Prostasia Newsletter #49—December 2022 View online
Prostasia Foundation Protecting children by upholding the rights and freedoms of all
2022: year of the “groomer”

2022 might well go down as the year of the groomer.

This isn’t because sexual grooming of children suddenly become a bigger problem than it had been in any previous year. Grooming – that is, carrying on a relationship with a child with the intention of sexually abusing them – is and remains a widespread problem. Indeed, its scale has been little diminished over several decades in which the prosecution of sex crimes against children has been a well-funded law enforcement priority.

But the accused “groomer” of 2022 was less likely to be an abuser, and more likely a teacher, a parent to a transgender child, or a medical professional. Conflating those who care for children with those who would abuse them has long been a convenient and potent propaganda trick for bigots and tyrants. Today, a word that ought to be used soberly and precisely in the fight against child exploitation has instead been corrupted into a weapon of cultural warfare.

Justin Peters writes for Slate:

For decades now, American right-wing discourse has been rooted in two bedrock principles. The first is that the American right is under attack, constantly, from all leftward angles. The second principle is that there is a lot of money to be made in convincing low-information values voters that they are under attack, and that Hollywood, government, the academy, big business, and the media are now and always have been conspiring against them.

This holds true, to the extreme, when it comes to the right’s penchant for spreading the groomer slur. Over the past 18 months, this smear has touched representatives of all the institutions mentioned by Peters – Hollywood (targeting Maïmouna Doucouré, French Senegalese director of the film Cuties), government (Ketanji Brown Jackson and more recently Rep Katie Porter), the academy (most grievously Dr Allyn Walker, as explained below), big business (Balenciaga, Walmart, and many others), and the media (most notably Noah Berlatsky, along with too many YouTubers to name).

Trust & Safety Professionals

Most ironically, as in the case of Twitter’s Yoel Roth, the smear also extends to those who work professionally to keep children safe from sexual exploitation and harm. Although the ouster and pedojacketing of Roth is an illustrative example, it is merely the latest in a long line of attacks against child safety professionals and charities.

In October 2022, the U.K. trans charity Mermaids was forced to suspend services in the wake of online and verbal attacks against its volunteers, who were falsely accused by anti-transgender activists of facilitating child grooming. In the United States, similar tactics were employed by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists against the Trevor Project, which runs a LGBTQ+ youth suicide helpline.

Individual professionals, especially those who are themselves sexually marginalized or who serve sexually marginalized populations, have also been targeted. In August 2022, sex therapist Miranda Galbreath was accused of grooming by anti-LGBTQ+ Twitter account LibsOfTikTok and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, among others. The accusations turned on a selectively-edited (now private) video in which Galbreath correctly pointed out that "The term pedophile has moved from being a diagnostic label to being a judgmental, hurtful insult that we hurl at people in order to harm them or slander them."

But to date the biggest wave of right-wing attacks against an anti-abuse professional came in 2021, targeting Dr Allyn Walker, then of Old Dominion University. Dr Walker’s unwanted notoriety arose from their research into strategies to help prevent offending by those who are sexually attracted towards minors. Ultimately, as misinformation about their work escalated to right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and even became a talking point for Senator Ted Cruz, Walker was forced to resign.

Grooming libel as moral panic

To address and ultimately repudiate the grooming smear, we have to see it for what it is – a moral panic. A moral panic is a widespread and irrational social fear that a stereotyped group of people pose an existential threat to the values and safety of society. Child safety has been a flashpoint of moral panics through the ages, ever since medieval times when Jews were targeted by the “blood libel” that they were consuming the blood of children.

Child molestation continued to be an important anti-Semitic motif during the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, as historian Katrin Kämpf explains. But homophobia and transphobia also became interwoven into the child safety moral panic of that time. The Habitual Criminals Act (Gewohnheitsverbrechergesetz), passed in 1933, provided for the indefinite imprisonment of those deemed dangerous to society, and for the castration of sex offenders. It is estimated that 100,000 gay men were arrested under this law, about 15,000 of them eventually being incarcerated in concentration camps. 

Today, the groomer smear, and more broadly the American right’s vulgar preoccupation with conspiracy theories around pedophilia, are modern expressions of a similar moral panic over sexual “degeneracy”, which continues to include a strong strain of fascist anti-semitism, homophobia and transphobia. (It is no coincidence that Yoel Roth is gay, that Allyn Walker is nonbinary, trans, and Jewish, and that Noah Berlatsky is Jewish and father to a trans daughter.)

Thus although the accusation of “grooming” is a mask for generalized bigotry against sexual minorities, the moral panic that underlies it is indeed a reaction to the threat that modern sexual and gender norms pose to authoritarian patriarchal hegemony. As Laurie Penny writes in her recent book, Sexual Revolution: Modern Fascism and the Feminist Fightback:

This sexual revolution is, by its very nature, a threat to heterosexuality, to male supremacy, to white supremacy, to traditional ways of dividing labour, organising bodies and distributing wealth. And those who are invested in these power structures are fighting back.

This illuminates an important point: that it is not merely (or mainly) the spectre of so-called “groomers” that arouses the fascist’s fear and promotes their violent response. Rather, their deepest anxiety concerns the sexuality of children as this emerges naturally in a society that is tolerant, diverse, and which bases its sexual ethics around consent rather than conservative sexual mores.

By penalizing the dissemination of dangerous ideas, such as that children have a right to bodily autonomy, by stigmatizing non-normative gender expressions such as drag, and by promulgating falsehoods such as that there is no such thing as a trans child, the fascist reveals the true source of their anxiety – not their children might be sexually abused, but that they might turn out to be gay, trans, or queer.

The fight back begins

If anyone ought to be fighting back against the misuse of the terminology of grooming and pedophilia to impede the work of child safety professionals, it’s the child safety sector itself. Yet with only a few exceptions, organizations in this space have kept silent on the issue. Indeed in 2019, Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) chose to purge itself of its LGBTQ+ representatives rather than showing solidarity with them in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ smears against the organization.

In a sense, the reticence of mainstream organizations and commentators to come to the defense of marginalized victims of far-right grooming smears is understandable. It’s safer, when fascist violence is afoot, to stay quietly out of sight. But how much longer can those who know better tolerate the groomer smear being used to mislead the public and to imperil child safety professionals?

This guest newsletter article is excerpted from a blog post by Jeremy Malcolm. Read the full article here.

Call for proposals: MAP Support Club evaluation

Prostasia Foundation is seeking proposals from qualified researchers to conduct an evaluation of the peer support group MAP Support Club (MSC). The evaluation will be conducted through interviews and longitudinal surveys of members including those who have newly joined MSC.


MAP Support Club is a peer support chat for minor-attracted adolescents and adults. Established in 2016 on Discord, MAP Support Club is now hosted on Rocket Chat and seeks to provide direct peer support to minor-attracted people who seek to manage their feelings without ever offending against a child or consuming illicit imagery. 


Through this evaluation and survey information, Prostasia Foundation hopes to identify areas for improvement of MAP Support Club, knowledge gaps in staff training, and effectiveness in meeting its stated goals to support minor-attracted people in living fulfilling and law-abiding lives.


The budget for this proposal is $5,000, and the deadline for submission of proposals is 31 January, 2023. For more information on this opportunity, please click the button below.

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Rules for thee but not for me: MAPs under the GDPR

During 2022, the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people have come under renewed challenge, not only in the United States, but also in Eastern Europe. The most egregious example of this comes from Hungary, where a “Don’t Say Gay” style law was passed that falsely paints LGBTQ+ people as a threat to the safety of children. The law, misleadingly described by the government as an “anti-pedophilia” law, gained support through a misinformation campaign that likened LGBTQ+ activists to child abusers.

Not far away from Hungary is Czechia, also known as the Czech Republic, where LGBTQ activists have been rallying to ensure that the country does not follow down Hungary’s path. While there is no “anti-pedophilia” law planned in Czechia, authorities there have enforced an existing law – the GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation – against a pedophilia support organization ČEPEK, whose founding members included one self-identifying minor-attracted person (MAP), a sexologist of the National Institute of Mental Health, and a victim of child sexual abuse.

The dispute concerns whether members of ČEPEK are violating the privacy rights of children by having a space on their website where films and TV shows that feature children can be discussed. Of course, there is no question that for anyone else in society, simply discussing films or TV shows and the actors who appear in them would not be considered a privacy violation. But the Czech regulator contends that because the members of ČEPEK are minor-attracted, this somehow transforms the nature of what would otherwise be lawful speech, and “puts the personal data of the persons on these posts in a sexual context.”

ČEPEK responded to the regulator challenging this assertion, and arguing that “no one can be prohibited from discussing these publicly presenting persons in any public or non-public discussion forum, provided, of course, that the discussion is decent, non-defamatory or in any other way does not impugn the reputation of the person in question.”

On 14 October 2022, the Czech data protection authority finally rejected ČEPEC's arguments, giving the rather tortuous justification that although “identical comments... posted on other websites” would be OK, they could not be posted on the ČEPEK forum, because this would have “negative consequences for the minor concerned, as he is thus included in the paedophilic sphere from the point of view of third parties.”

Because the law has (so far) only been applied against those who are attracted to minors, few in the broader community are likely to object to the ruling. But its ramifications for the speech of other sexually marginalized groups are much broader.

In the United States, we have seen that the speech of drag queens, for example, is treated as being inherently sexual and therefore inherently unsuitable to be expressed in public. So too, the speech of sex workers and LGBTQ+ people is inherently more likely to be read as sexual and to be censored from social media platforms.

What links these examples with the Czech case is the notion that speech that is completely non-sexual can acquire a "sexual context" simply based on the sexuality of the speaker. And that is an extremely dangerous precedent for the Czech data protection authority to be setting, that should set alarm bills ringing for privacy advocates worldwide.

ČEPEK now awaits a new ruling to determine what actions it must take to remedy the violation that the data protection authority has found. It also has the option of appealing that ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. This would make an interesting test case about whether human rights really do belong to all – or whether it is permissible to deny freedom of expression to those whom society deems unworthy.

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Volunteering for Prostasia

Between our formation in 2018 and 2021, political advocacy was one of Prostasia Foundation's core activities. To name just a few of the highlights:

During 2022 however, Prostasia Foundation has not been active in political advocacy. This is because in 2021 our prevention mission became a flashpoint for alt-right "groomer" misinformation, which poisoned the well for us as a political advocacy group. We had foreshadowed this in our 2021 Annual Report, in which we explained that we would "no longer be co-organizing events, campaigns, or publications with groups from other sectors".


Whereas in any other year we would have been leading the charge against harmful laws such as the Kids Online Safety Act, and in favor of positive laws like the Jenna Quinn Law, this year Prostasia's political activism has been limited to commentary from our social media team. 


Now that the alt-right's "groomer" campaign has become better understood for what it is, and as Prostasia Foundation prepares to introduce its new Executive Director for 2023, the time is right for us to return to the field of political advocacy – and we are looking to recruit a new Activist to our team to lead this work.


As Activist, you are responsible for working with our management team to identify opportunities for advocacy and lobbying in support of Prostasia’s goals, and for developing persuasive campaigns that are directed at the right external audiences to achieve those goals. Campaign activities may include social media actions, submissions, petitions, open letters, and face to face or virtual meetings with decision makers and influencers.


Read more and apply by clicking the button below. LGBTQ+, sex workers, and BIPOC encouraged to apply!

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Book review: Lost Girls
by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
Reviewed by Jeremy Malcolm

The culture war between "pro-shippers" and "anti-shippers" boils down to whether it is ethical for artists to depict relationships or sex acts that would be immoral or illegal in real life. Prostasia has always come down on the side of the pro-shippers, and for Banned Books Week this year, re-shared author Neil Gaiman’s classic pro-shipping blog article Why defend freedom of icky speech?


In this article, Gaiman responds to a reader’s question as to why the comics that depict child nudity or sexuality should be defended. His case study in response was the graphic novel Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, a work that features Alice (of Wonderland), Wendy (of Peter Pan), and Dorothy (of the Wizard of Oz), who meet as adults in 1913 at a grand hotel in Austria.


The three woman reminisce about their coming of age and most specifically about their sexual awakenings and experiences, while also partnering with each other and with other guests and staff at the hotel. Among the tales that these characters relate are stories involving underage sex, child sexual abuse, incest, and a variety of fetishes and paraphilias. Some are recalled fondly, while others are recalled with sorrow or confessed with shame. Weaved through this tale, the characters interact with real world events such as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that triggered the First World War. 


Fittingly for a graphic novel with such an edgy panoply of erotic scenarios, Lost Girls was first serialized in the Eisner-award winning comic anthology Taboo beginning in 1991. Despite initial doubt over whether the book could be legally sold in the United Kingdom or Canada, it was finally allowed through, and also remains available for sale worldwide on Amazon.


What makes Lost Girls mostly succeed as a work of erotica is that the characters themselves (mostly) revel in the recollections that they share with each other. With that said, there are also moments of heartbreak in which a scene that began with an erotic lead-up ends on a sour note. The authors leave the reader to do most of their own moralizing, and only emerge to the foreground of the narrative in one passage in which young children are depicted as sexual subjects – although they are characters in a fiction within the fiction. Channeling the authors, as one imagines, the hotel’s manager muses at one point:


You see? Incest, c’est vrai, it is a crime, but this? This is the idea of incest, no? And then these children, how outrageous! How old can they be? Eleven? Twelve? It is quite monstrous… except that they are fictions, as old as the page they appear upon, no less, no more.

In our September 2019 newsletter, we reviewed an anthology by erotica writer Guy New York, who employed a similar technique to distance the most taboo fantasies he describes from the “reality” of the characters he writes. Guy only writes characters who are at least 18 in his stories’ sexual scenes, but allows them to claim younger ages when the characters are explicitly roleplaying. Yet both the characters and those they are roleplaying are equally fictional. How peculiar that the conceit of a “fiction within a fiction” is necessary to provide readers with comfort that they are not really partaking in a forbidden representation of sex. 


Although Lost Girls does not shy away from sexualizing the experiences that its characters relate, it also takes care not whitewash the reality of abuse. Alice, in particular, is clearly traumatized by the childhood abuse that he endured at the hands of a friend of her father. Wendy, although more shamed than scarred, represses her sexuality in adulthood after a spate of childhood experiences with peers. As for Dorothy, she only belatedly gains awareness that the sexual interest shown to her by her father was abusive, when she sees him hiding it from his wife.


Much of the artistry of the book is in how it presents the familiar stories of these characters in Wonderland, Neverland, and Oz, as allegories for their coming of age experiences, both good and bad, consensual and non-consensual. Complementing this complex and sometimes troubling narrative, the lush, art deco visual stylings of artist Melinda Gebbie elevate Lost Girls to the status of the classic graphic novel that continues to be regarded as today.


We'll give the last word to Neil Gaiman, who concluded his blog article by summing up why he believes that works such as Lost Girls must be protected against censorship, despite their challenging content:


Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don't.

Thanks for seeing us through 2022
Thanks for seeing us through 2022
Thanks to our valued supporters for seeing Prostasia Foundation through its most difficult year so far. If you'd like to see us come back stronger in 2023, please support us. We depend for our existence on ordinary concerned citizens like you. Become a member of Prostasia Foundation today from just $5 per month.
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