Q: Let's say, theoretically, I'm a pedophile.
I'm not stupid or evil, so I'm not gonna do anything. I'm not even gonna look at porn, because the production of it involves child exploitation. Hell, even porn that's just drawn pictures — perverts drawing smut for perverts with no kids or anyone else involved — is illegal in a lot of places. I don't even look at kids in public, and anyone of whatever orientation who's been to a crowded beach knows how hard it can be not to look.
So what the fuck should I do? Chemical castration? But I haven't done anything and I don't plan to. Am I obliged to tell anyone? Good way to lose friends and get the shit kicked out of me. Can I keep babysitting my friends' kids when they need a hand? After all, if I were into adult women, people wouldn't see anything wrong with leaving me alone with a couple of those. They certainly wouldn't assume I'd molest them.
My sex drive was put together wrong, Dan. What the fuck do I do? Live alone and hope Japan starts producing affordable sexbots before I'm too old to care?
You know, theoretically. If I were a pedophile. —Knows It's Wrong
A: "My heart goes out to people to whom nature has given something as powerful and as distracting as a sex drive and no healthy way to express it," says Dr. James Cantor, a psychologist and the editor in chief of the research journal Sexual Abuse. "Pedophiles are not the only folks in this position, but they are by far the most demonized, regardless of whether they have ever actually caused anyone any kind of harm."
My heart is going out to you too, KIW. As I've written before, we should acknowledge the existence of "good pedophiles," people like you, KIW, who are burdened with a sexual interest in children but who possess the moral sense to resist acting on that interest. It's a lifelong struggle for "good pedophiles," and most manage to succeed without any emotional support — to say nothing of credit — whatsoever.
Unfortunately, science doesn't know much about pedophiles like you, pedophiles who haven't done anything, because the social stigma is so great that most nonoffending pedophiles never seek treatment. And what research has been done, says Cantor, isn't very encouraging if you're looking to free yourself from your attraction to children.
"There is no known way of turning a pedophile into a nonpedophile," says Cantor. "The best we can do is help a person maximize their self-control and to help them build an otherwise happy and productive life."
The psychotherapies that are available, says Cantor, "were designed to assist people who have already committed an offense to prevent a 'relapse.' These therapies have less to provide to people who already have the skills and drive to keep themselves from 'acting out.'" Your best option, according to Cantor, may be the one you're clearly not too enthused about (and who can blame you?): "Castration, both chemical and physical," says Cantor, "can indeed be used to eliminate or take the edge off one's sex drive."
If castration doesn't "take the edge off" a man's sex drive, I shudder to think what Plan B is. Back to Cantor:
"Nonoffender pedophiles have told me that chemical castration has given them considerable relief," Cantor adds. "So it's unfortunate that we use the term 'chemical castration,' which evokes all kinds of emotions. When you get right down to it, we are talking only about taking the same medication used by, for example, prostate-cancer patients — some cancers are accelerated by testosterone, so blocking testosterone is part of the treatment."
And as for babysitting, ...
"It is true that a regular, heterosexual man is not going to commit an offense against every woman he finds attractive; however, most women are capable of recognizing when an interaction is just starting to go south and of getting out of the situation. Most children are not. So although there is every reason to believe that there exist cats that can successfully be in charge of the canary, it's not a very good idea for the cat to be the one making that call."
So no babysitting for you, KIW — to protect the kids, first and foremost, but yourself as well. If it ever comes out that you are a pedophile and you were in the habit of babysitting-without-touching, your friends are unlikely to take your protestations — you've never touched a child — at face value.
"I wish I had better news," concludes Cantor. "I also wish that more people did good research on this so that one day I could have better news to give."
Q: One of the reasons given for the nomination of Pope John Paul II for sainthood is that he "whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation," according to a new book about the pope. If that's what it takes, why isn't David Carradine a saint? What is the link between Catholicism and sadomasochism? As a former seminarian, Dan, perhaps you can explain this. —When Holiness Is Painful
A: First, I was in the preparatory seminary — a high school for boys considering the priesthood — not a full-blown seminary, WHIP. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of my classmates were fully blown seminarians — there were an awful lot of priests around — but I didn't go on to the full-blown seminary myself. (I stopped considering the priesthood when it dawned on me that I could still wear dresses, fuck boys and live in a big house filled with Catholic kitsch without becoming a priest.)
As for the link between Christianity and sadomasochism, well, considering the way Jesus died (whipped, verbally abused, crucified) and the gruesome deaths of so many early Christians at the hands of Romans, what other choice did Christians have but to view suffering as evidence of divine favor and personal virtue? And I suspect that 2,000 years of hearing about how Jesus suffered and died for our sins — whether we wanted him to or not — couldn't help but have an impact on the erotic inner lives of the faithful. But taking sexual gratification from the infliction of pain predates Christianity — go read your ancient Roman sex comedies — so you can't pin all the kinksters out there on the Catholics.
Speaking of whipped saviors: Mike Gerle was International Mr. Leather in 2007 — and, yeah, his last name is pronounced "girly," what of it? — and he's had it with the goody-two-shoeing of the gay BDSM scene. Leather bars are hosting more fundraisers than dark-and-cruisy beer blasts, and the guys entering leather-title contests today seem more interested in raising money for charity than they are in BDSM sex.
"This has got to stop," Gerle writes on Leatherati. "If for no other reason, it is driving the kinky men I want to hook up with out of the few spaces we have left. This is cock-blocking on an enormous scale."
My two cents: I think the demise of the anti-BDSM bigotry once so prevalent in the gay community and the advent of the Internet have done more harm to the gay leather scene than all those Toys for Tots drives combined. Kinky guys don't have to sneak into leather bars and pray that their friends don't see them anymore; they can post personal ads at sites like Recon and GearFetish — and they do, in droves.
Still, Toys for Tots drives and platitude-spouting leather-title contestants do contribute to the general lameness. Gerle has thrown down the gauntlet on Leatherati. And in Minneapolis, a young gay kinkster, disappointed by the leather scene, decided to do something about it. Check out his blog at tynanfox.com.Download the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org