows us to maintain ideas of innocence in the face of contrary evidence (which isn’t to say that genuinely ‘exploited’ children don’t exist – just that the archetype doesn’t distinguish between the genuinely exploited and those children who have no interest or desire in comforming to the innocent child archetype).

      >”Robert Epstein’s studies have also provided very strong evidence that cultural expectations and institutions heavily influence the thinking, behavior, and relationships between the various age groups (he goes into this in detail in his book Teen 2.0, the 2010 update to his 2007 tome The Case Against Adolescence).”

      Yes, I’ve little doubt that the ‘teenager’ is a social construct fuelled and exacerbated by the mechanisms of consumerism and the marketing industries.

      I’m currently reading Neil Postman’s “The disappearance of Childhood” – a very interesting, challenging and thought-provoking book – and in an early chapter he goes into some detail about the nature of childhood in the Mediaeval world: in short ‘childhood’ (as opposed to ‘infancy’) just didn’t exist – as soon as a person reached the age of about 7 – the age at which humans generally achieve fully developed speech – they entered the same world as 17 year olds, 27 year olds and 70 year olds. Our current ideas of ‘childhood’, never mind ‘adolescence’, would have been incomprehensible to them – clearly ‘childhood’ and ‘adolescence’ are not biological constructs, but social ones.

      >” I’m sorry to say this, but as a long time fan of these genres and story-telling mediums, I must concluded you are not a fan and are likely just assuming.”

      Ahh, I knew that I’d be causing umbrage amongst many of my respected readers with much of what I’ve written in this essay – and I did hesitate long about expressing my opinions in so bold a way. But, in the end, the essay was threatening to become huge, and when editing it down a lot of nuance, and ‘umms and errs’ had to be cut out.

      As you guess, I’m not particulary a fan of the media in queston – but, believe it or not, what I wrote was not really meant as a criticism of them – I don’t doubt that, at their best, these are media that are capable of subtlety and great art and I don’t doubt that many of their creators are people of rare talent, sensitivity and insight.

      I can’t say that I’ve a worked out critical position on the question your comment raises, though. I need to give it more thought. I’d have to immerse myself deeply into the art forms concerned but at my age, and with my tastes inevitably less flexible than they used to be, and with the little time I have spare, I’m afraid that my horizons may have to remain somewhat narrow.

      The works you cite in a sense are the ‘cream’ that has risen to the top of what is are creative forms that have been co-opted by consumerism. History has proved over and over that great art can be produced from questionable roots and social contexts – the novels of Jane Austen and Mozart operas were built on the wealth produced by slavery. Today we are suffocated by a flood of consumerism-generated mediocrity but that is because we haven’t had decades, or centuries to filter the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’. When we listen to a Mozart symphony, we don’t also hear the thousands of lesser, mediocre music that was around at the time.

      Creative people will always find ways of making best use of the tools their culture makes available, regardless of the nature of those tools or the use that they are put to – television rapdily became a medium for delivering eyes to advertising – but nevertheless it has produced great art, such as Dennis Potter’s ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and the ‘Singing Detective’.

      Likewise with pop music – it’s a form of music that is inextricably associated with the promotion of the concept of the teenager and their commercial exploitation – but despite this it has given rise to Captain Beefheart’s ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and much other great music.

      So while I still stand by what I’ve written – I think there are many nuances which, I hope you will appreciate, mean that I don’t condemn these as art forms, nor do I wish to criticise the people who appreciate these art forms.

      Really, in this essay I’m really trying to just describe what I perceive to the action of historic and social forces without my making value judgments about what I was describing – however I was aware that as soon as I started giving examples this appearance of neutrality would be compromised – as inevitably, given that I’m writing about the contemporary world, I’d be citing tastes and behaviours that many of my readers were likely to share.

      I gave this quite some thought, but I couldn’t see how I could write the essay without offering examples to make the idea concrete. I stand by what I wrote in the essay – in the end I’d rather state my position as clearly and unambiguously as possible and expose it to discussion and debate and experience – ‘publish and be damned’ – but I also hope that the above slightly garbled paragraphs make clear that my personal position on ‘the art forms of consumer capitalism’ is more nuanced and open-minded than my position on them as a ‘critical social thinker’ (if it’s not too pompous to label myself as such…).

      >”Lastly, that Budweiser commercial you embedded depicted some of the most annoying and obnoxious adults I’ve ever seen, and their supposed duplication of teen behavior…”

      If my essay is informed with anger – it is not at all an anger directed at teens – but at the marketing culture that so fiercely and remorselessly tries to turn them into something grotesque and shallow and ignorant (such as we seen in the Budweiser commercial – I swear never to touch their products ever again).

      I’d originally included a paragraph and several comments here and there to the effect that what I was writing was in no way meant as a condemnation, or even a description of people between the ages of 13 and 19. I’ve known and worked with many teenagers who are admirable and whom I respect.

      Consumer culture libels both teenagers and children – we must resist their stereotyping and do everything we can to protect them from the market and consumerism.

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      1. >Could Paedophilia just be the infantilisation of adult tastes taken to its logical conclusion..?

        Judging by the extreme mismatch between, on the one hand, your own austere analysis and sternly adult sentiments, and, on the other, your personal attraction to children LSM, I would say not! 🙂

        Seriously, though, I found myself nodding in agreement with your entire piece until this splendidly provocative finale. It might hold good for some but not you, I think, or indeed me or lots of others I can think of.

        And, of course, the most obvious argument against your case would be if we could proved that paedophilia, as presently understood in the psychiatric (DSM) sense, existed before consumer capitalisation started to infantilise adult tastes.

        I think we can, can’t we? The infantilisation of which you speak has been very obvious in the last decade or so. But a century or more ago, when Krafft-Ebbing first described paedophilia erotica? I don’t think so. In those days, grown-ups were expected to be very grown up indeed.

        Some powerful desires, it seems to me, are constituted in childhood in ways we do not presently understand, but which definitely lie outside the influence of capitalist manipulations. To give just one example, Havelock Ellis had a fetish for ladies pissing. He attributed its origin (quite reasonably, I think) to a childhood when he was exposed to rather a lot of it, and it apparently excited him. This was in the days when nannies would take their toddler charges into public parks for a walk and they would sometimes encounter ladies in those expansive hooped dresses. In these capacious garments, and in the absence of public toilets, they could relieve themselves while retaining their modesty simply by crouching down and peeing onto the gravel paths.

        This is not to say there are no socially and economically constituted elements to desire, whether promoted deliberately through consumer capitalism or not. I gather, for instance, that people we would regard as grossly obese and somewhat repulsive tend to be considered very sexy – or a desirable date/mate at least – in poor countries where only wealthy people of high status can afford to be fat. I’m thinking especially of Tonga, where the royals have traditionally been very heavy. Even the present king, Tupou VI, looks rather substantial [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupou_VI ]

        The question for me is why on earth anyone would feel pulled by our culture into a paedophilic preference through advertising etc, bearing in mind that the archetypes of the innocent child and the exploited child push so powerfully in the other direction?

        Some culturally-minded writers, such as James Kincaid, have tended to focus on what has been called the “paedophilia” of everyday life. This really does engage with the world of advertising and mass tastes, and really does connect with mass attraction to youth and even eroticises childhood.

        But the key thing is that it does so unconsciously, at a subliminal level. The province of the true paedophile by contrast is desire of such high erotic strength as to be undeniable, or superliminal. These subliminal and superliminal aspects seem to me to make for a fundamental distinction. This is not to say, though, that paedophilia may not be a spectrum phenomenon, like autism.

        Finally, in response to Dissident’s interesting point about the exploited child, you wrote:

        >The ‘exploited child’ archetype allows us to maintain ideas of innocence in the face of contrary evidence

        Yes! Very neatly put!

        Oh, yes, and another thing: great graphic!

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        1. >”Could Paedophilia just be the infantilisation of adult tastes taken to its logical conclusion..?”

          Yes, that question was maybe a bit of a provocation – but my musings on the nature of the consumer child have led me, screaming and kicking, to that question. And the first person it provoked and left shaken was myself.

          I’m a bit cagey of exonerating or excluding myself from the mindset or the spirit of the age. Inevitably I’m a product of the period and the society I grew up in and I know that the thing with marketing, but also the ‘mindset’ of a society, is that its real influences are not on a conscious level but at a much deeper level – they provide the terms with which one understands and interprets the world.

          Nor do I think that having a critical perspective on society protects one from the effects of spending one’s life entirely immersed in a society – especially as most of those effects will have taken root a long time before one’s critical thinking faculties have sufficiently developed to make one aware of them.

          But I’ll try to articulate what I meant when I wrote the sentence in question.

          As you point out, acts and relationships that we’d define as paedophilic nowadays occurred before the Consumer Age – however the fact that we can retrospectively call them ‘paedophilic’ does not mean that that was what they meant to the people involved, or to their society at the time.

          I’m currently reading Neil Postman’s “The Disappearance of Childhood”. I’m sure you must be familiar with it, Tom. I’m finding it very interesting, though I’ve only got about half way through. The first half postulates that the ‘innocent child’ archetype arose as a result of the invention of the printing press and its subsequent effects on society that meant that adulthood was largely defined by ‘literacy’ and ‘education’.

          I’m not wholly persuaded by his arguments and find his whole approach underpinned questionable assumptions, and some crucial unsubstantiated causal leaps. But the book is fascinating, challenging, provocative and instructive – I think I might dedicate a blog essay to it once I’ve finished, digested and excreted it.

          But he seems to suggest that in the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, once a child had become fully oral – mastered speech – generally around the age of 7 – they were considered on a par with what we now consider as adults. From 0 – 6 they were ‘infants'(which comes from the latin ‘in’ + ‘fari’ = unable to speak) and because they had not fully mastered oral communication they were considered much as society considers children nowadays – not quite fully formed.

          From what Postman suggests (and I think he draws on Aries for this) sexual relations between a child of 8 and an adult would not have, of itself, been considered as problematic (though he doesn’t state this – he seems a bit squeamish about saying such a thing).

          Consequently – in the dark ages there seems to have been no word for an adult who has sexual relationships with, or who feels an special attraction to, ‘children’ (however one defines that term). Nor in the Middle ages.

          I’m pretty certain that the emotional, social and aesthetic meaning I give my desires would have been very different to those of, say, a noble in the Dark Ages marrying a girl of ten and consummating that marriage. Indeed that noble certainly wouldn’t have carried any of the conceptual freight that someone who has grown up in a WEIRD Society would do at sharing intimacy with such a girl – she would have been, to all intents, an adult – the same as his marrying a 17 year old girl, just smaller and younger.

          So when I wrote that sentence I think I meant that the meaning we give to our desires, and to their expression, very much depends on the conceptual vocabulary our society furnishes us with to understand them by. As a pro-choice thinker about paedophilia I’m very much aware that I’m as obliged to think using the vocabulary my society has provided me with as I am obliged to use English to communicate those ideas, the only language I’m sufficiently proficient in to make the effort worthwhile.

          What is the implication of this?

          Well, I’d argue that if we are to apply the concept of ‘paedophilia’ universally – to societies that are non-western, and to western societies before they felt the need for a word to cover this concept – we must accept that, whilst the definition of the word can remain stable, pretty much everything beyond the word’s basic definition will be protean – a 5th Century paedophilic act can not be understood in the same way as a 21st Century one.

          And I think the nub of what the sentence provoked in me is that what I know, what I’m pre-occupied with in my blog, is a very localised form of paedophilia – one that may stem deep down from a basic desire, but I don’t doubt that its manifestations are largely mediated by cultural factors – those of a WEIRD society in the 21st century.

          Of course I see this less in myself (it’s hard to really free oneself of the illusion that one is not constructed by our culture!) and more in those manifestations of paedophilia that I disapprove of: the MOAR culture, the disrespectful comments that one sees on certain chans, or which are reported (unreliably, I don’t doubt) when someone is arrested for some offence or another. When people post photos of a little girl asking ‘what would you do to her?’ and people reply as if she were some disposable sex toy I have no doubt that the people who post such comments have constructed a definition of ‘paedophile’ and of paedophilic behaviour that is very much in line with and defined by the dominant culture

          So, to return to the question “Could Paedophilia just be the infantilisation of adult tastes taken to its logical conclusion..?”

          I’m pretty convinced that the desire itself, in an abstract sense, may be pre-cultural and universal. But I think that how it manifests itself IS a cultural construct. And I don’t just mean in the obvious way – how the media seek out and report and distort all occurrences of child/adult intimacy – but also in how we understand ourselves and our own desires – whether celibate, Virtuous, pro-choice or ‘media-constructed monster’. I suspect that even just having the word ‘paedophile’ is a construct of our culture (when was it first used in the sense we understand it today? I seem to remember in the 1920s or 30s – and maybe not coincidentally the first use of the word ‘teenager’ was in 1921 – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teenage).

          Well, I hope that makes some kind of sense, Tom – I don’t know if I’ve managed to exonerate myself – I’ll accept your verdict m’lud – just don’t put on that black cap thingy…

          Maybe a better phrasing of the statement would be “Could certain aspects of contemporary Paedophilia just be the infantilisation of adult tastes taken to its logical conclusion..?”…

          but here I feel I’m entering into a hall of mirrors, and given my hideous boat-race, that is not a prospect to look forwards to…

          >”Oh, yes, and another thing: great graphic!”

          Thanks Tom! I spent HOURS on it – and ended up with two versions – one which was more accurate and one which was more visually pleasing. Should I blush with shame or glow with pride to admit to choosing the latter. The artist in me is hard to suppress – the more accurate one just looked so ugly!

          Maybe Keats was wrong when he wrote ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty,’

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  9. ‘Scary’? If only in neo-Gothic AngLowBrow CONSUMERIZED phoney fucking Anglophonia.

    Proactive, even predatory ADULTOPHILE preteens ‘GROOM’ Adults?!

    Call FreeFone ‘AdultLine’ if U R a VICTIM of ‘Grooming’ predatory preteen ADULTO-fucking-files!!!!

    http://www.kfvs12.com/story/17337624/sexting-a-growing-problem-among-teens-and-pre-teens

    (Kinda recalls SeXentric GROOMED at least TWICE in a public place on Betjeman’s ole MetroLand rattler. 1) Rockin ’56 Northbound outta Baker St (soul SaX solo) wiv proactive purty brunette 10 y.o. cuntry cousin HOT Loli open legged GROOMING on lap until dang me! SeXentric’s Ma scurried into the empty solo slam-door compartment just afore lift off/departure ‘Mind Yer Draws!’ 2) 18 yrs on, SeXy 74 sleepy Saturday PM, Harrow on Hill southbound for Baker St (soul SaX solo) in modern sliding-door multi-passenger EMPTY carriage ‘cept fer TWO HOT Lolis sat on a bench seat diagonally ahead of Lurve Magnet SeXentric, 31. One, a miniskirt blue-eyed snub nose rosebud lips slim blonde ‘Gawd I’ve CUM agin!’ Casually while talkin to her mate leaned back and stretched her lawng languid white-sox legs on the seat then GROOMED by knowingly slowly opening-and-closing her knobbly knees, flashing oh-so-tight white knix,while smiling at VICTIM SeXtrenic. ‘Oh Gawd…” Ya’ll know the rest.. They alighted 2-stops on at Preston Road with a VERY knowing smile from blonde minskirt proactive predatory GROOMING HOT-Loli. Still a-walking, a-wigglin and a-smiin’ straight at Lurve Magnet SeXentric 42 yrs on, ongoing unchecked.)

    https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=A0LEVv7WCGNXHjwASAoPxQt.;_ylc=X1MDMjExNDcwMDU1OQRfcgMyBGZyA3locy1pYmEtMQRncHJpZANfMjE0Rzd4b1JlZWhLSE8zMUdVLmpBBG5fcnNsdAMwBG5fc3VnZwMxBG9yaWdpbgNzZWFyY2gueWFob28uY29tBHBvcwMwBHBxc3RyAwRwcXN0cmwDBHFzdHJsAzI5BHF1ZXJ5A0pvaG4lMjBCZXRqZW1hbiUyMCdNZXRyb2xhbmQnBHRfc3RtcAMxNDY2MTQwNzQx?p=John+Betjeman+%27Metroland%27&fr2=sb-top-search&hspart=iba&hsimp=yhs-1&type=xdds_5338_CRW_BE

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  10. As ever, very learned Leonard.

    Tho, perhaps a tad more concisely if SeXentrically?

    Since the 19Hateys 4-decades ongoing anti social rabid Right wrong-uns MadDogMurdoch’s/MadHagMag’s ‘Beast of Greed’ Fascist Market God. For careers, cold as-charities’, ratings, and profit Uber Alles, crudely masked by AngLOWbrow Mass Deception as so called ‘Child Protection’.

    Their very convenient, final (for now) seXual scapegoat is yer actual SUN-speak AngLOWbrow mob rule tagged “Peeedeofuckingfile!!! About whom they still know less than their bad joke James Bond knows about true spying = SQUAT!

    While the AngLOWbrow phoney Anglophone Fascist Market God not only Commodifies & Infantilizes it’s gullible so called ‘Adult’s, but also now tries to FOETUS-IZE it’s all-SeXting/SelfieSeX-keen kids including ADULTOPHILES beyond all control mocking their so called ‘SeX Laws’ while proactively seeking Adults!

    Re-quote backward Britain’s best selling, CONSUMER ‘Family Friendly’ SeX-filled rabid Right/wrong uns VILE rag for millions of ADULTOPHILE UK kids naturally WANKING over near nude Page-3 Pinups/ADULTS & lewdly suggestive PopStars/ADULTS – MadDogMurdoch’s uber AngLOWbrow SUN: ” U really couldn’t make it up! ”

    http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/19444888-113/lets-talk-about-sext-sexting-may-be-getting

    https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hspart=iba&hsimp=yhs-1&type=xdds_5338_CRW_BE&p=proactive+sexting+preteens

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