Having touched the third rail of homosexuality in my last entry, let’s finish the job and sabotage my reputation entirely. Those who are upset about discussions of pedophilia/hebephilia will want to avoid this (and probably everybody else will as well).
To start, consider this statement from my last entry:
Let’s be clear. Sexual abuse is awful. Period. Full stop. I believe that almost all sexual activity between children and adults can be classified as sexual abuse, and it almost always has traumatizing consequences for the child, even if the child thinks they are a willing participant.
Now let’s talk about Milos Yiannopoulos, who is the gay male version of Ann Coulter. He was an alt-right darling who became famous via Gamergate. I am ashamed to admit that he is openly gay (even though he advocates that gay men should be closeted and have kids, neither of which he does). He has made himself rich by espousing deliberately provocative positions on all kinds of social policies, courting controversy for publicity. As such, I feel he done many evil things in the world, provoking a lot of hatred for others for his own personal gain. He is bad news.
The alt-right loved him because he was gay, and every social movement idolizes turncoats to its side (see also: Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Jeff Rubin, Warren Buffett). He is also articulate and charismatic, and is very good at writing plausible-sounding arguments that are full of rhetorical fallacies, but which are engaging enough that a bunch of people believe them. He is bad news, and he is dangerous.
In February, he finally got in trouble with his alt-right base. After all of the vile positions he espoused, what finally went over the line? The third rail of homosexuality, of course. He made statements defending some relationships between adults and 13/14 year olds, and defending his own sexual relations as a 14 year old with a Catholic priest. (He subsequently walked back on these statements, claiming that he was 17 in his relationship, even though it was pretty clear from the transcript that he was talking about being 14.)
I am not here to defend Milo Yiannopaulos. I am not here to defend relationships between grownups and 14 year olds. There are so many ways in which discussing this subject at all sounds like rape apologists (“It’s okay to rape because the victims want it”) or NAMBLA defences. But can we at least admit that this is not the first time we have heard these sentiments?
The reality is that these kinds of intergenerational sexual relationships do occur. I have read accounts of them and I have heard people discuss them in person. And although I have never read/heard the younger partners in these interactions advocate that others go through the same experiences they did, I sometimes have read/heard people express some positive sentiments about these relationships. I have even heard the younger partners not regret the fact that adults were having sex with them as underaged teens.
I certainly do not feel such sentiments are universal. Many, many people who had this kind of sex describe it as sexual abuse. I do not think I know of a single person who has been in such a relationship who does not struggle with mental health issues today (although that’s correlation, not causation, and in my experience well-adjusted healthy gays are thin on the ground). It could be that any defences of these experiences are simply cognitive dissonance, because the alternative to finding positive meaning in such interactions is too upsetting to deal with. Even taking into account all those caveats, the fact remains that not everybody who has experienced this kind of intergenerational sex feels uniformly negative about it, and some feel it was a consensual positive experience.
What are we supposed to do about that? Do we deny these positive feelings, and shrug them off as cognitive dissonance the way I did in the previous paragraph? Do we claim that these people (whom we already classify as victims of sexual abuse) do not exist or do not matter? Or is that just throwing the younger partners of hebephilic relationships under the bus because their perspectives are too inconvenient for our broader narrative?
Certainly opening the doors to relationships between adults and minors is not the way to go. Even if young people occasionally come out of such relationships unscathed, I feel that they are much more often traumatized, and furthermore that the adults who would enter into such intergenerational relationships are predatory and often unconcerned about the emotional scarring they induce.
As with the discussion of pedophiles, this is not an easy discussion to have. I am less convinced that it is as important as the discussion of pedophiles in terms of keeping children safe. But it irks me that this is a phenomenon that happens, but we as LGBTQ people are largely unwilling to address because we want to appear respectable. And although I am happy that Milos Yiannopaulos finally suffered a setback, I am unhappy that it was on these grounds, and not the other awful things he has said and done. How alienating must that feel for those people who have shared Yiannopaulos’s experiences of intergenerational sex and felt the same way?