Prostasia Foundation Protecting children by upholding the rights and freedoms of all
How research can help reduce CSA

During August, Prostasia Foundation experienced a welcome resurgence of attention in our proposed research into the relationship between fantasy outlets (such as stories, cartoons, and dolls) and sexual offending against children. Since calls to ban such outlets are often justified not merely on moral grounds (ie. that they are inherently obscene), but on the ground that they contribute to real-world sexual abuse, it seemed reasonable to us that we should test that proposition scientifically. Donations to our research fund increased by ten times during the month, and the first phase of the research is now more than 10% funded.

Not everyone is so sanguine about the promise of this ground-breaking research plan. Mike Salter, an Australian criminologist who sided with far-right personality Katy Hopkins against Prostasia back in June, has expressed skepticism that it is possible to ethically research the link between outlets and sexual offending at all, and that we should instead just equate those who use them to child rapists and imprison them. (Needless to say we disagree, and so do the scientific and criminal justice experts that we work with.)

Prostasia also recently crossed swords with John Carr, a conservative hard-liner who consults to ECPAT, an organization that wants to ban ageplay, cosplay, and fan fiction featuring underage characters. Carr has partnered with big telecom companies to attack Internet platforms for “not doing enough” to censor harmful content, and is often seen at international meetings promoting stigma-driven laws such as FOSTA. Like Salter, Carr also pushes back against the idea of research into whether censorship would actually protect real children, and has smeared practices such as ageplay as ”the new currency of predatory pedophiles.”

Launching a campaign against ageplay into the notoriously salacious British press, it didn’t take long for Carr to achieve his aim of shaming Facebook into banning the related #DDLG hashtag on Facebook and Instagram last month. (This was a fairly token ban though, because there are still many related hashtags that can be used to find similar, and equally legal, ageplay-related content.) Meanwhile, Prostasia Foundation will be looking at this issue from a more inclusive perspective, at a workshop on ageplay and child protection in Oakland on September 18 (you can read more details about this below).

If nothing else, it seems odd that the socially conservative wing of the child protection movement would oppose independent research into the possible harms (or, conversely, the benefits) of sexual outlets such as stories, dolls, and ageplay. The worst that could happen for them is that their theory that outlets are a pathway to offending will be proved wrong—but in a sense, won’t this be good news? It will mean that less resources should be devoted to the prosecution of doll owners and manga readers; resources that can instead be devoted to the prevention of actual crimes against children. It may also open up exciting new avenues for child sexual abuse prevention.

But what if what conservatives like Slater and Carr turn out to be correct, and our research does uncover a link between sexual outlets and offending—will this be enough to justify the censorship and criminalization of stories and cartoons? We’re heading to Korea next month to talk about that with United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, David Kaye, and delegates from Korea and around the world. But here’s our opinion (and it’s one that other human rights experts share): it still doesn’t justify us in censoring speech.

Our position is that unless an actual, identifiable child is being directly harmed—as in the case of unlawful sexual photographs or videos of children—censorship is never the answer. It might be that the depiction of sex and minors in art and literature leads some people toward offending (although there’s no evidence to suggest that this effect is widespread). If so, our challenge is to find a way to deal with it… a way that isn’t censorship. For example, comprehensive sex education has a stronger, demonstrated negative effect on rates of sexual harm to minors. Talking openly about the problematic messages that pornography and other sexual outlets communicate, and countering them with the clear message that sex between minors and adults is never acceptable, should be a part of a comprehensive sex education curriculum.

We’re not going to allow our important research to be buried before it even starts, when it could hold the key to reducing sexual offending against children, while upholding freedom of expression and sexual rights. If you agree that this is an important mission, donate $20 into our research fund today, and help us get it to 20% funded by the end of this month.

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Ageplay and Child Protection

Ageplay is one of the most divisive sexual practices that falls under the umbrella of consensual kink. But despite its controversy, it is also exploding in popularity among adults of all ages.

This workshop will outline the emerging common understanding of kink practitioners and sexologists about the roles that ageplay fills in the sex lives of consenting adults. It will also present some suggestions for best practices to keep real minors from being drawn into this practice, including safeguarding tips for venues and events, and effective ways to communicate with minors who attempt to join adult spaces.

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Review: Taboo Tales

With our workshop on ageplay taking place just one week before Banned Books week begins on 22 September, there’s no better time for us to review an erotica collection called Taboo Tales, by the prolific author who writes as Guy New York. The bundle contains six individual books, three of which have been banned for sale by Amazon because of their taboo themes. These three are Trigger Warning, which features tales of consensual non-consent (sometimes called “rape play”), and For the Love of Daddy and Daddies and Babygirls, both of which involve ageplay and (pseudo-) incest.

Even although the books are flagged as containing taboo themes, there are still strict limits on their content, due to the arbitrary rules that industry intermediaries impose on speech, under pressure from politicians and morals campaigners. Although mainstream novels and productions such as Game of Thones are free to depict “real” incest, the incest depicted in these stories, and in other commercial pornography, is only ever step-incest (“an odd moral workaround,” as Guy sardonically notes in a blog). On the novel’s product page he explains:

It’s a somewhat sweet story, but since it’s about a girl and her dad, nobody will publish it. It’s a fantasy of course, and I don’t condone anything of the sort, but I do believe we should be allowed to read, write, and fantasize about whatever we like. Including this.

More relevant for our purposes, you also won’t find any underage characters in these stories, but only legal-age teens. The copyright page of For the Love of Daddy asserts, “All characters portrayed are at least eighteen years of age,” and in another collection, Guy insists “The term “school girl” is used to refer to college-aged women who are eighteen or over.”

But beyond that, even when these (fictional) adult characters are roleplaying with their (also fictional) adult partners as in Daddies and Babygirls, they regress to the age of “teenagers and not children.” Sixteen—the age of consent in the majority of U.S. states—is the youngest age that a fictional character even pretends to be in this collection.

Most would say that this exhibits good taste rather than prudery. But even so, it lies beyond the pale for Amazon. This is despite the fact that lots of law-abiding, otherwise sexually normative adults, most of them women, have tastes for such content (including some of the most taboo genres of fiction such as shotacon). And they are within their constitutional rights to read and enjoy it, for whatever reasons they have to do so.

On non-commercial fiction websites such as Archive of Our Own, readers can adjust their comfort level for taboo fiction by means of tags that they can use to filter out unwanted content. Not so with commercial erotica, however, in which that control has been taken out of the hands of reader and author alike, and handed over to industry executives.

Amazon isn’t the only intermediary that Guy had to contend with in bringing these tales to market. Another is his payment processor PayPal, the same online giant that cancelled Prostasia's account in July due (apparently) to our publication of some illustrations of furry art that contravened their unwritten rules.

Leading up to Banned Books Week, we don’t just need to worry about the government imposing unconstitutional censorship, through new laws like the JUSTICE Act. We also need to scrutinize what companies are doing, under increased pressure from morality groups with close links to both church and government. Guy puts it this way:

Freedom of the press is meaningless if your printers, your publishers, your distributors, your retailers, your credit card companies, your online payment gateways, and your government all get a say in what they think should be allowed out into the world.

You may not want to ever read one of Guy’s more “taboo” stories. But there’s a very good chance that you’ll find something to your tastes in this collection, or in other books in his diverse, sex-positive library. There are sweet stories, and rough ones; vanilla scenarios and kinky ones. Some are hot, some are funny, and a few are both. Guy conveys an understanding of a wide range of sexual dynamics and sexualities. What kind of stories would he be capable of, if he wasn’t being censored by publishers and payment companies? Perhaps we’ll never know.

In his own words:

There are times when I think books and stories can and should be used to model good behavior, safer sex, and healthy relationships. But there is certainly room–necessary room I think–to read and write stories about horrible, taboo, illegal, or otherwise immoral things.

Fiction is speech, and like all speech, it can be good or bad. Taboo Tales is rather good, for written erotica: Guy is both an experienced writer with an easy, informal style, and presents as an equally experienced bisexual man; a selection of 32 Poems About My Penis is another of his books (it’s better than it sounds, really). To cut this review short, I’ll simply suggest you read one of his free stories to see if it’s to your taste.

But whether it’s “good” or not isn’t really the main point of this review. Unless we are willing to accept tyranny, we don’t let anyone decide whether speech is good enough for us to hear or read—that’s a decision that we all have the right to make for ourselves. Speech that causes direct harm is the only speech that the government has the authority to censor. That isn’t the case for written fiction—of any kind, under any circumstance.

Governments are no longer the prime censors that we need to worry about. Companies too have a responsibility to ensure that their editorial and business decisions do not prevent the exercise of human rights, such as by effectively excluding a wide range of lawful sexual speech from reaching its audience. If you're interested in ever being allowed to read Taboo Tales, now might be the time.

Prostasia Foundation
18 Bartol Street #995, San Francisco, CA 94133
EIN 82-4969920
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