Our outgoing ED in conversation with John Chen

Jeremy Malcolm is Prostasia Foundation’s outgoing founding Executive Director. John Chen spoke with Jeremy for his podcast series OUTED, and has kindly given permission for us to feature a transcript of that interview. A video of the conversation is embedded below and you can also view it here.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

John Chen: Hey there, folks, welcome back to another episode here on John Chen Outs the World. Today, I have a very intriguing guest with me, Dr. Jeremy Malcolm, the Executive Director of the Prostasia Foundation. Now his thesis as a doctorate in law features… multi-stakeholder governance and the Internet Governance Forum. Now, the Prostasia Foundation has had recent backlash and critiques from various organizations and individuals on YouTube. Now, is that all valid or justified? Today, I want to find that out with the Executive Director. I really appreciate Jeremy for joining us today. And I would love for you to take the stage and just explain why did you create this organization, Prostasia Foundation?

Jeremy Malcolm: Thanks, John. It’s great to be talking with you today. So, I’ve been working in advocacy for most of my professional life. I worked as a consumer rights advocate, a human rights advocate, and then a digital rights advocate. And in all of these roles, I found that the easiest way to get people to accept the violation of their rights is to say that it’s necessary to protect children. Which is ironic because protecting children is one of the most important responsibilities for our society. But it’s something that we need to get right. And it’s difficult to do that when fear and hate are being weaponized to push a political agenda. 

So, Prostasia Foundation was formed in 2018, when President Trump signed into law a bill called FOSTA/SESTA, which its proponents claimed would end child sex trafficking. But in reality, all it did was to harm sex workers, to force internet companies to censor a broad range of content about sex, and to make it more difficult to conduct anti-trafficking operations. So, Prostasia brought together a bunch of experts who felt that this was the wrong approach, and had become sick and tired of child safety being used as a cloak for measures that were really intended to harm marginalized groups, to censor the internet, or to give more money and power to law enforcement. Instead, we promote an evidence based approach that prioritizes preventing child sexual abuse before it happens. So, that’s how and why we were formed in a nutshell.

How FOSTA/SESTA failed

John Chen: I see. So, your argument is that this law, this policy, FOSTA/SESTA, was actually enabling the prosecution of children, as I saw on your blog post, about why you started the Prostasia Foundation as well as sex workers. They were not actually being helped by this policy. So, there were more people actually being harmed in ways that came off as under the guise of protecting children and their welfare. And in fact, it was actually working against certain marginalized groups. Is that correct?

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. And this happens again and again, because politicians know that all they need to do is to say, think of the children and their law will pass. And so this happens with censorship laws, it happens with criminal justice laws, and they really don’t get examined under the magnifying glass to the extent that they should. And so Prostasia’s mission is kind of twofold. First of all, to apply that magnifying glass to laws and policies that are said to be for the protection of children. And then secondly, we amplify and promote actual child sexual abuse prevention work that is being done by experts and clinicians, which often gets overlooked by politicians. And which is also often the subject of a lot of stigma, which I think we’ll be talking about as we continue in our conversation.

John Chen: You bet, you bet. So, give me some examples of why this specific FOSTA/SESTA policy was harmful to these individual, say sex workers and even children who had sexual deviant behaviors or whatever the case was, they were prosecuted. What were some examples of why this happened and you thought it was harmful to sex workers and other people?

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. Well, I mean, because it was a really blunt instrument, and really just the thought that went into this was just well, child sex trafficking is related to sex work, which is facilitated by the internet. Therefore, we can solve this problem by making internet companies responsible for the facilitation of sex trafficking. There was no research beyond that sort of intuition that went into it. And so… Prostasia Foundation was a party to a constitutional lawsuit that is trying to have FOSTA/SESTA declared unconstitutional. And one of the things that we pointed out in that lawsuit was that internet companies, to protect their own hides, they were just censoring anything that had to do with sex. And this included some information about child sexual abuse prevention. It also included sex education resources, it also included people who just provide massage services or things that are really tangentially related to the subject of the bill. 

Now, what should the approach have been instead of this? Well, like an evidence based approach to this would have involved looking at what are the actual risk factors that make children susceptible to trafficking? And what are the protective factors that prevent a child from falling victim to those risks. And if we took that sort of approach, we would find out that some of the risks include, for example, the stigma against LGBTQ children that forces them out of their families and onto the streets; an underfunded and poorly supervised foster care system is another cause; lack of social services that children can access directly. So, if we really wanted to address child sex trafficking, using an evidence-based approach, we would be addressing those root causes of the problem, rather than just addressing the outward signs of where the system has failed, and essentially sweeping the problem under the carpet.

Who Prostasia serves

John Chen: Okay. So, we know generally that Prostasia Foundation, you’re trying to help children, be able to protect them from cases of child sexual abuse and human sex trafficking, and also sex workers as well. And censorship is a big part of that. So, what is this organization, more broadly, trying to help serve? Who are the people that Prostasia is trying to serve?

Jeremy Malcolm: So, that’s a good question… People who come across us for the first time, are often confused about that, because we do approach this differently and deliberately so. And the work that we do and the approach that we take is kind of provocative. So, I would say that there are two main constituencies that we serve. The most obvious one is like other child protection organizations, it’s there in the name, the ultimate beneficiaries of our work our children, because our primary objective is to eliminate child sexual abuse. But we don’t directly represent children because we don’t have them as members and they’re not part of our management structure. 

So, we directly help or serve those who are engaged in or who choose to ally with our mission, of child sexual abuse prevention, but who are ignored by or who feel unsafe or uncomfortable with other groups. And sex workers are just one example of those sort of stigmatized groups who are left out of the field of child protection. Last month, we’re recording this in December, so in November, we conducted a community survey which showed that 70% of Prostasia’s community identifies as being one or more of LGBTQ, kinky, or a fan, or artist. So, those are other examples of communities that are affected by stigma, and which the public often falsely treats as being part of the problem of child sexual abuse. We help them to identify instead as being part of the solution.

John Chen: I like that you have a redemptive narrative that you create out of that, people who generally are stigmatized and maybe kind of conflated with people who may be offenders or people who are not normalized or accepted within broader society don’t help perpetuate certain types of conservative values or so forth around sexuality.

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah, because whether or not you have conservative values, or whether you have liberal values, like you can still believe in protecting children. And I think because the child protection sector is dominated by conservative groups, who are anti-pornography, anti-sex work, and so on, it really excludes a large segment of society, which doesn’t identify with those values, but which still wants to protect children from abuse, because you know, that’s basically universal.

MAPs and public relations

John Chen: Right. So, that includes LGBTQ folks who are kinksters, people — so BDSM could be associated with kinksters, for those who don’t know, people who have more, I would say vibrant lifestyle, sexual lifestyle, who would not harm them, or other partners just have different types of expressions in their sexualities. And then also, you have MAPs. So, that is, I think, a big part of the controversy. People like Allyn Walker, who recently was on Prostasia talking about people who were previously labeled pedophiles, which I think most people understand; people who are attracted to minors, people who are attracted to pubescents, and pre-pubescents, right. 

But it does give you a pause for concern like how the PR may come off? Because, as we know, certain conservatives, like Rosalyn on YouTube, or even Blair White, who’s a trans woman themselves, they have really doubled down on the critique of this organization because they’ve associated, you associate yourselves with MAPs individuals and professors like Allyn Walker, who had to take a leave of absence. So, what do you think under that heavy burden, I think, of critique is the goal of trying to work with people who are minor attracted?

Jeremy Malcolm: Well, let’s first define some terms. So, MAPs are those who are sexually attracted to minors. That’s literally what MAP stands for. Because minor is a term that’s defined by law, which means people under 18, being a MAP doesn’t necessarily mean being a pedophile. But it does include pedophiles, those who find pre-pubescent minors sexually attractive.

John Chen: Okay, so what is the distinction between, say, a person who’s attracted to a three-year-old versus the person who’s attracted to a 17-year-old?

Jeremy Malcolm: Well, one of the differences is that, psychologically it’s quite normal to be attracted to a 17-year-old, even though it may, depending on where you live, it may be unlawful to act on that attraction, just as it would be for a three-year-old. But if you’re attracted to a three-year-old, that’s very unusual. So, a recent survey found that about 14% of ordinary adults had experienced some attraction towards young teenagers, which the vast majority have never acted on. Whereas attraction towards pre-pubescent minors, or pedophilia properly, runs out more like 1-2%. So, it’s much more rare. And MAP is an umbrella category that encompasses both the unusual attraction towards young children, as well as including those with a more common attraction towards teens. And the only thing that really binds these together is that in both cases, it can be illegal to act on that attraction. 

MAP is an umbrella category that encompasses both the unusual attraction towards young children, as well as including those with a more common attraction towards teens. And the only thing that really binds these together is that in both cases, it can be illegal to act on that attraction. 

And the term MAP doesn’t imply one way or the other about whether the attraction has been acted on. And that’s one reason why experts like Allyn Walker said well, we should use that term instead of pedophile. Because pedophile firstly, really only refers to that very small group of people who are attracted to pre-pubescents. And also, it implies, in the general public’s mind, someone who has offended or inevitably will offend, and that doesn’t represent the reality. And so that’s why we try and use more accurate language when we’re talking about this problem. Because if the group of people that we’re talking about is really more of a stereotype than a real category of people, it’s hard to even conceptualize how to manage their treatment, we have to have an accurate understanding of who we’re talking about before we can talk about preventing abuse.

John Chen: I think that’s a great point. I’m trying to delineate, okay, what are the differences between MAPs and sexual offenders? Because there are sexual offenders who are not MAPs, right?

Jeremy Malcolm: Exactly. So, sex offenders are those who you know, commit offenses, either against children or against adults, and sex offenders, even sex offenders who do offend against children aren’t necessarily sexually attracted to them. Like, estimates of about 73% of child sexual abuse is committed by those who are primarily attracted to adults. It’s hard to imagine why but just being a rapist, or an abusive parent doesn’t necessarily include being sexually attracted to children, it’s a different category. Also, about 35% of child sexual abuse is committed by other children. It’s child on child abuse. So, really being a MAP and being a sex offender are two very different categories, which don’t overlap nearly as much as people tend to think.

John Chen: That makes sense. That makes sense. Now, that still doesn’t negate the possibility of having really strict laws, because people are typically afraid of sex offenders, sex offenders, MAPs, right, sex offenders, trying to get into spaces where there are children around, vulnerable people around, women. And for Elizabeth Breunig, who’s part of the New York Times, she’s a columnist there, she writes a lot on the sex abuses in the Catholic Church. And in her view, she says that convicted sex offenders, and minor attracted persons, as you call them in your FAQ and publication. So, they’re responding to Prostasia. I think maybe they are conflating this idea of sex offenders and minor attracted persons. 

And what you are adamant about is you’re trying to differentiate minor attracted persons, sex offenders. They overlap and we can argue about how much they overlap too. But her fear, I think, generally for myself and other people, there’s a general social fear that people who are minor attracted, will offend because of those desires. And she goes on to say, [they] should not be involved with children in any capacity, whether in allyship role, protection role, or any other role. So, she doesn’t believe in one of the core statements of your group and who makes up that group. How do you feel about that?

Jeremy Malcolm: Well, one of the misconceptions that a lot of people have is that somehow Prostasia your foundation is an organization that is made up of MAPs or is led by MAPs. And neither of those things are true. Like that’s one of the false statements that people have been putting around about us. Like we don’t have anyone on our team and never have, who identifies as being minor attracted. We’re led by experts, we’re led by stakeholders from the stigmatized groups that I mentioned. But we don’t actually have any MAP representatives. We do have representatives from the professional communities that work with MAPs, such as researchers and clinicians. 

But yeah, like, I mean, if people have this fear, for example, one of the anti-Prostasia videos that was going around, had the idea that Prostasia has a headquarters opposite an elementary school, which is somehow filled with pedophiles. And nothing could be further from the truth. So, a lot of these fears are actually just misplaced. And there’s nothing much more I can say about them other than this is an example of where people let their fears sort of run away with themselves. And you know, take them into sort of conspiracy theory waters that just don’t really deserve the credit that they receive.

Evidence-based laws

John Chen: I see. Now you have four different strategies generally, that your program at Prostasia is trying to espouse. Strategy one, we’ll talk about what does research or evidence-based child protection laws mean? So, what kind of laws have you been looking at? And how are they actually actively trying to help children in their welfare; trying to give them safe environments, as well as helping those in instances like abandonment or human sex trafficking for that matter.

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. So, an evidence based approach means taking a public health approach to the problem, viewing child sexual abuse as a public health issue, rather than just a criminal justice issue. Because if you look at the problem, just as a criminal justice issue, it means you’re not paying attention to it until after the child has been harmed, and then you’re prosecuting the offender. Whereas the public health approach is more about stopping abuse in the first place. And there are two elements to that, which I’ve already alluded to. One of them is reducing the risk factors that can contribute towards offending. And the other one is increasing the protective factors that can prevent offending from happening. 

And so examples of policies that follow that approach include comprehensive sex education, stigma free mental health services, and social supports. And so some of the laws that we do support include, there’s one called The Invest in Child Safety Act, which would provide $5 billion of new funding for child sexual abuse prevention and the enforcement of existing laws. So, not just prevention, but enforcement as well. And it would also kick off a study into what are the risk factors? And what are the prevention interventions that have been developed to address this problem? And how well are they working? So, that’s an example of what we would say is an evidence-based law. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much support at all in Congress, because as I sort of alluded to, politicians are more interested in addressing public fears, which may not be factually based, rather than addressing underlying problems. So, I think the first step in getting politicians to take the right approach is to work on increasing public awareness about the real drivers of this problem and the real solutions. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we platformed Allyn Walker as one of the experts who’s working in this field, and who has the support of all of their peers. You know, there were more than 60 other professors and other experts who signed a letter in support of Dr. Walker, for making statements that are controversial, but true. Pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same thing. Nobody chooses what they find sexually attractive. Attraction is not the same as action. And even if you are unfortunate enough to be in that small category of people who has pedophilia, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to abuse a child. There are always ways of preventing offending. 

Pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same thing. Nobody chooses what they find sexually attractive. Attraction is not the same as action. And even if you are unfortunate enough to be in that small category of people who has pedophilia, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to abuse a child. There are always ways of preventing offending. 

And once those messages get out there, I think it will become easier in the future for policymakers to sort of follow that lead. And it’s just a really difficult and fraught process to get those messages out there. Because even by stating those messages, there is as you mentioned an immediate blowback and an attack from those who believe incorrectly, that this is somehow trying to destigmatize or normalize sexual abuse, which is not what it’s about at all. It’s about just, I mean, the stigma that exists is really just a misunderstanding of the truth. And if we can correct people’s misunderstandings about how child sexual abuse happens, and how it relates to pedophilia, and how it doesn’t relate to pedophilia, that can only make the work of prevention easier in the long term. And I just wish it wasn’t such a fraught process and didn’t involve so much abuse being thrown around. But we’ll never get the laws that we want if our starting point is misunderstanding, and fear.

How do sex workers and kinksters fit in?

John Chen: Now, what is your views and goals in terms of the people say that you’re working for as well besides the children, right. Because there’s stigma against them as well, sex workers, for example, kinksters. How do they fit into the equation of trying to protect children’s rights? How do they help?

Jeremy Malcolm: Well, partly, it’s about because we’re both a child protection organization and a human rights organization, when the human rights of others are infringed on the pretext of child protection, then our role is to defend them. But the other thing is that they also have a lot of expertise in their own communities, that is important in protecting children from abuse within those communities, or protecting adults within those communities as well. So, let me give you a concrete example of that. So, the American Law Institute, this year, it’s an institution of lawyers, they released a new version of their Model Penal Code on sexual offenses, which is designed to update the law on topics like consent, sex trafficking, and the sex offender registry. And they actually did listen to stigmatized groups because they wanted to make the law better. 

And so one of the groups they spoke to was the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, or NCSF, which represents the consensual kink and BDSM community. And Prostasia Foundation is an affiliate member of the NCSF. They’ve been doing magnificent work on defining and educating people around consent for years. And so by including them and drawing on this work, the American Law Institute was able to make recommendations for reforms to the law on consent, that work for a community that lives and breathes consent culture in everything it does. The same applies to sex workers. If you want to stop minors from entering sex work, the police aren’t going to be the solution. Nobody in the sex industry will ever go to the police for help if they can avoid it, because this ends up in them being arrested at best. And at worst, they may even be sexually assaulted by the police. 

So, instead, if you want to help minors who are performing sex work, which is obviously a bad idea, the first people that they’re likely to turn to for help, are going to be other sex workers. You know, because people in the sex industry don’t want to see minors doing this work and being abused and having their content put up online. Of course they don’t. And for years, in fact, sex workers have been campaigning for stronger consent and safety standards for their industry. But do policy makers turn to them for advice in combating abuse in the industry? No, they turn to morals campaigners, and credit card companies. So, one of the reasons why we platform these groups is because they actually have some lived experience that is useful in protecting against abuse in their sector. And if we’re not listening to them, then we’re missing out on that experience and that wisdom.

John Chen: Right. So, that is your second strategy you are trying to bring about the voices within these more marginalized and very vulnerable groups of people, say sex workers, LGBTQ folks, kinksters, who have a lot of stigma on them. And they can offer us, as you say, a lot of wisdom about how to be able to create better protective laws for children.

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. If we only listen to law enforcement, we only get carceral solutions. But carceral solutions are ineffective at dealing with the complexity of this problem. If we want to make progress, we have to also bring in non-carceral approaches such as education, mental health support and social services. And that means listening to people from outside of law enforcement, and also those who are harmed by the criminal justice system. And so while we acknowledge that there is a role, an important role for the criminal justice system in dealing with this problem, it’s only a small part of the total picture.

Censorship

John Chen: Where does censorship go wrong? And why is Prostasia getting hurt by this? Because obviously, like there is a general fear that there’s going to be child pornography out there. How are you pro censorship in certain ways and how are you not? 

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. Well, we are against child sexual abuse and the dissemination of images of child sexual abuse, of real children being abused, either in photos or videos. That is a form of abuse, it’s image-based abuse. And so really, that’s where we believe censorship resources should be focused because there’s no place there’s no valid place for that content online. Just like there’s no valid place for abusive imagery involving adults. So, revenge porn and so on is also not welcome anywhere online and rightly so. However, censorship with a broad brush can affect those who are innocent. It can affect LGBTQ communities, sex educators, basically anyone who talks about sex online. You may have noticed yourself that if you talk about sex on YouTube or on Tik Tok, your content is likely to be demonetized or removed, or you’ll have to self-censor. There’s a lot of people who use these strange new vocabulary when they’re trying to talk about sex online just to avoid censorship. How is that healthy, you know? 

The other point is that our criminal justice system wastes a lot of money by trying to censor content that doesn’t cause harm to anyone. This year, a publisher of sexual stories was sentenced to 40 years in prison because some of the stories and illustrations on his website involve fictional minors. And this is in a context where we have a backlog of real child sexual abuse cases that aren’t being prosecuted because we don’t have enough money and we don’t have enough resources. And we’re going to imprison someone for publishing stories. It’s really just a misallocation of resources. And that’s one of the reasons why we oppose censorship. Censorship doesn’t deal with the problem, it sweeps it under the carpet. And it does divert our attention away from real cases of abuse, which is what we should be concentrating on. 

So, that’s not to say that triggering content should be freely accessible to everyone online, especially pornography shouldn’t be accessible to children online. We’ve never said that. But what we promote is tagging content, warning users for content, and basically making sure that nobody is exposed to sexual content without their consent. So, really providing more information, rather than censoring is the way to go. Making sure that if there’s a story out there that involves a minor in a sexual situation, it definitely shouldn’t be something you come across accidentally, you should be warned about it and you should have the chance to keep it out of view.

Sex positivity

John Chen: Now you have a sex positive view on your platform, either Prostasia platform. You say that while preventing such child sexual abuse, you want to have a sex positive view around these themes. So, how does that look for people, not just kinksters and people who are into the sex industry, but for MAPs individuals, right, this has been a huge point of contention, because Prostasia does advocate for the use of childlike sex dolls, and cartoon pornography, right, childlike cartoon of pornography. So, why do you believe this is helpful, and is there any evidence, would you say, that this is actually going to prevent people from perpetrating sexual offenses?

Jeremy Malcolm: Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s accurate to say that we advocate for the use of these outlets such as dolls and cartoons. What we do advocate for is research into what the effects of the availability of these outlets is. And we advocate against, as I said, against the misallocation of law enforcement resources towards prosecuting people for possessing these outlets, at least until the research has been done. Because despite assumptions that people have, there is no research about what the effects of these outlets is on real-life sexual offending. And this is the major research project that we’re sponsoring at the moment. We have university researchers from the State University of New York, and from Nottingham Trent University in the UK, that we’ve raised money to get into independently find out. Like, do these cartoons and dolls make people more likely to offend or less likely to offend or do they make no difference? And we really need to have that data before we can decide whether there’s any value in banning them or not. 

So, that says to the point that you raised on sex dolls and cartoons. But more generally, why do we promote sex positivity in association with child protection? And that is much misunderstood. People think sex positivity must mean it’s okay to have sex with minors. No, that’s not what it means at all. In fact, it kind of means the opposite of that. A sex positive approach means that every human being has the right to express and enjoy their own sexuality, provided that they do so consensually. And, in fact, sex positivity underpins our opposition to child sexual abuse because it is a consent violation, by definition. Children cannot consent to sex with adults. 

So, it’s not in conflict, sex positivity is not in conflict with child protection, it underpins child protection. And and a sex positive approach is what policies like comprehensive sex ed, and consent culture are all about. Our prevailing belief as a society is that by addressing — to address problems of sexual violence, we have to focus on the thoughts and the attractions themselves as being bad. And a sex positive approach is that thoughts and attractions are neutral, and that it’s actions that matter. And so really, our approach is just about let’s focus less about what goes on inside people’s heads, which we can’t control anyway. Let’s focus more on, are these thoughts and feelings being expressed in a consensual way?

The effects of pornography

John Chen: Sure. Yes, I think for myself, there’s arguments for both. Like, obviously, behaviors are always preceded by thoughts and desires, right? I think one can philosophically argue, like, how does one come up with murdering someone, raping someone, abusing a child, right? Because they planned it out. Or no one just like, doesn’t choose to do those things. And I think there again, with your argument about what is moral and immoral, like Allyn Walker, what got them in trouble probably is talking about the morality of those desires. And I think personally, for me, I lean a little bit more conservative on this issue, where it is an objectifying issue, right? Are we objectifying people through pornography? Are we objectifying children through these different resources, right, for MAPs, individuals who can’t contain their desires? 

So, if we go about viewing the world as, as black and white as we currently do, sometimes with like MAPs and sex offenders, like they’re maybe the same thing. Say that’s the way that we view the world right now. Is that so bad? Right? Because we have strict regulations, at least against the age consent and so forth. People that you work with, I believe it’s Guy Hamilton-Smith, right, they actually have offended in the past. They were a sexual offender in the past when they were 22, and they were a very apologetic. They — I sympathize to a degree with them, like they made poor decisions and they used child pornography. Now, I think that’s going to discredit him a lot when he comes into this organization and works alongside of you guys. Does it give him some insight? One can argue that. But at the same time when you are someone who has perpetrated that, that causes a lot of alarms to go off. 

And criminologist, Eric Hickey states that serial killers and their victims, that’s a book, that millions of people read pornography without harming anyone. It could be a facilitator for one person while having no effects on others. So, porn is not the main culprit, right? Like just because someone watches porn doesn’t make them a serial killer or rapist. Still, the fact that certain serial murders have insisted that pornography was a major factor in there killing young women and children cannot be ignored. So, this is something taken off Psychology Today by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, who’s a forensic psychologist and author. 

I think this general theme and thought process is because we give people like maybe sex offenders even the outlet of pornography, they’re more likely to actually fan the flame of having that potential of committing that crime. So I don’t know if it can work fully. If it goes in the direction of we find research that actually says this is going to help society, because they’re not going to offend as much, it still has to answer the philosophical issue of does it objectify children? And so those are two major barriers. What do you think?

Jeremy Malcolm: Sure. I mean, there’s a lot that you just dumped on me there. Let me go through those point by point if I can remember them all. So, firstly, Guy Hamilton-Smith has not had any association with Prostasia since 2019. We knew that bringing him onto our Advisory Council, which is a non-voting body that gives advice to our team, we knew that would be controversial. It was definitely provocative. But he was an expert and still is an expert in rehabilitation, through the criminal justice system. He said that going through that saved his life, he believes. And so we thought there was value in getting the perspective of a sex offense law and policy expert, who had personal lived experience of how the system helps rehabilitation of offenders and where it fails. So, that’s one thing. The second point that you made, there is —

John Chen: [An effect on] the likelihood of committing an offense.

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. So, I mean, there’s a difference, as we know, between correlation and causation. When we do studies that just look at sex offenders, people who have offended, and they look at their pornography use, that doesn’t really tell us anything about people who haven’t offended, and it doesn’t tell us anything about causation. And what we’re expecting to come out of the research that we’re funding is to find that for some people, use of sexual outlets is helpful, for some people, it is harmful, and for some people, it’s neither. So, what we need to decide is, well, what should we do about the people for whom it is harmful. And even ordinary 18-plus pornography, can be harmful to some people who have, you know, compulsive behaviors, and who having this material just sends them into an unhealthy spiral. 

What we’re hoping will come out of our research, is some guidelines for clinicians to help those clients and to advise them what sort of stuff they should actually stay away from. So, we’re not saying that this material is likely to be helpful to everyone across the board. There will be some for whom it’s helpful, some for whom it’s harmful. What we need to decide as a society is on balance, would we be better off banning this entire category of content, which would impact not only offenders and MAPs, but also a lot of innocent people. 

A lot of young people creating fan art and fan fiction, which for them is completely age appropriate, it’s completely innocent. They’re just wanting to talk about Steven Universe in a sort of romantic context, or whatever. This is the kind of content that people are suggesting needs to be regulated and banned. So, that would impact a lot of innocent people. And we need, as a society, with the benefit of research in hand, we need to decide is the harm from this content so severe and so widespread, that we need to ban it? Or is it possible to address the harms of this content in a more limited way, such as through as I mentioned having content warnings, and so on. And really, all we’re saying is, let’s get that research done, so that we can make that decision. 

Morality of sexual attraction

Jeremy Malcolm: Another point that you made is about the question of morality. Even if you have an attraction that is unchosen, can it still be judged morally? Now, that’s actually a question that Prostasia Foundation—and this may be a surprising answer to you—but Prostasia has always actually been agnostic about that. We’ve actually said you can still privately view someone as being immoral for having this sort of attraction even if it was unchosen. We’re not saying that you can’t have your private moral views. And those views may be influenced by your religion, they may be influenced by your upbringing. Nobody’s going to say you can’t pass a moral judgment on someone who has this attraction. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth judging someone morally for something they didn’t choose. But I’m not going to force you, if you have a different opinion. I’m not going to force you to change your mind. 

John Chen: I can agree to a certain level, I do.

Jeremy Malcolm: And so all that we are saying is that your private moral judgment against these people shouldn’t become violent, shouldn’t be abusive towards people who are just, in many cases, trying to live their lives and seek help. And that’s what Allyn Walker was subjected to. They were a professional trying to do their job. And for expressing the views that they did, they were subjected to death threats, to smears of allegations against themselves. And I have to say, I’ve been subjected to the same. You know, I’ve been receiving nasty phone calls at all hours of the night. I’ve been receiving insinuations about myself and my family, my personal details have been doxxed. And so when we’re fighting against stigma, against the discussion of this topic, we’re really just saying, okay, have whatever judgments you want in the privacy of your own mind, but don’t turn those into abuse against people who have actually done nothing wrong.

John Chen: Right. Right. And I believe you when you say that, because you are promoting research, right. So, if there is evidence-based practices and policies that will help children, Prostasia is trying to advocate for that. And so for those viewers who are watching in, and again, it can be a huge turnoff, right from the get go, when we mentioned MAPs, minor attracted persons, and then trying to disentangle that from sex offenders, many people just don’t think about it on a daily basis, they just go with the social morales and the morals. It just gives them something to feed off of, really instinctively. And when we talk about it, there’s a lot of nitty gritty. There’s a lot of fine details within the gray zones, right, of what’s consensual, what should be censored, what shouldn’t be censored, and the autonomy of the individual. 

And so what do you hope then, you know, out of this conversation; what do you hope that viewers get out of this conversation? What would they learn?

Jeremy Malcolm: Yeah. Well, I do appreciate the way that you’ve been framing your questions and I have been very happy to try and engage with you honestly and openly. So, hopefully, some of your viewers, if they have already heard of Prostasia Foundation, may come away with some of their misapprehensions about our motives being corrected. I hope they’ll realize that the causes of child sexual abuse and the solutions to it, perhaps aren’t as simple as they may have believed. And the whole notion that there are simple black and white causes and solutions is a false narrative that actually fuels a lot of problems in our society. And so, really, I hope that Prostasia’s mission, controversial as it is, it’s really just to apply a bit of a corrective to that. And to get people to realize what, maybe things aren’t as simple as I believed.

John Chen: Thank you so much, Jeremy, for coming on. Again, I know for my viewers that this is very, very controversial. And some of the parts of what you do, maybe a majority of what you do is going to elicit some side eye reactions. And even here on OUTED, you know, this channel is trying to espouse open-ended conversations around sexuality, around gender, around faith and policy, family development. All those things matter to our society. I believe that what you have to offer here today, hopefully, will clarify about some of the mis-grievances of what happened between Allyn Walker and then also what is the true foundation, foundation within Prostasia Foundation, the values and the types of activities and policies that you’re trying to promote. So, thank you again, Jeremy, for coming on.

Jeremy Malcolm: Thanks very much, John. It’s been great to talk to you.

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