“IT’S BLACK AND WHITE!” they frantically type at me in all caps, foaming at the mouth to tell me I’m doing everything wrong and I want to “normalize child rape.”
I’ve frequently been reported to Twitter by misguided people who have the topsy-turvy view that my work at Prostasia Foundation makes me sympathetic to child abusers. Because there is no truth to this, I’ve never had any problem before in having the reports thrown out, and my account has been safe until now.
Not this time. Along with many other accounts that have recently fallen foul to what appears to have been another case of mass-reporting, I’ve finally lost access to the Twitter account I used for my Prostasia work. Although Twitter has a policy of not explaining individual account suspensions, it’s not much of a mystery why more wrongful suspensions are happening right now—there are fewer human moderators around to check them, and more reliance on artificial intelligence. The result: more false takedowns and suspensions.
The grey areas of child abuse prevention
But why would people report me for child abuse in the first place? Good question. Let’s pull over for just a second and talk about how nothing is black and white, and no one in child sexual abuse prevention wants to “normalize child rape”. The words we use have meanings and those meanings are important, they help us navigate the very real grey areas of child protection and advocacy.
Nothing in life is black and white, shades of grey define our existence as humans. Believing that an issue as complicated at child protection is black and white is childish and naive. There is a lot of nuance to CSA (child sexual abuse) prevention. Stigma severely retards the ability of researchers to build a full picture of the issue, but I assure you, very little that we understand about this problem is as black and white as some people assume.
Minors can’t consent
There are a few things that do approach absolutes, for instance, minors can’t consent to sex with adults. That’s a matter of law, and also a matter of ethics; there is an unacceptable risk that the minor will be harmed by or come to regret the experience. But consent becomes a grey area when we talk about minors consenting to sex with each other.
It’s neither always OK, nor always harmful. It’s another issue that is just chock full of grey areas. Minors can be anywhere from newborn to 17 (in the US). Two 17 year olds may be able to consent to have sex with each other. But can a 5 year old consent to a 15 year old? Of course not. So is it possible that the issue is not black and white?
Support for MAPs
Another issue that I’m often told is black and white is that people with minor attraction shouldn’t ever be allowed around children.
“It’s black and white, we should never ever ever take the risk!”
What about MAPs (minor attracted persons) who have children of their own? Should they be taken away? What about MAPs who are only attracted to one gender? Are they a danger to children of the gender they are not attracted to? How? And if they’ve never offended, are not struggling with avoiding offense, and clearly understand consent, what makes them a danger?
“You’re trying to normalize child rape! You are pro-pedophilia! IT’S BLACK AND WHITE!”
Let’s talk about why this makes no sense. Firstly, let me state for the record that I am one hundred percent against any form of child abuse, including but not limited to CSA. Clear? Good.
But in general, it’s important to make the distinction between action and attraction. Pedophilia is an attraction to prepubescent children. To the best of our knowledge, it is an unchosen, unchangeable attraction. CSA is an action. Evidence is that most MAPs don’t offend, and that most people who do offend are not MAPs. Hence the danger of conflating pedophilia with actual abuse.
This is a concept I see a lot of people struggle with. Abuse is a choice, a person has to make a choice to abuse another person. That means it doesn’t just happen accidentally. However, there are risk factors that make a difference. For instance, MAPs are more likely to offend when they are left to feel alone and broken. When they do not have community, education, and support, they are more likely to believe when they are told they will offend, so they do.
If a lot of people told you that you were a monster who was doomed to offend and you had no other positive message about how to live a healthier life without offending, you might feel like offending is your only option. This is where I get called “pro-pedophilia” a lot. Because I support education, support, and community for MAPs, it is seen as being pro-pedophile, but these things directly protect children.
Helping a person to not hurt children, protects children. No one is doomed to offend.
“We must de-platform all MAPs and Allies—To save the CHILDREN!”
Yeah, again, you’re doing it wrong. De-platform actual predators all day long. Report and get that stuff removed. But let’s examine an important difference here—MAPs are not predators simply by virtue of being minor attracted. Predators are predators, abusers are abusers, rapists are rapists. But minor attracted persons just have an attraction. Action is required for a person to commit a crime.
What happens when you de-platform MAPs and their allies is that those who are in the most need of resources for support, education, and community have a harder time finding it. This interferes with prevention efforts for child protection organizations, and generally undermines personal freedoms.
I’m not the first representative of Prostasia to have her social media account deleted by mass reporting, and I won’t be the last. Heck, even the entire organization was wrongly dropped by its payment processor due to (what we can only assume) were complaints from ill-informed or hostile opponents of our approach.
Before you report someone like me who is only trying to do her job, ask: is this really as clear-cut as I think it is? Slow down, take a breath, and consider that the issue may be more complicated than you think it is. Nothing is black and white, and every issue has more than one side.