Recently the Global Prevention Project published a post on its website titled Reconciling Dichotomous Perspectives discussing possible approaches to different views between MAPs and mental health professionals.
I really liked a previous post by the same author, Privilege, Injustice, & Credibility, for its humbleness and acknowledgement of MAPs’ marginalized position in current Western societies. It made me happy reading a text by a non-MAP attendee of last year’s b4u-act symposium acknowledging our experiences with discrimination with these kind words. To see that the text even mentioned my round-table discussion about epistemic injustice was truly honoring.
Unfortunately, I can’t praise the author’s recently posted blog entry as much. While I don’t want to address every aspect of it that seems problematic to me, I do want to point out that I don’t intent to blame the author for what appears to me to be a prejudiced perspective. Rather, I’d like to offer possible ideas for how this text could perhaps be improved for anyone who might be interested.
Despite the posts’ title, “Reconciling Dichotomous Perspectives”, it dismisses different views of MAPs several times. To elaborate, let me discuss the following paragraph:
“Within the MAP community there are also those who take the stance of being ‘contact-neutral.’ Which again is humoring the notion that certain sexual contact between adults and minors is ‘appropriate’, ‘acceptable’, or ‘not abusive’. […] Again, by engaging in this narrative is to engage in a thinking error that supports, justifies, or minimizes the sexual abuse or exploitation of children and minors.”
[emphasis in original]
The word “contact-neutral” isn’t a term with a precise definition and different people use if to refer to different opinions. However, from my experience most MAPs use this term and related ones such as “pro-contact” or “anti-contact” for different perspectives on how or if age of consent laws should exist without implying that these laws should be broken (see also Goode, 2010). Importantly, there’s no scientific evidence for the notion that MAPs who are against age of consent laws would be more likely to break them than MAPs who are in favor of them (see Cash, 2016). In addition, pressuring MAPs who seek mental health services to adopt a certain position on this has been shown to cause clients to have lower self-esteem (ibid.). A lower self-esteem might lead to worse mental health which could be a factor in making a person more likely to harm themselves or others.
Secondly, I think independendly from which specific perspective a person might have about keeping, changing, or abolishing such laws, to call different views on this a “thinking error” and to even accuse people who hold them of justifying child exploitation is both inconstructive as well as potentially harmful. I believe mental health professionals should treat their minor attracted clients’ opinions in regard to such laws with respect (see also Cash, 2016).
In this context, I think it might be helpful to refer back to epistemic injustice: For a privileged group it’s often easy to assume that the point of view marginalized people have on issues that affect their lives may be “irrational” and in need of “correction”. Although the privileged group might be correct, they should consider the possibility of disenfranchised groups not having the conceptual tools, language, or position to communicate their experiences and to render their views intelligible to others. Thus, to develop an epistemic humbleness can often be a crucial step in understanding how discriminated individuals can be supported (see also literature on standpoint theory and meta-ignorance).
In other words, a person belonging to a privileged group should seek to understand why a person belonging to the respective stigmatized group might perceive something as injust rather than immediately dismiss that person’s thoughts and feelings without consideration. Attacking or ignoring such dichotomous perspectives likely won’t be helpful to reconcile them.
Perhaps the followng quote from the blog entry is best to highlight this apparent disagreement I seem to have with the author in regard to this issue:
“It’s also never constructive to entertain a dialogue where certain illegal or non-illegal sexual acts are deemed more or less harmful or acceptable than others according to individualistic ‘standards’ or ‘morals’.”
Wouldn’t a dialogue help both MAPs and others to better understand what is harmful? There’s a long history of queerfeminist texts discussing the ethics of sexual acts which to me seems like such dialogues are both very important as well as contructive. If a mental health professional isn’t willing to talk with their minor attracted client about these topics and provide them with information, who is? In my view, open communication should be an important virtue for mental heatlh professionals wanting to work with MAPs.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, this is an issue that affects minor attracted youth often even more so than it does adult MAPs. If young MAPs hear that therapists want to “correct their thinking errors” they might be too afraid to ask them for their help if they need it. Blaming young MAPs for liking or disliking laws that police their sexuality can drive them into depression and even suicide. It’s not okay to force minor attracted teenagers to have (or pretend to have) a certain stance on this just to not be denied mental health services. Imposing such values on young MAPs instead of listening to us contributes to our discrimination and suffering. It’s not ethical.
None of us have been taught about our sexuality in school. There aren’t any MAP-inclusive school curricula to this day. Many of us never even have been given a place to discuss such topics with anyone since we first realized that we are minor attracted. Isn’t it then understandable that for some of us discussing different perspectives and expressing our own views, how illogical or uneducated they might be or appear, is vital for us to find our place in this society as MAPs? When we’ve never been educated about this why are we criticized for seeking to close our knowledge gap by talking with counselors or others who say they’d like to help us?
Again, I don’t want to blame anyone who wasn’t aware about this before reading this or maybe still doesn’t understand or agree with my perspective. But I felt the need to speak up about this and not let the prejudices in this blog entry be unaddressed. I think the author of it had good intentions when writing it and hope I didn’t make anyone feel bad reading this.
- Sarah Goode, Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction to Children: A Study of Paedophiles in Contemporary Society, 2010, p. 136-137
- Brian Cash, 2016, Self-Identifications, Sexual Development, and Wellbeing in Minor-Attracted People: An Exploratory Study, p. 42-44