Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Of Free Speech and Pedophiles

Warning: potentially weird/offensive/controversial subject matter ahead. Proceed with caution. Bring lots of chocolate.

For those of you who are too lazy to read the news article (it's only a few paragraphs! C'mon!) I'll provide a little summary. Basically, a book called The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct is up for sale on Amazon. As you can imagine, this book isn't being published by a company - rather, the author is using Amazon's self-publishing service, which allows writers to sell their books on Amazon and and share the profits. As you can also imagine, there are a number of people who are quite unhappy that the book is being made available. Amazon does have a policy against obscene materials, but it doesn't define 'obscene.'

This is Amazon's statement on the matter:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

This is a comment posted by an Amazon user:

"I have seen first hand the harm that people like the author of the book, and potential readers, do to children and to see a book like this on Amazon's 'shelves', so to speak, is very troubling to me."

This the view of the book's author:

"The author, listed as Philip R Greaves II, argues that paedophiles are misunderstood and purports to offer advice to help them abide by the law."


So, what's the deal with all this? Well, it reminded me of our lesson on free speech in Government class today. In the United States, according to the First Amendment's free speech clause, words cannot be censored before they are spoken and deemed to be harmful. If words are censored before they are expressed, the law would be making an assumption in regards to exactly what the content of those words would be.

Obviously, seeing a book proclaiming itself to be a guide for pedophiles rests well with no one. The word 'pedophile' automatically brings this image of a creepy forty-year-old man stealing children away from playgrounds, or twisted day care workers abusing their positions for their own pleasure. But are we making assumptions?

The definition of 'pedophile' is "someone who is sexually attracted to children.' Is there contained anywhere within that definition 'someone who rapes children?' Or 'someone who takes indecent pictures of children?' Or 'someone who exploits children for their own pleasure?'

Human sexuality is quite possibly the most demented and incomprehensible thing that ever existed. I, at least, firmly believe that none of us can help who or what turns us on, and that there's not a thing in the world that doesn't turn someone on. (Rule 34, my friends.) Can you imagine being a perfectly good and honest person, and one day realizing that you're sexually attracted to children? You haven't done anything - you haven't harmed a child in any way - but already, you're a monster in society's eyes, because the actions of other people like you have driven us to feel immense disgust towards all of your kind.

Now, of course, there are pedophiles out there who've done horrible, horrible things to children. Please don't misunderstand me - I'm not denying that. All I'm saying is that we, as humans, do tend to make assumptions. I'm sure that there are quite a few pedophiles out there who have never acted on that impulse, and are therefore perfectly respectable people.

Is it right for us to assume that this book up on Amazon is written by and for cruel, demented people who act on their pedophilia? What if this book has been written, as the author claims, for the people who know they have this urge, but want desperately not to act on it? Then, wouldn't allowing them access to advice on how to control their feelings make children safer?

I have no idea what the content of this book is - I haven't read it and never will. All I'm saying is, before these people who are threatening to boycott Amazon criticize, they should at least read the damn thing they're protesting against. There are things in life like escargot - they sound like a terrible idea, but if you look closer, hey, they might actually not be so bad.

Bottom line: Torches and pitchforks are fun and sometimes necessary, but let's get informed and think through all the possibilities before we reach for them.

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